A Beginner’s Guide to Craniosacral Therapy – Core Connection

By Sophia Schweitzer

Jenny started medical school at the University of California-Davis this year. She leads a normal life. She’s agile and intelligent. You never would have thought that in fourth grade, when she was 11, her future wasn’t as promising. Severely dyslexic, Jenny was reading at a first grade level. She struggled. Then her mother saw an advertisement for a class in craniosacral therapy. She took her daughter in for treatment.

“What have you done with Jenny?” exclaimed a teacher a week later. “This isn’t the same child.” Jenny’s learning problems had disappeared days after her first and only craniosacral therapy session which lasted all of 30 minutes. Hugh Milne, an osteopath from Britain and director of the Milne Institute in Big Sur, CA and author of The Heart of Listening: A Visionary Approach to Craniosacral Work (North Atlantic), has treated many children like Jenny: “Children often respond immediately,” he says, noting that the change is often permanent. For Jenny, it gave her opportunities she wouldn’t otherwise have had.

While not everyone believes that craniosacral therapy works, proponents say it has alleviated many diverse symptoms: from chronic pain, ear infections, jaw pain, migraines, and joint stiffness to pregnancy problems, depression, autism, anxiety, dyslexia, spinal cord injuries, coordination impairments and anger.

You might think of it as a gentle massage technique, or a cross between chiropractic or osteopathic maneuvers and hands-on healing. Quiet and relaxing, inducing restful sleep, it’s been labeled mysterious. In reality, craniosacral therapy addresses a rhythmic system at the core of our physiology – the pulse of energy that flows between our head and pelvic area. It’s as essential, measurable, and tangible as our breath and heart rate. The craniosacral system follows a rhythm, and the skull bones accommodate its pulse. Just as a cardiologist seeks to improve the cardiovascular system, a craniosacral practitioner evaluates and optimizes the pulse of the craniosacral rhythm. This is a gentle, often deeply intuitive technique. “It’s a form of bodywork consisting of exceedingly light finger and hand pressure upon the cranial bones and the sacrum, and upon the involuntary movements of these bones,” says Dr. Milne.

The History of Craniosacral Therapy

In the early 1900’s, in osteopathic school, William Sutherland came to the conclusion that skull bones are capable of shifting – an unorthodox medical view still not fully accepted today. A visionary and pioneer, sensing the far-reaching spiritual implications of his findings, he developed a treatment method making him the grandfather of cranial osteopathy.

Then John Upledger, D.O., author of Your Inner Physician and You (North Atlantic), made a major leap when he discovered why skull bones move in 1975 (explained below) and started to talk openly about the cranial rhythm. He began working with students who weren’t medical professionals. Ten years later, he founded the Upledger Institute in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. The word was out: “It works!” In 1994 the American Craniosacral Therapy Association, also located in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. was created. Last year, the Craniosacral Therapy Association of North America, which has a sister organization in Europe, was set up with headquarters in Canada.

Still a new kid on the block when compared to other medical modalities like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, craniosacral therapy with its many schools and forms is now one of the fastest growing practices in alternative medicine. Hundreds of massage therapists are being trained, while many psychotherapists, acupuncturists, physiotherapists, chiropractors, dentists and medical doctors are adding it to their list of tools. Increasingly used as a preventive health measure, this practice seems to be blurring the boundaries between the health professions because it’s easy to learn and safe.

How does Craniosacral Therapy work?

On a surface level, the practitioner works with the bones of the skull and the pelvis. This affects, in turn, the deeper layers of membranes and cerebrospinal fluids in the spinal canal, the brain, and the spinal cord itself. Why is this important?

A pulse through the fluids proceeds through the entire craniosacral system, like a tidal wave, from the sutures in the skull to the spinal cord. Cycling about six to ten times a minute, it causes tiny movements measuring no more than one-or two-sixteenths of an inch. “It’s a hydraulic system,” says Dr. Upledger, noting how all the components work together to regulate the pressure of these fluids on the brain. “There has to be an optimal circulation, which depends on constant mobility,” he explains. When the membranes and lubricating liquids lose their freedom to glide freely, we hurt and symptoms start.

It’s easy to imagine how even the slightest impact, lesion or distortion can stretch or strain this delicate system. Any infraction causing nerve endings to alter their perception and signals can negatively affect our entire well-being. Craniosacral therapy helps the body to re-establish an unobstructed wave, which is how symptoms disappear.

There’s also a unique and undeniable spiritual dimension to this practice: “The craniosacral wave isn’t just a physical phenomenon,” says Dr. Milne. “It’s also a field of information and intelligence. In the tiny movements of the system, and in the still points in between, is consciousness.” Dr. Upledger refers to this intelligence as the inner physician, explaining: “The inner wisdom which knows what is wrong, why it’s wrong, and how to correct it. The body tells the therapist what needs to be done.”

Thus, craniosacral work is based on a shamanistic and meditative approach as well as on physiological facts, making it doubly powerful.

What happens during a session?

“There is no need for a client to tell me verbally what’s wrong,” Dr. Upledger says. He prefers to remain open to the body’s own language, although some therapists may want to talk with you first. For the hands-on work to be most effective, you should wear loose, thin clothing. This way, the practitioner can better sense what’s going on in your body. You’ll be asked to lie on your back on a massage table.

By quietly resting the hands on your skull and sacrum, the therapist evaluates your craniosacral rhythms. This in itself can create a shift in energy. Sometimes, the therapist’s hands become aware of places along the column where energy is stuck or heated. She then uses the bones of the sacrum and cranium as “handles” to manipulate the deeper layers of fluid and membranes. No instruments or devices are used.

In sessions lasting 45 – 60 minutes, clients and therapists work closely together. “Ideally,” says Dr. Milne, “the client clears a mental space so something might occur.” The therapist waits and listens. You might feel a quieting down, a sinking in, and a deeper awareness. The whole idea is that the practitioner works with such gentleness and subtleness that the body itself can do the healing and necessary adjustments. “It’s a question of trust,” Dr. Upledger notes. A session can be described as a physically connected meditation, in which hidden information in the craniosacral system reveals itself.

Healing then can occur via the corrective mechanism known as the still point, the spontaneous quiet between waves. Typically, you have one every three to four minutes, and it lasts from five to sixty seconds. It’s a natural pause in the rhythm. Synchronizing and optimizing the waves, still points are like sighs. During sessions, when you’re more sensitive to them, they’re like moments of deep relaxation in which you let go and return to yourself. It’s the moment of insight, when you “get” it.

Does it always work?

While many conventional doctors and even some alternative practitioners are skeptical of this method, there’s lots of proof that it works. Anecdotes abound and just three to five sessions often give astonishing results.

Still, you have to keep in mind that craniosacral therapy is more of a preventive than a cure for serious illnesses. Dr. Upledger states in his book that “craniosacral work is most often a complement to other forms of treatment – not an alternative.” Its effectiveness depends on the cause of a complaint (i.e. whether a problem deals directly with the nervous system), the accessibility of the underlying cause, and what related contributing factors are present. An open, receptive attitude helps. “When client and practitioner have no connection, there sometimes is no efficacy,” Dr. Milne says.

Scientific studies proving the validity of craniosacral work exist, especially in the osteopathic and dental medical journals. So why doesn’t everyone praise it? Provable as it is, it’s also a relatively new concept. Skeptics want to know about the long term effects as well as see more research before they give it any thumbs up. And, the mystery implied in the tactile almost hypnotic treatments stretches conventional thinking, even today.

Finding a Craniosacral Therapist

Many healers are adding “craniosacral therapist” to their lists of titles. They have diverse backgrounds, ranging from dentistry and osteopathy (when done by these licensed physicians, the therapy is often covered by insurance) to massage, shiatsu, rolfing, and acupuncture. Massage therapists, especially, choose to add craniosacral work to their practice.

Lots of these healers attended an accredited school and have been certified. Because there are five to ten different levels of certification, you should double-check their background and specialty. Elaine Christianson, a craniosacral therapist in Kapaau, HI, advises: “Ask your practitioner which level they have studied and how often they do it.”

Remember: A good craniosacral therapist doesn’t force anything. You’re in it together, working with each other. If your symptoms aren’t getting any better, the practitioner should refer you to another specialist.

To find a craniosacral bodyworker, contact any of the teaching institutions listed on page 70 (in the “Home Base” sidebar) and ask for someone in your area. Or call a massage therapist for a referral. Physicians can also hook you up to a trusted practitioner. An offspring of the Upledger Institute, the International Association of Healthcare Practitioners (IAHP) makes available a list of licensed therapists, sorted by state and town. Ronni O’Brien, spokesperson for the IAHP estimates that there are at least 40,000 certified workers in the US.

The bottom line

So should you go for it? Look at it this way. For the most part, you don’t have anything to lose, and you’ll get a healing method that connects the physical, emotional and spiritual. Intuition, insight and the perception of facts are equally important. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Maybe, the mind can’t understand the details – that the body holds the answers if we dare to be still enough to listen to the tide of the cranial wave, our core. That’s what craniosacral therapy aims for.

Amy M. Gray, a certified massage and bodywork therapist at the Complementary Medicine Center in Indianapolis, has no doubt about its profound effects. “In school, I felt the craniosacral rhythm right off, I’ve been hooked ever since,” she says, noting that many of her clients feel 90% better after their first visit. “I always stress how gentle this technique is. How it deals with the whole body. The body is just an amazing creation!”

Your experience of the work will be uniquely yours. “The spectrum exists,” says Christianson. “At minimum, you have a deeply relaxing experience. Most likely, it’ll go beyond that to release holding patterns.”

While craniosacral work is still searching for its due place on the world map of medicine, it’s gaining in popularity fast as a natural, holistic healing approach virtually without risk or side effect. Will we ever be able to measure the mysterious interdependence of mind, body and spirit or understand the mystical nature of who we are? It seems that craniosacral therapy at least gives us a glimpse of a core connection.

Infant massage: Understand this soothing therapy

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Infant massage is a way for you to gently nurture and spend time with your baby. Find out about the possible benefits of infant massage and know how to get started.

What are the benefits of infant massage?

Research suggests that infant massage can have various health benefits. For example, infant massage might:

  • Encourage interaction between you and your baby
  • Help your baby relax and sleep
  • Positively affect infant hormones that control stress
  • Reduce crying

Although further research is needed, some studies also suggest that infant massage involving moderate pressure might promote growth for premature babies.

When should I massage my baby?

