Acupuncture Migraine – Newcastle

Acupuncture Newcastle – Migraine

Acupuncture Newcastle - MigraineWe provide Acupuncture in Newcastle to help relieve the symptoms and effects of Migraine. Have you ever considered alternative therapies for Migraine?


Acupuncture Newcastle – Facts About Migraine


  • Did you know that migraine is the third most common disease in the whole World with around 14.7% of sufferers. You are not alone! In fact, if you suffer with migraine, you are 1 in 7.
  • Chronic migraine affects approximately 2% if the World population.
  • 75% of migraine sufferers are women – most probably this is hormonally-driven
  • Recent research suggested that there are 190,000 migraine attacks every day here in the UK.


Acupuncture Newcastle – The Impact of Migraine

Migraine is ranked World Wide as the 7th most disabling disease and the leading cause of disability among neurological disorders.

In the UK alone the population loses 25 million days from work or school each year because of migraine and is estimated to cost the NHS £150 million each year, mostly from the costs of prescription drugs and GP visits.


Migraine and Depression – Acupuncture Newcastle

Depression is 3 times more likely in people with migraine and severe headaches than in other healthy individuals.


Acupuncture Newcastle – Migraine Treatment

Acpuncture Newcastle. no trepanning!In the old days, migraine was treated with a surgical procedure knows as trepanning. Trepanning was quite horrific.  A drill was used to drill a hole in to the skull – with the aim to release the evil spirits within – who were obviously the cause of the pain!

Thankfully we have moved on from this!

Acupuncture can be a fantastic aid to sufferers of Migraine. Did you know Seasonal change can be a trigger for Migraine? Spring and Autumn can be a particularly difficult time when migraine strikes.

Acupuncture helps lessen the frequency of attacks and severity of pain .

Acupuncture also reduces the “aftermath ” effect

If you get a chance have a look on BBC iplayer and watch “Health Truth or Scare ” – Episode 3 with Angela Rippon – this demonstrates how well Acupuncture helps clear Migraine

If you would like to find out more about how acupuncture can be used to reduce your migraine symptons please do ring Jo at The Therapy Rooms on 07821 027711 or to book an appointment call 0191 213 6232 or 07974 725 546


Meet our Acupuncturist – Jo Wright

Jo Wright MBAcC – Acupuncturist & Cosmetic Revitalisation Therapist

How She Got Started

Suffering a serious neck injury, Jo decided against surgery which could have left her disabled, and instead sought out alternative treatment. She’d seen acupuncture successfully used on a patient at Bart’s Hospital who was allergic to anaesthetic, enabling them to have their gallbladder removed.

Straight away, she thought: “This is fantastic!” and decided to train to become an acupuncturist, studying for three years at the Northern College of Acupuncture in York. This fitted in perfectly with her move back up North from London.

What is Acupuncture?

Over the last 30 years, people have a greater awareness of acupuncture as a service, but Jo says they still don’t fully understand how it can help, other than as a treatment for pain.

Jo explained that scientists are still trying to discover how exactly acupuncture works, as it has so many health benefits, but we do know that as soon as you put the needle into the body, there’s a cascade effect from the brain, sending the right things to that area. Wherever you put a needle into a muscle, it releases adenosine, which takes inflammation away.

How Long Has Jo Been a Practitioner?

Jo’s been working as an acupuncturist for 24 years, and believes that experience is so important with acupuncture, because it’s a hands-on treatment.

What Can a New Patient Expect?

The first thing is to identify where their problem lies, and Jo says: “I’ve come up with three categories to help with this. The first is when I know I can definitely help them with their condition, and they will get benefit.

The second category is when I’ve helped a lot of other people with the same condition, but not everyone has seen improvements. This is because acupuncture is about the way the body responds to the treatment.

The final category is really ‘they may as well try it, because nothing else has helped’.”

Acupuncture can help with pain, especially nerve pain, and with problems with immune systems and hormone issues. All of these have been scientifically tested with acupuncture as a proven treatment for helping with these conditions.

What Does Jo Like Treating?

As a therapist, she enjoys helping those severe pain, helping people who are taking a lot of painkillers and their quality of life is poor because of it, because she knows exactly how they feel. Acupuncture can make a huge difference, including for those who’ve been told they just have to live with the pain.

Cosmetic Revitalisation

Your face relies on everything in your body being in balance. Revitalisation helps repair things on a cellular level, as skin quality decreases as you age. Dermatologists have independently verified that acupuncture can make a difference.

“The lifting effect uses a particular method I was taught by an international expert in cosmetic revitalisation. There are a number of techniques, but what we do is similar to what a plastic surgeon does – we roll up the skin and pin all the skin back, right up onto the scalp,” Jo explains.

“People really notice the tightening of the jaw, and the “pulling-up” effect lasts for a week or more after the treatment. It’s something that you have to keep working at, so to see a big effect that will last you for a few years, you’ll need between 8 and 10 treatments.

How Long Does a Treatment Last?

The cosmetic revitalisation lasts an hour and a half, and the acupuncture takes an hour, with about 25 minutes with the needles. The facial treatment takes longer, because the needles have to be put in in a certain way, and removed very slowly, so as not to bruise the face.

