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Essential Medical Massage & Wellness

2301 Ohio Dr, Ste 214, Plano, TX 75093

Essential Medical Massage

Specializing in Acute Pain, Rehabilitation and Cancer Care

Phoebe Courcy, LMT, MMP, CPMT

Health Blog


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Are kids suffering from neck pain too early?

Posted on November 27, 2015 at 11:57 PM Comments comments (2434)
I am a concerned mother.  I am a concerned massage therapist.  And as a therapist for children, I am very concerned over the posture habits already being exhibited by young kids and teenagers.  The habitual use and the associated poor postures associated with sitting hunched over modern day devices is literally sending more and more young people into doctors offices, chiropractic and physical therapy clinics, and massage therapist's offices such as mine complaining of neck pain, headaches, etc. 

What can we do as parents?  These are just a few tips to at least minimize the long-term damage on necks and spines.  Parents take note...these apply to you as well!

#1.  Limit time spent on the device.

Sounds simple, but is it?  Yes. No of course not.  Kids want to play and surf the web but children do not need to be on these devices for lengths of time.  Children need to know how to appropriately socialize among peers and their elders.  Children need to interact with their parents without the a phone or tablet distracting them.  Have children earn time on the device and keep the usage to maybe 10-30 minutes at a time.

#2.  Play close attention to how the child holds their head and sits with the device.      
Dr. James Carter, a leading Australian chiropractor has warned that ‘text neck’ which is a condition often brought on by bending over phone and tablets for several hours at a time is becoming a global epidemic. He warns that the condition can lead to anxiety and depression as well as spinal damage.  The head is tilted forward, front neck muscles become chronically tight, as well as the jaw, while the muscles in the back of neck become over stretched, weakened.  This mixture inevitably leads to things like neck pain, migraines, jaw pain/soreness, chronic mouth breathing, stiffness throughout the upper body, and could possibly be creating permanent damage to the spine, during a crucial time when kids and teens are learning bad habits while continuing to go through growth spurts.

3.  Remind them!

In addition to limiting time spent on the device, remind them (constantly if you have to) to sit up straight.  It's an old saying, right?  Remember when our parents used to constantly correct us?  It's okay to do that.  In fact, it's a must.  Use a pillow or other prop to bring the device higher so that the head isn't forced to look so far down.  Use any props you can think of!  Ideally, one's head should be able to look straight ahead with shoulders in a relaxed position and elbows bent at 90 degrees.  This can be challenging when playing games or surfing the web for hours.  Again, limiting time is key!

4.  Learn, teach and exhibit good postural habits now. 

Adults and kids alike can benefit from working with a good personal trainer, physical therapist, structural or orthopedic massage specialist, etc, to learn proper posture techniques.  There is so much great info out on the web regarding the subject.  One of my favorite analogies comes from Dr. Erik Dalton in his article, The 42 Lb. Head.  Here is a quick excerpt:

"According to research, every inch the head moves forward of the shoulders, weight is amplified by 10 pounds. As a result, a 12 pound head held 3 inches forward causes the cervical extensors (semispinalis, splenii, longissimus, upper traps, etc.) to isometrically battle 42 pounds against the relentless force of gravity.  Forward Head Postures such as the Upper Crossed Syndrome (Fig. 1) evolve from poor sleeping positions, driving stress, computer neck, whiplash, and faulty breathing habits. Resulting pain syndromes can often be traced to muscle strain, disc herniations, arthritis, pinched nerves and 'dural-drag' from an overstretched or impinged spinal cord.

If your child complains of neck pain, this could be one possibility.  Watch him or her and observe and make adjustments.  If they complain of pain, pediatric massage therapy is one way to help. Do not allow your children to achieve a kyphotic spine in their youth.  It will age them beyond their years and pain will ensue. They will surely thank you for it some day!

Don't Overlook Self-Care

Posted on December 13, 2013 at 11:32 AM Comments comments (0)
Why do we wait so long to take care of ourselves?  Why must we experience pain before we really LISTEN to our bodies, and even then, how long does it take to do something about these body signals?  

We abuse and neglect our bodies, asking it to keep up with the hectic pace of our lifestyles.  If nothing hurts we must certainly be okay...right?  A perfect case of 'What we cannot see must not be there.' 

It's common to put the needs of others before our own...more so for some than others, such as caretakers of the sick, or parents of young children.  The kids come first.  Our parents come first.  Our clients or patients' needs come before our own.  You know this scenario.

Please take care of yourself now.  Make those necessary appointments.  Prevention, prevention, prevention.  Schedule maintenance bodywork and massage now.   Watch what you feed your body.  Get proper rest, both physically and mentally.  Make it a point to put self-care on your calender, just like anything else. 
Athletes in training, be sure to include bodywork sessions on your rest days. 

