Tips and suggestions on how to stretch to feel good during and after gardening or yard work.Read More
Do you struggle with taking on energy from other people? Here are 3 simple phrases I use in every bodywork session to protect myself from energy that isn’t mine, while fully connecting to my client. Use these phrases in any situation where you feel you need to be open AND protected.Read More
The process of “letting go” can apply to any big or small event in which we emotionally invest, be it a significant relationship, short-term job or project. Here are a few ways to intentionally honor something you have been attached to if you are stuck and struggling to move forward.Read More
Deep Tissue Massage is important and beneficial for treating chronic pain from chronic tension in the soft tissues. But it should not hurt and can even be quite relaxing as you feel your tight muscles release long-held tension.Read More
Setting this goal of writing one blog post per week was a big deal for me. I put it off for a long time for many reasons, including that I knew a week like this one would come - I'm tired, mentally and physically. I have no bandwidth for focusing or critical thinking. Researching and composing an engaging post feels REALLY hard right now. Too hard.
I'm not even stressed - I'm exhausted from all good things. Today I returned from a quick trip to Lake Chelan with my parents who are in town. It was great; a fun and relaxing mini-vacation. But I'm depleted from all the driving and time outdoors in the hot and super smoky air. And like anyone with messy old kitties, I spent a lot of time and energy deep-cleaning my house prior to my parents' arrival. I knew I'd be tired from a busy weekend, but thought I could still cover the blog post topic I'd planned.
But, I was wrong. The usual energy boost methods aren't enough so I'm spending my time instead recharging my batteries with the methods that work for me: taking naps, doing yoga, eating well, playing in my garden, moving mindfully. More importantly than writing a content-rich post, I want to be rested and fully present for working hands-on with clients this week. So I've decided to go easier on myself today; to be Self-Compassionate and honor my mind and body's need for rest.
In the past I would have taken the road of Self-Criticism, telling myself all of the ways in which I could have better prepared for this week and beating myself up for not writing the post in advance. Or I may have listened to my Inner Critic saying "you'll never complete this goal so just give up now." But neither of those voices actually serves me in a healthy way. And after practicing enough Self-Compassion, I've learned how to recognize the Inner Critic voices and not to listen to them anymore.
The interesting part of this Self-Compassion moment, is that when I let myself "off the hook" for the topic I'd planned, I realized that I could share this as a topic. It requires less of my energy to relate my current experience. So ironically, by allowing myself to not meet my weekly goal, I found the inspiration to still achieve it! And I'm acknowledging the feeling that this is just a "filler" blog post and that it is also okay.
Sometimes we have to rest and "do less" than what we planned in order to have energy to do more in the future. The next time your inner critic starts speaking loudly when you're too tired to do something well, check in with your voice of Self-Compassion. If you need help finding that voice, try this guided meditation by one of my favorite teachers, Tara Brach. Remember to start small and practice daily. Like any unfamiliar habit, it takes time and repetition to learn to be kind to ourselves
Should you use heat or ice for pain? There are multiple opinions on which method is best to use and for what ailment, but unfortunately there isn't a whole lot of data to indicate what is actually the best treatment.
My suggestion is to do what works best for you. If icing for 15 minutes just feels awful, don't do it. If you feel worse after applying a heat pack for 10-20 minutes, it's not helping you. Choose the method that provides relief during the 10-20 minute application and also leaves you feeling better an hour or more later.
My preferred application is a combination of heat and ice, called Contrast Therapy. In this method you create a vascular flush by alternating cold to constrict the vessels and remove inflammation, and heat to dilate the vessels to increase blood flow and relax muscle tissue. This is an effective at-home treatment for many common foot complaints, including:
- Plantar Fascitis
- Heel Spurs
- Foot Cramps
- Stiff Joints
- Achiness from Over-Use
- Post Injury or Surgery Inflammation (talk to health care provider about appropriate time to begin)
The Foot Soak Method:
2. Fill one container with hot tap water (max 110 degrees so you don't burn yourself). For increase therapeutic benefit, add a cup of epsom salts. Fill just enough so that the water reaches over your ankle when fully submerged.
3. Fill the other with cold tap water adding ice if you want to make it colder. Make sure both tubs are tolerable.
4. Before starting your soak, grab a towel to dry your feet when you are done. Alternate soaking your feet in each tub according to the schedule that fits best for you:
For tension or stiffness, alternate 3 minutes hot, 1 minute cold for 15 -20 minutes. End with cold.
