I'm a bit of research junkie - I believe there's no way to know definitively that the massage therapy techniques I intend to perform in my Westport office are effective without the backing of methodical, scientific studies. These prove which techniques are worth our time and which may only be placebos. Below are some recent studies that I found interesting; I've broken down the text of the studies and put in my own notes for you, relating the whole study and conclusion to my own massage therapy practice. Interesting stuff!
Study: “Efficacy of Manual and Manipulative Therapy in the Perception of Pain and Cervical Motion in Patients With Tension-Type Headache: A Randomized, Controlled Clinical Trial”
Conclusion: “Both treatments, administered both separately and combined together, showed efficacy for patients with tension-type headache with regard to pain perception. As for cervical ranges of motion, treatments produced greater effect when separately administered.”
Note: I have a fantastic chiropractor to whom I'm happy to refer clients. This study shows how massage therapy in combination with chiropractic adjustments can be effective in reducing headaches. It can also increase range of motion, i.e. flexibility, which affects comfort when sitting, sleeping, and generally during the day. An interesting study!
Study: “Pain Relief by Touch: A Qualitative Approach”
Conclusion: “That “touch inhibits pain” has been a central tenet of pain research for half a century, since the precursors of gate theory. Surprisingly, this appears to be the first report studying the spatial organisation of intrasegmental touch–pain interactions in humans.”
Note: This study was extremely precise; it essentially proves that pain is lessened by touch. (Hello- massage therapy!) It's believed that the body has specific “pain pathways”, and that touch can move along these pathways to calm the discomfort. In fact, this is discussed at length among massage therapists and in classroom settings. I've learned these pain pathways and use them constantly in my office sessions. This report is interesting in that it proves long-held theories are exactly correct; that precise touch produces analgesia, that is, lessens pain. Another study proving the benefits of massage therapy!
Study: “Evaluation of the effects of supplementation with Pycnogenol® on fitness in normal subjects with the Army Physical Fitness Test and in performances of athletes in the 100-minute triathlon.”
Conclusion: “This study opens an interesting new application of the natural supplementation with Pycnogenol that, with proper hydration, good training and nutritional attention may improve training and performances both in normal subjects and in semi-professional athletes performing at high levels in difficult, high-stress sports such as the triathlon.”
Note: The effects of willow bark are just beginning to be studied. This study suggests that willow bark extract can be beneficial for athletic performance. However, at this point, caution should be used with regard to possible side effects.
Study: “Effects of joint mobilization on chronic ankle instability: a randomized controlled trial”
Conclusion: “Range of Motion restriction, subjective feeling of instability and dynamic postural control are benefiting from the joint mobilization application.”
Note: It's been argued that the ankle is the most important joint in the body, as it bears the weight of the entire body. Injuries to the ankle are therefore usually protracted and difficult to resolve. I can perform joint mobilization to the ankle during massage therapy sessions in my office, and it's clear from this study that that technique is beneficial.
Big news: You can now follow me on Twitter!
What will I be tweeting, you ask? Interesting research in the field, blog posts, stretches, etc. But the REAL reason you should follow me is that I'll be tweeting LAST MINUTE DISCOUNTED APPOINTMENTS. If I have a hole in my schedule, I'll offer the appointment for $10 off the regular price. So if you find your schedule similarly open, come enjoy massage therapy at a lower price!
Thanks for following me, and I'll see you in my Westport office (hopefully sooner than you previously expected!)
July Monthly Special - 60 minutes for $70!
Remember how good your first professional massage therapy session was? You felt relaxed, more flexible, and generally happier when you left my office. Well go back to that this month with a renewed initial client special!
Returning clients may book a 60 minute session any time this month for the introductory rate of only $70 - Save $20!
Summer is often the time we say we'll do fun things, and may never get around to them - don't let this opportunity for savings pass you by! If you're training for a race or other athletic event, book your massage therapy session now to see your training improve. I'll see you in my Westport office!
Mushroom, Bulgur and Wild Arugula Salad
This is one of my favorite warmer weather recipes, because it's just as good at room temperature as it is hot. I'm using cremini (baby portabella) mushrooms here, but you could use any mushrooms you like, or a mix of multiple kinds. The arugula adds the perfect amount of green and makes this salad a complete meal. Perfect for a weeknight meal or picnic!
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small red onion, sliced thinly into half moons
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
2 pounds cremini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
1/4 cup julienned sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
1 1/2 cups medium grind bulgur wheat
1 lemon, halved
3 cups boiling water
4 oz (about 3 cups) wild arugula, washed and drained
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Set a kettle of water on high to boil.
