Blog Archives for category Massage Therapy
You walk on them all day, but did you know your feet do more than carry you from one place to the next? They also have a unique connection to balanced health and well-being. In a form of bodywork known as reflexology, the feet are said to contain reflex areas that mirror and connect to all parts of the body–and pressure on these points can actually influence your state of health.
What is Reflexology?
The roots of reflexology draw, in part, from the ancient healing art of foot massage, practiced the world over, from Asian and Egyptian civilizations to tribal communities of the Americas. Early archaeological digs have revealed statues of Buddha in China and Japan, and Vishnu (a Hindu god) in India, depicting markings of specific areas on the feet. But it has only been within the last century that this work has established a foothold, so to speak, in Western practice.
As we know it today, reflexology is viewed primarily as a stress reduction or relaxation technique. Using the thumb, finger, and hand, gentle pressure is applied to reflex areas of the feet in order to decrease stress and bring the body into equilibrium. While some reflexologists also apply treatment to the hands and ears, the foot–with its greater quantity of sensitive nerve endings–is considered the most amenable to this approach.
Although simplistic in application, the effects of the treatment can be profound. Through activation of nerve receptors in the hands and feet, new messages flood into the body system, changing its tempo and tone. In essence, the foot or hand becomes a conduit for sharing information throughout the body. Function in the connecting area is improved and, at the same time, the body experiences overall relaxation and benefits to the circulation and elimination systems. When the body’s systems are at optimal functioning, self-healing is enhanced.
In this sense, reflexology is not a medical treatment for specific symptoms or diseases, but rather a way to facilitate the body’s inherent healing power. Therefore, it stands to reason that paying attention to your feet can also be a great preventive measure and one easily incorporated into a daily routine.
How and why reflexology works the way it does is still up for debate. Some say it involves communication through the nervous system; other theories point to opening blockages of chi, or vital energy, in the body. Regardless, scientific studies have documented its benefit for a variety of ailments, ranging from acute disorders to chronic diseases. The majority of reflexology research has come from China where the technique is commonly used in hospitals and homes for both health maintenance, and as adjunct to medical care. Some of the positive findings include reduction of pain, improvement in circulation, release of tension, and improved effectiveness of medication, as well as benefits for diabetes and headaches.
Kevin Kunz, author of several reflexology books and codirector of the Reflexology Research Project, emphasizes the importance of making reflexology a part of your life. Consistency is key if you expect results, and foot homework is a low-cost, efficient way to extend the benefits of weekly sessions with your reflexologist. The techniques can be practiced even while you’re busy doing something else. You can purchase devices such as foot rollers for use under the desk, but even inexpensive homemade devices will do, Kunz says. “You can put a golf ball in a sock, tie it up, and you have a roller. Anything to cause stimulation has a beneficial effect.”
Reflexology is also a safe and effective technique for infants and children, soothing their emotions and promoting sleep. Naturally available and noninvasive, this approach can enhance communication between parent and child and aid in developing the child’s physical awareness.
Feedback and Stimulation
According to Kunz, lack of stimulation for the feet is a major problem in our society. We box our feet in shoes and forbid them to traipse the natural environment. Some American feet never even see sunlight, much less travel naked on a forest floor. “The feet carry the body, in more ways than one,” Kunz says. “Constant feedback from the feet is needed in order for the body to make the proper responses.” There is no challenge for the foot in walking on flat surfaces. Feet crave stimulation, and they were built for a variety of surfaces.
The Japanese, as well as Europeans, have addressed this basic need by creating health pathways to stimulate every part of the foot. “This comes from taki fumi,” Kunz says, “to step upon bamboo. Here we call them stroll pathways. The idea is that you stroll along, and as you do, you are strengthening the system. It’s great exercise and gives you more endurance.” In Asia, pathways frequently feature cobblestones for stimulation, but a sandy beach or rocky hiking trail can provide variation underfoot.
Whatever path you choose, get off the pavement, free your feet, and let them do their thing. “Over thousands of years,” Kunz says, “every culture has discovered it in some shape or form. The foot is it.”
It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been seven years since I started my massage therapy and wellness practice. I left an influential and well-paying corporate job with a global Fortune 50 company to become a massage therapist. I wanted to do something that had deeper meaning and above all, I wanted to help people. It’s been an amazing seven years.
Like many solo practitioners, there have been many challenges. The recession and economy have forced people to make difficult choices. Many people have had to make tough choices and have cut-back on self-care services such as massage therapy and bodywork. At a time when people need self-care more than ever, economics force many to cut back.
