Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Staying Healthy During Cold and Flu Season

Obviously, nothing is fool proof.  Sometimes people get sick, despite their best efforts.  But there is so much out there that can help and not everything that I list will be right for everyone.  What helps one person stay well, could make another person sick, so always listen to your own body and take advice from others with a grain of salt.

The number one thing to look at is stress.  Because I have seen people who do everything "right" for their immune system, still be down for days to weeks with something nasty.  Running ourselves ragged and stress trump anything else that we can do for ourselves.  And I have also never seen a client with a lot of stress or who runs themselves ragged recover from the stuff they see me for, either.  I can be the high stress type if I don't take care of myself.

The number one thing to do is to find something that helps you unwind and makes you feel your best.  I love working out because I need to burn off a lot of energy in order to not feel anxious.  I am a cross trainer who loves yoga, belly dance, cardio and strength training.  Since I over heat easily, I make sure I load up on healthy electrolytes.  With the cardio and strength training, I get hot enough to need my heat off and the sliding glass door open, even in this winter weather.  When I am sweating, it feels good.  I see it as a way of sneaking in fresh air during a time of the year when we are more cooped up.  This is not a healthy practice for everyone! Some people may get sick doing this.  The reason why I do it, is because I remember my mother telling me as a kid that colds and flus have nothing to do with the weather or what season it is.  She said it's from breathing in the same stale air of being indoors all the time.  I have no idea if this is true or not, but I have noticed that I get sick less often if I bundle up and get in an outdoor walk or hike at least once or twice a week and I don't get seasonal affective disorder (SAD) anymore since doing this.  Everyone has their limits on whether or not this is safe for them.  My limit is at least in the 20's with no wind, but I prefer in the 30's.

I also make sure I get in plenty of veggies and watch the sugar.  I use a lot of lemons and garlic this time of the year as well.  I also stay hydrated since that is one thing that many people will also miss this time of the year.  I like to sweat year round.  Getting in a good sweat year round helps my muscles and joints stay loose even in the cold.  If I don't, I get pain. 

Taking care of ourselves over the holidays is important.  It's just my husband and I, so it's pretty easy for us to not over do it.  Everyone wants their families to have a nice Christmas.  Find the right balance for you and your family that doesn't make it too crazy for you.  My husband and I buy one gift each only for the people we see in person.  We don't buy expensive electronics as gifts.  What's interesting, is when we shop for nieces and nephews, we get them cheap toys and everyone else buys them expensive electronics.  Our gifts are always their favorite and they play with it for hours.

I notice people getting sick more often around the holidays.  They are usually on less sleep and surrounded by alcohol and sweets.  I take my workouts with me on the road.  I have yoga apps and workout apps on my iPad and keep a travel yoga mat in my suitcase. I wake up early enough to get it in before we need to be anywhere.  This makes me feel good and is how I feel my best.  People ask me how I stay disciplined.  When you do it for therapeutic reasons and not getting it in makes you feel lousy, that's motivation enough.  My muscles and joints fall out of alignment easily due to loose ligaments.  Being in a car to go on long road trips doesn't help, but staying fit on the road makes that impact much better. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Do I Also Offer Regular Massage?

This is a question I get asked on occasion by people seeing me for pain relief and/or energy work.  The answer is, no, I don't.  I am not the only massage therapist with a specialty who no longer offers massage.  Like every other profession, in massage therapy, there are specialists, general massage folks and those who like to do both.  Many of us who specialize don't choose our specialties.  Our specialties choose us.  When I graduated, I knew I wanted to take continuing education and do more clinical type work, but beyond that, I had no idea what the modalities and classes would be.  The right classes find me.

My own dissatisfaction with my own pain relief progress is what led me to my path.  I used to be a PTA student.  When I struggled with a pain or weakness, the teachers were quick to offer exercise advice.  Their advice would give temporary relief and then the problem would come back worse than it was before.  When I went to massage school, whenever I would seek the help of a professional massage therapist, once I would tell them about my pain and just how bad it was, most of them were intimidated and acted like they didn't want to work on me.  Those with a lot of extra continuing education in clinical work were more than glad to work with me, but no one else seemed like they wanted to.  When I was studying for the state board exam, I told one of my classmates that we were never paired up in class to work on each other.  I always wanted to because I had heard he was very good.  He told me that was on purpose on his part.  When he heard me mention everything that was wrong with me pain wise, he was scared to touch me.  He was scared of hurting me. That is when I decided that I wanted to look into extensive continuing education as well.  This really inspired me.

