Massage for a Happier, Healthier Life

I frequently encounter the perception that massage exists solely as a pursuit of idle ancient-massageluxury. Often even well-educated clients only “treat” themselves a few times a year, but anyone remotely interested in overall health ought to investigate the beneficial effects of massage first hand.

Many writings from our ancient civilizations describe the healing benefits of intentional touch. In our modern world you can still observe other social mammals, like dogs and cats, pack and cuddle up together. Our children come running to us for healing and a consoling touch after any playground insult or injury. For me, it deepens the impression that perhaps we have been using massage for as long as we’ve had hands with which to touch.

Judging from the sheer ubiquity, vintage, and variation of the massage craft now, I’m tempted to argue that there has been a style of massage for any given culture at any given period. Within our society countless forms of massage speak to very specific needs. That being said, the results are remarkably similar when one person touches another for the purpose of support and healing, no matter the external manifestation … the client leaves feeling better.

It is a misconception to think massage is only about your muscles, it addresses your entire body.

The most basic styles, such as Swedish, at the very least “feel good” and “get things moving,” and kind of “squeegee” out the gunk that makes your muscles tight and sore. This is because massage enhances circulation, decreases nervous system activity, promotes digestion, and even aids immunity functions. The traditional Chinese medicine theory asserts it moves our life force energy through sluggish and stopped-up areas, toning the whole of the system. Of course, directly working the muscles also relieves and rebalances the musculoskeletal body, that body you inhabit at work, at home, and at play, so as to safeguard you from overuse and stress. This is the sweet spot of massage: receiving therapy at the most basic, direct, one-sided, and lived-in level possible.

It seems those who receive massage regularly probably live with less pain, anxiety, depression, insomnia and blood pressure. They enjoy a greater sense of well being, greater flexibility and range of motion, and a relaxed state that is simultaneously revitalized. They probably get sick or injured less often. If you do not receive massages, you may not die of touch starvation but you probably will live longer, and might enjoy a higher quality of life, if you incorporate massage into your lifestyle. People have been doing it forever.

Oncology Massage

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Today it seems just about everyone we know has either been effected by cancer themselves or at least knows someone who has. Several of my family members have been affected by cancer, including my Mom, who I lost when I was 4 years old.

The fight to beat cancer can be a long, hard road, effecting people both physically and emotionally. Massage Therapies help reduce the pain and discomfort associated with even the most difficult of treatments, while also aiding with the mental well-being of a cancer patient.

I received my Oncology Massage training at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX during July 2011.

Strict massage therapy guidelines, including appropriate contraindications and precautions, are followed and reinforced throughout my massage sessions.  The sessions will be specially adapted to the needs of the client and adjusted appropriately for other medical issues, including the following: 

  • Sites affected by surgery, radiation, IVs, skin conditions, pain, edema, or bone involvement. (The therapist will avoid strong pressure on these sites. If there has been any lypmh node dissection or radiation of lymph nodes with risk of lymphedema, therapist will not use pressure on the distal extremity or trunk quadrant, and the limb will be elevated if necessary.)
  • Low platelet levels; easy bruising. (The therapist will use gentle skin contact instead of pressure.)
  • Side effects of treatments including chemotherapy and radiation therapy. (The therapist will work gently overall in order to avoid aggravating fatigue, nausea, skin changes, etc., and will adapt other elements of the session to any presenting side effects.)
  • Any risk of deep vein thrombosis, secondary to malignancy, inactivity or cancer treatment. (The therapist will avoid use of pressure on the lower extremities if there is any risk of thrombosis in those areas.)

Solutions for Low Energy: Vitamins D and B12

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Many women suffer from chronic tiredness, irritability, achiness or unusual stress find out that their symptoms are caused by a simple vitamin D or B12 deficiency. Once your doctor has determined that you have no issues with thyroid or other hormones, iron levels or hemoglobin, the next thing to consider is the possibility of a vitamin D or B deficiency.

Vitamins D and B12 are especially important in helping us maintain our energy and vitality. Even a slight deficiency can have noticeable effects on our overall felling of well-being, including energy, performance, mood and memory. Vitamin B12 has also been linked to healthy immunities and efficient metabolism.

B vitamins are found in meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, cereal grains, legumes, and many vegetables. Vitamin D, on the other hand, is acquired through just fifteen minutes exposure to sun per day.

For various reasons, many women find it difficult to obtain these vitamins through diet and sun. No worries though. A daily 1200mg supplement of vitamin D in lieu of exposure to sun or, for those deficient in vitamin B12, a B12 supplement be taken daily either by injection or sublingually.

