What Massage Treats

Below is a list of conditions that we can effectively treat. Click each topic to read more.

Anxiety

Massage and Anxiety

What is Anxiety?

According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults and costing more than $42 billion a year.

Feelings of anxiety, worry and fear related to significant and challenging events are justified and very common. While it’s true, mild anxiety may leave a person feeling unsettled, severe anxiety can be debilitating. Anxiety is used as a general term for several disorders that have common symptoms – such as nervousness, worrying, apprehension and fear.

Anxiety disorders can be classified into several more specific types. The most common types include:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by unrealistic, persistent and excessive worry about everyday things. People with this disorder often expect the worst and experience exaggerated worry and tension, even when there is no apparent reason for concern.

Panic Disorder involves brief or sudden attacks of intense terror and apprehension that leads to shaking, confusion, nausea, dizziness and difficulty breathing. Panic attacks tend to arise abruptly and seemingly out-of-the-blue. The sudden onset often produces increased anxiety that a panic attack will recur. The individual often becomes preoccupied with the fear of a recurring attack.

Phobia is an irrational fear and avoidance of an object or situation. Phobias commonly focus on flying, bridges, insects, heights, dental or medical procedures and elevators. Having phobias can disrupt daily routines, reduce self-esteem, limit work efficiency and put a strain on relationships.

Social Anxiety Disorder is a fear of being negatively judged and scrutinized by others in social or performance-related situations. Different variations of this type of anxiety include a fear of intimacy, stage fright and a fear of humiliation. People suffering from this disorder can sometimes isolate themselves in an attempt to avoid public situations and human contact.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is when unwanted or intrusive thoughts make an individual feel compelled to repeat certain behaviors or routines. Even when the OCD sufferers know the irrationality of their compulsions, they feel powerless to stop them. For example, they may obsessively wash their hands, clean personal items or constantly check light switches locks or stoves.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is anxiety that results from previous trauma such as military combat, rape, a natural disaster, a serious accident or other life-threatening events. Most people who experience such events recover from them, but people with PTSD continue to be anxious and severely depressed for months or even years following the event. They often experience flashbacks and behavioral changes in order to avoid certain stimuli.

How does massage therapy help?

Massage therapy not only helps to release tension in the muscles, but also has a physiological effect on the brain chemistry. Massage encourages the release of neurotransmitters that activate the parasympathetic nervous system bringing the body and mind into a more relaxed state.

A recent Japanese study conducted in 2012 on the effects of a hand massage showed that the subjects’ heart rates went down significantly resulting in increased activity of the autonomic nervous system, improved activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, and reduced activity of the sympathetic nervous system aka (the fight or flight mechanism.) This study also measured anxiety levels and found a significant decrease in anxiety following the massage and also an increased willingness to communicate and connect with the caregiver.

Massage therapists can provide a safe and supportive compliment to an individual’s mental health care plan. When providing massage for individuals with psychological disorders, especially anxiety, it is important to maintain clear boundaries, be sensitive to the individual’s needs and condition, and provide a safe and nurturing environment.

What types of massage are beneficial?

The following types of massage can help relieve some symptoms of Anxiety:

  • Swedish massage helps to activate the parasympathetic state.
  • Shiatsu calms the mind, nerves, and reduces tension.
  • Reflexology stimulates points that release blockages in the lymphatic and endocrine systems.

What can you do?

Anxiety has profound effects on the sufferer and their loved ones which is why it is important to understand the different types of anxiety disorders and treatment options. Regular massage is not a stand-alone treatment option for anxiety disorders, but it can certainly compliment your current treatment plan. If you or someone you know suffers from an anxiety disorder, contact a massage therapist today.

 

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Arthritis

Massage and Arthritis

If you live with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, you know what a challenge it can be to find relief from joint pain and other symptoms. But there are many things you can do to manage and control your arthritis and live a healthy, active life.

According to Western Medicine, Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis, affecting more than 21 million Americans and many more worldwide. It occurs when the cartilage between the joints breaks down, usually affecting the hips, hands, knees, low back, or neck.

Some factors that can increase your risk include: a joint injury, being overweight, aging, repetitive motion and genetics.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is another type of arthritis, affecting 2.1 million people in the United States. This chronic condition occurs when the lining of the joints becomes inflamed, and can lead to long-term joint damage and even loss of movement. Women are two to three times more likely to get RA. 
RA often starts in the hands or feet, and usually affects the same joints on both sides of the body.

Symptoms of RA include:

  • Warm, swollen or tender joints
  • Joint stiffness, especially in the morning
  • Fatigue
  • Flu-like symptoms such as fever
  • Muscle pain and weakness

Treatment options

Western treatment generally focuses on relieving pain and preventing further joint damage. Often this is done through the use of anti-inflammatory drugs and other medications, as well as self-care recommendations and physical therapy sessions. In some cases, surgery may even be needed.

Did you know massage can help?

Massage has a balancing effect on the autonomic nervous system and could be used as a natural method for reducing stress and promoting health.

Here are some massage approaches that may help individuals who suffer from RA or osteoarthritis:

  • Deep tissue massage to help release fascial adhesions
  • Gentle stretching and moving the body through normal ranges of motion to release tension in the muscles.
  • Work surrounding areas to decompress the joints
  • Focused work on painful muscles that cross over the affected joints

Note: It is important to communicate with the client to ensure they can tolerate the level of movement or pressure being applied.

What you can do?

There is no “quick fix” for arthritis and it may take time to achieve results. However, there are style changes you can make that may help you find relief faster:

  • Exercise can help increase your flexibility, strengthen muscles and bones, and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Stick to a healthy diet made up of a variety of unprocessed, organic foods.
  • De-stress. By learning to identify your stressors and lowering your stress through techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga. Tai Chi or 
Qi Gong, you can improve your state of mind and reduce overall stress.
  • Try alternating heat and cold for pain relief. Heat treatments, such as warm baths or heat pads, soothe stiff joints and tired muscles. Cold treatments, such as ice packs, are best for acute pain as the numb painful areas and decrease inflammation.
  • Maintain balance in your life. Alternating periods of rest and relaxation with periods of activity and exercise will keep you feeling your best.
  • Schedule a regular massage to keep stress levels low and maintain healthy muscle tone around the joints and throughout the entire body.

 

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Asthma

Massage and Asthma

Asthma is a long-term condition that affects more than 20 million Americans. Caring for a chronic condition such as asthma can sometimes be frustrating, but it’s important to remember that it can be controlled.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is an inflammatory disease in which the airways become blocked or narrowed, causing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. Some people have long periods without symptoms, while others may always experience difficulty breathing. Asthma attacks occur when something triggers the inflammation of the respiratory system. Flare-ups can be severe—sometimes even life-
threatening.

Asthma attacks are generally caused by one or more triggers, including:

  • A cold, flu, bronchitis, or sinus infection
  • Allergens including dust mites, tree and grass pollen, mold, and animal dander
  • Irritants that include tobacco smoke, strong fragrances, and air pollution
  • Certain foods and food additives
  • Aspirin and anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Strenuous exercise
  • Changes in weather
  • Strong emotions such as anxiety, stress, grief and anger

Generally, the available approach of asthma treatment is to try and prevent attacks. This is usually done with regular use of anti-
inflammatory medications, inhaled steroids and leukotriene
 inhibitors. Once an asthma attack is underway, quick-acting medications like corticosteroids may be able to relieve it.

Is massage okay for someone with asthma?

Yes, massage can help an individual with asthma to relieve some of the tight muscles due to wheezing, coughing and other common symptoms.

Massage is never indicated during an attack. However, between attacks it is indicated to work on specific muscle groups which help to improve muscle function.

The following muscle are commonly overdeveloped and chronically tight in individuals who don’t breathe easily:

  • Intercostals
  • Scalenes
  • Serratus Posterior Inferior
  • Diaphragm
  • SCM
  • Trapezius
  • Erector Spinae
  • Pectoralis major and minor

What can you do?

