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18/Aug/2017

Your Scalp Massage Check Up From The Neck Up.

There’s a lot going on in that head of yours — including many muscles and structures that could benefit from a scalp massage and face massage. People often ask us what we’re working on when we massage the head so we will explore the cranium vis a vis therapeutic massage. From sinuses, to stress, to migraines, healing touch can help us keep our heads in the game.

A little anatomy

The skull houses our brain and sinuses and, like the rest of our skeleton, is covered with many muscles. The scalp is mostly covered with fascial tissue which can tighten due to stress or postural issues. Some of the neck and face muscles also overlap onto the scalp- especially the ones that help tense the jaw and shoulders. The face contains the sinuses and over twenty muscles that let you smile, frown, and chew. There are also nerves, blood vessels, lymphatic vessels, and glands, amongst other anatomical structures.

Stress, Anxiety, and Trauma

Massage can help fight stress, calm anxiety, and ease trauma. One great and simple technique to set the tone for healing is gentle head holding. Cradling the back of the head in the hands for a few minutes helps promote grounding and relaxation and starts a session in a calm and reassuring manner. Many people find powerful healing with this technique alone. After setting the tone with this technique, the therapist can then move into other soothing and grounding bodywork.

Sinus Problems

Many people find relief from sinus pain and pressure with massage. A combination of a few techniques over the sinuses and related structures can help relieve stuffiness and soothe tension. Gliding over the forehead and scalp, pressing through the eyebrows, and working along the sides of the nose and around the cheekbones can get things working. Then balancing and soothing with work over the rest of the head and adding aromatherapy and cold packs, can really relieve irritated sinuses. Because breathing rocks!

Headaches

Whether tension type, cervicogenic, or full-blown migraines, massage can help tame headache pain. The massage technique will vary depending on the root cause of the headaches, but they will all focus on the head. For some types of headaches, a targeted approach to the musculature and fascia may give the best results. For others, the therapist may focus on relaxation. Often people who suffer from headaches get tight areas on their scalp or in their face and neck muscles- and massage helps ease those restrictions. (PS- June is Migraine and Headache awareness month.)

Temporomandibular Disorders

A thorough targeted massage to the face, scalp, neck, and shoulders can also help ease symptoms of TMJ. Clenching, grinding, arthritis, injury, and many other causes contribute to TMJ. A protocol combining massage to the direct and indirect muscles involved can greatly reduce pain and improve function. A little added heat therapy can enhance the massage. Starting with the jaw and working out, the therapist can coax those muscles back into shape.

So, massage on and around the head not only feels great, but it also serves to improve many health concerns. A skilled therapist can work the face and scalp to help with any of these goals, and more. Face and scalp massage feels like a luxury but delivers great therapeutic value.

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18/Aug/2017

Living Through Pain and Frustration – Tips and Techniques for Fibromyalgia Self Care

Slightly more than five years ago after thousands of dollars in medical expenses and numerous tests that all indicated “normal” test results, I finally received a diagnosis of fibromyalgia and began my journey of living with this painful and frustrating condition. During my journey, I have discovered a number of tips that can make the daily struggle of living with fibromyalgia a little easier and can alleviate some of the pain and discomfort. Soon after I was diagnosed, I stumbled upon a book by Dr. Ginevra Liptan entitled Figuring Out Fibromyalgia. Many of the ideas listed below came from this book and her subsequent publication The Fibro Manual. If you are struggling with fibro, I urge you to get a copy of The Fibro Manual. The information contained in this recent publication has been invaluable to me and my path towards healing and fibromyalgia self care .

At my very lowest point, I could not lift my arms to my mouth to eat my morning cereal. Now I have recovered my full range of motion and am the most flexible that I have ever been. You can get better. While listening to the radio station WPER Positive Hits 90.5, I heard Theresa Mills state that the word HOPE stands for Hold On Pain Ends. It is my prayer that each one reading this will find at least one thing that can make his/her daily life with this dreaded condition a little easier. As with anything concerning your health, please check with your doctor or healthcare provider before taking any supplements or starting a regime of exercising and stretching.

Since pain, fatigue and stiffness at times can make daily routines difficult, I have found a few tricks and tools to make daily living easier, especially on those bad days.

Protecting Fibro Backs

A long pair of tongs can be helpful for picking up things when bending or reaching is out. Use them to retrieve dropped items from the floor, take clothes out of the dryer, or reach things out of the cupboard.

