Posted by: Mae | October 20, 2010

Fall Happenings

This fall has been a busy one for me! I have returned to college, starting on the path to a masters degree in Oriental Medicine, but, first, to finish my Bachelors degree.

I had the pleasure of giving free mini massages to the amazing women who participated in the Vancouver Girlfriends Half-marathon last Sunday. This event is hosted by Northwest Personal Training and benefits Susan G. Komen. This event sells out every year, and it supports such a great cause. Everyone loves how beautiful the course is, and we couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day.

Fall is the perfect time for massage. Life is slowing down, encouraging us to turn inward and start to rest more. If you find that your last-minute yard work (love that leaf raking) or other projects have got you in knots, why not give me a call? You can book a session, prepay, and/or buy gift certificates on my website. I am open on weekends for your convenience.

Take care!
Mae

Posted by: Mae | September 2, 2010

FAQ: What is the Psoas, and Why Would You Massage It?

Anterior Hip Muscles

Image via Wikipedia

I recently, as part of a biology class, had the privilege of viewing two human cadavers. I am humbled and touched that people willingly donate their bodies so that others may learn. (I, myself, plan to donate my body after death.) As we were viewing the individuals, I was able to refresh my concept of some of the muscles located on the front of the body.

My instructor, who knows I am a massage therapist, asked me if I ever massaged the psoas muscle. One of the other biology instructors is also a LMT, and has one client who specifically requests this. Many people “in the know” think it’s amazing we address this muscle at all because it is located along the front of the spine underneath all the muscles and guts in the abdomen. Not an easy muscle to reach, and not an easy thing to convince people you need to reach it, as evidenced by my classmates’ collective shock when my instructor pointed to the psoas and said, “She massages that!” (Exclamations of “Ouch!” were followed by “Why?” all around.)

If you consider the anatomy of the psoas major muscle, you can see that it joins with a muscle on the inside of your pelvis, called the iliacus. These muscles are often spoken of as a group, the “iliopsoas” because they work together to flex your hip, like when you “put your best foot forward.” Another thing these muscles are responsible for is your upright posture. If they are unhappy, your posture is imbalanced, and low back or hip pain is the usual result. Oftentimes, when you get lots and lots of frequent massage on your low back, with minimal results, it is because your psoas is the culprit.

Now, how to reach the pesky critter, when most people would rather pretend that they don’t have a belly, let alone let someone massage it? I was taught a few different approaches when I was in school. The traditional, and most invasive, method is to have the client lie face up, uncover the abdomen, and slowly (oh, so slowly and respectfully) press down from the side of the abdomen, diagonally, toward the spine. The slowness of the press allows the surface abdominal muscles to relax. The diagonal direction helps shift the “guts” out of the way. A skilled therapist can then feel and gently massage the psoas muscle.

A less invasive variation on the above positions the client on their side, so that the intestines and other abdominal structures are shifted out of the way, thanks to gravity, and makes it a little more comfortable for the client (as well as less work for the therapist). This is the method I prefer if I need to directly massage the psoas muscle.

“You mean there’s a better way to treat the psoas?” Yes there is. And it’s one the client can continue at home. Traditional wisdom says that it’s hard to stretch the psoas. This is true. (However, one way you can try is by performing yoga’s Pigeon Pose.) It’s called Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) which is a long word for a type of assisted stretching.

Basically PNF works on the premise  that if you slightly contract and hold a muscle, then release, you will get a greater stretch (and subsequent relaxation) than if you just “force” the muscle to stretch. One way to use PNF with the psoas is to lie, face up, on a table. Scoot to the edge, far enough to let your leg hang off the side of the table while your pelvis remains supported. Try to keep your pelvis from rolling forward as your leg hangs off (a friend can help by placing their hand on your hipbone). Resisting gravity, and picturing the psoas in your mind, slightly bring your knee toward the ceiling. The idea is to engage the psoas, but not flex it as hard as you can. Hold it for a count of eight, then slowly relax. You should find that your leg hangs a little lower off the table. Repeat two more times. For a deeper stretch, you can ask a friend to gently push your thigh, just above the knee, toward the ground as you relax. Don’t ever force it, or your muscle will contract in order to protect itself, and you will have to start all over again.

A combination of PNF for the psoas and core strengthening exercises will keep your back and hips happy!

(If you have any burning questions related to massage therapy, post them to the discussion board, or add them to my Facebook page.)

