Introducing Intuitive Bodywork

Intuitive BodyworkWhat is Intuitive Bodywork?

Sometimes maybe you feel a little bit off, and you’re not quite sure if massage is what you need, or Reiki, or something completely different. During an Intuitive Bodywork session, I will combine elements of massage, stretches, aromatherapy, Reiki, and other energy work, depending upon what it feels like you need intuitively.

How Does It Work?

At the beginning of your appointment, we’ll talk a little bit about what trouble you’re having. It can be mind, body, or spirit. Then you’ll hop on the massage table, undressed to your level of comfort, and covered with a sheet and/or blanket. During your session, I’ll start with Reiki at your head and move down your body, using my intuition to determine if you need some energy in a particular area, or maybe your neck needs to stretch, or you need some massage work on your shoulders and back, or foot reflexology. Once the session is finished, I’ll leave the room and give you a few minutes to collect yourself and get off the table. Before you leave, we can talk a bit about what I did, what things I might have picked up intuitively, and how you’re feeling.

What’s Intuitive About It?

I define intuition as that “knowing” or “gut feeling” when you perceive or know something without necessarily having a rational reason for it. Examples might be when your phone rings and you know who is calling without looking at caller ID; or you might have the urge to call someone and you find out they are having a bad day. Intuition can be practiced and developed, used to help guide yourself and others in day to day life.

I’ve spent many years helping people on an intuitive level, with energy work and spiritual guidance, as well as helping people learn to recognize and use their intuition. I feel that mixing intuition in with benefits of massage, reiki and bodywork is a natural progression into helping people heal themselves on a body, mind, and spirit level. If you would like to give Intuitive Bodywork a try, just contact me or schedule an appointment online today!

~Tricia

 

Massage Misconceptions Aren’t Always Funny

A CBS Sunday Morning “comedy” segment has been burning through various massage therapist networks today. Some of those therapists did find it funny; others, it made angry. I certainly didn’t find it funny, but most of all, I’m concerned that a respected network would allow the perpetuation of negative stereotypes and discourage people from trying a legitimate form of therapeutic care.

You can view the segment with comedian Jim Gaffigan on the CBS News website HERE. In case you watched the segment and it made you question the validity of massage therapy or the motives of licensed massage therapists, I’m happy to address some of his commentary here.

“Massages are decadent and weird. They’re always from strangers. We get massages from strangers because we can’t count on the people who love us to touch us.”

hand massageMaybe taking the time out for a massage DOES feel decadent. We have busy lives, we have other financial obligations, and many of us have gotten horrible at self-care. The human race needs to stop shaming people for taking care of themselves. I’ll keep saying it until I don’t need to anymore… What you give to all of your obligations and the people you care about is only as good as what you allow back in. When your body finally gives out, who will take care of all of it then?

Your massage therapist doesn’t have to be a stranger. I personally love meeting my clients ahead of time, and if you want to meet at the office and ask questions before you schedule an appointment, I’m happy to do that. Check out massage therapists at local events when they are offering chair massages, it’s a great way to try out their massage style, meet them, and put a person behind the name.

foot massage

As much as we might love touch from the people we love, it’s true that often the best we can hope for is the occasional shoulder or foot massage. A licensed massage therapist has studied long hours to learn about muscles and systems of the body, how they all work, and what types of massage work best for particular issues. Not to mention, they learn how not to hurt you and how to avoid areas where they could damage nerves or even bone.

“What do we know about massage therapists? They like to rub strangers for money while they listen to the “Avatar” soundtrack. That’s a red flag. Those are the traits of a serial killer.”

American Massage Therapy AssociationMost licensed massage therapists are members of a national organization such as the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) or Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP). These organizations maintain a code of ethics that defines ethical and professional conduct. States have their own laws and rules for licensing massage therapists. You can read Maine’s here, or search for your state’s massage therapy licensing laws. Choosing an individual who has gone through the rigors of schooling and licensing will keep you much safer than going to someone who has not.

