What’s the best sunscreen to use?

Beach umbrella and blue sky with words 5 Fast Tips about Sunscreens.

Protect yourself for fun in the sun!

Summer weather is here — are you ready to head outside and enjoy the beach, the mountains, or your own backyard? Before you step out into the sunshine, don’t forget to protect your body’s largest organ — your skin!

When you shop for sun care nowadays, you’re faced with a dizzying number of options. How do you sort through them and find the best sunscreens?

  • What’s the difference between Brand A & Brand Z?
  • Do you need SPF 15, SPF 30, or SPF 100?
  • And what about the ingredients: are they safe for kids?

Read on for 5 fast fun tips that will help you pick the best sunscreen.

Tip 1: Make sure you’re getting Broad Spectrum coverage.

You may have heard of UVA and UVB sun rays. An easy way to remember the difference is “UVA aging, UVB burning.” Broad-spectrum sunscreens are designed to protect your skin from both wavelengths.

Dark brown sunglasses sitting on a table under a shady tree.

Although you may not see or feel a burn after a day outdoors, your skin has still been exposed to UVA rays. Glass blocks some UVB rays, but UVA rays pass through – so protect yourself when you’re riding in a vehicle or sitting by a window too!

Remember — UV exposure is cumulative over our lifetime, is a major cause of premature aging & skin damage, and can lead to skin cancer.

Tip 2: Consider using the newer Mineral sunscreens vs. Chemical sunscreens.

Many modern sunscreen formulas are mineral-based. That means they act as a reflective barrier that forms a layer on top of your skin, rather than being absorbed. Most mineral sunscreens are based on titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.

Bearded man wearing sunglasses and shielding his eyes with left hand.

Chemical sunscreens (e.g., Coppertone) were formerly our only options in the stores. These are absorbed into your skin and may be less effective at blocking UVA rays than their mineral counterparts.

Tip 3: Here’s how to find safer & healthier sunscreen ingredients!

Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization, publishes an annual list of safer sunscreens. They rate their choices for children’s sunscreens, the best sport sunscreens, and more. Here’s a link to their 2022 guide!

Best sunscreen. Mother puts sunscreen on her little girl's chin at the beach. Headline EWG's Guide to Sunscreens.

As we learn more, we can opt for safer products. For example, many studies suggest that oxybenzone may be harmful and cause hormone disruption. Check your sunscreen’s label to see if it is oxybenzone-free.

Although stores stock a lot of spray sunscreens, they’re not recommended because of the possibility of inhaling their particles and the likelihood of inadequate coverage. Spraying the product into your hand, and then applying it with your fingers, can give you more control over where it goes.

Tip 4: Remember to reapply!

OK, you’ve found your favorite sunscreen and you’re heading out for the day. If you’re using a mineral sunscreen, it’s effective as soon as you apply it. With chemical sunscreens, allow yourself 10 minutes between applying it and exposing yourself to the sun. That gives the product time to absorb into your skin.

blue and white clock face with shadow going off to the left.

And remember to reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours! Or more often, if you’re swimming, exercising, or sweating. Water-resistant formulas will wear off, also.

Although SPF 100 products are available, many dermatologists say that it’s best to use an SPF 30 and frequently reapply it.

Higher SPFs may not actually live up to their hype, and they may be misleading. The American Academy of Dermatology says, “A high-number SPF does not allow you to spend additional time outdoors without reapplication.”

Tip 5: And the best sunscreen is,

When all is said & done, the best sunscreen is – the one you and your family consistently remember to use every day… all year-’round!

As the Skin Cancer Foundation says, “The happier you are with your sunscreen, the more consistently you’ll use it.” 🙂

1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. Five people with varied skin tones and headline Skin Cancer Awareness Month.

I hope you get to enjoy some time outdoors this summer, whether you’re taking a vacation or a staycation! Because I work with many clients who have been affected by cancer, and because of my own history with melanoma, I want to help spread awareness about skin cancer prevention.

Here’s an excellent resource on skin cancer, if you’d like to learn more.

And just for fun, here’s a little haiku that I composed in honor of Skin Cancer Prevention Awareness:

Slip! Slap! Slop! Sunscreen!
Even when it is cloudy.
Love your skin; be safe!

4 Ideas to Help Insomnia

Man yawning, read for ideas to help insomnia

Got insomnia?

Did you know that March is National Sleep Awareness Month? And this month is fun for several reasons. You have your choice of picking your March Madness basketball bracket, celebrating the luck o’ the Irish with green-tinted beer, or walking around wearily from a confused circadian rhythm… wait, that’s not fun! We need some healthy ideas to help insomnia.

Spring “officially” begins this month, so everyone is feeling happy to shake off our winter doldrums and see the light at the end of the tunnel. The good news: Hampton Roads is reveling in the brilliance of yellow daffodils (and we’ve had a few days that you could leave your coat behind!)

But then, the arrival of Daylight Savings Time has robbed us of a precious hour of rest, and our sleep cycles may be all out-of-whack at the moment.

And not only that, but sleep issues aren’t just a seasonal problem. The Cleveland Clinic estimates that over 70 million Americans suffer from short-term (a few days) or long-term (more than a month) patterns of insomnia. 

Why can’t I get to sleep?

Most cases of chronic insomnia are secondary, which means they are resulting from some other problem, such as:

  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Obstructive sleep apnea

Not to mention all the ways that the COVID pandemic has interfered with our sleep habits. The National Sleep Foundation has learned from their recent studies that “On one hand, Americans have been able to achieve longer sleep time, perhaps reflecting pandemic-related changes in schedule and lifestyle. On the other, sleep quality has worsened in what for many has been a challenging health, social, and economic environment.”

So, what can I do to help my insomnia?

You may be familiar with some common sleep hygiene tips: avoiding caffeine, using room-darkening shades, and going to bed at the same time every night. Here are a few other ideas to help your insomnia that aren’t as well known.

Nap properly.

Taking a nap during the day can be great for productivity, give you some needed energy and help improve your mood, but you’ve got to plan naps carefully!

Here’s some napping advice from the folks at the Sleep Foundation: Aim for a power nap of 20 to 25 minutes. With that short timeframe, you will wake back up without entering into the deep, slow-wave sleep stage.

Otherwise, you might feel groggy (sleep inertia), and you risk not being able to fall asleep when it’s bedtime.

Be mindful of the temperature.

Try this: take a warm (not hot) shower or bath about an hour before bedtime, and keep your room cool at night. The Sleep Foundation recommends 60 to 67 degrees as the best sleeping environment. The drop in body temperature, from a warm bath to a cool room, is believed to be sleep-inducing.

Turn off the electronics.

OK, this is a challenging suggestion! But more and more, the sleep experts are recommending that we “unplug” before we retire for the night. Even with blue-light filters on our screens, our devices are interfering with our circadian rhythms.

Retro black alarm clock, good for ideas to help insomnia.

Try this: get an old-fashioned alarm clock so you don’t need to use your phone. Turn off your phone, iPad, or Kindle, and put the devices in another room. Yes, a whole other room. (We may think that a phone on silent, hanging out on the nightstand, won’t disturb our rest, but it will. It’s far too tempting to reach over and just check a few emails if you wake up in the middle of the night.)

Get a massage.

Yeppers! Massage can help you if you’re having trouble sleeping. The American Massage Therapy Association has shared several studies that support the sleep-related benefits of massage. And health experts often cite massage therapy on their list of ideas to help insomnia.

Massage therapy can especially aid in a better night’s sleep if you’re dealing with issues like these:

  • Anxiety
  • Pregnancy

Massage appointments available to help you get more sleep!

Contact me today to schedule your next massage! Together we’ll make a plan that could help to mitigate your insomnia!

Should I use heat or ice?

should i use heat or ice? Gnome skiing and wearing warm hat.

“Is it better for me to use heat or ice for this muscle?” I hear this question frequently from massage therapy clients, and I wish it was easy to answer.

For years the loose guidance has been “ice for immediate injury, heat for achiness and improved mobility.” You’ve probably heard of the RICE acronym (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation).

So… ice, ice, baby?

In 1978 Dr. Gabe Mirkin created the acronym and included ‘RICE’ in his sports medicine book as a treatment for soft tissue injuries. The idea was to reduce inflammation that can increase pain and slow down healing. It was logical — and it seemed to work — so the sports world adopted this practice, and medicine soon followed suit. I remember being taught about RICE in massage school, also.

Since then, Dr. Mirkin has reversed his support for the RICE method, based on a large number of studies that have shown mediocre results (or no particular benefits of RICE at all). And we now know that swelling & inflammation are not the same, and they don’t necessarily correlate to healing time.

Hmm… if the RICE protocol is out the window, should I use heat or ice?

First and foremost, do what is comfortable for you. If you hate being chilly, ice is a terrible idea. If you are always warm & uncomfortable, a giant heating pad is probably not appealing to you.

Next, consider what ice or heat does overall. For many people ice (or just cold) can kick up the nervous system and make the body feel like it’s in danger. Whereas heat, especially in the form of a weighted heating pad, can be really calming and relaxing to the whole body.

With all that in mind, here is my general view on Heat versus Ice:

If you have seen a physician, physical therapist, or any kind of medical provider for your symptoms, follow their advice. If their recommendation feels uncomfortable or if you feel like it makes your symptoms worse, reach out to them for more guidance.

If you’re opting for a DIY route to care for a minor injury, I suggest applying ice as soon as you get the chance. If you were doing something strenuous and can feel a tender spot, and the area looks a little puffy, go for the cold. Use ice for 20 minutes once an hour or so, and see if your symptoms improve or change.

And be sure to use a towel or some other protective barrier between your skin and the ice or cold pack. That’s because you can accidentally develop frostbite if a cold pack is left directly on your skin for a long time! I observed that with someone who was using ice at home several years ago. Less is more.

