The Process of Healing

The body is a marvellous machine, able to repair and heal itself. This process of healing happens in stages, and understanding these phases can help ease the frustration and fear of dealing with an injury. There are three main steps of tissue healing: Inflammation, Repair, and Remodeling.

Inflammation: The body immediately begins healing a traumatic injury with inflammation. The injured tissues release chemical signals that dilate blood vessels to bring extra blood flow, white blood cells, and nutrients to help clean up and wall off the injured area. This also serves to limit the function of the injured area, to prevent additional tissue damage. The swelling and pain, as uncomfortable as they are, are a protective process. Bodywork can support this phase by working on associated structures while avoiding the injured tissues. It also will help shift the nervous system out of fight or flight mode into relaxation and repair mode through stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows more of the body’s resources to focus on the healing process.

Repair: Once the injured area is walled off and cleaned up, inflammation subsides and construction begins to replace or repair the injured tissue. Temporary blood vessels grow in order to supply the nutrients needed for healing, and special cells called fibroblasts begin producing a fragile form of scar tissue called granulation tissue to fill in the gaps left after the damaged structures were cleaned out by the body. This is when it is easiest to reinjure the tissues, as pain levels have gone down but the repairs are not yet strong enough for full use. Bodywork can begin to gently address the injured areas, being careful of the fragile granulation tissue, and can continue to work on associated structures to maintain function, minimize compensation, and increase circulation.

Remodeling: Once enough granulation tissue is produced, the construction of permanent tissue can begin, usually as strong scar tissue made from a dense network of collagen fibers. At first, the collagen fibers are arranged in all directions, and they adjust according to how the body moves as it heals. Some fibers are reinforced to provide more strength, as others are destroyed to provide more flexibility. This process is best done with a gradual return to functional activities, followed by time for the tissue to adapt. At this point, bodywork treatment can work much more directly on the affected area, focusing on breaking up scar tissue and increasing range of motion, even as it continues to address compensating movement patterns.

There is no specific time frame for each phase of healing, so it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of each part of the process in order to treat them effectively. Remodeling in particular can take months or even years, and supporting the body as it finds its best function as it heals can do a lot to help reduce chronic dysfunction and discomfort. Bodywork and self-care are effective ways to support this process, helping us stay in conversation with our bodies and respond to their needs.

Travel Tips for Your Body

The keys to taking care of your body while traveling are hydration, warding off insomnia, and body comfort. Biochemical processes don’t move as fast as cars and airplanes, so the body needs support in catching up. Here are some ways to practice self-care as you go:

1. Help reset your sleep cycle with exposure to natural sun for at least 20 min. Using a natural sleep aid such as melatonin or CBD oil can also help.

2. Balance the hips and release the neck and shoulders because those can get compacted during travel.

3. Stay more hydrated than usual. Coconut water and bottled spring water are especially good.

4. Diet-wise, eat bananas and maybe some nuts. Avoid fatty foods, spicy foods, dairy, and caffeine.

5. Take an epsom salt bath with a little lavender or something in it that rejuvenates to help with travel weariness.

6. Practice gentle forward fold pose: put your sitting bones against a wall, with your feet 12-18 inches from the wall and fold forward along your thighs. Relax into the pose and breathe into your back.

7. Take a twist: Doing gentle twists can release back tension and help relieve nausea and constipation.

8. Allow yourself a couple of days after your travel to recalibrate and settle back in.

9. Tell your stories to someone who can really listen. Trips can rearrange us a little, and we often return a little different from who we are when we left. Connecting with our people when we return can relieve emotional tension that otherwise could be held in the body.

Emotional Healing that Starts in the Body

Emotional and physical healing are intertwined. Physical issues can have emotional consequences like depression or anxiety, and the opposite is also true. Strong emotions can become stored in the body, often as tension, pain, or dysfunction.

When you receive bodywork and massage or engage in a self-care practice like yoga, the release of stress and muscle tension can also bring an emotional release. Often, but not always, this release brings up negative feelings that you may have pushed back, like fear, sadness, or anger. This can be a shifting point in your healing process! Even though it is painful to experience old emotions, this can be what you need to get to the other side.

Teachers and bodyworkers are not trained or licensed to provide the therapeutic processing that a mental health counselor could, but they can do a lot to create an opportunity for deep emotional healing. They may slow down or stop the physical process of your session or class in order to let the full emotional release move through. Taking full deep breaths will also help your body release the stored energy on its own, and so they may remind you to breathe. Usually you will calm down after a few minutes, and then be able to rejoin the class or return to the flow of your bodywork treatment.

There is true wisdom in saying, “I need support.” Emotional energy is a factor in our health and our healing process, and feeling safe to release emotional energy can help in so many ways. Having someone just be present and supportive by your side can be exactly what you need.

Be Savvy with your Self-Care

The fundamentals of taking care of yourself are sleeping, eating, and practicing self care. Getting enough sleep is crucial for vitality, mental sharpness, and emotional regulation. Eating well fuels the body for activity, supports healthy organ function, and also helps with emotional regulation. Self-care is just as important as sleeping and eating well. It is how we cultivate health, by listening to the body’s needs and responding appropriately.

