Saturday, May 28, 2011

My Blog Has Moved!

My blog has moved to!  This is my main website, and now an updated one-stop-shop for info about me, online booking, and my blog.

Stay tuned later this year, when has an online store!

Thanks for following me.  Looking forward to seeing you at my blog's new location.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

I'm Moving! (My Blog, That Is)

For those of you who have been reading my blog, thank you!  It turns out that my website ( has been lonely and my blog is going to move in to keep it company.

What does that mean?  (Has he gone mad?)

My blog is soon going to be part of my website, so if you're following it, you'll need to change your bookmark when it moves.  My website will then be the Grand Central of Patrick Smith, LMT.  (And a store is coming later this year where you will be able to purchase products and services, including gift certificates!)

I'll send out the official moving cards in the next week or so with the new address once it's live.  In the meantime, thanks for following me!

What other topics would like me to write about?  I'm happy to serve.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Go Ahead and Sleep

There's nothing like getting a great massage.  But the next thing you know it, you're waking up and it's over!  Where did my massage go???

Many of my clients fall asleep on the table, and it's truly okay to fall asleep during a massage.  Your body still gets the full benefit of increased circulation, a boost to the immune system, and other benefits.

And if you're falling asleep on the table, you probably need it.  Too many of us are sleep deprived.  Michael Breus, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, recently blogged about sleep (or lack thereof) and its relationship to weight gain.  Lack of sleep drives us to eat poorly.  Not only that, it makes us irritable and dangerous on the road.

So go ahead and sleep.  Allow your body to restore itself naturally.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Validation for Natural Health

I started making and using natural skin products in a serious way just this year, and I've been sharing them with friends.  In the past couple of weeks, I have been hearing that the products are incredibly effective.  What a thrill!

I heard from one person that the face serum made him feel that his skin was "protected."  This was from someone who had never used any kind of moisturizer or cream.

Another friend said that the skin on her face felt "smooth and soft."  This is a friend who has tried all kinds of different brands, including some of the most popular "natural" brands.

I have to say that I, too, have noticed a real difference in my face and body, using only simple, natural methods to clean and moisturize.  My skin feels softer and more nourished.  In fact, I love this stuff so much, I'm converting most products in my home to simple, natural ones (e.g. a wood polish with jojoba and beeswax, a floor scrub from baking soda and essential oils).  They are just as effective, and they support health at the same time.

Hooray for natural health!

Monday, May 23, 2011

What's Up (and a Discovery)

I've been a little out of blogging touch, as we've been working on the next phases of my website.  First of all, this blog will soon move over to  My site will have my favorite links, online booking for massage treatments, and my blog, all in one place.  SO much easier.

But wait -- there's more -- in the coming months we'll be introducing an online store, where you can purchase my massage and skincare products.  Great, natural, paraben- and other yucky stuff-free products.  More on that as it develops.

And I discovered that a favorite maker of beauty products -- who shall remain nameless...J.M... -- uses parabens and synthetic fragrances in its products.  Very disappointing to some of my friends who swear by this company...which is owned by Estee Lauder.  Lesson: if the full ingredients are not on its website, write to the company and ASK.  Keep that nasty stuff off of your skin!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Oil & Water/Serum & Lotion

I started moisturizing my face my first year in college.  I'm not sure why; it just seemed to make sense, and it felt good on my face.  Now, after, ahem, several years of moisturizing, I've tried just about everything.

That is, until I started using natural oils.  It started with a great serum from Naturopathica.  Then I started blending my own serums.  It's amazing how great my face feels using these nourishing oils.  Who knew?

What I'm trying to understand is what the difference in effectiveness is between lotion (water & oil, basically) and serums (oils).  Does anyone know?  What's the benefit of a lotion?  A serum?

In the meantime, I'm going to stick to my serums (evening primrose, rosehip, pumpkin seed, avocado...ahhhh....)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Massage & Depression (2)

As a follow-up to yesterday's posting about how massage can help depression, I just read that depression can worsen arthritis symptoms.  As this article relates, a massage addresses 2 things at once (at least).

With that in mind, doesn't it make sense to get regular massage?

See the article in Massage magazine here:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Massage & Depression

A 2010 review of studies has suggested that massage may be beneficial in the battle against depression.  Despite the inability to perform truly "blind" clinical trials (i.e. it is obvious to the subject and clinicians if a subject is receiving a massage or not), there seems to be sufficient evidence in studies to point to the effectiveness of massage in reducing depression.

This is an encouraging development in research.  Although the percentage of adults with major depressive disorder has declined over the past years (7.9% --> 6.4% from 2004 to 2008, according to the National Institute of Mental Health), it is still a positive development that natural methods of treatment are options for combating depression.

As research is constantly proving, massage is good for you.

Read the original article from Reuters here:

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chiropractor Spotlight: West 79th Street Chiropractic

Feeling a little off? Trouble turning your neck? Pain in the leg? Pay a visit to West 79th Street Chiropractic.

With a practice on a beautiful block on the Upper West Side in NYC, Dr. Rob provides chiropractic care to a range of patients, from newborns to 92-year-olds. "It is never to early or too late to start" is his philosophy.

The office is open, light and inviting. And Jesse, Dr. Rob's seven-year-old cocker spaniel, is always waiting at the door to welcome you in.

Now, in full disclosure, I am fortunate to rent my equally beautiful massage space from Dr. Rob. Within a month of moving in, however, I discovered that half of my friends were already seeing him! As one of them said, "He's a great guy." After hearing this from her, I knew I had landed in the right place.