(A personal hydrotherapy anecdote: my friends used to live in a huge home in P-town. One night, I gracefully slipped on some backyard pavers, slid into their lily pond, and broke a toe. They were having a birthday party and had run out of ice, so I sat on the edge of the swimming pool and soaked my foot in the water. The moral of the story: If you don’t have an ice pack, a package of frozen peas or corn can substitute. If there are no veggies to be found in the freezer, any old port in a storm – like my swimming pool improvisation.)

I’ve also found applying a cold washcloth on the head or face to be beneficial if you have a headache. If you’re experiencing sinus pain, that may also help. If you frequently get these headaches, remind me the next time you come into the office for an appointment, and I can show you some sinus acupressure points that you can self-massage.

The heat is on

For tense muscles, general or deep achiness, or feeling straight-up “tight,” I like to use heat. Possibly heat with some weight behind it. I’ve found it to be calming to the whole body and demonstrably helpful in encouraging everything to ‘unclench’.

In this article from the Cleveland Clinic, they advise against using heat for acute injuries, gout, or tendinitis. If you have areas with reduced sensation (such as neuropathy in your feet or hands), they recommend caution.

Tension headaches are often relieved with heat to the shoulders and neck. But for migraine sufferers, use whatever option – hot or cold — feels best for you.

When you come into my office for your massages, we have a couple of options for using heat. My table has a cozy fleece warming pad on it, which we can employ during your entire session, or just a portion of the time. And I have a special towel-warmer, too. Many clients love having a warm towel applied to their back or feet.

Let’s make a plan

Just as your “best massage” is the massage that’s most helpful for you, customized for your goals and your health situation – “Should I use heat or ice?” — ultimately the choice is, what feels best to you!

So, let me know if you have questions about massage therapy and how it can support your health and well-being. Together, we can plan your session so that massage is an enjoyable solution for you. Check my schedule online here and you can book your next massage!

“New year — new you”?

new year - new you? track with 2022 fading into horizon

Got resolutions?

Welcome to 2022! Time to make resolutions and goals for a new year — new you?

Is there any season more obsessed with pressuring us to make radical health resolves, than the dawning of the new calendar page? Even the “beach body” ads that fill Facebook in April or May don’t reach the same level of hype as New Year’s Resolutions.

Every time you turn the corner (or every time your streaming movie is interrupted by a commercial break), somebody is trying to get you to buy a class, a supplement, a shake, a piece of equipment, a diet, a lifestyle! It can be exhausting just trying to figure out what’s bonafide and what’s bogus.

It’s perfectly normal to feel motivated by a fresh start in January (or to ditch the resolutions this year!) But here’s a little guidance on whether you’ll decide to plunk down your hard-earned cash in response to the call to sign up for that shiny New Year’s health habit.

Do they claim you’ll get quick fixes?

If whatever you’re thinking of trying swears you’ll get the desired result in no time at all, you can be pretty sure you’re entering into scam territory. (This FDA site has some interesting examples.)

After all, the human body is based on homeostasis. (That term comes from the Greek words for “same” and “steady,” and we’re talking about stability and equilibrium in your physiological processes.) Our bodies surely can change, and they certainly do, but most of those changes occur over time.

Most events that create fast changes in the body (like surgery) require a physician to administer them; products and regimes can be dangerous for your body if not used carefully. If you’ve been out of shape for five years, don’t expect to get back in shape in five weeks. That’s just not how our bodies work, unfortunately.

Are they promising a panacea or cure-all?

There are diets that can help you lose weight. There are exercise routines that can help you gain muscle and strength. There are massages that can help you relax and manage your stress levels. 🙂

But if someone is selling One Amazing New Thing that will evaporate extra pounds, increase your happiness, straighten your posture, whiten your teeth, cure your condition, and improve your social life? Sadly enough, magic bullets still don’t exist.

No, that essential oil will not prevent a pandemic infection, but it does smell nice and could help improve your mood if you enjoy using it in your home. Don’t fall prey to the internet’s exaggerated claims.

Does the advertiser push conspiracy theories for marketing?

If a product’s main selling point is that “doctors hate it” or “___ doesn’t want you to know about this,” or if their main message comes from dubious testimonials touting miraculous results – we can tell already that it’s probably not trustworthy.

After all, you and your physician (also your dentist, your massage therapist, your counselor, your personal trainer, your yogi, your wellness coach, your nutritionist. . .) are part of your health and wellness team. If any one of them refuses to be a team player and disparages the value of your other wellness team members, they’re not doing what’s best for you.

It’s not true that your health care providers are keeping some secrets under wraps – they want to help you make progress toward your health goals with options that actually work, not fads or schemes.

Does the product or program fit your life, your budget, and your goals? Does it offer you realistic expectations?

If yes, then this investment may be something worth looking into, whether it’s a gym membership, a cookbook of heart-healthy meals, or a habit-tracking app.

Ultimately, we try things out and see how they work for us over the long haul. Not everything will be a perfect fit, but at least we can weed out some of the resolutionist marketing malarkey and move forward with our best efforts into the new year.

