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Is Self-Care a Habit that you Embrace?

I has been awhile since I have taken the time to write a short piece for this blog. I am reflecting this month on the 25th anniversary of starting my career as a massage therapist and how grateful I am for finding this path. It has been very rewarding and enjoyable. I started working in the Town of Vienna back in the fall of 1997. It was not until the year 2000 that a massage therapist could work in their own business in Fairfax County. Thankfully, things have changed and we now find shopping centers with massage businesses and spa vacations are common place.

I made a career shift and chose massage as my new profession because I wanted to help people reduce their stress and to be able to assist in their recovery from pain, injury and sports training.

As I look back, I wonder if we are successfully combatting stress with the prevalence of massage, yoga, meditation and other ways to decrease stress or is there more stress in 2022 to combat?  I don’t know if I have the answer to that question but it is a good one to consider. Maybe there is an achievable balance in today’s hectic lifestyle through the act of unplugging from devices and taking more time for ourselves?

Since 1997 when I started in this profession, I wonder if the management of pain has improved? There are certainly more tools, apps, wearable devices and videos that instruct us how to decrease pain and stress. I suppose we are more educated and have more options to choose from. I don’t know if people are in less pain – there still seems to be a lot of people in pain. One could attribute some of this to the many conveniences that we have in 2022. Sadly, we do not need to move our bodies as much and that lack of movement is not ideal for our overall health and wellbeing.

Today the concept of self-care is in the forefront of the health and wellness field. This is the habit of taking care of ourselves – mentally, physically, emotionally. Are you taking time to get out and exercise or be in nature, to do some focused breathing or schedule an appointment and show up for that massage? There are so many ways to take a break from the things that constantly grab our attention and to reconnect with our authentic selves.

What are you doing today to address stress and manage pain? What have you put into your daily routine to promote a lifestyle of feeling well and happy? I am re-committing myself to this old habit and I hope to make another 25 year anniversary (at least on a part-time basis)! Let’s make self-care a priority. We all need a break to recharge ourselves.

No Pain is Your Gain!


No Pain is Your Gain is a quote from the first sports massage therapy class that I took 21 years ago.  It was taught by Dr Myk Hungerford who brought sports massage to the Iron Man competition in Hawaii.  That line has stuck with me over the years.  And, it prompts me to ask myself which methods work best with someone without creating undo pain and stress on the muscle?

Much like the unruly teenagers with whom I worked in my earlier career, you have to find different ways to finesse the muscle for it to relax.  Brute force is not an option when working as an adolescent counselor and, similarly, pressing deep and hard on the muscle will only make the muscle react and recoil into further spasm.  The skilled therapist must utilize methods to coax the muscle to release and relax (or for the teenager to comply).

What methods might work best for hypertonic muscle spasm?  We all are familiar with the advice of trainers, physical therapists, yoga instructors, chiropractors or doctors and massage therapists who tell you to find a lacrosse ball or get a roller and “roll out” the painful or tight area.  We all have been trained to ask for deep tissue when going for a massage or ask the therapist to dig in further.  Unfortunately, if you think about that advice, it makes no sense, when you learn that a muscle that is contracted in chronic spasm is over functioning and it is not advantageous to over power the muscle. It is not the muscle that is the root of the problem but, actually, the feedback nerves in the muscle going to the brain that are weakened and malfunctioning.  Therefore, doesn’t it make more sense to focus on the strength of that broadcasting signal from muscle to brain?  Smashing the muscle with excess force will choke the muscle with more lactic acid and cause more muscle spasm.  We may not feel this happening because our body protects us with a dose of endorphin which dulls the pain created by this excess force – so there is a temporary sense of relief with this internal morphine released by the pituitary gland.

One method that I learned at the beginning of my career as a massage therapist called NeuroSoma focuses on restoring the feedback nerves of the muscle spindle without activating the anulospiral nerves that control the stretch reflex of the muscle.   This delicate fingertip method, if done correctly, will relax the muscle, allow the blood vessels to open further and, the initial irritant that sickened the feedback nerve, lactic acid, will be carried away to the liver.  The muscle will feel so much more expanded and healthier after this type of treatment.  You will not have a feeling of being mauled or run over by a mack truck.  This treatment method focuses on the root of the problem, therefore, after a number of treatments you will feel improvement and restoration of the muscle.  With a new understanding and respect for your muscles and the use of the NeuroSoma technique, you will find that you can retire your foam roller and lacrosse balls!  Work with your muscles instead of against them!. #nopainisyourgain


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