Archive for Types of Massage

Take your Medicine – Get a Massage! Research Results Hit the Mainstream

Massage regulars have known for years that massage isn’t just a luxury item. Massage is a necessity to keep you able, moving and ready to face the day. For people with chronic pain, massage is a way to find relief without taking more pills. And research is starting to agree:

Research over the past couple of years has found that massage therapy boosts immune function in women with breast cancer, improves symptoms in children with asthma, and increases grip strength in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. Giving massages to the littlest patients, premature babies, helped in the crucial task of gaining weight.

The benefits go beyond feelings of relaxation and wellness that people may recognize after a massage. The American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society now include massage as one of their recommendations for treating low back pain, according to guidelines published in 2007.

New research is also starting to reveal just what happens in the body after a massage. While there have long been theories about how massage works—from releasing toxins to improving circulation—those have been fairly nebulous, with little hard evidence. Now, one study, for example, found that a single, 45-minute massage led to a small reduction in the level of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the blood, a decrease in cytokine proteins related to inflammation and allergic reactions, and a boost in white blood cells that fight infection.

via Don’t Call It Pampering: Massage Wants to Be Medicine – WSJ.com.

This article from the Wall Street Journal shares details of the benefits of massage that have been verified via research. Massage research has prompted it to be recognized as a treatment for low back pain, and they’ve also documented a change in the stress hormone levels, cortisol, that takes place in tissue after just one massage:

New research is also starting to reveal just what happens in the body after a massage. While there have long been theories about how massage works—from releasing toxins to improving circulation—those have been fairly nebulous, with little hard evidence. Now, one study, for example, found that a single, 45-minute massage led to a small reduction in the level of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the blood, a decrease in cytokine proteins related to inflammation and allergic reactions, and a boost in white blood cells that fight infection.

via Don’t Call It Pampering: Massage Wants to Be Medicine – WSJ.com.

In addition, massage is also being touted as an effective treatment for osteoarthritis, and is now being studied in healthy people as well as people with chronic issues or injuries. Massage research is in its infancy, but its a growing field, so take a look at the WSJ article for more information on what has been confirmed and presented in the last few years of research of massage.

The findings presened in the article and elsewhere from research point out the need for a more systemic approach to research of massage and hint and broad benefits to both the body and the mind. Those of you who already receive regular won’t be surprised by this. Those of you who love massage may find it hopeful. And those of you who haven’t tried massage? Well, let’s hope some of this information talks  you into heading onto a table for some bodywork.

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Fast Relief of Jaw Tension

In my last post, “Easy Relief for Eye Strain” I covered a relaxation technique to use for individuals with eye strain. The technique is less a massage technique and more a touch-assisted relaxation technique. In it you use the fingers as a point of focus to relax and open the tissues around the eye. This video will cover how to do the same with the jaw.

Many people come in to see me with jaw issues. Some of been diagnosed with TMJ syndrome, others grind their teeth at night. Still others have problems with tension and pain in the jaw referred from other areas – the back of the skull or the lateral/anterior neck. What’s common in all these cases is that the jaw muscles and the muscles around the mouth become tense and tight over time.

While self-massage of the jaw is an excellent option to treat these issues (see my video about “Acupressure Points for TMJ Syndrome”), another way to relieve tension in the face and jaw is to use this relaxation technique.

Just as we did for eye strain, you’ll place your fingers at different points on the jaw and face, and take a deep breath. As you inhale and exhale become aware of all the tension stored underneath your fingers and let it drain out from under your touch as you exhale.

A very important component to this technique is keeping the tongue relaxed in the mouth. Think about where you tongue is in your mouth right this moment. Glued to the roof of your mouth? Now relax the tongue and pull it away from the top of your mouth. Now, touch just the tip of your tongue to just behind your front teeth and let it rest softly there.

Did if feel like your face melted a bit? Now, while that’s relaxed, take a few moments to try this technique to relearn what “relaxed” feels like to your jaw, mouth and face.

Photo credit: Flick.com CCL:

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Like Pink in October? Reduce Swelling with this Arm Lymphatic Drainage Video

 

Swelling in the arm is a common symptom for breast cancer survivors who have had lymph nodes removed from the arm pit/breast area as part of their treatment. However, there is an easy way to use self-massage to help pull some of that fluid out of the arm and back into the torso. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, I wanted to share this information with breast cancer survivors.

This self-massage video will help with fluid retention in the arm, forearm or hand, whether it’s from an injury, surgery or pregnancy. If you’ve had surgical removal of lymph nodes, please contact your surgeon or physician to see if self lymphatic massage is an option for you. If you’re experiencing extreme edema, consult a certified Lymphatic Drainage Massage Therapist before using this routine on yourself.

Below the link to the video is a link to a list of contraindications for Lymphatic Drainage Massage. Please review them before using this on yourself.