For inflammation or pain, alternate 3 minutes cold, 1 minute hot for 15-20 minutes. End with cold.
These times are general guidelines and can be adjusted as needed. Again, do what feels and works best for you.
If doing this method for a full 20 minutes, you may want to add more hot water or ice during the soak. But even a temperature difference of 20 degrees is enough to create the desired effect.
Additional Contrast Therapy Methods:
The method above can also be used for hands, wrists, forearms & elbows.
If you want to use contrast therapy on a body area where you can't to do a full soak, you can apply the same method using hot and ice packs. This can be as simple as filling gallon zip-lock baggies with hot water and ice water. Be sure to protect your skin using a thin towel wrapped around each pack.
Contrast Hydrotherapy isn't appropriate for everyone. If you are uncertain whether this is safe for you or are generally supposed to avoid applying heat, ice or have a heart condition, please consult your doctor before trying this method.
When I attend social events and people learn I'm a massage therapist, they often like to tell me about their personal experiences with massage, good and bad. Two common expectations I hear regarding massage are:
1. I didn't feel better immediately after the massage so it didn't work, and
2. An hour of massage didn't fully resolve my issue so it wasn't helpful.
Those are pretty high expectations to have of both your body's healing ability, and of the massage therapist (spoiler alert- we're HUMAN!) Focusing on two common complaints- headaches and back pain- here are some analogies I use to respond to the above expectations.
Reviving a Wilted Plant
If you a water a wilted plant, how long does it take until it is fully healthy and vibrant again? Maybe it's only 1 day because it just needed a bit of water and hasn't been wilted for long. But what if that plant has been without water for weeks, was chewed on by an animal (thanks, kitty cat), needs a bigger pot and/or different light? It's going to take a lot longer and more care for it to fully bounce back. The body is the same way. Perhaps you will recover from that ongoing headache after just one massage. Or maybe there are more stress factors causing your headache and it will take more sessions to fully resolve.
Starting a New Exercise Program
When you start a new workout plan, how long does it take to notice results? After a couple of workouts, you likely feel better in some way- perhaps more energized or mentally calmer. But it's unrealistic to expect to meet weight or strength goals within just a workout or two. If you're seeking massage treatment for an ongoing issue, expecting it to be resolved in one session is like expecting a 1/2 mile run to prepare you for a 5k after not running for years.
With a new exercise program it's also common to feel a bit worse initially- more sore, or perhaps exhausted. These are all normal responses for the body with massage as well. The muscle tissue takes a couple days to repair and rebuild in a healthier form after strenuous exercise or treatment massage. Especially after injury, you may feel more sore soon after a massage. (You should not be bruised or in acute pain) But if you feel better within the next day or two than you did before the massage, it is beneficial.
Finding the Ideal Teacher
Have you ever struggled to learn a new concept but never quite got it until the right person explained it and all of a sudden it made a lot of sense to you? We all learn in different ways and connect with different teachers based on the approach that works best for us. Massage is similar in that you may need to try multiple massage therapists until you find one that works well for you. Every massage therapist has their own style and training, so if you don't like massage based on the few experiences you've had, it may mean you haven't found the right LMT for you yet. (Or maybe you don't like massage and that's OK too!) Find an LMT with whom you feel at ease, look forward to seeing, enjoy the massage, and feel *better* after every session (for at least a few days) because that's the person who knows how to communicate with your tissue.
Many of my clients notice significant relief from back spasms and headaches within 24-48 hours. But they also know it may take a few sessions to fully resolve because we've had this conversation. The next time you have a relentless headache or unexpected muscle spasm, give your body a few massage sessions to fully heal. If you feel great after just one visit, that's awesome! If not, notice in what ways you do feel *better* and allow yourself at least 2-3 visits before deciding whether massage is helpful. You deserve it!
* A Note on feeling "Better:"
To "feel better" doesn't mean to feel perfect or how you felt prior to the current pain, injury or ailment you're experiencing. "Better" means noticing an improvement in how you feel. Perhaps you still have that headache, but it's more tolerable because you're breathing more easily and feel calmer. Or maybe your back is still in spasm, but you can move in a greater range of motion with the same or less pain than before the massage. This is the goal I have as a massage therapist- to make a positive change and facilitate improvement in your system as much as I reasonably can within each session.