Below is a list of conditions that we can effectively treat. Click each topic to read more.
- Integrated Body Therapies
Christine A. Ruppert, LMT5712 Stillwell Road
Rockville, MD 20851
Below is a list of conditions that we can effectively treat. Click each topic to read more.
According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults and costing more than $42 billion a year.
Feelings of anxiety, worry and fear related to significant and challenging events are justified and very common. While it’s true, mild anxiety may leave a person feeling unsettled, severe anxiety can be debilitating. Anxiety is used as a general term for several disorders that have common symptoms – such as nervousness, worrying, apprehension and fear.
Anxiety disorders can be classified into several more specific types. The most common types include:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by unrealistic, persistent and excessive worry about everyday things. People with this disorder often expect the worst and experience exaggerated worry and tension, even when there is no apparent reason for concern.
Panic Disorder involves brief or sudden attacks of intense terror and apprehension that leads to shaking, confusion, nausea, dizziness and difficulty breathing. Panic attacks tend to arise abruptly and seemingly out-of-the-blue. The sudden onset often produces increased anxiety that a panic attack will recur. The individual often becomes preoccupied with the fear of a recurring attack.
Phobia is an irrational fear and avoidance of an object or situation. Phobias commonly focus on flying, bridges, insects, heights, dental or medical procedures and elevators. Having phobias can disrupt daily routines, reduce self-esteem, limit work efficiency and put a strain on relationships.
Social Anxiety Disorder is a fear of being negatively judged and scrutinized by others in social or performance-related situations. Different variations of this type of anxiety include a fear of intimacy, stage fright and a fear of humiliation. People suffering from this disorder can sometimes isolate themselves in an attempt to avoid public situations and human contact.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is when unwanted or intrusive thoughts make an individual feel compelled to repeat certain behaviors or routines. Even when the OCD sufferers know the irrationality of their compulsions, they feel powerless to stop them. For example, they may obsessively wash their hands, clean personal items or constantly check light switches locks or stoves.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is anxiety that results from previous trauma such as military combat, rape, a natural disaster, a serious accident or other life-threatening events. Most people who experience such events recover from them, but people with PTSD continue to be anxious and severely depressed for months or even years following the event. They often experience flashbacks and behavioral changes in order to avoid certain stimuli.
Massage therapy not only helps to release tension in the muscles, but also has a physiological effect on the brain chemistry. Massage encourages the release of neurotransmitters that activate the parasympathetic nervous system bringing the body and mind into a more relaxed state.
A recent Japanese study conducted in 2012 on the effects of a hand massage showed that the subjects’ heart rates went down significantly resulting in increased activity of the autonomic nervous system, improved activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, and reduced activity of the sympathetic nervous system, aka (the fight or flight mechanism.) This study also measured anxiety levels and found a significant decrease in anxiety following the massage and also an increased willingness to communicate and connect with the caregiver.
Massage therapists can provide a safe and supportive complement to an individual’s mental health care plan. When providing massage for individuals with psychological disorders, especially anxiety, it is important to maintain clear boundaries, be sensitive to the individual’s needs and condition, and provide a safe and nurturing environment.
The following types of massage can help relieve some symptoms of Anxiety:
Anxiety has profound effects on the sufferer and their loved ones which is why it is important to understand the different types of anxiety disorders and treatment options. Regular massage is not a stand-alone treatment option for anxiety disorders, but it can certainly complement your current treatment plan. If you or someone you know suffers from an anxiety disorder, contact a massage therapist today.
If you live with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, you know what a challenge it can be to find relief from joint pain and other symptoms. But there are many things you can do to manage and control your arthritis and live a healthy, active life.
According to Western Medicine, Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis, affecting more than 21 million Americans and many more worldwide. It occurs when the cartilage between the joints breaks down, usually affecting the hips, hands, knees, low back, or neck.
Some factors that can increase your risk include: a joint injury, being overweight, aging, repetitive motion and genetics.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is another type of arthritis, affecting 2.1 million people in the United States. This chronic condition occurs when the lining of the joints becomes inflamed, and can lead to long-term joint damage and even loss of movement. Women are two to three times more likely to get RA. RA often starts in the hands or feet, and usually affects the same joints on both sides of the body.
Symptoms of RA include:
Western treatment generally focuses on relieving pain and preventing further joint damage. Often this is done through the use of anti-inflammatory drugs and other medications, as well as self-care recommendations and physical therapy sessions. In some cases, surgery may even be needed.
Massage has a balancing effect on the autonomic nervous system and could be used as a natural method for reducing stress and promoting health.
Here are some massage approaches that may help individuals who suffer from RA or osteoarthritis:
Note: It is important to communicate with the client to ensure they can tolerate the level of movement or pressure being applied.
There is no “quick fix” for arthritis and it may take time to achieve results. However, there are lifestyle changes you can make that may help you find relief faster:
Asthma is a long-term condition that affects more than 20 million Americans. Caring for a chronic condition such as asthma can sometimes be frustrating, but it’s important to remember that it can be controlled.
Asthma is an inflammatory disease in which the airways become blocked or narrowed, causing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. Some people have long periods without symptoms, while others may always experience difficulty breathing. Asthma attacks occur when something triggers the inflammation of the respiratory system. Flare-ups can be severe—sometimes even life- threatening.
Asthma attacks are generally caused by one or more triggers, including:
The most obvious way to treat asthma is to try to prevent attacks. This is usually done with regular use of anti- inflammatory medications, inhaled steroids and leukotriene inhibitors. Once an asthma attack is underway, quick-acting medications like corticosteroids may be able to relieve it.
Yes, massage can help an individual with asthma to relieve some of the tight muscles due to wheezing, coughing and other common symptoms.
Massage is never indicated during an attack. However, between attacks it is indicated to work on specific muscle groups which help to improve muscle function.
