Tag Archives: Stress Reduction

What is Firm Swedish?

The other night at work an Esthetician asked me “What is Firm Swedish?”

One of my massage therapist coworkers was in the break room with us at the time and turned to hear my response…

I began to try and explain that it is a Swedish Massage with a firmer pressure, then I said “ok, realistically it is a gentle  Deep Tissue because Deep Tissues by definition is accessing the deeper layers of the muscles instead of just the superficial ones and I have no idea why we even bother muddying the waters with all the various terms we use.”

My coworkers eyes widened and she said “You are right, Swedish is gentle and relaxing, its not supposed to be firm pressure.”

Firm Swedish is for people wanting more of a Deep Tissue therapeutic effect without the pain or discomfort often associated with Deep Tissue massage

In all honestly there is not a lot of difference between the stokes, moves, and methods that I would use during a Firm Swedish Massage and the ones that I would use for someone asking for Deep Tissue.

In fact many of the Firm Swedish massages that I do end up being Deep Tissue work and some of the Deep Tissue work that I do ends up being more of a Firm Swedish depending on the need and tolerance level of my client.

Pressure is subjective!

We then discussed how all these words “Firm” “Deep” “Light” and “Medium”  are all subjective and vary widely  from not only the clients but the therapists as well.

One client’s idea of medium pressure is another client’s idea of deep, some say light when they really want medium, and some say light when they want feather light pressure.

My idea of light may be too light for some or too heavy handed for others, each persons perception of pressure is different and each therapists idea of pressure is different.

I find its easier if the client says something like “I want results but I don’t want to be put in pain” or “really go to town on those shoulders” or “please no elbows” to give me a better idea of what it is they are seeking. Communication is always the key to getting the massage experience that you desire.

Deep Tissue Massage Does not have to be painful!

If you search the internet about Deep Tissue massage you will find that page after page all state “Deep Tissue does not have to be painful to be effective.”

Unfortunately many people believe in the “no pain no gain” concept, this includes many Massage Therapists.

The idea that you have to tolerate a painful session because “you really need this” is not correct. If you are wincing, flinching, or tensing up then your muscles are not going to be able to relax and it may be counter productive to the goal of getting your muscles to loosen up.

Of course there will be people who will argue that point and say that the muscles will feel better after two or three days because of the painful deep pressure, that too is valid in the fact that eventually the muscle will tire and weaken and the result will be less tension due to the muscle exhaustion.

That being said there have been cases of injuries from Deep Tissue massage, there is a point where too much is too much. There is  also a condition called Rhabdomyolysis or Rhabdo for short that can result from muscle crush injuries.

Muscles store myoglobin, when too much myoglobin is released into the body it can become toxic when it reaches the kidneys. This is one of the main reasons why you should drink plenty of water following a massage to help flush that away.

Release of Myoglobin from massage has been found in a study to reduce the pain and discomfort of myofascial pain syndromes with surprisingly positive results:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3462906

A positive correlation was found between the degree of muscle tension and pain, and the increase in plasma myoglobin concentration. After repeated massage treatment a gradual decline in the increase in plasma myoglobin concentration could be demonstrated parallel to a reduction in the muscle tension and pain.

So  there is definitely benefit to getting Deep Tissue massage for people with muscle pain, the same can be said for Firm Swedish which is simply another form of Deep Tissue therapy.

We can honestly only go so deep

There are times when we get a client who wants the deepest, hardest, and most painful massage that we can possibly give them.

For whatever reason that client feels the need to have it hurt, whether it is because they believe it will be more effective or because they cannot quite feel how much pressure is actually being given I am not sure.

When a client is clearly seeking a sensation of pain we do our best to try and use pressure points to provide them the sensation they seek without causing damage to the muscles  tissues and bony structure, however, there are times when we simply cannot go any harder or any deeper.

In closing, to sum things up…

Firm Swedish is simply a more gentle form of Deep Tissue Massage. Deep Tissue Massage does not have to be painful to be effective.  Areas that are more tense may be a bit painful but it should be a “good hurt” and not a “bad hurt” or overly painful experience.