Despite all of that, I’ve developed a very successful practice. But, I think I can do more. My entire purpose for become a massage therapist and coach was so that I could find a deeper meaning in life and hopefully find my purpose. That has been a work in progress and I have come to realize that it is a process that will always evolve. When I started massage therapy school, I expected to focus entirely on sports massage and work with athletes. I had no experience with energy work and even thought the notion of it was absurd. All of that changed as I discovered polarity therapy, Reiki and the various forms of Asian massage and bodywork – all of which are based on the idea that body, mind and spirit are connected and that we are connected as beings to an energetic universe.
As I said, I think I can do more. And while my practice is filled with women who can afford to pay for my services, I want to reach those who feel they cannot. So, here is my announcement:
From this day forward, I will provide my services on a donation-basis. You can pay whatever you feel you can afford. I do not care what you earn, and I know that everyone’s financial situation is different. All I care about is that you commit to treatment and to working with me. In order to really deal with some of your health and chronic pain issues, you may need to come in weekly for several weeks or for several months. I only ask that you commit to your health and that includes committing to whatever you can comfortably afford to pay.
Can’t afford to pay at all? No problem. I’ll be happy to exchange services with you. I have needs ranging from administrative services, graphic design, and just help in getting the word out about my approach to my practice. Money should not be a barrier to your well-being. In tribal and aboriginal cultures, all members of the tribe had access to the medicine man or shaman. Let’s put our heads together. Work with me and I will work with you.
I realize that there may be some risk involved in this. But, I believe that people will do the right thing. And I think that making my services available to all, without consideration of payment is the right decision for me. And to accommodate what I hope will be an increase in the number of hours during which I will see clients, I am also announcing that my practice will have morning hours on Wednesdays and Fridays. You can view my schedule and availability here.
When you book an appointment with me now, you will not see a price for any of my services. You may pay whatever you feel comfortable paying. Check it out, and book a session with me today. There is nothing standing in the way of your healing now.
Sometimes you just need to see a video . . . enjoy!
Schedule your next massage with me here, using my convenient online scheduling system.
They are perky. They droop. They are vulnerable. They’re private. They are beautiful. They define your femininity. They’re yours. They’re complicated and all my clients have them.
What are they? They are your breasts. They deserve your attention and may also deserve the attention of your massage therapist.
“What? I’m not going to let my massage therapist touch my girls!”
Now before you go running off screaming let me try to make the case why breast massage, even if it is performed by yourself, deserves your attention. And, massage therapy can be a very effective “wellness” treatment for breasts, as breasts need good circulation and what is called “tissue mobilization” for optimum health.
Let me start off by stating that there may be laws in local jurisdictions and in your state that prohibit or regulate breast massage by massage therapists. At a minimum, the standards of practice for the American Massage Therapy Association and for the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals state that breast massage may only be performed with informed, written consent of the client, namely you.
Having gotten the legal stuff out of the way, hopefully you’ve moved past the giggling and any shock, I would also tell you that in much of the rest of the world, attitudes about breast massage (and abdominal massage too) are much more open and accepting than here in the United States. In Canada for example, breast massage is a regular option for women, as long as it is indicated in the normal course of treatment and as long as informed consent is obtained. Breast work is a component of lymphatic drainage massage, and breast massage is also part of the tradition within Ayurvedic massage and Lomi Lomi massage.
In the United States our attitudes towards breasts are definitely different than elsewhere. But, that doesn’t mean that you should not consider breast massage as part of your breast wellness plan. Despite the fact that the female breast is associated with sexuality and physical attractiveness does not mean that they should not receive physical care.
Gentle breast massage can reduce breast soreness due to hormonal fluctuations and stimulates lymph flow. Breast massage helps to relieve toxin buildup and encourages blood circulation for a healthy lymphatic system.
Breast massage is VERY GENTLE work, and often incorporates the techniques associated with lymphatic drainage massage, which consists of very gentle and light pressure. The following video demonstrates the type of lymphatic drainage techniques that I am talking about. As you can see, this is very gentle work.
I encourage my clients to do regular breast self- massage 2-3 times a week. It only takes 5 minutes or so. The pressure is very light, about the weight of a piece of paper, and touch is applied with the full palm or underside of your fingers. Remember to be gentle as it takes very little pressure to move lymph fluid through your breasts.
I recommend that my clients find a regular time to perform breast self-massage. A logical time might be right after you shower, but it can be at any time of the day. For many of my clients, breast massage is a logical extension of an exercise I have taught them called “Love your body, love your belly.” You don’t have to make this complicated. You use simple massage strokes such as lifting and light kneading, small circular strokes and light compression.
Here’s a simple breast self-massage routine for you. I encourage you to experiment. This activity will help you to get to know your breasts and become more comfortable touching them.