How can Acupuncture Help with the Menopause?

Jo really understands the impact of the menopause, the concerns women have and the severity of symptoms such as hot flushes. Acupuncture can reduce these by 70%, if not getting rid of them completely. Women also suffer from sleep loss, joint pain, brain fog and emotional issues during the menopause, and acupuncture can make a difference, with only a couple of treatments.

Cancer charities are concerned by how often women are often prescribed HRT to combat the effects of menopause, as it isn’t recommended as a long-term treatment after the age of 50. The chemicals can sometimes prolong the symptoms, which is why many women seek out alternatives.

Does Acupuncture Help Emotional Problems?

“Yes, it does. I participated in a big research trial looking at treatments for depression, and it was found that acupuncture is just as good, if not better than, counselling. The findings were published and recommended by NICE.”

“I was given extra training around how exactly acupuncture helps, and one of the things I learned is that mood problems in women can be compounded by hormones prior to the menopause. It’s important for women to try to maintain balance. Stress can be destructive if it’s not dealt with.

A telephone assessment can be made to check you are suitable before booking a course of treatment.

Call The Therapy Rooms  on 0191 2136232 to arrange an acupuncture appointment with Jo Wright.

Meet Our Osteopath – Natalie Nicolas MOst

Meet Our Osteopath – Natalie Nicolas MOst

Introducing new team member here at The Therapy Rooms, today’s blog is a chat with Natalie, our osteopath.

How Did Natalie Get Started?

Natalie has been an osteopath since 2014, qualifying at Swansea University. She explains that as teenager living in Spain her ambition was to be a doctor but after work experience in a hospital realised that environment wasn’t for her.

Her mum was seeing an osteopath, and Natalie found she was interested in what it involved and the natural, holistic side. She says: “I love helping people, and it’s great to be able to get to know them well and address the problems that doctors don’t have time to help with in hospital.”

Natalie believes it is important to build rapport with patients. Osteopathy can help people in a more holistic way, not just physically.

Who Needs to See an Osteopath?

Osteopathy is based on treating musculo-skeletal problems, so that’s joint pain, muscular damage and so on. It’s mostly people with back or neck pain, or chronic pain or injury, and this is what Natalie focuses on.

There are no typical patients – they can be athletes, office workers, children or even babies. Anyone is suitable for the treatment, and you simply vary the technique accordingly.

What is the Difference between an Osteopath and a Chiropractor?

The two practices are quite different, but what they do share is using manipulation. Chiropractic is based on the idea that any ailment in the body is based on a spinal dysfunction – different vertebral segments give rise to different nerves which control areas of the body.

Chiropractors believe that when one of the segments isn’t working properly, such as muscle tightness or joint stiffness, can lead over time to dysfunction of the nerve, which in turn leads to pain.

Osteopaths don’t work on the spinal model, and favour the traditional model that you can have a knee problem caused by the knee, rather than the spine, although they do treat holistically and look at other body pains.

When they manipulate or ‘crack’ a joint, they do this to restore the movement in it, whereas a chiropractor does so to relieve pressure. It may have the same result, but the philosophy is different.

What Can Someone Expect at an Osteopathy Appointment?

Natalie explains: “Firstly, I book people in for a one-hour consultation. I ask the patient to tell me what the problem is and what they think is causing it. I’ll also prompt them to talk about the case history, when the pain started and if it’s better or worse at certain times, as well as their health and medication.”

The information gathered helps Natalie to narrow down the potential cause of the pain. Once that’s all covered, she does an assessment, which varies depending on the case history.

The assessment usually involves removing clothes down to underwear and shorts, and Natalie watches the patient walking and moving to see if there’s anything noticeable which could have contributed to the pain, including looking at the spine for any clues. Then, she focuses on the area of the pain, and moves the joint for the patient.

At this point, she formulates a working diagnosis of what the pain is most likely caused by, as it’s not always possible to be completely certain. Natalie then creates a treatment plan from the diagnosis.

Treatment usually consists of soft tissue therapy (i.e. massage), joint mobilisation to help it move better, manipulation, which is a stronger form of joint mobilisation and usually happens on the spine. Sometimes she also demonstrates stretching and resistance movements the patient can do at home.

Within four to six treatments, patients should have seen an improvement in the symptoms. If they don’t, Natalie will reassess and see if there’s anything she can change in the working diagnosis or refer to the NHS pathway if appropriate.

Natalie says: “One of the best ways way to understand osteopathy it is to come and experience the treatment for themselves.”

A telephone assessment can be made to check you are suitable before booking a course of treatment.

Call The Therapy Rooms  on 0191 2136232 to arrange an osteopathic appointment with Natalie.

Slipped disc – can it be managed osteopathically?

Slipped disc – can it be managed osteopathically?

Natalie Nicolas Osteopath at The Therapy Rooms

Spinal disc lesions are a very common occurrence, with an estimated 50-60% of the population having one or more bulging discs in their spine. However, only a small minority of these suffer symptoms, but these can be vastly disrupting and debilitating. Disc-related pain tends to mostly affect people between 30 and 50 years of age.

