Relaxation Massage and Deep Tissue: What’s the difference?

“What’s the difference between Swedish/Relaxation Massage and Deep Tissue Massage?” This is a very frequently asked question. The short answer: Each massage therapist has a different way of doing and explaining deep tissue massage.

My answer:

The “Deep Tissue” part has always confused me. When I first became a massage therapist deep tissue was all about the pressure. Dig in until it hurts and she’s squealing for me to stop. And then dig a little deeper. I never really liked that approach to pain relief. I also hadn’t taken very many continuing education classes or talked to experienced therapists to get the real story about deep tissue. This type of “push as hard as you can” massage was very painful to my hands. I was also not very good at it. After a while I just told people “I don’t do deep tissue. I take a more gentle approach.” This didn’t really do much for me, either, since people in pain don’t really understand a gentle approach, either.

And then I figured it out. For me.

In my massage practice deep tissue doesn’t necessarily mean deep pressure. If you schedule a deep tissue massage for 60 minutes and your focus area is your neck/shoulders it’s possible to get the full hour of work on your upper body. You can also get focused deep tissue work on your shoulders and neck combined with relaxation massage on the rest of your body. This is totally the best way to go. Relaxation is very important to prepare the muscles to be vigorously worked.

I always begin and end with relaxation massage. 

Neck massage

Neck massage

Your muscles are tight and in pain. You want relief. If I were to dig my elbow into your upper traps in the first 5 minutes your muscles would knot up and spasm, it wouldn’t feel good and you’d probably fire me! Instead I start with long slow strokes. I introduce myself to your muscle tissues. I prepare them. They are tense and fully engaged. They need to be coaxed into relaxing a bit before I can get deeper. Hot compresses applied to the muscles help loosen their grip on your bones and allow my hands to massage more fluidly with less pain. Will there be moments of discomfort? Maybe if I release a trigger point. Will I dig in as hard as I can go? Sometimes. Sometimes not. I will move your arms to shorten/lengthen muscle groups. I will use different techniques to release muscle knots and spasms. (Trigger point release, Neuromuscular Technique, Myofascial Release, Positional Release, Stretching and others.)

My goal is to administer the deep tissue techniques in a way that your body reacts as though I am using relaxation. I don’t want your muscles fighting back. I don’t want you holding your breath with your fists balled up. That is not helpful to your muscles or your mind. You should feel relaxed AND well-worked. You shouldn’t leave a massage in more pain than when you arrived. If you do then we need to talk about it so we can make changes to your treatment.

So which massage would you like to try? Swedish/Relaxation or Deep Tissue?

www.thecomfortzonemassage.com

Hair Professionals and Shoulder Pain

#24 of 31 blog posts in 31 days

I work in a Beauty Salon with two very talented Cosmetologists. Hair is the specialty for one, while the other specializes in nails. They are fantastically talented in their work. (And they are fabulous to work with!) It’s like a party every day 🙂

They are very hard-working women. They often work 12 hour days, sometimes longer with no real break to speak of. As a person who works in pain management, I can’t help but watch how they use their bodies while they work. Wow! Powerful arms and shoulders! With muscles tension and tight necks 😦

The Hair Specialist splits her days by hunching over a shampoo bowl and then holding her arms up. Have you ever lifted your arms up to shoulder height and just held them there? Now do that while squeezing your hands and releasing. I just don’t know how she holds her arms up all day without them hurting! Mine start burning after 5 minutes.

Her upper body muscles are incredibly strong. And incredibly tense. Her shoulder and neck muscles have something called hypertonicity. Hyper means too much, so it basically means too much tone. They are hard and probably hurt sometimes. This is one example of repetitive motion. I can always tell if someone does hair for a living by the way their shoulders feel. Hard, tight, and strong.

Stretching, movement, and massage can help with the tight, sore muscles.

The Nail Specialist spends her entire day holding hands, gripping fingers, filing, polishing, and looking down. Oh, she looks down SO much! It is very common for her neck and shoulders to hurt. They are also tight, hard, and strong.

I like to give them little shoulder rubs throughout the day. I also encourage them to change their movements often. And I TRY to get them to take a break once in a while! 🙂

And I always recommend a massage to loosen and relax those super-strong, super-tight shoulder muscles!

Why Should You Get a Massage This Week?

5th post of 31 posts in 31 days

Why should you get a massage this week?

1.  I have a few openings 🙂

2.  A half-hour massage is like a super-charged power nap.  You get to rest for 30 minutes AND get your neck, shoulders and feet rubbed.

3.  You battled massive, cranky school-shopping crowds in order to save the sales tax.  Let’s face it, even though you saved a bundle, scored some deals, and made it through alive, an hour vacation from people just sounds AWESOME.

4.  You’ve been working in the yard or garden and your legs hurt.

5.  Hot towels nestled atop your shoulder muscles for a bit feels AMAZING.

6.  A ninety minute massage can melt your stress, make you  drool, work out your muscle knots, stretch your muscles, relax your mind, recharge your batteries and renew your spirit.

7.  Massage feels good.  Especially on the scalp.  And neck.

There you have it!  7 good reasons you should get a massage this week.  There are many more reasons, but I need something to write about later 😉

Choose a reason and schedule an appointment.  I’ll be at  The Comfort Zone Massage Therapy  all week!

Progressive Relaxation Exercise

This is post #3 in the 31 posts in 31 days challenge!  

Progressive Relaxation is a fantastic process to learn.  You can use progressive relaxation to reduce stress, pin-point and prevent muscle tension, relieve muscle tension, fight insomnia and help with anxiety.  It is a simple process that requires you to slow down and focus on each different muscle group slowly.  By taking the time to focus and exert control over your muscles, over time you may be able to notice when you are holding tension in certain areas when you are working.  Maybe you shrug and tense your shoulders when you are angry.  You might clench your teeth and jaws while typing a report.  The sooner you notice these things the sooner you can relieve the tension and hopefully prevent or reduce painful symptoms.

I found the following Progressive Relaxation Exercise at Natural Touch Marketing.  I use the exercise myself and I recommend it to my clients.

Lie down or sit in a chair, wherever you are comfortable.  You will tense and hold each body part for about 10 seconds and then release it completely for at least 10 seconds.  Count to yourself silently from one to ten.

1. Clench your right fist, tighten the right arm and hold them tight.  Completely relax them, and then clench again.  Relax.  Now clench and relax your left arm in the same manner.  Now observe how your hands and arms feel.

2. Stretch your right leg out.  Draw the toes of the right foot toward the knee, tighten the whole leg, and hold.  Relax and then stretch and tighten again.  Relax completely.  Now do the left leg.  Now point the toes of the right foot, tense and hold.  Relax.  Left leg next.  Relax completely and observe how your legs feel.

3. Draw together the shoulder blades.  Tense and hold.  Relax completely and tense them again.  Relax.

4. Exhale and pull the abdomen in tightly and hold.  Inhale, and relax completely.  Again exhale and pull the abdomen in tightly and hold.  Inhale and relax.  Now observe how your back, chest and abdomen feel.

5. Tighten the muscles around your eyes and mouth, and hold.  Relax and repeat.  Relax completely.

6. Now breathe and observe your body.  Notice how you feel.  Do you feel differently?

This is great for those times you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep.  I also recommend doing this exercise regularly when trying to figure out why a certain muscle group always hurts or becomes tense.  Try it and tell us what you think!

Relaxation Massage

I have taken a challenge from a fellow blogger to post 31 times in 31 days!  Let’s hope I can make it!  Please, if there is a question or topic you want to know more about e-mail me or ask it in the comments.

I am a full time Licensed Massage Therapist working with different types of people.  I believe that a fantastic relaxation massage is a great foundation to have when addressing common aches and pains, shoulder pain, lower back pain, headaches, and stress relief.  These issues are the issues that are presented to me every day.  How do I begin to help these people?  Relaxation massage.  Almost every one I see has some sort of “problem area” or area of discomfort.  I pay special attention to these areas and utilize many techniques for pain relief.  At the core of it all, though, are my relaxation techniques.  It makes sense to me to relax the whole person, as well as “dig in” to the problem areas.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to have an entire hour (or more) to receive a blissful, relaxing massage, complete with a scalp massage AND some trigger points, friction, and deep kneading on tight shoulders?

The National Institutes of Health has written a nice article about massage therapy.  It is a general description with some positive statements.  Humans have a basic need for touch.  Massage Therapy is a great way to administer and teach healthy, nurturing touch.

Well, how is my first post of the challenge?  Please put post ideas in the comment section!  I can’t wait to see what I write about tomorrow!  (That’s right, I am going to fly by the seat of my pants!  Not too much planning…)

PS.  If it’s been a while since you’ve had a Fantastic Relaxation Massage, visit my website and schedule an appointment!

www.thecomfortzonemassage.com

The Waiting Room Headache

Do you ever get the feeling that you are different?  I stuck out like a sore thumb today!  While sitting in a waiting room, I noticed that almost everyone is reading something.   Several people were reading magazines, two people were reading electronic tablets, and one person had a book.  I, too, had a magazine to read.  But I looked a little different…

I see all these people with their reading material in their laps.   Heads are thrust forward, shoulders are sagging, and backs are all wadded up like an upright fetal position.  Comfy, right?  And then there is me.  I have my magazine held directly in front of my face.  I look like I’m hiding!  You know, hiding in plain sight like on a sitcom.  “You can’t POSSIBLY see me with this magazine covering my face!”  I don’t know if I looked like a fool or not, but I know I looked different from everyone else.

It’s amazing what I notice when surrounded by people.  You see, I am in the business of pain relief, and I have gotten pretty good at spotting pain.   Those people who stared into their laps all day long probably ended the day with a headache.  And neck pain.  And shoulder pain.  Actually holding the reading material in front of your face helps hold your head up.  The neck muscles don’t have to strain or pull on the back of your skull causing eye-gauging pain.  Well, it *might* not be eye-gauging but it could be.  Why risk it?

What did I do different?  I sat with *mostly* good posture while holding the magazine up to my eye level.  I also stood up and walked around a little bit.  Sitting for a long time is hard on the body.  By the time I rode in the car for an hour, sat in a waiting room for three hours, and rode home an hour, I was EXHAUSTED!  And my shoulders hurt a little bit.  But, you can be sure that I walked and moved around frequently.  I just don’t like it when my neck hurts!

The next time you have to wait somewhere and you whip out your phone or magazine try holding it closer to your eye level.  It works, trust me!  But if it’s too late and your neck and shoulder already hurt, please visit my website to see if there is a massage right for you.  You can even schedule an appointment right on the website with the “Schedule Appointment” Button! www.thecomfortzonemassage.com 

A Certain Pain in the Neck

Neck Pain.  A pain in the neck.  Unable to turn the neck one way or the other.  It burns.  It stabs.  It ACHES.  And it just won’t go away!  You know what I’m talking about.  Well, know what I’m talking about because, some days MY neck hurts!  And do you know what?  I don’t like when my neck hurts!  Yes, I stretch.  Yes, I get a massage week (really).   But I like to know WHY my neck hurts.  Or why YOUR neck hurts.  So I investigate.

There are many causes of neck pain in our every day lives.  Driving, talking on the phone, lifting, reading, and a thousand other things can cause neck pain.  But there’s a cause for burning neck pain right under your nose…literally.

I thought for a while that my vigorous work schedule was the cause of my neck pain.  I hurt while giving massage, after giving massage, at home on the computer, and even just sitting to watch TV.  I couldn’t figure it out.  And then…

In an effort to reduce my discomfort one evening while on Facebook  blogging, I put a pillow under my laptop to raise the screen closer to my eyes.  Aha!  It only took me two days to figure out the cause of my pain!  The laptop!  I spend several hours a night with my face buried in the laptop, sometimes working, sometimes just reading stuff.  Well, let me tell you, the lap is no place for a laptop!

When the laptop is directly in your lap your head is tilted down and forward.   (Check right now!)  One or more hours in this position puts a huge strain on ALL of your neck muscles!  And shoulder muscles.  And mid-back muscles.  And lower back muscles.  Should I go on?

So what now?  No laptop on the lap?  All things in moderation, I suppose.  For me, if I have a big work project like working on my website, the laptop and I will be at the kitchen table.  It isn’t perfect, but it is an improvement.  And for the casual internet surfing, webinar, and blogging?  I put one or two pillows between the laptop and my lap.   I’m looking into some kind of tray or portable desk.  I also take breaks, stretch and rotate the neck muscles.   And massage!  I get massage 🙂

The next time you have a burning pain in your neck, try to find what’s causing the pain.  Then find a way to lessen the pain.  Visit my website to see if there is a massage right for you!  www.thecomfortzonemassage.com  

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.