Posted by: Mae | May 18, 2010

The Value of Quiet

When Mozart was composing at the end of the eighteenth century, the city of Vienna was so quiet that fire alarms could be given verbally, by a shouting watchman mounted on top of St. Stefan’s Cathedral.  In twentieth-century society, the noise level is such that it keeps knocking our bodies out of tune and out of their natural rhythms.  This ever-increasing assault of sound upon our ears, minds, and bodies adds to the stress load of civilized beings trying to live in a highly complex environment.  ~Steven Halpern

When I came across the above quote, written by a musician well-known in the massage community, it really resonated with me. I envisioned this eighteenth century quiet, and immediately felt more peaceful. (Even among the noises of television and dogs whining for attention!) Imagine having such a quiet refuge in which to recharge…It seems that our minds are cluttered with visual stimuli (think email, Facebook, text messaging, television) as well as noise. When do our brains get a rest?

Try it yourself. Ideally, find a quiet place, but try it right now, wherever you are. Imagine you are in Mozart’s Vienna. I’m sure you will encounter some noise, horse drawn carriages, people talking in the street, for example. I imagine it’s much like the peace I feel when I’m camping, and wake up before most everyone else. Just me and perhaps an older couple a few sites over, getting their coffee started. My muscles are relaxed, not clenched. My thoughts are peaceful and grateful.

Now imagine a present-day city. (Or, depending where you are, start to take in your surroundings.) Traffic sounds a lot different now-a-days, doesn’t it? And there are so many more demands for our attention. Even if you don’t have the television or radio on, perhaps a housemate or neighbor does. The population is much more dense, and noises of daily living have increased as well. How does your body feel as you take this all in? Do you feel tension? Where? Your shoulders? Jaw? That spot on your forehead above and between your eyebrows?

Perhaps this little exercise has inspired you to find your own little place of quiet. If you’re lucky, you have a sanctuary in your house or a special place you can go to get away on a regular basis. I like to go camping, hiking, or relaxing in some remote hot springs. And if getting massage is one of your getaways, don’t feel like you must talk with the therapist. Also don’t be afraid to ask for quiet if your therapist tends to be chatty (sometimes we need a gentle reminder), or if you find the music jars your nerves.

While we can’t always control what noise others are making, hopefully we can all find a few moments of quiet in an otherwise overwhelming day.


Posted by: Mae | January 27, 2010

Stress Less This Year

Massage can help!

Did you know that some of the most common New Years Resolutions can be helped by massage?
For example:

  • Weight Loss: Late night infomercials and scientific studies tell us that the stress hormone cortisol contributes to weight gain, especially around the middle. Massage is excellent at reducing cortisol levels, can help you feel better in the body you have, and is much more pleasurable than taking a pill. Scrubs can help, too, by beginning to move toxins (stored in fat) out of your system, and reducing bloating.
  • Quitting Tobacco: Many, many folks cite stress relief as a main reason they light up. While it certainly can feel good in the short term, over time smoking does more harm to your body than good. An alternative method for dealing with stress immediately is deep breathing (which I can help you with). The stress relief from massage addresses your body and mind, is MUCH better for you, and the effects multiply when you have a massage on a regular basis.
  • Getting More Sleep: Well, by now you know massage lowers cortisol, and helps with stress relief. Obviously that can help you sleep better. Massage also helps decrease anxiety & depression, both of which can alter sleep patterns. Pain can also interfere with sleep, and, by treating musculo-skeletal pain, massage is a winner in the war for more zzz’s.


All of these benefits are enhanced when you receive massage on a regular basis, say once or twice per month. I offer six or twelve treatment packages to save you money!

Posted by: Mae | July 28, 2009

Beat The Heat! (Special)

Beat the recordbreaking heat by scheduling a massage in my air-conditioned Gresham location.

One hour massage only $45 (save $20)

90 minute massage only $60 (save $25!)

call 503-665-6941 or 360-241-3490 to schedule.

(This offer expires at the end of the day, Wednesday, July 29)

Posted by: Mae | April 8, 2009

Inflammation & Healing

When tissues are exposed to stress, such as a sprain/strain, burn, or pathogen, the inflammatory response kicks in to minimize further damage and/or spread of infection. Blood and immune cells are sent to the site quickly, but aren’t allowed to leave quite so easily, and swelling results. Muscles contract into spasm to prevent further injury (“muscle splinting”), and the overall result is discomfort and loss of function.

In our more primitive days, this response served us well. Living on the land, we couldn’t just run to the doctor for surgery or pills. We didn’t have access to splints and bandages, let alone antibiotics. But now, we are used to a higher quality of life, and want to return to our normal living activities quickly and comfortably. We want to minimize the inflammation and speed healing.