Dr. Rob participates in most insurance plans, and he takes appointments as well as walk-ins. Check out his website for more information:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Oleic, Linoleic, Linolenic, Oh My!

I've been boning up on my carrier oils and their benefits.  Although I have used jojoba and olive oil (infused with arnica) in my massages, I have been exploring some of the other oils out there.  I'm still learning, but here are some things I've found:

Apricot Kernel Oil
With a high percentage of oleic and linoleic acids, this oil is very good for sensitive and aging skin.  A base in many cosmetics.  As linoleic acid is one of the 2 essential fatty acids that we need for various biological processes, absorption of this oil through the skin can be beneficial to its health.  I use this in my skin care products.

Grape Seed Oil
Another oil with a high percentage of linoleic acid.  Grape seed oil is easily absorbed and has a somewhat astringent quality.  Good for sensitive skin.  I am eager to work with this oil to see how it performs in skin care tests.

Meadowfoam Seed Oil
Rich in fatty acids (98% long chain fatty acids), this oil is moisturizing and very good for damaged skin.  It may also provide some ultraviolet ray protection, and serves as a moisture barrer (i.e. keeps moisture in).  This is a sustainable oil, as the seeds are edible and are often served to animals after the oil has been expelled.  Meadowfoam is also a renewable crop and is planted in rotation with other crops.  I'm definitely going to check this one out!

What other oils have you used in your massage and skin care practices?  I'm eager to hear what you've learned.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rover Wants a Massage!

Did you know that animals can benefit from massage just as much as humans?  Yes, Rover does indeed enjoy a massage, and so does Fluffy.  And the benefits are the same: strengthened immune system, decreased pain, improved range of motion, etc.

State regulations of animal (usually horse or dog) massage vary.  According to the International Association of Animal Massage & Bodywork (IAAMB) in 2009, 21 states allowed animal massage without veterinary supervision.  Some states restrict animal massage to veterinarians only.

So the next time you are sitting with Rover (or Fluffy), go ahead and give him a nice shoulder rub.  He'll appreciate it.

Note: Please perform animal massage within your scope of practice and following your state's regulations.  For more information about animal massage, including state regulations, safety, contraindications, and other precautions, please visit the following sites:

All About Animal Massage

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Healthcare Spotlight: Brigham and Women's Hospital

When my father needed some work on his heart recently, we did a lot of research to find the best doctor and the best hospital, a classic chore.

So many health care institutions and health care providers seem to have lost their purpose: care.  Patients are stuffed, four or more, into poorly lit rooms, wondering when they will be attended to.  Overworked doctors only briefly check in with patients and families, who are left with questions and frustration.

We were thrilled to find that Brigham and Women's Hospital, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School in Boston, has a very different philosophy and practice.  Patients and their families are its prime focus.  Rooms are private -- that is, one patient per room -- light filled, and able to accommodate a visiting family member.  Most important, however, are the people and their care of patients and families.  The receptionists in the family center keep you up to date on your loved one's status.  The medical staff is attentive and constantly informative.  In fact, I was shocked when the attending nurse called my cell phone mid-procedure to tell me how things were going with my Dad.  And the doctor called me immediately upon completing to give me a full summary.

Brigham and Women's Hospital has not forgotten that the person is at the center of health care.  In a world that is increasingly impersonal, it is heartening to know that health care is not dead.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Frankincense & Myrrh: Those Men Were Wise

If the story is true and the three wise men brought gold, frankincense and myrrh, they were wise, indeed.  Frankincense and Myrrh are both excellent choices to bring to a baby.  They are both good for the skin (I use them both in my massage treatments), and they are anti-septic, as well.

There is preliminary indications that Frankincense may also hold a key to the cure for cancer.  The BBC recently reported on studies that show some agent in Frankincense to cause cancer cells to "close down." (  Although they are still trying to isolate which of 17 active components are having this effect, it is a sign of hope.

Myrrh has been used for centuries as an anti-inflammatory, for circulatory problems, and for symptoms of menopause.  A recent study showed the lowering of LDL ("bad" cholesterol) and raising of HDL ("good" cholesterol).  (Al-Amoudi, N. (2009). Hypocholesterolemic effect of some plants and their blend as studied on albino rats. International Journal of Food Safety, Nutrition and Public Health.)

And who doesn't like a little bit of gold?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Gym Spotlight: Precision Athlete

Everyone's wellness routine needs a good gym and a good coach.  If you're serious about your workout, then Precision Athlete is what you're looking for.  This is not a spa-gym.  Co-founders Antonio Cordova and Annie Vo are serious about getting you serious about your workout.  Seriously.

"We help clients improve functional strength, power, endurance–whatever the task requires. If you’re willing to experience some pain then you stand to gain something here."

And there is some pain.  But what I've learned is the old adage "no pain, no gain" is true.  Antonio and Annie are skilled at both programming your workout and at motivating you to challenge yourself.  And they make sure the pain is the right kind.

So, skip the gym with the juice bar, the lounge, the TVs to distract you, and check out Precision Athlete.  Seriously.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tapotement Relaxing? Really?

Yes, indeed!  Okay, you've seen the movie about the sports star about to go into the final game/race/round.  He is getting a pre-event massage from a burly therapist (or the coach).  The therapist is hacking away at the star's back, rhythmically pounding, getting him ready for the big game/race/round.