My favorite brand of B Vitamin is from Premier Research Labs (manufactured locally here in Austin, TX). Max B-ND™ is a nutritional industry first - with never before available probiotic-cultured B vitamins. It contains a high-energy, end-chain, B vitamin complex derived from live sources for premier nutritional resonance. Each 1/2 teaspoon supplies high energy, end-chain vitamin B forms (the form ready to use by the cell) including vitamin B6 as pyridoxal, pyridoxine, pyridoxamine, vitamin B5 as pantetheine, folic acid and more.

This B vitamin-rich formula offers advanced support for the liver, energy, immune system, adrenals and mood balance. Research suggests that live sources of B vitamins are preferred over common synthetic (coal tar-derived) sources. You may purchase this brand at any of the People's Pharmacy locations around town.

Don't let vitamin deficiency get you down. Make an appointment with one of the Naturopaths at People's Pharmacy (Julia Strickler is wonderful) or talk to your doctor about these simple, care-free solutions for improving energy and vitality.

For the record I am not affiliated with Premier Research Labs or get any sort of discounts or free products from them - I'm simply a big fan of their high quality nutritional supplements. 

Now, More than Ever, You Need a Massage

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Consumers may be tempted to trim their wellness budgets when economic times are tough. Yet a recent national consumer survey showed most massage-minded Americans are committed to maintaining the health benefits they experience with massage. It only makes sense. The better you feel, the better job you can do of caring for yourself and your loved ones.

Now, more than ever, massage should play a role in reducing stress and strengthening the health of Americans. When people feel their best, they are more likely to be able to face the challenges difficult times present. With greater health and peace of mind, consumers can face difficulties with poise, clarity of purpose, and strengthened emotional reserves.

Truly, massage is more than a luxury--it's a vital part of self-care that has a positive ripple effect on us as we work, play, and care for others.

Invest In Yourself and Those You Love

If you think about it, massage is an excellent value. The price of massage has remained stable in recent years, as the cost of movies, meals out, and sports events has risen. Which of these has the power to improve your health and your outlook on life?

Following are health reasons all American adults should be including massage in their family budgets and schedules.

Massage:

* Reduces anxiety

* Reduces the flow of stress hormones

* Improves sleep

* Boosts the immune system

* Improves energy levels and reduces fatigue

* Improves concentration

* Increases circulation

* Improves self-esteem

* Reduces frequency of headaches

* Releases endorphins

The positive effects of regular massage can have benefits in many areas of your life.

Home. Massage therapy will also help families under stress create healthier households with clear-thinking and more relaxed moms and dads. Children are very sensitive and often pick up on tension in a household; parents who are taking care of themselves are more likely to be better caregivers and provide a sense of security to their kids. This goes for caregivers of aging parents and other family members.

Work. The health benefits of massage can help forestall illnesses and lost work time, especially when you may be asked to produce more with fewer resources. Decision-making skills will be better and your performance is likely to be improved with a clear focus and more energy. A hint for the boss: Research shows employees exhibit less stress and improved performance when given twice-weekly, 15-minute massages in the office!

Health Conditions. Those with already existing health conditions can continue to reap benefits in the following ways. And proactively caring for health through massage may help reduce costly doctor visits and use of prescription and over-the-counter medications.

.Research shows:

* Massage can reduce sports-related soreness and improve circulation--good to know when you may be exercising more to reduce stress.

* Deep-tissue massage is effective in treating back pain, arthritis, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia patients receiving massage also have less pain, depression, anxiety, stiffness, fatigue, and sleep problems.

*Massage reduces symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.

* Oncology patients show less pain, fatigue, nausea, anxiety and depression following massage therapy.

* Stroke patients show less anxiety and lower blood pressure with massage therapy.

* Massage therapy is effective is reducing postsurgical pain.

* Alzheimer's patients exhibit reduced pacing, irritability and restlessness after neck and shoulder massage.

* Labor pain. Massage during labor appears to reduce stress and anxiety, relax muscles and help block pain. Some medical professionals believe massage also reduces tearing, shortens labor, reduces the need for medication and shortens hospital stays.

* Preterm babies receiving massage therapy gain more weight and have shorter hospital stays than infants not receiving massage.

* Massage is beneficial in reducing symptoms associated with arthritis, asthma burns, high blood pressure, and premenstrual syndrome.

