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Upper Back Pain Between the Shoulder Blades

massage therapy for pain in the shoulder blades

The Anatomy of the shoulder blades in our upper body is a complex structure and they are known as peripheral joints that make them more susceptible to injuries, and since they are bilateral joints they share muscles between them to create a similar synchronized action like pulling or pushing. Because of the way the shoulder blades share action between each other in the upper body, they have attachments to our upper spinal vertebrae, thoracic and cervical spine. There are also some postural muscles which are in charge of holding the spine erect and other actions like rotation, flexion and extension of the upper back.

Even in the case of a sedentary lifestyle, hands are always involved in some kind of physical activity, creating strain on shoulders. You lift grocery bags, carry children, or rush to catch a bus or a train with your extended hand which may be pulled by an opposing force. Thus, most of the time, your hands along with shoulders are under pressure, leading to pain in shoulder blades. In today’s world of fast paced life, upper back pain can be the result of improper habits, which have their origin in modern lifestyles. Excessive stress which is an outcome of the modern lifestyle can lead to pain under the shoulder blades. Here are some causes of back and shoulder pain:

Wrong Posture: Simple causes like incorrect posture during sleeping, sitting, playing, working or standing can cause shoulder pain.
Injured Rotator Cuff: Rotator cuff muscles control and stabilize the motion of the shoulder. A torn rotator cuff or any injury to the rotator cuff can lead to upper back pain, especially while lifting the arm overhead.
Tendonitis: Tendonitis (sometimes, an outcome of chronic arthritis) can lead to shoulder pain. The inflamed tendons in the shoulder, which join the muscles to the bone, can cause upper back pain.
Muscle Cramps: Muscle cramps while exercising; or strains, pulls while busy in daily activities, can lead to severe pain in shoulder.

Excessive Stress: Excessive physical as well as psychological stress can lead to upper back pain.

Treatment Suggestions:

To prevent pain between the shoulder blades we have to find out what is causing pain in the region. Sometimes basic range of motion and stretching the shoulder blades and neck muscle will alleviate the pain if we keep up with self care routine like mentioned earlier.

Massage therapy has been used and suggested by physicians and professional therapists, and is and effective way to reduce pain. Massage Therapists are able to use techniques like joint mobilization and active and passive stretches to improve movement and blood flow, helping to alleviate pain..

Massage Therapists are trained to give specific exercises and stretches to prevent further pain and improve tissue health and joint integrity in the upper back and mid shoulder region.


Shem RMT

Pain in the Buttock

The Piriformis muscle is a tiny muscle located deep in the buttocks, underneath the gluteal muscles. When this muscle becomes tight, it causes butt pain a.k.a.“Piriformis Syndrome”.  A group of muscles (“Hip Rotator Cuff”) pinch our sciatic nerve, and it is a major cause of sciatica (leg pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness), hip pain, and buttock pain.

The Sciatic nerve runs all the way to the foot, as you can see in the below diagram:

sciatic nerve














To help alleviate such pain, the Pigeon Pose is a yoga technique and can be used for anyone with tight buttock. Simply find a comfortable position and sit yourself on the floor. Fold one leg in front of you (that is the leg you should be feeling the stretch in your gluteal muscles and ITB) and extend your other leg towards the back which also stretches your quad muscles and hip flexors. Using this technique basically helps to loosen up your hip rotator including your Piriformis and reduces the pressure on the sciatic nerve which is commonly located beneath the muscle.













How Can I Survive Long Office Hours WITHOUT Neck and Shoulder PAIN?

Sitting in front of a computer all day restricts your blood flow and results in muscle contraction and knots.  This can be prevented by following these easy steps:

 Posture – Lower your chair so you are looking up at your screen, not sitting like a turtle.  Keep your screen at least 30-50cm away from your eyes.

 Stretch – Every 2 hours or so, do these stretches. Try to hold for 20 seconds each:


1. Neck – tilt, Rotate your head right & left.  Bring chin to chest and hold, and then look up.


neck stretch for office workers









2. Arms and Back – clasp hands, push up and hold. Stand up, arms up, bend at waist to right & left.

arm and back stretch for office workers











3. Chest – put you hand behind your back on your hips, pull your arms back & up, hold.

pectoral stretch for office workers












Burrard Health Centre Massage Therapy Takes on Nurse Week at St. Paul Hospital

burrard massage therapy at st paul's nurse weekmassage therapy for nurses













It has been our pleasure and honour to participate Nurse Week at St. Paul Hospital, specifically Aara, Jenny, Marco, Bonnie and the rest of the group who work there as volunteers.