The diagnosis may be termed as a ‘slipped disc’, ‘ruptured disc’, ‘herniated disc’ and ‘disc prolapse’. Unfortunately, healthcare professionals cannot agree on a precise definition, and use these terms interchangeably, which causes confusion. Rather than searching for a precise diagnosis, it is more useful for patients to gain a clear understanding of what may be happening inside their bodies. So what are discs, what actually happens when they ‘slip’, and can an Osteopath help?

The intervertebral discs are structures found in between vertebrae all the way from the neck to the lower back. They are composed of two parts: a tough outer layer, similar to a tyre, and a soft inner core, of a gel-like consistency. Discs are somewhat pliant, acting as shock absorbers and allowing for spinal curves and flexibility. Over time, this shock absorbing capability reduces, as the disc wears and loses height due to natural fluid loss. Small cracks appear in the outer layer and, if put under undue strain, the disc can start to be pushed out of shape. If this strain is maintained, the inside gel-like core pushes through the outer layer causing what is called a disc prolapse (‘slipped disc’ is actually a misnomer as the disc doesn’t actually slip out of place).

Disc prolapses tend to be most common in the lower back, as it bears the most torque and force on a day-to-day basis. The prolapse can press on the spinal nerves directly, or cause an inflammatory response in the area, closing the space where the nerves exit the spine. This can cause pain (known as sciatica if the pain runs down the back of the leg), tingling, numbness, pain or loss of strength in the arms or legs depending on whether the problem is in the neck or low back. In some cases, severe prolapses can press on the spinal cord, which requires urgent medical attention.

Osteopaths are trained to recognise any of these signs and act accordingly – referring the patient as appropriate. Whether the prolapse is mild or severe, sitting, lying, standing, walking, sneezing, coughing and bowel movements can be difficult. Whatever the severity, the damage sustained requires time to repair. Osteopaths encourage this healing process by establishing why the particular disc was the one that had the problem in the first place (trauma, postural problems, or wear and tear for example), and then treating to ensure that the spine is straight and mobile, and the protective spasm around the area is eased. As self-management of a disc problem is key, advice will also be given including postural tips, hot or cold packs and stretching as appropriate, as well as promoting to continue with normal daily activities as much as possible. The traditional medical approach to a disc problem is often to offer a combination of painkillers and muscles relaxants, which can work in conjunction with osteopathic treatment to resolve the disc problem more speedily. If the problem persists or there are any worrying symptoms, the patient can be referred back to their GP for further investigations and, if all else fails, on to a specialist if surgery is required.


Natalie Nicolas graduated with a First Class Masters degree in Osteopathy in 2014. She has since worked among other osteopaths, chiropractors, physiotherapists and sports therapists.

Natalie has a keen interest in treating musculoskeletal pain from a holistic viewpoint, observing the body as an integral unit. She enjoys treating people of many different backgrounds, ranging from athletes to patients with chronic pain disorders. When approaching a case, she considers all associated physical dysfunctions as well as lifestyle behaviours, occupation, physical activity, and daily life stresses. Having worked as a ski and snowboard instructor, Natalie understands the balance between injury, rehabilitation and performance.

Natalie is registered with the General Osteopathic Council and is a member of the Institute of Osteopathy.

A telephone assessment can be made to check you are suitable before booking a course of treatment.

Call The Therapy Rooms  on 0191 2136232 to arrange an osteopathy appointment with Natalie Nicolas.

Facial Revitalisation Acupuncture

Facial Revitalisation Acupuncture

Jo Wright Acupuncturist at The Therapy Rooms

Both women and men report noticeable changes to the appearance such as general lifting of the brows greater definition of cheeks and jawline improved skin quality and texture.  A feeling of wellbeing and relaxation is the welcome added benefit of this traditional approach to looking more youthful.

Here Jo Wright explains it in more detail…

What’s involved during a Facial Revitalisation Acupuncture treatment?

Very fine specialised Japanese sterile needles are inserted in points on both the body and face.  A specialised technique is used to encourage the lifting, tightening and defining process to continue after the sessions.

How does Facial Revitalisation Acupuncture treatment work?

After the age of 20 collagen (natures strength and scaffolding for the skin and muscles) is produced less and less.  In fact it dramatically reduces in synthesis after the menopause.  The body still responds by producing collagen in response to any injury.

The good news is that it responds to any trauma no matter how tiny.  The insertion of sterile needles in exact points gives the brain a message that there is a micro-trauma and the body produce new collagen and elastin.

Does it hurt?

There is minimal discomfort using the finest thin smooth Japanese needles. Most people feel no pain but sometimes a momentary twinge may be felt.  The body’s natural painkiller –endorphins are activated at the same time

How many sessions do I need and how long will it last?

It varies from 6-12 2 hour sessions.  Initial assessment will give you the best estimate for desired effects

A full course of treatment will give lasting effect for up to 2 years.

What is the cost?

£90 per 2 hour session

Can anyone have this treatment?