Massaging your baby too soon after a feeding might cause your baby to vomit — so wait at least 45 minutes after a feeding. Also pay close attention to your baby's mood. If your baby has a steady gaze and appears calm and content, he or she might enjoy a massage. If your baby turns his or her head away from you or becomes stiff in your arms, it might not be the best time for a massage.

Once you start massaging your baby, when and how often you massage your baby is up to you. You might give your newborn a daily massage. Your toddler might enjoy a massage at night as a soothing part of his or her bedtime routine.

How do I massage my baby?

Infant massage involves a little preparation and some basic techniques. To get started:

  • Create a calm atmosphere. If possible, do the massage in a warm, quiet place — indoors or outdoors. Remove your jewelry. Sit comfortably on the floor or a bed or stand in front of the changing table and position your baby on a blanket or towel in front of you. Place your baby on his or her back so that you can maintain eye contact. As you undress your baby, tell him or her it's massage time.
  • Control your touch. When you first start massaging your baby, use a gentle touch. Avoid tickling your baby, however, which might irritate him or her. As your baby grows, use a firmer touch.
  • Slowly stroke and knead each part of your baby's body.You might start by placing your baby on his or her stomach and spending one minute each rubbing different areas, including your baby's head, neck, shoulders, upper back, waist, thighs, feet and hands. Next, place your baby on his or her back and spend one minute each extending and flexing your baby's arms and legs, and then both legs at the same time. Finally, with your baby either on his or her back or stomach, repeat the rubbing motions for another five minutes.
  • Stay relaxed. Talk to your baby throughout the massage. You might sing or tell a story. Try repeating your baby's name and the word "relax" as you help him or her release tension.
  • Watch how your baby responds. If your baby jiggles his or her arms and seems happy, he or she is likely enjoying the massage and you can continue. If your baby turns his or her head away from you or appears restless or unhappy, stop the massage and try again later.

Should I use oil?

It's up to you. Some parents prefer to use oil during infant massage to prevent friction between their hands and the baby's skin, while others find it too messy. If you choose to use oil, select one that's odorless and edible — just in case your baby gets some in his or her mouth. If your baby has sensitive skin or allergies, test the oil first by applying a small amount to a patch of your baby's skin and watching for a reaction.

Is infant massage OK for babies who have health issues?

If your baby has any underlying health issues, talk to your baby's doctor before trying infant massage. The doctor can help you determine if massage is appropriate. You might also ask your baby's doctor if he or she can recommend an infant massage specialist or other qualified expert who can teach you techniques to address your baby's specific needs.

It might take a few tries before you and your baby get the hang of infant massage. Be patient. With a little practice, infant massage can be a healthy way for you and your baby to relax and bond.

Your First Couple’s Massage

by bardw

A couple’s massage allows partners, spouses, mom’s and daughters, sons and dads, BFFs or anyone else to experience massage together in the same room as one therapist works with each person.  Couple’s massage is a shared bonding experience that can have many benefits beyond just the bodywork session.

What to expect

For many couple’s massage recipients it’s their first trip to see a massage therapist. You may have been invited by a someone who’s experienced at receiving a massage who wanted to share the experience. Or maybe it’s a special occasion?  Or maybe a “surprise” gift? The good news is that qualified and professional therapists are used to massage “newbies” and will ensure you are comfortable, give you all the information you ned to have a great session, and be open to answering any of your questions. Our first priority is maintaining guest comfort and protecting your modesty while making sure that the specific therapeutic needs of each client are met.

 

Typically, you should arrive 10-15 minutes before your session so that you can fill out some simple, but important paperwork.  This paperwork gives specific information to the therapist so they can tune the session to your needs.  The form will ask about any areas of your body that might be sore, tender or in pain, as well as areas you’d rather the therapist avoid. It will also ask about medical conditions relevant to massage therapy, and a few basic questions about your overall wellness.

During this time you can drink some water or use the restroom. You should also silence your cell phone for the duration of your session. If you’re interested in any extras, such as aromatherapy, for one or both of you, let the front desk know.

The main event

Once it’s time for your session to begin, the therapists will come and guide each of you to the therapy room.  They’ll go over the form and ask questions.  This is a GREAT time for YOU to ask questions too!  If your form indicates you’re a first-timer, the therapist will take extra care to make sure you know what to expect. Each therapist will then ready the room, then leave and allow each of you to undress to your comfort level.  Typically, for a full-body massage, this means underwear, but many long-time therapy recipients will completely undress.  There’s NO wrong way to do this, just be comfortable.  Once you’ve undressed, you’ll lay on the massage table under the sheets.  After a few minutes, your therapists will knock on the door, then return to the session room, adjusting your linens and often placing support under your feet or knees.

During the session you will be covered (draped) at all times, unveiling only the parts the therapist is working on, then recovering and moving on.  A skilled therapist is an expert draper and it’ll all seem completely comfortable while it’s happening.

The therapist will work intuitively to relax your muscles, explore trouble spots, and pay special attention to any areas you marked on your intake form.  Sometimes they will use oils, lotions, or creams to help make the bodywork more effective. Typically, these lubricants are hypoallergenic and scent-free, but sometimes they contain wonderful essential oils, like lavender, to enhance the experience.

About half way through the session, the therapist will coach you on how to turn over (still under the covers) and get ready for the next steps in your body work.

While most people are quiet during a session, but you should ALWAYS feel comfortable communicating with your therapist about things like pressure. Your therapist will probably check in once or twice to make sure you are comfortable.

The afterparty

At the end of the session, the therapist will signal you and both therapists will leave the room allowing you to carefully get off the table and redress.  Once dressed, open the door – that’s the universal sign that you’re ready to see the therapist again.  The therapists will talk to you a bit about the session and make any recommendations for further care, then escort you to reception for payment and rebooking.  You may leave a gratuity in the room (20% is common) or put it on the credit card when you check out.

It’s not unusual for you to feel super-relaxed after the session, so plan a bit of time to come out of your fog after you finish.  You can prolong that feeling by drinking lots of water and taking it easy for an hour or two. It’s totally OK to do something very active after massage, too, though, and you’ll likely find your flexibility and range of motion are better than ever as you run, hike, walk or play sports.

At the desk, you’ll have an opportunity to schedule additional sessions, find out about products that might be for sale, pay for your services.

So if you get a chance to participate in a couple’s massage session, don’t stress.  It is a wonderful, shared experience that you won’t forget.

How Can I Find the Right Massage Therapist?

It is important to find a massage therapist with the skills you need.  Below are some easy steps you can take.

1. Identify your goals and health status

The first thing you should do is set goals for the massage session(s).  Are you interested in:

  • Reducing stress?
  • Reducing muscle contractions or tightness?
  • Living without chronic or acute pain?
  • Improving your work performance?
  • Enhancing your general health and wellbeing? 
  • Improving your ability to participate in sports?

Secondly, think about why you want to see a massage therapist:

  • Did a licensed medical professional such as physical therapist, medical doctor, or chiropractor suggest you try massage?
  • Are you managing any conditions your doctor is not aware of but hope that massage might alleviate?
  • Do you know someone who has many of the same aches and pains as you and who has benefited from receiving massage therapy?

Your answers to these questions will help you determine what skills you are looking for in a massage therapist.

2. Get some names

Many people are most comfortable getting a personal referral from a friend. Sometimes your friend can answer questions about the massage therapist and explain how they benefited from visiting this therapist.  

Another great source for referrals is your primary healthcare provider or a medical specialist. They may have a list of massage therapists that have specialized training and experience in techniques that are effective in treating your condition or complaint.

Other sources are professional associations, such as the American Massage Therapy Association  and the Associated Bodywork Massage Professionals . These sites generally check the qualifications of therapists listed.

You can also check out massage schools, local fitness/health clubs, spas, wellness centers, and chiropractic offices. 

Consumer should be cautious about selecting a massage therapist based solely on websites, listings in the yellow pages, local magazines, or newspapers. Most advertising venues do not screen for therapists who are self taught, running business illegally, or providing escort and sexual services. It will be up to you to do some homework.

3. Consider your personal preferences

You may want to include or eliminate potential therapists or styles based on personal preferences. For example:

  • Would you be most comfortable with a male or female therapist? 
  • Is location important? (If you plan to go once or twice a week, you may want to find a therapist close to work or home.)

4. Make a phone call to find out more about the therapist

If you don't already have this information, call and ask about:

  • Style or techniques used
  • Philosophy of care
  • Years in practice 
  • Specialty areas, experience with particular conditions (diabetesheart diseasepregnancy)
  • Training, advanced certification 
  • If the therapist belongs to professional organizations, and if so, which ones

You should look for a massage therapist who has at least 500 hours of training from a reputable, accredited school. (You can find out if a school is accredited by contacting the school directly.) 

If a therapist is nationally certified by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), he or she has at least 500 hours of training from an accredited school and has passed a written exam. 

Another clue that the therapist is qualified is membership in a professional association that has established a certain level of professional preparation to join. These are the American Massage Therapy Association and the Associated Bodywork Massage Professionals .

If there is any doubt or apprehension on your part, it is always appropriate to clarify the style or techniques that the massage therapist uses and that the service you are booking is a non-sexual massage. 

5. Ask about costs and logistics

Ask about the fee. Specifically, ask:

  • What lengths of sessions are available and what is the fee for each. Typically, therapist will offer you a number of options, generally 30, 45, 60, 75 or 90 minutes. Ask if the rate is for hands-on time or if the intake is included in the time.
  • Are there different fees for different techniques?
  • Might your massage be covered by insurance?
  • Are there any additional fees or taxes?
  • Do they offer any special or discounted package rates?

Also ask about logistics:

  • How far in advance do you generally need to make an appointment?
  • What does the scheduled time mean-when you should arrive or when you should be ready to start the massage?
  • What is the cancellation policy? 
  • Do you need to bring clothes to better experience clinical therapies? For example, should you bring a bathing suit, gym shorts, or work out bra to wear during the massage? Should you bring clothes to change into afterward? 
  • Do they want to see a prescription from physician, exercise plan from physical therapy, or post surgical prescription?
  • What is the therapist's draping policy?
  • Finally, to arrive more relaxed, get clear directions and learn about parking options.

Expert Contributor: Beth Burgan, MA, MFA

Reviewed by: Dale Healey, DC

References

article link: https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/massage-therapy/how-can-i-find-right-massage-therapist

What Are The Benefits To A Deep Tissue Massage?

Massage is known for its ability to help the mind and body relax—and that alone makes getting massage advantageous. Deep tissue massage may bring your clients other benefits as well. To help you understand these, it first helps to understand what a deep tissue massage is.

