Category: Self-improvement

Everyone Has One and It’s Time To Use It!

Everybody Has One and It’s Time To Use It!

By Michael P. Mansfield AAS, LMT, CNMT

Yes, everyone has an opinion. However, that is not what is being inferred with the title. This article is referencing the fact that everybody has a diaphragm. Yes, the diaphragm. A skeletal muscle connected to the entire circumference of the ribcage and several of the lumbar vertebrate. Its chief function is to lead the breathing process of the body.

There are 3 types of muscle tissue that comprise the human form

  • skeletal (Voluntary – the ability to move at will, controlling movement of the body)
  • cardiac (heart – involuntary/autonomic or functionally independent; not under voluntary control.)
  • smooth (blood vessels, arteries, and hollow organs – autonomic, or functionally independent; not under voluntary control.)

The diaphragm is a voluntary muscle. Simply put, if not used on a consistent basis, this muscle becomes weak. If the diaphragm is tight and weak from lack of proper use, it will hinder the function of the psoas. To illustrate this conundrum, tightly squeeze the top of a bicep (acting as the psoas) with your opposite hand (acting as the diaphragm), flex the arm a couple of times, noting the restriction of movement. Now relax the grip and flex the bicep again. There will be a considerable difference in movement, demonstrating how muscles with different jobs can profoundly affect each other.

Over time, this imbalance in the lumbar region can lead a chronic pain pattern. If the psoas becomes tight and weakened due to injury or lack of proper use, it will affect the diaphragm through inflammation, ultimately restricting breath – supporting the pain, spasm, pain cycle.

Inflammation of the muscles attaching to the lumbar vertebrae constricts the nervous tissue responsible for providing energy to the lower body, decreasing blood flow/oxygen available to the spastic tissue. This constriction manifests as pain and dysfunction. Diaphragmatically (belly) breathing relaxes the diaphragm, reduces the pressure placed on the psoas muscles, increases circulation and blood/oxygen levels, and ultimately maintains balance of the abdominal and lumbar region.

Compression of the vagus will trigger a fight or flight response. The brain senses there is something wrong with the body when this occurs. The vagus nerve descends off the brain, directly behind the large neck muscles, attaching to the esophagus, and travels through the diaphragm to the abdominal cavity.

Chest/shallow breathing constricts the vagus at the neck and diaphragm. When the brain senses the constriction the adrenals are brought into play to assist the body get out of its present predicament.
If the brain senses the body to be moving during the restricted breathing/vagal impingement, it will sense the body it attempting to move away from danger and adrenalin will be the primary hormone produced by the adrenals to assist in this function.

If the body is sedentary during the same scenario, the brain will sense the body is ill or injured, and the adrenals will primarily produce coritsol. The function of cortisol it to mobilize fat stores for energy (the body is ill or injured and food is not available) so the body does not use vital muscle tissue for energy.

Even though humanity inhabits a universal, human form, the human form is very much misunderstood by humanity.

The diaphragm is the primary respiratory muscle which DIRECTLY affects every system of the body. Not properly utilizing this muscle leads to small imbalances, leaving the body susceptible to a myriad of pathologies, and leading to more serious conditions .

Use your free time to learn more about how your body works, freeing up more time to enjoy how your body works. Stop, BREATHE, and BE!

Healthy and Happy Begins In the Home

Healthy and Happy Begins In the Home

By M. P. Mansfield AAS, LMT, CNMT

I would like to challenge each and every reader to make their healthy pursuits a family affair! With most lifestyle changes involving health improvement, I am borrowing the 5 pillars of a YMCA initiative: Healthy Family Home.

