Holiday Special

We have officially entered holiday season. Here in Philadelphia, the weather has turned quite cold and people are bundling up. ‘Tis the season for stress and busy-ness, colds and the flu. More than ever it’s important to make time to rest and restore one’s balance to promote good health and mental well-being.

snow woman winter snowflakes
Photo by Kristin Vogt on Pexels.com

Getting sucked into a whirlwind of constant activity is exhausting. I encourage people to literally block out time on their calendars for self-care. Then when you’re invited to do something, you can consult your agenda and truthfully say, “I have a previous commitment at that time.” Many of us, myself included, find saying “no” difficult, but this little trick works wonders.

My mission is to support and cheer others on as they uncover the wholeness, worthiness, and wellness at the center of their being. In the hopes of making this easier during what can be a challenging time, I’m offering a special on packages of five sessions.

These packages are each valid for one person for one year from date of purchase. It’s possible to mix and match treatments, so there’s no need to decide up front if you desire Reiki and/or massage. This special is available till the end of 2018. Convenient PayPal payments are an option, as are cash, check, or card if you prefer to stop by my office. 

Five sessions for the price of four. That’s a 20% savings!

Five 60 minute sessions = $320 ($80 savings!)

Five 75 minute sessions = $400 ($100 savings!)

Five 90 minute sessions = $480 ($120 savings!)

Five long-distance Reiki sessions = $220 ($55 savings!)

If you’re feeling inspired to spread the peace and joy, you could even use the savings to purchase a gift card for a friend.

Contact me for details or to arrange payment. Or schedule an appointment in the month of December, and we’ll get you set up then.

 

 

 

Massage for Postpartum Joint Pain

Recently someone asked if I was familiar with the phenomenon of women experiencing joint pain after the delivery of a baby. I was not. But this conversation certainly got me thinking! Given my model of understanding pain as an indicator of imbalance, then massage could certainly be of benefit in this circumstance. As I’m always on the lookout for new material for this blog, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to explore and  share.

newborn-baby-mother-adorable-38535

It seems quite common for hormones to be imbalanced during this time of major transition. I find Swedish massage to be spectacularly helpful for supporting hormonal health. Manual therapy is a lot like wringing out a sponge. Massage can physically stimulate the removal of cellular waste and other debris from the tissue. The lymphatic system can then “take out the trash”, encouraging the body to return to equilibrium.

Another obvious factor would be the change in structure of a women’s body once the baby is no longer within her. The center of gravity shifts and the hip flexors and extensors negotiate a new relationship. This will have an impact directly on the hips, knees, and back. From here, imbalance can radiate to the entire body. Releasing tension from tired, overworked muscles and stimulating circulation to weak and underused muscles can absolutely assist the body in returning to structural balance.

Never having delivered a baby myself, I don’t have first-hand knowledge of what the experience is like. I do think it’s safe to say that as far as the nervous system is concerned, it is a traumatic event. Regardless of the possible joy of bringing new life into the world, or achieving the important goal of becoming a mother, the physiological response to pain is swift and thorough. From the first contraction, the sympathetic nervous system is triggered, and muscles tense. Massage can help reset the parasympathetic nervous system and nudge the body back into balance through activating the relaxation response. Reiki can be wonderfully helpful in this aspect as well.

Upper body discomfort is common with new mothers as the body adjusts to carrying, holding, or nursing a baby. This is more of a repetitive movement issue as muscles are being asked to behave in new ways for great lengths of time. Massage can indeed provide relief for those achy and exhausted muscles of the upper back, shoulders, and arms.

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of deep-tissue massage in most cases. In this particular case, I’d go so far as to say that intense pressure would only cause more tension and create more pain. Deep-tissue work is actually contraindicated if a mother is breastfeeding, but even if she’s not I fail to see any possible benefits. Skillful and mindful work in the hip flexors, lateral rotators, and gluteals might edge on unpleasant, but crossing the border into pain is going to be counterproductive.

As always, it’s important to check with your doctor when experiencing pain. Western medicine is brilliant when it comes to detecting severe health issues. It’s not so great at treating pain, so unless there’s a condition preventing you from receiving treatment, I have no doubt that some TLC for mama could help tremendously.

