Massage v Stretching: What does what?

Massage and stretching are both really helpful ways to keep your muscles relaxed, reduce tension and help recovery after an injury. Stretching helps to get the blood flowing to your muscles, which is great if you’ve injured yourself or if your muscled are stiff because they’ve contracted due to inactivity. Giving your muscles a really good stretch can stop your muscles from going into painful spasms or cramps, as well as stop the knots forming in them that take so much work to get rid of.

Regular massage boosts the impact of stretching by improving your flexibility and range of motion, therefore keeping your joints more fluid and making them less injury prone in the first place.

What are the differences between massage and stretches – and how do they work together to promote muscle and joint health?

Massage

Stripped down, massage is simply a word that’s used to describe the manipulation of muscles, ligaments and connective tissue. Of course there are lots of different types of massage, and techniques that are suitable for different things, but when you go for a massage, this is what your therapist will be doing.

What’s massage good for?

We love a massage for general wellbeing, but medically massage is recognized for more than just making you feel good.

Massage can:

  • Help strained muscles to heal faster
  • Reduce swelling and scar tissue in injured muscles
  • Relieve stiffness and tension in your muscles
  • Reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and fatigue

Stretching

Stretching does have a lot of similarities to massage, but its main benefit is to relieve the tightness and tension that’s built up in your muscles when you’ve used (and over-used) them.

Having a really good, effective stretch can increase the blood flow to your muscles, and this leads to a better range of motion that helps your joints to stay in alignment

What’s stretching good for?

Stretching properly can:

  • Improve your circulation
  • Boost your nerve health – a contracted muscle around a nerve can create pressure that can constrict the blood supply to the nerve.
  • Make movement easier
  • Improve flexibility

How can massage and a stretching routine work together?

Daily stretching – to a point where you can just feel it pulling on your muscles – can really help to increase your flexibility, and you can feel the effects in a matter of a few weeks.

Enjoying a regular massage helps to keep your body relaxed and flexible. Massage can release trigger points and muscles in spasm, making your stretching routine even more effective.

You could even opt for a Thai massage which uses stretches and massage all in one session to give your muscles and tendons a really thorough workout. You can also ask your massage therapist for advice if you have any injuries or are experiencing stiffness in your muscles.

Make a Commitment to Your Back!

Massage for back-pain relief

Back pain is no joke! So many adults suffer from twinges, spasms, or slippery back discs. And the reasons for the back pain are across the board, from injuries to sneezes. (My dad threw out his back sneezing once!) My younger sister had a rib slip out of place because of bad posture while breastfeeding and now, three years later, still finds herself suddenly in pain. What’s really important to remember is that any back pain needs attention – don’t wait to get relief until you can’t move or can’t sleep! Not everybody realizes that massage is a powerful painkiller with long-term benefits.

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.

Clench? Grind? PAIN!! Get some TMJ relief

I don’t know about you, but when I’m stressed, my jaw can go nuts! I definitely inherited any and all jaw pain issues from my dad. I can remember from a young age watching him work at stretching, strengthening, and massaging his face trying to counter the symptoms of an inflamed TMJ. Maybe you clench your jaw when you’re angry or stressed, maybe you grind your teeth in your sleep, or maybe you love to eat a cheeseburgers far larger than your mouth — whatever causes it, massage can seriously help relieve your pain!

If you’re experiencing pain, stiffness and clicking noises in your jaw, you might be one of the 15% of adults who are thought to have TMD or temporomandibular joint disorder. TMJ affects more women than men, and tends to affect people from the ages of 20 to 40.

Do you have these problems?:

  • Pain in one or both of your jaw joints, face or neck
  • Earache
  • Pain when you chew
  • Stiff jaw muscles
  • Difficulty with fitting your teeth together

A clicking noise, while it can be a symptom, doesn’t necessarily mean you have TMD – many people experience popping and clicking noises with their jaws, and it’s only likely to be caused by TMD if you have one or more of the other symptoms also.

The good news is that most of the pain you get from TMD can be treated without needing surgery, and massage can help treat the cause of the problem, which relieves the symptoms. Sometimes the pain can come from something as simple as grinding or clenching your teeth, and if this case especially, regular massage therapy can really help to make a difference by counteracting the stress that’s making you grind your teeth.

Back in 1981, a dentistry study found that the teeth-clenching and grinding which often leads to TMD reduced when the masseter facial muscles were massaged.

Stress Relief Can Lead to TMD Relief.

We all know of the studies into massage as an effective stress reliever and its role in reducing anxiety, tension and stress has been reliably proven over the years. Massage leads to lower cortisol levels and increases in the amounts of feel good hormones such oxytocin and serotonin. The feeling of total relaxation that can be induced by regular massage is the key to reducing stress-related habits like teeth grinding.

Home Massage for TMD

Specific techniques can help the symptoms as they flare up, too. Try massaging your jaw with a kneading type pressure – use your fingers to make a constant, circular motion against the joints and muscles that are most affected.

Find the masseter muscles in your lower jaw – these are directly behind your molars and sitting just below your cheekbone.Start the massage by touching the corner of your mouth, then working your fingers all along your jaw until you feel a flat plane of bone. Massage the area by pressing gently with two or three fingers in a circular motion. Massaging like this helps to warm up the muscles and also stimulates the lymph function, flushing out toxins at the same time. Keep going with the jaw massage until you feel some relief from the pain.

