Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Mindfulness in the Therapy Room

This Blog is excerpt from a Massage Continuing Education Online Course I have Written called Mindfulness & Loving Kindness in the Therapy Room.  If you would like to purchase the full 6CE Hour Course to complete online you may do so here:

The Buddha advocated that one should establish mindfulness in one's day-to-day life maintaining a calm awareness of one's body, movements, functions, sensations, feelings, thoughts, perceptions, and consciousness itself. In modern psychology Mindfulness has been expanded upon, and is described as a state of active, open attention on the present moment. “When you are mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judgment. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.” -Psychology today

Have you ever been driving along in your car with your radio blaring, half focused on the road, and day dreaming?  You begin to think about what you have to do at work tomorrow, what you ate for dinner last night, and you suddenly remember that your husband’s birthday is coming up next month, and you’d like to plan something nice.  When all of a sudden you arrive at your destination.  You have absolutely no idea how you’ve gotten there.  You were somewhere else for the entire commute, and you missed it.   Unfortunately this is very common. It is also very dangerous, yet this is how many of us go through life.

When it comes to our profession as massage therapists Mindfulness is the basis, the core of our ethics.  Without mindfulness, therapeutic massage is impossible.  If a massage therapist is lost in thought, “driving along” mindlessly over the client’s body, without awareness of what is happening for the client, it ceases to be a therapeutic or beneficial experience at all.  

Please ask yourself a few hard questions about your mindfulness in your practice:Lets  stop there and reflect.  Think about how this applies to you in your massage practice.  Without judgment please honestly answer the following questions:
  • Am I preoccupied while I work?
  • Are my clients my primary focus during their session?
  • Has my mind wondered off during their treatment?
  • Am I aware of what I am feeling (Physically & Emotionally) during their session?
  • Am I focused on my movements?
  • Am I focused on my body mechanics?
  • Am I in tune with my clients comfort level?
  • Am I focused on my intent?
Mindfulness is paying, precise, nonjudgmental attention to the details of our experience as it begins and ends.  Pay attention to your depth of pressure, the texture of the skin, facia, muscle fibers in every area worked.  Actively looking for and feeling for trigger points and energetic inconsistencies, Instead of focusing only on the minute hand of the clock in front of you. 

Imagine your client has been coming to see you weekly for months.  In her first few appointments you really were focused on the muscular issues that were associated with her chronic low back pain.  You spent each hour session focused on the specific muscles associated with her pain, and you had a genuine desire to make her feel better. Week after week you have gotten to know the client better through conversation.  Over time you find yourself looking forward to the client’s appointment because the two of you have so much to talk about.  7 weeks go by and the client’s treatment continues.  You realize that all this time has gone by and the clients not making progress.  Her injury persists. You suddenly become aware that while technically you had been massaging her for an hour a week for the past 5 weeks you were not focused and unfortunately ineffective. Chances are she notices as well.

In order to hone your mindfulness, try adding a daily Mindfulness Meditation to your routine before work. A step by step guide to how to do this is as follows:

Step 1: Setting the Environment

Just like with massage, there are certain conditions that are helpful for the practice of mindfulness. When we create the right environment it’s easier to practice.  It is good if the place where you meditate, even if it’s only a small space in your home or office, has a feeling of spirituality and sacredness. Choosing somewhere quiet, where you would not be disturbed is ideal, as any disruption will affect your practice.  If you are allowed, use your massage room for this. It is an ideal place.  We strive for the same qualities when creating our massage environment.  You can bring a cushion or Zafu to ease your comfort. 

Step 2: Beginning the Meditation
When you first begin to implement this practice, it is recommended to meditate frequently but for short periods of time—ten, fifteen, or twenty minutes. For massage therapists, I recommend meditation ten minutes in the morning or before you begin your day and ten minutes in the evening after you have finished all of your sessions for the day.  Allow yourself to sit comfortably.  Quiet the mind (freeing it of all the monkey chatter) Take a few deep breaths and say to yourself “ I am here in this present moment”.  The goal of this meditation is to practice discipline and focus.  This initial statement serves as inspiration for that purpose.