What are your self-care mechanisms and are they working for you? These might include meditation or mindfulness practice, exercise routine and activity level, quiet time, quality time with loved ones, receiving bodywork and massage, and any of the other hundreds of things we do to support our mental, emotional, and physical health.

Being savvy with your self-care includes regularly checking in with yourself, and then being proactive about taking action. This means that when you need bodywork and massage, or acupuncture, or a class, you know where to go. You are able to tell when you need it, you know how often you need it, and you probably already have it scheduled, maybe with a standing appointment every 2 or 4 weeks.

What do you need from your self-care? You might need to cultivate a clear, calm mind, or more time to relax and recharge. You might also need a higher activity level, or bodywork to support the activity level you already maintain. Perhaps you need acupuncture to manage pain or reduce stress. Begin with how you feel and how you would like to feel, and then figure out how to make that transition.

Savvy self-care does not wait until we are so uncomfortable that we have to stop our lives to make a change, but instead listens to the smaller discomforts and takes care of them in order to maintain a sense of vitality. It’s about being daring enough to put your self-care first and foremost, in order to be more comfortable in your body. 

 

Cultivating Healthy Posture

Posture is one of the foundations of our overall health, and cultivating healthy posture is particularly important for our sense of wellbeing. The body’s ability to heal comes through movement, and every movement informs our posture, even as our posture informs our movement. The building blocks of healthy posture include ease and economy of motion, coordination, body-mind integration, and a balance between stability and mobility.

Postural issues can get locked into chronic holding patterns in the muscles of the body, causing ongoing muscle tension and discomfort. However, there is always a need for a certain baseline of healthy muscle tension to hold us upright and stable against the pull of gravity. This means that cultivating healthy posture is a complex process of supporting the tonic “anti-gravity” muscles even as we work to ease and release the dysfunctional chronic tension.

When we have pain, it signifies that we have dryness in the tissue, which means that the fibers have become rigid. We need to shift it back to being supple and juicy. One way is to learn to control those core and intrinsic muscles that help hold you upright. You can learn to engage the right muscles in the right order for certain movements, and to then relax any extra muscles that your body is trying to use instead of using its core. You can also use something called sensorimotor awareness, where you pay attention to certain parts of the body and how they move, and then adjust them as needed. Imagery can help you find the right alignments.

Working on healthy posture is progressive. The more you can learn to engage the right muscles and relax the extra ones who are trying to “help”, the better your posture will be. It is fundamentally a process of cultivating awareness, and can have tremendous benefits for overall health and wellbeing.

Treating Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis is foot pain, often in the form of a stabbing pain at the heel, and can be worst in the mornings. The pain comes from the plantar fascia, which is a band of connective tissue that connects the heel to the toes along the bottom of the foot. The arch of the foot is an important part of how the foot absorbs the force of the body against the ground (which can be 3-4 times your body weight with each step while running), and the plantar fascia is an important part of maintaining the right tension in the arch, so that it is neither too loose nor too tight.

The pain of Plantar Fasciitis usually comes from biomechanical issues like imbalanced posture, how you walk, or the shoes you wear. Though plantar fasciitis has traditionally been treated as an inflammatory problem, recent research indicates that it is not inflammation so much as collagen degeneration in the fascia. Treatment, then, needs to focus on the biomechanical dysfunction of the foot and how it relates to the rest of the body.

Bodywork like massage and myofascial release are especially effective at addressing these kinds of issues. There are fascial connections that run all the way from the bottom of the foot, along the back of the calf and thigh, and continue up the back and neck to the head. Tightness anywhere along these connections can then tighten the plantar fascia and cause pain. This means that releasing tight back muscles can relieve foot pain! Working with the body as an interconnected system helps address the dysfunction that is causing the plantar fasciitis in the first place.

The other key to addressing plantar fasciitis is blood and fluid flow. Fascia needs to be hydrated in order to stay healthy, and many shoes constrict circulation in the feet, even as they misalign or stress natural foot structures through raised heels, raised toes, and/or narrowing the toes in a pointed shape. Changing shoes and stimulating the nourishing flow of blood and fluid in the feet can help the fascia repair and rebuild its collagen. Massage, therapy balls, and gua sha are all effective for this kind of stimulation.
Plantar Fasciitis is a symptom, indicating a larger problem in how the body is standing, walking,  and/or running in general. Effective treatment needs to address much more of the body than just the feet and should be customized to the specific needs of each client. Bodywork and massage is especially effective at addressing the body in this way, and at HaLe’, we know how to treat the whole person in order to ease the pain and address the dysfunction of plantar fasciitis.

PreNatal Massage for All 3 Trimesters

Pregnancy involves dramatic physical changes, and Prenatal massage is a form of therapeutic bodywork designed to support and ease the pregnant body through those changes. It provides a wide range of physical, emotional, and mental benefits, and is careful to use special bolsters, pillows, and positions to keep you as comfortable and safe as possible.

