Bodywork and Massage for Pain Management

Bodywork and Massage therapy can effectively relieve pain, offering proven benefits and an excellent safety record with few, if any, side effects. Pain is the reason for about 80% of physician visits in the U.S., and the CDC now recommends that doctors start with non-pharmacological treatments to address this pain, instead of prescribing medications.

Last year, the journal Pain Medicine published a systematic review and meta-analysis of 60 high-quality and 7 low-quality studies on the effectiveness of massage for pain. This included muscle and bone pain, headaches, deep internal pain, fibromyalgia, and spinal cord pain. It concluded not only that massage therapy does help relieve pain, but that it offers the added benefits of improved anxiety and health-related quality of life.  

Sometimes one bodywork and massage session will bring significant improvement, and other times a problem created over years of repetitive stress takes several treatments before it significantly improves. This is why other studies have looked at massage dosage, or how long and how often massage should be received. A study on neck pain showed that a longer session (60 min vs. 30 min) is more effective for pain relief, and that coming more than once a week for the first 4 weeks is 5x more likely to improve function and 2x as likely to bring a significant drop in pain.

At HaLé, our bodywork and massage therapists are experienced at treating pain and know that it responds best to an integrative approach that allows for healing on many levels, including biomechanical, neurological, and psychological. We can help you manage and reduce your pain, and our treatments have the proven side effect of improving your overall sense of well-being.

What Is CBD Oil?

CBD is cannabidiol, which is one of the many compounds that come from the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, it has no psychotropic effects and does NOT make you feel high. It is an effective treatment for a wide variety of health concerns, and is legal in all 50 states when sourced from hemp and has no THC content.

How it works: the human body naturally produces cannabinoids internally, and has two kinds of receptors for them: CB1 receptors, which are mostly in the brain, and CB2 receptors, which are most common in the immune system and affect inflammation and pain. CBD oil does not affect either of these receptors directly, but influences the body to use more of its own cannabinoids.

What it helps: At HaLé, the two most popular uses for CBD oil are for pain and sleep. CBD oil provides natural pain relief and helps reduce inflammation for both chronic pain and acute pain symptoms. It also helps regulate sleep by calming the nervous system, and is helpful both for ongoing sleep issues and for the dysregulation that comes from travel.

CBD oil can also help reduce anxiety behaviors that come from PTSD, anxiety disorders, and OCD, and it does so with very few side effects, unlike many of the medications often used to treat these conditions.

Side effects: CBD is widely tolerated by adults across a wide dose range. There are no side effects on the central nervous system, vital signs, or mood, among those who use it slightly or heavily. The most common side effect is tiredness.

CBD at HaLé: We are pleased to carry high quality CBD products from companies we trust. We offer some tinctures that go under the tongue for bedtime or daily use, a transdermal patch that lasts up to 12 hours, and some topical products that can be applied directly to where it hurts. A growing number of our clients have discovered that CBD is an effective supplement for them, and HaLé has come to believe strongly in the power of this plant medicine.

How to Practice Yoga at Any Age

HaLé has students ages 18 to 80, and yoga is a practice for people at all levels. Don’t let fitness or age keep you away! We especially recommend working deeper instead of broader. Instead of trying lots of different kinds of yoga, find one that works for you and stick with it. Allow yourself to become part of a community of people doing yoga together and supporting each other in the practice.

Going deeper instead of broader also works for the practice of yoga itself. People often do yoga positions too quickly, and are surprised when yoga doesn’t immediately fix their pain. Give pain time to resolve, as it is a good teacher, and yoga is not a pain free practice. Allow regular practice to layer its benefits over time, as yoga helps you find what challenges you, and how to address it. Yoga benefits are often physical, mental, and emotional.

It is important for yoga to feel convenient and enjoyable. Use props like blocks, straps, and bolsters to support a comfortable practice with proper alignments. Also, allow yourself to relax into restorative poses. Because restorative yoga lets gravity do the work, these poses can be the most mentally challenging. Move through the restlessness to find deeper benefits.

A yoga practice, because it engages both mind and body, does a lot to create health and ease discomfort in the body. It can lower pain levels, improve balance, and increase your overall sense of wellbeing. Give it time, deepen your practice, and remember not to take it too seriously. Yoga practice should also be fun.

Core Awareness 101: Intro the the Psoas

The psoas (so-az) muscle is the deepest muscle in the body, connecting the spine to the leg and stretching from solar plexus to upper thigh. It is a crucial element of core strength. However, it is not a muscle that does best when strengthened, stretched, or massaged. Instead, to best work toward core health and psoas health, we need to approach it from an understanding of how it relates to the whole body, not just its mechanical function.

The first thing to understand about the psoas is that it is about motion. It is the only muscle that connects the trunk of the body to the legs, and it is what allows you to lift your leg with each step. It is a suspension bridge to the spine, stabilizing it the same way ropes stabilize a tent. It also supports organ health, helping to hold the organs in place and massaging them as the body moves. This improves fluid and nutrient flow, which helps keep them functioning well.

When the psoas has dysfunction, it is usually due to exhaustion. Many factors can contribute to this, including structural imbalances, injuries, and restrictive clothing, shoes, and chairs that keep us from moving naturally most of the time. Because the psoas is about providing stability while in motion, it will work harder to compensate for a lack of stability, and so grow thick and short. This in turn pulls the pelvis out of alignment and transfers stress to the knees and low back. It also becomes less effective at supporting organ health.