It is important to remember that you are a key part of controlling your asthma. Here are a few ways you can take an active part in your treatment:

  • Try keeping an asthma diary to track your specific asthma triggers.
  • Be sure to keep all of your health care providers fully informed. This includes talking to them about any medications or herbs you may be taking, as well as any changes in your symptoms.
  • Follow your practitioner’s recommendations for self-care. These might include exercises such as Qi Gong, 
yoga, dietary changes
  • Practice stress-relief measures such as meditation.
  • Schedule regular massage sessions to reduce stress and to work on specific muscle groups to release tight breathing muscles.
  • By making positive lifestyle choices and working closely with your practitioner, you’ll truly be taking charge of your asthma—
and your life.
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Back Pain

Massage and Back Pain

Back pain is a common problem—it affects 80% of all individuals at some time in their lives. In fact, it is one of the top reasons people seek medical care. Unfortunately, back pain isn’t always easy to diagnose or treat.

Back pain may occur due to:

  • Injury
  • Overuse
  • Nerve Compression
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Spinal Subluxation or Deformity

What causes back pain?

Improper lifting, sudden movements or traumatic injury can result in strained muscles or ligaments. Other possible causes can include arthritis, structural abnormalities of the spine or nerve compression due to bulging or ruptured disks between the vertebrae. However, less than 2% of the population has a herniated or slipped disk. Depending on the specific diagnosis, back pain is generally treated with medications, physical therapy, and chiropractic care and in some cases, surgery.

Did you know muscles are the #1 cause?

Low back pain stems from muscle, nerve, or bone problems and the number one reason for low back pain is muscle spasms. Muscle sprains and strains cannot be detected via medical technology. If untreated, back pain can become a chronic or ongoing problem. The 5 lumbar vertebrae in the low back bear the most weight and receive the most stress. With that being said, it’s not surprising that low back pain is one of the top reasons for a doctor’s visit.

Low back pain symptoms include:

  • Back sprain or strain
  • Muscle spasms, cramping and stiffness. Muscle spasms are the most common cause of low back pain.
  • Pain in the back and sacral region and lasts 48 to 72 hours followed by days or weeks of less severe pain.
  • Nerve Compression
  • Leg pain – if pain extends below the knee it points to nerve compression over muscle problems.
  • Nerve-related problems involving tingling and numbness in one or both legs.
  • Sciatica – shock-like or burning pain down the leg caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve.
  • Arthritis of the spine
  • Pain in the back and hip region lasting longer than 3 to 6 months.

Recent studies show that massage therapy can help to reduce pain and improve flexibility for those with low back pain.

But what if you have pain in the upper or mid-region of the back?

Upper and mid-back pain is not as common as low back pain and neck pain, but it is a more common complaint among people who work at a computer desk all day.

Mid and upper back pain tends to show up as a dull, burning, or sometimes sharp pain. It can be in a single point or all over the back; the pain can vary or be a constant nagging ache and often worsen when you do certain activities.

Common causes of upper and middle back pain include:

  • Overuse, muscle strain, or injury to the muscles or soft tissue structures.
  • Nerve compression
  • A vertebral fracture
  • Osteoarthritis due to breakdown of cartilage
  • Myofascial pain in the connective tissue of certain muscles in the spine

Sitting for long periods of time with the arms in front of you can cause the chest muscles to start to pull the shoulders forward. When the chest muscles pull the shoulders, they become overly contracted while the back muscles become tight but in an overly stretched position. This causes de-conditioning of the back muscles and they become weak developing tight spots while the chest muscle become tighter and shortened.

What your massage therapist can do?

Your massage therapist can observe your posture and check for signs of postural distortions due to muscle tension that could be contributing to the back pain you are experiencing.

The massage therapist can work on specific muscle groups to attempt to alleviate tension in those muscles and ultimately alleviate the back pain.

What types of massage are beneficial for back pain?

Researchers are continuing to study the effectiveness and specific types of massage that specifically help with back pain. Here are a few massage techniques that can be used to help decrease back pain:

  • Neuromuscular techniques – including trigger point therapy to deactivate the tight spots or adhesions that have formed in the muscle fibers and soft tissue applying careful pressure to the client’s tolerance level.
  • Myofascial work –myofascial release to break up restrictions in the surrounding connective tissue.
  • Active and passive stretching of the overly tight muscle groups.
  • Hydrotherapy such as hot stone or contrast therapy will help to loosen overly tight muscle groups so that the therapist can work more deeply.
  • Reflexology address back pain by working the spinal system points.
  • (Only if inflammation is not present) Deep tissue massage can be used if tolerated by the client.
  • If you experience back pain, regular therapeutic massage has demonstrated lasting benefits including:
  • Improved range of motion and flexibility
  • Increased blood flow and circulation
  • Reduced swelling, pressure and pain

What you can do?

If the back pain is due to muscle spasms, rest is not recommended. Get moving! Do not rest in bed for a week. Studies show those who maintain normal activities had more flexibility than those who rested in bed for a week. This is because joints become stiff when you stay in the same position for too long. It is important to stay active to prevent added tension and stiffness.

In addition to seeing your massage therapist on a regular basis, here are some self-care techniques that you can use to maintain a flexible and pain-free lifestyle:

  • Get regular exercise.
  • Get deep and restful sleep.
  • Practice deep breathing exercises or meditate.
  • Stretch and move the spine frequently especially if you are sitting for prolonged periods of time.
  • Make time in your schedule to do things you enjoy, and have a little fun. Life is too short!

References

http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/tc/low-back-pain-symptoms

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22991113

http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/tc/upper-and-middle-back-pain-overview

http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/upper-back-pain/causes-upper-back-pain

 

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Cancer Care

Massage and Cancer Care

A diagnosis no one wants to hear…

Cancer can leave you feeling frightened, uncertain and powerless. But if you or a loved one is facing cancer, it’s important to have hope. In many cases, cancer can be cured, especially when it’s detected early. There are more treatments available now than ever before to cure cancer or slow it from spreading, relieve its symptoms, and help you live a healthier life.

It’s also important to know how you can supplement your healthcare treatment with natural drug-free therapy such as massage therapy. According to the American Cancer Society, massage appears promising for symptom management and improving quality of life.  Massage is being recognized by a growing number of healthcare professionals as a useful addition to conventional treatment.

Research studies show massage therapy can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, pain and fatigue. Recent studies conducted with cancer patients support the use of massage for short-term symptom relief.

Understanding treatments and their side effects

Cancer is an overall term for a group of diseases that occur when cells begin to reproduce abnormally, eventually damaging or killing healthy tissue.

Most cancers are named according to where they begin in the body, and there are more than 100 different types.

The most common are breast cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer.

Your treatment plan will be based on many factors, including the type and stage (how far it has spread) of the cancer and your overall health.

While cancer treatments have proven to be effective, they do have serious side effects to take into account.

The most common treatments include:

Surgery: Performed to remove the cancer if possible. Surgery may be used alone or along with radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or biological therapy.

Chemotherapy: The use of medications to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy generally lasts from 3 to 9 months, and can have side effects including fatigue, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, early menopause, and hot flashes.

Radiation Therapy: The use of high doses of radiation to destroy the cancer cells. Side effects generally include fatigue, hair loss, and skin darkening at the site of the treatment.

Biological Therapy: This treatment works by boosting the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells. Side effects depend on the specific type of therapy, but they can include rashes or swelling, flu-like symptoms, fatigue, nausea, and loss of appetite.

Human touch empowers cancer patients

Massage therapy studies conducted with breast cancer patients awaiting mastectomies showed an increased sense of body awareness, an increased connection with treatment and empowerment in their own healing process. In another study, hospitalized cancer patients reported relief from the perception of pain and anxiety.

Another research study showed a significant decrease in the intensity of pain felt by cancer patients when their treatment involved therapeutic massage sessions.

Other benefits of therapeutic massage on helping cancer patients to cope include:

  • Improved quality of life
  • Better sleep
  • Anxiety relief
  • Improved psychological well-being
  • Decreased pain
  • Decreased anxiety and depression
  • Decreased anger and hostility
  • Stronger immune system
  • Increased levels of dopamine and serotonin (used by the body to regulate mood and behavior)

What types of massage are beneficial?

