Archive for January, 2011

Self-Massage for Nursing Moms and New Moms

New moms don’t get a lot of breaks.  Between the sleep deprivation, the late nights, and baby worries it can be pretty stressful. To help with the aches and tension that comes from breastfeeding and caring for an infant in general, I put together a short video demonstrating the stretches and self-massage techniques I share with new moms.

I usually show these to them when they’re hugely pregnant and so ready to have the baby that I’m not sure they absorb a lot of the information to use later.  I decided to video these simple techniques so that I could share them with clients and new moms everywhere to help where I can.

The benefits of doing this self-massage and stretching can include having a looser neck, less neck/shoulder pain, reduced headaches, easing of tension in the chest and upper back, reduced jaw pain (if that’s become an issue), and fewer “cricks” in the neck. As with any new stretching/massage routine, you want to be gentle on your body, but you do want to feel the stretch.  It may take a few repetitions a day to start seeing the benefits, but most moms report back that doing these stretches helps with shoulder and neck pain right away.

So forward this along to breastfeeding moms and new moms – even doing these stretches once a day will help. And some of the neck stretches you may be able to do a bit of while you’re feeding the littlest one.


Botoxed Brow Begone: Self-Massage Video

Last week I posted a link to an article on self-massage of the brow in order to reduce that wrinkled furrow that appears over time or as we enter periods of worry.

I’ve tried out the technique over the past week, 1-3 times a day and although it’s a little uncomfortable doing it and puts your face in some truly hilarious poses, it does feel incredible when you’re done. Since I learn better watching instead of reading, I thought I would create a video that replicates the steps the article walks you through.

Each hold is for 20s or so, which means that if you can do this in as little as 3 minutes. Here’s the video, and be warned, this kind of facial massage makes for some crazy-lady looking video.

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Take a Hoover to Your Head: Drain Fluid from the Ears

Fluid build up in the head can be extremely uncomfortable.  After a cold or during allergy/sinus season, the pressure in the ears builds up as the sinus cavities become full and there is no place for the fluid to drain.  This can also cause issues with chronic headaches, vertigo, dizziness and that echoey hearing loss you get when your head is full.

Fortunately, there is any easy self-massage method to drain that from your head.  Lymphatic drainage massage can relieve some of that pressure.  It’s easy to do, doesn’t require any special equipment and isn’t hard on your hands.

Please note this video assumes you’ve already watched the first lymphatic drainage video and only covers that part of the massage very briefly.

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Botox Begone: Furrowed Brows End Today!

I just found a self-massage technique to use to relax those lovely furrows that accrue on the forehead between the brows as we squint and stress over things. I’m going to learn it for myself, then learn to do it on clients. It’s not pain-free, but it feels really good and relaxes the face and forehead in a wonderful way.

You never know. I might demonstrate it in a video soon! Here’s the link:
Release the Furrow!

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Easy Peasy Neck Massage

After the 12 days of partner massage, I wanted to get back to some self-massage tips.  This massage technique is something easy enough to do at your desk, AND it feels great.  The trick here is that you’re pressing with your hand and moving the neck and head underneath the hand.  This makes self-massage of the neck much gentler on your own hands.

Typically, self-massage of the neck includes a lot of work that uses the thumb to squeeze the shoulders and neck.  That feels wonderful, but it will leave you with sore thumbs and very tired hands.  By using movement, you take the pressure off the hands and get some fascial work along with the muscle massage.

I’ve started doing neck massage this way in the last few months and love the way it feels.  Just do five of each and in a couple of minutes, you’ve given your neck a great massage and kept your hands in good shape.


What Are You Bringing to the Table?

I was late to my last massage. I thought I’d left the garage door open and had to head back home to shut it. Of course it was closed, and I was 20 minutes late to my massage. I ran in, jumped on the table and spent the first 30 minutes of massage worried about being late, berating myself, and figuring out how to avoid it in the future.

