Monthly Archives: July 2013

Does Sports Massage Improve Performance or Recovery?

Many elite athletes consider sports massage an essential part of their training and recovery routine. Theses athletes report that a sports massage helps them train more effectively, improve performance, prevent injury, and recovery quickly. Historically, competitive and professional athletes have been some of the biggest users of sports massage. Today, a growing number of massage therapists offer therapeutic sports massage and many recreational athletes enjoy sports massage on a regular basis.

What is Therapeutic Sports Massage?
Therapeutic sports massage is a type of massage technique that focuses on treating soft tissue aches, pain and injuries that are associated with recreational activities. Massage can reduce muscle stiffness and improve relaxation by reducing heart rate and blood pressure.

While many athletes are convinced of the physical benefit of massage, research on its effectiveness is accumulating. Massage involves applying mechanical pressure to the soft tissues, and this is has been linked with improved muscle flexibility, increased range of motion in the joints, and decreased muscle stiffness.

Recently, researchers at McMaster University reported that deep massage after an intense workout actually causes muscles to enlarge and grow new mitochondria. Mitochondira, the powerhouses of our cells, are responsible for converting nutrients into useful energy.

For this study, the researchers had men to exercise to exhaustion on stationary bicycles. After the workout, the men had a Swedish-style deep-tissue massage on one leg for 10 minutes. Muscle biopsies were taken from one quadriceps muscle before and after the workout, and from both muscles immediately after a 10 minute massage of one leg, and again two and a half hours later. The deep-tissue massage increased the size and number of new mitochondria more than exercising without massage. Increasing mitochondria can improve endurance performance by increasing the rate that muscles can utilize oxygen.

The pressure of massage may also improve blood flow during the massage and increase muscle temperature. Massage reduces heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels. Most people report a feeling of pure relaxation, reduced anxiety, and improved mood as a result. Athletes may indeed find an edge in these psychological benefits.

For most athletes, enjoying less muscle stiffness and improving relaxation and well-being is reason enough to enjoy regular massage. But as research continues to grow on the real physical benefits of massage, more and more athletes will be taking advantage of this ‘feel-good’ training method.

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Post Partum Massage

Keck1005_N_2-7Finally! All your expectations, hopes and fears, of birthing your baby have come to pass. Regardless of your personal experience, your feelings about it flow directly into caring for your newbornYour body is now going through significant changes. This healing process includes a rapid reduction in uterine size. Cramping can be mild to severe and may reflect your birth experience. Your chest becomes enlarged, sore, and sensitive as the milk ducts go into production.

Your pelvic floor may be very sore from an episiotomy. In addition, your GI tract may fluctuate in reaction to the tremendous changes to your abdomen such as regained space.  

Your abdominal muscles now relax and are flaccid and hypotonic or toneless. If your rectus abdominus muscle has detached, you may feel especially weak when attempting to sit up.

The tremendous responsibility of caring for your newborn is at hand. Let yourself welcome support that is offered. Gently ask your family and friends to take care of you, so you may take care of your baby. 

Once the initial excitement is over, and family members go back home, many parents are literally on their own. Initially, this is more than likely welcomed as it gives the couple a chance to realize their new ‘family’ together and form their own rhythm as parents.

As The United States does not yet recognize the value of Dad being home the first few months of a child’s life, Mom may find herself alone for many hours a day.

It’s easy to feel like you have no other purpose than to change diapers and feed the baby, every two ours or so. Restful sleep becomes a vague memory and nerves can be stretched thin. In addition, you are still recovering from childbirth.

A whirlwind of emotions such as loss of identity, lonliess, insecurity, incapability, and abandonment may contribute to feelings of fear, resentment, anger, and isolation for some. Lack of support can lead to this situation which is a major contributing factor of Post Partum Depression. PPD is a very real and very common experience.

CORB1003Research has proven that mothers who massage their baby can reduce her feelings of depression.   Learn more here. In addition, regular massages for the mother reduce PPD symptoms. Forming supportive relationships with your spouse, family, and friends is very important. There are other women out there who know exactly how you feel because they are going through it themselves, or have been in your shoes before. Support groups for new moms can be a source of knowledge and compassion. Talking with other new moms can help you feel more confident. Just having a couple of friends can reassure you that you are not alone.

Regular massage during the Post Partum period is very beneficial to all women. Physical discomforts and symptoms are addressed, as well as your emotional state. Body, mind and soul are nurtured and rejuvenated, letting you be the best mom you can be.

Post Partum Massage may help in these ways: 

  • Re-establishes pelvis structural integrity
  • Supports healthy lactation
  • Reduces stress hormones
  • Facilitates the healing of bladder disorders, post-episiotomy soreness, and Cesarean Section
  • Relieves neck/shoulder/back  pain
  • Supports healthy emotional state

Sessions are scheduled weekly or bi-weekly for the first 12 weeks post partum. Infants can be nursed while your receiving massage in a side lying position. This eliminates the need for childcare.

