We Carry Our Children

We carry our children, don’t we? We carry them in our body, cradling them in safe, warm darkness with the rhythm of our heartbeats a steady comfort.

We carry them in our arms, cradling their head in the crook of our arm, firmly pressing their little bodies to our breast. The darkness is gone but the rhythm of our heartbeat remains a constant, our caress still warm and safe.

We carry them on our hips, their heads held high with shining smiles. Our heartbeats remain close, chest to chest, cheek to cheek. Our grip tightens with added healthy growth.

We carry them to bed. We carry them to the laundry room. We carry them to the store. We carry them to church. We carry them on walks. We carry them to the doctor. We carry them to grandparents.

We carry them where ever we go.

It never seems to hurt at the time. We do it so much we don’t really feel it. We just carry them.

Maybe it’s difficult to rise up out of a chair. Maybe it’s a struggle to get comfortable in the bed. Maybe the bending to pick them up is painful. But we don’t really feel it, do we?***

***This may be where you expect me to say, “Put the baby down.” Each mother/family has her/its own way of taking care of baby. I would never presume to tell a baby-wearer to put her baby down or suggest that babies don’t need to be held. However, I know that taking care of a baby is physically and emotionally demanding so I won’t act like I have all the answers. There are many bouncers and swings to hold a small baby for short periods of time. There are also baby-carrying slings. Or maybe someone there can do the chore while you snuggle the baby? Maybe there is someone there to snuggle the baby while you do the chore? I can’t tell anyone that they should put their baby down. All I have are some basic self-care suggestions.

  • Try to switch sides with the baby often so you aren’t bearing the weight on only one side.
  • Try different carriers or slings that work well with you and your baby.
  • Try to rest when you can. (This one may be laughable to some, but I have to say it.)
  • Try squatting to pick up your child instead of stooping over.
  • Stretch your muscles. Is there a gym nearby? Join a yoga class or buy a DVD.
  • Take a walk by yourself. And swing your arms while you do it. Move, move, move the arms since you hold them in one position so often.
  • Self-massage. Check out this post.
  • Professional massage.

Any parents out there with other suggestions on how to relieve aches and pains from carrying our children?

#19 of the Business Blogging Challenge: #31 posts in 31 days

 

Are You Comfortable?

Are you comfortable?

“Yes.”

Are you really? Because sometimes I don’t know if you are comfortable or just trying to be polite because I want you to be comfortable. I really want to know the honest answer. How can I change things to make you super comfy and relaxed if I don’t know?

I put tremendous effort into how my massage treatment room is set up. The lighting is carefully crafted to be somewhat low yet bright enough I can see you clearly. Sheets are clean and fresh, smoothed under a light blanket for a little warmth and security. Music is soft. You can even smell lavender as you position yourself on the massage table. I lay on the massage table at least once a week to see if it is comfortable and relaxing.

But I’m not you. My bones are my bones and my skin is my skin. Your aches may be in a different area of the body than mine. My level of comfort is not the same as yours.

If you are not comfortable and you don’t tell me I can’t try to make it better.

Is the face rest tilted too high or too low? It’s adjustable! I can click it and we can make you more comfortable. Easy fix. Is the extra layer of cover just a little too much today? Is it making you sweat or uncomfortable? A simple, “I’m a little hot today,” and I will remove the blanket. You still have the sheet. Easy peasy.

Do you hate spa/meditation music but think that’s the only thing you are allowed to listen to because you are getting a relaxing massage? I can change the music. I keep a variety of music on hand just in case you feel like rocking out during your session.

Hot towels can be too hot and I really need to know if they are. I use a warmer specifically made for towels, but they can get pretty hot sometimes. I always unravel them and shake them out to cool them before they touch your body, but I can’t feel what you feel. I ask you if they are too hot and I need an honest answer.

If I say “Are you comfortable?” and you are lying on your stomach and it’s crushing your chest, hurting your neck, or pulling your low back please don’t answer “yes.” You deserve the best massage treatment and lying there uncomfortable or even in pain isn’t going to help you one bit. We can adjust your position at any time during your massage session. You are the boss of your body.

I have pillows and a side-lying positioning system to accommodate anyone who can’t or doesn’t want to be flat on his/her stomach or back during a massage. The massage will be just as effective in the side position. Plus, if you are more comfortable the whole experience will be more enjoyable. You will be able to experience more of the wonderful benefits of massage therapy if you are more comfortable and not trying to hold back.

The truth is sometimes I can tell if you are uncomfortable and that is why I ask. But if you don’t tell me then I just have to guess at what I can change. Please know that you can trust me enough to tell me if you are uncomfortable. Massage is supposed to be enjoyable. If you feel cramped and smooshed and irritated then it probably won’t help with your pain relief. If you are counting down the seconds until it’s time to turn over it’s time to speak up! You’re the boss!

It isn’t rude or impolite to tell your massage therapist if you are uncomfortable.

You won’t hurt my feelings. It won’t make me angry or irritated. I won’t roll my eyes. I will smile and suggest ways to move to get you more comfortable.