The following muscles are commonly overdeveloped and chronically tight in individuals who don’t breathe easily:
It is important to remember that you are a key part of controlling your asthma. Here are a few ways you can take an active part in your treatment:
Back pain is a common problem—it affects 80% of all individuals at some time in their lives. In fact, it is one of the top reasons people seek medical care. Unfortunately, back pain isn’t always easy to diagnose or treat.
Back pain may occur due to:
Improper lifting, sudden movements or traumatic injury can result in strained muscles or ligaments. Other possible causes can include arthritis, structural abnormalities of the spine or nerve compression due to bulging or ruptured disks between the vertebrae. However, less than 2% of the population has a herniated or slipped disk. Depending on the specific diagnosis, back pain is generally treated with medications, physical therapy, chiropractic care, massage therapy, and in some cases, surgery.
Low back pain stems from muscle, nerve, or bone problems and the number one reason for low back pain is muscle spasms. Muscle sprains and strains cannot be detected via medical technology. If untreated, back pain can become a chronic or ongoing problem. The 5 lumbar vertebrae in the low back bear the most weight and receive the most stress. With that being said, it’s not surprising that low back pain is one of the top reasons for a doctor’s visit.
Low back pain symptoms include:
Recent studies show that massage therapy can help to reduce pain and improve flexibility for those with low back pain.
Upper and mid-back pain is not as common as low back pain and neck pain, but it is a more common complaint among people who work at a computer desk all day.
Mid and upper back pain tends to show up as a dull, burning, or sometimes sharp pain. It can be in a single point or all over the back; the pain can vary or be a constant nagging ache and often worsen when you do certain activities.
Common causes of upper and middle back pain include:
Sitting for long periods of time with the arms in front of you can cause the chest muscles to start to pull the shoulders forward. When the chest muscles pull the shoulders, they become overly contracted while the back muscles become tight but in an overly stretched position. This causes de-conditioning of the back muscles and they become taut and weak, though no less painful, while the chest muscles become shortened and tighter.
Your massage therapist can observe your posture and check for signs of postural distortions due to muscle tension that could be contributing to the back pain you are experiencing.
The massage therapist can work on specific muscle groups to attempt to alleviate tension in those muscles and ultimately alleviate the back pain.
Researchers are continuing to study the effectiveness and specific types of massage that particularly help with back pain. Here are a few massage techniques that can be used to help decrease back pain:
If you experience back pain, regular therapeutic massage has demonstrated lasting benefits including:
If the back pain is due to muscle spasms, rest is not recommended. Get moving! Do not rest in bed for a week. Studies show those who maintain normal activities had more flexibility than those who rested in bed for a week. This is because joints become stiff when you stay in the same position for too long. It is important to stay active to prevent added tension and stiffness.
In addition to seeing your massage therapist on a regular basis, here are some self-care techniques that you can use to maintain a flexible and pain-free lifestyle:
Cancer can leave you feeling frightened, uncertain and powerless. But if you or a loved one is facing cancer, it’s important to have hope. In many cases, cancer can be cured, especially when it’s detected early. There are more treatments available now than ever before to cure cancer or slow it from spreading, relieve its symptoms, and help you live a healthier life.
It’s also important to know how you can supplement your healthcare treatment with natural drug-free therapy such as massage therapy. According to the American Cancer Society, massage appears promising for symptom management and improving quality of life. Massage is being recognized by a growing number of healthcare professionals as a useful addition to conventional treatment.
Research studies show massage therapy can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, pain and fatigue. Recent studies conducted with cancer patients support the use of massage for short-term symptom relief.
Cancer is an overall term for a group of diseases that occur when cells begin to reproduce abnormally, eventually damaging or killing healthy tissue.
Most cancers are named according to where they begin in the body, and there are more than 100 different types.
The most common are breast cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer.
Your treatment plan will be based on many factors, including the type and stage (how far it has spread) of the cancer and your overall health.
While cancer treatments have proven to be effective, they do have serious side effects to take into account.
The most common treatments include:
Surgery: Performed to remove the cancer if possible. Surgery may be used alone or along with radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or biological therapy.
Chemotherapy: The use of medications to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy generally lasts from 3 to 9 months, and can have side effects including fatigue, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, early menopause, and hot flashes.
Radiation Therapy: The use of high doses of radiation to destroy the cancer cells. Side effects generally include fatigue, hair loss, and skin darkening at the site of the treatment.
Biological Therapy: This treatment works by boosting the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells. Side effects depend on the specific type of therapy, but they can include rashes or swelling, flu-like symptoms, fatigue, nausea, and loss of appetite.
Massage therapy studies conducted with breast cancer patients awaiting mastectomies showed an increased sense of body awareness, an increased connection with treatment and empowerment in their own healing process. In another study, hospitalized cancer patients reported relief from the perception of pain and anxiety.
Another research study showed a significant decrease in the intensity of pain felt by cancer patients when their treatment involved therapeutic massage sessions.
Other benefits of therapeutic massage on helping cancer patients to cope include:
Massage for individuals going through treatment can be useful and beneficial. The following types of massage are indicated for cancer patients being mindful of the patient’s resilience due the intense effects of cancer treatments:
Whether you are healthy or you have been diagnosed with cancer it is always important to follow these self-care tips:
Make massage part of your self-care regimen, schedule a massage today!
Do you experience tingling in your hand or fingers? Pain that radiates from your wrist to your shoulder? Maybe even difficulty holding small objects? If so, you could be suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), an uncomfortable and sometimes disabling condition.
CTS may be caused by swelling and fluid retention, subluxation of the carpal bones, or fibrotic buildup. CTS may also be a symptom of a disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism.