 

You then continue visits every 3-4 weeks depending on your situation. Myofascial stretching of the scar tissue that forms after a Cesarean Section helps your scar support without restricting. Scar tissue can be worked as soon as it is healed.

Ron

Massage and Pregnancy – Prenatal Massage

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Therapeutic massage has been used for centuries to improve overall health, reduce stress, and relieve muscle tension. Massage and pregnancy has often received ambivalent responses from the health community regarding the safety and purpose of massage during pregnancy. Modern investigation and research is proving that prenatal massage therapy can be a very instrumental ingredient in women’s prenatal care and should be given careful consideration.

Massage and Pregnancy: Benefits of prenatal massage

Studies indicate that massage therapy performed during pregnancy can reduce anxiety, decrease symptoms of depression, relieve muscle aches and joint pains, and improve labor outcomes and newborn health.

Massage therapy addresses different needs through varying techniques, one of which is called Swedish Massage, which aims to relax muscle tension and improve lymphatic and blood circulation through mild pressure applied to the muscle groups of the body. Swedish Massage is the recommended prenatal massage method during pregnancy because it addresses many common discomforts associated with the skeletal and circulatory changes brought on by hormone shifts during pregnancy.

Hormone regulation

Studies done in the past 10 years have shown that hormone levels associated with relaxation and stress are significantly altered, leading to mood regulation and improved cardiovascular health, when massage therapy was introduced to women’s prenatal care. In women who received bi-weekly massages for only five weeks, hormones such as norepinephrine and cortisol (“stress hormones”) were reduced and dopamine and serotonin levels were increased (low levels of these hormones are associated with depression). These changes in hormone levels also led to fewer complications during birth and fewer instances of newborn complications, such as low birth weight. The evidence points strongly to maternal and newborn health benefits when therapeutic massage is incorporated into regular prenatal care.

Reduction of swelling

Edema, or swelling of the joints during pregnancy, is often caused by reduced circulation and increased pressure on the major blood vessels by the heavy uterus. Massage helps to stimulate soft tissues to reduce collection of fluids in swollen joints, which also improves the removal of tissue waste, carried by the body’s lymph system.

Improvement of nerve pain

Sciatic nerve pain is experienced by many women in late pregnancy as the uterus rests on muscles of the pelvic floor and lower back. The pressure of the uterus spreads tension to the muscles of the upper and lower leg, causing them to swell and put pressure on nearby nerves. Massage therapy addresses the inflamed nerves by helping to release the tension on nearby muscles. Many women have experienced significant reduction in sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy through regular massage.

Other potential benefits of prenatal massage:

  • Reduced back pain
  • Reduced joint pain
  • Improved circulation
  • Reduced edema
  • Reduced muscle tension and headaches
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Improved oxygenation of soft tissues and muscles
  • Better sleep

Massage and Pregnancy: Precautions for prenatal massage?

As with any therapeutic approach to pregnancy wellness, women should discuss massage with their prenatal care provider. The best way to address the risks of prenatal massage is to be informed and to work together with knowledgeable professionals.

Body position during prenatal massage

pregnancy massage2Many professionals consider the best position for a pregnant woman during massage is side-lying. Tables that provide a hole in which the uterus can fit may not be reliable and can still apply pressure to the abdomen, or allow the abdomen to dangle, causing uncomfortable stretching of the uterine ligaments. Consult your massage therapist before your first appointment to verify what position they place their clients in during the massage.

Women with the following conditions should speak with a health care provider prior to receiving a massage:

  • High risk pregnancy
  • Pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH)
  • Preeclampsia
  • Previous pre-term labor
  • Experiencing severe swelling, high blood pressure, or sudden, severe headaches
  • Recently gave birth

Pregnancy and Massage: Is prenatal massage safe throughout the entire pregnancy?

Women can begin massage therapy at any point in their pregnancy – during the first, second, or third trimester. Many facilities will refuse to offer massage to a woman who is still in her first trimester because of the increased statistics for miscarriage associated with the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Pregnancy and Massage: Prenatal Massage as part of Prenatal Care

The benefits of massage can improve overall prenatal health for many pregnant women. Along with the guidance and advice of a prenatal care provider, massage therapy can be incorporated into routine prenatal care as an emotional and physical health supplement proven to improve pregnancy outcome, and maternal health. Consult with your midwife or obstetrician before beginning any new therapeutic practice.

 

 

THE BENEFITS OF INFANT MASSAGE FOR BOTH PARENT AND CHILD

infant massage mom and babyAlthough infant massage therapy has been around for ages and is popular in other parts of the world such as India, it is quickly becoming more popular in the West.