As with any treatment there are people with certain conditions unsuitable for this procedure: Haemophilia, epilepsy, high blood pressure, during an acute infection/virus, uncontrolled migraine, and untreated skin infection

Note  Issues that can be resolved before treatment severe neck and shoulder tension /posture problem, hot flushes, headache and migraine, insomnia.

Jo Wright Acupuncturist MBAcC

Jo has practiced Acupuncture for 23 years helping people with many different medical conditions

She has practised Acupuncture Facial Rejuvenation for the last 10 years. Anti-aging the Natural way has become a growing interest for Jo. She has helped many people with facial revitalisation who describe it as their best kept secret.

She was lucky enough to train with the leading light in the field of cosmetic acupuncture Virginia DoranM.A.c. Virginia only trains fully qualified acupuncturist and they are on her approved practitioner list at

Jo likes the tranquil and beautiful surrounding of The Therapy Rooms to enhance your experience of the facial Revitalisation session.

A telephone assessment can be made to check you are suitable before booking a course of treatment

Call Jo on 07821027711.





The Busy Person’s 7 Step Guide to Feeling Healthier in 2017

Feeling Healthier with The Therapy Rooms Newcastle

The Busy Person’s 7 Step Guide to Feeling Healthier in 2017

It is customary to see articles on the first of January nagging us about feeling healthier, when we are all supposedly fired up to renew and reinvent ourselves as the fit super-healthy version of ourselves we aspire to be. There might well be a tiny corner of our brains that is thinking like that but in reality most of us just haven’t the energy to get that fired up and just want to curl up and put a duvet over our heads.

“in reality most of us just haven’t the energy to get that fired up about feeling healthier 

and just want to curl up and put a duvet over our heads”

But the longer days are now ahead of us and we are feeling much brighter.

These tips are not intended to send you off into a Lycra frenzy or to break your purse. They are intended to inspire to try even one or two in the hope that you do feel healthier which in turn will motivate you to improve other aspects of your health. You never know you might even get out the Lycra by the time the summer comes!

1. The Breath of Life

Deep diaphragmatic breathing can have an amazing effect on your energy levels, mood and even blood pressure. A 2010 Spanish study found that slow, controlled breathing decreased levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) in both men and women. And a 2006 Indian study found that mental relaxation and slow breathing help lower blood pressure.

Here are a few techniques you can try so you’ll be feeling healthier in no time:

  • Breathe deeply in through your nose, hold and breathe out through your mouth.
  • Place a finger on the side of the nose to block one nostril and breathe in through one side of your nose the place a finger over the other nostril and breathe out through that nostril.
  • Place your hands on your stomach with your fingertips just touching and breathe in and out through your nose, paying special attention to how your rib cage expands laterally.

2. Drink a glass of waterDrink a glass of water

The side effects of dehydration are many including irritability, sluggish digestion and fatigue. Add a slice of lemon, or lemon juice to add to its detoxifying abilities. It doesn’t have to be cold water. Warm or hot water works just as well and can feel gentler on your digestive system.

3. Get up out of your chair

A simple twist can also help : As you sit in your desk chair, simply twist your upper-body to one side, grabbing the back of the chair to extend the stretch and hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

So many of us spend so much of our time sat in front of a computer. And sitting all day can cause havoc to your posture causing compression to your spine and rounding your shoulders. Getting up and having a walk around is a great idea to get you feeling healthier, especially if you roll your shoulders forward and back at the same time.

4. Get Organised in 15 Minutes

I’ve found quite helpful for tips and hints to organise my C.H.A.O.S (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome). Probably the most helpful has been to set a timer for 15 minutes and focus on one small area. It’s amazing what you can achieve in 15 minutes, you can see your progress and be inspired by it, if you focus on a small area, and 15 minutes won’t exhaust you and then put you off tackling some more.

If you do feel disorganised and stressed it’s difficult to know where to start though.

A 2010 study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that women who described their homes as cluttered or full of unfinished projects had higher levels of stress than those who described their homes as restful and restorative.

5. Put on a favourite song

There’s nothing quite like your favourite music to perk you up and get you feeling good. Listening to music has been shown to improve immunity and release endorphins.

Bonus points if you dance along!

6. Think positively 

Spend a few minutes thinking about what’s good about our lives, what you are good at, a great relationship that enhances your life, the fact that you had a super healthy lunch today packed full of life enhancing vitamins.

A research paper published online in September 2013 in a journal of the American Heart Association shows that even for people dealing with heart disease, a positive outlook means living longer and stronger.

7. Go outside

Have you heard the latest health buzz about Vitamin D?

If you have a minute to spare, step out into the sunshine! Even if it’s not very sunny, the extra movement and the fresh air will invigorate you, and the exposure to daylight will help regulate your body clock and aid sleep.

Preliminary research suggests that vitamin D helps regulate the immune system, supports heart health, can help normalise blood pressure and promotes healthy ageing.   Vitamin D has also been linked to improved mood.

As always, I’m here to help you – give me a call on 07974 725546 to have a chat about how you can take the first steps to feeling better.