CTS is diagnosed by common symptoms and two orthopedic tests known as Tinel’s test and Phalens Maneuver. Nerve conduction tests are also used to determine possible CTS. However, these tests are not conclusive. Many factors contribute to pain and nerve problems in the hand and the wrist. These factors make it difficult to pinpoint where the pain originates. It could be coming from as high up as the neck, the shoulder girdle, or even the elbow. Likewise, other types of soft tissue injuries could show up as pain in the wrist and hand.
Massage therapy can help to reduce the pain and swelling. As long as the client is not in acute pain and can tolerate massage, massage can help to increase the flexibility of the muscles and pliability of the surrounding tissue.
The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in the wrist that protects the median nerve, which innervates the hand, as well as tendons that control the fingers. This nerve controls sensation and muscle movements in the hand. If the carpal tunnel becomes narrowed from swelling or injury, the nerve is compressed and impinged. This can cause numbness, pain, and severe weakness in the hands.
There are several causes of CTS, but the main cause is repetitive flexion and extension of the tendons in the hands and wrists, especially when performed for long periods, leading to Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI.)
Symptoms usually start with dull wrist pain that gradually worsens. Other symptoms may include:
CTS can occur due to repetitive motion activities such as:
There are 8 tendons that also pass through the carpal tunnel. When soft tissues or these muscle tendons become swollen they may trap the median nerve.
Yes! CTS due to edema responds well to massage that focuses on moving the fluid and toxic build up out of the affected area. If CTS is due to fibrotic build up or a bone subluxation, massage may also help as well. However, if massage on surrounding area increases symptoms, do not work on the affected area. Here are a few massage techniques that are recommended:
If massage is indicated for the type of CTS you have, you would greatly benefit from regular massage sessions. In addition to regular massage therapy sessions with a therapist, you can also practice self-care techniques to enhance the positive results to work toward a pain-free life:
Actively taking part in your treatment is key. Consider these self-care techniques:
Each year, more than 100,000 people are hospitalized due to complication from a flu virus. Unfortunately most of us get the “flu” at least once in our lifetime. The associated symptoms and signs are all-too-common: fever, sore throat, congestion, fatigue, muscle and body aches, runny nose, dry cough, sneezing and watery eyes.
Colds are much less severe than the flu, but similar to the flu. Viruses and germs cause colds. Colds cause less severe symptoms such as nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, and light headaches. Though it may make you feel lousy, getting a cold is not always a bad thing. Instead, it’s a sign that the body’s resources are strong and vital, working to return you to a state of good health. However, if your immune system is already compromised, a cold may further weaken your body, leaving you open to a more serious illness.
At the onset of a cold or the flu, the individual is in the acute phase. In the acute phase, massage is NOT indicated. However, once the fever has broken and the individual is in the subacute stage of the cold or flu, massage may help to speed recovery.
It is important to note that if the client is recovering from a cold or flu, a massage may hasten recovery by flushing toxins from the body, shortening the duration of the symptoms.
Take caution when working with someone who is recovering from the flu or a cold, they may still be actively fighting virus and that may put the massage therapist at risk.
During recovery from the common cold or flu, the following types of massage may be beneficial:
Here are some tips for staying healthy:
Depression affects about 121 million people worldwide and can be debilitating for those who experience it. Prolonged feelings of sadness, discouragement and hopelessness greatly affect the quality of life.
At one time or another, most of us have experienced some form of depression. It is a healthy response to events in our lives that seem overwhelming. When we are balanced, physically and emotionally, we can easily bounce back from a depressed state and move on with our lives. When negative feelings and emotions become persistent and consistent, depression may set in.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are different forms of depression and those who suffer from depression may respond to treatment differently based on the type of depression they are experiencing:
Many individuals who suffer from depression benefit greatly from massage therapy. Although massage therapy is not a stand-alone treatment for depression, it may complement the individual’s mental health care treatment plan. Massage therapy helps to stimulate the relaxation state, which can help to naturally regulate and balance the body and mind.
Various studies have demonstrated the benefits of massage for symptoms that are commonly observed in depressed individuals. Some of the benefits include:
There are many different types of massage. Some types of massage that are beneficial for reducing symptoms associated with depression include:
As massage helps the body to relax it helps the mind to relax as well. Massage encourages a balanced body-mind connection.
Here are some tips to help you or someone you know who may be experiencing depressive symptoms include:
Please consult with your care provider if you suffer from severe depression. Massage therapy works in conjunction with your mental health therapy and should not be the sole treatment for your depression.
Chances are that you or someone you know has been affected by diabetes. It’s an increasingly common condition—one that approximately 1.3 million people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with this year alone. While it is generally a long-term condition, diabetes can be managed through self-care, nutrition and medication.
The body gets its energy from food through the process of digestion. Food is broken down into glucose (or sugar), which passes into the bloodstream. Then the glucose is moved into muscle, fat, and liver cells by the hormone insulin, which is produced by the pancreas. However, if you have diabetes, your body either does not produce enough insulin, or doesn’t respond to it properly, and this leads to high levels of sugar in the blood. Uncontrolled blood-sugar levels can cause serious complications if left untreated, including blindness, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, amputations, and nerve damage.
Usually diagnosed during childhood, type 1 is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks insulin-producing cells.
Symptoms usually come on suddenly and treatment includes daily injections of insulin.
This type accounts for 90 – 95% of all diabetes cases and is usually diagnosed during adulthood. Major risk factors include family history, having high blood pressure or high cholesterol and being overweight and sedentary.
Since symptoms may be mild, many people don’t know they have diabetes, which is why it’s important to get tested regularly, especially after age 45. Testing can also detect pre-diabetes, where blood sugar is high, but not yet at diabetic levels. With early detection and treatment it is far easier to stop the disease from progressing, control your symptoms, and prevent complications. Treatments often include regular blood sugar monitoring and medications to control blood sugar, as well as diet and exercise.
Symptoms of Type II Diabetes include:
No. Circulatory massage is not recommended for those who have advanced diabetes, kidney failure, and atherosclerosis. In this case, energy techniques are more appropriate.
Yes. Massage is acceptable, if the client has healthy, responsive tissue and circulation and the client is managing blood glucose levels properly.
It is important to note that massage can lower blood glucose levels. A client with diabetes may want to check their blood sugar levels before and after a massage session to avoid any possible complications such as hypoglycemia.
It is important to note that some people with diabetes may have issues with neuropathy and lack of sensation in parts of the extremities. They may have slow-healing wounds or ulcers in these extremities that they may not even be aware of due to the lack of sensation.
Circulatory massage moves blood and lymph fluids through the body and may put an increased demand on the kidneys. To avoid complications, light to medium pressure should be used on clients with diabetes.
As with most illnesses, living with diabetes presents challenges that can create additional stress in the lives of those living with diabetes. A gentle massage can help to stimulate the parasympathetic response, our body’s natural relaxation mechanism.
Regular massage for an individual suffering from diabetes may help to manage stress. Massage also assists the body to naturally remove toxins from the tissues and to balance hormone production. Practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation or breathing exercises teaches the body to respond to stress in a more appropriate and balanced way, thus reducing feelings of being overwhelmed.
If you or someone you know has diabetes and is managing their illness appropriately, recommend massage to promote relaxation and balance within the body in a natural and healthy way.
The National Center for Health Statistics reports that around 260,000 surgeries are performed each year for carpal tunnel. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) occurs when the median nerve that runs through your arm and wrist into the hand is compressed in an area of the wrist called the carpal tunnel. It causes inflammation of the nerve and symptoms are felt as a gradual onset of burning, tingling (especially in the thumb and first two fingers), and the symptoms are usually worse at night. Pain may radiate as far up as the shoulder area. Commonly there will be a sensation of swelling in the fingers, and grip strength is decreased. CTS seems to be related to anatomy of the wrist, various health issues and repetitive jobs requiring use of the hand and fingers. (more…)
Fibromyalgia affects about 3-6% of the world’s population, an estimated 200-400 million people worldwide, with higher numbers among women than men. People diagnosed with fibromyalgia experience a wide range of symptoms, including chronic pain, fatigue, stiffness, aches and muscle tenderness, along with sleep disorders and intestinal/bowel troubles.
The diagnosis of fibromyalgia can be confirmed when eleven out of eighteen specific points on the body are tender to pressure.
Fibromyalgia is a combination of sleep disturbances, hormonal and neuroendocrine imbalances, and emotional status. Some of the common complaints associated with fibromyalgia include:
The identifying signs and symptoms include:
Massage may be just what you need to help to reduce pain levels, anxiety, and possible feelings of depression. Some types of massage may be more beneficial than others. However, a gentle approach should be used within the client’s tolerance due to sensitivity levels to pain.
Massage can empower clients to feel like they are participating in their own healing process. Some types of massage that may be beneficial in treating fibromyalgia include:
If you are suffering from fibromyalgia, it is important to understand that although the symptoms may be debilitating, this is not a life-threatening disease nor is it a progressive disease. There are some things that you can do to reduce the severity of the symptoms you are experiencing:
If you suffer from headaches, you are not alone. Over 50 million of us experience some form of a severe headache at some point in our lives. Whether you experience minor head pain or severe migraines, headaches can take valuable time out of your day and your life, and leave you searching for relief.
One way to seek relief is by reaching for drugs and other medications. This may work temporarily and can help you get out of pain fast. There are other methods that you can try. Massage therapy can be an effective drug-free treatment for the relief of tension headaches.
There are various kinds of headaches: tension, migraine, cluster, and sinus and more.
Tension headaches (also known as muscle contraction headaches) are one of the most common types of headaches.
A tension headache may be caused many factors, a few triggers include:
A migraine often begins as a dull ache and then develops into a constant, throbbing pain that one may feel at the temples, as well as the front or back or one side of the head. Nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light and noise usually accompanies the pain from a migraine headache.
If you are looking for relief from tension headaches, massage therapy helps by:
Below are a few ways that you can participate in your own healing, by making simple lifestyle changes that may help alleviate, or even prevent, head pain:
Track those triggers. Try to keep track of when your headaches start. You may find it especially helpful to keep a diary of symptoms. Certain types of foods and hormonal changes can be possible causes.
Stress relief. Stress can contribute to many types of health concerns, including headaches. Talk to your practitioner about healthy ways to handle stress.
Exercise. Physical activity is an important part of any healthy lifestyle, and it is a great antidote to stress.
Healthy habits. Do your best to eat healthy, organic foods, and to get enough sleep everyday.
Am J Public Health. 2002 October; 92(10): 1657–1661.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects more than one in three Americans, but most people may not even know they have it. Since hypertension can lead to heart attacks and other life-threatening health problems, it’s very important to learn all you can and take action to lower your risk.
Blood pressure is the actual force of blood flowing against your artery walls. Getting your blood pressure tested is a quick, simple process. It’s measured in two numbers: systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. Blood pressure is considered high if your systolic pressure is at or above 140 mm Hg, and/or your diastolic pressure is at or above 90 mm Hg.
Often called “the silent killer,” hypertension doesn’t usually cause symptoms until it gets severe enough to lead to major health problems such as heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and metabolic disorders. It has also been linked to dementia and cognitive impairment.
What causes hypertension?
More than 90% of cases of high blood pressure are known as “essential hypertension” and have no identifiable cause. “Secondary hypertension,” on the other hand, is caused by underlying conditions such as kidney disease or certain medications.
