Treating Arthritis

Arthritis is a very common cause of joint pain, usually caused by worn cartilage that no longer keeps enough of a cushion between the bones of the joint. This in turn causes pain, inflammation, and stiffness. Treatment for arthritis either supports the health of the joint and/or helps to manage the pain.

At Ha.Lé, we have a variety of effective treatments for arthritis pain. Our first recommendation is to come to class. Physical movement in general helps to relieve stiffness and improve circulation. Yoga classes also help realign the joint and strengthen the muscles around it, which can reduce the amount of pressure that contributes to the pain. MELT Method classes focus on hydration of tissues, and dry tissues in the joint can be a big contributing factor for discomfort. By using MELT techniques, those dry tissues can rehydrate, reducing inflammation and providing more cushion between the bones. Finally, Somatics and Feldenkrais classes can help the body learn to move more effortlessly, taking some of the strain off of painful joints and restoring a sense of vitality.

In addition to classes, we recommend bodywork and acupuncture. Bodywork is able to address multiple layers of tissue around the affected joints, easing strain and restoring blood and nutrient flow to the tissues. By addressing issues with muscle tension and adhered fascia, the joint is freed to move more easily, releasing pressure from spaces that don’t have enough cushioning and making movement more sustainable and less painful.

Acupuncture is also helpful for arthritis. It works to regulate pain signals in general, turning down the volume on the body’s alarms. This is especially helpful when pain has become chronic, which means that the pain signals can begin to build on each other, sending louder and louder alarms. Acupuncture is able to help reset this response. It also helps to reduce the inflammation in the joints themselves, which eases discomfort.

Arthritis pain is common and treatable. There are many ways to address the discomfort and reduce the impact of arthritis on daily life, through movement classes, bodywork, and acupuncture. All of these approaches are very safe with few side effects, and have the added effect of increasing your sense of vitality and general well-being.

When to Get Cupping Therapy

Cupping Therapy improves muscle performance and moves fluids by using negative pressure (suction) to lift tissue. It is a powerful healing tool that can be customized and utilized effectively for a wide range of body issues.

Muscle Tension: The pull of the cups on contracted muscle tissue helps it to release and relax. This is especially effective when done as a complement to massage.

Chronic Muscle Pain: The connective tissue that wraps around muscles is called fascia, and it can adhere to the muscle in a way that prevents the muscle from fully releasing, causing chronic or recurring pain. Cupping can help release the fascia (also called myofascial release), especially when the cups are moved along the tissue.

Scar Tissue: Cupping can help break up scar tissue adhesions, allowing better flow of blood and lymph and freeing bound muscular tissue for improved range of motion and performance.

Swelling: Using cups around bruised or swollen tissue can help draw excess fluids away and stimulate healing.

Joint Pain: Cupping around an achy joint (knee, shoulder, etc.) can help draw blood and nutrient flow to the problem area to speed healing, as well as release myofascial issues and muscle tension that may be contributing to the discomfort.

Cold/Flu or Deep Cough: Cups applied to the back over the lungs can help break up lung congestion and stimulate healthy respiratory function. Facial cupping can also help relieve sinus pressure.

Digestive Issues: Abdominal cupping can help relieve digestive distress and stimulate healthy bowel function.

TMJ and Facial Dysfunction: Specially designed smaller cups will not leave marks on the face and can be used to address problems in the jaw and other facial issues, stimulating healing and restoring function.

Cellulite: The distinctive appearance of cellulite is caused by an underlying grid-like structure of the skin, which spreads to allow fat tissue to bulge through. Cupping with silicone cups can help reset this grid-like structure, closing gaps and smoothing the appearance of the cellulite.

Women’s Health: Regular abdominal cupping can decrease menstrual discomfort and address fibroids. It also helps draw back together the abdominal separation caused by pregnancy, and can help with scar tissue from breast reconstruction/augmentation.

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!