More importantly, YOU are in control of your massage. TALK to your massage therapist. Call them ahead of time, ask questions. Ask questions when you get there. Ask them DURING the massage if you don’t understand something they are doing. If you don’t like something they are doing, tell them to stop. If you want the session to end, tell them.

When you come to my office for a massage, you are always appropriately covered with a sheet or blanket. This enables you to fully undress (or undress to your comfort level) for your massage while maintaining modesty. If you have any concerns about undressing, please don’t hesitate to talk to me about it. I leave the room and allow you to undress and get under the covers in privacy. During your massage, I’ll uncover only the part I am working on and leave the rest of you covered.

how massage can help

Many people get into massage therapy because they genuinely want to help people. Massage can increase your mobility, improve your circulation, reduce pain, improve your mood, and help you sleep better. What is weird and decadent about that?

 

The Summer Specials Are Here!

I’m excited to offer a new service for the summer! Cold stone facial massage!

What Are Cold Stones?

cold stone massageThe stones commonly used for hot stone massage are usually basalt, a volcanic stone that retains heat well. The stones used for cold stone massage are typically marble or marine sedimentary stones, which hold cold longer. Basalt stones are often naturally smoothed from the river water or waves where they’re found, while the marble usually needs to be hand cut and smoothed.

Hot stones cause blood vessels to dilate and circulation to increase. Cold stones cause vasoconstriction (narrowing of the blood vessels), decreasing blood flow to the area on which they are applied. Once the stones are removed, the vessels dilate again, and fresh blood and oxygen return to the area. Alternately cooling and warming an area (sometimes called contrast therapy), constricts and dilates the vessels, improving circulation.

For the time being, the only form of cold stone massage I’ll be offering is as part of a facial massage. Cold stones placed on the face can help reduce sinus congestion & nasal swelling, and cool & soothe irritated skin. In addition, cold stones can help with migraine headaches by reducing the overabundant flow of blood to brain and easing the pounding sensation. If nothing else, it’ll add a lovely cooling sensation to your summer massage!

As the summer progresses, if the feedback for cold stones is positive, then I’ll look at adding some larger stones and expanding the service!

What Else is on the Summer Menu?

cucumber-1774220_640I had so many ideas for homemade scrub for the summer season. I like to offer two different “personalities” for the scrubs, to try to appeal to different people’s likes and dislikes. I finally managed to settle on two. Choice one will be cucumber mint sugar scrub, with real pureed cucumber, peppermint essential oil, coconut oil, and granulated sugar. The second option is a mixture of Dead Sea salt, sweet almond oil, and lavender essential oil.

In addition, we’ll give your hot summer feet a special treat. To start, I’ll wrap your feet in hot towels, which does double duty by being super relaxing as well as wiping down those dirty little summer toes! You’ll then get an extended foot massage with peppermint massage butter!

Check Out the Three Levels of Summer Specials

Summer Specials small

See you on the cool side!

5 Ways to Get the Most Out Of Your Massage

purple massage tableYou’ve scheduled your massage and you’re eagerly awaiting the moment you can lay down on that warm, comfy table. How can you get the maximum benefit from your 60 minutes (or more!) on the massage table? Here are a few ways you can help ensure you get the most out of your massage appointment.

1. It Starts on the Phone

When you call to make your appointment, or even when you email, message, or book your appointment online, let the therapist know what you’re looking for in your massage.

  • Do you have chronic neck pain?
  • Aching shoulders?
  • Plantar fasciitis?
  • Anxiety or depression?
  • Or do you just need a simple hour of relaxation?

Knowing what you’re looking for gives the therapist a chance to plan your treatment, consider specific aromatherapy, or even adjust the music.

In addition, it’s important to share any health concerns. If you have heart problems, circulatory issues, or particular types of acute illness, these may affect the type of massage you receive. This is a good time to let them know if you’re allergic to any scents, such such as essential oils, or to tree nuts, as many massage products contain those.

2. Hit the Shower

If you’re leaving from work,  this may not be possible, but if you have the opportunity, a shower can enhance your massage. The effects of a nice hot shower on both your mind and your muscles can help you get a head start on your relaxation and reduce body insecurity. Don’t worry if you didn’t shave your legs!

