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

5 Tips for Reducing Burnout in Massage Therapy

Caregiver burnout can result from job stress and can impact both physical and mental health and potentially your massage practice. These tips can help!

Burnout, an issue generally stemming from job-related stress, especially affects massage therapists and people in other health care professions. It is not something to ignore or let pass, as it can be accompanied by serious mental health issues like depression, isolation, and trauma. There’s no need to make drastic changes, but by shifting your focus at times and listening to your emotional and mental state, you can achieve more life balance and reduce the daily burnout you feel.

Aim for More Balance

Work-life balance means different things to different people–some might balance out their business by spending more time with a partner and children, while others might introduce a new hobby or learn a new skill to feel more balanced. One 2003 study, for example, demonstrated positive improvement in caregivers who began making music recreationally.

If you’ve been working nonstop, even a short vacation could create more harmony between your career and your personal life. When a vacation simply isn’t feasible, reconsider the hours you’re putting in at work. Evaluate whether they’re serving you well as a practitioner but also as a human who needs time to rest and recharge. If more and more evenings or weekends have become occupied with work, it might be time to reprioritize.

Boost Your Self-Care

Studies show health care workers are notorious for neglecting self-care. If your practice feels particularly rushed or hectic, you might benefit from allocating more time for your own care and well-being. Treating yourself to a spa day might not always be realistic, but simple activities like staying hydrated, stretching, taking short walks, or journaling, however briefly, can effectively help ease burnout.

Mindfulness activities have particularly positive effects on burnout and are a sustainable way of preventing burnout and incorporating a self-care routine. Meditation, mindful movement, and walking meditation do not require any props or extra preparation. What’s more, they can be done anywhere. If you’re new to meditation, try downloading a free app to facilitate the process.

Try New Things

An immense field, bodywork offers numerous professional opportunities that only require a few continuing education hours or workshops. If your practice starts to feel less fulfilling, consider looking into an adjunct endeavor.

After years of practicing Swedish massage, for example, you might be interested in incorporating a therapeutic rock treatment. Or perhaps circumstances in your personal life are drawing you toward mindfulness-based approaches or energy work, such as Jin Shin Do and reiki. If your office setting allows for it, you might consider purchasing a spa tub and offering some types of hydrotherapy.

Acquiring new skills can breathe new life into your massage therapy practice, attract and help you retain clients, and introduce you to different bodywork modalities. Your new approach might allow you to be more creative and attentive to your own needs, and you can feel good about having taken the time for discovery and self-improvement.

Switch Up Your Marketing Strategy

By marketing differently you can reach new audiences, learn new skills, and boost your practice in a way that fits you better. Advertise your services in a local gym, for instance, and brush up on what you know about sports massage to attract a new type of clientele. Alternatively, connect with your local hospice organization to offer your services. Even if your involvement is strictly voluntary, you might make connections that result in more clients.

You might also consider branching out in marketing through new types of social media. While unlikely to become your go-to strategy, image-based platforms like Instagram and Pinterest create a unique branding opportunity. Invest a bit of time into researching these avenues, following bodywork and health accounts, and posting some images of your office space, for starters.

Seek Your Own Therapy

Massage therapists are always advised to receive massage regularly, both to experience others’ techniques and for the same benefits their clients receive: lowered stress and anxiety, reduced muscle tension and fatigue, and increased serotonin and dopamine levels (to help counteract depression). Of all people, massage therapists know the many ways bodywork can improve multiple aspects of life, and they are uniquely positioned to receive various types of bodywork because of professional connections.

If you’re experiencing burnout in your business, emotional state, physical well-being, or mental health, you can begin addressing these areas by receiving massage treatment. In many cases, caregiver burnout or compassion fatigue should also be regarded as a serious issue worth addressing with a mental health professional.

Avoid the temptation to immediately dismiss burnout as a phase you will naturally work through. Though this may be the case, feelings associated with burnout may also be deeply seated in grief, trauma, or depression. Either way, consulting with a psychotherapist can help you identify the roots of those emotions and a path for moving forward.