Step 3: Posture
The Buddhist approach to meditation posture is that the mind and body are connected. It is believed that energy flows better when the spine is erect. In this position the energetic flow is modified and this change directly affects your thought process, by opening the mind. The most common meditation position is seated on a meditation cushion such as a zafu in a comfortable position with legs crossed and hands resting palm-down on your thighs or for more advance meditation practitioners use a mudra (hand position) of your choice. If you prefer you can use a chair for meditation, however you must sit upright and your feet must touch the ground uncrossed.

After being seated comfortably, our first goal is to get a sense of our own body.  Focus on feeling each of your individual parts.  Starting with your toes and moving towards your head.  Make sure your shoulders are level, your hips are level, your spine is lined up. We use this posture in order to remain relaxed yet awake.

Step 4: Setting Your Gaze
For strict mindfulness practice, the gaze should be downward focusing a couple of inches in front of your nose. The eyes are open but not staring; your gaze is soft. We are trying to reduce sensory input as much as we can.

Step 5:  Focus on your Breath
As you start the practice, you have established a sense of your body and a sense of where you are, and then you draw your attention to your breathing. This is one of the most important factors.  The breath should not be forced, and you should be breathing naturally. The breath is going in and out, in and out. With each breath you more become relaxed.

Step 6:  Controlling your Thoughts
Especially for beginners, thoughts during meditation are inevitable.  No matter what kind of thought comes up, you should acknowledge it, recognize it was there, then send it away returning your focus to the present moment.  Its easy for us all to get lost in thought sometimes. Don’t judge yourself for this. Acknowledge that it happened, then refocus and continue your meditation focusing on your breath. The mind can be a wild thing sometimes and we have to recognize that as we learn to control it. This meditation practice is actually not about letting go of all thought.  Its about setting your focus on one specific thought or feeling.  In this instance you are asking yourself to focus on your breath.   

Step 7:  Returning to Daily Life   Whenever you feel ready, slowly begin to move your body (starting with your fingers and toes), change your gaze to look around the room and acknowledge your surroundings.  Slowly whenever you are comfortable and ready stand up and continue on with your day.  With each meditation try and take a little bit from it and bring it into your daily activities. 

Serenity Now Massage Therapy is designated as an Approved Provider of Continuing Education by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork Provider ID 451758-11. All courses offered through Serenity Now Massage Therapy meet requirements for recertification, license renewal in North Carolina, and membership renewal for AMTA and ABMP. Be sure to check the exact requirements for your particular renewal situation.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Chakra Therapy

What are Chakras?
Chakras or spinning energy centers exits on our physical and energetic bodies.  We each have seven major wheel-like structures located in the center of our bodies running along side the spine.  The word "Chakra" actually means "Wheel" or "Vortex" in Sanskrit.  The concept of Chakras originated as early as 2500 BCE in India, and has been a widely accepted part of Auravedic Medicine, Hinduism, and Buddhist Cultures for thousands of years. While often books on this subject are found in the New Age section of a book store, this concept is far from New.  The seven major chakras are connected to, and a part of, the physical body. All are located on the torso and head. Each chakra transmits and receives life-force energy often called "chi", "qi" or "prana".
When If someone is in a state in ill physical or emotional health, the chakras may not be functioning properly. One or more may be out of alignment or stagnant. In this state, life force energy is blocked and is unable to flow in and out freely and the physical body may suffer. This is a similar energetic concept used in Acupuncture, Reiki and all forms of energetic medicine. Stress, being unable to express emotions, becoming overly emotional, experiencing an altered reality, disconnected from higher power, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, exposure to toxicity, etc. can cause the Chakra system to close down.

