Archive for October, 2010

Get Rid of Your Headache Without a Pill!

Try my Tylenol Stretches or Anti-Headache Stretches.  These work as quickly as a pain reliever, and can also be used to prevent headaches.  I was recording another video and felt the beginnings of a headache, so I thought, “Why not just make a video for everyone?”  My headache was gone by the time I’d reviewed the video.

Key points to remember:

  1. My neck is very flexible, don’t try to go as far as I do.  Only go as far as you are comfortable – to when you feel a good stretch.  If you can only tilt a few degrees that’s fine.  Just go to where you feel the stretch.
  2. Only hold the stretches for 2-3 seconds.
  3. Repeat each stretch 15-20 times.

I use these any time I have a headache.  I perform them – it usually takes 3-7 minutes – and my headache is gone within 15 to 20 minutes.  And, if I do them at night, before I go to bed, I wake up without a headache!

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For my athletes: Avoiding the Bonk

An NPR Weekend Edition link to a story about a marathoner who decided to create a formula for how to avoid the bonk (aka hitting the wall) during marathons and other long duration athletic events.

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Do Your Own Scalp Massage = Heaven

Want to melt a little, get rid of some tension, help yourself fall asleep, get rid of that head?  Try a scalp massage…  From yourself! It only takes 1-2 minutes to do a quick one.  And you can do it at your desk at work, sitting at a stoplight, or watching TV.

The ancient massage therapists’ secret?  It’s quick and easy to do to yourself and feels almost as good as someone else working your scalp.   Here’s a video demo of a self-scalp massage.  Follow along with me and get your head rubbed at the same time.

This shows me sitting to perform the scalp massage, but the BEST way to experience this is laying down in bed.  Your arms won’t get tired and when you’re ready for that nap afterward, you’re already in bed.  Enjoy!


If you’re like most of my clients, the scalp massage is your favorite part of the massage.  It is also one of the most relaxing things on the planet.   Having the scalp rubbed relaxes tension in the head, improves headaches, relaxes the face, releases tension in the neck and the jaw.  And it just plain feels good.

Comments/Suggestions?  Add them to the blog post.

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Free Massages and $20 off at Louisville Office

{Louisville clients only.  Sorry Nashvillians. :-( }

Want to get a free massage?  Or $20 off your first massage with me?  You may already know that I’m going to be expanding my practice to the Louisville area this fall and I wanted to let you in on the info.  I’m trying to get the word out  to people I know in the area.  The first 5 people to book an appointment in Louisville will get their massages for free! Everyone who books in October after that and joins my email list at will get $20 off their massage.  Why?

It’s simple, really.  I have a gift that I love to share.  My hands seem to work their own magic these days, easing stress and aching muscles.  I relieve chronic tension and knots in muscles.  I work with people from couch potatoes to CEOs, from stay at home moms to weekend warriors, from college students to seniors.  I help people recovering from surgery and suffering from allergies, people with migraines and back pain.  Massage helps the body and helps people.   Will you help me spread the word in Louisville?

How to get $20 off a massage

Please forward this email invite to join my list to anyone stressed out, in pain or hurting. Either email me or go to to subscribe.  Anyone who subscribes will get $20 off their first massage with me in October. This list sends out emails of openings when I’m in the Louisville area.  Currently, I’ll be in town Wed Oct 27th – Sat Oct 30th in the Frankfort Ave area taking appointments between 10 and 7.  Spread the word!

Right now, I’m planning on spending one week a month in Louisville.  The rest of the time, I’ll be working hard in Nashville as usual.  I’ve got a temporary space, but will be looking for a more permanent place in the coming months.  If you know of space for rent in the Frankfort Ave, Crescent Hill, or St Matthews areas I’d love to have the information.

Let me know if you’d like to be on the list for Louisville announcements and openings.  And if you have suggestions of contacts to make in the area, I’d love the help.  My practice is primarily centered on chronic pain, stress and therapeutic massage, but I also do quite a bit of lymphatic drainage massage and love working on injuries and problem areas. Spread the word!

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Static Stretching is Out. Short Duration (AIS) is In!

Many, many clients come in with problems that stretching can relieve.  For several years, I’ve advocated a type of stretching called Active Isolated Stretching where the muscle is stretched for only 2-3 seconds, but the stretch is repeated anywhere from 10-30+ times.

Yesterday, NPR had a story that talked about a study that found that static stretching (putting the body into a stretch and holding it for 30s to a few minutes) didn’t prevent injury, and in some cases, seemed connected to a slightly higher injury rate.