Being a nurse is demanding, in fact, a study found that more than half of nurses suffer from moderate to extreme anxiety during their work.  Currently there are numerous theories that validate Massage Therapy as effective in managing stress.  Scientific explanations focus on how massage therapy can affect the neurochemicals and reactions in the SNS (sympathetic nervous system) and the PNS (peripheral nervous system) related to various stress disorders. 

A simple explanation is that stress increases muscle tension, and when a muscle is tensed, circulation is reduced, blocking the absorption of oxygen and nutrients.  Massage Therapy decreases tension, loosens up the muscles, increases circulation, bringing the oxygen and nutrients back to the area of tension, and even releases stored toxins.   Burrard Massage Therapy hopes well-deserving nurses will be back to treat themselves to a massage therapy for their own well-being. We look forward to seeing you all again very soon!

5 steps to a Summer-Ready Body!

getting your body ready for summer weather











Summer’s just around the corner, and there are lots of fun and exciting things waiting for you – whether you want to look great on the beach or enjoy outdoor activities, preparation must start NOW, since it won’t happen overnight.  Here are 5 steps to get healthy and have your body ready for the great summer:

    Start making it a habit of drinking plenty of water.  Drinking lots of water is important as it boosts your energy, health and appearance.  It is the best natural detoxifier in flushing impurities out of your system, so it is important to hydrate yourself during the warmer months. 
    Eating healthy will not only help you look good, it will keep you feel great; Vitamin A, C and E found in vegetables and fruits all provide you antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. 
    Start protecting your skin by wearing sunscreen everyday from now through the end of the summer.  Choose sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher.  Even on a cloudy your  skin is susceptible to damage from harmful rays causing the look of premature aging.  Don’t forget sunglasses for your eyes as well.
    Make sure to exercise regularly to get your body ready for summer.   Exercise increases circulation, reduces stress, and helps you sleep better at night.  Walking, stretching, biking…these are all great ways to exercise that are easily added to your daily routine now that we have nicer weather!
    Last but not the least, visit a Registered Massage Therapist for a massage.  Not only will a massage improve your mental and physical health, but it will also get you ready for physical activities and prevent injuries.  Massage even works on cellulite by tightening your skin, helping to reduce the look of excess fat on your body. With all the great benefits massage therapy provides, it also feels great! So make sure to book an appointment with your massage therapist today and get ready to enjoy your summer! 

How Massage therapy Can Benefit Long Distance Runners


Are you running a Marathon this spring or summer, like the BMO Marathon or the ScotiaBank Half Marathon? How does your body feel and how do you deal with training and injuries? Whether you’re an avid runner or just want to finally challenge yourself to accomplish your first Marathon, self-care is an important part of any training program. How can Massage Therapy benefit runners like yourself?

Running a 42km marathon is no easy task for someone who hasn’t run any more than 5-10KM.  Running involves repetitive muscle contractions, and these sustained, repetitive muscular contractions lead to shortened, tight muscles, decreased joint range of motion to compressed tissues.  The greater the distance, the greater the pressure and stress put on your body.   

People come in all different shapes, heights and sizes. Sharing the common goal to reach the finish line, running can have a different impact on every individual. You may suffer from recurring injuries, you may be setting a new distance goal or having particular orthotic problem.  If you are not wearing proper foot wear, you may end up having irritated feet and suffer inflammation like Plantar Fasciitis. Some people may have tight muscles (hamstrings, quads and calf muscles) and if they don’t stretch regularly, these muscles can go to spasm or affect overall posture.  Common injuries with running are tendinitis, Illio Tibia Band syndrome, shin splints, and various joint problems in the knees, ankles and hip joints.  During your 16-18 weeks of training, as you add more mileage to your training your body demands more self care, rest, hydration and nutrition. You have to be prepared to identify some of the obstacles and weakness that may lead to injury.

It is highly effective to make therapeutic massage part of your training program as effects and benefits increase with sequential, repetitive massages throughout your pre-race and post-race schedule.