Health care providers are particularly susceptible to caregiver burnout because of the extraordinary amount of time and attention they put into meeting others’ needs and a tendency to neglect their own. But burnout is not a death sentence for your career or livelihood. Once you pay attention to the exhaustion you are feeling, you can address it and begin moving past it.

What To Do if You’re Nervous About Receiving Massage

Are you nervous about seeking out massage? These tips may help you get used to the idea if you want to try massage but aren’t sure how you feel about it.

If you’re new to receiving massage therapy or other types of bodywork, it may feel uncomfortable to reach out for what seems like an intimate service. Perhaps you cringe remembering “massage train” icebreakers or team building events you’ve participated in.

What you’re feeling is perfectly normal. There are many reasons someone might be hesitant about receiving massage. Your fears or concerns need not be barriers to treatment, however. If you’re considering massage or if it has been recommended to you, identifying the feelings holding you back is the first step to finding a practitioner who is right for you.

Start Gathering Information about Bodywork

Some people question the legitimacy of massage for healing purposes, since for many years massage therapy and other forms of bodywork were considered taboo, especially in the western world. Some unfortunate misconceptions still linger about massage therapy’s place in contemporary medicine, though research and extensive studies have helped dissolve that reputation and massage is now widely understood to reduce pain and improve health. The more you read about bodywork practices, the more you can understand why so many people, including medical professionals, endorse massage.

If massage has been recommended to you to treat a specific health issue, do some research to learn more about the condition and how bodywork can help. Massage is contraindicated (or discouraged) for very few, if any, health issues. In some form or another, bodywork can either work around or address any complication you might be experiencing. Heart disease, for example, makes some types of bodywork more dangerous than others, but low-impact treatments such as reiki could be ideal for someone with a heart condition.

Consider also talking to colleagues and friends who have experienced massage to hear about the treatment they received and how they went about finding a practitioner. Learning more about how massage is used today, and the many different bodywork options, can open your mind to its hundreds of applications for physical and mental well-being.

Practice Massage on Yourself

Physical touch, even when it’s consensual, restorative, and professional, can be difficult to accept. The best way to start moving past an aversion to the aspect of physical contact in massage is to explore massage tactics on your own body. Begin by being more deliberate with the time you already spend on yourself–applying lotion after a shower, stretching in the morning, or even washing your hands. Work up to giving yourself a massage, perhaps starting with a foot rub and gradually adding legs, arms, and your neck or scalp.

Use slow motions and gentle pressure, avoiding joints and tender areas such as the backs of knees or insides of elbows. Take a few extra moments to notice how your movements feel under the surface of your skin. Can you notice when a part of you isn’t completely relaxed? Do you feel differences in your muscles after massaging them? Are you aware of tension, soreness, or pain?

Using massage on yourself can help you identify which sensations are enjoyable and which might evoke more negative reactions. Allow yourself to continue performing self-massage in a way you find relaxing and comfortable, noticing your reactions to each sensation without judgment.

When you’re more comfortable with self-massage, try receiving a gentle massage from a partner, family member, or friend. It’s often convenient to exchange foot massages with someone, and while shoulder and neck areas may be more delicate, it’s relatively difficult to do any level of harm by performing a foot massage.

Ease Into It

Take your time familiarizing yourself with the concept and practical application of massage. It’s OK to still feel apprehensive about professional massage even after mental and physical preparation. Don’t force yourself–the resulting tension could compromise both healing effects and your overall enjoyment, ruining the treatment as a whole. But if you are determined to experience bodywork after learning about its numerous benefits, or if a medical professional is urging you to seek massage for a health issue, there are many ways of experiencing bodywork.

Low-impact forms of bodywork may be more appropriate, depending on your concerns. Chair massage, reflexology, acupressure, some types of Thai massage, and others are performed while the client is clothed. Dozens of bodywork modalities, such as reiki and craniosacral therapy, focus on energy work and involve little to no physical contact. All can be used to address both physical and psychological or emotional concerns.