A coach interviewed talked about a different kind of stretch – Active Isolated Stretching – that I’ve been advocating to clients for years.  Targeted stretched for single muscles groups for a very short duration repeated many times.  This has slowly gained popularity among athletes, coaches and other fitness experts.

“The best way to think of it is probably flexibility exercises,” he says. Rather than “bend and hold,” Sherry’s method emphasizes a more gentle cycle of 2- to 3-second stretches — and lots of repetitions.

via For Runners, Static Stretching May Be Outdated : NPR.

Check out the article.   There’s a video on the page as well that demonstrates it.  So next time you go to do a stretch, don’t do stretch and hold, do stretch and release – and increase the repetitions.  (You can google AIS, Wharton Stretching or Aaron Mattes for more information on the technique.)

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Bodyscan: How to find where it hurts

The first question I ask clients after exchanging pleasantries is, “How is your body feeling?”  For some people, this is a truly difficult question to answer.  Many of us are out of touch with our bodies.  Some people have been raised to believe that the body is a limitation to overcome – that pain or discomfort in an area is weakness and not something to share.  For people with chronic pain or trouble areas, getting through the day means staying out of touch with the body so they can function.

Thinking about that crick in your neck can make you more aware of it, just like thinking about the bug bite you got this afternoon makes your leg itch.  In some ways, bringing attention to a part of the body that’s not feeling up to snuff just makes the discomfort, pain, soreness, achiness (etc.) more apparent, and sometimes, makes it feel worse.

But I’m here to tell you that the body sends those signals for a reason.  Discomfort, pain, tension, achiness, soreness: 0ur bodies register these sensations because they are important.  They are signs saying, “Take care,” or “Proceed with Caution,” or “Stop.  Do Not Cross.”  They are road signs the body puts in front of us telling us to watch out. Pay Attention!

You know the joke about the patient who says to the doctor, “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.”  And the doctor says, “Well then, stop doing that.”  You get the idea.

The body wants to protect itself and keep healthy, and learning to listen to those signals from the body is one way to gather information keep from making things worse.  It doesn’t make you weak to know that lifting something heavy today is going to hurt.  And it doesn’t make you a bad person when you decide to put off housecleaning because your back doesn’t feel right.  The first step to listening to the body is to do a body scan – take a mental inventory to see how your body feels.

So here’s an easy way to scan yourself.  I usually do this after I move around a little bit in the morning, once I get home and before I fall asleep.  It’s quick and easy, and it creates an internal dialogue that keeps you consciously aware of what the body is saying.

Sit or lie down.  Slowly scan your body from your head down to your toes.  Start at the head, “How does my head feel?  How does my face and jaw feel?  How does my neck feel?”  As you ask yourself these questions, think about if that part of you feels sore, tired, achy, weak, strong, flexible, painful, tense, etc.  Make a mental note.

Continue down the arms, checking in with the upper arms, forearms, wrists, palms and fingers (check in one limb at a time).  Next, do the torso, starting at the upper chest down to the tummy, down into your lower abdomen.  With the torso, ask yourself if you’re feeling bloated or full, if your back is bothering you or if your upper and midback feel tight.  Next, check the hips, upper legs, calves, feet and toes.

Once you’re finished, think a little about what you have on the agenda for the day, and listen to what your body is saying.  If you’ve pulled your back out playing weekend warrior, making a mega run to Costco to load up on heavy bulk items is something to put off for a few days.  If your neck and shoulders are hurting, make sure to take breaks every 30-45 minutes when you’re on the computer or phone.

The hints the body sends are common sense – if you’re listening.  So my advice today is this: take 30 seconds right now to scan down your body and see how things feel.  When you’re stuck in traffic, waiting in line to pick up your children or when you sit back in your chair before you start on the next task, do a body scan.  Use that information to inform your activity.

Shh. . .  Be very quiet.  Your body is trying to tell you something.  Just listen.

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Can One Massage Make a Difference?

Is one massage enough?  Maybe not, but it’s a start.  I know that massage makes a difference to me, and to my clients, and now, there’s a little more data about that from the research end of things.  Recently, NCCAM sponsored a study that showed that a single massage caused change in the body:

To their surprise, the researchers, sponsored by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health, found that a single session of massage caused biological changes.