Massage Therapy can help…

  1. relieve muscle tightness and restore joint range of motion
  2. improve blood circulation and oxygen carrying capacity, lowering blood pressure
  3. promote removal of metabolic waste and reduce cortisol levels 
  4. restore posture and gait, improve connective tissue healing and prevent future injury

Massage Therapy is a great injury preventative program as well as part of a comprehensive recovery program.  Unlike spa or relaxing massage, “Therapeutic Massage” is a specific type of massage, in which Registered Massage Therapists (RMT) are licensed and trained to treat you with their anatomical/biomechanical knowledge and to help you loosen tight muscles in your lower extremities, removing lactic build up due to training and stretching while during treatment.  Massage Therapists are also trained to provide specific stretching and strengthening exercises that will prevent you from further risk of injury.

If you are going to run a Marathon and if this is your first time doing so, the best advice is to listen to your body, pace yourself with your training and get treatment from you registered Massage Therapist and you most likely will achieve your goals. Wishing you the best of luck! 

Why It’s Important to Address Shoulder Pain as Early as Possible

 massage therapy to treat shoulder pain

Shoulder pain is one of the biggest problems we see with our clients. Whether you are an athlete playing a sport that involves your upper extremities or someone who doesn’t play a lot of sports but sits stationary behind a desk and computer, shoulder pain can be inevitable.  In both cases shoulders are a very complex part of our musculoskeletal region that are involved with most of our tasks and active daily living. Shoulder muscles function mostly in a coupling, agonist and antagonist pattern of muscle that creates a movement. The muscles have to work together to accomplish a one-plane or complex range of motion. This complex range of motion can often be comprimised during physical activity or sports that don’t engage the opposing muscles of the shoulder. This theory applies to people who work at the office and have to sit at a desk, using a computer. Sedentary lifestyles and working stationary often causes muscle imbalance in the shoulder by a group of muscles becoming weak through inactivity and dysfunction due to a prolonged short, contractile position.

Some of most common problems in the shoulders are impingement, tendinitis and restricted capsular movement. Common irritation like impingement and tendinitis occurs with repetitive movement like sports that involves the upper extremities (volleyball, tennis, swimming etc.).

Capsular restriction can be pathological, postural, or due to muscle imbalance. An example of muscle imbalance would be tight chest muscles which would restrict moving the arm away or raise the arm above the head. Postural mostly involves tight muscles which are attached and coordinate the front of the shoulder and weak muscles that are involved in coordinating the back of the shoulder.

Pathology like arthritis and some immunological diseases can affect the shoulder joint can lead to adhesion and sometimes fusion of the joint. Professional Physical Therapists are able to find out and have an idea about this by using special tests to indicate and differentiate the common injuries and the pathology of the shoulder girdle.

Alternative therapy like Massage Therapy is helpful to create a balance between weak and tight muscles in the shoulder region. Therapists are also trained to give you home care and exercises that help with the rehabilitation of the shoulder to return it to full function. Recognizing the common shoulder injury, tightness and muscle imbalance at the earliest stage possible is highly recommended, as ignoring an even minor pain in the shoulder and not seeking help may even cause further complications, which will cause more pain, discomfort and cost you more money to rehabilitate.

See your Massage Therapist if you have any pain or discomfort so the Therapist can help and assure you can be pain free and carry on with your active daily living whether you are playing sports or working at the office behind the desk everyday.

Shem RMT

How Neck Pain Changes Muscles


Neck pain is one of the leading complaints brought into Massage Therapists on a daily basis. Research has thoroughly gone into studying the neck flexors (front neck muscles), yet there is a lack of research into the neck extensors (back neck muscles). A study was recently done to look at the changes that undergo extensor neck muscles in people with neck pain. In the study, the muscles are found to change from type one to type two muscle fibers. What this means in layman’s terms, is that the back neck muscles change from being postural and able to support long periods of weight and stress, to being phasic and tiring out after supporting weight for too long. Massage Therapy can treat these muscles by using exercises to reactivate the muscles that are becoming phasic.

        Due to modern desk work ergonomics, people are developing head forward posture with slumped shoulders. These people are getting tight, short chest and front of neck muscles, while the back muscles can get tight and long. Reactivating these tight and long muscles with massage therapy (and proper home exercises) will help to correct the poor posture, decrease the every day pain experienced and allow the dysfunctional muscles to function in postural support once more!  

 neck muscles and massage therapy

Causes of Lower Back Pain

Lower back Pain is a common disorder which involves pain and discomfort along the lumbar region and Sacroiliac region of the back. Pain in the lower back often is associated with musculoskeletal regions like muscles, ligaments and nerves, and the interverteberal discs or articulation where the spine stacks on one another.