Posted on MassageTherapy.com

Easy Homemade Insect Repellent

Recipe #1

According to researchers, “nepetalactone, the essential oil in catnip (pictured)  that gives the plant its characteristic odor, is about ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET — the compound used in most commercial insect repellents.” Problem is, catnip and a few other oil listed here are not recommended for pregnant or nursing mamas. For pregnant/nursing friendly options see recipe #2.

Catnip

  • 4 oz purified water
  • 15 drops lemongrass essential oil (you can also use it to open up sinus and breathing passages, soothe torn or strained ligaments/tendons, heal ringworm, add shine and lustre to damaged hair, and as calming massage oil)
  • 15 drops eucalyptus essential oil (get it for less by buying it with lemongrass, peppermint, orange, lavendar, tea tree)
  • 15 drops lemon essential oil (use as a replacement to hand sanitize or mix with water in a spray bottle for bathroom air freshener. I’ve even heard you can add a couple drops to your dishwasher for spot free dishes)
  • 15 drops citronella essential oil
  • 15 drops catnip essential oils (“The active constituent in catnip, nepetalactone, has been found to be more effective than the insect repellent diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET)”)

 

Recipe #2

  • 4 oz purified water
  • 60 drops lemon essential oil (avoid during first three months of pregnancy, fine after that. Also safe for breastfeeding)

Relieve Stress with Reiki

Reiki (ray-key) is a gentle, complimentary therapy that treats the whole person. It is the non-invasive practice of transferring energy to promote healing of the physical body, emotions, mind and spirit.

Commonly known as 'palm healing' or 'hands on healing,' the Reiki practitioner acts as a conduit by moving your 'ki,' or universal life force energy, to promote stress relief, relaxation and healing. Reiki was introduced in the US from Japan in the 1920's, but is believed to date back thousands of years to Sanskrit Sutras. Five mantras of Reiki are:

Just for today I will live the attitude of gratitude
Just for today I will not worry
Just for today I will not anger
Just for today I will do my work honestly
Just for today I will show love and respect for every living thing

Benefits of Prenatal Massage

Expectant moms experience unique physical and emotional changes that occur as a result of increased weight, shifting posture, and adjusting hormone levels. While this is a beautiful period of heightened expectation and joy, mothers-to-be also endure heightened physical discomfort that ranges from muscular tension and headaches to pressure on the knees.

Prenatal massage is a natural, touch therapy treatment aimed at alleviating these and other pregnancy related symptoms. 

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Prenatal massage offers a wide range of benefits, which include the following:

  • Eases backaches, headaches, shoulder and neck aches that may be caused by muscle tension and shifts in  posture to accommodate increasing weight
  • Decreases pain in the pelvic/hip area
  • Increases circulation
  • Improves digestion
  • Reduces fatigue
  • Improves skin elasticity that can help reduce stretch marks
  • Helps reduce swelling in such places as hands and  lower legs
  • Can alleviate the stress on weight-bearing joints, like the knees, which are impacted by the extra weight of a growing baby
  • Promotes relaxation and deep breathing
  • Helps stabilize hormone levels by lessening anxiety

Taking time for yourself during pregnancy can be uplifting emotionally. The soothing essence of massage allows pregnant moms to unwind and feel serene, healthy, and comforted during a period of added physical and emotional stress.

Some women also choose to incorporate elements of massage during childbirth to cope with delivery. Massage therapy can also be a therapeutic treatment after pregnancy as your body returns to its normal state, and you begin your exciting life with baby. New moms are also learning how to bring the benefits of touch therapy to their children through infant massage classes.

All expectant mothers should check with their doctors prior to getting a massage. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, or are on the early stages of pregnancy, pre-natal massage may not be recommended. It is important to share information about your condition and your preferences with your massage therapist when you arrive for your appointment.

Massage Therapy for Those Who Exercise

Research findings from American Massage Therapy Association (AMTAMassage.org)

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Sports massage can be used to improve athletic performance, speed recovery, and can be utilized by all individuals who participate in any athletic and/or exercise program to help improve conditioning and maintain peak performance. Many professional and collegiate athletic programs employ or contract with massage therapists, and sports massage has been sought for many years by athletes of differing backgrounds for multiple reasons.With the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines being very clear that activity is essential for people to be healthy, sports massage can be recommended to those individuals who participate in exercise programs as well as professional and collegiate athletes.