Volunteers who received Swedish massage experienced significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol in blood and saliva, and in arginine vasopressin, a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. They also had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system.

via Vital Signs – A Good Massage Brings Biological Changes, Too –

Cortisol is a key component in the body’s stress response.  Stress has been estimated to cause or be secondarily involved in many illnesses, disorders and diseases.   Simply put, the body under stress uses up its resources of energy faster when under stress, and a lengthy period of stress wears down the body and mind, depleting our reserves and reducing an effective immune response.  This study found differences in these chemical levels after one session.  Not 10, not 20, not every day for two weeks.  Just one.

How long did it take for the body to go back to its previous levels?  Maybe not very long, but the evidence is in – one made a difference.

It’s taken you a certain amount of time in your life to accumulate the stress sitting on your shoulders or weighing on your back.  It might take a lot of massage to get rid of all your stress, but no one’s asking you to do that.  I’m just suggesting you see if one massage makes a difference.  To you.

I started with one massage in 2000 – my very first real massage.  I couldn’t take a lot of pressure, and I didn’t have a lot of time on the table, but I could feel that the muscles worked were looser, that I was more relaxed, and that I felt better.  I was worried I’d be self-conscious or not be able to relax.  But my body did that for me.  I know the difference massage makes, but studies like these give me hope that other people will start to understand how massage can make a difference to them.

Bring your body in to a massage therapist, get that sixty- or ninety-minute massage and sink into the table.  Your body will respond.  It might not fix everything that’s wrong in one session, but we can make a difference.  And that’s a good start, if you ask me.

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Why Clients Think I’m Psychic

Many clients think I’m psychic because just when I go too deep, I either pull back out or ask, “Is that pressure too deep?”  How can I tell?  There are a series of non-verbal cues that a client usually exhibits.  Some of these are standard: breathing is faster and more shallow, or the muscle contracts and pushes me out.

Other cues are ones I noticed in myself which generally hold true for anyone getting a massage:

  • hands contract and fingers wiggle.  I find I hold my fingers slightly contracted when the pressure is a little too deep.
  • shifting feet or moving toes.  This generally means the pressure may be a little too deep, but it can also mean that the client is drifting off into sleep.
  • very deep inhalations and exhalations.  If I’m going deep on a problem area and the client knows that the deep pressure generally helps, often the client begins to take very deep, controlled inhalations in order to “breathe through the discomfort.”   However, sometimes clients continue the breathing even as I’ve gone over the pain threshold.

If you find yourself doing any of the above non-verbal actions, check in with your massage therapist and ask her to reduce her pressure just a bit.  We really do want to know how deep to work, and while we can sometimes seem psychic in knowing how deep to go, sometimes, we need your guidance to get the pressure right.

This Body Sense article contains information on both verbal and nonverbal cues:

Nonverbal Cues:

Your therapist constantly monitors your body’s reaction to the massage. You can use these cues to your own advantage, so you can help the therapist without pulling yourself out of the massage experience.

-Allow your muscles to tighten if the work is too intense. Your therapist should immediately recognize this as a response to excessive pressure rather than normal muscle tension.

-Use your breath. Slow, deep breathing usually signifies the perfect pressure. Fast or labored breathing usually indicates nearing the threshold of pain.

-Use nonspecific sounds, such as a deep sigh, to let your therapist know the depth and speed of the work are perfect.

As in most relationships, it sometimes takes a bit of time to establish a common bond of communication, so experiment to find the best cues for your therapist.

via Deep, But Not Too Deep || Massage Therapy Articles.

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Need to Relax? Imagine Getting a Massage

Close your eyes for a vacation.  Easy, cheap, and in everyone’s budget.  From a short blog entry on using guided imagery for stress relief:

Guided imagery induces an altered state that enables messages to travel more easily from our minds to our bodies.

When used as a relaxation technique, guided imagery involves imagining a scene in which you feel at peace, free to let go of all tension and anxiety. Choose whatever setting is most calming to you.

via Guided Imagery for Stress Relief – Take a Vacation in Your Imagination! « Massage Therapy Center.

My visualization of choice:  my massage therapist’s table, just after she’s finished working my back and turned me over.  Right before the neck massage and into the scalp and face massage.  MMMmmm. Of course, these even work when you are on the table.

When you’re having a tough time letting go of worry and the to-do list buzzing around in your head while you get a massage, imagine your most relaxing place.  Maybe it’s laying on the massage table with soft music, warm sheets and a therapist working on your scalp.  It could be sunning on the beach, fishing on a quiet lake or just soaking in a hot tub.  Whatever your “happy place” if you take your mind to it your body will melt like butter to follow it.

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