The Alexander Technique – What It Is and How To Perform It

Everything about our world today is go go go.

We have been conditioned to believe that busier is better. This notion that the more we do and the faster we do it will make us happy, successful, or simply better than the next person.

Not only does this actually result in the opposite more often than not, as we are so rushed that we end up missing out on the things that matter, but it can also put a strain on our bodies without us even realizing it.

Posture Is The Problem

Stress, which is an inevitable result of the hectic lives we are living, is known to be linked to more physical problems such as poor posture or muscle aches. Where one is found, the others will follow; they play off each other.

Bad posture is one of the most obvious and problematic results of our current lifestyles. Spending too much time in the car, at our desks, or just running from place to place leaves our bodies tired, uncomfortable, and just in generally unhealthy positions. Unfortunately, this less than adequate posture can lead to a lot more issues than a sore back.

With our lack of time (or real desire) to actively work on changing our posture, and our body’s inability to correct the issues subconsciously, our bodies become more and more accustomed to the bad habits we are developing, and it becomes increasingly to correct them.

“I’ll just go get a massage”, is what you are most likely thinking.

Sure, a massage will help ease these aches and pains caused by everyday life, but we both know this is only a temporary fix.

Yes, you could go and get regular massages (something we’d all like to do), but that will get expensive, and besides, not everyone has a schedule that will allow for such luxuries (you know, with life as busy as it is).

So rather than relying on an expensive and time consuming temporary fix for once the problem is already present, why not take a proactive approach and learn how to correct and prevent the issues all together.

The Alexander Technique Is The Answer

What Is The Alexander Technique?

The Alexander Technique is a system that works to promote well-being by retraining one’s awareness and habits of posture to ensure minimum effort and strain.

The goal of this technique is essentially to help you become more mindful of your body and your movements. Through this method, you should see changes in your habits that will improve your ease of movement, your balance and coordination, and your comfort in general.

Rather than being a series of passive treatments, it is more of a skill for self-development. Through the Alexander Technique, you will learn how to recognize your own harmful habits, how to stop and actively think of what you are doing, and how to correct them.

This method helps you to focus on how you are using your body, and to, both actively and subconsciously, adopt more positive and beneficial habits.

It’s Origins

Frederick Matthias Alexander developed this technique in the 1890’s.

As a young actor, Alexander faced reoccurring vocal problems, which posed as a threat to his budding career. With doctors unable to locate any medically linked root cause to his problem, Alexander began investigating the situation himself.

After considering all of the factors involved, and observing himself while encountering the vocal problems, he began to recognize a pattern; the vocal issues were the result of tension in his neck muscles caused by a change in his posture during vocal recitals.

Once Alexander became aware of this pattern, he was able to spend time working on a way to reverse it. He spent years working on actively changing his habitual reaction to reciting, which resulted in his ability to perform without the change in his posture occurring – because he now had more control over his posture, he was not becoming tense during recitals, which greatly improved his vocal talents.

Others took notice of his improvements and began approaching him for help. Alexander began teaching his methods to those seeking his help, and after a few years was able to turn these teachings into a career.

Not only did Alexander established a successful practice in London based on the methods he created, but he continued on to train over 80 other individuals to teach his techniques, even published 4 books on the subject, and even founded a school focused on teaching these techniques to children.

The Reasoning Behind It

By becoming more aware of your habits, and actively working on making improvements where necessary, you will find yourself feeling much better both physically and mentally. The strain that poor posture puts on our bodies causes problems that run deeper than a muscle ache now and again.

Bad posture can lead to a variety of health issues, such as poor circulation, increased risk of diseases (such as diabetes), stomach and intestinal problems (such as constipation), weight gain, depression, and stress.

You may already be aware of bad habits that you have, especially when it comes to your posture. Maybe you slouch or hunch your shoulders when you walk, or you have problems keeping your back straight when sitting all day; either way it takes more than just recognizing the problem to correct it.

Sure you might force yourself to straighten out every so often when you realize what you are doing, but it takes a lot more than that to properly correct bad posture.