I’d love to help you lower your stress, anxiety, and muscle tension as a member of your wellness team in 2022! Please contact me for your appointment. You can book a massage online right here.

Will Massage Help Me with My Pain?

Massage for cancer patients working with client's leg

Helping people to feel better, to move more easily, and to lower their stress & anxiety is what Quiet Strength Massage Therapy is all about. And some of my clients say that they’ve been experiencing tension and soreness for years. So, is massage therapy a helpful option for mitigating your muscle & joint pain?

When a client gets up from the massage table and tells me that their headache is gone, or their shoulders are loosened up, or their back feels so much better than when they walked in – that’s the best news of the day!

What do we really know about pain?

Pain is one of those “you know it when you feel it” sensations. But it’s also a curious phenomenon, when you think about it.

A snowball is cold, and so it feels cold when you touch it. A block of concrete is rough, so it feels rough when you touch it. But a knife isn’t painful on its own. Neither is a pot of boiling water or the leg of a table. We handle these things safely all the time, and experience their mass and temperature and texture.

But pain is a sensation in the body – specifically, in our minds. So what is happening when we feel pain?

How does pain work?

There are three primary types of pain, and each of them works a slightly different way.

Nociceptive pain (tissue pain)

There are many different kinds of sense receptors in the body. Some are sensitive to heat or cold… some, to touch or pressure. Others, called free nerve endings, aren’t specialized for any one type of stimulus. When a significant stimulus triggers these nerve endings, they send a message through the spinal cord and up to the brain. The brain then decides (without conscious thought) whether this is something to ignore, or if damage has occurred. Then your brain returns a message to the affected part of your body.

If the message is “No biggie, ‘tis but a scratch,” then you’ll most likely shake yourself off and forget the incident even happened. If it’s “Whoa! This feels like a problem,” then you experience this as pain.

This can be useful! Pain can alert us to a small problem before it progresses to a major disruption. Pain stops us from trying to walk on a sprained ankle, holding our marshmallow fork too close to a campfire, or going for a run when we have a fever.

Neuropathic pain (nerve pain)

This is pain that results from an issue with the nervous system itself, rather than surrounding tissues. If you’ve ever bumped your funny bone into a doorframe, you know all about that. Common forms of neuropathic pain include:

Some less common forms of neuropathic pain include phantom limb pain (which feels like it originates in an amputated limb) and postherpetic neuralgia (which can be a result of a shingles infection).

Neuropathic pain can be a frustrating experience. That’s because the normal things we do to reduce soreness are frequently ineffective at mitigating pain which originates in the nervous system. Rest/movement, or applying ice/heat, may have little impact on nerve pain.

What’s more, nerves may not heal as well as muscles and skin do, which can cause nerve pain to become chronic.

Other pain. (Yeah, we need a better name for that category)

Pain is messy, and a lot of it doesn’t fit either of the two categories above. Fibromyalgia is a common example.

Is fibromyalgia pain resulting from tissue damage? Nope. What about nerve damage? Not as far as we can tell. It’s caused by the nervous system malfunctioning, and can be debilitating, but may not present with nerve damage. And the world of medicine is still trying to figure out why.

So how do we alleviate pain?

There are several different options.

  • If the painful sensation is caused by some kind of physical injury or stimulus, you can respond.
    If your hand is being burned on a lightbulb, you’ll instinctively let go. If you’re experiencing a muscle cramp in your foot, you can flex the foot (manually, if necessary).

    If you’re experiencing tension from sitting in the same position for too long, you can move around and shake it out. If the cause of your discomfort is inflammation, anti-inflammatories and ice may be helpful.
  • You can block the messages that tell your brain you’re in pain. This is how many medications work. Ice can also numb nerve endings.
  • You can convince your brain that you’re not in any real danger. This is a tough one, because the brain doesn’t just listen when you tell it things. But it’s well documented that fear, stress, or anxiety can lead to increased pain perception. And that adds to your stress, which in turn can give you muscle tension.

    General relaxation techniques (such as meditation/mindfulness, exercise, or getting a massage) can help to shift your nervous system’s pain alarms down a notch. Physical therapy, yoga, or mental health counseling can also be beneficial.

How will massage help me with my pain?

Sometimes chronic or acute tension is something that massage can help you to manage on a physical level. But even more often, massage gives your brain a chance to let down its guard and your muscles can feel something non-painful and even pleasant.

And while there’s no silver bullet for soreness or discomfort, my clients say that getting a massage definitely benefits them!

So, contact me today and schedule a massage that is customized to help you feel better.

To Help Keep You Safer…

Here are some of my COVID-19 Commitments & Policies & Protocols!

Are you looking for a vaccinated massage therapist?

If you’re medically vulnerable, I’m doing my best to remain vigilant and covid-conscious.

I am a solo practitioner located in Virginia Beach, and I’m delighted to be open for massage appointments again. Because our situation is ever-evolving, I’m doing my best to keep up with the latest info.

