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?

“Hands-free” Equals “Pain-free”

Have you gone “hands-free” yet? I must admit I was slow to jump on the I’m-going-to-wear-this-ugly-ear-piece-so-I-can-talk-and-do-stuff bandwagon. Those ear pieces looked so silly! Have you ever thought you were having a conversation with someone in the grocery store only to find out he/she was actually talking on the phone? Yeah, they probably never even noticed I was you were talking! And then my husband bought a head-set for me…

“Hands-free” equals “pain-free”

Peeling potatoes while talking on the phone
Peeling potatoes while talking on the phone

If not pain-free then at least less pain in the neck and shoulders. I speak from experience! Two years ago I drove for 2 hours per day. I spent a lot of time on the phone. After a few months of holding my cell phone up to my hear my neck and shoulders hurt every day. I was in constant pain. Even though I’m a professional massage therapist I couldn’t figure out why my neck hurt so much! I stretched, went to the chiropractor, got regular massage, changed the way I used my shoulders while giving massage, and took pain relievers.

My first week of using the ear-piece was like an epiphany. I noticed a difference in my neck after only a couple of days. My neck was still tight but my shoulders didn’t burn anymore. The second week I felt normal again. Two massages, an adjustment and the ear-piece had me back to myself.

Why it hurts

Holding a phone up to your ear for long periods of time can cause neck and shoulder pain. There isn’t support under your elbow.  The upper traps  (top of shoulder) cramp and burn. I mean burn. It hurts! These shoulder muscles actually attach to the spine in your neck therefore your neck hurts, too.

Headaches?

These same neck and shoulder pains can radiate up your neck to your skull giving you a tension headache. Then you have the trifecta: burning shoulder pain, neck pain and headache. Not fun.

Stop the Cause

Stretching, massage and pain relievers could help these symptoms but if you want the pain to go away you must stop the cause of the pain. Try hands-free. You can buy a head-set wherever you bought your phone. They can be set up to be used in one ear or the other. There are even headphones with microphones built-in if you don’t want to use the bluetooth kind.

Using  a hands-free device allows your neck and shoulder muscles to move. If you are driving you’ll be able to have both hands on the steering wheel and your head straight. (Check your state laws to make sure you can drive and talk on the cell phone at the same time. Some states ban the practice while others allow for hands-free devices.) Your shoulders won’t be shrugged constantly and you can turn your head freely.

I use my headset all the time. If I’m folding laundry I can talk to my sister, friend or husband. It’s another way to multitask while preventing neck/shoulder pain and headaches.

Are you hands-free? Do you use an ear piece or wired headphones with mic?

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!

 

Running and Foot Pain

Sesamoiditis. What? Never heard of it? I bet you’ve felt it, though. It commonly presents as pain in the forefoot, usually beneath the big toe. The Mayo Clinic defines it as an inflammation of the small accessory bones (sesamoids) located on the underside of the foot near the big toe.

Have you recently started increasing your running miles? Sesamoiditis sometimes creeps up on people who are increasing miles while training for a marathon. The pain starts as a mild ache in the ball of the foot and becomes more painful over time.

Image from Mayoclinic.com

Take a look at your running shoes. When did you start using them? Are they showing wear and tear? Do you add extra support with insoles? Runner’s World magazine suggests replacing your running shoes every 300-500 miles. Worn out shoes and incorrect shoes both contribute to injury in runners. Don’t be afraid to ask for help in the shoe store.

The common treatments for this type of foot pain are

  • Rest! Ease up on the training a bit. Do some other types of exercise and let the foot bones recover.
  • Ice. I know that soaking your feet in a hot bath feels good, but in a situation involving inflammation you will want to put ice on the painful area.
  • Your physician may recommend some type of over-the-counter pain reliever.
  • The doctor might also suggest a corticosteroid injection to help with swelling.
  • Extremely painful cases may require walking boots or crutches.

Wouldn’t a little bit of rest be better than a week or so on crutches? Listen to your body. I read somewhere this week that pain is not your enemy. Pain is a signal.*  Sometimes we know exactly why something hurts and how to make it better. Other times we can’t figure out why something hurts and we don’t know what to do.

If you are training for a distance you’ve never ran before, be mindful of your aches and pains. Soreness may be common and even expected, but excruciating pain isn’t necessary to achieve your goals. Find a trusted source and get a training schedule complete with short days and rest days. And follow it!

Do you experience any foot pain? What remedies would you add to this list?

*Update: I remembered where I read this! Kat Mayerovitch wrote a great piece for other massage therapists. She is who said that pain is not your enemy.

 

Frequently Un-asked Questions Part 2

I started a conversation in the last post about frequently unasked questions and massage sessions. Massage therapy isn’t scary but since massage on TV or in the movies isn’t exactly portrayed accurately there are many people who have questions. Sometimes questions can seem embarrassing. Years of experience has taught me people are afraid to ask. And if they are afraid to ask then they are afraid to schedule. We therapists write and talk about symptoms day in and day out, but sometimes neglect the “other” questions. Questions like, “Will you see me naked?” I hope I can help answer a few of these questions in these two blog posts.

What should I wear to my massage? 

