Clients come into my massage clinic with their minds buzzing with thoughts from their busy lives. Prioritizing time to take care of your body is an important first step, the next level is to slow the mind down and allow the nervous system to relax and rejuvenate. There is fascinating new research highlighting the benefits of meditation and mindfulness, we can alter the nervous system connections to our brain! Other benefits include decreasing blood pressure and heart rate, improving immune function, and improving emotional health. During massage therapy treatments I often cue my clients to tune into their breath and guide them through a few simple body awareness exercises.This taps into the potential of mindfulness while receiving a massage. I would recommend giving meditation a try and see how you feel, even a couple of minutes a day can be beneficial!
The winter season is here and for the West coast it means time to play in the snow on the mountains! This is also the time of year when I see many clients limping in for their massage appointments with injuries from their winter activities. Two simple ways to prevent aches and pains are warming up and staying hydrated. Typically warming up is non existent for snow sports, however even a few bodyweight squats or yoga postures beforehand are beneficial. Waking up your nervous system and getting the blood flowing to your muscles will help your body perform the movement patterns you want to do on the slopes. Also, drinking water throughout the your day is important for keeping you hydrated and proper muscle function. For example, you wouldn’t go for a four hour hike without drinking water, so why would you try to snowboard all afternoon without water?!? If you do happen to sustain an injury from your snow sport adventures, massage therapy will help relieve pain and restore function. In my sessions I will create a personalized treatment plan to help get you back out there having fun on the mountains!
It is that time of year again, back to school! This fall semester I will be teaching for the RMT program at Utopia Academy, my alma mater. The course I will be instructing is called “All Pathology Review”, basically a review of everything bad that can happen to your body. This class covers problems that can develop with your heart, lungs, muscles, bones, nervous system, digestion, hormones, and skin. It is not in the scope of practice for an RMT to give a definitive diagnosis, however we are health care professionals that know the signs and symptoms of many possible issues. RMT’s can be the first line of defense and refer out if needed. For example, a massage therapist may notice a suspicious mole on their client’s back during a treatment, possibly skin cancer. We would advise the client to follow up with their doctor for further investigation and possible removal, potentially saving their life it if went untreated! RMT’s are trained in much more than just massaging muscle. I am excited to be a part of the Utopia Academy teaching team and help educate the future RMT’s.
The warm summer weather is great for ditching your shoes and wearing sandals everywhere. I find flip flop style sandals are very popular with my massage clients, but they may be the primary cause of their foot, knee, hip, and even back pain. Research has shown flip flops alter normal walking gait by forcing the ankle to flex more on heel strike in order to keep the sandal on. There is also a lack of stability through the arch with a flip flop and the small muscles in the foot instinctively contract and tighten. As a result the deep calf muscles engage and sometimes cramp up. With the altered movement pattern the knee, hip and low back take on extra pressure. To combat this flip flop conundrum, I would recommend wearing them only for short periods of time and seeing an RMT for help. Massage is a very effective treatment that helps to release the tight muscles that can become adhered and cause pain. The calves are sensitive areas to massage, but I use myofascial release techniques that are not painful and yet release the trigger points and adhesions. Massage helps restore pain free movement patterns so you can get back out there to run around in the sunshine!
When a client lies down on my massage table I observe their breathing patterns as a clue to their stress level. Rapid, shallow breaths are typical of a higher sympathetic nervous system firing, also know as fight or flight mode. I find an effective way to get into a more relaxed state quickly is to invite my client to take longer and deeper breaths. Full inhalations feed the cells oxygen to boost energy levels, while full exhalations release toxins and rejuvenate. Increasing awareness of the breath can be very powerful and enhances the effectiveness of the massage treatment. During a more intense technique, I may ask a client to bring their breath into where my hand is placed on their body. It may not technically be possible to breathe into one’s foot for example, but the imagery helps to mentally let the tension go and relax the overstimulation of the nervous system. Incorporating breath work into a massage brings a mind-body connection that lasts beyond the session and becomes part of my home care recommendations. Mindful breathing is a simple form of meditation and can decrease stress levels significantly, even a couple of minutes a day helps. Now take a moment to focus on your breath…
A few years ago I purchased my first road bike and joined in with the many recreational cyclists. I find it is a great activity for keeping up my fitness level, but without the impact on my joints that I get with running. That isn’t to say cycling is always an injury free sport, it should be balanced with an overall strength and flexibility fitness plan which includes recovery massage. Two common areas of discomfort that I see as an RMT are the upper back/neck area and the low back/hips. Massage helps decompress the restriction of blood flow, stimulate the nervous system and restore circulation to the muscles. During a massage treatment I incorporate stretching techniques that target specific segments of muscles that are tight. For example bringing your chin to your chest will stretch all of your neck extensors, but not necessarily the tighter aspects at the base of your skull unless manually isolated. Releasing the trigger points in the affected/shortened muscles results in decreased discomfort as well as increased endurance and power on the bike. In the photo below, my friend and Iron-woman inspiration Steph Corker demonstrates great bike posture and the joy of smooth cycling!
“Riding 180km during Ironman can be joyful! Outside of ensuring my bike was fit properly, getting frequent massages ensured that long miles on the bike I was relaxed and getting every ounce of power out of my body. With small tweaks, we really can ride forever……so bring on the gran fondos + massage appointments” Steph Corker
I was a personal trainer for many years and always noticed a lot of new faces in the gyms at this time of year. Some of the best intentions to get fit as fast as possible inevitably led to quite a few injuries. Sore knees from ramping up running miles, tweaked shoulders from one too many pushups, achy low backs from sit ups, and many more common and annoying little injuries. It was enough for new participants to quit on their goals, but the great news is that an RMT can help! Instead of giving up on your healthy resolutions, little adjustments can be made to your fitness program to rehabilitate and prevent further injury. Massage treatments begin with postural and functional movement assessments to develop a plan for which areas are tight and would benefit from massage and stretching. Basically, if you are feeling sore and sluggish, massage can help bring circulation to your hard working muscles to help you get back out there being active!