Based on advice from medical professionals and lots of input from some of my amazing massage therapist colleagues, here are some ways that I’m working to keep you safer when you come in for a massage.

Vaccination

I’m fully vaccinated, and had a booster shot in May 2022.

I’m scheduling massages with clients who are currently vaccinated.

If you are unable to receive the COVID vaccine because of medical advice from your doctor, please contact me to discuss options.

Since the vaccine is widely available: If you’re choosing not to get the shot and that decision is for a reason other than your doctor’s advice, I’m sorry but unfortunately I’m not the right massage therapist for you at this time.

I’m (really, honestly, sincerely) not making any political statements, but I believe that vaccination is necessary to protect our community. I have health risk factors, and so do many of the people I spend time with.

Thank you for your consideration!

Mask policy

Masks are required while you’re in the office. Masks must be worn over your nose and mouth, and should be well-fitting. KN95, N95, or N94 masks preferred. I will be wearing a KN95 mask to protect you.

HEPA filter

There’s a True HEPA air purifier running next to my massage table, the entire time you’re here. It’s filtering the air in the office 5 times an hour, and is rated for filtering 99.97% of particles as fine as 0.3 microns.

Purell

I have this trustworthy name-brand hand sanitizer available for your use. Clients and I will also wash our hands in the nearby restrooms before the massage begins.

Contact-free payment options

You can pay for your massage session with a credit card. Like many other small business owners, I have a Square reader that accepts all sorts of credit/debit cards. You can tap the reader if your chip card has that capability.

covid safety measures | vaccinated massage therapist

Protex

Protex is a hospital-grade disinfectant that I use in my office. Between clients, the massage table, face rest, any massage products & equipment that I’ve used, furniture surfaces, and door handles get wiped down.

Although our most recent information suggests that we’re less likely to catch COVID-19 from touching a surface — it’s mainly spread through airborne aerosols — I just feel better about cleaning with a product that’s effective against the coronavirus.

Commitments and Agreements

If you’re experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, or have potentially been exposed to someone who has the virus within the past 10 days, please contact me to reschedule your appointment right away.

And if someone in your household is having COVID symptoms or has been exposed, please contact me to reschedule your massage.

Likewise, if I’m not feeling well or find out that I’ve been exposed, I will reschedule your massage.

I’m still limiting my in-person activities, and have decided that curbside pickup at Aldi’s and Target is pretty awesome 🙂

Before your appointment, I have a COVID information form that you’ll need to fill out online.

Even with increased sanitation protocols and preventative efforts, massage therapy involves close proximity in an enclosed space for an extended period of time. Therefore, massage therapy may include an elevated risk of infection, including COVID-19. The precautions I’m taking can reduce your risk of exposure to COVID-19, though they cannot eliminate all risk. Please consider your comfort level with the risks and the benefits of receiving massage during the pandemic.

I’ve heard that many people are concerned about finding a vaccinated massage therapist, so I wanted to be transparent with you about my own vaccination.

Please let me know what questions you have about these protocols, and anything else I can do to help you feel confident about booking a massage appointment!

Q: Aren’t these policies more strict than the governor’s rules/what other therapists are doing/what the CDC said?

A: Maybe.

Q: Aren’t you just giving in to fear?

A: No.

Q: Are you looking forward to seeing your clients again?

A: Definitely!!

book an appointment

Leap Day, Emotional Health, & a Bucket List

Suitcase with travel stickers and a starburst background

Disclaimer: This post isn’t actually about massage therapy, or physical health. At least not directly. I’m not a counselor and am offering general wisdom about self-care.

But emotional health certainly is part of a holistic health viewpoint. Therefore… I had some thoughts that I wanted to offer for your consideration… so, read on!

This February calendar has an unusual feature: a 29th day. What are you going to do with your bonus 24 hours (or 366th day of the year)? 

In between your regular Saturday routine activities this Leap Day, you could take some time out for some self-care. (We’ll roll that over, of course, if you’re perusing this post in March.) No deadlines, whatever self-care looks like for you.

Do you have a bucket list? Mine has frequently been forgotten, stuck in a drawer. Take your list out this weekend, and see what you might be able to check off during 2020.

Adventure is Out There!

If you’ve watched the Pixar film Up, you may recall Carl’s childhood hero and his catchphrase. “Adventure is out there!” he would proclaim. And even though Carl had shut himself off, he gradually opens his heart to new friendships and a whole new life of adventures. What a beautiful story (and pass the box of tissues!) What is your dream of adventure? Stay with me, and read on:

Keeping It Simple

Bucket lists don’t have to be, well, 20-gallon buckets. What I mean by that is, small adventures & small actions of self-care, are at least as important as checking major goals off your list. And maybe even more important in the long run!

Small actions are easier to fit into your day-to-day schedule. 

And they require less of a commitment, if you’re testing something out. That’s the beauty of accepting a trial membership at a new gym, attending a one-day craft workshop, or perusing sample chapters of a book to see if you want to read the series. 

