It all started when this happened…

Yeah, I was featured on a radio traffic report.

Sometimes a client will ask, as they are settling into their massage, “How did you decide to become a massage therapist?”

Actually, that’s an easy question to answer.

Well, you see. . . it all started on my way home from work (quite a few years ago). It was rush-hour, and suddenly a vehicle two cars ahead of me stopped abruptly. I tried to stop, but hit the car ahead of me (and he also hit the first car). My Chevy bounced back, just as a truck rear-ended me with such force that he pushed my vehicle into the car ahead again. Aaaaack! My poor Chevy sedan was the first casualty of that altercation.

A coworker told me later that the pile-up had made the radio traffic update. That’s not a good way to get yourself on the news.

…next, painkillers?

Anyway, after the accident, my chronic neck and shoulder pains began. I went to the doctor to make sure nothing was seriously wrong; he gave me some prescription muscle relaxers, but all I really wanted was for someone to get in there and work out my tense shoulder spasms!

I didn’t know any massage therapists at this point, so my solution was to seek out my friends who (a) possessed strong hands, and (b) had enough patience to deal with my frequent requests for help. Very quickly, I decided that some kneading for my upper trapezius trumped a Flexeril tablet every time! 🙂

Massage was a better painkiller for me

It was several years until I had the opportunity to go to massage school. But, during that time after my car accident, I gained a better appreciation for natural treatments. I knew I wanted to help other people feel better with massage therapy!

Sitting at the computer all day…

And here’s the other part of the story. In a previous career, I was a graphic artist (wedged into an office cubicle with a drawing board & a T-square). In the 80s and 90s, the tools of our trade transitioned to workstations with glowing computer monitors, mice, and non-ergonomic keyboards.

Then after 12 years of spending hours & hours each day typing and clicking and pasting,  I experienced chronic neck pain… tight shoulders… headaches… and occasional wrist soreness. Does that sound familiar?

Massage therapy can help!

Massages can definitely help you if you’re using a computer or tablet all day long. No two bodies are alike, and no two massage sessions will be alike. But there are some typical patterns computer-users often have with their necks and shoulders.

Tell me where the majority of your pain & stress lies, and we can spend some time focusing on that during your session. Let me know how I can help!

 

Gift-giving & a Massage Newbie (part 1)

gift box with blue ribbon

Letters, we get letters… (well, these days it’s mostly text messages and emails, y’know.)

Here’s one of the questions clients frequently ask about purchasing someone a gift certificate:

“How do I know what kind of massage would be good for my dad? He’s always telling me that his back hurts, and he gets migraine headaches, but he’s never gotten a massage before.

I keep telling him that he needs to come in and see you, and his birthday is next week. So what kind of gift certificate would be best to get for him?”

Of course, everyone’s needs are different, but here are some suggestions I would make for a client who hasn’t experienced a massage yet…

Start with a Swedish massage.

Swedish is intended to be relaxing, to help you deal with stress and (for newbies) will be a good introduction to receiving massage therapy.

In most cases, I would lean toward booking a 60-minute session, rather than 30 minutes. The reason I say that is because 30 minutes can go by pretty quickly when you’re on the table!

If you’re new to receiving massage therapy, 60 minutes can give you a more complete picture. It’s a good way to find out what areas of your body you might want to receive some focus on, during your next massage appointment.

Anyone who comes in to my massage office, will feel like they can relax and take their time. Since I’m a one-person, independent business, nobody will feel as if they are rushed-in and rushed-out. I want to give all my clients personalized attention and listen to their needs.

Create your own “Spa Package” or “Local Adventure”

Massage gift certificates are great for any & all holidays, special occasions, and milestones. And they’re also special when you combine a massage gift certificate with something else to create your own unique “package.”

How about a massage session and a themed gift basket from one of our local gourmet food shops?

