Massage for PMS

Let’s face it, some of the most dreaded letters for women might just be PMS. It’s uncomfortable, painful, and brings on a rollercoaster of emotions. For some women, PMS symptoms are far worse than for others. One thing I think we can all agree on is if we could take a magic pill to make it all go away, we would in a heartbeat. While there may not be a magical pill that can get rid of all the symptoms of PMS, there may be another solution you may not have considered. Massage therapy has been proven to relieve the symptoms of PMS. Here’s how…

While the number one correlation you may see to massage therapy and PMS relief would be the relaxation and mood boost you would normally get from a professional massage, there are many more benefits. Massage can help to ease cramps and headaches as well as that painful lower back and overall achiness that many women experience. Personally, I get a terrible headache the day before I start and all I want is a head massage! Massage also helps improve lymph flow, effectively decreasing bloating and water retention, and adding in aromatherapy may increase the mood stabilizing benefits of your massage even more. Why not try something new, like cupping? If you’re anything like me you’ll try anything to find relief! what have you got to loose?

During your period, the last thing you may want is to be touched. Just know it’s perfectly normal to get a massage on your period. The only extra thing to consider is, due to the increase in lymph flow as well as simply laying down for a long period of time, the flow of your cycle may increase during your massage. It’s no biggie! Just plan on wearing something more absorbent than you normally would.

If you have a difficult time with low back pain as well as all over achiness, you may want to seek the use of heated tools like hot towels and warm bamboo during your massage. While these are always a part of the massage I give you, feel free to ask for extra (just let me know a bit before your appointment so I can be prepared!). The heat loosens up your muscles, relaxing your body and releasing the tension, opening your body up for the best massage. It also just adds even more of a comforting, relaxing experience to your massage; something you can definitely use a bit more of.

If you track your cycle, you may want to plan on having your massage at a certain time each month. As I mentioned, my main issue is headache and I like to try and plan for a massage the day before I start to get that extra relief from the brain fog and pain that I know will be happening on that day! Whether you have periods that cause you to stay in bed, or periods that are more easily manageable, getting a massage to help ease those pesky PMS symptoms may be a great solution. Besides, who wouldn’t want to feel better emotionally and physically while being pampered for an hour, especially during that not-so-fun time of the month?


Rocking, Tapping, Nerve Strokes and Vibration

There are numerous techniques you may experience during a massage session. Rocking, tapping, nerve strokes and vibration are terms you may have already heard, or may hear. While you may think of a massage as only a series of long strokes or kneading motions, there’s a few techniques you may experience and wonder why on earth I am doing them them. So, here’s a few common techniques and why they’re done.

Rocking is a wonderfully simple technique that is just what it sounds like; rocking the body back and forth. Don’t worry, it’s not like you’ll be held like a baby and rocked in a chair. I will gently rock the body side to side ever so slightly, often on the hips, legs, and back. This gives me a sense of how tense you are and signal your body to let go of tension you may not even realize you’re holding.

Tapping, also referred to as percussion or tapotement, is when I repeatedly tap an area of the body, most often with the edges of the hands, a cupped hand,  or fingertips. It’s most often used to signal the nervous system to let go of tension, and ease sore and tired muscles. While typically performed very gently, so as to not be jarring to you as a client, some faster and more heavy tapping techniques may be performed to stimulate the muscles of an area that need to ‘wake up’, so to speak, to create some balance. Think, the karate chop movement. Regardless of the purpose, this technique, like any other massage technique, shouldn’t be painful.

Nerve strokes are extremely light, quick strokes, often performed with just the fingertips, either directly on the skin or over the linens. This technique is used to stimulate the nerves of an area, while maintaining the relaxed results already achieved. There is generally no specific pattern and the strokes are switched up frequently due to the benefits of connecting the mind with the nerves that are being stimulated. While it’s beneficial to most any client, this particular technique is especially beneficial to those who’ve experienced nerve damage or a stroke. You may recall from your last session this being done at the very end as a sort of relaxation ending.

