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.

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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.

 

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!

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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.

Map for Self-Healing

Holistic health is a journey with numerous twists and turns. For many of us it includes finding body-mind-spirit balance in a world that idolizes the mind, abuses the body, and ignores the spirit. As I choose to cultivate wellness more and more frequently, I am rewarded with greater physical comfort, more peace and calm, enhanced productivity, and a deeper sense of connection with my true self and life purpose. This encourages me to forge onward, despite a glaring lack of support from society at large.

So… I did a Reiki healing attunement for myself the other evening. This is a technique for removing blockages which prevent the arrival of desired goals. It’s very powerful, and sometimes disruptive as it can demand changes in belief systems and lifestyle to support the healing intention. It’s very much about re-establishing balance; therefore we need to eliminate the activities that create imbalance. All. Of. Them. (Chances are you already know what they are!)

I asked to release a pattern that has plagued me my entire adult life. Afterwards, I was gifted with a series of dreams that displayed in brilliant array the negative thought patterns that prevent me from receiving my petition. I am now abundantly clear that I’ve been given a road map: If I want to go to Point X, I must relinquish these false beliefs that derail me, and I’ll make better time if I stop wasting my energy on judgments and criticisms. All. Of. Them!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Now it’s up to me to follow through. It’s no easy job to recognize that your own thoughts are what obstruct you from going where you want to go! And certainly no easier to break mental habits that have developed over decades. But it’s the route to my success, so you’d better believe I’m going to give it my all!

The work to be done is entirely internal. There is no book, no class, no pill (herbal or pharmaceutical!), no therapy, no alternative treatment or practitioner, no exercise that can do this for me. I’ve been given a road map to my personal healing, and now it’s up to me to reprogram my mind with compassion, persistence, and awareness. Then I can get started on my journey with a new, accurate guidance system. Onward!

Contact me if you’re interested in your own personal healing map. Reiki can help you navigate it.

Living Pain Free Summit

I’ve spent the past 34 years exploring strategies to avoid pain. Over time I’ve come to recognize that the debilitating back pain I experienced for the first time in eighth grade was a blessing as it led me down the path of holistic wellness, alternative and complementary medicine, and body-mind-spirit healing. I’ve learned how to prevent discomfort in my own body and have spent 15 years helping my clients do the same. All without relying on numbing symptoms with pharmaceuticals.

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Last month I took a workshop, Positional Release for Chronic Pain, with Lee Albert. His teachings are very much aligned with my own beliefs and experiences. In fact, he didn’t tell me anything that I didn’t already know; rather he validated many vague concepts that had yet to been given shape and structure in my mind. I’m thrilled to have some new tools both for myself and for my clients.

Today I received an email that Lee is going to be participating in a NO cost online series of 20 experts in the field of holistic healing. “Isn’t it time to find out what options are available so you can get your quality of life back and start living the life you deserve?” is the invitation from his newsletter. If you want to experience something different than what you currently are experiencing, it’s necessary to DO something different. Perhaps one of these speakers will have the key that fits your lock.

The summit begins May 14. You can register here. Pain is a message that something is out of balance. Learning to decode the message and correct the imbalance is very often possible with the help of alternative, holistic therapies. I’ve found tremendous relief through yoga, meditation, prayer, contemplation, nutrition, plant medicine, Swedish massage, and Reiki. When I stick to my regime, the chronic back pain that plagued me throughout my youth is but a memory. If there’s a chance that yours could be too, wouldn’t you want to find out?

Simple Headache and Computer Posture Antidote

Today my Reiki students helped me name this extremely useful position. Beach pose! It’s a powerful complimentary and alternative medicine and holistic therapy remedy for a wide variety of common complaints that arise from less than ideal posture.

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Beach pose

It’s my number one recommendation for people who suffer from headaches or neck pain, work at a computer all day, or do massage or any other activity with the arms forward (pretty much everything, right?!). When there’s only time for one hand position for applying Reiki, this is a good choice. If you have just 3-5 minutes, put yourself in this position, and invite the healing energy to flow. The results are instantaneous and potent.