Fast forward to the stuff that I am offering now.  It works so well for myself and those that I work with, that I found my love.  I found my niche.  Even when I still did traditional massage, when someone comes to me complaining of pain, I am the direct type who is going to work it out in a clinical way with evaluation.  We learn who and what we are as therapists as we continue to grow.  If someone came to me with five different pain complaints and turned down my treatment recommendations stating that they just wanted a massage, my brain isn't wired that way.  Or if someone tells me about a certain pain or injury, but they see it as a gift and don't want it to go away, my brain isn't wired that way, either.  If someone comes to me complaining of pain, I am going to evaluate it in a clinical way because that IS what my brain is wired to do.

I did have many disappointed people as a result of taking traditional massage off of my schedule.  But keeping it on there would have created even more disappointment.  You see, when clinical pain specialists also offer massage, the people that are seeing them usually do turn down treatment recommendations in favor of massage.  Do you want a massage from someone who would rather do something else?  Do you want a massage from someone who is evaluating you in a clinical sense during the entire massage, even if it is only in their head?  Or keeps reminding you that they know how to correct your leg length difference if you would just let them? Or would you rather have a massage from someone who is completely present with you in your experience?  When you tell a pain clinician that you would rather have a massage, they are not present with you.  They are thinking about all of the stuff they want to evaluate and correct. They are noticing if your hips and spine are misaligned and thinking about what they could do to correct it.  They are also completely confused by someone turning down something that might work better, in favor of something that might only last a couple of days.

Traditional massages also have a lot of extensive continuing education for the therapists that are not into clinical work and evaluations.  If you just want to feel good, but don't want a clinical evaluation, these folks have way more knowledge and training than the clinical folks.  Many of them have a menu of services such as hot stones massage, salt scrubs and numerous other things that I am not familiar with.  These are the therapists that will be present with you during your massage.

It is important to know who is going to touch you ahead of time.  It is also good to know their training and niche market.  My niche market are those who want their pain treated at the root cause.  Do your homework when finding someone to work with and ask them questions.  When I was still in massage school, I wanted someone to work out my shoulder pain, but the person I contacted for it also no longer offered traditional massage.  He was not trained in therapeutic deep tissue work.  His love is Thai massage and Thai massage is all he did.  These are important things to know ahead of time BEFORE scheduling a session.  It is also my opinion that you should always speak directly to the therapist that is going to work on you.  Many places don't have that option and you always talk to the receptionist.  I have worked out of a couple of multiple therapist places, before finding my niche.  This never went well.  I was awkwardly paired up with people who were not on the same page as me.  One was privately owned and one was a massage chain.  Both experiences were a disaster for me.  I only give my business to sole proprietors.  I feel like that gives me a much better experience and a higher level of expertise. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Why I Don't Receive Massages

This is an important topic to cover, because many people are confused by this.  Much of the confusion is trying to figure out how to articulate my reasons for not receiving massages without bashing other ways of healing the body.  This is not an "us vs. them" post and is not not a "this works, therefore the other thing doesn't" post.  It is my personal and professional experience.

