Massage

Taking it Easy

Taking It Easy

We are fortunate to provide massage services in beautiful Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Unlike summers, when visitors are here to experience the National Parks of Teton and Yellowstone, in winter they’re here primarily for skiing. And it just so happens that Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is one of the gnarliest ski mountains there is – in terms of steeps, difficulties and oodles of snow.

Image showing map of Jackson Hole

 

From a massage perspective – this is good for us – people come here, ski hard and then are in dire need of massage. Sounds simple enough – but this post comes as a note of caution. Hey – don’t get me wrong – I’ll take the massage clients as it’s what I do for a living…but can I really make people better? Am I really the answer to what ails them after a hard day of skiing?

Jackson Hole has recently been graded as number 1 in ‘SKI’ magazine – and so folks flock here to ski. Even if they just ski for that one week or two per year – they choose this challenging mountain to do so. Skiing at Jackson consists of long, hard days using muscles that are not in shape.

 

As a long-time skier, having lived in Vail, Colorado for twenty years, and Jackson Hole for thirteen – I can opine that skiers should pick their terrain according to their ability. Perhaps the first good thing they can do for their bodies (prevention is better than cure), is choose a ski area where there is much more intermediate terrain – like Vail – because let’s face it – if you only ski once per year – you’re probably intermediate. At least your muscles are. And you’ll have a better time as ego creeps in as you master those easier slopes with ease. (I’m just talking about ski terrain here – Vail itself – well – I left there for a reason. Jackson and its environs are fantastic – but the skiing – is hard on the body.)

Massage – seekers come to me and ask if I can fix their considerable pain (usually lower-back) so that they might ski (hard) again tomorrow. I’m as fanatic a skier as the next guy – but whoa – there comes a time when it just makes sense to take the day off. No matter how good a massage therapist might be – there’s nothing that can be done for all the over-use of those hip-rotators, glutes, hamstrings, quads, erectors – and just about every other muscle in your body. Sometimes I have to even turn people away, saying that massage may hurt their (acute) problem even further. The muscle spasm in the lower back is a natural splinting mechanism that is in place specifically to protect the body from further harm – and massage can be contra-indicated.

Take a day or two off skiing. Visit the hot tub, relax in bed, go shopping, read a book, veg in front of the TV, call your Mom, BREATHE. Sometimes massage isn’t the answer to everything.

 

Be well,

 

Hamish and Rochelle

Sweetheart Chocolate Massage

Sweetheart Chocolate Massage

 

Although we at Massage Professionals of Jackson Hole don’t offer chocolate massage, here’s a superb article, thanks to Yogawiz.com, that allows you, finally, to indulge in (literally) chocolate – especially for Valentines Day …and other days:

While there is no doubt that chocolate is the best pick-me-up around, it has always got a bad rap for being full of calories and fat. Chocolate has also been considered one of the culprits for bad skin as too much consumption can lead to acne and skin blemishes.

 

Of late though, the view on chocolate for the skin has taken an about turn. High-end spas all around the world have introduced the latest in skin care – chocolate spa treatments! From soothing chocolate massages and body wraps to indulgent chocolate facials and invigorating chocolate body scrubs, suddenly chocolate is everywhere. Using cocoa-based creams, lotions, and oils, you can now choose to get your chocolate fix without the calories.

 

Some of the benefits of chocolate body treatments include:

  • Firms the skin – The caffeine present in chocolate stimulates the circulation and improves blood flow. This in turn improves and invigorates skin cells, decreases the aging process and increases firmness of the skin.
  • Rich in anti-oxidants – The darker the chocolate, the more powerful are the antioxidant properties. It is also important that you choose your creams and lotions carefully before you begin using them. Products that contain more than 35% of pure cocoa are more effective when it comes to revitalizing the skin and giving it a plumper and firmer feel. Antioxidants also help increase the level of collagen and elastin in the skin and thereby reduce the effects of aging. Fine lines and wrinkles can be treated with regular chocolate treatments as antioxidants lessen the damage caused by free radicals in the body.
  • As a moisturizing agent – Cocoa butter contains high amounts of natural oils and emollients necessary for treating dry, rough and flaky skin. A chocolate massage or chocolate body wrap using a cocoa-butter based massage cream will help remedy rough skin especially on those stubborn spots such as the elbows, knees and feet. The higher the percentage of cocoa butter in the lotion or cream, the better moisturized the skin stays long after the treatment is over.
  • Good for health – Studies have shown that eating a small bit of dark chocolate every day can improve your cardiovascular system, and help prevent atherosclerosis and chronic fatigue due to its antioxidant properties. Chocolate also has the power to improve a person’s mood and cause feelings of euphoria. Even the smell of chocolate can accomplish this positive effect on the brain; making chocolate massages an ideal way reap the health benefits of without any of the guilt associated with eating too much chocolate.
  • Good for cellulite – Chocolate contains theobromine that helps burn fat and get rid of cellulite. A chocolate massage or chocolate body wrap helps work the chocolate-based lotion or oil into the skin for the best results.
  • Calming effects – Who hasn’t calmed down after biting into a chunk of chocolate? In much the same way, a chocolate massage helps reduce stress and tension and eases tight and sore muscles.

 

You can also make your own chocolate massage lotion at home in a few simple steps:

  1. Mix together a quarter cup of cocoa powder with one cup of shea butter and a quarter cup of chamomile oil. You can use a blender for this to get a nice smooth consistency.
  2. Mix till the lotion is smooth and free of lumps. If you would like it thinner, add some more oil. If you prefer a thicker cream, add some more shea butter. Make sure that the shea butter is at room temperature for the best results.
  3. Pour this lotion into a jar with a tight lid and store in a cool dark place.
  4. Use to massage into the skin or as a moisturizer. It is gentle enough for everyday use.

 

 

Thanks also to Everyday Health for this wonderful chocolate massage post.

Be Well,

Hamish and Rochelle

 

Start a Great Massage Habit with your Valentine ‘s Day Gift.

Start a Great Massage Habit with your Valentine ‘s Day Gift

 

It’s the season for love and, like flowers, massage is one of the ‘go-to’ gifts to give. But why stop at that? Why not give yourself a gift as well and book a couples massage for extra romance. And then, while you’re enjoying that massage, consider the health benefits – for you and your partner – of regular massage. Read on – and you’ll see that if it’s good for your body – then it’s good for your partner. Better still, if you can get couples massages as often as possible, it’s good for both of you…together.

Massage Therapy for Health and Fitness

 

It may simply look like a lot of pressing and kneading on skin, but massage is actually a scientific process. The reason you feel different after a massage is because it is healing and invigorating tired, aching or injured muscles. Massage increases blood and lymph circulation. Lymph is a fluid that rids body tissues of waste, is dependent on the squeezing effect of muscles. An active person has better lymph flow than an inactive person. However, stimulation from vigorous activity can lead to increased waste, which can negate the benefit. This is where massage has a huge advantage. Massage can dramatically aid lymph movement, which together with blood, supplies nutrients and oxygen and rids wastes and toxins. It is easy to understand why good circulation is so important to our health and why massage can be so beneficial just for this purpose.

Massage and Sport

 

Massage plays a part in every form of sport or exercise. Unfortunately, many people believe aches and pains are an inevitable consequence to activity. But massage can actually reduce or eliminate what may appear to be exercise-induced pain.

It can increase endurance, control fatigue and help people feel better when used as part of a regular health program. Massage can also speed muscle recovery rates as it eliminates irritation from waste. By helping reduce fatigue and aid recovery, massage enables more productive training, with longer, more effective workouts. The ultimate spin-offs are better performance with fewer injuries. Exercise changes the way our muscles work. Blood vessels become more intricate as the body demands more oxygen and nutrients and increases waste elimination. This takes time. While the muscles are getting into shape, they can struggle to get enough oxygen and nutrients, so waste collects.

Some Other Benefits of Massage

 

  • Increase the blood’s oxygen capacity by 10-15%
  • Help loosen contracted, shortened muscles and stimulate weak, flaccid muscles. This muscle “balancing” can even help posture and promote more efficient movement;
  • Speed recovery from exercise-induced fatigue;
  • Increase production of gastric juices, saliva and urine;
  • Increase excretion of nitrogen, inorganic phosphorus, and sodium chloride (salt). This suggests that the metabolic rate increases;
  • Balance the nervous system by soothing or stimulating it, depending on which effect is needed;
  • Improves function of the oil and sweat glands that lubricate, clean and cool the skin. Though, inflexible skin can become softer and more supple;
  • Indirectly or directly stimulating nerves the supply internal organs can dilate the organs’ blood vessels, improving blood supply.