3. Save the Potions for Later

potion-1249050_1280If possible, try to skip the perfume, cologne, or aftershave on the day of your appointment. You don’t want your scent-sensitive massage therapist sniffling their way through your massage. It can also drown out the effects of aromatherapy.

If you use topical medications (such as pain relief lotions and gels), try to wait until after your massage to apply them. They can do strange things in combination with the massage lotion or oil your therapist is using, and pain relief products can decrease your pain response to deep tissue pressure. On another note, your massage therapist is also absorbing those medications into their body when they get them on their hands, so also it’s safer for them if you wait until later to apply it.

4. Arrive On Time

By “on time”, you might want to consider arriving a few minutes early. Depending on how the therapist schedules their appointments, they may have a finite amount of time for your appointment. If your massage appointment is at 2:00, they likely mean that they would like your massage to start at 2:00.

Allow yourself a few extra minutes to check in, use the restroom, and get undressed and on the table. If you arrive AT 2:00, or 2:05, and they have another client right after you, you could miss out on some of your massage. That would be sad! If you’re not sure, check in with your massage therapist about when is the best time to arrive for your appointment.

5. Give Feedback

A good massage therapist wants to make sure you’re getting exactly the massage you’re looking for. This means that they want to know if the pressure they’re using is too much – or could be more. They want to know if something they’re doing hurts.

Knowing what is causing pain is especially important, even if it’s causing pain somewhere else in your body. These can be important clues as to what is going on in your muscles. “A good hurt” is okay, if you’re okay with it. Some clients LOVE that, but if you don’t, don’t be bashful. Let your therapist know that it’s painful, or that they can back off the pressure a little bit.

Even outside of the massage itself, it’s good to give feedback. If you’re too hot or too cold, changes can be made to the table temperature or blankets & sheets. If something about the position you’re laying is uncomfortable, let them know. Many times extra pillows or an adjustment to the face cradle can make a big difference.

It Takes Two to Make a Great Massage

massage, massage therapy, scalp massage, neck massageEven the best massage therapist is not necessarily a mind reader, so it takes both of you to really make sure you’re getting the best out of your massage. A little planning ahead, and good communication with your therapist can make all the difference. Don’t be afraid to ask questions before, after, and even during your massage. We’re here to work with you to make your massage a wonderful experience!

If you have any questions about massage therapy or its benefits, or are ready to schedule your massage appointment,  you can call Tricia at Birch Tree Wellness (207) 370-4668 or birchtreewellnessme@gmail.com

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What Are “The Winter Blues”?

depression, winter blues, seasonal affective disorderMaybe you start to feel it as the days get shorter, or it really kicks in when it’s getting dark out at 4:00 in the afternoon. You might be dreading the dark, cold days of winter for more reasons than just having a lot of snow to shovel. You’re not alone. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a subtype of major depression that the National Institutes of Health estimates affects 6% of the US population, primarily those living in northern climates. Another 14% of the US adult population suffer from less severe form of seasonal mood changes, sometimes referred to as “winter blues”.

Since SAD is a form of major depression, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of depression in yourself or your loved ones. According to the Mayo Clinic, these symptoms may include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Having low energy
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having problems with sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Symptoms specific to winter onset SAD or “winter blues” may also include:

  • Irritability
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Problems getting along with other people
  • Hypersensitivity to rejection
  • Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain

It’s okay to have bad days, or to feel down on occasion. However, if you’re feeling bad or experiencing these symptoms for days at a time, or if they are affecting your ability to get out and do the things you enjoy, you should talk to your doctor. This is especially important if you are experiencing changes in appetite or sleep patterns, or thoughts of suicide.

What Causes SAD?

winter depression, SAD, winter bluesWhile the exact causes of SAD or Winter Blues are not know, it’s believed that changes in the amount of sunlight can throw off your internal clock (circadian rhythm) and leave not sleeping well, or feeling tired and depressed. Reduced sunlight levels may also decrease your body’s production of serotonin, a chemical that affects mood, and melatonin, which also has a role in mood and sleep patterns.

