My Therapist Luciano
An ongoing series of informational entries
An ongoing series of informational entries
March 31, 2020
Did you know anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders world-wide? That means you’re not alone, and there are many others out there dealing with anxiety. Fortunately, that also means there are a lot of resources to help you manage it. Here are 10 tips to help you cope with your anxiety.
#1 Question your thought pattern
When you’re experiencing anxiety, your fears take over. You’re often afraid of a situation that may very well not happen. While this can take practice, challenge your fears. See if there is any validity to those thoughts and find where you can take control back.
#2 Practice focused, deep breathing
Breathe in for 4 counts, then breathe out for 4 counts. Do this for a total of 5 minutes. When you even out your breath, you slow down your heart rate which in turn helps you to calm down. This also gives you a different focal point, meaning your brain is now concentrating on the breath and the count instead of whatever anxious thoughts had taken over previously.
#3 Write down your thoughts
Keeping a journal when you’re in the depth of your anxiety can often help you get to the root of the fear or problem. When you know your thought process, you can often come up with ways to combat your fear. Keep a small journal with you everywhere you go, and pull it out when you feel your anxiety creeping in.
#4 Step away
Sometimes you just need to completely remove yourself from a situation. When you feel your anxiety is about to rear its ugly head, walk away for a minute. This helps you to refocus your mind and gets you away from what’s causing the anxiety. Do this, even at work or during important events. It’s way better for you to step away than it is for you to have an anxiety attack in the middle of a meeting.
#5 Let go of the things you can’t control
Most of us like to have a sense of control in our lives. We like to know that we control our fate and no one else can. So it’s also important to remember that we can control ourselves, but we can’t control others. Yes, other people’s decisions can often affect us. You can’t control how they make their decisions and unfortunately, you can’t control the outcome. Just like you can’t make the boss pick your sales pitch or the PTA to choose your fundraiser idea. Just let it go. React properly to others, do what positive things you can, and LET IT GO.
#6 Identify triggers
Knowing what sets off your anxiety can often help you to avoid the trigger in the first place. Research your journal to find patterns of situations and reactions, and work hard to remove those triggers.
#7 Daily meditation
Meditation is very effective in managing anxiety. When practiced regularly, mindful meditation can help you train your brain to dismiss anxious thoughts, keeping you from going into the anxiety spiral that seems to come on so quickly. It can be difficult to let your mind calm enough to meditate, and don’t get anxious about that. Whether it’s a single moment of focused thought and breathing or a full hour; do what you can as you can and over time you’ll start to see some major benefits on how you handle those triggering situations.
#8 Pay attention to what you eat
Certain nutrients can help reduce anxiety. Dark chocolate (in moderation), green tea, and omega-3 fatty acids are all part of the list, along with lots of greens and rainbow of fruits and veggies. Introduce these into your diet and see if you see a change in your anxiety reduction.
#9 Try cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
CBT teaches you different ways of thinking about situations and helps you to react differently as well. Talk to a therapist to help you develop ways to change your negative thought patterns and behaviors before they get out of hand.
#10 Talk to your doctor about medications
This one is last, not because it’s not acceptable, but because finding a way to cope with your anxiety naturally is always the first goal. But for many, those natural ways just aren’t enough or as fast as you need. It’s okay to get a little extra help for a period of time while you find other ways. Be open and honest with your doctor about what’s going on and any concerns you have about medications to be sure you find one that suits your needs best.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to anxiety, just as everyone’s anxiety affects them differently. Use these tips and keep trying and learning what works best for you. And of course, try adding massage into your regular self-care routine to help you relax and get some quiet, safe time to yourself.
January 8, 2020
A major concern for many people when they come to get a massage, especially if it’s their first time ever receiving one, is how much of their clothing they’ll need to remove and how they’ll be covered throughout the massage. It’s perfectly understandable. As your therapist, I’m asking you to put yourself in a rather vulnerable state, and I have the upmost respect for that. My focus is making you comfortable every step of the way. So there’s a few things you might want to understand so that you can stay as relaxed as possible during your massage session.
First and foremost, as for how much of your clothing you’ll need to remove, this is entirely up to you and the type of massage you want. There are some massage techniques that can be performed while you’re fully clothed. However, the more common methods do require at least partial undressing to be able to be most effective. For example, if your back is sore from a little extra work over the weekend, I can do some compression and mobilizations that can help while you’re fully clothed, but to access some of those deeper structures in a more precise manner, taking off your shirt will allow me to do just that for those hard to reach back muscles. That will also allow me to use lotion or oil to glide across the skin as I work, making the entire experience a whole lot more pleasant and relaxing.
