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How Massage Can Enhance Your Fitness Performance

Did you know that most professional athletes use therapeutic massage to enhance thier performance potential?

Weather you are a professional athlete, a sport and fitness enthusiast, or a weekend warrior including regular therapeutic massage as part of your fitness plan is an intelligent decision.  A complete wellness plan includes not only an exercise and dietary plan, but caring for the wear-and-tear and minor injuries that naturally occur with movement is necessary.  Therapeutic Massage is the ideal compliment to a total fitness plan. 

Here are some of the facts:

  • Improves flexibility, muscle tone, and agility, if muscles can lengthen and contract efficiently they can perform better and are at a lower risk for injury. 
  • Improves circulation of blood, which means more oxygen and nutrients to organs, muscles and other soft tissues for optimum functioning and tissue repair.
  • Flushes toxins out of muscles and tissue that accumulate due to intense demands place on musculature.  Removing these toxins will reduce muscle soreness, and decrease training pain.  This can help you be more consistent with workouts, sport activities, and life.
  • Faster recovery from injury, massage can break up adhesions and scar tissue from injuries, then milks out the waste products of the repair process and finally bring in nutrients for the healing process.  Faster recovery means your back in action sooner.
  • Improves body awareness, the body is an amazing finely tuned organism, receiving massage can give insight to what needs attention for preventative measures.  Taking a proactive approach to wellness can reduce injuries/health issues and save time and money on medical expenses.
  • Improves sleep, massage can facilitate deep relaxation states, which can help improve quality of sleep.
  • Improves the immune systems function to keep you healthy.
  • Decreases the effects of stress. Understanding that stress can be a factor in disease processes such as heart disease, cancer, and strokes.  Massage will stimulate the nervous system creating a relaxation response, which can circumvent the effects of stress. 
  • Improves emotional well-being and quality of life.

 

How do I get started?

Find qualified therapists in your area is first, then make some phone calls, have a conversation and express your needs and your goals. Be sure the therapist understands what you are looking for and that they have the skills to address them. Once you have found someone you are comfortable with then book with them. If you like their work and like the results you are getting, look at your calendar and figure out what times and days work for you and book your appointments out. You will be more likely to keep your appointments once they are booked at your optimal time, then if your are scheduling at your therapists’ convenience. The key to getting the most out of massage is consistency. The effect of massage are cumulative and will pay off with improved performance and quality of life.

If your body could talk what would it say to your partner?

Rekindle… Restore… Reconnect

My name is Linda Addario.  I attended the Center for Natural Wellness School of Massage Therapy over 16 years ago, and have been practicing massage ever since.   For me being in massage school was the big aha moment of, oh this is what I am supposed to be doing, and there was no looking back!  I enjoy my practice and my clients.  Often time I meet a new potential client and help them with whatever pain or discomfort has brought them to massage, and they stay my client for years.  I still see people that were my first clients.  You can image the relationships that evolve in a similar way of hairstylists and bartenders.   My intention has been to create a safe no-judgement space where people can really relax, open and heal.  Often, people will talk about their lives and what is on their minds.  I have often joked, coming to my office is like going to Las Vegas.  What happens here, stays here, like a vault.  That being said, I will share a common comment:  I wish my husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/partner could do this for me.  Mind you what I do has no sexual implications.  Which got me thinking about how I could help bridge the gap.  For years, I have pondered the possibility of couples massage class, not meant to replace the professional therapeutic massage, but to be used as a tool.

Let’s talk about touch between partners.  Touch is the first sense that we develop and it’s required for healthy development psychologically, emotionally and socially.   Research has demonstrated that America is a low touch culture (Mead, 1955).  In fact, American infants and children are the least touched on earth (Heller, 1997). That being said, where does that leave us when we are in the world seeking connection?  

Living isolated lives leaves us touch hungry, even if we do not consciously recognize this reality. This touch hunger often extends into a feeling of isolation in our relationships.  With many relationships today, we might only see our partner at the end of our fast-paced daily lives. By that point in the day, quite often each person’s head is spinning with the stress from work, family and economic uncertainties.  Tension creeps into our minds and our bodies, leaving us feeling alienated from ourselves and others.  Consequently, touch is the last thing on our minds.  

Now let’s consider the possible benefits of touch or massage.  Science has shown that with massage chemicals are released in the body that can impact our bodies significantly.  Massage can decrease the release of stress hormones such as cortisol (this stuff can make it hard to lose weight), norepinephrine, and epinephrine (think fight or flight response), while increasing serotonin and dopamine levels (think feel good hormones). The shift in these bio-chemicals has been proven to decrease depression (Field, 1998, 2003). It also enhances the immune system by increasing natural killer cells and killer cell activity, thus helping the body maintain its defense against pathogens (Field, 1998). Hence, touch is good medicine!