What can a chakra balancing and clearing session change? 
 Everything!  Chakra balancing can change every aspect of your life. When in balance, you will be physically more healthy and vibrant, emotionally and mentally clear, and feel spiritually connected.  Each chakra corresponds to a different organ, emotion and bodily function. Each one is also associated with a specific note, sound, color, and scent.  If you are just feeling "out of it", imbalanced, sick, tired or just not functioning at your optimal health, its possible that your chakras need to be realigned and balanced.  Chakra clearing allows you to optimize the power of your chakras so that they are all large, unblocked and vibrant in color.  Chakra Therapy is important because it keeps energy flowing freely throughout your body and keeps you in optimal physical, emotional and spiritual health.
Below you will find information on each of the seven major chakras including their color, position, function and associations.

Base (Root) Chakra

Color:  Red
Position:  Base of the spine at the perineum
Main Functions:  Survival, security, primal energy.
Positive Issues:  Courage strength, will power and self confidence.
Negative Issues:  Physical security like finances, home, safety, possessions.
Related Organs/Body Parts:  Kidneys, bladder, reproductive organs, hips and legs.  Sciatica & chronic Low Back Pain
Essential Oil:  Rosemary or Clove
Crystal:  Garnet
Tea: Ginger, Valerian, Lime Blossom or Elderberry
Affirmation:  "I feel that my body is connected to the power of the Earth"

Sacral Chakra

Color:  Orange
Position:  Midway between the naval and base of the spine
Main Functions:  Relationships, sexuality, intimacy.
Positive Issues:  Creativity, independence, sociability, joyous.
Negative Issues:  Cravings for physical pleasures like foods, sex, addictions to drugs, alcohol or other substances, withdrawn, over-dependant.
Related Organs/Body Parts:  Uterus, large bowel, prostate, ovaries and testes.
Essential Oil: Sandalwood or Black Pepper
Crystal:  Aventurine
Tea:  Yarrow, Parsley or Nettle
Affirmation:  "I take pleasure in life will all of my senses"

Solar Plexus Chakra

Color:  Yellow
Position:  Directly behind the navel
Main Functions:  Desire, vitality, inner strength, self-control.
Positive Issues:  Confident, alert, optimistic and good humored.
Negative Issues:  Fear of being or desire to be powerful, fear of authority figures, desires to control others and situations, fear of being controlled, sarcastic, pessimistic.
Related Organs/Body Parts:  Liver, spleen, stomach and small intestines.
Essential Oil:  Lavender or Chamomile
Crystal:  Amber, Tigers Eye or Citrine
Tea:  Cardamon, Anise, fennel, or Chamomile
Affirmation:  "I trust in my own feelings and decisions"

Heart Chakra

Color:  Green
Position:  Center of the chest.
Main Functions:  Release emotionally suppressed trauma. Soul/heart consciousness.  Expressing love in action.  Love, empathy.
Positive Issues: Compassion, generosity, harmony, balance, love, forgiveness.
Negative Issues: Codependency, dysfunctional relationship addictions,
obsessiveness, unable to forgive, indifference, jealousy, bitterness.
Related Organs/Body Parts:  Heart and breasts.
Essential Oil:  Rose or Jasmine
Crystal:  Emerald, Jade or Rose Quartz
Tea:  Melissa or Chicory
Affirmation:  " I send myself and others love and compassion"

Throat Chakra

Color:  Blue
Position:  Adam's apple area.
Main Functions:  Ability to verbalize.  Expressing the truth through power of words. Communication, speaking your truth.
Positive Issues:  Loyalty, inventive, caring, affectionate, speaking your truth, communication projects, trustworthy, calm.
Negative Issues:  Unfaithful, untrustworthy self-righteous, cold, obsessions about communicating.
Related Organs/Body Parts:  Throat and lungs.
Essential Oil:  Eucalyptus or Peppermint
Crystal:  Aquamarine or Topaz
Teas:  Clove, peppermint, or sage
Affirmation:  "I am open to the truth"

