Massage therapy may feel like an indulgence, but it has many therapeutic benefits that can help you manage pain and stress. Making time for massage at regular intervals is an investment in your overall health and well being.
Regular massage can:
- Provide relief from chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, TMJD, sciatica, and headaches
- Relax and soften injured, tired, and overused muscles
- Reduce and help prevent muscle spasms, cramps and injuries
- Decrease anxiety and stress
- Enhance sleep quality
- Increase circulation
The holiday season is upon us, and this means a great deal of stress for too many people. Holidays seem to mean too many things to do, and not enough time to do them, rather than a time to be with friends and family and sharing in each other’s joy. In order to relieve some of the holiday stress, here are some great tips from Professional Organizer, Sandy Rhee. Sandy is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers and is located in Nashua, NH. You can learn more about Sandy, the Organization Guru at www.organizationguru.net.
- Start early and spread out your tasks. Better yet, assign some of them to the people in your life rather than trying to do everything yourself.
- Pare down your calendar until only the most important events remain. Every invitation is a request, not a command. Do the events that you love and have meaning for you, and respectfully decline the rest.
- Create a holiday cookbook. This year, as you use a recipe, file it in a holiday cookbook so that all your needed recipes are in one single location next year. This won’t keep you from having to put them all together this year, but next year will be a breeze!
- Store holiday decorations the way you decorate. If you put out one room at a time, store each room’s decorations in separate boxes and label them by room. If you put up all the lights, then put out all the linens, then put out all the figurines,…, store each type of item in separate boxes and label them that way instead.
- Hire out dangerous and/or time consuming jobs. Local firemen often hire themselves out to hang house lights. Local Professional Organizers and Personal Assistants will grocery or gift shop for you, address, stamp, and mail your holiday cards, and will stand in line at the post office for you. If you don’t like to do it, let someone else!
- Plan for gifts you and yours will receive. Kids getting toys this year? Make sure they clear out and donate the toys they no longer use to make room. Adults getting clothes? Do a check of the closets to donate old clothes that are no longer worn to make room for the new.
- Need to declutter areas of your home? Start with the public areas that will be used during the season and do only what you have time to. Then, when friends come over, close the door to rooms you didn’t get to.
- Remember that good enough is good enough and perfect is too much! Homes that look like magazine spreads only look that way when the photographer is there!
Sitting at a desk all day can be a pain… literally! Poor ergonomics, poor posture, and stress can take a toll on your body. As a result, muscle pain and tension can cause a lack of focus and make you less effective on the job. In this economy, nobody can afford that! Here are a few things that you can try to make your work day more productive:
Check Your Workstation
- Items that you use most often should be within arm’s reach without having to twist or stretch to reach them.
- If you use the phone often, use a headset so that you are not straining your neck to hold the receiver between your shoulder and ear.
- Ensure that the top of your monitor is at, or a bit below eye level.
- Your keyboard tray should allow your elbows to be bent at about a 90 degree angle and allow your shoulders to be relaxed.
- Your hands and wrists should be in a flat neutral position when typing, and you want to avoid resting your wrists on a sharp corner of the keyboard tray (use a wrist pad if necessary).
- Your mouse should be placed as close to the keyboard as possible.
- If you often read hardcopy documents or do data entry, use a document tray to hold the documentation up close to your monitor to avoid hunching over.
Check Your Chair
- Adjust the height of your chair to ensure that your feet are resting flat on the floor.
- Sit so that your back is all the way back in the chair without causing restriction at the back of the knees. If needed, use a pillow or bolster to support your lumbar area in order to do this.
- Armrest height should be even on both sides and should allow for your shoulders to be relaxed.
- Swivel or roll your chair instead of twisting or reaching.
Check Your Environment
- Sitting under a vent blowing cold air on the back of the neck can cause you to tighten your neck and shoulder muscles. If you can’t move your workstation or have the vent redirected, you may need to adjust your wardrobe to provide coverage (high collars, turtlenecks, scarves…).