  1. Eat Healthy – Sound nutrition is the cornerstone to a healthy body. In today’s hectic, fast-paced world, processed foods have become a staple in the American home. Replacing processed foods with whole foods needing preparation is not an easy transition. By starting with a family night, where everyone is involved in preparing a meal (from the shopping for ingredients to the actual preparation), new habits are created to form a new, healthier foundation to build upon.
  1. Play Every Day – Childhood obesity is at an all time high in this Nation. Children are sitting more than they ever have(computers, video games, and television), physical education classes have been dramatically reduced in our schools, and yet the Recommended Daily Allowance for total calories consumed has not changed to reflect the inactivity that has become commonplace. As a family, adopt activities all can enjoy and sustain on a regular basis. Low-tech activities are the easiest to maintain, such as running, walking, cycling, Frisbee, basketball, soccer, and swimming to name a few. Regular movement of the body will help burn unused calories and prevent obesity and subsequent health issues.
  1. Get Together – In a “connected” world, families are becoming more and more disconnected by becoming over involved in the virtual, cyber world. Set aside family time that does not revolve around technology. Board games, crafts, social organizations, and volunteer work are ways to improve communication and learn more about each other. Turn off the TV, the computer, and telephone. Connect with family members on a daily basis and have fun!
  1. Go Outside – By going outside, while working toward the previous 3 goals, the family literally changes their environment in the home. By going outdoors, the body is exposed to an ever changing environment, helping to strengthen and bolster the body’s autoimmune system. Furthermore, more energy can be expended outdoors, making for a more balanced, peaceful home.
  1. Sleep Well – The body repairs itself during sleep. Restricted or lack of quality sleep, does not allow the body to recover from the day’s activity. This creates an imbalance that will manifest in diminished ability to focus and function correctly the following day. Eventually, the accumulated effects of poor sleep leads to health problems such as obesity, spastic muscles, breathing problems, and cognitive issues.

As a family, it can be agreed upon that it is best not to have televisions or computers on during sleep time. Ensuring a restful environment in each bedroom is the beginning to achieving good sleep patterns.

Success, whether individual or collective, cannot be achieved without the aid of others. With everything in human life revolving around and involving the balance and care of the human body, it only makes sense to strive to make healthy living a priority.  Choose to make your efforts a family affair, helping others help you to evolve into a healthier better “you”.

Compassion Fatigue

Compassion Fatigue

You Are Not Alone

By Michael P. Mansfield AAS, LMT, CNMT

Helping or being assistance to others who have suffered trauma is an honorable means of serving others. However, in providing support for a trauma survivor does not come without cost. Health professionals, caregivers, and emergency responders (police, firefighters, EMS) are at risk of suffering trauma vicariously. Compassion Fatigue, known as a secondary post-traumatic stress disorder, arises from working with those who have suffered from traumatic life events. No one is immune Secondary Traumatic Stress/Vicarious Traumatic Stress (STS/VTS).

In discussing the dynamics of STS, one must first explore transference and counter-transference. Generally these terms relate to the field of psychotherapy, but for all intents and purposes, health professionals, caregivers, and emergency responders fulfill a quasi-role of therapist when assisting others who have suffered trauma.

By definition, transference is the identification of childhood emotions of the client mistaken as emotions toward the therapist. These emotions can be friendly, hostile or ambivalent. Counter-transference is much the same, where the therapist identifies with similar emotions and mistakes these emotions as those associated with the client.

Whether providing care for a recent trauma survivor or one who is experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Trauma Specific Transference (TST) can occur: where the individual assisted places the caregiver into the role of rescuer, perpetrator, or supporter. Likewise, the caregiver may fall into the role of fellow survivor, supporter, or rescuer through counter transference.

Those suffering from STS, exhibit symptoms such as hopelessness, a decrease in experiences of pleasure, constant stress and anxiety, sleeplessness or nightmares, and a pervasive negative attitude. Often self-medicating with illicit drugs and/or alcohol enters into the picture in order to abate the emotional impact experienced. In turn, the STS sufferer experiences a decline in physical health and damage to personal and professional relationships, including a decrease in productivity, the inability to focus, and the development of new feelings of incompetency and self-doubt.

Treatment of STS includes professional counseling, attending support groups, realizing the impact of working with traumatized individuals, attending workshops, limiting exposure to traumatic materials (e.g. books, television shows, and movies), exercising spiritual practices such as prayer, and staying connected to others.