The second thing I should mention is that no matter what clothing you decide you’re comfortable removing, you will remain covered at all times. Your pelvic area and, in the case of women, the breasts will always be covered. Part of our training as massage therapists is centered around how to cover and uncover specific areas of the body while maintaining modesty. So we can uncover your leg without ever exposing anything above the thigh and tuck the linens just so to prevent any unwanted exposure. The same goes for your arms, your chest, stomach, back, and even the glutes.
Again, my focus is on making sure you can relax and enjoy your entire massage, and part of that is covering and uncovering areas in a way that ensures your privacy while still allowing you to have the best massage experience possible. If you ever feel uncomfortable or have any questions or requests, please don’t hesitate to speak up. The last thing I want is your mind taken over by thoughts of worry or discomfort while you’re getting a massage.
December 27, 2019
How to Make & Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions
It’s that time of year again where we all start gearing up for New Year’s resolutions. Often deciding what your resolution is comes with high hopes and having unrealistic expectations for what you can accomplish, quickly followed in January by reality and stress about the whole thing. So, let’s do it better this year and look at a few tips on how to make a resolution that you can keep!
#1 Change your perspective
While wanting to improve yourself is imperative for personal growth, we often equate resolution with some sort of failure. Why is it so important to make huge changes in our lives? It almost implies there was something wrong with us in the first place. Yes, we’re all a work in progress, but why don’t we shift our perspective on resolutions. Making a resolution is a time we can reflect on the past year. It doesn’t mean you have a big mess to clean up or that you’ve failed in some way, just that there are a few areas you can grow. The second we shift our perspective from feeling like we’re missing the mark to simply wanting to grow in different ways, we have a higher chance of actually being successful with our resolutions.
#2 Meditate on it
There are so many people who go along with the traditional resolutions: quit smoking, lose weight, etc. A resolution that you’re going to be able to follow through with requires a bit more thought than simply stating you’ll do something that, no matter how great an idea, may be rather abstract and generalized. You need to schedule some quality time with yourself in a place that’s quiet to reflect on the past year and where you want to be next year. What are the areas you did well in? What are the areas you feel you need to improve? Are you happy in your job? Are you happy in your life? Have you been productive in areas that mean something to you? Answering these questions will give you a visual grasp on where your attention should be focused the next year.
Once you’ve chosen the areas you want to grow, it’s time to plan them out. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Write down what steps you must take to accomplish the goal at hand and be detailed with strict, but realistic deadlines on certain aspects. This can help you grasp the time factor of your resolutions, leaving some wiggle room for life happening, but still some accountability as the year moves on.
#4 Take one step at a time
We get comfortable and our minds and bodies do not do well with change at first. If you have a number of resolutions, focus on one at a time. And if you only have one big resolution, break it down and think of it as several small resolutions you can achieve in succession. Focusing on those small steps, those single actions you need to do every day, that’s what makes the biggest difference.
#5 Know that it won’t happen overnight
It takes an average of 66 days to create a habit. Longer to build a lifestyle. Give yourself time to achieve your resolution, and give yourself a little grace when you make mistakes, get frustrated, or otherwise don’t see it coming to fruition.
The key to being successful at making and keeping your resolutions has more to do with your mindset than anything else. If you go into your resolution with realistic expectations, are striving for something YOU truly want, and understand that change takes time, you’re more likely to stay the road even when it’s rocky.
November 10, 2019
A muscle imbalance is simply when one muscle or muscle group is stronger than another. For example, your right arm may be stronger than your left, or your biceps are stronger than your triceps. It’s typically not much of a problem; we’re rather asymmetrical beings in general anyway, but muscle imbalances in some areas can play a role in creating problems within the body leading to injuries and pain.
One problem that can occur is that your weaker muscles tire out before the stronger muscles. If those weaker muscles tire out during a workout or strenuous activity, the stronger muscles will work even harder to pick up the slack. This can put undue stress on them, causing overuse and resulting in injuries and pain.
For example, the quads and hamstrings are a common source of imbalance in people. The quads lie on the front of the thigh and the hamstrings on the back. When the quads become much stronger than the hamstrings, the most common imbalance of these two, this puts you at a much higher risk of knee injuries, like an ACL tear.
