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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ask The Massage Therapist Is Moving To www.massage-stlouis!

Dear Readers,

This blog was my first venture into online communication. It was a fun and easy way to venture onto the internet. Thanks to everyone who has given encouragement and support and to the readers who have submitted questions.

Since I began this blog, I started a FaceBook page. I'll be posting there whenever I write a new blog article. I hope you'll become a FaceBook fan of Massage St. Louis.

In April of this year I was finally dragged into the 21st century and got a website. My web master, Jean Probert, did an excellent job and I'm very excited about the new web site. Please check out

Ask The Massage Therapist will be moving to the new website. All the old material from this blog is available at the new location and new material will be posted there from now on. You can still Ask The Massage Therapist your questions about massage therapy.

We look forward to hearing from you. Tell your friends to stop by and visit. And remember, if you have any questions about massage therapy, please feel free to Ask The Massage Therapist. We'll try to answer as best we can.

A Reader Asks About Swelling After A Massage

A reader asks:

I received a great massage about a week ago but the next day my lower back was swollen. Why would this happen? The massage was perfect pressure and she never hurt me at all. Can you please help me understand this?

Without having been there or being able to ask follow-up questions, I can't give a definitive answer to your question. However, I'll take an educated guess.

It may have seemed that the pressure was perfect but it's possible that your body did not think the pressure was perfect. It may have been too much pressure. That's one possibility.

Another is that your back may have been overtreated. Massage therapists sometimes spend a long period of time in one area, thinking that every single tight fiber and sore spot must be relieved before they move on. It can even feel good to do it at the time but it may not be a good thing to do.

Massage sets a process in motion that continues after the session is over. Too much massage in one area can cause congestion, inflammation, and tightening of the muscles. A therapist should not work more than about ten minutes on one specific area. It is better to work a little, give the area a rest for two days, and then come back to it. It is always better to do too little than too much. Too little will do no harm but too much can cause irritation.

Did she put heat on the area after working on it? Massage will draw blood to the area. Adding heat will draw even more fluid to the area and cause congestion. Heat to warm the area before working on it can be good, but heat after an area has been thoroughly massaged can be too much.

Finally, it's quite possible that the swelling had nothing to do with the massage and was a coincidence. Perhaps something else occurred that you may not have been aware of. These things happen.

I've never had the experience of a client getting swelling after massage, but I did have an experience of too much massage creating congestion. I was in Latvia with my Russian Massage teacher Zhenya Kurashova Wine. We were at a clinic learning how massage was used in a clinic setting and we ourselves received treatment. Since we were foreigners and there for a limited time, we were getting more treatment than would have been normal. My arms were bothering me from overuse so I welcomed the opportunity to have them treated.

By the fourth day they began to feel congested. The therapist did not use a lot of pressure but the massage brought a lot of blood to the muscles. Zhenya always told us that muscles should be massaged like this only every other day, not every day, because it was too much. You bring the blood to the area and then leave it alone for a day to give the body a chance to do its work. When I told Zhenya my arms were feeling a little congested, she instructed me to skip treatment for a day. My arms began to feel better. I learned myself that more is not always better.

Yours is an uncommon response and so I don't know exactly why you had that experience. However, these may be some possible reasons why you had some swelling after your massage. Should this happen again, you might try putting ice on the affected area and ask your therapist to work more gently for less time on the area.

Thanks for your question

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What Is The Right Kind Of Massage?

Massage is an ancient healing art that has been practiced in every culture. Captain Cook once described how his back pain was successfully treated with massage by the native people of Hawaii during his stay in the islands. Massage has evolved and taken many paths and continues to evolve during these modern times. With so many names and philosophies, how does a client know which is the right kind of massage for them? And how does the therapist know what is the right kind of massage for the client?

Sports massage, Swedish massage, Russian massage, accupressure, deep tissue massage . . . there are so many different kinds of massage. I'll discuss some general categories in another article but for now I want to talk specifically about what I mean when I say that the right kind of massage can be very effective, while the wrong kind of massage will, at the very least, be ineffective and, at worst, cause symptoms to worsen.

Let me give an example taken from my own practice. Years ago, when I was first beginning to learn Russian massage, a woman called and booked an hour appointment. Upon arrival, she told me she had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She'd had experience with massage before, liked it, and wanted a fairly vigorous one hour massage. I had recently begun to study with the renowned Russian Massage therapist Zhenya Kurashova Wine and knew from Zhenya that a vigorous one hour massage would not be the best choice for her and that, in fact, a gentle 20 - 30 minute treatment would be better. I explained this to the client. She was willing to consider it for a future visit but at that moment, she really had her heart set on a one hour vigorous massage. Against my better judgement, I complied. At the end of the appointment she said that she liked the massage very much and booked another appointment for the following week to try the alternative treatment I'd suggested.

When she came the following week, I asked how she felt after her first massage. She said she'd felt better for the rest of the day and then went home, crashed, and could barely get out of bed the following two days. I proceeded to do the very gentle 30 minute treatment that I do for CFS and fibromyalgia. The client came in the following week and, again, I asked how she felt after the last massage. She reported that she'd gone home, took a 20 minute nap, and then felt really good for the next three days.

Two different massage treatments, two entirely different reactions.

Zhenya would tell us that massage is like medicine. First, you have to have the correct diagnosis. If you don't know exactly what is the problem, you are not going to know what is the correct solution. Then, as with medicine, you have to know what is the right medicine and what is the right dose. How much? How often?

In Russian massage we study the specific effects that each stroke has on the physiological processes of the body. How is the treatment for nerve irritation different from treatment for muscle pain? How is treatment for an acute situation different for a chronic condition? How would one approach a systemic disorder? A client with congestive heart failure? Stroke?

As you can see with my client, the wrong kind of massage felt good at the time but really did not help her. The right kind of massage got much better results.

A good therapist will understand exactly how her touch affects the body at many levels. She will listen carefully to the client's needs and adjust accordingly. By understanding the client's condition at that point in time and understanding how we affect the body, we can deliver just the right kind of massage and achieve greater results.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Benefits of Massage Therapy

If you've ever had a massage, you know that you can start to feel better within minutes. We are biologically wired to respond to welcome human touch. The massage therapist begins to spread oil over your back. Skilled hands begin to massage tight muscles. Right away, you feel better and begin to slip into a state of relaxation. That alone is worth the price of admission. But there's more!

People come to massage for a variety of reasons. Many come primarily for relaxation and wellness. Experts estimate that at least 80% of doctor office visits are for health problems that are caused or aggravated by stress. Headaches, backaches, and many other of life's most common complaints are aggravated by stress. Anything we can do to counteract and alleviate the effect of stress is going to have a beneficial effect on our health. In The End of Stress As We Know It, author Bruce McEwen describes the effects that chronic exposure to stress hormones have on the body. Among other things, continued elevated levels of these hormones lead to higher cholesterol, a higher incidence of Type II diabetes, and increased accumulation of belly fat.

Sore muscles from overexertion respond quickly to the right kind of massage. Chronic muscle aches can often be alleviated by the right kind of massage. Athletes find that regular massage can help to naturally improve their performance and minimize injuries by eliminating unnecessary tightness in muscles.

The Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Medical School has conducted over a hundred studies documenting the beneficial effects of massage. TRI has found that massage therapy improves weight gain in premature infants, enhances attentiveness, alleviates depressive symptoms, reduces pain, reduces stress hormones, and improves immune system function. In fact, Dr. Tiffany Field of TRI has said that in every study they've undertaken, massage has been shown to be beneficial. That's amazing.

We don't need to wait for scientists to confirm what we already know from our own experience. Massage feels good and it's good for you.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Massage For Couples Class: 6/12/10 & 7/10/10

Have you ever wanted to do massage at home with your partner but didn't know where to start? Do you try doing massage but get tired quickly? Are you wondering how to please your partner, who keeps asking for "harder," without hurting yourself? If so, you need to take one of the Massage for Couples classes I'll be teaching at Forest Park Community College on June 12 and July 10.

This one day, 5 1/2 hour class is meant to give nonprofessionals the basic skills to do massage for relaxation at home. While we can't teach you to be a massage therapist in one day, you should leave the class feeling confident that you and your partner can begin to enjoy sharing massage with each other at home. "Couples" can be any two individuals, not just spouses, but you must register for the class in pairs. Friends, roommates, teammates, and family members are welcome to participate.

The class begins with some introductory information on massage theory so that participants can understand the "why" behind what they are doing. Precautions are covered so that it is clearly understood how to work in a manner that does no harm to either the giver or the recipient. Most of the class is "hands-on." Particular attention is paid to making sure the "giver" works in a way that will not strain them. A variety of strokes are taught that allow for maximum flexibility. Participants learn strokes that are light but still effective and also more vigorous strokes that can affect deeper tissues.

Class size is limited so that participants get plenty of individual attention and so that personal concerns and interests can be addressed. The class is relaxed and friendly. Participants have ranged in age from their early 20s to their 70s and come from many walks of life. It's a lot of fun.

Cost of the class is only $29 per person. To register, go to the website for Forest Park Community College and look for Continuing Education. The class is listed as "Couples Massage" in the catalog and is in the Health section. (HEAL:704) Alternatively, you can register by calling 314-984-7777. Students have often said the online registration is a little frustrating and have a better experience registering over the phone. Participants should bring a bag lunch, since we only have a half hour lunch break and options for eating out are limited. Participants also need to bring a set of sheets and a pillow or bolster. Oil will be provided. Sometimes the room is cold so a blanket is highly recommended. Also highly recommended is a yoga mat or heavy bath towel. Since we have to use hard top regular classroom tables, something to make the surface more comfortable is desirable. Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing. You should wear a bathing suit or other clothing that allows maximum access to your skin under your street clothes.

This semester, the class will be offered on two Saturdays, June 12 and July 10. If you're interested but can't make it this time, don't despair. The class is offered twice each semester.

If you've got any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me. If you have questions about registration, call the Continuing Education department at Forest Park Community College.

Hope to see you there! And tell your friends!