Tapotement is a great technique not only for stimulating the nervous system, but also for improving circulation, loosening mucus in the lungs, and with other massage techniques breaking up fatty deposits.

And there's a twist (doesn't everything have a twist these days?): After 30-60 seconds, tapotement takes a turn and begins to calm the nervous system.  Yes, that pounding/hacking/cupping calms the nervous system and promotes relaxation.

So, the next time you're preparing your star (or being prepared yourself) for the field/ring, make it a short tapotement session.  Save the 30-minute percussion for after the trophies.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Helichrysum: Apply Neat

We generally use essential oils diluted in carrier oils for massages, for example.  I often use Frankincense, Lavender, or Peppermint, depending on the client's condition.  At 2-3% dilution, these are extremely effective in sedating, balancing, or relieving muscle pain.

This week, however, I had the opportunity to apply Helichrysum neat - that is, directly on a cut on my hand.  Just a drop on the wound resulted in very fast healing.  I was shocked at how quickly the cut resolved.  In a matter of 24 hours, the inflammation had reduced significantly, and wound was close to being completely healed.  Now, 72 hours later, I can see that after applying one drop of Helichrysum directly on the wound 1-2 times per day, this cut will be gone within the next day.

I have used Helichrysum in my skin care products, but this is the first time I've used it as an alternative in first aid for a superficial wound.  I'm very impressed.

For more, see

Friday, April 22, 2011

News on Human Trafficking: Polaris Project & NCBTMB

I am happy to learn that the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork ( has partnered with the Polaris Project ( in an effort to stop human trafficking.  Apparently, there are many disreputable organizations disguising themselves as massage schools, which are, in effect, organizations of forced prostitution -- human trafficking.  By strengthening its School Compliance program, the NCBTMB is helping to crack down on those organizations trying to become recognized as legitimate schools.

This development makes me even prouder to be a member of NCBTMB.

To learn more, please go to

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Peppermint: Not Just a Candy or Tea

I have long enjoyed a cup of peppermint tea, both for its taste and its ability to ease an upset stomach.  But peppermint is also effective for use in massage for tired and achy muscles.

Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) contains a large amount of menthol, a monoterpenol that is antispasmodic and carminative (makes tummy feel better).  Peppermint is also analgesic and cooling.  I recently had a massage a few days after a very intense workout, and the use of peppermint relieved the pain.  My back felt cool and much, much better.  And, as always, this essential oil smells great!

(By the way, mice hate the smell, so clean liberally with peppermint!)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Research: Effectiveness of Massage for Sub-Acute Low-Back Pain

Another great piece showing the benefits of comprehensive massage for low-back pain. As I've mentioned before, most of my clients complain about back pain, and many of them complain about their lower back.  Excellent study with 4 control groups.

(Get access to the full study at

CMAJ. 2000 Jun 27;162(13):1815-20.

Effectiveness of massage therapy for subacute low-back pain: a randomized controlled trial.

Preyde M., Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto, Ont.


BACKGROUND: The effectiveness of massage therapy for low-back pain has not been documented. This randomized controlled trial compared comprehensive massage therapy (soft-tissue manipulation, remedial exercise and posture education), 2 components of massage therapy and placebo in the treatment of subacute (between 1 week and 8 months) low-back pain.

METHODS: Subjects with subacute low-back pain were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 groups: comprehensive massage therapy (n = 25), soft-tissue manipulation only (n = 25), remedial exercise with posture education only (n = 22) or a placebo of sham laser therapy (n = 26). Each subject received 6 treatments within approximately 1 month. Outcome measures obtained at baseline, after treatment and at 1-month follow-up consisted of the Roland Disability Questionnaire (RDQ), the McGill Pain Questionnaire (PPI and PRI), the State Anxiety Index and the Modified Schober test (lumbar range of motion).

RESULTS: Of the 107 subjects who passed screening, 98 (92%) completed post-treatment tests and 91 (85%) completed follow-up tests. Statistically significant differences were noted after treatment and at follow-up. The comprehensive massage therapy group had improved function (mean RDQ score 1.54 v. 2.86-6.5, p < 0.001), less intense pain (mean PPI score 0.42 v. 1.18-1.75, p < 0.001) and a decrease in the quality of pain (mean PRI score 2.29 v. 4.55-7.71, p = 0.006) compared with the other 3 groups. Clinical significance was evident for the comprehensive massage therapy group and the soft-tissue manipulation group on the measure of function. At 1-month follow-up 63% of subjects in the comprehensive massage therapy group reported no pain as compared with 27% of the soft-tissue manipulation group, 14% of the remedial exercise group and 0% of the sham laser therapy group.

INTERPRETATION: Patients with subacute low-back pain were shown to benefit from massage therapy, as regulated by the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario and delivered by experienced massage therapists.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Research: Back Pain & Massage

99% of my clients complain of back pain, either lower or upper. It's not surprising: our back forms the structural center of our body. No wonder people need their backs massaged.

I recently read a study referenced on The Touch Research Institute website.  The study showed massage's efficacy in reducing back pain:

Massage therapy was compared to relaxation for chronic low back pain. By the end of the study, the massage therapy group, as compared to the relaxation group, reported less pain, depression and anxiety and improved sleep. They also showed improved trunk and pain flexion performance, and their serotonin and dopamine levels were higher.  (Hernandez-Reif, M., Field, T., Krasnegor, J., & Theakston, H. (2001). Lower back pain is reduced and range of motion increased after massage therapy. International Journal of Neuroscience, 106, 131-145.)