When we speak of balance, it’s not necessarily that each muscle or muscle group needs to be able to handle the exact same load weight, but rather handle them at the proper ratio. Some muscles are meant to be stronger than others, and that’s what truly creates the intricate balance of the body. Like in the example above with quads and hamstrings, the quads are supposed to be stronger than the hamstrings, but the ratio should be about 4:3, so for every 4 pounds the quads can lift, the hamstrings can lift 3.
You don’t have to know and workout like crazy to get the perfect ratio for every single muscle group and pairing of the body to keep balanced. Simply working in all motions and being aware of your body can give you a clear indication when something is off. Sticking with the quad/hamstring example, if you’ve torn your hamstring a time or two, that might be a good indication that you’ve got an imbalance and should strengthen your hamstrings more. It would also be a good idea to ensure that when you’re working out, you’re not just sticking with forward and backward movements, but rather moving in all directions with every joint; ensuring that you’re strengthening in all planes. Move forward, backward, out to the side and toward the middle, rotate in toward the body and away from it.
While muscle imbalances are common, and depending on your daily activities, may be unavoidable, taking the time to bring your awareness to how your body is feeling and operating can clearly show you where you might need to alter your movements to bring balance back.
October 30, 2019
You probably know that being active is important to maintaining your health. Most of the time when we talk about being active, we think about lifting weights, running, or taking some intense aerobics class. But did you know that walking can have a major impact on your health?
Walking Boosts Your Mood & Energy
Getting your body moving and your blood pumping releases all kinds of feel good compounds in the body, including endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine; all of which can help to boost your mood and energy levels. On top of that, the simple act of doing something for yourself, like taking 20 or 30 minutes of alone time to listen to some music, a good audio-book, or just the sounds of nature while you walk, are all beneficial to mental health.
Walking Helps with Digestion
You hear people tell you all the time to take a walk after a big meal to help combat those extra calories, but the truth is, walking isn’t just about the calorie burn. It also helps to make digestion easier and more comfortable, keeping you from feeling so sluggish after that meal.
Walking Improves Cognitive Performance
Studies have shown that walking can improve a variety of cognitive performances. One study published in the Frontiers in Public Health journal stated “We can conclude that at least 10 min of walking has significant effect on mathematical problem-solving abilities in higher performing high school, but more so in lower performing students.” ¹ In other words, your brain simply works better after even just 10 minutes of walking.
Walking Increases Mobility and Reduces Pain
Numerous studies have concluded that walking can help improve mobility and reduce a variety of pains. This seems to apply to those with numerous conditions ranging from Peripheral Artery Disease to Parkinson’s, and simply those who struggle with movement from age progression.
Walking Helps Prevent and Control Diabetes
Walking (as well as any cardiovascular exercise) helps your muscles to use more glucose, thereby lowering blood glucose levels. Staying active and maintaining a healthy weight can help your body use insulin more efficiently, thereby decreasing your risk of diabetes.
Along with all these benefits, walking is much easier on the body for most people who struggle with painful conditions like arthritis, have difficulty moving in complex ways, or otherwise may not be able to handle more intense forms of cardiovascular exercise. You don’t have to spend hours at the gym each day doing high intensity exercises to reap numerous health benefits.
Walking just 30 minutes a day can vastly improve your overall health. So get up, get out, feel better, and make your future healthier in the process!
October 15, 2019
Let’s face it, life can be stressful. There are to-do lists, deadlines to meet, people to take care of…the list goes on and on. While some may handle the pressure just fine, many people struggle with the overwhelm daily, leading to sometimes crippling anxiety. It’s a serious issue and it’s important to know what you’re dealing with, possible solutions, and preventative actions you can take. Here’s some information to help you navigate the muddy waters of anxiety.
Anxiety is felt as an overwhelming sense of apprehension, fear, and dread, often marked by physical signs, like tension, sweating, increased pulse rate, and difficulty breathing calmly. It will often build up and intensify over time, and can result in irritability, muscle tension, and difficulty sleeping. For some, it’s a consistent feeling of being anxious about things, and at times, that can escalate into anxiety or panic attacks; episodes of intense anxiety and panic that can cause heart palpitations and hyperventilation.
While there’s numerous treatment and methods for managing daily anxiety as well as anxiety attacks, one you may not have considered is massage. It’s not going to eradicate all forms of anxiety, so you never feel anxious again, but it has been shown time and again in studies to have a major impact and greatly improve the symptoms of those who regularly experience anxiety. Getting regular massages can help to lower your heart rate, decrease blood pressure, improve concentration, release muscle tension, improve your quality of sleep, and regulate the release of certain ‘feel-good’ hormones to calm the body and mind.
