Fitness & Exercise

Spotlight On: Magnesium

Photo by  Radu Florin  on  Unsplash

Photo by Radu Florin on Unsplash

Magnesium is one of my favourite essential minerals because it does SO much in the body, and is helpful for mental, emotional and physical conditions.  Along with zinc, it is also one of the nutrients that I tend to see signs of deficiency in many of my clients who come to see me both for Naturopathic and remedial massage treatments.

Every cell in your body requires magnesium to function, and it plays many roles in the body including converting food into energy, creating proteins and amino acids and repairing DNA.  It can also help with reducing insulin resistance, improving PMS symptoms, reducing inflammation and improving exercise performance. But some of the more commonly known roles (and the ones people tend to come and see me for) are muscle contraction and relaxation, and the regulation of neurotransmitters. (1)

Not getting enough magnesium can lead to many common symptoms including low mood, higher than normal stress levels, restless sleep, fatigue and muscle twitches and spasms.  Other symptoms that low magnesium may contribute to include high blood pressure, heart palpitations, migraines, osteoporosis and asthma. (2) Let’s have a look at some of the more common conditions and symptoms that low magnesium may contribute to:

Stress & Mood
The relationship between magnesium and stress is a two way street – stress depletes magnesium, and magnesium counteracts stress.  So when you are going through times of high stress, you need more magnesium!  Magnesium helps to reduce stress by balancing the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is the body’s main stress response system.  Without enough, your cortisol and adrenaline is left unchecked which exacerbates your body’s fight or flight response.  Stress can be physical or mental, however the results are very similar.  When in this fight or flight state, your muscles become tense, which can further exacerbate stress.  Magnesium is muscle relaxant, and so can help calm both the nervous system and your muscles, reducing your overall stress levels. (3)  Magnesium also plays a role in neurotransmitter function, including those responsible for regulating mood such as serotonin, GABA and dopamine.  It is required for the body to both create these neurotransmitters and allow them to transmit, and so can be a factor in mental health and mood conditions such as depression and anxiety. (4)

Sleep & Fatigue
If a client has troubles with getting to and staying asleep, one of the first things I recommend is magnesium, especially if they’re showing any other signs or symptoms of deficiency.  Not only can magnesium help you get to sleep, it can help you get a better quality and deeper rest.  As mentioned in the previous section, magnesium can help calm the nervous system down which in turn can help promote sleep. It helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for helping you relax, and it plays a role in regulating melatonin, which is the chemical responsible for managing your sleep/wake cycle. (5) Poor quality sleep can also contribute to fatigue, and so one thing to really look at is if you are fatigued, are you sleeping poorly?  In some cases, addressing the sleep issue can help to improve fatigue.  The other way magnesium helps with fatigue is that its involved in formation and storage of the energy molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP).  Low magnesium can also contribute to oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, which has been shown to contribute to conditions such as chronic fatigue and depression. (6)

Muscle Tension & Exercise Performance
Magnesium can help reduce muscle tension and improve recovery from exercise due to its role in relaxing muscles.  Its opposing mineral is calcium, which contributes to muscle contraction – and so the balance of these two minerals in the body is important.  This also relates to how magnesium status can impact on heart palpitations and increases in blood pressure – due to increase contraction in the cardiovascular muscles. Low levels of magnesium can also increase lactic acid build up which is well known to cause post workout tension and cramping.  For those who exercise frequently, and especially endurance athletes, the need for magnesium increases due to increased sweat and overall nutrients required for the body to function. (7)

Now that you know how important magnesium is, how do you get it?  The food sources highest in magnesium include seeds, dark leafy greens, dark chocolate (yay!), whole grains, bananas, legumes, nuts, avocado and some fish. (8) However some people have a higher demand that exceeds what they may get from dietary sources alone, and may require supplementation.  I generally recommend a powder form of magnesium over tablets, because it is better absorbed.  I don’t recommend buying a cheap product from the supermarket, if you are looking for a retail product go for brands like BioCeuticals, ATP Science, Ethical Nutrients or Herbs of Gold. 

And if you’re ever unsure about whether you need magnesium or something else to help with your stress, sleep or fatigue, then please be sure to visit the Holistia Naturopathy page so that you can start your own personal healing journey!

