UPDATE 4/3/2020: The Governor has ordered all non-essential businesses closed, and issued a stay at home order for the month of April. As a result, my office will continue to remain closed until the end of April. I am working my way through my appointments, contacting each person individually. Staying closed in May is also a probability, but let’s keep hoping. Meanwhile, wash your hands, stay home, stay healthy, and stay tuned to my website/blog, Facebook, and Instagram for health and wellness tips and other updates.
ORIGINAL POST 3/19/2020: The decision about whether to continue seeing clients or have a suspension of appointments has been weighing heavily on me the last few days. The rapidly changing news, new information coming to light, and the changing of professional opinions — as well as my concern for the well-being of my clients — have all been taken into consideration. For everyone’s safety, I have decided to close my office until the end of March and see where the coronavirus heads in the next couple of weeks.
Weighing the Factors
As of this afternoon, one case of coronavirus has been confirmed here in Penobscot County, likely right in Bangor. This reassures me that I’ve made the right decision. Here are a few other things that were red flags to me:
Reports of summer people coming to Maine early, and therefore tracking their germs from home through our airports and grocery stores.
Massage Educator Ruth Werner, author of “A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology” originally stated she felt that it was okay to continue to see clients as long as we took precautions, but has recently revised her opinion to state that she feels that it’s just too difficult to confine the virus.
My own general stress and anxiety levels, and not being sure if I’m just stressed or actually feeling sick.
By now, I have emailed all of my clients who were scheduled through March 31st. You do not need to go in and cancel your appointment, I’ll do that for you, so I can track carefully who I’ve had to cancel.
Don’t get too excited and run to schedule a new appointment in April. I’ll be watching what the virus is doing, and in a perfect world we would be able to continue business as usual in April, but I’m feeling cautious about that. I’ve blocked any available appointments the first three weeks of April, and the people I’ve had to cancel this month will get first dibs on them in the order they were canceled. I’ll contact you to schedule.
IF it seems like I need to stretch the closure out into April, I will update you all on my plans via email, Facebook, Instagram, and my website blog.
In the Meantime
If you’re hurting, feel free to email me, and I’ll see if I can help you with stretches, self massage techniques, or Reiki.
Some plans I’m formulating to keep us all busy, informed, or entertained:
Blog posts & social media health and wellness tips
Videos of self massage techniques & tips to get the most out of your massage session
Possible guided meditation recordings/videos
Possible distance Reiki shares
I will also be providing distance Reiki appointments, with focused Reiki sessions for stress, anxiety, health/immune system support, or whatever you need help with – 30 or 60 minute sessions. Stay tuned for details on how to schedule.
Meanwhile, take care of yourselves and each other, and wash your hands!
UPDATE 4/3/2020: This post was originally written on 3/12/2020, before COVID-19 had really even gotten a foothold in Maine. At a later date it’ll be updated to reflect general sanitation practices. At this time, my office is closed at least until the end of April, 2020.
I’ve been chatting with my massage clients in recent days about concerns around both the influenza virus and COVID-19. I’m always concerned and careful about sharing germs, particularly in flu season. I see clients of varying ages and health levels and I want to keep all of us healthy.
Hygiene and sanitation are of huge importance to a massage therapist regardless of what bugs are going around. Besides cold and flu season, there are plenty of reasons to make sure we’re not sharing germs or pathogens. Here are some of the preventive measures I take in my office:
Basic Sanitation Practices
Using a fresh set of sheets for each client, laundered in hot water.
Wiping down the table, face cradle, and other surfaces with disinfecting spray between each appointment.
Washing my hands before and after every massage, with hot water & soap, for at least one minute.
Using a hand towel or paper towel to open and close doors before and after washing.
Avoiding touching my face with my bare hands during your massage.
Sanitizing my hands halfway through your massage.
If I’m not feeling well, I will ALWAYS contact you and let you know.
This is how I operate even when there isn’t a pandemic concern. Given the concerns about COVID-19, I have begun instituting a few upgrades to wellness and prevention here in my office. These primarily involve things I’m doing here at the office, but I also need your help.