- Eyestrain can often be caused by glare on your monitor. You may be able to shut the blinds in your area to cut down on glare or adjust your monitor position. You can also try a glare reducing screen that you can attach to your monitor.
Take a Break
- Get up from your workstation at least every half hour. Take a moment for a quick stretch, or stand up when on the phone. Sitting in the same position for a long period of time can put unnecessary stress on the spine and can inhibit your circulation.
- Take your lunch break! It can be tempting to work through lunch, but taking the time out to refuel can help you focus on the task at hand with renewed energy.
- If your workplace offers onsite chair massage, take advantage of it (if not, tell your HR Department about New England Workplace Therapies – www.workplace-therapies.com )!
- Just taking a moment to take a few slow deep breaths can help keep stress in check.
- Make time for yourself after work. Of course massage is a great way to do this! Massage will not only address your stress, but also will help to relive the physical tension and pain that can interfere with your productivity.
Check with your HR Department to see if your company offers ergonomics consultation and set up an appointment to have your workspace assessed. For some great pointers in the meantime, check: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/computerworkstations/index.html
Most of the time muscle pain and soreness can easily be attributed to an activity or tension. However, sometimes muscle pain can be more mysterious and may come along with other unexplained symptoms and may require your doctor’s attention. Here are a few guidelines to determine when you should see me for relief vs. when to see your doctor.
Massage is indicated to relieve muscle pain from:
- Poor postural habits (slouching, poor ergonomics at your workstation…)
- Chronic pain due to an old injury
- Overuse (weekend warrior syndrome, pushing it too hard in a workout…)
- Misuse (constantly carrying a bag on one shoulder, not lifting properly…)
- Muscle tension due to stress (tension headaches, clenching fists or jaw as a stress response…)
Some of the indications that you may need to see your doctor:
- When muscle pain is coupled with fever, fatigue and other unusual symptoms. This could be a sign of the flu, or even an infection. For instance, low back pain, fever and fatigue that were preceded by a UTI could be sign of a kidney infection. Pain radiating in the right shoulder area and under the right rib cage along with nausea, dizziness and digestive problems are some of the signs of a gallbladder issue.
- When taking a new medication – some cholesterol and blood pressure medications can cause muscle pain, weakness and slow muscle recovery time after exercise.
- When muscle pain suddenly becomes very sharp and unusual, especially in the legs, seek immediate attention as this could be a sign of a clot.
- When there is redness in the sore muscle area it could be infected.
- When there is a red bulls-eye pattern on the body, this could indicate a bite from a tick carrying Lyme Disease which can cause muscle soreness and fatigue.
When in doubt, of course always check with your doctor first!
When should you use heat for sore muscles, and when should you use ice? I am often asked this question by my clients, so the following guidelines should help!
Ice: Ice helps to reduce inflammation and dull pain.
- Use ice right after an acute injury such as a sprain or strain to bring down any swelling and relieve pain (be sure to seek medical attention for severe injury first).
- Ice can be used post workout to relieve or prevent inflammation, however, ice is not indicated prior to working out.
- You can ice an area repeatedly to reduce inflammation, however, do not leave the ice on for more than 15 minutes as it can damage tissues. You can repeat the ice as long as there is sensation in that area. Try ten minutes on, ten minutes off.
- Avoid putting ice directly on the skin. Use a barrier such as paper towel, a plastic bag or a cloth between the ice and skin. A bag of frozen peas works great.
Heat: Heat helps to relax, soothe and bring circulation to sore muscles.
- Heat can be used to gently loosen tight and stiff muscles and joints.
- Prior to working out, heat can be used to warm up the muscles before stretching.
- Moist heat works best such as a soak, shower, or a towel soaked in heated water. Also helpful are heated neck wraps and heating pads.
- Do not use a heat temperature that is uncomfortable.
- Use heat for no more than 20 minutes at a time.
- Do not use heat on an area that has inflammation as this could make the swelling worse.
When in doubt, always check with your doctor!
Tension headaches often feel like a band has been tightened around your head, or like your head is in a vise. These headaches can be severe enough to interfere with concentration, cause missed days at work, or missed important social events. There are ways to help ease these headaches and perhaps even reduce the number of occurrences.
Some of the symptoms of tension headaches can be:
- Pain or pressure at the sides, front or top of the head.
- Some sensitivity to light and sound.
- General muscle aches.
- Occurrence of the headache mid to late day.
Some of the triggers may be:
- Stress, anxiety and tension.
- Poor posture.
- Lack of sleep.
You may be able to find relief by:
- Reducing stress, anxiety and tension: Make yourself a priority and set time aside for yourself! You are not going to be effective at work or in your relationships if you aren’t able to focus or participate. Exercise and yoga are a great way to unwind and loosen some of the tension in the body. Additionally, staying active can help to get your sleep pattern back on track. If in the meantime, you find yourself in a stressful situation, try and take a step back and do a bit of deep breathing to bring your focus back.
- Watching that posture: Poor posture can put tension on the muscles in the neck and back which may be a trigger for the headaches. Try to set up your workspace ergonomically so that good posture is a little bit easier. If you’re at a desk, try to have your monitor at about eye level, your back against your chair, and your feet flat on the floor. Try to take a little mini-break each hour to stand up and stretch. Watch out for excessive laptop and hand held device use which often has you leaning forward to work.
- Using Heat or Ice: Taking a hot shower or bath can help provide relief. Using a heated neck wrap can ease tension in the shoulders and neck. Some people find relief using an ice pack or cool cloth on on the head when a headache occurs.
- Getting a massage: Massage can address the muscular tension in the neck, shoulders, scalp and face that may be contributing to your headaches. Additionally, massages are great at reducing stress and anxiety and may even help promote more restful sleep. It’s a great way to set time aside for well being!
Be sure to talk to your doctor about your headaches and your symptoms to ensure a proper diagnosis.
Spring is in the air and that has many of us inspired to get outdoors and get more active. If you are like most people, you may feel a bit creaky after decreasing your activity levels over the course of the winter months.
Here are some tips to help ease yourself into the more active months ahead and assure you don’t get unexpectedly sidelined by injury. By gradually increasing your activity level, you’ll be sure to get the most benefit and enjoyment from your new activity:
- Check with your doctor to ensure you are fit for increased activity.
- Make sure that you have proper footwear and safety gear.
- Be sure to keep hydrated with plenty of water.
- Start slowly and then build up. Gradually add more time or intensity over the weeks to give your body time to adjust.
- Warm up first and then stretch each time you perform your new activity to prevent injury.
- If you feel pain, dizziness or nausea, stop the activity!
- Of course keep up with your regular massages. Massage can help keep your muscles more pliable to prevent injury during activity and can also help with post workout soreness.
Did you know that massage therapy can often help with jaw pain? There are muscles in the face and neck that aid in the movement of the jaw. When these muscles are tight, they can inhibit jaw movement, causing pain in the face, head and neck. Massage can soften and loosen those muscles to increase range of motion and provide relief.
TMJ (temporomandibular joint) Syndrome or Disorder is often the diagnosis for jaw pain. In some cases, it can be debilitating enough to cause sleepless nights and cause weight loss if it’s difficult to chew and enjoy food.
Symptoms can include:
- Dull pain close to the ear and jaw muscles
- Clicking or popping noise when the jaw is moved
- Limited jaw range of motion
- Tooth sensitivity or excessive wearing
- Neck pain and headaches
Some of the causes of TMJ issues can be:
- Grinding of the teeth
- Clenching of the jaw
- Misaligned teeth
- Head or neck trauma
- First, see your dentist or doctor to get a proper diagnosis. They may fit you for a mouth guard, or have to adjust or reshape the teeth. They will help you determine if massage will be helpful for you.
- Reduce stress: Often stress will cause a person to clench or grind their teeth which can tighten the muscles involved with jaw movement.
- Use moist heat: Soak a hand towel in warm or hot water and wrap around your face holding it at the points of tightness or discomfort. This is great to do at night to relax and wind down before bed.
- Of course, get a massage! I can address the tightness in the facial and neck muscles to provide relief and overall stress reduction!