Whatever it is you are seeking from your massage experience it is best to communicate your needs, concerns, and areas that you want to address as well as areas that are more sensitive to you so that we can offer you the massage experience and effect that you are seeking.

Yours in Health and Wellness,

Kristeen Smart aka Kristeen Kish

CAMTC Certified Massage Therapist

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinteresttumblr

Cortisol, the “Evil” Stress Hormone

Cortisol and weight gain:

The other night I was having a conversation with a client who is struggling to lose weight and she stated that her cortisol levels are too high. This is a common problem for many of us.

As she and I were talking I realized that cortisol has its benefits

I got to thinking about why our cortisol rises, situations in which we might need what that hormone has to offer us. What is it about stress that would cause this need for a hormone that stores fat and keeps us awake at night? SURVIVAL!

I laughed and said to my client “Skinny people do not make it on Survivor” she laughed and agreed, yes that fat storage has its place in times of great physical stress such as famine, drought, and threat to our psychical survival.

Why does our body react to emotional stress the same way it would physical danger?

Our bodies cannot distinguish between a physical threat of harm and an emotional one, to the body it is all the same, your mind perceives ALL STRESS as if you are in danger and must prepare to survive, it really is that simple.

Lets take a look at the Pros and Cons of this “evil” hormone:

The following article has a lot of information on cortisol and its physical effects on the body http://www.fitness4her.com/the-pros-and-cons-of-cortisol-the-key-to-fighting-belly-fight/

Cortisol is a hormone in the body that is secreted by the adrenal glands and provides for the following functions:

  • Proper glucose metabolism

  • Regulation of blood pressure

  • Insulin release for blood sugar maintenance

  • Immune function

  • Inflammatory response

  • A quick burst of energy in times of fight or flight.

  • Heightened memory functions.

  • Boosts the immune system.

  • Lowers sensitivity to pain.

  • Helps to maintain homeostasis in the body.

Often referred to as the stress hormone because of the high levels of cortisol released in the bloodstream when the body is enduring a great amount of stress, too much cortisol can cause problems with your health such as:

  • Increased belly fat which is associated with a greater amount of health problems.

  • Impaired cognitive performance.

  • Suppressed thyroid function.

  • Blood sugar imbalances like hyperglycemia.

  • Decreased bone density.

  • Decreased muscle tissue.

  • High blood pressure.

  • A lowered immune system.

  • Higher levels of cholesterol.

In the first list you will see that it helps to maintain homeostasis, regulates blood sugar, improves immune response and other things that are beneficial to survival. The second list are the unfortunate side effects of cortisol when it is not needed for survival.

So how do we minimize cortisol resulting from stress?

The article goes on to describe several ways to help minimize the negative effects of cortisol:

The key to keeping cortisol production at a healthy level is relaxation.  As a matter of fact, proper rest is vital to the body’s well being. Getting 8 hours of sleep rather than 6 can mean a reduction in cortisol of up to 50%. Other ways of reducing cortisol are:

  1. Meditation and prayer can cut cortisol by as much as 20%.

  2. Listen to some of your favorite music to cut cortisol by nearly 65%. Fill your iPod with some new tunes and take a walk to lower stress and reduce belly fat.

  3. Sip black tea. As it turns out, enjoying an afternoon tea has many health benefits such as reducing cortisol by about 45%.

  4. Attend church or other religious service and reduce cortisol by 25%.

  5. Do something nice for someone to reduce cortisol levels by 20%.

  6. Go for a massage. Let a professional work out the kinks of built up stress and stiffening of the muscles. It can reduce cortisol levels by 30%.

  7. Hang out with a fun loving friend. Someone you can laugh with and enjoy your time with, you’ll reduce cortisol by up to 39%.

  8. Have a romp in the bed with your lover. Increased stress and cortisol can boost your sex drive, so why not take advantage and enjoy some love-making, you’ll reduce stress and cortisol levels, while burning about 70 calories in about 30 minutes.

  9. Exercise regularly. By maintaining your exercise program, you’ll regulate cortisol levels and reduce stress and help to lower blood pressure.