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over high heat. Add the onions and let them begin to brown, about 5 minutes. (Timing tip: While the onions are browning, you can mince the garlic and thyme and chop the mushrooms.) Add the garlic, thyme, and mushrooms to the pan and saute 1-2 minutes longer, or until the garlic is fragrant and the mushrooms begin to color.
Add the sun-dried tomatoes and their oil. Add the bulgur and stir well, coating the bulgur with the oil as much as possible. Add the juice of the lemon, and throw the halves directly into the saucepan. Add the 3 cups of boiling water from the kettle and turn off the heat. Salt and pepper to taste, about 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper (you'll likely need to adjust after cooking is finished). Cover the pot tightly and let stand for at least 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, the bulgur should be completely tender. Add the arugula and toss to wilt it slightly. Adjust salt and pepper and serve warm or at room temperature.
June Monthy Special - Double Referral Rewards
This is one of my favorite monthly specials to offer - how many times have you done something nice for yourself and thought, "I know just the person who would love this too"? Well take action this month and offer your friends and family referral rewards!
Any time you refer a new client to my office and they book a session, they, and you, receive $10 off your session. But any time this month when you refer a new client, they still get $10 off their session, but you get $20 off yours!
So if there's someone you know who could really benefit from a massage, (and who can't!?) take advantage of this special offer and refer them this month.
I'll see you in my Westport office!
The Forced-To-Be-Good Gluteal Stretch
It's no secret that most of us have tight hips – medically, this often translates into tight gluteal muscles. Many of the clients who come into my office comment that these muscles hold tension they were unaware of. Fortunately, since this muscle group is the largest in the body, it's also the easiest to stretch. Unfortunately, many people lack the flexibility to stretch it ideally.
The posterior (rear) hip extensors connect from your pelvis to knee, broadly. Therefore the best stretch for them is rotating your lower leg perpendicular to your body (as if you were laying one ankle on your other knee), and pulling toward your body, from the knee and ankle. This is where many people falter – some may not be able to cross one leg over the other and keep the lower leg perpendicular, (with the knee very low) which is the key to the stretch.
To perfect your posterior hip stretching, you need look no further than a staircase.
By laying your lower leg on a stair (preferably one that's an even height with your hip), you force your body into the correct position. It's then just a matter of leaning your body weight toward the stairs to accomplish the stretch. (A stair is the perfect height for me, but any object that is level with the top of your pelvis will work; a dresser, a kitchen table or counter, etc.)
Repeat on both sides, holding and lowering your body gently until you feel the muscles start to release. Don't bounce on your foot or turn your standing leg at all; this will put too much pressure on the knee. Also, don't push the knee down too far if it doesn't naturally fall there - let your body adjust to the stretch and become more flexible over time.
Do we consider this cheating? Absolutely not! It's in fact, one of my favorite hip extensor stretches after a run, when I'm tired and not necessarily focusing on my stretching form as much as I should.
You may even notice that stretching the upper section of your gluteals in this way will release tension in your lower back and improve posture.
These are some of the many benefits I can expound the next time you're in the office for a massage therapy session - I'll see you in my Westport office!
Research: Manual Lymph Drainage increases relaxation
This recent study is the first of it's kind examining the benefits of manual lymph drainage on the psychological state of the body.
Read the full study here
The benefits of lymphatic drainage can be clearly seen under laboratory conditions to affect lymphatic flow and organ function in the body, but do those benefits extend into the realm of the psyche? According to this study, yes, they do.
What does this mean for you? I practice lymphatic drainage in my Westport office; you can opt to have an entire session of lymphatic work, or request it be integrated into your regular massage. Lymphatic drainage is an extremely light touch, meant to stimulate the lymph vessels, which are directly below the skin and above muscle tissue. Many recipients of this treatment may feel that the touch is too light to affect the body - but it's not! It absolutely affects the physical body, and now according to this study, we know it affects relaxation also. So consider a lymphatic treatment as part of or your complete next session - it's extremely beneficial to both the mind and body. I'll see you in my Westport office!
Research: Benefit of Massage Therapy Increases with Frequency
Another reason to schedule your massage therapy sessions! A recent (and pretty broad) study in the Annals of Family Medicine found that frequent massage therapy sessions had more of an effect than less frequent ones. Patients with chronic neck pain who received 30 minute massage therapy sessions 2-3 times per week were not significantly better than a control group; however, patients who received 60 minute sessions 2-3 times per week showed significant improvement in neck dysfunction.