That is what the Alexander Technique is for. It trains you to be constantly aware of your body and how you are using it. With this new sense of mindfulness, you are more likely to begin fixing your posture without thinking about it as much, which will eventually lead to you simply having proper posture around the clock.

Who Should Use This Technique?

It may sound redundant, but every single person can benefit from learning the Alexander technique.

While we have mostly referred to the technique in regards to learning to recognize our movements with the purpose of correcting poor posture, it can actually be used in a multitude of other situations.

Performers

The Alexander Technique is commonly applied to various performing arts programs; for example, those who sing, dance, act, or play instruments can benefit from these techniques.

Learning to be cognizant of how your muscles are performing and being able to control them can help in any of these situations; playing instruments becomes more fluid, dancing becomes more graceful, acting appears more natural, and singing becomes smoother. Not only can it improve performance, but it can also work to prevent injury caused by straining or tension on the muscles.

Active Individuals

The idea that the Alexander technique helps us control our muscles and keep them relaxed and free of tension, resulting in less chance of injury, means that it is also a valuable technique for anyone who is considers themselves active.

Whether you are a professional athlete or a first time gym member, being able to move and exercise with more freedom, agility, and efficiency can only have positive effects. Not only can following the methods set out by the Alexander Technique lower your chances of incurring muscle injuries while being active, but it can also help improve your skills in whatever activity it is you are participating in.

Children

Learning to be mindful and conscious of your body and your movements is not necessarily something that only adults should consider; these techniques could have real positive impacts throughout life if taught to everyone at a young age.

Frederick Alexander thought so himself and that is why he funded a school with the purpose of educating children on his techniques.

Being more in tune with your body, especially in terms of having better posture, can sow many long-term benefits if learned as a child. Typically as children we already have decent posture, and it is as we go through school and then our working lives where our posture suffers.

However, if at a young age we learn to move and hold ourselves in a way that keeps us balanced and keeps our muscles relaxed, we will be more likely to retain this mindfulness and the techniques used as we age, preventing our posture from deteriorating and, along with it, avoiding the many issues that it can cause.

Everyone Else

While the examples above outline why the Alexander Technique is beneficial for certain demographics, it truthfully is something that everyone could benefit from.

At some point, we all lose touch with our bodies, our posture, our movement; it may be consistent, or perhaps it only happens while we are doing certain tasks or performing certain activities, either way it puts strain on our muscles, which in turn affects our health and comfort.

Anything that can help alleviate this imbalance between our minds and our bodies is surely worth a try.

How Is The Alexander Technique Performed?

This is a tough question to answer, as the technique will vary from session to session, pupil to pupil.

Sessions are one-on-one and are completed by certified teachers. They will first observe you; how you move, how you sit, how you stand. By doing this, they will help you pinpoint any harmful movement habits you may have.

Once determining where your problems lie, they will use their hands to guide you in your movements, showing you how to hold yourself while you walk, sit, or stand, in a way that eases tension in your muscles and improves your balance.

Your teacher may give you certain exercises or methods to practice on a day-to-day basis, but these will be specific to you, your body, and your lifestyle.

The main goal is to strengthen and improve the relationship between your head, neck, shoulders, and back by implementing the methods used in your sessions. In order for your body to learn and understand these new movements and techniques, you must be committed to putting them into practice and you must be patient.

If you are able to do this, you will eventually find yourself implementing these techniques subconsciously – your body will move and perform in a healthier and more efficient manner without needing to be reminded to do so.

Interested?

The Alexander Technique is now practiced all around the world, and for good reason. If you suffer from poor posture, back or neck pain, or frequent headaches; you are an athlete or a performer and you wish to improve your skills and lessen your chances of injury; or you simply want to rebalance your mind and body, don’t hesitate to book with a qualified Alexander Technique teacher near you.

References

  1. https://www.thejoint.com/texas/houston/cy-fair-28009/212488-stress-posture-back-pain-are-they-linked
  2. https://alexandertechnique.co.uk/alexander-technique/history
  3. http://www.alexander-technique-london.co.uk/alexander-technique-faq/#352

Biofeedback – Mixing Technology With Alternative Healing

In the last century, and especially in the last few decades alone, there has been a constant flow of medical and scientific discoveries being made. When paired with the mind-boggling technological advancements taking place, we end up with significant developments in regards to creating groundbreaking and innovative treatments.

