Releasing the hamstrings.
Hamstrings: a favorite topic, and one of the body's big troublemakers. Most of us have short, tight hamstrings — mainly from sitting. Tight hamstrings pull us off the natural scaffolding of our skeleton, throwing the load onto various back and neck muscles which are ill-suited for continuous upright support. Much of the tension you carry in your upper back and neck is coming from the large, mid-body muscles made tight by sitting: the hamstrings and their neighbors in the hips and thighs.

What I Do

I help people.

I loosen your body for more comfort and less pain in your everyday life.

I tune you up for optimal performance in your sport or art.

I support the health of your brain by deeply settling your nervous system.

I teach self-care so you can address some aches and pains on your own.

Here are some of my ideas. If these seem like truth and common sense to you, we're a good match.

You can feel better. If you care for your body, it'll improve. No matter where you're starting from. This takes time, effort, and money. In return, you get more comfort and better performance. Not included: miracles, permanence.

You affect your outcome. The usual perpetuating factors like age, weight, sleep, stress, fitness, nutrition, and attitude affect your result. That's reality. I make no requirements: you don't have to be perfect, go vegan, or start meditating. But your choices and habits matter.

The basic problem is tightness. Tension. Stress. Research shows that when you're tight, you're weaker, slower, dumber, grumpier, sicker, and more prone to injury.

Loosening is the solution. I use the word "loosening" because it's ordinary, and it avoids the baggage that sometimes accompanies the word "massage." But you can think of them interchangeably. The best way to address your tension is by massage, or loosening — not by stretching.

It's never perfect. At least not for long. Your body is a living system that is constantly changing. Instead of always falling short of perfection, we aim for significant and sustainable improvement. If your pain, or your performance, improved by 50% to 90%, how does that sound to you?

It's never just one thing. It's seductive to think that your problem is confined to one spot or one muscle — but this is never true. Your musculature is crowded and cooperative. With any dysfunction or pain, what I call a neighborhood of tissue is involved. So we treat broadly. We address specific complaints like headaches or knee pain by working with the entirety of your musculature.

It really is all connected. Your hips are connected to your shoulders. Your toes are connected to your skull. These are actual, structural, physical connections. In your body, everything affects everything.

Your hips and thighs run the show. I call them the sitting muscles. They're big, they're centrally located, and they're always tight from sitting. Hips and thighs control your posture and influence all of your aches and pains — even those that seem far away. Without some suppleness in your hips and thighs, you won't find lasting relief for your neck, shoulders, back, or knees. Hips and thighs are where the suffering starts.

Even the good stuff makes us tight. So it's not about never doing the bad stuff. You can wear heels, work at a computer, use your smartphone, be way too busy, train a little too hard for your sport, and still feel good in your body — if you loosen up regularly.

Your body and your brain will be better with more rest. Good news: your resting doesn't have to be perfect. Anything helps. During our appointment, your nervous system gets a brief but concentrated dose of rest — I call it Vitamin R. Silence and stillness are medicine for the twenty-first century.

Find a body practice that you enjoy, and do it. Doing it imperfectly is fine. Yoga, Pilates, proper weightlifting, martial arts (including the gentle forms, like tai chi and qi gong), climbing, and dance are fine examples because they are so three-dimensional. Repetitive motion sports like cycling, running, and swimming are also popular. For optimal health, you need loosening — that's my work — and strengthening. I can advise.

An ounce of prevention. It's unrealistic to think that your body will feel comfortable and perform optimally without some ongoing maintenance. Ideally both you and a practitioner provide this maintenance. I'll teach you the stuff you can do on your own. It's like dental hygiene — everyone's learned that lesson. We know the consequences. This is muscle hygiene.

What kind of bodywork do I do?

It's my own style. I've combined deep-tissue massage, myofascial unwinding, trigger point therapy, relational therapy, craniosacral therapy, Zen meditation, structural integration, Chinese tui na, and what I call assisted resting.

Four more ways to think about it:

It's healthcare for pain relief and recovery from illness or injury.

It's performance enhancement for your sport or art.

It's therapy for a friendlier relationship with your body.

It's a microvacation.

Who do I help?

Probably two-thirds of my clients are busy, brainy, stressed but healthy people in midlife — in their 30s, 40s, 50s, or 60s — who want exceptional body care because it makes everything more enjoyable: work, play, activity, and rest.

I also work with seniors, minors, elite athletes, performing artists, the traumatized, the anxious, and the very ill.

Everybody is welcome.