• Start by using the hand opposite the breast you massage (right hand, left breast, left hand, right breast). Begin with light to moderate pressure using circular strokes working out from the nipple and into the underarm and then back into the middle of your chest (breast bone)
• Using a circular motion, just move your fingers around the breast.
• Gently massage and knead each breast. You can gently lift each breast and gently apply pressure. Use only light to moderate pressure as this will help move fluids out of the breast.
• Using both hands, gently twist each breast in a kind of wringing motion.
• Again, with the opposite hand, use the flat part of your fingers to gently lift the tissue beginning at the underarm toward the nipple.
• Place your fingers on your breastbone until you find the valleys in between your ribs. Using your fingers, gently follow the grooves of your ribs and move all the way up from your breastbone to collar bone. Then move your fingers back to your breastbone and gently follow the grooves of your ribs all the way to the bottom of your rib cage.
That’s all there is too it. If you perform breast self-massage regularly, you will begin to notice the subtle changes that may occur in them throughout the month. In the process, you’ll get to know your breasts better. And, you’ll be doing something that puts you in charge of your health and wellness. You have just embarked on a path to better breast health.
A fundamental concept of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) dating back over 3,000 years, qi (pronounced “chee”) is the Chinese word for energy, which also carries with it connotations of air, breath, and life force.
In TCM, it is understood that everything from humans and animals to rocks and trees is filled with qi. This energy facilitates function, communication, and connection and is the uniting force of the universe, as well as the animating life force in all objects.
Qi in the Body
Qi flows through the body via 14 meridian channels, which run either up or down throughout the body along specific pathways. These pathways deliver energy to organs, structures, and systems in a constant pattern, and when qi is flowing unimpeded along these meridians, a person is said to be in balance.
Illness, injury, stress, and other trauma can cause blockages along these meridians, thus impairing or stopping the flow of qi and resulting in energy congestion. Several TCM techniques are designed to clear these blockages and restore balance and flow to the body’s energy.
Working with Qi
Along each meridian are points, known as acupoints or pressure points, where these energy blockages are likely to occur. Significant acupoints are also known as trigger points, and these are often starting points for therapists working to clear congested qi.
An important principle of qi is that clearing blockages at certain trigger points will help restore flow and thus impact parts of the body that are connected along the various meridians. For example, this could mean that working on someone’s foot might benefit an internal organ like the liver, or benefit his or her heart. This concept further illustrates that qi in the body is one balanced system in which one imbalance can affect several body parts and even alter emotional states.
I am a certified massage therapist, Intrinsic Coach®, and Reiki Master in private practice near Washington DC. For the past 6 years, my work has focused exclusively in the area of women’s wellness and trauma recovery. This was not a path I intended to travel when I decided 8 years ago to leave the corporate world and pursue life as a massage therapist and coach. Rather it was the path that was presented to me when I discovered energy work – polarity therapy, cranial-sacral therapy, Reiki – and a wide range of Asian forms of massage and bodywork, all of which see an inextricable link between body, mind and spirit.
I have had the honor of working with over a thousand women in the past 6 years – all of whom sought me out in an effort to heal, to cope with the lingering effects of trauma and chronic pain and to reconnect their spirit with their bodies. Many came to me with physical complaints, but through the process of working together, they discovered that emotional healing can also be achieved through a sensitive application of what I call a “body-centered” approach toward healing and recovery.
There have been many tears shed when together we discovered that place within your body where you have held the pain for so long. But, our sessions have been a safe harbor, a sacred place where your experiences have been honored, a place where there is no judgment for expressing emotion or shedding tears, a place where it is ok to be cared for, to be nurtured, to feel the infinite love of the Universe.
Each day, I learn something new from my clients; working with you has spawned tremendous personal growth in me, and for that I am grateful. But, I have observed what I would describe as common patterns or threads among all of you with whom I have worked. And, I would like to share those lessons with you today in the hope that you begin look at bodywork and massage in a much broader context. It is a physical medium for sure, but I believe that all bodywork is a spiritual act first and a physical act second. When you are fully and deeply connected to your body, you cannot help but be connected to the earth and to the greater universe.
So, I give you these five observations with the full knowledge that they will be supplanted by new learning as I work with some of the most amazing women whom I have ever met – my clients. They inspire me every day and I am so very grateful that I have the opportunity to share in their transformation.
Try as you might, it is very difficult for you to receive
As I begin each session with my clients, we start off with a few minutes of stillness and quiet. She is lying face down on my table and I will gently place my hands on her – on in the small of her back and the other in the middle of her back and then near the crown of her head. I ask her to take in deep breath and envision the breath coming up from her root chakra, and then I ask her to just focus on her breath for a few minutes, breathing slowly in and slowly out.
