I know its a been a while since my last post about opening our conscious bodies. In fact, after writing part one, I had to sit with all the questions I posed and feel how my body wanted to proceed. One of the biggest question posed was Are you willing to open yourself up to listening more closely when your body speaks to you? If you are, then how do you do that? In this part of the series I want to speak to exactly that; how do we listen?
Our body speaks in subtle ways and because of this, the first thing we must do is quiet our mind and external stimulation. It can be as simple as just sitting or lying in a quiet room to remove external stimulation. Quieting the mind can be a little more challenging and may take practice. One of the easiest ways I have found to do this is through the breath.
I have the pleasure of working on many different types of individuals from professional athletes with specific alignment and recovery needs to those who need stress relief from work/home life, and many in between. One thing they all have in common is that they have an idea of what they are wanting from their session, and it is always different. I would like to open a conversation about how the bodywork that I, and many others perform, can be much more than "just another massage." This is where some basic energetic/consciousness principles come into play.
Any experience we have is what we make of it and perfect for the moment we are in. We will never endure more than we can handle and the gifts we receive from even the worst of experiences are what make us the beautiful individuals that we are. It is when we allow these experiences to define us that lock us into different holding patterns that start to affect our lives in negative ways. Stress and injury can have a serious impact on how we make even the simplest of choices and live out our daily lives. What if it was possible to start shedding those definitions? What changes could we start to see? Sometimes being in wonder of a situation or outcome instead of defining it as part of you can be the exact catalyst needed for it to move on and stop the cycle you are in.
Do we really know what is possible for healing to take place in the body and mind? I personally do not think we do. There are many generalizations out there for how long certain injuries take to heal, as well as, a laundry list of ailments there is nothing we can do about. What I do know is that if you make it true for yourself, then it is. What if the next time you received bodywork, you opened up to the possibility that maybe everything you have been told about your ailment isn't true for you? If you are open to receiving more than thought possible, could you allow yourself to have it? I have seen miraculous things occur for clients who have been willing to experience a new possibility for their body and life by getting out of their definitions and judgements of themselves.
For me, as a therapist, I am constantly asking questions while performing my work. Sometimes they are out loud, looking for an answer and a way in. Sometimes they are to myself to get out of my own head. I am just as guilty of defining what I see as everyone else. One thing that sets me apart is that I am willing to see other possibilities as they show up and change my course if needed. If I get stuck in a diagnosis of one of my clients, it does not allow me to be open to seeing other things that could be what is actually going on with them. Many times simple coaching on how to let go can be the difference between a basic feel good session and a life changing experience.
So what does this mean for you and bodywork? The simple answer is, be sure to let your therapist know of what you are wanting out of your session and be open to whatever else may come of it. Also, be willing to know that your body is far more capable of healing than we ever thought possible and your bodywork experience could be far more profound.
Hello again! This week, a client asked me what the effect the technique I was using had on her muscles. I realized there is a lot of information on the benefits of massage out there but little in the way of what it is actually doing to the tissue. I am going to try to explain some simple principles most massage therapists rely on to gain all those great benefits so you can see that there is much more going on than just relaxation and stress relief. Without being too technical, I will talk about three commonly used techniques and why we use them.
The first technique people feel when receiving a massage is usually some sort of sliding or gliding movement. These strokes cover the entire body part being worked on, are usually rhythmical in nature, and used at the beginning and end of each body part. Initially, this technique is used to spread out our oil or lotion and begin warming the tissue. As the tissue warms, it gets more pliable, circulation increases, and we can feel the knots and tensions easier. This stroke is also an assessment technique to begin finding areas that may need more attention. One of the biggest benefits; however, is how this technique engages our nervous system. It starts to slow down our nerve impulses and gets us out of the "fight or flight" system and into the "rest and digest" system. Lastly, this movement is used to flush the tissue after more aggressive work. This is done in a toward the heart direction and can greatly reduce the soreness after a massage.
After warming the tissue, pressing or squeezing techniques are used. These are very slow or sometimes do not move at all. These are the techniques we use to go after those knots and pesky contractions that cause pain and dysfunction. When a muscle is in a contracted (flexed) state, matching its level of resistance can usually get it to start to relax. Sometimes it takes a few seconds, sometimes a few minutes. I like to look at it as causing it to work harder until it gives up. Most contractions causing pain are a reflex or guarding response to some sort of over-use or injury to the tissue. These techniques can disengage that reflex when used properly. Once the guarding response is stopped, easier, more efficient movement is possible.
