Kids & Massage

I saw a great article about the benefits of massage for kids with ADHD.

Helping Children Find Focus article in Massage Therapy.com. I hope you enjoy reading it.

I love massaging kids. In my practice, parents have primarily brought their kids in for the following reasons:

  • sports-related aches & pains or injuries
  • music-related aches & pains or strains (like holding a violin!)
  • growing pains
  • test/school anxiety
  • to share their love of massage

I’ve massaged my son quite a bit over the years and I always love to have him on my table. He is 9 now and massaging him over those 9 years has changed a great deal. I’ve offered to teach parents some simple massage techniques and routines over the years but haven’t had any takers yet. It’s a great gift you can give your baby, child or teen. Maybe you’ll be the first!

Here are a few items to keep in mind when children receive massage.

  • Just like adults, kids have to feel comfortable receiving massage in order for the massage to be beneficial. I always work within the child’s comfort level and go out of my way to develop a basic level of trust in terms of communicating what the child likes and how to tell me if there is something he or she doesn’t like.
  • As the parent or guardian, you can stay with your child in the room or at the shop in the waiting area. Remember that although you may feel comfortable with me, your child might not, at least initially. Be willing to stay during the session, for your child’s benefit.
  • Just like an adult, your child can remain fully clothed during the session. When remaining clothed, wearing loose-fitting clothing is best in order to facilitate stretching and movement. He or she may also disrobe to their level of comfort, knowing he or she will be covered with a sheet and blanket in all appropriate areas.
  • Similar to when I work with an adult who has never received massage, I describe what I propose to work on before the session begins and obtain permission before proceeding. As the session proceeds, I check in to make sure I’m targeting the most important areas the child wants worked on. This is more important in cases of sport-specific or music-specific aches & pains.
  • Children don’t often need an hour session. Many times a 30-minute session is sufficient. There is less surface area and, hopefully, fewer trouble spots than on an adult. Together we figure out a plan of how much time we think we’ll need, but we remain flexible and end the session early if appropriate. The session fee is pro-rated. I can give me son a “full-body” session in about 20 minutes.

Let me know if this article brings up any questions I didn’t address. Again, I’m happy to teach parents and kids a mini-massage routine they can do at home too. Consider giving your child all the great benefits of massage!

Benefits of Pregnancy Massage

There are very specific benefits of pregnancy massage. Research supports the following claims about massage:

  • offsets the negative effects of stress on mother & baby
  • lowers blood pressure
  • increases parasympathetic response in body
  • decreases cortisol levels
  • increases serotonin & dopamine
  • decreases anxiety & depression
  • increases systemic & local blood circulation
  • decreases late pregnancy edema in lower legs
  • relieves muscle spasms, cramps & myofascial pain
  • improves labor outcomes

That’s a pretty impressive list. I’m happy to go over more specific studies and details if you’d like to call or meet in person. The point I’m trying to make is that there’s real evidence that pregnancy massage is much more than pampering.

This year I’m offering a different kind of special in honor of mothers. As a certified pre-natal and post-partum massage therapist, I’m happy to offer a discount to pregnant and post-partum women. I’m defining post-partum very loosely: up to a year after baby arrived. If you know any pregnant or post-partum moms, send them in for a massage!

Honoring Moms Special

  • a 60-minute massage is $65
  • a 90-minute massage is $85.
  • This offer lasts through June 15, 2012.
  • Limit 3 per client.
  • Not offered as a gift certificate.
  • Cannot be combined with other offers, discounts or specials.

Thank you for forwarding this email to any pregnant or post-partum women you know who may be interested. They will thank you too!

Inspiration – a Turn on the Table

Ah...that's the spot!Where do you go for inspiration?

Any job, at times, can feel like a job. We may love it, find it fulfilling, enjoy its challenges and still come up a little short sometimes. I’ve been feeling a bit like that this week. Perhaps an odd thing to confess here on my blog about massage.

I had the busiest March in memory. I didn’t see it coming. I never think “Oh, March! Buckle your seatbelts!” The month was busy with wonderful clients, an excellent workshop in Massage for the Childbearing Year, and lots going on in our family life. And then April snuck in on the heels of March. Mix in a cold over Easter, my son sick the last few days and I feel like I’m looking for Inspiration!

In the field of massage, one easily overlooked trick of the trade to keep your inspiration is to be sure to RECEIVE massage regularly. Getting a turn on the table is inspiring and restorative. Massage is full of creativity and innovation, in 60- or 90-minute increments. At it’s essence, massage is about feeling good in your body, at ease and comfortable. These are excellent things to seek out in the midst of busy-ness and feeling like you need a toehold in life’s rush. A turn on the table reminds a massage therapist why our clients keep coming back – it really is magical.

So, without further ado, I will exit the blog world and book a few sessions to take me through the next few weeks. This is a gift I give to myself and to my clients!