How can we take care of others if our own health is suffering?

The alternative:  Wake up one day in pain and wonder, "Oh no, What did I do?"

These gluteal muscles may be a part of your lower back pain

Posted on August 20, 2013 at 12:13 PM Comments comments (1)
There are several muscles that play a part of your low back pain, however, one group in particular makes the cut as one of the biggest culprits. 

Before we get there, allow me to say that a common assumption of low back pain is that it must be caused by a structural issue in the lumbar spine, such as arthritis, a herniated disk, compressed nerve, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, etc.  While these are common conditions that need ruling out (usually with diagnostic evidence), it is just as important to rule out a common soft tissue malady.  You could possibly save time, money, and hassle trying to find structural issues when the problem could be a result of muscular trigger points referring the pain. 

Trigger points in the GLUTEUS MEDIUS muscles, are commonly felt in the low back just above and below the belt line and often extends into the buttocks and hips.  Gluteus medius trigger points can make walking painful and can make it hard to find comfortable sleeping position, especially on the side of the hips.  Afflicted gluteus medius muscles pull the rim of the pelvis down, stiffening and flattening the lower back, adding to the problem.

The gluteus medius muscle is a very strong and thick muscle, lying underneath the larger gluteus maximus.  Its primary function is to allow you to walk upright.  With each step you take, the gluteus medius muscles take turns supporting the pelvis and supporting the entire weight of the upper body.

So if these muscles are so strong, why do they cause issues? 

Due to their leverage at the hip, the gluteus medius muscles must generate a force equal to more than twice the body weight.  That's right, more than double the body weight!  Any additional demands placed on the gluteus medius will only compound the load that they must carry with each and every step.

Carrying extra weight, whether it be in an overweight individual or a pregnant woman, for example, often times results in the 'waddle' walk.  This is the body's way of trying to maintain good body mechanics under the circumstances of overloading.

Here are other potential causes of gluteus medius trigger points:
-weight lifting
-aerobic exercise
-habitual weight bearing on one side of body (such as carrying a baby on one hip)
-standing or sitting still for long periods of time
-lifting heavy items without properly supporting with both legs
-*weak gluteal muscles
- and more.

So the next time you suffer from lower back pain or hip pain, consider these important muscles.  Are you an active individual?  Does your job entail sitting or standing for long periods?  Are you carrying extra weight?

These are things to consider when dealing with lower back pain.  If you have not tried an experienced massage session, focusing on the gluteals, now is the time.  Pain relief can come sooner than you think.

To schedule online, visit

*See gluteal strengthening videos now:

Get Outdoors for a Mood Boost

Posted on February 8, 2013 at 4:50 PM Comments comments (0)
Have you connected with nature lately?

No matter how hard we may try, our to-do lists pile up.  It can be easy to get overwhelmed with have-to-dos...loads of laundry to be done, refrigerator needs stocking, and those bathrooms won't clean themselves.  Our family needs attention, too.  What about those files piling up and bills needing to be paid? 

Where does taking care of yourself fit in to that hectic list of things to do?  The answer must schedule care for yourself now.  Take a break.  I find that getting outdoors for a little while really puts things in perspective.  The minute, little things that have surmounted themselves in your head, suddenly become less important once you connect with nature again.  It's truly a beautiful feeling!

One can make all kinds of excuses not to get outside, or not to exercise, or not to even get out of bed.  If you live with chronic pain this can be especially difficult.  But let me say this, even if you sit in a park for 15 minutes your mood will improve.  The earth, the vast sky, sounds of nature, and even people-watching are greatly therapeutic to the soul, mind, and body.  If it's a sunny day, let the sun's natural vitamin D boost energy and immunity levels.  Look up and allow the great weight of everyday worries drift up into the sky!  Take your shoes off and ground yourself to the earth.  Perhaps go for a brisk walk, run, bicycle, or spend time with kids and go exploring for nature's treasures.  Children find fascination in everything, and just being around them can boost your mood.

If you find yourself getting frequently frustrated, depressed, short-tempered and boggled down with life's daily stressors, than perhaps it's time to get outside.  Connect with your feelings and be mindful of the present.  Journal your feelings or even draw what you see in nature.  These are just a few examples, but the point being, 'life is too short to sweat the small stuff'. 

For an all natural mood boost, plan your visit with mother nature as often as you possibly can.  She welcomes the company!

What is manual lymphatic drainage and what can it do for you?

Posted on December 28, 2012 at 1:04 PM Comments comments (0)
Manual lymphatic drainage is actually not a 'massage' at all.  That's right.  Many folks are confused by this, including some doctors, who may be hesitant to prescribe this type of technique for post-surgical care, fearing that it is a massage using invasive pressure.  Created and developed by Danish therapists Dr. Emil Vodder and his wife, Estrid, in the 1930's, the Vodder method of lymph drainage has grown to be the most well known manual technique to assist lymph flow and aid in drainage of tissues.

Research in Australia, Europe, and America has proven its efficacy as a stand-alone treatment and as a combination technique with other therapies.

Manual lymphatic drainage(MLD) is a gentle, non-invasive manual technique that is intended to encourage the natural drainage of the lymph from the tissue spaces.  The lymph system depends on intrinsic contractions of the smooth muscle cells in the walls of lymph vessels (peristalsis) and the movement of skeletal muscles to propel lymph through the vessels to lymph nodes.  The lymph nodes then drain to the lymph ducts, which return lymph to the cardiovascular system.

Manual lymph drainage uses a specific amount of pressure (less than 9 ounces per square inch) to gently stretch the skin.  Torque is applied with rhythmic circular movements.  It is basically a gentle pumping motion, following the natural direction of lymphatic flow.  This assists the cutaneous lymphatics in picking up and removing not just fluids, but all the waste products, protein particles and debris from our system. 

If performed correctly with the correct pressure, direction and speed, this technique can greatly enhance surgical recovery, facilitate fluid drainage and produce rapid results.  It also has profound effect on other systems in the body!

So what is MLD good for? 

Here are a few things that MLD is ideal for:
-Sinusitis                                 -Edema & Lymphedema
-Chronic Fatigue                       -Stimulating immune system 
-Vertigo                                   -Arthritis
-Headaches                              -Scar tissue regeneration
-Cancer care (such as with lymph node removal, mastectomy, lymphedema, etc.)
-Post-surgical recovery            

If you or someone you know has lymphedema, I encourage you to visit the National Lymphedema Network for more information.  Find out how this powerful technique can be of great benefit!.

To schedule your manual lymphatic drainage appointment, schedule online today!

Is cracking your own neck bad for you?

Posted on September 30, 2012 at 9:29 PM Comments comments (0)
On occasion I get this question: "Is popping my neck bad to do?"

How is this different from a chiropractic adjustment?

First of all, chiropractic work uses a specific speed and specific force applied to manipulative adjustments.  Chiropractorsuse a line of drive during manipulation that is also referred to as the joint plane.  When done correctly, cervical adjustments done through the joint plane require very little force in order to make the release on the spine.  Hopefully, they are also spending a little time prepping the muscles with heat and/or massage prior to manipulation.

When clients attempt to self-release, however, there is no line of drive through the joint plane.  Additionally, very little muscle relaxation or muscle warming occurs before a person self-manipulates, requiring more force and more torque in order to elicit the response.  This in turn creates inflammation, muscle spasms, and overly lax ligaments of the cervical spine over time...not good news!

So why do people develop this weird and sometimes eerily noisy habit?  They probably discovered that they could lessen any muscular pain or joint tension by simply torquing the neck to the side.  The feeling of immediate relief eventually creates a habit - an addiction if you will.  Those who feel the need to constantly crack their own necks develop a problem known as over-manipulation syndrome (OMS)

According to W. David Bond, DC, founder and director of Essential Chiropractic Center in California, clients experience the release of endorphins (the body's natural opiates) into the bloodstream after self-manipulation, which finds the pleasure center of the brain.  The feeling of needing to pump more and more endorphins into the system develops, however, creating the OMS.

Over manipulation of the cervical spine can cause:
-muscle weakness
-laxity of ligaments, leading to loss of stability            
-over compensation of the cervical muscles 
-local and referred pain
-muscle spasms

Dr. Bond says that it takes roughly 2 months to break the habit of popping your own neck.  During this time it is imperative to avoid self-manipulation altogether!  You may stretch the muscles slightly being careful not to stretch as far as eliciting a pop. 

Massage therapy, ice treatments, and avoiding stimulants such as caffeine will help reduce inflammation and pain.   Massage can also help ease the client's urge to crack by working with the soft tissues, relieving muscle tension, and demonstrating rehab/strengthening exercises for home.

After breaking the cycle of self-manipulation and pain, clients can expect to experience less pain and greater range of motion, while also losing a terrible habit.

Go Barefoot For Better Health

Posted on September 24, 2012 at 5:46 PM Comments comments (0)
The other day my mom joined us in a trip to the lake side.  We commonly enjoy walking the shore, playing in the sand, and collecting rocks/shells.  For the first several minutes she refused to take her shoes off, even in the soft sand underneath the water.  When I asked if she would eventually take off her shoes, she emphatically replied, "Oh no, walking barefoot hurts my feet too much."  And I thought, "Even more reason to walk barefoot!"

Walking through sand or on the ground not only provides therapeutic reflexology and strengthens foot and leg muscles, but also provides another form of therapy called 'GROUNDING' or 'EARTHING' (putting bare feet on the ground).  On a daily basis our bodies are inundated with hoards of free radicals (i.e. toxins).  In my mom's case, she works at place where she must walk around electronic gadgets such as computers and cellular phones, and other high EMF equipment for long hours.  She needs to shift this overload of radiation elsewhere.  The earliest and most primitive way to do this is to put bare feet on the ground.

During grounding, you're literally soaking up millions and millions of electrons which intercept the free radicals in the body.  The shift that takes place in the autonomic system while walking on the ground, a beach, a park, etc., allows our bodies to come into a more homeostatic balance, a healthier state.  Grounding is the easiest, cheapest way to help the body achieve an optimal state of homeostasis!

If you cannot find a place to walk barefoot, you can sit outside and allow bare feet to touch the ground.  You will feel better in just minutes as the Earth donates its electron charges.

Grounding yourself daily is so important!!!

For more information regarding this form of therapy:

Read Clint Ober's book, Earthing.

Movement Decreases Fatigue

Posted on August 14, 2012 at 5:06 PM Comments comments (0)
Feeling fatigued?  Too tired to exercise?  It doesn't take a lengthy gym session to build better health, and studies have shown that in fact, movement creates more energy than any stimulant.

According to Eva Cwynar, M.D., even just getting up and moving across a room and taking a few steps can help you feel more energetic.

A study published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics in 2008, reported that inactive people who normally complained of fatigue could increase their energy levels by 20 percent and DECREASE fatigue by as much as 65 percent, simply by taking part in regular, low intensity exercise!

The science behind it:
"Deep into the cellular level of our bodies are cells called mitochondria, which are energy-producing organs found in every single cell.  The more you move around, the more mitochondria your body makes to meet the energy needs.  The more mitochondria you have, the greater the boost to your metabolism, and the greater your ability to produce more energy." -The Fatigue Solution

So the next time you are feeling run down and sleepy, feeling guilty because you didn't work out, or thinking of reaching for a sugary stimulant, make it a point to get up and move. 


Bath Recipe for Muscle Pain Relief

Posted on August 13, 2012 at 5:21 PM Comments comments (0)
There are many 'detox' bath recipes out there on the web, sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming.  However, it is not hard to make a healing and luxurious bath with ingredients you may already have at home.

This particular recipe can help with muscle aches, pains, spasms, and help relieve post-workout soreness.

Detox Bath Recipe:
1/3-2c  Epsom Salt
1/3-2c  Baking Soda
1/3-2c  Sea Salt
5 TBSP Ground Ginger
1/2-2c  Apple Cider Vinegar (organic is best)

Combine dry ingredients, storing in a closed container.  At bath time add the apple cider vinegar to hot running water. 
*Optional: Add 8-12 drops of essential oil.  Soak 15-30 for optimal healing.  Make sure to stay hydrated with cold drinking water during bath. 

*Some of my favorite essential oils to use for muscle relief are

-Epsom salt's magnesium content helps to draw impurities from the body, relieves muscle aches and pains, disperses essential oils.
-Baking soda balances an over acidic system, refreshing, energizing, and softening the skin.
-Sea salt soothes, healing open pores and blemishes.
-Ground ginger increases circulation.
-Apple Cider Vinegar soothes and softens the skin, and raises alkalinity in the body.

These baths may be taken for muscle relief or anytime you feel the need to relax, calm the mind and body.  Of course, these baths feel especially healing after a good massage!

Caution: Do not take hot salt baths if you have heart trouble, high or low blood pressure, or are diabetic.

Avoid heat stoke during hot summer months

Posted on July 25, 2012 at 2:06 PM Comments comments (0)
 Summer time means temperatures well over 90 even 100 degrees for many areas of the country.  Exercising in the heat and even fun summer activities in the heat make individuals (especially athletes) more likely to develop a type of heat stroke called 'exertional heat stroke', which occurs due to intense physical activity in very hot temperatures.  It often hits the young, fit, and otherwise healthy people who ignore the the first warning signs because they don't consider themselves at risk of any heat-related trouble.
Early warning signs of heat stroke include:
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
By the time there is a clear indication that there may be a problem, the person or athlete is often in big trouble. The next stages of heat stroke can include neurological symptoms such as:
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Irritability
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Coma
Pay attention when exercising in the heat, and if you begin to feel tired, dizzy or nauseated, or if you develop a headache. Get out of the heat and start cooling your core temperature immediately!  Air-conditioning, a cool shower or bath, cold packs, a garden hose, and a plunge in a nearby pool can all quickly help bring your temperature down.  Consume ice water when possible as it will hydrate your body faster than room temperature water.
So when exercising in the heat, remain conscious of the warning signs of heat stroke BEFORE it becomes too late.  Be safe out there and have fun!