But it was too late, I couldn’t un-do it. I spent a good percentage of that massage worried about being late, and running at a hundred miles a minute. I missed 30 minutes of my massage while in my massage because I didn’t take the time to disconnect mentally.

So my question to you is, “What are you bringing to the massage table?”

When you come in to get your massage, are you ready to slow down, reconnect and get back in touch with your body? A good massage doesn’t just stretch you out and get rid of a little achiness.

A truly fantastic massage reminds you about your body – places that had once been tender but are now stronger, new soreness or aches, knots that used to be the size of landfills but are now merely speed bumps. A fabulous massage embodies you in a way few other things can, and it can remind you what it feels like when your body just. . . “works.”

This isn’t just another reminder to get to your massage on time. At some point, you’re going to run late and there won’t be anything you can do about the grandma in the car going 25 miles an hour in front of you or the wreck a half mile from your exit.

But you can do something about your mental state as you get on the table:

  1. Forgive yourself for being late, or for being distracted or for continuing to worry about what you’re getting a massage to forget. This happens to everyone, just forgive yourself for it.
  2. Mentally forgive your massage therapist for cutting your time short (if she had to), and allow yourself to put away your worries. Just visualize sliding them in a folder or box you can get back to later. Everyone gets distracted by “life” when on the massage table, just remind yourself to slow down as you feel it pull your attention.
  3. Breathe. That’s it. . . Just breathe and keep on breathing.
  4. If all else fails, just stop talking (if you are) and concentrate on the music and the way the hands feel on the skin. Keep doing this for one entire track of the cd. And you’ll find that relaxation somewhere between steps 3 and 4. . .

Sometimes you can get the best massage in the world, but it doesn’t do any good if you’re not ready to receive the best massage in the world. Remember your two tasks as you get a massage: breathe and receive.

And double-check the garage door before you leave.


Strengthen and Stretch for Overuse Injuries

Although it’s one of the things that makes us unique as humans, that opposable thumb can really cause problems.  Our ability to grip and manipulate things with our hands and fingers keeps us busy at work, at home, and even when we play.

All this work and play with the hands gripping or pressing downward can cause repetitive stress injury or overuse injury in the hands and forearms.  Instead of heading straight to surgery or medication, to fix the issue, why not deal with the problem at its root – the muscular imbalance between the two sides of the forearm.

A recent article quoted below has an easier, less invasive alternative to surgery and medication.  The author suggests a combination of stretching and strengthening exercises to overcome issues soreness, pain and stiffness in the hand from overuse injuries.

Here’s a little background: all muscles work in pairs.  There is the muscle that does the work – the prime mover – and there is the muscle that is its opposer – it’s antagonist.   Both muscles work in tandem.  As one contracts, the other relaxes to allow movement.  This is the mechanism used throughout the body for motion to occur.  Muscles form systems of pulleys that work in concert to move your body.

The majority of the muscles that move the fingers and the hands actually reside in the forearm.  You have a set of muscles referred to as the “flexors” which flex your arm, bringing your palm toward your forearm.  The antagonist muscles, “the extensors,” are the muscles which bring the back of your hand toward your forearm.

Because the majority of the movements we make during the day deal with gripping, holding or otherwise using the flexors, these muscles become very tight.  Over time, hundreds and thousands of strokes on a keyboard or stirring with a spoon, or cleaning up around the house strengthen the flexors to the point that they become chronically tight.

Since the muscles work in pairs, the extensor muscles, those on the back of your forearm, get overworked and start to weaken, and no matter how hard they try, the extensors can never catch up to take up the full tension the tight flexors cause.  The flexors, meanwhile, keep shortening as they tighten, many times causing dysfunction and/or pain in the forearm, hand, wrist and finger movements.

So what do you do?  In order to rebalance the muscles so they work together as a healthy pair, you have to do two things: 1) stretch the flexors to extend the muscle and loosen it; and 2) strengthen the extensors so they have the ability to counteract the flexors and keep the muscle tone balanced.