Deep tissue massage is a technique that focuses primarily on the deeper layers of muscles and the fascia. Sometimes this technique involves the therapist using firmer pressure in order to reach these key areas and get them to release, which is why this particular massage is oftentimes recommended for people who are comfortable with a slightly more intense touch. However, deep tissue massage can also refer to gentle yet sustained pressure targeting the myofascial layer. The belief that deep pressure equals pain is a myth; however, the benefits of deep tissue massage are beyond question.

1. Deep tissue massage offers stress relief

When a client feels stressed out due to demands at work, home or both, deep tissue massage can help ease this stress in a healthy manner. This is important, as unresolved stress can do major damage to mental and physical health; an estimated 60 to 80 percent of doctor’s office visits are stress-related, as noted in a 2003 study in the Journal of the National Medical Association.

2. Deep tissue massage eases pain

Deep tissue massage may be able to lessen pain. For example, research published in an April 2014 issue of Manual Therapy found that deep tissue massage to posterior calf muscles, along with self-stretching exercises, helped reduce participants’ pain associated with plantar fasciitis. Deep tissue massage can be used for other conditions as well, such as fibromyalgia, tennis elbow or low-back pain, potentially providing some much-needed relief.

3. Deep tissue massage makes movement easier

Scar tissue forms when an area of the body is injured and heals. Although the most common scars are those that result from a visible cut, sometimes they occur deeper in the body, such as when you damage muscles, ligaments or tendons. It is this type of scarring that deep tissue massage can help resolve, making it easier to move and promoting greater range of motion.

 

4. Deep tissue massage can lower heart rate and blood pressure

A study published in 2008 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine involved 263 participants who reported muscle spasm or strain. Each individual’s blood pressure and heart rate was assessed prior to a 45 to 60-minute deep tissue massage, as well as after. The result was lower systolic and diastolic pressure, as well as heart rates around 10 beats less per minute.

-Massage Magazine 

Why you should add CBD to your next Massage!!

Cannabis: the plant that keeps on giving. Its uses are incredible and can be traced back thousands of years. There are various species of cannabis, and cannabidiol (CBD), is one that has been gaining a ton of popularity.

People are still often cautious of using CBD oils as they sometimes confuse CBD with THC, but there are actually stark differences between the two. While THC is known to get people high or alter their state of mind, CBD does neither. It is not psychoactive and also has more medical use than THC.

"CBD stands out because it is both nonintoxicating and displays a broad range of medicinal applications, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-anxiety, and analgesic (pain relief) properties," Dr. Blake Pearson, founder of Greenly Medical Consulting and practicing medical doctor in Ontario, Canada, specializing in cannabinoid medicine, told POPSUGAR. However, certain levels of THC (don't worry — they're not strong enough to show up in a drug test since they're used topically) can be present when using CBD products as it can make the beneficial properties of it even more potent.

Benefits of CBD Oils

People with arthritis, broken bones, sports injuries, overworked muscles from working out, neurological disorders, and those who want to relax or relieve anxiety can benefit from CBD oil treatments. According to Dr. Pearson, there's also a growing body of evidence supporting claims that CBD has been shown to improve symptoms related to "inflammation, including inflammatory bowel disease (for example Crohn's and colitis), rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and sports and occupational injuries causing chronic pain, like tendinitis," mood disorders, and more. He's seen patients in his clinic find great improvements in their pain after starting cannabinoid therapy.

Because of its many benefits, CBD has been taking the healthcare and beauty industries by storm in recent years. In fact, CBD is being used in special treatments at several spas across the country — and for good reason. While CBD in spa treatments is not as closely monitored as treatments by a licensed physician over a period of time, it can be marginally beneficial during such things as massages. The incorporation of CBD into spa treatments has been shown to reduce inflammation, relieve and ease pain, and destress, according to Anna Pamula, owner of Renu Day Spa, who was the first to introduce CBD treatments in Illinois over four years ago. Her salon in Illinois offers an ever-changing menu based on careful research of cannabis-infused massage therapy and other treatments with cannabis oils and products. She is very careful about sourcing the best, organic products without chemicals for her clients as they are the most beneficial.

The use of CBD oils in spas can be "great for musculoskeletal and joint pain relief," Dr. Mark Rosenbloom, MD, MBA, told POPSUGAR, "because it would really get into the tissues." He usually recommends CBD for localized pain and has seen very positive results from it. Dr. Rosenbloom has also seen a decrease in nausea, inflammation, and oxidative stress in patients when using CBD.

How CBDs Are Used

"What we are doing when using CBD is using the body's own system and just augmenting it a bit," Dr. Rosenbloom said. Our bodies naturally produce endogenous cannabinoids, which are the same structure of plant cannabinoids. We have two receptors for cannabinoids, but CBD doesn't act on them directly. Rather, it seems to encourage the body to use more of its own cannabinoids.

The plant cannabinoids last longer in the body because our bodies aren't used to breaking them down. "Over 1,000 genes in our body are affected by CBD. They are essential to human life. The body would not function well without endogenous cannabinoids," Dr. Rosenbloom added.

In spas, CBD is used as tinctures, massage oils, and is infused in lotions and creams. The products will not get you high but are applied to the skin during a massage and can reduce pain, inflammation, and much more.

Side Effects and Possible Dangers of CBDs in Spas

A study conducted by the World Health Organization stated that there is no evidence correlating any public-health-related problems with the use of pure CBD. Dr. Pearson added that CBD "is generally well-tolerated and has a good safety profile," and the study stated that "CBD does not induce physical dependence and is not associated with potential abuse." However, because it is an entirely nonbenign substance and there could be a chance of developing contact dermatitis or an allergic reaction since it's applied topically, Dr. Pearson recommends consulting with your physician first. He also recommends those interested in seeking the benefits of CBD to work closely with a medical practitioner to understand their own underlying conditions and develop a bespoke treatment plan with a personalized dosing regimen.

It's also very important to do your research before pursuing any treatments involving CBD at spas. Try to find spas that obtain their CBD from organic sources with minimal ingredients. The products the spas use are of utmost importance, so you want to make sure you're going to a place that really cares about the ingredients it's putting in and on your body because "what can harm you is if the CBDs are mixed with oils that aren't good quality or have a lot of chemicals," Pamula stated.

                                                                                                                                  By: ROSY PAHWA

Assisted Stretching Benefits: What is It and How Can It Help You?

by Derek Noland

Stretching is an all-too-often overlooked component in a balanced exercise regimen. While it may strike some people as a luxury, or even unnecessary, assisted stretching could greatly improve your life.

In fact, if you are one of the millions of Americans who suffers from chronic back painand/or neck pain — not to mention other types of joint and muscle pain — stretching just might be the key to feeling healthy and pain-free again.

What is Assisted Stretching?

Assisted stretching (which is also sometimes called facilitated stretching) implies just what the name suggests — that a trained stretcher manually helps you to perform various stretches designed to lengthen and release your muscles. By allowing another person to help guide the stretching, clients are able to achieve a deeper, more intense stretch and maximize their flexibility in the process.

These professionals are skilled at techniques designed to stretch our bodies from head-to-toe and know how far to push their clients on the intensity scale, which can sometimes be pretty far, and safely take us beyond what we’re able to achieve by ourselves. Assisted stretching can be quiet challenging, often surprising first-time clients, but with dedication and perseverance, the rewards can be life-changing.

How Can Stretching Help You?

Literally everyone stands to benefit from a regular stretching program, and incorporating assisted stretching generally furthers that benefit. From people with chronic, long-lasting pain to professional athletes looking to gain every possible edge, there are programs that work for all types of people looking for a variety of benefits. As many people are now tied to a desk or couch much of the day and typically live a sedentary lifestyle, our muscles tend to become more rigid and less elastic over time, which can lead to pain and a reduced range of motion.

Moreover, very serious problems such as degenerative disc disease and intense neck and back pain are all increasingly common conditions that may be improved by assisted stretching. Best of all, assisted stretching (as well as independent stretching) is a perfectly naturally form of exercise, and preferable to taking a risky over-the-counter painkiller. Regardless of whether you are looking to decrease pain, expand your range of motion or perform better athletically, assisted stretching can help you achieve a healthier body.

Easy Ways to Incorporate Stretching into Your Daily Life

Assisted stretching is a great way to alleviate the symptoms of the aforementioned ailments, but it may not be for everyone. Fortunately, if you’re uncomfortable with the concept, or you simply don’t think you can find the time or funds, there’s still plenty you can accomplish by stretching on your own.

While it may take time, study and practice to be able to match the impact of assisted stretching, the good news is that there are alternative options and it’s easy to get started. Start by considering your goals and some proper stretching tips and work toward incorporating some basic, daily stretches into your routine. As you grow more comfortable with the exercises, expand to include some stretching routines for your entire body.

Whether you prefer the idea of assisted or independent stretching, you can start today, and begin experiencing the benefits right away.

6 Benefits Of Infrared Sauna Therapy

By Amy Myers, M.D.

As you might know, sweating is a great way to burn calories and rid your body of unwanted toxins. But how do you sweat when you’re injured, or unable to exercise?

I like to sweat in an infrared sauna. Infrared saunas help your body release a number of toxins, including heavy metals like mercury and lead, and environmental chemicals. The benefits don’t stop there. With infrared sauna technology, you can also lose weight, relax, relieve unwanted pain, increase your circulation, and purify your skin.

6 Benefits of Infrared Sauna Therapy

1. Detoxification

Sweating is one of the body’s most natural ways to eliminate toxins, making it a crucial part of detoxification. When compared to traditional Swedish saunas, infrared saunas allow you to eliminate about seven times more toxins.

2. Relaxation

Infrared sauna therapy promotes relaxation by helping to balance your body’s level of cortisol, your body’s primary stress hormone. The heat generated by the sauna will also help to relax muscles and relieve tension throughout the body, allowing you to relax and de-stress.

3. Pain Relief

If you suffer from muscle aches or joint pain, infrared saunas can relieve this form of inflammation by increasing circulation and relaxing your muscles.

4. Weight Loss

The heat generated by an infrared sauna will cause your core temperature to increase, which can also lead to an increased heart rate — the same increase in heart rate that you experience when exercising. When your body has to work harder to lower your core temperature or keep up with an increased heart rate, your body will burn more calories, resulting in weight loss. An article, titled Effect of Sweating, in the Journal of the American Medical Associationconcluded that a 30-minute infrared sauna session could burn roughly 600 calories.

5. Improved Circulation

As the heat from infrared saunas increases your core body temperature, your circulation will increase along with it. Consistent infrared sauna sessions, especially in the middle-infrared level, can stimulate blood flow, improve muscle recovery, and decrease pain and inflammation after intense exercise.