The last technique I will talk about is passive and active movements. These are when your therapist stretches you, has you move on your own, or has you resist against something. Movement techniques are performed after the other techniques and are used to re-educate the muscles and nerves. When muscles are tight, they limit movement. The previous techniques break everything up and stop the contraction process. These movements allow the connective tissue to expand and shows the nerves that there is a new possibility for motion. They help the other work stick.
Many other techniques are used at different times depending on what we find in the tissue, but these are the big three. We even combine them at times. If you are ever wondering why or what your therapist is doing, don't be afraid to ask! We are usually more than happy to let you know what we are doing and why. I hope this helps shed a little light on what is going on in your tissue and muscles when you receive bodywork. Thanks for tuning in and Happy Holidays!!!!!!!!!!!!
"Be sure to drink plenty of water." "Some soreness may come out in the next couple of days." " Gotta flush out all those toxins." Ever here these things from your massage therapist? I have too. I have said them to many clients as well over the years. But lately, something different has started to come to mind when leaving a new (and regular) client with a to do list after a session. What if what happened after a massage was entirely up to you and your body? Why does relief have to include discomfort? Do you really need to drink plenty of water? Why do things hurt sometimes after a massage? I will try to answer these questions and give a description of what to expect after body work.
My clients always ask if they should drink plenty of water. I do think hydration is important, but it is just as important to be hydrated going in to receive a massage as it is to drink water afterward. There is flushing of the tissue that occurs during a massage and drinking plenty of water can help that process. My advice here is to just keep yourself hydrated at all times and you don't have to worry about increasing that after receiving body work. A good rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces a day. Simply put, if you are 150 pounds, drink at least 75 oz of water a day.
Soreness after a massage can be equated to soreness after working out. You are having your muscles manipulated manually and the deeper the massage, the longer the recovery can take. That being said, what you should feel is a tenderness in the tissue, but your movement should easier and more efficient. I also have clients tell me that they feel different sensations for brief periods that they were not expecting. For instance, they came in with a sore low back and after the session had some sort of twinge or soreness afterward in their hip or knee or shoulder, usually only lasting from a short few minutes to a day. This is usually because a change in structure has been made and the body is adapting and realigning itself to the new found freedom. This is a good way to see just how connected everything is and you should discuss these feelings with your therapist the next time you see them. If that soreness lasts longer than 3 or 4 days (in extreme cases) or it starts to turn into a real type of pain, contact your therapist and ask them about it. Many times, underlying issues can start to surface with bodywork and your massage therapist can direct you down the right path for your situation to continue the healing process.
Should you drink plenty of water? Yes. Always. Will you be sore? Maybe. It depends on the session and how adapted your body is to the work you are receiving. Finally, if you are ever concerned about anything you are feeling after a session, ask your body what it is requiring. You know your body better than any one else and it will tell you if you are will to listen to the subtleties. You can also ask your therapist or doctor for direction as well!
Thanks for reading! Please leave any comments or questions!
Nate Ewert, RMT
I was speaking with one of my clients this week about the amount of pain he feels regularly and how he tries to just deal with it. I wonder how many of us do that when we feel pain? Do we gain something from knowing that we can get through a certain amount of it? Is it a great point of conversation to relate to others? Is it real? Why is it there? Why is there so much fear around it? I think it is time for a different perspective and conversation about pain.
First of all, what is pain, really? Physiologically speaking, it is a combination of a slow electrical sensory nerve impulse combined with a chemical release that the brain interprets as "pain." In layman's terms it is an electrical warning system. Not so scary, is it? We quickly learn things that we need to protect ourselves from and it slowly develops into what we perceive as pain. What if it is a warning from our body, just like the check engine light in our car? How much fear comes into to you when that little light comes on? "OMG, what's wrong now? This is gonna cost me ton! I don't have time for this!" Usually this is really just a warning that needs a little attention and is not a big deal. Is it possible to be more aware of the other "warnings" in our body, before it has to get to pain? In most cases with my clients, they come to me with some sort of pain response that has them a little freaked out and we find it is some small mis-alignment in the tissue or movement that the body is saying "hey! look at me, some attention is needed here." Within a short amount of time, awareness is created and the pain is magically gone. And believe me, it is magic.
There is a little more to it than that though. You have to be willing to make the change so the signal stops. Ask yourself what value are you getting form your pain. This is a major step in really letting it go. I worked with a gentleman for two years and his pain did not get better until his settlement came in. Interesting, right? Have you held on to pain for any other reasons? Has it been an easy excuse for you to get out of making the changes you think you want? Or maybe you are just used to it and it is part of you. What ever the reason, it can be changed if you are willing to really look at the warning and stop trying to ignore it. Sometimes action is required to make change and body/energy work could be what you need.
