September 27, 2010

Good Hands Are Good News for Headaches

Massage is the best therapy for tension headaches and migraines, and more people should be hitting our tables instead of reaching for drugs or other remedies, says Boris Prilutsky, a massage instructor and researcher in Los Angeles.

This article is the third in a series of articles about headaches and therapies. The first article is here.

Stress is a main cause of tension headaches. In addition, most people spend hours working on computers -- in static postures that accumulate muscle tension in the upper thorax and cervicals.

“In most cases we are addressing tensions in the neck , upper back, and TMJ muscles, so we are not just treating the symptoms of headaches but the cause,” says Prilutsky, a massage therapist and researcher with 38 years. He is an NCTMB continuing education provider.

A client presenting for treatment of headaches needs to be assessed carefully, Prilutsky said. Watch out for potential symptoms of other illnesses such as fever, or a sudden intense onset with no prior history of headaches. Those people need a doctor’s evaluation for infections or other serious conditions before trying massage.

But most clients will present with well-documented and already diagnosed headaches, he says. He advises not to be too concerned about the type of headaches and focus rather on the precipitating factors, such as constant muscular higher resting tones or pathological muscular tensions at neck, upper back and TMJ regions. Sternocleidomastoid headaches, trapezial headaches, irritation of the vertebral artery, etc. can be tracked back to our ever-growing population of people who spend too much time staring at screens, clicking or typing. A history of whiplashes, contact sports, or constant stress increases the intensity and frequency of these headaches, he says.

Boris says massage reduces the upper body tension immediately reducing headache intensity or “completely eliminating headaches.”

“To sustain these results clients need about 12 to 15 treatments. Also it is important to note that people diagnosed with migraines often actually have tension headaches,” Prilutsky said.

With true classic migraines, massage can alleviate most symptoms by balancing the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, which leads to a normalization of blood vessel dilation believed to create migraine pain.

For some fabulous techniques to ban headaches, check out Prilutsky’s videos. YouTube ranks his as the most-watched self-massage videos. Techniques include acupressure, lymphatic, Russian sports massage and Swedish styles in the treatment of headaches. For a sample of his videos for massage therapists, try:

September 21, 2010

Little Women and Gentle Men

When it comes to face-down offers on the table, I thought women therapists would have the best stories. Oooh my, I was mistaken.

Well, OK, the female therapist who told me she was propositioned by the rabbi was a good one. It was during one of those long holiday weeks and there was a religious group staying at the hotel where she worked. Rabbis are pretty busy blessing food and saying prayers and other things, and then they get a break after everybody checks out. The rabbi came in for a massage and asked her what the difference was between massaging one area versus another…i.e. down there versus the shoulders…..then he tried the old “who would know?” God knows, she answered. I must say her story, for lack of another word, left me in titters.

The diaper change got me too. This lady who looked like about 70 dropped off her husband, who was 90-something, and said “Keep him here as long as you want. I need a nap.”

When the therapist came into the room to start the massage she noticed he was wearing a diaper. Halfway through what she thought would be a 90-minute to two-hour massage, the gentleman asked for some help achieving Nirvana. She told him you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need. Tee-hee.

Heck, perhaps not so dramatic, yet it happens to pretty much every therapist. Someone hints, asks, propositions or demands items not on the menu. So I bravely asked some of my male therapist friends for their proposition stories. I figure they must have a few good ones.

One fellow who worked at a gym had a massage room in the male locker room, alleviating the need for modesty from the clients. A client asked him what he did for fun, in a way that begged the answer.

“I drill,” he replied, and he did just that for an hour.

I was shocked. “You drilled him?”

“Yes. I pushed on every trigger point in his body at plus-ten pressure. Guy didn’t even breathe.”

“Oh. I thought you meant something else,” I said.

A male therapist who worked at a spa said he had a female client asking him to come to her house. He was too afraid to say yes, knowing he could get fired. After about her fifth visit he figured she could not be a pro shopper, and he said yes.

“When I went to her house, she opened the door and laughed when she saw I had my table,” he said. “I thought she actually wanted a massage!”

It is different for men, I guess.

September 15, 2010

Body Dysmorphia: Spa for a Cure

I'm not sure what the number one killer of women is--in terms of physical diseases--this week. But I certainly know one of the top emotional diseases that kills women slowly over their whole lives and goes largely unchecked: Body Dysmorphic Disorder. And most women have it, to some degree. What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder? Very simply, it means that you think there is something wrong--often terribly, personally, unforgivably wrong--about part or all of your physical body. And every failed attempt to make your body into something it is not or do something it simply does not want to do tends to make you feel that--unlike the woman on the front of Glamour or Vogue or even Shape magazine--you are a freak of nature. And it just keeps going downhill from there.

As a massage therapist, I see evidence of this disorder ALL THE TIME. Or rather, I hear it in the nasty things women say about themselves. I once heard a comedian say something to the effect of, "If someone else said to you the things you say about yourself, you would have no choice but to try to take his life." It's funny, but it rings rather true, yes? And although many women know consciously that most physical self-slander is unfounded and ridiculous, they still really want to to look like one of those girls in an ad for body butter.

So what to do about this nasty problem? We probably won't be able to boycott the people who set up ads for Victoria's Secret or write those silly Cosmo quizzes. So instead, I'd recommend the occasional visit to your local women's spa, which is not only incredibly enjoyable and good for your health, but reminds you what real women look like.

Seriously. I don't go to stare, but unless your blind, cross-eyed, or looking at the ceiling, you're going to notice some of your surroundings. And your surroundings are utterly, unashamedly naked. Women of all colors, ages, shapes, and sizes . . . and I do mean all. It sounds cliche, but you can never really believe the stories about magazines and air-brushing until you see a full range of naked women, none of whom are going to appear in any ads without a make-up, lighting, clothing, and camera crew. Even if one of them might approach the kind of "beauty" touted in most advertising, she would still be wearing a shapeless cloth "hat," and trust me, no one looks hot in cheap cotton headwear.

When I was a pre-teen, my parents gave me a "sex book" called The Changing You. On the front, there is a little girl looking into a mirror and seeing herself all grown up as the Homecoming Queen. Now, I was very relieved, since I was terrified of becoming an overly-tall version of Little Orphan Annie. Wow! I was going to be the Homecoming Queen! Thank God! But I didn't, of course. And though I was lovely, I could never see it, because I didn't match those pictures. I wish I'D had a spa in my life; I might have been more sane. But I have it now; when it comes to having a healthy emotional life, it's never too late . . .

September 8, 2010

Have an Ice Day

Recent events have highlighted for me the importance of being iced.

Honeysnookums was scheduled to have minor surgery for thumb trigger finger. I, of course, was designated driver, waiter, jar-opener and recovery coach.

Part of Honeysnookums surgical preparation involved getting a prescription for a well-known heavy-duty pain reliever with narcotic effects the first letter of which is V.

When I saw the bottle on our kitchen counter, I swooped in, uninvited, to talk about how much faster and better one feels when pain medication is avoided. Ice, I said with empirical authority, is the best pain reliever for muscle-skeletal issues. It has none of the colon-dessicating, dehydrating, hallucinogenic effects of narcotic pain relievers.

It works directly on the area of pain production, inflammation, and not once has anyone had to spend 30 days away from home to break the habit of icing every night. Ice works so well, that generations of ballplayers, people who can easily afford to blow mounds of money on things to feel better, prefer ice to any other pain solution.

“Whatever,” Honeysnookums said. “I just don’t want to take drugs because they make me loopy.”

Good enough.

On the arranged day we showed up at the surgery center at 4:30 a.m., a time I never before had conscious experience of, and after prep talked to the doctor. As he ran down the pre-op list, he asked Honeysnookums if the pain reliever prescription had been filled.

“Yes, but I don’t plan to use it. I am going to ice and take an ibuprofen instead.” Honeysnookums announced.

Stunned, the surgeon paused. Finally he stammered: “Of course, ice is best.”

I think at that point I had made a discovery. Perhaps, like those of us in the massage field, this surgeon knows that ice is best. Perhaps, like massage folks, he knows people will promise to ice and then don’t.

Well, not having the other options, I have made it a point to make sure people know how to ice. I discuss how gel packs work best with a towel between the skin and pack. And I explain how ice boomerangs if left on for more than 20 minutes. Oh, and those follow-up calls. If I can get someone to ice, I know they will get better. I’ve even taken out the ice cups and demonstrated how it works and why.

Well, happy to report, Honeysnookums is a week post surgery and hasn’t had much pain and is healing better and faster than expected.

Which is why I say: Have an Ice Day