September 27, 2012

Please, Please, Get Regular Bodywork!

My family and I recently stayed at a local resort for a mini-staycation, so of course I took advantage of their spa services. My massage therapist had a nice touch, but as we talked, she admitted to me her hands were hurting and she had not had a massage in years.

Oh heavens. If there has been one constant in my life since I started doing massage in 1995, it is that I get massages. Lots. For a long time once a week, and more most recently alternating with acupuncture.

Time spent getting a massage gives me new energy, insight into my own massage style, and a chance to alter the course of aches and pains that could develop into trouble.   

I credit regular bodywork with keeping me sane and holding off the chronic tendonitis that most therapists develop over the years.

My therapist had been massaging for about 10 years, but rarely got massages after graduating from her massage class. Massage is more of a job for her, and with children and a busy schedule, bodywork has never been a priority.

I told her flat out that I couldn’t live like that.

Please, Please, get massages. It is the best medicine, prevention and wellness therapy I know.

Of course she agreed. “We have time to trade here but we don’t,” she told me. “Maybe I get a little work here and there on stuff that hurts, but that is it.”

Ok therapists I will give you the speech I give clients who are too busy: “If you can manage to get your hair done, your nails done and be Mom of the year, you have time to schedule a massage and carry through with a regular appointment.”

Consider this an engraved invitation….


September 20, 2012

Wrapping Up a Massage with Tape

Lots of athletes showed up with their sticky strips showing at the London Olympics this year, giving the wide world of kinesio-tape a swift punch in the deltoid.
I do occasionally use the tape I dealing with massage clients, generally to encourage sluggish lymph, although I find it also helps with muscles that keep slipping back into spastic patterns. More sports stores are carrying the tape, making it readily available to all of us weakened warriors.
Neat stuff, really, although I warn other therapists to clearly think through their tapings to make sure they are following lymphatic vessels and major muscle groups. I have seen about 30 U-Tube versions of taping, some of them I swear seemed to be taping backwards or across lymph channels. The goal for these tapes may be more to create an awareness of synergy and balances in troubled muscle groups rather than enhance drainage. Or they are just wrong.

Also fun in the kinesio world, no one is really sure how it works. Lots of people are doing lots of studies, and thus far the best clues say that the tape pulls skin up and away from lymphatic vessels. That drains more lymph fluid than usual - as long as the person is moving the area actively by themselves or passively with the help of a therapist.

We therapists, of course, are at risk for some lymph related problems as we are often on our feet, moving but not doing full steps or cardio. A little tape up the calves or on the lumbar/QL works wonders for me. I have also used the hand stretch tape at night to improve drainage of the hand at the carpal area.

It would be nice to know how or why tape seems to help with muscle spasticity. Surely some silly hamstring or soleus should by oblivious to a strip of kinesio-tape. Yet there it is. Preventing spasms and cramps. Hmmm. It would be nice to know those answers….

September 10, 2012

Massage Mercies

Sometimes we massage therapists get our best quips quite spontaneously from our clients. I haven’t done a top-ten list lately….so…


          Top Ten Best Quips from Clients Mid-Massage


Number 10: “The combination to the safe is 35 left, 56 right and 22 left.”

Number Nine: “Do you wash your sheets?”

Number Eight:  “Ever thought about putting ads on your shoes?”

Number Seven: “I think my neck hates my job.”

Number Six: “What is the longest massage you have ever done?

Number Five: “Am I supposed to see a burning bush in the desert?”

Number Four: “Do smelly feet bother you?”

Number Three: “How do you know if you have ringworm?”

Number Two: “Do you know Amber Frey?”


And the Number One Best Quips from Clients Mid-Massage:

“Better light the candle; you pushed it out of me.”

September 6, 2012


We massage therapists sometimes see the un-doctored, the folks who are big believers in the preservation of health by staying far, far, away from anything medical.       

I respect people’s beliefs, especially when they are dearly held, but I also know that I have a duty to at least bring up the subject of finding explanation of symptoms that may be significant.       

My personal and professional life intersected, once again, within the last week.
A good long-time friend who had become strangely distant in the past few months died unexpectedly. And I had two new clients - back to back - whose presentations suggested to me that something was afoot.
All three situations were difficult. I hope I did the right things…
My friend had always had a bit of a nervous side. When excited his hands would tremble and he had trouble with seemingly simple things. I fixed his vacuum cleaner once simply be emptying it.

Looking back, those were early signs that he was having difficulties with simple tasks. When I asked about the tremor, he told me he had always had it and not to mind it. He pleaded lack of handy skills with the vacuum cleaner. Odd.
I have lost my keys plenty of times; I can’t find a street now and then. I wonder if I am losing it, and then I find things and turn the right corner.
But this was different. My friend used to go with honey-buns and I to breakfast or lunch after church Sundays. Suddenly, he had too many places to go, too many things to do. I chalked it up to his schedule, with the odd feeling that was not quite the entire explanation.
When his family came into town and went to his home, they found piles of clutter, food dated 2005-2009 in the fridge, a mess of old bills and a hoard of dirty clothes, furniture with an inch of dust and grime. He had been a neat-freak. His home was not like him anymore.

As his survivors and I compared notes over lunch, it came together. He had mental changes, and fearing he was losing it, he was avoiding people including myself, who would know better. I feel so sad to know that he had lived in fear in his last days.

My clients came in just an hour apart. The first had a slight tremor to her hands, shaky writing on the intake. Lots of health problems she seemed unable to shake. Perhaps a massage would help. I asked her after the massage if she felt the slight shake and tension in her hands. No. Everything is as it has always been.
Trouble was, this client had plenty of doctors and things going on, just no answers as to why she felt so tired and sore. I suggested a lot of massage and persistence with her doctors. Sometimes we don’t realize we are tense, I said, until we start to relax.
My next client couldn’t stop talking. He had injured his back more than 10 years ago, and it was getting worse. This fellow had been to about four chiropractors in the past week. Had trigger point injections, adjustments, machine stretching and strengthening and active release.

I listened to his story, which hopscotched around quite a bit, and wondered if massage could help him. We can help tension, but what if the tension is not from injury but from a condition of the mind? I didn’t think that was my place to broach that. Could I refer?         

I asked more questions, he gave me a long list of injuries and re-injuries. It had gotten so bad the night before he had rolled his back on some metal air tanks to get relief. I suggested he stop doing that and proposed he seek the care of an osteopath with experience in cranio-sacral therapy. Osteopaths also do general medical practice, I thought, and perhaps would have some ideas on how to deal with reducing the cause of his his pain and anxiety.         

I certainly don’t know if I did the right things with these folks, but I did try to help. With my hands and my heart.