So which one will you do first? It doesn’t matter in which order, and you don’t even need to do them all. Just take control of your health by making a small start to feeling healthier.

Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D Deficiency

When I first started my studies to be a massage therapist, we were expected to cover the basics in nutrition.Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D was glossed over – as the body can store it in the liver, we were told, then it was unlikely that we would see signs of deficiency .

This was especially when you didn’t even have to eat ‘healthy food’ to get a supply of it. Simply by being in the sun would ensure you topped your stores of it up.

The only people at risk of deficiency were thought to be those who had a ‘goth’ lifestyle, for example slept by day and came out at night.

Presumably vampires are at risk too!

But more recently the media have been highlighting a growing concern that we are more and more likely to be deficient in this important vitamin. One study (but be cautious, they sell vitamin supplements!) claims their survey discovered 9 out of 10 people have symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency.

So What Does Vitamin D do?

Vitamin D aids the body’s absorption of calcium so it is essential to the growth and strength of bones. In extreme circumstances a deficiency in this vitamin causes rickets in children or osteomalacia in adults.

Vitamin D is important to the body in many other ways as well. Muscles need it to move, nerves need it to carry messages between the brain and every body part and the immune system needs vitamin D to fight off invading bacteria and viruses. Vitamin D is found in cells throughout the body. Together with calcium, vitamin D also helps protect older adults from osteoporosis, so this is a really important topic for post menopausal women. A prospective cohort study of 72,000 post-menopausal women in the U.S. reported that the women who took in at least 600 IU/day of vitamin D3 (through diet and supplements) had a 37% decreased risk of osteoporotic hip fracture than the women who consumed less than 140 IU/day.

Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency include:

  • Weak immune system, including frequent coughs and colds
  • Fatigue, bone ache, joint and muscle pain
  • SAD or depression
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Rickets

So how much Vitamin D do we need and where do we get it from?

Although this nutrient is found in foods, the greatest source for obtaining vitamin D is through the skin. When bare skin is exposed to ultraviolet light, it synthesizes vitamin D3 that is then stored in the liver. You only need 10-15 minutes of sun exposure during peak sun hours (between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in most locations) during the summer months to produce up to 10,000 IUs of the nutrient. After that short exposure you can continue with safe sun habits and slather on a broad-spectrum sunscreen. It’s thought that if you live above 42 degrees North latitude then the sun’s rays do not provide sufficient Vitamin D from November through February. I think that puts most of us in the United Kingdom at a bit of a disadvantage! Remember too, that UVB rays do not penetrate glass or sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 8 or more.

But in researching this topic I have found the NHS advice confusing on NHS Choices . In the article it tells us we need 10 or 5 mg a day and then tells us to take no more than 0.025mg, but mg refers to both micrograms and milligrams. Advice also varies as to how much time should be spent in the sun and how much of our skin should be exposed to absorb sufficient quantities of Vitamin D.

There is an increased risk of deficiency in people who have one or more of these risk factors:

  • Dark skinned
  • Live in Northern latitudes
  • Over the age of 50
  • Post-menopausal
  • A diet low in foods containing vitamin D
  • Fat malabsorption syndromes
  • Obesity
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

Some drugs reduce the absorption of Vitamin D: the weight loss drug, Orlistat (brand names include Xenical and Alli), antacids, some cholesterol lowering drugs, some anti-seizure medications, and steroids (like Prednisone) interfere with the absorption of Vitamin D, so discuss your vitamin D intake with your doctor or pharmacist if you take any of these drugs.

There are two forms of the vitamin, D2 and D3 (cholecalciferol), with D3 the form best metabolized by the body. Vitamin D is found in foods such as fish, eggs, fortified milk and that old remedy, cod liver oil.

What to do next: Vitamin D Deficiency

Try to eat Vitamin D rich foods every day. Get some sunshine on your skin, but make sure you follow healthy guide lines to avoid the risk of skin cancer. If you are concerned you have some signs of deficiency and particularly if you are in one or more of the high risk groups, talk to you doctor about getting tested for deficiency.

And finally a note of caution. Excessive consumption of Vitamin D is toxic particularly as the body can store it in the liver. Balance in everything is the key to good health.

For further information, do feel free to contact us.

Shoulder Pain – 4 Simple Exercises

Tracy at The Therapy Rooms Newcastle shows you how to get rid of shoulder pain

How many times do you catch yourself hunching your shoulders at your desk? Look around. How many of your colleagues have the tell-tale signs of shoulders pulling forward, their heads poking out like little turtle heads from their shells? How many of your family or friends ask you rub their shoulders at the end of the day to ease their shoulder pain?

It seems an epidemic, doesn’t it? So many people seem to complain of stiff sore shoulders even whilst they are sat at their desks, hunching over their lap top or tablet.

How To Help Your Spine Do Its Job

The thoracic spine consists of the 12 vertebrae between the neck (cervical spine) and lower back (lumbar spine). 12 pairs of ribs attach to it which forms the rib cage, acting as protection of some of our vital organs. As well as protection, the thoracic spine is vital for movement. It bends forward, backwards and twists to the right and left. Well it should! But lack of mobility in the thoracic spine is so commonplace that we don’t even realise that we could and should move more easily.