One such development is biofeedback, a process created by mixing technology with alternative healing methodologies.

What Is Biofeedback?

Biofeedback is a process whereby electronic monitoring of a normally automatic bodily function is used to train someone to acquire voluntary control of that function.

Those who practice alternative healing techniques believe that “energy” based practices can produce the same results as medication can.

In the case of biofeedback, the idea is that receiving specific pieces of information about your bodily functions can, in time, help you make the necessary changes in your physical and mental behaviour required to adjust and control these functions. This method focuses highly on the belief in the power of the connection between the mind and the body’s physical state.

Essentially, it is an approach to learning how to control functions that your bodily typically carries out on it’s own, such as heart rate, muscle tension, blood pressure, etc. by first practicing various mental activities and relaxation techniques to regulate these functions while being monitored.

How Does It Work?

Biofeedback works through a variety of electrical sensors placed on one’s body that are hooked up to monitors that display feedback on how one’s body is responding to different stimuli.

The purpose of these sensors is to measure how that individual’s body reacts to stress. This does not necessarily mean how one’s body reacts when they are stressed, but rather the physical stress their body may experience due to other illnesses or conditions.

A biofeedback therapist will suggest certain exercises and relaxation techniques for the individual to try based on the problem being addressed. This may include breathing techniques, meditation, or a variety of muscle tightening and loosening exercises.

The therapist will then observe how these exercise are affecting the individual’s monitor readings and can tweak the exercises, or try new ones, until they begin seeing the desired change in the body’s responses.

There are multiple specialized forms of biofeedback currently in practice; each form uses a different type of sensor, reads different responses, and is helpful in treating different issues.

The three most popular types of biofeedback are neurofeedback, muscle tension feedback, and thermal feedback.

Types of Biofeedback 
  • Neuro Feedback

This method uses sensors placed on one’s scalp to monitor brain waves using an electroencephalograph (EEG).

Most commonly, this method is used to treat ADHD symptoms, but can also be useful when treating a range of brain-related conditions, such as: addiction, anxiety, autism, depression, Schizophrenia, epilepsy, insomnia, etc.

  • Respiratory Feedback

This method involves sensor bands being placed around one’s abdomen and chest in order to monitor the individuals breathing patterns and respiration rate.

This type of feedback has been the most successful when treating issues such as panic disorders and asthma, as well as promoting better general heart health due to better breathing habits.

  •  Heart Rate Feedback

During a heart rate biofeedback session, finger and/or earlobe sensors with a device called a photoplethysmograph, or chest/torso/or wrist sensors using an electrocardiograph (ECG) are used to measure one’s heart rate and heart rate variability.

Blood pressure control and stress/anxiety reduction are two of the most common issues addressed using this type of biofeedback, but it has also been successfully used for other purposes, such as improving athletic performance.

  • Muscle Tension Feedback

This technique involves placing sensors over one’s skeletal muscles (the muscles that produce all of the movements of body parts in relation to one another through voluntary movements) and using an electromyograph (EMG) to monitor the electrical activity that causes muscle contraction.

This method is commonly used to treat conditions such as epilepsy, movement disorders (such as Parkinson’s), migraines, arthritis, or stress, and is even used to help patients during surgical recuperation. 

  • Sweat Gland Feedback

This type of biofeedback uses an electrodermograph (EDG), with sensors attached to one’s fingers, palms, or wrists, to measure the activity of the individual’s sweat glands and the amount of perspiration on their skin.

Sweat gland feedback is most useful when treating conditions such as anxiety or stress.

  • Thermal Feedback

During thermal biofeedback, sensors are attached to fingers or feet and are used to measure the blood flow to their skin.

Temperature often drops when an individual is under stress, meaning this is a good method to use in order to practice certain relaxation techniques.

Devices Used

As mentioned earlier, the devices used during biofeedback are typically a combination of sensors that are either attached to the individual or worn by the individual and the monitors that display the information gathered by these sensors.