New Things Happening Here:
Avoiding face massage unless you have a particle issue you want to address (TMJD, headaches, etc).
Periodically disinfecting door knobs and other surfaces in the office with a food grade disinfectant.
Diffusing an essential oil blend that promotes immunity (I will turn it off if I know someone is coming in with asthma or other sensitivities).
Working on providing extra hand sanitizer for clients (thank you, panic buyers).
What You Can Do:
Health and sanitation are a two way street (maybe more like a busy intersection, but you get the idea). Here are some things you can do to help:
Use common sense and a little caution. If you’re not feeling well, I’m not going to charge you for rescheduling your appointment.
DO NOT come in for a massage if you have the flu, a cold, or God forbid, COVID-19.
If you come in actively sick, I’m going to ask you to go home, to protect both myself and your fellow clients.
Wash your hands before you come into the office. (Check out this article that explains the effectiveness of hand washing!)
Massage is Proactive, Too
A potential public health crisis is causing stress for us all. Remember, getting a massage is actually a proactive step you can take right now to boost your immune system, relieve stress, and help you sleep.
Wellness Starts at Home
Meanwhile, you know the drill: wash your hands, eat your vegetables, drink plenty of water and get enough sleep. Stay tuned for updates on how you can boost your immune system and stay healthy.
Tackling the “massage is like 8 hours of sleep” myth.
Does massage equal sleep? Sometimes, I see a lovely graphic someone made of the benefits of massage, and I think “Oh wow! I want to share this with my clients!” Then, I read the list of benefits… and inevitably I scrap the idea. There are a few massage myths that turn up on these lists, and I plan to talk about some of them. This is the big one that makes me the craziest. So, go ahead, ask it:
Is an Hour of Massage Really the Same as 8 Hours of Sleep?
What’s the Deal, Then?
Does massage equal sleep? Essentially, the answer to the question has become sort of over-simplified and exaggerated. Try skipping a couple of nights of sleep and replacing them with a massage. That makes me tired just thinking about it!
What I learned in massage school was that an hour of massage has similar benefits to the body as about 3 hours of restorative rest. That’s kind of like a nice long nap. But, let’s break it down a little bit.
What Happens When We Sleep?
There are stages to sleep that you’re just not going to get from a massage. While I love to have a client fall asleep on the table, you aren’t going to reach all – if any – of these stages during a massage. These stages include:
“Twilight State” – the stage between being awake and falling asleep. (This is probably most commonly what you feel during a massage.)
Light sleep – heart rate and breathing regulate, body temperature drops.
Third and fourth stages are deep sleep.
The cycle repeats itself four or five times through the night.
What Do Brainy People Say About Sleep?
The National Sleep Foundation has renamed these stages N1-3 and REM. During N3, or stages 3 and 4, blood pressure drops, breathing slows, muscles relax, and blood supply to muscles increase. Metabolically, tissue growth and repair occurs, energy is restored, and growth hormones are released. REM sleep supports daytime performance, dreams occur, and the body becomes immobile and released – the muscles are turned off!
According to the National Institutes for Health, “Sleep services all aspects of our body in one way or another: molecular, energy balance, as well as intellectual function, alertness and mood.” Sleep affects growth and stress hormones, appetite, breathing, blood pressure, and cardiovascular health.
In an article by Johns Hopkins Medicine, sleep expert and neurologist Mark Wu, M.D. says that a healthy amount of sleep is vital for “brain plasticity”, or the brain’s ability to adapt to input. Too little sleep can affect our ability process what we’ve learned during the day, as well as give us trouble remembering it in the future.
What Happens When We Get a Massage?
Some people are pretty quick to hit the light sleep stage (Stage 1-2 or N1-2) during a massage. However, most of the time you’re either just really relaxed, or you’ve reached that “Twilight State” where you’re kind of asleep, kind of awake. A massage becomes more like a nap than a full night’s sleep. This is all still good for you, though! During a massage:
Blood pressure lowers
Lymph flow increases
Serotonin and melatonin levels may increase
A lot of the effects of massage are similar to those of various stages of sleep, but one cycle of sleep stages typically lasts about 90 to 110 minutes. Even in a 90 or 120 minute massage, you usually have to wake up and roll over about halfway through. Sleep Review lists a variety of reports on the effectiveness of massage in improving sleep. But, while these have found that massage improves sleep, it does not replace sleep.