Of course, we probably didn't need this study to tell us that massaging the back feels good.  But it's good to know for sure that it truly helps!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Benefits of Massage

I've discovered a great site for men looking for information and products for the good things in life (grooming, massage, etc.), and this blog posting is about the benefits of massage. Thanks, Carolyn, for supporting the cause!

The Benefits of Massage – Not Just an Indulgence
I just read an article in Men’s Health Magazine that spoke in very clear terms about the benefits of massage. They cited the normal things you would think of like neck pain, lower back pain, high blood pressure and stress. But they also talked about things you wouldn’t necessarily think of like athletic performance, depression and constipation. Read the rest here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Arnica. Arni-who?

While working as a volunteer with the medical team at the ING NYC Marathon last year, Jean-Claude, a cramping runner from France, asked me if we had any arnica that he could apply to his leg to relieve the pain.  Although I had heard about arnica, I was not all that familiar with it.  The NY Road Runners Club is a class act and the experience was amazing, but I was sorry to tell the runner that arnica was not part of the protocol.

I've run into arnica several times during my aromatherapy study, and have begun using arnica-infused olive oil on my massage clients with muscle injuries and pain.  This has been very effective.

I was encouraged to read the abstract of a 2007 study that showed no statistical difference in the effectiveness of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like aspirin, ibuprofen, others) or topical arnica on the reduction of symptoms of hand osteoarthritis (Widrig R, Suter A, Saller R, Melzer J., "Choosing between NSAID and arnica for topical treatment of hand osteoarthritis in a randomised, double-blind study." St Gallen, Switzerland: Rheumatology Clinic, 2007).

Now, if I can just make it over to France to find Jean-Claude...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Your Massage: Q&A Continued

What if my therapist talks too much?
Because it is your session, you should say something. "I'm so enjoying your massage, but do you mind if we not talk today?  I'd like to just bliss out."  That should do the trick.

What kind of oil are you putting on me?
Massage therapists use all kinds of different oils, creams, and lotions for their treatments.  They all have varying "glide" and other properties.  There are synthetic creams and lotions, and there is a wide range of oils (e.g. sweet almond, olive, many others).  I have settled on organic jojoba, which is a wax ester with properties very close to human sebum - our skin loves it!  I have also used arnica-infused olive oil on a client with some severe muscle pain.  And with my clients' permission, I sometimes add essential oils to the jojoba, depending on the specific complaint.

I have a severe pain in my leg.  What's wrong with me?
Please see your doctor as soon as possible.  Although massage therapists have a good amount of training in anatomy, physiology and pathology, we are not doctors and are prohibited from making diagnoses.  We can tell you what we see and feel, but diagnosing is outside our scope of practice.

What is in your scope of practice?
In addition to the full suite of massage techniques and modalities, massage therapists are also allowed to perform stretching, recommend exercise (although we are not specifically trained in athletic programming), and apply heat and cold.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How About a Little Shiatsu?

Have you ever had a shiatsu massage?  If you haven't, you've missed a real treat.

Established in Japan, shiatsu is a bodywork modality with an aim of opening up energetic pathways (meridians) and moving blood and energy ("Qi" pronounced "CHEE").  The work follows the same principals as acupuncture and addresses the same points on the body.

The session includes work on these points, rocking and stretching, compression, and other moves. Shiatsu is traditionally performed on a mat on the floor, with both therapist and client wearing loose clothing, like sweats and a T-shirt.

I still remember the first shiatsu treatment I ever received, just before I began massage school.  It was so therapeutic; I remember walking home, thinking, "I'm transformed."

Monday, April 4, 2011

Your Massage: Q&A

The therapist-client relationship is intimate, especially in the context of massage.  Sometimes within that relationship clients have questions they don't express.  Here are some common unexpressed questions:

What if I feel the pressure is too deep, too light?
Say something. It is your session, so do communicate with your therapist.  You should never feel you have to endure pain or pressure that is too light for you.

Should we talk during the treatment?
This depends on entirely on you.  Feel free to be completely quiet or have a little chat.  Don't feel you have to entertain your therapist, however. Also bear in mind that lengthy in-depth conversation can be distracting and can take away from the therapist's focus on your bodywork.

Do I need to be naked?
Although it is easier for the therapist to work on your body when you're disrobed (for oil-based massages, like Swedish & deep tissue or myofascial work), you should disrobe to your level of comfort.  In New York State it is the law that you must be draped during the massage, so only the part of your body that is being worked on will be exposed.  I generally recommend completely disrobing, leaving your underpants on if you like.  Shiatsu and some other modalities do not require disrobing. They are performed in loose, comfortable clothing, like sweats & T-shirt.

May I request different music?
Of course!  I have my iPod in my office with a broad range of music.  You may also bring your own iPod or CD.  I'll be happy to play whatever you like.

(To be continued...)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lavender: What's the Big Deal?

Lavender this, lavender that.  Everything is lavender!  Sometimes it feels like overkill.

But is there something behind this?  Why is there lavender in everything?  What's so great about lavender?