There are also several ways you can manage your anxiety on a daily basis.
Be more active
When you increase your heart rate and work your muscles, your body releases the same feel good hormone you receive when getting a massage, helping you to feel better emotionally and physically.
Cut back on your caffeine intake
Did you know that caffeine can increase anxiousness in those who struggle with anxiety and sometimes even cause anxiety in those who don’t? High levels of caffeine can even increase your chances of having a panic attack.
Find your trigger
Try keeping a journal. When dealing with anxiety, you’ll see that some days you struggle more than others. Not only is journaling therapeutic in itself, but you may be able to look at what could have caused your anxiety to increase from day to day. Maybe foods, people, situations; find patterns and adjust to see if you can avoid those triggers.
While you may not have a lot of time in your day to meditate, even taking 5 minutes will help. The deep breaths will help lower your heart rate and having as few moments to get a handle on the day is always helpful.
Get more sleep
When you haven’t gotten enough sleep, your brain sends signals to your body that something is wrong, resulting in higher levels of anxiety and feelings of stress. Prioritizing your sleep will help make sure your body doesn’t feel like it’s under attack.
Seek professional help
Having someone to talk to about what you’re going through and being able to unrestrictedly express your thoughts, can make a world of difference.
Anxiety can interrupt so many parts of your life. We want to help you control it as much as possible. Pair massage with these tips and let’s work together to get your anxiety under control.
October 11, 2019
Dynamic vs. Static Stretching
Stretching doesn’t just feel great, but also helps to improve range of motion, prevent injury, and keep our muscles healthy. While these benefits are great, there are different benefits and concerns with different types of stretching. So, let’s take a look...
There are two types of stretching; dynamic and static. Dynamic stretching is when you use movement to stretch muscles. This is usually done before a workout. So instead of standing still while you’re stretching, you’re mimicking a movement and going through the full range of motion, oftentimes a movement you’re going to be performing, very slowly and methodically. The point is to fully prepare the muscles you’ll be working before jumping into an activity. Static stretching on the other hand, is getting into a specific pose and holding it for a period of time (generally around 30 seconds or so). Now, both of these stretches are beneficial, but in different ways and at different times. The biggest misunderstanding is when to perform what stretch.
You often see people performing static stretching before a workout, but let’s look at this for a second; you put a rubber band in the freezer for a period of time. You go to pull the rubber band out of the freezer and go to stretch it immediately. Do you think that rubber band will stretch very far? More than likely, it will break. Let’s pretend your muscles are that rubber band. If you try to perform static stretching when your muscles are cold, you’re putting yourself at risk of pulling or straining a muscle. Studies actually show that static stretching before a workout can reduce your strength and power output for up to an hour. While static stretching isn’t a good idea before a workout, it is helpful in aiding recovery after. So save that static stretching until your workout is over.
Dynamic stretching is perfect for warming those cold muscles up before a workout. This is because instead of stretching the rubber band as soon as you get it out of the freezer, you’re slowly taking it through gentle movements until it’s warmed up. Dynamic flexibility exercises are exercises where movement starts slow and builds gradually to the full range of motion and speed. For example, have you ever seen a quarter back on the side lines when he’s warming up his arm? He usually is taking his throwing arm through the motions of a throw. He will start with small movements until he feels his arm is ready, and then you’ll see him gradually begin to fully carry out a throw with his arm, increasing the range each time. This type of stretching and mobilization not only prepares you for the activity you’re about to perform, it also increases blood flow which can also help boost your performance.
It’s important to remember no matter what form of stretching you’re doing, listen to your body. If you go to perform a stretch and it feels uncomfortable or painful, stop immediately. You don’t want to do more harm than good. Just remember, dynamic stretching before a workout and static stretching afterwards, and you’re setting yourself up for a success
September 24, 2019
While many people think of massage as just a feel-good sort of luxury, there are actually numerous health benefits, one of the many being post-workout recovery. Massage therapy has long been used as a recovery method for athletes, but there was little science to support it. While many athletes have known for years that massage can help to reduce soreness after an intense workout, science is suggesting there’s much more to it than just making us feel better.
Over the last several years, as more studies have been done in the field of massage, the reasons are becoming more and more clear.