When the weather is freezing cold or you’re snowed in by a blizzard, you’re probably also not getting enough exercise, which can decrease your energy level and add to feelings of depression. Being reluctant to leave the house may also leave you feeling like a hermit!

What Can Help?

First of all, I’m a massage therapist, not a psychologist, so please, if you are feeling depressed or suicidal, contact a professional. You can reach the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or on their website suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Next, try to get out of the house! Call a friend for lunch. Go to that party even though it seems like a lot of work to put on boots and a coat. Get out for a walk, or snowshoe, or ski. If cold weather exercise is not your thing, join a gym or go walk in the mall. Take yourself on a date to a museum or a movie.

Of course, massage therapy can help! It has been shown that massage has positive effects on the body’s chemistry. Cortisol levels, which can increase with stress, are decreased. Production of serotonin and dopamine increase, which can improve your mood and reduce feelings of depression. Massage also lowers your blood pressure and reduce chronic pain that may be affecting your sleep.

If you’re struggling with SAD or just feeling down, talk to your doctor, then consider giving regular massage a try. It’s important to take time for yourself and take care of yourself, despite (and because of) all of your responsibilities and stresses. Besides all of the chemical and physical benefits, massage just simply helps you “feel good” and can help you get through the worst of the winter blues.

Hand Pain? It May Not Be Arthritis

250px-extensor_digitorum_muscleDo you wake up with stiff, sore fingers? I have had several people mention fears of early arthritis (without confirmation by a doctor). You should of course see a doctor if you’re concerned about your health, however there is a possibility that it is not arthritis.

Here is a little something to try. Relax your forearm on your desk or a table and feel the muscles of your arm with your other hand. When relaxed, those muscles should feel relatively soft, and the skin should move around easily. If your forearm feels hard, and maybe the skin doesn’t even move very much, then your muscles are hypertonic, in a state of tension or abnormally high muscle tone.

You may not realize just how much your arm and fingers are interconnected. If you look at this diagram of the muscles of your forearm and hands, you can see that the flexing and extending of your fingers involves muscles that travel over your wrist, up your forearm, and even across your elbow.

To further illustrate how connected they are, here’s another demonstration. Place your forearm palm up on the table again and relax it, with your fingers somewhat straightened. Take your other hand and apply pressure to the muscles just below your wrist, and push towards your elbow, as you might see in a massage stroke. With a bit of pressure, this should make your fingers flex/curl towards your palm. Cool, huh?

This type of muscle tension most often affects people who use their hands and wrists a lot, and can be a precursor, or happen in conjunction with carpal tunnel syndrome. This means if you spend a lot of time at your computer, play an instrument, paint, hammer, knit, or do other work where you use your hands a lot, or in awkward positions, you may experience this problem. Of course you know I’m going to say it… “Massage can help!”

During your massage, I can tell you if those muscles are hypertonic, (have extra tension in them). We can do some different levels of moderate to deep tissue work to help loosen them up and get your forearm and hand moving better and feeling better. The best part? I can show you a few tricks to do at home to help keep them a bit more pliable going forward and make your mornings a little less stiff, and your days a little less painful!

December Spa Facial Massage Special!

chocolate-peppermint-smallerWhile November’s flavor claim to fame is pumpkin spice, December is all about chocolate peppermint! At least to me, it is!

Despite the fact that it’s been pouring rain here for days… and days… and days… I’m starting to feel a little seasonal! I just whipped up a batch of chocolate peppermint facial scrub and I have to say, it’s pretty delicious!

Cocoa contains antioxidants that help repair skin cells and neutralize harmful free radicals. Sugar scrubs help exfoliate the skin and reduce clogged pores. Peppermint is cooling, and the whole mix together, combined with a spa facial massage and Burt’s Bees cleanser, toner and lotion, will leave you feeling refreshed and soft!