Massage for individuals going through treatment can be useful and beneficial. The following types of massage are indicated for cancer patients being mindful of the patient’s resilience due the intense effects of cancer treatments:

  • Swedish massage
  • Deep tissue massage
  • Lymphatic drainage
  • Reflexology
  • Aromatherapy

What can you do?

Whether you are healthy or you have been diagnosed with cancer it is always important to follow these self-care tips:

  • Eat a low-fat healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Exercise regularly to control weight.
  • Use sunscreen.
  • Stop smoking and other tobacco use.
  • Take advantage of early cancer screenings.

Make massage part of your self-care regimen, schedule a massage today!

 

References

http://altmedicine.about.com/od/cance1/a/massage_cancer.htm

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Carpal Tunnel

Massage and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Do you experience tingling in your hand or fingers? Pain that radiates from your wrist to your shoulder? Maybe even difficulty holding small objects? If so, you could be suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), an uncomfortable and sometimes disabling condition.

CTS may be caused by swelling and fluid retention, subluxation of the carpal bones, or fibrotic buildup. CTS may also be a symptom of a disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism.

CTS is diagnosed by common symptoms and two orthopedic tests known as Tinel’s test and Phalens Maneuver. Nerve conduction tests are also used to determine possible CTS. However, these tests are not conclusive. Many factors contribute to pain and nerve problems in the hand and the wrist. These factors make it difficult to pinpoint where the pain originates. It could be coming from as high up as the neck, the shoulder girdle, or even the elbow. Likewise, other types of soft tissue injuries could show up as pain in the wrist and hand.

Massage therapy can help to reduce the pain and swelling.  As long as the client is not in acute pain and can tolerate massage, massage can help to increase the flexibility of the muscles and pliability of the surrounding tissue.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in the wrist that protects the median nerve, which innervates the hand, as well as tendons that control the fingers. This nerve controls sensation and muscle movements in the hand. If the carpal tunnel becomes narrowed from swelling or injury, the nerve is compressed and impinged. This can cause numbness, pain, and severe weakness in the hands.

There are several causes of CTS, but the main cause is repetitive flexion and extension of the tendons in the hands and wrists, especially when performed for long periods, leading to Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI.)

Symptoms usually start with dull wrist pain that gradually worsens. Other symptoms may include:

  • Loss of feeling in the fingers
  • Numbness, tingling, or burning sensations in the fingers or hand
  • Pain extending from the wrist up the arm to the shoulder or down into the palm or fingers
  • Weakness the hands and difficulty holding objects.

CTS can occur due to repetitive motion activities such as:

  • Driving
  • Painting
  • Playing some musical instruments
  • Some racquet sports
  • Assembly line work
  • Writing
  • Keyboarding

There are 8 tendons that also pass through the carpal tunnel. When soft tissues or these muscle tendons become swollen they may trap the median nerve.

Is Massage Appropriate for CTS?

Yes!  CTS due to edema responds well to massage that focuses  on moving the fluid and toxic build up out of the affected area. If CTS is due to fibrotic build up or a bone subluxation, massage may also help as well. However, if massage on surrounding area increases symptoms, do not work on the affected area. Here are a few massage techniques that are recommended:

  • Use active movements of the wrist and hand to assist to release the area as opposed to deep tissue massage.
  • Lymphatic drainage may also help to reduce the build up of fluids and reduce swelling.
  • Swedish massage can help to alleviate some the symptoms as long as the massage itself does not produce the symptoms.   Your massage therapist will communicate and check in with you about pain sensations and tolerance.

What you can do?

If massage is indicated for the type of CTS you have, you would greatly benefit from regular massage sessions. In addition to regular massage therapy sessions with a therapist, you can also practice self-care techniques to enhance the positive results to work toward a pain-free life:

Actively taking part in your treatment is key. Consider these self-care techniques:

  • Take plenty of breaks during the day, especially if you perform repetitive tasks.
  • Try yoga to increase your flexibility and strength.
  • Remember to gently stretch your hands, arms, and shoulders throughout the day.
  • If you work at a computer, consult an ergonomics specialist to ensure that your workstation is set up property.
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Cold & Flu

Massage for Colds & Flu

What is the flu?

Each year, more than 100,000 people are hospitalized due to complication from a flu virus. Unfortunately most of us get the “flu” at least once in our lifetime. The associated symptoms and signs are all-too-common: fever, sore throat, congestion, fatigue, muscle and body aches, runny nose, dry cough, sneezing and watery eyes.

What is a common cold?

Colds are much less severe than the flu, but similar to the flu. Viruses and germs cause colds. Colds cause less severe symptoms such as nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, and light headaches. Though it may make you feel lousy, getting a cold is not always a bad thing. Instead, it’s a sign that the body’s resources are strong and vital, working to return you to a state of good health. However, if your immune system is already compromised, a cold may further weaken your body, leaving you open to a more serious illness.

Cold & Flu: When is massage appropriate?

At the onset of a cold or the flu, the individual is in the acute phase. In the acute phase, massage is NOT indicated. However, once the fever has broken and the individual is in the subacute stage of the cold or flu, massage may help to speed recovery.

It is important to note that if the client is recovering from a cold or flu, a massage may hasten recovery by flushing toxins from the body, shortening the duration of the symptoms.

Take caution when working with someone who is recovering from the flu or a cold, they may still be actively fighting virus and that may put the massage therapist at risk.

What type of massage is beneficial?

During recovery from the common cold or flu, the following types of massage may be beneficial:

  • Swedish Massage may temporarily increase symptoms in exchange for a quicker recovery time.
  • Reflexology focusing on the lymphatic and circulatory systems
  • Deep Tissue Massage focusing on the upper respiratory muscles and fascial structures

What can you do?

Here are some tips for staying healthy:

  • Consume 8-10 glasses of filtered water daily
  • Exercise regularly to support the immune system
  • Eat a healthy, organic diet, including foods with beta carotene (carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, garlic and tomatoes)
  • Limit sugar intake. Sugar taxes the immune system, especially when feeling under the weather
  • Take Vitamin C and herbs to support the immune system, especially in the cold and flu season
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Enjoy fun and relaxing activities
  • Schedule regular massage sessions to support the body’s self-regulating, self-balancing and healing systems.
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Depression

Massage and Depression

What is Depression?

Depression affects about 121 million people worldwide and can be debilitating for those who experience it. Prolonged feelings of sadness, discouragement and hopelessness greatly affect the quality of life.

At one time or another, most of us have experienced some form of depression. It is a healthy response to events in our lives that seem overwhelming. When we are balanced, physically and emotionally, we can easily bounce back from a depressed state and move on with our lives. When negative feelings and emotions become persistent and consistent, depression
may set in.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are different forms of depression and those who suffer from depression may respond to treatment differently based on the type of depression they are experiencing:

  • Major Depression is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities.
  • Dysthymic disorder is characterized by long-term symptoms that may not be severe enough to disable a person but can prevent normal function or feeling well.
  • Minor Depression symptoms for 2 weeks or more that do not meet the full criteria for major depression.
  • Psychotic Depression occurs when a person has severe depression plus some form of psychosis.
  • Postpartum Depression is more serious than the baby blues that many women experience after giving birth when hormonal and physical changes and the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is characterized by the onset of depression over the winter months.
  • Bipolar Disorder also called manic-depressive illness is not as common as major depression or dysthymia. Bipolar disorder is characterized by mood changes from extreme highs to extreme lows.

Did you know massage therapy can help?

Many individuals who suffer from depression benefit greatly from massage therapy. Although massage therapy is not a stand-alone treatment for depression, it may complement the individual’s mental health care treatment plan. Massage therapy helps to stimulate the relaxation state, which can help to naturally regulate and balance the body and mind.

Various studies have demonstrated the benefits of massage for symptoms that are commonly observed in depressed individuals. Some of the benefits include:

  • Improved quality of life
  • Significant increase in quality of sleep
  • Reduced pain, and
  • Lower anxiety levels.

What can massage therapists do?

There are many different types of massage. Some types of massage that are beneficial for reducing symptoms associated with depression include:

  • Swedish massage
  • Aromatherapy
  • Deep tissue massage
  • Shiatsu
  • Hot Stone Massage
  • Chair Massage
  • Reflexology

What can you do?