Mini-adventures, such as day tripping to a nearby city you’ve never visited; streaming some music that’s way different from what you normally listen to; or meeting a friend at a new coffee shop, can still feel like a good break in your routine. 

No Worries

Everything on your bucket list doesn’t have to be monumental. And you don’t have to defend or apologize if you change your mind about wanting to do something. Also, there are no rules about the length of your list. 10 items? 25 of ‘em? 100? Or maybe just three.

Just consider what encourages you and what would give you a fresh outlook, a new memory, a spring in your step. Keepin’ it simple can create new momentum, too.

As I stated, we’re not going to set a lot of rules.

But here are Three Bucket-List Guidelines:

  • Make sure you have some items on your list that are small & simple.
  • Make sure to include activities that are fun or joyful for you.
  • The items on your list should be meaningful to you and maybe others.

photo collage from road trip

Epilogue: my recent adventure

In December, I took a weekend road trip! 

  • I drove up the scenic Eastern Shore through Maryland and Delaware
  • Stayed at an AirBnb (first time doing that) which was on a horse farm
  • Went to a concert with one of my favorite singer/songwriters (Jeffrey Gaines), in a tiny performance venue which was pretty awesome
  • Checked out a historic small town with cool shops and bookstores
  • Learned about this town’s history and involvement with the Underground Railroad
  • Shopped at ACME in Delaware (although no coyotes or road runners were to be found)
  • Visited my good friend from massage school, who has moved to Maryland.

Your turn! What will you check off your bucket list & add to your self-care plans? 

 

Massage Mythbuster: Get Those Toxins Out…

illustration of right and left brain

Happy 2022! For a lot of us, the new year means a fresh start and brings resolve to take better care of our bodies. Maybe you’ve had your fair share of wine & delicious food over the past few weeks. (Most of us have the tendency to eat a bit more over the holidays.) Should you detox with a juice cleanse? Or does massage flush toxins from your body?

With the general rise of health consciousness, there’s also been an increase in the idea of “detoxing.” It’s hard to avoid the plethora of ads on TV or Facebook these days, trying to grab our attention with detoxification promises.

You can choose from the latest diet craze, a cleanse that’s endorsed by a famous actress, or a foot pad that claims to pull your toxins out via the soles of your feet…

And some massage therapists claim that massage can help flush toxins out.

But what exactly are these toxins? And do these detox methods really work?

In truth, there’s little scientific evidence to prove that detoxes of any kind work, and that goes for massages as well.

While there are plenty of health benefits to massage, ridding your body of toxins is not one of them. I’m here to debunk the myth of toxins, and get down to the nitty gritty of what actually makes massage so good for you.

What are “Toxins?”

Let’s take a look. These indefinite “toxins” sound scary… definitely something that you should try to avoid or get rid of at all costs.

But toxins are just a normal part of life. Like anything else, in small doses & within context, they are generally fine.

Perhaps what we actually fear are “poisons,” which are different from toxins. Poisons are harmful substances, but it’s important to remember here that even good things in too-large doses can be considered poison. (Ingesting large amounts of certain vitamins or minerals, for example.)

Toxins are a kind of subset of poisons; they are poisons produced by living things. Technically, drinking alcohol, getting a massage, and hard exercise can all produce toxins. But these toxins are just part of how our bodies metabolize, rebuild, & process substances on a daily basis.

Consider: Your doctor wouldn’t recommend that you give up your exercise routine to avoid toxins, and any toxins created by massage certainly won’t be harmful either.

No, Massages Won’t Cleanse Your Body of Toxins.

In truth? Your body does a pretty great job of flushing toxins all on its own. If you are in good health, your kidneys & liver should already be doing a great job of removing toxins.

Except for very rare occasions like overconsumption of drugs or alcohol, your body doesn’t need extra help detoxing. It just needs time to do what it does best.

Detox regimens, like juice cleanses or “detoxing massages,” don’t really do much to release toxins from your body. Unfortunately, these quick-fix claims are mythical.

In fact, many of these juice cleanses are actually just crash diets with major caloric deficits that can leave you feeling weak, sluggish, & tired. And they certainly are not sustainable ways to meet your body’s nutritional needs.

But can’t a therapist dig in & work those toxins out?

If you’ve received an intense massage that left you feeling sore, tired, or disoriented, what you’ve actually experienced is post-massage soreness and malaise (PMSM). Excessive pressure is ill-advised for extremely vulnerable patients, such as the elderly or those with health issues.

Besides that, it’s not what I offer.

If you work with an experienced, knowledgeable massage therapist, PMSM should not be an issue.

Not only should a responsible LMT not claim that she can detox you, but also, it is inappropriate for them to overwork your muscles or to use excessive pressure.

It‘s not my style, and other therapists shouldn‘t go beyond beneficial levels of pressure when you‘re on their table. “No pain, no gain“ does not apply here.