The risk factors for essential hypertension include:
Knowing the clients’ medical history can help the massage therapist to tailor the massage to the clients’ specific needs. However, if high blood pressure is not controlled, it is important to understand that the effects of massage could increase the blood circulation and put additional pressure on the blood vessel walls.
Strong evidence from several research studies demonstrates the positive effects of massage on individuals with hypertension. In a study in 2006 by the National University of Health Sciences, the preferred modality to use was Swedish massage as opposed to more aggressive techniques that may involve pain such as trigger point therapy.
If a client is taking medication to lower their blood pressure, it is important to watch that the blood pressure does not get too low. As the body relaxes the blood vessels expand, and as a result the pressure against the blood vessel walls goes down. When the blood pressure is too low, the blood does not pump efficiently to the brain and causes a reaction that results in faintness due to lack of blood to the brain.
During a massage, the client and therapist should communicate and watch for signs that might indicate too much or too little pressure. Some signs that the cardiovascular system is experiencing too much pressure include:
When working with a client who has hypertension, it is important to focus on using relaxing strokes as opposed to more aggressive techniques. The following types of massage are recommended:
Note: Never perform deep abdominal massage on a client with hypertension.
If you or someone you know has high blood pressure, consider these self-care techniques for lowering blood pressure:
A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology 4th Ed. Ruth Werner Lippincot Williams & Wilkins 2009
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a complex disorder in which the intestines lose their ability to efficiently move their contents. The main symptom of IBS is abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and/or constipation. Less common symptoms may include headaches, fatigue, depression and anxiety. Stress, diet, emotional factors, hormone levels and medications may trigger symptoms.
IBS is a common condition affecting 10 to 20% of the U.S. population, although only a small fraction seeks medical help.
Some studies show that there may be some dysfunction in the brain with regard to the brain-gut axis. Because IBS is commonly accompanied by stress and anxiety, massage therapy can help to ease some of the associated symptoms.
Massage is beneficial for individuals suffering from IBS. However, it is important to treat these clients with care especially when working on or near the abdomen. A gentle Swedish massage and even abdominal massage can help to create a sense of balance within the body and mind. Massage works to activate the parasympathetic (rest & digest) response and may help to improve the coordination between the brain and the gut.
There is some evidence that shows that aromatherapy massage may help especially when using relaxing scents such as lavender and peppermint. Swedish massage may help the client to relax but be sure to do only gentle work if symptoms are present and avoid compression directly on the abdomen. Any massage techniques that would involve deep pressure on the abdomen should be avoided, but most other techniques elsewhere may prove relaxing and greatly beneficial.
In addition to seeing your massage therapist on a regular basis, here are some self-care techniques that you can use to maintain a stress-free lifestyle:
You settle into a warm, relaxing bed, close your eyes and nothing happens. You just can’t fall asleep. Hours go by and you’re still awake. The next day you feel tired, grouchy and are unable to focus. Does this sound familiar?
Sleepless nights happen to almost everyone at some time, but ongoing insomnia can indicate a deeper issue and could lead to further health concerns. Unfortunately, a common approach to treating insomnia includes prescription-sleeping medications, which can cause side effects or even dependence.
Massage therapy is a natural approach to treating your sleep problems. A gentle Swedish relaxation massage invokes the body’s natural relaxation response. A regular massage will train the brain to more easily activate the relaxation response and help to balance the body’s natural sleep – wake cycle known as the circadian rhythm.
Insomnia, or sleeplessness, is characterized by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Occasional insomnia is a common problem, affecting about one in four Americans. It can happen to anyone, but is more common in older adults.
Symptoms of insomnia include:
Insomnia can be frustrating, but it’s more than just an annoyance. When insomnia becomes ongoing, or chronic, your body is unable to get the rest and renewal it needs for you to feel your best. In fact, a lack of quality sleep can cause problems such as difficulty concentrating, diminished energy, low mood, and trouble performing everyday tasks. Since sleep strengthens the immune system, insomnia can leave you susceptible to many other health concerns as well.
Because sleepless nights can be detrimental to your health, massage offers a natural, drug-free option to getting those much-needed Z’s.
Have you ever fallen asleep on the massage table? It’s easy to do because massage puts the body and mind in a state of relaxation. When the body is relaxed, the brain releases serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone released by the brain that is related to mood, behavior, body temperature, physical coordination, appetite and sleep. Serotonin can be converted to melatonin, a hormone that quiets and resets the sleep – wake cycle.
Massage has been proven to increase serotonin levels and improve sleep quality. In a study conducted by the Touch Research Institute, subjects not only experienced a decrease in low back pain, but also had improved sleep quality and fewer sleep disturbances.
If you or someone you know suffers from insomnia, try massage first. The following types of massage are indicated to help with insomnia:
If you suffer from sleepless nights, you deserve to sleep better tonight, set aside time on a regular basis for a massage.
In addition to scheduling a regular massage, here are some more tips for healthy sleep:
Many, if not most of us, walk around on a daily basis experiencing some areas of sharp tenderness or irritation – “knots”- in our muscles. (Think top of your shoulders or between your shoulder blades). If persistent, some of these spots may become trigger points, and may lead to pain of varying degrees. True trigger points are characterized by tender points which refer sensations – pain, heat, cooling numbing or tingling – to other areas in addition to the initial area of pain.
Trigger point massage therapy is a specialized protocol in which direct pressure and other forms manual manipulation are applied very specifically to these trigger points. Palpating and/or compressing these trigger points causes contracted muscle fibers to relax, helping to eliminate the both the original and associated myofascial pain, and other problems associated with chronic muscle tension. To learn more about trigger point massage therapy and the unique benefits it offers, keep reading. (more…)
Menopause is a transitional period in a woman’s body, following the absence of any menstrual period for at least 12 months. This time of change may last a few months to several years. This is a natural process where the female body tries to adapt to decreasing amounts of estrogen. Symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, fatigue, mood swings, memory loss, vaginal dryness, headaches, joint pain and weight gain may affect each woman to varying degrees.