The life you're having right now: would you like to feel better in your body? I help you.

What happens in a session?

First, consultation. I listen for as long as you need me to — I have no patient quotas. Then I'll give you my take on your aches and pains, or your goals. My perspective is usually optimistic, thanks to the forgiving, repairable nature of the body's soft tissue, and it's always realistic: based on anatomy, common sense, and the demands of your modern life.

On the treatment table, we do a couple things:

We loosen and unwind tight bodies. Our musculature gets short and stiff from sitting, stressing, smartphoning, the computer, driving, parenting, squeezing workouts into busy schedules, then switching quickly from the gym or the yoga studio back to the car and the computer. So we reintroduce mobility and ease to your muscles, and we reorganize confused, adhered tissue. Adhesions are cobwebby collagen fibers that grow daily — yes, daily — between the layers of our bodies, and harden with inactivity, stress, age, dehydration, poor diet, and other perpetuating factors. This sticky, clenched, uncoordinated tissue restricts natural movement, causes pain, and sets off a pattern of compensation elsewhere in the body. Some classic examples: Tight hamstrings pull the naturally springy curve out of the lower back and choke the sciatic nerve. Facial and cranial muscles harden from stress or anxiety and disrupt the normal functioning of the jaw or cause headaches. The neck cranes forward and the chest contracts from sitting and working at the computer, which exhausts the upper back. The effects of an imbalance or injury can cascade through the body — sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically.

We also settle the nervous system. We do this by giving you a concentrated dose of deep rest. This boosts your healing and recovery processes and refreshes your mind. Pain or dysfunction in the body is like background noise. This noise fatigues the nervous system and in turn, everything else: immune response, reflexes, strength, mood. When we turn down or turn off the noise, the whole organism — that's you — benefits.

Finally, self-care: I teach you how to brush and floss your own muscles using simple, portable methods and tools. With a rubber lacrosse ball or a foam roller, you can be your own massage therapist.

Here are three reasons you might not want a session with me. This section was written to help athletes and performing artists understand my approach before committing to an appointment. It applies to any client. Consider:

We're going to treat broadly. We never spend the entire session hammering away at what you think is the problem spot. That would be blowing it. Your problem spot is the tip of an iceberg. Because, anatomy. Your body is a system, complex and totally interdependent. Your entire musculature contributes to your symptoms. So our work is distributed. Climbers will get some work on their lower body. Runners will get some work on their upper body. Along with structural work on your musculature, we will give some attention to your nervous system, to enhance recovery and your brain game. Can you trust a broad approach?

The work might seem gentler than you expect. Or it might not. It's not dainty. It's just right. I am an expert at using exactly the right amount of pressure and precision to mobilize your tissue. Many folks believe that crushing, steamroller pressure is what sets serious bodywork apart from wimpy spa massage. The deeper and more intense, the better, right? Wrong. Bombarding your body will damage tissue, slow your recovery, and actually tighten your muscles more. Do you have an open mind about what successful body care feels like?

There is no quick fix. For the athlete or performing artist, what I'm providing is high-end performance tuning. One appointment is one dose of maintenance. We are taking care of your equipment. It's not emergency medicine. Sometimes, people wait months or years to seek treatment for a problem, then hope it will be resolvable in one or two visits. This is unrealistic. A deeply entrenched pattern or injury usually requires repeated unwinding sessions from me, and probably also some specific strengthening and movement re-training from an expert third party. (I can advise.) To stay healthy after you recover, you will need to take out the trash more often. Will you accept the time, effort, and money that are involved in premium body care and injury rehab?

If these ideas seem uncomfortable or suspicious, we're not the right fit.

If these ideas seem smart — or at least worth investigating — you may have found your secret weapon.

For reference: I work regularly with rock climbers — lots of climbers, some of them pro — and with yogis, distance and track cyclists, ultra runners, surfers, swimmers, Olympic-style lifters and cross-fitters, dancers in several styles including ballet and competitive ballroom dance, and musicians on many instruments. I am a lifelong athlete (and a lapsed musician) who understands how much your passion means to you. I will never tell you to quit your sport or art. I will optimize you for it.

I welcome questions and I enjoy discussing whether my work will help you. Keeping your musculature happy and healthy will help almost any malady, from specific sports injuries or biomechanical issues to boosting the immune system and improving sleep. If I don't think I can help, I'll do my best to make an effective referral within my network.

Like and Follow my Facebook page and Instagram for more ideas like those above.

Contact me with your questions, and to book a session.

Thank you.

— Mike Papciak