As massage helps the body to relax it helps the mind to relax as well. Massage encourages a balanced body-mind connection.

Here are some tips to help you or someone you know who may be experiencing depressive symptoms include:

  • Surround yourself with people whom you trust to provide objective and unbiased input and insights. Develop a supportive group of friends, loved ones, family and co-workers who can lend an ear and listen to you.
  • Breathe, go slow and think things through. Do not make too many life changes all at once. A few at a time will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.
  • Try to get at least twenty minutes of simple exercise at least three days per week, if not more. Take a daily walk, breathe deeply and let it all go.
  • Remember, you are not alone. Others are having similar experiences.
  • Smile.

Please consult with your care provider if you suffer from severe depression.  Massage therapy works in conjunction with your mental health therapy and should not be the sole treatment for your depression.

Resources

http://www.helpfordepression.com/article/alternative-methods/massage-therapy-depression

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/what-are-the-different-forms-of-depression.shtml

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21234327

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Diabetes

Massage and Diabetes

What is Diabetes?

Chances are that you or someone you know has been affected by diabetes. It’s an increasingly common condition—one that approximately
1.3 million people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with this year alone. While it is generally a long-term condition, diabetes can be managed through self-care, nutrition, and medication.

Understanding a complex condition

The body gets its energy from food through the process of digestion. Food is broken down into glucose (or sugar), which passes into the bloodstream. Then the glucose is moved into muscle, fat, and liver cells by the hormone insulin, which is produced by the pancreas. However, if you have diabetes, your body either does not produce enough insulin, or doesn’t respond to it properly, and this leads to high levels of sugar in the blood. Uncontrolled blood-sugar levels can cause serious complications if left untreated, including blindness, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, amputations, and nerve damage.

There are two main types of diabetes:

Type I diabetes


Usually diagnosed during childhood, type 1 is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks insulin-producing cells.

Symptoms usually come on suddenly and treatment includes daily injections of insulin.

Type II diabetes

This type accounts for 90 – 95% of all diabetes cases and is usually diagnosed during adulthood. Major risk factors include family history, having high blood pressure or high cholesterol and being overweight and sedentary.

Since symptoms may be mild, many people don’t know they have diabetes, which is why it’s important to get tested regularly, especially after age 45. Testing can also detect pre-diabetes, where blood sugar is high, but not yet at diabetic levels. With early detection and treatment it is far easier to stop the disease from progressing, control your symptoms, and prevent complications. Treatments often include regular blood sugar monitoring and medications to control blood sugar, as well as diet and exercise.

Symptoms of Type II Diabetes include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Increased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing infections
  • Impotence in men

Is massage ok for someone with Diabetes? Yes and no.

No. Circulatory massage is not recommended for those who have advanced diabetes, kidney failure, and atherosclerosis. In this case, energy techniques are more appropriate.

Yes. Massage is acceptable, if the client has healthy, responsive tissue and circulation and the client is managing blood glucose levels properly.

It is important to note that massage can lower blood glucose levels. A client with diabetes may want to check their blood sugar levels before and after a massage session to avoid any possible complications such as hypoglycemia.

It is important to note that some people with diabetes may have issues with neuropathy and lack of sensation in parts of the extremities. They may have slow-healing wounds or ulcers in these extremities that they may not even be aware of due to the lack of sensation.

Circulatory massage moves blood and lymph fluids through the body and may put an increased demand on the kidneys. To avoid complications, light to medium pressure should be used on clients with diabetes.

As with most illnesses, living with diabetes presents challenges that can create additional stress in the lives of those living with diabetes. A gentle massage can help to stimulate the parasympathetic response, our body’s natural relaxation mechanism.

Regular massage for an individual suffering from diabetes may help to manage stress. Massage also assists the body to naturally remove toxins from the tissues and to balance hormone production. Practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation or breathing exercises teaches the body to respond to stress in a more appropriate and balanced way, thus reducing feelings of being overwhelmed.

What can you do?

If you or someone you know has diabetes and is managing their illness appropriately, recommend massage to promote relaxation and balance within the body in a natural and healthy way.

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Fibromyalgia

Massage & Fibromyalgia

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia affects about 3-6% of the world’s population, an estimated 200-400 million people worldwide, with higher numbers among women than men. People diagnosed with fibromyalgia experience a wide range of symptoms, including chronic pain, fatigue, stiffness, aches and muscle tenderness, along with sleep disorders and intestinal/bowel troubles.

The diagnosis of fibromyalgia can be confirmed when eleven out of eighteen specific points on the body are tender to pressure.

What causes Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a combination of sleep disturbances, hormonal and neuroendocrine imbalances, and emotional status. Some of the common complaints associated with fibromyalgia include:

  • Sleep disorders
  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Tender points

The identifying signs and symptoms include:

  • Widespread pain that shifts locations.
  • Feeling muscle stiffness especially in the morning.
  • Poor stamina.
  • Hypersensitivity and low pain tolerance.

Are you seeking symptom relief?

Massage may be just what you need to help to reduce pain levels, anxiety, and possible feelings of depression. Some types of massage may be more beneficial than others. However, a gentle approach should be used within the client’s tolerance due to sensitivity levels to pain.

What types of massage are beneficial?

Massage can empower clients to feel like they are participating in their own healing process. Some types of massage that may be beneficial in treating fibromyalgia include:

  • Gentle Swedish massage for relaxation and to reduce perception of pain if only temporarily.
  • Shiatsu using light pressure may have a calming effect and promote better sleep.
  • Trigger point therapy – use lighter pressure and shorter intervals
  • Here are some precautions to be aware of when working with clients who suffer from fibromyalgia:
  • Never use ice or cold or contrast therapy on clients with fibromyalgia (cold may exacerbate symptoms)
  • Take care not to over treat; people suffering with fibromyalgia are extremely hypersensitive.

What can you do?

If you are suffering from fibromyalgia, it is important to understand that although the symptoms may be debilitating, this is not a life-threatening disease nor is it a progressive disease. There are some things that you can do to reduce the severity of the symptoms you are experiencing:

  • Eat a healthy and nutritious diet
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Stretch
  • Try to reduce emotional stress in your life as much as possible
  • And of course, find a massage therapist who can tailor massage sessions to fit your individual needs.

References

http://www.integrative-healthcare.org/mt/archives/2006/01/nine_massage_te.html

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Headaches

Massage and Headaches

If you suffer from headaches, you are not alone. Over 50 million of us experience some form of a severe headache at some point in our lives. Whether you experience minor head pain or severe migraines, headaches can take valuable time out of your day and your life, and leave you searching for relief.

One way to seek relief is by reaching for drugs and other medications. This may work temporarily and can help you get out of pain fast. There are other methods that you can try. Massage therapy can be an effective drug-free treatment for the relief of tension headaches.

What Causes Headaches?

There are various kinds of headaches: tension, migraine, cluster, and sinus and more.

Tension headaches (also known as muscle contraction headaches) are one of the most common types of headaches.

A tension headache may be caused many factors, a few triggers include:

  • Emotional or mental conflict
  • Contracted neck, face, scalp and jaw muscles
  • Intense work
  • Missed meals
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Too little sleep

A migraine often begins as a dull ache and then develops into a constant, throbbing pain that one may feel at the temples, as well as the front or back of one side of the head. Nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light and noise usually accompanies the pain from a migraine headache.

How Can Massage Therapy Help?

If you are looking for relief from tension headaches, massage therapy helps by:

  • Reducing the frequency of chronic tension headaches
  • Reducing the duration of the headache during the massage treatment
  • Reducing depression and/or anxiety
  • Decreasing perceived pain
  • Decreasing anger status
  • Decreasing tension
  • Reducing intensity
  • Decreasing medication usage
  • Increasing cervical range of motion

What Can You Do?

Below are a few ways that you can participate in your own healing, by making simple lifestyle changes that may help alleviate, or even prevent, head pain:

Track those triggers. Try to keep track of when your headaches start. You may find it especially helpful to keep a diary of symptoms. Certain types of foods and hormonal changes can be possible causes.

Stress relief. Stress can contribute to many types of health concerns, including headaches. Talk to your practitioner about healthy ways to handle stress.