  10. Put stress in its place. Life’s challenges are sure to follow us but we can take charge of how we handle them and not let them control us. Enjoy life and preserve your health and happiness.

In Summary:

Cortisol is necessary for human survival, unfortunately stress can trick the body into believing it is under physical threat causing it to produce more cortisol than is needed. Meditation, massage, exercise, and learning to control your stress can help you to reduce cortisol naturally.

Yours in Health and Wellness,
Kristeen Smart AKA Kristeen Kish
CAMTC Certified Massage Therapist

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinteresttumblr

Postpartum Massage

Recently I massaged a woman who was only two weeks postpartum

My first thought was about her comfort and I offered her a breast cushion, my next thought was about precautions post pregnancy…

In my last post I wrote about prenatal massage and the changes experienced in pregnancy. Following child birth some of those same conditions still apply.  Relaxin, the hormone that loosens ligaments is still present and can remain present in the body up to four months after discontinuing breast feeding, so her joints, especially the SI joints may still be causing her discomfort. The coagulating hormones that poses a risk for deep vein thrombosis during pregnancy may still be present for up to four weeks or more following child birth so deep tissue work is not advised during that time and specifically to be avoided on the back of her legs.

The client may be positioned prone (face down) at this time but if she has had a cesarean section it is advisable for her to wait until after the scars have healed and to speak with her physician before getting massage and to seek her doctors approval before having any abdominal massage work.

The following article by the American Pregnancy Association highlights the Many Benefits of postnatal massage

Postpartum Massage

The Benefits Of Postpartum Massage

Postpartum massage has been shown to be effective for a quicker recovery and better health. Integration of maternal bodywork may add welcome value to your healing journey and transition to motherhood.

Relaxation and Stress Reduction

Massage relaxes muscles, increases circulation and lowers stress hormones, bringing relaxation and stress relief. All body systems appreciate treatment after nine months of change, culminating with the delivery of the greatest miracle in life.

Some women prefer lighter pampering massage while others enjoy deeper techniques to work out the knots. Adding myofascial release and craniosacral therapy reaches deeper into the body for more complete healing. Any of these massage styles will bring relaxation and stress reduction.

Anxiety and depression respond very well to skilled therapy. About two-thirds of new moms experience temporary postpartum blues related to hormonal changes, new responsibilities and adjustment frustrations. Emotional support and the other benefits of massage can help during this transition.

Postpartum depression is a more serious, longer-lasting condition that affects 10-15% of mothers. Studies show massage to be beneficial for treating postpartum depression. Don’t hesitate to consult healthcare providers for assistance, including a postpartum body worker.

Pain Relief

Residual body aches from pregnancy are normal. Adding breastfeeding and childcare can intensify arm, shoulder and back pain. Massage is an effective holistic approach that relaxes muscles and relieves pain without medication. A skilled therapist may also resolve even associated numbness and tingling. Chronic or severe pain may require multiple sessions for resolution.

Hormone Regulation

Massage greatly improves postpartum hormone balance. Estrogen and progesterone hormone levels are very high during pregnancy and decrease after delivery. Prolactin and oxytocin hormone levels rise to facilitate breastfeeding. Studies indicate that massage reduces the stress hormone cortisol. Certain essential oils may also bring hormone and mood balance.

Massage also reduces naturally occurring biochemicals associated with depression (dopamine and serotonin) and cardiovascular problems (norepinephrine), supporting Mom with the challenges of motherhood.

Decreased Swelling

Body fluids need to find balance after pregnancy, in which there was an increase of about 50% in fluid volume. Massage increases circulation and lymphatic drainage to facilitate elimination of excess fluids and waste products. Tissue stimulation assists your body to shift water to the right places.

Swelling is also affected by hormones, which go through major changes after delivery. Massage helps hormone regulation, which also decreases swelling (see Hormone Regulation). Continue your high fluid intake for healing and lactation, even though you may still have swelling.

Better Sleep

Most new moms feel exhausted after labor and delivery, complicated with around-the-clock baby care. Massage will ease the fatigue, promote relaxation and assist with sleep. Studies have shown an increase in delta brain waves (those that accompany deep sleep) with massage therapy.

