How to relieve tension with one simple exercise

By Liz Darrington, Remedial Massage Therapist.

The world is a topsy-turvy place right now with the coronavirus (COVID-19) adding uncertainty to our daily lives. As a result, many of us are feeling more stressed than usual, with tension building-up and manifesting as tight knotted muscles. Under normal circumstances, this would be the time to visit a remedial massage therapist. However, given this isn’t possible right now, I thought the next best thing would be to share one of my all-time favourite exercises to help get you through. So why not dim the lights, put on some relaxing music and find some floor space to start unwinding with the cat-cow?

The cat-cow is a gentle exercise that is relatively easy to do. It’s often recommended for back pain, with some saying it’s like giving your spine and surrounding tissues a gentle massage. Coordinating the movements with your breathing will also help relieve stress and calm the mind.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how it’s done.

Step 1:

Start on your hands and knees in a neutral position. Your wrists should be directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips. Make sure your fingertips are pointing forwards and your head is centred with your eyes looking at the floor.

Step 2:

Begin by moving into cow pose. As you breath-in, drop your belly down toward the floor. At the same time, lift your chin and chest up so that you’re now looking toward the ceiling. Bring awareness to your shoulder blades and draw them together so that your shoulders pull away from your ears. Hold for 5-10 seconds.

Step 3:

Now move into cat pose: As you breath-out, draw your belly up toward your spine and round your back toward the ceiling. Let the top of your head hang down toward the floor, but don’t force your chin to your chest. Keep the fingers spread wide as you push the mat away and focus on opening-up the space between your shoulder blades. Hold for 5-10 seconds.

Step 4:

Repeat 5-20 times, remembering to inhale with the cow and exhale with the cat.

So, there you have it. Give it a go. Remember the more you practice, the more you’ll feel a difference. Take it easy and happy stretching!

Remedial massage at Northside Health is temporarily closed due to Covid-19. We will be in touch when circumstances change.

Massage. What type is right for you?

Liz Darrington, Massage Therapist

Nobody (and no body) could argue with the health benefits of a massage with an experienced massage therapist. No doubt you’re aware of the various types of massage available. But it can be daunting working out which one is right for you. Firstly, don’t stress! Any massage will provide benefits! Secondly, if in doubt, we will talk to you to help find the massage type that will be of most benefit to you!

Remedial Massage

Remedial massage may be beneficial for migraine and tension headaches, neck and back pain, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, sciatica, hamstring injuries, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and repetitive strain injury. Treatments are individually tailored and may include trigger point therapy, deep tissue massage, joint mobilisation and facilitated stretching to reduce pain and improve range of motion. Liz also assesses for postural imbalances and offers advice on corrective stretches and exercises for long-term results. 


Lymphatic Drainage Massage

Manual lymphatic drainage massage uses very light pressure applied in a certain direction to encourage the movement of lymph fluid around the body. Enhanced lymphatic circulation speeds-up the process by which waste products are carried away from the tissues and back to the heart. It can be beneficial for treating lymphoedema, fluid retention, post mastectomy lymphoedema of the arm, post-operative swelling, sinus congestion, swelling during pregnancy, and fibromyalgia. (Please note a full-body manual lymphatic drainage massage requires a 90-minute appointment.)


Relaxation Massage

Relaxation Massage has been found to destress the body and mind by activating the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system. Long smooth gliding pressure gently manipulates superficial muscle tissue to achieve a general sense of calm. Relaxation massage is not just a feel-good massage. It has many other health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, increasing peripheral circulation, improving skin tone and appearance, stimulating the lymphatic system, improving gastrointestinal activity, and boosting the immune system.


Make a booking!

Liz is an accredited (ATMS) Remedial Massage Therapist with almost 10 years experience treating soft tissue related pain, restriction and injury. Liz is in the Northside Health clinic Mondays, Fridays and every other Saturday. She is a registered health fund provider for Australian Unity, Bupa, CBHS, Doctors Health Fund, Grand United Corporate Health and NIB. Work Cover clients welcome. For more information, visit
Call (02) 6652 5322 to book your next massage.

Grumpy? Get a Chiropractic Adjustment!

