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.