But what can you all do about it?

Try these 4 simple exercises to ease shoulder pain….

1. Towel Roll Stretch for shoulder pain

Take a large towel and place it on the floor or a firm surface. Lie on top of it so that the towel is lengthways along the spine. It shouldn’t be so low down that it lies below the ribs. Make sure you put a pillow behind the neck to support it. Lie there for 10 minutes and relax. You may be more comfortable if you lie with your knees bent.

2. Rotation of Thoracic Spine Using a Chair for Shoulder pain

This is a great one for when you’re sitting at a desk. Whilst sitting in firm upright chair, without wheels, turn to the right, as if you’re reaching for something behind you. Hold the back of the chair with the right hand, reach for the back of the chair with the left hand and pull yourself further round. Make sure you keep your bottom firmly planted in the chair as there’s a huge temptation to lift it off to get further round.


3. Chest Stretch

It doesn’t, at first, seem to make sense to stretch the chest muscles, when quite clearly, it’s your back and shoulders that are sore and achy. But constantly sitting and standing with rounded shoulders, causes the chest muscles, particularly the pectoral muscles, to shorten. As a result, we need to stretch and lengthen these muscles, if we want to mobilise the upper back.

Lying on your back, hold a small weight in each hand, or if you don’t have weights, a bottle of water. Start by holding the arms outstretched with the hands above the shoulders. Slowly take the arms overhead at 45 degrees until you can feel a stretch across the chest. Bring the arms back to the starting position and repeat 8-10 times.

4. Thoracic Spine Extension for shoulder pain

Place a rolled up towel or a foam roller horizontally on a firm surface. Lie on the foam roller so that it is across the back, just below the shoulder blades. Take the arms up and over so that the upper back curls over the roller. If you’re comfortable stay in this position and enjoy the stretch. If not, come back into the starting position and repeat. The repetition will help to loosen the stiffness in the thoracic spine.


When should shoulder pain treatment be carried out by a professional?

If you take care of your shoulders with these exercises, you should feel much more comfortable. However, chronic shoulder pain may be due to underlying issues, which need to be investigated. Call Tracy Russell  at The Therapy Rooms Newcastle for a consultation on 07974 725546.

To book an appointment for remedial or sports massage with Tracy Russell call 0191 2136232 or 07974 725546 or email Tracy at   

Please make sure you connect with us on Facebook too.

Thanks to Jaime Moran Wilson, Sports Massage Therapist, for collaborating with me on this blog.

Total Hip Replacement – Part 1 Preparation for surgery

My journey started about five years ago. As a massage therapist, I was increasingly aware that the range of movement in my hips was poor. But as a reduction in range of movement is often gradual, I was able to rationalise with myself that nothing was wrong except that I was getting older.  I was 45!

My poor range of motion was particularly noticeable on abduction (moving my leg out to the side) and medial rotation (twisting my hip inwardly).  I was also in some discomfort if I had to walk for any length of time. The crunch came when I was running down the stairs and a crippling pain in my left hip forced my hip to give way.  I was able to steady myself but I was unnerved. A subsequent trip to the doctor and then the X-Ray unit showed I had arthritis of the hip joints and hypoplasia. Hypoplasia is a condition when the hip socket hasn’t properly formed and can lead to advanced degeneration of the hip joint. As a result of this diagnosis, I was determined to keep as fit and active as possible, as that was my best hope of maintaining my quality of life. I didn’t know how inevitable a hip replacement was, but it wasn’t something I relished so I implemented a consistent regime of massage, chiropractic, acupuncture and exercise, as well as a healthy diet with the emphasis on unprocessed home cooked food packed full of nutriton and supported with supplements. I’d like to think that all my efforts to stay as fit and healthy paid off, but ultimately there isn’t a parallel universe where there’s a Tracy Russell, who doesn’t exercise, eats take-ways and munches on pain killers to compare my progress to!

Five years on and the cracks were beginning to show! I knew it was time to have my hips looked at again. This is a list of the classic tell-tale signs of arthritis of the hip, that I experienced. It is not a definitive list of all possible symptoms, simply a list of those symptoms I experienced.

  • pain in the joint on weight bearing, particularly going upstairs
  • difficulty flexing the hip to raise the foot, to climb over obstacles, with either a straight or a bent leg
  • walking with a limp
  • muscle aches on over left gluteals, ilio tibial band and lateral left knee on walking more than 100 metres
  • fixed flexion deformity making lying supine uncomfortable
  • leg length difference
  • sharp pain and stiffness when making the first step, moving from sitting to standing
  • exhaustion at the end of the day, but exhaustion in the context that I was still running my busy massage therapy clinic, as well as running a home with 2 beautiful but demanding children

So it was with resignation, as I couldn’t continue living like this, that I sought advice from my GP. He referred me to the musculoskeletal unit at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle. So on 13th December 2013, after a short consultation, examination and review of my X-rays, I was told that both my hips would need to be replaced. A part of me expected to be told that the left hip needed replacing. But there was also a part of me that was living in hope that there was a quick and easy resolution to my problems which wouldn’t need drastic intervention such as surgery. I definitely didn’t see two hip surgeries coming!