Prevention of STS begins with maintaining clear boundaries between home and work. Additional prevention measures are scheduling time off work, engaging in regular physical activity, journaling, pursuing hobbies, meditation, listening to music, socializing with family and friends, informal group therapy with coworkers, eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of sleep, performing group guided exercise (Yoga/Thai Chi/Zumba), deep breathing exercises, and receiving professional massage therapy and/or Chiropractic sessions.

Amongst the aforementioned prevention techniques, deep breathing is free, can be performed at any time, and impacts the entire body exponentially. Deep breathing, correctly utilizing the diaphragm, affects every system of the body directly.  Proper utilization of the diaphragm (diaphragmatic breathing aka belly breathing) releases pressure from the cervical and lumbar spine, freeing up entrapped nervous tissue, reversing the fight or flight environment perceived by the brain, and thus reducing anxiety and depression.

Diaphragmatic breathing (aka belly breathing) is simple to perform, yet awareness needs to be developed. Most people either shallowly or chest breathe and quite often, and need to retrain themselves to make full use of their diaphragm. This is carried out by placing your hands on your abdomen, breathing in through the nose until the abdomen extends fully, and passively exhaling the breath through the mouth. Through continued practice, this form of breathing becomes more automatic, becoming a first line of defense in the prevention if Secondary Traumatic Stress.

Diaphragmatic versus Clavicular Breathing

Diaphragmatic versus Clavicular Breathing

aka Belly vs. Chest Breathing

By Michael P. Mansfield AAS, LMT, CNMT

In today’s chaotic world, most do not pay attention to how they are breathing. Chest or shallow breathing effectively cuts off the upper from the lower body and creates a physical imbalance in the body and a chemical imbalance in the blood and brain. This imbalance creates what we term as stress. Chronic stress has become business as usual and being hurried, rushed, or too busy are symptoms of stress.

The American Heritage Dictionary provides the following definition(s) for stress:

6a. A mentally or emotionally disruptive or upsetting condition occurring in response to adverse external influences and capable of affecting physical health, usually characterized by increased heart rate, increased respiration, a rise in blood pressure, muscular tension, irritability, and depression. b. A stimulus or circumstance causing such a condition. 7. A state of extreme difficulty, pressure, or strain.

Stress encourages the “fight or flight” response in the body. The nervous system reacts by releasing a number of hormones very rapidly. One of these hormones, adrenaline, has several effects on the body, to include an increase in respiration and heart rate.

People who chest breathe tend to hold in their stomach, make little use of the diaphragm, and breathe using the muscles of the upper chest, neck, and shoulders. When taking a deep breath, the chest breather visibly lifts the entire chest up away from the diaphragm, therefore creating more space in the thoracic cavity, rather than allowing the diaphragm to pull the air in.

This type of breathing becomes automatic, and the body adjusts volume and rate as it does in diaphragmatic breathing. Chest breathing encourages the muscles in the neck, chest, and shoulder area to become tight and weak. This means that the lungs are given less room to expand or contract and that the body must work harder. As breath volume is lowered, respiration must be sped up in order for the body to maintain balance. From this we can infer that chest breathing can create stress and vice versa.

When at rest, the correct way to breathe is with relaxed shoulders, upper chest, and stomach muscles, allowing the diaphragm and lower rib muscles to carry on the automatic breathing process. When you breathe in this way, your body continually adjusts the volume and breathing rate as needed to maintain balance. The breathing pattern to practice is as follows:

Sitting or laying comfortably (legs uncrossed), placing your hands on your stomach. Begin by taking a deep breath through the nose, expanding abdominal area, and making your hands on your stomach rise. Breathe out through the mouth, completely emptying the lungs. Repeat until you are comfortable with belly breathing. Do not hyperventilate.

Continue this breathing at your own pace until it becomes natural to you. DO NOT HYPERVENTILATE! Symptoms of hyperventilation include light-headiness, tingling in the lips, face, hands, and scalp.

By practicing diaphragmatic breathing on a regular basis, overall stress will be reduced dramatically, your well-being will be accentuated, and you will feel more grounded and centered during life’s most adverse situations. Be well!

What Happens in Vagus Does Not Stay in Vagus!