As you might expect, the massage technique for infants is very different from massage for adults. It is a technique that allows parents to engage and relax their child in a mutually-pleasurable interaction.

It is not the massage therapist or the infant massage instructor who massages the infant or child, it is the parent or caregiver. In the field of infant massage, the parent is viewed as the primary source of interaction in the context of the infant’s life. As I’ve experienced myself, the dynamics of infant massage facilitate parenting skills, infant-parent interaction, bonding and attachment, and parents’ ability to read their babies’ cues.

Positive cues from the child may include eye contact, smiling, looking at the parent’s face, making babbling or cooing sounds, and smooth movements of the arms and/or legs. Negative cues may include pulling away, frowning or grimacing, turning the head away, arching the back, crying, squirming, and flailing movements of the arms and/or legs. Below we list some of the evidence-based benefits of infant massage.

1. Reduced Stress
Mom, dad and baby will de-stress during a massage session. Just like with adults, massaging a baby’s muscles helps to relax, calm, and soothe him. Through gentle massage techniques, coupled with soft music in the background and an overall tranquil state of mind for both caregiver and baby, it is likely that the adult will de-stress during this process also.

2. Preterm Infants
In a recent study, preterm infants exposed to daily stressors in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) showed reduced stress behaviors after massage therapy (December 2007 issue of Infant Behavior and Development). “Infants received three 15-min. massages administered at 9, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. each day for five consecutive days. The massages were started on a Monday and ended on Friday of the same week, for a total of 15 massages. The preterm infants received their massages from licensed massage therapists who were trained on a structured protocol.” The study concluded that even after such limited exposure of only five days, preterm infants “showed fewer stress behaviors from the first to the last day,” suggesting that the therapy “desensitizes the preterm infant to the stressful environment of the NICU, perhaps by enhancing longer periods of parasympathetic activity.” The study also suggests that over time, massage therapy has a stress-reducing or “pacifying effect” to infants.

3. Postpartum depression
UK study in 2002 showed the benefits of infant massage for mothers suffering with postpartum depression. Mothers with postpartum depression often have problems interacting with their infants. A small controlled study has shown that attending a massage class can help such mothers relate better to their babies. The mechanisms by which this is achieved are not clear but may include learning to understand baby’s cues and the release of oxytocin.

4. Multiple benefits for parents and primary care givers
The International Loving Touch Foundation (ILTF) is one of the first established training programs of infant massage in the world and is an accredited organization that provides resources and training in the field of infant massage. On their website they list the numerous benefits of infant massage for not only the infant, but for both parents and primary caregivers as well.

Benefits for parents and primary caregivers include:

  • Provides all of the essential indicators of intimate parent-infant bonding and attachment: eye-to-eye, touch, voice, smell, movement, and thermal regulation
  • Encourages pre-verbal communication between caregiver and infant
  • Helps parents feel more confident and competent in caring for their children
  • Provides parents with one-on-one quiet time or interactive play with their children
  • Increases parents’ self-esteem by reinforcing and enhancing their skills as parents and validates their role
  • Gives parents the tools for understanding their child’s unique rhythms and patterns
  • Teaches parents how to read their infants’ cues and recognize their states of awareness
  • Gives parents a special way to interact with their children who may be hospitalized. Helps parents feel a greater part of the healing process
  • Provides a positive way for fathers to interact with their infants/children

5. Variety of benefits for infants and young children

The ILTF also encourages parents that it’s never too late to begin massage. Whether you are expecting, or have a newborn or child who is several years old, massage can bring immediate and lasting results. Some of the benefits of massage for infants and young children include the following:

  • Provides a special time of communication that fosters love, compassion, and respect
  • Improves general well-being
  • Provides an intimate time for children to confide in parents
  • Improves overall functioning of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Promotes relaxation and helps babies self-regulate calm, which reduces crying
  • Helps to normalize muscle tone
  • Improves circulation
  • Enhances immune system function
  • Improves midline orientation
  • Helps to improve sensory and body awareness
  • Enhances neurological development
  • Helps baby/child to sleep deeper and more soundly
  • Helps to increase oxygen and nutrient flow to cells. Improves respiration
  • Helps to improve pain management; can relieve discomfort from teething,
  • Helps with congestion, gas, and colic
  • Enhances release of hormones in the body. The growth hormone can be stimulated which helps weight gain.
  • Reduces levels of cortisol, the stress hormone
  • Provides all of the essential indicators of intimate parent-infant bonding and attachment: eye-to-eye, touch, voice, smell, movement, and thermal regulation
  • Stimulates all of the physiological systems. Massage sparks the neurons in their brains to grow and branch out to encompass other neurons.

Trigeminal Neuralgia

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What is trigeminal neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia is nerve pain in the face, teeth, mouth, or nose. Attacks of pain may occur on one or both sides of the face. Trigeminal neuralgia is also called tic douloureux.

