Caring for the Skin You’re in: Sun Safety

Woman on beach with sunglasses. Read about sun safety.

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 like me 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 sun protection 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 all access to our fabulous tie-dyed T-shirts in the 1960s (RIT dye, that is). SunGuard washes UPF 30* sun protection into your load of laundry (as long as the fabric is made of cotton, or contains mostly a cotton blend).

It’s pretty easy to use SunGuard: as your washer is filling with hot water, just add a packet of SunGuard to the water. You’ll want to stir it a bit, so that the SunGuard dissolves completely. Then add your clothes to the hot-water SunGuard solution. Make sure that the clothing soaks in the SunGuard for at least 15 minutes, and then proceed with the wash cycle as usual. (I have to “stop” my washer and let it sit in “pause” mode for the 15 minutes, but that’s no problem; it’s just a quirk feature of my washing machine.)

According to the SunGuard package’s product info, the sun protection will last in your clothing through 20 launderings. I wondered about whether I’d have any skin sensitivity or irritations from using it. However, from personal experience I haven’t noted any problems or reactions to SunGuard (and my skin is super-sensitive to chemicals). So… so far, so good. Definitely consult your dermatologist if you have concerns about allergies.

Although I haven’t found SunGuard stocked in any of our 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 a sun protection rating scale for fabrics that is similar to the SPF you’ll see on packages of sunscreens. As an example, a common white T-shirt has a UPF rating of about 5. And SunGuard is designed to give clothing a UPF of 30.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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! You can enjoy a massage here.

If you have concerns or feel apprehensive, please feel welcome to ask. Read more about what to expect from your massage session, here. And you can also read this guest blog post written by my massage colleague Barry.

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

P.S. And make sure to check out this new episode of Massage Myth-Busters! (I love challenging rumors and myths, and encouraging everyone to try massage therapy. That’s a way to share kindness.)

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 receive 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

3 Ways a Massage Can Help You Today!

Closeup view of client having left hand massaged

(1) Got a Headache?

Tension headaches (often called stress headaches) are the most common type of headaches among adults.

Pain or pressure in your forehead, or on the top or sides of your head? Could be a tension headache. It’s especially likely if you’ve been hunching over a desk, spent a lot of time in a car, or if you’re shivering & huddling to keep warm in the wintertime.

A massage can help get rid of that headache, and regular massages may lessen its frequency.

Male client having scalp massageHave you tried adding a scalp massage to your session? A lot of my clients love it, and say that this makes their headache feel better.

(2) Help for Low Back Pain

A major research study was published in 2011 showing that massage therapy was better than drugs for general lower back pain. (“Better than drugs.” I just had to say that twice.) 

Just about everyone will experience low back pain at some point in their life. If it happens to you, don’t suffer. Schedule a massage and get back into action.

(3) Improves Irritability

Have you ever been so cranky you got on your own nerves? Yeah, me, too. It isn’t fun. It might be time for some self-care.

Massage is great for stress relief. You get to shut off all the electronic gizmos that buzz & chime & demand your attention, and take some time out.

Music, silence, warmth, massage. All the crankiness disappears. This is dual purpose. You’ll feel better and all the people around you will be happier that you’re back to your sunny self.

To Sum Up…

Got a headache, low back pain, or a case of the grumpies? Let me know when you’d like to come in, and we’ll help you feel better ASAP.

What Should I Expect When I Come In for a Massage?

Exterior of building where Quiet Strength Massage Therapy is found.

Sometimes when I meet somebody and tell them I’m a massage therapist, they tell me they have been meaning to get a massage.

They mention tension in their shoulders, or they feel stressed out because of their job, or they have pain in their back that never seems to go away. Oftentimes, they had a massage before… but it’s been a long time ago.

Or they tell me that their overbooked schedule makes it difficult to fit some self-care into their calendar. And many people that I’ve talked to, are just nervous about coming in for a massage, because they aren’t sure what it is like. And they’re not sure whether or not a massage will help them. Or whether they’ll like it.

Don’t hesitate to ask me any questions that you have about massage therapy, or if you’re wondering whether bodywork can help you.

Over the years, I’ve worked with lots of clients who never had a massage before…and the vast majority really feel better after they try it!

Because I’m a small business with just one client at a time, I can offer you a relaxing atmosphere that won’t feel like “rush ’em in, & rush ’em out.”

Red alarm clock with grass backgroundFor your first appointment, try to arrive 10 minutes before your scheduled time. That gives you time to sit down, relax, and fill out a form (your contact information, some questions about your medical history, and what you want me to help you with).

My intake form is pretty thorough, but that’s important… so that I can adapt your massage to any medical issues that you might have (past or present).

It’s in your best interests to let me know your health history. I’m not just being nosy, but I want to work in a manner that is safe & beneficial for every client.

Overall, therapeutic massage is safe, but there are lots of health conditions that affect the way that I should work. So yeah, I ask questions, but it’s in your best interests.

As we go over your information questionnaire, please tell me if there are areas that you would like me to focus more time on during your massage.

Most of the time, when clients are new to massage therapy, I’d suggest working on all these areas: your scalp, face, neck, shoulders, arms, legs, feet, and back. But if there is something you want me to leave out, that is completely your decision. Some people are too ticklish to enjoy work on their feet, for example. No problem. Let me know and I will respect your preference. It’s YOUR massage!

Of course, when a client comes in with a particular problem that they want me to spend all or most of their massage time on, that’s fine too.

After we have talked about your goals and preferences, I will show you the massage room and step out so you can get ready.

My table is comfortable and has some thick padding on it with an adjustable warmer to help you relax. It’s up to you whether you remove clothing… most people do, because it makes it easier to work on your muscles. But again, this is your choice.

You then will get under the sheet & blanket and I will knock on the door to see if you are ready before I come back in the room. (Note: Draping with the sheet, blanket, &/or towels, is required for all massages at all times. I am a professional Massage Therapist licensed with the Virginia Board of Nursing, & that is the law.)

Usually I use organic or pesticide-free jojoba for massages. Jojoba is a non-allergenic ester that is close to your skin’s natural oils. If you want aromatherapy oils added, the oils I use are organic. But I won’t use scented oils without permission. I know that many people are sensitive to perfumes & scents! Nope, no “surprise” odors used on your skin that you were not expecting!

I have a towel warmer in the massage room, and normally incorporate some nice cozy towels during a session. But if you are sensitive to heat, just let me know.

If you have booked an hour massage with me, normally that means you get an hour of actual massage time on the table. As an independent business owner, I’m adamant that an hour massage should be an hour massage. (Many of the massage franchises or spas give you a “50-minute hour” and then rush you out the door. Not here.)

One of the most important things I can say about your massage is this: Please speak up and let me know at the time, if there is anything I can change in order to make you more comfortable.

If there is too much pressure, or if there isn’t enough pressure; if you’d like different music; if you’d like another blanket, etc. Please tell me right away, so that your session is what you wanted.

Normally, I do not talk very much during your massage, except to check in with you and get feedback. I don’t want clients to feel like they need to carry on a conversation. It’s your time to relax and enjoy. If you would like to talk, of course you can. But don’t feel like you have to.

When your session is over, I’ll leave the room. I don’t want clients to feel rushed after their massage! Please let me know how you feel and if you have any questions. Sometimes it helps clients to drink some water and stretch a bit after their session.

I want to help you meet your goals for getting massage therapy, whether you mostly want to relax & destress, or you have particular “issues with your tissues.” So please keep me informed about how I can help your massage be what you want it to be!