The waiting list for surgery was about 18 weeks. So part of my strategy for coping with these overwhelming emotions, was to work out a plan to be as prepared, that is as fit physically and emotionally as possible, for surgery. The plan below covers the strategies I put in place to get me through the impending 18 weeks. But as Rabbie Burns so eloquently put it, ‘the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, gang aft agley’. A letter arrived at the end of January informing me that my surgery had been pulled forward to February 13th 2014 – in two and a half weeks!

Regardless, the plan was important whether I was having the surgery in February or April. A date in February just gave it more urgency. Here is what I did. My plan covered three main areas:

  • to ensure that my muscles were as strong as possible. Not only the leg muscles but after surgery I would need strong core and upper body.
  • to ensure that my body, but particularly my hips, were as mobile as possible.
  • to ensure that my general health was as good as possible to cope with the surgery and help the recovery process
  • to ensure that I nurtured myself emotionally to cope with the roller-coaster of emotions, that were to come. I felt that looking after my emotions would aid the recovery process.


The Physical

  • 1 swim a week. Starting at 30 lengths of front crawl and building to 50 lengths. Front crawl is a tricky stroke to get the hang of but so much better for your fitness and your hips than breaststroke. Check out for some great tips. There’s also a useful training video, which really helped me.
  • 1 cycle a week on a stationery bike. Starting at 5 kilometres and building to 10 kilometres. As with the swimming, I kept an eye on the time to maximise the fitness benefits, but I wasn’t a slave to the clock. Some days I could hardly turn the pedals at first, so it wouldn’t have been sensible to push it too hard and then be in pain later. But there wasn’t a session when I didn’t feel better after getting off the bike than before I had got on it. This definitely helped with my mobility and with my strength.
  • 1 leg strengthening session. Leg strengthening exercises focused on isolating muscles using equipment at the gym to develop quadriceps (leg extension), hamstrings (hamstring curl) and calf muscles (seated calf machine).
  • 1 upper body strengthening session to strengthen chest, back and arms. As well as the feel good factor from doing these exercises, I was hoping that, with a good strong upper body, I would be more mobile using crutches, post-surgery.
  • 3 times a week Pilates to promote core strength and mobility. For this I used My Pilates Guru app. I have done pilates for many years so I would say I knew the basics but I found this app really helpful in structuring the sessions and saving me from too much repetition and getting bored.
  • Regular chiropractic treatments helped to minimise the discomfort in my back, which was compensating for the fixed flexion deformity in the left hip and the leg length difference.
  • Regular massage therapy with Isabel Mineyko , my lovely associate at The Therapy Rooms. These treatments helped to relieve the discomfort in the gluteals and lateral left knee.

The Nutrition

  • My basic principles for healthy eating were continued during this pre-op phase. I mainly eat home-cooked family friendly meals. I eat 6-8 portions of vegetables and fruit a day, with the biggest proportion being vegetables. Thankfully I love dark leafy greens and they seem to be one of the foodstuffs that is universally considered healthy. (Please don’t tell me there is some new research suggesting that dark leafy greens are bad for you!) I eat 2-3 portions of fish a week and keep red meat and smoked foods to a minimum. I find a diet low in carbohydrates, which is very popular at the moment, very difficult to maintain but try to vary the type of carbohydrate I eat and keep my carbohydrates as unrefined as possible. I try to include essential fatty acids daily in my diet from not only oily fish but also nuts and seeds.
  • I have also believed that whilst the majority of our nutrition should come from good old honest food, I have always found a good multi-vitamin and mineral supplement, a vitamin C supplement and a fish oil supplement very helpful to my overall general level of fitness. In the lead up to the operation, on the advice of my health practitioner, I added to this Solgar’s Ultimate Bone Support and Pharma Nord’s Bio-Glucan Plus, to support my immune system.
  • I was conscious of the fact that, as movement and exercise became more and more difficult, so was keeping my weight under control. And as everyone knows, carrying excess weight is detrimental to arthritic joints. I used My Fitness Pal to keep a check on my calorie intake. But, in all honesty, I didn’t have the time or the emotional energy to be too zealous with this one. I also wanted to ensure that my diet is packed with nutrients which isn’t always easily married to calorie counting. And I often use food as a comfort, so inevitably, during this stressful time I did resort to food. The good news is that despite becoming less active and eating occasionally to comfort myself, I didn’t gain weight during this lead up to surgery.
  • 24 hours prior to surgery I started taking the homeopathic remedy, arnica, which is thought to be helpful for bruised and traumatised tissue.