That is why it is very common to fall asleep during a massage. Getting enough sleep is key to postpartum recovery. Everything improves when you feel rested! Arrange some help and get regular massages for better rest and sleep. One study correlated better sleep with losing the baby fat on the tummy!

Improved Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is a beautiful gift to your newborn, but can also be a challenge for some moms. Massage therapy relaxes the body, increases circulation and increases milk production. Studies show that massage increases prolactin levels, a lactation hormone.

Relaxation in the chest muscles opens the shoulders and improves lactation. New research indicates that breast massage helps relieve breast pain, decreases breast milk sodium and improves newborn suckling. Consult with your therapist about this service as work directly on the breasts may not be legal in some areas.

Her level of comfort and tolerance are as much a concern post pregnancy as they were when she was pregnant.

If at any time she feels uncomfortable with the position, pressure, or duration of the massage be prepared to make accommodations for her.

Her breasts may be tender, swollen, or engorged with milk and it is possible that she may experience a let down of her milk (leaking) during the massage. There is no risk associated with contact with breast milk.

She may be exhausted and sleep soundly through the massage, allow her to fully relax and enjoy the experience.

Yours in Health and Wellness,
Kristeen Smart AKA Kristeen Kish
CAMTC Certified Massage Therapist

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinteresttumblr

Prenatal Massage

Last night I had two back to back prenatal massages, one only a week until her due date followed by one only 16 weeks pregnant.

The first one, oh so beautiful in her last trimester but so ready to finally go into labor soon. She had never had a prenatal massage before, she loved it and she wished that she had been getting massages throughout her entire pregnancy.

The second, so very happy to be pregnant following a partial hysterectomy and just coming into the discomforts of her changing body.

Both of these women are first time mommies and it is such a joy to have the opportunity to give these women the benefit of a relaxing and therapeutic massage.

Her Changing Body:

When a woman is pregnant her body is in a constant state of change in preparation for the birth process. A hormone called Relaxin loosens ligaments and the SI joints to help widen the pelvis. This can sometimes lead to low back and SI discomfort.

It is also not uncommon for women to experience sciatica in later stages of pregnancy as her changing body and the pressure of her baby can irritate the sciatic nerve.

A woman’s body also produces hormones that effects the clotting factor to prevent her from losing too much blood when giving birth. Because of that we do not use deep tissue on the back of a pregnant woman’s legs as she is more prone to blood clots at this time.

In later stages of pregnancy she may experience swelling of the feet and legs, but if that swelling is mostly on one side that can be an indication that there may be some problems and that should be addressed with her doctor.

She may become more off balance as her body is changing and she may also experience some dizziness when getting up from a resting position, so it is important for her to be careful when getting off of the massage table or out of bed.

How Massage Can Help:

  • Reduces muscle and joint discomfort
  • Provids needed relaxation
  • Improve sleep
  • Help minimize foot and leg swelling
  • Improves circulation
  • Help move lymphatic fluids
  • Minimizes anxiety and stress

Contraindications and Precautions:

Hot stone therapy and aroma therapies are often avoided at this time as they can effect blood pressure and in some cases can effect hormone levels.

Some use of aromatherapy have been shown to be safe during pregnancy  (such as lavender oil) but due to the highly concentrated nature of essential oils it is often suggested that aromatherapy should be avoided at this time and avoided all together in the first trimester.

High risk pregnancies such as preeclampsia or a history of blood clots should avoid getting massage until after delivery.

Many therapists may refuse to massage a woman in her first trimester because that is a time in which miscarriages are most common and it is always best to be cautious.

In the second trimester it is not uncommon to do some of the massage supine (face up) as long as the client is still comfortable laying on her back, but by the third trimester the massage needs to be done in the side lying position.

Pregnancy massage cushioning systems are sometimes used by some therapists and spas in the second and part of the third trimester, but if at any time the client feels uncomfortable it is always best to perform the massage side lying.

Always remember that if at any time you or your client feel uncomfortable in any way about the massage it is always better to err on the side of caution.

Yours in Health and Wellness,
Kristeen Smart AKA Kristeen Kish
CAMTC Certified Massage Therapist

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinteresttumblr