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21/May/2019

by James

One commonly hears of a dichotomy in massage therapy between therapy and relaxation.  For example, when selecting the purpose of a massage, a client often specifies either “therapeutic massage” or “relaxation massage.”  Therapy is for fixing problems, and relaxation is for feeling good, for at least a short while.  Might relaxation, however, actually also be therapeutic?  Several medical professionals say that it is in the following ways:

 

Relaxation can boost the immune system

 

Dr. Sheldon Cohen of Carnegie Mellon University showed that chronic stress increased a person’s risk of catching a cold.  It appears that stress hampers the body’s ability to fight inflammation by making immune cells less sensitive to the hormone that “turns off” inflammation.

 

Relaxation can slow the aging process

 

A recent study revealed that anxiety disorders increase your risk of several aging-related conditions, possibly because of accelerated aging at the cellular level.  However, this cellular aging turned out to be reversible when the anxiety disorder went into remission.

 

Relaxation can improve memory, concentration, and problem solving skills

 

One study found that, at least in mice, chronic stress impaired the memory and learning centers of the brain, as well as its ability to perform abstract thought and cognitive analysis.  Relaxation may help with this by increasing blood flow to the brain.

 

Relaxation can decrease anxiety and depression

 

According to William B. Salt II., MD, “The regular elicitation of the relaxation response can result in a reduction in anxiety/depression and improvement in your ability to cope with stress.”

 

Relaxation can protect the heart

 

“There are studies to show that stress is comparable to other risk factors that we traditionally think of as major, like hypertension, poor diet and lack of exercise,” says Kathi Heffner, Ph.D. of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.

 

The physiological state that can bring about these benefits is called the “relaxation response” by Dr. Herbert Benson of Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. Dr. Benson has said that “Just sitting quietly or, say, watching television, is not enough to produce the physiological changes. You need to use a relaxation technique that will break the train of everyday thought, and decrease the activity of the sympathetic nervous system.”  I maintain that the trance-like state achieved during a relaxation massage often induces is this very relaxation response.

 

A final note on cortisol 

Several health professionals believe that the relaxation response provides its health benefits by decreasing the level of cortisol in the body.  Cortisol is the body’s main stress hormone, used to fuel the fight-or-flight instinct. Excessive cortisol can contribute to such problems as weight gain, muscle weakness and diabetes.  A 2005 study found that massage therapy decreases cortisol by an average of 31%. A separate 2011 study, however, found that massage decreases cortisol, but by a statistically insignificant amount. Whether a relaxation massage helps by lowering cortisol or by some other means, its health benefits are well-documented.  As the 2011 study went on to say, “[massage therapy has] well-established…beneficial effects on anxiety, depression, and pain”.

 


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21/May/2019

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!


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21/May/2019

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.

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.

Experiencing

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…


21/May/2019

The benefits of lymphatic massage

By Claire Schoen

Light and rhythmic, lymphatic massage (also known as lymph massage or manual lymphatic massage) helps people manage pain and stimulate immunity. This specialty service is, perhaps, one of the most relaxing forms of massage – using such gentle pressure that the body can fully let down its guard in the hands of the practitioner. People also use lymph massage to manage swelling and other medical symptoms.


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21/May/2019

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.*


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21/May/2019

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.

 

 

 

 


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21/May/2019

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.

 


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