There are benefits available to those who haven’t been trained in the magical powers of energy healing. This pose is a slight, gentle backbend; a counterpose to computer slump. It reverses the forward hunching, chin jutting position many of us find ourselves in when sitting at a desk behind a keyboard. It opens the chest and throat, encouraging respiration and circulation, and lengthens contracted muscles in the chest and neck.

But that’s not all! It puts the upper trapezius into slack, counteracting its habitual overstretched position and offering an invitation for this poor, overworked, unbelievably tight muscle to reset. Taking the strain off of a muscle that has been locked in an overstretched position not only relieves pain, but stimulates a physiological healing response. This technique is called positional release; it is super gentle and incredibly potent. Just like Reiki!

Wait, there’s more! Placing the body in this relaxed, confident posture sends a signal to the brain that all is well. Clearly we are safe and secure if we are willing to expose our vulnerable belly and throat. Add a few deep breaths, and now we’re triggering the relaxation response, feel good brain chemistry, and decreased blood pressure. All from lounging in a chair, wherever we may be, in the middle of the day! Just a few minutes can initiate a cascading effect of relaxation, which promotes productivity, focus, and pain relief. And the only side effect is a better mood. 🙂

The modification for someone with a shoulder injury that prevents the hands from going behind the head would be the Scarlet O’Hara pose, with the back of the wrist to the forehead. Switching sides after two minutes allows for equal shoulder release. If that’s too much for the shoulders, simply broadening the collarbones and looking up ever so slightly can do the job.

I call this strategy “stacking practices”. Accomplishing multiple goals with one action is the opposite of multi-tasking. Beach pose can positively affect the nervous, glandular, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, energetic, and emotional systems simultaneously. It fits in with my model of working smarter, not harder and addressing the root issue rather than attacking the symptoms. Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

 

Healer, Heal Thyself: Listen!

My meniscus is healing quite nicely despite the absence of medical intervention. I’m not a doctor and do not wish to imply that I know what’s best for your own healing. Figuring out what is best for my own healing is quite the endeavor and I have no desire to project! I am, however, suggesting that whatever route you take, holistic techniques can be beneficial. I’m using them exclusively as alternative medicine, but they also work brilliantly as complementary medicine.

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I’ve reached a stage in which I rarely have knee pain, but my range of motion remains limited. In the past, I might have been tempted to power up and get aggressive. In my current level of wisdom, I’ve chosen to do otherwise. Healing does not come about through force.

It seems the most supportive course of action is to tune in and listen to what my body needs. This is a skill which, like every other skill, requires patience and practice. We live in a world that promotes overruling the body, giving it orders without regard for our overall well-being. We’ve been taught to ignore and suppress messages (AKA pain) that we receive and push on through. Well, I’m here to advocate for the alternative path.

Pain is a message that I am out of balance. Numbing the pain (or as I like to quip, shooting the messenger) might allow for a temporary reprieve, but the imbalance remains and will continue to send messengers until it is resolved. I’m taking a good, hard look at what I can do to create more balance. Just as importantly, I’m taking the action steps necessary to move my life in the direction of greater equilibrium.

For me, that means taking Sundays off so I now enjoy a 5 day workweek. Woohoo! It means resting and playing more. It means acknowledging the muscular imbalance in my legs and hips that puts strain on the knee joint, making it vulnerable; and it means learning how to revise my yoga practice to facilitate this rebalancing. It definitely mean receiving lots of Reiki and massage and choosing which thoughts I want to energize.

For the first several weeks, it meant using all the holistic potions that came across my radar. Plant medicine stimulates the body’s innate healing abilities, not at all like pharmaceuticals which tend to suppress symptoms. I had been happily applying essential oil and Ayurvedic oils topically, ingesting homeopathic remedies, smearing on gels and cremes, and taking a Chinese remedy made from deer antler (said to help stimulate cartilage repair without harming any animals). It’s impossible to say which of the these strategies worked, but the overall effect was one of increased rate of healing.

Now I’m no longer feeling the need for these tools. I believe they did their job and encouraged meniscus repair from the inside out. I will revisit them if there is a need. Right now it seems that time is the main ingredient, and I just to continue my quest for balance, listening to my body’s messages, and giving her what she needs.

Healer, Heal Thyself Part 6: Slow Down

I suspect that the torn meniscus in my knee is a message from Spirit urging me to Slow Down. There were previously other, gentler messages that I chose to ignore. If we don’t answer the knock at the door, sometimes the result is a brick through the window. I am choosing to answer the door. While I snoozed through the first knock and the more instant knock, I’m jumping up (figuratively anyway!) for the loud banging. No bricks needed here, thank you very much!

Part of my slow down plan involves traveling differently. I’m off to Kripalu (!!!) for a continuing education workshop. I’ve expanded my itinerary to allow for one and a half days of travel in each direction. Very different than the original agenda of a 5 am bus with three transfers depositing me disheveled and exhausted moments before the first class.

So I’m on the commuter train on the way to the Amtrak train. It’s altogether a 7 hour journey to Boston where I’ll spend the night and a leisurely morning before boarding another train to the retreat center. For those who view time as money, it’s a horrifically inefficient plan. For someone who’s primary goal is wellness, it couldn’t be more optimal!

For starters, train travel doesn’t charge for luggage. Or make you jump through hoops regarding carry on bags which eventually get separated from you because when an entire plane full of people tries to avoid baggage fees, there’s never enough room in the overhead bins. Grrr! So I’ve been able to pack my big suitcase with a few decadent luxuries like supplements, my yoga mat, and all the aromatherapy oils I desire. Not just the ones the can fit in the quart sized ziplock bag.

I’m traveling in style with my reusable water bottle full of filtered water and travel mug full of my favorite tea. I have a few grounding crystals in my pockets and lace up shoes; neither of which will need to be removed. I have a packed lunch including proper utensils. I’m also wearing a knee brace with magnets without fear of setting off any alarms or being subjected to a body cavity search.

I have several books to read and a presentation to prepare. I’m grateful that I’ll have more than one cubic foot to do my work while riding comfortably with no worry of getting stuck in the middle seat. Once I get there, I have the added bonus of a mini adventure exploring a city I’ve never visited. I have no plan other than a hotel room booked. I have no contacts other than a online dating match that turned out disastrously and clearly I hope to avoid.

So finding an extra three days to journey to your next destination might not be in the cards for you. Yet I encourage you to think how you can create more space in your daily life for comfort, ease, and wellness. Can you allow yourself five extra minutes to get ready in the morning without rushing? Can you carve out a half hour to chew your food and receive pleasure and nourishment from your meals? Can you get to bed any earlier so the next morning arrives more peacefully? On the morning of your Slow Down journey when you obsessively decided to do one more load of laundry, can you leave it unfolded in the basket so you don’t have to hurry out the door? (I assure you that this is indeed possible!)

What choices can you make to set yourself up for success when it comes to living a balanced, harmonious, joyful life?

Healer, Heal Thyself Part 3: Yoga

Welcome to my journey of healing a torn meniscus using holistic, alternative therapies that align with my belief system. I recently explored body-mind-spirit healing, and next up is the ancient sacred practice of yoga. I’m not talking about the fast-paced, “work-out” style of yoga that seems to be popular in the U.S. these days. I don’t like to feel like I’m doing jumping jacks in my yoga practice! That seems like an invitation to injury (or re-injury) which is most definitely NOT part of my plan.

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First of all, I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. In addition to following the suggestions of your medical practitioner, you might consider consulting a yoga therapist.

Yoga therapists are trained to help people adapt poses and develop a practice that is safe for any body type or physical limitation. This would be my recommendation for most people wishing to use yoga to support the healing of any injury. Find a trained teacher who can guide you through the practice.

Having been a student of yoga for the past 25 years, I have loads of experience at accepting what my body can and cannot do. I’ve given up the idea of trying to look like the person on the mat next to me. I have no idealized version of how my practice should look and I feel quite comfortable doing what I can, no matter how restricted it may seem. This acquired humbleness and authenticity combined with 15 years of practicing massage therapy allows me to feel confident guiding my own practice safely.

For me, yoga is an exercise of the mind; of bringing my awareness into my body to focus on softening the areas that hold tension. It helps me to inhabit my body rather than just using it as a vehicle to carry me from place to place. Bringing compassionate awareness into the painful areas brings prana (the Sanskrit word for life- force energy that we call ki in Reiki healing) to the tissues that need it- the very tissues that I tend to ignore and numb out.

For me the combination of breathing deeply, infusing my cells with prana, focusing my mind, becoming fully present, and mindful (and in this case slow and gentle) movement is extraordinarily healing. Plus it stimulates the Relaxation Response; a physiological reaction that releases feel-good, calming chemicals in my brain.  It’s like getting the benefits of a two week vacation rolled into an hour. Seriously, what could be better than that? Maybe a massage… but that’s for the next installment. 🙂

Healer, Heal Thyself Part 1

So. I injured my knee. Much of the time it doesn’t hurt at all. Until it does. And sometimes it really freakin’ does! My chiropractor did an orthopedic test (specific movements with joints held in specific positions) and it appears I have a torn meniscus. Crap. Although… it is a wonderful opportunity to practice what I preach about self-care and alternative medicine.

Let me begin by saying I’m not a doctor. I’m not offering medical advice. I have no idea what you should do about your knee injury. I’m certainly not suggesting you shouldn’t seek medical attention simply because I’m not. However, you might like to include some complementary methods with whatever treatment you are receiving. Legal disclaimer over.

I’m exploring a wide range of holistic techniques to heal my knee. I’m quite certain that the problem is not the lack of a pharmaceutical drug, and surgery or other invasive procedures will only be considered if all other, and I mean ALL other, plans fail.

I believe in the power of body-mind-spirit healing, and listening to the messages the body provides.

I believe in the healing power of Reiki, bodywork, and compassionate touch.

I believe in using plants and food as medicine.

I believe that minimizing stress and inflammation supports optimal health and healing.

I believe in using mindfulness and breath as tools of integration.

I believe in the ancient sciences of yoga and Ayurveda.

I believe healing comes from the inside out and that my body knows what it needs if I only slow down enough to listen.

I believe I am the ultimate authority when it comes to my health, and while I will research techniques and therapies and consult with other holistic health practitioners, my treatment must align with my beliefs.

This is the beginning of a series in which I explore the journey of healing my knee using holistic, energy, plant, and spiritual medicine. And a magnetic knee brace, which I was gifted today. Because I also believe in synchronicity and kindness and hey, it certainly can’t hurt!

Up next: body-mind-spirit healing for a meniscus tear.

 

Holiday Madness

Here we go again! Thanksgiving is still over a week away and already I’m seeing Christmas decorations in some local stores. This season can be overwhelming and super-stressful for so many of us. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the busy-ness of holiday traditions and seemingly endless to-do lists. It’s no coincidence that it’s also a season of colds and flus as we run ourselves ragged.

I encourage people to evaluate their intentions before overcommitting. Learning to say “no” is often one of the healthiest and empowering actions we can take when an activity is not aligned with our goals. Allowing time for rest and restoration is important all year long, but invaluable in the colder months of long, , dark nights. Choosing to stay home and recalibrate rather than overeating, overdrinking, overgiving, or overspending can be so supportive of health and well-being.

For those who are determined to push through and do it all, I highly recommend scheduling some healing support. Why wait till things go wrong, till the immune system crashes, the headaches descend or the low back gives out? Prepare yourself and prevent the aftermath of overdoing by making time for a massage, Reiki or acupuncture treatment, a trip to the chiropractor or hot baths, extra yoga or dance classes, or whatever you favorite mode of relaxation may be.

Make it a priority now and get it on the calendar! Save yourself the misery of getting sick or injured or suffering from stress and tension. Having two jobs, my own business, plans to travel to the Michigan tundra for a family Thanksgiving, an upcoming move to a different home, and all the other ordinary everyday stuff I’m loading up on self-care practices; including eliminating all inflammatory thoughts and foods, boosting my immune system with plant medicine, and receiving treatments from my awesome team of holistic health providers. Seriously, I don’t mess around!

If you’re wondering if a session with me would be helpful, let’s schedule a complimentary 15 minute phone consultation. Even if you’re not in the Philadelphia area, long-distance Reiki is an excellent option to stress relief, recharging batteries, and keeping life-force energy flowing and balanced. If we’re neighbors, let’s get you on the table for a therapeutic massage or Reiki treatment! Check out my website for details or contact me to schedule.