What Does That All Mean?
So. Does massage equal sleep? No, but it can help. Massage helps you break the cycle of pain, find relief, and improve your sense of well-being. It can relieve stress and anxiety. In turn, it can help you get a better night’s sleep. Together, this allows your body to set up the conditions needed to heal itself.
The frequency and type of massage needed vary from person to person. Health issues may mean massage is not right for you. I encourage you to work with all your healthcare team, including your massage therapist, to figure out what works best for you.
For most people, three things factor into planning how often you get a massage: your life, your goals for massage, and your budget.
What’s My Life Schedule Like?
Your life schedule is a pretty big planning factor. How easy is it for you to take time out of your life to schedule an appointment? I try to provide a variety of times of day for appointment availability to help with that. This includes Sunday afternoons, and a bit later in the evening on Monday and Tuesday.
Many people find planning ahead helpful. If we know you want to try bi-weekly appointments, we can schedule several out ahead of time. This makes it easier to get the time slot you want. Then, you can put it into your planner and schedule the rest of your life around it!
Why Am I Getting a Massage?
On average, most people seem to find monthly sessions great for maintenance and stress relief. If you’re dealing with significant physical issues, it’s not a bad idea to try coming in more frequently. This helps get things settled into more of a maintenance level.
Weekly sessions are fantastic for really working at problem areas. With therapeutic massage, we’re trying get your body out of the holding pattern creating the muscle pain. Coming in weekly helps us catch that holding pattern before it starts to seize up again. Eventually, we remind your muscles of what it feels like to be neutral and relaxed.
Bi-weekly and monthly appointments for managing muscle pain and tension work fairly well, too. This is especially true if you’re willing to work on whatever is causing the problem at home between appointments. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Notice how you sit at your computer
Pay attention to how you walk or stand
Incorporate stretching or range of motion exercises into your day
What’s My Budget Like?
Budget is probably the biggest factor in the frequency of massage appointments. Weekly sounds great, but I totally understand if buying gas for your car or feeding your kids takes precedence. Here are some ideas for budgeting for massage:
Schedule 30 minute weekly or bi-weekly appointments.
The secret to a great massage is pretty complicated… Are you ready?
Do absolutely nothing.
That’s right. Don’t. Move. A. Muscle.
Think limp dishrag. Wet noodle. Just… hang loose.
Okay. Granted, there are times when you have to do something. Like, roll over. Or, I might ask you to push against my hand for a particular type of muscle release. Otherwise, your job during your massage is to literally do nothing. Here’s the reasoning behind that:
Don’t Work So Hard
If you “help” raise your head, or move your arm or leg, you’re likely using the very muscle that I’m trying to relax. For example, think about how your neck feels when you spend a day looking at your computer, or down at your phone. Now think about how you’re moving your head when you left it up off the massage table. Seem familiar? Instead of helping, just let your head be heavy and give those hard working neck muscles a break.
Protect Your Modesty
Here’s another thing. More often than you might think, a person moving their arm or leg as I’m covering or uncovering it gets tangled in the sheet. Or worse… *cringe* exposes a bit of skin not meant to be exposed. Also, you won’t kick me in the head. If you want to know more about what to wear (or not wear) for your massage, check out this post.
Don’t Make Me Work So Hard
Yeah, yeah… this one is a bit self-serving. BUT. I am often using your body weight do get deeper into a muscle. Maybe I want your arm a bit floppy so I can work underneath that shoulder blade, or give it a good stretch. I may be testing the range of motion of your shoulder or hip. If you’re holding a limb tense, I have no idea if it’s restricted or if you’re restricting it!
So Now What?