Third Eye (Brow) Chakra

Color:  Indigo
Position:  Center of forehead between eyes.
Main Functions:  Channeling intuition, balanced state of mind, devotion and divine perfection, clairvoyance.
Positive Issues:  Highly intuitive, faithful, clear sighted, integrity, orderly mind, the eye of your higher self, predicting the future.
Negative Issues:  Inability to trust intuition, scattered mind, inconsiderate, reluctance to see the future.
Related Organs/Body Parts:  Eyes, lower head and sinuses.
Essential Oil: Lemongrass
Crystal: Opal, Blue Sapphire or Tourmaline
Tea:  Bay Leaf or St John's Wort
Affirmation:  I open myself up to God"

Crown Chakra

Color:  Violet
Position:  Top or above the head.
Main Functions:  Personal identification with infinite.  Oneness with God.  Peace and Wisdom. Clair-cognizance and Divine guidance.
Positive Issues:  Reverence for life, self-sacrificing service, idealism, ability to see appropriate route for higher self, ability to be trusting in intuition coming from other plane.
Negative Issues:  No concern for others, feelings of superiority, lack of contact with reality, not trusting of intuition coming from other plane.
Related Organs/Body Parts:  Eyes, lower head and sinuses.
Essential Oil:  Frankincense or Rosewood
Crystals:  Clear Quartz, Amethyst or Diamond
Tea:  Lavender, Lemon Balm & Mugwort
Affirmation:  "I am present in this moment"

What is a Chakra Balancing Session like?
In most cases Chakra Balancing is done fully clothed lying on a massage table, however if it is being added to a physical massage, the therapist may keep you disrobed, but covered.  It is recommended that you  dress comfortably to avoid distraction. Your session will likely include a mixture of breathing exercises, meditation, and placing of hands.  It’s the practitioner’s aim to create a setting that is both soothing and relaxing, so often there will be soft music, candles and a pleasant aroma. Your treatment begin with a discussion/questionnaire to pin-point the areas of stress or emotional distress in your life. The practitioner will  explain how these are affecting your physical body, and the chakras within. Each person is given a chakra balancing treatment plan that is individualized to treat their specific physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. 

A variety of techniques may be used as part of your chakra balancing program - Reiki, color therapy, crystal therapy,  meditation, breath work, Aromatherapy, and/or guided imagery.  Sometimes a combination of several techniques is necessary.

Learn about scientific research being done about Energy Work here: 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Pregnancy Massage

What Is Pregnancy Massage?
Pregnancy massage is massage therapy specifically tailored to the mother's needs  during her pregnancy. It is also known as pre-natal massage.  Unfortunately, many people still  think of massage as a luxury or something reserved for  special occasions.  In general massage is now recognized as a form of healthcare, and has dozens of therapeutic benefits.   One of the most beneficial times for massage  is during pregnancy.  

Most pregnancy massages last about an hour.  Pregnancy massage is generally done on a regular massage table with the mother-to-be positioned side-lying for comfort.  Some practitioners use a special pregnancy massage table or a specially designed pillow system to position a woman comfortably, however as long a the therapist uses pillows and bolsters to support the clients comfort, these extras are not necessary

The most common massage modalities incorporated into a pregnancy massage are Swedish, Deep Tissue (indicated in some areas & contraindicated in others), Trigger Point Therapy.  

Possible Benefits of Pregnancy Massage

A study at the University of Miami School of Medicine suggests that massage during pregnancy can have many positive effects, including: 

  • Lowered anxiety
  • Decreased back and leg pain
  • Improved sleep
  • Decreased levels of the stress hormone Norepinephrine
  • increased levels of the hormones serotonin and Dopamine (feel good)
  • decreased levels of Cortisol (another stress hormone)
  • an overall improvement in mood
  • decrease swelling in the arms and legs
  • relief from general aches and pains in muscles and joints.
Pregnancy massage is a wonderful alternative therapy during pregnancy for back pain, when choices for pain relief, such as most medications, are often off limits. In addition to the many physiological benefits, the human touch can be comforting and provide much needed emotional support during pregnancy. 