As we move from the acute stage of inflammation towards healing, changes are taking place. White blood cells are drawn to the site to kill remaining pathogens as well as to digest dead or damaged cells. This is the stage where pus is formed, though it is usually contained by connective tissue, and you may not even realize it’s there. Collagen-producing cells (“fibroblasts”) are also coming to the site to bring damaged tissues back together and fill in any gaps. At this stage, the new tissue is still rather delicate, and can be easily reinjured. Eventually the fibers increase, becoming stronger. At this stage, depending on the type of injury, massage, physical therapy, and other treatments can help these fibers align in the direction of forces put on it (as opposed to their normal random criss-crossing pattern), which will reduce any restrictions in movement of skin, muscles, or ligaments that can lead to a more permanent loss of function.

The healing stage begins about a week after the injury, and can last from 2 weeks to 2 years, depending on a number of factors, including the general health of the injured person. There are a number of things you can do to shorten healing time, and maximize the quality of the new tissue. Two of the easiest are eating well, and getting adequate sleep.

Many people don’t realize it, but most of our healing takes place while we sleep. Growth hormone, which directs the cells to reproduce, is secreted in the greatest amounts while we sleep. Good, quality, uninterrupted sleep is what you are after. Retire before you are exhausted, if possible, and sleep usually comes easier. Aim for 6-8 hours per night. If you wake refreshed, and not groggy, you are getting good sleep.

(As a side note, many people in our society are chronically “stressed out” or anxious, with high levels of stress hormones like cortisol, that make it difficult to relax and sleep well. Massage has been shown to reduce these hormones, as well as create a general sense of well-being, and is beneficial for insomnia.)

Eating good food may be difficult as well, as we get so many conflicting messages about what to eat and what to avoid. As a general rule for healing, aim to eat foods that are unprocessed, or minimally so. Good quality proteins like fish give your body the “stuff” it needs to create new cells. Fish is also high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation and pain. Vitamin C and other anti-oxidants, found in many fresh fruits and vegetables, has long been believed to speed healing.  Berries, leafy greens, apples, and onions are all great choices. Many of these contain quercetin as well, another phyto (“plant”)-chemical that studies say is a great weapon against inflammation (including mild allergic reactions).

Common spices have been studied, and found to have anti-inflammatory properties as well. The most notable are ginger, tumeric, garlic, and cayenne (and other hot) pepper. Some of these are available as supplements as well, but try to add them to your food first, as large quantities of these medicinal spices can have adverse effects in some individuals. (I recommend talking to a medical or naturopathic doctor, herbalist, licensed acupuncturist, or dietitian before using supplements.)

Experts warn against excess sugar, processed foods, and red meat, as these can increase acids in your body that irritate tissues and increase inflammation.  Arachidonic acid is a notable example. Processed meats like sausage, ham, and bacon often contain nitrites as well, which have also been shown to increase inflammation and have a detrimental effect on health.

Remember, the most important fluid your body needs is water. Water is in and around every cell in our body–lubricating joints, carrying waste away, and bringing nutrients in water-rich blood. Experts disagree on how much water one should drink, and what types of beverages “count” as water (ie: alcoholic and caffeinated beverages can be dehydrating), but in general, drink when you are thirsty, and choose plain water, high quality fruit juices (beware excess natural sugars), and herbal infusions.

Never hesitate to talk to your therapist about pain you are feeling. One of our greatest goals is to decrease pain, and increase health. Massage may not hold all the answers, but therapists usually know a team of people who can work together to get you feeling better!

Links to more information:

General anti-inflammatory dietary info:
http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art42651.asp
http://nutrition.about.com/od/dietsformedicaldisorders/a/antiinflamfood.htm
http://nutrition.about.com/library/blinflam3.htm

Specific herbs/supplements:

http://nutrition.about.com/od/phytochemicals/p/quercetinprofil.htm

http://www.bodyandfitness.com/Information/Herbal/Research/ginger1.htm

http://www.usaweekend.com/02_issues/021110/021110eatsmart.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16117603

http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/learn/ginger.php

http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/learn/turmeric_root.php

Posted by: Mae | April 1, 2009

Acute Inflammation

Many of my clients are coming to see me with acute or chronic injuries, and have expressed concern about taking prescription or over-the-counter pain medication or anti-inflammatories, and are hoping massage can help reduce or eliminate the use of these medications.  My short answer is “maybe”. The long answer I will hope to explain in this and the next few posts.

The first thing to consider is the signs and symptoms of inflammation, and the second is whether the inflammation is chronic or acute. Third, I look at whether the inflammation is systemic (throughout the whole body) or local (at the site of an injury, for example). If I cannot safely treat a client exhibiting signs of inflammation, I refer them to their primary health provider, or ask for permission to talk to the provider directly.