Just give yourself a true break on the massage table. See if you can let go of your limbs. Just hang loose. One trick that works for me when I’m having a hard time letting go of my arm… I think about the other arm, maybe wiggle or count the fingers. It distracts me from trying to “help”. Give it a try. Just hang loose. I think you’ll notice a difference.
We live in a society of near constant stimulation. Even when you come in for a massage, there’s music playing, occasional light sounds of traffic, and voices of other people in the building, along with the sensation of the massage itself.
Now, just imagine just turning it all off…
I first heard about float (sensory deprivation) tanks a few years ago, and was curious about them, but didn’t have one close enough to home to be able to check it out. Therefore, I was excited when I saw the notice last summer that there would soon be a floatation center opening a few minutes away from me in Hermon, Maine – Float 207.
What is a Float 207?
Float tanks come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from pods to full on float cabins. Approximately 10 inches of warm water fill the soundproofed tanks. The addition of a high concentration of Epsom salt makes you extremely buoyant. While there are options for light and sound, the basic concept of floatation is sensory deprivation, which means turning off the lights and music. The goal is that mythical beast, “turning it all off.”
Gabe Kingsbury and Roscoe Witham first experienced floating at a center in Portland before deciding to open their own center. Gabe discovered it a couple of years ago when he and his girlfriend were looking for something unique to do the morning after a concert, and immediately fell in love with it. Roscoe learned about it through his involvement in wellness and alternative medicine.
The pair began to discuss opening their own center, and through research and conversation, found that Greater Bangor could support its own center. They decided to take the plunge and started planning in February 2018. Float 207 opened eight months later, on October 19, 2018, becoming the Bangor area’s first floatation center.
What Are the Float Rooms Like?
While researching floating/sensory deprivation online, I saw that a lot of floatation centers used something like a pod, or an “oversized coffin” as one site described it. This worried me a little. Therefore, I was pleased to find that Float 207’s floatation tanks were actually a little more like small rooms, or large, roomy bathtubs.
The standard tanks at Float 207 are roughly 8’x5’, and you can move around in them quite a bit. They hold about 10 inches of water and have over 1200 pounds of Epsom salt dissolved inside. The water temperature is about 93.5°F. This is “skin receptor neutral.” After reading some rather wordy scientific explanations, I am guessing is ‘feels neither too hot nor too cold’, like Goldilocks’ porridge. Whatever the meaning, once you settle into floating, you cannot distinguish between the air and the water temperature.
The tanks are in their own private rooms and the doors to the tanks close, but do not latch. You can choose a color for the tank lighting and have the option to turn the lights off for true sensory deprivation. You can also pick music to play or bring your own music. Again, if you’re going for full sensory deprivation, you can opt for no music at all.
What are some of the benefits of floating?
Floatation allows you the opportunity to relax and disconnect from all that constant stimulation/sensory input and give your body and brain a chance to rest and reset. The benefits of floatation have been studied since the 1950s, and you can find information about many of these studies at the website Clinical Floatation. Some examples of the benefits of floatation include:
Decreased muscle aches
Improved sleep quality
Increased optimism and mindfulness
What is a float session like?
I met Gabe on my first visit, and he gave me a tour of the facility and explained the float process. I picked out the color of the lighting I wanted (purple), and he recommended music I might like. For my first float, I chose the “Deluxe Tank” which is larger, since I was still feeling a little apprehensive about closing myself in a small room. The deluxe room also has starry lights in the ceiling. Definitely worth the extra cost!
The tanks are in quiet private rooms. They have a sort of coziness about them while still feeling sanitary and tidy. There’s a soft, squishy rug and a bench for your clothes. There are equally soft and squishy towels provided. Along with the towels, Float 207 provides wash cloths, ear plugs, and ointment to cover any cuts or scratches (think salt water in cuts… ouch).
You need to shower thoroughly before your float to prevent gumming up the works with lotions, etc, and they provide natural, unscented shampoo and body wash, as well as conditioner you can use afterwards. You can bring your own products to use after the float. The shower is right outside the tank, making is so that you don’t have far to go between the two.
