Q&A with Massage Therapist Mark Stefanishyn

Understanding your body is one of the key elements to staying healthy. With so much information at our fingertips, it's hard to decipher what's correct and what's not. We wanted to gather as many questions as we could regarding the body in the aspect health and wellness to bring to the professionals in their field to get the right answer right from the horse's mouth. This is how the Evolve Q&A segment was born.

In this segment, we gathered questions asked often about Massage Therapy. Mark Stefanishyn, a therapist at Evolve, gladly took up the offer to explain some of the biggest questions and and misconceptions found in the field of Massage Therapy.  Without further ado, here's Mark.

What is a knot and can I release them on my own?

A knot is basically a catch all term people use to describe muscle tightness, particularly if it feels hard. Knots can be caused by all kinds of things - the way you walk, the way you sit, how you text, or how you lift. 

Now, the fibers of your muscles won't actually knot up like they show in tv commercials for pain killers (which only block your nervous system from feeling pain, nothing more), but over time your muscles will start to look something like this:

Now, your knot probably won’t be quite as dried out, and it is unlikely to have the spices and pepper flakes, but you get the point. 

So look at that again, and tell me what you would do to stretch that. 

You wouldn't do anything, because you couldn't. It would probably start tearing before it stretched too far.

It's looks like its almost sewn together, and thats because it is - the battlefield repair crew has come in and stitched you up with scar tissue so that you can keep lifting like the beast you are. 

Long before you would ever think about putting a real stretch on that muscle as a method for recovery, you'd need to scrape all that junk off and soften it first. Just like how you'd chew that lovely beef jerky. 

So how do we chew our own muscles into beautiful, supple, softness?

By now most athletes have heard of rolling on a lacross ball, and that is absolutely one of the best ways to go about it. However, I would strongly urge any athlete to become very active with the ball.

For example, get on the floor and place the ball on the inside of your favourite painy shoulder blade. Then move your arm around like a snow angel. Up and down, side to side, whatever direction you feel it most. Try it on your pecs underneath the collarbone to experience spontaneous enlightenment from Odyne, the Greek Goddess of Pain. 
Alternatively, try contracting the muscle for about 5 seconds, attempting to force the ball out of the tissue and away from your body, and then consciously attempting to relax your muscles around the ball. I often show my clients how to do this using their glutes first, since it's a big muscle thats easy to contract.

Through motion and contraction the muscle really starts to get the message that it's time to soften up. Lying on a ball for 5 minutes does very little. If you're already on the ball, you might as well be effective with your time, you know? I doubt you got into lifting so you would have an excuse to spend more time rolling on a ball.

What would you suggest I couple massage with?


It's going to depend very specifically on you, any conditions or injuries you have, and what your goals are. 

Do you have a high stress job, work long hours, general muscle soreness from lifting 4 or 5 times a week, and are starting to wake up at night?

I'd say you should probably get a good acupunturist like Vanessa involved because the "fight" in your fight or flight response is starting to take over the show and you're idling at 3,000RPM while trying to sleep. Your check engine light is on and a massage/acu combo would be perfect to calm the body down and restore the energy you are burning up.

Last week did you set a new PR, throw the weight down in victory, and now your knee has felt off since you landed that mid air high five with your training partner?

You might want to talk to Arne or Kaylynn to make sure you haven't aggravated a tendon or ligament because it could get knock you 3 months behind on your training schedule one morning after a day of heavy lifting. Have them look at what you did and how to correct the movement, then see a massage therapist to bulldoze through the gravel that helped cause that offness to show up in the first place.

Have you already been taking good care of yourself and just want to stay on top of things, move better, and make sure there's no dark surprises lurking in your low back because you know you sit a lot? 

Monthly massage and chiropractic work can do wonders to help you stay on top of pre-existing battlescars and make sure your body is all set up to perform safely and powerfully. Dr. Steve is the only sports certified Chiro in Edmonton and his knowledge of movement patterns is definitely worth absorbing. Align your spine and address the muscles once a month and you'll be one of those mythical injury free lifters you hear whispers about. 

How often should I see a therapist if I have an injury?


Again, this will depend completely on you.

Have you been training around a sore shoulder for 6 months, knowing it doesn't feel strong in the snatch and hoping that hope will keep it from giving out?
It might take between 2-4 sessions to get most of the pain out of there. Your personal lifestyle and
devotion to helping your body out is going to be a huge factor.

Did you just pull your calf two days ago?
As long as you didn't hear any kind of a sound during the movement you should be ok. One session and some information on why it happened may be all you need. 

As a general rule, expect slower results the more you want your massage therapist to do the work for you. There is no magical move or spot that a therapist can press on that instantly makes you feel back to 100%. It took work to get you injured, so its going to take some work to get you out of it. And you should be a part of that process so you'll be able to catch it before it becomes a problem again.

Quick results come for the people who are motivated to do their ball rolling work and look at any movement dysfunctions causing the issue. 

Knowledgeable massage therapists should be able to get a pretty serious change within 1-2 sessions. It shouldn't be like going to group physio for 3 months where you struggle to believe it's really making a difference. Get your injury taken care of by someone who knows what they are doing and then come back as you are able for a general tune up and inspection. 

Do tight muscles around the neck area cause dizziness or headaches?


You better believe they can cause headaches! In fact, your main suspect is referred to as the SCM. 


Here's what Jessica Alba's SCM looks like, and now you'll be able to find yours.

So you can squeeze that little guy in between your thumb and index finger and then just start moving the muscle around or do a shoulder check movement.  Feels absolutely terrible, doesn't it? So be disgusted at the abuse you've given these little puppies and start making it up to them! In exchange, they'll stop giving you headaches.

As for dizziness, get looked at by Dr Steve or one of the physios. It's not something you want to be dealing with for too long on your own and massage therapy isn't the best place to start. Are your neck muscles probably ridiculously tight and playing into the issue? Probably. But I still wouldn't chase after them as the source of it though. Look to a Chiro or Physio first. 

Thanks a lot Mark for all the information, if you're curious on what Mark can do for you, visit his page, email us at info@evolvestrength.ca or call us at 587-754-3632