I used to receive massages and loved them.  My very first professional massage was when I was still a physical therapist assistant student.  The purpose behind wanting the massage, was to relax me into not giving a rip about a final exam I had that day.  Before the massage, I was scared to death.  After the massage, I no longer cared and was relaxed enough to ace the exam.  I got better than I expected.  I was pain free for an entire month.  Wow!!!!  Massage IS medicine.  Who knew?  I certainly had no clue.  Unless you have had one, you wouldn't, either.  So I started going whenever I had the time and money.  Each time I went, the pain relief stayed away for shorter periods of time.  A few years later, I started seeing a massage therapist for postural work.  Same experience.  I was so wowed by the results.  I could actually walk easier again.  Before the postural stuff, I was so sure I was going to end up needing a cane in 5 years tops.  I was serious that I was going to get down to business.  I went as often as was needed to try to maintain results.  I took all of the self care advice given and did it religiously.  When I first started going, once a month was plenty.  Then the problems were coming back more quickly.  I started booking every 2 weeks, with the intention of that being temporary until I got better again.  I never got better!  I kept going every 2 weeks for years.  Toward the end, the issues were coming back within a day or two and worse than ever.  I WAS SCARED!!!!!!  Shortly after that, I took my first neurokinetic therapy class.  When I was getting the postural work done, it was mainly the psoas muscle that got released.  First day in my neurokinetic therapy class, the teacher asked, "Who all here does psoas work?"  I proudly raised my hand.  He said, "We don't do that here anymore".  I instantly thought to myself, "I want to hear what this guy has to say, because if he can fix me, I will love him forever!"  He said that there are certain muscles in the body that are dysfunctional more often than not in most people, primarily the postural muscles with the psoas muscle being one of them.  He said he used to do psoas work all the time prior to learning neurokinetic therapy and his patients were seeing him for the same symptoms every single time and he had to keep releasing the psoas muscle.  When you work on a muscle that is dysfunctional, it shuts it off even more, becoming more dysfunctional with more muscles trying to compensate for that muscle than before.  This explains so much about why my symptoms would come back sooner each time. It also explains why I don't respond well to massage and why my clients were seeing me for the same symptoms every single session.  I was the first guinea pig on the table in that class and the teacher was able to correct what was wrong in 15 minutes. My back was straighter than it had been in years and I was able to balance on one foot at a time immediately after that quick treatment.

When I got home from class, I was determined to find someone else who does neurokinetic therapy.  I drive an hour and a half to Dayton to get it.  It works well enough for me to be worth the drive.  I also have several clients who drive in from out of town to see me for the same reason.  The gal I see in Dayton introduced me to Voila Method of Structural Joint balancing, which I also do a lot of in my practice.  I now get long term results.  The regular treatments now are mostly maintenance/prevention.  Because when you live a repetitive lifestyle, you still need checked out from time to time.  Clients who were not getting long term results with massage were responding very well to neurokinetic therapy and voila method.  I used to do very deep massage.  I had a reputation of going deeper than most therapists and was nicknamed, "Helga".  My practice did a complete change over the years. 

So, getting back to why I don't receive massages.  Whenever I tried receiving traditional soft tissue work in between my neurokinetic therapy/voila sessions, whether it was deep tissue massage, myofascial release, etc., it always brought back pain and dysfunction that I used to have and then the person that I see for neurokinetic therapy and voila would have to fix it.  This doesn't mean one approach or therapist is better than the other.  All of our bodies are different.  Do I believe in massage? No!  Do I believe that it actually works?  Double Nope!  Does that mean that it doesn't work for anybody?  I have no idea since I am just one person.  When I speak to other veteran massage therapists, many of them concur that deep tissue massage doesn't work and that the more gentle the therapy is, the deeper that it works.  Many people assume many veteran massage therapists refusing to do deep tissue work is because it is hard on our bodies.  That is certainly one reason and a very valid one, but the veteran massage therapists who believe in it and still do it will work through the pain if they have any.

I occasionally get people asking for a referral for a deep tissue massage therapist if they think my lighter touch isn't the right fit for someone.  I don't refer anything out that I don't believe in.  If someone wants to find someone on their own, I will support whatever decision they want to make.  If they are seeing me as well, all I care about is that they are moving forward rather than backward.  If I think they are moving backward, I am going to say something to them about it.  I just told a client yesterday that I don't want her getting deep tissue massages while she is seeing me.  The reason why, it because she is seeing me for hip pain and dysfunction.  The glutes are one the first places a deep tissue massage therapist will try to release and we are already struggling with her glutes not firing up and trying to keep them functioning.  Obviously, the two types of treatments would cancel each other out.