I unscenty scrubbed up, put in ear plugs, and hopped into the tank. And by “hopped”, I mean I climbed ungracefully over a kind of high edge and lowered down into the water. I closed the door and a friendly female voice recording said something about enjoying my float. It was roomy and I didn’t feel closed in. In the tank, I played with the buttons that turn the lights on and off and control the music volume before getting myself floating.
Learning to Float?
The first thing I discovered once I started floating is that I was expecting to float similar to how you do in pool or lake water. However, all that salt makes you more buoyant, and you float “higher” in the water than you do in non-salty pool water. I was having a bit of trouble finding a way to let go and relax that didn’t feel awkward. So, I opted to try the foam neck pillow provided. This helped my neck muscles stop feeling like they needed to hold my head up. I think it probably took 20 minutes for my brain and my body to work out an agreement about how to lay/float.
In between all that, there’s a certain amount of fidgeting and exploration. Like, bouncing off walls and spinning in circles because you apparently drift a lot easier when extra buoyant. I also didn’t feel as warm as I thought I would. Here’s a hint… stop fidgeting. When I stopped bouncing around I realized that the air was warm and the warmer water rose to the surface and — voila! I was warm!
Once most of that (and random playing with lights and sound) settled down, then there was the inevitable squirrel brain. Thinking about the things I should be doing instead. Pondering business stuff. Remembering I need to order this and that. Trying to meditate. Getting distracted. Deciding to turn off the purple lights and see what happens. Eventually, my brain must have given up and I zoned out/napped, because the next thing I knew, the music stopped and friendly recording lady told me she hoped I enjoyed my float.
There was a short window of re-familiarizing myself with gravity in order to stand up and step out of the tank. Then I did a lot of scrubbing and rinsing to get all the salt off. I love the big rainfall style shower head and had nearly as hard a time leaving the shower as I did the float tank. Did I mention the towels? They are fabulous!
They provide a lounge to relax in after your float, have tea, gather yourself. There’s a room with a large mirror, sink, counter space, and hair dryer to help put yourself back together. Not being a “girly girl” I didn’t even really think to bring a hairbrush, let alone makeup or anything! So, I just shrugged and went with the tousled look.
I spoke with Gabe for a few minutes on my way out. He reassured me that I would not be the first person with squirrel brain in a float tank. He says it takes on average 2-3 floats for you (and your brain) to learn what to expect and be able to fully sink into the experience.
Since then, I have gone in for a second float. I definitely stopped fidgeting much sooner and got more out of the experience. It will be interesting to see how I feel after a couple more floats, but I really think it is an excellent complement to massage therapy. I highly recommend you try out Float 207 or a float tank near you.
Be Well, ~Tricia
*Note: I have not received any compensation in exchange for this post, it’s just a product of my experience and opinions!
Why get a massage? According to a survey conducted by the American Massage Therapy Association, 28% of Americans who get a massage do so for relaxation and stress reduction.
That’s a lot of people in the US who feel pretty good about how massage helps them manage their stress. But warm fuzzies aside, what exactly do we know about massage and how it relates to stress and anxiety? And what does the research have to say about that?
What is Stress?
Stress is your body’s response to demanding circumstances. Working long hours? You’re probably stressed. Studying for a big exam? Definitely stressful. Toddler throwing a tantrum? Probably stressful for both of you.
Too Much Stress?
When stressed, your blood pressure goes up. Your breathing and heart rate increase. You may feel agitated and distracted. This is useful if you’re a prey animal that needs to flee for its life. Less useful if your stress the result of a loved one in need of patience and comfort.
When exposed to occasional stress, we can usually diffuse it and recover relatively quickly. When stress becomes a chronic condition, health problems can result.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety, on the other hand, isn’t necessarily a reaction to circumstances. Most often, it’s related to anticipated future or potential stress.
As with stress, anxiety isn’t necessarily an immediate health problem, although it’s unpleasant. Feeling a bit anxious about an exam, the birth of a baby, or a big presentation can give you a push to prepare as best you can.
Too Much Anxiety?