A good bodywork professional, regardless of the specialty they practice, will be open to hearing your concerns and will respect the boundaries you state. Having a positive first experience with massage depends heavily on the communication you have with your practitioner. When you make an appointment with a therapist, don’t be afraid to mention your preferences or even the reason(s) you have been hesitant to seek massage. Your treatment will likely be better for it.

What Is Cupping? How Can It Benefit My Health?

A bodywork practice used widely in ancient medicine traditions, cupping offers many health and wellness benefits. Learn more about cupping here.

In the last decade or so, cupping has dramatically increased in popularity, as evidenced by the round bruises noticeable on a number of celebrities and athletes. Massage therapists may offer cupping to enhance sports performance, increase overall health, address musculoskeletal issues, and target acupuncture or acupressure meridian points—the potential benefits of cupping are many.

This traditional Chinese medicine practice has many similarities to acupressure, acupuncture, and gua sha, all of which use physical interventions to balance and facilitate the flow of chi. However, as cupping is mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus, the world’s oldest medical text, ancient Egyptians may have been the first to use cupping. In short, this popular modern practice dates back to the earliest records of medicine, and its use is supported in many cultures.

How Does Cupping Work?

Traditional Chinese physicians have used vacuum pressure to treat muscular tension, pain, and breathing ailments as far back as medical practices have been recorded. Today, cupping practitioners draw the air out of glass cups with hand pumps, though the traditional method, which involves heating the cups, might still be used.

When the special cups are heated and placed on the skin, the air inside expands and escapes. As the cups cool, suction is created, and this suction holds the cups tightly against the skin, keeping air from entering and drawing skin up into the cup, stretching and loosening the tissues. Like gua sha, cupping draws blood to the surface of the body, triggering hormonal reactions that stimulate healing and fight inflammation.

Dr. Brent Bauer, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program, highlights the dual nature of this traditional practice, saying we should consider the use of treatments that have stood the test of time but avoid using them simply because of their age. Some traditional and complementary treatments have been debunked by contemporary medical practitioners—but many others have been validated by a number of doctors and other health care professionals.

What Symptoms Does Cupping Treat?

The Egyptians used cupping to treat pain, vertigo, fever, and irregular or difficult menstrual cycles. They also used it to stimulate appetite and speed up the body’s natural healing process.

Today, we know cupping releases muscle adhesions, relaxes soft tissues (so they can release toxins and heal faster), and stimulates the lymphatic system.

People use cupping to treat a variety of concerns, including:

  • Congestion, bronchitis, and asthma
  • Immune disorders
  • Digestive ailments
  • Migraines
  • Depression

What Is Chi? 

Chi (also “ki” and “qi”) is a much-debated concept. The word refers to the living energy in all of us, other living things, and the world in which we live.

Today, scientific researchers have just begun to observe the physical manifestations of the life force known as chi. Shin Lin, a UC Irvine biology and biomechanics professor (and high-level tai chi practitioner) uses cutting-edge devices to measure the heat, electricity, and photons emitted by the body during various tai chi exercises.

Increased Popularity of Cupping in Recent Years

During the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, many United States athletes used cupping to improve their recovery times between events and practice sessions. Multiple medal-winning Olympic swimmers Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin reported using cupping to help enhance their performance and have since become symbols of the cupping revival. Alexander Naddour, an Olympic gymnast, has said he considers cupping his most effective health and fitness “secret.”

A number of actors and other celebrities have been seen displaying cupping bruises and have spoken about their use of the practice to support fitness and well-being . This high-profile use of cupping has led many people to ask their massage therapists about combining this popular treatment with their massage therapy sessions. Chris Martin, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Kelly Osborn, and Victoria Beckham have all sported cupping “hickies” and promoted this traditional treatment.

How Does Modern Cupping Differ from Traditional Cupping?

U.S. practitioners may tend to use cupping as a stand-alone therapy, while practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine typically use this treatment in conjunction with a variety of other diagnostic procedures, nutrition suggestions, and health interventions.

Americans may tend to seek cupping treatments to loosen muscles and increase blood flow, while those who reside in or come from eastern parts of the world may more often seek to loosen stagnated energy and/or increase chi flow.