 

Time Does Not Heal All Wounds

The more I learn about trauma and its devastating effects, the more I realize that the adage “time heals all wounds” is completely wrong. Not matter how long ago one experienced a traumatic event, if the energy generated at that time has not been released and integrated, it remains in the body. It might hibernate or seem dormant, but it lurks beneath the surface, often creating pain or influencing behavior and emotions from the shadows.

“If you are experiencing strange symptoms that no one seems to be able to explain, they could be arising from a traumatic reaction to a past event that you may not even remember. You are not alone. You are not crazy. There is a rational explanation for what is happening to you. You have not been irreversibly damaged, and it is possible to diminish or even eliminate your symptoms.” Peter Levine, Waking the Tiger

I find this quote from one of the world’s leading experts on trauma to be so helpful. Many of my clients suffer from mysterious symptoms that their doctors are unable to explain. Just because western medicine doesn’t have an answer does not automatically mean that there is none; they just haven’t fully understood the affects of trauma or the awesome power of the body-mind-spirit connection.

I was horrified to hear that a neurologist told a woman experiencing hand tremors that she should see a psychologist because there was nothing physically wrong with her. I have nothing against psychological treatment, but this doctor was implying that she suffered from a mental illness because he was unable to find a diagnosis. I wonder if he would have treated a male patient the same way, but that is a topic for another day.

“Traumatic symptoms are not caused by the “triggering” event itself. They stem from the frozen residue of energy that has not been resolved and discharged; this residue remains trapped in the nervous system where it can wreak havoc on our bodies and spirits. The long-term alarming, debilitating, and often bizarre symptoms of PTSD develop when we cannot complete the process of moving in, through and out of the “immobility” or “freezing” state. However, we can thaw by initiating and encouraging our innate drive to return to a state of dynamic equilibrium.” Again from Waking the Tiger

Clearly I am enamored with this book! I believe it offers valuable wisdom in a form accessible to the layperson. Somatic Experiencing is the therapy that has evolved from Levine’s work. While I am not a practitioner of this modality, I have absorbed and integrated much of its philosophy into my therapeutic massage and Reiki practice. Acknowledging the whole person, compassionate listening, nurturing touch, allowing an organic unwinding of tension patterns, and supporting the process of body-mind-spirit integration is the approach that has benefited so many of my clients.

While I have much to learn about healing, for my own journey and to support my clients, what really stands out to me is that trauma requires some form of intervention to be released. This appears to be a physiological fact, according to Levine. It does not simply go away over time. There is no shame in reaching out for help healing a wound, no matter how old, how seemingly insignificant, or how much we might believe it shouldn’t be affecting us anymore.

Please know that whatever terrible experiences you may have endured, you are not broken. Your spirit remains perfect, whole, and complete. Your body and mind can be healed and the residue of any trauma is treatable. There is hope.

Here’s a link to a directory of Somatic Experiencing practitioners.

If you’re interested in exploring if long-distance Reiki, or in person Reiki or Swedish massage for stress and pain relief through body-mind-spirit integration might be right for you, please do contact me to schedule a complementary 15 minute phone consultation.

 

Free at Last!

I just finished a session with a client who has been coming for massage monthly for the past two years. When we began, she could barely turn her neck and was experiencing throbbing pain on a daily basis. She works in a high-power, high-stress corporate job that demands long hours sitting at the computer, and isn’t interested in changing that. Today she reported that since her last appointment, she was symptom free for 24 days, felt some tension in the trouble zone for the past four days, but zero pain all month.

Victory!

man in red crew neck sweatshirt photography
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

I’m not saying this to toot my own horn. I’m sure she could have had similar results with many other therapists. My intention here is to offer hope to those who endure chronic pain that results from lifestyles or careers that they wish to learn to cope with. In this case, a more ergonomic work station, biweekly yoga classes, and a monthly massage (and beneath all that, the commitment to actually follow through) were all it took to cross the threshold from out-of-balance to close-enough-balance.

I think we all have such a tipping point.

Mine is a daily yoga and Reiki practice, bimonthly massage, and a receiving a monthly Reiki session from a colleague. I’m working with some chronic issues, plus a car-less lifestyle, and a physically demanding job; so my maintenance program needs to be more thorough than most people’s. It’s totally worth it to avoid that irritating point underneath my left scapula or the dull ache in my lower back that have plagued me for decades.