Anxiety becomes unhelpful when it is overwhelming, requiring you to focus all your energy on surviving your immediate feelings rather than addressing their roots. Pacing, nail biting, trembling, and vomiting are signs that anxiety is veering into unhelpful territory. Test anxiety, social anxiety, and decision anxiety are all common forms of anxiety.
Anxiety disorder is the general term for chronic, excessive anxiety in response to everyday situations. Anxiety disorders include:
Generalized anxiety disorder: excessive anxiety in general.
Social anxiety disorder: anxiety disorder related to interacting with others.
Separation anxiety disorder: anxiety disorder related to separation from specific people, often parents or caregivers.
Phobias: subset of anxiety disorders characterized by persistent fear of a specific thing.
Panic disorder: anxiety disorder characterized by reoccurring panic attacks.
Many people discover that they have more than one type of anxiety disorder. Others deal with anxiety combined with depression, PTDS, eating disorders, alcoholism, or substance abuse. While stress and anxiety are more general terms that you can probably identify in yourself, anxiety disorders can only be diagnosed by a physician.
Massage & Stress Studies
Stress: Stress levels are largely subjective. However, studies focused on pain, sleep, and other outcomes often find that patients report decreased stress levels as a major benefit of massage therap.
In one study on pain in acute care settings, more than half of the patients mentioned relaxation in their survey responses. One patient described the receiving massage as “very helpful, soothing, comforting, and relaxing.” A notable result, considering the stress of hospitalization. Patients and nurses also reported improved emotional well-being and sleep – both good indicators of stress reduction.
Massage & Anxiety Studies
Anxiety: Most studies done on massage and anxiety have focused on specific populations. One study found significant improvement in both long term and immediate anxiety in children with cancer and blood diseases who received Swedish massage.
Another measured the physiological responses to stress (blood pressure and pulse) in hospitalized children and found similar results. Cardiac care patients were the focus of another study. Again, massage was helpful in reducing anxiety. Still, larger and broader studies on the matter still need to be done.
Massage & Anxiety Disorder Studies
There have been relatively few studies on massage therapy for anxiety disorders specifically. Most studies that have been done are generally small and lacking good control groups. One randomized controlled trial found that massage therapy was significantly helpful for people with generalized anxiety disorder, but no more so than other relaxation techniques.
This study only measured improvement over multiple weeks, and not feelings of anxiety in the short term, before and after treatments. Because this study didn’t have a no-treatment control group, they weren’t able to state whether all three were equally effective or equally ineffective.
What does all this mean?
People regularly feel that massage helps reduce their stress and anxiety. There are also other techniques, such as Reiki, that seem to be helpful to varying degrees, depending on the situation and the person.
This is helpful to know, because not everyone enjoys massage. For some, touch itself can be a source of stress and anxiety. Therefore, it’s helpful to know that there are other complementary therapies available that also create positive results.
Stress and anxiety are closely tied to pain, sleep, and other factors. Reducing pain reduces stress levels. Reducing stress levels can also reduce pain. Improving sleep can impact both pain and stress, and vice versa. Does massage therapy work primarily through either pain or stress reduction, or does it impact both equally? This is an area for further study.
Massage therapy is a fairly safe way to manage stress and anxiety. With relatively few drug interactions and a very low chance for injury, massage therapy can be helpful to a wide variety of people dealing with stress and anxiety in different situations. From the smallest infants to athletes to people in hospice, there are few who could not benefit from massage therapy.
There is a lot more to learn. While there is a lot of research on massage for pain, massage for anxiety (and especially massage for anxiety disorders) has less research to back it up. It will take time and money before a large body of knowledge has been built up.
If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, massage therapy is worth trying. The evidence is still rolling in, but what we have is promising. Are you ready to give it a try? Book your next massage today. Click HERE to book now.
There is no doubt that massage is wonderful. It has many positive health and wellness benefits. It’s relaxing, it feels great when you’re feeling not so great. There is also no doubt that people sometimes overlook/underestimate the risks of massage in certain situations.
What Makes A Massage Risky?