The psoas is also tied directly into the flight or fight response, as it is the muscle that helps curl us into a protective ball or allows us to run and jump our way out of danger. A chronically exhausted psoas, then, sends a constant signal of stress and danger to the body. This has emotional and physical consequences and can exhaust the adrenals and deplete the immune system.

Working with the psoas to restore health and vitality to the whole system means bringing awareness and ease to the core. Moving from a tight, thick psoas to a juicy, supple one can relieve a wide range of symptoms, including water retention, sleep issues, foot rotations, and deep-seated fears. It may take practice to build awareness of the psoas, but when it becomes juicy, we are able to move with more ease and vitality.

What is HaLé Bodywork?

HaLé Bodywork begins by listening. We are advocates of client-centered care, and clear communication is at the heart of a good massage therapy session. Our treatments start from a place of supporting and listening to clients’ experiences.

Our massage therapists use ashiatsu, neuromuscular, myofascial release, and sports massage, as well as in-house in techniques that use the therapist’s own breath and body weight in order to work as deeply as needed without strain. These techniques are effective for reducing stress levels, reducing pain, and supporting emotional health, which allows us to effectively treat and support a wide variety of clients.

Treatments at HaLé go much deeper than simple relaxation. In addition to reducing the stress and muscle tension in the body, we practice manual medicine to restore soft tissue and create health and wellness. This means that we can help increase range of motion, reduce swelling, help posture issues, reduce scarring, and more.  

HaLé Bodywork begins with listening and works toward rehabilitation and wellness. It complements other treatment approaches (like medicines), and can have a profound effect on pain levels, quality of life, and overall sense of wellbeing.

Supportive Treatments for PTSD

PTSD is a stress-related disorder that can develop after a traumatic experience. It often includes symptoms of increased anxiety and hypervigilance, pain from muscle tension and headaches, and sleep issues, and it can make every day a struggle. Treatment with HaLé therapies can help empower the healing process and ease the distress.

HaLé Bodywork can provide pain relief, lower anxiety and stress, and improve mood and sleep quality, all of which are especially helpful for people with PTSD. Our sessions are also based on creating and strengthening a trust relationship with your massage therapist. This trust bond brings both physical and emotional comfort, which creates safety for increasing awareness of both physical and psychological distress. This combination of trust, comfort, and awareness creates room for healing.

Our classes also provide many of these same benefits. HaLé Yoga and our other offerings all increase mindful awareness of the body in the present moment, and help release stress and anxiety, reduce pain, and create a general sense of wellbeing. By linking the mind and body through the breath, the mind is able to calm, which can reduce the intensity of feelings and thoughts associated with PTSD symptoms.

By reducing physical and mental distress, the bodywork and classes we offer at HaLé can provide relief for PTSD symptoms. Through increased feelings of trust, safety, and awareness, the constant alarms of PTSD can be recalibrated, and we are happy to offer support through that process.

What is HaLe’ Yoga?

HaLe’ Yoga is therapeutic and mindfulness-based, which means it works to create awareness even as it supports the health and healing of the body. There is a unique connection between the body and mind, and the practice of HaLe’ Yoga is designed to use this connection to build self-awareness and increase the clarity and accuracy of how you know yourself.

We all have things that come up for us in our bodies and minds. Sometimes they are constant symptoms, and sometimes they show up every so often. The body is always talking to us through pain, pleasure, and other sensations. We can learn to understand this language.

The practice of yoga is a great way to learn to speak with our own bodies. We can sit and breathe and listen, allowing information to come from the body up instead of from the head down. We can practice the movement of yoga to connect the body and the mind, to bring us a more peaceful, balanced feeling.

HaLe’ Yoga integrates movement, breath, and awareness to connect you to yourself and cultivate health. Yoga can be your greatest self-care guide as you create health and wellness from the inside out.

Treating Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a difficult and frustrating syndrome involving generalized chronic pain, fatigue, and mood and memory issues. Treatment focuses on managing these symptoms, and bodywork and massage are especially helpful for this. Developing a self-care relationship with your body through classes like Yoga for All Levels and MELT Method also helps bring long term relief.

Bodywork and massage treatments for fibromyalgia use integrative techniques to best address the sensitivity of a body dealing with fibro. Gentle stretches, rocking motions, and long strokes help release muscle tension, increase circulation, and bring deep relaxation. Because every body is unique, it is especially important to communicate with your therapist about your treatment, and to let them know if it ever feels too intense.

Multiple scientific studies have looked at the effectiveness of bodywork treatments for fibromyalgia, and the proven benefits include:

  • Higher serotonin levels
  • Decreased stress hormones
  • Improved sleep
  • Lower pain levels, especially at tender points
  • Improved overall sense of well-being

In addition to bodywork, developing a self-care relationship with your body can lay the foundations for long term relief of fibromyalgia symptoms. This is a process of learning to listen and be in relationship with your most physical self, and does not come easily to everyone. Regular practice is key, and self care classes like yoga and MELT method are very helpful in this process.

Fibromyalgia and related pain syndromes can make basic activities difficult. Treatment through bodywork and self-care can offer better sleep, less pain, and an overall sense of well-being. Regular massage sessions and classes have a cumulative effect, building on each other to make day to day living less painful and more enjoyable.

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.

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