June 20, 2012

Canaries in the Coal Mine

The word “sensitive” aptly describes many clients who seek massage therapy. Sensitive to touch, sensitive to energy, sensitive to light, etc., and overall sensitive to the environment. Sometimes I meet folks who either from past traumas, injuries or toxic exposures are sensitive to everything.
These hypersensitive folks come in and tell me they have “chemical sensitivity syndrome,” mercury poisoning, adrenal exhaustion, any number of debilitating conditions that make exposure to new smells and substances difficult to manage. They are trying to detoxify, relax and draw down these sensitivities to at least a manageable level.
I have had lots of allergies myself, so I have always tried to use natural and organic oils and linens. I never use aromas or candles without checking with clients first. So over the years I have seen more of these sensitive folks, I presume largely because I will accommodate them and not look at them like they are crazy.
As someone who tries not to “tox” clients any further, I find I am beginning to wonder what a prudent, not-too-sensitive person should avoid.

The question is “Are these folks the canaries in the coal mine? Should the rest of us be running for the exit?”

That is a scary question to me, as I sit surrounded by manufactured products, chemicals, electronics, wireless things and processed foods. Are these things OK or are we paying a price we do not yet see?

Well, I don’t go all Chicken Little about it (I seem to be picking on our feathered friends today) but I think it might be wise to steer clear of chemical fumes, pesticides and house cleaners. I’m not going to move next to a refinery.

But what about the little things we run into every day? We have lots of less noticeable sources of potential trouble such as sunscreens, hair dyes, hormones in meats and milk, pesticides in plants and fruit.

How we balance convenience and safety of our developed world with the potential unknowns may well define our generation.

Tweet, tweet.

June 11, 2012

Rolling in the Deep

At first I really liked foam rollers. They give people who are not getting massage an opportunity to roll out some knots on their own. Rollers are a great shortstop for troubles in major muscles such as quads and hamstrings.
They still are, up to a point. Now they have been around for a few years, I am running into more people who use rollers on the spine, and that trend has me worried.
As a massage therapist, I am always careful around the spinous processes in terms of pressure and direction. Never directly down into the bone and never against the tips of the processes. I tend to work with, around, into the laminal groove and gently circle throughout the tendon areas of muscular attachments on the processes. I have always felt that the processes are not fragile, but they are sensitive areas worthy of respect and gentle coaxing.
And hey-heck-howdy, I keep getting people in who have been rolling the thud-whumpers out of their processes.
Foam rollers are harder than most anything I would ever roll my spine on, and their mid-surface does not have a break for the processes. I am concerned that at some point people will either crunch their “fins” or cause a lot of soft-tissue micro-trauma that gives me a lot to work on later.
For most of my professional life, the standard tool for spinal self-massage has been something that gives the processes a break. I am speaking of the two “dead” tennis balls in a sock, with the emphasis on dead. That gizmo is easy to make, easy to replace, and gentle on the hardware while being tough on the paraspinals.
My sock buddy has gotten me out of many messes in the paraspinals, rhomboids, lats, rotators and other major movers of massage therapists. And I have gotten clients to use it for the relief of knots, pains, spasms, you name it.
But I always give the caution not to go gung-ho right on the center of the spine.I would like to hear how other therapist folks feel about foam rollers. Are they a bad idea? Create more problems than they resolve? Or is it just OK-dokey to run them over the spine?

June 8, 2012

How Massage Therapy can Benefit a Mesothelioma Patient

Mesothelioma patients experience a number of symptoms throughout the progression of their disease. Chest pain, difficulty breathing and anxiety are common, and coughing or reduced chest expansion may also occur. While a number of different treatments can help relieve these symptoms, massage therapy is one of the gentlest ways to keep them under control.

Massage therapy is considered a palliative mesothelioma therapy. Although it cannot cure the cancer, it is one of the effective therapies for the management of mesothelioma symptoms.

