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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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Living with fibromyalgia can be disheartening, depressing, and, while in the depths of the worst days, downright bleak. No one wants to lose the ability to conduct a normal, pain-free, easy-functioning life. To worry whether they will have enough energy each day to get dressed and go downstairs. To have to routinely say “no” to a lot of life’s little pleasures (and routines!). Although not an easy process, most people, with physician-guided trial and error, can find a set of management strategies that help them minimize the chronic widespread pain, fatigue, and other symptoms that go along this syndrome.

While not a magic bullet, to be sure, routine massage has emerged as one management tool that seems to really help people who suffer from fibromyalgia get back to fuller, more pain-free living. Partnered with the right diet, pharmaceutical, and exercise program- a well-tailored massage program can aid people in reclaiming some of what is lost to fibro. However, no two people are alike, so part of finding the right massage for fibromyalgia is creating a partnership with a massage therapist who understands fibro and working together to discover what works best for your body.

Generally speaking, myofascial techniques, stretching or Thai Yoga Massage, and the feather-light lymphatic massage have gotten some good press for helping alleviate the tight muscle feeling and fatigue associated with fibro. Massage also appears to improve pain, depression, sleep disturbance, anxiety, and overall quality of life. One review, interestingly, found that the only style of massage (that has been studied, many haven’t) that appeared to have little clinical effect on fibromyalgia was the most common, Swedish. One analysis found that longer-term programs seemed to optimize the effects of massage. Unfortunately, the study of massage for fibromyalgia is still in its infancy. The gist of the data is that massage can help, but how or to what extent and in which exact applications is still unclear.

Since over-stimulation can cause flare-ups, people who receive massage for fibromyalgia often have to start “easy” and habituate to the work. If you have never had massage for fibromyalgia before, or had one that caused a flare-up, a 30 minute lighter pressure massage is a good place to start. Most find that they become less sensitized to massage over time and that the pressure and style of massage that works for them becomes slightly more aggressive. Some even ultimately do well with very deep pressure trigger point work. Keep in mind that sometimes you need to go back to a lighter pressure if you have a setback or if you begin reacting differently to deeper pressure work.

Some key things you may encounter during a massage for fibromyalgia include:

  1. Lighter pressure (at least to begin with).
  2. Slow work, often with long holds on areas of taut tissue, that gently work into the layers of muscle.
  3. Gentle stretching with long(er) holds that wait for the muscles to relax.
  4. Some focused work on tender points and knots as you become used to massage, or if you already know that deeper pressure works well for you. (Slow often still works better.)

Make sure you have an in-depth intake conversation with your therapist discussing how you experience fibro and your goals. Let your therapist know if you have sensitivity to cold, skin reactions, fibro fog, insomnia, IBS, etc… Also discuss your general wellness, other health concerns, and past history with massage. Once you get into the session, expect to give some feedback so that the therapist can adjust to what you feel. Finally, pay attention to how your body responds to the work in the days following the session. Did you flare up? How much? What type(s) of relief did you notice? How long did the relief last?  Give that feedback to the therapist who will use it to tailor your next session.

If you have received a diagnosis of fibromyalgia and have not yet tried massage as a complementary therapy, it is worth seeking out a qualified provider to try a few sessions. If you have tried once or twice and had a flare-up, it may still be worth finding a therapist who has specific experience working successfully with people who have fibromyalgia– interest, training, and experience on the part of the therapist can make a big difference.

And remember, you can do it!

 

 


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Targeted Therapeutic Massage for TMJ Disoders can help reduce common symptoms including pain and stiffness.

Nimbus Massage now offers massage for TMJ Disorders. Our program is designed to relieve the pain and stiffness associated with the Temporomandibular Joint. The protocol, designed by a Massage Therapist who also worked for nearly two decades as a dental hygienist, addresses the muscles in the head, neck, and shoulders that contribute to TMJ pain and dysfunction.

Try the program to:

  • Reduce pain in the head, jaw, neck, and shoulders.
  • Be able to chew or yawn more easily.
  • Restore full opening and closing of the jaw.
  • Eliminate some types of headaches related to TMJ dysfunction.
  • Relieve tinnitus (ringing in the ears) related to TMJ dysfunction.

 

This joint in the jaw – in front of the ear where the jaw hinges – may develop a number of problems including arthritis, degeneration, trauma, postural problems, or repetitive stress. Any of these, or other, root causes may lead to muscular pain and tension in the immediate or surrounding muscles. People who grind their teeth, clench their jaw, sit with their head forward, or who have an uneven bite often develop TMJ disorders.

In addition to muscular pain in and around the jaw, people also commonly experience headaches; grinding, clicking, or popping in the jaw; the inability to fully open the mouth; tinnitus; dizziness; or sometimes pain and tension in the neck and shoulders.

Many people report that massage complements their medically-guided protocol to relieve pain and restore proper movement to the jaws. In fact, a recent research review concluded that conservative treatment, including massage, is an optimal treatment option for TMJ disorders.

Your therapist will methodically work though the muscles (including inside the cheek) commonly involved in TMJ disorders. Then they will apply soothing heat to relax the jaw, relieve tension, and get you back to pain-free living. Typically, this protocol requires between three and six one hour sessions with follow up visits as needed.

Medical Research on Massage for TMJ Disorders

2015 Systematic Review– Abstract.  “In conclusion, there is widely varying evidence that MT improves pain, MMO and PPT in subjects with TMD signs and symptoms, depending on the technique. Further studies should consider using standardised evaluations and better study designs to strengthen clinical relevance. ”

2014 Randomized Controlled Trial– Abstract.  “Massage therapy and the use of an occlusal splint had no significant influence on electromyographic activity of the masseter or anterior temporal muscles. However, the combination of therapies led to a reduction in the intensity of signs and symptoms among individuals with severe TMD and sleep bruxism.”

2012 Review Article– Abstract with free full text available.  “Massage is an effective method in treating temporomandibular disorders. Due to the (sic) manual therapy significant improvement may be seen in the subjective and objective health status of the patient.”

2011 Case Study– Abstract with free full text available. “Results include an increase in maximal opening from 3.1 cm to 3.8 cm, an overall increase in neck range of motion, a decrease in muscle hypertonicity using the Wendy Nickel’s Scale, a decrease in pain from 7/10 to 3/10 on a numerical pain scale, and a decline in stress… more extensive studies are needed….”

 

 


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Targeted = Focused on your specific problem areas and goals.

Therapeutic = Having a therapeutic goal.

Massage = Working with the soft tissue for a therapeutic outcome.

Finding a way to succinctly describe what we do in a way that people will understand posed a unique challenge for us. We wanted to convey that we specialize in therapeutic styles of massage with a focus on helping people manage pain. We also see a lot of clients who have specific goals for their care, some of whom have complex medical histories. We wanted to describe what we do without using boring industry terms and jargon. All while staying away from the misnomers of Swedish and Deep Tissue Massage.

Targeted Therapeutic Massage seemed to fit the bill.

We use a through intake process to learn our client’s goals for the session, factors that contribute to their condition, and what has or hasn’t worked for them in the past. We also like to learn the client’s preferences for techniques. We then use this information to tailor our work each time someone comes in. In this way, each session is geared towards each client’s therapeutic goals.

Our therapists all have experience that includes actively learning new skills and staying up-to-date in the field. We know a number of different styles of massage and can blend them during each session in order to achieve the best results possible. If someone feels high levels of stress and anxiety then we use calming techniques to help relieve those feelings. If someone has chronic pain then we use pain-relieving techniques to help them manage their symptoms. If someone has a recent injury we use structural techniques to focus on helping them heal that area. We use our skills to target each person’s problem areas.

We do what we do so that we can help people live life just a little bit better.

 

 

 


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