For much of this content – Special Thanks to Allissa Haines and ‘Writing a Blue Streak‘, and to Butlers Body in Balance

Be Well,

Hamish and Rochelle

 

 

 

 

You Come to Us.

You Come To Us

Last week my blog post was all about ‘We Come To You’.  This was indeed how we defined our business when we started out – it seemed like a really good idea – and it IS – up to a point.  There are some people who just don’t want us to come to them.  For various reasons, it’s not convenient. There might be interruptions at home, or the noise of TV, kids, dogs, construction…who knows.

For the occasional visitor who comes to Jackson Hole and stays in nice hotels or vacation residences, in-home massage is a great service and one that is much appreciated as part of a pampering massage experience. But we now feel that this leaves out our more local customers who may not have large places for us to come to – and they’d rather be in a more purpose-oriented massage studio to get down to the business or regular sports or deep tissue massage therapy.

So Rochelle and I have decided to expand our practice and our thinking…and just this week we have taken on a shared space in ‘The Connection‘ (270 Veronica Lane, Jackson), which will enable people to come to a centrally located massage studio in Jackson at their convenience…and ours.

And, like so many things in life, this has turned out to be a fabulous move for Massage Professionals of Jackson Hole.  For starters, we now have Tina Seay in our lives – and what a beautiful, nurturing person she is.  Rochelle and I are immediately better off for knowing her.  Tina runs The Connection – ‘A Place To Connect at All Levels’ – it’s a lovely, relaxing, quiet suite of rooms where different massage / body work / energy work professionals practice their professions.  Here’s how Tina describes The Connection:

It is a collective center where people meet to explore themselves, their place in the world, and how to reach their highest most exquisite Self.  Through bodywork, energy work, workshops, and products The Connection is a center created for the evolution of body, mind, and spirit.

Aside from creating the physical presence of ‘The Connection’, Tina’s own practice is Healing Touch Massage and Body Work.  The following few lines from her web site should tell it all:

Get out of exist mode; Move into the present moment, Become more optimistic, Allow yourself to move forward; Rebound from your extreme sports activities; Recover from your crippled posture after the long plane ride; Look good, feel good.  Become more flexible.

Also present in The Connection is Sheri Todd, NCMT (Nationally Certified Massage Therapist) with her business Teton Manual Therapy – Orthopedic Health Assessment and Wellness.

What is ‘Manual Therapy’? – Check it out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manual_therapy

Sheri’s qualifications, experience and expertise are just too great to go into here (so go check out her web site) – but let’s just say she’s another wonderful person to be ‘connected’ with and Rochelle and I look forward to working in unison with these two wonderful professionals.

Be well,

Hamish and Rochelle.

 

We Come to You

We Come to You

 

My previous posts have been about the experience and what to expect in massage mostly in a setting where clients come to a clinic or a spa. Where massage techniques, types, benefits, strokes, tools and so on stay the same – what is different when massage therapists come to your home or vacation residence?

Massage Professionals of Jackson Hole prides itself in quality home visits. Hence our tag line – We Come To You.   (However, for various reasons we just took on a shared space in  on Veronica Lane in Jackson – see next post). Here’s how it works:

Well, to start with – we come to you! In the days of cell-phone GPS it’s usually easy to get there – but if there are any directions that could help us identify your door and where to park that might helpful. In quite a few areas of Jackson Hole there is no cell service, so we are careful to ask for details. Even if it is a couples massage we will come in one vehicle to save parking space.

 

We will arrive at least fifteen minutes prior to the appointment time, allowing us time to say hello, change into our indoor footwear, set up our equipment (while you fill out our intake forms) and generally get ready. We bring: Massage Table (duh), bolster, face cradle, sheets, table-warming blanket, over blanket, massage oil or lotion, music and player, intake forms and a fabulous attitude.

