By Claire Schoen
Light and rhythmic, lymphatic massage (also known as lymph massage, manual lymphatic drainage, or “MLD”) helps people feel a deep sense of relaxation and calm. This specialty style of massage 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. Anyone who wants to achieve peaceful calm should try lymphatic massage, especially those who don’t prefer firm pressure massage.
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 experienced either of these. The root of helping people with their massage goals comes from understanding what people experience. We believe that massage can help survivors of trauma and people who live with Post Traumatic Stress.
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:
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 encourages circulation in an area (you can see this when the skin turns pink) and coaxes muscles to relax and lengthen. It basically does the same things that massage strives to do, so the two combined are a power combo.
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, less pain, and more flexibility.
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 does seem to relieve pain, relieve muscle tension, and improve flexibility. Moist heat (like hot stones) may be particularly effective.
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.
Some common culprits leading to headaches include stress, TMJ, 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.
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 i many healthy (and unhealthy) ways. Here we will discuss our favorite- massage!
To say that massage lowers 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:
I detect a pattern here.
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.
Relaxation Massage – 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.
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.
You can participate in enhancing your own stress management by employing some of the techniques below.
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!
General Info about Stress from the American Psychiatric Association-
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.
by Kristina Page
Through 20 years of volleyball, a couple of car accidents, several high-stress jobs, and bad computer posture, I have developed chronic neck and shoulder pain. It started more than ten years ago and prompted me to use massage as a corrective measure. Over the years, I have gotten better and better at managing the chronic tension and pain that starts in my right shoulder and creeps up into my head and across my upper back. I would love to say that massage alone fixes it, but I find that, for me, a combination of approaches works best.
This is not a “Ten Quick Steps to a Pain Free Life” article. These things work together over time and, when I stop doing them, my problem area flares up again.
Of course, I receive massage. I have found my optimal timing to be every other week. I get a medium to firm pressure (but not too deep) targeted massage. If I want a full-body session, I go for 90 minutes because I find I need the therapist to spend a lot of time on my neck and shoulders. This helps me loosen up the tension in my muscles, reduce the pain I feel, and sets the groundwork for my other initiatives.
Staying on top of my exercise regimen, particularly stretching and weight-bearing exercise, makes a big difference. I aim for five hours of activity per week to keep my weight, stress, and pain in-check. When the balance gets disrupted and I get out of my exercise habit, my neck and shoulder tighten back up and the effects of my massages don’t last as long. Other little aches and pains will start creeping in, too. On a related note- I lost a bunch of weight a few years ago (50 pounds) and with it, I lost my knee, ankle, and hip pain.
If I have injured it (like after my last car accident), I have found acupuncture helpful. I also had to take a year off from sports in order to stop re-injuring it.
Minding my posture helps keep me feeling good. When I catch myself leaning in to my work too much or hunching over while walking, I straighten up and drop my shoulders. I have a few exercises and stretches I do to target the neck and shoulder girdle plus I work on my core as part of my regular exercise program. While I often find myself out of alignment, being mindful and frequently putting myself back into alignment helps.
Taking short stretch or walk breaks at work keeps me loose. Whenever I feel myself tightening up, I take a little break to move around. If I have had a particularly strenuous day, I will stretch at the end of it as if I had worked out.
I set my computer work station and massage table as best as I can to an optimal height.
Sleep is very important to me, and I make sure I get a full night’s sleep 99% of the time. At a certain point, I had to get a new pillow. I didn’t get a fancy one, but just getting new one (a side-sleeper pillow) helped. I also thought the mattress was too firm, so I added some egg foam to my side and that made an improvement. Until I got everything under control, I also hugged a pillow for support. At times when I have been injured, I have tried to sleep more on my back and less on my sides. Now that the area feels better, I have returned to sleeping normally.
For repetitive tasks like raking, sweeping, massaging, carrying stuff (even a purse), and driving, I try to switch back and forth between arms or use both arms fairly equally. On the purse topic, I do not carry a heavy purse far. If I am out and about, I take the bare minimum and leave the heavy stuff at home.
I have learned to respect my limits. I know just about how much I can push it, and sometimes I choose to go beyond, but I know I’ll pay the price. Of course, I also know how to reel it back in.
Keeping my stress level down helps as well. In addition to what I do above, I practice mindfulness and meditation (though not as often or as well as I should). I have also had to learn to change my mindset about certain things that act as stressors for me. Other stress busters include: getting out into nature as much as possible, saying “no” when I need to, taking time off, and nurturing positive relationships. Since life will always have some level of stress in it, I have to work the most at this one.
When I do get flare-ups, I do a combination of massage, self-massage, moist heat, breathing exercises, stretching, and strengthening to get everything to settle back down. Then I look at what has gotten out of balance and work to correct it. I hope that by sharing what works for me, you get inspiration to seek out what works for you!