Common Health Problems: What can Massage do for YOU?

Massages are often sold as an indulgence 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. Many health problems can be reduced and even eliminated with regular massage! Discuss any issues with one of our massage therapists and we’ll cater your service to fit your health needs.

Here are a few conditions that can really benefit from massage; a few you might already know and some may surprise you!

Lower Back Pain

This is such a common problem, often caused by bad posture at work, so no wonder many employers bring in massage therapists to help their employees! Poor posture and sitting for too long can cause a lot of lower back problems, as can crouching while gardening, moving boxes around during seasonal clean-up, and simply getting older. Get one of our 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. Revive also offers paraffin dips, which can add additional healing benefits to your sore hands and feet.

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 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 know that your massage therapist can help! 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.

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. Talk to your therapist and we can make a treatment plan catered to any health issues you’re experiencing!

Here’s a Way to Treat Yo’self!

It will surprise no one that essential oils are available with massage. But, the benefits of essential oils might! Essential oils are derived from plants, flowers, and fruits typically either by distillation or using a press. This means that the oils from these plants will offer us benefits without any chemicals.

One misunderstanding people have about essential oils is their name. No, they aren’t essential to our existence! Instead, they’re called essential oils because they give us the essence of whatever they are derived from. I use the Bon Vital’ Essential Oils in my clinic and enjoy their clean fragrances and unique blends. Experience the aromatherapeutic benefits of essential oils with your next treatment!

I have two excellent blends that I use with my therapies. The first is great for anyone who would like to enhance the calming, anti-anxiety benefits of massage. The blend combines lavender, bitter orange, grapefruit, and ylang-ylang. The second blend is for relaxation and benefits you physically through helping your mind wind down during your treatment. This blend is more forward with ylang-ylang, and also has lavender, myrrh, rosewood, tangerine, and bergamot. Both of these blends share qualities since they are designed for aromatherapy in conjunction with massage.

Aromatherapy is something that you can also add to your everyday life for bursts of beneficial essential oils. A little bit of peppermint oil on your wrists can offer rejuvenation throughout your day. Burning a sandalwood candle can provide a focusing quality to your workspace. And, as we head into cooler temperatures this fall, consider reaching for a warm cup of chamomile tea to calm your body and warm up your digestive track!

I am excited to continue sharing the awesome benefits of essential oils with my clients, which is why I’m offering a promotion for the month of September. Anyone who’d like to add aromatherapy on to their visit will get $5 off the normally $13 service! I always give you the remainder of the 2 oz bottle of oils, and this promotional rate is no different! So, use the promo code ESSENTIAL5 and I’ll see you all soon!

4 stories: Doula care is Essential care

Rachel with a client’s baby minutes after birth!

When my oldest sister’s first baby was born it was my first experience of labor and delivery. She chose to labor at home for a significant portion of her birth, and I was lucky enough to support her during that experience. Her birth experience ended up not unfolding at all the way she planned because babies have their own plan for coming into this world. As I watched her path to motherhood unfold, I was amazed by how many people it took to support a woman in labor and I felt drawn to the web of love and knowledge that surrounded her.

Fast forward a dozen short months and I learned even more about pregnancy, labor, and delivery with my own first baby. As part of my web of support, I was blessed to have a Doula help me through Jack’s birth. Having her with me allowed me to labor comfortably at home for my entire labor. She supported me with massage, moving labor positions, and relaxation techniques, all while being excellent moral support during the 10 hours she was with me at home. At the hospital she stayed beside me, keeping me on track with all of these things as I was transferred into the care of the doctors and nurses on duty.

My beautiful nephew, moments after birth

My doula and my labor partner (the same sister who inadvertently introduced me to the birth process!) were my voice at the hospital. While I was deeply focused on processing my contractions, keeping my breathing steady, and finding my inner strength, I was not able to communicate any of my needs or wants, let alone answer any questions that came my way. Instead, it was Sarah and Jennifer who listened to all the medical information, relayed it to me in ways I could process, and helped steer my birth experience as close to my birth plan as possible.

Even though I knew what to expect from birthing babies by my third pregnancy, I still chose to have a Doula with me. As someone who really doesn’t like needles or medical procedures, I really wanted to have a natural delivery of my second set of twins, just as I had done with the first. But, as I said before, babies have their own plans for coming into this world. These babies were no different and one of my twins was breech, so it was medically necessary that I have a c-section. It was my Doula who offered me calming techniques and reassurance as I went into a surgery I was not emotionally prepared for. My husband and I also asked her to be with us during that experience in case there was an emergency with me or with one of the babies. Because she was present, it would have given me continued support regardless of what my husband needed to do for our new babies. It was the continual support that really made me feel as though I had a rich birth experience with my last babies, even though their birth was so different from my others.

A few years ago, my sister-in-law asked me to be with her during her labor as a support person. Being part of her birth story by supporting her through labor and delivery was both humbling and so fulfilling! My deep appreciation of the birth support web grew, even more, when I was so central to it. It was at this point that I knew I wanted to train as a Doula and support more women through their journeys. In April 2018, I completed the BigBelly DONA training and am now a certified Doula. I am working towards completing my hours needed for full certification so that I can incorporate birth experiences into my practice. I’ve already supported mothers beyond my family and I’ve loved every moment of it! If you or someone you love is on a birth journey, I’d be honored to offer them Doula support!