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 2020! 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 perhaps a massage will flush those 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)

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!

5 Thoughts on Active Aging…

closeup of feet in athletic shoes

Did you see that news item on Facebook? Virginia Tech is going to house some students at a nearby Holiday Inn this fall, because they don’t have enough space in their dorms for everyone. When I was in college, um, (cough-ahem) just a few years ago, my school had to do the same thing. There were just too many in our freshman class.

We are the Baby Boom generation… we are many… and we want to stay happy & healthy as we get older!

Everybody talks about active aging, but not everybody knows what that’s supposed to look like. Some things, such as fine wine, get better & better with age! While the grocery store magazine rack offers all kinds of tips for looking 20 forever, is that really what all of us want?

Here are some thoughts about staying active, whether you’re a Baby Boomer or not.

Keep moving, in whatever ways work for you. Don’t limit yourself.

However you choose to stay active, make sure it’s something you enjoy. Being miserable while you move is not a great way to stay motivated!

If salsa dancing, kickboxing, or Zumba sounds like your style, don’t worry about the fact that the rest of your friends are more into yoga or golf. Don’t let assumptions about your age keep you away from the judo dojo, skating rink, or climbing wall.

The other part of “what works for you” is feasibility. Walking is something you can do right on your own street, or even at the local big-box store if the weather is uncooperative. No fancy equipment or gym membership necessary!

If you’re really into dance but your joints don’t appreciate the intensity, think about water aerobics or even a synchronized swimming group. Our local rec centers, the Y, or 24-hour gyms have lots of classes and options to choose from.

Not every health and wellness issue is about “just getting older.” Ask questions and get honest answers.

Sometimes, we just assume that physical issues are a normal part of getting older. But just because people say that, doesn’t necessarily make it so!

For years people have passed around myths like the idea that muscle loss is an inevitable part of aging. But people of all ages may be able to maintain or build strength & muscle. Flexibility & cardiovascular fitness don’t have to fall by the wayside either!

Of course, our bodies do change over time. This is where the asking-questions part comes in. So ask your doctor, personal trainer, massage therapist (hello there!), physical therapist, or whatever experts you have at hand, and get the answers & advice you need.

Don’t just ignore how you feel.

You know what that means for you. Those headaches that seem to be getting worse, the stress, the way you feel out of breath carrying groceries up the stairs.

If you see a physician, you might find that it’s actually something straightforward. Maybe all you need is a change of medication, better posture when lifting, or a massage.

Maybe it’s something a bit more involved, like a change in your activity level, eating habits, or other physical factors. But knowledge is power, and ignoring the issue just guarantees you don’t have the power to make those choices for yourself.

Health doesn’t just mean physical health, and “active” doesn’t just mean physically active.

So often we think about health and wellness as an issue of the body, and forget about the importance of mental health as well. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, depression affects 6.5 million Americans over the age of 65. This often goes undiagnosed for the same reason physical illnesses do: people assume that these feelings are a normal part of aging, and so they don’t seek help.

Being active in a variety of ways also helps fend off depression and anxiety. Strong friendships, regular touch, physical activity (yeah, that again), and working towards goals are all beneficial for maintaining mental health.

Some ways that you can keep active & engaged in your community: Volunteer for a cause that you care about. Take a class or workshop to learn a new skill. (Our public libraries have tons of free or low-cost classes! Check their websites to see their schedule.)

If you’re feeling depressed or down, take an active role in getting the right treatment; talk therapy, support groups, or medication can be a huge help.

From my own experiences with depression, I can tell you that you are not alone.

Being active and independent doesn’t mean that you never ask for assistance.

Everybody needs help. Kids need help. Parents need help. Athletes and firefighters and librarians and piano teachers all need help. It can be scary to feel vulnerable.

What kind of help would keep you feeling active and healthy: a walking buddy… a lift to the gym… an encouraging phone call once a week?

Maybe a professional could help. A personal trainer, counselor, or coach might be just what you need. And if you don’t feel like you click with the first one that you meet with, that’s OK. A different health professional might be a better match for your needs… keep looking.

Your community center, place of worship, library, gym, coffee shop, or other gathering-place might have resources for you to connect with like-minded people. That’s a way to take action and advocate for your own wellness, no matter what your age is!

Something in the (Spa) Water…

Water glass with fresh berries and mint

Some of my friends just don’t like drinking their H2O. Some people can only drink water if it is icy-cold… for others, it has to be cool but not room-temperature… and I’ve known quite a few people who say that they “just don’t like the taste” of water.

All preferences aside, our bodies need to get hydration from somewhere. Although many animals (I’m looking at you, Dromedary) can go for a while without taking a drink, we humans aren’t prepared to store all the water we need.

H2O and You

You may have heard reminders about drinking water, during our current heat wave. You especially need to stay hydrated if you:

  • Work outside or spend time in the sun
  • Have a strenuous occupation
  • Have diabetes or heart disease
  • Are taking any kind of medications that cause frequent urination
  • Are frequently exercising
  • Perspire heavily

These are just some examples.

How to make hydration more appealing

Technology has made it easier to keep a cold drink chilled! Tervis cups (or similar brands) are a great invention. They come in many different sizes, you can get a cup sporting the logo of your favorite team, and although they’re not perfect, they do seem to keep a beverage cool longer than a regular cup.

Reusable water bottles (stainless steel or otherwise) are easy to find in stores nowadays. Part of their appeal is that they’re environmentally friendly, as compared to single-use plastic water bottles. And if you set a goal to drink a certain number of refills per day, that can help you to keep track of your own water intake.

[Reaching over, grabbing my Tervis cup, and telling myself to follow my own advice]… If you’re engaged in a task, such as writing a blog post, you could set a goal to take a drink of water after each paragraph  🙂

But here’s the fun part: Create your own Spa Water!

It’s not just limited to pitchers of cucumber H2O anymore. There are all different refreshing combinations that you can try. (Not to mention, many local fruits and berries are at their peak season right now!)

Check out these ideas from some fancy-schmancy spas across the country:

  • Watermelon, lightly-crushed blackberries, mint leaves, and halved strawberries
  • Lemon, lime, and orange
  • Lemon and cucumber
  • Cucumber, orange, and basil
  • Cucumber, lemon, and mint
  • Mint and lime (“spa mojito”)
  • Mint leaves, lemon slices, and green apples
  • Mandarin orange and blueberries
  • Strawberries, lime, and cucumber

…or create your own special blend of spa waters!

It’s a simple formula:

Choose your fruits and/or veggies, and grab a pitcher of water (tap? bottled? filtered? sparkling?)… Let the flavors infuse your water, pour over ice… and enjoy. Now that’s something in the water!

 

 

Gift-giving & a Massage Newbie (part 1)

Read if you have questions about a massage gift certificate

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. 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?