Muscle damage from exercise isn’t just relayed to us through pain, but also through subtle clues that may be hard to detect for many people. Through certain testing, researchers were looking to see when an athlete’s muscles were truly ready to return to activity, and how massage affected that. So, in a 2015 study¹ they wanted to see if massage could increase post-workout strength and body awareness (proprioception). To do this they focused their testing on the gastrocnemius (the large muscle of the calf). Each participant ran up and down a 5 story building twenty times.
Following this, half the subjects received a 15-minute massage to the lower legs and the other half did not. What they found was that the subjects who received massage had more strength and improved proprioception and muscular architecture. While massage isn’t going to replace lifting weights, the return of strength and the expression of strength and technique is increased when massage is applied directly following an intense workout; all of this to say, that means you’ll not only feel better quicker, but you can also get back into the action much sooner.
Another study² gives a bit more explanation to this as they discovered that massage decreased the activity of a protein called NF-kB, which causes exercise-related inflammation, and increased the activity of a protein called PGC-1alpha, which spurs the production of new mitochondria.
What does all that mean? Basically, that on a cellular level, massage is decreasing inflammation and increasing cellular repair after exercise. Again, suggesting that massage doesn’t just make you feel better after a workout, but truly helps your body repair itself much faster.
Notice that none of this had to do with lactic acid! In fact, these and other studies have shown that massage does not “flush out” lactic acid at all; a misguided reason often given for post-workout massage. Instead, the reason you feel better is because massage is causing structural and cellular changes to the muscles, speeding recovery and rehabilitation.
So, if you love to push yourself at the gym, be sure a schedule your next massage right after to get the most benefit!
¹ Effects of Massage on Muscular Strength and Proprioception After Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage. Shin, Mal-Soon; Sung, Yun-Hee. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2015/08000/Effects_of_Massage_on_Muscular_Strength_and.22.aspx
² Massage Therapy Attenuates Inflammatory Signaling After Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage. Justin D. Crane, Daniel I. Ogborn, Colleen Cupido, Simon Melov, Alan Hubbard, Jacqueline M. Bourgeois, and Mark A. Tarnopolsky. http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/4/119/119ra13
September 15, 2019
Neck pain is common and there’s a variety of things that can cause it. You may have just slept wrong and tried to turn your head a certain way only to feel some pretty sharp pain; then you’re stuck walking around all day barely able to turn to the side. You may have been hunched over at your desk all day, or done some exercise that didn’t quite agree with you. Whatever the cause, it’s no fun. Of course, a massage session here will help, but there are some things you can do in the meantime to ease that pain.
Neck pain is frequently the result of tension within the muscles. When the muscles are tight, they bear down on blood vessels, decreasing blood flow to areas, resulting in even more pain, like those nasty tension headaches that can come along for a ride. Stretching can help loosen that tension and improve blood flow, overall decreasing your pain levels. Slowly tilt your head forward, back, and side to side, until you feel a good stretch in each position. Hold it for several seconds and breathe deep. Release and keep moving through the motions and stretching. Listen to your body and find the places where the stretch really seems to be the most effective.
Heat & Cold Therapy
Heat can help to improve blood flow and relax the muscles, while applying cold can decrease inflammation. You can use whatever feels right, but alternating between the two will often help even more. Apply your heating pad for 5 minutes, then a cold pack for 2 or 3 minutes. One round may be all you need for very mild symptoms, but if the pain is persistent, keep alternating between the two for up to 20 minutes, ending with cold to make sure any inflammation is taken care of.
You can use your fingertips, knuckles, self-massage tools like a Thera Cane, or even just a tennis or golf ball; anything that will provide direct pressure into the muscles. Start gently working throughout the neck and shoulders to warm up the tissues, and slowly work into deeper pressure as it feels right. Don’t be afraid of slight discomfort, but stop if you experience any sharp pains.
Get a different pillow
If you’re experiencing neck pain frequently, try switching up your pillow to see if it may be the cause. No one size fits all here. You need to find what works best for your body. And don’t forget that those pillows need fluffed and replaced on a regular basis to keep the proper support.
Of course, you can always come get a massage when you’ve got any sort of pain like this, but I know that’s not always possible and I still want you to feel amazing as much as you can. So, use these tips the next time your neck starts bothering you, and book your next massage to keep you feeling great too!
September 8, 2019
With all the different types of massage techniques there are, it can be confusing and overwhelming when you see yet another term on the long list of modalities available. Neuromuscular therapy (NMT) is one of those that a lot of people tend to have questions about. It sounds interesting, but most people outside the industry might not know what it really is. So, let’s look at what it entails and determine if it’s right for you.