A speaker phone can save your neck and back! Instead of crooking your neck to the side and holding the phone to your ear (remember that static locked positions are your enemy), put the phone on speaker to avoid prolonged awkward positioning.

If you love to read, you probably have realized that holding up a book or even a newspaper for a prolonged period of time may be too much. Using a tablet, books on tape, or a reading stand can help. (I have also found the tablet to be easier on my body for emailing and light computer usage.)

When taking a car trip, use pillows to prop up your arms and a towel or pillow to bolster your neck. A heat wrap (or heated seats if you’re lucky) can come in handy, too.

Driving can be your worst enemy of fibromyalgia self care; if you must do it often or for a single prolonged period of time (which could be as little as 10 minutes if you are really flared up). I never drive without a travel-sized pillow under each of my arms. The pillows fill the space between my lap and the wheel so I am not holding my arms locked in a stationary position with no support.

Stretch every day. I always begin my daily stretching in the shower so that the heat of the water also aids in loosening my muscles. Then. as soon as I towel off I continue with additional stretching while I am still loose and warm. Do each stretch slowly but avoid too much repetition (maybe two-three reps of each).

Tools for Fibromyalgia Self Care

Pillows, pillows, pillows … in the car, at the table, on the couch, in the bed. Extra pillows can keep you propped and supported. At bedtime make sure your primary pillow gives your neck good support. Fill in with support pillows as needed especially for the hips, arms and shoulders. Find a good mattress topper or mattress. Foam works best for me. Also, lavender aromatherapy can help enhance sleep.

Use a small ball, like a tennis ball or trigger point ball, to help roll out knots. You can lean against it on a wall, or lay on it on the ground, and take it with you when you travel.

A Theracane, basically knobs on a stick, can help you get precise pressure on your tender points. And it is great for reaching your neck, back, and shoulders without exerting yourself too much.

Heat wraps deliver moist heat help relax muscle tension. You can find ones that heat up in the microwave like a rice pack or aromatherapy pillows from Mother Earth.

Foam rollers target broad areas of your body at once. They are great for general tautness and large muscle groups.

Use your large exercise ball as a support when you stretch- especially good for stretching your back.

Magnesium, such as in an epsom salt bath or oil, can help ease muscle soreness and tension.

Lavender aromatherapy serves as both a natural stress reducer and sleep aid.

A Cranio Cradle can also help traction your neck and encourage rest.

The great outdoors is free. Get outside every day. No matter how bad you feel. The movement and sunshine (and nature) can help keep you going and connected to the world.

Many thanks to the staff at Nimbus Massage. Their compassionate, knowledgeable and skillful therapists literally keep me moving while maintaining my pain at tolerable levels. Without their encouragement and assistance, I would never have compiled this list of tips and tools. They are truly awesome!!

Additional Resources

Some quality sources of information that have helped me include:

The Fibro Manual by Dr. Ginevra Liptan.

Healing Through Trigger Point Therapy by Devin J. Starlanyl and John Sharkey

The Fibromyalgia Partnership and their quarterly publication Fibromyalgia Frontiers.

YouTube always has helpful fibromyalgia self care videos for how-to’s on stretching and using tools.

 

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18/Aug/2017

Taking on a new exercise or physical activity can lead to sore aching muscles the next day.

Sometimes the muscle soreness even lingers for a few days making every step, bend, or twist a wince-worthy moment. Fortunately, with conditioning, learning your limits, and a little TLC post-activity, muscle soreness can fade into the past.

Lactic Acid and Sore Muscles

For a long time, the fitness community blamed lactic acid build-up for post-exercise muscle soreness. New studies show that lactic acid does indeed play a role in the muscles during physical exertion. However, it appears to dissipate quite rapidly after the activity stops instead of “building up” in the muscle.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Currently, the medical community believes that tiny little tears in the muscle fibers, combined perhaps with inflammation, cause the pain. They call it Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (“DOMS”). In general terms, as long as it feels good when stretched, it isn’t too severe. People often also qualify it as “good pain.”