Research has shown that in relation to exercise and athletic participation massage can:

  • Reduce muscle tension
  • Help athletes monitor muscle tone
  • Promote relaxation
  • Reduce muscle hypertonicity
  • Increase range of motion
  • Improve soft tissue function
  • Support recovery from the transient immunosuppression state
  • Support the recovery of heart rate variability and diastolic blood pressure after high-intensity exercise.
  • Decrease muscle stiffness and fatigue after exercise
  • Improve exercise performance
  • Decrease delayed onset muscle soreness
  • Be the most efficient intervention for maintaining maximal performance time in subsequent exercise tests when combined with active recovery from maximal exercise
  • Reduce serum creatine kinase post exercise
  • Reduce swelling
  • Reduce breathing pattern disorders
  • Enhance athletic performance
  • May help prevent injuries when massage is received regularly

Individuals who participate in exercise and athletic programs who seek enhanced performance, improved conditioning, faster recovery, injury prevention, and assistance in maintaining peek fitness can benefit from massage therapy given by professional massage therapists working within their scope of practice.

Click here to read this article in full, along with Research References.

A New Health-Care Regimen

The benefits of professional massage cannot accurately be put into words, and to experience it, one obviously has to purchase the service. Too often we choose not to invest in our bodies, instead investing in what we think are necessities.  To some people, it seems like there are always other, more important things to do.

Massage is not the self-indulgent activity that spas often advertise.  While there is a degree of physical pleasure with massage, the euphoria that follows for weeks makes a person more diligent and aware of his/her surroundings, that's why I hope more people will make it part of their health-care strategy.  Taking the time to step away from everything isn't self-indulgence or a luxury; rather it is more like a tool of peace, which allows people to focus on their vision of the world they live in and their place within it.

How Massage Heals Sore Muscles

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A massage after vigorous exercise unquestionably feels good, and it seems to reduce pain and help muscles recover. Many people — both athletes and health professionals – have long contended it eases inflammation, improves blood flow and reduces muscle tightness. But until now no one has understood why massage has this apparently beneficial effect.

Now researchers have found what happens to muscles when a masseur goes to work on them.

 Their experiment required having people exercise to exhaustion and undergo five incisions in their legs in order to obtain muscle tissue for analysis. Despite the hurdles, the scientists still managed to find 11 brave young male volunteers. The study was published in the Feb. 1 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

On a first visit, they biopsied one leg of each subject at rest. At a second session, they had them vigorously exercise on a stationary bicycle for more than an hour until they could go no further. Then they massaged one thigh of each subject for 10 minutes, leaving the other to recover on its own. Immediately after the massage, they biopsied the thigh muscle in each leg again. After allowing another two-and-a-half hours of rest, they did a third biopsy to track the process of muscle injury and repair.

Vigorous exercise causes tiny tears in muscle fibers, leading to an immune reaction — inflammation — as the body gets to work repairing the injured cells. So the researchers screened the tissue from the massaged and unmassaged legs to compare their repair processes, and find out what difference massage would make.

They found that massage reduced the production of compounds called cytokines, which play a critical role in inflammation. Massage also stimulated mitochondria, the tiny powerhouses inside cells that convert glucose into the energy essential for cell function and repair. “The bottom line is that there appears to be a suppression of pathways in inflammation and an increase in mitochondrial biogenesis,” helping the muscle adapt to the demands of increased exercise, said the senior author, Dr. Mark A. Tarnopolsky.

Dr. Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics and medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, said that massage works quite differently from Nsaids and other anti-inflammatory drugs, which reduce inflammation and pain but may actually retard healing. Many people, for instance, pop an aspirin or Aleve at the first sign of muscle soreness. “There’s some theoretical concern that there is a maladaptive response in the long run if you’re constantly suppressing inflammation with drugs,” he said. “With massage, you can have your cake and eat it too—massage can suppress inflammation and actually enhance cell recovery.” 

“This is important research, because it is the first to show that massage can reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines which may be involved in pain,” said Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Medical School. She was not involved in the study. “We have known from many studies that pain can be reduced by massage based on self-report, but this is the first demonstration that the pain-related pro-inflammatory cytokines can be reduced.” she said.

Getting a massage from a professional masseur is obviously more expensive than taking an aspirin. But, as Dr. Field points out, massage techniques can be taught. “People within families can learn to massage each other,” she said. “If you can teach parents to massage kids, couples to massage each other. This can be cost effective.”

Dr. Tarnopolsky suggests that, in the long run, a professional massage may even be a better bargain than a pill. “If someone says “This is free and it might make you feel better, but it may slow down your recovery, do you still want it?” he asked. “Or would you rather spend the 50 bucks for a post-exercise massage that also might enhance your recovery?”