Exercise. Physical activity is an important part of any healthy lifestyle, and it is a great antidote to stress.

Healthy habits. Do your best to eat healthy, organic foods, and to get enough sleep everyday.


References

http://www.massagemag.com/Magazine/2003/issue102/research102.2.php

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447303/

Am J Public Health. 2002 October; 92(10): 1657–1661.

http://www.amtamassage.org/approved_position_statements/Massage-Can-Be-Effective-for-Tension-Headaches.html

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Hypertension

Massage and Hypertension

What is Hypertension?

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects more than one in three Americans, but most people may not even know they have it. Since hypertension can lead to heart attacks and other life-threatening health problems, it’s very important to learn all you can and take action to lower your risk.

Blood pressure is the actual force of blood flowing against your artery walls. Getting your blood pressure tested is a quick, simple process. It’s measured in two numbers: systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. Blood pressure is considered high if your systolic pressure is at or above 140
mm Hg, and/or your diastolic pressure is at or above 90 mm Hg.

Often called “the silent killer,” hypertension doesn’t usually cause symptoms until it gets severe enough to lead to major health problems such as heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and metabolic disorders. It has also been linked to dementia and cognitive impairment.

What causes hypertension?

More than 90% of cases of high blood pressure are known as “essential hypertension” and have no identifiable cause. “Secondary hypertension,” on the other hand, is caused by underlying conditions such as kidney disease or certain medications.

The risk factors for essential hypertension include:

  • Age – the risk is higher after age 35
  • Race – certain ethnicities are at higher risk
  • Genetics – a family history of the condition increases the risk of developing hypertension.

Did you know massage therapy could help?

Knowing the clients’ medical history can help the massage therapist to tailor the massage to the clients’ specific needs. However, if high blood pressure is not controlled, it is important to understand that the effects of massage could increase the blood circulation and put additional pressure on the blood vessel walls.

Strong evidence from several research studies demonstrates the positive effects of massage on individuals with hypertension. In a study in 2006 by the National University of Health Sciences, the preferred modality to use was Swedish massage as opposed to more aggressive techniques that may involve pain such as trigger point therapy.

If a client is taking medication to lower their blood pressure, it is important to watch that the blood pressure does not get too low. As the body relaxes the blood vessels expand, and as a result the pressure against the blood vessel walls goes down. When the blood pressure is too low, the blood does not pump efficiently to the brain and causes a reaction that results in faintness due to lack of blood to the brain.

During a massage, the client and therapist should communicate and watch for signs that might indicate too much or too little pressure. Some signs that the cardiovascular system is experiencing too much pressure include:

  • Clamminess,
  • Bogginess,
  • Possible Edema (days following treatment)

What types of massage are beneficial?

When working with a client who has hypertension, it is important to focus on using relaxing strokes as opposed to more aggressive techniques. The following types of massage are recommended:

  • Swedish Massage
  • Craniosacral therapy
  • Reflexology

Note: Never perform deep abdominal massage on a client with hypertension.

What can you do?

If you or someone you know has high blood pressure, consider these self-care techniques for lowering blood pressure:

  • Get daily aerobic exercise
  • Meditate or spend time alone to reduce stress
  • Practice slow, deep breathing
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Reduce the amount of fat and salt in your diet and increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid smoking, alcohol, coffee, and spicy foods.

References

http://www.integrative-healthcare.org/mt/archives/2007/01/hypertension_ma.html

A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology 4th Ed. Ruth Werner Lippincot Williams & Wilkins 2009

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IBS

What is IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a complex disorder in which the intestines lose their ability to efficiently move their contents. The main symptom of IBS is abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and/or constipation. Less common symptoms may include headaches, fatigue, depression and anxiety. Stress, diet, emotional factors, hormone levels and medications may trigger symptoms.

IBS is a common condition affecting 10 to 20% of the U.S. population, although only a small fraction seeks medical help.

What causes IBS?

Some studies show that there may be some dysfunction in the brain with regard to the brain-gut axis. Because IBS is commonly accompanied by stress and anxiety, massage therapy can help to ease some of the associated symptoms.

Did you know gentle massage helps on many levels?

Massage is beneficial for individuals suffering from IBS. However, it is important to treat these clients with care especially when working on or near the abdomen. A gentle Swedish massage and even abdominal massage can help to create a sense of balance within the body and mind. Massage works to activate the parasympathetic (rest & digest) response and may help to improve the coordination between the brain and the gut.

What types of massage are beneficial?

There is some evidence that shows that aromatherapy massage may help especially when using relaxing scents such as lavender and peppermint. Swedish massage may help the client to relax but be sure to do only gentle work if symptoms are present and avoid compression directly on the abdomen. Any massage techniques that would involve deep pressure on the abdomen should be avoided, but most other techniques elsewhere may prove relaxing and greatly beneficial.

What can you do?

In addition to seeing your massage therapist on a regular basis, here are some self-care techniques that you can use to maintain a stress-free lifestyle:

  • Get regular exercise
  • Get deep and restful sleep
  • Practice deep breathing exercises or meditate
  • Stretch and move your body especially if you are sitting for prolonged periods of time
  • Make time in your schedule to take time to do things you enjoy, and have a little fun. Life is too short!
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Insomnia

Massage and Insomnia

You settle into a warm, relaxing bed, close your eyes and nothing happens. You just can’t fall asleep. Hours go by and you’re still awake. The next day you feel tired, grouchy and are unable to focus. Does this sound familiar?

Sleepless nights happen to almost everyone at some time, but ongoing insomnia can indicate a deeper issue and could lead to further health concerns. Unfortunately, a common approach to treating insomnia includes prescription-sleeping medications, which can cause side effects or even dependence.

Massage therapy is a natural approach to treating your sleep problems. A gentle Swedish relaxation massage invokes the body’s natural relaxation response. A regular massage will train the brain to more easily activate the relaxation response and help to balance the body’s natural sleep – wake cycle known as the circadian rhythm.

What is insomnia?

Insomnia, or sleeplessness, is characterized by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Occasional insomnia is a common problem, affecting about one in four Americans. It can happen to anyone, but is more common in older adults.

Symptoms of insomnia include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking up during the night
  • Waking up too early
  • Daytime fatigue and irritability
  • Frustration and moodiness

Insomnia can be frustrating, but it’s more than just an annoyance. When insomnia becomes ongoing, or chronic, your body is unable to get the rest and renewal it needs for you to feel your best. In fact, a lack of quality sleep can cause problems such as difficulty concentrating, diminished energy, low mood, and trouble performing everyday tasks. Since sleep strengthens the immune system, insomnia can leave you susceptible to many other health concerns as well.

Because sleepless nights can be detrimental to your health, massage offers a natural, drug-free option to getting those much-needed Z’s.

Did you know massage improves sleep quality?

Have you ever fallen asleep on the massage table? It’s easy to do because massage puts the body and mind in a state of relaxation. When the body is relaxed, the brain releases serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone released by the brain that is related to mood, behavior, body temperature, physical coordination, appetite and sleep. Serotonin can be converted to melatonin, a hormone that quiets and resets the sleep – wake cycle.

Massage has been proven to increase serotonin levels and improve sleep quality. In a study conducted by the Touch Research Institute, subjects not only experienced a decrease in low back pain, but also had improved sleep quality and fewer sleep disturbances.

What type of massage is beneficial?

If you or someone you know suffers from insomnia, try massage first. The following types of massage are indicated to help with insomnia:

  • Deep tissue massage improves relaxation response
  • Swedish massage can improve the quality of sleep
  • Aromatherapy massage can stimulate the relaxation response and while also relaxing the mind with soothing essential oils

What can you do?

If you suffer from sleepless nights, you deserve to sleep better tonight, set aside time on a regular basis for a massage.

In addition to scheduling a regular massage, here are some more tips for healthy sleep:

  • Stick to a regular schedule
  • Plan to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
  • Stay active. Exercise regularly, but not within a few hours of bedtime
  • Don’t eat large meals before bed
  • Try not to nap. If you really need to nap, try to keep it short, less than 45 minutes
  • Limit caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. All of these can add to sleep problems
  • Relax. Try taking a warm bath, meditating or reading to wind down before going to sleep

 

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Menopause

What is Menopause?

