Swedish Massage, arguably the most recognizable style of massage in the West, serves as a basis from which many massage therapists work. A practitioner can use basic Swedish techniques for a variety of therapeutic and relaxation purposes.  However, the term has become conflated over the years with relaxation work from the way that spas have marketed massage.

Not just relaxing

Many spas today use the term Swedish Massage to mean a nice relaxing session. They then use the term Deep Tissue Massage to mean a firm pressure therapeutic massage. We find this usage somewhat inaccurate. A therapist can not only apply Swedish techniques with firm pressure but can also target deeper musculature. Depending on the pacing, pressure, and intention, it may not feel relaxing at all. Furthermore, most modern Western therapists also mix in a variety of other techniques during a “Swedish” massage. For these reasons, we shy away from using the term on our menu at Nimbus.

The essence of Swedish Massage comprises three basic techniques- gliding, kneading, and that karate-chop thing that nobody likes. Developed as part of a physical therapy regimen called the Swedish Movement Cure, it originally spread through the Western medical community as a way to reduce muscular tension and aid in rehabilitation. The therapist uses the techniques with the intention to smooth, elongate, and spread the muscle tissue. They may aim to relax or invigorate.

Swedish at Nimbus

All of the therapists at Nimbus have studied traditional Swedish techniques though, depending on your session goal and their specialties, they may or may not use them. Each of our team members can also deliver a nice relaxation massage with a blend of techniques. If you are looking for a “Swedish Massage” akin to what you might get in a spa, book a “Massage for Wellness.” The therapist will still tailor your session to your individual needs, but will have an indication of your overall goal.

And, if you really do like that karate-chop thing, let us know… we’ll add it in!


While our main focus is on clinical and therapeutic massage we are not afraid of a little “woo.” At least, not woo that has some medical research behind it. Search “reiki” in PubMed (a trusted online database of medical research papers) and you will find a small number of studies that form a beginning of some positive research for reiki and other therapeutic touch  as a part of biofield therapy. The gist of the data so far indicates that reiki may have a positive influence on stress and pain relief.

Origins of Reiki

Reiki originated in Japan and it is essentially a laying on of hands. The history goes as follows, Dr. Mikao Usui went to the mountain, had a vision, and came back connected to the life force energy of the universe. He was able to heal people by touching them and tapping into this energy. He passed down this ability to other practitioners through an attunement process, which is how we still do it today.

In the original form of Reiki, the practitioner would place hands on the recipient wherever the energy felt out of balance. In the modern western version, the practitioner uses hand placements on the chakras which correspond to the rest of the body to facilitate healing. One science-based theory of how reiki works focuses on the possibility of one person’s electromagnetic field influencing the other’s. However, nothing has been proven through methodological study.

Traditionally, people have sought out reiki to heal and balance mind, body, and spirit. It  follows an integrated eastern philosophy of wellness in which any of these components alone or together may disturb overall well-being and lead to health problems. Each chakra corresponds not only to a physical part of the body, but to an emotional state, and a spiritual concept as well. Here is a quick and dirty list of the major chakras.


1st/Root Chakra– At the base of the spine. Physically relates to the lower body and immune system– sciatica, low back pain, depression. Mental and emotional correlations include safety and security, basic physical needs, family, standing up for oneself.

2nd/Sacral Chakra– At the sacrum. Physically relates to the viscera, sexual organs, and hip area– urinary problems, problems related to the sexual organs, low back or hip pain. Mental and emotional correlations include blame and guilt, creativity, control, money issues, and ethics.

3rd/Solar Plexus Chakra– Above navel. Physically relates to the stomach, abdomen, and abdominal organs– ulcers, diabetes, GERD, liver problems, and adrenal fatigue. Mental and emotional correlations include trust, self-esteem, self-care, decision making, and honor.

4th/Heart Chakra– In the center of the chest near the heart. Physically relates to the heart, lungs, shoulders/arms, and chest– heart problems, asthma, allergies, upper back and shoulder pain. Mental and emotional correlations include love, resentment, grief, anger, forgiveness, loneliness, and self-centeredness.

5th/Throat Chakra– At the throat. Physically relates to the throat, neck, mouth, and glands– sore throat, TMD, scoliosis, and thyroid problems. Mental and emotional correlations include personal choice and expression, hopes and dreams, addiction, criticism, faith, and decision making.

6th/Third Eye Chakra– In the center of the forehead. Physically relates to the brain, nervous system, eyes, ears, nose, and glands– neurological or brain problems, learning difficulties, seizures, and hearing and vision problems. Mental and emotional correlations include intellectual ability, truth, wisdom, and emotional intelligence.

7th/Crown Chakra– At the crown of the head. Physically relates to the muscles, bones, and skin– chronic exhaustion, depression, and sensitivity to light and sound. Mental and emotional correlations include big picture thinking, spirituality, selflessness, values, courage, and trusting in life.