Perimenopause is the time when hormone levels start to decrease and menstrual periods may become irregular and eventually stop. Some of the common symptoms during this stage include:
These symptoms commonly persist through to the second phase known as Menopause. After one year without a menstrual period, a woman has officially entered into Menopause.
The third phase is referred to as post-menopause. In this phase, women acclimate to the hormonal changes and the symptoms typically subside, although some women still continue to experience the symptoms, often to a lesser degree.
This period is also known as the “Wise Woman” stage, during which women may attain greater self-awareness, and often feel more confident, awakened and energized. Every woman experiences this change in life differently, and women now have more options to take control of their own health. As part of their self-care practice, many women aptly turn to holistic and natural solutions, including massage therapy and yoga to ease some common complaints. Some of the benefits of massage and yoga to provide support:
Additionally, yoga can help:
Depending on the symptoms a woman is experiencing and the phase of menopause she may be in, there are different types of massage and bodywork that may prove more beneficial.
Massage therapists offer a calming, natural, and drug-free way to ease common symptoms of menopause. Yoga provides an additional outlet for spiritual and intuitive expression as a balancing factor during menopause.
No matter what phase a woman is in, massage therapy and yoga can be physiologically and even psychologically beneficial during menopause.
Take care of yourself and be kind to yourself especially during transitional times in your life such as menopause. Seek out a professional massage therapist who understands the difficulties associated with menopause. Find the type of massage that addresses the issues you are experiencing. Look to yoga as a helpful adjunct to restoring ease and balance. And, schedule regular massages to help you to nourish, heal, and regain a sense of balance and body-mind connection.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a complex condition that currently affects approximately 400,000 people in the United States-with 200 more people diagnosed every week. This chronic disease causes uncomfortable, sometimes debilitating symptoms that can make it difficult to perform everyday tasks.
The exact causes of MS are not entirely understood, and there is currently no cure, though there have been many advances in treatment in recent years. Western medicine considers MS an autoimmune condition-a condition that occurs when the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues. In the case of MS, the immune system starts attacking and breaking down a substance called myelin, the sheath that surrounds the nerve fibers of the central nervous system. Myelin increases the speed of the transmission of nerve signals.
When myelin becomes “broken” or destroyed, none impulses are slowed down, leading to a progression of nerve-related problems. When these nerve fibers become damaged, symptoms result, including :
MS usually has acute and subacute periods. Acute periods (aka flare ups) are times when the symptoms are at their worst; it is when the myelin is under attack. The signs and symptoms of MS depend on where and how much nerve tissue has been damaged.
Yes, during the subacute stages, massage is appropriate and even beneficial for individuals suffering from MS. Massage can help with common issues like stress reduction and depression. When working with a client who has MS, take the following precaution:
Because each individual experiences symptoms differently, it is difficult to pinpoint the best type of massage or to determine an optimal length for massage for an individual with MS. Swedish massage and reflexology have shown benefits for individuals with MS. Increased stress can exacerbate symptoms of MS and massage therapy can help to reduce one’s experience of stress. Massage can also help to maintain health and mobility of the tissues. If no sensation is present in certain areas, very light work or energy work may be more appropriate.
MS can have an impact on every part of your life. To help support both your physical and emotional well being, your practitioner may suggest some of these lifestyle changes and self-care techniques.
MS is a serious condition, but many people with MS live long, happy, fulfilled lives.
Have you ever experienced a stiff neck or neck pain? At some point in our lives, each of us will very likely experience some type of neck pain. However, certain people may be predisposed to acute or chronic neck pain due to their occupation. Employees who perform repetitive tasks, sit for prolonged periods of time and use their upper extremities are at a greater risk of developing neck pain.
The neck is one of the most flexible—and delicate—parts of the body. Throughout the day, many of us put stress on our neck without even realizing it. Unfortunately, this can result in a literal “pain in the neck,” causing stiffness, pain and limited movement in the neck, shoulders and arms.
Neck pain can be caused by a wide range of factors, including wear-and-tear, strains or sprains, or inflammation. A few of the most common culprits include:
Neck pain is often experienced in individuals who portray a postural distortion known as “head-forward posture”.
Head-forward posture can be seen from a side view when an individual’s ears do not align with the shoulders.
It has been noted that for every inch forward the head moves, gravity adds approximately 10 lbs of pressure. This pressure can contribute to neck pain.
When we wear our shoulders high, range of motion becomes increasingly limited. The muscles at the base of the skull cinch down; this causes the muscles in the front of the neck to become even tighter. These tensions may cause neck pain as well as tension headaches.
Massage therapy can help to increase range of motion and reduce pain in the neck. According to a recent study conducted in Poland, the effectiveness of massage therapy for neck pain is comparable to rehabilitative physical therapy and kinesiotherapy. All three therapeutic techniques were equally effective in reducing pain and increasing range of motion in the neck.
Researchers are continuing to study the effectiveness and specific types of massage that specifically help with neck pain. Here are a few massage techniques that can be used to help decrease neck pain:
Massage therapy is generally a safe and natural way to address neck pain. However, always consult your healthcare provider, especially in cases where inflammation or injury are present. Massage is never a replacement for medical treatment.
If you suffer from neck pain, here are some tips for self-care:
Ortop Traumatol Rehabil. 2012 Mar-Apr;14(2):115-24. doi: 10.5604/15093492.992301.
Everyone experiences significant pain at some time in their lives—whether from an injury, illness, or an unknown cause. Pain is a warning signal, an alarm that goes off when your body is trying to tell you that something is wrong and out of balance.