What To Expect from a Cupping Treatment

Individuals seeking cupping treatments for the first time are likely to have many questions about the practice and its benefits. Take time to share these questions, and any reservations, with the practitioner. A good practitioner will welcome this interest and thoroughly address any concerns. Any bodywork practitioner is also likely to ask questions about a client’s health history and any pain or flexibility issues that need to be addressed.

Your massage therapist may first perform a light general massage, applying further pressure to the body areas designated for the cupping session. Some practitioners may prep clients with a “glider cup,” which allows them to quickly apply suction to various body areas.

A typical cupping session includes stationary cups, which are applied to the shoulders, back, hips, and legs. Practitioners may use between four and six cups at a time, leaving them attached to the body for 10 minutes or so. Cups are then applied to other body areas as needed/requested by the client. After completing a few “sets” of cupping, practitioners may conduct a deep tissue massage to facilitate further release of a client’s muscles.

Considerations for Cupping Therapy

Cupping clients may feel some stinging when practitioners first apply cups. Glider cups may also create mild to moderate pain. Perhaps the most notable aspect of cupping is the large reddish-purple circular bruises that linger for approximately a week and may be slightly tender. However, many people find these experiences well worth the effort. In fact, cupping clients often report more and longer-lasting pain relief after cupping sessions than after standard massage therapy sessions. 

References: 

  1. Bold, K. (2010, July 20). Biophysicist explores the science behind the mind-body practice of tai chi. Retrieved from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2010-07-biophysicist-explores-science-mind-body-tai.html
  2. Bowen, V. (2012, June 12). My first cupping massage. Retrieved from https://nessbow.com/2012/06/12/my-first-cupping-massage
  3. Mayo, C. (n.d.). Cupping therapy. Retrieved from http://www.mayoacupunctureclinic.com/services/cupping
  4. Sifferlin, A. (2016, August 8). What is cupping? Here’s what you need to know. Time. Retrieved from http://time.com/4443105/cupping-rio-olympics-michael-phelps
  5. The Oakland Tribune. (2013, May 15). Cupping: Jennifer Aniston does it, but will it work for you? Denver Post. Retrieved from http://www.denverpost.com/2013/05/15/cupping-jennifer-aniston-does-it-but-will-it-work-for-you
  6. Williams, V. (2016, August 8). Olympic athletes and cupping: Does it work? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/olympic-athletes-and-cupping-does-it-work

7 Reasons Executives Should Schedule a Massage

Executives are often likely to experience more stress and stress-related issues. Schedule a massage today to improve your health and overall well-being!

Overworked, overtired, overburdened… If you work in an executive position, chances are you just feel over it some days. Depending on the business environment, executives may be more likely to experience physical exhaustion, lack of sleep, mental health issues, and other problems that have the potential to compromise their overall health and life balance. If these issues persist, they can have long-term consequences for heart health, organ function, or physical ability. Massage and other forms of bodywork can address the concerns—physical or mental—executives are likely to face

You probably need it, whether you know it or not.

Some executives are so busy they find it difficult to even slow down long enough to take inventory of their health. It can be difficult to realize the toll a high-stress position takes on the body. A massage treatment can provide a respite from the daily grind, even for those who don’t frequently experience back pain, headaches, or insomnia. Take the opportunity to check in with yourself and notice any job-related changes or impacts to your body.

It’s an incentive to make good health decisions.

Many people who receive massage say it helps jump-start better health habits in other areas of their lives. If your body feels like it’s working better, chances are you will find ways to support it. That might mean you engage in more physical activity each week, make a change to your morning routine that helps set you up for success, or even just start flossing more. You might feel more motivated to unplug from electronics well before bedtime if your massage treatments are helping you feel more grounded. Whatever changes you make, regular massage can serve as a reminder to keep taking care of your body between sessions.

Massage is an investment in long-term good health.

Improving your physical and mental health means you are less likely to use sick days (or work while ill). You’re also more likely to be more efficient while on the job since you may be less distracted by pain, sleepiness, or general worries. As your health and productivity improves, you can expect to see changes across the board at your business. When executives experience health problems, businesses may face significant risk of financial and organizational instability. So investing in your health by getting a massage doesn’t just benefit you, it can reflect positively on your entire company.