It can get complex and very in depth for those who appreciate the metaphysical. There can be levels, symbols, colors, crystals, sound, and smoke. There can be connecting of the worldly and ethereal. There can be inviting of enlightened beings.

People experience reiki in a variety of different ways. Some feel heat or vibration. Some see colors or visions. Some simply feel relaxed.  Some have emotional outpourings. Many specifically seek it out for this reason- it can bring up emotional or spiritual issues for processing. And for some, there is a profound connection that feels divine. The wisdom of reiki says that whatever the person experiences is exactly what they need for healing.

Another piece of the wisdom of reiki is that it “calls” to those who should try it…


Exploring massage as a complementary therapy for managing symptoms of trauma

The team at Nimbus Massage recently hired Hannah Bohn, MSW, a local mental wellness professional, to teach the staff a clinically-oriented class on PTSD and trauma. By expanding our knowledge base, we can better attune our sessions to our clients who have gone through a traumatic event. The root of helping people with their massage goals comes from understanding what people experience. Although research has just begun to explore how massage may help ease symptoms, we believe that massage can help survivors of trauma and people who live with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.*


Rock on, turn up the heat, get stoned…

Aside from being a bad pun writer’s dream, hot stone massage enhances relaxation and feels amazing. Especially welcome during the cool months, adding a touch of warmth to a relaxation massage helps fight the winter blahs as well as the increased muscle tension felt from the cold. If winter’s not your thing, you can come in from the cold for an hour and a half and warm your bones with a hot stone session. Hot stones can also give some extra oomph to a massage designed for pain relief.

Typically, a “Hot Stone Massage” means a 90 minute massage with a main goal of stress relief and relaxation during which the therapist incorporates smooth heated stones into the session. The therapist will use the stones in two ways:

  1. Stone Placement- Placing stones in strategic areas to warm the muscles before or after working on them. Akin to applying a heat pack, leaving the warmed stones in place allows the heat to penetrate into the muscle.
  2. Massage with Stones- Using stones as an extension of the therapist’s hands. Massaging the muscles with the stones allows the heat to fully cover the muscles and help melt away knots.

In addition to using the stones the therapist will also use their hands, just like in a traditional massage, in order to do more focused work on specific muscles. A hot stone massage is designed to leave you feeling relaxed and warm both mentally and physically.

We innately want to apply heat to aching muscles. It feels good. We crave comforting touch when we have stress. It calms us. So combining heat with therapeutic touch gives us a unique opportunity for healing body and mind. Beyond feeling good, heat therapy helps ease pain and may also improve ease of movement.

For those seeking a massage oriented toward pain relief and injury recovery, the therapist can incorporate hot stones into the session in a less generalized and more focused way to achieve these goals. The therapist can use them to apply heat with more targeted techniques to stubborn knots, tight muscles, and taut tissue. Just like in a relaxation massage, the moist heat delivered by the stones can enhance the work of the therapist leading to less tension and pain.

Surprisingly, heat therapy has a dearth of empirical evidence behind it. Like cold therapy, the medical community has employed it for so long and so frequently, that everyone assumed it had been well-studied. The research that exists, however, indicates that heat may relieve pain, ease muscular tension, and possibly improve flexibility. Moist heat (like hot stones) may be particularly effective.






Help headaches and migraines with massage.

Throbbing, aching, pounding, stabbing, squeezing … we do not want these things done to our heads! Headaches and migraines can make us want to make the whole world disappear. For those of us who struggle with chronic or recurring headaches, well, it just plain sucks.

Many massage clients who suffer from tension/muscular headaches and migraines indicate that regular massage reduces the frequency and severity of their symptoms. Sometimes, it can also diminish the pain associated with an active headache. Massage is particularly good at helping if there is a stress or muscular component.

When working to alleviate headaches, massage therapists work through the muscles of the scalp, jaw, face, neck, shoulders, and upper back to find and relieve trigger points, taut bands, and tight areas. Your therapist may also blend in general relaxation work, aromatherapy, craniosacral therapy, heat or cold, or stretches to help get you back into shape. Thai Yoga Massage may also improve headaches.

Some common culprits leading to headaches include stress, TMJ Disorder, poor posture, trigger points in the neck and shoulders, sinus pressure, vascular issues, and nerve issues. Massage therapists learn techniques designed to work directly or indirectly on most of these underlying causes.

A medical study on massage for migraines seems to support the anecdotal evidence with positive preliminary results. Participants reported reduced frequency of migraine following massage (plus improved sleep). One preliminary study on massage for tension type headaches (TTH) found that Trigger Points “are important components in the treatment of TTH…” but that the placebo also led to people feeling better. Other studies (according to Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual by Travell & Simons) have found similar conclusions and have further linked some migraines, and other types of headaches, to Trigger Points.