 References:

1.         Spritzler F. 10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Magnesium2018 23 April 2019. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-proven-magnesium-benefits.
2.         Arnarson A. 7 Signs and Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency2017 23 April 2019. Available from:
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/magnesium-deficiency-symptoms.
3.         Smith MD. Can Magnesium Help You Cope with Stress?2018 23 April 2019. Available from:
https://www.betternutrition.com/supplements/more-magnesium-less-stress.
4.         Greenblatt J. MAGNESIUM: THE MISSING LINK IN MENTAL HEALTH?2016 23 April 2019. Available from:
http://www.immh.org/article-source/2016/11/17/magnesium-the-missing-link-in-mental-health.
5.         Jennings K-A. How Magnesium Can Help You Sleep2017 23 April 2019. Available from:
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/magnesium-and-sleep.
6.         STAFF U. Low Energy Causes May Be Rooted in These 3 Nutritional Deficiencies2018 23 April 2019. Available from:
https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/energy/3-top-nutritional-deficiencies-as-fatigue-causes/.
7.         PHARMA W. This is how to protect your muscles from magnesium deficiencyN.D. 23 April 2019. Available from:
https://www.woerwagpharma.de/en/health-topics/bone-muscle-joint-health/this-is-how-to-protect-your-muscles-from-magnesium-deficiency/.
8.         Blackmores. 10 magnesium foods for your health2018 23 April 2019. Available from:
https://www.blackmores.com.au/energy/10-magnesium-foods-for-your-health.

 

Passive Superficial Front Line Stretch

If I’ve sent you the link to this page, chances are that I have recommended this stretch for you to help open up the front of the body, especially through the chest and the front of the shoulders.

In this day of desk sitting and technology, the majority of clients I see who come in for remedial massage or structural integration work have the typical head forward, shoulders rounded posture. This posture is problematic because it can create tension and pain in the back, shoulders and neck. And that’s where most people feel it so assume that’s where the problem is.

I love this stretch because its easy to do, and that makes it doable. For most people, in the evening when watching TV or winding down for bed can be a great time to do this. To start with you may only be able to do it for 3-5 minutes, and that’s ok! As long as you do it consistently, every day. Chances are, if you’re shoulders are pulled forward and down, or your head is drawn forward, it’s something that has been building consistently over many years - and so it will take time to counteract this. And, once things are aligned a bit better - this can be a great way to help prevent the problem in future.

How to do the stretch:

1. Use either a rolled up yoga mat or a half foam roller for this. Either works, it depends on how much of a stretch you need. For many, rolling up the yoga mat can be enough to begin with. I would not recommend using a full round roller for this as it will be way too high.

2. Lie on the foam roller or yoga mat as pictured below. You will want to try and get your back nice and flat by tucking your tailbone under, and dropping your chin towards your chest a little more than is pictured below, to give you some flatness in the upper neck (but only go to where is comfortable). Have your arms out at 90 degrees (or less, if needed) with palms facing upwards. The amount of stretch and how comfortable you feel depends on where you move the arms - and you can have them wherever works for you.

3. Hold this position for however feels comfortable for you. You can start with 3-5 minutes, and then work up towards 10-15 minutes. The more time you spend at a desk or in a position which encourages your shoulders to round forward, the more important this will be for you.

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Remedial Massage Therapy – Not just your regular massage!

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I am not sure about you, but for a very long time the only massage that I was aware of was relaxation massage.  I knew that remedial massage could help with tension, stress and backaches, but I had no idea that there was so much more to it than that.

Generally massage practice in Australia is divided into two levels based on the level of qualification – Relaxation/Swedish massage therapy and Remedial massage.   Massage falls under the “Complementary and Alternative Medicine” (CAM) umbrella, and so is a great therapy to complement other therapies including your regular primary care from a GP or other health professional.

The role of a Remedial Massage Therapist (RMT) is to assess and treat musculoskeletal and other system disorders. (1)  So it’s not (always) just a case of show up, hop on the table, treat and off you go.   There are various assessments and techniques that are available to provide a holistic treatment in order to get you well and more importantly KEEP you well.

Below I’ll discuss what to expect during your remedial massage treatment, what techniques are offered as part of your treatment plan, and what you may expect with regards to long term prevention strategies.