Or, a massage session that includes a unique aromatherapy blend, along with flowers, chocolates, maybe a gift card for a favorite restaurant…

Or, pair a massage gift with a visit to one of our local attractions. Have you ever gone indoor skydiving down at the beach? (I got to do that last year… it’s a lot of fun…)

Or what about climbing or ziplining on the ropes course down by the aquarium. Or for the runner in your family, what about a massage gift certificate combined with an entry to their next race?

I hope these ideas help you out with your gift-giving.

Of course, you can choose a gift certificate for any of the massage services that I offer. Or you can just purchase a gift for any specific dollar amount instead, and let the recipient decide what they want.

My gift certificates say “best used by…(a date a few months in the future)” just to encourage the giftee to come in and use them.

Did you know that you can purchase gift certificates online, 24-7? Yep, it’s true! Check out my instant gift certificates on this page.

Caring for the Skin You’re in: Sun Safety

Woman on beach with sunglasses

Massage therapists see a lot of skin. All colors, all textures. Freckles, scars, stretch marks, moles. Skin with lots of hair & skin with none. Skin doesn’t surprise us…

…except when it does. That brown spot on your shoulder blade? It wasn’t quite that big when you came in a month ago. And it looks less like an oval and a little more like a blob. Maybe you should have that checked out?

What happens when you get a sunburn?

You’re exposed to the sun and then your skin turns red and itchy, right? Well, yes. But there’s more to it…

When you step out into the sunlight (or drive in the daytime, or sit near a window)… you’re bombarded by UV radiation. This radiation causes mismatches in the curlicue of your DNA in the nucleus of your skin cells, which is dangerous and could eventually lead to cancer.

Your skin jumps into protective action redistributing melanin (the pigment that causes suntans, and which helps to protect your DNA from further damage).

If you stay in the sun (especially if you’re fair skinned and don’t have much melanin to go around), you start to see an inflammatory response. It’s the same kind of inflammation that you see when you sprain your ankle, only spread out across your damaged skin.

Your blood vessels dilate to get more nutrients and infection-fighting cells to your skin, making it red and warm to the touch. Itching and pain result, a warning signal from your body that something’s wrong. You may feel thirsty and tired as your body works to repair itself.

If the burn is severe, you may see blisters. With one of my most serious sunburns, my feet swelled so much that I could only wear flipflops for 2 weeks.

Eventually, even if you didn’t have any blisters, you will get flaking and peeling of the top layer of your skin. Interestingly enough, these skin cells weren’t killed by UV radiation. When skin cells recognize that their DNA has been severely damaged, they deliberately die off rather than risk becoming cancerous. This planned cell death is called apoptosis, and it’s the reason you see massive numbers of skin cells coming loose at once.

How can you protect your skin?

The short answer: Stay away from UV radiation. This means tanning beds as well as sunlight.

The longer answer: Unless you plan to become a vampire, you will probably be exposed to sunlight at least some of the time. The trick is to reduce that exposure to a safe level by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and using sunscreen.

How much sun is safe?

This depends on two main variables: the UV Index and your skin type.

UV Index

The UV Index is a measure of the level of UV radiation in your location at any given point in time. It’s something you can easily look up on your computer or phone before heading out the door. Some weather apps have a UV Index layer on the radar. In general, global UV Index recommendations look something like this:

  • 1-2: Low. Enjoy being outside!
  • 3-7: Medium. Seek shade at midday, put on a shirt and hat, wear sunscreen. Did you know, the amount of sunscreen you need is approximately the size of a shot glass full. Don’t forget your ears or the back of your neck.
  • 8+: High. Stay indoors at midday, seek shade as much as possible, sunscreen is an absolute must. Look for a sunscreen that says Broad Spectrum, SPF 30+.

Skin type

With the exception of people with albinism, everyone has some melanin in their skin. Those with more of the protective pigmentation are less susceptible to DNA damage in their skin cells from UV radiation than those with less.

  • Type I: Very pale, burns quickly, never tans
  • Type II: Pale, burns easily, rarely tans
  • Type III: Burns moderately, tans over time to light brown
  • Type IV: Burns minimally, tans to medium brown
  • Type V: Rarely burns, tans to dark brown.
  • Type VI: Never burns, rarely tans, deeply pigmented skin.