Steps to prevent DOMS

Working with a personal trainer or exercise specialist when undertaking a new program can help people recognize and understand their limits and how to gradually improve. In general terms, starting slow with a moderate increase from previous activity can work. Then one can gradually increase the intensity. People can also apply this to non-exercise tasks such as gardening, home projects, or cleaning. Jumping in and overdoing it can lead to unwelcome muscle soreness. Take it easy and build up. In either case, warming up, cooling down, and stretching afterwards can minimize soreness.

Sports Massage

For those who push their limits in training, massage can help. Some people use sports massage directly after training to decrease inflammation and stave off DOMS. Recent studies have shown an actual physiological decrease in inflammation in muscles post-exercise with the application of massage. Typically, this type of sports massage entails light to moderate pressure vigorous massage.

Between heavy training cycles, one may use firmer more targeted massage to address problem areas with knots and tension. In either context, adding stretching can help.

The same principles would apply for someone who had sore muscles from non-exercise activity. In either case, the client would want to share how long it has been since their last intense activity, their typical activity, and what level of muscle soreness they feel. All of these pieces of information help a massage therapist plan a session that will ease the client’s pain.

Self-Care

Some things to try at home for easing DOMS include stretching, soaking, and self-massage. Taking time to stretch the sore muscles can feel great and get them back to normal more quickly. Applying heat, especially moist heat, can relax the muscle and ease pain. Many people find an Epsom salt bath or heat therapy pillow particularly helpful. Some people prefer cold therapy- such as icing or applying a salve such as BioFreeze. Self-massage techniques like rubbing, kneading, thumping, and jostling the muscle can help get them back in shape as well. Hands or tools such as a massage ball or foam roller all work. Light activity can also help speed recovery.

People of all levels of activity and fitness can experience Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Taking these steps can help relieve and/or prevent it for free, happy, easy movement.

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18/Aug/2017

Stretching is a mildly controversial topic.


For decades, many athletes have believed that a pre- and post-activity regimen of statically stretching individual muscles to or beyond their maximum length provided the following benefits: effective warm up, injury prevention, improved performance increased flexibility through permanent muscle elongation, and dissipation of knots in muscles.

However, current research leans away from such claims. Multiple studies have shown that pre-activity stretching can actually decrease performance, and makes no appreciable difference in frequency or severity of injuries. Other studies show that pre-activity stretching doesn’t warm and prepare the muscles as well as simply performing a scaled-down version of the activity itself, and that muscles cannot undergo plastic changes simply by being stretched.

So if stretching doesn’t deliver on injury prevention or performance improvement, what is it good for? Depending on how we define good:

|Good| adjective, better, best
1.morally excellent; virtuous; righteous; pious:
2.satisfactory in quality, quantity, or degree:
3.
of high quality; excellent.

Stretching Article by James Arbuckle

Per current research, the following can be safely claimed as benefits of stretching or what’s “good” about it: Temporary relief from muscle soreness | Improved peace of mind | Improved flexibility by increasing stretch tolerance.

Most people agree that stretching just feels good. It may not “cure” sore muscles, but it can provide some short-term relief. For many, stretching induces a peaceful state, and can be used as a meditation. And finally, stretching has been proven to improve flexibility, not by actually elongating muscles, but more likely, by increasing the athletes tolerance of stretching.

Yoga, a stretching-based activity, can provide all of these benefits. For clients who would rather have yoga “done to them”, we offer Thai Yoga Massage at Nimbus. In this modality, the therapist puts the client through various yoga poses and stretches, inducing a state of relaxation and invigoration. And for those who would rather be massaged on a table rather than a mat, we now offer a sixty-minute Table Thai session.

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18/Aug/2017

How to Stay Wired for Love

Guest blog post by, Teresa M. Hunt, Ph.D.Licensed Psychologist

I love a good massage, don’t you? I think we can all agree that a luxurious massage from a caring therapist skilled in healing touch is a real gift to ourselves. During a massage, it is wonderful to feel that we can just let go of all our “survival tasks” and just be. From a neurobiological perspective (the study of the nervous system, physiology, and innate drives) we feel so relaxed because kind safe touch activates in the old “survival-based part of our brains the nonverbal message that all is OK; we are safe. The part of our brain (the amygdala) that stays at the ready to sound the “fire alarm” in case of danger can quiet down. With our defenses lowered, we can take in our environment, and open up to the pleasant experience and sensations. We feel a sense of calm, and perhaps even better, a sense of relaxed joyfulness.