You’ll feel less stressed and anxious.

With more authority and more responsibility comes more stress and more subjects you might worry over. Left untreated, stress and anxiety can lead to hypertension, or chronic high blood pressure, which in turn may affect blood flow to the kidneys, brain, and heart. Massage can melt away some of the day-to-day concerns and help restore calm, as well as address some of the physiological effects of ongoing stress and anxiety.

It may help address an addiction.

Addiction often co-occurs with other mental health issues. This means if executives are prone to one, they may be prone to another. Massage can be a passive way of addressing substance abuse problems and aiding the process of quitting an addiction.

It works by reintroducing the feel-good chemicals keeping a person hooked on alcohol, sex, narcotics, or another substance. During the withdrawal process, when dopamine levels are lower than ever, massage can provide a boost that helps retrain individuals not to look for that feeling from the harmful or addictive substance. It should be noted that while massage can be effective for addressing some of the facets of addiction recovery, it cannot replace psychotherapy as a way of healing from addiction.

You can afford it.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that executives in the United States make, on average, anywhere from $100,000 a year to well over $200,000. Though the value of this sum varies greatly around the U.S., and some executives may also experience greater expenses, the low end of this spectrum is still higher than the average yearly salary for working individuals in the U.S. Thus, executives may be better positioned to spend money on bodywork and other measures to protect health, when these measures are not covered by insurance.

If your company sponsors or supports health initiatives like gym memberships or regular massage appointments, you have all the more reason to take advantage of these services. Organizations that support employee health, especially at the executive level, are more likely to earn employee loyalty.

You don’t have to get a massage.

If touch therapy isn’t for you, many other types of bodywork may be more suited to your needs and comfort level. Reiki, for example, is a type of energy work that does not involve physical contact but offers benefits similar to those of massage: reduced stress, emotional balance, and relaxation.

Other bodywork modalities that have been shown to reduce stress include acupuncture, music therapy, and hypnosis. Aromatherapy has also been shown to have a positive effect on health and, specifically, job-related stress.

If you’re an executive or someone who works in management, consider reaching out to a bodywork professional to schedule an appointment. It’s never too late or too soon to take more control of your health and invest in your future wellness.

References:

  1. Cutler, N. (2005). Massage: The missing link in addiction treatment. Institute for Integrative Healthcare. Retrieved from http://www.integrativehealthcare.org/mt/archives/2005/05/massage_the_mis.html
  2. Davis, C., Cooke, M., Holzhauser, K., Jones, M., & Finucane, J. (2005). The effect of aromatherapy massage with music on the stress and anxiety levels of emergency nurses. Australasian Emergency Nursing Journal, 8(1), 43-50. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S157462670500008X
  3. Doyle, A. (2017). Average salary information for U.S. workers. The Balance. Retrieved from https://www.thebalance.com/average-salary-information-for-us-workers-2060808
  4. Gaman, W. (2014). Executive health a top priority for stock holders. Corporate Wellness Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.corporatewellnessmagazine.com/focused/executive-health-a-top-priority
  5. Hansen, T. M., Hansen, B., & Ringdal, G. I. (2006). Does aromatherapy massage reduce job-related stress? Results from a randomised, controlled trial. International Journal of Aromatherapy, 16(2), 89-94. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0962456206000269
  6. Lane, D. N. (2013). Improving workplace productivity and corporate culture: perceptions and experiences of the effects of workplace massage (Doctoral dissertation, Victoria University). Retrieved from http://vuir.vu.edu.au/21896/1/Deborah%20Nicola%20Lane.pdf
  7. Occupational employment and wages, May 2016. (2017). Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes111011.htm
  8. Ornelas, S., & Kleiner, B. H. (2003). New developments in managing job related stress. Equal Opportunities International, 22(5), 64-70. Retrieved from http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/02610150310787504
  9. Pong, D. (2016). 4 common health issues faced by busy executives. Partner MD. Retrieved from http://blog.partnermd.com/blog/4-common-health-issues-faced-by-busy-executives
  10. Understanding executives with mental health disorders and co-occurring addiction. (2017). Bridges to Recovery. Retrieved from https://www.bridgestorecovery.com/blog/understanding-executives-with-mental-health-disorders-and-co-occuring-addiction/#sthash.3LNtLf9p.OBJfhihY.dpbs

How To Find the Right Massage Therapist for You

Even a qualified, skilled massage therapist may not be the best fit for you. Learn more about finding the right bodywork professional for your unique needs!

For years you’ve heard about the benefits of massage. A coworker recommended it when you strained your back; your brother is always talking about the relaxing bath he takes before his massage; your friend even said it helped her process grief after her father died. So, now what? How do you go about experiencing this magic for yourself?

Bodywork, in addition to being a mode of healing, stress relief, injury rehabilitation, and more, is a method of communication. Just as not everyone communicates in the same way, each massage therapist delivers a different experience. Finding a person whose skills, manner, and approach are compatible with your needs and preferences may take time, but the end result will be greater comfort and relaxation.

Do Your Research

First, examine your reasons for seeking bodywork. Are you an active athlete looking for steady treatments to optimize your performance? Are you recovering from an injury? Have you been experiencing severe stress or discomfort? Or would you just like to escape from the world for a bit and restore some balance to your energy?

There are dozens, if not hundreds of types of bodywork, ranging from traditional deep tissue massage to light Healing Touch therapy, as well as movement therapies and energy work therapies. Each type can address different concerns, and you may find that two modalities complement one another for greater wellness. Understanding what you’re hoping to address through massage will help you narrow down which type(s) of treatments are right for you and select a professional who practices this type of treatment.

If you’re not sure what treatment will be best, that’s OK, too. Schedule an appointment with a massage therapist and experience the treatment, then share your health history to determine whether there are alternative therapies you could consider.

Choose a Massage Therapist

It’s extremely important to find a bodywork professional who is knowledgeable, skilled, and properly credentialed for the work they do. No matter where you search, make sure the therapist you choose has received the proper certification.

Personal referrals are a good place to start. If someone you know has been talking to you about their wonderful massage therapist, they likely can vouch for the therapist’s credentials. Even though what works for someone else might not work for you, a glowing review is hardly a bad sign. In very populated areas, a good recommendation can help narrow the field when it seems like there are too many options.

What if you don’t know anyone who uses a massage therapist in your area? Rather than searching online and combing through pages and pages of results, consider using a trusted online directory. Massagetique and other similar directories list professionals whose background and credentials have already been verified and approved, and you can usually narrow your search to a specific modality if you have one in mind.

Collaborate with Your Massage Therapist

Finding the right massage therapist doesn’t end with picking up the phone and making an appointment. Before the communication of bodywork can happen, there needs to be thorough communication between the client (you) and the therapist. Intake paperwork before the session can cover current or pre-existing health issues and concerns you might have, but you also have a responsibility to talk with your massage therapist about any additional considerations.

Do you have allergies to any oils? Are your feet extraordinarily ticklish? Would you prefer a silent treatment room, classical music, or ocean sounds? There are many topics you might want to discuss with the practitioner before starting your session so you can both have an optimal experience. A good massage therapist will ask these questions and more to understand what brings you in for treatment. They will also talk with you a bit about what to expect from the session, especially if you are relatively new to bodywork in general.

Continue to communicate during the treatment if something is uncomfortable or unexpected. A practitioner can learn a lot through contact with your body—whether a muscle is particularly tight, for example—but not your personal tolerance for pressure and movement. Be transparent about your comfort level. Neither you nor your therapist benefits from a white lie about how you’re enjoying the treatment.

Be Willing to Try Something Else

Even a great massage from a great massage therapist may not be the right fit, and it’s OK to recognize that and continue to look for the treatment that best suits you. Whether you find you need a different kind of physical pressure or you are more interested in bodywork that helps restore energy flow and promote emotional wellness, it’s important to continue searching for the right modality and practitioner for you.

Don’t be afraid to ask the first massage therapist you visited for recommendations, as well. A good massage therapist will respect your desire to keep exploring bodywork with different practitioners. Your health journey is very personal, and you deserve you find the right person to help you feel your best.

Finding Work-Life Balance While Running a Massage Practice

In 2010, Investopedia ranked massage therapy as one of the top five high-paying, low-stress jobs available. Whether you agree or not, any job can have its ups and downs, and any professional is bound to need some reminders about caring for the self under pressure and maintaining a balance between their career and home life. A job like massage can be both physically and psychologically stressful, so keep these tips handy to help ensure well-being and the best experience for your clients.

Set hours that maximize your efficiency and abilities.

If you know you are sharper with paperwork and billing matters in the morning, for example, try not to schedule clients before 10 a.m. If you find you can put more physical energy into a massage in the afternoon, reserve those appointments for more vigorous treatments when possible.

Build in time to recharge between clients.

Rushing from one appointment to the next creates stress for you and does a disservice to your clients, who are anticipating a calm, relaxed atmosphere for their bodywork session. In addition to building a cushion for things like changing sheets, cleansing your workspace, and switching the music, create time and space for yourself to meditate, call your family, or do whatever helps you recharge.

Hydrate.

When your hands are occupied (and covered in oil or lotion) for at least 60 minutes at a time, you’re not necessarily thinking about reaching for your water bottle. But massage, even when performed well, is physically taxing on the therapist. Be sure you’re drinking enough water between sessions to balance the exertion of your practice.

Trade with a colleague.

Massage therapists may tend to neglect self-care even while promoting it to clients and studying health and wellness. If you are someone who says, “You always have time for a massage!” take your own advice and make time to get a massage. You might even swap bodywork treatments with a colleague—maybe you offer hot rock massage and know someone who gives an excellent exfoliation treatment. You can both ease some stress by taking a few hours to experience one another’s specialty.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Your time is valuable! You have worked hard to be able to offer the services you do. Though you might find some people who think bodywork is frivolous or nonessential or believe massage is something “anyone could do,” your education and experience say otherwise. Select rates that are in accordance with the industry standard in your area, and no less. This will also help ensure you’re not overworking yourself to make ends meet.

Don’t fall in a rut.

If you’re doing the same type of practice day after day, year after year, you might experience burnout more quickly. With a massage license and a world of continuing education at your fingertips, you can shake things up fairly easily by learning new skills and disciplines. If you’ve been practicing shiatsu massage for a few years and it’s starting to feel like a grind, learn a new practice like cupping, reiki, or lomi lomi. You might also choose to vary your surroundings by offering house calls or visiting nursing homes. Altering the space you consider your office can make your practice feel new and help you feel re-energized.

Take a break.

Any job, even one you love, can feel draining when it gets too monotonous. So step away from scheduling for a week (or even a long weekend here and there) and take a much-needed vacation. Go camping for a night, visit a beach with family, or just relax at home—as long as your home isn’t also your office.

Care for your mental health.

Massage is considered a health care profession. As caregivers, massage practitioners are subject to compassion fatigue, or caregiver burnout. Spending hours a day meeting others’ wellness needs may mean yours are not being addressed. Pay attention to the times you may be feeling down, anxious, lethargic, or hopeless. If you experience depression or any symptoms of caregiver fatigue, consider making an appointment with a mental health professional to address mental wellness.

Walk the walk.

If you’re advising clients (within the bounds of your credentials) about nutrition choices, fitness, stretching, or self-massage, take your own advice when it applies to you. Lead by example and put your knowledge of health and wellness to work for yourself.

Stay positive.

Though it may seem trite, a good attitude can go a long way toward maintaining your positive image with clients and ensuring your personal momentum throughout the workday. Adopt a vision of success, serenity, and wellness, and chances are you will pass that along to your clients.

References:

  1. Beck, M. F. (2011). Theory & practice of therapeutic massage (5th ed.). Clifton Park, NY: Milady.
  2. Bell, A. (2010). 5 high-paying, low-stress jobs. Investopedia. Retrieved from http://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0510/5-high-paying-low-stress-jobs.aspx?lgl=myfinance-layout-no-ads