We all know the stereotype of men getting grumpier as they age. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

As a chiropractor, man and dad, this study is exciting news and I hope it encourages all men to assess their own mood, pain levels and mental health and seek help, if necessary.

A study performed in 2011 revealed the impact of one single chiropractic adjustment can have on the tone of the nervous system. Published in “Alternative Therapies Health Medicine”(Ogura 2011)(2), the study was performed by 8 PhD’s and 1 Chiropractor. They used a PET scan as a powerful neuro-imaging technique to measure neuronal activity in the brain. They were also able to take a radioactive analogue of glucose as a marker to measure brain glucose consumption as it would indicate brain metabolic activity after having a chiropractic adjustment.

The findings demonstrated that the sympathetic tone of the nervous system was inhibited, salivary amylase was decreased, regional brain metabolic changes occurred, and muscle tone and pain intensity decreased following just one single chiropractic adjustment.

In simple terms, the study confirmed that a single neck adjustment from a chiropractor helped:

  • Decrease stress levels
  • Reduced the flight/fright reflex response
  • Relaxed muscles
  • Reduced pain levels

Essentially the subjects were new men after just one specific chiropractic neck adjustment!

If the men in your life are grumpy, in pain or just being a pain, consider making an appointment with myself here at Northside Health. Call 6652 5322 or jump onto the HotDoc app to book.


Dr. David Pham

Resident Chiropractor – Northside Health

Reference: “Cerebral metabolic changes in men after chiropractic spinal manipulation” Alternative Therapies Health Medicine 2011 Nov-Dec;17(6):12-7.

Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder that is developed after a person has experienced a traumatic life event.

PTSD Facts & Figures:

  • People who have experienced sexual or physical abuse are more likely to develop PTSD than people who experienced unintentional trauma.
  • Serious car accidents are the leading causes of PTSD in Australia.
  • About 25% of people exposed to a traumatic event develop PTSD.
  • Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men.
  • About 12% of all Australians will experience PTSD at some point in their life.
  • PTSD can affect people of all age even children and teens.

Signs & Symptoms

According to Beyond Blue, people with PTSD often experience feelings of panic or extreme fear, similar to the fear they felt during the traumatic event. There may be intense emotional or physical reactions, such as sweating, heart palpitations or panic when reminded of the event.

A person with PTSD experiences four main types of difficulties:

  • Re-living the traumatic event – They might have unwanted and recurring memories, such as nightmares or vivid images.
  • Being overly alert or wound up – This might mean sleeping difficulties, irritability and lack of concentration. They might be on constant look out for danger.
  • Avoiding reminders of the event – Certain activities, places, people, thoughts or feelings associated with the event might bring up painful memories and will be avoided, if possible.
  • Feeling emotionally numb – The person loses interest in day-to-day activities, feels cut off and detached from friends and family, or feels emotionally flat and numb.

Managing PTSD

With the right help, a person living with PTSD can learn to manage their anxiety. Anyone feeling severe stress, panic and anxiety regularly after a traumatic event, should speak with their doctor. Ignoring your condition or trying to block out these painful memories on your own can be detrimental in the long run so we always advise speaking with a health professional for effective treatment. Treatment usually involves psychological treatment but medication can also be prescribed in some cases.

If you know someone going through PTSD, your support is important. By providing care and support, you allow that person with PTSD to focus on their recovery.

If you would like to chat with your GP here at Northside Health about PTSD, please call 6652 5322 or use the HotDoc to arrange an appointment.

If you are feeling suicidal or need crisis support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.


Your Cold & Flu Insurance Policy This Winter!

It’s not just the drop in temperature that heralds the start of Winter. It’s when nearly everyone you run into is battling a cold, coming down with something or has just spent a week of work you know Winter is near! But what if you could take out a wellness ‘insurance policy’ of sorts against colds and flus? We share our tips to boost your immune function and help insure against illness this Winter.

