Fire & Earth is a leading sports massage specialist in the Coventry, Solihull and Warwick area. The dedicated team of therapists provide you with high level therapeutic and remedial massages to treat your injuries and conditions.
Many people associate massage with improving one’s physical health. But did you know that having regular massage therapy can have a huge benefit on your mental wellbeing, too?
With lifestyles becoming more and more pressured, work, family commitments, and financial pressures can easily lead to a build-up of stress, and over time if not managed can have a negative impact on our mental wellbeing.
Stress, anxiety, and depression have an adverse effect on our health, and vice versa.
Stress is a trauma to the body, and if left unchecked it can affect your physical health as well as your mental wellbeing.
Physical pain such as headaches, joint pain, muscular soreness and fatigue can be exasperated by stress and can significantly improve and even diminish once stress levels are reduced.
So how can massage help?
Our mind functions on a delicate balance of hormones: dopamine, the ‘happy hormone’, serotonin, the calming hormone, cortisol, the ‘stress hormone,’ and adrenaline, the ‘fight and flight hormone’.
During times of stress our cortisol levels elevate which can lead to physical symptoms of pain, disruption in sleep, anxiety and depression.
Massage therapy not only gives you the time to relax, it increases circulation, releases muscle tension, lowers heart and respiratory rate, encourages relaxation by reducing the stress hormone cortisol and increasing our happy hormone serotonin.
Is sports massage relaxing?
Yes! Sports massage doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. In fact, using a combination of long slow massage strokes working into the myofascial and deeper layers of tissue, sports massage helps relaxation. It’s also highly effective at resolving any muscular issues you may have.
You may think you know all there is to know about breathing. You’ve been doing it all day and night since you were born, after all!
But we’re here to share some information we find fascinating and to discuss how breathing relates to massage and sports.
Why do we breathe?
Well you probably know the answer to this. If we don’t breathe then pretty soon we’ll die! We breathe to move air into and out of the lungs. We take in oxygen and remove carbon dioxide through gas exchange. The air that we breathe in has a higher percentage of oxygen than the air we breathe out. You probably remember that from science lessons at school.
What is ventilation?
Ventilation is the term for the movement of air to and from the alveoli of the lungs. The two aspects of ventilation are inhalation and exhalation. Blood vessels surround the alveoli of the lungs and this is where the exchange of gases takes place. The air with a higher oxygen level transfers into the blood, and the air with higher carbon dioxide levels leaves the blood to become the air we breathe out. And thankfully, plants and the oceans absorb that for us.
What muscles are used?
The main muscles that are used in breathing are the diaphragm, external intercostal muscles, and internal intercostal muscles. However there are other muscles that support breathing.
How can massage help with my breathing?
The other muscles that support inhalation and exhalation are the scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, quadratus lumborum, serratus and pectorials. When you feel the signs of stress your shoulder girdle rises, preventing you from full deep breathing. This results in the muscles of the neck and pecs to become shortened and tight. Sound familiar?
So how should we breathe?
The essence of yoga and martial arts teaches us to breathe ‘properly’.
So how should we breathe ‘properly’?
Breathe through the nose. Every breath you take should go in and out through the nose. It has hairs for a filtering out unwanted things!
Breathe with the diaphragm. The air you breathe in through your nose should go all the way down into what feels like your belly. The air doesn’t go into your belly; this is your diaphragm and rib cage working!
Breathe in a relaxed way. Bring those shoulders down and back, and loosen your neck muscles.
Breathe rhythmically. Meditation and mindfulness apps like Calm or Headspace can really help with this.
Breathe silently. Unless you’re in a yoga or martial arts class.
There are many different types of arthritis, affecting both adults and children.
The most common forms of arthritis in adultsOsteoarthritis
This is where there is a focal loss of the cartilage that lines the ends of the bones, and the space in the joint between the two bones gets narrower. Meaning, ultimately, the two bones can rub together and cause pain.
This is characterised by an immune response causing a swelling on the membrane surrounding certain joints, as well as other symptoms such as fever, weight loss and general feeling of fatigue. This swelling can stretch the ligament around the joint and cause some instability. It can also lead to osteoarthritis in some cases.
There are many more forms of arthritis, and while these forms of arthritis are more prevalent in the older patient, age is not a direct factor and cause in the onset of these conditions. They are more likely to be related to lifestyle and genetic predisposition.
Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
This affects 1 in 1000 children; a condition more common than Cystic Fibrosis. The word ‘idiopathic’ suggests that there is no known cause, but there are as many as 7 types of childhood arthritis. The types of JIA is categorised by the number of joints affected, and by other symptoms such as a persistent rash, fever or evidence of psoriasis (all of which are symptoms similar to that of some adult forms of arthritis).
For those children with JIA the treatments vary depending on the type of arthritis they have. Most treatments would include exercise, medication and dietary factors. The main goals in any treatment would be to relieve pain by;
Increasing joint mobility and strength
Preventing joint damage and complications
What we are trying to highlight here is the fact that age is not a direct cause of arthritis as commonly believed.
Too many people expect arthritis to come with age. This is a negative belief as it can be detrimental to your mood and your health alone.
Paying attention to your diet is one way of keeping symptoms at bay whether young or old. Making sure you consume more alkaline foods rather than acids foods is a great place to start as it reduces inflammation in your body.
What to add in:
Look at getting more dark leafy greens, green tea, garlic and oily fish into your meals.
What to reduce or remove:
Try and reduce the amount of fried foods, dairy, sugary foods or eating too much wheat.
If you have ever met any of us you’ll know we like to talk! However, we are also pretty good at being quiet and letting our clients relax and take the time to just be.
Sports massage doesn’t mean you can’t relax
Although we are a sports massage company and our usual client base, you would think, are sporty people, not everyone is and not everyone wants chat, and that is absolutely fine.
Some clients love to chill out and relax as they receive a deep tissue treatment from one of our talented sports massage therapists. You may want to recovery from; a heavy day or week at work being constantly in front of a computer, take time out of a busy week to relax and regroup, or just get rid of those niggles which have been bothering you for weeks.
Is it ok to be quiet?
Being quit during a treatment is absolutely fine, it’s your time, you choose what you want to do in your appointment. And as our sports therapist Kimberly said in a Fire & Earth Q & A video: “we are just a bit jealous”.
Fixing injuries or easing discomfort
When we do talk to you, it may be to communicate what we are doing so you are informed and comfortable. We may need to reposition you to achieve the best affect or ease any discomfort you have. But this is necessary to give you the best treatment possible.
Apart from that, feel free to be silent and relax!
We get asked all the time which are the most common areas we treat as sports massage therapists. To be honest it varies and we cover most muscular-skeletal issues so we really do see it all. Having a large team also means it can vary from therapists to therapist so here is Amy’s experience in our Hinckley clinic.
What does Amy treat most?
“So the answer to this is it really depends on the time of year for me. The beginning of the year brings in a lot of people who want lower body massages, basically lower back and / or just legs. There has definitely been an increase in the number of people entering runs over the last few years, there is one every weekend to choose from if you wanted to. The big ones like the London Marathon and Brighton are in the Spring so clients start upping their mileage February to April. This means they really need to keep their lower backs and legs from tightening up, hence we see more of these types of massages at this time.
Again the run up to the summer can see a lot of triathlons, runs and cycling events that mean on the whole it’s leg and lower back pain we are treating, although with cycling this also brings neck and shoulder pain from sitting on the bike for long periods.
The rest of the year can be fairly mixed but we do see alot of work related back and shoulder pain which is all year round but can increase in the ‘off’ season as people tend to sit more. Bad weather means more car journey’s, longer and darker nights can lead to more time watching TV etc. In these cases we ask clients to address their posture and treat using lots of massage and some exercises to create more long term positive change.
A lot of clients tend to lessen their training over winter but still want to tick over their miles so need a maintenance massage, this means a massage once over every 4-6 weeks, these can be full bodies or just legs.”
What sports massage therapists love;
As sports massage therapists our job is to fix whatever muscular issues you might be having. We love to make clients feel better and help them get back to the hobbies and the lifestyle they enjoy without feeling pain.
Whatever tightness or pain you have at the moment, come and see one of our expert team and we will happily do our best to fix it for you.
Have you ever wondered why you keep getting that back or shoulder pain? Have you ever looked in the mirror and felt that your posture just didn’t look right?
Well you are not alone, 90% of people have what is known as a sway back posture, this is one of the faulty postures that plague our modern times and contributes to low back pain.
Before we look at what sway back is in detail we need to understand what ‘ideal’ posture looks.
What is Ideal posture?
Ideal posture is really about your body alignment, or put another way, how your structural parts such as head, torso, hips and knees, etc. relate to each other. You can probably say you are pretty close to ideal posture when your head, shoulders, spine, hips, knees and ankles all line up well with one another.