 

We do need adequate space to set up. Often, with couples’ massages, this might put people in two different rooms or areas of the house. A typical massage table is 6’5″ long and between 27 and 33 inches wide. Add another foot in length for the face cradle. Then we need as much space around the table as possible to work – a minimum of three feet on each side and at the foot of the table is ideal – and I like a good four feet absolute minimum at the head. These considerations are important for both the quality of the massage that you will receive, and the health and safety of your massage therapist. We have to concern ourselves with correct ‘body mechanics’, which helps us to avoid injury via proper positioning and angles of our bodies whilst doing this physical work. Clearly, that ability is compromised in a restricted place.

It is also best if the room is warm – even with table warmers, uncovered areas of the body quickly become cold and not responsive to massage – and there are no barking dogs or other distractions (aka noisy kids, football on the TV…).

When all is ready, the therapist(s) will call you into the room, instruct you about how they want you to be on the table (I usually start clients face-down), and then retreat to the closest bathroom to wash hands and give privacy whilst you disrobe and get on the table, under the sheet and blanket. The massage commences, you luxuriate in the excellence of your therapist’s touch for an hour or (preferably) 90 minutes – and you’re done! Easy – that’s all there is to it. The therapists once again retreat to the bathroom to wash hands while you slip into your robes. After that, we pack up, accept your very gracious payment (credit card payment is very easy these days with ‘square’ payments), have a little ‘goodbye’ session – and leave. You get to stay in your robes, hang out at home, glow in the aftermath of your ‘massage coma’ – and contemplate making this into a weekly, or at least monthly, habit. And why not…you deserve it.

 

Be well,

Hamish and Rochelle/

 

 

 

60 or 90 Minutes?

60 or 90 Minutes?

 

I feel so strongly about this that I am considering dropping the 60 minute time slot in favor of 90 minute sessions  – especially for deep tissue massage. That is – proper deep tissue massage. Or let’s call it deep tissue therapy or body work.

Yes – massage therapists can all give a nice relaxation Swedish massage in 60 minutes – but it’s almost always a compromised massage if it is to address the whole body including hands, feet, scalp and face. I find myself distracted by looking at the clock and having to leave something out or just briefly touched if I am not careful. And lets face it – if your massage therapist is any good – 60 minutes will always leave you feeling a bit short-changed. People rarely get off a massage table thinking that they’ve had enough or have been there too long. (Let’s not even go to the 50 minute time of spas – which I think is really poor service.)

 

But with deep tissue – 60 minutes  just isn’t enough to address the whole body adequately. I don’t even try. This is enough time to address either the upper body or the lower body or specifics like shoulder / upper back and neck complaints.

 

I’m talking about a proper deep tissue massage here, where communication between client and therapist is essential and on-going throughout the session. This is deep tissue where time has to be spent assessing, palpating, warming and softening (melting) the more superficial muscles – necessary to allow access to the deeper muscles. And simultaneously it takes time for the client to relax mentally, to find their breathing rhythms and their trust and comfort in the session that’s about to begin. After all that prep work, which takes time (everybody has different requirements), the therapist has to work slowly and methodically – slowness equals deepness (or at least the effect of deepness) lotion or oil is kept to a minimum and burning of the skin isn’t an option. The therapist is ‘listening’ to the body, feeling what’s going on in the anatomy, looking at the client’s face, watching for trembles, movement, resistance and gauging the effect of the stroke or tool or method being used.  Only when the muscle has ‘released’, or otherwise responded as desired, is it time to move on. We need time to ask questions of the client (How is this feeling?), listen to the answers. There’s experimentation – is this working? If not, how about this? Or after this – I think I should add this?

And then there’s joint mobilization and increasing range of motion (ROM) for many differing conditions and desired outcomes. Massaging muscles doesn’t just stand on its own! I will often perform joint mobilization and stretching techniques to the areas of the body served by those muscles that are receiving a massage. This gives a much more beneficial (and great-feeling) all-around massage.

 

So the point is -if you’re booking a proper deep tissue massage, or even a relaxation massage with elements of deep tissue – give yourself and your therapist a break and do the 90 minute version – you’ll love it!

Choosing 90 minutes for deep tissue massage is a win-win situation. The client receives a better massage and better results, the therapist gets to give a better massage, is likely to get better reviews and will earn better money.  (The value for the client is usually better too, as the per-minute price of a 90 minute session is usually less than that of the 60 minute session.)