Most people who are experiencing pain or who have an injury will benefit from neuromuscular therapy. As massage therapists, we tend to talk about nerve compressions, ischemia (loss of blood flow), trigger points (highly irritable areas that transfer pain elsewhere), and postural imbalances that are causing you pain. Neuromuscular therapy can help relieve all of these things, but even if you don’t know the cause of your pain, it still may be a great type of therapy for you. Whether you’re dealing with an injury like a muscle tear, some muscular imbalance, or dealing with generalized pain in an area, neuromuscular therapy may be a good treatment option. NMT can help to relieve your pain, increase your flexibility and range of motion, and restore muscle strength.
When you’re receiving a neuromuscular session, you’re not going to experience those long flowing strokes that are so often associated with massage. Instead, you’ll notice we’re applying pressure into an area and holding for some time. We may use fingers, knuckles, or elbows to achieve that deep, sustained pressure, depending on the area. We hold this pressure to allow the body to respond; there may be a slow or immediate feeling of release, or even a small twitching sensation. While the direct pressure into these areas may be a little uncomfortable at first, that should quickly ease, and it’s important to keep the lines of communication open throughout your session. We don’t want you to be in pain, so if you feel like the pressure is ever too much, please let us know immediately. We’d rather take our time and go a little slower and be a bit gentler than to have you in more pain. The purpose is to get you out of pain, and while you may have a slight discomfort here and there, we don’t want to cause you any more discomfort than is necessary.
If you’re still on the fence about whether you want to try neuromuscular therapy, feel free to reach out anytime and talk with us. We’d love to help you determine if this is the right kind of treatment for your specific situation.
September 3, 2019
Why Regular Massage is Vital to Injury Recovery
Many people think of massage as something reserved for special occasions or a luxury type of thing; but did you know that massage is actually an important part of injury recovery?
Massage is known to increase local circulation to an area, improving blood and lymph flow, delivering much-needed nutrients and oxygen, while removing pathogens, stagnant fluid, etc.
When you receive regular massage, not only are your muscles and other tissues staying healthier, but if any injury is present or you have any inflammation, that increase in local circulation can help with the healing process and decrease inflammation. This helps speed up your healing time and gets you back in the game faster. Regular massage also improves your range of motion (ROM). A single session is great for seeing some immediate increase in ROM as massage will loosen the muscles and calm the nervous system to allow more movement, but regular session will increase those results and make them long-term.
That’s what I can provide; a fully comprehensive treatment plan that addresses whatever problems you have that day, and whatever issues they’re continuing to cause throughout the body. Contact me today and let’s get started working up a treatment plan to take care of your body the way it needs to be cared for.
August 18, 2019
Are you touch deprived?
There are 5 basic human senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Touch is the first sense we develop. It is also the most vital to our well-being. There are several sensations of touch we experience such as pressure, temperature, light touch, vibration, and pain. Just take a second to think. How often do you reach out to touch someone? How often does someone reach out to touch you? Did you know that you may be touch deprived? Touch deprivation is a real issue, with real symptoms, as well as real solutions.
We live in a time where our lives are incredibly busy and mostly dominated by electronics. While social media has reconnected family and friends who are far apart, it has also distanced us somewhat from those around us. Everything is at our fingertips. You can now have groceries or a full meal delivered to your door. If you do go out to a restaurant and look around you will more than likely see most people at the table on their phone. We rarely truly connect with those right before our eyes, and as a result we lack the social and physical aspect of touching the ones we love. We also live in a time where we have never been more aware or protective of our bodies and physical space. While it’s important to protect our physical boundaries and keep ourselves safe, we cannot go to the opposite extreme and deprive ourselves of experiencing the vital sense of touch.
The amount of physical contact we have on a daily basis, believe it or not, depends on the area in which we live. For example, in a study conducted by psychologist Sidney Jourard, he observed conversations of friends all over the world. In England the friends didn’t touch at all. In the US, the friends touched two times when excited. In France, the friends touched 110 times per hour. In Puerto Rico, they touched 180 times. While it is important to respect another’s personal space and choice whether they prefer touch or not, not receiving the right amount of touch may be affecting us more than we think.
One of the more surprising effects of touch deprivation includes aggression. In a study conducted by Tiffany Field, the founder of the Touch Research Institute, they compared French and American adolescents. The American adolescents who spent less time touching displayed more aggressive verbal and physical behavior than the French adolescents. After introducing massage therapy to the American adolescents, their empathy increased and the level of their violent behavior decreased. Body image issues may also be a result of touch deprivation. A study conducted on women who suffered from bulimia and anorexia found that those with greater touch deprivation in their childhood and current life, had more body image issues potentially leading to their eating disorders.