A 75 minute full body and spa facial massage with chocolate peppermint facial scrub, only $65 (A $10 Savings!) Catch this yummy special from now until December 30th, 2016!

That Knot in Your Stomach

Constipation. It happens to the best of us. No one likes to talk about it.

But wait, there’s hope! Don’t be embarrassed to talk to your massage therapist about it! When most people think of massage, they think of their aching back, tired feet, or stiff neck. They don’t often think about their neglected tummy. Stress, diet, or the side effects of many medications can lead to constipation and its related discomforts.

belly-2354_1920The thought of baring our stomach to a massage therapist might have its own share of discomfort. It’s the part of our body least protected by sturdy bones, or for many of us, strong muscles. We instinctively curl inward towards a fetal position when feeling stressed, in danger, or defensive, protecting our center.

However, if you’re having constipation, abdominal massage can do wonders to help you get things moving again. Gentle abdominal massage in a clockwise direction, following the direction of your intestinal tract, helps to relax abdominal muscles and stimulate the movement of digested food through your system. It’s also a lot more pleasant than harsh laxatives, particularly if you already take a lot of medications.

Along with aiding in digestion, abdominal massage may be of benefit to people with chronic lower back pain. When stomach muscles are tense and shortened, whether from stress or postural changes, this tends to have a stretching, stressing effect on the muscles in our lower back. By lengthening and relaxing abdominal muscles, we take the strain off the lower back.

buddha-242206_1920You don’t need to be self conscious about your belly. A professional massage therapist is not going to judge you or your body. They are thinking about the muscles underneath, how they are held, and what they can do to help them back into the proper tone and ease your discomfort. We see all kinds of bodies during the course of our practice, and we kind of think they’re all a miracle of chemistry, cells and maybe a little magic that makes you a beautiful human being.

So, at your next massage appointment, don’t be afraid to mention constipation or suggest to your therapist that you might like to add abdominal massage to your massage routine. You’ll be glad you did!

 

Let’s Talk About Stress

stress, stress relief, massage for stressAs people’s lives become more and more hectic, stress becomes an increasing presence and increasing risk to our health. Numerous surveys and studies confirm that occupational pressures and fears are far and away the leading source of stress for American adults and that these have steadily increased over the past few decades. According to one study, 80% of workers feel stress on the job, nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress and 42% say their co-workers need such help.

How Does Stress Affect Us?

Stress symptoms may be affecting your health without you even realizing it. When the body is stressed, muscles tense up reflexively, the body’s way of guarding against injury or pain, part of the fight or flight response. During sudden stress, muscles tense, then relax as soon as the stress has passed. During chronic stress, the muscles are in a nearly constant state of guardedness. Over time, with chronic stress, the body can fail to return to pre-stress conditions and cause long term strain and health problems.

When tense for long periods of time, this can lead to other stress reactions or stress related disorders. For example, tension and migraine headaches can be associated with chronic muscle tension in the head, neck and shoulders. Some research theorizes that chronic muscle tension and the related buildup of lactic acid may be a contributing factor to fibromyalgia. Stress and anxiety can affect sleep patterns and increase the risk of health problems associated with not enough sleep, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.

Chronic Stress

It’s not necessarily what chronic stress does to the nervous system, but what continuous activation of the nervous system does to other body systems that becomes the problem. Stress triggers the nervous system’s fight or flight response. The body shifts all of its resources towards fending off the threat or fleeing it. The adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones increase heart rate, respiratory rate, decrease blood flow to the arms and legs, change digestion, increase blood sugar levels, and increase the heart rate, raising blood pressure. When our bodies don’t get the chance to recover from stress, we continue to wear down our systems with the continuous production and effects of these hormones.

Physically, chronic stress and anxiety have a tendency to cause us to hunch our shoulders or roll them forward in a protective posture, leading to continually tight/shortened muscles of the neck and shoulders. Frowning, clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth causes more muscles in your face, neck and jaw to become tight and painful. Muscles that do the opposite action of these muscles, antagonists, then tend to get overly stretched/lengthened and develop “knots”/adhesions, leading to more neck, back and shoulder pain.

