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

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

Frequently Un-asked Questions Part 1

Many people are curious about massage therapy. “What can massage do to help my lower back?” “I wonder if I would sleep better if I got a few massages?”  I hear questions related to specific complaints every week. People talk with me at length about various aches and pains, yet remain hesitant to make an appointment. Why? Apprehension. Anxiety. Unsure of what will happen.

Often times the most important questions are the ones left un-asked. Why is it so hard to ask  questions? If you have one small “thing” you don’t understand, why wouldn’t you ask? What may be simple to me could be a big deal to you, especially if the only information you have is from TV shows.  That’s what these two posts will address. The un-asked questions. They might seem silly to those of you who get regular massage, but to someone who has never had a massage every question is important. I’d like to help answer them if I can.  I eat, sleep and breathe massage, so sometimes I have to make myself step back and think when someone doesn’t understand what to do or not do.

FREQUENTLY UN-ASKED QUESTIONS:

Where will my massage take place? Is it out in the open?
The Comfort Zone Massage is located inside Shirley’s Beauty Shop just outside of Paris, AR. (If you aren’t from here your therapist’s location will be different but your privacy concerns will be met in much the same way.)
The massage treatment room has a door that closes for your privacy. Massage does not take place out in the beauty salon for other people to see. No one will hear our medical history discussions or know anything about your treatments. Your safety and privacy are top priorities. 

IMG_1895

What should I expect at my first massage appointment?
Arrive about 10 minutes early to fill out your health history form. We can discuss any symptoms, aches, pains, surgeries, medications or concerns you may have. You will be given a tour of the facility. We discuss your entire massage session so you  know what to expect.

How long will my massage last? What if I want to stop?
Massage sessions are usually 30, 60, or 90 minutes. This time is hands-on treatment time. Your massage minutes do not include filling out forms, using the restroom or preparing for the massage. If you buy an hour you get an hour.

Are you worried that if you don’t like the massage you will have to lay there the entire time? Please tell me if you’d like to stop the massage. Massage isn’t for everyone. If you are uncomfortable, in pain, or just don’t want to continue you have the right to ask me to stop. I want you to. Your comfort and safety are important to me. Sometimes people give massage as gifts to people who don’t really want it. It’s OK to not like it. Nicely explain that you are uncomfortable and I will gladly stop the session. No worries!

Anxiety is another reason someone may want to stop a massage. There are people who love massage but must get the shorter sessions. They are unable to lay there for a full 60 or 90 minutes. We can discuss these things and choose a length of time that works for you. All you have to do is ask.

To some it may seem silly to ask, “Do you do the massage out in front of everyone?” But if someone thinks this, he or she may not ever book a massage to help with his/her pain.

The next post I will answer questions about what to wear, will you be naked, and when you should not get a massage.

If you’d like to know more about the massage I offer please visit my website. You can read descriptions, see prices and even schedule your first (or next) appointment!

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!

Thanks, Giving, and Thanksgiving

Thank you. Yes, you. You’ve been reading this and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

And thank you to those who are my wonderful clients. Without you I couldn’t live my passion, my dream of helping people through the healthy, nurturing, pain-relieving touch that is Massage Therapy. I cannot say it enough to you, Thank you.

Giving. It’s what we do every day. You know what I mean, you give all you have. You work hard at your job, whatever it may be. You give yourself to your home. Things must be done for everything and everyone to function and you do more than necessary. You go above and beyond. The dishes get done AND put away. You put off reading a chapter in your book to make sure your child has his favorite shirt clean for tomorrow. You pack lunches, clean rooms, take out the trash and search for long-lost stuffed animals.

You give. And your life is pretty good for it. It seems like every moment you are doing something. Preparing for the next day, the next event, or even the next meal. So when do you rest? When do you take the time for you? Oh, I know a whole day is most impossible, but what about that chapter in the book? You should read that.

Thanksgiving is just next week. That’s right, I said it out loud. Thanksgiving is next week! What does that entail for you? Visitors? Cooking and baking? Cleaning? Shopping? Working overtime in retail? Travelling? My guess is the 24 hours you already use up in a typical day just seemed to turn into 12. Holidays tend to steal minutes from our days. They loom ahead just beyond reach and then BAM they are the next week!

Make things a little easier on yourself and cut out something that stresses you out. Add something fun into the schedule! Or just simply MAKE a schedule so that things may flow easier.

Thank yourself during this time of Thanksgiving. I think you deserve to receive a little back of what you give all year long. Schedule a massage at the end of this week or the beginning of next week. There’s time to squeeze an hour in for yourself! You could visit The Comfort Zone to get a massage!

I guarantee you will leave refreshed, re-energized and ready to face the Holidays! Visit my website, www.thecomfortzonemassage.com  and click the Schedule Appointment button! If you don’t see the time you need, call me, we can find the time!

PS Thank you again for your continued support of Massage Therapy and The Comfort Zone Massage.

PSS This was written while listening to beautiful music 🙂

Sometimes Skin Deep is Deep Enough

Do you ever have one of those days where you aren’t expecting much only to be rewarded immensely? Today has been such a great day all because of one conversation.

I have new client who decided to try massage therapy to ease her back pain. She has the kind of debilitating back pain that keeps her in her chair all day. She can’t go a single day without taking prescription pain medication. She has had surgery and is not wanting another one.