#17 of the Business Blogging Challenge 31 posts in 31 days

3 Pains in the Neck

Does your neck hurt more days than it doesn’t? Maybe you’ve tried to adjust some things in your daily life to make it better but the pain just doesn’t go away. Are you looking in the right place for the source of your neck pain? Let’s see:

  1. Smart-phone-itis. Yes, I made that word up. But look at how you are holding your phone to read this or some other article. Extended time on Candy Crush reading news articles with your phone either in your lap or half-way to your lap puts a strain on your neck muscles. Pay attention, you are clenching your shoulder muscles! The front of your neck probably hurts, too.
  2. Laptop neck-opathy. Yep, another made-up word 🙂  You’ve taken my advice and adjusted your workstation monitor and keyboard but you’ve forgotten about the recreational computer. Do you sit on the sofa with the laptop in your lap? Body check! Your head is pulled forward, shoulders rolled down and your lower back is straining, yes? Sit up! Grab a pillow or two to put between the computer and your lap. Depending on what the back of your seat is like you may want to put support behind your neck. You don’t want your head pulling forward. Adjust however you can until you no longer feel that you are tensing your whole upper body.
  3. Slumpy McSlumperson. Tee hee. I promise no more made up words today. Extended hours at a desktop computer may be unavoidable at work. You’ve adjusted your monitor now straighten yourself up! Remember way back in middle school when your keyboarding teacher told you how to sit? Do that! Sit in a way that you are not hurting! Put both feet on the floor, not crossed. If you have short legs put some kind of lift or stool under your feet. Less strain on your whole upper body this way. Don’t slump. (see name) When you roll your shoulders forward and slump over your breathing quality is lowered, your muscles are strained and you become fatigued more easily. Straighten up, butter-cup! Pull your shoulders back and lift your head. Do you strain your head down to see your monitor? Move it. Move it to wherever you can hold your head reasonably straight.

Could these be causing you neck pain? How can you adjust what you do each day to improve your pain levels? Take frequent breaks at work. Take 60 seconds to stand up, yawn, move your shoulders around then get back to work. Move around when you feel uncomfortable. Put your phone down a little. Your eyes and neck will thank you!

Got a bad case of smart-phone-itis? Massage can help!

#16 of the Business Blogging Challenge: 31 posts in 31 days

How to Paint Your Ceiling Without Killing Your Neck

The last time you painted ceilings did you end up in painful misery? Did your neck and shoulders feel like a burning pit of agony? Yeah, mine, too. Until I adjusted how I held my body and arms while I painted. You, too, can change the look of your home without injuring your neck and actually having the energy to finish the job!

How to paint your ceiling without killing your neck.

1. Use a tall ladder, not a step stool. Put your paint tray on the tray holder instead of trying to hold it.

2. KEEP YOUR SHOULDERS RELAXED. I think this is the most important step. If you’ve ever been to a yoga class (or any other kind of work-out) you’ve likely heard the instructions “Keep your shoulders relaxed” or “Relax your shoulders.” Until you’ve really figured out that you are, indeed, shrugging you won’t understand this statement. It’s the shrugging and tensing of the top of the shoulders that causes quite a bit of the pain from painting. Just bring them down. Concentrate on letting gravity hold your shoulders away from your ears. It works. The muscles in your shoulders won’t tense up or cramp up so easily this way. If you are working and feel your shoulders burn just ask yourself, “Where are my shoulders?” Tell yourself to bring them down. You will feel a sense of relief every time you un-tense the tops of your shoulders.

3. Don’t over-stretch your paint strokes. Your arms will only reach so far. Paint the area you can comfortably reach from your ladder and then step down carefully and move the ladder. This is also a great time for the next step:

4. Take frequent breaks. Now, I don’t mean get down, sit around, watch TV and take a nap. I mean bring your arm down. Stretch for a minute. Do some shoulder rotations and neck rolls. Every time you get down to move the ladder you are resting your neck. Simply add about a minute of stretching and movement.  You’ll be ready for the next area of ceiling.

5. Listen to sing-along music. If you dread your task you should take steps to make it as fun or un-dreadful as possible. I chose music to help me. Sing at the top of your lungs. Bounce to the beat and be-bop your way to fully painted ceilings. Does it make the paint look better? Maybe not. But it makes the minutes that slowly tick off the clock a little bit more fun.

Do you have some helpful tips to painting ceilings or walls? Please share this with others, you never know who might need to un-shrug!

Stress [Relief] Awareness

How is your Stress [Relief] Awareness Month going? Have you thought of some ways that you like to unwind? Have fun? Here are a few more ideas!

Have fun!

Sing along songs

Plug in your favorite music and sing. Can’t think of anything on the spot? Think Motown, Disco, Classic Country, the top 40 songs from the year you graduated high school. Our new dinner clean-up routine (as a family) is to fire up a station on Internet radio, clean, sing and dance together. My 6-year-old loves it! Plus, the chores go by faster with rhythm and laughter.

 

Hula Hoop

A woman I went to high school with makes and sells adult hula hoops. That just sounds fun! You could get together with a good friend to combine the therapeutic benefits of laughter and exercise. You just may laugh until you cry (or tinkle!)

