Cupping: What it is and why you should try it

Cupping is a traditional Chinese therapy that’s been used for thousands of years, but it gained even more popularity in 2016 when everyone noticed that Michael Phelps had large perfectly round discolorations on his back while competing in the Olympics. Many people before that had never heard, or never been exposed to this type of bodywork. During a cupping session, the therapist may use cups made of glass, silicone, or plastic. The vacuum pressure is created with either a manual pump, electronic pump, or even fire. Every therapist is different in how they approach cupping and will adjust treatment to the needs of their client. Some prefer stationary cupping which means leaving each cup in place for several minutes. Others prefer to keep the cups moving to get a broader effect and reduce the likelihood of marks being left on the skin. And still others prefer a combination of both stationary and moving cupping. 

Cupping can be used to decrease swelling by stimulating lymphatic flow and increasing superficial blood circulation. It creates negative pressure instead of positive pressure; so instead of pushing into those tight tissues in an attempt to separate and realign fibers, those tissues are being pulled apart. This offers a far less intense feeling of pressure and discomfort than a typical “deep” massage, but with similar effects. There are also many health claims in the world of cupping that say cupping can help get rid of cellulite, cleanse your body of toxins, help with fertility, and even help with wrinkles when used on the face. It is hard to confirm these claims as there hasn’t been much reliable research on the subject. Cupping is also difficult to run an experiment on, because it would be difficult to have a true control group. This would help to see the effects on those who have received treatment versus those who think they have received the treatment. When something has gained such popularity it’s hard to get down to the root of what it really does or can achieve.  

Now that we’ve gotten the history of cupping and the claims made, let’s get down to why you should try it. Cupping is great for several reasons: 

  • It gets the blood flowing. 
  • It can help target a specific area of need. 
  • Those who struggle with the pressure of a normal massage may like the alternative of cupping because although it’s still pressure, it’s felt in a different way.  
  • Countless individuals (including me!) swear to the benefits of this therapy because we’ve seen the results over and over in ourselves and others. 

Whether you are wanting to try cupping for the health benefits you feel it will bring you, or because you just want to see what all the hype is about, let’s talk about your goals and what you’re comfortable with when you book your next session. You may be pleasantly surprised with how much you enjoy it!

First Massage? What to Expect

For many, massage therapy isn’t really on the radar as part of routine healthcare. It may have just been something that was part of a spa gift certificate the family got mom for Mother’s Day or a splurge before a big event, like a wedding. But the massage industry has only grown over the last several years, and with it, a new public acceptance of massage therapy as part of a healthcare and self-care protocol. While it may seem a little intimidating to get your first massage, let me put you at ease by filling you in on all the details of what to expect.

            Upon scheduling your appointment your massage therapist should ask you several questions that will help them understand your needs, and plan your session. This will allow them to gauge the pressure you might want, the areas of focus, the areas to avoid, and any medical issues that may affect your experience.

            For your first visit, you’ll be asked to arrive to your session 10-15 minutes early to fill out some paperwork, including an intake form that covers your medical history, any pain or injury you may be experiencing chronically or just that day, and goals for your massage session. You’ll also need to sign some policy agreements so everyone is on the same page about professional conduct, booking requirements, and things like that. Your therapist will go over all of this with you and answer any questions you have before your session starts.

            Once it’s time to start the massage, you’ll be informed of how to get ready to receive the most benefit from the specific type of treatment you’ve booked. To put it plainly, you’ll be told how much of your clothing to remove, but don’t worry, your therapist will leave the room and allow you plenty of time to get ready. I know it can be intimidating to think that only a sheet and blanket will be separating you from a stranger, but we’re professionals. Your modesty and comfort are extremely important to us. You will remain as covered as you’d like. Each area will be uncovered only to receive the massage and then recovered to keep you warm. Your groin and, in the case of women the breasts, will remain covered at all times. If for any reason, you feel uncomfortable at all, don’t be afraid to communicate your concerns. This is your time and your service, so your comfort level is of utmost important.  