Arthritis & Massage Part 1

There are many different kinds of arthritis. This article explains the basics of osteoarthritis, which is often thought of as the “wear and tear” type of arthritis. It is a degenerative condition of the joints, especially weight-bearing joints like hips and knees, but also fingers and other joints. An estimated 27 million Americans have osteoarthritis according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2005 study).

Basic Explanation: The ends of bones are covered in cartilage. The cartilage of one bone rests on top of the cartilage of the other bone, allowing smooth movement of the joint. If even the slightest bit of damage occurs to the cartilage of one bone it will start to irritate and tear into the cartilage of the other bone. This leads to more irritation and inflammation of the joint capsule.

Once there is damage to the cartilage, the joint cannot function properly or move smoothly. The body may try to “rebuild” the joint by causing new bone to form. But this actually makes the problem worse. Sometimes these bony growths prevent the joint from moving properly by actually getting in the way. This process also leads to pain. My good friend, Hailey Paton, Physical Therapist told me that injury to ligaments and tendons, which causes scar tissue to form and irritate and disrupt the movement of the joint, can also eventually lead to arthritis. She mentioned that hereditary factors and being obese can lead to osteoarthritis.

Once damage occurs, surrounding muscles react. “Any muscles that cross a stiff, painful, and constantly aggravated joint will tend to tighten up. That’s what muscles do when they are in constant pain. It’s also likely that they would develop some trigger points in the process, because they won’t really get to relax as long as that joint is in pain. And the tension they cause will compress the joint, making it even more painful, which will reinforce the spasm, and so on.” A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology, by Ruth Werner. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 1998 p. 78. Decreasing muscle tension is one of the things that massage is best at! Isn’t that handy.

Diagnosis: I found the Arthritis Foundation website very helpful. “In order to make a diagnosis of osteoarthritis, your doctor will ask about your medical history and symptoms, then conduct a physical exam, paying special attention to your joints and how they move. Traditionally, an osteoarthritis diagnosis is made only after joint pain and stiffness becomes persistent and an X-ray shows loss of cartilage and resulting damage to bones. However, research is pursuing ways to detect osteoarthritis sooner.” See more here.

Treatment: There are many treatments available to those with arthritis. As arthritis continues, more aggressive treatments may be appropriate. Movement of joints with arthritis seems to be recommended by most sources because movement is how joints are lubricated and nourished. Treatments may include such things as medications for pain, medications for inflammation, injections, acupuncture, chiropractic, assistive devices (cane, walker, etc.), surgery, hot and cold therapy and nutritional changes.

In my research on the web, I found this great article in Arthritis Today. It summarizes ways in which massage can help. Here are some highlights. Massage can:
•    Reduce pain
•    Decrease stiffness
•    Increase range of motion
•    Improve hand grip strength
•    Increase overall function of the joints
Both professional massage and self-massage can benefit a person with arthritis.

If you have arthritis and would like to explore if massage would be a good part of your overall treatment plan, please call me. We can discuss it with your health care professionals and create a customized treatment plan for you. Remember, I’m not a doctor and cannot diagnose any medical condition including arthritis. Please do not regard this article as a comprehensive treatise on arthritis. However, I hope you have found it useful. I am planning more articles on arthritis. Next up is: Arthritis & Nutrition (a guest post with Jill Brook), and Arthritis & Massage Part 2 (exploring arthritis of the spine). A special thanks to Hailey Paton, Physical Therapist, for her help on this article.

self-massage for runners

In honor of my niece who incorporated a lot of running into her training, I offer these self-massage tips for runners and other athletes. Using self-massage as part of a warm-up routine can help improve performance and reduce the chance of injury. Muscles pumped full of blood have more oxygen at their disposal and therefore more power and endurance. Tendons and ligaments that have been warmed up are less brittle and better able to flex when needed. This simple routine addresses both of these goals.

Sit on a chair or on the floor. Begin by jostling the muscles of the upper and lower legs. Allow your muscles to be loose and think of jostling them around the bones at the center of the leg. (Easier when seated on a chair.)

Next make your hands into loose fists and rhythmically, gently pound the muscles of the upper leg. (Pretend you’re a  drummer finally getting your turn at a solo.) Keep the tempo fairly vigorous, not slow and meditative. In a pre-workout session you want to get the blood pumping. You can alternate left and right fists or clasp hands and strike the muscles together. (no picture for this one)

Target the inside and outside of the upper leg by leaning into the muscles with the heel of your hands. Inside and outside muscles help with balance and equilibrium. They benefit from being warmed up too. Keep the pressure light to medium and the rhythm fairly quick. You’re pumping blood into these muscles.