Read

This may not be for everyone. I love to read but in the last few years haven’t done much for pleasure. My idea of a nice morning is sitting outside with a fresh cup of coffee and great book. You could lose yourself in a trashy romance novel, travel back in history, soar to new planets or walk among the un-dead. Why, you could go or do or be anything you could imagine!

What do you like to do to unwind?

 

Stress Awareness Month!

April is Stress Awareness Month! Why did she use an exclamation point, you ask? Well, I was trying to add some cheer 🙂

What is Awareness, exactly?

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t need anyone to point out to me when I’m stressed out. I feel it, you know. It’s in my head and spreads throughout my body if I’m not careful. I know when I’m irritable, cranky, tired and fatigued. I can assure you that if someone pointed out to me that I was cranky the “awareness” wouldn’t improve the situation! So what is this “awareness?”

I think it is a great time to share some ideas for Stress Relief. They should change the name to Stress Relief Awareness Month! We know we are stressed, we need help relieving it!

What are some ways to relieve stress?

Massage. Yes, I put this first but I think it is a vital and wonderful method to ease the stress of the mind as well as the body. Massage therapy addresses more than one or two ways that stress can affect the body. Soft music, low lights, no talking, resting while someone rubs your back and places that may hurt. It’s relaxing. It feels good. And it relieves painful symptoms. Oh, and massage is GREAT at relieving headaches.

Exercise. Elevating the heart rate, moving, shaking, walking, running, dancing, yoga and sports are all forms of stress relief. A good sweat seems to clear the mind sometimes. Nothing but you and the pavement, step-step-step-step. Or a class full of friends dancing, sweating and laughing to better health. Maybe a pick-up game of softball, basketball or volleyball with friends is your way to unwind. Any of these things is going to relieve stress, improve your mood and even provide your body with benefits of healthy exercise.

Gardening/yard work. Yes, some forms of stress relief can have the word “work” in them. I’m not the gardening type, but I know many, many people who LOVE to bury their hands in the dirt. There is satisfaction in planting a seed or bulb, tending and cultivating, and then watching it transform into something beautiful. Plus it’s a great opportunity to get your hands dirty, do repetitive tasks, hang out by yourself and be outside. Some people like the results of their work, while others just enjoy the solitude and dirt. Either way some stress is being relieved and your body appreciates it!

Arts/Crafts. Splashing paint on some canvas just sounds fun! You may enjoy making things, crafting things, scrapbooking or photography. Making something out of nothing can be very fun and rewarding. If you are creating something then maybe, just maybe your brain gets a rest from the work/family/stress thoughts that seem to get stuck in your head. Again, relief. And fun!

These aren’t the only ways to relieve stress. I plan to write about more all month long. Meanwhile, what are some fun or creative things you do to relieve stress? Please share so we may try them 🙂

Spring Time Special Guest Post!

Kids throughout Arkansas are on Spring Break from school this week. My 6-year-old daughter, L, has given me permission to publish her first poem on my blog.

“All I can hear is the birds and me

The birds are singing beautifully

In the springtime comes the breeze

Tons of leaves hanging from the trees

Kids can come out and play

On this wonderful springtime day!”

L, 3-17-13

L is a brilliant Kindergartner who loves to sing and write. She has two previously unpublished books about cats and mermaids, respectively.

I hope you ALL take some time to enjoy the fresh, spring air this week!

Do the “Hokey-Pokey”

The other day I was reminded of a very important lesson. A lesson that I share with my dear clients every day. A lesson that I share with my dear readers quite often. I repeat this advice at least once a day, often once per hour.

Get up and move often during your work day.

The longer you sit still the more stiffness and soreness you might feel. I learned that this week! I spent 4 hours as a passenger in a car and 3 hours sitting in a meeting. My body still hurts a whole day later! I take for granted the freedom I have to move around whenever I become uncomfortable. And that’s exactly what I do, I move around a lot.

Move around whenever you become uncomfortable.

I spend most of my time focused on how to relieve pain or make people comfortable. I receive regular massage and notice the slightest little twinge of pain and immediately adjust my posture or activity to relieve it. The other day I couldn’t do that. I sat in mostly one position for most of the day. My body did not like this. My hip flexors were in pain and trying to cramp up. Have you ever had a cramp in your hip? Not fun! I really wanted to get up, stretch and walk around but I didn’t want to disrupt the meeting.

Sometimes you just need to stand up and do the Hokey-Pokey.

I realize that it may not be realistic to take frequent breaks at work. It’s so easy for the professionals to hand out advice like “take a break every hour,” “stretch at your desk,” and “walk around while you are on the phone.” I give this advice all the time but in reality your boss might not want you to stop working every hour. You may not have room to stretch at your desk.  Standing may not be an option all the time for your work. So what now?  Stand up when you can and make the most of it. Do the Hokey-Pokey! It covers every thing. This dance from your childhood is the perfect way to loosen up tight shoulders and get your blood moving. Plus it’s fun! Just don’t forget to shake it all about. Shake out your arms, move your head around and just move! You’ll feel better, I promise.

Do you take move around breaks at work? What helps you relieve or prevent tight, sore muscles?

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?

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!