Massage can help!

stress, stress relief, massage for stress, hot stone massageMassage can counter the effects of stress in a number of ways. The primary type of massage I provide is called Swedish Massage. This is a relaxing style of massage with long, flowing strokes that helps to relieve pain and muscle tension. It also increases the circulation of blood and lymph and aids in the removal of metabolic wastes from your body, including the byproducts of the nervous system’s stress response.

Physically, massage helps by lengthening and relaxing those tense, irritable muscles. Relieving tension in the muscles of the head, neck, shoulders and face can reduce the occurrence of headaches and migraines. Relaxing and lengthening those shortened muscles in turn relieves the overstretching and knotting of those antagonist muscles, reducing back, neck and shoulder pain. Decreased buildup of lactic acid may also contribute to a decrease in chronic pain and related disorders.

It increases the levels of serotonin and dopamine, which can help reduce anxiety and depression and improve overall mood. Decreased anxiety and stress, along with less pain, improves your sleep. In addition, one hour of massage has a similar effect on your body as three hours of restorative sleep, and stopping the the cycle of chronic stress stops the flood of stress hormones, lowering blood sugar and blood pressure, and improving circulation and digestion.

Other things help!

Reiki

Another service that makes a great addition or alternative to massage is Reiki. Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction, relaxation, and healing based on the idea that a life force energy flows through us. If this energy is low or blocked, then we are more likely to feel stressed or ill. When the energy flow is increased and the blockages removed, we feel more positive and healthy.

A Reiki treatment helps to identify and remove the blockages and improve our energy flow. A treatment is given fully clothed, most often while laying on a massage table. It can also be given while seated, or sent from a distance. Even if you do not necessarily subscribe to the idea of life force energy, the act of receiving a Reiki treatment can be very comforting and soothing – if for no other reason than you’re actually taking time to be still and receive positive intent and attention.

Aromatherapy

stress, stress relief, aromatherapy for stress, essential oilTo enhance the benefits of a massage or reiki session, aromatherapy may also be included. Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils extracted from the roots, leaves, seeds, or blossoms of plants. These oils have been used for centuries for therapeutic purposes, as well as for cosmetic, spiritual, and hygienic uses.

Researchers are not entirely certain how aromatherapy works, but some believe that when the smell receptors in the nose communicate with the amygdala and hippocampus, the molecules of the essential oils stimulate these parts of the brain and influence physical, emotional, and mental health. For example, scientists believe that lavender stimulates activity of brain cells in the amygdala similar to the way of some sedative medications.

Some essential oils that can help with stress and anxiety:

Lavender: Antidepressant, calming, rejuvenating,  good for stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, increased immunity

Rosemary: Good for headaches, mental fatigue, memory, antispasmodic. Rosemary is great for having in a diffuser while studying, to help you retain what you’re learning!

Clary Sage: Antidepressant, anti-anxiety, uplifting.

Sandalwood: Antidepressant, good for nervous tension, stress, anxiety, depression. Sandalwood trees have been over harvested and the oil is expensive, but you don’t need to use much more than a drop at a time to experience it.

Ylang-Ylang: Antidepressant, sedative, euphoric, calming, hypotensive (reduce blood pressure), (also believed to be an aphrodisiac, if you’re interested)

You can keep a bottle of your favorite oil or blend of oils on hand to just take a sniff whenever you need a pick me up. You can put a few drops into an aromatherapy diffuser, or wear it in a specially designed necklace. They can be added to carrier oils such as grapeseed, almond, or olive oil or natural lotions to apply to the skin. When I use essential oils during a massage, I will either use them in a diffuser to lightly scent the room, or put them into your massage lotion, depending on the desired effect.

So, this is all to say, ideally we should do what we can to avoid stress in the first place, but chances are everyone here has experienced stress more than they should. I am here to help, whether you want a good old fashioned relaxation massage, a more therapeutic massage to work out particular problem areas, or you would like to try adding reiki or essential oils to your stress therapy.