Friday, August 26, 2011

Who benefits from massage?

Most people who seek massage therapy usually do so for pain relief or relaxation.  When seeking massage therapy for stress relief, a relaxation massage (or swedish massage) can be very relaxing and can release those feel good endorphins.  Relaxation massage is also good for seasonal affective disorder and is good maintenance when you're not experiencing a lot of pain.  Relaxation massage is good prevention and keeps those muscles loose and helps with the immune system.

When seeking massage for pain relief, massage can be used for recent injuries and surgeries once the tissues are no longer inflamed and it can also be used for chronic pain and tightness that has gone on for years.  When dealing with a recent injury or surgery, some of the soft tissues surrounding the area can become tight in order to protect the area from further damage and scar tissue can also develop causing the area to become weak.  Massage therapy can help to release scar tissue as well as loosen up any muscle tightness.  The tightness around the area does not loosen up on it's own once the area has healed.  It will remain tight until it is worked out with massage techniques.  When seeking massage therapy for a recent injury or surgery, it is important to allow it to heal and get clearance from a doctor before getting massaged as massage can make the situation worse if the area has not had proper time to heal.

When seeking massage for chronic conditions, often the pain doesn't show up for months or years, that makes it easy to sometimes not remember everything that happened to cause the pain.  Chronic conditions that can benefit from massage are old injuries and anything repetitive stress.  Remember the car accident 20 years earlier that was only a minor fender bender and you thought you were fine because you walked away scratch free?  Those are the types of problems that can take years to feel in the body, and then it is easy to wonder why the pain is there because it's easy to assume that the pain should be something more recent.  Our bodies never forget trauma no matter how long ago the trauma happened.  The tissues can adapt to the trauma for a while, and then they get to the point where they no longer can.  Other chronic conditions that can benefit from massage is anything repetitive stress.  Sitting at a computer chair with shoulders hunched and your neck forward for long periods of time can impinge the nerves that cause things like carpal tunnel syndrome.  It can also cause permanent change to your posture over time that can impinge more nerves and pull some of the joints out of alignment.  Having chronically tight muscles that never get worked out can cause joints to stress and degenerate over time that is found in osteoarthritis.

Most people do not know how often to get massaged or when and then are surprised at how tight and painful they are when they do get a massage.  By the time you feel pain, the problem has been there months, if not, years.  Those tight muscles don't start to cause pain overnight, they take time.  Putting yourself on a regular massage schedule regardless of how you feel is the best way to stay on top of the pain.  Between having a history of repetitive stress injuries and being a massage therapist, I see my massage therapist every 2 weeks like clock work and still sometimes get worked on more often than that.  I schedule my next session before I leave his office so that I don't have to worry about spots not being available when I need to get in.

There are also things you can do for yourself in between your massage sessions to get the most out of them.  I have a DVD that has stretching, strengthening, self massage and when to use ice for your wrists, hands and forearms that I really like a lot, it is called : 

Healthy Hands Wrists and Forearms The must have for anyone who needs Pain-Free, Fluid, Supple Hands!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Working out tight muscles

When a muscle becomes tight, the first thing that we think to do with it is stretch it out, right?  Not so fast.  Sometimes the amount of tightness in a muscle is much deeper than you realize.  Once a muscle is tight enough to cause pain and restricted range of motion, the tightness has been there for months or years.  I often see clients who didn't have pain until a day or so ago, just for the muscles to feel like concrete.  When it feels like concrete, the problem has been developing for quite some time.  This is also something that I have had to learn the hard way in my own body over the years.  So how do you work out a tight muscle?  The very first thing to do is to have the tightness and knots worked out FIRST.  When a muscle is tight, it becomes weak.  Strengthening and stretching a muscle that's already that tight makes it become more weak.  Have the tightness worked out first, then wait about 24 hours after treatment to try to do any stretching.  Depending on how tight it is, will depend on how many treatments it will take to get it all out of there.  Find a qualified massage therapist who knows how to do trigger point therapy.  General rule of thumb when deciding how often to get worked on, is once a week if you're in a lot of pain.  Every 2 weeks if the pain isn't bad, but you can feel the tightness still there. Once a month is good maintenance after the tightness has been worked out for preventative reasons.  Stretching is good to do 24 hours AFTER being worked on.  You must stretch after the tightness is worked out in order to retrain your muscles.  Strengthening is also good to do after tightness is worked out, especially if the was a range if motion problem.  If your range of motion is off, then the muscles need to be retrained in order to hold the way they are supposed. 

Some good things to do for yourself in between sessions in addition to stretching is self massage.  Tennis balls, golf balls, foam rollers, theracanes, and back buddy all make great self massage tools.  My favorite self massage book is: "Trigger Point Therapy Workbook" by Clair Davies.  Even though this book has a lot of detail about individual muscles, it's written for the lay person to be able to understand.  The author demonstrates the self massage techniques with a tennis ball and with a theracane.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Reiki is a light and gentle form of body work that works with you on an energetic level.  When you hear people talk about Reiki or energy, they are talking about the chi that flows through us.  Chi is energy.  If you have heard of Qigong or Tai Chi, both of them also work with our chi to keep it flowing freely.  It is quite common to have our chi stuck for various reasons whether it be because of being emotionally upset or because of trauma or illness.  Any areas of our mind, body and spirit can become stagnant.  Reiki is a Japanese laying of hands that was brought over to the United States.  When you get a Reiki session, it is usally done fully clothed, unless combined with massage, on a massage table.  The practitioner just puts their hands lightly on you while the Reiki energy from their hands flows through you is a very deep and healing way.  The best word I can think of that I feel when I receive Reiki is "love".  Reiki is experienced differently from person to person.  Some people have reported a heightened sense of relaxation and pain relief.  The most memorable Reiki session was on someone who was experiencing four different type of headaches at once.  None of the symptoms she described made sense physically, so we decided to try the Reiki to see what would happen.  Since Reiki helps us to heal at the core, she went back to a traumatic event that happened to her when she was four years old.  After the treatment, she reported that all of her headaches were gone and have not been back.  Another time that I had worked on the same person, she said that it got rid of a back pain that she'd had for over a year and it has not returned either.  Everyone's experience will be different, and with any healing modality, not everyone's symptoms are there for the same reason.

Here is a nice FAQ about Reiki:

Here is a nice chart that you can order that shows you what type of emotions effect which organs and which chakras: