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

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Running, Beginners and Injury Prevention

2013 rolled in with sparkle and shine, champagne and fireworks!  Many folks make New Year’s Resolutions with the intention of improving their lives, fattening their wallets or losing weight.  If you’re one who started exercising or running, how are you doing? One mistake people make is doing too much too soon. Over-doing it can cause pain and injuries to your whole body.  One common misconception is “no pain, no gain.” While muscle soreness is common with running and exercise, excruciating pain is a sign that something is wrong.

People who start running regularly after not exercising at all need to prepare their bodies for movement. It’s great to want to get out there and sprint a mile your first 3 days! But you increase your chances of injury and the pain you feel will probably discourage you from continuing to run. If you have never been a runner before do some research for beginners. If you know a fitness expert or personal trainer who specializes in running, make an appointment or send them an e-mail asking the best way to start. Talk with your physician or health care provider to make sure running is the right exercise for you. Wouldn’t it be awesome to set goals with your doctor?!

If you don’t know a trainer there are also many online programs to help you get started. There are a few versions of Couch to 5K available, just Google “Couch to 5K.” These programs or applications map out a training regimen to get you started, gain momentum, and then complete a certain amount of miles. These apps are an awesome way to “check off” your progress.  Most importantly, they help you to get started! The first step is the hardest.

Injury prevention should be a priority while running. Of course, speed or distance is what you focus on, but preventing serious injury is important.  If you are following a training schedule for a race, then follow it. Rest periods are just as important as run days. Short days are short for a reason. Long days are tough but rewarding.  Eat, drink and sleep the proper amounts to make sure your body has the fuel it needs to keep moving.  Rest days are good for other things like yoga, an exercise class, massage, weight training, or absolutely nothing.

Good running shoes are a must! Try on several, research them in magazines and on the internet. The right shoes can help prevent leg pain, lower back pain, and even foot pain.

It’s only the first month of 2013 and you’re doing great! Pay attention to your body, follow your training schedule and keep going into February. You can do it!

www.thecomfortzonemassage.com

How To Survive Black Friday

How To Survive Black Friday:       STAY HOME!

Just kidding 😉

1. SMALL PURSE  You know that gorgeous bag that holds your iPad, phone, two diapers, wipes, wallet, lip balm, make-up, deodorant, and half your junk drawer? You’re going to want to leave that at home. Find a small purse that you can drape across your body. You should only need some cash, cards, and identification. And maybe a coupon. Your shoulders don’t want to lug around all of your possessions! It hurts!

2. SHOES Wear sneakers. Sure, those knee-high boots will look cute with those new jeans but if you plan on walking, standing, and driving for the next 12 hours I recommend a nice comfy shoe. Your legs and back will thank you the next day.

3. ATTITUDE You’ll probably encounter a pushy crowd in line, at the door, at the check-out and at the bathroom. For every curse you wish to throw out try a smile. Or a “Bless Your Heart.” You won’t accomplish much by being nasty. Close your eyes and go to your happy place 🙂

4. PUSH IT!  Use a shopping cart as much as you can. You may be buying bulky toys, electronics, and bedding. These things are heavy and cumbersome to carry. Push them in a cart, save your back. Buying tons of stuff? Bring a partner to push a second cart.

5. LEAVE THE KIDS AT HOME Trust me your five-year-old does NOT enjoy regular shopping so they won’t have fun on a marathon shopping trip. Your baby wants to say home, too. You’ll get more accomplished and your kids will get the rest they need at home. Do you really want them to hear all that “cheerful” language from the people who don’t get their one-of-a-kind-sold-out-because-the-store-only-got-2-in-to-sell?

6. REFRESHMENTS Eat. Drink. Nourish yourself. You’ll be less angry if your sugar stays stable and your tummy is full 🙂

7. DROP OFF Haul your booty to the car! And by booty I mean items, goods, stuff you bought 😉  Again, your body doesn’t want to drag that stuff around all day.

8. STRETCH AND BREATHE Once you’ve stood in line for an hour to get your big items you’ll have to stand in line another hour just to check them out. Stretch your arms and legs so you don’t cramp up!

9. GO HOME! When you feel the tears coming on, when you can’t remember why you’ve gone into a store, when you’ve hit the wall, go home. Gather your treasures and head to the house. Soak in a hot tub, get in your comfy clothes and begin your Holiday Season.

10. RECOVERY A marathon shopping experience will result in a headache, sore legs, hurting feet, and tight shoulders. Plan your recovery by scheduling now for a massage next week!

www.thecomfortzonemassage.com

Happy Shopping and Happy Thanksgiving!

What is Fibromyalgia? Part 2

In the last post I asked the question, “What is Fibromyalgia?” Then I talked about pain. Long-lasting pain.

People ask me all the time, “What kind of pain?” And the only answer I can give, from my personal experience in my massage practice, is that the pain is different in each person. Clear as mud, right?

According to MayoClinic.com, women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men. There is pain that is often joined by fatigue, sleep issues, memory issues, depression and anxiety. So not only does it hurt physically, it hurts emotionally.

I have worked with people whose pain keeps them in bed for days. Each small task seems almost impossible. Loading the washing machine might cause excruciating back pain. Sometimes even lifting a glass to drink might be too painful. It isn’t uncommon to suffer depression, too. Depression, anxiety, and fibromyalgia often have a which-came-first discussion.

Some will say that the pain causes the depression. Others say that severe depression can cause the pain fatigue.

I have also worked with people whose pain isn’t quite so severe. It ebbs and flows.  One woman works out every day to keep the pain mild. Another can only work out when she feels well. It affects each and every person differently, but profoundly.

The pain isn’t consistent throughout the body, either. For some the pain is in the neck and shoulder area with major headaches, poor range of neck motion, and constant pain. Others may have severe lower back pain, knee pain, or arm/hand pain. In some the pain acts like arthritis. Others the pain acts like severe muscle spasms. Most of the people I have worked with have good days with mild to no symptoms, as well as bad days with mild to severe symptoms. Each day can be different.

Treatment plans for fibromyalgia often include antidepressants and pain medications (over the counter or prescription.) Therapy or counseling may help with understanding how to deal with possible life changes. Having a good support system in your life who understands the situation is a tremendous help. Massage therapy, chiropractic and acupuncture could be used in addition to what ever the doctor suggests.

www.thecomfortzonemassage.com

What is Fibromyalgia? Part 1

What is Fibromyalgia?

To the person who suffers it is pain. The kind of pain that keeps you in bed. Pain that never seems to go away. Pain that controls your life. Pain that no one seems to understand.

To the doctor  whom the patient sees it is a challenge. It is an enigma,  an ever-changing target.

To the loved ones of the afflicted it is a worry, a concern, a wish to make things better.

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia:  is a neurosensory disorder characterized by widespread muscle pain, joint stiffness, and fatigue. The condition is chronic (ongoing), but pain comes and goes and moves about the body. The disorder is often misdiagnosed or unrecognized and is and often complicated by mood and anxiety disorders. (found here)

So, really, what IS Fibromyalgia? We can say that it is chronic pain. We can read that the pain moves to different areas of the body. We can hear our loved one say that they cannot get out of bed some days. We hear them but do we understand? Do we really see?

I work with a few people who live with Fibromyalgia. It is SO completely different in each person that I find it hard to define. I read a book once who called it “The Thief.” (I cannot remember the name of the book, sorry.) This woman called Fibromyalgia “The Thief” because is was stealing her life. Day by day. Moment by moment. Pain. Pain that doesn’t go away. It just becomes tolerable.

I’ve worked with clients whose doctors told them that their pain wasn’t real. They were told to “get over it,” and “we can’t find anything wrong with you, but you’re depressed.” They were given pills and sent home feeling defeated and crazy.

But you don’t need to feel crazy because Fibromyalgia is real. And it hurts. And you very well may be depressed.

I’ve also seen clients whose doctors were amazingly empathetic. The doctors worked with them to try to find solutions for the pain – pain meds, physical therapy, antidepressants, massage therapy, spiritual therapy, and counseling.  Even if the pain didn’t go away the patient had the confidence that comes with being heard and believed.

The next post, maybe two, I will explore in more detail this “Thief” named Fibroyalgia.

www.thecomfortzonemassage.com for more information about the type of Massage Therapy I offer.

Knee Pain and Runners

Runners eventually suffer some type of knee pain. Pounding the pavement on a daily basis is a great form of exercise. All that pounding puts stress on the joints and ligaments. “Runner’s Knee” is a generic term describing knee pain that could be from many different causes.

The muscles surrounding the knee can cause knee pain from overuse. “Overuse? But I’m training! I need to run everyday!”All muscles and joints want and need to move and be used, there’s no question about that. Just pay attention to your body’s cues to rest or cut back. 🙂

When someone calls me with knee pain from running I massage the WHOLE leg. All of it. The back of the leg (hamstrings) shorten with every step taken. Imagine you are running. Your foot lands and these muscles lengthen a bit and then tighten just enough so you don’t fall. They then immediately shorten again, pulling the foot off the ground and propelling you forward. Step, shorten, step, shorten, step, shorten, etc.

These hamstring muscles are often tight and short on a runner’s leg. The ligaments and tendons are often overstretched and pulling around the back of the knee.  And now you have knee pain. Stretch. Assess how MUCH you are running. Are you running too much for your skill level? Should you change shoes? Change your speed or route?

The front of the leg is also an important factor in running and your knees.
Those muscles lengthen and shorten with every step you take, too.
The front of the thigh extends the knee and stabilizes our steps.
If these muscles are weak you could have knee pain if you run.
Stretch and strengthen these muscles.

Other causes of knee pain in runners are flat feet/fallen arches, a direct injury like a fall and other problems with the feet.

If you are training for a race or just starting on your running adventure it is a good idea
to take care of yourself. The exercise is just ONE way. You must stretch and assess
how your body feels each day. Where are your aches and pains? Are you in actual pain or are you just sore from the workout?

Massage is a great asset to your training regimen. Massage can help the body
heal the little muscle tears from exercise. Massage can help lengthen the tight, short muscles. Muscle tension is common and massage can help relieve the aches and pains
around the joints.
www.thecomfortzonemassage.com