The Emotional Side

It’s often when faced with a big challenge that you realise how strong you are but it is also when you find out what your weaknesses are. Facing Total Hip Replacement was certainly one of those challenges that was going to highlight the chinks in my emotional self. After the diagnosis, I experienced various emotions not dissimilar to The Five Stages of Grief, described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross  in her pioneering book, On Death and Dying.  The five stages of grief, is the series of emotional stages that someone experiences when faced with impending death or other extreme, awful fate. The stages are shock, denial, intense concern, despair and finally recovery. After the initial shock and denial that this was really happening to me, I got locked in to a loop of intense concern, where I couldn’t think of anything other than my impending surgery and despair. The following things helped enormously :

  • talking to people who had successfully undergone THR and being encouraged by their stories of how the surgery had transformed their lives.
  • I got the chance to speak with my surgeon, a week before the operation to discuss issues I had. This was invaluable as I had ‘technical’ questions about the surgery which only he could answer. The questions such as ‘what happens to the muscle attachments and ligaments that are attached to the bone that is removed?’ could only be answered by the surgeon. In doing so, he allayed my fears that key attachments would not be disrupted.
  • visualising myself post surgery, being fit, well and active.
  • taking Bach Rescue Remedy daily but also when waves of panic overcame me.
  • meditating on a regular basis. I particularly liked Complete Relaxation Lite: Guided Meditation for a Happy, Stress Free Life. I found his voice soothing. But as we are all different, I suggest doing your own investigation to find a CD or app that suits.
  • planning and sorting out so that my home life and my business would run as smoothly as possible whilst I was out of action. I won’t bore you with the details but, for me, part of the anxiety was about what was going to happen to The Therapy Rooms whilst I was out of action. By sorting this out (as much as you can, in advance) I began to be less stressed about the operation.
  • I used the help and support from a reflexologist, chiropractor and massage therapist, which not only supported me physically but also provided invaluable support emotionally.

So the big day is looming. I’ve done as much as I possibly can to prepare myself. The next stage is the surgery and the critical 6 weeks post operation!

2013 Bupa Great North Run – Post-Event Massage by The Therapy Rooms

The Therapy Rooms’ Tracy Russell was on hand to give post-event massage therapy at the 2013 Bupa Great North Run on Sunday 15th September.

The Great North Run has become a national institution, and this year, as always, the host city, Newcastle upon Tyne, welcomed some of the finest athletes (amateur and professional) in the world.  It is a half marathon, so is somewhat less demanding than a full marathon, but will attract many first-timers so training and recovery are really key to avoiding injury.

Tracy and The Therapy Rooms were invited to support the runners who were fundraising for Calvert Trust and was on hand to welcome these wonderful people at the finishing line.

Post-event massage can really help to minimize muscle strain and help speed up recovery after a really demanding event.  But what does it involve?

Here is Tracy’s photo diary from the Calvert Trust’s marquee

After a big event, muscles will already be challenged so the level of pressure applied to the tissues is very important in post-event massage – too light and there is little effect and too deep and there is a risk that damage can be done to the already challenged muscle fibres.

Light Effleurage on IT Band
Light Effleurage on Iliotibial Band

Intense exercise causes micro-fine tears in the fibres, which, if allowed to heal correctly, helps to make the muscles stronger. But deep tissue work on muscles that have been intensely exercised can aggravate the muscles and interfere with the healing process.

Taking this into consideration, I needed to devise a treatment that would gently encourage the healing process.  With potentially 26 runners to treat over a relatively short period of time, I estimated that I could only spend about 10 minutes on each runner. I was also quietly hoping that they were all of varying ability so that they wouldn’t all turn up at the same time!
So the main techniques I used for my Post Great North Run Massage were Effleurage and Active Isolated Stretching (AIS).
Effleurage is a very gentle massage technique where you skim or touch the muscles very lightly with a series of gentle strokes, often to prepare the muscles for deeper massage therapy.
Active Isolated Stretching
Active Isolated Stretching on Hamstrings

Use of AIS is particularly useful in post event recovery.  The Active Isolated Stretching Method is a method of stretching the muscles in focused bursts of two seconds.

The client is asked to contract the opposing muscle that needs to be stretched. So for example, if the therapist wished to apply AIS to the hamstrings, the client would raise her leg. This sends a signal to the brain that in order to contract the quads, there has to be a relaxation in the muscle in opposition, i.e. the hamstrings.  The fancy name for this is reciprocal inhibition.

The therapist will then apply a passive stretch to the hamstrings and holds this stretch for 2 seconds – long enough for the brain to register the tightness of the hamstrings and send messages to relax them, but not so long that and damage to the tissues can be done.

Active Isolated Stretching
Active Isolated Stretching on Quads

Holding a stretch for more than 2 seconds can trigger a myotatic stretch reflex and deprive the muscle of oxygen, which is the last thing you would want after you have just run a half marathon.

This process of active movement, passive stretch and 2 second hold is then repeated as many times as is needed.

For more information about AIS, have a look at It’s a great technique to use as a massage therapist, but it is also possible to use as a self help technique whether your a professional athlete, an occasional jogger or have a creaky joint.

Tracy was really proud to support The Calvert Trust and the half-marathoners raising funds for this important charity because of the important work they do and the respite care they provide at their beautiful activity centre at Kielder Water & Forest Park.

26 runners completed the 2013 Bupa Great North Run to raise much needed funds for The Calvert Trust and of those runners, Tracy attended to 16 in total.