Key Nutrients for a Strong Immune System 

There’s a good reason why most oranges are in season during the colder months! Oranges and citrus fruits of all kinds are rich in Vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that plays a key role in the mobilisation of your immune system defences.
Zinc is another powerful immune system supporter, found in meat, eggs, seafood, nuts and seeds. Zinc helps infection-fighting white blood cells to be deployed at the first sign of a disease-causing invader, such as a virus or bacteria. These two nutrients form an essential immune system foundation to help reduce the incidence and severity of colds and infections.
Vitamin D also plays an important role in the overall function of your immune system, working behind the scenes to help ‘marshal’ your immune cells to the site of an infection. Our vitamin D stores tend to decline as you spend more time indoors and less time soaking up the sunshine required to manufacture your own supply. You may wish to take a supplement during this time of year to help maintain your infection-fighting capacity over the winter months.

Good Gut Health = Strong Immune System

Believe it or not, your gastrointestinal tract contains approximately 70% of your immune system, so it’s vital your gut is populated with plenty of beneficial micro-organisms. The micro-organisms are central to you maintaining optimal immune function and different strains of probiotics have different health benefits. Look for Lactobacillus acidophilus (NCFM strain) and Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LGG and HN019 strains) to help you reduce the incidence of respiratory infections that are common in winter.

Lifestyle Tips to Support Good Health

Here’s your official prescription to schedule regular ‘down time’! Stress and being on the go constantly can significantly drain your immune function and leave you more susceptible to any viruses you come in contact with. Recharge with regular relaxation and ‘me time’ such as reading a good book, getting a massage, or perhaps a yoga class followed by a long soak in a warm bath. Ensuring you get sufficient sleep also enables your body to rest and repair, keeping you ready to fight whatever battles you may encounter tomorrow.

Prevention is Better Than Cure!

Don’t just succumb to yet another cold or flu this winter, take out a wellness ‘insurance policy’ and help support your immune system and actually enjoy this slower season. We invite you to come in and speak to your GP here at Northside Health to discuss how we can boost your infection-fighting capacity with high quality, clinically effective Vitamin C, Zinc, Vitamin D and immune-boosting probiotics and what doses are best.

How to Fine Tune Your Goals

Health and Nutrition Coach, Nicola Ruitenberg

I’m sure many of you made New Year’s resolutions at the start of 2019. How did you do? Are you doing really well, making good progress and working towards your goal? Or did you start off strong (I’m only eating plants and I’m going to run 10kms every day!), only to get frustrated, defeated and think ‘pfft, this is too hard – who needs New Year’s resolutions anyway?!’

If you’re like most people, you probably set yourself an unrealistic goal or an unrealistic time frame to achieve that goal.

If your goal was weight loss, don’t fall for the ‘lose weight fast’ hype. You can’t expect quick results with healthy weight loss. I’m sure you’ve heard it before but slow and steady really does win the race. 

Firstly, pick a goal. If your goal is a lofty amount of weight to lose, say 20kgs, then let’s aim to lose that over the next 12 months. I know, I know! Your cousin’s wedding is 3 months away and you need to lose the 20kgs by then! But remember: you need to be realistic.

Now, let’s break down that 12 months into mini goals that you achieve along the way.  5kgs every 3 months. Totally achievable. And you’ll still look great at your cousin’s wedding 😉

So, HOW are you going to lose those 5 kilos in 3 months? This is where you need to come up with small, actionable steps that will move you closer to that goal. Will you remove sugary soft drink from your diet as the first step? Will you aim to include 2 additional serves of vegetables at each meal? Will you look to reduce your portion size by 15%?  Whatever it is, write down what steps you can do to move you closer to your mini goal. Easy does it – you don’t have to implement everything at once!

And, lastly, if you need support during this time, why not enlist my services? I will be your cheerleader, help you navigate the confusing world of nutrition and keep you accountable every step of the way.

Want to chat with Nicola about nutrition? Call 6652 5322 to make an appointment.

6 Top Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

When we think of healthy habits, we typically think of eating well, exercising or not smoking without giving much regard to sleep at all. While sleep might seem expendable, particularly in the quest to ‘get more done’, the truth is sleep is incredibly important for our health. Poor sleep can have a multitude of negative effects on your body, which may lead to serious health issues if not addressed. With that in mind, we share some easy tips for you to try that will hopefully help you get a more restful and rejuvenating night’s sleep.