Menopause is a transitional period in a woman’s body, following the absence of any menstrual period for at least 12 months. This time of change may last a few months to several years. This is a natural process where the female body tries to adapt to decreasing amounts of estrogen. Symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, fatigue, mood swings, memory loss, vaginal dryness, headaches, joint pain and weight gain may affect each woman to varying degrees.

What are the stages of Menopause?

Perimenopause is the time when hormone levels start to decrease and menstrual periods may become irregular and eventually stop. Some of the common symptoms during this stage include:

  • Mood swings
  • Hot flashes & Night sweats
  • Insomnia
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Irregular periods
  • Loss of libido

These symptoms commonly persist through to the second phase known as Menopause. After one year without a menstrual period, a woman has officially entered into Menopause.

The third phase is referred to as post-menopause. In this phase, women acclimate to the hormonal changes and the symptoms typically subside although some women still continue to experience the symptoms but usually to a lesser degree.

Did you know massage can empower women during this transitional time?

Every woman experiences this change in life differently. It is important for woman to practice self-care. Many women aptly turn to massage to ease some common complaints. Massage offers many benefits that address common symptoms of menopause such as:

  • Increases their ability to relax
  • Reduces the perception of stress
  • Improves sleep patterns
  • Decreases headaches and joint pain
  • Increases blood and lymph flow
  • Connects them with their body
  • Improves their overall body image

What types of massage are most beneficial?

Depending on the symptoms a woman is experiencing and the phase of menopause she may be in, there are different types of massage and bodywork that may prove more beneficial.

  • Full body relaxation massage can help to alleviate stress and increase overall relaxation.
  • Deep tissue massage addresses aches and pains such as joint pain or headaches.
  • Aromatherapy plus massage has been proven to reduce stress during the stages of menopause. In fact, aromatherapy and abdominal massage demonstrated a reduction in belly fat and an improved sense of body image for post-menopausal women.
  • Reflexology techniques have been shown to help increase blood circulation and reduce perceived stress and fatigue.
  • Chinese medicinal massage and meridian massage have been shown to ease menopausal symptoms.

Massage therapists offer a calming, natural, and drug-free way to ease common symptoms of menopause.

No matter what phase a woman is in, massage therapy can be physiologically and even psychologically beneficial during menopause.

What can you do?

Take care of yourself and be kind to yourself especially during transitional times in your life such as menopause. Seek out a professional massage therapist who understands the difficulties associated with menopause. Find the type of massage that addresses the issues you are experiencing. And, schedule regular massages to help you to nourish, heal, and regain a sense of balance and body-mind connection.

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MS

Massage and MS

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a complex condition that currently affects approximately 400,000 people in the United States-with 200 more people diagnosed every week. This chronic disease causes uncomfortable, sometimes debilitating symptoms that can make it difficult to perform everyday tasks.

The exact causes of MS are not entirely understood, and there is currently no cure, though there have been many advances in treatment in recent years. Western medicine considers MS an autoimmune condition-a condition that occurs when the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues. In the case of MS, the immune system starts attacking and breaking down a substance called myelin, the sheath that surrounds the nerve fibers of the central nervous system. Myelin increases the speed of the transmission of nerve signals.

When myelin becomes “broken” or destroyed, none impulses are slowed down, leading to a progression of nerve-related problems. When these nerve fibers become damaged, symptoms result, including
:

  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of balance
  • Poor coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Fatigue
  • Memory problems
  • Numbness or weakness of the limbs

MS usually has acute and subacute periods.  Acute periods (aka flare ups) are times when the symptoms are at their worst; it is when the myelin is under attack. The signs and symptoms of MS depend on where and how much nerve tissue has been damaged.

When is massage appropriate?

Yes, during the subacute stages, massage is appropriate and even beneficial for individuals suffering from MS. Massage can help with common issues like stress reduction and depression. When working with a client who has MS, take the following precaution:

  • Avoid over-stimulating client as this could result in uncontrollable muscle spasms
  • Avoid heat; it may make symptoms worse especially symptoms of fatigue.

What type of massage is beneficial?

Because each individual experiences symptoms differently, it is difficult to pinpoint the best type of massage or to determine an optimal length for massage for an individual with MS. Swedish massage and reflexology have shown benefits for individuals with MS. Increased stress can exacerbate symptoms of MS. If sensation is present, massage can help to reduce feelings of stress. Massage can also help to maintain health and mobility of the tissues. If no sensation is present in certain areas, very light work or energy work may be more appropriate.

What can you do?

MS can have an impact on every part of your life. To help support both your physical and emotional well being, your practitioner may suggest some of these lifestyle changes and self-care techniques.

  • Staying cool – Heat can make symptoms of MS worse. Tepid baths, cool drinks and air conditioning may help make you more comfortable.
  • Exercise – Yoga and Qi Gong can help improve strength, balance and depression. Consider adding gentle aerobic exercise as well to improve your overall health and reduce stress.
  • Stress relief – Stress can exacerbate symptoms and cause other health problems, so it’s important to keep your stress levels in check. If your anxiety becomes overwhelming, consider talking to a professional.
  • Meditation or deep-breathing techniques can help you stay calm and relaxed.
  • Massage is another great way to help relieve stress and loosen tense muscles.

MS is a serious condition, but many people with MS live long, happy, fulfilled lives.

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Neck Pain

Massage and Neck Pain

Have you ever experienced a stiff neck or neck pain? At some point in our lives, each of us will most likely experience some type of neck pain. However, certain people may be predisposed to acute or chronic neck pain due to their occupation. Employees who perform repetitive tasks, sit for prolonged periods of time and use their upper extremities are at a greater risk of developing neck pain.

The neck is one of the most flexible—and delicate—parts of the body. Throughout the day, many of us put stress on our neck without even realizing it. Unfortunately, this can result in a literal “pain in the neck,” causing stiffness, pain and limited movement in the neck, shoulders and arms.

What causes neck pain?

Neck pain can be caused by a wide range of factors, including wear-and-tear, strains or sprains, or inflammation. A few of the most common culprits include:

  • Bad posture. Bending or hunching forward for prolonged periods can cause strains (overstretched muscles), sprains
(injuries to ligaments) or other problems. This can happen at work when sitting in front of the computer, during long drives, when reading in bed or even talking on the phone. Sleeping in an awkward position is another common cause.
  • Injuries, trauma and motor vehicle accidents. This is a major cause of acute neck pain. Common injuries include falls, sports-related injuries, direct trauma and auto accidents.
  • Medical conditions. Conditions such as arthritis can cause chronic pain and stiffness. Herniated disks in the neck can also cause pain, as can jaw injuries.
  • Stress. Being stressed or anxious can cause tension in the muscles of your neck, shoulders and back.

Did you know the human head weighs approximately 10 lbs?

Neck pain is often experienced in individuals who portray a postural distortion known as “head-forward posture”.

Head-forward posture can be seen from a side view when an individual’s ears do not align with the shoulders.

It has been noted that for every inch forward the head moves, gravity adds approximately 10 lbs of pressure. This pressure can contribute to neck pain.

When we wear our shoulders high, range of motion becomes increasingly limited. The muscles at the base of the skull cinch down; this causes the muscles in the front of the neck to become even tighter. These tensions may cause neck pain as well as tension headaches.

Massage therapy can help to increase range of motion and reduce pain in the neck. According to a recent study conducted in Poland, the effectiveness of massage therapy for neck pain is comparable to rehabilitative physical therapy and kinesiotherapy. All three therapeutic techniques were equally effective in reducing pain and increasing range of motion in the neck.

Researchers are continuing to study the effectiveness and specific types of massage that specifically help with neck pain. Here are a few massage techniques that can be used to help decrease neck pain:

  • Petrissage –kneading strokes to relax the tight muscles in the neck.
  • Neuromuscular techniques – including trigger point therapy to deactivate the tight spots or adhesions that have formed in the muscle fibers and soft tissue.
  • Myofascial work –including cervical traction and myofascial release to break up restrictions in the surrounding connective tissue.

What can you do?