Trigeminal neuralgia occurs most often in women over age 40, although it may occur in men or women of any age.

How does it occur?

The causes are not well understood. The problem may result from:

irritation of nerves that sense pain and touch
multiple sclerosis
infection of the nerve by the herpes simplex virus.
An attack usually follows some sort of trigger. Possible triggers are:

a light touch to the area
brushing teeth
chewing or swallowing
exposure to hot or cold air or drinks.
What are the symptoms?

An attack of trigeminal neuralgia often brings severe stabbing or burning pain that comes in sudden jabs. The pain may last 1 to 15 minutes. The most common areas of attack are the cheeks and jaw. The frequency of the attacks varies from person to person. Between attacks, most people do not have pain, but some may have a dull ache.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history. He or she will examine you. Tests–for example, X-rays–may be needed to rule out other causes of pain, such as infections of the teeth or sinuses. You may have an MRI scan to check for multiple sclerosis or a tumor as a cause of the pain. Your provider may refer you to a neurologist or neurosurgeon for more tests.

How is it treated?

Anticonvulsant medicines, muscle relaxants, and antianxiety medicines may help to relieve pain.

If medicine does not give relief, you may consider surgery. Several surgical techniques are being used, including removing part of the nerve. If your provider suggests that surgery may be a good option for you, find a surgeon who is experienced in the procedure recommended for you.

After surgery, the affected area may be numb. The numbness may be temporary or permanent. If you no longer have feeling in that area, you must be very careful to watch for injuries or physical problems in that area such as:

burns
dry eyes (when the blink reflex has been lost)
chewing-related problems, including gum and other dental problems.
A newer treatment is radiation to the nerve. As radiation techniques have become more precise, it is possible to deliver radiation to just a small area of a nerve. You can ask if this treatment option is available in your area.

Some people may find pain is reduced or relieved by acupuncture, chiropractic adjustment, self-hypnosis, or meditation.

How long will the effects last?

The problem appears suddenly and may get better on its own. It may also disappear for months or years and then come back.

How can I help take care of myself?

Keeping a pain diary may help you to see which activities or conditions cause your pain. Then you will know what you need to avoid.

Treating pain at the very first symptom may keep it from becoming as severe, and the pain may last a shorter time.

How can I help prevent trigeminal neuralgia?

There are no known ways to prevent trigeminal neuralgia.

Massage and Fitness

It seems there are as many different fitness goals and regimens as there are people wanting to get fit. With all this diversity, it is not a surprise fitness sometimes appears to have a subjective definition. Here, we will take a look at various concepts that seem to compose the broader picture of fitness, and how each of these concepts can serve to improve one’s health and well-being.

One aspect of fitness that most people might be able to agree upon is the fact that a well-rounded fitness regimen often has a cardiovascular component. This means the fitness routine involves some sort of action that is designed to promote the health of one’s heart, lungs and circulatory system, also known as the cardiovascular system.

Typically, a cardiovascular fitness routine will involve such actions as running, jogging, walking, bicycling, jumping rope, spending time on the elliptical machine and so on. These are all actions that can boost cardiovascular fitness by giving the heart and lungs a workout on a regular basis.

Another common aspect of fitness is a muscle-building, and perhaps fat-burning, component. Usually, this piece of a fitness regimen involves engaging in weight-bearing activities, such as lifting weights or working with your own body weight to provide resistance. The goal here often involves building more lean muscle mass, while at the same time getting rid of body fat.

In some fitness circles, however, there is a belief it is best to do either one or the other—burn fat or build muscle. Sometimes, people will focus their fitness on burning fat or building muscle first, then turn their attention to the other fitness goal.

Perhaps a less obvious aspect of fitness is massage therapy.

Massage therapy comes in as the rest-and-healing side of a fitness routine, which should be viewed as equally important as the intense activity one pursues in the name of fitness. In fact, massage seems to become even more important the more active a person is in his or her fitness pursuits.

The reason massage therapy plays such an important role in fitness is because it can help the body heal and recover from the stress imposed by regular workouts of all kinds. When people make massage therapy a core component of their fitness regimens, they are taking powerful measures to prevent overuse injuries and ensure they can continue to participate in their favorite fitness pursuits.

Without adequate rest and recovery time, which massage therapy provides, people who engage in physically intense activity on a regular basis may not be allowing their own bodies to heal and recharge to full capacity. This means there may be a greater risk of injury and also a decreased level of performance.

Whether your fitness regimen involves cardiovascular efforts, resistance training or a combination of both, be sure to weave in the condensed dose of rest and recovery massage therapy provides. With massage as a key piece of your fitness routine, you may be more likely to avoid injury and reach your fitness goals faster.

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