6 Steps to Fight Your Headache

Headaches.  I’m sure this word brings a series of wonderful words to mind if you suffer them.  Many of my clients tell me they suffer from frequent headaches.  Headaches aren’t fun.  I decided to write about headaches today because my head hurts.  I don’t like it and I feel like whining.  Since whining isn’t helping I decided to use this energy for good!  I did a few things to make my head feel better and thought, “HEY!  I could write this in my blog for someone else with a headache to read!”  So, here you go.  Six steps to Fight Your Headache.  I tried to make it five but I really didn’t want to leave any of these steps out because they all work together.

1. Neck Rotations

You don’t even have to get up!  Start by looking over each shoulder.  Slowly.  Relax your shoulders and straighten your spine so your chest is open.  SLOWLY turn your head to look over your left ear.  SLOWLY move to look over your right ear.  Do this 3-5 times slowly.  (See the trend?)  Now rotate your head so that your chin moves in a circle towards your chest, from side to side.  Do this 4-5 times.

2. Shoulder Rotations

Take a deep breath to relax your shoulders.  Now move your shoulders in circles, forward and backward.  5, 10 to 15 times feels great.  This gets the blood moving and the muscles start to loosen.  Now shake them out a little bit.  

3. Massage Your Neck

Take one hand, with fingers together, and make a “C.”  Put this “C” on your neck vertically.  Now move your fingers.  You can squeeze, push, shake, push, or pull.  Whatever feels good at the time.  Massage each side of the neck for a bit.  1-3 minutes should be great.  Or stop when your arm starts to hurt. 

4. Pressure

At the base of your skull there are two indentations on the side of neck.  These are a great place to apply pressure to relieve headaches.  Once you’ve found these indentations take one thumb and push into one side.  Hold for about 10 seconds.  You may push lightly or you could push very hard, whichever feels best at the time.  Push 3 times on each side.

5. Face Massage

Take your fingertips and rub circles into your forehead.  30 seconds to a minute feels good.  Rub gentle circles at the temples for as long as you like.  Rub your eyebrows.  You can apply direct pressure to your brows and cheekbones.  These areas can use a little more pressure.  Now rub big circles on your cheeks.

6. Scalp Massage

Lift your hands.  Spread your fingers out and bend them a bit to look like a claw.  Put your “claws” on your scalp and rub.  Fast.  Slow.  Deep.  Gentle.  Circles.  Lines.  ANY and ALL of them!  The people around you may look  at you funny because you might be moaning and groaning by now!  Do this scalp massage as long as you want to.  

Hopefully your head feels better now!  Mine does.  Even if your headache isn’t completely gone it should feel a lot better now.  You’re welcome 🙂

I give this advice to my clients and I hope it helps you!  I like to tell people that I fight headaches with my bare hands!  

Did it work?  How does your head feel?

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The Great Divide

There seems to be a great divide in the world of massage therapy.  Relaxation massage vs. therapeutic massage.  Is there a difference?  Is one more important than the other?  Is one BETTER than the other?  I spend quite a bit of my time reading discussions, debates, and comments about massage therapy by massage therapists.  We, the Therapists, seem to be entrenched in an epic battle trying to decide which is the better massage.  I don’t participate much in the dialogue, but I read every word that I can find.  (Often these discussions are what lead me to learn things about new research, good policies, business advice, etc.)

The terms differ a little but the sentiment is the same: “My massage is better than your massage and anyone who chooses to do something different is somehow inferior.”  To be fair, no one is really saying these specific words, but the tone is ever-present.  When did this divide occur?  Why is a relaxing massage not as good as “medical” massage?  Why can’t a “relaxation” massage be a “therapeutic” massage?

Massage therapy is used in many settings including, but not limited to spas, beauty salons, stand-alone places, chiropractor’s offices, doctor’s offices, hospitals, physical therapy clinics, dentist offices, and others.  All of these are different working environments with different training requirements and expectations.  But they are all administering massage therapy.  It seems that the people who are working in contrasting environments are trying to tear down the other.  I’ve seen comments from either side, as well as the middle.

I say, “Why can’t ALL massage be considered good therapy?”  

My massage style is a manifestation of both “medical”* massage and “relaxation”** massage.  I work in a salon and I don’t file insurance.  I give one-hour, ninety-minute, and hot stone massage.  My massage sessions are tailored to what the client needs that day.  I have some clients who want to “check out” for an hour, relax, revive, and feel good.  These are people who come in on a regular basis, some with pain issues, some without.  We talk about what they need that day, I turn on the music, they lay down and I give an awesome massage.  (They tell me it is awesome, so I’m taking their word for it!)

I also have people who are in pain.  They have an injury, a condition, or chronic pain that massage therapy can help.  I use different techniques, I focus on the painful areas, and put all my effort in to pain relief.  I have become really good at using relaxation techniques followed by muscle specific work to relieve pain while (gasp) simultaneously relaxing the person.  Bam.  The best of both worlds.

I think that relaxation massage IS therapeutic.  There is a lot of talk about the effects of stress on the body.  We Therapists are always talking about stress relief, lowering blood pressure, getting rid of headaches, relieving stress-induced muscle tension, and improving lives.  There are tons of articles circulating talking about all the health problems resulting from stress.  So WHY is a stress-reliving, relaxing massage not considered therapeutic by some?  A relaxing massage contributes to stress relief.  Stress symptoms can go away. Health problems that result from  excessive stress could improve.  Sounds therapeutic to me.

My clients don’t seem to have a problem with my location or massage style.  They know that if they always get general massage but one day have an injury or issue that I can change what I do to address the problem.  What is so wrong with that?

I don’t think one is better than the other.  I also don’t think that any style is more important than any other style.  It’s what is important to the client on the table.  That is the most important, the best.

Why can’t both be the “best?”  Aren’t we all just trying to help people?

* I am calling general massage relaxation massage, also known as Swedish massage.

** I am considering medical massage to be the people who self-describe themselves as that.  They may work in a hospital, or with doctors.  Often not in a spa or salon.

What do you think?

Massage Feels Like…

*If you’ve never had a professional massage before, here is a wonderful description.*

The door opens into a small room.  The room is lamp-lit with a massage table draped with soft linens.  A lavender scent lingers nicely.  This room is quiet, serene, simple, and designed for comfort.   Heat seems to radiate from the table into the body, no shivering in this room!  Soft, soothing music plays.  The songs are almost always unrecognizable but beautiful.  It  is enough to distract but never loud enough to disturb.

Hands with warm lotion or oil begin on the back.  Long massage strokes, one after the other, signal the muscles to relax.

Slow, relaxing massage on the whole back is followed by detailed, specific massage on each shoulder.  Living life creates muscle tension between the shoulder blades that travels up to the neck.  Kneading on each side of the neck and on each shoulder melts this pain away and deeply relaxes the body.  Hot towels rest between the shoulders to enhance the pain relief and deepen total relaxation.

From foot to hip, hip to foot, the legs are worked next.  First one leg then the other, these muscles get kneaded, pushed and pulled.

After turning over one foot is uncovered for massage.  That’s right, a foot massage!  A hot towel wraps and compresses each foot, followed by a luxurious foot and leg massage.

Each arm is then worked and stretched including the shoulders, biceps, forearms and hands.  Special attention is paid to the hands.  Thumbs knead the palms and then each individual finger is rubbed and pulled.

The massage ends with the neck, face and scalp.  Fingers massage each side of the neck from the back, side and front.  Tension is erased from the whole body with the face massage.  Slow circles at the temples are followed by deep circles on the jaws and cheeks.  Eyebrows are traced and compressed along with the sinus area of the cheeks.

Claw hands explore the scalp and hairline creating goosebumps from head to toe.  The scalp is kneaded and scratched both deeply and lightly.  PURE BLISS.  This concludes the massage session.  All you have to do is lie down and breathe.