Therapeutic Massage for Mesothelioma Pain

Pain is one of the most intense mesothelioma symptoms, but it is also one of the symptoms that is most responsive to massage. Mesothelioma pain is often dull and located in the chest. As the cancer spreads, the pain can also spread to nearby parts of the body such as the upper shoulders. Depending on the location of the pain, gentle stimulation of certain pressure points can provide a great deal of relief. Some of the pressure points that can provide the most benefits for mesothelioma patients include:
  • ·         Central Treasury pressure point (for chest pain)
  • ·         Serratus Posterior muscles (for chest pain)
  • ·         Thoracic Paraspinal muscles (for a stiff spine and reduced movement in the chest)

To help prevent causing any additional pain, a trained massage therapist will avoid directly stimulating any areas of the body that are already tender from tumor growth.

Therapeutic Massage for Other Mesothelioma Symptoms

Therapeutic massage may also be able to improve breathing by relaxing the muscles along the back and the chest. Stimulating the Heavenly Rejuvenation point – located between the shoulders – can help boost lung function. Massaging the deep muscles of the back can also help reduce sharp pains that occur during breathing.

Additionally, massage can release stress and promote relaxation. Points such as the Heavenly Pillar below the skull and the Inner Gate on the arm are related to anxiety; stimulating these points can help release nervousness. Stress-related insomnia and fatigue may also be relieved by stimulating the Sea of Vitality pressure point.

Author bio: Faith Franz is a writer for the Mesothelioma Center. She combines her interests in whole-body health and medical research to educate the mesothelioma community about the newest developments in cancer care.

June 5, 2012

Therapy of a Kind

Reading the paper this morning, (I know, how old-fashioned of me!) I found myself very interested in the story of a fellow who had gone to a psychiatrist for treatment of depression. As the patient went through a few sessions, he said it became apparent that the therapist had honed in on what he felt was the real problem.
The patient was a gay man, and the psychiatrist told him he would become much happier if he played more sports and thought of other men as friends rather than potential partners. The patient’s complaint was, however, that he was not there to become happier by becoming more heterosexual: he was there for his depression.
Nothing in the psychiatrist’s introduction or qualifications gave the patient any clue he was seeing someone focused on gay conversion therapy, the patient said. The subject did not come up until he was already in therapy and feeling very uncomfortable.
I sat there and did a “hmmm” over my morning coffee. Are any of us massage therapists doing services other than those described on our shingle? Am I massaging or giving nutritional advice? What about those folks who talk about their relationships or troubles?
The big question: Am I projecting any of my issues onto clients?
Well, this is a tough one for any therapist to consider. We are, all about helping people, of course. We’re here to guide people to healing, right? What if our healing ideal is not their idea of healing?

I can say I have had an experience like this on the other side of the sheet. It didn’t help with what I sought help for in a massage. If anything, I felt attacked rather than soothed. It’s given me pause, now and then, when I recall how it went.

The distal portion of my right calf had been aching for a few days, and I was on vacation in San Francisco. The long city walks and hills had my calf screaming for mercy, and no amount of self-massage or PNF was fixing it. I needed some relief.

The City, as the natives say, is a complicated place. Signs glow orangey-red in many of the side-streets advertising massage services. I did not need ESP to figure out that these places catered to men only. I finally found a listing for massage by a therapist who had lots of little letters after the name. Seemed studied and professional, I thought.

This was without a doubt the worst massage I have ever had and the worst experience with another therapist. My aching calf was ignored while the therapist lectured me on nutrition. I got the feeling he intensely disliked touching me as he did some sort of shiatsu-like grope on my spine. He actually suggested I join an ashram immediately for a full-body detox. He even gave me the name and address.

I had to pop up with what about my calf? He told me working on my calf would not help.

About 58 minutes later my friends picked me up in their tiny car.

“How was your massage?” my friend asked.

“Weird. Really weird,” I told her. “And my calf still hurts.”