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 www.suhanishah.ca 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.

Massage Therapy for the Cold and Flu Season


From Kirsty Muirhead, RMT

It’s that time of year again… you know the one: stuffy noses, coughs, and all the lovely things that go along with it…

Cold and flu season.

So, what can you do to boost your immune system? Along with taking your vitamins (especially Vitamin C) and fueling your body full of nutrients, you can take further steps to prevent from succumbing to the nasty bug going around.

Massage is extremely beneficial to the prevention of colds and flus. It boosts your immune system by promoting circulation to assist in the building of antibodies, and thus assists your body in the fight again bacteria and infections. Through massage therapy and a healthy lifestyle, you can aid your body’s ability to fight back!

If you’ve ever had a therapeutic massage, you’ve probably heard your therapist tell you to “drink more water over the next 48 hours”. What makes that extra hydration essential? Simply put, therapeutic massage releases the hypertonicity in your muscles which releases toxins into your bloodstream. What’s the best way to rid your body of toxins? Flush them out with water! Allowing these toxins to build up over time can decrease your body’s ability to fight off infection. Aside from helping to prevent illness, hydration can help you to feel better faster.

Taking care of your body is an important step to preventing illness, and regular massage therapy sessions will help you get there by boosting your immune system, as well as leaving you with a sense of well-being. Give yourself the care you deserve, and the health you need!

Kirsty Muirhead is a Massage Therapist practicing at both our Quarry Park and Northland locations, providing clients with deep tissue massage. Call to book with her today, or visit our Online Booking Page

Toasty Toes

You do not have to go far to hear stories of struggle it seems. Many Albertans are experiencing a stressful year, from lay-offs to rebuilding from natural disasters. In any time of challenge though, you need not look far to see the reciprocal community support and opportunities for positive change. Of course, if you can’t see the change, as Mahatma Gandhi would say, “Be the change…”.

Backstrong Health Group invites you to join us in a simple campaign that can create change for many. As a proud participant in this year’s Toasty Toes campaign, we join the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors, the United Way, and Wood’s Homes in collecting 25000 pairs of socks.  All donations will go towards shelters and programs across Alberta, supported by United Way and Wood’s Homes. Socks are the most requested item by shelters, yet are the least donated.

Donations will be accepted at both Northland and Quarry Park backstrong Health Group locations, Sept 1- October 1.

Help us warm the hearts (and feet!) of our community!

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have. — Margaret Mead

4 August 2016 Photo

Benefits of Massage Therapy

From Alysha Woodhead, LRMT

In these tough economic times, a lot of us are tempted to save our money and use it for other things. While it might be good to hold off from splurging on some things – clothes, nights out on the town, accessories – one very vital thing to make sure you have money to splurge on… your health!

Making sure you have money to spend on a massage is paramount! It releases the stress of your daily life, helps to fix what is out of the norm, and prepares you for whatever you may be facing in the future!

Making massage a priority is important because massage;

  • Relieves muscle tension
  • Increases circulation
  • Improves the quality of restful sleep
  • Increases vitality
  • Aids in a calm state of mind
  • Helps you to recognize stress in its early stages (shoulder/neck pain, stomach issues, and many other warning signs)
  • Supports you psychologically by helping you better handle stress
  • Gives you more energy for other activities – playing with your kids, date night with your spouse, sports/activities, studying, etc.

So when you’re thinking about getting that extra latte (which could actually worsen the stress) hold off and pocket that money for a massage – a stress relief that will last for more than a couple of hours.

Alysha Woodhead is a Massage Therapist at our Quarry Park Location and provides clients with both therapeutic and deep tissue massage. Call to book with her today! 

Gearing Up for Golf Season

From Karen Quinn, D.C.

As we hang up our skis and snowshoes, and pull out our golf clubs, there are some simple things to consider to ensure an injury-free season. The state of your physical fitness (flexibility, strength and endurance) not only plays a large role in your capacity to complete a full round of golf with ease (or any activity for that matter), but it can also play a large role in your performance. A body working at optimal function does not have to work nearly as hard as one full of imbalances. Here are some points to consider to ensure a healthy, strong, successful season:

– Ensure equipment is properly sized for you. The equipment should support proper ergonomics, not impede it. If you have inherited a set of golf clubs from a spouse, family member or friend, ensure they fit you properly. Even more important if you are in the learning stages of the sport. It is far easier to teach the proper foundation of a movement the first time than to undo a poorly executed movement and create new habits.

– Trunk flexibility (rotation) is paramount in golf. In one round, you could swing an average of 120 times (or more if you golf like I do)! If your spine and torso is not able to perform a fluid motion, way more force will be put into your joints increasing potential for injury. Men often can mask flexibility and technique by powering through their swing with muscle strength, putting additional stress on the spine and body as well. This not only lowers the consistency of the swing plane but also uses way more energy than required.