            Along with your comfort comes the discussion of pressure. If at any point in the massage you need more or less pressure, please let your therapist know! We can’t read your mind, so it’s important for you to speak up if you need anything changed at all. This also goes for anything with the technique. The important thing to remember is that this is your time and it needs to be what you want. Whether that’s concerning the pressure, the music, the feel of the lotion or oil being used, the conversation or lack thereof, or anything else; let us know how we can make the experience great for you.

            It’s normal in the beginning, especially during your first massage, to be a little tense, but try to allow yourself to truly be present and enjoy. Once your session is over, your therapist will step out of the room to let you come back to your senses and re-dress. Before you jump up off the table though, take a moment to breathe and soak in the feelings you’re experiencing; the looseness in your muscles, your calmed mind, and just the peace and quiet. You deserve it.

Massage Therapy for PTSD

Life is such a peculiar thing. We experience moments of joy, beauty, happiness, strength, sadness, pain, and fear just to name a few. We never know when our lives can change whether it be for the better or for the worse. Within that there are people who have survived some of the most traumatizing situations, some on a literal battlefield some on a very different kind of battlefield. Years ago, PTSD wasn’t recognized or really understood. People went about their days putting on a brave face while dealing with something internally on their own, because that is what they were taught to do. Showing that you were struggling was considered a sign of weakness. What we didn’t know then was that being open and honest about your struggles is the complete opposite. Being able to open up to another about an experience that you have went through, that caused you harm, pain, or fear is one of the hardest things a person can do. Opening yourself up to show your vulnerabilities and fears takes a lot of guts and shouldn’t be looked upon lightly. According to the National Center for PTSD, 7.7 million people in the United States alone suffer from PTSD, and that is just the cases that are reported. PTSD can impact one’s life causing them anxiety, depression, and negative thoughts. It’s almost like being in a jail where the worst moments of your life continue to be replayed repeatedly and you have no control over the television.  

There have been many recent studies that show how massage therapy can help those diagnosed with PTSD tremendously. The stress relieving factors involved with massage therapy can help to decrease anxiety and depression as well as helping to improve personal mood and decrease irritability. Another benefit of massage therapy when helping to treat PTSD is the reduction in physical pain, and tension. Many of those dealing with PTSD who report dissociation may experience a better sense of self. It is still very early in the studying stage due to the small sample groups involved which make it difficult to foresee the impact on a larger scale, but results so far are very promising. 

The process in which the massage therapist handles their session sometimes has the most powerful impact on one dealing with PTSD. The massage therapist not only asks consent for the therapy session but also goes into detail with their client about the specific wants and needs of the client, giving the client a deeper self-awareness and sense of control over their body than they may have had in a while. This is the part where communication is key to ensure a positive session for both the massage therapist as well as the client dealing with PTSD.  

While these benefits are wonderful, it is always important to talk to your health provider before seeking treatment. If you, or anyone you know is dealing with symptoms of PTSD it is always best to seek help. You aren’t alone, and you shouldn’t go through this alone.

Trigger Points and Muscle Knots

If you’re a regular to massage, the concept of a muscle knot is probably something you’re well aware of, but what are they exactly? And what’s the relationship between a muscle knot and a trigger point?

What’s a trigger point?

Trigger points are simply tender spots on your body that ‘trigger’ or cause discomfort. These tender spots are common and many of us have them, but for some people they can become really troublesome. They are common in hot-spots like shoulders and neck, but they can crop up just about anywhere and in some people, they can cause a lot of pain.

A trigger point is like a ‘knot’ in your muscle, or the fascia (the thin wrapping around each muscle) which is why they are often referred to as a muscle knot. To a massage therapist it feels like a hard contraction on the on the muscle fibers connected to it, like a tight band around the muscle. Trigger points in muscles are ‘myofascial trigger points’ – and there are other types of trigger point that can occur around the body, on your skin, ligaments and tendons, and on scar tissue.

How can you tell if you have a muscle knot or trigger point?

You’ll be able to tell where your own trigger points are; if you touch them with any kind of pressure you’ll notice they start to hurt, or hurt more. They are often situated close to problem areas for you as well, so if you have back issues, your trigger points are likely to be around your back, neck and shoulders, although this isn’t always the case. The range of sensations you might feel from a trigger point can be quite wide, too; anything from intense pain to a dull, throbbing ache. Some people feel ‘pins and needles’ or numbness.

So, what causes trigger points to flare up?

One theory is that they are down to some sort of muscular overload – if you’ve been working out too hard or overdoing it, or just not been taking care of your posture.

How are Trigger Points treated?

If you notice a sore spot and want to see a massage therapist for advice, we’d advise having a word with your medical adviser first just to make sure that any swelling or soreness is just down to muscular stress and nothing more serious.

Once you’ve been checked over, we can start to look at the problem and help you to heal it with massage.

A good massage therapist will be able to work on your trigger points and muscle knots, gently but firmly releasing them. They can also help you with in-between treatment massage techniques to try at home that will ease any discomfort and help to prevent the muscle knots building up again.

Trigger points and tender spots can cause a huge amount of pain and discomfort, often restricting your movement and your ability to do the activities you want to. You don’t have to put up with this pain though, with some action on your part you can be pain free!

Massage for Depression Relief

Using Massage for Depression Relief

For people who are depressed, massage for depression is not a cure but may help lessen some of the symptoms and support recovery.

About Depression

Depression is a brain disorder, and research has shown that the brains of depressed people look and act differently from the brains of people who aren’t depressed. The causes of depression are not well understood, but most likely involve a combination of genetic, biochemical, environmental, and psychological factors.

Depression comes in many types. For example, major depression is disabling and prevents a person from functioning normally in daily life, while dysthymia is a milder, usually long-term, depression where a person can still function but probably isn’t living a normal and full life. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which usually affects people during the winter months, is also a type of depression.

Often the most obvious symptom of depression is an overwhelming feeling of sadness, but depression has many other possible symptoms that vary depending on the type of depression and the individual. Common symptoms include:

  • Appetite changes
  • On-going physical problems, such as aches and pains, headaches, or digestive problems that don’t improve with treatment
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, helplessness, or irritability
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in life, including lack of sexual desire
  • Trouble concentrating and making decisions.

The two most common depression treatments are medication and psychotherapy. Another treatment, primarily used for SAD, is light therapy, which involves exposure to a strong artificial light that mimics sunlight.

Massage for Depression

Touch is important to human beings – babies die without touch. Lack of touch may even contribute to depression. And, if a person is depressed, massage may help.

First, dealing with depression presents a lot of stress, and relaxation is one of the best benefits of massage. Depression can also lead to muscle tension and pain that massage can help relieve.

Beyond helping a person relax, massage may reduce the body’s production of stress hormones, such as cortisol and norepinephrine, and may also increase the body’s production of pain-killing endorphins and mood-altering serotonin. Studies conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami have shown:

  • Lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol immediately after massage.
  • Increased serotonin, dopamine, and endorphin levels, helping elevate a person’s mood, after massage.
  • Increased production of oxytocin, a hormone that reduces stress and promotes relaxation, after massage.

These effects may occur because the skin and muscles contain many millions of nerve receptors that are linked to the nervous system. Touch and massage can stimulate the nerve receptors, causing the release of chemicals in the brain.

The benefits of massage for depression are further supported in a review, published in the March 2010 Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. The authors reviewed 17 studies of massage for depression and concluded the studies supported the ability of massage therapy to significantly lessen symptoms of depression.

Plus, a great benefit of massage therapy is that it rarely has side effects, when received from a trained, qualified massage therapist. People who want to try massage for depression should always let their massage therapist know about their condition and other treatments and tell other healthcare providers that they are receiving massage.

Article Source:

Roe, Catherine, and Carol A. Wiley. “Using Massage for Depression Relief.” Using Massage for Depression ReliefEzineArticles.com. http://ezinearticles.com/?Using-­Massage-­for-­Depression-­Relief&id=603177

Common Health Problems That Massage Can Help

Common Health Problems: What can Massage do for YOU?