The main culprit that can make massage a contraindication is its effects on the circulatory system. Pick a spot on your arm or hand where you can maybe see some good veins. Rub your hand down your arm towards that vein with about the pressure your massage therapist does. You’ll probably notice that it stands out more as you push; this is because you’re pushing the blood through that vein at a higher rate than normal.
During a massage, muscle is not the only thing getting pushed around. Massage includes moving the blood around in your veins, the fluids in your lymphatic system, and the other various hormones and chemicals floating around in your body.
What does this all mean?
It means that if a person’s veins or circulatory system are compromised, massage may be a bad idea. We need to know if your bones are brittle or you have joint replacements. Tell us if you have immune system problems, or you have herniated discs or spinal issues. Illness such as the flu, infections, and disease with serious complications are a red flag when it comes to massage.
But My Health Issues Are Private!
I realize that it can feel awkward to share your health information with someone other than your doctor. Especially if it’s someone you don’t know very well. It’s important to realize that while massage may seem like a pretty safe therapy, there really are cases where it can do more harm than good. Rest assured that I follow health information privacy guidance, and do not share your health information with anyone. The online form is HIPAA compliant, and I keep your paper intake forms locked up when unattended.
Get Your Doc Involved
If you are under a doctor’s care, I will likely ask that you receive a written recommendation for massage. I like to make sure that they understand that massage is increasing circulation and lymph flow. Doctors don’t always remember that massage is not purely about relaxation. I may ask you to talk to your cardiologist, endocrinologist, obstetrician, or other specialist you may be working with.
It’s All About You
It may seem awkward or annoying to have to answer these questions and communicate between your various health care providers. However, it’s ultimately all about keeping you safe and healthy, as well as relaxed and pain free. If your doctor does not recommend massage, there are other options that may help you. This includes Reiki therapy, which does not physically manipulate the muscles or circulatory system
As with any wellness regimen, it’s important that all of your healthcare providers work together to ensure that you are receiving safe, effective care. If you have any concerns about privacy or your health issues related to massage, you can always contact me to discuss them!
They’re so common that the term has become synonymous with an annoyance, but what are headaches, really? And can massage therapy really help?
Different types, different causes.
We all know a headache when we feel it. It’s a pain in the head. However, not all headaches are created equal.
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. Pain occurs on both sides of the head without other symptoms. The pain can range from very mild to severe.
Migraine headaches are often pulsing, and can be accompanied by nausea, dizziness, sensitivity to light and sound, and hallucinations. Some people experience migraines only rarely, while other people experience them on an almost daily basis.
Cluster headaches are less common. Generally experienced as severe pain around one eye, they occur in clusters over a period of time. Long periods of no symptoms may follow.
Secondary headaches are not conditions themselves, but are symptoms of other conditions. These conditions can be as everyday as a sinus infection. Or, they can be more serious, like traumatic brain injury or meningitis. Secondary headaches can be managed, however, it’s important to focus on getting the appropriate medical treatment for the underlying condition.
Headaches and massage
The Good News:
Tension headaches, the type of headaches people are most likely to experience, seem to respond well to massage therapy. Massage helps reduce pain in the moment. Regular massage therapy appears to increase the time between headaches for those who experience them on a chronic basis. This could be a result of helping to manage stress. It could also be underlying mechanical issues that result in headaches. There’s no solid science yet on precisely why massage helps, only that it does.
More Good News:
It’s no surprise that people who experience regular headaches are also more likely to experience high levels of stress. Not to mention, depression and anxiety. Studies have found that massage can help people who live with chronic headaches, as well as stress and anxiety.
Some people with secondary headaches can also benefit from massage. People with fibromyalgia related headaches experience both pain and stress relief with regular massage therapy. More gentle massage may be needed during a flare-up, but can provide relief for both headaches and body aches.
The Bad News:
Massage therapy is wonderful and often helpful, but it’s not a cure for headaches. Some people just need a bit of rest or a drink of water (dehydration is a surprisingly common headache cause). Other people continue to experience headaches all their lives. Unfortunately, migraines triggered by things like foods or hormonal changes probably won’t see an impact from massage.
