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

 

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 ūüôā ¬†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

Between the Bones (A poem)

Warm oil, warm hands.

Steady pressure, just this deep.

Long, slow thumb-slide

along the bony blade.

Slides slowly along between the bones,

The bones which landmark the way.

Flow right through the fibers

like a canoe floating a stream.

Steady pressure, just this deep.

Long, slow thumb-slide.

Long and slow to calm the way.

Slow over the bumpy waves.

Steady to calm the way.

Long, slow thumb-slide.

Steady pressure, just this deep.

Over and over, up and again

Slowly between the bones,

The bones which landmark the way.

Long, slow thumb-slide.

Steady pressure, just this deep.

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 Awareness Month!

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

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 ūüôā

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?

“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?

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.

 

‘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.