Breema Brings Deep Nurturing and Wholeness

Breema is a set of techniques based on 9 Principles of Harmony. It does not require mental beliefs, only attention to the experience of the body. It provides a way to feel nurtured, rather than drained, by your experiences and relationships.

Breema can be done as self-care, done with a partner, and received as a bodywork. It uses simple forms of natural body movement to free your energy for productive work. Our physical energy is consumed by our mind, body and feelings. Conflicts and tension tie up more of that energy than necessary, and restoring harmony makes it available for other things, like our body’s natural healing processes.

As tension and conflict eases, it restores vitality and suppleness. New movements and postures become available. Mind, body, and feelings are able to create new relationships and function more cooperatively. Mood can regulate, stepping out of the cycle of pleasant and unpleasant states so that the mind can return to being a naturally supportive presence to the body.

Breema is done fully clothed on a padded floor, and brings an experience of wholeness. All our lives we don’t include ourselves in our impressions of life, and we think of our body as discrete, labeled parts like hands, arms, liver, heart, etc. By including the whole self and emphasizing that unity of being, Breema creates an experience. When we move into that experience, we remember that we are all part of a whole, our body parts are all part of our whole, and we are able to release tension and conflict in order to return to harmony.

The experience of Breema makes you simpler, not more complicated. Instead of fighting illness, it works to increase vitality. By moving toward harmony, vitality, and wholeness, Breema treatments restore natural function and bring a deep sense of wellbeing.

The Therapeutic Benefits of Balls and Rollers

Therapy balls and rollers offer many of the benefits of bodywork, but with the accessibility of a self-care practice and classes. Bodywork and massage therapy has a long list of benefits for overall health, pain management, athletic performance, and immune function. Sessions are one on one and highly individualized to each client’s body and what will best support their health.

Not everyone is able to receive bodywork or massage as often as their body needs it, though. A reasonable health maintenance schedule for bodywork is once every 2 or 4 weeks, and busy schedules and finances can make that difficult for everyone to access. That’s where the balls and rollers come in! With a grippy texture and firm (but not hard) to the touch, they can support health in many of the same ways bodywork does.

The ball or roller is able to mimic what the therapist does with their hands and feet, using slow, firm pressure to create length and hydration. They can address pressure points, lengthen fascia, relax muscle tension, and rehydrate tissues. Classes can get anyone started with these tools, as a trained teacher leads students through proper techniques and teaches them what to notice. Each student needs to learn the difference between sensations that create health, and pain that does damage.

Coming to class is an important part of dedicating regular self-care time and establishing good practices. Once you have these pieces, you can then begin to integrate balls and rollers into your own self-care practice at home. Self treatments like releasing the IT band after each long run or addressing pressure points on the hands to relax head and neck tension after a day on the computer, can go a long way to maintaining a daily sense of ease and vitality. This also allows classes and bodywork and massage sessions to become more effective as they can spend more time addressing root causes of discomfort.

At Ha.Lé, discovering the therapeutic use of balls and rollers was an Aha! moment for us. We had tried for years to figure out a way for clients to continue their treatments off the massage table. Yoga is a great complement to bodywork, but it does not work with the body in the same way. Adding therapeutic balls and rollers completes the care students receive in movement and yoga classes, and all of our teachers are encouraged to integrate all of our tools into their classes. We wholeheartedly encourage clients to come to class in order to support and maintain the specialized bodywork they receive on the table.

How Often Do You Need Self-Care?

Our bodies require regular care in order to thrive and heal, and one of the best ways to make sure we are on top of our self-care is to put it on our schedule instead of trying to fit it in around everything else. As a health and wellness practice, HaLe’ has experience with what kinds of schedules work best. Here are our recommendations, based on the state of your body:

Acute Pain: 3 classes/wk, bodywork or acupuncture every week

Acute pain is an active, painful flare up or injury. The body needs frequent treatment in order to release secondary tension, stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, support the lymph system, regulate the pain signals, and generally assist the healing process.