I will than say, “Give yourself permission to be here today . . . Give yourself permission to receive.”
For almost all of my clients, this is one of the most difficult things for them to do. The inability to receive is something I see in my clients every day. My clients are all busy women – many are mothers who are trying to balance the demands of a career with the needs of raising a family and children. They are constantly in a give, give, give mode, which while having its’ rewards, often leads to lack of sleep, increasing levels of stress, fatigue and often illness. I see resentment and anger building within them as they continue to go on giving. I try to remind them that if they continue to write checks on their “giving accounts,” it is mandatory that they make a few deposits into it from time-to-time!
Receiving is a skill and it is something that can be learned. Receiving is its own reciprocal action. You do not need to immediately return the favor of the gift. Your acceptance is a gift in and of itself. When you receive you begin to recharge yourself, you make deposits into your giving account and make it easier for you to give to others.
There is time for everyone in your life but you
You always place yourself last on your list. Being a mom, a wife, balancing a career is more than a 24 hour a day job. At the end of the day, you are Dr. Mom, the primary caregiver, and Given your predisposition to give, give, give, it is very easy to simply drop your name last on your list. Oh, you’ll get around to it, but you rarely do.
Intellectually, you all know that it’s important to make time for yourself; time to exercise, time to rest, time that is just for yourself. But, it is just so darned hard because everybody comes to you for everything. You’re the family doctor, head chef, in charge of housekeeping and accounting, the family bus driver, CEO and more.
The fact that you’re on my table, once a week or once a month is a great start. But, it is not enough. So, where do you start?
You start by setting boundaries and (occasionally) saying no. Your family, your co-workers, your spouse, boyfriend or lover will not respect your time and ultimately you, if you don’t respect your time and set aside time that is just for you. Just. For. You.
You also start by re-training your kids, your spouse and even your co-workers. If they are old enough, there is no reason why your children cannot make their own lunches for school. The same goes for laundry and other household chores. If they don’t know how to do something, teach them. Your insistence on making time for yourself will also set an example for them. You’re not just teaching them how to live; you become a living example and you show them how to live.
Sadly, domestic violence and sexual abuse is more common than people realize
According to RAINN, every 2 minutes someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted. 44% of the victims are under the age of 12. 80% of the victims are under 18. 97% of the rapists will never spend a day in jail. Domestic violence numbers are a little harder to come by, but surveys put the number at somewhere between 25% and 40%. Domestic violence ranges from verbal battery and abuse to outright assault.
When I started my practice, I was shocked with the realization that so many of the women who were coming to see me had suffered at the hands of men. At any given point in time, more than 50 percent of the women who come to see me have experienced some form of sexual assault or domestic violence. I was stunned by the number of women coming to me, and by the fact that they were coming to see me at all. I believe that the official numbers are actually low, because so much of this type of abuse goes unreported. But, I realized early in my practice that this would become a major focus, that it would become my life’s work.
The stories are chilling. I have a client whose father repeatedly raped her from the time she was 6 months old until she turned 7 when he tried to strangle her. She completely repressed these memories until she came to me complaining of neck pain. When I worked on her neck to try to relieve the pain, it triggered flashback memories of the event.
There is another client who stuttered and her father would repeatedly slap her in an effort to try to get her to stop. Those memories came back, when in the course of her massage I gently worked on her face. She too had repressed the memories and dissociated her feelings from her body. Another client was repeatedly gang-raped. These are just a few of the stories. I have hundreds more like them in my client archives.
The body captures these memories. Physical therapists call it tissue memory. It’s not a well understood phenomenon, but massage therapists see it all the time. I’ve written extensively about it on my blog. When an area injured during trauma (whether it is an accident, abuse, invasive surgery – which is also traumatic) is released, all of the feelings, emotions, and sensations that you experienced during the initial event may also be released. The same fear, the same pain, the same anxiety may resurface, just as intensely as when the original trauma occurred. At the subconscious level, this is what your body has been feeling all along. In order to fully heal, these sensations must be fully felt so that they can be released.
The bottom line is that I have learned that bodywork can help bring about emotional healing a well as physical healing. Body, mind and spirit are inextricably connected; they cannot be separated and should not be treated as separate entities.
A sensitive therapist, within the therapeutic environment, can help a client fully connect mind and body, and help the client to safely release the sensations associated with the trauma. It is only through this kind of release that you can truly heal. Unless you completely let go, your body continues to experience the trauma at a subconscious level. If the body doesn’t release, restrictions can form in the fascia, creating chronic pain and making it worse over time. The added stress on your body may also compromise your body’s immune system, which can lead to other forms of illness.