No one should have to live with pain, but which treatment is right for you?
Often times, people suffering from pain take medication to dull the pain. Taking medication is understandable when pain is constant and unbearable. It may be helpful to dull the symptoms for a short period of time, but it will not get at the root of the problem and correct it. It is like hitting the snooze button on an alarm. Unless the cause of the pain is treated, your body will keep sounding the alarm and reminding you that something is wrong. Because medication masks the pain symptoms, eventually the pain may get worse or become chronic. It is also possible for the medications to cause unwanted side effects and further compromise your health.
Surgery may also be another option. At times, this approach may make sense, but it could be both expensive and risky, and there is no guarantee that it will be effective.
People experience pain differently. Some people have a high tolerance for pain while others are very sensitive to pain. There are two types of pain signals that the brain receives including; fast pain and slow or continuous pain.
Massage therapy typically addresses pain originating from muscle tension and stiffness in the joints due to soft tissue restrictions. Massage therapy is a drug-free natural approach to dealing with this type of pain.
According to the “Gate Control Theory,” there are nerve gates in the spinal cord that open and close to allow signals to travel to the brain. There are two types of pain signal nerve fibers 1) First pain or Fast pain fibers send signals that travel at approximately 40 mph, and 2) Slow pain or continuous pain signals that travel at approximately 3 mph.
The reason massage can override pain signals is because touch and pressure activate other sensory fibers that send signals to the brain even faster than the “Fast pain” nerve fibers. When the “gate” opens to allow touch and pressure sensation through, the pain signal is overridden.
In addition to sensory input, massage creates a relaxation response in the brain releasing endorphins—the body’s natural painkillers.
The benefits of treating pain using massage therapy have been cited in several studies over the last couple of decades. Some of the many benefits include:
Because the source of pain can vary widely, there are many types of massage that will help individuals manage pain symptoms. They include:
If you or someone you love is suffering from pain, find a massage therapist who can tailor a therapeutic massage to meet your specific needs. You don’t have to live in constant pain. Let massage touch your life and help you to ease the pain.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a group of physical and emotional symptoms linked to a woman’s menstrual cycle. PMS symptoms usually occur during the ten days prior to menses, and disappear either shortly before or after the start of menstrual flow. Symptoms vary from woman to woman, but each woman’s individual pattern of symptoms is typically predictable.
The exact causes of PMS are not clear, but several factors may be involved. Changes in hormones during the menstrual cycle seem to be an important contributor. These changing hormone levels may affect some women more than others. Chemical changes in the brain may also be involved. Other factors such as stress, a nutritionally inadequate diet, lack of exercise and sleep, and a hectic or demanding lifestyle may exacerbate the symptoms. For some women, especially those who exhibit as many as four to ten PMS symptoms, many aspects of their lives may be diminished during one to two weeks prior to menstruation. This can include relationships with family and friends, work productivity, mood and emotional stability and the ability to appreciate their own bodies and feminine identity.
Women may be at increased risk for PMS if they are:
Symptoms can be even more severe if they have had more than one child or have a family history of depression.
Whether a woman suffers from PMS symptoms on an occasional or monthly basis, massage therapy can offer a safe and natural approach to alleviating many of these symptoms.
Research studies published by the Touch Research Institute show that massage therapy may be an effective long-term aid for pain reduction and water retention, and a short-term aid for decreasing anxiety and improving mood for women suffering from symptoms of PMS.
Here are some types of massage and the specific PMS symptoms they address:
It is always important to practice self-care especially during times when the body is showing signs of an imbalance.
Find a massage therapist who has experience with specific techniques that will help to alleviate PMS symptoms.
In addition to scheduling a regular massage, there are other things you can do to help yourself during this time of the month. Be kind to yourself and nourish your body with a healthy diet to maintain balanced hormone production. It is helpful to take time to exercise to increase the blood flow and circulation, and to help to remove toxins built up in the body.
If you or someone you know experiences a disruption in the quality of life on a monthly basis, try massage today.
Pregnancy is a time of extraordinary physical and emotional change. It’s also a time when it’s more important than ever to support and care for your well-being. The therapeutic effects of massage can help you meet the unique challenges of pregnancy, ensuring optimal health for you and your baby in a safe and natural way, without the use of harmful medications.
Prenatal massage helps to ease tense muscles and tight spots and improve circulation and mobility. A prenatal massage performed by a certified prenatal massage therapist addresses the specific needs of the pregnant woman in a safe and effective way.
During a massage, the relaxation hormones cross the placenta and have a calming effect on both mom and baby. It’s true, a regular massage can enhance your health, potentially preventing complications and positively influencing the development of the baby.
Many mothers-to-be find themselves facing anxiety, fatigue, back pain, heartburn, nausea and other symptoms as a result of the many new demands being placed on their bodies. Massage has been found to effectively relieve many of these symptoms.
During pregnancy, massage therapy can help to relieve discomfort due to a variety of common complaints including:
Recent studies from the Touch Research Institute indicate that pregnancy massage helps to reduce symptoms of anxiety, stress, sleep problems and back pain. Evidence suggests massage helps to reduce complications during delivery and may also result in shorter labor times for mothers. Regular massage during and after pregnancy may also help to prevent symptoms associated with postpartum depression.
Each trimester of pregnancy brings exciting and new challenges for the mother-to-be. A certified prenatal massage therapist can safely tailor a massage to address the physiological changes during and after pregnancy.
During the first trimester, a generally healthy woman with a low risk pregnancy can safely receive massage. A massage therapist certified in pregnancy massage can deliver a soothing massage to safely and effectively provide much needed relaxation.
The first trimester is an important time to take precautions to minimize any complications. It is essential to obtain the mother’s health history to avoid any possible complications due to a high-risk pregnancy.