The Worse News:
There are some times when getting a massage for headaches isn’t just unhelpful, it’s actually dangerous. Most often, this is related to secondary headaches.
There are some times when getting a massage for headaches isn’t just unhelpful, it’s actually dangerous. Most often, this is related to secondary headaches.
The aches caused by a fever may make you feel like massage would be wonderful. However, it’s not a good idea to overtax a body already working hard to fight an infection. Then, there is the risk of spreading the illness to your massage therapist and others. Headaches resulting from a recent head, neck, or back injury could also be made worse by a well-meaning massage therapist.
It’s important to seek the opinion of a physician when the pain may be the result of illness or injury. Start by receiving appropriate care for the issue causing the headache. Along the way, you can ask them whether or not massage is a good idea. Safe is always better than sorry
Headaches can be a real, well… headache. But there’s help.
A change of environment may help. If you have a headache and have been hunched over a computer for hours, try a stretch. A quick walk outside or a brief nap can help with a headache caused by eye strain. If you haven’t eaten or drunk anything all day, do that. It’s not uncommon to get busy and distracted and forget basic self-care.
If it’s safe to take them, medications like ibuprofen or aspirin can be helpful in treating a headache. Sometimes caffeine helps. Strong or chronic headaches may require prescription medication.
And then there’s massage therapy, of course. It’s not a magical cure-all, but for many people, it really does help manage the pain and stress of headaches. Are you one of them? Schedule your next massage, and let’s find out together.
As I have continued the forward momentum of Birch Tree Wellness, I have been learning about the kinds of things my clients are looking for out of massage. The thing I see the most is chronic pain of one sort or another.
For many people it’s stress related. It may be unforgiving jobs, family or life stress. Sometimes the chronic pain comes from physical activity or the lack thereof, as in demanding desk jobs. Other times, it’s chronic pain associated with mental or emotional distress.
What Does All That Mean?
All of this has led me to become interested in specializing in chronic pain. Going forward, I’ll be looking into continuing education related to chronic pain, new muscle release techniques, and the effects of psychology on the human body. Some of the modalities I’ll be adding in the future include Spontaneous Muscle Release Therapy (SMRT) – a positional release modality that interrupts pain signals in the body quickly and painlessly, and CranioSacral Therapy (CST) – a form of bodywork using gentle touch release restrictions in the soft tissues that surround the central nervous system. Here is some information about the programs I’m looking at, if you would like to learn more:
In the process of brainstorming all of these ideas, one of the things I’ve done is streamlined the scheduling process. In my opinion, all massage is “therapeutic” whether you just need to relax, or you really need some deep tissue work and stretching. So, now when you schedule, whether it’s online or in person, you won’t have so many types of appointments to choose from. In the scheduling system, you just choose “Therapeutic Massage” and how long you want the massage to be, and we’ll chat about what exactly you’re looking for. No more decision fatigue!
What About the Goodies?
The extras are still there! You can schedule a hot stone massage, add on a mini hot stone massage, aromatherapy, or a foot scrub. In addition, you can still schedule specialized appointments like Pregnancy Massage, Intuitive Bodywork, Relaxation Training, or Massage & Reiki together. The Monday Special and Ultimate Study Break are also still available at this time.
In a Nutshell
For everyone who has been coming to Birch Tree Wellness over the last couple of years, essentially the only thing that has really changed is the name of the appointment you’re scheduling. We’ll continue with the same awesome massage therapy you’ve been getting, and as I learn new tricks, we’ll apply them where appropriate! If you have chronic pain, we’ll continue working on your chronic pain. If you are experiencing emotional or mental distress – with or without chronic pain – we’ll continue working with whatever combination of massage, Reiki, and other modalities are helping you.
Your Feedback is Welcome!
If you learn about a type of massage or other bodywork or healing modality you think I’d be interested in, feel free to send along the information! If you have more questions about any of the changes, don’t hesitate to ask them. As always, my massage practice is about all of you, my awesome clients, and what kind of wellness magic we can work together! Be Well, Tricia