Know Your Body – Common Anatomical Misconceptions

As a massage therapist I talk to people a lot about their bodies. I ask questions like “where is the pain?”, “how is your range of motion?” and many more. I ask because no one (even your doctor, PT, acupuncturist or massage therapist) knows your body better than you do.

Being able to communicate with and ask informed questions of your health care provider is one of the best ways to make sure you get the care you need. With this in mind knowing a few things about anatomy can help you understand the information you’re getting and give more accurate information. Most of you have at least a basic idea of anatomy but there are a few details that people frequently get wrong.

A view of the shoulderThe rotator cuff – Most people have heard of the rotator cuff. Many people have injured or torn it. What is less well known is that it isn’t a single structure of the body. It actually is a group of four muscles that originate on the scapula (or shoulder blade) and insert into the humerus (bone of the upper arm). As the name suggests most of these muscles rotate the shoulder while one lifts (or abducts) the arm.

Tendons, ligaments and muscles – Do you know what the difference is? I’m sure you know what a muscle is.  Did you know that a tendon attaches a muscle to bone? Muscles taper off into tendon and morph into the connective tissue (periosteum) around bones. Ligaments on the other hand attach bones to other bones.  One thing this means is that getting a massage can often help with problems in tendons, not just muscles.

How the body heals – When we are uncomfortable or in pain we want it to go away immediately. The truth is that our bodies need time and consistency to heal. Depending on the issue it may be more time then you think.  Massage and acupuncture of help speed up the healing process – especially when it comes to chronic issues – but expecting one (or three) visits or inconsistent treatment to do away with the problem is often unrealistic. Regular, consistent care and patience are what will get you the best result.

The IT bandThe IT Band – The IT band is not a muscle. It is a sheet of thick connective tissue. It’s even okay if it’s tight. It can’t be stretched. If you have a minute, you can learn a little more about the IT Band here.

There are a lot of misconceptions about the body out there. If your health care provider says something you don’t understand never be be afraid to ask for more information. Also keep an open mind – as we learn more about how our bodies work we find that even the most knowledgeable people don’t know it all.