As the mother-to-be heads into the second trimester, a relaxation massage or deep tissue massage can help to alleviate discomfort associated with the continuing changes in her body. A certified massage therapist will be able to explain correct use of abdominal muscles to maintain core strength and stability in the lower back. Due to hormonal changes beginning early in the pregnancy the ligaments become soft and more pliable, this is called joint laxity. It is important to avoid overstretching during this time because the hormones make it difficult for a pregnant woman to accurately feel the “end feel” of a muscle when it is stretched. Toward the end of the second trimester, it is also important to use the side-lying position or a semi-reclined position to avoid pressure on the inferior vena cava.
A soothing touch can trigger the release of relaxation hormones for both mom and baby. During the third trimester, the additional weight of the baby and the hormonal changes that take place when a woman’s body is preparing for childbirth can bring on an array of physical and emotional challenges. A massage therapist can provide a supportive, nurturing and calming way to reduce the discomfort. At this stage, the massage therapist should use pillows and make necessary positioning adjustments to address the individual needs of the mother-to-be.
Be kind to yourself. Complement your prenatal care with a regular prenatal massage. Practice self-care techniques and find a certified prenatal massage therapist who can provide an individualized massage to fit your needs in a supportive and nurturing manner.
If you find yourself suffering from low-back pain you shouldn’t feel alone. Around 31 million Americans are experiencing low-back pain at any given time. Low-back pain can result from a variety of conditions, including injuries, illnesses or mechanical problems in the back.
Many studies have shown the benefits of massage as a complementary therapy for reducing pain, relieving stress and anxiety, and to help improve overall wellness. Now a research study has found massage is the best therapy for low-back pain. (more…)
Stress is a natural response of the body to the various demands we place upon it. In ancient times, our stress response, also known as our flight or flight response, provided us with energy to preserve life during difficult situations such as an attack or threat by a wild animal. Unfortunately, modern day stress is considerably higher, more frequent and more consistent than what our predecessors experienced and we don’t usually have the option to “fight or flee”. Today, we do not have to look much further than out our windows, or on our computer screens, to view various forms of stressors—everything from prime-time news and road rage, to the forty-hour work week, and cell phones.
However stress is not necessarily always negative. There is a distinction between healthy and unhealthy stress. Healthy stressors are usually short lived and keep us alert and motivated, and support our body’s strength and vitality. Our response to stress can either help or hinder our body’s ability to cope with these various stressors in our lives. Healthy responses to stress include appropriate physical exercise, good eating habits, positive thinking, adequate rest, and reaching out to friends and family for support. Unhealthy responses to stress include negative thinking, overexertion, poor eating habits, lack of sleep, and isolation. These unhealthy responses can cause the body to work harder than it needs to and can trigger physical and mental health issues. Over time, ongoing stress and unhealthy responses to stress can actually be detrimental to our health.
Medical studies have shown that with increased and consistent stress, our white blood cells, which defend our body against viruses, decrease. This results in lower immune resistance, ultimately leading to physical disease and emotional instability.
Even if the stressors are no longer present, the body continues to keep the stress response active. This results in the depletion of our nervous system, lymphatic organs (spleen, thymus, and lymph nodes), kidneys and adrenal glands, which can pave the way for a wide variety of signs and symptoms.
Studies conducted on animals show that a sluggish stress response is directly correlated to lack of touch. Healthy, nurturing touch such as massage can bolster the body’s ability to respond appropriately to stressors. Therefore, a regular dose of massage may be vital for balancing our natural ability to respond to stress in a healthy way.
Human touch is an essential part of human nature. In today’s fast-paced lifestyle, we tend to become so busy that we neglect our natural instincts and deny ourselves of this basic human need.
In addition to massage, there are many things that a person can do to combat negative effects of stress:
If you or a loved one are feeling overwhelmed by the negative effects of stress in your life, try some of these self-care techniques and be sure to schedule a regular massage.
J Korean Acad Nurs. Effects of aroma self-foot reflexology massage on stress and immune responses and fatigue in middle-aged women in rural areas2012 Oct;42(5):709-18. doi: 10.4040/jkan.2012.42.5.709.
If you struggle with your weight, you’re not alone. According to the World Health Organization(WHO), it is estimated that there are more than 1 billion overweight adults, and there are at least 300 million clinically obese individuals.
Overweight people spend billions of dollars annually on weight loss products, but obesity is still on the rise. People are turning to extreme fasting, fad diets or even drastic measures such as surgery; in an attempt to manage their weight.
Unfortunately, excess weight is not just a cosmetic issue. Being overweight is a risk factor for many conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
The good news is that maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risks and it’s never too late to get started.
A full-body massage activates the parasympathetic response in the body producing a state of relaxation. When the body is in this state, digested is optimized. In the sympathetic mode, especially during stressful times, the body redirects blood from digestive organs to muscles, the heart and lungs for the survival mode of “fight or flight”. Massage therapy also increases the blood circulation in the body and thus increases the metabolic rate.
As you receive a massage, your body’s metabolism and the circulation of fresh oxygenated blood increases throughout the body. The following types of massage may help clients with weight loss:
Exercise is an important component of any weight loss program. Adding aerobic exercise, weight training, and other types of exercise to your daily routine will have a positive effect on your weight and general health.
Diet is another important issue to consider. In general, a healthy diet is made up of unprocessed, organic foods, including a wide variety of whole grains and vegetables.
By learning to lower stress and anxiety through techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation and/or gentle exercise, you may lose weight more easily and possibly stop the destructive symptoms caused overeating.
Tired of reaching for the pill bottle if you have frequent or continuing headaches? Headaches stem from a variety of issues, and massage techniques especially, trigger point therapy, can be an effective, beneficial and much healthier alternative for diminishing the pain. (more…)