Massage therapy is generally a safe and natural way to address neck pain. However, always consult your healthcare provider, especially in cases where inflammation or injury are present. Massage is never a replacement for medical treatment.

If you suffer from neck pain, here are some tips for self-care:

  • Practice coupling your breath with movement in the neck. Try it right now! Nod your head as if you are saying “yes”, inhale and look up, exhale and look down. Now, try “No” Inhale and turn the head to the left, and exhale turn the head to the right. Repeat this activity anytime you feel stress or pain in the neck.
  • Stretch, if tolerated.  Stretching can help to increase your flexibility and range of motion.
  • Schedule a regular massage to continue to improve mobility and help to reduce pain.
  • Improve your quality of movement and quality of life with regular massage sessions. Just imagine how wonderful life could be without neck pain.

 

References

Ortop Traumatol Rehabil. 2012 Mar-Apr;14(2):115-24. doi: 10.5604/15093492.992301.

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Pain

Massage and Pain

Everyone experiences significant pain at some time in their lives—whether from an injury, illness, or an unknown cause. Pain is a warning signal, an alarm that goes off when your body is trying to tell you that something is wrong and out of balance.

No one should have to live with pain, but which treatment is right for you?

Often times, people suffering from pain take medication to dull the pain. Taking medication is understandable when pain is constant and unbearable. It may be helpful to dull the symptoms for a short period of time, but it will not get at the root of the problem and correct it. It is like hitting the snooze button on an alarm. Unless the cause of the pain is treated, your body will keep sounding the alarm and reminding you that something is wrong.  Because medication masks the pain symptoms, eventually the pain may get worse or become chronic. It is also possible for the medications to cause unwanted side effects and further compromise your health.

Surgery may also be another option. At times, this approach may make sense, but it could be both expensive and risky, and there is no guarantee that it will be effective.

People experience pain differently. Some people have a high tolerance for pain while others are very sensitive to pain. There are two types of pain signals that the brain receives including; fast pain and slow or continuous pain.

Massage therapy typically addresses pain originating from muscle tension and stiffness in the joints due to soft tissue restrictions. Massage therapy is a drug-free natural approach to dealing with this type of pain.

Did you know that massage overrides the pain signal!

According to the “Gate Control Theory,” there are nerve gates in the spinal cord that open and close to allow signals to travel to the brain. There are two types of pain signal nerve fibers 1) First pain or Fast pain fibers send signals that travel at approximately 40 mph, and 2) Slow pain or continuous pain signals that travel at approximately 3 mph.

The reason massage can override pain signals is because touch and pressure activate other sensory fibers that send signals to the brain even faster than the “Fast pain” nerve fibers. When the “gate” opens to allow touch and pressure sensation through, the pain signal is overridden.

In addition to sensory input, massage creates a relaxation response in the brain releasing endorphins—the body’s natural painkillers.

What are the benefits of massage?

The benefits of treating pain using massage therapy have been cited in several studies over the last couple of decades. Some of the many benefits include:

  • Long-lasting relief for patients suffering from chronic low back pain
  • Relief from the perception of pain pain intensity and anxiety in hospitalized cancer patients
  • Demonstrated better results when compared to a cold pack treatment for treating post-traumatic headaches.
  • Reduction in chronic tension headaches.
  • Reduction in pain and muscle spasms in patients
  • When surveyed, the need for medication went down on the days that these patients received massage therapy.
  • Enhances body awareness regarding the pain they were experiencing.
  • Increased sense of connection with treatment due to the power of the human touch.

What types of massage are beneficial for managing pain?

Because the source of pain can vary widely, there are many types of massage that will help individuals manage pain symptoms. They include:

  • Swedish relaxation massage helps to relieve pain related to stress and tension.
  • Neuromuscular therapy addresses specific muscle pain.
  • Reflexology targets the specific body system involved in the pain.
  • Lymphatic drainage treats pain associated with swelling and edema.

If you or someone you love is suffering from pain, find a massage therapist who can tailor a therapeutic massage to meet your specific needs. You don’t have to live in constant pain. Let massage touch your life and help you to ease the pain.

References

http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/chronic-pain/modern-ideas-gate-control-theory-chronic-pain

http://www.amtamassage.org/infocenter/healthcare_articles-and-associations/Massage-Therapy-Has-a-Role-in-Pain-Management.html

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PMS

What is PMS?

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a group of physical and emotional symptoms linked to a woman’s menstrual cycle. PMS symptoms
 usually occur during the ten days
 prior to menses, and disappear either
 shortly before or after the start of
 menstrual flow. Symptoms vary from
 woman to woman, but each woman’s individual pattern of symptoms is
 typically predictable.

The exact causes of PMS are not clear, but several factors may be involved. Changes in hormones during
 the menstrual cycle seem to be an important contributor. These changing
 hormone levels may affect some women more than others. Chemical
 changes in the brain may also be involved. Other factors such as stress, a nutritionally inadequate diet, lack of exercise and sleep, and a hectic 
or demanding lifestyle may exacerbate the symptoms. For some women, especially those who exhibit as many as four to ten PMS symptoms, many aspects of their lives may be
 diminished during one to two weeks prior to menstruation. This can include relationships with family and friends, work productivity, mood and emotional stability and the ability to appreciate their own bodies and feminine identity.

Common PMS symptoms & signs:

  • Acne
  • Allergies
  • Anxiety
  • Appetite Changes
  • Backache
  • Bloating
  • Breast Tenderness & Swelling
  • Constipation and/or Diarrhea
  • Cramps
  • Depression
  • Edema
  • Headache/Migraine
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Hives
  • Impaired Memory
  • Irritability & Anger
  • Joint Pain & Swelling
  • Lack of Clear Thinking & Concentration
  • Lack of Libido
  • Lower Abdominal Distension
  • Mood Swings
  • Nausea
  • Night sweats
  • Rhinitis
  • Salt & Carbohydrate Cravings
  • Skin Disorders
  • Sore Throat & Cold Sores
  • Sugar Cravings
  • Vaginitis
  • Water Retention
  • Weight Gain

Women may be at increased risk for PMS if they are:

  • Over 30 years
 old
  • Experiencing significant amounts of stress
  • Partaking in poor nutritional habits
  • Suffering from side effects from birth
 control pills
  • Having difficulty maintaining a stable weight
  • Not exercising enough
  • Pregnant and have
 toxemia

Symptoms can be even more severe if they have had more than one child or have a family history of depression.

Did you know a monthly massage can help?

Whether a woman suffers from PMS symptoms on an occasional or monthly basis, massage therapy can offer a safe and natural approach to alleviating many of these symptoms.

Research studies published by the Touch Research Institute show that massage therapy may be an effective long-term aid for pain reduction and water retention, and a short-term aid for decreasing anxiety and improving mood for women suffering from symptoms of PMS.

Here are some types of massage and the specific PMS symptoms they address:

  • Swedish massage activates the body’s natural relaxation response.
  • Abdominal massage to reduce bloating, water-retention, and pain associated with cramps.
  • Reflexology has a calming effect reducing feelings of stress and anxiety
  • Craniosacral therapy provides some relief for mood swings, irritability and anger
  • Shiatsu stimulates acupressure points for reducing pain such as cramping and back pain

What can you do?

It is always important to practice self-care especially during times when the body is showing signs of an imbalance.

Find a massage therapist who has experience with specific techniques that will help to alleviate PMS symptoms.

In addition to scheduling a regular massage, there are other things you can do to help yourself during this time of the month. Be kind to yourself and nourish your body with a healthy diet to maintain balanced hormone production. It is helpful to take time to exercise to increase the blood flow and circulation, and to help to remove toxins built up in the body.

If you or someone you know experiences a disruption in the quality of life on a monthly basis, try massage today.

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Prenatal

What is prenatal massage?

Pregnancy is a time of extraordinary physical and emotional change. It’s also a time when it’s more important than ever to support and care for your wellbeing. The therapeutic effects of massage can help you meet the unique challenges of pregnancy, ensuring optimal health for you and your baby in a safe and natural way, without the use of harmful medications.

Prenatal massage helps to ease tense muscles and tight spots and improve circulation and mobility. A prenatal massage performed by a certified prenatal massage therapist addresses the specific needs of the pregnant woman in a safe and effective way.