Oh – and by the way – be prepared to book future sessions. The first deep tissue massage is often (usually) a get-to-know-you time. There are many, many benefits to repeat visits to a therapist who, in their first session, has come to know your body, yourself, and has an extended plan of care. Over time a relationship develops and the overall result is…a healthier and happier you.

Be well,

 

Hamish and Rochelle

Accessing the Psoas Major

Lower Back Pain? Think Psoas Major

Image showing psoas muscle anatomy

Pronounced with a silent ‘p’, the psoas major (let’s just call it the psoas), is the only muscle in the body that connects the upper body to the lower body. This often comes as quite a surprise statement to people – but it’s true as it attaches the lumbar vertebrae to the inside of the femur, having passed through the entire inguinal/ hip region. It’s important and hefty role is flexion and extension of the hips – think walking, climbing stairs, sitting down and standing up.

 

There’s much more to it than that, of course – as it becomes one with the iliacus muscle and is more generally known as the iliopsoas, and it should be treated in unison with the piriformis (and others). But the point here is about accessing this primary hip flexor.

Those who sit for long times at computers, who drive, or in lotus-position meditation will find their psoas muscles shortening. If no hip-stretches or exercises (with external hip rotation) are done to counter this, a chronic back-stooping pose may be the result, accompanied by lower back and neck pain as muscles in those areas try to compensate.

It’s a deep muscle in a vulnerable, tender spot – it can hold much emotion. Chances are good that even regular massage clients may never have had this worked on – it’s an area of caution for some. There’s no doubt it can be a painful and quite alarming experience having your psoas worked on for the first time. However, the physical and emotional benefits are substantial, so perseverance is key.

 

But before the first touch in that region, a conversation is necessary. The massage therapist should explain the muscle, what is does, why it might need attention, and then the process of working into it, the pain-scale, how to breathe into and ‘accept’ the discomfort, and how to communicate during the process. Trust, good skills with soft, warm fingers and ‘permission’ from the body and the client’s mind are all needed for the massage therapist to be able to gain access to the psoas.

Without creating discomfort, the massage therapist will gently press down and create movement (massage) the skin and fascia just below and to the side of the navel and toward the hip bone.  Patient gentle, continuous soft pressure and massage will eventually allow access to the psoas with the finger tips.

Massage of the psoas itself depends on what the therapist finds in there, the overall goal of the session, and also goals with on-going treatment – but that’s all beyond the intention of this post.

Massage of the the psoas Major, (along with the piriformis and others) is an important ‘maintenance’ consideration for regular clients.  It it is one of the body’s ‘primary’ skeletal muscles with important jobs – it’s worth persevering with the sensitivity of reaching it as the benefits – and the feeling of such work – are immense.

Be Well,

Hamish and Rochelle

 

 

 

 

The Benefits of Side-Lying

The Benefits of Side-Lying

 

Side-lying position in massage therapy has to be experienced to be fully appreciated – and once you have tried it, you will find that you go back to the massage therapist that recommended it to you time after time.

Not only does your massage therapist have better access and angles to work on shoulders, hips, IT band,  outer-thigh muscles,  and adductors of the inner thigh, but the therapist’s body-positioning is more comfortable and more powerful – allowing the delivery of a much more controlled and effective massage.

 

Certain stretches, too, are greatly facilitated by side-lying – imagine the great side-stretches you can get if the therapist extends your arm up and out over your head, then down towards the floor whilst gently pushing your hip towards the other end of the table.

One of the nicer benefits is for those who don’t like to spend too much time with their face in the face-cradle. This can compromise the sinus channels in the front of the face and cause unpleasant pressure in the head. People with breathing conditions or allergies can find themselves all stuffed-up by the time it comes to roll over onto the back (supine) for the rest of the massage. Side-lying does away with much of that time in the face-cradle – and it allows for cleared communication with the therapist.

The side-lying position is especially beneficial for people needing extra care, such as pregnant women, the elderly, those with back pain, the obese, and those with medical devices such as clostomy bags, or medical conditions requiring extra comfort in the abdomen. Large-breasted and lactating women will also appreciate the relief offered by side-lying position.

Finally, Side-lying is a very secure and comfortable position and helps to reduce the ‘vulnerability’ or certain massage work that might otherwise seem invasive. The position is generally fetal, which is reassuring, and with pillows and bolsters held to the chest it is  a truly wonderful alternative to prone and / or supine positioning. Next time you go for a massage – request side-lying position from your therapist – you’ll love it.

