Massage Therapy and Muscular Pain

From Khai Luu, RMT:

The Pain Cycle:
In order to understand how massage therapy can help with pain management, we first need to understand the cause of muscular pain. When muscles are damaged, whether through a physical trauma, an over-use chronic injuries, or over stimulated by psychological stress, they go into spasm. Muscle spasm is a state of involuntarily muscle contraction attempting to prevent further damage being done. If the muscle fibers contract for an extended period of time, the condition called Ischemia (lack of blood flow) will occur. Blood is responsible for gas and nutrient exchange, and lack of blood flow will force the muscle to operate in the anaerobic condition and lactic acid will be produced. This will cause pain to the muscle and muscle spasm. The cycle continues.

Massage Therapy vs. The Pain Cycle:
Massage therapy manages pain by breaking the pain cycle, interfering with one or more of the components which make up the pain cycle.

Increase Systemic Blood Flow:
Massage therapy moves blood and other bodily fluid around the body. The pressure in massage is exerted on the blood vessel, causing an increase in blood pressure and peripheral resistance. So, how does this increase the blood flow? The body responds to changes in the environment internally and externally; the negative feedback system will respond to the increased peripheral resistance by dilating the blood vessel, which decreases the peripheral resistance. In other words, blood circulation improves.

Improved Circulation, Removed Ischemia:
Because of the improved circulation, lack of blood flow is no longer an issue. Gas and nutrients are exchanged efficiently at the muscle, and lactic acid will be carried to and used up by the heart. The muscle now can work in a homeostasis condition, start to release from spasm, and relax. Micro-damage in the fiber will now be repaired by the oxygen and nutrients supplied by the blood.

Maintenance Phase:
As with other modalities, the true benefit of massage therapy is best felt when maintained over time. As we progress through daily activity, our body will constantly face the damage and repair cycle. Massage can help speed up the healing process, relax the nervous system, and manage the pain long-term. It is important to note that the benefit of massage therapy is both physical and psychological: when you look after one aspect, the other will be greatly influenced.

To book with Khai, give us a call 403.257.9707 or visit our online booking page

Happy Heart Month!

From Dr. Suhani Shah, ND:

 Chocolate pieces on aluminum foilDid you know that February – the month of love – is known as February Heart Month? Don’t just spread love to your friends and significant others on Valentine’s Day but spread love for the entire month. This includes loving yourself too and making sure you take time to engage in some self-loving self-care.

Part of your self-care includes doing things that energize you and promote good health and since it is “Heart Month”, engage in healthy eating and physical activity as it will support your cardiovascular health. Omega 3 fats like salmon, chia seeds, and flaxseeds are great as they also help decrease inflammation. Trans fats, mainly found in processed food products, are something to stay away from because they can create more damage and raise levels of “bad” cholesterol.

Chocolate is another food that can be nutritious and have many health benefits including supporting your heart health as long as you eat the right type of chocolate – none of the Crispy Crunch, Coffee Crisp or other chocolate “candy” bar that is packed with sugar.

What type of chocolate is “Right”?

Chocolate that is at least 70% or more dark chocolate and has cacao/cocoa and cacao/cocoa butter as the top ingredients. Sugar should be closer to the end of the ingredient list if it is present. This means that by weight, most of the chocolate bar contains cacao or cocoa – where the health benefits of chocolate are found.

While cacao and cocoa both have health benefits, cacao is superior and is considered the superfood. This is because chocolate containing cacao is raw and made by cold-pressing raw cacao beans and made into a powder or chocolate. Cocoa is derived when cacao beans have been roasted at high temperatures prior to being ground and processed into cocoa powder or chocolate. The roasting process denatures many of the enzymes and reduces the nutritional value which is why it is better to opt for “cacao” than “cocoa”.

Cacao/cocoa is rich in antioxidants, in particular, group known as flavanols. Antioxidants help protect the body against oxidative stress and inflammation which are key players in cardiovascular disease and other chronic health conditions. Its benefit on cardiovascular health can be seen through a research review done by Vlachojannis et al (2016) which found that consuming chocolate rich in flavanols and epicatechin helped decrease blood pressure when approximately 100g of chocolate was consumed. Another study found that when individuals are sleep deprived, not only do they not perform well cognitively but blood pressure has shown to increase. Consuming flavanol rich chocolate showed to lower blood pressure through improving flow-mediated dilation (therefore improving peripheral and central blood flow) in those that are sleep deprived. This can in turn improve cognitive performance (Grassi et al, 2016). 70% or greater dark chocolate is rich in flavanols and epicatechin.