Not all headaches are created equal. The ones that, so far, seem to have the best chance at responding to massage include: tension headache, migraine, TMJ-related headache, and cervicogenic headache. In our experience working with people with each of these types of headaches, we have seen good results in lessening the frequency and severity of headache-related pain. Typically, a series or regular routine of massage has a better chance at helping people with chronic headaches.

We can work with you to see if massage or a massage program can work for you.




Take a deep breath in for four counts.

Hold it.

Exhale for eight counts.

Okay, now focus.

Turn your attention to your body and scan around to feel where you are holding your tension. Is your jaw set? Have your shoulders crept up towards your ears? Are you clenching your fists? Does your stomach feel tight from holding it in your gut? A simple check-in from time to time can reveal where you literally “hold” your stress and start to give you clues on how stress may manifest into muscle tension and pain patterns in your body.

Now do that breathing exercise again and consciously relax your tension while you exhale.

Stress management – ubiquitous, à propos, and somewhat amorphous in its sheer grandness. Mention it anywhere and heads start bobbing. Stories start flowing. People share how stressed they are like a badge of honor. One of the popular maladies of our time and place, it often seems that we are proud of how much stress we take on. Proclaiming the stress we endure shows our commitment, tenacity, and hard luck.

I hope we can get to a place where we can leave this mentality behind and instead proudly discuss how we work through, banish, and overcome stress. Because life is dynamic and constantly throws us stressors, it is important to be conscious of our stress and have a good set of tools to work through it. Otherwise we begin to accumulate physical and psychological symptoms– muscle tension, headaches, anxiety, depression, cardiovascular problems, digestive upset, irritability, insomnia, fatigue, burn out, and more.

Stress comes in more than one package. Short term stress around a specific instance can give you energy and focus, such as during athletic competition or running from zombies. However, many of us deal with more persistent negative stressors in our daily routines. As we negotiate these situations over time the symptoms that make us feel bad start to compound. Left unchecked, chronic long-term stress can have serious health implications such as heart disease. Stress management can be attained in many healthy (and some less-healthy) ways. Here we will discuss our favorite– massage!

To say that massage relieves stress seems like a no-brainer. Massage Therapists work every day with people who suffer from pain and ill health related to stress. Indeed, relaxation has consistently remained a primary reason that people seek out massage. People report time and again that massage lowers their stress levels and relieves its symptoms. A growing body of evidence supports the theory that massage may improve:

  • perceived stress
  • anxiety (situational and clinical)
  • muscle pain and tension
  • cardiovascular health
  • depression
  • headaches…

These are all symptoms of stress.

Despite this burgeoning body of evidence, the studies that have so far sought to explain how or why massage accomplishes this have provided frustratingly little data. One small study seemed to indicate that massage reduced cortisol, but a subsequent study found otherwise. Another recent study focused on endocannabinoids, to no end. A small study from 2012 found a link between massage and increased oxytocin in the brain, but it requires further investigation. Many small studies do seem to link massage with calming the “fight or flight” response through the nervous system, but this is often a secondary measure as part of a broader study, and generally also requires more data.

Keeping all this in mind, I have to admit to often replying “magic” when asked how massage works. While the scientists suss out the how and why details, us massage providers will keep on helping our clients relax, unwind, de-tensify, and chill.

Pretty much anyone can use massage for stress management. We help people manage busy lives, intense jobs, stressful family dynamics, caretaking of loved ones, grief, anxiety, even happy stressors such as new babies and transitionings. Our clients who receive relaxation massage report a variety of benefits like becoming more at ease, feeling less tense, having less muscle pain, quieting mental chatter, sleeping better, and becoming more attuned with themselves so they can better self-manage. People use massage to interrupt periods of high stress, kick off an endeavor to better manage things, or to manage routinely high levels of stress.

If you are new to massage and would like to try massage for stress relief here are some pointers.

Look for these styles of massage which generally equate to relaxation.

Massage for Stress, Anxiety & Depression – A blend of techniques deigned to induce relaxation and stress relief.

Swedish Massage – This has basically become a marketing term meaning relaxation massage. Traditionally Swedish Massage blends gliding, kneading, and tapping techniques in a rhythmic manner.

Hot Stone Massage – The therapist uses smooth heated stones during the massage which many people find relaxing.

Reflexology – While not relaxation massage per se, during a reflexology session only the hands and feet are massaged. It is generally relaxing and a great intro for people who are a little trepidatious about trying a full body massage.

Please don’t hesitate to ask if the therapist you are considering does relaxation massage- not everyone does.