6. Skin Purification

Infrared sauna technology can help purify your skin by eliminating toxins from your pores and increasing circulation, resulting in clearer, softer, and healthier-looking skin.

Infrared Levels

Infrared sauna treatments may be available at different levels: near, middle, and far.

These different levels represent the different sizes in infrared wavelengths and refer to the intensity of the treatment. Most people find that:

  • near-infrared levels are best for wound healing and increased immune function
  • middle-infrared levels are ideal for increasing circulation and promoting muscle relaxation
  • far-infrared levels are used primarily for detoxification purposes

My Recommendations

If you’re new to infrared saunas, I would recommend starting out with 4-minute sessions at 160-180 degrees Fahrenheit and slowly working your way up to 15- to 30-minute sessions.

If an infrared sauna is not available, but you have access to a regular sauna, you can still achieve some degree of detoxification with 10- to 20-minute sessions at 180-190 degrees Fahrenheit.

First Time At The Spa Basics

by Anitra Brown

If the idea of going to a spa makes you nervous, you're not alone. Many people have their first spa experience when they get a gift card to a day spa. Some people don't even use it because they're anxious about what will happen and the finer points of spa etiquette.

But you can relax—literally! The biggest area of concern is usually taking your clothes off for a massage. This shouldn't be a worry, because in America there are very strict protocols for draping during massage.

Only the part of your body that is being worked on is exposed. The rest of it is covered with a sheet and blanket or sometimes a large towel. You can keep your clothes on for certain types of treatments such as reflexology. And the truly shy can always get a facial or a spa manicure and pedicure.

And you don't have to worry too much about knowing what to do, because someone will be there at every step to tell you where to go, what to do and what happens next.  

Choosing A Spa

Most of us make our decisions based on convenience—what's close by, and within my budget? But there are other things you should take into account. Look for friendly, nurturing staff, from the person at the front desk to the massage therapists, estheticians, nail technicians, and make-up artists. Of course, all therapists should be licensed. (If the treatments are really cheap, this might be one reason.)

A well-trained staff starts with the person at the front desk, so if they're not polite over the phone—forget it.

When you arrive, you want a quiet, relaxing, well-designed environment with soothing music, low lighting, and pleasant aromas that is also clean and sanitary.

It's great if you can find special equipment such as hydrotherapy tubs, whirlpool tubs, steam rooms, sauna, steam cabinets, Vichy shower, etc., which will help you spend more time relaxing.

 

A good spa menu should explain the treatments, and staff that can answer any questions in detail.  It's always a good sign if the spa asks you to complete a medical disclosure questionnaire.

When It's Your First Time at the Spa

If you want to find out what a spa is like, you can always ask for a tour before you book an appointment. The spa may or not be able to accommodate you, but it's fair to ask. Here are a few things to look for.  

When you book your appointment, tell the spa concierge it's your first spa visit. He or she should take as much time as you need to answer any questions you have: what different spa treatments are like, what they would suggest for you, when you should arrive, and so forth. The most popular spa treatments aremassagefacialsbody treatments and spa manicures and pedicures.

The spa concierge will usually ask if you have a preference for a male or female therapist.  If you say you don't have a preference, you will probably be booked with a male. It's fine to state your preference.  Most people feel more comfortable with a female therapist, especially in the beginning

Select Your Spa Treatments

The basic spa treatments are massagefacial, body treatmentmanicure, and pedicure.

 

A massage will help you relax and get rid of muscle tension. (A Swedish massage is a good place for beginners.) A facial is a deep cleansing of your face, and a body treatment exfoliates and softens the skin on your body. Most spas offer manicures and pedicures as well.

You can also combine services—a massage and a body treatment is a good combination (get the body treatment first) or a massage and a facial (get the massage first). The quality of the therapist determines the quality of the treatment. Get a personal reference if you can. Also, think about whether you prefer a male or female therapist.

Before You Go

Don't eat for at least an hour before or after your massage. Drink plenty of water after your service to enhance the benefits of your treatments.

Arrive early so you have time to enjoy the sauna, steam or whirlpool before your treatment.

If you get in a whirlpool, shower to get rid of the chlorine before a massage. Allow your mind to calm down before your treatment. Although most spas have lockers that lock, you might want to leave valuables at home.

Enjoy Your Spa Experience

Most people know generally remove your clothes for massage and body treatments, but you are draped with sheets or large towels. (Read more about nudity and the spa.) Relax—no one is judging your body. Take slow, deep breaths before your treatment begins. Envision every muscle in your body relaxing, and simply be open to the experience.

Communicate with your therapist. If you have any feedback on the temperature or amount of pressure, let them know. You can talk or not, as you prefer—the therapist will usually follow your lead. When the treatment is over, take the time to slowly reintegrate, rather than rushing off. A tip of 15% to 20% is appropriate.

When you get back home, continue the good feeling by taking care of yourself. Most spas sell the products they use but don't feel pressured to buy, although it's a good idea to get into a proper skin care routine at home.

More Spa Basics

There are several different types of spas. The most common is the day spa. Here are tips on how to choose the right day spa for you and make the most of your trip to the day spa.

Other first-time spa-goers have their first spa experience on vacation, at aresort/hotel spas. Resort/hotel spas come in a wide range of sizes and styles, from small private inns like The Harbour Inn in St. Michaels, Maryland, to the lavish, sprawling resort spas in Hawaii.

People who are interested in weight loss or jump-starting a health lifestyle often choose destination spas that offer an all-encompassing spa experience. Examples are Lake Austin Spa Resort or Canyon Ranch.

Spas provide wonderful, nurturing experiences, but they aren't usually cheap. There are many affordable destination spas.

The Health Benefits of Massage

By: Anita Brown via TripSavvy

We tend to think of massage as a way to pamper ourselves, but it's much more than a momentary feel-good treatment.  Massage therapy and massage spas have many important health benefits. In fact, massage can help you maintain physical, mental and emotional well being, especially when it is part of your regular wellness routine.

The work your massage therapist does in each session builds on itself, helping your body maintain its relaxed state and your muscles to remain pliable even during times of physical and mental stress.

Here are some of the many benefits of massage: 

* Massage calms the nervous system and promotes a sense of relaxation and well being.

* Massage reduces tension and anxiety, and can help relive depression.

* Massage improves blood circulation, which delivers oxygen and nutrients to the cells.

* Massage stimulates the lymphatic system, which carries away the body’s waste products.

* Massage prevents and relieve muscles cramps and spasms.

Massage therapy can help with pain management in conditions such as arthritis, sciatica, muscle spasms.

Remind yourself of these health benefits if you start to feel guilty about getting massage!

Massage is not a good idea if you have a fever, infections, inflammation, osteoporosis and other medical conditions.

If you have any questions about whether a massage would be right for you, ask to speak to a massage therapist before you make your appointment.

How often you should get a massage depends on several factors, including your physical and emotional needs; your stress levels; and your budget.  There's no question that you will experience the most health benefits from massage when you get massage regularly.

Massage therapy calms the nervous system, improves blood circulation and lymphatic circulation, relieves muscle pain, and helps with pain management in conditions such as arthritis, sciatica, muscle spasms.  

If you get a massage once a year, it will be relaxing, but it can't undo a lifetime of muscle tension. Typically, once every week or two is ideal for keeping your muscle tissue pliable and in good shape.   If you are in chronic pain or have a special issue to address, you might need to come weekly (or even twice a week) until you feel better.  

Once you're feeling good, once a month is the recommended minimum for maintaining the health of your tissue. If you start stretching the massages out too far apart, then your muscles can revert to their old patterns, especially if you come under stress.  If you wait too long, you'll have to start all over again to restore their suppleness and pliancy. Listen to your body, but don't wait too long in an effort to save money.

If you wait too long, you'll have to start all over again to restore their suppleness and pliancy. Listen to your body, but don't wait too long in an effort to save money.

Pro Football Players Testify To Craniosacral Helping With Concussions

The word concussion typically comes to mind when you think of traumatic events such as car accidents.

But for professional athletes, especially those who play football, concussion can be part of a normal day’s work—and according to NFL injury statistics released for the 2017 season, this type of head injury is becoming more common, with 281 reported this past year. That’s an increase of more than 13 percent from the previous year.

The effects of concussion often extend far beyond the acute stage of injury, and athletes seek out many forms of treatment to deal with them.

One complementary health intervention that shows promise in the addressing of post-concussion symptoms is CranioSacral Therapy (CST).

“[CST] is perfect for football players,” said Ricky Williams, a former NFL running back who also played a season in the Canadian Football League.

Williams, who trained in CST through the Upledger Institute International (UII) and is currently studying Chinese medicine in Los Angeles, partnered with UII in 2014 and 2015 to offer two intensive therapy programs to football players with post-concussion symptoms.

The programs produced a pilot study on the effects of the therapy on this type of injury,

published in 2017 in the journal Medical Acupuncture“CranioSacral Therapy and Visceral Manipulation: A New Treatment Intervention for Concussion Recovery,” found that 10 sessions of specific CST, visceral manipulation and neural manipulation resulted in statistically greater improvements in pain intensity, range of motion, memory, cognition, and sleep in concussed patients.

What is CranioSacral Therapy?

CST, according to a definition on UII’s website, is a “gentle, hands-on approach that releases tensions deep in the body to relieve pain and dysfunction and improve whole-body health and performance.”

The modality targets the membranes and fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Injuries to any part of the body, CST practitioners say, can manifest in the central nervous system, so releasing restrictions there can facilitate self-healing in other areas of the body.

Williams first discovered CST when he was playing football for the Toronto Argonauts. He noted that many of the team’s trainers knew the technique and offered it routinely to players.

“I noticed in our training room, after practice sometimes, guys would be laying on the table, and their trainers would have their hands underneath the guys’ heads,” Williams told MASSAGE Magazine.

Intrigued, he tried it out one day and then started receiving CST weekly; soon he was taking courses in it through UII.

Later, in 2009, he received CST through one of UII’s intensive programs. In his subsequent season, playing for the Miami Dolphins, he rushed more than 1,000 yards, breaking an NFL record.

“It changed my life,” he said of his CST sessions. “I had a great season, and I attribute a lot of it to the work that I did at [UII].”

What Is Concussion?

Football players can suffer concussions in any number of ways during practice or games. A concussion, also known as a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), typically occurs after a blow to the head or violent movement of the head or body, and might or might not make you lose consciousness, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website.