Massage Therapists who are Certified in Pregnancy Massage have learned to adapt their techniques to address the changes a woman's body goes through during pregnancy.  Most therapists are trained to avoid deep pressure on the legs, as pregnant women are at a high risk for blood clots there.  While therapists still massage the legs, they use slow light pressure, moving in a direction towards the heart.

One area of controversy is whether it's safe to have a massage during the first trimester due to the potential for miscarriage.  There is little to no research showing that massage in anyway causes miscarriage, however because most miscarriages happen in the first trimester, some massage therapists and doctors advise against first-trimester massage simply to avoid any potential liability issues should a miscarriage occur.  

In general it is important for any pregnant woman to discus this and/or any other alternative or complementary  healthcare with their primary healthcare provider before scheduling a massage.

When to Avoid Pregnancy Massage

There are times when massage may not be appropriate. You may choose to avoid massage or get clearance from your healthcare provider before you try a massage if:
  • You're experiencing severe nausea, vomiting, or morning sickness
  • You're at high risk of miscarriage 
  • You have a high-risk pregnancy such as placental abruption or preterm labor
In these cases, a massage therapist may require written consent from your healthcare provider and/or a liability waiver from you before performing pregnancy massage.

With all of that being said, Pregnancy Massage is one of the safest and best pain relief alternatives for pregnant women with the most added benefits.

Monday, April 2, 2012

What is Reiki?

The practice of Reiki originated in Tibet. The name "Reiki" (rey-key) comes from the technique "re-discovered" by Dr. Mikao Usui in the early 20th century. "Re" means "Universal" and it is a general term for spirit or unseen spiritual quality, which serves as channel for "Ki" or "Life Force Energy" (some call it God, Jesus, Buddha, Chi, Qi, Prana, Love Energy, the Universe or similar).  By what name we call it is of the least importance.  As so beautifully described in A Course in Miracles, "We say God IS, and then we cease to speak, for in that knowledge words are meaningless."  

Reiki as a healing treatment, is a natural, energy-based therapy that gently helps to balance the Ki, or life energy, which flows through each and everyone of our bodies.   When trying to understand how Reiki works, its important that we acknowledge the body as more than just a collection of functioning parts. Since everything generates a frequency, the body and its organs have their own energy field which is continually changing. In Reiki and in traditional Eastern Medicine it is believed that all conditions of disease are rooted in this energy system. If our "life force" is low or blocked, we are more likely to get sick. But if it is high and flowing freely, we can maintain our health and well being. 

Reiki is a subtle form of energy work in which healing occurs by the touch (or laying) of  hands.   This gentle, and sometimes ethereal touch, allows the flow of the energy from The Source to the client via the practitioner. While the treatment is very  powerful, it is also very gentle.  Like most forms of healing, the most of its power comes from the practitioners' intention.  

Potential Benefits of Reiki
When the flow of the Ki, or  "Life Energy" is disrupted, weakened or blocked, emotional or health problems can occur. Imbalances can be caused from many situations occurring in our lives, such as; emotional or physical trauma, negative thoughts and feelings  including fear, worry, doubt, anger, anxiety, negative self-talk, toxicity, nutritional depletion, destructive lifestyle, relationships, neglect of self, and lack of love for oneself or for others, from emotions that are not expressed in a healthy way... and so on. 

 Some Of The Health Benefits of Reiki:

  • Promotes relaxation and helps the body release stress 

  • It accelerates the body's self-healing 

  • Aids sleep

  • Reduces blood pressure

  • Can help with accute injuries and chronic conditions (Ex: asthma, headaches, PMS etc.)