Lavender essential oil is made up of a significant percentage of Esters and Monoterpenols.  Specifically, lavender is made up of linalyl acetate (almost 50%) and linalol (over 25%).  Both have been shown to be anti-inflammatory (Peana AT, D'Aquila PS, Panin F, Serra G, Pippia P, Moretti MD, "Anti-inflammatory activity of linalool and linalyl acetate constituents of essential oils." Sassari, Italy: Dipartimento di Scienze del Farmaco, Università degli Studi di Sassari, 2002).  Lavender essential oil has also been shown to be sedative (Buchbauer G, Jirovetz L, Jäger W, Dietrich H, Plank C., "Aromatherapy: evidence for sedative effects of the essential oil of lavender after inhalation." Austria: Institute of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of Vienna, 1991), analgesic (Gedney JJ, Glover TL, Fillingim RB, "Sensory and affective pain discrimination after inhalation of essential oils." Gainesville, Florida: Division of Public Health Services and Research, University of Florida College of Dentistry, 2004.), and anti-bacterial (Lodhia MH, Bhatt KR, Thaker VS, "Antibacterial activity of essential oils from palmarosa, evening primrose, lavender and tuberose." India: Department of Biosciences, Saurashtra University, 2009), among many other great properties.

AND, it smells great.  I have done extensive tests with my nose and certify this to be true.  So, don't discard lavender just because everyone else is using it.  There are many good reasons to keep some in your cabinet.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Consistency is Key: The Sequel

Previously, I wrote about consistency's being important in most endeavors.  Massage therapy is no exception.  Regular massage has long-lasting benefits.  Imagine a boost to the immune system, improved circulation, muscle pain reduction on a regular basis.

Because I believe in this so much, I'm making it easy: Discount Packages.  "What?" you say.  "Discount packages?"  Yes, indeed.  And here's the offer:

Package of Five 60-Minute Massages: $450 -- that's a 10% discount!
Package of Ten 60-Minute Massages: $850 -- that's a 15% discount -- you end up getting 1-1/2 treatments free!!!

And to make sure that you're consistent (believe me, I know how life gets in the way of massages), I'm going to put an expiration date on your package: 15 weeks for a 5-Pack, 30 weeks for a 10-Pack.  That means you'll get a massage every 3 weeks.  Every 2 weeks would be very good, but this will make room for who knows what.

So, please take care of yourself this year.  Make massage part of your wellness routine.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Products, Products

I'm coming closer to finalizing my initial line of products, and I'm getting excited.  I'd love your feedback on this line-up:

Face Serums
Body Butters
Lip Balms
Massage Oils
Custom Blends

There will be 1-3 kinds in each category.  For example, I'm working on a beautiful carrot seed-based face serum, which I've been using for several weeks now.  The effect is my face is smooth and soft; I'm just working on the aroma to be just right.  The body butter consistency is amazing; I've worked out the graininess one sometimes gets with unmelted, whipped shea butter (the trick is to whip it a good long time).  My massage oils are already being used by a successful massage therapist colleague of mine.  And my custom blends are getting great feedback from people.  One client told me that my "Anti-Inflame" lotion worked immediately, and that I should "make 1,000 of them."  Nice to hear!  (Feel free to schedule an aromatherapy consultation for a custom blend.)

So, what do you look for in these products?  What aromas draw you in?  I'm eager to know.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Those in Need

Although I've given hundreds of massages in the past few years, the ones I tend to remember are the one given to those in great need.  A mother at the Ronald McDonald House who was terrified of losing her child to cancer.  A man in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy who eventually broke into a broad, toothy smile when I started working on his feet.  The marathon runner who was crying in pain from a cramping calf muscle.

In all of these cases I was able to make an immediate impact, provided relief from pain.  It's not often in life that we see the immediate results of our actions, so these experiences (and all of my treatments, really) have been so gratifying.

I'm determined to keep seeking out opportunities to help those in need.  What better life can one have, really?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Can't Stop the Music

I've been using the same massage music for a while now.  Although I chose it carefully and do like it, the other day for the first time I found myself humming it as I walked down the street!  So, I'm on a quest to find great, great music to massage to.

One of my instructors in school played all kinds of music in class, eschewing the typical new-agey spa music that we're used to.  We practiced to Annie Lenox (massaging to "Dark Road" is amazing), Sade, Ella Fitzgerald.  Some worked better than others, depending on our moods and the people we were working on.  But it drove home a point that a massage session does not require new age music.  I love a classical guitar, Indian sitar, so many choices.

So, I've embarked on a quest for great music for my clients.  And because I have an iPod dock & CD player in my office, feel free to bring your own tunes.  It will make your treatment that much more groovy.

Monday, March 14, 2011

BLS/CPR - Changes

I just returned from renewing my certification in basic life support, including CPR and using the AED, and there are some changes.

In the past, we followed ABC: Airway, Breathing, Circulation/Compression.  However, the American Heart Association has recently changed its guidelines to CAB, meaning that after a quick visual check, one checks the pulse and if no pulse goes straight to compression, then airway and breathing.  This key here is to get blood to the brain as quickly as possible.

The quick check above also replaces Look (for movement in the chest), Listen (for sound of breath), Feel (breath on your cheek).  The AHA found that too many people didn't know what they were looking for, listening to, or feeling.  So, this has been changed to a quick visual check after trying to get a response from the victim.

Although I hope never to have to employ these techniques in my office, I'm certainly ready.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Oh, My Aching Back!

After a long drive (and I drive a lot) or if I give massages without watching my body mechanics, my lower back can become sore.  This is a common complaint from my clients - sore lower back.

The truth is that muscles in the lower back have a large share of the responsibility to keep us upright.  Quadratus lumborum (or "QL") is a smallish muscle that attaches to the iliac crest and the lower rib.  It is very strong and works very, very hard to keep us upright, help us bend side to side, and even breathe.