This principle of safety and relaxation is so important to understand in the context of our closest relationships. When we humans (and animals) feel safe we will feel the same sense of relaxed joyfulness. We will then seek to: make love, nurture our young, rest, play and work creatively in flow. However, if a sign of danger arrives (ex. shot fired in the forest), all those connecting and joyful activities are instantly stopped. Instead the imperative becomes: stay alive! And we will move into one of five forms of reactivity: fight, flee, hide, submit or freeze.  It is important to realize that in a situation of danger, we cannot connect and love, while we are trying to stay alive.

From a neurobiological perspective, we are hard wired to connect, and hard wired to strive for safety. Sometimes these drives can work together and sometimes they conflict. On the attachment side, we know that a secure bond with a love partner buttresses us against the slings and arrows of life, and strengthens our immune system. Indeed Susan Johnson, the founder of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, and author of “Hold Me Tight” states “attachment is the most compelling survival mechanism that nature knows.” And we know it is true that most of us, no matter how different we each may be in any other way, each long to connect AND feel safe with a significant other, to have one special person to comfort and love us. Indeed research has shown that isolation is toxic to our immune system, just as a strong secure bond strengthens it. Also toxic to our health are relationships filled with no safety, but instead filled with threat, rancor, and disconnection.

So how do we ensure to keep our love bonds strong once we find love? Of course that is a very large topic, and the focus of my daily work as a Couple’s Therapist. But some lessons from interpersonal neurobiology are very helpful. Couples Therapists are so excited to now know some principles that can really help. In years before our understanding of the science of attachment and how brains and our sense of safety are affected in relationship interactions, we had less effective methods of intervention. Now we know much more.

So a couple of things to keep in mind. And for more on this topic, please see “Wired For Love” by Stan Tatkin, the founder of PACT (The Psychological Approach to Couples Therapy)  This is a very helpful book for those wanting a more secure relationship. I call these items below “relational dance lessons”.

1. The most important thing I can say to help you is that if you desire a strong safe bond with your partner, where love, connection and fun can abide, you must recognize that unless your partner feels safe with you on a central nervous system level, inside their brain and body, which, by the way is largely outside of their conscious control, they will not be open to you in the way you may long for. Think of your shared relationship as a dog that has been mistreated badly that you are adopting from a kennel. How would you energetically behave towards this animal to get her to relax and become open and playful with you? You must become mindful of the energy you are putting into your relational space.

2. You can also create safety by understanding your partner better and developing an “owner’s manual” on him or her. Tatkin suggests that you become an “expert” on your partner. This means understanding his or her “tender spots” from the past, and being empathetic about them, so you do not take them personally. It also means understanding their characteristic way of reacting when they feel threatened, which is related to their attachment style. For example, does their energy get bigger (ex. complain when underneath they are feeling hurt), or does their energy constrict (ex. withdraw, or get very quiet when they feel criticized). Understanding your partner’s attachment style and how they respond to a felt sense of danger is the single most helpful thing you can do to learn to “dance well” in your relational space. When partners are in fear, they get into reactivity, and their primitive survival brains take over. When they feel safe, they can connect. So learning how to put their primitive brains at ease is a very helpful skill.

3. Create a Couple Bubble to allow each partner to feel safe and secure. This means a formal pact is made of true mutuality, which is pro relationship versus pro-self. The idea that “two is better than one.” And “we come first.” And “it has to be as good for me as it is for you,” and vice versa. “We are on one boat going down the river of life, etc….” You get the idea. This formal agreement is very powerful, similar to the way our young military men learn “you never leave your buddy on the battlefield,” and “we are in the foxhole together.” Such agreements create an ethos of security for the Couple that is extremely powerful and helpful.

4. Find a safe way to dialogue about frustrations and concerns that is always respectful, especially in tone and body language. The non-verbal messages are the ones that lead your partner’s brain and central nervous system to decide whether they are safe or in danger. So eye contact, facial expressions, tone of voice, body posture, etc…, should be attended to. Keep in mind that feeling wronged does not give you license to act aggressively. You will not get what you long for that way. Dealing with anger is a much bigger topic, but these guidelines overall are important. Remember the dog you adopted. Does this mean watch your words? Yes.