The sensors most commonly used are the ones placed on one’s finger, scalp, or muscles, or the bands worn around one’s chest.

There are also a number of biofeedback devices available for home use. These are portable electronic devices that monitor different aspects of your body’s response system. These devices can help you with relaxation and changing behaviours that cause stress to your body without having to spend time and money on visiting the therapist’s office.

It is important to know, however, that not all home devices available are approved by the FDA. Not only are some of these devices not FDA approved, but many of the devices marketed make false claims of what they are capable of and the results they will provide.

If you are planning on purchasing a home-use biofeedback device, don’t forget to speak with your doctor about it first, and ensure you do the proper research required before choosing which device to buy.

What to Expect

Biofeedback sessions can range in length, typically from 60-90 minutes. The first session is typically a consultation with the therapist; during this consultation the therapist and the patient will discuss the problems that need to be treated, possible exercises and methods that may be used, potential outcomes, etc.

The number of sessions required will vary from patient to patient, with most patients needing an average of at least 10 sessions until they are capable of effectively implementing the control techniques without being monitored. This, however, is highly dependent on the condition being treated and the efficiency with which the patient learns.

During these sessions one can expect to be hooked up to one of the aforementioned types of sensors; the type of sensor used during the sessions is dependent on the condition the patient needs treated, because this dictates which bodily function is being monitored.

These sensors will be hooked up to different types of machines that will, most commonly, either beep or flash while displaying their body’s readings.

While hooked up to these machines, the therapist will have the patient practice a variety of different relaxation techniques or exercises, and will adjust these accordingly based on the changes that they make in the sensors readings.

Results 

Biofeedback does not necessarily work for everyone, and results are not guaranteed. However, if biofeedback therapy does work for you, there are a few results you may see.

First, it can help you learn how to control various symptoms you may be experiencing due to the issue being addressed (whether it be a mental of physical health problem).

Next, it can reduce or eliminate the amount of medication that was previously required to treat aforementioned symptoms.

Note that even if biofeedback is successful for you, it may not negate certain treatments you are currently receiving for the issue at hand.

Why Use Biofeedback?

There are a multitude of reasons why one may choose to try biofeedback therapy.

The main appeal of biofeedback therapy, also commonly referred to as biofeedback training, is that it can be used to help manage a variety of both physical and mental health conditions.

Some of the health conditions this type of therapy is most often used for include: anxiety/stress, asthma, headaches/migraines, various bowel problems, high blood pressure, and motion sickness.

While biofeedback therapy may not fully cure these conditions, it can help with relaxation, reduce symptoms caused by the conditions, and can even help in reducing the amount of medication needed to combat those symptoms.

Not only are the results of biofeedback desirable, but this type of therapy is attractive for a number of other reasons.

One of the largest draws to this type of treatment is that it is totally non-invasive. It does not require any surgeries, injections, etc.

It is also a great option for those who need alternatives to medications that haven’t worked, medications they cannot take, or those who simply do not want to be taking medications for one reason or another.

If biofeedback therapy is successful, it can give one the feeling of taking charge of their health. Feeling in control of your body can work wonders in terms of relieving stress and anxiety.

Giving It A Try

Biofeedback therapy is an amazing blend of technological advancement and alternative healing that has made waves in the medical world.

While monitoring and displaying your body’s various functions through sensors, you can learn to control these otherwise involuntary functions through a series of exercises by adjusting your exercises based on how your body is reacting to them.

Learning to control different bodily functions can have many positive impacts on your health. It can reduce stress, anxiety, aches and pains, and can even reduce symptoms of various mental and physical health issues you may be facing.

Biofeedback is a great option for anyone wanting to address these issues in an alternative, non-invasive, medicine-free way.

If successful, biofeedback therapy can reduce the amount of medications you need to treat the health issues you are targeting, and can give you a better sense of control over your body.

If biofeedback therapy is something that interests you, talk to your doctor about it. Your doctor can help you understand if and how this type of treatment can work for you, can refer to you a therapist, or can give you advice on the different home-use biofeedback devices available on the market.

