How Does Your Posture Affect Your Health?

Posture is such a fascinating subject.  Do you ever wonder why we develop certain symptoms or why we are prone to certain aliments?  From the first day that I attended massage therapy school, I was addicted.    How could muscles affect us in such a way as to cause so many issues and why did it take so long for massage therapy to become a recognized form of treatment, which could actually help people?

I was amazed to discover that massage therapy has been around for centuries and has been recognized by many countries as an art of healing.  There are many different schools of thought as to when it was originally developed but there are accounts of massage being passed down orally through generations in India as early as 3,000 B.C. or earlier.    It was an art used by the gladiators of Roman times before and after their battles, and was promoted by the ancient Greeks for their athletes.  Many other countries were known to use massage for purposes such as healing injuries, improving circulation or promoting relaxation to name a few.

Massage has evolved over the centuries to become what we know of it today.  Even over the past few decades the art of massage has evolved.  As a young teenager I can recall being taken to the “little old woman in town” when I incurred an injury to my leg while figure skating.  The “little old lady” worked out of her house and with her heavy set husband sitting on his rocking chair in the living room smoking a cigar, I was led to a back bedroom where the smell of strong liniment permeated the room.   There was a small single size bed, a chair and the perch which she sat on.   My eyes were drawn to the size of her arms and hands and I can attest to the strength of both as she plied her skill to relieve the stresses of the muscles from the injury I had incurred.

It was a marvel to me that the treatment, although very painful, was so effective in the reduction of my symptoms and that I was able to return to my sport so quickly.   I think that this was my first fascination with the art of massage.

In today’s world, obviously, there are stricter guidelines for those in the profession.  There are now schools and Colleges that teach the art, as well as governing bodies that monitor the profession to ensure the safety of the public.  Depending on which country or city you reside in, you will find that each area will have differences in the amount of years for massage therapists to become trained, differences in the techniques used or allowed and differences in the standards with regards to public safety,  but the art of massage therapy is based on a similar foundation.

So how does our posture affect our health?

What Happens With Fluid In Our Bodies?

Lymph has a superficial and a deep system.  The superficial system removes fluid of the skin and the deep system removes fluid from muscles,  joints and organs.   Deep vessels lie alongside the veins and arteries and the superficial vessels lie just under the skin.  The superficial vessels absorb 80% of lymph and the deep vessels absorb 20% of lymph.

  • Our blood is carried to areas of the body through the arteries. This blood has oxygen and nutrients necessary for us to survive.   When the blood reaches its end point, it is squeezed out of the arteries (arterioles), by pressure,  much like mashing a pineapple through a sieve, creating fluid on the other end.  The fluid is then dispersed among our tissues (interstitium) so that it can nourish our cells.
  • Inside our cells there are many different processes that are taking place. The walls of our cells will absorb or bring in the necessary nutrients it needs to perform these processes.  The unwanted or broken down substances will be released from the cell into the tissues surrounding it.  In this way the oxygen of the blood is used up by the cell.
  • On a continual basis our body will have fluid among our tissues. This is normal.  This fluid contains un-oxygenated blood, water and other substances.
  • The venous system returns un-oxygenated blood back to the heart.
  • The lymphatic system, (which is our second drainage system) absorbs substances that are too big for the veins to absorb such as proteins, long chain fatty acids, dead cells, viruses, bacteria, coal dust and glass dust. This is called Lymph Obligatory Load.
  • Lymph obligatory load is absorbed by tiny lymphatic vessels, like small finger like projections, and is moved along to larger and larger vessels.   Along the pathway of these vessels are lymph nodes.
  • Lymph nodes are filtering stations for the lymph obligatory load.  There are about 600-700 in the human body.   The number of lymph nodes and vessels varies from person to person.  There are regions of the body that have their own group of lymph nodes.  Some lymphatic vessels pass by the lymph nodes.  If there is cancer that has metastasised in a lymph node it is possible that the entire region has not been affected.  The lymph is cleaned.  Water is removed from the lymph (50%) and re-absorbed by the blood capillaries.  Mature natural defense cells are located in the lymph nodes.  When antigens such as bacteria, viruses, chemicals or pollen come in contact with these natural defense cells, they divide and destroy the antigen.  The lymph nodes store substances that cannot be broken down by the body such as coal dust, glass dust and soot.lymphatic_system-e1380064909161

Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) is the manual movement of lymph obligatory load that cannot be removed because of lack of, damage to, or removal of the lymph vessels and/or nodes.  The treatment of Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) is the stretching of the lymphatic vessels to increase tension in the center of the vessel, which in turn, propels the lymph obligatory load onward.

When Receiving A Manual Lymph Drainage Treatment…

When receiving manual lymph drainage, it is best to avoid having conversations so that your autonomic nervous system is able to be more aware of the treatment. (The autonomic nervous system controls areas of the body that we are not consciously aware of.  The system is divided into two branches, your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest).