  • Useful in the breaking of addictions or bad habbits  

  • Can relieve physical pain

  • Removes energy blockages, adjusts the energy flow of the endocrine system bringing the body into balance and harmony (Based on the principles of Eastern Medicine)

  • Helps the body to recover after surgery and chemotherapy

  • Supports the immune system

  • Helps spiritual growth and emotional balance                                                                                                                           

  • What is a Reiki session like?
    Your Reiki practitioner will start with a short questionnaire and/or consultation to determine your primary goal for your session.  You will generally lie down, fully clothed on the massage table.  One of the primary purposes of a Reiki Session is relaxation, so your practitioner will take extra care to make sure the room setting is peaceful and serene.  When we are relaxed, stress-free, we are able to restore our body's natural ability to heal itself.  Some practitioners may use a pendulum, crystal or their hands to asses the energy of your Chakras.  The practitioner will begin laying their hands on or slightly above your body in a specific set of hand positions, which they will hold for 3-5 minutes each.  Sessions can last anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes.   

    During the session, the most common feeling expressed from recipients of this treatment is a euphoric deep relaxation.  There are also common claims of feeling warmth, tingling, sensations of tension release.  

    After your session, make sure to drink plenty of water, and allow yourself quiet time to enjoy the full benefits. 

    How often should you have Reiki? 
    When working on a specific issue, Reiki session should be scheduled weekly or bi-weekly. Expect each session to be different.  Note some practitioners add to other vibrational techniques such as crystals, chimes, or aromatherapy.  Long term practice of whole-body Reiki can restore the condition of the body.

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    9 ways to Find Serenity Now

    We all know this story...

    ‘You wake up each morning in a rush to get to work on time. It seems like traffic is always backed up. By the time you get to work, you are met with deadlines, office politics, and 100 things on your to do list. Five o’clock comes and you are rushing home…traffic again! By the time you make it home, you are already late for dinner with your neighbors. The babysitter just called, and can’t make it tonight.’

    Whew! I am stressed just thinking about it. Balancing your work and home life can be stressful. It seems like there is never enough time in the day for relaxation, but it is a necessary part of health and wellness for your body and mind. There are a few things you can do throughout your day to help relieve stress and find time for serenity NOW. 

    1. Just Breathe: Take a big deep breath…then let it go. You will be amazed at how quickly you will feel better. The great thing about breathing technique is that you can do it anywhere. Sitting or standing, slowly and consciously focus on your inhalation. Breathing through your nose, inhale to the count of five. Hold the breath for three, and then exhale thru your mouth counting to eight as you imagine the stress leaving your body. Repeat this 3-5 times, and several times throughout the day. Stress can cause people to breath more rapidly, or worse, forget to breathe at all. Yoga or meditation classes both use deep breathing to promote relaxation and overall health. Find a local yoga studio in your area, and sign up for a class.

    2. Be Active: Hit the gym! Although you may feel more like lying around the house, perched in front of the TV, exercise is great pick-me-up. Exercise releases endorphins that help your body battle anxiety. This alone can elevate your mood. In addition to the chemical benefits, exercise is great for taking your stress out in a constructive way. Kickboxing for example, is a great therapeutic way to relieve stress. Just visualize your stressor (boss, evil co-worker, nagging ex) as the recipient.

    3. Laugh: Laughter is the best medicine, and its contagious! Pop in a funny DVD, go see a comedy show, or read a funny book. You will forget about your anxieties just as quick as they came about.

    4. Reach out and touch someone: Have you hugged anyone today? Whether it is from a close friend, son, daughter, or significant other, a simple touch of endearment is an incredible mood enhancer. Having physical contact has been found to raise levels of Oxytocin also described as the "love hormone" while lowering levels of Cortisol, “the stress hormone” helping us relax and feel good.

    5. Smell the Roses: Have you ever noticed that a certain sent just makes you feel better? Is it the smell of a certain flower, scent of a loved one’s cologne or even something baking in the oven? Figure out the scent that is most pleasing to you, and use it throughout your home. In the practice of Aromatherapy, certain scents influence your mood and can even change your physiology. Lavender is the go to for relaxation, but you can also use chamomile, ylang ylang or rose oil in a warm bath or just defuse the scents in the air.

    6. Plug in to iTunes: Plug in your ear buds, and tune into to your favorite play list! Studies have shown a strong link between music and lowered stress levels in everyday life. Singing helps too. If you need to relax plug in Enya or any massage therapist go to track. You don’t have to limit yourself to just "relaxing" music though. Listen to something that lifts your spirits.