A concussion may cause symptoms such as headache, memory loss, ringing in the ears, or even nausea, vomiting and slurred speech. These effects usually resolve in a matter of hours or days, but in some cases concussion can have longer-term effects.

Repeated head trauma, such as that experienced in combat or in rough sports like football, can cause permanent and debilitating problems, called post-concussion syndrome, or even develop into what is now known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

CTE symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic, can include cognitive problems, poor impulse control, memory loss, aggression or dementia, among others.

March is the Brain Injury Association of America’s Brain Injury Awareness Month; massage therapists and clients can learn more about concussion and CTE from the association.

Another article published recently on this topic was “CranioSacral Therapy, Brain Injury, and American Football: Time for a Convergence,” by Eric Leskowitz, MD, published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.)

Concussions and CTE

Most people with concussions make full recoveries, but much attention has been paid lately to the prevalence of this injury in football at all levels—professional, college, high school and Pop Warner.

The NFL has faced criticism for not taking action to address the prevalence of concussion and CTE, and many athletes now retired from the game are discovering the long-term health effects of repeated head-and-body trauma.

“All these injuries accumulate,” said Chas Perry, PhD, CSTD, one of the organizers of UII’s concussion programs. “So you have a lot of head injury, you have a lot of injuries in various parts of the body, and over time that takes a toll on people.”

Williams, as a football player himself, has long been aware of how repetitive trauma can affect the body. While he believes it’s important to work on prevention of concussion and cte, he also advocates for investigating new techniques for counteracting these effects, including those outside the realm of conventional medicine.

“I’ve realized that almost every square inch of my body has been traumatized at some point in time over my football career, whether it’s from being hit, being tackled [or] being fallen on,” said Williams.

“Going through healing sessions where I’m receiving work and feeling energy and life force, mobility, blood flow, come back into these areas of my body, it’s really mind-blowing,” he said.

Positive Outcomes

UII’s concussion program, held in 2014 and again in 2015, conducted research involving 11 ex-football players diagnosed with post-concussive syndrome. The research excluded those suffering from recent head trauma, in order to specifically study the long-term effects of concussion. (Another program is planned for late 2018.)

Each time, athletes participated in a week of intensive therapy in West Palm Beach, Florida, performed by a team of health care professionals; therapies given twice daily for two hours per session included CST, visceral manipulation and neural manipulation.

Outcomes were measured before treatment, after treatment and three months post-treatment, and included the effects on cognitive tasks, quality of life, headaches, dizziness, pain, range of motion, balance and sleep, among others.

Statistically significant outcomes, according to the study’s abstract, existed in measures of pain intensity, cognition, memory, sleep and range of motion.

Anecdotally, many of the participants in these studies reported rapid, dramatic results. In addition to improvements in pain and other physical complaints, many also reported positive changes in cognition and emotion.

For example, said Perry, some former football players who have suffered head trauma have trouble modulating strong emotions, such as anger and aggression; others might develop depression, experience irrational fears or have trouble concentrating.

“You have a lot of very unusual phenomena that can be uniquely individual, but they’re all basically kind of brain trauma related,” Perry said.

“During the intensive, the therapists used persistent but gentle hand pressure at various contact points and areas on my body. Sometimes I questioned if anything was actually happening, but at the end of each session I felt noticeably better,” wrote Clarence Vaughn, a former member of the Washington Redskins, in a testimonial about the program. “By the end of the week I was a new man. The pain in my neck, shoulders and hips was gone!”

Eric Williams, a former member of the Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions, also wrote a testimonial to the therapies’ positive effects. “My mood, my emotions and body had such a drastic change, it’s really hard to put into words. My chronic pain was drastically reduced and my range of motion on 99 percent of my body parts increased significantly,” he wrote. “I can’t explain what they did or how they did it. All I know is, I’d do it again in [a] heartbeat.”

The results of the UII study are encouraging,  but more research is needed to advance the acceptance of this therapy, said Ron Radawiec, PT,  who has worked with many traumatic brain injury clients and also worked hands-on with these athletes. Yet, he acknowledged the strength of the anecdotal evidence for these therapies’ effectiveness and said the changes can be profound at the physical, emotional and cognitive levels.

“I highly recommend Upledger CranioSacral Therapy to anyone who has played football,” wrote David Meggyesy, a program participant who played for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1960s, in a testimonial.

“CranioSacral was a revelation — what a gift.”

 

-Allison M. Payne 

How Massage Helped a Veteran With PTSD!!

Luis Mercado is a combat veteran with two tours of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan under his belt.

Now he is also a massage therapist in West Hollywood, California.

Although Mercado’s massage studio is relatively new, having opened in 2017, his dedication to his craft goes back nearly a decade to when he was a marine stationed in Okinawa, Japan.

His personal connection to massage goes back even further, to when he was diagnosed as having Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Luis Mercado:

“In 2004 I was diagnosed with PTSD, [which] causes an effect on the body, whether it’s mentally or physically, on a day-to-day basis, where the person who has it is reminded of a past traumatic event,” he explained. “I was diagnosed with PTSD and massage was given to me as a form of therapy, among many other forms of therapy, to help me cope with the condition.

“Out of the many therapies, it was massage that had the greatest impact,” Mercado recalled.

Although massage therapy was successful in rehabilitating him, it wasn’t a case of being cured overnight. It was a gradual process.

As Mercado remembers it, he got off to a slow start.

“When you’re getting massaged, you’re lying on the table face down, with your peripheral vision closed off. You can’t see, and you feel very vulnerable,” he said. “To even get in that position alone took several sessions.”

He said it took him more than a year of sessions to see significant results—but that once he experienced those results, he became intrigued by massage.

His interest in massage led him to take classes while he was stationed in Okinawa.

“Being exposed to the various modalities that are popular in Japan, like shiatsu, helped to broaden my horizons,” he said. “[And] this is when I started to step into this world. I said to myself, if I can give back to my fellow Marines, I would do so. I [massaged my colleagues] at first to help people, and then thought of the career later.”

Mercado first started practicing massage professionally in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

“When I took off the uniform in 2012, I was offered the opportunity to go work overseas,” he said.

“This is when I started doing massage as a mobile service. I didn’t market the business or brand it. It was on a word-of-mouth basis. I lived in Dubai for five years, practicing massage, and came back in 2017 [to open] Organic Escape.”

As a combat veteran who takes the Marines’ semper fidelis (always loyal) motto to heart, Mercado continues to work with military personnel, both veterans and active duty members, and takes a special pride in helping clients with PTSD.

“One of my clients who has severe PTSD has really transformed,” he said. “She can do things now that she couldn’t do before. She’s prone to being more social, and so on. It’s been a real transformation.”

Massage Therapist to the Stars

As one might expect, operating a massage studio in Hollywood means working with clients from the entertainment industry. When asked if he works with any big names, Mercado chuckled.

“I wish I could tell you who our clients are, but we have disclosure agreements that we have to honor,” he said.

Although he won’t reveal any names, Mercado was happy to share some of his success stories.

“I worked with an actor. He had been in an accident—he had severe whiplash and damage to his spinal cord—and he came in with a drastically reduced range of motion in his neck,” Mercado said. “All of his neck muscles, anteriorly and posteriorly, were shot. He couldn’t move his head at all.

“Given his type of career, this was a huge problem. He was a very busy individual. He needed to travel. He needed to work. He was in high demand.

“After several sessions, he could turn his head all around. His increase of range of motion was a very emotional moment for him. It saved his career,” said Mercado. “It was amazing to see him come through that.”

Advice for Male Massage Therapists

The massage industry is a robust slice of humanity, with practitioners who come from all walks of life. While most massage therapists are female (about 85 percent, according to a MASSAGE Magazinesurvey), male massage therapists such as Mercado can thrive as well.

When asked if he had any advice for male massage therapists, Mercado responded enthusiastically.

“Even if just one person reads this [article] and gets some encouragement from it, I would be happy,” he said.

“There’s a philosophy that I use that I would like all male massage therapists to absorb,” he said. “This philosophy is comprised of three things I call the three Cs.”

Mercado said the first C stands for communication.

“This means being able to understand your client’s needs and wants, whether they express them verbally or nonverbally. Sometimes the best communication you can have with your client is by simply listening.”

Mercado added that communication is the most important of the three Cs.

The second C, he said, stands for consistency.

“We have to consistently go out and seek information to make ourselves better,” said Mercado. “And at the same time, we have to maintain the quality of work that we give to our clients.

“There’s also the consistency of your character,” he added. “Are you consistent in how you present yourself? Are you consistent in the character and morals that you present? You have to be able to look in the mirror and know that you’re providing consistent quality.”

Mercado’s third C stands for creativity.

“This is the flipside of consistency,” he explained. “They sound like opposites, but they work together.

Creativity, he said, allows you to think outside the box and break up the monotony. When it comes to your workspace, for example, he advised, be creative in your environment.

“And of course be creative in your work,” Mercado added. “Maintaining a healthy relationship with our clients is the most important thing we can do as male therapists. Be yourself while being professional at all times.”

Do Infrared Saunas play a role in Kidney Health??

THE IMPORTANCE OF KIDNEY HEALTH

Approximately 26 million Americans have kidney disease, and most don’t even realize they have it!  The reason is because many people aren’t aware they are ill until the symptoms have progressed significantly.  Unfortunately, kidney disease is one of those silent ailments which can wreak havoc on your body unbeknownst to you.

Some symptoms of kidney disease include the following:

  1.   nausea
  2.   vomiting
  3.   decreased appetite
  4.   weakness and fatigue
  5.   changes in urination
  6.   swelling of feet and ankles
  7.   high blood pressure
  8.   muscle twitching
  9.   trouble sleeping
  10.   shortness of breath (if fluid builds around the lining of the heart)
  11.   chest pain

There are certain things which can exasperate the symptoms and increase your chances of kidney disease including smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and/or obesity.  Luckily, there are several things you can do to start taking care of your kidneys now.

The National Kidney Foundation is the leading organization in the U.S. dedicated to the awareness, prevention and treatment of kidney disease for tens of millions of Americans at risk, and March is national kidney month!  It is important to take care of your body, and your kidneys are no exception.  Your kidneys are pretty powerful if you think about it – they work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and never get a break!

Interesting Facts About Your Kidneys:

  1.   They filter approximately 200 liters of blood a day.
  2.   They direct red blood cell production.
  3.   They help regulate blood pressure.
  4.   They are responsible for filtering waste from your blood.
  5.   They balance your body’s fluids.
  6.   They produce an active form of Vitamin D which promotes strong, healthy bones.
  7.   They regulate the body’s salt, potassium and acid content.
  8.   People often don’t realize they have kidney disease until the symptoms and disease has progressed.