The most common way to test this is by observation or using a plumb line (a piece of string which is suspended from a ceilng and has a small weight attached at bottom to ensure it’s vertical) The person then stands next to the vertical line so the joint alignment can be compared against it.
Whether you're standing, sitting, lying down or moving, the body parts need to be balanced in order for ideal posture to take place. This balance reduces the load on the muscles to maintain an upright posture. Some muscles are always active in this balanced state such as the Soleus, Hip Fexors, Gluteus Medius and Erector Spinae.
Due to our modern lifestyles, sitting at desks all day, sitting in cars and generally not moving enough, more of us experience at one time or another a faulty or poor posture.
Examples of different faulty postures
Some of the examples of faulty posture can be as follows:
Sway back posture
Flat back posture
Round back (increased kyphosis) with forward head
Sway back posture – a leading poor posture type causing back pain
Sway back posture is one of the most common postural issues leading to low back pain so we will focus on just type.. Casually known as the ‘lazy posture’, it is identified by shoulders and chest leaning backwards, with hips turned in and the pelvis and chin thrust forward.
Why do people get sway back?
Sway back posutre is often down to lack of support at the hips and pelvic area which then puts a lot of pressure onto the lower back. Weak abdominal muscles add to the problem.
Who does it affect?
You are more likely to get this posture if you have weak glutes, quads or lower abdominals. If you sit a lot for work or are generally sedentary you may be susceptable to weakened muscles.
Stand hanging off your hips and spine. Stand up tall using your muscles.
Swim breaststroke, or practise yoga poses like supermans, cobra or downward dog
Use back support accessories with an arched shape.
Do’s to prevent sway back posture
Sit deep in your chair, with your back straight and your chin facing ahead.
Train your glutes and quad muscles with the correct exercises, such as half squats.
Strengthen your lower abdominal muscles with leg lifts and reverse crunches.
Firstly we need to help loosen off those tight muscles caused by the sway back posture and then corrective exercises are needed to strengthen the weaker muscles to bring back proper alignment. This takes the pressure off the wrong places and relieves pain.
Do you feel like your posture isn’t as it should be?
We’ve got a great team of sports therapists who can help you get back on track. Just select one of our experts to help you.
Muscle fibres run in all different directions within the muscles of our body. Muscles are layered on top of each other, and all being good, when these fibres are in good shape and working together this means we are flexible.
However, sitting at a desk too long or being dehydrated can mean we lose that flexibility as the fibres become compromised. Knots occur when muscle fibres become stuck together due to injury or damage.
Poor posture can lead to damaged fibres as the fibres become overloaded or conversely they can switch off.
What can I do about muscle knots?
Muscle ‘knots’ are incredibly common but common doesn’t mean they're a good thing. The good news... there are plenty of things you can do:
1. Massage - the friction will help separate the fibres, re align the fibres and restore balance 2. Hydrate and eat well - good nutrition will keep the muscle fibres healthy 3. Exercise - brings oxygen and nutrients to the muscles 4. Stretch regularly - restore mobilty to tight muscle fibres 5. Take breaks and move - if you are sat at a desk for long periods of time or any static posture for a long time try to move as much as you can.
Finally, also importantly, take time to RELAX.
The connect between the mind body is very strong, one affects the other so taking time to relax is very important. Listen to your body and time so time out when it’s needed.
Boom! You did it, you completed the half marathon…now it’s time to put your efforts into your recovery.
It’s always a popular topic so here are our top tips for recovery from a half marathon, but to be honest this applies to any event you might be doing this year. Just remember to look after yourself well and you’ll be able to do more of the challenges you love.
I’ve finished! Now what?
Keep moving (sorry!), walk around as much as you can post-race to keep the blood flowing to your muscles and prevent stiffness and cramping.
Stretch - stretch out those tired legs, they’ve worked hard.
Hydrate - drink plenty of water, coconut water or a sports drink. You can have a beer but try and keep it to one! :-)
Refuel - a banana is ideal but try to have something within 60 minutes of finishing.
2. Post-race (same day)
Refuel - try to eat a couple of small meals high in protein and carbs. We like bagels with eggs, salmon and avocado as our post-race meal.
Soak - have a soak in a warm (not hot) bath, add epsom salts to help with muscle aches.
Rest - put your feet up, literally. Elevate those legs.
Hydrate - more water (or a sports drink), check the colour of your urine to make sure you are hydrated enough.
Sleep - get some good zzzzs in!
Compression - this one is up to you, but some people find wearing compression clothing aids recovery.
3. The following days
Hydration (again!) - you might wake up feeling stiff so keep the hydration up! It really will help flush out all the toxins and help recovery.
Refuel - keep the good food going in!
Massage - use a foam roller, concentrate on areas giving you any trouble, probably your calves, quads or hamstrings.
More massage - definitely book a sports massage. Research shows the sooner you have a massage post-race the better so we suggest the next day or so. Hydrate well after using the foam roller or having a sports massage.
Move - when you feel up to it, a gentle jog/walk will help encourage blood flow to your muscles.
4. The following week
Start to build up your running again, but only if your muscles feel fine to do so. Try mixing in some cross-training (so you are using muscles you didn’t use for the run), swimming, yoga or Pilates to build overall strength.
Running too soon after a big event can do more harm than good. Rest days are important, take them!
If you need a massage, or something doesn’t feel quite right - we are here to help!
After care advice is something that as therapists we rate highly.
The main things we recommend are:
You must drink plenty of water after massage, this makes it easier for your body to flush out all the toxins that massage has created.
You should avoid exercise after massage as will undo all the work that the therapist has just worked on, releasing all that tension and telaxing your body. Exercising could delay your recovery time. 24 hours later is absolutely fine to get back to your routine.
You are likely to be sore/stiff the day after the massage. Don’t panic if you feel slightly bruised after, this is just down to the fact that we have worked deeply into the muscles stretching them out. It essentially causes the same affect as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS which you might have heard of. This happens after a hard training session, you know the thing that makes walking downstairs or getting up from a seated position a bit tricky for a day or so.
Take it easy for a couple of days and this will subside, after that you will start to feel much better and the benefits of the massage will start to show.
To keep the effects of the massage lasting longer we give exercises
The last thing that we offer is bespoke exercises. We tend to send these through to you via email after your session. Making sure you do the exercises helps your recovery between massages and keeps the benefits lasting much longer…so make sure you do your homework!
We are very proud of completing our first ever sports massage course. We were very lucky to have had a wonderful group of learners who were eager to learn and supported each other all the way.
This was a level 3 diploma in sports massage therapy which is entry level into our industry so you don’t need any skills to get on this course. This had been an idea for years but the timing was never quite right until last year when we decided if not now, when?
How we got started
John, Harry, Amy and Tanya all went on a teaching course and Caroline, who is a qualified teacher already, guided us along the way which was incredibly helpful. It was very exciting to finally be on this journey to opening our very own sports massage academy. It took a while to find the right name but we landed on Fire & Earth Sports Massage Academy, or FEMA for short. Get it? John did say we couldn’t have an actual femur as our logo, good decision. :-)
Where we held our sports massage course
We used our Quadrant location to hold the course which worked really well as it is central for driving and so close to the train station. Because it is on the weekends parking wasn’t an issue so all round it worked perfectly.
Teaching really does help you become a better therapist, you realise how much you actually know and things you do automatically that have come from years of experience. It has been a great experience for us all and so enjoyable, there will definitely be more to come.
How the sports massage course was set out
Having a small group enabled us to give each learner a lot of time and as the couse is heavily practical it’s important to be able to watch each person, adapting their techiques or posture where needed. This meant we could give them all constant feedback and they all agreed this was a big bonus.
Although the course is intense, you need to learn a lot of anatomy and physiology, it covers all the basic information you need to be ready to practice sports massage at level 3. This means dealing with tissue dysfunction but not injuries, that’s for level 4 and 5. We also added a business module onto this course, most therapists end up self-employed so we wanted them to feel confident and know what steps to take next. It’s so easy to get lost after you’ve actually passed a course like this and have no idea what to do to get started.
6 months went so fast, we all said at the end it will feel so strange not to see the gang from now but we have all pledged to stay in touch. What has also been lovely is the variety of people choosing to do the course, all ages, backgrounds and reasons for doing it in the first place. Some wanted to just learn a new hobby, some start a possible part time career, others know it will be their new full time career.
We can’t blame them, I know we are biased but it is a wonderful lifestyle business to be in. It is very satisfying where you feel you are helping people everyday, always learning new things and getting to do something that makes a difference to clients daily lives.
We can’t wait to start the next one and share our skills with another group of wonderful people! Our next course starts on 6th April 2019.