The Water-Toxin Myth

Water glass with fresh berries and mintYou may have heard that it’s necessary to drink water after a massage… because some have claimed that massages send toxins directly into the bloodstream, & the best way to flush ’em out is to drink plenty of water to encourage your kidneys to remove those toxins from your body.

This rumor has been going around for many years. However, this myth is… busted!!

It never hurts to drink plenty of water, so it can’t hurt to rehydrate after a massage session. But massages don’t flush toxins into the bloodstream, and water wouldn’t help this process even if it was true.

Know that massage doesn’t liberate environmental pollutants from cells or “squish” them into your bloodstream or excretory systems to be expelled. Again, that’s what your kidneys and digestive system are designed to do.

The Lactic Acid Myth

Here’s another myth that LMTs used to circulate in the early 2000s… that massage breaks up lactic acid in the muscles after a long run or hard workout.

The soreness and stiffness you experience after your first run of the season actually isn’t from lactic acid building up in your muscles, it’s what’s called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).

When you work out, it’s like pulling on a long rope; some of the fibers in your muscles may break during the workout, in what are essentially tiny microtears. Unlike pulling on a rope that loses some of its strength, your muscles rebuild themselves and become larger and stronger.

Your massage therapist can reduce the pain and stiffness after a hard workout.  When you heavily work out a muscle group, it loses some of its flexibility & tenses up, making it easier to tear. Massage can ease this tension.

Also, you may see improvement with inflammation & swelling, or experience less fatigue… gearing you up to conquer your next race, conditioning class, or hot yoga session.

Other Benefits to Massage Therapy

Don’t worry. Although I’m not gonna claim to detox your body…there are still plenty of reasons for regular massages, & benefits from receiving even an occasional massage.

With massage, you can potentially:

  • Reduce stress hormones like cortisol
  • Get help dealing with the side effects of cancer treatment
  • Improve joint function and reduce pain for those with osteoarthritis
  • Lessen muscle soreness after a hard workout
  • Speed healing of overworked, sore muscles
  • Reduce inflammation and helping the muscles’ repair process
  • Lessen fibromyalgia-related pain
  • Help with anxiety and insomnia
  • Lessen the effects of temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ)

So, does massage flush toxins? Massage has countless health benefits, but flushing toxins isn’t one of them.

If you’re looking to remove pollutants and poisons from your life, there’s no quick fix: you have to do so with conscious lifestyle changes.

Once you let go of the “myth of toxins,” though, you can let go! Enjoy your massage appointment, & the many benefits you’re receiving from your time on my table.

Feedback Please…

massage therapist working on the sole of client's foot.

…or, the Importance of Speaking Up!

Chances are you know the value of a truly great massage. Especially when you’re going through times of stress or chronic pain, we all look forward to the physical and emotional benefits of coming in for a massage session.

But what can you do if your massage isn’t quite what you expected? When your massage is “fine,” but just not what you’re needing?

You might feel like you’ve been shortchanged of the relief you were hoping to find, whether you wanted to deal with stress… get help with symptoms of a chronic illness… or improve physical stiffness or muscular pain.

Or: what if your massage is absolutely fantastic, and you’d love for every session to be just as helpful in alleviating your aches, pains, and woes?

Perhaps you’re a runner, and a certain technique is really relieving the tension in your IT band. Isn’t that important to share with your massage therapist so they can continue to implement that into future massages?

I can’t stress enough how important your feedback is, in order to deliver you a stellar massage every time. I never want to let a session go by without you feeling like you’ve gotten the massage you need & deserve. And the best way to get your best massage? Communication & feedback!

The Positives

By now you’ve probably noticed that during your massage I check in with you from time to time about all sorts of different things: the temperature of the room, the pressure I’m using, how you are feeling.

Although I named my business Quiet Strength (& I’m no chatterbox), I want to know what’s working for you and what isn’t. Let’s agree to have an open line of communication, so you can share what you need. So if something feels great? I’d love to know!

Please speak up about what works for you and exactly what your preferences are. The more communicative you are about what works best for your body in a session, the easier it is for me to personalize your massage.

I won’t be offended if you express what you like or don’t like about your massage. And feel free to speak up at any time.

The Not-So-Positives

Just like I want to know what feels great, I also want you to feel safe sharing what I can do better. What’s right for some clients, isn’t right for everyone. We all have different opinions, preferences, & feelings, and that’s what makes us unique.

And your feedback is the best way for me to know if there was something you didn’t like… so that moving forward, we can figure out together how to arrive at your perfect massage.

In the same way that sharing what you like helps me focus your massage towards the things that work for your body, sharing what doesn’t feel comfortable for you gives me the opportunity to change it.

How You Can Help

So what’s the best way to open up our line of communication, so you get the best massage for you? I want you to share.

Don’t assume I always know best: You know your own body better than anyone else, so if something is uncomfortable, tell me! While I am a trained professional, you are the foremost expert on your body and what feels right & what doesn’t.

