Deep Cleaning

As the year winds down I find myself looking back at all the things I’ve been putting off for various reasons, and realizing they must be tackled. I’ve spoken with clients, friends, and colleagues, and find this to be a fairly universal situation. We are all working on a deep cleaning of loose ends for the past year.

Think about areas of your life you’ve been avoiding, much like the dusty fan blades or the chaotic kitchen cabinet. Have you been stress eating, slowly drinking more than you used to, spending more time on the computer and less time outside? We’ve all been there.

Have you also noticed your neck and back are more cranky and achy, your hips hurt, your shoulders feel like they are carrying too much weight, and you feel tired? Many people are in the same boat.

I’m going to tell you a secret: I was a physical activity slacker for about 18 months. I would remind my clients to get active, but I wasn’t doing it myself. One day I just decided to get outside and walk. Now my son and I have great one-on-one time, taking walks together several days a week. I hear about things he didn’t talk about before, we may see deer, and we are doing something healthy together.

These walks have slowly allowed for the mental cobwebs to be cleaned out, while preparing me for a deep clean in other facets of my life.

Close your eyes and be present in your body. Feel your legs, hips, back, shoulders, neck, and arms. How many physical cobwebs can you feel in your body? I’m going to guess you can feel stuff you’ve otherwise been ignoring. Is holiday stress making it better or worse? Yes, that is a trick question.

Those cobwebs aren’t part of getting older; they are what happen when we’ve been ignoring the dust for too long. As anyone who has been on my table knows, we will get the deep cleaning started for your body, and you can carry it through to the rest of your life.

Let’s get started and make this new year one of clearing cobwebs away.

Three reasons to choose a private practice over a chain spa

Massage therapy should be a calling. We are working with our clients in an intimate way. If we do it right, we are accessing and releasing trigger points, scar tissue, and even emotional garbage which has been trapped for years, possibly even decades. We are helping our clients to rehab, relax, and more fully live their lives.

Here are three reasons to choose a private practice over a chain spa:

First, consistency of care. With a chain, you may or may not see the same therapist each time, leading to a much longer process as each has to take time to learn about you, your preferences, and your body. They all have different versions of therapy, instead of having one dedicated therapist who knows how your body responds. Each time you come in then builds on previous sessions, instead of starting over each time.

Second, a private therapist knows another client likely gave you a personal referral. Small businesses thrive on referrals and know this means you place a great deal of trust in them for high-caliber care and a dedication to client satisfaction. As such, women especially can feel confident they will receive ethical care in a safe place.

Last, without the burden of corporate policies or needing to sell the company’s products, a private therapist is free to choose the right product for you by discussing your needs. In addition, our schedules belong to us and not the chain, meaning we are free to tailor our schedule. Since we personally handle our own schedules and value relationship with you, the front desk will not switch you to a different therapist or change your appointment without consulting you.

Can Yoga or Stretching Break Up Trigger Points?

We have written about scar tissue (when the muscles are injured and do not heal properly) and trigger points (places in the muscle that remember pain due to injury or overuse) and how these reduce muscle plasticity (flexibility), meaning your range of motion is decreased and you likely experience discomfort and pain.

Most think yoga and other forms of stretching will solve the problem: since the issue is reduced flexibility, shouldn’t stretching mean more flexibility? Can’t I just re-stretch the muscles out to return to my normal range of motion? Not necessarily, depending on how much scar tissue your muscles have and how deep the trigger points are. And you could possibly do further damage by over-stretching in different poses.

Yoga has many benefits. It can stretch out the normal muscle, making problem areas easier to find, and it can bring you better body awareness of where and how deep those problem areas might be. But while yoga and other stretch-based activities are wonderful for healthy muscles, they will not break up trigger points nor smooth out toughened scar tissue.

We mostly use vibrational friction to effectively release trigger points, which yoga can’t mimic, but is effective at releasing trigger points and breaking up scar tissue to encourage muscles to return to their healthy state. Utilize both for optimum muscle health.

Muscle Plasticity: what is it, and how does massage improve it?

