Except for head colds, headaches are the most common human ailment. In fact, headaches beat out backaches as the number-one cause of time lost from work. Approximately three out of every four people will have at least one headache within the year.

Headaches1.jpgSome headaches, like migraines, are caused by a disturbance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. However, according to Dr. Janet Travell and Dr. David Simons, specialists in musculoskeletal pain, “It is now becoming clear that tension headache is usually due to trigger points.”

Trigger points are small knots that develop in muscles. These knots or mini-spasms make pain travel to different areas of the body, often nowhere near the knot itself. For example, trigger points at the top of your neck can send pain directly into your eye.

The name trigger point comes from the fact that these knots can sit in your muscles for ages without causing pain until something “triggers” them to become active. Common triggers include fatigue, stress, poor posture, repetitive movements at work and cold drafts.

Massage therapy is a proven way of treating trigger points for long-term headache relief. In one study, researchers found that chronic headache sufferers had dramatic relief after ten massages that focused on treatment of trigger points.

Although you may get some relief with general relaxation massage, long-term relief depends on correctly identifying and treating specific trigger points which are responsible for your pain. Single muscle trigger points can often be eliminated quickly and easily, sometimes within one or two treatments.

In more complicated cases however, it may take significant time and your active participation to get lasting results.

When should you see a doctor?

In a small number of cases, severe headaches may be a warning sign of a more serious disorder such as very high blood pressure, stroke, bleeding in the brain or even a tumour. The following signs should send you to a doctor immediately:

  • you suddenly start having severe headaches, especially if they are your first ones and you are over 35 years of age
  • you have a severe headache during or immediately after physical exertion or straining
  • a headache with fever and neck stiffness
  • a headache accompanied by confusion or difficulty speaking—especially following a blow to the head, even one that occurred several weeks earlier
  • a headache accompanied by inflamed, clogged sinuses – it may be the result of infection and build-up of pus in the sinus passages
  • any increase in the intensity or frequency of headaches
  • your headache treatment guide

Many people use painkillers to get rid of their headaches. Don’t take painkillers for extended periods without consulting with your doctor. Because some medications, even over the counter drugs, have unpleasant and sometimes dangerous side effects it’s always best to rely on non-drug treatments when possible. Here are a few suggestions:

Relaxation training. Relaxation has been shown to be extremely effective in the management of headaches. For example, one study published in the journal Headache in 1989 found that migraine sufferers who were taught relaxation exercises had 30% to 40% fewer attacks over the course of three years. The subjects were also better able to cope with the attacks when they occurred and required less medication.

Cold. Reusable gel packs are an inexpensive and simple solution that can be used in place of or as an adjunct to medication. Keep the gel pack in the freezer. At the first signs of a headache put it in a tea towel and wrap it around your neck. About 70% of headache sufferers will experience some relief with the use of gel packs. If your headache gets worse after applying the pack, it is possible that the cold pack may be aggravating a trigger point.

Heat. Some people find that heat is better than cold at relieving headaches. Most gel packs can also be heated. They are generally safer and more effective than heating pads because they mold nicely to the shape of our neck and are less likely to cause burns. A hot bath or hot shower may even be better. Headaches caused by trigger points generally respond well to heat, whereas migraine headaches may be aggravated.

Headaches2Exercise. Regular exercise helps relieve stress and tension and thus can be an excellent way to prevent headaches. Neck, back, and shoulder stretches also help relieve tension and are essential for trigger point headaches. Ask your massage therapist for stretches that are appropriate for you.

Improved posture. Sitting improperly, at a computer terminal for instance can create tension in the muscles and trigger a headache. Slouching is particularly problematic as it prevents you from breathing normally and shortens the muscles in the back of your neck.

Get to the cause. A headache may be your body’s way of telling you that there is some underlying stressful problem in your life: a troubled relationship, an unfulfilling job, or an upcoming exam. Your headaches may go away only after these stressful situations are resolved.

Massage. This is one of our favourites simply because we know it works so well. Many people think that massage provides only short-term relief. However, research shows that not only is massage effective at eliminating headaches, but the relief can last for months. Part of the effectiveness lies in the elimination of trigger points. As well, regular massage can actually retrain your nervous system to decrease the tension in your muscles on a more permanent basis.

If you have specific health concerns consult your medical doctor. The information in this blog is educational only and is not intended to replace the advice of your personal health care providers.

Step into my office and allow me the chance to help you find peace and melt your stress away. Take a moment to enjoy the subtle fragrance of delicate layers of essential oils used in previous sessions. Nothing overpowering, only a hint a healthy aromatherapy.

Allow the dimness of the room to quiet the brightness of stress in your life and the coziness of my office to embrace you in an affectionate hug that lets you know “It is OK to let go of everything that is hindering you”. You can just make out the hum of an air filter drowning out other noise behind the soft music in the background. The music is melodic and dreamlike encouraging you to give in to the rhythms with your breath and heartbeat which seem to slow down and match the gentle pulse.

Tell me what is bothering you and let me work my magic. Maybe it is pain, or maybe it is inability to move the way you used to. Maybe it is emotional or mental, and not just physical. Whatever it is, know that it is ok to let it go, even if it is just for the time you are in my office. This is an office of sacred safe space. No judgement here. No stress. No anxiety. Only peace, tranquility, quiet, slowness.

For just a brief moment, I leave you in peace to soak it all in and to remove yourself from the everyday bustle of life. In the corner is a chair, a hanger, and a shelf for you to place your belongings. As you prepare yourself for your massage, please remember to remove all things that will hinder you from receiving the highest and most beneficial treatment that will allow your body to heal on all levels. This includes clothing and jewelry as well as thoughts. Take a moment to unplug, turn off the ringer on your phone. In this hour there is nothing that is so important that it can not wait for just a little while. Allow yourself to fully enjoy this time for the moment of healing it can be. You deserve this moment. You need this moment.

Carefully, tuck yourself onto the freshly cleaned, cloud-like linens embracing the massage table, allow the sheets and blankets to enclose your body and settle in around you. The gentle warmth of the table entices you into a state of relaxation before I even make my way into the room. You lay face down with your head supported in the soft memory foam face-cradle that allows you to breathe freely, anticipating the massage to come.

Stay tuned for part 2!
Until then feel free to book a non-virtual massage today!

OMG, if I could count on one hand how many people’s primary complaint is neck and shoulder pain, I wouldn’t have a job! Seriously, I can just about guarantee anyone walking into my office is going to have a complaint of EITHER Neck & Shoulder pain or Low Back Pain if not both.

People with neck and shoulder issues often have their pain return before their next massage appointment. Work, play and children all make demands on the body. A dull ache can quickly turn into a burning pain especially while folding laundry, doing yard work, playing on the computer or any of the other million things you do.

What can you do between professional massage appointments to take the edge off neck and shoulder pain? Here are some ideas.

Take a Break

Take short breaks as often as you can if you sit at a computer all day. Move your shoulders around and s-t-r-e-t-c-h. Ideally you can get up and move around a bit. But even if you’re chained to the desk, you can rock out a little Deskercise to stay loose.

Get the kids into it

Have a short yoga break together! There are plenty of videos made especially for kids, and the moves are just as beneficial for adults. Bonus: got a little one averse to naptime? Try the lying-down postures here and maybe you’ll get a short break.

Heat it

Just 10-15 minutes of heat on your shoulders can make a huge difference in how your tissue moves and feels. You don’t need a fancy heating pad, you can make one at home pretty easily. Check out this DIY tutorial.

Self-massage

Try it, you might be surprised how much it helps! It’s not complicated, just grab a tennis ball, a lacrosse ball, or even a red rubber ball and check out these techniques.

Choose the right pillow

superb_new_PILLOW_SILO_775_jjYou spend about one third of your time in bed, be sure it’s cozy for your neck. Side-sleepers have different needs than belly-sleepers. The right pillow at night can help you all day. I have a limited supply (FOUR) of Bed Boss Superb Pillows at the office. I like them because they are #1 shredded memory foam, so they keep their shape, but offer support too. #2 have a cooling gel insert so my head doesn’t sweat at night. #3 It’s just right for shaping it myself regardless of how I’m sleeping. They retail for $70 but the ones I have I’m selling for only $40. But once they are gone, they are gone. 

A few minutes of self care every day, little changes, can make a huge difference in how you feel. See you at your next appointment! Book your appointment online today! 

I tell my clients time after time to listen to their body. One way to listen to your body is through Bodywork and Exercise. What does that mean? How do you listen to your body?
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It means you have to be aware of what your body is telling you. Do you need to stretch a little more? Do you need more water? Did you overdo it? Are you imbalanced on one side of your body? Regular Exercise and Bodywork both can keep you in tune with your body. Ever ask … “How’d you know I was hurting there?” or “I didn’t even know I was hurting there until you worked on it!” This is because of that disconnect between what is happening in the body and what the brain accepts as reality. My working on that area helps to bring that area to the forefront that your brain can know what’s going on there.
The following was written by by Ruth Werner
You have to give us credit: as a culture, Americans are incredibly interested in getting fit. We invest every year in new diets, exercise programs, and supplements for weight loss and improved energy. Low-range estimates suggest that Americans spend about $2.6 billion each year on gym memberships alone.
We also tend to pitch full speed into any given commitment. If we’re going to get fit, by golly, we’re going to do it now, regardless of how long it took us to get into our current state. We don’t do things by half measures, and moderation is not in our nature. So how do we keep ourselves injury-free while honoring our commitment to exercise and get healthy?

Does It Have to Be All or Nothing?
We all know that starting an exercise program doesn’t actually mean we’ll finish it. When we throw ourselves into an ambitious new routine, we are likely to overdo it and get hurt. Then, we get discouraged, and may give up entirely, only to start the cycle over in another year or so.
Overdoing things in the gym or on the sports field seems to appeal to our competitive spirit–especially when we’re surrounded by others who all seem to be doing better than we are. Combine this kind of human drive with poorly trained athletic trainers who give bad advice about form, pacing, and effort, and we have a recipe for potential problems.
Exercise is only effective when it occurs without injury. Any new exercise program requires some caution, even if it is comparatively easygoing. And more challenging programs are safest and most successful when new participants build up their activity levels carefully and receive excellent guidance about form.

When It Goes Wrong
We accrue musculoskeletal and fascial injuries throughout our entire lifespans. In the best circumstances, they heal well, with a minimum of internal scar tissue, and function returns to practically normal levels. When things are ideal, that sprained ankle you got playing soccer at age 12 doesn’t affect your ability to walk in your 30s. The lumbar strain you got from picking up the heavy laundry basket 15 years ago resolved well, so at 62, it won’t hinder your golf game. We are able to adapt to minor injuries, and we learn how not to exacerbate them.
But when we introduce a new exercise program, especially if that exercise program is more demanding, or demanding in different ways than we have experienced before, we risk the flaring up of old injuries. Scar tissue does not have the weight-bearing capacity of healthy muscle or connective tissue. This is when that old sprained ankle may make itself known, and that weakness in your back will definitely have opinions about your new routine. Sometimes you might feel like your new commitment to fitness was not the best idea.

Injuries Can Happen Any Time
CrossFit is one program that gets a lot of attention because of its reputation for being especially demanding. But any type of exercise can lead to injury if correct form is not observed. Zumba, Jazzercise, and other dance-like programs bring a risk of foot and leg injuries, including sprained ankles, plantar fasciitis, and stress fractures, because the risk for twisting at the knee is so high.
If you aren’t paying close attention to your own limits, even yoga can be a source of soft-tissue injury: delayed soreness, problems at the neck and sacroiliac joints, or other injuries. One massage therapist reported seeing several injuries related to a prolonged yoga headstand, probably in a student who was not ready for this challenge.

How Can Massage Help?
Massage can help you deal with pain or soreness from your exercise regimen and can also help shorten recovery periods so you can train more efficiently. Although massage therapists are not primary care providers, and cannot diagnose conditions or prescribe specific treatments, your therapist may be able to offer excellent advice for dealing with a fitness-related injury. He or she may also have suggestions about warm-ups, cool-downs, and postexercise stretching, or be able to point you to an appropriate coach or other professional for specific exercise needs and to help prevent future injury.
The incidence of exercise-related injury has a lot to do with people not paying attention to their own needs. One of the many things massage therapy offers to people who want to become healthier and more fit is the chance to become more aware of your own body in a powerfully positive way. Increased body awareness and self-appreciation may be the best tools for helping you increase activity levels without hurting yourself. In this way, you can reach your goals with power and joy, rather than with pain and injury.

Ruth Werner is a former massage therapist, a writer, and a continuing education provider. She wrote A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology(Lippincott Williams + Wilkins, 2013).

As far as joints are concerned, the shoulder is truly remarkable. It moves in absolutely every direction. The only other joint that is even somewhat close in terms of the different types of movement is the hip. But even there, the mobility is much more limited.

You need a lot of movement in the shoulder to perform everyday activities. The ligaments that hold the upper arm bone, the humerus, in the socket are quite loose to allow for this wide range of motion. Because they are lax, they don’t do much to hold the shoulder together.

What really holds the shoulder together and stabilizes the joint are muscles that are referred to as the rotator cuff. There are four small muscles that run from the shoulder blade to the humerus. These muscles completely surround the humerus like a sleeve or cuff. They are very dynamic, contracting to stabilize the shoulder when needed or relaxing to allow you to move the arm freely. The movement of our shoulder is so free and easy that we often take it for granted.

How does a shoulder “freeze”?

Frozen1.jpgFrozen shoulder, also called adhesive capsulitis, usually starts with a minor injury. For example, you may jar your shoulder by tripping and breaking your fall with an outstretched arm. It may also start after an inflammatory problem, like a little tendinitis or bursitis of the shoulder.

Because the shoulder is painful, you’ll often limit your movement or stop using your shoulder to avoid any discomfort. Although it’s important to rest your body if it’s injured, the rest period should be limited to just the first 24 to 48 hours following an injury. If you restrict your movement for any longer than that, adhesions, constricting bands of fibrous tissue, start to form within the shoulder joint.

You are always moving your shoulders, even if it’s brushing your hair or reaching behind you to close the car door. Because of this ongoing movement, adhesions don’t normally have an opportunity to develop. Limit your movement for several days, however, and this fibrous tissue starts to stick to the ligaments in your shoulder, especially in the lower part of the joint where the ligaments are most lax.

Once these adhesions begin to form, the shoulder starts to feel stiff and uncomfortable. You’ll limit your movement in response to the pain and the reduced movement causes more stiffness. Before you know it, you’re trapped in what seems to be a vicious cycle.

If you don’t take care of the problem immediately, it will progress from a little discomfort to severe pain that interferes with your daily activities and your sleep. It can become difficult or impossible to do simple things like brushing your hair, doing up your bra behind your back or even reaching your arm back to put it into the sleeve of your coat.

Over time, you will be unable to lift your arm. Your shoulder, in a sense, becomes frozen, hence the name. The pain in the shoulder can be intolerable and will likely spread into your neck and arm as your body tries to compensate for the lost movement.

If you catch the problem early, you can recover relatively quickly with some regular massage and some self-care exercises that you can do at home. Otherwise expect a lengthy and somewhat uncomfortable course of treatment to regain your normal pain-free movement.

The conventional treatment for a severe case is manipulation under anesthetic. A surgeon will put you under and while you are asleep will force your shoulder through a full range of motion to pull apart the adhesions. Sometimes surgery is used. In either case, don’t expect a quick fix. This kind of treatment is usually followed by several months of physical therapy or massage therapy.

For moderate cases, doctors may use oral anti-inflammatory drugs, or they may inject cortisone or anesthetic medications into your shoulder to reduce the pain and inflammation.

Your massage therapist will typically treat frozen shoulder through a combination of massage techniques, stretching and possibly joint mobilization procedures. This will be combined with exercises that you must do between treatments. Your therapist will suggest a treatment schedule that is best for you. You’ll likely need frequent short treatments that may last for many weeks.

An ounce of prevention …

Benjamin Franklin is noted for saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This cliché couldn’t be any more true when it comes to frozen shoulder. To avoid the pain, disability and cost associated with treating frozen shoulder, be proactive.

Frozen2.jpgIf you injure your shoulder, see your massage therapist immediately. They can help you with the problem and give you exercises to prevent frozen shoulder from developing. It’s usually minor shoulder injuries that lead to frozen shoulder, so don’t think that because it’s a small injury that it will be fine if left alone.

If you have any shoulder pain, even minor pain that lasts for more than two days, pick up the phone and call your massage therapist. Unless you’ve seen someone with frozen shoulder, it’s hard to understand the pain and suffering you’ll save yourself.

The frozen shoulder mimic

Here’s something that most health professionals, including your doctor, don’t likely know: Trigger points in one of the rotator cuff muscles can mimic the exact same symptoms as frozen shoulder.

There’s a rotator cuff muscle underneath the shoulder blade (scapula) that is called subscapularis. It can develop knots or trigger points that cause symptoms that are almost exactly like symptoms of frozen shoulder. These knots refer pain into the shoulder in the same way and cause your movement to be limited in a similar pattern.

Unlike frozen shoulder, however, these trigger points can be deactivated, sometimes very quickly. Relief can be had after only a few sessions.

Most massage therapists are able to assess for these trigger points and help eliminate them from your muscles. So if you suspect that you are developing frozen shoulder, book an appointment with your massage therapist so they can check for this frozen shoulder copycat.

Your therapist may do hands on work to the muscle to get rid of the knot or they may use a gentle stretch technique where they will have you first contract and then relax the muscle as they pull it into a stretched position. There are a variety of approaches that can be taken and your massage therapist will choose the most appropriate techniques for your needs.

 

June is Migraine and Headache Awareness Month and we are going to jump right in and look at some ways to stop the pain before it starts. Are you ready? Let’s go.

Avoid triggers

If certain foods or scents have triggered headaches in the past, it could be time to make a note of them and avoid them at all costs. Things like caffeine, cigarette smoke, and bright lights can be a big culprit in spurring on pain, but it doesn’t have to be that obvious. Perfumes, loud noises, flowers, and even lunch meat have the power to make you miserable.

Workout often

Exercising on a regular basis reduces tension and can help prevent headaches. Choose something you enjoy doing – walking, biking, kayaking, hiking, etc. – and follow the proper guidelines for the exercise you’re engaging in. That means stretching and warming up slowly. And don’t forget proper hydration.

Bonus: It is also said that obesity can be a factor in triggering migraines, so exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight or lose excess pounds.

Eat and sleep regularly

Lack of sleep and skipping meals can aggravate symptoms for the migraine sufferer. Make sure you are getting enough fluids and are eating meals at regular times.If you are sleeping a lot, you aren’t eating and drinking. Go Figure. Make sure you are drinking enough water, many times dehydration is the first trigger for headaches and migraines. As soon as a tickle of a headache starts, make it a habit of going ahead and drinking a glass of water.

Strangely enough both extremes of “Lack of sleep” or even getting “too much sleep” will also aggravate symptoms, so implement a routine and stick to it.

I have recently read that especially Migraines with Aura can be linked to genetic issues (MTHFR gene) and Vitamin B and D deficiencies. If you haven’t had a blood panel run lately to see where your vitamin levels and hormones are, it may be worth checking into.

Control stress

Stress. Stress. Stress. It happens. Sometimes it’s hard to avoid. The only thing we can change is our response to it. Learn techniques to reduce stress levels like breathing, yoga and meditation. You can also combat stress with a massage, a long walk, a hot shower, or whatever you need to do to take the edge off.

migraine-headache-symptoms

According to the Migraine Research Foundation, nearly 36 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches. Acknowledging the triggers and patterns surrounding your migraine episodes will help you figure out what’s causing them and minimize your chances of experiencing headache pain.

In this stressed-out world, nothing beats a neck and shoulder massage. A simple shoulder rub or back massage can be incredibly relaxing.