Sub-acute: 1-2 classes/wk, bodywork or acupuncture every 2 weeks

Sub-acute pain falls between acute pain (sudden and awful) and chronic pain (long term, constant/consistent pain). It means that something hurts, but it hasn’t been hurting for a very long time and it isn’t terrible. The body is not in crisis but still in need of support and healing, so regular treatment until it resolves is recommended.

Chronic: Start with 2-3 classes/wk and bodywork or acupuncture every 1-2 weeks, then taper down

Chronic pain is long term pain that is not healing or getting better, and can be anywhere on the spectrum from unbearable to really annoying. Addressing chronic pain involves a combination of treatments to reduce overall pain levels and to treat the root cause of the chronic condition. This usually means coming often at the beginning, and as treatment makes progress at interrupting the pain cycle, tapering off gradually until treatments reach a maintenance level.

Maintenance: 1-2 classes/wk, bodywork or acupuncture every 4 weeks

To maintain a level of general good health and low pain, we recommend a basic self-care schedule. This helps resolve issues before they begin to hurt, reduces baseline stress levels, hydrates the connective tissue (fascia), and promotes a general sense of well-being. People who are very active or athletic may need more frequent self-care maintenance.

 

A Note on Mental Health care:

These same protocols can also be applied to mental and emotional health. Psychotherapy sessions for high distress, medium distress, chronic distress, and mental health maintenance often follow the same frequency guidelines as the pain levels, since mental and emotional distress is a form of pain. Coming to classes provides valuable support for regulating mood, reducing the physical symptoms of mental and emotional stress, and releasing emotional energy that is stored in the body. Adding bodywork and/or acupuncture to your treatment plan can treat imbalances that may be contributing to distress and help boost a sense of overall wellbeing.

Crackle and Pop: Knees and other Joints

Our knees and other joints can pop, grind, crunch, and make other interesting sounds. This can be alarming, causing worry about the health of the joint and whether the sounds are a sign of something serious.

What makes those sounds: There are a lot of complex tissues in our joints, and most of them can make some noise. Tiny bubbles can form in the joint fluid due to changes in joint pressure, and they make a sound when they pop. Ligaments and tendons can make a click or pop sound as they move over a bony lump and snap back into place. Cartilage can develop uneven areas as we age, and a grinding or crunching sound can be from those rough surfaces gliding across each other.

When to worry: As long as there is no pain or swelling, these sounds are not a reason to worry. They can come from age, use, or healed injuries, and the noises are not part of the alarm system of your body. Our body uses pain and swelling to indicate that there is a problem, and that is how you know when the joint needs extra attention and treatment. And if you ever experience a sudden pop followed by pain, that is almost always an injury that needs treatment.

Support for Joint Health: There are a few keys to supporting joint health, whether they are just making painless sounds or are causing discomfort. Bodywork and movement classes both help restore alignment so that the right muscles and connective tissues are working together, and to relieve muscle tension that can contribute to joint pain. Hydration of the tissues is also key to keeping joints supple and healthy, which is especially supported by bodywork and therapeutic movement. Acupuncture is also very effective at treating pain and the imbalances that may be causing that pain.

Joints like knees and shoulders that make interesting sounds without pain are not a cause for alarm. They can serve as reminders to stay committed to our self care, but do not indicate serious damage or injury to the joint.

Focus on Feeling Better: Medical Massage

Medical massage refers to bodywork that focuses on treating specific health issues. A lot of research has been done over the last several decades, proving the benefits of medical massage and bodywork as treatments for pain, stress-related illness, injuries, and some chronic conditions. Even better, there are little to no side effects, other than an improved sense of well being.

Medical massage and bodywork is effective support for the circulatory systems of the body, including blood and lymph. This helps speed healing from injuries, surgeries, and overexertion. It brings nutrients to where they are needed most, clears out toxins and by-products created by tissue repair, and lowers blood pressure. Circulation is key to the overall health and wellbeing of all our tissues and organs, and it is a complex system that can deeply benefit from focused, professional support.

Another aspect of medical massage and bodywork is the ability to restore function and address the structures of the body. Injuries, muscular imbalances, and repetitive motion can cause structural issues, which then leads to chronic tension or recurring pain. Treatment through bodywork can relieve the pain when these issues flare up. It can also help address the root causes, ideally restoring function without surgery or medications.

There are also tremendous neurological benefits to receiving medical massage and bodywork. Nurturing physical touch cues the body to switch out of fight or flight mode and into nourish and restore mode. This begins a cascade of neurobiological effects, including lowered cortisol and other stress hormones, deepened breath, improved digestive function, and reduced strain on the heart. Bodywork also helps reduce neuropathy by restoring blood flow to starved nerves, improves nerve tone and function, and helps turn down the volume on pain signals.

Medical Massage and Bodywork is one of the most comprehensive treatments you can add to your healthcare. It can effectively address specific complaints like low back pain, knee pain, and headaches, even as it nourishes organs, regulates mood, and boosts health. By helping to correct imbalances before they become acute problems, bodywork effectively supports overall health and deep wellbeing.

Replenish Your Capacity to Give

Being generous brings joy and improves our overall health. However, our capacity to give can become depleted by stress, high expectations, and reduced feelings of empathy. In other words, we can feel so distressed that it becomes more difficult to connect with the joy of giving.

Being generous is a proven benefit to our health. It activates positive feedback loops in the brain that in turn can increase longevity, improve heart health, and release oxytocin, the happy trust hormone. However, it is not the size of the gift that brings these benefits, but our ability to connect with the people we are giving to, and to feel for ourselves the joy or support that gift brings them.

Our ability to feel that sense of connection and empathy is reduced by stress. Compassion fatigue, which happens when we care about others to the point that our ability to care becomes depleted, often contributes to a loss of empathy. Other causes include personal trauma, high anxiety or depression, and physical pain.

Reducing stress levels through self-care and pain management is an effective way to restore empathy and open-heartedness. Bodywork and acupuncture both help reset the nervous system away from fight or flight stress responses, even as they treat specific dysfunctions or imbalances. Therapeutic movement classes like HaLé Yoga and MELT help release stress that has become stuck in the body, rebalancing and resetting the nervous system. Psychotherapy and counseling help integrate body and mind, creating space for health.

Treating stress through self-care replenishes the body’s resources for connection with others. This allows us to more fully empathize with others, restoring our capacity to give and to experience the joys of generosity. At HaLé we encourage you to both take time for your own self-care, and to give that gift to others who also need a little replenishing.

Deep Harmony through Being Present

Being present allows the stress of what has happened (past) and what has not yet happened (future) to fall away from the mind. Instead we turn our attention to the present, which is where the body lives. Common, simple techniques focus on the breath or the rhythm of our heartbeat. By shifting our awareness to our physical sensations, we can begin to relax the alarm systems of stress and allow our bodies to turn on the internal systems of nourishment and healing.

There are many ways to cue the body and mind to come into the present, and one of our favorite techniques at HaLé is a gentle, supportive bodywork called Breema. Based on Nine Principles of Harmony, Breema teaches that we best support ourselves and one another by being present in the moment.

Breema combines different nurturing touches to support whole-bodied relaxation and health. This includes stretches to relieve tension along with compression and gentle touch. It also incorporates rhythmic movements and stillness as a way to keep your mind in your body and so in the present moment. Sessions are able to assist with physical flexibility, emotional balance, and mental clarity.

Breema and other forms of mindfulness practice that are based on awareness of the body help support an overall sense of vitality. Being in the present opens us to a sense of joy, connection, and gratitude. This in turn expands our understanding of self and helps us live a more meaningful life.