Lower back pain can be acute or chronic. Pain in an acute stage is commonly related to sudden movement in a twisted range of motion while lifting an object and it can also be caused by an impact or sports injury. Chronic lower back pain can be caused by biomechanical systems, muscle imbalance, inflexibility, work ergonomics, and pathology like degenerative disc disease. Symptoms like shooting or referral muscle pain, walking, sitting and or standing up can apply to common types of lower back pain.

Muscle strain is the most common cause of lower back pain and that is often due to sudden unnatural or violent movement and can easily create an over stretch or possible minor or major tear in the muscles, or fascia and ligaments that are involved with stability and kinetic  movement of our body.

Nerve root irritation is another common cause of lower back pain and its symptoms are quite pronounced and pain can refer down to lower extremities and it can become debilitating. In cases of nerve root irritation it can also lead to muscle spasm, tightness and guarding in the effected region.

Facet joints are the joints at the back of each vertebra the hold the vertebra together. These joints enable the back to twist and bend but if strained by a sudden jerk it can cause severe back pain known as Facet joint lock syndrome.

A nerve root irritation is a intra vertebral disc protrusion that rubs or causes pressure on the nerve root of its segment.

Degenerative Disc Disease, Spinal Stenosis, and other immunological diseases that can affect the musculoskeletal system can also cause contribute to our lower back pain.

Some non- medical conditions like being overweight, having bad posture and muscle imbalance are also the causes of lower back pain. For example, muscle imbalance – if the hip flexors are tight and erector spinae  muscles are weak, a stretch can apply stress on the skeletal structure and can lead to lower back pain.

The causes of lower back pain and these prevention tips will surely give you a better understanding of different factors that lead to backache and the various measures that can be employed to avoid them. Hence, with proper lower back exercises, a balanced diet and body mechanics, you can keep your back trouble free throughout your life.

Registered Massage Therapists of BC are well trained professional and have learned through their intense training how to assesses and find the cause of your lower back pain. They are also able to make a differential diagnosis of what can be causing the pain primarily and the secondary cause of discomfort.

Registered Massage Therapist of BC also have vast training with manual therapy techniques  and are able to alleviate the pain on the effected region by treating the compensatory muscles and bring some relief to the area. RMT’s are also well trained to give proper and specific stretching and strengthening exercises and other modalities like hydrotherapy application.

Book your appointment with us at Burrard Massage Therapy and experience effective and relaxing massage therapy treatment.


Shem RMT

Have You Seen A Massage Therapist About Your Jaw Pain Yet?

Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD) is a common condition that can be quite painful and irritating, yet many diagnosed individuals don’t get treatment. Every single jaw movement a TMJD sufferer attempts can result in clicking and pain that has become their definition of normal jaw function. People shouldn’t have to live in fear of accidently eating solid food or laughing too hard, causing them to open their mouth to the point of pain. Now, facial pain and clicking sounds aren’t the only symptoms of TMJD. Some people experience their jaw locking, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), earaches, dizziness, toothaches, headaches, and neck/shoulder pain. Massage therapy is an effective way to treat the pain and tension associated with TMJD that can result in long term results and diminishing severity of symptoms.

The root cause of TMJD can be muscle imbalances and/or disc dislocation. Massage therapy can treat the knotted muscles with fascial connective tissue release, Swedish massage, and ischemic point pressure release (myofascial trigger point pressure release). Your registered massage therapist will know how to target the muscles connected to the jaw and which outlying muscles are possibly referring additional pain to the jaw. Another helpful technique British Columbia RMTs are trained in is intra-oral massage. This technique can allow the therapist access to muscles that normally are not treated, aiding to increase relief of disc-dislocation problems.

Lastly, homecare will be given to enable you to deal with the pain in between appointments. Strengthening the alignment of your jaw is crucial, and will take time. Looking in a mirror and performing any alignment exercises or any stretches that your therapist has shown you will contribute to better jaw health. At Burrard Massage Therapy we believe treatment doesn’t need to end at the clinic door, our RMT’s are trained in remedial exercise and encourage clients to be pro-active enough to perform their assigned self care exercises at home. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction symptoms can be reduced through diligent treatment with a BC registered massage therapist, so we can give you a reason to smile again!