    7. Treat Yourself: My personal favorite! This, you may not be able to do every day, but on occasion, you deserve a pampering. Treat yourself to a massage, facial or rejuvenating treatment of your choice. Get the benefits of all the aforementioned tips (aroma, music, touch) in one! If its not in the budget, you can do a bit of ‘at home’ pampering by soaking in a warm bath, lighting some candles and slip in a Sade CD to seal the deal.

    8. Be Present: Sometimes this can be difficult in our modern society, but it is one of the most important things you can do to reduce stress and find serenity. The present is what is happening right now, at this moment. Don’t be consumed with what happened yesterday, or what could happen tomorrow. . This is an ancient Zen teaching that helps open your awareness to the moment. This might take time to master, but start small. Try eating a piece of chocolate. Instead of inhaling the chocolate and thinking after it’s gone how good it was, eat it slowly, taking tiny bites. With each bite focus on the taste. Experience how wonderful it is…right now. Take this exercise and relate it to other things in your life. You will find that this helps you have stronger relationships, get more done, and increase your fulfillment from life. All of this can be achieved simply by enjoying the moment.

    9. Go Outside: Connect with the earth by taking a short walk thru the woods, sit by the pond, just get some fresh air and sunshine. Our early ancestors spent most of their lives outdoors, but today we are lucky to get 30 minutes a day. Our body’s still physically and mentally need the benefits of the outdoors, especially the sun. So get out there, everyday id you can, and soak it all up. Breathe in the fresh air, soak up some rays, and appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds you.

    Thursday, March 31, 2011

    Pain in the Butt

    Last week I was socializing at a marketing event with a few colleagues in the community when a gentleman asked me publicly (and very boldly I might add) if I did "butt massage" in my practice. He intended this comment to be somewhat of a joke, but was surprised when my response was "Absolutely!" This caught him and everyone else off guard.  Suddenly the faces in the room were puzzled and some even looked shocked.  I smiled to to myself because it gave me a chance to address something that I had wanted to talk about in these meetings without having to be the one to bring it up. Needless to say, I spent the next 15 minutes explaining my answer.

    "Butt Massage", as this guy so delicately put it, is one of most important parts of alleviating hip and low back pain, but (no pun intended), because in our society it is often considered a private part, these muscles are often overlooked in the massage room because of a client's or even a therapist's shyness. As we know, massage is a therapeutic manipulation of muscle and surrounding tissue with the intent to reduce pain. Your behind is full of muscles! Everyone knows the big one; Gluteus Maximus, but thats just what's on the surface.
    There are two other large muscles in the Glutes; Gluteus Medius and Minimus.

    Gluteus Medius & Minimus help to support the hips while walking. When hyopertonic, either of these muscles can cause a brutal amount of pain that radiates from underneath the butt cheek, up the lower back, then all the way down the side of the leg and into the calf muscle. Trigger Points in these muscles can cause pain while walking or standing, and they can make it difficult to get out of a chair without extreme pain. 

    Even deeper to these muscles, you have an even smaller muscle, but one that can cause excruciating pain when it is not healthy, the piriformis. The piriformis causes this amount of  pain because it is located over the sciatic nerver and when it is hypertonic, causes nerve entrapment AKA Sciatica!   for anyone who has been lucky enough to miss out on the ever painful experience of sciatica, Congratulations!  Sciatica is a burning sensation, numbness, or tingling radiating from the lower back and upper buttock down the back of the thigh to the back of the leg. Sometimes the pain radiates around the hip or buttock and is described as a general hip pain. Severe sciatica can make walking difficult if not impossible.

    The good news is that your massage therapist can treat and alleviate this kind of pain!  The bad news is most people are too shy to ask.  A good massage therapist is a healthcare professional, and it is our job to do our best to reduce your pain in a safe, professional and non-judging way.  You will always remain draped to your gluteal line, and your privates will always remain private.  A neuromuscular massage session on this area should take at least 30minutes focusing on the specific problem area.  It is normal to feel sore for a day or so after, but you should feel significant relief within two days.  It may take up to six sessions before the problem is resolved.  

