A Caring Touch: Massage Therapy

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Massage Tips: How To Make a Hot Towel

As mentioned in the above video, a hot towel is a fast and easy way to get some moist heat relief for pain.

The article that was mentioned in the video was this one: Should I Use Heat or Ice On My Injury?

Here are the steps and details of the video:

What you need:
2 hand towels
A microwave

Steps to make a hot towel:
1. Soak one hand towel in water and wrap it into a tight ball
2. Put the wet towel in a microwave for 60 seconds (1 minute)
3. Take your dry towel and lay it flat over your sore area
4. Take your hot towel and fold it into a manageable shape such as a rectangle
5. Lay the hot towel over the dry towel and wrap the edges of the dry towel around the wet one.
6. Let it sit until it loses it's heat, or you start to feel better. Usually around 20 minutes is the longest it retains it's heat.

So what is the dry towel for?
The dry towel is simply there to keep the hot towel from burning or causing any irritation on the skin. If you are putting the hot towel over a piece of clothing, you might be able to get away without the dry towel, however I'd personally still advise you to use the dry towel just to keep an extra layer of protection and not get your clothing wet.

Why is moist heat important?
Moist heat is recommended for heat healing because since our skin and muscles are porous, a water based heat is more readily absorbed so rather than simply heating up the surface of the skin, the heat gets deeper into the area and therefore is more effective with the heat doing it's job.

I hope this hot towel tutorial helps you out with your fast moist heat needs!

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

How Long Should My Massage Be?

How Long Should My Massage Be? A Caring Touch: Massage Therapy, State college, PA
One of the first things people notice when they are scheduling a massage is that unless they are looking for a very specialized service, there are usually options for different lengths of massages. So how long of a massage should you get or do you need? Everybody’s needs are different and every therapist has different goals/procedures for each length of appointment, so just to break things down, here is how I personally look at appointment lengths and the benefits of each.

15 Minutes: In my practice, this is the shortest appointment length that I offer. I almost exclusively use this time for chair massages which are simple massages focused on the back, neck, and shoulders that don't require the client to disrobe, so the whole time is used efficiently. I also use this length for infant massages because depending on why I’m working on the baby, forcing the baby to stay still for long periods of time can stress them out, so I keep the sessions short.

30 Minutes/Half Hour: Many people get massages of this length as an introduction to a therapist or to massage in general so they can gauge if it is something that will work for them. Likewise, I usually recommend this length to someone who has something specific like an injury or a chronic issue. 30 minutes gives the therapist the time to determine how the issue is doing, and time to do the work. While it is possible to work on multiple areas of the body in this short time, the more areas being worked on means the less time spent on each area, which still works for some people who just want a bit of quick relaxation without any heavy focused work on anything specific.
How Long Should My Massage Be? A Caring Touch: Massage Therapy, State college, PA
60 Minutes/One Hour: This is probably the most common appointment length I see. It is the standard time for a “full body massage” which includes massage on the hands and arms, neck, shoulders, feet and legs, plus the back of the body. You get the complete body worked on as well as having time to provide extra attention to any specific 'trouble' areas such as the shoulders, neck, feet, etc. Some people will also request a one hour appointment if they really have a problem area or injury that needs a lot of focused work so all the time can be focused on that issue.

90 Minutes/Hour and a Half: Sometimes an hour just isn’t enough time to get through everything that needs attention during a massage. Some people will request a 90 minute massage when they want to relax with a full body massage, but also know that they have specific issues that need more attention than can be addressed without lessening the work on another body part. Or sometimes people just want the extra time to treat themselves to some bonus relaxation and quiet time.

How Long Should My Massage Be? A Caring Touch: Massage Therapy, State college, PA120 Minutes/2 Hours: I personally don’t do many of these but do occasionally, and many other therapists also offer it. Usually when a massage is this long it includes not only massage for the whole body, but can also include additional modalities such as stretching, energy work, hot stones, or a host of other things depending on the therapist. The therapist has lots of time to focus on everything from relaxation to addressing injuries, without any work being rushed. While it is possible for therapists to offer longer appointments, anything beyond this time can start to get taxing on the therapist. While we may seem to have super powers, we are human after all, and we do get tired!

What if I pick an appointment time that’s too short? Sometimes therapists will let you extend your appointment - meaning if you start with a half hour and realize you need more work, you can ask if you can extend to an hour. However this is 100% dependent on the policies of the therapist/company and the therapist’s schedule after your massage. Often if they have an opening after you they may be able to extend an appointment, but a therapist will likely never bump or delay another client just to extend an appointment. If a therapist can’t extend, they may work with you to schedule another appointment at the next earliest availability.

So the answer of which massage length is right for you completely depends on what you are looking for. If you want full-body relaxation, 60 minutes should do it. Just want regular work on those chronic knots in your shoulders? 30 minutes focused on the neck and shoulders should be fine. If you are ever in doubt, just ask your therapist what they recommend.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Giving in or Giving up? Who's Happiness is Most Important?

Window of Massage Room at A Caring Touch: Massage Therapy - BeforeSeveral posts ago, I wrote about the window in my massage room. I had taken down the blinds to put a window film on because I hated the dark, stuffiness of the room and wanted the warm, natural light. It was an instant hit with the office staff and several of my regular clients also commented on how nice it was because the room stayed light and bright even on some of our very frequent cloudy and rainy days, so it was a welcome change. I even started jokingly calling it the “Vitamin D Room” because it was a chance to lay and get a relaxing massage in the sun.  Changing the window was pretty radical - not only because I took a risk in altering the room, but also because massage therapy rooms are traditionally very dark, so people can close their eyes and simulate the conditions that one would go to sleep. I kind of liked the total out-of-the-box change - which for me is soooooo not normal. 

Unfortunately, not everyone agreed with me. I started getting rather bad reviews from new clients (including one review absolutely tearing apart everything about my practice and warning people to never patronize me because of the “blaring light streaming in through the window”), and since the service industry lives and dies by reviews, I felt I had no choice but to cover up the window. 

On a personal level, I was disappointed in losing my light. I felt like my mood was much improved with the brighter room, and I looked forward to coming in to work more. I was also disappointed that more people weren’t receptive to my “radical” idea that a massage therapy room could be bright and relaxing and my massage therapy skills outweighed the physical appearance of the room. However, on a professional level, it was a wake-up call and reminder that my personal preferences don’t really matter - what matters is the comfort of my clients. 

One thing I am noticing throughout our world right now is that everywhere - be it in running a business, patronizing a business, working for a business, interacting with people, schools, etc. - we tend to strongly push the agenda of what WE, personally want and expect, no matter how it effects others. 

I recently read a book by the Dalai Lama, and one thing that stuck out at me was his statements that every human, no matter what race, class, or socioeconomic level has but one desire - and that is to be happy. Whether for each individual happiness means wealth, peace, health, or a combination of a bunch of things, everybody wants the same thing.  Everyone wants to be happy and content, and when a person’s individual wants and needs are met, we are happy. So if that is what we want, who are we to deny that to another human being who wants the same thing? In the process of focusing on ourselves and what we want, we can’t be blind to the option that our desires could have a detriment to anything else. Or should we operate and go through life only focusing on ourselves?  
Giving Up or Giving In? Who's Happiness is Most Important?

Many people do subscribe to the thought process that ‘whatever I want is the correct thing, and to hell with whatever anyone else wants’. Others are totally on the other side of the scale in that ‘my needs don’t matter at all, doing whatever everyone else wants makes me happy’. So how can you find that happy medium? How can you do what you want and what makes you happy without being a total doormat? I think that one way to find the middle ground is to look at the situation this way: What ultimately (not on the surface level) will bring me happiness and will my happiness cause any detriment to the desire of another person? 

As a business owner, those reviews brought me back to this. Even though my occupational category is in the “health care” field, ultimately I am in the service industry. My personal preferences can't take precedence over the preferences of the people I serve. If I expect them to come to me for their goals of health and relaxation, how can I accomplish those goals if they are uncomfortable? Some may call me a pushover for covering up my window - that I gave in to a bad review. However, I am preferring to look at that bad review as a window into the insight of my clients. I may not agree, but the greater good says that my preference might not be the best for the expectations of my clientele, and making my clients happy ultimately is what will make me happy. 

Window of Massage Room at A Caring Touch: Massage Therapy - After
But just because I have decided to put my clientele’s needs above my own personal desires, doesn’t mean I have to totally give in to something I don’t want. In making a new curtain for the window, I used a fabric that cuts the light level while still not making it so dark that it looks like a cave, instead the room now has a cool blue glow. Will this work? Will my reviews change from here out? Maybe, and maybe not. Will my clients that liked the light be disappointed? Maybe, and maybe not. Will covering my window keep me from getting bad reviews? Absolutely not - you can’t please everyone, no matter how hard you try to provide excellent and professional service, there will still be things that pop up about the room that I have little to no control over. There will be mistakes made in the future, and I will always make decisions that not 100% of people agree with, but that is part of being human and a rant for another time. I feel like in this case I have found a compromise, so I don’t see it as giving up. So if we all subscribed to the thought that we know what we want and it is ok to go after what we want, but also consider how what we want affects not only another person but the overall greater good, how much different would this world be?

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

How Often Should I Get A Massage?

How Often Should I Get A Massage? - A Caring Touch: Massage Therapy
We all know that massage is good for us. It benefits both our mental health by relieving stress and giving us a sense of calm, as well as helping any pain or physical issues we may have. One question I am frequently asked is, "How often should I get a massage?" I often hesitate with this response because it isn't a standard one-size-fits-all answer. The frequency that you should receive massage depends on a few different factors.

Firstly, why are you getting the massage? Is it for stress relief? Maintaining your overall health and keeping everything working? Keeping away a recently healed injury? If the massage is more for maintenance or not geared toward a specific goal, most people find that one massage every 4-6 weeks is a good time span to go between massages before your body starts to feel too crunchy and angry with itself. The goal of these massages are usually more relaxing and maybe taking care of a few "trouble spots" but overall just a calm, quiet time for you to take care of yourself.

How Often Should I Get A Massage? - A Caring Touch: Massage Therapy
If you have an injury or something chronic like 'that thing in your neck that hurts every time you turn your head but you've learned to live with it', you may need massage a little more frequently - at least at first. In the case of helping to repair an injury, I generally recommend a little more intense of a schedule such as 2-3 massages during the first week or two, then we "wean" off the massages with more time between each session such as one a week for 3 weeks, then once every 2 weeks, etc - adding or subtracting as needed, until the issue is resolved. The reason for the more intense schedule is because the goal of this massage is to help the body heal and almost "reprogram" itself and not fall back into it's injured state, then as healing happens, the muscles re-learn what is "right" and the massage goals become more maintenance and less repair.

Now there are always special situations don't fit into this mold. For example, I leave the recommendations for prenatal massages up to the client because although, with the constant changes in the body, massage every week would be fabulous, but sometimes that isn't practical. A mom-to-be may want to schedule appointments around her doctor's visits, or she has child care for other children that she needs to coordinate, or perhaps her doctor recommends a different frequency. So in situations like this, I make recommendations, but leave it flexible and up to the client's preferences.

How Often Should I Get A Massage? - A Caring Touch: Massage Therapy
Other small things in life can also dictate how frequently one can or is able to receive a massage. Some people like to coordinate massages with other doctor's appointments such as physical therapy or chiropractic adjustments. Other times, people have issues with distance to travel or work schedules, and finally some have financial considerations that may influence how frequently they receive a massage. These considerations must also come into play when deciding when to come back for your next massage.

Sure, as a business owner who makes a living off of performing massages, it would be easy for me to tell people that they need to come in for massage at least once a week every week, but as a humane human being who is supposed to be looking out for the health and well-being of my clients, there is no one "best" answer as to how frequently they should get a massage. This is another reason why it is important to have a comfortable and confident relationship between therapist and client. They should be able to work together to determine the best frequency and schedule for the massage routine that works best for you.

Monday, March 25, 2019

You Can't Massage A Pregnant Woman's Feet - Myth or Fact?

You can't massage a pregnant woman's feet - Myth or Fact? A Caring Touch: Massage Therapy, State College PA
I was recently watching an evening tv drama in which a character and his pregnant wife were in a class and the instructor said, "Time for foot massages! Now who can remember what part of the feet we completely avoid?" To which the character (a doctor) replies "The ankles". This reminded me how often I hear things like this in regards to massaging pregnant women's feet. It was nice that the show actually mentioned that foot massage is ok while pregnant, however it stated to "completely avoid" the ankles without any explanation as to why.

Not massaging a pregnant woman's feet is one of the more commonly heard "tips" when it comes to prenatal massage. Many pregnancy books and sites claim that foot massage can cause lots of problems, most commonly that it send a woman into early labor, so it is best to completely avoid it. Some statements are a little more lenient (like the tv show I was watching) and say that foot massage is ok, but with certain limitations. So what is the truth? The fact is that, like many things, somewhere there was a small grain of a fact and over time it bloomed into something that became a full-blown myth, urban legend, whatever you want to call it. So how exactly did this myth come to be?

Myth origin #1: I've mentioned this in a previous article, but one culprit here are two widely heard of, but often misunderstood, massage modalities known as acupressure and reflexology. In these types of massage, pressure is applied to a specific point on the body (acupressure) and in the feet (reflexology), and depending on where certain points are located, the points can have an effect on certain parts of the body. The fear comes that if certain reflexology points are touched, it can cause labor to start.
You can't massage a pregnant woman's feet - Myth or Fact? A Caring Touch: Massage Therapy, State College PAFacts: While acupressure and reflexology can have an effect on certain parts of the body, very specific things need to happen. In acupressure, static pressure needs to be applied directly to the specific point and held for 3-5 seconds. Not something you generally see in a gentle massage where the strokes generally keep moving. As far as reflexology goes, there are points located on either side of the heel that relate to the ovaries and uterus, as well as the fallopian tubes arching over the foot. Not exactly located in the ankles, but loosely in that general area, hence the source for the advice to avoid it. Once again though, just a gentle massage over this area is not reflexology per se, only if you specifically target this area with direct and sustained pressure. Another reason "ankles" may be lumped into this is because there is one specific acupressure point higher up on the outside of the lower leg (about 3 finger widths up from the ankle bone) that has, in some studies, had a small effect of making contractions stronger once labor has already started, but no actual proof that pressing on that point can trigger or start labor. Basically, acupressure and reflexology can't be done by accident; they are very focused and purposeful types of massage that you can't "trigger" unknowingly, so no gentle, normal types of massage done for foot relief should create any problems.

Myth origin #2: Another direction that I've heard this myth come from was not actually from the massage world. Originally, there was concern about cheap or low-end manicure and pedicure salons who didn't clean their tools correctly, which left the opportunity for women to get infections in their cuticles from the poorly sanitized instruments. Infections during pregnancy are always a concern, so women were encouraged to stay away from cheap nail salons - which, like the old game of telephone, turned into "stay away from all nail salons" -> "Don't get manicures or pedicures while pregnant" -> and finally, (since some salons include a foot or leg massage with their pedicures) -> "Don't get massages on your feet or legs while pregnant". So you can see how something with a small, good intention, can spiral into something much more vague and universal.

Side fact: In all the talk about massaging feet, many times the phrase "and legs" gets lumped in there as well. This one gets a little trickier, because there are some small legitimate concerns about massaging legs during pregnancy. The fact is that due to the increase in a woman's blood volume during pregnancy, and thanks to gravity, a woman's legs can get much more tired, swollen, and heavy while pregnant. Massage can help immensely with these issues, however with this increased blood volume, there is a slim chance that a woman can develop issues such as blood clots in her legs or certain kinds of swelling or edema that a doctor needs to monitor. This does not mean that leg massage is completely off limits, it is just better if any lower extremity massage is done very lightly, or done by a professional who is trained to know what to do and what to look for so that the massage can be done safely. Nevertheless, just because the possibility of concern may be there, if the doctor says everything is fine, the instances of an actual problem can be very slim, so once again, even though there is a small grain of truth in there, it doesn't mean that massage as a whole needs to be avoided when, in the right hands, it can actually be very helpful.

Overall, every pregnant mother does need to be careful about what she does to her body. Despite the plethora of information at our fingertips, with that also comes a plethora of mis-information. If a woman is concerned about whether something heard or read is fact or a myth, she should always ask her doctor. The doctor will give straight information, and even be able to specifically check for any conditions that may make a massage unadvisable. A massage therapist who is specialized prenatal massage should be able to clear up the difference between myths and facts and explain to you why. There is nothing wrong with hearing a myth and striving to be careful, however the best way to be careful is to know the facts behind the myth so that the myth doesn't steer you away from something that might actually be helpful.
You can't massage a pregnant woman's feet - Myth or Fact? A Caring Touch: Massage Therapy, State College PA

Friday, March 15, 2019

Massage For a Sinus Headache

One day last year I woke up with a nasty sinus headache. Before reaching for my bottle of decongestants, I decided to try and massage out the pressure first. Then I flipped on the tv and saw a news report about the opioid crisis and a theory about one reason it is so bad is because people get over-prescribed medications. So I sat down and while I was massaging out my sinuses, I recorded a video about how I was doing it, so that perhaps I could help someone else stay away from their bottle of decongestants. I know that massaging away one sinus headache isn't going to make that much of a difference in the grand scale of things, but personally, any time I can fix my pain without something I have to swallow is preferable for me!

P.S. I hate how I look and sound in video and this was a BIG leap out of my comfort zone, so if you watch it, enjoy and please be nice!

Friday, March 01, 2019

The most memorable thing about having a newborn

Many of my prenatal clients are understandably nervous not only about their upcoming labor and delivery, but also what happens after the baby arrives - as far as what to expect and how a newborn will impact their daily life.  This happened to me with both of my newborns, and has happened to so many other people I know who have newborns, I had to make it pretty, and now I do give this advice to my moms-to-be as a humorous warning that though you will be suffering from many sleep-deprived nights, one glorious night will come where you sleep completely through - and what happens immediately after that. It will come, so be prepared.