To create the serene environment, there may or may not be music accompanying the treatment. You will be covered with linens and a blanket and the temperature in the room should be comfortable.  Only the area that is being treated will be revealed.   The lighting will, whenever possible, be low and not blinding.  There is little or no oil used for this treatment so concern about whether or not the oils will stain your clothes after the treatment is negligible.

How is manual lymph drainage applied?

Depending on the training of the therapist the techniques may vary.  In the Dr. Vodder Schools, the application of manual lymph drainage consists of four different types of stroke techniques.  The techniques are used on the skin in a combination of round or oval, small or large circular motions.  These motions are performed on the skin without sliding on the skin and without applying pressure to the tissues below the skin.  However, the intensity of the pressure may vary depending on the condition of the tissue.  For example:  If the tissue has started to harden and become fibrotic, then the pressure used in the treatment will be firmer.  If the tissue is soft then the techniques will be lighter as is the case, generally, when treating lymphedemas.



How is manual lymph drainage applied?


Depending on the training of the therapist the techniques may vary.  In the Dr. Vodder Schools, the application of manual lymph drainage consists of four different types of stroke techniques.  The techniques are used on the skin in a combination of round or oval, small or large circular motions.  These motions are performed on the skin without sliding on the skin and without applying pressure to the tissues below the skin.  However, the intensity of the pressure may vary depending on the condition of the tissue.  For example:  If the tissue has started to harden and become fibrotic, then the pressure used in the treatment will be firmer.  If the tissue is soft then the techniques will be lighter as is the case, generally, when treating lymphedemas.

What is inflammation? edema? Lymphedema? What are some of the causes?


By definition inflammation is condition which is local to a specific area creating symptoms of swelling, redness, pain, reduced range of motion and heat.

Causes: Usually due to an injury or infection


By definition edema is an accumulation of fluid between body tissues or in the circulatory system.


  • High intake of salty foods. Salt is sodium and sodium attracts water.  Therefore the more salt you consume the more the body will hang onto excess fluids.
  • Immobility can cause edema. Your muscles are designed in a way that when they contract they put pressure on your veins pushing the blood in the veins upwards.  If you are at a desk job all day and then you come home and sit in front of the TV for the night, your blood has pooled in your legs and with no activity, thus no contraction of the muscles, the blood remains in the legs, causing edema.
  • Warm temperatures cause a change in the blood vessel size allowing more fluid to escape into the tissues.
  • High humidity increases edema when the excess fluid, caused from excess heat, by way of sweat is not allowed to escape the body. Sweating is a way that our body cools itself by allowing the excess fluid to escape through our pores onto our skin to be evaporated.  However, when the humidity, outside our body, reaches the temperature of our internal 98 degrees, our body does not sweat increasing body fluid.
  • Hormone changes can result in edema. Menopause, menstruation and Pregnancy have an effect on our fluid retentions.
  • Medications such as those used to treat high blood pressure, inflammation or pain can change how quickly or slowly the fluid leaves the body.
  • Allergies: When the body has a response to a substance that it is trying to get rid of the walls of the arteries are made more permeable by histamine.  This means that more fluid that carries antibodies is released into an area causing edema.
  • Obstruction of blood flow.
    • Blood clots can be formed due to slow moving blood such as atrial fibrillation or from injury, immobility, congenital changes to blood clotting factors to name a few. The clots are formed inside the veins and if released can be life threatening.  Because the clot obstructs the blood from flowing freely, increased edema occurs.
  • Medical conditions
    • Varicose veins. Our veins have a one way valve that permits the back flow of blood.  When these valves are destroyed, blood pools in the legs and feet.
    • Blood circulation is a continual flow of fluid through our body. The heart controls how this process occurs.  Our oxygenated blood leaves our heart through, the lower left chamber, by way of a pumping action.  It travels through our arteries to all parts of our bodies.  It is returned to the right side of our heart by way of the veins and lymphatic vessels.  The right side of the heart pumps the blood, which no longer contains oxygen, into our lungs to be oxygenated.  From the lungs it is returned into the left side of our heart where the process begins again.
    • Heart disease where the blood is not able to circulate through the body at the required rate or volume as in congestive heart failure will create a backup of fluid in the body.
    • Left side heart failure causes pulmonary edema. When the left ventricle of the heart is too weak to pump the blood to other body parts, there is an accumulation of blood left in the heart and the new blood returning from the lungs starts to back up in the arteries of the lungs leading to the excess leaking into the lungs.
    • Right sided heart failure causes pitted edema in the lower legs. If the right side of the heart cannot pump blood, due to damage, into the lungs for oxygenation, the blood returning to the heart from the veins and lymphatics will be backed up leading to excess leakage in the lower legs and feet.
    • Low protein in the blood. Protein helps keep fluid in the blood vessels.  If there is a lack of protein, fluid will leak out of the vessels into the tissues.
    • Burns & Critical illness such as life threatening infections can create systemic edema by allowing excess fluid containing antibodies into the area. In this situation it would be through the entire body.