Preventing Kidney Disease and Promoting Kidney Health

As the nation’s 9th most deadly killer, kidney disease can be prevented by educating yourself and by taking easy, daily steps that promote kidney health.

The risk for this disease can be reduced by controlling blood pressure and blood sugar, maintaining proper weight, stopping smoking, exercising regularly and avoiding excessive use of medications that can harm the kidneys, such as ibuprofen and naproxen.

One interesting fact is the skin and the kidneys both help detox the body.  Traditional Chinese medicine often refers to the skin as the third kidney.  Modern research is discovering new insights into the value of skin detoxification for those with kidney disease. Dr. Jenna Henderson writes about one German study evaluated the benefit of sweating for Stage 4 chronic kidney disease patients. Patients sweated into towels, and the towels were then chemically analyzed for content of uremic waste (this waste can build up in the blood and can cause kidney damage). Not only were uremic waste products found, but the researchers noted that the more often the patients experienced these sweating sessions, the more uremia came out in each session. The body learns to push this pathway through repeated stimulation.

This is where we mention our favorite topic:  the benefits of sweatingvia infrared saunas!  However, it is also important you talk to your doctor should you have kidney disease before partaking several sweating sessions in one of our Clearlight saunas.

Foods Which Keep Your Kidneys Happy & Healthy

In addition to using infrared saunas for happy and healthy kidneys, and to support them in their never-ending job of filtering waste out of the blood, there are other things you can do to support kidney health.  Naturally, exercise and a good diet are a couple of those things, but there are foods which also support your kidneys.  They are as follows:

  1.   Grapes
  2.   Cranberries
  3.   Blueberries
  4.   Fennel
  5.   Onions
  6.   Celery
  7.   Beets
  8.   Spinach
  9.   Asparagus
  10.   String beans
  11.    Apples
  12.    Eggplants
  13.    Rice
  14.    Pears
  15.    Peas
  16.     Peppers
  17.     Zucchini to name a few.

All in all, kidney disease is a silent killer which doesn’t make itself known until it has developed into advanced stages.  Our recommendation is to make a healthy lifestyle a habit NOW so it doesn’t afflict you later on.

-Clearlight 

Why Older Americans Need Massage

By: Lily Zhao 

The retirement age has risen over the past few years, and Americans are collecting Social Security benefits later than ever before.

Although it may not seem like a concern, a new study shows that collecting Social Security later may be detrimental to the elder population’s health.

In October 2017, the University of Michigan released a study revealing that as the retirement age increases, the health of older people nearing retirement is decreasing.

According to the study, pre-retirement generations today have more health issues impacting their lives compared to prior generations in their 50s.

The study used data from long-term health studies and is the first to focus specifically on a group of Americans based on Social Security retirement age.

The study suggests that older workers will continue to face more challenges than previous generation as they work, apply for Social Security disability payments and retire using other sources of income.

Aging Americans

Social Security retirement age was raised in 1983, at a time when 50- and 60-year-old adults were in their 20s and 30s.

Back then, demographers predicted a longer life expectancy for this age group compared with their parents’ generations.

Selena Belisle, a senior massage educator and instructor at the CE Institute, said that people are living longer but not staying as active. “We are not using our joints properly with this immobility, and that’s when we use them at all,” she said.

“The problem is, many of us work long hours, and the last thing we want to do after a long hard day’s work is exercise.”

In the study, researchers grouped Americans into five groups born between 1937 and 1962 based on when they could collect their Social Security benefit. From this study, researchers discovered that those who waited longer for their benefits had higher rates of poor cognition in their 50s compared to those who did not wait as long.

In addition, the group of adults who were born later and had to wait longer to receive their benefits, tended to rate their health as fair or poor compared to adults born earlier.

The study found that this group had trouble with performing daily tasks by themselves such as taking medications or shopping. However, the researchers there weren’t strong physical differences between the groups, such as lifting 10 pounds or climbing a flight of stairs.

Benefits of Senior Massage

If a client is looking for a healing and soothing way to combat old age, massage may provide more benefits than they might first realize.

“Massage therapy for geriatrics is on the rise,” Belisle said. “As the massage industry continues to grow, massage is becoming a popular choice among Americans for pain relief and overall health.”

Ann Catlin, OTR, LMT, an occupational and massage therapist in eldercare and disability rehabilitation and a training and education consultant for AGE-u-cate Training Institute, said that massage can influence a person’s well-being and ability to live well and longer for older adults with chronic health conditions.

“Massage can have a significant positive impact on physical symptom relief of chronic health conditions older adults live with, such as arthritis, diabetes, COPD and recovery from injury or surgery,” Catlin said.

Massage can also combat the stiff movements in our bodies.

“We need greater physical activity and mobility in our lives,” Belisle said. “Massage therapy can increase circulation and bring a client through stretching and passive joint mobilization that a client might not practice on their own.”

From Young Adult to Senior Massage

For generations, conventional medicine and doctors were thought of as the only care option for health matters, Belisle said.

She noted that as health care costs have increased, people are looking for quicker and cheaper ways to improve their health.

“Massage therapy is often far less invasive, less risky and less expensive, when considering lost work time, to treat pain instead of the ‘old-school’ formulas of surgery,” she said.

It is also important to consider the factors influencing older people’s decision receive massage treatments.

Catlin said she has noticed people with higher levels of income are more likely to get a massage and continue receiving massage therapy. “There is a gap in socioeconomics,” she said.

“Someone that’s benefited from massage while younger will be more likely to continue seeking out massage as they age.”

Tailoring Senior Massage

Because of age and needs, seniors choose massage for different reasons than younger people.

Catlin says many older clients will come for a massage to address a particular need. In some cases, clients may turn to massage with a referral following a surgery or accident.

In addition, massage can keep the skin healthy and soft.

As we age, our skin can become thin, wrinkled, dry and itchy, Belisle said.

To treat irritation and replenish the skin, Belisle uses high quality moisturizing agents such as shea butter and organic creams.

“I use these heavy moisturizing mediums to create a secondary benefit for seniors,” she said. “First, my seniors receive all the benefits of a therapeutic massage, which includes increased circulation, increased range of motion, bodily awareness. Second, my massage can moisturize the skin in areas where my client cannot reach, such as the back.”

In addition, making adjustments for older adults is necessary, Catlin said. “I’ve noticed many of my older clients don’t tolerate an hour and prefer 30-minute sessions,” she said. “Often, I’ve had to modify how to position an older client on the table or even do the massage with them seated instead.”

Belisle agreed. “One of the most important differences I provide between geriatric and younger clients is getting on and off the massage table, she said. “While safety is important for all clients, I make adjustments for seniors.”

Her adjustments include checking the areas where clients will walk or stand through, making sure the room is well lit and providing greater assistance when a client gets on or off the massage table.

She also washes and wipes the client’s feet at the end of a massage and returns the client’s eyewear at the end of the massage before allowing them to sit up or dismount from the table.

The Senior Massage Therapist

Catlin said it’s important to remember that no two people age the same, and people have a wide range of individual differences.

“It’s a mistake to generalize our approach to clients just based on age,” she said. “We need to take into account each client’s health, function, goals and needs,” she said. “There may be a need to accommodate vision changes, limited range of motion, decreased balance and mobility, or even cognition.”

Belisle said seniors appreciate the time she has taken to learn how to understand the many deteriorating changes going on in their body and sees an increase in loyalty in older adults.

“My geriatric clients understand the value of having the same therapist work on them repeatedly,” she said. “We can see when a joint has lost range of motion and work on that loss.”

Massage therapists who see a senior or other type of clientele should possess a liability insurance policy that covers many modalities and protects them in case of client accident or injury.

She adds that this relationship benefits both the client and the therapist.

“To me, if a client is seeing a new therapist for every massage, then that new therapist does not know what’s normal for their new client,” Belisle said.

“It takes time to learn a client’s body and understand it’s physical hiccups, create improvements and avoid losses, and this is more efficiently practiced with a regular massage therapist over time.”

Bad Posture: What is it really doing to your body???

We’ve all been caught slouching, hunching over our computer, or just not sitting/standing up straight. We know it’s not good for us, yet the majority of us don’t take any action to improve it. You may have read some of the benefits of good posture, but what about the negative effects of bad posture? There are probably countless times that your parents have told you to “sit up straight” or “straighten up.” They might still be saying that to you today. But have they ever told you why? If not, I will.

8 Negative Effects of Bad Posture

1. Soreness & Pain

Slouching isn’t a normal position for the body, and it causes our muscles to work harder. Soreness and pain are common effects of bad posture that are often overlooked, but it can lead to long-term health issues. Chronic pain can be a result of bad posture, especially in the lower back area. Poor posture puts a lot of stress on the spine and causes lower back pain.

2. Poor Circulation

Women are taught that crossing your legs is the “proper” way to sit. When actually, it increases the pressure of fluids and gasses moving through our bodies. Crossing your legs can also lead to lower back pain and spider veins if you don’t change this habit.

3. Negative Mood

As good posture fights depression, bad posture invites it. A study published in the journal Health Psychologyreports that individuals who sat with a slouched or slumped posture exhibited more fear, lower self-esteem, and worse moods than those who sat upright. More negative words were used than positive in the linguistic analyses.

4. Increased Stress

Increased physical and mental stress are two more negative effects of bad posture. Physical stress on the body causes soreness and pain, and can also translate into mental stress. In the study mentioned previously, the relationship between posture and stressful situations was observed. The study suggests, “sitting upright may be a behavioral strategy to help build resilience to stress.” Bad posture can also decrease levels of testosterone and increase levels of cortisol.

5. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Since the nerves in your neck and upper back control muscle function in arms, wrists, and hands, bad posture can negatively affect these areas and cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Muscles can become tight and present numbness, tingling, or pain.

6. Less Motivation

Since one of the effects of bad posture is lower confidence, less motivation can also stem from bad posture. People will also see you as less confident or shy if you are slouching, which can affect both social and work situations. Less motivation also goes hand in hand with depression and fear, so it makes sense that it’s affected by posture.

7. Poor Digestion

Poor digestion is one of the negative effects of bad posture that often goes unrealized. When you slouch and hunch over, your organs bunch up together. This makes it harder for the body to digest food and can lead to constipation. It can also impact your metabolism and ultimately damage your bodily processes to consume and process food, leading to life-altering metabolic issues.

8. Fatigue

When you have poor posture, the body works harder to keep you upright, and you’ll be left feeling tired. Upright is the normal position of the body, so your body is constantly trying to get it back to where it’s supposed to be. So, to do this, the body requires more energy, which will lead you to feelings of fatigue.