What about vitamin D?

Yup, you need vitamin D in your body to stay healthy. And yes, your skin manufactures vitamin D in response to UV radiation. So shouldn’t you go without sun protection sometimes for the nutritional benefits?…Dermatologists don’t recommend that route…

Luckily, there are a number of sources of vitamin D that don’t also cause skin cancer. Fish, mushrooms, eggs, & fortified dairy products are all excellent sources. Or there are vitamin D supplements. My doctor has me taking a prescription-strength Vitamin D3.

Caring about your skin isn’t about vanity.

It’s your body’s largest organ, and I want my clients to stay healthy! #naturalskinrocks

Massage therapists love skin. We work with it on a daily basis and appreciate all it does to keep your insides in, and your outsides out. Your skin keeps you cool, tells you what’s around you, prevents infections & repairs itself at a remarkable rate. So take care of it!

And maybe bring it in for a massage.

(One of) my Favorite Things…

SunGuard adds UPF30 into your clothing.

Did you know that you can add sun protection to clothing that you already own?

SunGuard is a laundry additive from the company who gave us access to fabulous tie-dyed Tshirts (RIT, that is). It washes UPF 30* sun protection into your load of laundry (as long as the fabric is cotton or mostly cotton blend).

It’s pretty easy to use: as your washer is filling with hot water, add a packet of SunGuard to the water. Then add your clothes, make sure they soak for 15 minutes, and then proceed with the wash cycle as usual. (I have to “stop” my washer for the 15 minutes, but that’s no problem; it’s just my quirky machine.)

According to the product info, the sun protection will last through 20 launderings. I wondered about skin sensitivity or irritations from using it; however, from personal experience I haven’t had any problems (and my skin is super-sensitive to chemicals).

Although I haven’t found it in local stores, SunGuard is available to order on Amazon. Consider trying it if you’d like to add sun protection to your clothes!

 

*UPF in clothing, is similar to SPF in sunscreens. As a comparison, a common white Tshirt has a UPF of about 5.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What if…

photo of fresh whole coffee beans

What if we got massages as often as we drank coffee?

What kind of health benefits would that give us? (Raise your hand if you would like to volunteer for a scientific study involving daily massages. Me! Me!)

There is a tradition that entertainer Bob Hope, who lived to be 100, got a massage every day… and that it contributed to his longevity. I don’t know if this is true, but it surely could be one reason that he enjoyed such a long life and career.

According to this Healthline article published in 2018, an 8-ounce daily cup of coffee contains vitamins B2, B5, B1, & B3; folate, manganese, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus… plus significant antioxidants. Among other potential “perks” (pun intended, of course.)

Although most of us wouldn’t be able to get a massage every day, I’d like to suggest that you’ll see lots of advantages if you make massage therapy a regular habit!

  • When you come in for a massage more often, it’s easier to stay flexible and loose. Think of massage as maintenance for your muscles.
  • When you keep massage on your regular schedule, you’ll gain emotional benefits. Self-care. You’re worth it.
  • When a massage appointment stays on your radar, you might see a reduction in your stress level. Or maybe fewer tension headaches.
  • When you come in for massages that focus on a specific issue (neck pain, back pain, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, nausea…), it’s easier to see progress and reduction of your symptoms, when you come in on a regular interval.

Graphic: What if we made massage as essential as coffeeWhat do you think? What kind of schedule would work for you, in order to see more consistent benefits from your massages?

 

Should I talk during my massage?

Client is face up and therapist is using stones on their left leg.

Good question!

And the answer is… there’s no right or wrong answer!

Sure, if you’d like to talk during your massage… go right ahead. The important thing to remember is that this treatment is all about you relaxing & enjoying the experience.

Many therapists discourage talking in hopes that you will relax, let your mind float free, and enter a state of massage bliss. I have an introverted nature, and I want to offer that as an advantage if you prefer quiet during your massage.