Massages are often sold as a purely indulgent treat that you get when you visit a spa or go on vacation, but there’s so much more to massage than just a feel good treat. Did you know that the symptoms of many health problems can be reduced and even eliminated with regular massage?

Here are a few conditions that massage can work really well on; a few you probably know and some that may surprise you!

Stress

It’s no surprise that a regular dose of massage therapy is good for your stress levels, it works by helping to lower your blood pressure, improve your quality of sleep, and by reducing your stress levels, it’s also thought to help reduce the risk of heart disease. In 2008 the journal Psycho-oncology published a study which came to the conclusion “…a significant reduction in cortisol (the main stress hormone) could be safely achieved through massage, with associated improvement in psychological well-being.”

Lower Back Pain

This is such a common problem, often caused by bad posture at work, so no wonder many employers are drafting in massage therapists to help. Poor posture and sitting for too long can cause a lot of lower back problems, as can simply getting older. Get your massage therapist on the case and you can hopefully wave goodbye to a sore back.

Sports Injuries

Fitness and sport are great for your health but they can sometimes lead to injuries and overworked muscles. A regular massage can help to heal any wear and tear on your muscles and tendons, and can also help you manage the pain from a chronic or acute sports injury. Having well looked-after muscles may also help prevent future injuries – one more reason to book those regular sessions.

Joint Stiffness

Massage can be a blessed relief for people dealing with the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis and other joint problems. Research published in 2013 in the Complementary Therapy in Clinical Practice journal said that people with rheumatoid arthritis reported some relief from pain and stiffness after four once-a-week moderate-pressure massages, topped up with self-massage at home in between treatments. Massage can also help with your range of motion and flexibility, which can relieve pain in your shoulders, knees, and hips.

Circulation

There are a whole range of health problems that can be caused by bad circulation, so it figures that boosting your circulation will be a bonus for your whole body. Regular massage helps to get the blood moving, getting essential nutrients to where they are needed in your tissues and vital organs much faster. The squeezing and pulling actions involved in a good massage also help to flush lactic acid out of your muscles and improve the circulation of lymph – the fluid that carries metabolic waste away from your muscles and internal organs.

Migraine symptoms

Nobody really knows what causes migraines, and there isn’t a cure, but if you’re a migraine sufferer you’ll be pleased to hear that studies have shown that massage can help reduce the frequency of attacks, and lessen the severity of the symptoms. Some migraines, especially those triggered by stress, are especially receptive to massage treatment.

Skin Cancer

Of course, we wouldn’t tell you that massage cures cancer; it can’t. But in some cases your massage therapist can notice abnormalities in your skin that you can’t see or just haven’t picked up on, and alert you to them. Regular massage can also be good for your skin as it gets the circulation going and the nourishing oils used in a treatment help to keep skin feeling soft.

Allergies

A massage helps to stimulate lymph flow around your body, which boosts your immune system and can help to reduce the severity of allergic reactions. Sometimes a therapist might be able to tell just from your lymph nodes if you are an allergy sufferer as they can feel tender or swollen.

Did any of those surprise you? Of course, you don’t need to make an excuse for wanting a massage, but if you are dealing with any of these health issues, it’s good to know that your regular massage habit is helping.

How often to get Massage?

How Often Should You Get a Massage?

Every day! Well, maybe that’s not practical, even though it would be nice. This is one of the most common questions clients ask about massage therapy, and it really all depends on WHY you get massages. Do you get massages for health benefits? Or, to help you relax and handle the stress of everyday life? Most likely it’s a combination of the two, so let’s look at some of the most common reasons to get regular massages:

Relaxation & Stress Relief

One of the very best reasons to get a massage is for relaxation. Relaxation massage helps to support your body, including blood circulation and flexibility of joints. Regular massage can help prevent pain, muscle tension, and stress points from building up and causing problems. Why wait until you have a problem to get a massage? Massage is perfect for preventing issues with your tissues. Relaxation massage is usually recommended at least once per month, or as often as you want!