I have another client who has been able to reduce her headaches from three times per week to once or twice per month after getting into a monthly massage routine. And a dentist client who had disturbingly- painful, career- threatening elbow pain and finger numbness who is nearly symptom free.

Managing stress is a huge component of optimizing our health and well-being. Most of us regularly partake of activities or substances that are less than ideal for our bodies. Most of us are pulled in a thousand different directions at a hundred miles an hour, coasting on too little sleep. We have overstimulated fight, flight, or freeze responses and repetitive movement patterns that create wear and tear on our joints. Rather than succumbing to the natural results of these imbalances, we can take action to counteract them.

It’s never too late to start returning to wellness. Every journey begins with the first step.

Preventing Burnout

I’m noticing a lot of educators feeling burned out as the school year draws to a close. While they face different challenges than I do, the route to wellness follows the same general direction. Keeping one’s energy up requires a multi-pronged approach: refill positive energy, plug energy leaks, and release negative energy. I put together a list of easy strategies that you might find helpful.

Doing these practices throughout the year will help build up your life force energy, and therefore overall health and happiness. Doing them during a time of acute stress can protect mental, emotional, and physical well-being. As a proponent of alternative and complementary therapies, I’ve explored holistic techniques for protecting my health over the past two decades and strive to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to stress management.

pexels-photo.jpg

  • Get out into nature (trees and running water are ideal, but an urban park is a good substitute if that’s what’s available to you) and put your bare feet on the earth. Google “grounding” or “earthing” if interested in the reasoning.
  • Soak in epsom salt baths with pure lavender essential oil.
  • Consistently eat quality protein. Humanely raised grass fed beef or pasture raised chicken and eggs. Humus. Organic nuts. Yes, it’s expensive; you are worth it.
  • Reduce intake of refined sugar. Seriously- this is so helpful! Paleo desserts are pretty yummy and satisfy my sweet tooth without crashing my blood sugar or triggering inflammation like traditional desserts do.
  • Unplug. As much as possible, take a break from all electronics- especially 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Practice pranayama/ breath exercise. Inhale for a count of 4. Hold breath in for a count of 4. Exhale for a count of 8. Trick your brain into thinking you’re relaxed.
  • When spending a marathon day doing desk work, take dance breaks.  A friend who recently survived a PhD acquisition turned me onto the Pomodoro technique, a time management method which breaks work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. During the break intervals, I like to get up and move my body.
  • Get Reiki and/or massage 🙂 from someone who is not burned out! Allow a professional to help you recharge your batteries.

What techniques do you use to help manage intense stress and prevent burnout? I’m always interested in learning new tricks!

Getting the Most out of My Massage

Today it’s my turn to get on the table and receive a nurturing, nourishing massage. Yay!!! I’m so enamored with the benefits of gentle, healing touch that I aim to get at least two every month. Massage is a huge part of my mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health care plan. It’s my goal to use holistic, alternative, and complementary medicine to cultivate the optimal health available to me.

treatment-finger-keep-hand-161477.jpeg

In order to get the most out of my session, I want to arrive in the most relaxed state that I possibly can. That way I can sink even deeper into my treatment, reaping the most rewards available to me, and experiencing the greatest peace and relaxation. Some days, the most relaxed state that I’m able to conjure up is, well, loosely described as a hot mess. And that’s just perfect. If I’m upset or agitated, there’s no greater cure than healing touch. I leave feeling like I’ve been restored to my essential, loving self.

However, when grace allows and I begin my treatment from the maximum state of relaxation I can achieve on my own, the therapist helps me arrive at a whole new level. So I take the time to meditate and clear my mind. While this is obviously not necessary and most people enjoy a massage without preparing for it with meditation, I’ve noticed that when I don’t, I spend the first 20-30 minutes just settling into my session. When I’ve meditated beforehand, I settle almost instantly, allowing myself to sink deeper quicker. For the same reason, I like to do some gentle yoga in preparation as well.

Over the years, I’ve come to recognize that late morning seems to be a really good time for me. I’ve eaten a hearty breakfast earlier and it’s mostly digested by then but keeps my blood sugar stable; I’ve hydrated quite well and don’t need to worry about a full bladder disrupting my treatment. I like to dry brush, so that I’m more able to absorb all the healing qualities of the natural oil being slathered on my skin.