I am probably asked four or five times a week how often someone should get a massage. The simple answer is "it depends." I am sure this question has been answered in many different ways, by many authorities, but I thought I could shed some light on the subject for all you real people out there. The first thing to do is figure out what your goals are for the massage. I see about three different, generalized categories of clients, and I am sure you will probably fit into one of them. The first are those who have an injury or chronic pain and are looking for relief and management. The second are athletes who use massage as part of their training routine. Lastly, some just enjoy the work and like to gift it to their bodies every once in a while. This blog will break down each of these categories and explain how often massage should be used.
For those of you with a nagging injury or want to improve posture the most important knowledge I can impart is that it takes time for the body to change and heal, which requires some investment on your part. The good news is that it is not much. I usually tell my new clients that after the first session they will notice improvement, but it usually takes 3-4 sessions to make a lasting change. For the best results, these should be completed within 7-14 days of each other. This allows the body to heal enough between sessions, but still have the effect of the previous session so the therapist does not have to back track. Once the goal is reached, sometimes maintenance is required. These sessions usually start about once a month and can spread out as far as 6 months or more.
Where my athletes at? This one is for you! Using massage as a part of a training regimen can boost your performance and shorten recovery between workouts. It doesn't matter what caliber of athlete you are, massage will help. For top athletes who train everyday for hours on end, usually once a week is good, right before the rest day. This gives the body time to let the massage sink in before the abuse starts again. (you know who you are and know what I am talking about.) For the rest of you weekend warriors, I recommend once or twice a month to tweak things here and there. These sessions should also be done before a rest day.
Lastly, for you lucky people who just want to enjoy the feel of your body being put through the ringer just because, get a massage as often as you like. I would not do it more than once a week, but hey, if it floats your boat, it won't really cause any harm as long as your therapist is cognizant of what they are doing and how often you are receiving body work.
Thanks for tuning in again! Hopefully you now have a better idea of how often you should receive a massage. Just know that it is always best to consult your therapist and if something doesn't sound right, it probably isn't. Always looking for more ideas to write about in the realm of massage. Please leave questions in the comments. Talk to you all soon!
I was recently speaking with one of my regular clients about an up coming sporting competition he is in and it came to me that many people, including him, do not realize the planning and technique that goes into performance based massage for athletes of any caliber. So, I thought I would make this blog about educating the public on what goes on behind the scenes of massage combined with a training schedule and why it improves performance. There are many types of athletes and training schedules out there, this is going to speak specifically to those who are training toward one big event like a marathon, triathlon, or obstacle race.
It is always best to give yourself at least 3 solid months of training before any event (if this is your first), and consulting with a massage therapist around this same time frame can lead to the best results come competition time. In the first stages of training, massage should be designed to improve efficiency of movement and speed up recovery time. These two elements allow you to train better and more frequently. Do not be afraid to give your therapist as much information as possible about how your body feels when training. How long into your run does your knee start to hurt? How many miles of cycling before the back fatigue comes? What spots bother you the most afterward? etc. Your therapist should be asking these questions also, but the more forward with info that you are the better. This information allows us to cater the session to exactly what your body requires to keep increasing your performance. We can also use it in combination with assessments and functional work to align your body so energy is not met with resistance, but used for propulsion.
This is only half of the consideration in the beginning phase of training. The other major part is looking to speed up recovery time. That soreness that settles in after the work out can be shortened with the right techniques. This will allow you to get out in the field again faster with less soreness to keep the training level up.
Most people peak in their training 2-4 weeks before their event and around this time, the massage techniques should also change. Everyone is different in how they respond to body work, so this part is entirely dependent upon the individual; however, within this time frame the massage should be focused on flushing out toxins and keeping the muscles loose and healthy. No more working to improve posture or change gait at this stage. Importance should be placed on maintaining fitness level and addressing minor pains as they come up not changing the way anything works.
Why should you use massage while training, you ask? Well, if the ability to move easier and train faster is not enough for you, there are some other benefits. Probably the best one that I have seen in my practice is the prevention and management of injury. In the beginning stages of training for anything, the body undergoes much more stress than it is used to. This can lead to soreness and injury. A knowledgeable therapist can use a multitude of techniques to assess and treat minor aches and pains from exercise and direct you in the right path if there is concern of a more serious issue. But, the bottom line is always performance. Keeping your muscles loose, healthy and running efficiently through their range of motion could be the difference between just barely making it across the finish line and exceeding your performance goals.