There are receptors underneath our skin that, when stimulated by touch, can help reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels and blood pressure. When those receptors aren’t being stimulated regularly, it can result in higher stress levels, causing us to struggle to unwind when we’re overwhelmed. Loneliness is one of the more obvious signs of touch deprivation, and for good reason. If you aren’t touched regularly enough throughout the day, you may feel alone, even if you are surrounded by loved ones. Do you take long hot showers, or multiple hot showers in a day? Do you cling to a pillow in your sleep? These can be signs of loneliness. It is also important to note that when someone feels lonely due to touch deprivation, it isn’t uncommon for them to withdraw from others socially. Depression is closely connected to the loneliness aspect of touch deprivation. Those who suffer from this “skin hunger” are more likely to suffer from alexithymia, a condition that prevents people from being able to interpret their emotions. While these are important signs of touch deprivation, they are just a few of the many.
There are ways you can incorporate more touch into your everyday life. Of course, it’s always important to remember to respect others’ boundaries if you know that they prefer not to be touched.
1. Greet your coworkers daily with a handshake. While it’s often habit to say hello to those we cross paths with daily, we rarely ever have physical contact with them. Something as simple as a handshake can provide you both with a small, but much-needed form of physical contact as well as strengthen bonds and build trust.
2. Give some sort of physical touch to your significant other each time you leave or arrive home. Whether it be a sweet kiss, a warm hug, or even a firm squeeze of the hand, this strengthens your connection and makes you happier.
3. Find 15 minutes in your day to snuggle your kids. Keep in mind that touching is vital to the physical, mental, and emotional development of children. Some days you may be able to get that 15 solid minutes in, no problem. On those other days when your schedule is crazy, break it up to get 5 minutes in the morning, 5 in the afternoon, and 5 before bed. Find time to have them hop in your lap when they need your help with something, give them a comforting hug that last a little longer than usual, hold their hand, or massage their back as they drift off to sleep. This will strengthen your bond, deepen their sense of security, and reaffirm your love for them, giving you both a great dose of physical touch for the day.
4. Get a pet. Studies have shown those with pets tend to be happier and have less feelings of loneliness. While there’s many reasons behind that, part of it is the physical touch of another being. If you’re unable to have a pet for any reason, try volunteering at your local animal shelter to get that touch as well as help out some animals in need.
You may have a small social circle, aren’t close to your loved ones, feel uncomfortable touching those who are in your life, or you’ve had a bad experience with touch and avoid it; so if those tips aren’t really applicable in your life, or you know you need a bit more touch than that, there are other ways to get that safe, physical touch you need; massage therapy and other forms of professional bodywork. Not only does massage therapy have a slew of benefits, but it also involves a very safe, professional touch that can provide that much-needed form of physical contact. Whether you choose Swedish, Deep Tissue, Thai massage, Ashiatsu, cupping, hot stone, or any of the many other forms of massage and bodywork, you get to choose how you incorporate touch into your life to get the most benefit.
We all come from different walks of life, but one thing we all have in common is our undeniable need for touch, for our mental and physical health. How will you incorporate touch into your life today?
Jourard SM (1966) An exploratory study of body accessibility. British Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 5: 221-231.
July 14, 2019
Many fitness instructors still teach the importance of stretching extensively before and after any sort of exercise, and if you’re a member of a gym, you’ll undoubtedly see this being done often. But what if I told you that many of us have been stretching all wrong? While it’s hard to change old habits, this change is imperative if you want to get the most out of your workouts, and prevent injuries along the way.
Many of us have always been told that before working out you should stretch and warm up right? But times change and research shows us just how wrong we are sometimes. While the warm up part is entirely true, let’s look at a scenario; you put a rubber band in the freezer and leave it for a day. The next morning you go and pull the rubber band out of the freezer and immediately stretch the rubber band. How far do you think the rubber band will stretch? Because it’s cold, not very far before it just snaps, right? So now imagine that your muscles are that rubber band. If you perform static stretching (a technique in which a significant stretched position is slowly reached, then held for some time) while your muscles are “cold”, they’re not going to stretch much, and you run the risk of pulling or straining a muscle.
