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

 

Can I Get a Massage While Pregnant?

Can I get a massage while pregnant?

YES! Oops, did I yell? Sorry. I’m just very passionate about pain and stress relief and just happen to really love working with pregnant women. Expectant mothers experience amazing physical changes each and every week. And they still have to work, cook, parent, walk and just “be.”

I’m not sure where this myth started, “You can’t get massage while pregnant” but I don’t like it. It’s one thing when your grandmother or the cashier at the grocery store suggests you skip your massage appointment, but there are still massage professionals who believe this way. I just really don’t understand. Fear, maybe? Lack of knowledge and information about the physiological benefits of pregnancy massage? More than likely.

Yes, you most certainly can receive massages while you are pregnant. You can even get massage in the first trimester if you wish. (Another myth busted right there.) Some massage schools teach that you can’t get massage in the first trimester because of a risk of miscarriage. The more I research that and discuss with highly trained professionals the more I see that for what it is: a precaution. Massage won’t cause a miscarriage in the first trimester but many therapists try to avoid it because very often an early miscarriage cannot be explained and they don’t want to be blamed for it. Many spas and franchises have a “no first trimester rule.” If you don’t live near me to get massage and the place you want to go won’t see you in the first trimester, don’t lie to them. Be honest, they are only trying to be safe even if they are a bit misinformed.

Massage is beneficial throughout every stage of pregnancy. This study shows that “women who received massage therapy reported decreased depression, anxiety, and leg and back pain.” You could also have a shorter, less-painful labor and delivery. Doesn’t that sound good?

Of course there are changes to be made to your massage session. First of all you won’t be face-down on the massage table. I use Oakworks Side-lying Positioning System and several pillows to achieve safe comfort. You will fill out a pregnancy health intake form each visit. We will discuss your doctor/midwife visits to see how your pregnancy is going. I will ask you about any aches and pains you might be having. And then I will rub them!

I always ask that you inform your doctor/midwife that massage is part of your life. Partly so we can work together if a complication arises and also so they know you are taking care of yourself. There are some conditions that may arise when I’ll ask that you talk with your doctor/midwife before continuing treatment. Uncontrolled high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, excessive swelling, bleeding, and early labor are all conditions that I would want special instructions from your doctor.

Don’t freak out. What’s that saying going around the internet? “Keep Calm and (fill in the blank.)” Well I say, “Keep Calm and Get Massage.”

This is #5 in a blogging challenge: 31 posts in 31 days.

Lactic Acid: It’s Time for the Truth

Fact or Fiction?

“Lactic acid makes your muscles sore for a few days after a vigorous work-out.”

Fiction. What?! Yep, that’s not what causes muscle soreness. Tiny tears on the muscle and inflammation is believed to be the cause of after work-out pain.  Are you ready for more? Massage does NOT “flush” lactic acid out of your muscles. There, I said it out loud.

This could be a shock to many of you, dear clients, since many massage therapists, coaches, teachers, trainers and even sports announcers  still speak this as the truth. When I attended massage school I heard this phrase many times a day, “You need to flush the lactic acid out of the muscles.” I didn’t question this much, after all I’d heard all my life  the aforementioned myths. My instructors weren’t intentionally giving my false information, they absolutely believed what they were saying. They were teaching what they had been taught. (I feel no ill will toward them, I just really should have questioned things more.)

20130628_124140

Research has given us a better idea of this “lactic acid” stuff. Thought for many years to be a waste product, we are learning that lactate or “lactic acid” is actually a fuel used by the body in a vigorous work-out. This article from Runner’s World gives a great explanation about how the body uses glucose and lactate for energy. And, hot dang, the body might actually prefer lactate!

So the the next time you “feel the burn” don’t curse the lactic acid you’re surely building up because your muscles are using it as fuel. And about that whole “Massage flushes lactic acid out of sore muscles” thing, research findings suggest that the lactate is actually gone from the muscle within an hour or so. Hmm. That means the massage you get the next day isn’t doing anything with lactate.  Talk about interesting! This article from the New York Times talks a bit about lactic acid, too.

Two days after your Cross Fit torture work-out when you are limping along with tight hammies you’ll know that it’s little tiny muscle tears that are hurting, not the evil lactic acid. Two days after the work-out while you’re receiving the most wonderful recovery massage you can feel confident that your massage therapist (ahem, me) isn’t trying to wring some weird substance from your muscle fibers. She’s rubbing your tired, sore muscles, soothing them into relaxation and helping them to prepare for the next go-round.

Did I blow your mind? Do you have questions? Ask away! What have you heard about work-outs and sore muscles?

PS If you are trying the Cross Fit, Cross Train, 5K/Half/Whole Marathon thing in the Paris, Arkansas area: woo hoo! Congrats and more power to ya! Give me a call so we can discuss if you want massage therapy as part of your training.

#3 in the Business Blogging Challenge: 31 posts in 31 days

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?

Hot Stone Face Massage

“Um, you want to put hot rocks on my face? Does that even feel good?”

That’s the reaction I sometimes get when I talk about this new massage service. Many people have never had a hot stone massage so they don’t know what to think about it. I mean, it’s rocks, how can that possibly feel good?

Hot Stone Face Massage uses hot*, oiled stones on the face to relax tense muscles. Jaw muscles are often wound tight like a rubber band. This could contribute to headache pain. None of us likes a headache. People with neck pain can get even more relief if a face massage and front-of-the-neck massage is included. All these muscles are either connected somehow or work together to stabilize the head, chew, move the neck, move the shoulder, etc. So it’s kind of “incomplete” if the front of the neck and face aren’t worked on at least a little bit.

Why Hot Stones on the Face?

Short answer: It. Feels. Awesome.
Better answer: The heat from the stones helps the face muscles to un-wind. They need to loosen a little bit. As these tense muscles loosen the pull they have on the skull softens. Less pull means less pain in the head. Slow circles and gentle pressure on the jaws helps loosen the grip there helping to ease neck pain. Massage on the forehead seems to be the thing that helps the rest of the body “let go.” It’s almost as if there is a button on the forehead that needs to be massaged in order for the mind and body to fully relax. It’s kind of amazing.

Melt facial tension with Hot Stone Face Massage
Melt facial tension with Hot Stone Face Massage

This type of face massage is slow, warm, specific, pain relieving and relaxing. Sometimes this 10 minutes added to the end of a relaxation massage is what puts a person into the much wanted massage coma. Adding a hot stone face massage to a deep tissue session for shoulder pain can really enhance the pain-relieving results. The neck moves better. The head doesn’t hurt. The million-and-one thoughts bumping around in the head quiet down a bit.

That’s why. It feels amazing and helps relieve pain. Will you try one at your next appointment?

*The stones are heated in water with a special Hot Stone Warmer. It has a digital thermometer. I initially heat the water to 135 degrees. Once the lid of the warmer comes off the water cools. The water is never too hot for me to put my hands inside. It is around 120 degrees. I cool the stones a bit before I place them on the face or body. I don’t have to wear a glove to get them out. If the stone is too hot for me to hold it is too hot for your skin and I will let it cool. Safety first, my friends!

 

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 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.