There are many massage therapists who do not do massages.  When people make a decision about where they want their practice to go, it is mainly from personal and professional experience about what seems to work well for themselves and clients and what doesn't.  I don't normally like to say there is a wrong way of receiving body work, but, if you do see a massage therapist who does clinical work and massages, they should be the ones to decide what you need.  If you have 5 different pain complaints and turn down their treatment recommendations stating that you just want a massage, that will confuse them.  They may even assume that you are not interested in recovery.  Be very clear with your intentions when reaching out for support so that the person you are reaching out to understands what you are looking for. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Are You Attached to Treatment Outcome or Treatment Method?

This is an important topic to talk about.  The reason why, is because I have noticed a big correlation between what people are looking for and their ability to heal.  Many of us know our own body and know what we need.  For example, if I schedule a session for craniosacral therapy, it's because I know that I need craniosacral therapy.  I also know my body well enough to know that if has been a while since I have had it, that I need to standard protocol instead of the practitioner getting too creative.  The reason why, is because my cranium eventually feels like someone put a helmet on me and strapped it on me way too tight and releasing the cranial bones relieves that.  That is a legitimate reason to communicate that need to your practitioner, since that is very specific stuff that they need to know.

If I am seeing someone for pain relief, I go to people who are skilled in multiple techniques and prefer them to decide what they think I need, based on what I tell them is wrong.  I prefer clinical evaluations, because they give me real long term results.  I don't tell the person that I am seeing which techniques I think I need and I don't tell them which of their techniques that they can't use on me unless I have had a negative response to a certain technique.  Again, if you don't respond well to a technique, this needs to be communicated to the person working on you.

Year ago, I used to be the opposite.  And guess what?  I was not getting the long term results that I was seeking.  No matter how often I got worked on and matter what self care advice that I took, the problems always came right back, and often times, within a day or two.  Yes, I was compliant with self care advice, because I didn't want to spend more time and money on bodywork than I absolutely had to.  There have actually been studies out there that say that people who pay for their treatments out of pocket are more likely to get results vs. insurance covering it, due to being more self care compliant in order to save money. 

Now, other than communicating the important stuff that I mentioned above, I do not tell the people working on me how to do their job.  I get 1000 times better treatment when I don't.  Beyond what I would have thought was possible.  I will give an example:  A couple of years ago, I went and tried a different craniosacral therapist.  She is the creative type who didn't give me the standard, but I knew that her approach was what I would need that particular time and trusted that feeling.  All I can say is WOW!!!!!!!!  She barely touched me the whole session and I got up off of her table feeling like I had a very powerful adjustment.  I ended up needing to take a nap that evening.  You know you have had a good treatment when you need sleep right afterward.  The interesting part of that session, was we never mentioned dry eye symptoms during the assessment, because it wasn't why I was there and it didn't occur to me that craniosacral therapy would apply to that situation.  During the session, she asked me if I have problems why my eyes.  She released the bones that restrict tear flow.  After that one session with her, I was able to gradually use eye drops less and less.  Over the next several months, I eventually weaned myself off of them all together.  I was open to whatever she had to offer and, no, I did not go in there knowing what I needed.   I trusted that she would know what I need.

When I used to work out of somewhere else, prior to getting my own office, I noticed a correlation between what people were willing to let me do and their readiness to heal.  The people who were ready to heal preferred the clinical evaluations and wanted me to decide which treatments methods they needed in order to get there.  The people who were not ready to heal, preferred deep tissue massages.  One thing that I am going to say about deep tissue massages is this:  I have never personally had long term pain relief results from receiving them and clients who saw me for them were seeing me for the same symptoms every single session.  Assessing, rather than guessing, can bring about the best long term results.  Guess what?  Not everybody is ready and that's OK.  For the longest time, I wasn't, either.  One day I just woke up and told my body we weren't playing anymore and the true healing began.  Also, I have noticed a difference in readiness to heal and how attached someone is to their favorite therapist.  I have worked on other therapist's clients who have made real progress with me, but they didn't stick around long.  Why?  Those weekly sessions that they have been accustomed to for years with the other therapist's have become a habit.  They look forward to it like a social gab fest.  This doesn't mean to say that I am better than the other therapist's.  It just means that I genuinely care whether or not I am taking on someone who is ready to heal.  To me, it's not about giving them what they think they want just because it's their money.  THAT is taking advantage of people.  Being willing to see the same clients every single week for several years is my definition of taking advantage of people.  We owe it to our client's to be straight with them.  These are all important things to take into consideration when choosing someone to work with.  Does the person take the time to talk to you over the phone or e-mail, in order to determine whether or not you're a right fit to be working together or do they take anyone with a credit card to swipe or  who can sign a check?  In this day and age of instant gratification, I have heard people say they only book with therapist's who have online scheduling.  Do you book online with someone you have never been to before?  Thank about that!