By definition is an abnormal amount of protein rich fluid, in an area that will not go away on its own.

Causes:   Damage, removal/absence or malformation of the lymph nodes or vessels.

What is Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD)?

Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) is a technique which is used for swelling or edema.  There are different levels of training for the use of this technique.  For example, many massage therapy students will learn the basic education and skill for the treatment of swelling or edema due to injury such as a sprained ankle.  Specialized training is needed for the treatment of swelling or edema where the lymph nodes or vessels have been damaged, destroyed, removed or reduced from birth.  One such condition is the treatment of lymphedema, which is swelling that, will not go away, a result of lymph nodes or vessels being damaged from radiation or removed during cancer surgery.    Massage Therapists are one of the professions that may obtain this training.    There are different training facilities available to learn this technique, but the Dr. Vodder School International has the most extensive training available and exceeds the Lymphology Association of North America (LANA) requirements.  There are 4 levels of training each lasting 5 days for a total of 160 hours of classroom education.  If a therapist has the Dr. Vodder Certification for MLD, they must attend refresher courses every 2 years to maintain their credentials with the school.  This ensures that the techniques provided by the therapist are constantly being monitored and corrected to provide the most effective treatment results.

Stress vs Burnout

Do you know the difference between stress and burn out?  Are you familiar with the signs and symptoms of burnout?  What causes a person to burn out?  Are you at risk?  Check out the website below to see if you are heading for an unhealthy state of mind.

Stress in your jaw can create headaches

Some individuals, when stressed will grind their teeth during their sleep or clench their jaw, either during the day, night or both.

When muscles of the jaw are contracted for this extended period of time, trigger points are created in the muscles.  One of the predictable pain patterns for trigger points in the jaw are headaches.

Self help tips:  

  • refrain or limit the amount you chew gum. Chewing gum requires you to contract the jaw muscles that can cause them to be overused.  Overused muscles will develop trigger points.  Trigger points will create symptoms of a headache.
  • Stay away from hard candies or nuts as the pressure required for you to chew these foods will create more tension.
  • Speak to your dentist to find out if an appliance will help with your symptoms.
  • Massage therapy to the neck, shoulders, jaw and head are very helpful in relieving symptoms
  • Self massage and warm compresses will reduce tension
  • Meditation for general relaxation will help with overall feelings of stress, which in turn, may reduce the frequency of clenching or grinding.

Stress and Headaches

Headaches develop for a number of reasons.  Some are caused by changes to the atmospheric pressure while others may be caused from hormones, medications, lack of water, or sensitivities to certain foods or beverages; but what about stress?

When people encounter stress whether it is emotional or physical, there are changes that occur to our muscles.  For example, stress may cause a person to hold their shoulders in a shrugged position, as though wearing their shoulders as earrings.  When our muscles are placed in this state they contract more forcefully or constantly than when we are relaxed.   Muscles that are contracted continuously develop stress which in turn develops trigger points.   Trigger points, in simple terms, are irritable spots located in specific areas of our body that cause certain symptoms in predictable locations.   Our trapezius muscle, often referred to as the traps, is a common muscle that develops trigger points when we are stressed.  This muscle lifts our shoulders up.  When trigger points develop in this muscle, symptoms that can develop are headaches at the temples, or base of the scull.    Additional symptoms that may occur from this trigger point are pain behind the eyes, dizziness, neck pain or intolerance to weight being placed on your shoulders.

Massage, heat and stretching can eliminate the trigger points.  Self-massage can also work to treat a trigger point.  Gently sink into your tissues at the top of your shoulder using the pads of your fingers until you find a spot that creates a headache, then hold this pressure at a tolerable pain level and wait until the headache decreases.  If the pain does not decrease in a short time frame, discontinue and apply heat and then gently stretch the muscle.  Or using the pads of your fingers, place the hand over the top of your shoulder in a cupped position, then gently sink into the tissue and pull the tissue towards the front of your body.  Repeat this move a number of times until you feel a softening in the tissue or a decrease in the intensity of the headache.

To stretch the right upper trapezius muscle, place your right hand behind your back, then gently tip your left ear towards your left shoulder and with your left hand place it at the side of your right temple and gently pull your head to the left until you feel a mild discomfort.  A stretch should not be taken into a position that causes pain.  Hold the stretch for 20 – 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.

The heat application should be moist heat placed on the top of the shoulders and upper back region.    When placing heat over the shoulders, be careful not to let your head project forward, rather keep the neck in a more upright position.   Leave the heat on the shoulders, back and neck for  approximately 20 minutes.  If heat remains on the area for periods of time longer than 20 minutes, it can cause irritation and increased pain symptoms.