February 27, 2011

Don't Touch That!

Once in a great while I run across someone who has been warned not to get a massage – with no apparent reason behind that advice.

That advice pops out, unfortunately, from the mouths of people who might just benefit from the person not getting a massage and perhaps continuing a long course of treatment in another modality. (Was that diplomatic enough?)

I find it irritating, frankly, because I often think the person would actually benefit from a massage. But I am hesitant to critique the advice of another presumed professional, along with the chasmic slide into politics that such criticism would entail. So I often am faced with pronouncements from people, of course totally second-hand hearsay, that “You should never rub a sore muscle.” Or “A massage will further inflame already inflamed tissues and make your pain worse.” Or even “Massage could rub out a knot that is actually holding your neck together.”

I’m just not going to debate something third-hand and possibly off-base, no matter how entertaining it might be to the client or how clueless the pronouncement. Snappy replies I’ve developed over the years include:
  • “Hmmmmnnnnn.” (A great reply useful in many situations in which any reply is unwise.)
  • “What can I say?” (Another fab dodge.)
  • “Must have gone to a different school than I did.” (Irony works!)
  • “Did you ask why you can’t get a massage?” (Nothing hangs in the air like the obvious.)

Now let me cast my vote for my personal favorite: “I can’t imagine why he/she would say that.”

I wonder how other MTs handle this one? Is it really professional to take the high road? Or should we light our torches and grab the pitchforks?

February 21, 2011

Getting Away from It All

I have a bunch of spinning turtles in my office reception, a small plexi-glass Wyland sculpture that stands atop a stand that rotates and slowly changes color. The little turtles help people relax while waiting for their massage by suggesting the calming energy of sea turtles and vacation days in Hawaii.

Triggering such fond memories, I barely have to touch the clients. Or so I thought. This client loved the turtles, spinning in their little wave, and she told me a story.

A few years ago she was diagnosed with lupus, and she started working from home to reduce her stress and avoid exposure to infections. After a while of working from home, it occurred to her she could work anywhere with a computer connection, so she looked around for a vacation spot.

She found what seemed like an ideal situation: a beachfront home in Maui, and rather than rent the entire house, she could rent a room. She signed up for eight weeks.

“I was thinking Hawaii, right on the beach, there’s no stress, I’m sure to feel better and do better in that climate,” she said. “It would be so great for my health.”

So it was, a great house on the beach, a clean room and peace and quiet. Her only companion in the home was the caretaker.

He was a massage therapist and seemed to know the island very well. Over morning coffee they made plans to take the car to the farmer’s market.

All seemed well until they were in the car and he let her in on his secret. Space aliens had invaded the earth and were interbreeding with humans and slowly taking over the entire planet. He’d come to Hawaii to get away from it all, and he was part of a network of people who were secretly fighting against the invaders. He turned on the CD player. A man with a Scottish accent talked about the aliens and their plans.

The invasion was global.

She waited for him to announce the joke. But he was serious - and determined to be listened to. He wouldn’t shut up and started to harangue her about all the evidence and proof he had and how she had to listen to him to save her life. The more he talked, the more angry he became. She wondered about her safety, looking out at the waves on that sparkling beach with turtles.

Well, she did get out of there, cutting her trip short and heading back home. It was a relief to get off the plane.

“I did talk to the owner, eventually, and I told her what he was going on about. But he had been there for years, and they knew him very well. Turned out she believed in the space aliens, too,” she said.

“I just couldn’t believe it. Here I am in paradise with this bunch of people who believe in space aliens. I’m never going back to Maui.”

“I like Kona,” I said, looking at the turtles changing colors. “You might want to give the big island a try.”

February 14, 2011

Calm-O-Mile: for Teething Babies and Tense Moms

Recently, I've had a several clients with teething troubles. Fairly traumatic troubles. Troubles as in the I-haven't-slept-he's-comfort-nursing-every-hour-I-have-a-migraine-my-shoulders-feel-permenently-bowed-what-was-my-name-again? kind of troubles. It really struck me as ironic how much attention we put into the pregant mother in terms of massage, and so relatively little into the issues of the new mother as affected by her rapidly growing infant. I can help the mother through massage, but the effects of massage will not "stick" well if she does not get proper rest.

Thus one of the favorite teething remedies I've come across which is beneficial for both mothers and teething babies is chamomile. Most of us are most familiar with chamomile as a calming tea, or as part of another relaxing tea like the famous Sleepy Time. But chamomile, an aromatic perennial dating back to the time of the Ancient Egyptians, can actually have many more calming, anti-spasmodic, and anti-inflammatory effects both internally and topically.

Some of my favorite ideas for using chamomile as a teething aid (other than the mother drinking copius amounts herself) come from http://www.familyherbalremedies.com/ and include:

1. Chamomilla Homeopathic: tablets of 6X strength can help babies calm down, sleep better, and wake up happier. Any whole food or health food store should have tablets like these made by trusted companies such as Hyland, etc.

2. Chamomile Tea: especially when frozen into popsicle form (the cold soothes and the herb calms).The website also suggests making the chamomile tea fairly strong, and gives suggestions on water-to-herb ratios.

3. Chamomile Chews: Soak a clean cloth in chamomile tea and give it to baby to chew on for tooth pain.

Most mothers and researchers comment that teething babies are all different, and chamomile might work better for some than others. On the other hand, the delivery method (e.g. cold chew, warm tea) seems to also make a difference, so giving chamomile a try in more than one fashion can definitely be worth the effort!

Pain Relief

What can a simple massage therapist say when a client asks about pain relief?

Obviously, I’m very biased. I’d rather do and use massage techniques to deal with pain and restore circulation.

But what about the chemical type of pain relief? What can I say?

Recommending a product or a drug or nostrum isn’t really what I want to do. I think getting into those areas can present a conflict of interest for therapists – especially when they may also be selling those products.

I can say what I do when I am hurting – that I LOVE topical creams and oils for pain relief.

There are more than a few good things to say about topicals – They go right where the pain is. Topicals don’t take along by-the-by route through your organs and liver on the way to where the problems are. I would like to think that by skipping all those stops on the way that topicals are less toxic and have fewer side effects.

That said, my favorites are arnica, MSM, capsaicin, and Epsom salt lotion. These topicals are generally easy to find in over-the-counter formulas at drugstores and health-food stores, and I’ve used them myself to very good effect.

The formulas I look for have fewest ingredients and I tend toward the most natural – arnica or capsaicin, for instance, in vegetable oil. I’m also partial to formulas that feature one active ingredient as opposed to kitchen-sink collections of things that might relieve pain.

So there they are, my favorite topical formulas that can help with everyday aches and pains. I’m sure other massage therapists have their own favorites – would you like to share?

February 9, 2011

Jaw Pains

As a massage therapist, I wonder if people who have a hard time sitting at a computer automatically have jaw tension problems. It seems so, at least when I go looking, that I find a consistent correlation between neck and jaw tension.

It’s gotten so that when folks come in with neck tension I ask them if they grind, or if they suspect they might grind their teeth at night, or if they have trouble opening their mouths and yawning.

I suspect that it is not news to many therapists that jaw tension is present along with cervical tension, but I wonder how many of us take it seriously and treat jaw tension in a massage.

Massaging muscles around the jaw takes some patience and finesse, and I must admit I had some horrible experiences with therapists who massaged this area with too much pressure. The massage felt invasive, and later my face, sinuses and connective tissue felt inflamed and compressed.

Taking my own experience to heart, I’ve learned to contact, but not push, muscles such as the masseter and pterygoids. I quickly abandoned the more invasive glove “pincer” work I learned in school in favor of lighter, more persuasive strokes that invite these muscles to relax. I like a combination of tiny circular motions to separate fibers and improve their lymph flow, followed by downward sweeping strokes that encourage spindle lengthening.

As the jaw massage and neck massage knit together, just as the muscles and fascia do, I find that linking the two areas with light, circular massage of the occipital and temporalis can reduce tension in the head and neck. It seems to be a case of less is more.

For home care, I encourage warm compresses on the area in front of the ears and to the jawline, along with yawning that emphasizes inhaling before opening the mouth, followed by a long soft sigh as the mouth stretches. Perhaps if people could sigh a bit more like that at work, all our jaws would be a little less tight.

February 4, 2011

Introducing Find Touch Super Saver Deals!

Find Touch is now bringing you the best deals that we can find. We will be offering Continuing Education, like our Current Super Saver Deal; Massage Products, Music, Business Tools, Events, and more. Super Saver Deals will always be at least 50% off!

Everything you need is going to come up here in our Super Saver Deals so watch for the latest deals on Find Touch! This week's deal:

$50 for 5 part Shoulder Pain Webinar Series

February 2, 2011

Massage Conventions

When was the last time you went to a massage convention?

That was the question on my recent massage professional association survey. It seemed pretty standard, and it got me thinking.

When I went to my 2010 state convention I was struck by how small it was – no students, few exhibitors, - missing faces that I attributed to the economy. A slump, I assumed. Most people can manage to get to Palm Springs, especially for a write-off weekend. Where was everyone?

The classes were excellent. Education is the main reason I go to and to spend the time and money for a convention. I’m sure there are other reasons for other folks, but that’s why I go. I thought about not going – the last two conventions had some fairly repetitive classes from people who had presented before and I thought the content was a bit thin. Seeing new faces and perspectives got me in the door.

My member survey got me good when it asked about the last time I went to a national convention. Egads, it was 1999.

The meeting was in San Antonio, a destination that required a more expensive airline ticket. The venue was a Hilton, a large hotel that required a hefty outlay despite the “convention” rate. The classes were very good – a great mix of modalities and ideas and techniques. Otherwise the meeting was disappointing in terms of time and money spent. Most exhibitors skipped the venue, and the national leadership was wrestling with something that put a damper on the social events. I recall looking at the bill and thinking if I go again it had better be worth it.

Funny, I hadn’t gone to a national meeting since. Every year for some reason I have bailed. It might be the host city location, the weather, timing, the classes, whatever, I haven’t gotten there.

Do we really need conventions anymore? I can buy my supplies off the web, from the Find Touch store, pretty well ordering what I need in a few minutes. Classes are great, but for many education needs I can do on-line classes. Do I really need to lose the time, pay the expense and go somewhere out of the way to get in a few classes? If I’m going somewhere, what about those courses in Hawaii or Costa Rica? Beats Toronto in November…..