– Be posture aware! Posture goes hand in hand with flexibility and balance. Not only is there a neurological component that can be improved with regular chiropractic adjustments, but maintaining proper spinal curves and having the ability to hinge forward at your hips (versus rounding forward through your low back) can be improved with a targeted stretching/strengthening regime. Posture breakdown often occurs through daily repetitive activities, so regular attention to these imbalances is needed.

– Stretch before and after your game! The general recommendation is to perform dynamic stretches (with movement…not bounce) pre-activity, and static stretched (stretch and hold) afterwards. Dynamic stretches should focus on movement patterns you will encounter during your game – twists, hip and hamstring openers, shoulder rotation and mobility, etc. For specific stretches, consult your Chiropractor, Massage Therapist, Physiotherapist, Personal Trainer or Golf Pro.

– Hydrate! Drinking more water feels like such a cliché recommendation, but it’s true. Not only are you physically exerting yourself, but you are outside in the sun and add alcohol on top of that, you are creating the perfect storm for dehydration. Maintaining adequate hydration both during and outside of your golf game will help to reduce joint stiffness and reduce fatigue, thus reducing the tendency to compromise the form of your swing.

– Get coached! Whether it is a tune-up lesson or a series throughout the summer, even the best of the best get coached. The smallest modifications to a swing, follow-through or stance can not only improve your game, but can take tremendous repetitive stress off your body. This goes hand-in- hand with…

– Continue regular Chiropractic care, Acupuncture and Massage Therapy. Hopefully you aren’t in need of support due to a physical crisis, but it’s important to consider the benefits of maintaining regular body support even when you’re feeling good. Often, by the time pain or injury surfaces, an imbalance or subluxation has been present for some time. Having regular care can catch issues before they hinder and help ensure you get more out of the stretches and strengthening you are doing on your own!

Dr. Karen Quinn is a Chiropractor at our Quarry Park Location and focuses on family wellness care using low-force specific adjustments.

Spring into Vibrant Health with Acupuncture!

From Lisa Bara Storey RAc, TCM:

The clocks have changed, the days are longer, and we’re into the full swing of spring here at Backstrong! The longer days bring with them a little extra motivation and desire to get moving. However, time changes and weather changes (especially wind) are not always easy for our bodies and minds to adjust to. In Traditional Chinese Medicine spring is the season of the liver and its natural cleansing time. Our appetites tend to decrease, making it a good time to fast or cleanse. The liver requires balance and harmony and is easily disturbed by the poor diets, lack of exercise, and negative emotions that sometimes come with the winter months.


Signs that your liver needs attention!

Liver disharmony can lead to numerous emotional and physical imbalances. Emotional signs include high stress, irritability, anger, depression, and PMS. Physical disturbances may include migraines, red/dry eyes, dizziness/vertigo, allergies, muscle tightness, cramps/spasms, indigestion, hypertension, insomnia, menstrual irregularities and skin disorders such as eczema and rashes. If you are noticing an increase in any of these, it might be a sign that your liver is in need of a tune up.


How to sooth the liver?

The liver likes to move! Movement keeps blood and energy circulating and helps prevent stagnation in the body. Early morning walks this time of year are a great way to get things moving. Staying away from foods that congest the liver such as saturated fats and hydrogenated oils is also helpful. Foods and herbs that prevent liver congestion include onions, ginger, turmeric and cumin. Eating smaller meals and increasing raw foods is also a good springtime adjustment. Lastly, the liver loves sour and bitter flavors! Apple cider vinegar is an excellent liver remedy, as is chamomile tea and dandelion root.


In addition to diet and exercise, acupuncture is an excellent treatment for symptoms related to liver disharmonies. It helps to reduce stress, calm the nervous system, relieve muscle tension and pain, reduce blood pressure, and regulate menstruation. As an added bonus it helps improve energy, sleep and immunity! It is an excellent adjunct to any health maintenance routine and will help keep you well all year round!



Yours in Health,

Lisa Bara Storey, R.Ac.

Registered Acupuncturist and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Backstrong Health Group


Lisa Bara Storey is backstrong Health Group’s fantastic acupuncturist, working out of our Quarry Park location. To book an appointment with her, call us at 403.257.9707.


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Spring into Health


The onset of warm weather means that yard work is on its way! Before your backache limits the beauty of your yard, schedule your examination with one of our skilled therapists. For the remainder of March, we will give 25% off for new chiropractic clients with the coupon code SPRING. Call and book today!

Body Worlds Vital

In celebration of the return of the Body Worlds Exhibit to Calgary, backstrong Health Group Quarry Park is raffling off 2 tickets to the exhibit at Telus Spark Science Centre! One chance to win for every referral made during the month of February! This exhibit is a must-see to understand the complexity and gain further respect for the amazing human body!