Wednesday, March 28, 2018

What Do We Have To Be Afraid Of?

I am a chronic procrastinator. I've done it since I was a kid. If I had a project or report that was due in a month, I'd be pulling an all-nighter to start it. My procrastination has spilled over into adulthood. Loading the dishwasher - doesn't happen until the tower of dishes in the sink is unbearable. Usually I always have an excuse such as "I'm too busy", "This isn't a priority right now", etc. Sometimes things I procrastinate on cause me to be annoyed, and other things have caused me major anxiety. So recently I've been taking a look at my procrastination to get to the root of why I do it so much. I've discovered I have poor time management skills and I'm a little lazy. I also shut down when I get frustrated, hoping that my defiance will fix the situation which never works. But I have discovered that a small part of my procrastination stems from an odd sense of fear.

I have a window in my massage room that faces the parking lot. I decided that I wanted to remove the blinds and put decorative contact paper on the window to allow more natural light through but keep the window not see-through so I purchased the window film - 5-6 years ago. Then it sat in my closet. Every so often I'd look at it and say "I really should do that project", but always found a reason not to - I didn't have time, I didn't have the right tools, cutting/measuring supplies, etc. Always had a reason.

Finally, the window had enough of my procrastination. I was pulling up the blinds and heard a 'CRACK' before the whole thing fell on my head. The blinds were unsalvageable, so I decided this was finally my opportunity to end the procrastination. As usual, I found excuses to not come in the next day - or the day after that. Suddenly, a new client scheduled a last-minute appointment. Now I was out of excuses and out of time. So I packed up every supply I could think of and went in early to fix the window. Turns out the project went really easily, took almost no time, and ended up looking amazing. The whole staff complimented the result and has been raving about how good it looks since then. Now I look at the window and think "What took me so long?"

So I started thinking about it. I decided that the big thing that was holding me back from doing the project was fear. I was afraid that: 1. I overestimated my skill level in being able to do it so I wouldn't be able to do it right, 2. The end result wouldn't look good and the building owner would be mad at me, or 3. My clients wouldn't like it. I was afraid of failing at the end result so I chose not to pursue it. But did I really have a reason to fear it? Would it have been the end of the world if the window treatment hadn't worked out? I could have found an alternative. I'm good at finding unconventional solutions, so why did I let something so simple stop me? I started thinking about other places that I procrastinate and realized that fear is a big driver. I will put off scheduling meetings because I am afraid I will say something wrong and make a fool of myself. I put off tasks that could potentially cause a conflict. Dishwasher - that's just laziness - I can't blame fear on everything. But why do I have these fears? Is it my personality? Do I have some sort of chemical imbalance? Is it that people have repeatedly told me throughout my life that I will most likely fail and I don't want to prove them right? Why am I afraid of seemingly small and trivial things?

I guess scientists have been studying fear forever and why people are afraid of things, so it is no answer that I can give. The only thing I can do is train myself to recognize when I am using fear as an excuse and try to make myself answer - is this something that really needs to be feared? Is this fear justified? Will there be real consequences if my fear comes true?

How different would our lives be if we didn't let stupid, unfounded fears stop us? The fear doesn't always show up as fear - it can show up and hide itself as lots of different things, so how do we know that our excuses are or aren't fear? Fear is so often portrayed as a weakness, I think people don't want to admit that they can be capable of being afraid. For me, I'm trying to start recognizing this pointless type of fear when I make excuses and trying to ask myself "why am I afraid of this" and "Seriously, what is the worst that can happen, and is that really so bad?" If I start to do this with my routine fears, I wonder if I'll be able to let this spill over into bigger things, and who knows where that can lead?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Will a Prenatal Massage Send Me Into Labor?

Massage therapy has many incredible benefits, especially during pregnancy. However I have had pregnant women tell me is that they are in pain, their backs and muscles ache, but they won't get a massage because they don't want to go into labor. There are a lot of myths and old wives tales about how massage can affect the body. Some are based in fact, some are nothing more than urban legends.

So where does this come from? Several places, actually. One of the most common thoughts is based on the concept of accupressure - an generalized term for types of massage that utilize pressure on certain points in the body and that pressure makes things happen in other parts of the body. The fear comes from the thought if any of these points are touched on a pregnant woman during a massage, the body will immediately try to "eject" the baby. This simply is not true. First of all, the points used in acupressure are not that sensitive. In order to do any type of pressure or point work, pressure must be put on the point and held for 3-5 seconds. A simple massage will not make that happen.

This does not mean that acupressure has absolutely no effect on the body. There are a few points that, when pressed at the proper times, may be able to help labor progress and help strengthen contractions, but it can't initiate anything. (I am speaking on this not just from research, but from personal experience: my oldest daughter was 2 weeks late and I was looking at an induction so I spent the whole weekend before that rubbing and putting so much pressure on every point that was supposed to "send me into labor" that I had black and blue marks. Did it work? Not in the slightest.)

Now you may know someone who has had the experience of "she got a massage and that night she went into labor." Well, that may be partly true, but mostly a coincidence. The answer behind this phenomenon is a little less tangible. What happens in this case is that the massage is most likely not what "started" the labor. Instead what the massage did was relax the body and take away some of the physical and mental stresses that the body was under. The human body doesn't like to do anything, especially anything new or big, when it is under a lot of stress, so when the body relaxes and the stress goes away, it allows the hormones and nerves to act like a signal to the body that says  "Ok, everything is good - go ahead with starting that big thing you need to do." So it wasn't the massage that started the labor, the massage relaxed the body enough that labor was able to start.

Having said all of that, I have in my studies met people who claimed that were certified in something called “Induction Massage”. I have tried to look up information on this, but personally I have yet to find anything about this as a technique or a modality taught in a school. I also asked an advanced prenatal massage instructor about it and she had not heard of it either. So I’m not saying that it is completely impossible for there to be a type of massage that can send someone into labor, but as a disclaimer, I have not been able to find any specific information about this particular certification.

There is never anything wrong with a pregnant mother wanting to be super careful about what happens to her body, and going into labor early is way up there in the top “pregnancy fears” for every mom. But the benefits of a nice, relaxing prenatal massage can far outweigh the fear that it will trigger labor. The best way for a mom-to-be to protect herself is to make sure that any prenatal issues or conditions that may have discussed with her doctor are disclosed to the therapist before the massage, and to make sure she is seeing a therapist who is a Certified Prenatal Massage Therapist, not just one who “can do prenatal massage”.  When in doubt - ask the doctor both if massage is safe for this particular pregnancy, and if he/she can give a referral to a properly trained therapist.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

"Don't your hands get tired?"

Don't Your Hands Get Tired? A Caring Touch: Massage Therapy - One of the questions I get asked most frequently as a massage therapist is "how do you do massages all day and not have your hands get tired?" Well, I never really thought about it until recently. I was in hour 4 of a marathon 8-hour corporate massage day and the I-lost-count-ith person asked me this question. My usual response to this question is "proper training" and a joke then the question usually dies there. But what exactly is it about this proper training that lets me keep using my hands for so many hours at a time without getting tired? There are a few factors involved:

1. Muscles - the right ones
The 'proper training' I refer to means that in learning how to do the actual massage strokes and techniques I use, I have also learned the proper way to do those strokes and techniques. I've learned how to properly hold my hands, move my arms, how to apply pressure by using the right muscle groups and positions. You know how when you ask someone like your spouse to rub your shoulders and they squeeze for a few seconds then complain their hands hurt? That's because they are probably just using their fingers and top parts of the hands instead of the whole palm and forearm muscles - the fingers have smaller muscles than the palm of the hand, so they get tired more quickly. Learning how to use the proper larger muscles to do the work instead of the smaller hand muscles demonstrates how proper training in how to do things rather than trying to replicate what it looks like to do things can really make a difference.

2. Things aren't always as they seem
A Caring Touch: Massage Therapy -
So hands aren't the only thing I actually use to do a massage. Yes, look at any massage video and it appears that hands are the only things being used, however in addition to using my hands, I also use something that can't be seen - gravity and my body weight. I use my hands to a point, but I also use what is called "Proper body mechanics" to press harder and apply deeper pressure without using my actual muscles and therefore not tiring myself out. Yet another benefit of proper training.

3. I have a past...
One thing in my past gives me an advantage to not getting tired doing massages that has nothing to do with proper training. I used to be a professional dancer, which although many people think isn't a big deal, as far as body conditioning and endurance goes, I qualified as an elite-level athlete. I was used to beating my body up with cardio and strength challenges for 12+ hours a day, so standing and using significantly less muscles for multiple hours is not a big deal because instinctively my body is used to a lot more.

4. Proper self care
After many years of beating myself up, massage may be "easy" on my body, but it isn't all easy. I'm significantly older and heavier than I was when I was dancing, plus even though I still teach dance, I am nowhere near keeping up with the cardio work that I used to do, so  I have to rely on other things to keep myself functioning well. Nobody can function in any way if they don't practice some levels of self care. I rest when I can, I massage myself and use heat on my hands when I've had a particularly long day. Massage has left my hands very sensitive especially to cold, so I own multiple pairs of gloves and almost always have a pair nearby to keep my hands safe and comfortable. I get massages myself when I can (not nearly enough - I know, but who follows their own advice?) and I rely on the amazing chiropractors/Applied Kinesiologists at Integrative Health Care Associates that I work with to keep me running. There is much more self care I should be practicing to make things even better, but for now, I'm hanging in there.
A Caring Touch: Massage Therapy -

All in all, there is no one answer to "Why my hands don't get tired". (Although, they do - I'm human after all, but I know how to work with and through the fatigue and how to best treat it afterwards.) The only important thing to know about my hands and massage is that as a properly trained professional, my goal is to provide you with the best, most effective massage that I can give you - using whatever "tricks of the trade" I need to make that happen.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Should I Use Heat or Ice On My Injury?

Should I use heat or ice on mu injury?
If something hurts, one of the things that people tell you is to "Put ice on it" or likewise "Put heat on it". A common question that my clients ask me is "Which one should I use?" Both have their benefits, and either one can be used - depending on what is causing the problem.

Let's look at Heat
First of all, what does applying heat do? When heat is applied to an area of the body, it causes your muscle fibers to soften, loosen, and relax. It also attracts red blood cells to the area which help increase your circulation and those red blood cells then bring nutrients and good stuff to the area. Also, as the heat makes those fibers relax, any nasty stuff like lactic acid and toxins that were hanging around in the area or tangled in the muscle fibers are then carried away by those same red blood cells. 

when to use heat vs iceWhen to use heat
Heat is best used when muscles are tight or in the case of an injury such as a muscle pull or an overuse / repetition injury. Lifting too much weight or being a weekend warrior and being sore the next day could use heat to relax muscles and take away the lactic acid that is causing the soreness. Heat also helps muscle spasms relax. If you sit in front of a computer for work too long and constantly have neck or low back issues, some heat can help those stiff and 'stuck' muscles soften. 

How to apply heat
There are a number of ways to safely apply heat. You can use an electric heating pad, a hot water bottle, or one of those popular rice-filled pillows that you can microwave to get warm. However the best type of heat to use is moist heat. Since your skin is porous, adding a little moisture lets the heat soak into your muscles a little more for a deeper, more effective treatment. You can add moisture to your heat by sprinkling a little water on your rice pillow before microwaving it, and some electric heating pads have a thin sponge that you can dampen and slide in under the cover. Another method is to make a simple hot towel: Take a regular hand or dish towel, soak it in water, wrap it up and put it in the microwave for about 60 seconds. Take a dry towel and lay that on your sore area, then lay the hot towel on top of it, then either take another dry towel and lay it on top, or if the bottom dry towel is long enough, you can wrap it up over the hot one, then just let it sit until it cools off. They key for using any type of heat application is to make sure that the actual hot object is not touching your skin directly and there is some sort of barrier (A towel, a cover, etc) between the heat element and your skin to prevent burns. Most doctors recommend either heat or cold treatments be done in increments of 20 minutes on the sore spot, then 20 minutes off, then repeat. 

Now about cold
Cold is usually recommended when you need the opposite effect of heat. Cold makes things condense or shrink so it is used to make things smaller, decreasing things like inflammation, swelling, and bleeding. You may have heard of R.I.C.E. in first aid - Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation as a first step for an acute injury. The ice keeps the swelling following the injury from getting too bad so that a proper diagnosis can be made, then it can help calm down the side effects of that injury.

When to use cold
Cold is best used if there is swelling or inflammation that you want to decrease. Conditions such as tendonitis, bursitis, or a sprain or strain on a joint where there is swelling or irritation can be calmed down by cold. Occasionally, even migraines are advised to use cold to numb the nerves and decrease pain levels. Cold is also useful if there is a chance that an injury could leave a bruise since cold can help slow internal bleeding, therefore making a bruise less severe.

When to use cold vs heatHow to apply cold
Just like with heat, whenever using an application of cold, you want to make sure there is a barrier such as a towel between the cold object and your skin. You don't want to risk frostbite or the cold object sticking to your skin because that will just make things worse. Ice or an ice pack is a quick and easy way to get cold applied. In a pinch, you can always use the "mom trick" of grabbing a package of frozen vegetables for a short term fix. You can also freeze that same rice pillow that you have on hand for heat applications as well. Physical therapists often have a mixture of water, salt, and rubbing alcohol that freezes very cold but stays pliable so it can be wrapped around an area such as a joint to keep it cold for a long time. 

My personal thoughts on heat vs. cold
Over the years, I've sustained many injuries and while I try to stick to what the research and doctors tell me, when it comes to heat vs. ice I have found that truly, the best thing to use is whatever feels right for your body. Yes when I roll over my ankle I put ice on it, but personally, when my hip flexor tendonitis flares up, I will usually use heat on it because if feels good and I know my body will respond positively to it. When my hands are swollen at the end of a marathon day of massages, I dip them in a hot paraffin bath - cold really bothers my hands so I usually turn towards heat even if the research says that this condition should have a cold application. So ultimately, there is research, there is recommendations, but if you really want to know which you should use for your pain - ice or heat, check to see what your doctor says and try it, but if it doesn't feel like it is working, or if you are more comfortable with another method, don't be afraid to use whichever temperature feels best for you.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Bare Minimum

We had a small winter storm this past weekend. Just some ice and snow that came overnight. That meant clearing off my car and the driveway before going to work that morning. My husband and I both had our cars in the driveway, but I only had time to clear my car's side of the driveway before I had to leave. So I did the bare minimum - I partially dug out my car and took off for work. My husband also had to go to a meeting that morning and left before I got home. By the time I returned, the sun was out and I noticed that before he had left, he had not cleared any of his side of the driveway - he just cleaned off his car and drove over the snow without clearing any more of the driveway. So I got out the shovel again and continued to clear the driveway as well as the sidewalk. That's when I noticed something.

The parts of the driveway that I had shoveled before I left had a much thinner layer of snow and ice, so when the sun came out everything that I had put a bare minimum into came up and cleared easily. The parts of the driveway that my husband hadn't cleared at all was still pretty thick, and even while working at it every few hours, the snow on that side of the driveway never really was able to be cleared, and ended up icing over and ultimately getting worse.

That morning, I had originally felt a little guilty about only doing the bare minimum in clearing the driveway and not doing a more thorough job at the time. However, I did what I needed to do at the time and later in the day I was, in a way, rewarded in that the driveway cleared more easily and completely, while the side where no effort was made was almost worse. Even though I didn't put out any huge effort, it still yielded better results than putting in no effort at all.

I thought about how that can also be applied to your health. Sometimes we want to make changes for ourself and we steer away because we may not see major results right away. Working out or dieting, or any type of life change or healing - if we don't see huge results, we tend to get frustrated and give up, then never want to try anything like it again. I'm guilty of it myself. I've often seen this in my massage practice. I've spoken to people and they tell me about pain they have and I suggest trying a massage, chiropractic work, or even simple lifestyle changes. I very often hear "Oh I tried that once. I still had the pain the next day, so that obviously didn't work so I'll probably won't ever try it again."

What people don't realize is that one small step is often not the cure, but the first step towards the cure. It can be frustrating to want to fix something so badly and not find that "magic wand" that fixes everything immediately. But instead of putting in any effort, the frustration leads to doing absolutely nothing.

The bare minimum can be seen as laziness or a cop out, but it can also be seen as a start. It isn't much, but something is better than nothing and may lead to better results down the road.  The hard part is getting the guts to do something, anything, to start or take a risk, even if it is only the bare minimum - then trusting that that may have started something, even if the results aren't seen instantly. I never thought the bare minimum of shoveling was much, but after seeing the long term difference between the bare minimum or nothing makes me wonder about how valuable the bare minimum might be. Where could the bare minimum ultimately lead if you do it?

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

3 Ways to keep "Too Much, Too Soon" from ruining your New Year's Fitness Resolutions

3 Ways to keep "Too Much, Too Soon" from ruining your New Year's Fitness Resolutions- A Caring Touch: Massage Therapy, State College PA
 One of the most popular New Year's Resolutions is to lose weight and/or increase fitness. More than 45% of people make this resolution every year. The first two weeks of January, gyms are packed, search engines see a 35% jump in "workout" as a search term, and morning talk shows all feature easy ways to get in shape for the new year. Unfortunately, by February, 73-80% of these resolutions have been abandoned. So why? One of the biggest reasons it fails is because people simply push themselves too hard too quickly. The excitement of getting started with a new routine can really get you going, but if you haven't worked out intensely in a while, it is really easy to overdo it and suddenly be incredibly sore or exhausted the next day, which can lead to "Oh, I'll take a day off to recover" which leads to never going back. To avoid running into this, it is important to take care of yourself outside of your new fitness routine. Here are some things to help:
1. Stretch - Many people know cardio and strength training helps condition their muscles and make them healthier, but many people forget about stretching. It is a common misconception that you only need to stretch if you want to increase your flexibility, but stretching can also help you prevent injuries and soreness. You know how you feel sore and burn-y after lifting something heavy? That is lactic acid - the by-product of muscles working. Stretching helps increase circulation which keeps muscles healthy and also helps flush away lactic acid, keeping you from getting too sore. Stretching also helps your muscles from getting injured. When working out or lifting something heavy, your muscles can get something called micro tears - little tears in your muscle fibers. These micro tears are usually no big deal, and we routinely get them all the time doing everyday things and usually we don't notice them at all. However, when a micro tear happens, it can fill in with scar tissue - again, something we all have and usually doesn't cause any issues. Stretching keeps this scar tissue long and loose rather than tight and bunchy so your new strength training doesn't feel like an injury.