In fact, static stretching before a workout reduces your strength and power output for up to an hour! While static stretching is out of the question before a workout, there is a way to warm your muscles up and stretch them without putting them in danger. Dynamic flexibility exercises are exercises where movement starts slow, and gradually builds to the full range of motion and speed. Have you ever seen athletes warming up by mimicking the movements they are about to make in their match? Those movements would be considered dynamic flexibility exercises. They start small and gradually increase range of motion, and therefore the muscle stretch, while warming up the muscles at the same time.
While static stretching before physical activity is not suggested, it can be helpful in aiding recovery after physical activity. It is important to note that anytime you’re stretching, if something doesn’t feel right, don’t force your body into it. While that may be common sense for many, we live in a time where many still abide by the mantra “no pain, no gain” and that just isn’t always the case, especially when it comes to stretching.
If you want to stretch your muscles before a workout, focus on stretches that include movement as opposed to stretches that are static, and save the static stretches for post workout to help your muscles recover.
June 26, 2019
You may have heard of Reflexology or seen some crazy looking charts with internal organs drawn all over the feet and hands, thinking “what’s that all about?” Well, let me explain…
Reflexology is a type of bodywork that involves applying different amounts of pressure to specific points on the feet and hands, and sometimes the ears. The theory basis for reflexology is that there are certain “reflex areas” on the feet, hands, and ears that are connected to specific organs and body parts energetically. The reasoning behind the treatment, is that applying pressure in these areas can promote the natural healing process of the associated organ or body area. For example, the tips of the toes reflect the head, around the ball of the foot – the heart and chest, the arch of the foot – the liver, pancreas, and kidneys, and the heel – low back and intestines.
Many people seek reflexology for stress related conditions, tension headaches, migraines, digestive issues, arthritis, insomnia, hormonal imbalances, menstrual disorders, and chronic pain. When attending a session with a reflexologist, you will be expected to fill out information about your health history that will help them customize your treatment. It is important to be honest when filling out any information pertaining to your health when having any service performed.
Your reflexologist may use tools such as balls, rods, and dowels in addition to their hands. Always make sure to communicate with your reflexologist if there are any points in the service that you feel uncomfortable. Don’t worry if you’re ticklish, the amount of pressure that is applied during your session should be enough to prevent a giggle spell.
Reflexology can be a wonderful first step or addition to a care plan in addressing a slew of conditions. So, what are you waiting for? Book your Reflexology session now!
June 20, 2019
Massage therapists have worked and struggled for years to educate the public on the reality of the profession; not just about the benefits of the therapy, but also to disassociate the industry from those who use the legitimacy of the profession to hide illicit activities. Television and movies haven’t helped over the years, often acting to perpetuate this unfortunate association. In an effort to combat this, there are certain terms we use as massage therapists, to maintain professionalism and separate ourselves from those not-so-professional individuals and businesses.
While we don’t expect the general public to always use the correct terminology, it’s important that we, as professionals do, so keep an ear out for these things when you’re looking for a legitimate massage professional.
Throughout much of Europe, the terms masseuse and masseur are most often used to refer to the person performing the massage, but in most other parts of the world, including the US and Canada, those terms may have a negative connotation, so the term massage therapist is most appropriate. Depending on the area you visit, different forms of this may be used to reflect the specific licensing or certification of the profession in that region. So, you may hear things like licensed massage therapist (LMT), certified massage practitioner (CMP), or registered massage therapist (RMT). All of these let you know that the individual holds that particular title with their local licensing/certification boards or associations due to their training and capabilities.
You may also notice that we call our ‘work surface’ a massage ‘table’ instead of a ‘bed’. This again, is to disassociate from any unprofessional activities. The same can be said for why we often use the term ‘linens’ instead of ‘sheets’, and call our massage businesses things like a massage ‘practice’, ‘office’, ‘spa’, or almost anything other than ‘parlor’.
Now, you may wonder if this really matters, but I’m here to tell you, absolutely! You see, the problem isn’t just that some people use this industry to hide illegal and unprofessional acts, making our profession look bad, but those types of facilities are very often a hub for human trafficking. The women involved are usually not willing participants, but rather have been trafficked, sold, and forced into the work. While we want to disassociate ourselves from the act itself, it’s even more important that we all fight this form of modern-day slavery.
Don’t worry if you didn’t know the meaning behind some of these terms before now. We know that many people outside the profession have no idea the connotation behind some of the terminology, nor the horrible things hiding behind the doors of those ‘parlors’. That’s why we work to educate our clients and the general public. For those of you who have never had a professional massage, there is more to a massage therapist than what you may have seen on TV. And for those who have been, thank you for supporting our industry.