I actually hear this a lot. What he/she really means is, “Do I have to get naked?!” Or, “Will you see me naked?!”
You may wear what clothes you are comfortable wearing. You are NOT required to get naked for your massage. You may undress to your comfort level. What, exactly, does that mean? If you want to leave on your underwear you should. If you want to bring shorts to change into you should. If you don’t want to remove your socks you should leave them on your feet. If you prefer to be nude that’s OK. You’ll be covered by the sheet and blanket.

The following is what I say to people who are about to get a massage: “I’m going to step out. You undress to your comfort level. Put your things here, lie down and cover up!” (I reach over and pull the sheet and blanket back.) Some people take everything off, others leave on underwear. A few people don’t take any clothes off.

You will be covered with a sheet and blanket at all times. Only the area being worked will be uncovered. Only the back will be uncovered while working there, one leg at a time, one arm at a time, etc.  I use sheets and blankets as the drape not towels like on TV. Your private areas will never be exposed!

Am I too fat to get fat to get a massage? You are not too fat to get a massage. I repeat, you are not too fat to get a massage.  People don’t actually ask this question, but they drop hints. They make jokes about themselves (not funny ones.) Sometimes someone will say, “I can’t get a massage, I’m too fat.” This breaks my heart! You aren’t too fat. You are muscles and bones and blood and nerves and skin. I’ve been a massage therapist for 14 years. After thousands of hours of massage I can honestly tell you that every body is different. I have clients of all ages and sizes. I don’t “look at your fat” I feel of your muscles with my hands. My massage table has a working weight of 450 pounds. You are awesome and should be able to feel the awesomeness of massage. Just tell me your concerns and we will work together to make sure you are comfortable.

When should I NOT get a massage?

If you have fever you should stay home. If you have the flu or flu-like symptoms I beg you to reschedule. A few more reasons to reschedule your massage are vomiting, itchy rash, virus, contagious conditions, poison ivy/oak, surgery, stitches, open sores or if your doctor advises against massage. If you are not sure call me, we will decide together.

Did I leave anything out? 

Is there something else you’d like to know? If you have a burning question please leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail.

 

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 T’Zers Hair and Nail Salon in 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.

 

The Year’s End

I’ve been spending time with family during this Holiday season. There’s been a little work here and there, but I like to focus time and energy at home during this time.

Experiencing the magic of Christmas through my daughter’s eyes has been amazing. She is so full of wonder, excitement, joy, and laughter. She believes!

 

The last two weeks of 2012 are also filled with wonder and excitement for The Comfort Zone Massage! I am planning 2013. Yes, I’m a “planner.” Well, I like to think I’m a planner. We’ll see how it all works out! 😉

2013 and The Comfort Zone Massage

  • 18 hours of classes/seminars
  • More frequent writing
  • Sharing massage research findings with you
  • 2 community projects
  • Surprises!

Enjoy the last few days of 2012! See you back here and in the office for a FANTASTIC 2013!

‘Tis the Season

13 Shopping days until Christmas. DON’T PANIC! You’re freaking out, aren’t you? You can stop, it’s OK.

In fact, that’s what this post is all about – stopping for a bit. How many times have you been shopping this month? Are you finished? Do you really want to go again? What about the laundry? Did you get all your decorations out? Did you remember that you are supposed to provide 8472 cupcakes for the class party? Party? Did I say party? How many Christmas parties are on your list to cook for/buy for? Do you REALLY want to go?

No, you aren’t having a nightmare. This is happening all over the country right this minute. People are scrambling around town rushing from party to party, store to store dragging their Holiday Spirit through the mud. Stress levels are climbing while bank accounts are shrinking. There’s no end in sight!

Or is there………

Take. A. Break. I give you permission. This is supposed to be a time of joy and happiness. If you aren’t feeling joy then what’s the point? You don’t really have to go to every single party to which you have been invited. Really! I mean it! You can skip one and still be loved and wonderful.

Shut the computer, gather up your family/friends and watch your favorite holiday movie. Maybe it’s Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Or National Lampoon’s may be more your style. Chill out and laugh till you pee or cry like a baby. There are plenty of movies to cover both of these options.

My tree
My tree

Soak in the tub for a while by candlelight. Yes, I went there. I know everyone always says, “soak in a bath” when suggesting ways to relax, but it works. Even if a bath isn’t your favorite way to unwind you can lock the door and be alone for a bit. Bring some music and reading material and set the timer. Relax and recharge. You deserve it. And there is so much more to do.

Turn off the TV and enjoy your decorations. We have the tree up and I love it! Take a moment before you leave for the day or when you get home and just gaze at the tree. Go look at the ornaments. Do you remember where they came from? So simple, but guaranteed to make you smile. And smiling is so awesome.

Can’t chill out at home? Too many people there? Too many things on your to-do list? Visit me. When you get to The Comfort Zone Massageyou can drop your tension just outside the door, lie down on the heated massage table, take a few deep lavender breaths and just be you for an hour or so. After a great massage you’ll have the energy to clean off your Holiday Spirit and the spunk to hold it high.

What is your favorite Holiday activity? What is your LEAST favorite? Please share! I love the anticipation of opening gifts and I LOVE Christmas lights. I don’t love stressing about time.

 

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 🙂