5. Amplify the Positive. Positive practices to create an atmosphere of fondness and appreciation go a long way to improve the security of a Couple’s bond.  It is so important to express appreciation to your partner verbally, even on a daily basis, and to make regular declarations of commitment (ex.”I am here for you babe”, or “you got it, whatever you need”). Understanding your partner’s love language regarding what makes them feel cared for, and gifting them those caring behaviors on a regular basis whether it be verbal affirmations, tender touch, acts of service, spending quality time together or giving gifts, strengthens a feeling of love and safety in your Couple space. All these things can be done mindfully knowing it is good for your relational health. You don’t have to wait until the spirit moves you to do it.  A positive intention to behave lovingly is enough. You will be glad you did.

These are just a few tips, there is much more to say, but it is a good beginning. For those wanting to read more about interpersonal neurobiology, google Daniel Siegel and Allan Schore. Also see Rick Hanson who wrote “Buddha’s Brain.” The idea of Mindfulness, and working with one’s own reactivity to become a safe partner for your love partner, where fun and passion can abide is also relevant here. However, just becoming aware of how important and vital these ideas are to a secure bond will get you off to a great start.

All the best!

Warmly, Dr. Teresa M. Hunt

443-817-8300
drtmhunt@gmail.com
www.huntpsychology.com

 

Teresa M. Hunt, Ph.D. is a CERTIFIED Imago Therapist/WORKSHOP PRESENTER and Licensed Psychologist who has specialized in individual and couples psychotherapy for over 29 years. She was clinically trained in the Columbia, Harvard, and University of Michigan Medical School Systems. In addition to Imago Couples Training, she has also had training in EFT (Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy). She is also a CERTIFIED, PACT Level I and Level II Clinician (Psycho-biological Approach to Couples Therapy). She has completed Levels I and II of ASCH Clinical Hypnosis Training. Her work includes Psychodynamic and Interpersonal Approaches to Individual Therapy, Imago/EFT/ PACT Relationship Therapy, ADHD Counseling, Clinical Hypnosis for Selected Problems, and therapeutic work around anxiety, depression, coping with grief and loss, and other concerns. Dr. Hunt is a clear thinker and a dynamic presenter, and thoroughly enjoys connecting in a group format. She brings transformational expertise to enliven the ways partners learn to increase passion and communication.


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18/Aug/2017

In 2016 the Massage Therapy Foundation & American Massage Therapy Association jointly commissioned the Samueli Institute to perform and independent review of the current research on massage for pain management. After extensive review of the literature, the researchers confirmed the practical experience of massage therapists and clients. Massage Therapy relieves pain.

What this means for consumers

Now massage consumers can have even more confidence in their choice to use therapeutic massage for muscular pain and for chronic pain. As the number one reason people go to a primary care provider, pain is a major health concern. The medical community now has stronger reasoning for recommending massage as a means to manage pain to their patients. Although massage helps people in many other ways, it now has solid scientific backing as a safe and effective method of controlling pain.

What this means for the massage industry

This landmark study provides the massage industry with better credibility as a treatment option for pain management. It opens the door for more medical professionals to recommend massage to their patients. This has long-term potential to lead to more massage therapists working as a part of an integrated care team. Or, for the optimistic, even some increased opportunity for insurance to cover medically recommended massage. Some people also see massage as fitting in as an option for helping reduce opioid dependence by potentially leading to less reliance on medications for pain management. Furthermore, new massage research funding could follow this positive review.

More details on the pain management research

Having research independently reviewed and verified by an unaffiliated scientific organization signifies quality and integrity in the work. The Samueli Institute applies a rigorous academic approach to research in, among other things, complementary therapies. They work with the US Military, the medical community, and private businesses who have an interest in complementary and integrative approaches to wellness. For this meta-analysis, they formed a team comprised of researchers, massage therapists with a background in research, and organizational leaders with a background in research.

In order to form their conclusions, the research team began with thousands of articles and then used a systematic process to find the most relevant research. They then condensed the findings from 67 research articles on the effects of massage on pain levels and analyzed the data collectively. The research covered multiple different styles of massage, so it speaks to the efficacy of massage in general. It looked at pain management in multiple categories including chronic pain, fibromyalgia, headache, and muscle pain. It also covered quality of life. The researchers additionally looked at the effect of massage on activity, but found that there were not enough quality studies to make a determination.

Overall, based on the effectiveness and safety of massage therapy, the study recommended the use of massage as a way to manage pain.

Read the full study in the journal Pain Medicine.


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