Did you know…it’s good for both Mom and Baby?

During a massage, the relaxation hormones cross the placenta and have a calming effect on both mom and baby. It’s true, a regular massage can enhance your health, potentially preventing complications and positively influencing the development of the baby.

Many mothers-to-be find themselves facing anxiety, fatigue, back pain, heartburn, nausea and other symptoms as a result of the many new demands being placed on their bodies. Massage has been found to effectively relieve many of these symptoms.

During pregnancy, massage therapy can help to relieve discomfort due to a variety of common complaints including:

  • Back pain and sciatica
  • Constipation
  • Edema
  • Excessive lactation
  • Fatigue
  • Heartburn
  • Insufficient lactation
  • Labor and delivery pain
  • Mastitis
  • Morning sickness
  • Physical problems
  • Postoperative healing
  • Psychological problems

Recent studies from the Touch Research Institute indicate that pregnancy massage helps to reduce symptoms of anxiety, stress, sleep problems and back pain. Evidence suggests massage helps to reduce complications during delivery and may also result in shorter labor times for mothers. Regular massage during and after pregnancy may also help to prevent symptoms associated with postpartum depression.

What can massage therapists do?

Each trimester of pregnancy brings exciting and new challenges for the mother-to-be. A certified prenatal massage therapist can safely tailor a massage to address the physiological changes during and after pregnancy.

First Trimester (Weeks 1 – 13)

During the first trimester, a generally healthy woman with a low risk pregnancy can safely receive massage. A massage therapist certified in pregnancy massage can deliver a soothing massage to safely and effectively provide much needed relaxation.

The first trimester is an important time to take precautions to minimize any complications. It is essential to obtain the mother’s health history to avoid any possible complications due to a high-risk pregnancy.

Second Trimester (Weeks 14 – 26)

As the mother-to-be heads into the second trimester, a relaxation massage or deep tissue massage can help to alleviate discomfort associated with the continuing changes in her body. A certified massage therapist will be able to explain correct use of abdominal muscles to maintain core strength and stability in the lower back. Due to hormonal changes beginning early in the pregnancy the ligaments become soft and more pliable, this is called joint laxity.  It is important to avoid overstretching during this time because the hormones make it difficult for a pregnant woman to accurately feel the “end feel” of a muscle when it is stretched. Toward the end of the second trimester, it is also important to use the side-lying position or a semi-reclined position to avoid pressure on the inferior vena cava.

Third Trimester (Weeks 27 – 40)

A soothing touch can trigger the release of relaxation hormones for both mom and baby. During the third trimester, the additional weight of the baby and the hormonal changes that take place when a woman’s body is preparing for childbirth can bring on an array of physical and emotional challenges. A massage therapist can provide a supportive, nurturing and calming way to reduce the discomfort. At this stage, the massage therapist should use pillows and make necessary positioning adjustments to address the individual needs of the mother-to-be.

What can you do?

Be kind to yourself. Compliment your prenatal care with a regular prenatal massage. Practice self-care techniques and find a certified prenatal massage therapist who can provide an individualized massage to fit your needs in a supportive and nurturing manner.

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Stress

Massage and Stress

Stress is a natural response of the body to the various demands we place upon it. In ancient times, our stress response, also known as our flight or flight response, provided us with energy to preserve life during difficult situations such as an attack or threat by a wild animal. Unfortunately, modern day stress is considerably higher, more frequent and more consistent than what our predecessors experienced. Today, we do not have to look much further than out our windows, or on our computer screens, to view various forms of stressors—everything from prime-time news and road rage, to the forty-hour work week, and cell phones.

However stress is not necessarily always negative. There is a distinction between healthy and unhealthy stress. Healthy stressors are usually short lived and keep us alert and motivated, and support our body’s strength and vitality. Our response to stress can either help or hinder our body’s ability to cope with these various stressors in our lives. Healthy responses to stress include appropriate physical exercise, good eating habits, positive thinking, adequate rest, and reaching out to friends and family for support. Unhealthy responses to stress include negative thinking, overexertion, poor eating habits, lack of sleep, and isolation. These unhealthy responses can cause the body to work harder than it needs to and can trigger physical and mental health issues. Over time, ongoing stress and unhealthy responses to stress can actually be detrimental to our health.

Medical studies have shown that with increased and consistent stress, our white blood cells, which defend our body against viruses, decrease. This results in lower immune resistance, ultimately leading to physical disease and emotional instability.

Even if the stressors are no longer present, the body continues to keep the stress response active. This results in the depletion of our nervous system, lymphatic organs (spleen, thymus, and lymph nodes), kidneys and adrenal glands, which can pave the way for a wide variety of signs and symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of an overactive response to stress:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Depression
  • Depressed Immune System
  • Digestive Disorders
  • Headaches
  • Heart Disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Joint Pain
  • Weight Problems

Did you know massage can help to manage stress?

Studies conducted on animals show that a sluggish stress response is directly correlated to lack of touch. Healthy, nurturing touch such as massage can bolster the body’s ability to respond appropriately to stressors. Therefore, a regular dose of massage may be vital for balancing our natural ability to respond to stress in a healthy way.

Human touch is an essential part of human nature. In today’s fast-paced lifestyle, we tend to become so busy that we neglect our natural instincts and deny ourselves of basic human need.

What can you do?

In addition to massage, there are many things that a person can do to combat negative effects of stress:

  • Get adequate sleep. Try for at least eight hours of restful and restorative sleep.
  • Practice meditative exercise. Qi Gong, Tai Chi, and Yoga can help create a healthy body-mind awareness and help free your mind of stressful thoughts.
  • Eat a well balanced diet. Maintain a healthy diet with adequate amounts of complex carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits, protein and healthy fats.
  • Have fun! Make time for relaxing activities, enjoyable hobbies and lots of laughter in your life.
  • Breathe. Relaxed, deep breathing is one of the most simple and easy techniques that can be used for reducing stress.
  • Give yourself a regular foot massage at least three times per week to boost your energy and lower your perception of stress.

If you or a loved one are feeling overwhelmed by the negative effects of stress in your life, try some of these self-care techniques and be sure to schedule a regular massage.


References

J Korean Acad Nurs. Effects of aroma self-foot reflexology massage on stress and immune responses and fatigue in middle-aged women in rural areas2012 Oct;42(5):709-18. doi: 10.4040/jkan.2012.42.5.709.

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Weight Loss

Massage and Weight Loss

If you struggle with your weight, you’re not alone. According to the World Health Organization(WHO), it is estimated that there are more than 1 billion overweight adults, and there are at least 300 million clinically obese individuals.

Overweight people spend billions of dollars annually on weight loss products, but obesity is still on the rise. People are turning to extreme fasting, fad diets or even drastic measures such as surgery; in an attempt to manage their weight.

Unfortunately, excess weight is not just a cosmetic issue. Being overweight is a risk factor for many conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.

The good news is that maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risks and it’s never too late to get started.

Did you know massage improves a body’s metabolism?

A full-body massage activates the parasympathetic response in the body producing a state of relaxation.  When the body is in this state, it is capable of digestion.  During stressful periods, or sympathetic responses, the body redirects blood from digestive organs to muscles, the heart and lungs for the survival mode of “fight or flight”.   Massage therapy also increases the blood circulation in the body and thus increases the metabolic rate.

What types of massage are beneficial?

As you receive a massage, your body’s metabolism and the circulation of fresh oxygenated blood increase throughout the body. The following types of massage may help clients with weight loss:

  • Abdominal massage encourages healthy digestion and removal of stagnant waste
  • Lymphatic massage assists with removal of toxins and increases metabolism.
  • Aromatherapy reduces the appetite, engages the senses and increases energy levels.

What can you do?

Exercise is an important component of any weight loss program. Adding aerobic exercise, weight training, and other types of exercise to your daily routine will have a positive effect on your weight and general health.

Diet is another important issue to consider.  In general, a healthy diet is made up of unprocessed, organic foods, including a wide variety of whole grains and vegetables.

By learning to lower stress and anxiety through techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation and/or gentle exercise, you may lose weight more easily and possibly stop the destructive symptoms caused overeating.

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