The takeaway lesson? Massage heals more effectively when it's performed more often and thoroughly. If you're experiencing chronic pain in a specific area, it's more effective to have a number of sessions spaced more closely, then continue on to a maintenance schedule of massage. For this reason, I have specially priced massage packages, so when a number of sessions close together will benefit you, you can feel good about booking at a discount. I'll see you in my Westport office - hopefully more frequently!
I'm ecstatic to announce that I now have various health and wellness items for sale in my Westport office!
I'm stocking hot/cold packs that can be used on the eyes, back and shoulders, along with small massage trigger point tools. These are all products that I use at home, in fact, I've hand made the hot/cold packs! They're available in 100% cotton machine-washable covers, in various fabric styles, lavender, eucalyptus or unscented. I road-tested a lot of different materials for the interior, and settled on a mixture of rice and flax seed; these maintain hot and cold the best while forming to your muscles easily. They're fantastic!
I truly believe that massage therapy is an effective treatment for various muscle/wellness issues, but when you don't have the time to come into the office, these items are perfect for home treatment. I plan to continue to add products to my line that I believe are beneficial for all my wonderful clients between sessions.
Items are available for purchase in my Westport office. Feel free to browse the next time you're in for a massage therapy session!
Snow Shoveling Posture
We've been getting a lot of snow, lately, huh? I suppose that's February in the Northeast. I've seen a lot a clients coming into my Westport office for massage therapy sessions with low back and shoulder pain due to snow shoveling. That leads to the question: How should one shovel snow in order to lessen the strain on the body?
Since the snow isn't nice enough to come up to our arm level, we need to bend down to shovel it. Herein lies the key to correct shoveling posture. Do we bend at the hip or at the knee? Which one of these pictures looks more correct?
If you said the second, you're right! Although it's easier to bend over from the hip and pick up the shovel with our arms and shoulders, it puts excess strain on the low back, neck and arms. In the second picture, however, essentially performing a squat motion is going to cause the least strain on the body. The knees bend, the shoulders come down directly over the hips and the rear is dropped behind. The arms are kept at a close range to the chest, keeping pressure off the upper arm muscles. Then lift up from the legs and glutes, pushing with force from the core to move the shoveled snow.
Sounds easy, right? Well anyone who's ever squatted with weight will tell you it's not. The good news is, with a bit of practice, you'll find that shoveling can be an exercise for your glutes, quads and abs, NOT your lower back and upper arms, which shouldn't be throwing the weight of a shovel-full of snow anyway. So after two days of shoveling heavy ice and snow, I woke up with sore glutes and abs – not the end of the world considering both of those areas always benefit from conditioning. Want more good news? Snow shoveling can burn around 350 calories per hour – so I think that's an excuse for an extra hot chocolate as a reward!
If you find that your posture is perfect when shoveling, and your muscles still ache, you're not the only one. That's the perfect time to come in for a session – massage therapy can ease muscle pain and increase recovery time. I'll see you in my Westport office!
February Monthly Special - 10 Extra Minutes for Only $10!
Any time this month, take advantage of this special offer by adding 10 extra minutes on to your session for only an extra $10! When you've carved out time for your massage therapy session, you want to get as much out of it as possible. If you feel that a little extra time will make all the difference, add 10 minutes to your session for this special rate! You might be surprised how much extra relaxation you can get in that time. I'll see you in my Westport office!
Hip Flexor Stretching – Part 3
We've been building up to this challenging hip flexor stretch... Can you do it?
In the past few weeks, we explored the anatomy of the hip flexor muscles and two stretches to help alleviate lower back pain and increase range of motion around the pelvis. This week, the most challenging hip flexor stretch – I can't even do this one perfectly!
Hip Flexor Stretch #3
Some may recognize this as the pigeon pose in yoga; it's such a fantastic stretch that those of us not involved in a yoga practice can benefit greatly from it.
Begin by sitting on your knees on the floor. Move toward laying on the top of the right leg: Place your hands on the floor, and put the left leg in front of your body, laying the leg on the floor with the lower leg as perpendicular to your body as possible. (You may find that keeping the foot closer to your body, or even under your body will make the stretch easier. If that is the only initial flexibility your hips allow, modify the stretch accordingly.) Straighten the right leg and point the toes, if possible.
Settle into sitting on the left leg, and gently push off the right leg with your fingertips, stretching the front of the hip. You'll notice that this stretch concurrently works both the front of one hip and the back of the other. A little bonus. Breathe deeply, don't arch your back, and relax into the stretch. Repeat on the other leg.