Vibration massage has very similar benefits to nerve strokes in that it stimulates the nerves and is greatly beneficial to those who’ve suffered nerve damage or a stroke but is great for every body. I will use my whole hand or part of my hand, like fingertips down the spine, and keep continuous contact with your skin moving so quickly back and forth that it creates a vibrating sensation through the skin and into the underlying tissues.

Each of these techniques differ in the neurological effect they have on the body. Rocking and tapping both are used to relax the muscles and signal the body to let go of tension, while nerve strokes and vibration are both used to stimulate the nerves and heighten the awareness of the muscles and movements.

Whether you just want to relax, are looking for recovery from an injury, you need to prepare for something physically demanding, or relieve soreness these techniques will be worked into in your massage session.


The Mysterious World of Fascia

You may have heard the term fascia thrown around, especially if you’re familiar with bodywork or fitness jargon. But what exactly is fascia? Fascia is simply a type of connective tissue, and it’s actually quite complex; not so much because of what it is, but rather the enormous job that it has within the body. Fascia weaves in and out of every single part of your body, binding muscle fibers and muscle groups (called myofascia), wrapping around bones, nerves, and blood vessels, essentially holding everything in place as it should be. The amazing thing about it, is that fascia is strong yet flexible, in the sense that it acts as a mild shock absorber for the structures it encompasses, and is constantly changing length and shape to accommodate the necessary movements of all these structures. So, with this intricate work, what happens if something goes wrong?

Well, fascia is just like any other tissue in that once it’s damaged it can heal, but that often leaves a scar of sorts. Essentially, the new tissue that is laid down in the healing process is not quite as elastic as the original version. That’s not such a big deal usually, but with repeated damage to particular areas over time, that loss of elasticity can lead to pain and restrictions in movement. No need to worry though, this can be corrected. Just like other forms of scar tissue can be softened, allowing range of motion to be restored and pain to improve, the same can be done for fascial restrictions.

Massage therapy, particularly paired with cupping, is a great way to start relieving your symptoms. Cupping performs the opposite action that massage does in that it uses suction, or negative pressure instead of pressure to loosen up fascia that has become stiffened and create space for circulation around the tissue which helps promote that loosened state. Some people are hesitant to try cupping. I find however that almost everyone who tries it, requests it at each session thereafter. The client does not miss out on massage when getting cupping at my studio because I always pair it with massage! I urge you to try cupping if you have not, and if you don’t care for it we will simply stop and continue your session as normal.

Cupping can help soreness and pain immensely and be done almost anywhere on the body from face to feet (seriously!). During your session, you may find that I work areas of the body not directly over the particular areas you complain of. Because of the interwoven connectedness of fascia, oftentimes the source of a restriction is not where the symptoms present. Together, you and I can work to discover the potential outer lying issues, as well as any holding and compensation patterns. We may also discuss exercises, stretches, and other forms of bodywork that can help, depending on your specific needs.

The most important thing to remember is to listen to your body. If a movement or exercise doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. When your muscles are telling you they need a rest give it to them. Introducing massage and cupping as a part of your regular health care can help prevent the problem from getting too overwhelming.


How Stress Affects Your Immune System

Stress is almost unavoidable, right? It’s just part of life. Whether you have a demanding job, a family to take care of, a lot of social obligations, a home to keep up with, or anything else in the everyday tasks of life, we’re all exposed to a ton of stress. We know stress isn’t good for us, but did you know it even affects your immune system? That’s because your brain and immune system are always communicating with each other.  

Stress can be defined as a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work and other areas. When you’re stressed out, your body goes into “fight or flight” and releases stress hormones. That’s great when you’re in a life or death situation, it gives you adrenaline to protect yourself. There is such a thing as good stress, the kind that does protect you physically, or even the smaller forms, like when you’re nervous for a job interview, test, or sports event; that boost of energy can allow you to do things you never thought possible. These types of stress are good because we can use them to our benefit, and they’re only for a short period of time.  