1. Stick to a schedule –

If you groaned a little then, we get it! Who wants to be ruled by a clock telling us when we should go to bed? However, our bodies are creatures of habit and irregular sleep patterns muck up your circadian rhythm meaning your brain might not be getting the signal to go to sleep when it should.

2. Create a relaxing bedtime ritual –

The hour before you go to bed is important for your brain and body to start winding down. Ideally, this will see you off screens! Your bedtime ritual might include reading a book, having a hot bath or shower, meditating, diffusing relaxing essential oils, deep breathing or listening to relaxing music. Experiment. See what it is that gets you relaxed and incorporate that into your new bedtime routine.

3. Exercise daily –

Exercise isn’t just good for weight management/loss. Exercising during daylight hours is proven to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, reduce total wakefulness through the night, anxiety and increase your total amount of sleep for the night.

4. Check your surroundings –

How comfy is your mattress and pillow? What’s the temperature like in your bedroom? Is the room dark? Is it quiet? If your bedroom isn’t conducive to sleep then this might explain the issues you’ve been having. Things like ear plugs, white noise machine, blackout curtains, eye mask or fans might be needed to help you sleep better.

5. Avoid caffeine, heavy meals & alcohol –

Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can all disrupt sleep. If you can, avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime. If hungry, try a small snack. Alcohol increases the symptoms of sleep apnea, snoring and disrupted sleep patterns. With caffeine staying in your system for 6–8 hours, it’s a good idea to avoid it from 3pm onwards as it stops your body from relaxing naturally.

6. Cut out screen time –

The light emanated from computer screens, phone screens and TVs actually activates your brain by throwing off blue light that mimics daylight. If you can’t get off the screens, try wearing blue light glasses or download an application called f.lux for your computer. Search blue light apps for your mobile as well. Around the house, be sure to switch off bright lights and use lamps instead.

There’s no question that sleep is crucial to helping you function properly and stay healthy. If you’re still having trouble sleeping, please make an appointment with us to investigate further.

Making Goals Happen!

We often think that motivation is the key to achieving our goals. ‘If only I had more motivation’ we tell ourselves and use this as the reason why our goals didn’t happen. Turns out it’s not motivation you need! We share some goal setting tips below to help increase your odds of successfully achieving your dreams.

  1. Write down your intentions – Have a plan that clearly states when and where you will work on your goal. So instead of saying ‘I want to exercise more’, say ‘I will go for a 30 minute walk at 6am down at the beach’. Be clear about how you will make your new goal happen and when it will happen. What will work best with your schedule?
  2. Have a back up plan in place – If your set intention doesn’t happen, have consequences. ‘If I miss a walk, then I will do a 20 minute yoga workout at home’. Make this a non-negotiable. If you happen to eat fast food that day then make sure you eat vegetables for dinner.
  3. Replace not eliminiate – If you are prone to indulging in unhealthy habits, then it may serve you to find a healthier habit to replace it. Instead of quitting smoking, try a new habit like meditating instead. Instead of reaching for a tub of ice cream after dinner, have a couple of squares of dark chocolate with some berries.
  4. Track your progress – There are lots of apps out on the market that can help you make your new goal a regular habit and will even reward you for streaks.
  5. Be accountable – Share your goals with a friend to help you stay on track. Finding someone who has a common goal can help you during those times when life feels a little tougher. Online support groups can also help you feel less alone when those old habits want to sneak back into your life.

At the end of the day, making a plan that is clear, achievable and realistic will go a long way in helping you achieve your new health goals. Don’t forget to consult with your GP before making any significant health changes. We have some wonderful health related resources and tools that can help you achieve your goals and we’d love to help you on your journey.

Remedial Massage for Tension Headaches

Remedial Massage Therapist, Liz Darrington

A vice. A clamp. A tight band wrapped firmly around your head. The pressure is building and it feels as though your head might explode! Tension headaches can be unbearable and, at times, utterly debilitating. We describe the signs and symptoms of tension headaches, explore their underlying causes, and explain how remedial massage can help reduce their severity, duration and frequency.