Giving an effective professional-level therapeutic massage is something that requires training and years of practice. You probably don’t want to go through that. However, here are some simple techniques that will aid you in providing someone with a short, safe and simple massage.

The massage techniques outlined here are of limited therapeutic value. You won’t be able to fix tendinitis or get rid of chronic headaches, but you certainly will be able to help your partner relax a little and release some tension.

Some simple rules

While most people love and welcome a quick shoulder rub, check with your partner to be sure that they want a massage before starting to knead those muscles.

If the person has any severe pain or has had any recent injuries to the neck or shoulder area, don’t do this massage. Instead, suggest they see a massage therapist. While the massage may feel good, it could aggravate their condition.

The massage should not be painful. It should feel good. Pain will make your partner tense up and defeats the purpose of the massage. So be sure to check in occasionally to find out if the pressure is comfortable.

If you feel something that feels hard like a bone, it probably is a bone. Don’t massage it. Bones don’t relax. Bones also tend to be very pain sensitive. So everything you massage should feel relatively soft.

Don’t wreck your body

If you’ve tried to give someone a massage in the past, you may have found that by the time they felt relaxed your hands and arms ached. Follow these simple principles and you’ll be able to give a relaxing massage without feeling like you’ve wrecked your body:

  • Keep your shoulders relaxed
  • Keep your back straight and avoid bending excessively
  • Relax your hands between each movement
  • Use a slow, even pace
  • Use your thumbs as little as possible

And now, the techniques

We’ll illustrate some techniques to the shoulders and the neck. You’ll do these techniques while your partner sits upright in a regular chair. They can be done anywhere – in the office or at the kitchen table. You can repeat any of these techniques several times before going onto the next one.

The shoulder muscle is called the trapezius muscle. Massage therapists usually just call it the “traps.” This is easy to remember because this is where most of us trap our tension. The first technique is a simple compression movement that uses the forearms.
Five1.jpg

Stand behind your partner and rest your forearms on the top of their shoulders as close to the neck as possible (Figure 1). Keep your palms down so the fleshy part of your forearm, not the bony part, lies on the muscle. Let your weight fall straight down onto their shoulders toward their seat. Avoid pushing them forward and be careful that you don’t lean on their head. Hold this for several seconds. Slowly lift the arms and move them down the shoulder one inch. Let your weight fall through your arms again. Repeat this process several times. As soon as you start to feel the bony part of their shoulder under your forearm, stop, bring your forearms to the starting position and repeat the technique again. This forearm compression technique is simple to do, but feels fabulous.

Five2.jpgNow, move to the side of your partner. Feel the tip of the shoulder with your fingers. It will feel hard and bony. Move your fingers toward the neck until you feel some soft muscle under your fingers. Place your thumbs on that spot (Figure 2). Put one thumb on top of the other for reinforcement – each thumb will be doing just half the work.

Press straight down with the thumbs. You’ll be pressing on the trapezius muscle again. Press down slowly, then hold the thumbs in the muscle for a couple of seconds and then slowly ease off the pressure. Move one thumb width towards the neck and repeat the compression. You should be able to do four to six compressions before you reach the neck. Once you reach the neck, move your thumbs back to the starting position and do a second set of compressions to those same points. Move to the other side of your partner and repeat these compressions to the other shoulder.

Five3For this third technique, you’ll have to stand behind your partner. Drape one hand over each shoulder (Figure 3) as close to the neck as possible. Squeeze the trapezius between the fingertips and the heel of the hand. Keep your thumb beside your index finger so that it stays out of the way. Hold the squeeze for a couple of seconds and then slowly release your grip. Move out one inch toward the shoulders and repeat. You should be able to get three or four squeezes in before you run out of muscle.

Be sure that you have the whole muscle in your hand so that you don’t end up pinching the skin on top of the muscle. As well, don’t put your fingers too far around the front of the neck. You don’t want to choke your partner.

In the back of the neck you have extensor muscles that hold the head upright. Because of poor posture and extended periods of sitting at computers, these muscles can become very tight, tender and achy.