First things first….
If it is your first time coming for a remedial massage treatment or you are coming in because of a new injury or problem, then I’d strongly recommend booking in a 90 minute appointment instead of a 60 minute appointment.  The reason for this is because in order to come up with a suitable treatment plan both for that day and long term, I may need to do some musculoskeletal assessments or screening processes in order to determine what is causing the problem and how to provide the best treatment for you.  Sometimes we will re-assess during the treatment to determine the outcome of some of the techniques, however in most cases they’ll be done again after the treatment to compare pre and post treatment range of motion and/or pain levels.

I’ll also take a thorough case history to get a general idea of your level of health, the history of the complaint and any other relevant health history details.  Depending on the problem that you are presenting with, this can take anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes.  If you’re just after a relaxation massage, the health history interview will be brief – however the treatment will only consist of relaxation massage which is of course beneficial for stress and tension reduction but may not specifically address your health concern.

A remedial massage treatment may consist of a combination of techniques including relaxation massage, deep tissue massage, trigger point therapy, stretches, myofascial release and kinesiology taping.

Deep Tissue & Trigger Point Therapy
Deep tissue massage consists of strokes similar to relaxation or Swedish massage, however they are deeper, firmer, and can feel more intense depending on the area being treated.   Deep tissue massage is intended to reduce pain, lengthen and stretch muscle fibers, improve lymph and blood flow, separate adhesions and deactivate trigger points.  Trigger point therapy will generally be incorporated at the same time as deep tissue techniques, as usually the trigger points are found during the massage.  A trigger point is a localized area of hyperirritability within a muscle that can be extremely tender when touched or compressed.  In some cases, you may not know you have any until the massage, but in other cases they can be what’s causing your pain.  Trigger points usually have a “referral pattern” of pain, that feels like a dull ache or a pain that you can’t quite work out how to describe or know where its coming from.  Once trigger points are deactivated, pain can be reduced or eliminated completely. (1) When working on a trigger point I’ll ask you to let me know what level the pain is (on a scale of 1-10) to determine how much pressure is used.

Myofascial Release (MFR)
Myofascial release works within remedial massage to reduce adhesions and restrictions in the connective tissue throughout the body.   The fascia within the body connects everything together – and is spread throughout the body as a single structure.  If you can imagine a knitted jumper – if you were to pull on one sleeve it can affect the whole jumper.  The analogy relates to the human body in that if there is a restriction or adhesion within the fascia in one area of the body it can potentially affect other areas.  This can contribute to pain and postural problems.  The techniques used in MFR are aimed at lengthening the fascia, improving fluid flow in the areas, increasing range of motion, and reducing adhesions.  They are slower than deep tissue and trigger point therapy, and the pressure can vary between light and firm/deep.  In some clients, MFR can cause an emotional release either during the treatment or after treatment. (1)

Stretching & Taping
Stretches may also be incorporated as part of your remedial massage treatment in order to lengthen the muscles and improve range of motion.  Stretches may be passive, or may include your participation via your resistance to further improve range of motion to specific muscles.

Rocktape application may be recommended to further enhance the treatment, provide relief or improve posture in the days following the treatment.  Rocktape is a hypoallergenic and water resistant brand of kinesiology tape that is used toprovide functional support to the body during and post exercise, decrease pain, swelling and bruising and improve posture. (2)

Post Treatment
Post treatment you may be prescribed stretches or strengthening exercises to address the issues that are causing your pain or discomfort.  Stretches will be prescribed to further lengthen tight muscles, and strengthening exercises will be prescribed to improve weak muscles.  These two issues together are a big contributing factor to pain and injury.  The exercises prescribed will accommodate your level of fitness and exercise knowledge – both gym exercises and home exercise can be recommended.

So as you can see, remedial massage is more than “just massage”!  If you’re ready to book in your treatment then call 9293 2999 or visit the “Book Online Now” button below to make your appointment.

 

 

References:
1.         Grace S, Deal M. Textbook of Remedial Massage: Elsevier Australia; 2012.

2.         Rocktape n.d. [Available from: https://rocktape.com.au/.

 

Online & At Home Exercise Tips

Exercise is important.  We all know it.  We all hear it.  Sometimes we ignore it.  But it's a truth that you can't escape.  The health benefits of exercise are numerous, from reducing stress and anxiety, improving low mood, improving immune function and reducing many cardiovascular and hormonal imbalances (think type 2 diabetes and heart disease).

But what about those of us who honestly lead very busy lives, juggling work, family/kids, study, or even all of the above?  A gym membership is amazing if you can get there to make it worth the dollars spent.