If you are just getting your feet wet, a 30 or 60 minute session with a massage therapist will give you a good idea of whether you will like that particular person. Generally speaking, a 60 minute session is the most standard. However, some people find that they need a longer session because they either take a long time to relax or they have a lot of muscle tissue (or they just like it). Some standards of massage operations include: dim lighting, “relaxing” music, aromatherapy, a heat component.

Once you decide to book, think about the following things and share them with your therapist during the initial intake process.

  1. How do you experience stress?
  2. Do you hold tension in your body? Where?
  3. What other symptoms do you experience?
  4. What is the primary goal you would like to work towards through massage?
  5. What areas would you prefer the therapist to skip?
  6. Are you sensitive to scents, music, heat? (You may often bring your own lotion, oil, or music if you have a strong preference.)

While each situation is a little different, here are some of the things we do as massage therapists for people seeking massage for stress management or relaxation.

  1. Have a discussion prior to the session addressing the above and any other concerns so that we can develop a customized session plan.
  2. Focus on slow, intentional touch with the intent of relaxing a person and their muscles. Most people find some combination of gliding, kneading, gentle movement, rhythmic pressure, and simple pressing to be comforting and relaxing.
  3. Adjust the pressure between light, medium, and firm depending on the client’s comfort.
  4. Avoid intense pressure or aggressively working at knots. Muscle tension and pain can be eased with a non-invasive approach. Too much pressure or going too fast can actually make a person’s guard go up.
  5. Maintain quiet other than the occasional check-in. (Unless you, the client, keep a conversation going.)
  6. Add atmospheric touches designed to enhance relaxation such as aromatherapy, heat, and quiet music.

You can participate in enhancing your own stress management by employing some of the techniques below.

  1. Add some occasional deep breathing, especially at the beginning, or when the therapist works on particularly tense areas. Some people like to envision breathing peace or relaxation in and breathing tension or pain out.
  2. Speak up if anything needs to be adjusted- the temperature, cushions, pressure of the massage, etc…
  3. Focus your attention on your body and how the massage feels in your tissue.
  4. Or let your mind drift…
  5. Relax your limbs and let them be heavy.
  6. Don’t schedule anything directly after your session that you will have to hurry off to.


Now you’ve taken the time to learn a little about massage for stress management. We hope you take a little more time for yourself and try a relaxation massage to take it to the next level!

Be well.


General Info about Stress from the American Psychiatric Association-

Stress Basics

The Three Types of Stress

Stress Effects on the Body




by Kristina Page


We all need a break sometimes.

A break from the routines and habits that pile up to overwhelm us, stress us, and lead us to burn out.

I recently attended a seminar about codependency and burn out in the self-employed as a favor to the seminar organizer who wanted to ensure a good turn out. Although I didn’t feel particularly stressed, and I didn’t even know what codependent meant, I learned some good information applicable to most people’s lives. It even helped me make a few changes of my own to make life run more smoothly.

According to speaker Dr. Suzanne Nixon, LPC, people who display codependent behavior may set themselves up for burn out by overextending themselves and not watching their boundaries. Her usage of the term codependent covers the broad sense of a person who changes their own behavior to win approval from others or who takes on responsibility for other peoples’ lives. As she spoke, she gave great examples of how easily people exhibit this behavior in the workplace.

Many people who do not otherwise ignore their own boundaries or take on too much, may do so in the workplace which provides their livelihood. Who has come in early or stayed late to help a client with a problem or a co-worker with a project? Done occasionally, helping someone out can feel good and provide a real service. Making it a routine can lead to stress, resentment, and dissatisfaction. Likewise, a person who routinely devalues their work by cutting their fee structure to help someone out in need, a seemingly altruistic gesture, can begin to harbor similar negative feelings.

People in the giving professions, perhaps, face these challenges more frequently than others, but to some extent, the workplace encourages codependent behavior. Is everyone being a team player? Society in general values giving behavior, so people can easily cross the line from mindful, heart-full giving to over-responsibility. This, from my understanding, is where boundaries come in to play.

When faced with an interpersonal situation that urges us to give up our own needs in order to aid another, it can help to step back and analyze 1) whether we are truly comfortable with the situation and 2) whether we can move forward with good intent and no feelings of stress or resentment. In the long run, taking on too much, things we feel uncomfortable with, and things for the wrong reasons can lead us away from a happy centered life. Of course, situations will arise in which we have no choice, however we can minimize our discomfort by taking control over those things in which we do have a choice.

Personally, this class helped me feel better about saying “no” to over-committing myself to projects that I really don’t have time or energy for. It also helped me tighten up my schedule so that I can serve my clients well while still enjoying a family life. And, it encouraged me to put a vacation on the schedule!

What feels out of balance to you? Do you have an area in your life that could benefit by better honoring your boundaries? Could you find more peace by disengaging from someone else’s agenda? Maybe becoming mindful of your stressors can help you make a break for it.


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