Five4To massage the neck extensors, stand to the side of your partner. If you are standing on the right side, you will make a C-shape with your left hand. Drape this hand over the back of the neck. Press gently into the sides of the neck with your fingers and thumbs (Figure 4). While maintaining this gentle pressure, do a large circular kneading action with your hand. The movement may remind you of picking a cat up by the back of the neck. This technique is usually referred to as a C-lift or C-scoop.

Do a half-dozen circles in one spot and then move up or down the neck an inch and repeat. Massage along the whole length of the neck. Be careful not to pinch the skin at the back of the neck. Move the skin with the fingers instead of sliding over the skin, so that you don’t burn or irritate the skin.

Five5Lastly, you’ll do a little kneading action to the base of the skull (Figure 5). This is where the extensor muscles attach into the head. To do this, cup your hand around the base of the skull. Gently rest your free hand on your partner’s forehead to support the head. Now move the fingers in a small circular motion, pressing into the skull as you knead. Do six to eight little circles.

Again move the skin and hair with your fingers instead of sliding so that you don’t pull the hair. Lift the fingers and move them a little closer to the center. Repeat the kneading action. Do several sets of these. To do the other side of the skull, move to the opposite side of your partner.

Finish off your massage with several gentle stroking actions down the head and back. These techniques should take about five minutes to perform. If you want to massage longer, simply do more sets of each technique. If you have any questions or would like more tips on how to give a simple massage, ask your massage therapist.

This is a topic that I’ve been meaning to write about for a while as it comes up more often than I ever would have imagined. I don’t know if it is a cultural thing or what but it boggles my mind to hear of how many people do not touch themselves! I’m not talking about in a sexual fashion. I’m talking about knowing your body and exploring it with touch. I kind of think it is outstandingly odd that in an area where hugging strangers is the norm, but touching yourself is taboo. (Why is that?)

Now that I am doing scar release therapy, I am learning that for some reason people just don’t touch themselves, ESPECIALLY when scars are involved, but also for many other reasons. After I have worked on an area that was full of scar tissue, I will check in and ask “How does this feel? Does it feel better?” and it always shocks me to hear “I don’t know, I don’t really touch myself there.”

Touch is one of the first steps in healing from a traumatic event. It is a way of communicating with your body that what has happened is ok, and you have survived and continue to live on.
selftouch
Touch is one of the first means of communication when it comes to discovering something is not right in your body. Finding those lumps, bumps, bruises, cysts, lesions, moles, bites, etc.

If you can’t identify what is healthy and supposed to be, how can you hope to identify when something is not right?

So, I plead with you! Touch yourself. Explore your body with your hands. Get to know what is supposed to be there. If you find something that feels off. Catalog it. Watch it. Get a second opinion. Watch for change. Watch for improvement or worsening.

There are some places you can’t see because of where it may be located. If you have a significant other … psssst … it’s ok to ask them to take a look at it! If you don’t … your doctor should have no issue checking it out for you.

I get it. I really do. When my first weird lump came up, the first person I turned to was my massage therapist. “Hey can you feel this and tell me if it feels normal to you?” She looked at me like I had three heads! I should have known what normal felt like, but I was just as guilty as the next person. I did go to the doctor and have it looked at, and it did turn out to be nothing.

Now, as a massage therapist, if I see or feel something while working on you, I promise you, I will point it out to you. I will describe it to you just how I feel it to be. But … I do not touch every part of your body. I’m actually precluded by law in touching some parts AND as a massage therapist, I’m not allowed to diagnose, so I will not do that. I can say, “Hey, I this feels a bit odd, what do you think? or You might wanna have this checked out.” But if you do find something odd, and ask me to look at it I can not say “That looks like cancer.” If it looks suspicious (not even talking cancer here … rashes, infections, or anything that isn’t “right”)…, I will say with strong conviction that you should have it checked by your doctor.

You really should be touching every part of your body every time you bathe anyway, how else can you ensure it is clean?