Prenatal massage assists with many of the common discomforts of pregnancy, including aches and pains in joints and muscles, headaches, leg cramps, swelling, and constipation. The pregnant body is transitioning to add weight, change the center of gravity, and squish internal organs out of the way. Massage is able to support these transitions by easing muscular discomfort and other distress.

Circulation is also key to pregnancy, and prenatal massage helps to stimulate blood and lymph flow, which nourishes both mother and fetus and helps to remove toxins and increase immunity. It also eases the load on the heart and helps to keep blood pressure in normal ranges. During pregnancy, blood volume may increase up to 60%, and massage is a good way to support blood flow back to the heart.

Also, prenatal massage helps to stabilize hormone levels and the depression or anxiety that hormonal changes can cause, as well as soothing the nervous system into better relaxation and healthier sleep. It also offers drug-free pain relief, and the deep emotional support of nurturing touch.

Prenatal massage is recommended as often as every 2 weeks throughout the pregnancy, increasing to once a week in the third trimester. As your body changes, the specific focus of the sessions will adjust, but the overall goal of every session is to provide healthy support and ease through this time of dramatic change.

 

8 Ways to be More Mindful at Work

There are many ways to incorporate mindfulness throughout your work day, and you only need a few minutes at a time. Here are 8 ideas to get you started:

1. Take a moment when you wake up: Take 2 minutes to just notice your breath when you first wake up. We release the most stress hormones right after waking up, as our thoughts about our day provoke fight-or-flight responses.

2. Take 10 min in the car or at your desk: Spend the first 5-10 min of your work day just paying attention to your breath. When you find your mind distracted, release the distraction and return attention to your breath. Many things will compete for your attention throughout the work day; for these few minutes, your attention is entirely your own.

3. Pause between meetings: Take a minute or two to practice mindfulness at the beginning of each meeting to boost your focus and effectiveness.

4. Single-task: When we multi-task, our brain switches rapidly from one task to another, often losing information each time. Try to group similar tasks together and do one task at a time as much as possible.

5. Connect with your senses: Up to 47% of our day is spent on autopilot, thinking about something other than what we are doing. Come back to your senses, sight, sound, smell, etc. in order to stay more present and aware.

6. Use reminders: Every time your phone rings or dings, take a mindful breath. Or set an alarm to go off every hour to cue a minute of mindfulness. Place a small sign or note in your workspace to remind you.

7. Practice gratitude: Humans have a negativity bias, where we naturally focus on problems. Deliberately find things that are going well in order to boost creativity, health, work relationships, and the quality of your work.

8. Accept what you can’t change: Being mindful means accepting the present moment as it is, and yourself as you are now. Once you accept what is happening, you can move forward with next steps and learning from any mistakes.

Yes, HSAs and FSAs cover massage and acupuncture

Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) can be used to pay for massage and acupuncture treatments, as long as your physician recommends it with a written prescription. At HaLe’, we deeply believe in the effectiveness of our treatments, and are very excited to see bodywork, massage, and acupuncture covered as the health care it is.

To get a written prescription from your medical provider, you will need to talk with them about receiving treatment for a specific medical ailment. Some examples of qualifying issues are: stress, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.  Explain to them that you have an HSA or FSA that you would like to use to pay for bodywork, massage, or acupuncture to address your ailment. If you are already receiving these kinds of treatments, tell your doctor about how much they are helping you and how effective you find them.

To support this conversation, HaLe’ is happy write a letter to bring with you, detailing our suggested treatment plan for that ailment. Your doctor may choose to write the prescription to match that plan or may make adjustments based on their expertise. Either way, the prescription needs to include these 3 pieces of information:

  • Medical necessity: what condition you are treating
  • Frequency: how many sessions per month
  • Duration: how many months

Once you have your prescription, let us know what it says and then file it away with your records in case you are ever asked to back up your expense. You can pay for your sessions at HaLe’ directly with the card or check associated with your health spending account, if you have them. Please note that gratuity is not considered part of the cost and so does not qualify as a qualifying expense. Also, for some people, our classes might also be effective treatments for their ailments, and prescriptions for those could also be appropriate.

At HaLe’, we want you to feel good about what you are doing for your health. These HSA and FSA payment options make our treatments more accessible, which means we can be effective health care for more people, so you can get better and feel good!

What is Ayurvedic & Nutritional Counseling?

Ayurveda is an ancient system of health that begins with an in depth study of your own constitution. To begin, an Ayurvedic practitioner will spend a couple of hours asking a lot of questions, including what vitamins you take, what you eat, childhood illnesses and accidents, your sleep, and your digestion. They really take the time to get clear on how your body works and responds to the world.

This kind of session both identifies your constitution, and gives you the tools to feel secure about what you need to be doing. Ayurveda focuses on one issue at a time, and so the consult will include a plan to address your chief complaint. Because everyone digests things differently, two people with the same complaint but different constitutions will have very different treatments. There is no one pill that fits all.

There are so many factors to consider that it seems very complex, and yet once you know your constitution, it makes things so much easier. It creates a sense of awareness, like falling awake. The different constitutions (doshas) have different innate responses to life and food, and how they respond to imbalance is also very different. Knowing what is normal and what is a sign of imbalance in your constitution helps you know when your body needs support.

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