Contraindications for Lymphatic Drainage Massage and more information about the lymphatic system is available at my previous blog post here: http://blog.massagebyheather.com/self-lymph-drainage-massage/

Photo credit: flickr.com CCL license. User: SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget

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Acupressure for Repetitive Strain Injuries (Like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome)

How would you like to know the top acupressure spots to use for Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) in the forearm? I ran across this list of applicable acupressure points on About.com. RSI injuries are caused by the wear and tear of a set of motions (like typing, hammering, etc.) on the body. Usually the motions are not physically taxing at first, but over weeks, months and years, muscles shorten, tendons lose their flexibility or become inflamed, and nerves become pinched by the tissue around it.

Many people advocate stretching and physical therapy for RSIs, but alternative treatments may also help. In this case, the article describes a set of acupressure points that can be used to keep the forearms and hands healthy and flexible. So, if you’ve got issues from repetitive strain, take a peek at the article and share it with friends and family whose daily activities include repetitive motions. I’ve included the first three points she describes here:

Try these Acupressure Points:

1. Swamp of the Curve (LI 11)
Bend your arm so your palm faces your chest.  The point is at the outer end of the elbow crease.
2. Third Mile (LI 10)
From LI 11, draw an imaginary line to your thumb. The point is 3 finger widths down this line. Feel the area for the most tender point.
3. Outer Marsh (LU 5)
Make a fist, bending your elbow slightly. The point is at the elbow crease on the outer side of the tendon.

Photo credit: flickr.com CCL user: foxtongue

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Look Ma, No Hands! Fascial Release of the Sacrum

I’m a big proponent of fascial massage. Fascia is the connective tissue that surrounds our muscles, our organs, our bones, our arteries and veins: pretty much everything. I usually describe it as a Saran Wrap that holds things in place and directs force through the body. It’s incredibly helpful to release fascial restrictions and adhesions from injuries.

But, it can be a challenge to do fascial work on yourself. Many types of fascial work involve holding onto the soft tissue/connective tissue/muscle and moving other tissue in a different direction to create a pull or stretch of the fascia. How exactly do you hold part of your soft tissue still while moving it yourself? Enter the sacrum fascial stretch self-massage.

The sacrum, the triangular bone at the center of the pelvis, sits at the base of the spine. Because of its shape and position, it is responsible translating the vertical effects of gravity from the legs to the torso, and it’s also part of the support structure that keeps you upright and mobile. The sacrum meets the two wings (illium) of the pelvis and connects to the tailbone (coccyx). Since the sacrum has so much to do with balance and movement between the upper and lower half of the body, it’s often a part of the body with restrictions and adhesions leading to lower back problems.

In this case, to stretch the fascial tissue connecting in to the sacrum, we’ll press the sacrum up against the wall and use the pressure of the body to hold the tissue in place while we lean forward, (or to the side or diagonally – whichever feels best) and pull the tissue with a slight forward bend. The details follow in the video below. One thing I didn’t mention in the video is that if you’re having a hard time “tacking” the fascia on the sacrum down so you can get a good stretch, get a small section of rug gripper and put it between you and the wall. That will keep your clothes from sliding so much and give you the friction you need to perform the fascial stretch.

If you’re a massage therapist who enjoys fascial work with your clients, this fascial stretch of the sacrum can be a life-saver for clients suffering from lower back pain and limited range of motion. Plus, it just feels good. Please share!

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Massage Yourself: Self Lymphatic Drainage for the Legs

When I walk in crowds, or people watch at a concert, I inevitably find myself watching the way people move and what their bodies look like. In summer, when it’s hot and everyone wears shorts or skirts, I notice swelling in the legs/ankles and foot. This time of year, in the heat, many people have swollen ankles and feet, especially.

Swelling and edema in the legs can be incredibly uncomfortable and I’ve had a lot of requests for a lymphatic drainage routine for the legs. I’ve put together a video that demonstrates how to work on the legs, but there’s an important piece of information you’ll need to understand. In order to move fluid in the body, you must make space for that fluid further up the line. Because the lymphatic system is a dynamic fluid system, you need to open up areas close to the drains so that fluid can siphon up higher in the system toward the main drains. For legs, that means you must get movement in the neck and throughout the abdomen.

So, to perform this drainage technique on yourself, you’ll need to work on the neck first, then the lymphatic breathing, then abdomen/torso, and finally this leg routine. If you have severe edema, lipodema, or long-standing swelling issues from an unknown cause, you’ll want to work with your physician before trying this on yourself. Keep in mind that you will be using extremely light pressure, and very slow movements. This is light massage, but can make powerful changes throughout the body.