What to do when it aches?  Try giving it a stretch, for one.  Lie on the floor and hold your knees to your chest, gently rock side to side, breathe.  You can also gently rub your back.  Take your palm and slowly but firmly press into your back starting just to the side of your spine, traveling around to your side.  Repeat and then move to the other side.  This goes across the muscle fibers and helps to break up adhesions.  You can do the same movement traveling on one side of the spine from just below your lower rib to the iliac crest (the back of your pelvic bone).

Of course, you can also see a professional!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Give and You Get Back

I've always said that I get as much back as I give during a massage.  There is nothing like the feeling of having provided such intense care (which good massage therapy is - intense caregiving, to use the phrase of one of my colleagues - thanks Marianna).  It's exhaustion, bliss, and peace all rolled into one.

Sure, the massage strokes are not really all that hard in themselves.  You can do five or six massages in a row without thinking and be fine.  But to put your intent to heal into every stroke, to care deeply for every person on your table -- that takes it out of you.  But how often are you able to make such a dramatic difference in a person's life?  When you can do that - that's satisfaction, that's joy. ~

Monday, March 7, 2011

Cash or Charge?

Massage Therapy has historically been a cash business, but our world has been moving away from cash.  Massage clients at spas and gyms are now accustomed to using plastic to pay for their treatments, and people are put off by having to stop at an ATM before making any kind of purchase.

A few months ago, one of my clients suggested I begin accepting credit cards, as it would make payment more convenient for him.  I found a great company, Square, Inc., that serves as a one-stop-shop for small businesses and provides an iPhone app and device with which to swipe cards.  Two days later the money is in my account.  No contracts, no monthly fees.

The other day another one of my clients was impressed with this new device and my ability to swipe her card on my iPhone.  The next thing I knew it, I was being scheduled for an interview with NYC's ABC Channel 7.  It seems credit card acceptance by small businesses is growing, and they were doing a story on it.

So, the next time I ask, "Cash or charge?" don't hesitate to whip out the plastic.  Even Discover.

Friday, March 4, 2011

LMT, NCBTMB, AMTA, MOUSE: What Are Those Letters?

The doctor's door read: "Samuel Q. Johnson, MD, PhD, MBA."  I knew right away that -- apart from being proud of his accomplishments -- he was a medical doctor, had earned his doctorate of philosophy, and had completed business school.

But what about massage therapists?  We have letters, too!  Here is a rundown of the most likely candidates.

Easy.  It stands for Licensed Massage Therapist.

These stand for National Certification for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork and National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, respectively.  The former is the certification and can be placed after the therapist's name, such as Patrick Smith, NCTMB.  The latter is the organization that administers the exam and certifies your passing the exam.  The NCBTMB exam is comparable to the exam I took for my New York State License.  As New York State requires the most number of hours of education, the NCBTMB exam is based on a similar body of knowledge and is a good barometer of a therapist's intellectual grasp of it.  Many states us this exam as their licensing exam.

American Massage Therapy Association.  This is a professional organization which can be joined either as a student or by providing appropriate professional credentials (e.g. license).  The AMTA works hard to lobby for the advancement of the massage therapy profession, and it also provides valuable services to its members, such as the ability to purchase professional liability insurance.

There are other letters, such as MT (Massage Therapist), MP (Massage Practitioner, licensed in some states), MFA (Master of Fine Arts -- not sure why a massage therapist would put this after his or her name, but I've seen it...).

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Other Body Parts

We've all been through the classic spa/gym massage: back, back of the legs, front of the legs, arms, shoulders/neck, done.  But what about the other parts of the body?  Sometimes we forget to spend time on (or forget to tell our therapist to spend time on) other areas that can cause pain and imbalance.

The Feet
For those who aren't already reflexology addicts, ask your therapist to spend some extra time on your feet.  We spend much of our waking lives balancing our entire weight on our feet.  They take the impact of walking, running, jumping.  They work incredibly hard throughout our lives.  The theory of reflexology also teaches that there are points on our feet that correspond to part of the rest of our body.  In fact, a 2010 review of reflexology studies found that reflexology improved quality of life and mood in breast cancer patients (Kim JI, Lee MS, Kang JW, Choi do Y, Ernst E., "Reflexology for the symptomatic treatment of breast cancer: a systematic review." Korea: Kyung Hee University, 2010).  If you are ticklish, there are ways to avoid having you jump up from the table when your feet are touched.  Just tell your therapist.

The Abdomen
This abdomen is probably one of the least addressed parts of the body.  Because it is vulnerable we tend to shy away from it.  Think about how often we cover and protect our abdomen when we speak to others.  But this is where many of us keep our tension, and sometimes pain in iliopsoas (a hip flexor deep in the abdominal cavity) can disguise itself as back pain.  A 2009 study showed that abdominal massage alleviated symptoms of constipation (Lämås K, Lindholm L, Stenlund H, Engström B, Jacobsson C., "Effects of abdominal massage in management of constipation--a randomized controlled trial." Sweden: Umeå University, 2009).  For singers: massage at the attachments of the diaphragm just under the rib cage can be a great way to open up the voice if your breath is feeling tight.

The Hands
Those of you who get manicures know how good the hand massage feels.  Why not have your therapist spend an extra five minutes on your hands?  Like the feet, our hands work incredibly hard all day.  I know!