Within the therapeutic environment, and with a competent and sensitive therapist, you have the ability to release and clear the pain and trauma of the past. When we fully let go of the pain of our past, we can embrace life in the present, and experience the love and beauty of living in the moment.
So, what should you do if you if you are a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault?
If you are in immediate danger or if you have been hurt, call 911.
For advice and support: if you or someone you know is frightened about something in your relationship, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY, 1-800-787-3224.
For rape or sexual assault, contact RAINN (Rape and Incest National Network). RAINN is the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization. At any given moment, more than 1,100 trained volunteers are on duty and available to help victims at RAINN-affiliated crisis centers across the country.
To reach a qualified counselor for help, call 1-800-656-HOPE.
For a safe place to stay: Contact your state’s branch of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence or another local organization.
Even though you may not feel so, you are worthy of love, care and nurturing
Again, intellectually most of my clients would agree with this statement. But, it’s hard for them to walk this talk. So, how do you put this into practice?
It starts with a conscious decision to love yourself, to reduce (and eliminate) self-criticism, to forgive yourself, to let go of worry, to have fun, to receive, to be true to yourself and more. Everyday can be an exercise in building your self-confidence and self-esteem. Every day can be an affirmation of love for yourself and an expression of gratitude for the life you have.
There will be set backs. So, I try to help my clients set reasonable expectations. I am drawn to the Reiki Principles which start with the words, “Just for today . . . ,” and especially the principle that says, “Just for today, I shall be kind to all living things,” and I remind my clients that they are one of those living things and that kindness and love for oneself gives you the ability to love others.
Even though you may not believe it, you hold all that is necessary to heal
We are always in search of that magic pill. My clients are no different. They come to me, often with a specific pain, complaint or issue. And, at least in the beginning, they expect me to fix it. And I’ll try various healing modalities; massage in all of its forms, Reiki, Cranial-Sacral therapy, essential oils, diet, exercise and more.
My clients eventually come to realize that there is no “one thing.” What I have learned is that there is no “one thing” that if we all would do to make our lives perfect. No, instead I work with my clients to develop what I call their own personal “life cocktail.” It’s an ever changing combination of things, in varying proportions – from meditation and yoga, to exercise and diet, to massage therapy and energy work, to balancing work and life and play, to love and sex, to spirituality and seeking a higher order, – it’s all of those things and more, much more.
What I have learned is that you all are creative, capable and complete. You are absolutely perfect. When a client comes to see me, there is only one person in the room that matters, and that is she. She holds all the knowledge necessary to live a full and productive life, to be happy. It starts with a conscious decision, a desire for change.
What I have learned is that even though we may desire magical cures and modern medicine tries to create pills that will miraculously cure you, healing does not happen that way. It happens when, as my friend Dr. Lissa Rankin says, “we as practitioners hold sacred space, believe in our patients, love them, hold them up to the mirror to show them what we know is possible for them, and then make recommendations for how we think they might achieve the healing effect they desire.”
She goes on to say, “Science may cure, but only love heals.”
And that my friends, is the ultimate answer. That is what I have leaned over the past 6 years.
Today, we are joined by fellow ABMP member Cathy Ehlers. In her post today, Cathy writes about the importance of human touch, a topic on which I have written before.
Whether in giving or receiving, touch is as essential to human survival as is food. Infants deprived of touch, even when they are getting adequate nutrition, will fail to thrive. Elders isolated by loss of partners and friends become depressed not only because of the absence of social interaction, but also because of the simple loss of physical contact.
We calm our pets by stroking them, we greet each other with a hug or a handshake, and we soothe our children by holding them. No other form of connection is as powerful and universal as touch. Taking a look at how this sensation is connected to the brain provides insight into the significance of bodywork.
Skin and the Brain
The adult human lives inside an envelope of about 18 square feet of skin. Every inch houses thousands of nerve endings and various kinds of sensory receptors, all working to tell the brain about its surroundings. The cold of an ice cube, the softness of a cat’s fur, a warm breeze, and the caress of a loved one–all of these feelings are possible because of our skin. Our skin tells us about our environment and ourselves. When we touch something with our fingers, we’re not only sensing the object, we’re also feeling our own skin, our own boundaries.
In the first few days of an embryo’s life, the cells that eventually become a fully formed baby divide into three layers. The brain and skin come from the same layer, and they develop together, not only before birth, but well into the first year of life. When a baby is held, cuddled, and breast-fed, she’s getting crucial stimulation to build neural connections between her skin and her brain that will ultimately last her entire lifetime.