There are important contraindications to lymphatic drainage massage:

As with all lymphatic drainage massage, there are contraindications. While it is a light form of massage, it is very powerful and can have a broad effect on the body. Note that if you are pregnant, you can safely perform the lymphatic breathing routine, but should not perform the routine in the second abdominal video where there is manipulation of and pressing down on the abdomen.

While it doesn’t feel invasive or deep, LDM can have a profound effect on the body because of its function within the immune system and its use of the circulatory system. If you have any of these conditions or problems, consult your physician before performing this on yourself:

  1. Fever, acute infection, early onset inlammatory disease. You need to wait until the acute phase is over and the fever is broken.
  2. Circulatory system problems, especially thrombosis. If there is any risk of embolism of phlebitis, do not use LDM and see your physician immediately
  3. Cardiac issues such as heart disease, acute angina pectoris or coronary thrombosis (heart attack). Using LDM increases the fluid load on the heart, and compromised cardiac systems should not be subjected to LDM.
  4. Active bleeding, internal or external.
  5. Active malignant cancers, undiagnosed lumps, or tumors whose origins have not been determined by your physician.
  6. High risk pregnancy or late term pregnancy with complications

Contraindications specific to the abdominal and leg routine are abdominal aneurism or thrombosis/phlebitis.

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Feeling plugged? Abdominal Massage Can Get Things Moving

plunger

Recent studies suggest that abdominal massage and acupressure/meridian massage improve bowel function.  In a study designed to test the efficacy of massage on constipation and stress, a set of college students were given either abdominal massage with aromatherapy or acupressure/meridian massage and tracked for four weeks. Over the course of the study, the students who either of the abdominal massages reported positive effects:

“Both abdominal massages relieved constipation and stress,” the researchers noted. “Resorting to either type of massage will contribute to the reduction of use of stool softeners, suppositories or enemas.”

via Abdominal and Meridian Massage Both Relieve Constipation.

Click through to the link to find the details on the study.

Not many people request abdominal massage, but it’s a tremendous benefit to the digestive system and the immune system.  Think about requesting abdominal massage when you’re looking for massage therapy in Louisville or Nashville, especially if you’re having issues keeping your digestive tract moving or suffer constipation. I can also show you an easy abdominal massage to you to keep things moving.

Photo credit: sxc.hu user: nulus

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Squeeze the Feet to Kill the Headache

foot massage

Sounds a little crazy, huh? Press on my feet and affect an unrelated part of the body? Clear my sinuses? Relieve my headache? Crazytalk!

It may seem like hocuspocus, but there is a long tradition of reflexology which does just that. It associates certain parts of the foot with very specific parts of the body, and massage to the foot location (the reflex) affects changes throughout the entire body. I didn’t think much of reflexology until I saw it work on me and my clients.

Physiologically, it’s not clear what mechanism connects reflex points on the feet to various organs and areas of the body, but reflexologists build a career out of treating people through work on their feet, hands or ears (which also have reflexes much like the feet). I’ve seen it relieve sinus pressure and clear the head, help with headaches and migraines, relieve constipation, reduce bladder issues, help digestion, ease stomach cramps, and help with allergies. Reflexology may seem a little “out there,” but for a lot of people, its an easy and effective way to use self-massage to improve health and wellness.

So what are some good spots to know for working on the head and neck?

Reflexes Mirrored on the Toes

The pads of the toes are thought to represent the head while the necks of the toes are thought to mirror the body’s neck. Specific reflexology techniques are applied to all sides of the toes including the toenails.

Focus work on the toes would encourage a relaxed mind, release muscle tension in the neck and reduce discomfort in the face and scalp.

  • Toenails – are stimulated for the back of the head which includes the scalp.
  • Tips of the toes – are stimulated for sinus congestion.
  • Pads of the toes – are stimulated for the mouth – the teeth, gums, and jaw.
  • Pad of the great toes – are stimulated for the brain including the Hypothalamus and Pituitary gland reflexes.
  • Necks of the toes – are stimulated for the neck, throat, breathing airway or trachea.

via Cranial and Neck Reflex Areas in Reflexology | Suite101.com.

Head over to the above link for more information, and if you’d like to try a little reflexology, give me a heads up before your next massage in Louisville or Nashville.  I can save time during the session and make sure to work the reflexes most effective for your issues.

photo credit: sxc.hu user dcarson924

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Reduce the Bloat! Lymphatic Drainage for the Abdomen and Legs

Navel

You know that runny nose you get, the fever you get with an infection or the heat and redness at an injury site? All of these are reactions of the immune system, and more specifically the lymphatic system.

My lymphatic drainage massage for the head and ears are popular views on my YouTube Channel (MassageByHeatherW) and I wanted to introduce you to lymphatic massage on the abdomen and trunk.

Bloating, edema or swelling in the abdomen, a feeling of fullness or constriction all signal an overabundance of lymphatic fluid in the trunk and abdomen. This technique can help reduce that swelling and fullness and will also pull fluid up from the legs and feet if you experience swelling there.