    If you still are unsure if you feel comfortable receiving a professional massage in this manner, there is something you can do at home to relieve your pain.

    The Tennis Ball Trick

    You will need a regular tennis ball.   Place the ball between the wall and your hip/buttocks so that it can get to your Gluteus Medius, minimus or piriformis. Slowly apply pressure and move around until you feel ‘the spot’. You’ll know when you feel it!  It will mimic your symptoms with a burning sensation.  It should be uncomfortable, but don't hurt yourself.  Apply pressure at about an 7 out of 10 (10 being unbearable), and hold that pressure on the trigger point for about 30 seconds or until you feel it "let go".   Remember to breath deeply, and on each exhalation visualize the muscle relaxing.  You may need to do this for several days to get rid of all of your trigger points. 

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    Pain in the Neck

    According to several studies, about 67 percent of adults experience severe neck and shoulder pain in their lifetime. As a Liscensed Massage Therapist, I would have guessed the actual number is much higher than this. As it turns out, neck pain is one of the primary reasons people visit the doctor. Unfortunately, many people don't know what causes this pain and as a result they do not know how to prevent and relieve it. Below is a summary of a few of the major causes out neck and shoulder pain.
    Stress causes your muscles to tense up and contract, which leaves them feeling stiff and sore, which makes emotional stress the leading culprit of neck and shoulder pain. We often remember the old saying, "he's carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders", oddly enough that is the body's physiological response to stress. It is important to take a significant amount of time of each day to relax, meditate or do something enjoyable for you. Take a warm bath, read a good book, listen to some music or even watch your favorite television show.

    Muscle Strain

    Daily heavy lifting and strenuous exercise can cause over-stretched and over-contracted muscles in the neck and shoulders. To prevent pain in this area when working out, know your limits. This also applies to moving and lifting heavy items either on your own time or at work.

    Sleeping in a bad position can cause you to wake up with a crick in the neck. Assuming most of us get between 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night, this leaves certain muscles contracted for that entire period. Think about how sore other muscles feel when you uses them for hours at a time. That is what causes the sever pain and immobility the neck morning after a night sleeping on your stomach with your head turned to one side.
    Sitting at a Desk

    People who spend hours of their work day in front of a computer all day often have neck and shoulder pain because computer monitors are rarely aligned with the person's eyes. This means that the person must tilt their head up or down to see the screen which puts an enormous amount of stress on the neck. Always adjust your monitor so the center of it is level with your eyes when working on a computer.

    Trigger points 

    Trigger points cause pain more often than any other condition, and are drastically under-diagnosed due to the lack of information about them. Trigger points are  hypersensitive areas in muscle that suffer from decreased circulation, increased contraction and spasm. Poor circulation causes a buildup of toxins and increased nerve sensitivity that manifests in the body as a low ache or a sharp pain.  When someone has an active trigger point in a muscle it can cause pain in that muscle or often it can refer pain to another area in the body. 

    The most common referred pain is in the form of headaches, shoulder  and neck pain, caused from trigger points in the back of the neck, shoulder and upper back. Such trigger points can remain dormant for very long periods of time but will eventually cause spasm or pain.  Many headaches (including migraines) are caused from these trigger points referring sensation into certain areas of the head.  While most headache symptoms usually are treated with painkillers, though the underlying cause is almost never addressed.  

    Though the causes of neck and shoulder pain are diverse, there is one common cure for all of them, and it does not involve medicine.  GET A MASSAGE!  Almost all of the causes of neck and shoulder pain (even headaches) are muscular.  So put down the anti-inflammatory meds and call your local massage therapist ASAP.  Reduce stress, lengthen and stretch those muscles, improve your circulation, and get rid of those trigger points.  It may take a few sessions to get you feeling back to normal, but you will feel the difference immediately.