Here’s an excerpt from that article:

in many of these cases it may be as simple as tailoring a strategy that includes rest from the activity causing the problem, applying ice to reduce inflammation, and rebalancing the relationship between the finger flexors and finger extensors, specifically addressing the muscles involved with extension of the digits.

via Conservative Treatment of Repetitive-Stress Injuries: Exercise Is the Key.

The solution has two parts: strengthen the extensors and stretch the flexors.

Throughout the day, stretch the forearm flexors.  Extend your arm and put your hand out in front of you as if you were directing traffic and telling cars to stop.  With your other hand pull the fingers and the hand back toward your body.  You should feel the stretch in your palm, the inside of your wrist and the forearm.  Hold each stretch for 1-2 seconds and repeat it 20 times.  Do three sets a few times during the day.

Part two, the most important part, is to develop strength in the extensors.  Make a loop out of theraband or another stretching material. Stand up and put one foot in the bottom of the loop.  Stand with your arm at your side with your palm sort of parallel to the floor (facing downward).  Put the top of the loop over the top of your fingers and pull the back of the hand toward the forearm (up toward your head).  You should feel the back of your forearm working to pull the stretchy band or rope upward with your fingers.  Do these for 1-2 second at a time and repeat 20 times.  Do three sets a few times during the day.

Remember that the goal here is to strengthen the extensors – the back of the forearm – and to stretch out the flexors – the muscles used to bring the palm toward the forearm.  Take the time to rebalance the muscles in the forearm can reduce soreness, achiness, stiffness and other symptoms associated with overuse injuries or repetitive stress injuries.


Warrior Dash: Adult Dream or ER Visit Waiting to Happen?

A friend of mine (in an incredible act of bravery, or, well, um, bravery) signed up for something called the Warrior Dash.  Imagine a big, 5K obstacle course for adults – crawling under wire, slogging through a mud pit, jumping over walls – and getting a cool viking with horns at the end (with beer!). Check out the name of the obstacles on Warrior Dash Website.

As a massage therapist watching the video montage below all I could think was, “Oh, no, that’s going to be ugly in the morning.”  But since I know plenty of weekend warriors who, as clients, would think this is the coolest thing ever, here’s the video.  Enjoy (just be sure to come see me for a massage in Louisville or Nashville while you’re training and the day after the race).

And yes, it does look like a lot of fun!


MOVE IT and relax!

If you made a resolution to start the year off with more activity, you’ve got a side benefit that’s going to help you out.  Exercise can help you relax.  This post on an alternative health blog had a couple of bullet points that talked about how exercise affects mood.  The lesson: get up off that couch and out of that computer chair and MOVE!

# Exercise helps the body produce more endorphins which are also known as the happy hormone. Exercise boosts the brain’s feel good transmitters, and can be brought about by a lovely long walk, a jog or even an energetic game of some sort.

# Exercise is rather like meditation in motion, which can help you forget the day’s irritations and stressors as you concentrate more on the movements of your body. You are likely to be more optimistic, and have more energy as a result on this, even being able to maintain a calm clarity in your dealings.

via How Exercise Is A Natural Stress Buster?.


Tips to Avoid MRSA as You Hit the Gym

Make a resolution to become more fit in 2011?  Does that include more time at the gym?  If so, make sure you take a look at this article about MRSA infections (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) becoming more and more common at gyms.   MRSA’s danger is in its resistance to the most commonly used antibiotics.  This makes it hard to treat and hard to heal.

Here’s the link: Steer Clear of Staph Infections in Your Gym | TweakFit.

Quick summary (pictures also included in the link):

  • keep all wounds and abrasions clean and covered
  • clean equipment before and after you use it
  • wear flip flops or shower shoes in the changing areas
  • wash your hands often at the gym

Get fit, but stay healthy and use the tips mentioned in the article.