There may be times in your life where you experience higher levels of stress and more muscle tension than normal. It is especially important to practice good self-care during these times. When we “don’t have time” for a massage, is usually when we need one the most. Make yourself a priority even during stressful times, your health is worth it.

If you are in a high-stress job or you work in an environment where you stay in a certain position for a long period of time (at a computer for example), you may begin to develop tight or “knotted” muscles. This will frequently occur in your shoulders, arms, and back. All of this increased muscle tension will make movement harder and can cause a great deal of pain. Regular massage can help to keep you loosened up and will help to prevent pain and stiffness.

Living with high levels of stress for a prolonged amount of time increases the risk of contracting heart disease and other diseases. It has been estimated that 75 – 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress related problems. The good news is, massage can help! Just knowing your massage is coming up in a few days can help to relieve stress, and a massage every 2-4 weeks will help with stress related tension.

Sports Recovery

Are you a weekend warrior, or do you just like to stay in shape? Either way, massage can help with sports performance and recovery. Many athletes and physically active people receive sports massage because it enhances their performance, prevents injury, and speeds up their muscles’ recovery. Competitive sports can put a lot of stress on a person’s muscles! Research conducted at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging at McMaster University in Ontario shows that massage reduces inflammation and stimulates the growth of new mitochondria, the energy-producing units in the cells, after strenuous exercise. This means that massage can help relieve pain, build muscles and help with muscle recovery too! For these benefits it is recommended that you get a massage up to three times a week or at least three times a month.

Chronic Health Conditions

People with ongoing health issues often find massage very helpful to alleviate symptoms. Chronic health problems that greatly benefit from massage therapy include back pain, joint pain, and localized inflammation. If you get therapy for specific issues, the frequency of getting massage therapy varies with the type of condition you have and how severe it is. Relief from pain can usually be achieved with 2-4 massage sessions per month. Your massage therapist will work with you to help you get on the best schedule for your body.

Massage For Back Pain Relief

Massage for back-pain relief

A regular massage is often considered to be a treat, rather than a necessity. Most people believe that having a massage is good for aches and pains, or can help if they’ve overdone the exercise. Not everybody realizes that massage therapy is also a powerful painkiller that can even be used to help people with back problems to reduce the amount of medication they must take.

Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on back pain and if you’re one of the 31 million Americans who suffers with back pain at some point in their life, you’ll know how miserable it can be. If you are dealing with chronic back pain – which is pain that’s lasted more than three months and less than six – it can impact on your daily life, and stop you doing things you want to do. You could be reliant on drugs to keep you mobile or help you sleep.

The vicious pain cycle

If you can no longer exercise pain-free, you might end up in a vicious cycle of inactivity which makes your pain worse, which stops you being active. Or you could just increase your meds but that just masks the problem. Also, some strong pain meds contain painkillers opioids like codeine which can lose their power over time as you build up a tolerance to their effects. They can also have unwanted side effects.

What you need is a way to manage your back pain that is effective but doesn’t have the side effects. Wouldn’t you know it, research has shown that regular massage along with your prescribed medication and any other advice from your healthcare supplier can be so powerful that you might be able to decrease the number of painkillers you need to manage your back pain and start to live a more active life.

How massage can help beat back pain

A massage session doesn’t just relax you, it can help to promote tissue repair, improve the blood circulation and does wonders for your stress levels and mood. Recent research showed that regular massage therapy combined with exercise helped people suffering from chronic back pain to feel less anxious about their condition too. The study, which took place at a pain management clinic in Western New York, involved sixty chronic low back pain patients who were split into two groups. One group received regular massage therapy, twice a week for four weeks, along with their regular treatment, and one group only carried on with their prescribed treatments.

The participants all recorded their own pain levels before and after having massage therapy on a scale of one to ten. There was a significant difference between the pre-and post-treatment pain rating in the group that had regular massage, but the control group who carried on as normal reported no changes to their pain levels.

If you suffer with back pain and want to try something different – book that massage session now.

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