The classic signs of inflammation are:

  • swelling
  • heat
  • redness
  • pain
  • restriction of joint movement/loss of function

These are most evident when we have a sprain (usually local), or arthritis (local or systemic). Many of these signs are caused by chemicals like histamine and leukotrienes which are also important factors in allergic response. These chemicals are manufactured and released by the body in response to cell damage, heat, bacteria or trauma, and are an important part of triggering the immune system to get the bad stuff out (bacteria, etc.) and the good stuff in (increasing blood flow to increase nutrients for healing, for example). As a result of the increased blood flow and lymphatic (immune cells clearing out waste) activity, we see swelling and restriction of movement if inflammation is at or near a joint.

Although this natural body response isn’t fun for any of us, in the acute stages (within the first few days of the injury or infection) it actually serves a purpose. The pain, swelling, and restricted movement help to keep us from further injuring the site, or from moving blood too quickly through the area, which can spread an infection. Where we, as owner-directors of our bodies, may need to step in is when the swelling or pain becomes too great or lasts too long. This is where self-treatment or massage treatment can help.

RICE is the first step in treating inflammation.

  • Rest: keep from using or moving the affected area
  • Ice: mediates excessive blood flow, thereby reducing heat, pain, and swelling
  • Compression: a gentle bandaging of the area, for example, can also keep the swelling down and restrict blood flow
  • Elevation: prop the affected area above your heart level, if possible to further decrease blood flow and swelling

Should you seek massage care with acute, local, inflammation, your therapist should avoid the actual area that is inflamed, and will not perform massage if inflammation is due to infection or certain conditions. Massage techniques at this stage focus on techniques that decrease swelling and reflexive techniques (including massaging the opposite limb) to relieve pain and facilitate healing. Your therapist will most likely use ice or cold hydrotherapy as well. Other goals include treating muscles that could be working harder while you avoid moving the injury. Muscles directly involved in the injury will likely not be treated as any spasm present is “splinting” or  helping to keep the injured site immobile.

In a few days, some healing has taken place, and the sub-acute stage begins. At this stage more direct work begins, gently, to prevent scarring that can lead to decreased function down the road. The therapist may begin to move the affected joint to help move fluid and increase mobility.

From here, we can move into healing and repair, or develop chronic inflammation. (More in the next post!)

Posted by: Mae | March 24, 2009

PaganFaire time again!

I will be providing Chair Massage again at SisterSpirit’s PaganFaire. This year, I’m charging only $10 for 15 minutes of massage.
I will also have my appointment book and gift certificates there, so if 15 minutes isn’t enough, you can sign up for a full session right away!
I will be accepting cash and credit cards this year, and I look forward to seeing you there!

Posted by: Mae | October 30, 2008

Complementary/Alternative Medicine Podcasts

I recently discovered a website with some informative podcasts. The site is affiliated with a book, Unbreak Your Health, which I don’t know much about, but the podcasts are interesting and well done.

My favorites, of course, are the massage & reiki casts. Please check them out at: http://www.unbreakyourhealth.com/podcasts.htm

Let me know what you think!

Mae

Posted by: Mae | October 1, 2008

Sore after your massage?

You had a great massage yesterday and slept like a baby last night. So why did you wake up feeling achy and maybe a bit groggy? The short answer–no one really knows for sure. But a professional massage can be like a workout for your muscles. Muscles are stretched, fibers are realigned, and, especially with focused work, scar tissue is broken down. While all of these actions contribute to healthy muscles and increased range of motion, some breaking down of tissue occurs, so that more functional tissue can take its place. In this respect, massage is much like a good workout.

So what can you do to maximize the feel-good aspects of massage, while minimizing the wincing? First, try to schedule your massage so that you can relax for the rest of the evening. Take a warm bath with epsom salts to soothe and replenish muscle tissues. Do some gentle stretching or take a leisurely walk. And while the debate rages on about the need to drink water after massage “to flush toxins”, it certainly can’t hurt to drink an extra glass or two.

Above all, communicate with your therapist. If you are sore for more than two days after your massage, you may be getting work that is too deep or intense. Let your massage therapist know if you feel they are working you too strenuously. Also let them know if you experience excessive soreness after a session. They will be sure to tone it down next time, and may have other great suggestions that will have you feeling better in no time.

A bit of soreness is common, especially if you are new to massage, or receive massage infrequently. But remember “no pain, no gain” is usually not true. Don’t suffer unecessarily. Talk to your therapist, and follow their suggestions for home care.

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