Stress becomes harmful when it’s chronic. Your immune system is the first line of defense in protecting your body from bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. Your organs, tissues, and cells all work together to fight harmful substances and protect you from getting sick. Stress can create chronic inflammation that harms these tissues, and at the same time suppresses the immune cells needed to fight infection. When your you’re in this ‘fight or flight’ mode, your body secretes the stress hormone cortisol. Normally it’s not a big deal when small bursts of stress are experienced. But chronically high levels of cortisol can suppress the immune system as well. This puts your body at higher risk for infection, disease, and acute illnesses. It also can slow down your body’s process of healing wounds, and cause an exacerbation of any underlying illness.  

When you’re stressed for long periods of time, your body’s ability to fight off infections and potential dangers is highly diminished. Incorporating self-care can help to reduce your stress and allow your immune system to perform at its best. Self-care is a term we hear a lot these days and is sometimes thought of as frivolous. The long term effects though, show us that its actually the smart way to go about life. Obviously I am a HUGE proponent of regular massage. The now and then massage is better than nothing but keeping it part of your regular monthly self-care is the best was to help to reduce your stress and allow your immune system to perform at its best. Honestly though, you do you! There are so many great ways to partake in self-care, keep it up! Your immune system will thank you and you’ll be much more productive in all areas of your life!


Chronic Sleep Deprivation: How it Affects Your Health

Chronic sleep deprivation is defined as getting less than the recommended seven or eight hours of sleep each night for an extended period of time. It isn’t just associated with new parents trying to survive that first year with a baby; anyone getting less than the necessary sleep on a regular basis is suffering from chronic sleep deprivation. Between all of our to-do’s, stress, lifestyle choices, and sleep disorders, this is a common problem to fall into. For some it just seems like a way of life and you may even feel like it’s not a big deal. You’re coping and still working your way through each day. But did you know that chronic sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on your body, often in ways you may not even realize are connected. 

When you sleep, pathways form between nerve cells in your brain that help you remember new information you’ve learned. When you’re dealing with chronic sleep deprivation, your brain is exhausted and can’t perform its normal duties as well. This means that not only is your concentration and cognitive function affected while you’re awake, but your ability to learn new things by forming those new neural connections and creating new memories while you sleep, is also undermined. 

When you’re sleep deprived, it can also affect your mood, decision-making ability, and overall mental health. If chronic sleep deprivation persists long enough, you can begin experiencing a short temper, extreme irritability, impulsive behavior, anxiety, depression, paranoia, and even hallucinations and suicidal thoughts.  

When you sleep, your body produces cytokines, protective and infection fighting proteins. These proteins give your immune system a boost, providing reinforcements to defend the body from all kinds of viruses and bacteria. If you’re experiencing chronic sleep deprivation, your body isn’t able to build up its protection and fend off potential invaders.  Long-term sleep deprivation can cause a lowered immune system, or an overactive one, leading to symptoms associated with some autoimmune conditions. 

Finally, chronic sleep deprivation also seems to affect your waistline as well. What does sleep and weight have to do with another you ask? Well, sleep affects leptin and ghrelin which control feelings of hunger and being full. Leptin is in charge of telling your brain you’ve had enough to eat and ghrelin is an appetite stimulant. When you’re not getting enough sleep, leptin is reduced and ghrelin is raised. So, you’ll eat more whether you need to or not. And simply put, when you’re tired, you’re less likely to exercise. So, if you don’t get enough sleep for a long period of time, the increased calories along with the decrease in activity are sure to pack on the pounds. It’s not just about weight though. Sleep deprivation causes your body to release more insulin after you eat, promoting fat storage and increasing your risk for type 2 diabetes.  

Getting sleep may be difficult, or you may simply have a lot on your plate, but the physical effects that sleep deprivation aren’t something to take lightly. Whether you perform a brain dump, meditate, take a hot shower, or turn off that show you’ve been binge watching, set a bedtime and do your best to get a good night’s sleep every single day. If you don’t make sleep a priority now you’ll regret it later.  