 

 

The Relaxation Response

The Relaxation Response

Image showing inhale and exhale

Does your massage therapist ever help you achieve complete exhalation of breath by compressing your chest while lying prone (face-down)? Doesn’t that feel extra wonderful? Why is that?

The key benefit of most types of massage (with the exception of some sports and training massages) is relaxation. The out-breath is a natural state of relaxation and creates the subconscious relaxation response. This is the body’s rejuvenation time and the National Institute of Health recognizes it as having broad health benefits, including reduction of pain and restoration of sleep. Along with quality of touch and certain Swedish massage techniques, the out-breath assists in bringing about the parasympathetic response of the autonomic nervous system – rest and digest. We simply don’t do enough attentive breathing (or massage) in these high-stress times, as relaxation is the antidote to stress.

 

Think of it literally – the breath is inspiration and expiration – and you will see the Latin root of the word ‘spirit’.  Our very spirit is inherent in our breathing. Meditation is breathing, relaxation & yoga is all about breathing and  the advice to ‘Take ten deep breaths’ to calm someone down is wise and effective indeed.

 

The relaxation response can increase energy, decrease fatigue and blood pressure, increase motivation, productivity, sex-drive and decision-making ability. Many self-taught relaxation response techniques are available online, but if you’d rather leave that up to someone else, a really great massage could be indicated.

Image showing relax button

Your massage therapist should be encouraging you to breathe throughout the session, especially if complete relaxation is the goal. Then again, a more aggressive deep massage will often require ‘breathing into’ the pain of working out a knotted muscle or cross-fiber-stroking a tender muscle tendon needing to be stretched. If using range-of-motion enhancement techniques, a deep breath will often be taken before a good exhale  at which time the therapist will take the limb beyond its previous tolerance.

Image showing relaxation book

For great advice on self-help breathing and stress-reduction techniques, visit http://www.mindtools.com/smpage.html

 

What is Sports Massage?

Sports Massage – What Is It?

 

There are several important differences between sports massage and Swedish massage – and even a regular session of ‘deep’ massage. That’s not to say there isn’t any crossover of techniques or benefits. A sports massage will be more vigorous, more specific in muscles / joints worked with, they can involve even deeper work than deep massage (but not always and only as indicated), are often at a 5 – 7 on a pain scale up to 10, and are generally more intense with shorter, faster strokes. There can be much more attention paid to stretching.

 

As a client, you can expect a much more rigorous pre-session interview, where your therapist will be listening carefully to detailed descriptions of the work you are requiring, the type of lifestyle / sports you have, your goals wit therapy, and your areas of pain or dysfunction.

In order to warm the muscles, either to work deeper, or in a pre-sports event massage, strokes will be much faster and should actually cause excitement, rather than relaxation.

Because sports massage is about warming muscles, therefore using friction, much less oil is used than in Swedish massage. There are also certain muscle-lengthening methods, such a ‘pin-and-stretch’, that are best done with no oil at all – or even over the drapes or clothing. Many sports massage therapists prefer lotion over oil is it is less viscous.

 

In the case of performance athletes, pain at some level is expected in sports massage. It’s part of what you get, and expect, for being an athlete. Sports at a higher level will eventually cause pain anyway with over-exertion of muscles; pain will eventually decrease performance. So it makes sense to prepare the body to last longer before getting to this stage – and that can be painful. However, on a pain scale of 1 – 10, where at 1 there’s not even awareness of touch, and 10 in unbearable pain, somewhere between 5 and 7 is the zone of therapeutic effectiveness. The therapist should keep in touch with you constantly about the pain level, watching your breathing, finger-twitching, and restive body motions. There is no need or good reason to endure pain beyond about a level 7.

 

Participation is a big part of sports massage. Forget about setting your face in the cradle and falling asleep. You will be asked to assist with stretching moves, roll onto your back, side or front several times, lift this or push that while the therapist resists in the opposite direction – and constant feedback about your experience.

 

In next week’s post I will be discussing what to expect from sports massage at performance-sports events specifically.

 

Be well,

Hamish and Rochelle.

Massage Professionals of Jackson Hole.