Study after study has shown that touch is not only important for development, but is crucial to survival. James H.M. Knox of Johns Hopkins Hospital reported in 1915 that babies left in orphanages and given proper nutrition died at a rate of about 90 percent. Other studies of the same era confirmed these findings and showed that those babies who did survive were often mentally handicapped and stunted in their growth. These valuable studies helped institutions understand the importance of touch. When staff was added to provide enough time for each child to be held, handled, and touched, mortality rates dropped dramatically.
Massage for Children
Those early statistical studies showed how vital touch is to developing infants. Researchers are also finding that giving massage to premature infants can improve their growth and overall health. A study conducted by the Touch Research Institute (TRI) at the University of Miami found that when stable premature babies were given five, one-minute massages a day, they gained 47 percent more weight than their counterparts who didn’t get massage.
A 2001 study conducted by TRI showed that when mothers gave their infants a 15-minute massage before bedtime, these sleep-challenged kids went to sleep more quickly and were more alert during daytime hours.
Conversely, clinical research and sociological studies link touch deprivation with aggression. A 2002 study reported that adolescents with a history of aggressive behavior showed less aggression and were less anxious after receiving a 20-minute massage twice a week for five weeks.
Massage also reduces the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder so kids can concentrate better, and it’s even been found that the right kind of touch can help kids with autism relate better to teachers and family members.
Massage for Adults
Ongoing research by the Touch Research Institute continues to prove that massage is an important therapy for many conditions. After a massage, levels of the stress hormone cortisol drop in saliva tests, examinations show an improvement in alertness and relaxation, depression scores decrease, and mental focus improves.
The exponential growth of the bodywork field is a testament to the value of safe, therapeutic touch. Of course bodywork can play an essential role in the healing of specific chronic or acute orthopedic conditions, but it also serves as a powerful aide in improving the quality of life for adults.
Stan, a former client, was going through a nasty divorce. He had friends to support him emotionally, but it seemed that the thing he missed most was the nurturing touch of his partner. He credits weekly massage appointments, along with seeing a counselor, to his emotional recovery. Massage can be a healthy way to get that much-needed human contact.
Massage for the elderly
People confined to nursing homes rarely get more than daily hygienic care in terms of touch. Yet elders need touch as much as infants; studies show that when they receive regular massage, the elderly have less depression and anxiety, experience better physical coordination, and show a decrease of stress hormone in their saliva.
Geriatric massage is a growing field requiring specialized training, and many massage therapists offer it in their practices. Some nursing homes now provide massage to their residents. Elders appear to respond as well to bodywork as, if not better than, their younger counterparts.
Contact for all ages
Before babies learn about their hands and feet, they need the touch of loved ones and caregivers. We retain that need our entire lives. Remember to savor touch the next time you’re laying on a massage table. Your therapist is not only working out tight muscles, she’s contacting your entire nervous system, calming you through pathways that were put in place before you were born.
Abdominal massage – why it is important to you and to your health
When I first started receiving massage more than 30 years ago, abdominal work was a standard part of every massage session that I experienced. I always thought that it was part of a standard massage routine. In recent years however, abdominal work seems to be left out of a basic massage more and more. This is very unfortunate, as there are many reasons why one should receive abdominal work, not the least of which is that the abdomen is a part of the body and it deserves the same amount of attention as any other area!
Needless to say, I include abdominal work as part of every standard massage that I perform with clients.
Here are just a few reasons why abdominal massage is important
• The abdomen is the center and core of the body that houses vital organs.
• These organs govern nutritional absorption for overall health and vitality, as well as detoxification
• Abdominal massage helps center and balance the client and it can be a very comforting experience, especially during times of change.
• Abdominal massage can assist in digestion. The abdomen houses the solar plexus, which is one of the largest nerve bundles of the autonomic nervous system located in the region just below the diaphragm. This nerve center supports digestion and organ function.
• The abdomen is a very personal area, and abdominal massage can help survivors of abuse and trauma reconnect with their bodies.
How is abdominal massage performed and received?
I usually incorporate abdominal work near the end of a massage session. I will undrape the stomach and provide a breast or chest drape. Massage strokes are almost always performed in a clockwise rotation – this follows the digestive tract and flow and helps assist the digestive process (peristalsis). I begin the abdominal work with slow, flowing, relaxing strokes. As the client becomes more comfortable, I will work along the diaphragm and incorporate underbody strokes. I almost always use therapeutic-grade essential oils. Clary sage, peppermint, chamomile and other blends can be helpful to clients with menstrual cramps, bloating, PMS and menopausal symptoms.
Some clients are comfortable having me work without a chest drape, and this allows me to finish the massage session with long, full body strokes up the leg, the abdomen and the up the sternum (middle chest). Long strokes like that serve to reconnect the client to her body and they are extremely comforting.