Yes, I know how to find specific tight or sore areas, and I know numerous techniques to relieve tension in them. But what I don’t know is exactly how you are feeling on the table. So trust yourself as the expert on how you’re feeling, & know that it’s safe to communicate those thoughts with me!

Communicate before you get on the table: You don’t have to wait until you are on the table to tell me what you need. During the first few moments of your appointment, and on your intake form, you can tell me how you’re feeling.

That sets your priorities of where we should focus that day and what techniques will help you the most. Maybe you’re sore from a long run the day before, or maybe you’re experiencing a flare-up of chronic pain. Let me know right away, and keep the communication flowing during the massage too.

Don’t hesitate to speak up

Say something right away: If you’re not happy about how the massage is going, you don’t have to wait to see if things improve. (No massage therapist worth their salt will be offended if you ask for more pressure or less pressure, or for something else to change. In fact, we love feedback!) Please promise to speak up right away.

I got into the business of massage therapy to help make people’s lives better. I want to know ASAP if something is bothering you, because relieving pain & releasing stress is my life’s work!

Be specific: We’re a team. The more specific you are with me, the easier it is for me to figure out what you’re looking for and provide exactly the massage you’ve been wanting.

Maybe you want me to use a little more pressure or a little less pressure. You can always say something like, “Can you deepen the pressure one or two notches? That feels better, but you can still drop one notch deeper? That’s great!”

This lets me know exactly what you are wanting…from wanting more pressure to the exact amount, and then when things feel just right.

The bottom line? I want your feedback, so I can provide you with the best possible massage, every single time. After all, my objective is always to make you feel as well as possible.

It’s why you’re seeking a massage, and it’s why I went into the massage therapy business in the first place! Massage can be a major pillar of your wellness plan if you & I have a clear, open, & honest line of communication.

Don’t hesitate to speak up and let me know. How the massage feels to you, is the most important thing.

It’s not just to be nosy…

Magnifying glass with colored papers

… or, Why I’m asking you all those Health Questions.

Before your first massage at my office, I’m going to need some information from you about your medical history. I’ve got a questionnaire that will ask about what medications you take and medical conditions you have, and various questions about your health history.

So why is this? Am I being nosy? Why do I need to know such detailed, personal information that you may only otherwise share with your doctor?

While it may seem like a hassle or invasion of privacy to fill out an intake form, there’s a great reason I want to know so much about your health! Knowing your medical history not only protects you from potential injury during your massage, but it also means I can better personalize your massage to your needs. This ensures that when you leave the massage table, you feel better than ever.

What is a contraindication, and what does it have to do with my massage?

Every so often, it turns out that for some people with specific health situations, massage could potentially be harmful. This is referred to as a contraindication, and there are two different classifications of those for massage therapy.

  • Relative Contraindication: Relative contraindication means that caution should be used when performing a certain procedure. In the world of massage therapy, this means that a client can generally receive their massage. But I will need to modify my techniques and particulars of the session (like positioning, pressure, &/or products used) to stay safe & effective.

Some conditions just mean that we should avoid massage to a particular area of the body (such as a broken bone). These are local contraindications.

  • Absolute Contraindication: Absolute contraindication is the term used when massage could cause harm, and should not be applied at all. This is pretty rare, but it happens.

Here are some examples of conditions I’ve seen with clients, which can be contraindications for massage therapy:

  • Varicose veins
  • Undiagnosed lumps or bumps
  • High-risk pregnancy
  • Bruising, cuts, abrasions, and even sunburns
  • Psoriasis
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer (I specialize in oncology massage, and in many cases can work with you)
  • Osteoporosis
  • Heart problems
  • Epilepsy

Fear not: Not all of the above listed medical conditions rule out massage for you.

In fact, for some of these conditions, massage can have major soothing effects.

However, I will need to give you specific care. This is one of the main reasons it’s vital to share information with me about your medical history.

Also, colds, the flu, skin infections, or the presence of a fever are all reasons to wait to get a massage until you are feeling better. Read more about my cancellation policy here.

“Why do you need to know what medications I am taking?”

There are some medications that have an effect on your body’s ability to heal and process correctly and I need to be aware of what you’re taking so I can make adjustments.

For example, firm pressure in a massage could be dangerous if you are taking blood thinners. Or, if you’ve been on corticosteroids for a long time, you may have low bone density or thin skin as a result.

If you have been affected by cancer, we will discuss your side effects and make modifications for the treatments you’ve been receiving.

Again, in almost all cases, we can make adjustments to keep your massage safe and effective for you. The key is to keep me fully informed.

In a nutshell, even if you think a detail may be irrelevant, it’s smart to complete my intake form entirely & honestly. That helps me create the best and safest massage, just for you.

Oh, by the way… don’t be concerned if it takes a few minutes at your first appointment to go over the details of your health history. I’ll probably have some followup questions to ask, and you can in turn ask me any questions that you have.

But, since I’m an independent business and not a franchise, this consultation time doesn’t take away from your massage time on the table. Your 60-minute massage should still be a 60-minute massage. That’s my intention… to make your session the best that it can be for you!