However, I’m not going to pressure you to stop talking, if that’s what helps YOU to relax and settle into your massage session.

There are times when you need to speak up. If anything about your massage is making you uncomfortable, please let me know immediately.

  • If you get too warm or too cold, let me know… I have a fan, extra blankets, and a cozy table warmer that can all be adjusted.
  • If the lighting is too bright or too dim, let me know… the wall sconce is on a dimmer switch.
  • If you were expecting a different pressure, let me know so we can address that right away.

And if you have any questions… feel free to ask anytime during your massage! I want your session to be the most helpful and beneficial and awesome that it can be for you.

Massage Myth-Busters…

client having massage on their mid-back.

Myth: You can’t get a massage if you weigh too little, or too much.

There are so many variations of this misconception. And the myths sound like they were made up by the MeanGirls.

  • “Skinny people don’t have enough “meat on their bones” to get a massage, they’ll just bruise.”
  • “Overweight people can’t get a real massage because there’s too much tissue between their skin and their muscles.”
  • “People without perfect bodies shouldn’t show their skin to anyone.” Umm, Nobody has a perfect body…
  • And so on. Yada, Yada. 

Big people like massage. Small people like massage. In-between people like massage. And we massage therapists love providing massage to all kinds of people. It’s a perfect combination!

Are there different techniques better suited to bodies with specific needs? Of course. Is weight or size a prohibitive factor? Nope. Not by a long shot. The folks who make these kinds of comments and judgments, are either misinformed or just being mean.

I don’t judge my clients’ weight, or whether or not you are working on losing or gaining pounds. My table is called an Earthlite Ellora, and it is sturdy enough for the vast majority of people. (It’s rated for 600 lbs.) And it has an electric lift, by the way… which means that the table height adjusts. It’s a nice feature, because it makes the table easily accessible for any client!

So this myth is definitely history. I’m not critical of my clients’ weight… I just care about helping you feel better.

Ideas for Better Sleep!

photo of woman stretching with sunrise

Sometimes getting a full night’s sleep seems impossible to achieve. No matter the cause — stress? pain? your work schedule? or some other reason — if you are not receiving regular quality sleep, it can lead to other health problems. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says, “Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions – such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression – which threaten our nation’s health.”

Sleep Awareness Week (March 10-16, 2019) gives us an opportunity to leave insufficient sleep behind and get back to the quality sleep that is so vital to our health and wellness.

And here are a few ways you can start getting on track to better sleep habits.

Say adios to technology… well before bedtime.

Smartphones follow us everywhere these days. Consider moving your phone charger and making your nightstand a no-phone zone. Nix the TV, tablet, laptop and whatever electronic device has found its way into your resting space. Break the screen-time habit and allow yourself to relax on a deep level.  

Establish a routine that is calming and relaxing.

Humans are habitual creatures. How you wrap up your day can greatly impact the quality of sleep you receive. Finish the day with a warm bath, a cup of herbal tea, cool the temperature in your room, and shut off the lights. Establishing a routine can put you into the mindset, “it’s time for sleep.”

Massage. Massage. Massage.

There, I said it. Massage can be VERY helpful when it comes to improving your sleep. According to the Mayo Clinic, studies have found massage to be beneficial for stress, as well as:

  • Anxiety
  • Digestive disorders
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Paresthesias and nerve pain
  • Soft tissue strains or injuries
  • Sports injuries
  • Temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ)

Massage can not only increase relaxation and lower your fatigue, but it can reduce pain and improve your quality of sleep. Which can also help restore your sleep pattern.

Our need for sleep has dramatically increased with the infiltration of technology and the busier our schedules get. Massage is a great way to fulfill that need & be on your way to a better night’s rest. 

“Are you certified in Oncology Massage?”

Therapist performing massage on client's lower left leg on table

Good question. Short answer is, I’m Licensed by the state board (which is the board of nursing in VA… we don’t have our own dedicated Massage Board at this time.)