There are very little risks involved with biofeedback therapy, so if it seems like something that can help with an issue you are facing, there is little reason not to give it a try.

References

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/biofeedback/about/pac-20384664
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/biofeedback#purpose-and-uses

Massage Therapy and Your Recovery Treatment Plan

The physical healing applications of massage and bodywork are well known. Less known are the ways in which massage therapy can facilitate emotional healing.

Mental health treatment and healing take time, and often the process incorporates many modalities, not all of which are directly in the field of psychotherapy. During National Recovery Month, recognized in September, we take the opportunity to shine a light on less mainstream treatment options for recovery from trauma, addiction, and other mental health issues.

Massage therapy and other forms of bodywork are becoming more widely known for their ability to address concerns like anxiety, depression, fatigue, and insomnia. But their use related to conditions that might call for extended treatment or rehabilitation has not been widely publicized. Further research supports incorporating bodywork into a mental health healing plan with a comprehensive psychotherapy program.

Before beginning any type of bodywork to address psychological concerns, it is best to meet with a mental health professional who will be overseeing the recovery process. Depending on the issue and the person’s history, bodywork may not be the most appropriate complementary therapy, or it may be advisable to wait until the individual is further into the recovery process to explore massage.

Massage Therapy and Addiction Recovery

Research shows bodywork helps reduce physical and emotional discomfort during the addiction recovery process in many ways. Some rehabilitation facilities and residential treatment centers employ massage therapists to aid clients on-site. Further, people who are trying to quit smoking can use self-massage to help reduce nicotine cravings. Co-occurring issues in the smoking cessation process, especially anxiety and mood issues, are also eased by touch therapy and massage.

Withdrawal can be an extremely painful experience, especially for people who have developed an opioid addiction after being prescribed the drugs for physical injury or pain. Massage can speed the detoxification process, lessen the risk of secondary health problems, and reduce the need for tranquilizers or other drugs to calm a client.

Bodywork also reduces the likelihood of relapse. The Mayo Clinic offers a program for pain management and reduction which takes a “biopsychosocial” approach to weaning opioid users off the medication and replacing it with holistic therapy options, including massage. The results have been very positive, significantly lessening clients’ needs for pain medication afterward.

Individuals currently using alcohol or other drugs, and those whose systems still contain them, are not advised to receive massage. In such instances it is likely the liver is already processing the substances and can become overwhelmed by toxins as bodywork begins to take effect.

Using Bodywork After Abuse or Trauma

A common effect of experiencing any type of physical trauma, including childhood abuse, domestic violence, or sexual assault, among others, is an aversion to touch. Studies support the use of many different types of bodywork and holistic treatments for people who are comfortable or can work up to it. Even no-contact modalities like reiki, aromatherapy, and some types of hydrotherapy can be beneficial additions to a comprehensive mental health healing plan after abuse or trauma.

Though bodywork does have a direct positive correlation with improved mood and emotional stability, researchers say the more immediate effect of massage is a deeper connection with the self. After trauma, someone might begin dissociating or develop thought patterns of self-loathing and rejection of the self. Massage and bodywork can help bring awareness back to the body and one’s connection with it in constructive, nonjudgmental ways.

By addressing the physiological impacts after trauma, professional bodywork can help remove some of the emotional barriers to healing, such as pain and discomfort related to touch or another person’s proximity. In this way the therapy makes it possible for more psychological and emotional healing to take place and for clients to restore self-acceptance.

Eating Disorder Recovery and Massage

Common eating issues like anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating can pose a number of health risks and may even be life-threatening. Treatment facilities and programs focus on helping someone ease back into a lifestyle that supports a healthy relationship between food and one’s body.

These changes may be minor at first but can still be extremely taxing on people whose systems are adjusting to eating in a different way. In some cases, eating issues lead to cardiovascular weakness or circulatory problems, and bodywork is not advisable if either condition is present. However, for anyone not experiencing these serious side effects, massage can be helpful in the early stages of recovery by improving digestion while the body heals.