Many couples have tried to share massage and touch, only to be met with disappointing complaints that they are too rough, or go too fast.  Many men have commented their partner isn’t strong enough, or complain their hands get tired, or that they don’t know what they’re doing.  There is also nothing great about someone who thinks rubbing a boney part is massage.  Hint: Massage is for muscles - so stay on the soft spongy parts!  

All that being said, the great thing with massage is that once you get some of the logistics down and begin to enjoy the process of giving and receiving, the magic seems to happen.  Space is created, that first touch happens, bodies relax, you both breathe, massage continues and the story unfolds - be the witness!  What happens in life, manifests in the body, especially when it’s not the ideal fairy tale ending.  Take this time to be kinder than is necessary.   The body has memory, touch has the power to heal and help remind us of who we really are.  Show up, do the work, enjoy the rewards! 

 

WTF is Muscle Hygiene?

 

 

What is muscle hygiene you may be wondering? 

 

You are probably familiar with the concept of dental hygiene.  Same idea just with your muscles and soft tissue. 

 

Many people put a lot of wear and tear on their bodies in their day to day living and often do not take the time for repair and recovery.  If you are an athlete, have a job that requires repetitive movements, put high output demands on your body daily, even people who sit at a computer all day, this constant use and abuse to your muscles and soft tissue requires maintenance, repair and recovery to keep up with life. 

 

So, let’s go back to the dental hygiene concept.  Firstly, as we use our muscles just like our teeth when we eat and drink; they get dirty, we bush, we floss, daily.  Our muscles are the same, they are used daily; metabolic waste is created, restriction happens, muscles get tight, spasms can occur.  These things require maintenance, or muscle hygiene. 

 

When left unaddressed these issues can lead to inflammation, tendonitis, bursitis, joint dysfunction, arthritis, joint replacements and general immobility due to pain or discomfort.  Sounds dramatic, but think about it, if we don’t practice good regular oral care; it can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, tooth loss, dentures and poor health.  It’s the same with our muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and joints. 

 

What we can do on a daily basis?  Integrating good hydration habits, regular stretching (no one ever became limber in one 10 second stretch, it’s a cumulative process), self-massage techniques (more on all that in other blogs) and just like you go for those teeth cleanings, you need to schedule regular massage.  For most people once per month is sufficient.  If you have a soft tissue issue that is more acute, you may need appointments closer together in the beginning (commonly once week).  As your injury or issue heals, gets healthier and you are getting treatment to treatment pain free you can extend the length of time between appointments.  Ultimately, we are looking for that place where you start to feel tight and not quite achy, but if you went longer you would start feeling limited with your movement.  This is your body’s rhythm.  It is my experience that everyone’s body has a rhythm.  You may only know that feeling after getting massage consistently.  Usually it takes about 3 sessions.  You will become aware of the feeling of relaxed muscles, a feeling of length and freedom/ease of movement.  Clients report, “I feel taller” or “I needed to readjust my rear-view mirror” or a feeling of “airy-ness” or “I feel so light”.

 

Postpartum Massage

 

As Mother’s Day is nearing, I am thinking about my own mother and motherhood as a whole.  I am a dog-mom and have never had a human child, the closest experience I can to relate to having children, was caring for my parents in their end of life process.  It is amazing how we really changed roles, Children really do become the parent and parents become the children.  Most things I did on a daily basis were with their welfare in mind.  This went on for more than a year, nothing I had done before could have prepared me for what I experienced.  In hindsight, there were many things I could have put in place to support the process.

 

In my massage practice I have worked with many pregnant clients all through and up close to delivery time.  I have even been in a few delivery rooms to help reduce the discomfort and pain of delivery.  What screams to me is that after the baby is born all self-care and support seems to stop, understandably, there is a new life and a small helpless being whose every need depends on Mom.  It’s like a woman goes into the hospital to have her baby and the doctors and nurse help with the birthing process and when that is over, in some cases a day or two later, the baby is handed over to the new parents and it’s like here you go, good luck… and then life begins!

 

I have gotten panicked calls from friends who are 3 months post-delivery and up to their eyeballs in child care, in tears, stating “can I give him back”, “I didn’t sign-up for this”.  As the supportive friend I have talked them down from the preverbal ledge, however, what postpartum Mom’s need is help and a break!  Self-care goes out the window and there is very little support for her.  In this day and age, we as women are expected to take care of everyone including ourselves at the expense of ourselves.  Where does this leave a new Mom who is doing some of the most important work there is to do, raise a child which is our future as a human race, when she is physically, emotionally and spiritually depleted?