About 6 weeks ago her neighbor brought her to me to try a massage session. We talked for quite a while about her surgery, meds, pain levels, and activity levels. We discussed expectations. I was proceeding with caution with the expectation that she would stop me if it hurt too much. She was proceeding with desperation with the expectation that I might help bring her pain level from a 10+ to 6.

Can I just say… the pressure was on me!

I administered a very gentle massage to her back. Slow, gentle flowing massage strokes for an hour, mostly on her lower back.(Gentle like just applying lotion.) When she left she said she felt great and that nothing I did in the session hurt. She made an appointment for the next week.

When I greeted her this day she told me that she had been extremely sore for 4 days after her massage, but that the excruciating pain seemed to be less for a day or 2. I administered the same gentle massage for an hour. She said she felt great and made another appointment. Each week she tells me that she is very sore after her massage, but that the massage feels good. She also tells me that her pain levels aren’t changing, but she thinks the massage is helping. She sees me every week.

Today was the 6th week. The first question I ask her now is, “How is the pain today?” followed by, “How long were you sore after your massage.”

Today she answered with the most beautiful words. “I didn’t have any soreness after my massage last week.” I nearly cried! She went on to say that her weekend went by with less pain than normal. Less pain. She says she is only taking 1 pain pill per day now. She had been needing to take 2.

The desperation in her eyes is fading every week. She smiles more each time we see each other. She says she is thankful for the small relief she gets because it gives her hope. I do not promise to take her pain away. I simply try to help her to be comfortable.

And I do this with gentle massage. And love. Because I love to try to help people.

Trick or Treat?

Trick or Treat?

Rub my feet!

A Hot Stone Massage

Can’t be beat!

A tiny fat pumpkin

Keep the popcorn,

Save the candy,

Hands on the neck

Make everything dandy!

 

Goblins from your work-day

Put knots in your back,

Gliding hands up and down

Send those knots off the back!

 

Trick or treat?

Rub my feet!

ANY kind of massage

can’t be beat!

 

www.thecomfortzonemassage.com to get YOUR next massage!

 

Massage and Lower Back Pain

Chronic back pain can cause you to miss out on life.  Maybe you’ve missed work a few times.  You choose weekends on the couch instead of a weekend out doing fun stuff.   If it hurts badly enough you might even go to the doctor (repeatedly).  Pain in the lower back is one of the top reasons people go to the doctor.    A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in July 2011 found that massage therapy was better than “usual care” at relieving lower back pain.   Funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health, the study’s lead author was Daniel Cherkin, Director of Group Health Research Institute. Could massage therapy help relieve your lower back pain?

The study consisted of 401 patients who were mostly middle-aged females all of whom had chronic low back pain.  The participants were randomly assigned to one of 3 treatment groups:  full body relaxation massage, targeted deep tissue massage, and usual care, defined as medication and physical therapy.  The participants assigned to either massage group each received a one hour massage once a week for ten weeks.   After ten weeks the results were surprising.  Nearly 2/3 of the people who received either type of massage said their back pain was significantly improved or gone.  Only about 1/3 of the “usual care” patients experienced the same type of relief.   Some of the participants in the massage groups even reported improved symptoms up to 6 months later!

The study authors expected to prove that deep tissue, or structural massage would work better for the back pain than relaxation massage, but they discovered that BOTH types of massage are equally effective in relieving lower back pain symptoms.  It didn’t matter which type of massage was received, the symptoms either improved or went away!

Massage therapy can be a gentle, natural alternative to muscle relaxants and pain medications.  Wouldn’t it be great to feel better without taking a bunch of pills?  It is wise to visit a doctor with lower back pain symptoms to rule out certain spinal injuries or abnormalities.  If the pain is musculoskeletal, then massage therapy could be a great way to get moving again.

What helps with your lower back pain? Exercise, rest, massage, medications, or something else? Please share in the comments. Need an appointment? Visit my website! www.thecomfortzonemassage.com

Why am I a Massage Therapist?

I love being a Massage Therapist. My job is exciting, rewarding, and never boring. People often ask me why I became a massage therapist and why I continue to be one.

I got my first massage on a random Saturday morning of my twentieth year. It was the greatest thing I had ever felt in my  life. I couldn’t move. I had drool dripping from my mouth. I had to think about how to tie my shoes. My first massage changed my life.

A couple of years later I got the courage to attend massage school because I wanted to learn how to make people feel the same way.

So why am I still a Massage Therapist?

1. I get to help people feel awesome.

2. I love to see the progress while working with regular clients. My heart soars if they’ve told my a symptom has improved. 🙂

3. I am self-employed. Even though there are days I work long hours and I still work on Saturdays, I have the ability to adjust my schedule in order to meet the needs of my family. (Plus, on a really busy day if I need to rest for 15 minutes I have the perfect room.)

4. I have the opportunity to work with some very special people. My work days are fun and exciting.

5. Stress affects the lives of so many people. Stress over-load can contribute to so many aches, pains and illnesses. I am on a mission to help people improve their quality of life.

6. I enjoy the challenge! The human body is an amazing thing and I get to work with one every day.

7. Continuing Education is a priority for me, both formal and informal. I read every week and take classes every year.

8. I like to help people learn about ways to fight pain and stress.

9. I have clients whose pain would be unbearable if they didn’t get massage. I like to be the one who can give them massage.

10. I like to help people. (Yes, that’s the standard massage school answer, but it’s true.)

11. I get to help people feel awesome!

www.thecomfortzonemassage.com

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

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