Abdominal massage should be a standard part of every massage session. If your therapist does not include this, ask her to do so at your next session.
Have you had your belly rubbed today? Schedule your massage today.
I’ve written many times here on my blog about the power of touch and why it is important in our lives. Healing touch can help a trauma victim recover and move past the trauma. I’ve written about how touch is a basic human need. And I’ve written a series of articles on the positive impact of caring touch on body image. The benefits of regular bodywork and massage therapy are very well documented and understood. But, for many Americans massage therapy and bodywork seems like a luxury and not an essential part of our day-to-day plan for well-being.
In my post today, fellow ABMP member Nora Brunner writes about why touch is even more important in our high-tech world. We live high tech lives, but what we need is a high-touch life too.
Physician and holistic health pioneer Rachel Naomi Remen once confessed that as a pediatric intern she was an unrepentant baby kisser, often smooching her little patients as she made her rounds at the hospital. She did this when no one was looking because she sensed her colleagues would frown on her behavior, even though she couldn’t think of a single reason not to do it.
The lack of basic human contact in our high-tech medical system reflects a larger social ill that has only recently started to get some attention–touch deprivation. The cultural landscape is puzzling. On the one hand, we are saturated in suggestive messages by the mass media; on the other hand, the caring pediatrician is afraid someone might look askance at her planting a kiss on a baby’s forehead. What’s wrong with this picture?
Unfortunately, touch has become, well, a touchy subject. Though there’s growing scientific evidence that skin-to-skin contact is beneficial to human health, American social norms inhibit this most basic form of human interaction and communication. Despite our supposedly enlightened attitudes, we Americans are among the most touch-deprived people in the world.
“Touch deprivation is a reality in American culture as a whole,” writes Reverend Anthony David of Atlanta. “It’s not just babies needing to be touched in caring ways, or the sick. It’s not just doctors and nurses needing to extend it. It’s all of us, needing connection, needing to receive it, needing to give it, with genuine happiness at stake.”
How did we come to deprive ourselves so tragically? According to Texas psychology professor David R. Cross, PhD, there are three reasons Americans don’t touch each other more: fear of sexual innuendo, societal and personal disconnection aided by technology, and the fact that the ill effects of non-touching are simply not that obvious and don’t receive much attention.
It’s no surprise Americans are often afraid physical touching signals romantic interest, which leads to the twin perils of either having our intentions misunderstood or wondering if someone’s gesture is an uninvited advance. This ambiguity is more than enough to scare most people from taking someone’s arm or patting them on the back.
The potential for the loaded gesture is further complicated by our litigious society in which unwelcome touch can mean, or be interpreted as, dominance, sexual harassment, or exploitation. People in the helping professions are regularly counseled on how to do their jobs without creating even a hint of ambiguity. In one extreme example, counselors at a children’s summer camp were given the advice that when kids proactively hugged them, the counselors were to raise both arms over their heads to show they hadn’t invited the contact and weren’t participating in it. One wonders how the innocent minds of children will interpret this bizarre response to their spontaneous affection.
Another reason for touch phobia, according to Cross, is that we live in a society with far-flung families and declining community connections. Technology plays a significant role in the way we communicate, and it seems we move farther away from face-to-face communication with every new invention. How ironic that the old telephone company jingle that encouraged us to “Reach Out and Touch Someone” gave way to the slew of electronic devices we have today, all ringing and beeping for our attention. While these devices were invented to improve communication, some people wonder if the net effect is lower quality in our exchanges of information.
While there is scientific research showing non-touch is detrimental to health, Cross says those negative effects aren’t obvious. The effects of a lack of touch are insidious and long-term and don’t amount to a dramatic story for prime time.
“Humans deprived of touch are prone to mental illness, violence, compromised immune systems, and poor self-regulation,” Cross says. So serious are the effects of touch deprivation, it’s considered by researchers to be worse than physical abuse.
Benefits of touch
Stated more positively, science does support the preventive health benefits of touch. For example, Tiffany Field, PhD, founder of the Touch Research Institute, notes that in a study on preterm infants, massaging the babies increased their weight and allowed them to be discharged earlier. Discharging babies earlier from expensive neonatal intensive care units could save the healthcare system $4.7 billion annually.
In other research, scientists at the University of North Carolina found the stress hormone cortisol was reduced with hugging. Cortisol is associated with anger, anxiety, physical tension, and weakened immunity.
Massage therapy has been found useful in reducing symptoms such as anxiety, depression, pain, and stress, and is helpful for those suffering with a variety of illnesses, including anorexia nervosa, arthritis, cancer, fibromyalgia, and stroke. While more research is needed, massage therapy has also been shown to reduce symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal and smoking cessation, and can strengthen self-esteem, boost the immune system, increase flexibility, and improve sleep.