You may begin to notice how related the front of the hip, back of the hip and low back truly are; it's difficult to affect one of these areas without affecting the others. When you come into my office for a massage therapy session, we'll address all of these areas to best alleviate pain from all angles. And you can watch me attempt this stretch! I'll see you in my Westport office!
Feeling Stressed? Under the weather? Research proves massage therapy can help!
I'm always happy to see positive research results for massage therapy in the news, and recently, more researchers and journalists have touted the benefits of massage therapy for increasing immunity and lowering stress. It's great news! These benefits can be derived even from 30 minutes of gentle massage. And guess what? My monthly special is for just that length of session! It's more affordable than ever, and so beneficial! I'll see you in my Westport office!
Here are a few of my most favorite articles:
3 Ways to Beat the Holiday Stress - Women's Day
What Swedes Can Teach us About the Sniffles - Prevention
The Benefits of Massage Therapy - Florida Today
More Benefits of Massage Therapy (Video) - The Doctors
Hip Flexor Stretching – Part 2
Last time, we learned how the hip flexor muscles affect the alignment of the pelvis, and how tension in these muscles can relate to lower back pain. This week's stretch for the hip flexors is a bit more advanced, and can therefore lead to greater flexibility. Next week's stretch is the most advanced in my opinion; see which is easier for you! Perform these stretches in conjunction with simple low back stretching and you'll begin to notice easier motion walking, and even less pain sitting and laying.
Hip Flexor Stretch #2
(NOTE: This stretch may compress the low back. If you've had any lower back injuries or surgeries, it's probably not a good idea to perform this stretch, as it may aggravate previous issues. As always, we can discuss which stretches are appropriate for you and which are not after your scheduled session at my office. Please, use good judgment and respect your body when performing any stretches.)
Begin by sitting on your knees on the floor. Reach behind yourself and hold onto your right ankle with your right hand.
Take a deep breath and raise your left hand, pointing your fingertips to the ceiling.
Slowly move your left hand diagonally toward your right foot, reaching backward and trying to touch that right foot (which is almost physically impossible). Maintain space in your low back, NOT compressing the spine at all. Reach back as far as possible, stretching the front of that hip, breathing deeply and focusing on the muscles being stretched. Repeat on the other side.
This is one of my all time favorite stretches after a long day. It almost feels as if you can breathe easier after releasing the body in this way. Relax and enjoy it! Next time, we'll explore the most challenging hip flexor stretch so far – are you up for the challenge? As always, I'm happy to demonstrate these stretches and discuss your personal flexibility more completely during your scheduled massage therapy session. I'll see you in my Westport office!
Re-Post: The Snow Shoveling Workout
I first posted this series of stretches last winter, after the blizzard. At my house, we only got about 4 inches of slush yesterday, but I found myself slightly sore this morning, and I thought my clients farther North might feel that way too. So I'm re-posting the snow shoveling stretching series - this is really one of my favorite sequences of stretches. Trying them out, you might be surprised where you find tension. Take your time exploring the stretches, and if one muscle group seems tighter, spend a little more time there. Of course, I can always help you stretch during a session in my Westport office.
Phase 1: Lower body/low back
The simplest stretch, but one that we can often get less than perfect: Touching your toes. Start with your arms high above your head, fold at the waist, sticking your rear out, and with a flat back, reach to the floor. If you find that your hamstrings are too tight to reach the floor or to feel the stretch in your low back, feel free to bend your knees a little bit. Move back up slowly, keeping the back as flat as possible. You may also notice here that one side of the back is tighter than the other; if stretch both hands toward that side to release a bit further if that's the case.
Phase 2: Shoulder/upper arm
Reach one arm straight in front of the body, hook the other forearm underneath it, and push it toward the body with the other forearm, above the elbow. Gently use the second arm to pull the first closer to the body. This should stretch out the back of the shoulder and rotator cuff muscles. Repeat with the other arm.
Phase 3: Pecs
Stand in a doorway and hold onto the door jamb with one hand. Slowly pivot your body back so that you are perpendicular to the door frame. Try to keep your grip relaxed. Repeat with the other arm.
Phase 4: Forearms
Hold one forearm out in front of your body, palm facing out. Use your other hand to gently pull your fingers closer to your body, stretching the palm side of your arm (extensor muscles). Repeat with the other arm.
If you still feel some tension you can't pinpoint, I'm sure we can work it out in a massage session in my office. Enjoy!