TMJ Dysfunction

“Can you work on my jaw, I tend to store my tension and stress there. Is that weird?”
Nope! Many clients come in with jaw tension, you are not alone…
Pain, stiffness, grinding, clicking, or locking of your jaw are most often clear signs of TMJ (temporomandibular joint) Dysfunction. This is a common condition, affecting over 10 million people! The severity of the condition varies greatly, with some people experiencing only mild symptoms on occasion, while others suffer a great deal daily. And if you notice your symptoms getting worse, now’s the time to start taking care of it. That grinding, clicking, pain, and locking are all signs that the joint isn’t moving and functioning properly, meaning damage is being done, and without intervention that damage may very well be irreparable.
What causes this kind of dysfunction? Most often, it’s due to clenching of the jaw and/or grinding of the teeth. Tightening the muscles around the jaw is a common reaction to stress. This can happen as our bodies try to recover from a busy day as we sleep, or throughout the day as we deal with even mild stressors.
Conventional care that most people talk about is usually limited to night guards, devices worn through the night to prevent grinding of the teeth. However, the problem with these is that they often don’t address the overall problem. A night guard protects the teeth so they don’t wear down so much over time, and/or helps to realign the jaw to prevent an abnormal position of the joint as you sleep. But none of this addresses the clenching, the tightening of the muscles in that area that are at the root of the problem.
One thing that may help…you guessed it, massage therapy. Studies have shown that massage therapy can help with the symptoms and pain associated with TMJ Dysfunction. The focus of this type of massage is on releasing the muscle tension and restrictions throughout the musculature of the jaw, face, neck, chest, and upper shoulders. That clenching of the jaw doesn’t just affect the TM joint, but rather the muscles controlling that area are positioned throughout the head, neck, and shoulders. It’s important to work them all to address the problem and prevent others. If you have any form of TMJ Dysfunction, you’ve probably felt the neck tension and headaches that can come along with it.
¹Pierson, Melissa Joan. “Changes in Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction Symptoms Following Massage Therapy: A Case Report.” International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork: Research, Education, & Practice,

Tips to Get the Most from Your Massage

For many, massage therapy is considered a very important part of their health care; and as such, needs to be taken seriously. While a massage will surely feel amazing, there’s a few things you can do to make sure you’re getting the most benefit from those sessions.
Timing, Timing, Timing
Try to schedule your massage when you can take the time after to really soak in the benefits and enjoy that after-massage feeling. While you may think that squeezing it into a busy week will make a crazy week better, if you’re rushing back to work, or anywhere else, it can be difficult to enjoy the stress relief you’re meant to after your session. While it’s definitely beneficial to just go home and nap and relax all day after a massage, that may not always be possible. So, at the very least, schedule out some extra time after your session, even for just an additional hour or so, to do something relaxing; go for lunch, spend some time at the park, catch up with a friend, or whatever can keep you feeling great for longer.
Wear Comfortable Clothes
The last thing you want when you’re getting off of the massage table is to try to squeeze into your favorite night on the town jeans, or uncomfortable high heels. Your muscles are feeling great, your mind is clear, and your body is adjusting to this wonderful new relaxed feeling. Bring super comfy clothes so you don’t feel restricted for the rest of your day. If you’re headed straight home afterwards, bring your pajamas! There’s no judgement here.
Eat Something Light
Eating a light snack before your massage can help you feel your best after, but it’s important to not eat a large meal. Deep pressure will usually feel amazing on your back, but not so much if you have a full stomach getting that pressure too. Save the larger meal for after your massage, when you’re likely to be more hungry anyway.
To get the most from any massage, it’s important for you to communicate honestly with me. If you’re tender in an area, have pain, or if anything has changed since our last session, please let me know. My job is to help you find relief. That last thing I want is for you to be uncomfortable or just not enjoying the work.
Massage therapy is health care. So, help me help you get the most out of your session.