Target tendons and ligaments of the ankles and knees: We want our tendons and ligaments to be warmed up before taking the load of running or other sports. Tendons and ligaments are made of a substance that responds really well to heat or heat generated by friction. Should one twist or roll an ankle, a brittle ligament is more likely to tear than a warmed-up one.

Vigorously rub the area all around the knee (top, bottom, front and sides of knee). You can use the heel of your hands, the palms, or backs of knuckles – whatever is comfortable. You can do this through clothing, right on the skin, or by throwing a towel over the knee. You can also throw a hot water bottle or hot pack onto the knees before you run. Both of these strategies work well.

Proceed to the ankles. Ankles have many tendons and ligaments. They help provide stability for the variety of motions we ask of our bodies: bend, flex, point, brake, sprint, turn on a dime, etc. With the heel of your hand, vigorously rub all around both ankles. Get the tops of the feet, all around the ankle bones on the insides and outsides of the feet, the heels, the Achilles tendons in the back. Take a moment to move each ankle through a complete range of motion passively or actively. Be sure to rub the bottom of the foot where the important plantar fascia lies. You can do with with a tennis ball instead of your hand if you stand up and roll your foot over the ball.

Lastly, if you have a tool like The Stick, use this to roll out any muscles that were hard to reach. This can be great for the hips. A tennis ball up against the wall can also get the hips pretty well. The gluteus maximus is a very important muscle in running.

Now do some stretching and you should be ready to tackle your run or other exercise. Share in the comments if you have a favorite pre-run/pre-exercise warm-up everyone should know about.

Deep Tissue Massage

When I was new to receiving massage I wasn’t really sure what I wanted. I find this is the case for a lot of people. One time I scheduled a Deep Tissue massage. I had left a message with the therapist and she called back while I was out. When I returned my co-worker informed me that the therapist had called back to confirm my Deep Tissue massage. My co-worker said those words like they were magic, like “I don’t know what in the world a Deep Tissue massage is, but it sounds good!”

The goal of Deep Tissue Massage is to penetrate to deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. When I give a Deep Tissue massage, I use a creme instead of an oil or gel so that I’m gliding over skin less and sinking down into the tissue more. I use stretches, engage tendons at their origins and insertions, and endeavor to differentiate tissues that have become adhered to each other. More often than not I combine Deep Tissue with Swedish/circulatory massage to first loosen up the muscles I’m going to work more in depth on. I like to think strategically about how the strain in one area can be caused by tightness or weakness in another area. Because of this I sometimes work where the pain isn’t, in order to relieve pain where it’s felt. This is an excellent massage choice for working on those knots and areas of chronic tension that hinder your free range of motion.

Deep Tissue massage is by necessity slower. It takes longer to sink in deeper. I rarely do Deep Tissue on the whole body. It would take 3 hours and you’d feel as if you’d been run over by a truck. I usually do Deep Tissue on 1 or 2 regions, for example the back and legs. The rest of the body might not need that deep, penetrating specificity. Heat and ice combine well with Deep Tissue massage. I might heat an area first to loosen up the muscle and connective tissue. This allows the body to receive the depth better. I might ice an area after deep work to decrease any inflammation caused by the work itself. This can decrease soreness the client may feel later.

In Deep Tissue massage the therapist may use her hands, knuckles, forearms, elbows, and even feet to achieve the desired depth. But equally important is patience, working with the clients breath, and attention to the body’s willingness to receive the work. Author Art Riggs in his book Deep Tissue Massage (North Atlantic Books 2002) emphasizes working with not on the person’s muscle tissue. He provides this definition.

A simple definition might be: the understanding of the layers of the body, and the ability to work with tissue in these layers to relax, lengthen, and release holding patterns in the most effective and energy efficient way possible. (p. 3)

In Deep Tissue Massage there is less emphasis on pleasure as the primary goal and more emphasis on altering structure and muscle restrictions. This is not to say that the work is not pleasurable. Most clients, once they are accustomed to the benefits of deep tissue work, prefer the increase degree of relaxation, the alleviation of pain, and the longer lasting benefits. (p. 3)

If you’ve ever been intrigued with what a Deep Tissue massage would feel like, let me know. If you’ve ever felt beat up by a Deep Tissue massage, my guess is that the therapist was working too hard to fit some spa menu definition of Deep Tissue massage and wasn’t paying enough attention to your particular body’s needs. Perhaps you’d like to give it another try. Let me know; I’m here to help.

Forearms 101

Daydreaming in jr. high social studies class I used to admire my forearms, thinking I would make a pretty good body builder. At the time I thought I had some nice muscle definition. Clearly I was just a dorky jr. high kid. Right after this phase I wanted to be an accountant and look where I am now – the burly forearms won!?

In honor of well-defined forearm muscles everywhere and my former daydreaming days, I humbly submit to you, dear reader, this primer on the forearms. Forearms house the bulk of muscles that work our hands and fingers. If all of our hand muscles were in our hands, each hand would be about the size of a catcher’s mitt. Although there are some fancy specialized muscles, the forearms are pretty straight forward. The flexors on one side flex the fingers and wrist (think curling in the fingers and wrist). The extensors on the other side extend the fingers and wrist (think of a police officer directing traffic showing “STOP” with her outstretched hand) (Or think of the Supremes’ hit “Stop in the Name of Love” and feel the Motown wave washing over you!).

There are other muscles that help us perform all the exact motions that make our arms and hands so amazing, but I’m just going to focus on flexors and extensors today.

Why even write about the forearms? Don’t they kind of take care of themselves? When people come in for massage they want to focus time on massage for the weary back and neck. But wait! When I get to the forearms I often hear, “I didn’t realize my arms were so sore.” Yes, they work hard for us and we want to take care of them.

Muscle mapquest: see the photos above. The Trail Guide to the Body by Andrew Biel (Books of Discovery 2005) describes the forearms this way: “As a group [the extensors of the wrist and hand] are smaller and more sinewy than the forearm flexors.” p. 143 “…the flexors are thicker and more pliable than the extensors.” p. 148 It may be obvious, but these muscle groups are antagonists to each other. When one side is working, the other side is not. Ideally there should be balance in the strength between the 2 groups.

Why should I care, Susan? I argue that many of us use these forearm muscles more than we realize. And we often overburden them without realizing it. Further we pay them no heed unless they really complain, which is often a little late for their health. Tasks like typing & mousing use these muscles repetitively. Activities like playing piano, drums, violin, guitar and many other instruments tax them.  Racquet sports like tennis & racquetball give them quite a workout. Any activities where you are gripping an object repetitively or with a lot of exertion will use these muscles. Rock climbing comes to mind too! Ever heard of carpal tunnel syndrome? Well that has a lot to do with how we use these muscles because the tendons to these muscles dive under the flexor retinaculm and can cause inflammation in that carpel tunnel. See the quote at the end for more information.

Here are 3 strategies for taking care of these workhorses of daily living. They can be used together or separately.

Ice bath: On days when you are really giving your forearm muscles a challenge, you can treat them to an ice bath. To do so, fill up your kitchen sink with cold water. Add a couple trays of ice cubes. Dip your arms into the water up to and including the elbows. Keep your arms in for as long as you can tolerate the cold. Raise your arms out of the water and let them warm up or dry them off. Dip again several times. This takes down inflammation caused by repetitive use. It also flushes blood through the muscles by alternately constricting and dilating the blood vessels in the area.

Self massage: These muscles are fairly easy to massage oneself. Lay 1 arm flat on a counter, desktop or tabletop. Apply a small amount of lotion so you can glide over the muscles. With your other hand shaped like a fist, apply pressure with the back of the knuckles as you slide from wrist to elbow. For extra benefit alternate between making a fist and stretching the wrist and fingers back of the arm being massaged while you slide up with the working hand. Start on the more fleshy flexor side and then change to the extensor side. You’ll find it’s a little more bony on the extensor side, but feels fabulous.

Helpful tools: There are several helpful tools on the market that can help you take care of your arms. Here are 3 of my favorites: Roleo, Armaid, The Stick. If you want to purchase the Roleo through Gaiam or The Stick, click on my affiliate link first over at Foothill Health Dialogues. I’ll get a little kick-back that helps pay for maintaining that site. (Thanks!)

Here’s what one of my favorite authors has to say on the topic:

Median nerve entrapment, especially in the carpel tunnel, is one of the most common upper-extremity injuries. While the carpal tunnel is the likely site for median nerve entrapment, there are at least half a dozen potential sites of nerve entrapment between the neck and hand. In many cases, a carpal tunnel syndrome becomes more symptomatic than it normally would because there is at least one additional location of nerve compromise along the median nerve’s path. Even a partial nerve entrapment can complicate the condition.

Traditional treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome often only focus attention on the carpal tunnel itself at the base of the hand. The contribution of nerve entrapments in other locations can be overlooked. An advantage of massage therapy treatment is the amount of time the practitioner spends with the client and the subsequent thoroughness of soft-tissue treatment that can be applied throughout the entire upper extremity. Extensive massage treatment along the entire path of the median nerve helps make sure any of these potential sites of nerve entrapment are properly neutralized. Orthopedic Massage Theory and Technique by Whitney Lowe (Mosby Elsevier 2009) page 270.

Incidentally I think my 8 year old son would think I’m extra cool if I told him I was “neutralizing” the enemy of carpal tunnel syndrome. What do you think?

Lastly, please remember I’m not a doctor and this is not medical advice to you personally. Especially if you believe you have some forearms challenges, please get them checked out by a physician, physical therapist or another healthcare professional.