What are the sign and symptoms of tension headaches?
Tension headaches typically produce a strong constant pain or pressure on both sides of the head or forehead, with pain sometimes radiating down into the neck, shoulders, and arms. The pain is often described as a dull persistent ache. In most cases, they are mild to moderate in severity and occur infrequently.

On the other hand, some people experience severe tension headaches and are tormented by them as often as 3 to 4 times a week. When headaches occur more than 15 times a month, they are classified as “chronic tension headaches”. The intense pain of a tension headache may be confused with a migraine. Unlike migraines, however, tension headaches do not typically produce nerve symptoms such as visual disturbances, sensitivity to light and noise, blurred vision, slurred speech, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting, or preceding numbness/weakness of the arms or legs.

New worsening headaches that are unfamiliar should always be discussed with your doctor. Likewise, headaches associated with fever, stiff neck, confusion, seizures, double vision, weakness, numbness, slurred speech, or that are sudden and intense at onset should prompt emergency department presentation.

What are the causes of tension headaches?
Previously termed muscle contraction headaches, tension headaches are thought to be muscular in origin and associated with mental stress. When muscles are locked into position for a long period of time (think of yourself stuck at a desk almost all day), there is inadequate blood supply to the neck, shoulders and upper back muscles. This in turn generates trigger points (hyperactive contractile regions of a muscle compared with the surrounding tissue), leading to referred pain in the form of a headache! In addition to this, stress, anxiety, depression and conflict are also thought to be contributing factors of tension headache. This is because psychological tension has a knock-on effect and causes muscles to contract and tighten.

How can remedial massage help?
Remedial massage can help relieve tension headaches by releasing overly tight head, neck and shoulder muscles through trigger point therapy and stretching exercises. Trigger point therapy works by applying sustained pressure to those sensitive sore spots of the muscle. This helps to increase blood flow to the area, thereby allowing necessary nutrients to relax the muscle fibres. It can feel uncomfortable and even produce headache-like symptoms due to referred pain, however this usually lasts no more than 1 to 2 minutes. Stretching compliments trigger point therapy by lengthening shortened muscle fibres, thereby increasing flexibility, improving range of motion, and ultimately reducing pain and stiffness. Massage therapy not only helps the muscles of the body to relax, but also effectively reduces mental stress that can cause or exacerbate headaches.

A significant and meaningful reduction in tension headache frequency and duration was observed in one study where sufferers received regular head and neck massage. The participants received half-hour massages twice a week for 4 weeks following a baseline period of 4 weeks with no treatment. The study found headache frequency was reduced within 1 week of massage treatment compared with baseline levels and was maintained during the 4 weeks of massage treatment. A reduction in the average duration of each headache was also noted. The researchers concluded that massage therapy was an effective non-pharmacological intervention for the treatment of chronic tension headache.

Are you ready to rid yourself of muscle tension and mental stress? Book an appointment with Liz by calling Northside Health (02) 6652 5322.


Arendt-Nielsen, L., Castaldo, M., Mechelli, F., & Fernández-De-Las-Peñas, C. (2016). Muscle Triggers as a Possible Source of Pain in a Subgroup of Tension-type Headache Patients? The Clinical Journal of Pain.

Bendtsen, L., Ashina, S., Moore, A., Steiner, T.J. (2016). Muscles and their role in episodic tension-type headache: implications for treatment. Eur J Pain.

Chaibi, A., & Russell, M. (2014). Manual therapies for primary chronic headaches: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. The Journal of Headache and Pain.

Auriculotherapy & Ear Seeds

Based on the principles of acupuncture, ear seeds work by treating conditions by pressing on specific pressure points within the ear. The practise is known as Auriculotherapy.

Auriculotherapy works by holding the ear seeds into place using tape and pressing the ear seed several times a day to stimulate auricular acupuncture points. This is usually done for a prolonged period, such as a few days or a few weeks depending on the condition being treated and its severity.

Ear seeds can be used for a myriad of conditions and can provide natural and non invasive treatment for back pain, headaches, insomnia, weight loss, cravings, anxiety and more.

If you’d like to try ear seeds, chat with your acupuncturist about their use or pop into Northside Health and pick up a pack.

Visit the Ear Seed website for free resources and more information.