Society for Oncology Massage logoI’m a member of the Society for Oncology Massage (s4om.org) and have taken classes to learn about safely adapting massage therapy for clients who are dealing with cancer. And the learning never ends 🙂

At this time, we don’t have a specific certification for Oncology Massage Therapy (OMT). A therapist who has taken the advanced training, can join S4OM and be connected with like-minded therapists across the country.

There sure are a plethora of classes that I want to enroll in to learn more about OMT. New perspectives to listen to. Webinars to watch. And new insights to gain about clients and what they are going through, and the best ways to help. Plus sacred cows to question. It was formerly believed that someone who has cancer, could not have a massage. Thankfully, we have learned that this isn’t true.

(Along with my underlying healing-process. Cancer diagnosis hands you a new normal, and I’m still working on what that really means in my own life, too.)

I’m excited to be able to offer OMT and to be given the tools to adapt massage therapy so that it’s safe and beneficial. And we need more therapists to take OMT training courses, so that fewer people will be turned away from getting a massage. Maybe someday the S4OM will create a Certification for our specialty. We’ll see…

Should I Cancel My Massage if I’m Not Feeling Well?

Woman sneezing into tissue

Yes, please. Cancel if you are sick. Great! We’re done here.

Nah, we’ve got a bunch more to cover. There are lots of variables to being sick. What does that even mean and why does it matter? Let’s dig in.

What is ‘sick’?

For determining your ability to receive massage, ‘sick’ means one or any combination of the following:

  • Fever and related symptoms
    • Chills
    • Aches
    • Unusual fatigue
  • Respiratory issues
    • Coughing
    • Sneezing
    • Very runny and/or stuffy sinuses
    • Sore throat
  • GI issues
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea

If you have any of the above happening, it’s best to cancel.

Massage isn’t going to help you get better

A sick body needs rest. Receiving massage is an active task. Massage causes change in the body and your body has to work to maintain stability. Getting a massage when you are sick takes attention away from rest and recovery. That’s not helping.

Kermit the Frog with tissues

You’re not going to be cozy on the massage table. Sure, it sounds like a warm massage table would be great. But the moment you put your already-stuffy head into that face cradle, you’ll realize the error of your ways. Gravity and pressure are not your friend here. Even if I do a great face massage to drain your sinuses, you’ll likely feel worse when you get off the table.

If you’re feeling at all dizzy or loopy, lying face down can make that sensation even worse. Especially if you are in the recovery phase of a virus or bacterial infection. You may have that lingering dry cough well past the stage of contagion or actual illness.

If you’re unsure about your situation, please call me before your appointment and we can make a decision together.

It’s really, really easy to spread those germs

If you come in sick, you may get me (and my other clients) sick. Even with the best handwashing, coughing into your elbow, and precision skills depositing your dirty tissue into the trash bin, you’re likely to leave a few germs hanging in the air and I’m likely to breathe them in. And my next client may already have a compromised immune system.

There’s a lot we just can’t control about cold and flu season. We may have been exposed without knowing and be contagious for a few days before symptoms show up. That’s just part of living in a world with other people.  But we can control where we go and who we see while we are symptomatic. I know it’s a bummer to delay your massage, but it’s also the right thing to do when you are contagious.

Stay healthy

You already know the best ways to stay healthy through cold and flu season. (But I’ll remind you.) Consider getting a flu shot, wash your hands, get enough sleep, get out into the fresh air when possible. Some stores provide wipes to use on the handle of your shopping cart, which is good if the previous shopper may have had a cold. I try not to touch door handles in public… I use a paper towel, tissue, or my coat as a barrier when opening a door.

If you feel cold symptoms coming on, do your best to cancel whatever you can from your schedule. Keep your activities to a bare minimum and just rest. Stay hydrated. Ask for help. That’s hard to do, but worth the effort.

Here’s to staying healthy through this season and the whole year!

https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/how-long-flu