Muscle plasticity is the muscle’s ability to change its shape and function depending on what you need it to do. More plasticity means quicker reaction times when you trip on the stairs or bend over wrong to pick up your keys. Scar tissue and trigger points reduce your range of motion and your muscle performance by preventing them from stretching to their normal range of motion.

While scar tissue and trigger points are the main reasons clients come to us, most do not know what these terms mean, only that they’re hurting. The pain stems from these issues not being addressed correctly to ensure proper healing. No matter what sort of athletic activity you engage in – running/walking, weights, sports, track, martial arts – muscles get injured over time.

Big injuries are easy to understand: breaks, sprains, dislocations, torn ligaments or muscles or tendons. Following an injury, you likely received some medical attention in the form of an X-ray, a boot, ice, or surgery or pain medication. Physical therapy or rehab may have been part of your process. For smaller injuries, ibuprofen and ice typically relieve enough pain for you to move forward with life.

But without proper attention, muscles develop scar tissue – much like an external scrape develops a scar. Scar tissue can lead to pain, but even without pain, it will be weaker and more prone to repeated injury…leading to a buildup of more scar tissue and less plasticity (flexibility).

Trigger points are well-established pain patterns in each muscle, caused when the muscle experiences trauma due to overuse, repetitive stress, too much exertion, and more. When the attached fibers don’t properly release, they become bigger and tighter – and more painful – over time, causing a trigger point which you experience as kinks in your neck, or stiffness of a joint, migraine or tension headache, burning or tingling shoulders. Like scar tissue, these weaken the muscle and reduce your flexibility and ability to enjoy a pain-free life.

Without full range of motion or flexibility, the muscles are prone to re-injury more easily and more frequently. This leads to more recovery time, more discomfort and pain for you, and more scar tissue buildup, creating a cycle of injury as you age. With the increase of inflammation, you experience more pain and feel older and more tired.

Massage breaks up the scar tissue and trigger points to return your muscles to full range of motion, reduce your pain, and improve your sense of wellbeing and enjoyment of life.

Active Stretching

Following a deep-tissue massage, we recommend at-home techniques for self-care for longer lasting benefits. Active stretching using soft balls, when used correctly, can keep muscles from returning to how they were prior to your massage. Typically between your first and third massages, whenever we feel your muscles are ready, we will talk about what to use and how.

While most use them for your back and shoulders, we recommend using them on your glutes and pectorals, combined with specific stretches to keep the muscles flexible and moving properly. With regular stretching, when done correctly between massages, strategic placement of the balls will help break up your trigger points and adhered tissue. This will reduce your pain and increase your range of motion.

In addition, regular self-care between massages will allow deeper, more beneficial work during our sessions, allowing us to cover more area in less time.

A tip: when beginning to use the balls, it is easy to overdo it, which might mean you will be sore for several days. We recommend starting with 3-5 minutes each side, using very gentle stretches, and slowly working your way up over time.

The Importance of Self-Care After Massage: Water

I have been a LMBT for a collective 7+ years, and by far the most important recommendations I try to instill are the need for post-massage self-care. While I have a list, for the purpose of this post, I’ll focus on post-massage water intake.

Why do you need to drink so much water; and don’t tea, coffee, juice, and sodas count?
Within the context of post-massage self-care, we have just opened up a good bit of muscle tissue which was in a contracted and or adhered state. This state trapped whatever unpleasant biochemical soup present when those muscles contacted from physical or psychological stress and the bodywork finally allowed it to be released into the blood stream. The only way your blood can adequately flush that stuff out is if you have enough water in your system to increase your blood volume. If you don’t believe me, and you aren’t a natural water drinker, go ahead and ignore this advice. Just be ready to feel like you’ve been hit by a truck the next morning.

Why can’t I increase other, more flavorful fluids?
I recommend that my clients drink 2-3x their normal intake of water the day of their massage, and for the following two days. That is a lot of fluid. If you increase you coffee/tea intake, that’s a lot of extra caffeine, and they are both diuretics. If you are drinking juice or sodas: sugar, HFCS, acids, and possibly artificial sweeteners. They are straining organs, insulin levels, etc.

Increase your unsweetened herbal teas and water intake; keep everything else at normal levels. At least the unsweetened herbal teas will give you some flavor, and if you do your research, they can support your body too.