As a nation, we are still finding our way in terms of increasing our touch quotient; but those who make their way into a massage therapy room are farther along than most.
When was the last time you enjoyed the healing touch of therapeutic massage? If you can’t remember, maybe it’s time to schedule your session today! Book now!
What kind of massage client are you? Do you make an appointment after someone has given you a massage gift certificate? Do you try to get in every now and then for a stress-relieving tune-up? Or do you see your therapist religiously–once a week, every three weeks, once a month?
While getting a massage–regardless of how often–is incredibly beneficial to your body and mind, getting frequent massage treatments is even more powerful as a healthcare ally.
“People who get massage regularly demonstrate a reduction in pain and muscular tension and an improvement in posture,” says Anne Williams, author of Spa Bodywork: A Guide for Massage Therapists (Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2006).
“People regularly make a commitment to fitness. People regularly make a commitment to changing their diet. The difference they’d experience if they regularly made a commitment to massage is mind-blowing,” she says.
One way in which frequent massage can improve our quality of life is by alleviating stress. Experts say most disease is stress-related, and nothing ages us faster–inside or out–than the effects of stress. As stress-related diseases continue to claim more lives every year, the increasingly deadly role stress plays in modern-day life is painfully clear.
Massage is a great way to take charge and reverse the situation. Mary Beth Braun and Stephanie Simonson, authors of Introduction to Massage Therapy (Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2007), explain the benefits of massage therapy in the simplest of terms: “Healing input influences healing output.” They note that frequent massage can reduce the accumulation of stress and improve overall health. “The benefits of massage are cumulative,” they write.
This being the case, it only makes sense that those aches and pains you see your massage therapist for might disappear faster, stay away longer, or even go away altogether with more frequent visits. Stress might never reach those physiologically detrimental levels where the immune system is suppressed or the nervous system is sent into an alarm state if you are able to receive stress-relieving bodywork with some consistency. Not only would your body benefit by regularly unleashing its aches and pains instead of adapting to them, but your mind would have time to wash away the stresses of a life lived in overdrive. Both are critical pieces for living well.
Experts say the body and mind can learn to live more calmly, more efficiently, and more healthfully when frequent massage shows the way. That makes for a healthier whole, allowing us to continue to live life at its fullest, even as we deal with each new stress or challenge.
In so many ways, massage is preventive health care. Yes, it can address injuries, scar tissue, and chronic pain, as well as provide relief for cancer patients and reduce hospitalization for premature babies, among many other valuable benefits (go to Massagetherapy.com for more information on the myriad benefits of massage). But when the healthy, and trying-to-be-healthy, among us seek out massage on a regular basis, it helps us live a proactively healthier life.
Since bodywork influences every system in the body, there are enormous possibilities created by increasing the frequency in which you address those systems. It’s best to discuss your session goals with your massage therapist and together devise a plan of frequency that meets your needs, while taking into account your therapist’s best advice.
According to Benny Vaughn, sports massage expert and owner of Athletic Therapy Center in Fort Worth, Texas, one of the benefits of consistent and regular massage therapy is better flexibility. “This happens because regular and structured touch stimulus enhances the nervous system’s sensory and spatial processing capacity,” he says. “That is, the person becomes more aware of their body’s movement in space and becomes more aware of tightness or pain long before it reaches a critical point of mechanical dysfunction.”
Quite simply, frequent massage puts you more in tune with your body. “The consistency of massage therapy over time creates a cumulative stress reduction effect,” Vaughn says. “The person becomes acutely aware of stress within their body long before it can create stress-driven damage.”
He says the consistency of receiving regular massage therapy has the potential to create a cumulative wellness effect. “Ultimately when one feels good, our whole being follows suit on all other levels–i.e., decision-making is better, processing life events is better, and being happy is easier when you are not in pain or feeling ‘heavy’ or ‘tight.’”
Williams says she’s certain people’s lives would be changed if they could schedule massage and bodywork more frequently. “I encourage clients to commit to getting massage once a week for a month and then evaluate the results they get,” she says. “I guarantee they will become massage enthusiasts for life.”
–Alleviate low-back pain and increase range of motion.
–Create body self-awareness.
–Improve muscle tone and stimulate their nerve supply.
–Improve elasticity of skin and promote skin rejuvenation.
–Improve sleep and calm the mind.
–Increase endorphin and seratonin production.
–Reduce edema, as well as joint inflammation.
–Release negative holding patterns from previous injuries.
–Stimulate lymph circulation and enhance immunity.