The Chest
Another vulnerable area, the chest is often omitted in massage.  But think about it: our backs and chests need to be in balance.  We've all seen the guy who only works on building up his chest and neglects his back.  The result is a stooped over posture with lower jaw jutting out.  This is because his his chest is hypertonic and his back is not strong enough to support it.  In massage we tend to focus on the back (with good reason), but the chest also needs release through massage of the pectoral muscles (including pec minor - ouch!) and the intercostals.  For women needing work on the chest muscles, there are simple techniques to avoid exposing or working on breast tissue, so don't hestitate to ask your therapist if you've been hitting the bench press and are in pain.

The Face
Some people do not like their faces to be touched, and that's perfectly fine.  For those who don't mind, however, a gentle facial massage is a relaxing way to end a treatment.  In addition, there are muscles in the face that work hard.  For example, massiter, the chewing muscle (bite down hard and massiter pops out on the sides of your face) is the strongest muscle in the body.  And think of how hard it works, especially with those of us who like to eat and talk!  Don't forget the face if you don't mind its being touched.  It will smile back at you.

These are just some examples of areas that are sometimes omitted in massage but which could be worked on to provide added relief.  In short, tell your therapist what's going on in your body.  No ache or pain is unimportant.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Got a License For That?

New York State (along with Nebraska) has the most rigorous education requirements for licensure as a massage therapist.  Before a therapist can take a licensing exam, he or she must complete a minimum of 1,000 hours of education.  For me that translated to 16 months of full-time school (while I was working full-time).

What, you may ask, did I study besides your basic Swedish massage techniques?  The curriculum was broad and intense.  And we were tested constantly.  We lost classmates every semester due to exam failures or simply dropping out due to time and energy constraints.  This program was not for the weak.  Among topics such as professional ethics and various electives (Thai massage, energy work, others), we studied:

Shiastu (massage modality developed in Japan) 1 & 2
Anatomy & Physiology 1 & 2
Myology & Kinesiology
Tools of Assessment
Clinical Strategies: East/West

In addition, we did 3 semesters of both on-site and off-site clinics in a variety of settings (cancer care centers, hospitals, sports events), where we worked with the public.  In the 4th semester we worked with the same client over 12 weeks and developed a treatment plan for specific conditions.  I was told that our training was comparable to the first year of medical school.

In an important development, New York State recently added the requirement of 36 hours of continuing education for every 3 year license renewal.  This ensures that therapists are keeping up-to-date on the latest in massage therapy and are devoting time to their ongoing growth as professionals.

So, when you are looking for a therapist in New York State, look for the "LMT," and if you're not sure if a therapist is licensed, check him or her out at  You can be assured that they have a solid foundation of how the body functions and how to treat it through massage.

(More on the importance of licensure for massage therapists in the future.  And perhaps revelation of my GPA...)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Jojoba: The Wonder Wax

There are many kinds of lubricants that massage therapists use.  There are creams (from Biotone and the like), the lotions, and the oils (e.g. sweet almond, apricot kernel).  I have settled on organic jojoba for my treatments.

If you can get beyond the jokes ("It's got jojoba, Jerry!"), you'll discover that jojoba is a fine substance and is not an oil.  It's actually a wax ester that is pressed from the seed of the jojoba plant.  In its chemical properties, it is closer to human sebum than any vegetable oils used in massage, and it does not clog pores.  The skin drinks it in and is left soft and nourished.

Jojoba has great therapeutic properties beyond being an emollient.  In a 2010 study, it was found that jojoba has wound-healing properties (Ranzato, Martinotti, Burlando, "Wound healing properties of jojoba liquid wax: An in vitro study."  Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2010).  In other studies, jojoba has been shown to be anti-inflammatory, as well.

So when you receive a massage with jojoba, there's no need to wash it off.  Just let your skin enjoy the benefits!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Organic in the Treatment Room

As much as I try to buy organic for my own food, I also do my best to provide an organic environment for my clients.  I cover my table (and clients) with organic flannel sheets, which are warm and toasty in the winter and breathe beautifully in the summer.  I use organic jojoba for my massages (more on jojoba in a future blog).  And whenever possible, I use organic essential oils for my aromatherapy treatments.

What other organic elements can I add to my treatments?  I'm eager to know.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Physician, Heal Thyself

Okay, I'm not a physician (and may not diagnose as part of my scope of practice), and that quote is not really used correctly...  What I'm trying to say is that I need to take my own advice.  On Friday I had an excellent massage from one of my Swedish Institute classmates (Robert Nowak).  It had been a while since I had a treatment, and I was clearly in need.  Afterwards, I felt so much more grounded, connected to my body, taller, at ease.  Many of the little kinks that I had attributed to overworking were only due to the fact I hadn't had a massage in some time.  I'm constantly amazed at what a simple massage can accomplish!

Thank you, Robert!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Consistency is Key

I've been running my tootsies like mad to keep up with my massage practice and aromatherapy study, and for the past 2 weeks I've neglected -- you guessed it -- regular strenuous exercise, aka the gym.  Last night Coach Antonio put me through the paces with a killer finisher ("tailpiping" -- don't ask).  Today I feel like a truck hit me.  Not that I haven't worked that hard before.  It's just that I haven't kept it up for the past couple of weeks.  A lesson learned.

This also made me think about the consistency of massage.  In the course of a session, we are able to warm up the tissue and work through increasingly deep areas of concern, adhesions, etc.  Think of the changes that can be brought about through regular, consistent massage!  I'm coming to believe that I can accomplish more with a client through 5 weekly treatments and then a long break than I could over the course of 5 monthly massages.  Of course, I have not put this into a study (yet), but it does make one think.