Because I’m aware of the value of treating the muscles of the face, scalp, and upper neck that attach to the skull, I prioritize these benefits over my appearance. I don’t mind walking home with massage hair, and I imagine what people notice most about me is my calm presence and radiant glow. On the rare occasion that I have somewhere fancy to go, I let my therapist know to avoid my head and I protect my locks by tying them up out of the way.

Naturally I don’t want to feel rushed and I want to receive every minute of massage bliss, so I allow plenty of time for getting there calmly. It’s a beautiful day outside, and I’m blessed to have a gifted therapist within walking distance of my home, so I make time for a leisurely stroll there and back. Hurrying to or from a massage is a great way to eradicate most of the benefits by triggering stress hormones. No thank you! I make space in case I encounter every single red light, a long lost friend who wants to say hello, or an adorable puppy.

Perhaps the most essential strategy for getting the most out of my holistic health care via massage is to communicate my desires and needs clearly at the beginning of my session. I tell my therapist two or three things I’d like to focus on, as well as anything I’d like to avoid. Because I’m healing a torn meniscus in my knee, range of motion or stretching makes me nervous, which is the exact opposite of relaxation, and to be avoided for now. I have some tension in my neck that needs some therapy, so I mention that as well.

Now my work is done. I get to lie back, relax, and receive. I enjoy the greatest rewards when I turn off my thinking and let the therapist do the job for which s/he has been highly trained. Micromanaging is a sure way to interrupt the flow and interfere with my ability to release stress. Assuming that I know the best course of action discounts the therapist’s skill, experience, and intuition. Generally, I have a blind spot when it comes to my own tension patterns as I can’t see the bigger picture. Unless something is painful, or I’m uncomfortable in any way, I get the most out of my massage by allowing myself to receive the gift that is being offered to me.

Over the past 15 years, I’ve probably been the recipient of over 400 session! I’ve only had a handful of what I would call “bad” massages, several mediocre massages, and loads of really wonderful massages. As I’ve been perfecting my receiving technique, I’ve noticed that much of the responsibility for experiencing a great massage is mine. Practicing the above strategies makes a huge difference for me, and I hope it will for you too.

 

Healer, Heal Thyself Part 4: Massage

I am a firm believer in the power of healing touch. So it seems only natural to me to get as much massage as I can to support the healing of the torn meniscus in my knee. For some, it might seem like a far stretch that massaging the soft tissue can help with an internal cartilage injury. Over the past 15 years of giving approximately 10,000 massages, I’ve witnessed time and time again my clients experiencing pain relief from a wide variety of issues. My respect for this holistic modality continues to deepen each time I observe it stimulating the body’s innate healing ability.

reiki-47

Swedish massage is my favorite! The soothing nature of the strokes stimulates the relaxation response and releases the happy chemicals in my brain. You know; serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine. It’s quite magical! When I’m on the massage table, I feel like everything is going to be just fine, and I find myself breathing deeply, and while my muscles simply melt.

Stimulating circulation is another important factor in the healing process. Unlike muscles, connective tissue isn’t particularly vascular and this can lengthen the duration of cartilage injuries. The manual manipulation of tissues around the knee increases circulation to the area, which supports the removal of any cellular waste and toxins as well as brings oxygen to the area. This provides the body with the conditions it needs to repair the damage from the inside out.

Perhaps most importantly, the muscles supporting an injured joint and those on the opposite side that must compensate for limited range of motion get tense, stiff, and achy. This contributes to a cycle of pain, more tension, less circulation, more pain… Massage helps to break this cycle and encourages muscles to lengthen and relax. Triggering the relaxation response also reduces the secretion of  the stress hormone, cortisol, which has been shown to contribute to inflammation.

Over time, feeling relaxed and the resulting physiological and neurochemical responses, along with increased circulation, and decreased inflammatory response will speed the healing on most any injury. Given that the side effects of massage include a good mood, nourished skin, and a sense of body-mind connection, I’m delighted to be able to include it in my recovery program. As with most, if not all, holistic and alternative treatments, massage promotes overall health and wellness without the dangers of more invasive procedures. Sign me up!