A key part of moving past bulimia, bingeing, or anorexia is developing more positive body image and self-regard. Though much of this work is psychological, bodywork can be one factor that helps encourage better self-esteem. Studies show people are more able to accept themselves after receiving massage and experiencing the positive effects of increased serotonin and dopamine. In other words, when the body feels good, it’s easier to feel good about the body. With effective psychotherapy, bodywork can provide unexpected relief during the recovery process and offer hope for people in recovery and their families.

References:

  1. Allison, N. (1999). The illustrated encyclopedia of body-mind disciplines, 163-165. New York City, NY: Rosen Publishing Group.
  2. Andrews, M. (2017). Holistic therapy programs may help pain sufferers ditch opioids. National Public Radio. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/08/29/546145817/holistic-therapy-programs-may-help-pain-sufferers-ditch-opioids
  3. Beck, M. F. (2011). Theory & practice of therapeutic massage (5th ed.), 277. Clifton Park, NY: Milady.
  4. Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., Diego, M., Schanberg, S., & Kuhn, C. (2005). Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy. International Journal of Neuroscience, 115(10), 1397-1413. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00207450590956459
  5. Hart, S., Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., Nearing, G., Shaw, S., Schanberg, S., & Kuhn, C. (2001). Anorexia nervosa symptoms are reduced by massage therapy. Eating Disorders, 9(4), 289-299. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/106402601753454868
  6. Hernandez-Reif, M., Field, T., & Hart, S. (1999). Smoking cravings are reduced by self-massage. Preventive Medicine, 28(1), 28-32. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091743598903723
  7. Meeks, J. A. and Byrami, S. (2016). A systematic review of complimentary therapies to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress: Disorder in the aftermath of domestic abuse. Senior Honors Projects. 243. Retrieved from http://commons.lib.jmu.edu/honors201019/243
  8. Price, C. (2005). Body-oriented therapy in recovery from child sexual abuse: An efficacy study. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 11(5), 46. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1933482
  9. Reader, M., Young, R., & Connor, J. P. (2005). Massage therapy improves the management of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 11(2), 311-313. Retrieved from http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/pdf/10.1089/acm.2005.11.311
  10. Werner, R. (2009). A massage therapist’s guide to pathology (4th ed.), 269-270. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  11. Ziegler, P. P. (2005). Addiction and the treatment of pain. Substance Use & Misuse, 40(13-14), 1945-1954. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10826080500294841

Why Am I Sore After a Massage?

Feeling sore after a massage? This could be normal but could also be cause for concern. Learn how to recognize any issues and address and prevent soreness here.

Massage, we know, is far more likely to reduce muscle soreness and tension than create it. But maybe you recently switched massage providers. Maybe you requested a particularly deep treatment. Maybe you were looking for a specific type of therapy after intense physical exercise. Later that day or the next morning, you realize … everything hurts.

Generally speaking, receiving massage therapy is unlikely to make you sore. There are few types of treatments designed to work deeply enough that muscles need to recuperate afterward. Still, there are some reasons massage could leave you sore, and you can do several things to guard against this experience in the future.

You’re an Athlete

Extremely active people may request different types of massage or bodywork that specifically support what they do. Sports massage and other services like ice baths are designed to increase circulation, accelerate healing, guard against stiffness, and more. Because intense exercise and athletics can be extraordinarily physically demanding, the maintenance and care that keep the body in top condition can also be demanding.

Sports massage therapists are more likely to use deeper pressure, especially on areas of high exertion. Massage also flushes out metabolic waste products generated during exercise, and these can irritate tissues. The body continues to process these toxins after massage, and this often registers as soreness. However, this is a completely healthy response to sports massage. In fact, it indicates the body is receiving the treatment well.

You Overestimated Your Tolerance

People new to massage and people seeing a new bodywork provider are more likely to misjudge their limit and less likely to speak up if they are uncomfortable. Whether they assume most massage will be feather-light and skin-deep, or whether they incorrectly believe massage treatment must be painful to be effective, many people insist they “like a lot of pressure” or want the therapist to “dig in.”

Neither of these requests, if they are truly your preference, is wrong or inappropriate. It’s helpful for massage therapists to have some idea of what clients are expecting from treatment and how to proceed. But if you realize you’re feeling more aches and pains after a massage as you were before the session, this may indicate the treatment was beyond your tolerance.

The Therapist Overestimated Your Tolerance

Bodywork professionals are trained to “read” tissues, paying special attention to resistance in the muscles and fascia and easing up when they feel tension. Usually, a massage therapist will work up to the allowance of your body, but not beyond. But if the therapist does not feel resistance, does not adjust accordingly, or works deeper before your body is open to it, tissues may sustain microtrauma that can result in later soreness.

Massage therapists generally are not interested in pushing limits, seeing how much clients can take, or in any way making treatment challenging. If the professional you see continues to misjudge your tolerance or push beyond a level you’re comfortable with, make sure they are aware of your unease, and consider finding a new therapist if soreness persists after your sessions.

You Forgot to Stretch Afterward

It’s not yet common knowledge that stretching after massage is a good practice, and massage therapists may not even recommend it after most treatments. While stretching is unlikely to completely guard against soreness after deep massage, it can go a long way toward retaining the effects of relaxation from your treatment. See our guide for simple stretches after massage to get you started.

What You Can Do About It

First, avoid the notions a good massage is meant to be painful or a massage should be deep to be effective. Even when massage doesn’t feel particularly forceful, the therapist may be working deeper than you think. Remember, the more relaxed you are, the less extreme a massage will feel.

Some people do prefer a treatment with deeper pressure or enjoy that “sweet spot” between pain and pleasure in a treatment. If this describes you, feel free to tell your massage therapist and continue to communicate throughout the treatment. Monitor any tension in your own body while breathing deeply; breathwork helps soften the tissues, allowing healing to take effect. Use an ice pack on specific areas of soreness later on.

Always check in during the session about your desired amount of pressure. You will not be judged on the type of pressure you want or enjoy; every body handles bodywork differently! If you do continue to experience soreness with a particular massage provider, that person’s services may simply be incompatible with your needs. Consider finding another therapist and experiencing something new.

References:

  1. Moraska, A. (2005). Sports massage: A comprehensive review. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 45(3), 370.

Post-Massage Stretching Techniques To Enhance Your Treatment

Just as with physical activity, stretching is often recommended after massage. Learn how taking time to stretch can help preserve the effects of massage.

If you regularly engage in physical activity or exercise of any duration or intensity, you’ve probably been advised to stretch before and after. Incorporating stretching into a regular warm-up routine prior to exercising helps reduce the risk of tearing, straining, or otherwise injuring muscles and joints. It also helps muscles cool down after physical activity, which can guard against stiffness and soreness later.

Stretching after exercise, in a way, helps preserve the effects of exercise by preventing muscles from seizing up and losing their strength and elasticity. Similarly, stretching helps preserve the effects of massage–including relaxation and flexibility. Though athletes and others who lead highly active lives may stand to benefit most from stretching after bodywork, anyone can enhance the effects of a treatment by stretching. Consult with your massage therapist first to see whether they recommend specific stretches after considering your personal health profile.

Why Stretch after Your Massage?

Deep massage and exercise can affect the muscles in similar ways. Massage increases blood flow and circulation and can create friction in the tissues like vigorous movement does. During massage tissues and muscles are pulled away from one another, which creates the “loose” feeling you might have after a treatment. You might also feel taller, because massage helps counteract the daily compression and gravitational pull we experience.

Stretching after a treatment can keep joints mobile, maintain the looseness in muscles and tissues, and improve flexibility. It will also increase your tolerance for stretching–the more you do any stretch, the easier it becomes over time. Wise massage therapists also stretch before and after giving a massage to optimize body mechanics during the treatment and reduce their own risk of injury, strain, and soreness.

Simple Post-Massage Stretching at Home

Your routine will vary depending on your body’s limitations, your massage therapist’s guidelines, and your own goals. Keep movements slow, maintain a steady breathing pattern, and do not hesitate to modify any stretch for greater comfort. Most stretches are designed to be performed alone, though you can also call upon a friend or partner to assist if you would like help balancing, deepening the stretch, or creating resistance to build strength.

  • Standing arm pull + bend: Stand with good spine alignment (hips over ankles with relaxed knees, tailbone relaxed, shoulders over hips, and ears over shoulders). Stretch your arms overhead and alternate reaching the fingertips of each hand up even higher. Keeping your arms stretched above your head, lean side to side. You should feel the stretch in your ribs and oblique muscles. To deepen this stretch, grasp and pull your right wrist as you bend to the left, and pull on your left arm as you bend to the right.
  • Forward fold: Slowly bend at the waist, keeping your shoulders and arms relaxed. Rather than exerting pressure to touch your toes or the floor, simply let your upper body dangle in place and let gravity work to decompress your spine. You can sway slowly from side to side to help release tension. Your chin should drop to your chest so your neck isn’t working to hold your head. When you return to standing, do so very slowly and keep your knees bent. Lead this movement with your hips, so that your shoulders and head are the last thing to raise and stack on top of your spine.
  • Knee hold: While lying on your back, bring one knee to your chest and hold it in place with clasped hands. Switch knees after 30-60 seconds. This alone is a significant stretch for many people; to deepen it you might press your knee into your palms to create resistance. For other variations, take your knee out to the side, away from your body (hip opener), or cross it over your other leg (twist).
  • Cat – cow: On all fours, make sure your back is parallel to the floor as if you’re forming a table. As you inhale, sink your back toward the floor, stretching your tailbone and forehead up toward the sky. Exhale and curve your spine, folding your nose toward your knees. Keep your palms and knees on the floor the entire time, and repeat using your breath as a guide.

Check out the included YouTube videos for more pointers on stretching. If you would like to continue searching for or creating a different custom stretching routine, focus on low-impact movements that are not limited by clothing, space, or time. Tailor your routine to your needs and preferences, taking into account any recommendations from your massage therapist, current pain or injury you’re experiencing, and where you will be doing your stretching.

Precautions for Stretching Exercises

Never push yourself to a greater level of movement than is comfortable. Your range of motion will increase naturally over time, and you won’t do your body any favors by rushing that process. If something causes pain, it’s best to stop attempting that particular stretch and ask your massage therapist for further pointers.

These stretches are best used with massage therapy. While any stretch is likely to prove beneficial for you in some way, pair these with bodywork treatment to get the best of all worlds and start feeling better all around.

References:

  1. Bandy, W. D., & Irion, J. M. (1994). The effect of time on static stretch on the flexibility of the hamstring muscles. Physical Therapy, 74(9), 845-850. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/ptj/article-abstract/74/9/845/2729345
  2. Boston, G. (2014). Massage, foam rolling and stretching: A recipe for muscle recovery. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/massage-foam-rolling-and-stretching-a-recipe-for-muscle-recovery/2014/07/15/a0d7519a-0907-11e4-bbf1-cc51275e7f8f_story.html?utm_term=.53136b804b54
  3. Herbert, R. (2012). Health check: do you need to stretch before and after exercise? The Conversation. Retrieved from http://theconversation.com/health-check-do-you-need-to-stretch-before-and-after-exercise-46197
  4. Joke, K., Nelson Arnold, G., Carol, E., & Winchester Jason, B. (2007). Chronic static stretching improves exercise performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 39(10), 1825-1831. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Arnold_Nelson/publication/5936445_Chronic_Static_Stretching_Improves_Exercise_Performance/links/0912f50b4b9d12dad4000000.pdf
  5. Magnusson, S. P., Simonsen, E. B., Aagaard, P., Sørensen, H., & Kjaer, M. (1996). A mechanism for altered flexibility in human skeletal muscle. The Journal of Physiology, 497(1), 291-298. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8951730
  6. Weerapong, P., Hume, P. A., & Kolt, G. S. (2005). The mechanisms of massage and effects on performance, muscle recovery and injury prevention. Sports medicine, 35(3), 235-256. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.2165/00007256-200535030-00004
  7. Why stretch after massage. (2015). A Healing Touch Massage and Reiki. Retrieved from https://icmassage.net/why-stretch-after-massage