It’s All About the Breathing. Seriously.

The most important piece of this self-massage routine is covered in the first video: lymphatic breathing.  It’s a very specific kind of inhalation and exhalation designed to use the movement of the diaphragm and lungs to encourage drainage of lymph from the trunk and legs back up into the main thoracic lymphatic duct and the subclavian vein at the neck area.

There’s a simple rule for it: Belly First.  On the inhalation and exhalation the belly goes first. When breathing in, breath into the belly first, and expand the abdomen as much as you can, then pull air upward into the chest, filling the upper thoracic area.  Once you’ve finished inhaling, exhale from the belly first.  Release air from deep in the lungs and feel your belly fall until it’s empty, then release air from the upper chest/ribcage.

Remember, Belly First on inhale and on exhale.

This method of breathing is incredibly successful in reducing edema, swelling and fluid retention in the trunk and abdomen. It seems too good to be true, but it’s as effective, if not more effective at pulling fluid from the trunk than what we’ll cover in the second video, which will be manipulation of abdominal area.

Contraindications for Lymphatic Drainage Massage

As with all lymphatic drainage massage, there are contraindications. While it is a light form of massage, it is very powerful and can have a broad effect on the body. Note that if you are pregnant, you can safely perform the lymphatic breathing routine (this first video), but should do perform the routine in the second video where there is manipulation of and pressing down on the abdomen.

While it doesn’t feel invasive or deep, LDM can have a profound effect on the body because of its function within the immune system and its use of the circulatory system. If you have any of these conditions or problems, consult your physician before performing this on yourself:

  1. Fever, acute infection, early onset inlammatory disease. You need to wait until the acute phase is over and the fever is broken.
  2. Circulatory system problems, especially thrombosis. If there is any risk of embolism of phlebitis, do not use LDM and see your physician immediately
  3. Cardiac issues such as heart disease, acute angina pectoris or coronary thrombosis (heart attack). Using LDM increases the fluid load on the heart, and compromised cardiac systems should not be subjected to LDM.
  4. Active bleeding, internal or external.
  5. Active malignant cancers, undiagnosed lumps, or tumors whose origins have not been determined by your physician.
  6. High risk pregnancy or late term pregnancy with complications

Contraindications specific to the abdominal routine are abdominal aneurism or thrombosis/phlebitis.

As always, massage in Louisville in Saint Matthews and in Nashville in Brentwood available if you’d like to try these techniques out in your next session.

Photo credit sxc.hu user: EdwinP

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Drain your Head and Breathe!

Want to be able to breathe again?  At the end of a cold, or a day full of allergies, it would feel better if there were just less stuff in your head.  Here’s a way to do that yourself.

It’s that time of year, again, and clients are canceling appointments from colds, dust and mold allergies and all the recurring sinus stuff that kicks up in the fall and early winter.  I spend much of my time performing Lymphatic Drainage Massage (LDM) during sessions to try and clear out the congestion and stuffiness in the head.  But this massage is very easy and simple to perform on yourself.

When I feel that tickle start in my throat or my nose starts to feel dry and sneezy, I take about 4-5 minutes to perform a quick version of this on myself.  The two most important keys to keep in mind are to go very, very slow and use very, very light pressure.

Contraindications for Lymphatic Drainage Massage

While it doesn’t feel invasive or deep, LDM can have a profound effect on the body because of its function within the immune system and its use of the circulatory system. If you have any of these conditions or problems, consult your physician before performing this on yourself:

  1. Fever, acute infection, early onset inlammatory disease. You need to wait until the acute phase is over and the fever is broken.
  2. Circulatory system problems, especially thrombosis. If there is any risk of embolism of phlebitis, do not use LDM and see your physician immediately
  3. Cardiac issues such as heart disease, acute angina pectoris or coronary thrombosis (heart attack). Using LDM increases the fluid load on the heart, and compromised cardiac systems should not be subjected to LDM.
  4. Active bleeding, internal or external.
  5. Active malignant cancers, undiagnosed lumps, or tumors whose origins have not been determined by your physician.
  6. High risk pregnancy or late term pregnancy with complications

What to Expect

While you may start feeling the fluid move relatively quickly, this may not remove all of your congestion and it may take several sessions to get things moving.   Some signs that it’s moving the fluid: feeling a change in pressure in your head, ears draining, nose starting to run, tickle in the back of your throat, needing to swallow as drainage starts to flow, ears popping or sound changes volume.   This method helps about 75% of the people who come into my office with congestion from allergies or colds.  Try it out and see if it works for you.

This excellent post from the Association of Bodywork and Massage Professionals site gives a good foundation for understanding more about the lymph system and Lymphatic Drainage Massage.

Enjoy the video!

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