What Happens in Vagus Does Not Stay in Vagus

Massage Therapy and Treatment of Diabetes

By M. P. Mansfield AAS, LMT, CNMT

Cardiovascular disease, stroke risk, high blood pressure, and neurological disorders (e.g. Peripheral neuropathy) associated with diabetes have long been considered contraindications to receiving massage therapy. However, with a doctor’s clearance, a therapist with advanced training may provide effective treatment for the diabetes sufferer.

Massage therapy is effective in improving circulation, lymphatic functioning, central nervous system response, and reduction of blood pressure. During a massage therapy session, the body’s nervous system is affected through the manual manipulation of the soft tissues of the body.

The 10th cranial nerve, the Vagus nerve, is considered to be the master nerve of the body. Vagus is Latin for wandering, aptly describing its path as it descends from brain stem, becoming encased within the sheath containing the jugular vein and carotid artery, and eventually traveling with the esophagus (through the diaphragm) into the abdominal cavity. It serves as a primary conduit of information between the brain and the heart, lungs, and digestive system.

More importantly, for diabetic patients, the vagus provides the energy for the endocrine functioning of the pancreas. Massage therapy assists in reducing the pressure and tension the musculoskeletal system places upon the vagus, allowing it to communicate more efficiently with the brain. Type II and gestational diabetes patients may favorably respond to carefully applied manual therapy techniques.

The simplest way for the diabetes patient to reduce pressure on the vagus is to breathe. The respiratory muscles in the neck, upper chest, and abdomen (diaphragm) often constrict the vagus when the patient has developed the habit of chest or shallowly breathing. Reversing this pattern requires the mobilization of the diaphragm, the master respiratory muscle, otherwise known as diaphragmatic breathing. The vagus nerve is thought to regulate the body’s fight or flight and autoimmune response.

When the vagus is affected, the entire body is affected. Hence, what happens in vagus does NOT stay in vagus! Take the time to free the vagus ~ Stop, Breathe, and BE.

When You Hear Hoof Beats Behind You, Don’t Expect to See a Zebra

When You Hear Hoof Beats Behind You, Don’t Expect to See a Zebra

By M. P. Mansfield AAS, LMT, CNMT

“When you hear hoof beats behind you, don’t expect to see a zebra”, was coined in the late 1940s by Dr. Theodore Woodward, a former professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Dr. Woodward was teaching his students the importance of not jumping to conclusions, focusing their attention on obtaining a complete patient history before presenting a diagnosis and treatment plan.

The world today is a much different place than it was for Dr. Woodward in the ‘40’s. Information that was once only found in the medical community is now easily found on the internet. Rather than seeking medical treatment for a condition, many will self-diagnose and self medicate. Many people may be successful in understanding and treating their body well. However, there are common mistakes an individual can make in self-diagnosing and treatment.

In my experience of treating clients, deficiency of proper hydration, calcium, and oxygen are common denominators to the root cause of pain and dysfunction. Water, calcium, and oxygen are the 3 most important elements to the functioning of the body. Water, because over half of the mass of the body is water, and dehydration triggers muscle spasm. Calcium is needed not only for strong teeth and bones; it is also a catalyst to the functioning of the nervous system. Too low dietary calcium can lead to chronic muscle spasm and joint dysfunction. And oxygen, inarguably the most important element to life, is essential to properly working musculature.

A common example of self-diagnosing and self-treatment is sinus congestion. Many who suffer from chronic sinus congestion may treat the condition with antihistamines and decongestants. However, allergies may not be the cause for sinus congestion.

The sinuses are hollow areas within the facial bones connecting to the nasal cavity via a small structure called the sinus ostium (pl.ostia). A tight scalp and facial musculature can place pressure on the ostia, causing inflammation and blockage. When the ostia become blocked, there is an accumulation of fluid in the sinuses, causing congestion.

If you suffer from a chronic condition or pain, take the time to get checked out by a health professional. Share your self diagnosis and the reasons for your deduction. You may be correct. However, in the event that you have heard hoof beats, have seen a Zebra, and your self-treatment is not working, it is probably time to make an appointment with your doctor or other health professionals that can correctly diagnose and treat your condition. Stop, Breathe, and BE well!