So, even though it is my job to touch people, and I do point things out to to people on a daily basis about their bodies. It is your body first, you should be more familiar with it than I am. It breaks my heart to hear things like … I haven’t touched that area with my hands since the accident/surgery etc. Please … touch yourself. It’s ok. It really is the first step in healing.
Nothing is so healing as human touch.

We live in the Skin Cancer Capital and Summer is right around the corner and where there is more sun, there is often more skin exposure. May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month and we are going to look at some ways you can prevent and detect skin cancer.

Dont be the onePREVENT

Cover up with clothes and sunscreen.

As a rule of thumb, cover up as much as possible. Be sure to wear a broad-brimmed hat and UV blocking sunglasses. Use broad spectrum (UVA/B) sunblock with SPF 15 or higher every day. If you’ll be active outdoors, opt for a water-resistant, UVA or UVB sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. (Sunscreens should be used on babies over six months of age.)

Did you know there is even UV protecting clothing?

  1. Solumbra 100% UV Protection
  2. Coolibar UPF 50+
  3. REI High UV Protection
  4. Columbia Omni-Shade

Avoid harsh sun and tanning.

Avoid getting a sunburned at all costs. Skip the tanning and never use UV tanning beds. The sun is strongest between 10AM and 4PM, so try to avoid the sun during these hours and find some shade. Make sure to keep newborns out of the sun.

DETECT

Perform a head-to-toe self exam.

abcde-of-melanomaThe Skin Cancer Foundation recommends everyone practices a self examination every month.  Skin cancers found and removed early are, more often than not, curable. You may find having a doctor perform the initial examination will help assure you that any existing spots, moles or freckles are totally normal and treat any that aren’t. After that a routine self exam shouldn’t take you longer than 10 minutes.

 

Get your partner involved.

In addition to seeing your physician annually for a professional skin exam, have your partner keep an eye out for any changes in your skin. Sometimes they see parts of our bodies that we don’t see everyday (like the small of our back or behind your neck). Have a discussion about the importance of paying attention to changes in your skin and make sure you return the favor by keeping an eye on any changes on their skin. Several of the Dermatologists in the area offer free screenings. 

Get regular massages.

First, you should know, it’s not up to your massage therapist to check you for signs of cancer, but it definitely can’t hurt having an extra set of eyes on you! When you are a receiving regular massages, your massage therapist will become familiar with your body and all the little markings that go with it. Sometimes, a massage therapist is a first line of defense since they will notice if a birthmark, freckle, or mole has changed size or shape.  I can’t tell you how many times a week I ask a client about a mole or weirdness, not just because I’m concerned, but to help you become more aware of your body if you aren’t already. I can’t diagnose, but I will let you know if I see something “different”. 

Prevention is only half the battle. And hopefully it’s the only battle you will ever face. If you should happen to find yourself in a different battle, the early detection of skin cancer is paramount. The sooner you catch it, the better your chances are of beating it.

Enjoy your summer, but remember to protect yourself from the sun and bring ANYTHING suspicious to your doctor immediately.

Having a good stretch once or twice a day feels good and can help prevent injuries (flexible muscles can do more), improve your posture (and as a result help with back pain), increase blood and nutrients to your muscles, and help you to feel less stressed.

Here’s what I do:
spine-stretch cartoon
Spinal Stretch – lie on your back, bring your knee to your chest and then across your body.
So your right knee will go over to the left side of your body. Hold this for at least 30 seconds. Then stretch the other side.
Seated-bend cartoon
Forward bend – Sit with your legs straight out in front of you stretch your arms up to the sky and then bend forward as far as you can. It’s ok to cheat and use a towel or a pillow case to increase your stretch. 😉

spinal twist
Spinal Twist- still sitting with your legs in front of you,  bend one knee to your chest then twist your body and hug your bent leg.
Other quick stretches (you can do these at your desk)

Clasp your hands behind you and pull back to stretch your chest. desk-stretches1

5-stretch-arms-shoulders-lgnHold your arm in front of your body and stretch it into your chest

Stretch your neck from side to side or do neck rolls

I bet you are feeling better already!neck stretch

Also check out You Tube for some quick stretching routines:

5 office stretches

5 minute yoga