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.

About the Work

It's a practice for more comfort and better performance.
 



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. This takes time, effort, and money. In return, you get more comfort and better performance. Not included: miracles, permanence.

You affect your outcome. Your habits matter. 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 we don't pretend your habits and choices don't matter. They matter.

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

Loosening is the solution. I like the word "loosening" because it's ordinary, and it avoids the baggage that sometimes accompanies the word "massage." The best way to address your tension is by loosening — not by stretching. We don't stretch a tangled ball of yarn; we patiently loosen and differentiate its strands and layers. Your massage therapist, your foam roller, your lacrosse ball: they all help you loosen up your tangled, cobwebby muscles.

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's never perfect. At least not for long. Your body is a living system that is constantly changing. That's reality. 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 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, bending, and lifting. Your 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 start taking out the garbage.

Everything will be better with more rest. Rest more, for your body and brain. Good news: your resting doesn't have to be perfect. Anything helps. During our appointment, you get a brief but concentrated dose of rest — I call it Vitamin R. Silence and stillness are luxuries 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, like mine, 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.

I loosen the body skillfully and generously, help people relax in a deep way, and teach self-care.

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. It feels good.
 



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 unhappy, and the very ill.

Every body is welcome.

This life: the one 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, 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 tune up 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.
 



My dear athletes and performing artists! Some of you have expectations that are different from the way I work. Here are three considerations:

We're going to treat broadly. We never spend the entire appointment 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. Everyone gets some attention to their nervous system to enhance recovery, along with structural work on their musculature. Can you trust a broad approach?

The work might seem gentler than you expect. Or it might not. It's not deliberately "gentle." 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 bodywork feels like?

One session doesn't "fix" you. Sometimes people wait months or years to seek treatment for a problem, then hope it will be resolvable in one visit, or a couple. This is unrealistic. A deeply entrenched pattern or injury usually requires repeated unwinding sessions from me, and maybe also some specific strengthening and movement re-training from an expert third party. (I can advise.) To stay uninjured after you recover, you may need a regular maintenance program. Bodywork isn't emergency medicine. It's performance tuning, hygiene, maintenance. Will you accept the time, effort, and money that are involved in premium body care and injury rehab?

If this seems uncomfortable or suspicious, we're not the right fit.

If this seems smart — or at least worth investigating — you may have found your secret weapon.

For reference, in terms of athletes and performers, I work regularly with rock climbers — lots of climbers, some of them pro — lots of 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 have a keen understanding of movement and the body, and as a lifelong athlete (and lapsed musician), I appreciate how much your passion means to you. Let's optimize!
 



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 for more ideas like those above. Contact me with your questions, and to book a session.

Thank you.

— Mike Papciak