Friday, December 2, 2016

What I Am Thankful For: My Health!

Thanksgiving was a week ago and I would like to take this time to express what I am thankful for.  I was on a long path for years in regard to finding a long term solution to my own chronic pain.  It's not perfect.  I occasionally have bad days.  But those days are rare.  The amount of self care that I do in between sessions from other professionals, is a a lot.

I start out my day, as soon as I wake up, laying on an inversion board for a half hour while relaxing to meditation music on my ipod.  Because if I don't, my low back is REALLY tight, no matter what workouts, yoga, etc. that I do.  Since my low back tends to compress, this decompresses it.  What an easy, simple and inexpensive way of trying to avoid disk issues, surgeries, etc.  I am so thankful to the other massage therapist, Tony,  who recommended it to me.  Out of all of the self care that I do, this is has been the most beneficial to me.  Because if I don't do it, none of the other professionals that I see are going to be able to help me.

Voila Method of Structural joint balancing is one of the therapies I provide and I am able to do on myself.  So in addition to checking myself out throughout the day, I really Voila the heck out of myself when I am having a bad pain day.  Sometimes I notice pain relief right away and other times it will have a delayed affect and I might notice pain relief the next day.

I workout about 4-5 times a week.  I do a combo of cardio (step aerobics is my favorite), strength training and yoga.  I sneak in gentle yoga on the days of the week that I do strength and cardio, because I get tight enough for traditional pre and post workout stretches to not be enough.  I sometimes do yin yoga on one of my rest days, to stretch fascia.

I have heard some people say they can't workout, due to feeling worse rather than feeling better.  If it weren't for Voila, I would be in the same boat.  I used to be primarily a yoga only person.  Now, I can get back into crushing my workouts.  Some days, I feel awesome and other days I use Voila to fix what I did LOL  I also workout with a fitness coach on occasion.  Having someone else check out my form to make sure I am moving correctly is important.  I also make sure I apply what I learned in Alexander Technique lessons.  When I workout, I have a tendency to clench my jaw and neck, but with what I learned in Alexander Technique lessons, I remember not to do that.  Boy did clenching my jaw and neck really mess me up in the past to the point of feeling like I had a head injury.

I am thankful for these self care tools as well as the wonderful alternative professionals that I see for treatments.  So much less time consuming and less expensive than doctors and hospital bills, even with good insurance.  People ask me how I have the time and money to take care of myself.  My answer is that I can't afford not to.  I know what happens to people when they don't.  When we don't take the time to care for ourselves now, we are forced to later on down the road.  I wake up a minimum of 4 hours before my first client of the day, in order to make time for all of this.  That's why I don't open until 11am. 

I am the most thankful for the continuing education classes that have helped me to find therapies that actually work for me long term.  Craniosacral therapy, neurokinetic therapy, voila method, reiki, tapping.  Because before I learned them, I wasn't getting better long term.  I am extremely thankful that I am now.  I am the most thankful that my issues never got top the point of being medical.  I get a lot of doctor's referrals and the battles those people are facing makes me even more thankful for my own health.  I am also thankful to be able to offer these same therapies to other people who are serious about getting out of pain and staying out of pain.

The biggest lesson that I have learned on my path, is that even though self care is 90% of healing, you can't skip seeing professionals.  I used to be the stubborn type who thought that I could do everything on my own from home and refused to spend any money, so sure that people were trying to rip me off.  Guess what!  I was in agony!  But, I have also learned that no one is capable of "fixing me".  The reason why, is because the self care that I am doing is the only reason the professionals that I am seeing are able to help me.