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...)