Other non-cardiovascular benefits of cocoa or cacao include: providing the amino acid, tryptophan, an amino acid precursor to making serotonin which is known as the happy neurotransmitter and may often be low in people who are depressed or anxious; It also contains calcium; It has iron, zinc, copper, and manganese which are nutrients that play a role in thyroid hormone synthesis among other functions; and, it contains magnesium and potassium – two nutrients that may help lower blood pressure as well as help with muscle cramps.

It can now be seen why chocolate is considered a superfood as long as you eat the right type – 70% or more dark chocolate with as little of the sugar, high fructose corn syrup, milk solids or other “junk” ingredients. Also, it is best to consume chocolate in its raw form – cacao. You can also purchase cacao nibs to add to oatmeal and smoothies and cacao powder to make hot chocolate with rather than cocoa powder.

Please remember that if you do have depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, thyroid dysfunction, muscle cramps or other conditions, dark chocolate may help but all health conditions are multifactorial and therefore there is no one magic superfood or ingredient that can “fix” you. The best approach is to seek a healthcare professional that can work with you to figure out the root cause and address all the different factors (physical, mental, and emotional).

If you would like to book an appointment with Dr. Shah to find out the best individualized treatment plan for you, please call the Quarry Park location.


Grassi D, Socci V, Tempesta D, Ferri C, De Gennaro L, Desideri G, and Ferrara M. Flavanol-rich chocolate acutely improves arterial function and working memory performance counteracting the effects of sleep deprivation in healthy individuals. J Hypertens. 2016 Jul;34(7):1298-308.

Vlachojannis J, Erne P, Zimmerman B, Chrubasik-Hausmann S. The impact of cocoa flavanols on cardiovascular health. Phytother Res. 2016 Oct;30(10):1641-1657.


From Dr. Suhani Shah, ND:

novemberDo you have inflammation in your body? It can be localized, such as inflamed joints (arthritis), muscles, or tendons (tendonitis); or more widespread which is often seen in autoimmune conditions.  While there are many natural treatment options for decreasing inflammation depending on the root cause, turmeric is a very well-known anti-inflammatory herb.  It has been used in East Indian cooking and ayurvedic medicine for many years to add spice and warmth to the food along with hidden health benefits.

The active constituents of turmeric root that are known to provide health benefits are known as curcuminoids.  The major curcuminoid, curcumin, is responsible for the yellow colour turmeric creates when added to food/drinks.

Curcumin also has potent anti-inflammatory properties and works by inhibiting leukotriene (1) and prostaglandin (2) formation.  It does this through decreasing the activity of lipoxygenase and cycloxygenase 2 (COX2) enzymes respectively (2).  Prostaglandins and leukotrienes trigger inflammation in the body and while they are needed for acute situations to help trigger the inflammatory cascade to fight infections, prolonged synthesis of prostaglandins and leukotrienes can create chronic inflammation in the body.  Inflammation affects many areas of the body such as the brain, organs, muscles, tendons and joints. 

As an aside, ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) works in a similar manner but may have stomach related side effects and the risk of stomach ulcer formation.

Turmeric also helps with liver detoxification and enhances your digestion as well.  In Chinese medicine, turmeric is considered a warming food that aids your spleen and stomach (Chinese medicine organs responsible for digestion) to digest food and transform it into energy or ‘qi’.

Adding turmeric powder to warm water or to your salt water gargles is great for taking way that inflammation associated with sore throats.

You can use turmeric powder or purchase turmeric in capsule formulations.  Depending on the brand, different companies will standardize their capsules to different concentrations of curcumin.  With either option, if you want to use it medicinally, you do have to take a large dose because it is rapidly metabolized by the liver within a couple hours (2).  It does help to consume it with food to make it better absorbed since curcumin is a fat soluble compound.  If you are taking many medications, you should speak to your healthcare provider to make sure there are no interactions.

Feel free to check out for a delicious turmeric elixir hot beverage that can be part of your bedtime routine instead of a cup of tea.

If you experience chronic inflammation and are interested in knowing what the best natural treatment approach is for you, feel free to book an initial appointment.  I see patients Tuesdays, Thursdays, and some Saturdays at Quarry Park.  I am also available for a FREE 15 minute meet and greet prior to the initial appointment. 

To book with Dr. Suhani, give us a call 403.257.9707 or visit our online booking page


(1) Godfrey A, ND, PhD & Saunders PR PhD, ND, DHANP, CCH.  Principles and Practices of Naturopathic Botanical Medicine.  Toronto ON: CCNM Press. 2010; p.371-372

(2) Jurenka JS. Anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, a major constituent of curcuma longa: A review of preclinical and clinical research.  Alt Med Rev. 2009:14(2);141-153.