Benefits of Sports Massage

By: Terence Vanderheiden, DPM 

Sports massage is reported to have many beneficial effects in athletes. Sports massage can be used pre-performance, post-performance, during training or for rehabilitation. Athletes of all levels may benefit from sports massage. If you are looking for a way to improve your athletic performance, then sports massage may be for you. Learn more about the possible performance-enhancing effects of sports massage.

What Is Sports Massage?

Sports massage is a systematic manipulation of the soft tissues of the body that focuses on muscles relevant to a particular sport. Runner Paavo Nurmi, known as the "Flying Finn," was one of the early users of sports massage. Nurmi is said to have used sports massage during the 1924 Olympics in Paris where he won five gold medals. Here, Jack Meagher is thought to be the father of sports massage in the United States.

Many different movements and techniques are used in sports massage. Examples of these techniques include; Swedish style massage, effleurage (stroking), petrissage (kneading), compression, friction, tapotement (rhythmic striking), vibration, gliding, stretching, percussion and trigger points. These movements and techniques are used to try to help the athlete's body achieve maximum performance and physical conditioning with a decreased chance of injury or pain and a quicker recovery.

Benefits

Many benefits from sports massage have been reported based on experience and observation. Some of the benefits are to the mind (psychological) and some are to the body (physiological). Possible side effects of sports massage are tenderness or stiffness for 1 to 2 days after the sports massage.

A skin reaction due to the massage oils is also possible. But for the most part, sports massage is safe. Some of the reported benefits include:

  • Increased blood flow
  • Increased joint range of motion (ROM)
  • Increased flexibility
  • Increased elimination of exercise waste products (lactic acid)
  • Increased sense of well-being
  • Decreased muscle tension
  • Decreased neurological excitability (nerves more relaxed)
  • Decreased chance of injury
  • Decreased recovery time between workouts
  • Decreased muscle spasms

What the Research Says

Now that you know the reported benefits of sports massage, let's find out if the research studies support those benefits. Research studies regarding perceived fatigue and recovery showed that subjects felt they were less fatigued and felt like they recovered faster after sports massage. Decreased anxiety, improved mood, and well-being were also noted. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) decreased by about 30% in one research study. Other studies support the finding that DOMS does decrease after sports massage.

Now for some benefits that are not supported by research. The ability of sports massage to help the muscles get rid of lactic acid is not supported in research studies. Many researchers feel this is linked to the fact that increased blood flow to muscles after sports massage cannot be supported either.

A quicker recovery after sports massage is not yet supported by the research. Studies do support that active recovery (low-intensity exercise after work-out) is the best method of decreasing the amount of lactic acid that builds up after exercise and speeds recovery.

So what does all of this mean? It seems that the positive mind (psychological) benefits of sports massage are indeed supported by research studies. Study findings also support that sports massage does not negatively affect performance, but the positive body (physiological) benefits on performance are not quite as clear. More research is needed on the positive body effects and also on the mind/body interaction after sports massage.

The Benefits of Breathing Exercises!

 

Deep breathing exercises just might save your sanity. The next time you feel angry, stressed or anxious, pay attention to your breathing. Chances are when negative emotions run high, your breaths become short and shallow. In fact, I would bet that many of us rarely more than a couple deep breaths during an entire day, even when we’re not feeling stressed (and when is that?). And if you’re not taking deep breaths, you could be missing out on one of the simplest ways to drastically improve your health.

 

Stress management is an important key for improving your health and quality of living, and I believe deep breathing exercises are a foundational principle of managing life’s stresses. Whether you experience negative emotions or physical pain, the body responds in a similar way every time. You may experience a rapid heartbeat, tightening muscles, dilated pupils and perspiration in addition to short, quick breaths. This is not only an instinctual reaction, but a habit the body has developed over time in response to stressful situations. And any time you feel a twinge of anger or anxiety coming on, the body starts pumping out the juices (namely adrenaline and cortisol) that fuel this response once again.

This kind of physical reaction is tied to health problems like cardiovascular disease, insomnia, hypertension (high blood pressure), indigestion, increased infections and autoimmune disease. It also contributes to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.

Fortunately, you can reclaim your physical and mental health by practicing deep breathing exercises. These exercises can reverse your body’s natural reaction to stressful conditions, which will help you manage negative emotions and even physical pain more effectively. We can’t always eliminate stress from our lives, but we can learn to deal with it in a healthier way.

So, what exactly do deep breathing exercises do for you? When you learn to take deep, slow breaths, your body reacts in many positive ways:

#1 – Your muscles relax. You’ll find it’s difficult to maintain a lot of physical tension when you are breathing properly.

#2 – Oxygen delivery improves. When you breath deeply and you are relaxed, fresh oxygen pours into every cell in the body. This increases the functionality of every system in the body. You will also notice improved mental concentration and physical stamina.

# 3 – Your blood pressure lowers. As your muscles let go of tension, your blood vessels dilate and your blood pressure can return to a normal level.

      #4 – Endorphins are released. Deep breathing triggers the release of endorphins, which            improves feelings of well-being and provides pain-relief.

#5 – Detoxification improves. Good breathing habits help the lymphatic system function properly, which encourages the release of harmful toxins. This cleanses the body and allows it to direct its energy to more productive functions.

Deep breathing exercises are very easy to do if you take the time to do them properly. Here is a basic routine that will help you learn the ropes of deep breathing:

1. Lie down in a comfortable, quiet place. Allow yourself to be free from distractions for at least 5-10 minutes.

2. Give yourself a moment to start relaxing your muscles. Seek out places that are holding tension and release it.

3. Inhale deeply, filling your lungs with air. Bring the air into your abdomen, not just your chest. Count slowly to five as you inhale.

4. Exhale deeply, emptying your lungs completely. Again, count slowly to five as you exhale. As you exhale, release tension from your muscles.

5. Continue to inhale and exhale deeply for several minutes, counting slowly to five each time. Concentrate on your breathing and counting. Let your mind take a break from distractions.

Try and do this exercise (or something similar) at least once a day. It really makes a difference!

TIPS FOR DEEP BREATHING EXERCISES:

– If you can’t find time to set aside just for deep breathing, then make a conscious effort to breath more deeply during everyday living, with a particular emphasis on exhaling completely, which is an important part of breathing properly.

– Place your hand on your abdomen to feel your way through the exercise. Your stomach should rise and fall noticeably while breathing.

– Some people find that white noise, relaxing music or the sound of rain is soothing and helps them relax for deep breathing exercises. Others find these distracting and prefer the quiet. Do some experimenting to find what helps you relax.

-Elizabeth W. 

How can Sports Massage help your performance and recovery???

Massage for sports injuries is a great way of taking care of injuries resulting from athletic activities. Massage therapy is an integral part of athlete training and is often included in modern sports training regimens. Athletes and trainers believe that regular therapeutic massages can provide the extra edge required for high performance sportsmen and women. It has become a necessary ingredient for an athlete to help avoid sports injuries and for optimum performance. However, sports injuries are part of being a high performance athlete and massage for sports injuries has become an increasingly popular alternative therapy for the treatment of these injuries.

Regular exercise increases muscular endurance and strength, improves flexibility and respiratory function and enhances heart efficiency. The body adapts gradually to the demand of physical activities. This is as a result of conditioning. Conditioning involves three phases: the tearing down phase where the body is pushed to its limit; the recovery phase where the body rebuilds itself, and, lastly, the build-up phase where the systems adapt to the new demands placed on the body. Massage for sports injuries is a particularly effective way of dealing with the injuries that occur in the tearing down phase.

Massage for sports injuries not only concentrates on sports injuries that have occurred, but can also help prevent injuries. Massage for sports injuries can, therefore, be administered before conditioning training as part of the regular workout regime. This helps to prevent injuries during training and should be administered after a warm up session. Massage for sports injuries can also help to prevent common injuries when administered after a strenuous training session as it helps to return the muscles to their relaxed state.

Massage for sports injuries is usually employed in the treatment of sprains and strains. Massage is also used in the treatment of sports injuries that are commonly known as trigger points. “Trigger points” are not bruises but are commonly thought of as knots in the muscles, or points of tension. Trigger points are painful to the touch. Massage for sports injuries help relieve the tension in these knots by helping to relax the muscle groups involved.

Several techniques are applied in an effective massage for sports injuries depending on the type of injury. The rhythmic compression of muscle groups is used in the creation of deep hyperemia. It also has the effect of softening the tissues and is used in warming the body up for a deeper massage. Friction techniques are also used, which can broaden and stretch larger muscle groups. These techniques are also used on connective tissue. The application of deep transverse friction helps improve the healing process in the muscles as well as connective tissue.

Trigger point pressure is relieved through thumb or finger pressure techniques. These techniques are effective for the reduction of hypersensitivity, pain and muscle spasms that are experienced at trigger points. This can help prevent a future injury because it will prevent the athlete from instinctively favoring one limb over the other due to painful trigger points, and from other knee-jerk reactions while on the field or track. Massage allows athletes to heal faster from injuries by improving circulation to the injured area. Massage also increases flexibility and the range of motion of athletes, reducing the occurrence of injuries.

Source: Pacific College of Oriental Medicince 

Cooper River Bridge Run & Massage for Runners

Gearing up for the Cooper River Bridge Run next weekend? Here is a great read by co-founder of Sport Medicine Institute, runner and sports massage therapist, Mark Fadil

As a runner for 28 years and a sports massage therapist for 19 years, I have spent a lot of time on both sides of a massage table. I received regular treatments at least once and often twice a week as a competitive distance runner in college; these massages varied from general work, to pre- and post-event, to injury-specific.

One of my most valuable assets as a sports massage therapist is the amount of work I received as an athlete and continue to receive today. It allowed me to develop a profound understanding of different types of sports massage and provided a foundation for fostering a comprehensive array of treatments and protocols. I can’t emphasize enough how beneficial it is for massage therapists to experience regular massage treatments and different types of massage in order to enhance and develop their skills and techniques.

When Should a Runner Get a Massage?

I am frequently asked the question, “When is the best time for a runner to have a massage?” The answer is anything but straightforward and largely dependent on the objective of the client.

In general, there are four different categories of sports massage: pre-event, post-event, general sports and injury-specific. Each type of massage has a different goal. As a result, there are a number of right times for a runner to receive a sports massage, as long as the type of massage is administered correctly and is in line with your client’s goals.

Pre-Event Massage

Goal: To get the body ready for a race or event.