3 Ways to keep "Too Much, Too Soon" from ruining your New Year's Fitness Resolutions- A Caring Touch: Massage Therapy, State College PA
2. Massage - Massage also helps with increasing circulation, flushing lactic acid, breaking up scar tissue, alleviating soreness, and many other things that can minimize the achy side effects of your new fitness routine that might make you tempted to quit. In addition, it can also help your mental state. Reducing stress through getting a massage helps flush away the stress hormones of cortisol and adrenaline which sometimes can contribute to bloat around the midsection. Massage also gives you a chance to help your mental calm and clarity which can go a long way towards making your workouts more effective and seeing results faster.

3. Avoid unrealistic expectations - It is very tempting to go hard into your new workout and eat nothing but smoothies and salad for two weeks, then put on your "skinny jeans" only to still have them not fit, so you get frustrated and give up. Often, it can take as much time to undo something in your body as it takes to do something to your body. So if you have been gaining weight for 5 years, it will be rare to lose that whole 5 years of weight in two weeks - or if you do, you might have other health issues. Keep your workouts simple, healthy and consistent, stick with it, and celebrate small victories rather than getting frustrated if you don't achieve the big ones right away.

Overall fitness resolutions are a case of 'slow and steady wins the race'. The temptation to push yourself to do too much too soon will almost always result in frustration and pain which leads you to be more likely to give up. If you want to push yourself hard, don't forget to take care of yourself outside of your fitness routine as well.
3 Ways to keep "Too Much, Too Soon" from ruining your New Year's Fitness Resolutions- A Caring Touch: Massage Therapy, State College PA

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Detective vs. Mind Reader

I haven't posted for quite a while, but sometimes it takes taking a step away from something to help you to realize what you actually want to do with it. So I guess from now on the blog will be kind of a fusion of musings, possibly some rants, and any interesting information I've picked up along the way. Bit of a mish-mosh, which kind of describes my life right now, so what better place to let the mish-mosh flow.

When I was young, I read a lot. I mean A LOT - I was that kid who always had her nose in a book, whether it was on my own, or on the playground at recess. One of the things I liked to read at the time was a silly little series of books called "Solve the Crime" where a kind of police report of a crime (nothing too gruesome - it was a young reader's series) was presented, and the reader had to figure out the guilty party, who was lying, etc and how to prove it. I was surprisingly good at solving the mystery, and even speculated at one point about becoming a detective.

Fast forward many many years and several careers later, and Detective never made it onto my resume, but Massage Therapist did. I have discovered that in several ways, Massage Therapy is a little bit like detective work. A Client comes to me and tells me something pretty basic - "It hurts here". From there it is up to me to first ask questions: "How long has it been hurting, did you do anything that you can recall started the pain, does anything in particular aggravate the pain, etc". Next, I find the source of the problem, and implement my knowledge and training to try to repair or resolve the problem, then educate the client on what should happen next whether it is more massage, exercise, or whatever. It's no CSI, but all the same steps are there. So in a way, I guess I get to be a detective after all.

Now, just because I'm not a bad detective (if I do say so myself), that doesn't mean that I am a mind reader. I find this is a big area of client-therapist communication breakdown, especially if the client is either brand new to the therapist or if the client has been seeing the therapist for a long time. New clients can often not know exactly how much to tell the therapist, and established clients can often fall into "oh, she knows this already". Well, like I said, I can use detective skills to find a problem, but if something else is there that a client didn't divulge, I may not be able to find it right away. I can't tell you how many times I've been almost completely finished with a massage and the client will speak up with "Oh, the other day I ... and I think I tweaked ..., so could you work on that?" With 2 minutes left in the session, it is kind of difficult to start working on a new 'project', and it can cause the client to not get their issue fully addressed and the therapist to stress out, trying furiously to get them some sort of relief.

So I guess the moral of the story is, there is no such thing as giving your therapist too much information, but trust them and let them do their job. Give them what they need to find and solve the case, but don't withhold evidence that can keep them from doing their job. Now should I consider adding PI to my title? Nah, too many letters.