Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Contact Sport

Don't tell my hips and my butt but spinning, knitting, and general crafting sure seems like a major contact sport around here. The last few days has seen me noticing more aches and pains with my neck, arms and shoulders than I'd ever felt in the 10 years I've done massage!

Sure there are aches and pains when learning a new technique, like when I first learned Thai Massage (wow! I've got quads and thighs! Ouch!) but that feeling dissipated after a week or so.

Spinning on the other hand has been filled with interesting ailments for me. I know I draft fiber a bit too hard - I have to remind myself that I'm not doing trigger point therapy on that fiber, you know. I'm just drafting, after all. But as a result of spinning, the drafting hand tightens, and so do the other muscles related to it - forearm muscles, upper arm, and then the shoulders and the neck!

In the massage world, I would say to the client, "It's called Repetitive Strain Injury or RSI..." and go off on ways I can help relieve all that discomfort using a series of acupressure and stretching techniques.

Somehow, in my house, the massage therapist has left the building, because all you could hear was whining!

But not anymore. Last week, after weeks of complaining and whining and moaning, woe is me and my chosen hobby...I set to work immediately, performing gentle massage on my forearms, acupressure on points along the forearm between the radius and the ulna.

Um, the what, you ask? Here's one way I remember what's what: Bring your arm to your side, with your thumb on the outside and the pinkie on the inside right next to your hip. This is called the anatomical position. The radius is the bone that's on the thumb side, and the ulna is the bone on the pinkie side. They both attach to the humerus or your upper arm. I simply remember RUM (of course, it has to be an alcoholic reference, right?) Radius - Ulna - Medial (meaning, towards the center.

With all the hand sports we do, the muscles around both these muscles tighten or contract, and they're not as easy to stretch like, let's say, your neck and your back, or your hips. So, as the muscles contract as we spin or knit for long periods of time, performing repetitive actions for hours, the muscles get tight and this decreases blood flow to the muscles and ligaments. Sometimes tightness all along the hand, arm, shoulder, going all the way up the neck can even cause numbness and tingling along certain fingers. Stretching and massaging these areas help increase blood flow, and relieve any muscle tightness.

Better yet, ask your significant other to do the massage - a little goes a long way. Because Leo wasn't home yet when I was doing all this, I simply used my thumb, and finally, my elbow. I admit, I was desperate.

But it worked. And these days, I try to do it every day - especially when I'm carding - an activity I now curtail to less than an hour a day because it kills my elbow - spinning, and knitting. I have to remind myself that it's called "Maintenance".

After all, if we spend all that time making sure that our wheels are well lubricated and clean, our drum carders free of fiber before putting them all away, our knitting needles put away so they don't skewer anybody...well, why not the operators, right?

Here's a wonderful video on self-massage for the upper arm that I like. Don't let the word "athlete" deter you - we are all athletes. Even if the spinning part doesn't involve the gym and those bycicle thingies.

And, oh, if you've got one of those spa paraffin dips from your wedding, or christmas, pull it out of storage and get it ready. It's a great way to warm up the muscles of the hands and arms, and then massage afterwards!

ETA: I found a pretty good article on acupressure for repetitive strain on the arms on About.com - complete with pictures!


Bee said...

This is such a useful post, thank you! I find that I have to really relax when I spin because my pinching hand/arm (the left one) gets pretty tense. I have to remind myself to take breaks and stretch. Thanks for the info in this post...so useful.

ulli said...

this is very helpful, thank you!