It is important to keep in mind that every client responds differently to massage. This is particularly salient when it comes to pre-event work. Some clients love to get really deep work the day before or even the day of an event; some prefer a light flush; others respond best to over-the-clothes compression; and some don’t want to be touched at all for the three or four days leading up to a race. It is important to experiment with pre-event work prior to a workout or less important race before implementing it as preparation for a more important competition.

That being said, in general, the day or two before a race a runner will usually benefit from light flushing work combined with compressions, rocking and shaking. Keep in mind that your client wants to come out of the massage feeling light, springy and energetic.

You can incorporate some deeper, specific strokes on a tight knot or band, but try to limit this to five to 10 passes per spot. The focused work tends to be most effective if you also incorporate some movements into the stroke such as pin-and-stretch or Active Release Techniques. It can also be useful to incorporate some dynamic stretching, such as Active Isolated Stretching, at the end of the session.

Post-Event Massage

Goal: To expedite recovery from a race and decrease post-exercise soreness. 

When administering a post-event massage—generally within 36 hours of a race or competition—keep in mind that your client has just put her body under a tremendous amount of stress. Muscles have undergone micro-trauma and tearing.

The massage should be on the lighter side but slightly deeper than pre-event work, with slow, controlled, flushing strokes. If the work is too deep it can damage muscles further and prolong how long it takes to recover from the event.

Incorporate a moderate amount of static stretching into the massage. One 30-second static hold after massaging a muscle or region is generally an effective approach. To top it off, have your client hop into an ice bath or cold whirlpool after the massage and stretching. The combination of a flushing massage, assisted static stretching and cold therapy is a great formula for decreasing post-exercise soreness and substantially speeding up recovery from a race or event.

General Massage for Runners

Goal: To loosen tight muscles, release trigger points, increase range of motion and reduce the risk of injury.

Runners tend to require and respond best to deeper work when receiving a general massage. This is where the art of massage becomes particularly important. Pay very close attention to what you are feeling in the tissue. Go deep enough to be effective but not so deep that it causes your client to tense up and fight the work. Some soreness for 24 to 36 hours after the massage is generally fine, but if it lasts longer or causes visible bruising, you have probably gone too deep.

Injury Massage

Goal: To facilitate healing of an injured muscle, tendon or ligament.

Massage on an injured muscle, tendon or ligament can be extremely effective if applied appropriately. It is always important to work in conjunction with a doctor or physical therapist so your client has a proper diagnosis and the massage is part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Every injury is different, and the massage protocol will vary depending on the type and extent of the injury, but here are a few useful guidelines.

Tendinopathies should be treated two or three times a week. Work the muscle of the injured tendon with deep stripping strokes and perform cross-fiber friction on the tendon itself. It is also useful to utilize a tool such as a gua-sha tool or the one pictured below to scrape the tendon. End the massage by icing the injured tendon for 10 to 15 minutes.

Ligamentous injuries should be treated in a similar fashion to tendons. Make sure to work the muscles on both sides of the ligament with deep, stripping strokes before working on the ligament itself with cross-fiber friction and a tool.

When working on a strained muscle, sessions should be no more than twice a week. The muscle needs time to recover between sessions. In the beginning stages of the injury, work deeply around the injured area but limit the work on the injury itself to light flushing strokes. Incorporate light and very gentle static stretching as well. As the injury starts to heal, apply deeper and deeper pressure with cross fiber friction to the actual site of the injury. Gradually increase the intensity of the static stretch and eventually incorporate resistive stretching towards the end of the rehabilitation process.

Common Injuries for Runners

Iliotibial Band (IT Band)

One of the most common injuries for runners is iliotibial (IT) band syndrome. It is generally characterized by pain at the outside of the knee. A tight IT band can irritate the bursa at the lateral femoral condyle as well as the bone itself.

Treatment should include working all three of the gluteal muscles, tensor fasciae latae and the band itself down the outside of the leg between the greater trochanter and lateral femoral condyle. The IT band usually requires very deep work because of how dense it is. Positioning can play a crucial role in effective IT Band work (see picture 2). You should also check for tightness in the iliopsoas and the vastus lateralis as well. When a client has an IT band injury or chronic IT band tightness, there is almost always an associated weakness in the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.

Achilles Tendinopathy

When treating an Achilles tendon problem, start with deep stripping of the gastrocnemius and soleusmuscles, since these muscles connect to the Achilles and can tug on the tendon when tight. Include side-lying work of the deep flexor compartment. This includes work on the tibialis posteriorflexor hallicus longus and flexor digitorum longus. Make sure you check the entire posterior chain of the leg for tightness, including the hamstring, glutes and intrinsic foot muscles on the plantar aspect of the foot.

Runner’s Knee

Runner’s knee is characterized by pain behind or around the kneecap. As the name implies, it is very common in runners, although not exclusive to runners. The underlying causes are often muscular imbalances in the four quad muscles. The vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius and rectus femoris are tight and the vastus medialis obliques (VMO) are weak. The tight muscles should be loosened with massage and stretching, and the VMO should be strengthened. Incorporate cross-fiber friction on both the supra-patellar and infra-patellar tendons as well.

After the massage you should also stretch the quad without putting too much bend into the knee and then conclude with icing the knee for 10 to 15 minutes. You should also check for tightness in the iliopsoas, hamstrings and calves of the affected leg.

Plantar Fascia Pain

When treating plantar fascia pain and dysfunction, always start with deep stripping of the gastrocnemius, soleus and deep flexor compartment. Tightness in these muscles can tug on the calcaneus and increase the tension on the plantar fascia. You should also work on the plantar itself and intrinsic foot muscles. Include cross-fiber friction on the origin of the plantar fascia at the calcaneus. It can be particularly useful to incorporate use of a tool on the origin of the plantar fascia as well. Conclude the session with 10 to 15 minutes of icing the plantar itself.

Home Treatments

A key part of our responsibility as sports massage therapists and healers is empowering clients with knowledge and the ability to treat themselves as effectively as possible. Use of a foam roller and other home self-massage devices is a tremendous supplement to the work we perform in the clinic and makes our sessions even more beneficial. 

Lymphatic Massage; What is it, and who needs it?

The Benefits of Lymphatic Massage

Discover How To Boost Energy and Immunity

Six months after hip replacement surgery, Larry was learning to walk again and life was returning to normal. But one thing still puzzled him. When he stood for any length of time, his left ankle would swell, and when the inflammation was at its worst, his right ankle would also swell.

“I can understand why my left leg is swollen,” he says. “But why would my right leg swell? I didn’t have surgery there. And why am I getting swelling six months after the surgery? Shouldn’t it be better by now?” The answer is that although Larry’s surgery had occurred on the opposite side, the right leg would swell when the inflammation became too much for the left side to handle.

Fortunately, lymphatic massage can help address Larry’s problems. This special type of bodywork, while very gentle and seemingly superficial, helps to restore function to the lymph system and balance the body.

The Lymph System

Most people are familiar with the body’s vessel system that carries blood to and from the tissues, but few understand there is another equally vital system of vessels that removes cell wastes, proteins, excess fluid, viruses, and bacteria. The lymph system picks up fluids and waste products from the spaces between the cells and then filters and cleans them.

Like the roots of a tree, the lymph system starts as tiny vessels--only a single-cell wide--that eventually branch into larger and larger tubes that carry these fluids back to the blood stream. This network of delicate vessels and lymph nodes is the primary structure of the immune system. The lymph nodes act as check points along the pathways of the vessels. They filter the fluid (called lymph) and serve as the home for lymphocytes—little Pac Man-like cells that attack and destroy foreign bacteria and viruses and even abnormal cells, like cancer cells.

When the lymph system works well, we feel healthy and have a strong defense against illness. When it’s sluggish or blocked—say after surgery or an injury—we can have swelling, feel tired, and be more susceptible to colds and infections.

Lymphatic Massage

A customized form of bodywork, lymphatic massage may help the lymph system do its job better. By understanding the anatomy and function of this delicate system, your massage therapist can assist your body in clearing sluggish tissues of waste and swelling.

Though lymph vessels are found throughout the body, most of them—about 70 percent—are located just below the skin. These fragile vessels work to pick up fluids between the cell spaces when gentle pressure is applied to them from increased fluid build-up, muscle contractions, or the pressure of a therapist’s hands. By using very light pressures in a rhythmic, circular motion, a massage therapist can stimulate the lymph system to work more efficiently and help it move the lymph fluids back to the heart.

Furthermore, by freeing vessel pathways, lymphatic massage can help retrain the lymph system to work better for more long-term health benefits.

Massage therapists versed in lymphatic drainage therapy, an advanced form of lymphatic massage, can identify the rhythm, direction, and quality of the lymphatic flow and remap drainage pathways.

Who Should Get It?

Lymph massage can benefit just about everyone. If you're feeling tired and low on energy, or if you've been sick and feeling like your body is fighting to get back on track, lymph massage would likely serve you well.

In addition, athletes, surgical patients, fibromyaliga and chronic fatigue sufferers, as well as those wanting a fresh look may want to consider lymphatic massage. Here's why.

After a sports injury or surgery, lymph vessels can become overwhelmed with the demand placed on them. When tissues are swollen, deep tissue techniques may actually cause damage to the lymph vessels and surrounding structures. Lymphatic massage is often the treatment of choice, because it helps the body remove proteins and waste products from the affected area and reduce the swelling. This helps reduce pressure on cells and allows them to reproduce faster to heal the body.

Surgical procedures involving lymph node removal--such as breast cancer surgery--can cause limbs to swell. Severe limb swelling needs the attention of a medical team, but in milder cases, lymphatic massage alone may be enough to prevent or even treat the swelling. It’s important that your doctor be involved in your care. Let your doctor know you’d like to see a massage therapist and make sure you have medical approval.

Lymph massage can also be part of a care program for fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. Because it's so gentle, it is well tolerated by these patients, who are often experiencing sore trigger points throughout the body. And by encouraging lymph flow and removing waste products, this gentle form of bodywork can help restore immune function and improve vitality.

Estheticians are trained in a very specific form of lymphatic massage. When you get a facial, your esthetician will gently massage your face to help improve lymph flow. When lymph is moving freely in the face, you’ll have clearer, healthier skin without a buildup of toxins and fluids.

So, if you’re feeling a bit sluggish, experiencing mild to moderate swelling, recovering from a sports injury, or interested in optimizing your lymph system for stronger immunity, ask your massage therapist about lymphatic massage. It can have a powerful impact on your body’s ability to heal.

                                                                                                                                   By Cathy Ulrich