Consistency: one of the most difficult, yet powerful, things in life.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Facial Serums? Yes, I Can!

Body Butters in the Making
A couple of weeks ago, I took a look at the ingredients of a facial serum from one of my favorite skincare companies.  I trust them because they use only natural and mostly organic ingredients.  I was happy to see that not only did they use amazing ingredients, but I had most of the ingredients in my humble aromatherapy kitchen!  So, I put my little hands to work, measuring, blending, reformulating, bottling, and I came up with a delightful facial serum of my own.  I've been using it for the past 10 days, and my skin feels soft and smooth...all from my own kitchen!  And wait -- am I missing a couple of crows feet...?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Massage Environment

I've been putting some finishing touches on my massage office, adding a round bamboo rug, new curtains.  It's feeling more and more comfortable.  I have a diffuser to offer aromatherapy, comfy organic flannel sheets, music.  What else do you love in a massage office to make your treatment the best it can be?  I'm always looking for great ideas!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Keep It Simple

I recently compared the ingredients of a popular brand of body wash and those of a castile gel soap I purchased.

The Castile Gel
Saponified Oils of Coconut, Olive and Jojoba, Aloe Vera, Glycerin/Vegetable Gum Extract, Rosemary Extract

The Popular Brand
Water , Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate , Cocamidopropyl Betaine , Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate , Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate , Glycerin , Linoleamidopropyl PG-Dimonium Chloride Phosphate , Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract , Anthemis Nobilis Flower Extract , Matricaria Flower Extract Chamomilla Recutita , Citric Acid , Propylene Glycol , Triclosan , Yellow 5 , Red 33 , Fragrance

I've already listed Propylene Glycol as one of the ingredients to avoid.  Among other concerns, this ingredient has resulted in positive cell mutation results on mamallian cells.  Is it worth it?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I Can't Go Back!

So, I've been working with natural products for a while now, studying aromatherapy, reading ingredients on my various skin and haircare products, and I've been using my homemade skincare products in the meantime.  Today in my hotel room I used one of those little bars of soap, and I realized that I've become addicted to the good, homemade stuff!  The hotel soap felt like an industrial bath, harsh and damaging.  The fact is that our skin is the largest organ of our body, vital to the elimination of the ever-increasing amount of toxins in our environment.  Why wouldn't we want the most nourishing products available?  So, I can't go back to those everyday products.  It's time I did more research about the harmful chemicals we find in them.

Step One: I will avoid the following:

Propylene Glycol (a petrochemical - yech)
Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate (harsh, harsh industrial detergent - are you THAT dirty?)
Mineral Oil (from petroleum, blocks pores - and, again, yech)
Parabens (Propyl, Methyl, Butyl, or Ethyl -- toxic and allergenic)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Aromatherapy Certification

I'm still working on my aromatherapy certification with Andrea Butje at Aromahead Institute (  I'm pretty much through all of the classes, but I must finish up the case studies, write my final paper, and take the exam.  I'm discovering how much of a new world aromatherapy is.  So many people don't know anything about essential oils...or any complementary and alternative treatment options.  I can sometimes see the internal rolling of the eyes when I tell people about essential oils.  What needs to be understood is that a good aromatherapist roots his or her practice in science, referring to research and being grounded in the chemistry.  As Barbara Close, founder of Naturopathica, said to me, "It's ALL about the chemistry!"  So, onward I go to study, study, study my chemistry!  (And finish those case studies!)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Self Care in 2011 (3)

Okay, this isn't really an update on my self-care progress for the year.  But after a full day of massaging on Sunday, my hands were a little sore yesterday.  I reached into my bag of aromatherapy balms and pulled out a pain/inflammation butter (palm kernel oil, arnica, calendula, St. John's Wort, beeswax) and rubbed it into my hands and wrists.  Today my hands feel fantastic!  All this without having to resort to a chemical anti-inflammatory.  Nice!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Pregnancy & Massage

It was by accident that I began doing pre- and post-natal massage.  I have seen one of my regular clients after one pregnancy and into another.  It's gratifying to work with these women as they create a new life.  But, oh, the lower back pain they suffer!  And the upper back after birth, carrying the newborn.  My body mechanics need to adjust, working with my client in a side-lying position, bolstered to make sure she's comfortable.  They say the baby can feel the clockwise gentle effleurage on the mother's belly.  How wonderful!  Looking forward to my next session!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Warming Up

Getting ready for a full day of massage. I must remember to warm up, stretch, watch my body mechanics, and cool down afterwards. Drink water. I love working on Sundays because my office building is empty, and the place is totally quiet. Okay, off we go!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Self Care in 2011 (2)

Well, I've been doing pretty well with 1, 2, and 3. Eating much better, drinking less wine.  I am sleeping longer and better (therefore), and I've continued working out in spite of an arm injury.  Picking up running again, doing intervals to get my wind back.  Now, I haven't been stretching enough, nor have I returned to a yoga class, but I certainly will.  More as it happens...

Monday, January 10, 2011


Remember drumming on your or a friend's chest and talking at the same time?  It made that wonderful vibrating sound and sounded so funny.  Well, little did we know that this massage technique (called "tapotement") yielded therapeutic benefits.  The light pounding (usually on the back) has a stimulating effect during the first 30 seconds, but it then has a relaxing effect over the long term.  No wonder we kept doing it!  (And we sounded funny, too.)