I have been a regular gym goer for many years, and during my last pregnancy we moved house and the first thing I did was sign up for a (2 year) gym membership at a local gym.  Which was lovely, and the staff there were amazing.  Unfortunately I did not anticipate how busy my life would get, and I think I managed to make it there less than 30 times.  In two years.  You do the math on dollars wasted on that one.  While well intentioned, I just couldn't get there around my work/study timetable plus within the hours the creche were open.

So instead I started finding different options for exercising at home, around my schedule.  The kind of thing where I could go "Oh!  Baby is in the high chair eating his dinner and I have 30 mins until he starts having a hissy fit, and I have to do some administrative work and fit in some study this evening so the time to exercise is RIGHT NOW." and drop everything and just get it done.  Other days I'd set my alarm 30 mins before my normal get up time to squeeze it in before I start my day.

It is helpful if you have a way to stream the internet onto your TV.  We have a Chromecast which has turned out to be a great investment - it allows you to stream YouTube or other media sites from your computer or phone directly onto the TV.  They're inexpensive too so worth looking into if this is something you'd like to do.  

Of course it is important to check with your doctor before embarking on any new exercise regime if you have any underlying health issues or have not exercised for a while.

So - here are some suggestions!

 

YouTube - Sarah Beth Yoga
https://www.youtube.com/user/SarahBethShow

This was one of the first video channels I started using to ease back into exercise.  It categorises the yoga workouts based on length of time and style, making it easy to choose a video that suits your level and the time you have available to do your exercise.   Yoga is well known for its many health benefits, and is especially worth incorporating into your routine if you suffer from stress, anxiety, low mood, or tight muscles.

Cost: FREE, with paid options available.

 

Yoga With Kassandra
https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithkassandra

 

I came across this channel while looking for other Yoga options when I wanted to stretch out my hips, and found it to be amazing - there are SO many videos of various lengths and styles that you won't have a problem finding a variety of videos that suit you.

Cost: FREE, with paid options available.

 

Fitness Blender
https://www.youtube.com/user/FitnessBlender

Fitness Blender have soooo many videos, so there is plenty of variety.  They have heaps of workouts and many of them require no extra equipment, so if you don't have any weights or other fitness equipment you can still get an awesome body weight workout.  To me this is a great bonus as it means not only lower cost but also you can just chuck the video on and go with no set up required.  It also has low impact and advanced options for many of the routines as well as varying time lengths.

Cost: FREE

 

Sweat With Kalya
https://www.kaylaitsines.com

Sweat with Kayla is an app that you install on your phone.  It has a few different styles of workout aimed at building strength, losing weight, toning and exercising post pregnancy.  If I am to be completely honest, I found the app a little confusing, and it took some effort to find out whether equipment is needed (it is, for quite a few of the workouts).  As an all in one workout program that includes meal ideas and progress tracking it's good - and you can subscribe for 7 days for free to see if it is suitable for you.  I have kept it here as there are a lot of great reviews for it and being an app means you can exercise anywhere - but the routines and exercises didn't really grab or motivate me.  As a guided program and all in one app that you work through and track your fitness goals however it's a great option.

Cost: $19.95/month (cancel any time) with a 7 day free trial.

 

TIFFXO
http://tiffxo.com/

*** MY PICK OF THE BUNCH ***

TIFFXO is a subscription program which includes workouts (fitness AND relaxation), meal plans and progress tracking.  What I like about this one as it spells out every day what to do and what meals to make (if that's something that you find helpful) as well as other tips along the way.  The workouts are 20 minutes each day and what's awesome is that because they are a martial arts style - you don't need any equipment OR shoes.  So you can literally get up out of bed, chuck on some pants and a top (or as I have been known to do, stay in pjs!) go to your lounge, and get it done.  You can also choose to do the extra 10 minutes to make it a 30 minute workout.  Also, the FB community is amazingly supportive!

Cost:  Varies, with subscriptions available monthly, 3 monthly, or yearly - cancel any time.

 

Les Mills On Demand
https://www.lesmills.com/ondemand/

It’s finally here in Australia! Les Mills ON DEMAND allows you to workout in the comfort of your own home. So many people who have joined gyms with group fitness classes would be familiar with this, and it’s a great way to get going without having to get a gym membership, and it is SUPER affordable.

Cost: $24.99/month


So there you have it - hopefully there is something in here to spark a bit of motivation to get moving, I'd love to hear how you go with it!