 

As a massage therapist wanting to learn how to support women with massage, I have researched about other cultures and how they care for women after delivering a baby.  In Asia and India women are actually cared for by family and friends.  Granted their lifestyles are also very different from the isolated American lifestyle.  New Moms are supported by their own mothers as well as extended family and friends.  They are allowed to rest and massage is very much a part of the healing process.  If there is not family or even if there is, they can hire what is called (I’m loosely translating) an actual ‘nurse maid’ whose job it is to support the healing process of the new Mom.

 

All this being said, postpartum massage can be an important, effective and holistic approach for the healing process and the many adjustment of being a new mother. 

 

Massage is well-known for its health benefits; such as relaxation and pain relief.  However, specific support for a new Mom includes: hormone regulation, better sleep, improved breast feeding, recovery from giving birth, reduces swelling, increased healing.

 

 

  • Relaxation, Stress Reduction

Massage can help relax muscles, improve circulation, and decrease stress hormones. After nine months of creating, carrying and delivering one of the greatest miracles of life, a new Moms’ body would certainly benefit from a little pampering and perhaps a little deeper work to get some of those knots out. Improved Circulation moves metabolic waste products out and bring fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients to tissue for improved healing.

 

  • Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

Depression, anxiety and “the mommy blues” respond well to skilled massage therapy.It is not uncommon for new moms to experience postpartum depression, anxiety or the blues due to hormonal changes, new responsibilities and adjustments to a new normal.Postpartum depression is a longer lasting condition that affects 10-15% of new mothers.You may need to enlist the assistance of a health care practitioner as well for postpartum depression.Research as shown massage to be very beneficial in treating all these conditions.

 

  • Pain Relief

After child birth there can be residual pain, discomfort and body aches, which are all normal.Add in breastfeeding and childcare and shoulder, back, neck, arm and hand pain can increase substantially.Massage can relieve these issues without medication as not to interfere with breastfeeding.

 

  • Hormone Regulation

Massage can greatly improve postpartum hormone regulation.Estrogen and progesterone levels drop after delivery, prolactin and oxytocin rise to facilitate breastfeeding, cortisol levels rise due to stress, all can be helped with massage.Massage can also positively affect the hormones that contribute to depression and the “mommy blues”.

 

  • Decreased Swelling

During pregnancy often times there is a great deal of fluid retention and weight gain.The body fluids need to find a balance after delivery.Massage can improve circulation and lymphatic flow which will help the body to reduce swelling and rebalance hormones which also affect fluid retention.Good hydration is necessary for the healing process and breastfeeding however massage can assist the body with rebalancing.

 

  • Improved Sleep

After delivery and with new responsibilities of child care, new moms are exhausted.Quality sleep is important.Massage can increase the brainwaves that promote quality sleep.This is why it is not uncommon to fall asleep during massage.Quality sleep is important for recovery, hormone balancing, returning to pre-pregnancy weight and having a better mental state for handling new responsibilities.

 

 

  • Improved Breastfeeding

Studies show that massage increases prolactin levels, prolactin is a hormone that stimulates lactation.Additionally, relaxes the body, relieves shoulder, arm and neck pain.New research as shown that breast massage can decrease breast pain and tenderness associated with breastfeeding; as well; reduces sodium content of breast milk which can improve newborn suckling.You will need to talk to your licensed massage therapist about receiving this work.

 

When can a new Mom Start Massage?

You may start receiving massage as soon as you feel comfortable to get massage.  Any position on the massage table should be comfortable for you, if not discuss it with your therapist and they will be able to reposition you, use pillows or towels to create a comfortable and relaxing experience. 

 

Can I bring my Baby?

It is ideal to find someone you trust to leave your baby with.  It's important to get some "me time", difficult though it may seem. Here are some things you could try. 

 

  • Ask for help.  Ask your husband, mother, mother-in-law, or any other trusted family member to look after your little one while you get a massage.  Knowing that someone responsible is looking after your little one will help you relax. The last thing you want to do while getting a massage is worry!

 

  • Schedule ahead and pick the right time. Try to have your massage just after you have fed and changed your little one. If all their needs are met, you are more likely to find an hour or two in which your baby does not ask for you. It will then also be easier to leave him with another family member or trusted caregiver a while.

 

  • Talk to you practitioner.  If all the above suggestions fail, talk to your therapist about bringing your baby.  Some practitioner will support a little visitor to your session.  Adjustments can be made to your session to accommodate your newborns needs.  Again, it is extremely important to have this discussion with your practitioner before your appointment, extra time may be needed in order to support your needs.

 

 

Postpartum after care and massage therapy

 

Massage can not only improve the recovery time but the quality of recovery for many women.  Together with the solid guidance of your health care provider and a qualified massage practitioner you can enter into the new role of motherhood with as much ease and grace as possible. 

 

 

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