Better Sleep through Massage, Yoga, and Mindfulness

Sleep is a complex biological process that is vital to our overall wellbeing. There are now 85 different recognized sleep disorders that affect almost 70 million Americans, and the long-term consequences of sleep loss are associated with a long list of chronic and sometimes very serious health conditions. In addition to being linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke, poor quality sleep is also related to chronic musculoskeletal pain, specifically osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and low-back pain.

Massage, Yoga, and Mindfulness are all drug-free ways to improve quality of sleep.

Massage: People who receive massage experience deeper, more restorative, less disturbed sleep. It doesn’t matter which modality of massage or what time of day; studies consistently report that massage contributes to a more organized sleep pattern, where the various stages of sleep happen in consistent order and duration. The positive effects of massage on sleep also contributes to a reduction in pain-sensitizing neurotransmitters, which lowers pain levels. (Source: Ruth Werner, Massage Bodywork)

Yoga: There have been several studies recently that show yoga can improve disrupted sleep. A Harvard Medical School study showed that yoga can help chronic insomnia, making it easier to fall asleep, stay asleep, feel well-rested, and wake up after sleeping. A study of cancer survivors linked yoga to better sleep quality, less fatigue, and improved sense of quality of life. In general, yoga seems to increase sleep efficiency, enhance quality of life, and decrease insomnia. (Source: Michael J Breus, PhD, Psychology Today)

Mindfulness: Like Yoga and Massage, Mindfulness is a way to invoke the Relaxation Response, which is a deep physiological shift in the body that is the opposite of the stress response. For many people, sleep disorders are a reaction to stress. Spending 20 min a day in a mindfulness practice helps create a reflex to bring forth a feeling of relaxation. Then it is easier to access that feeling of relaxation at night to assist in falling asleep and maintaining better quality of sleep. A study on a mindfulness awareness program showed results including less insomnia, fatigue, and depression. (Source: Julie Corliss, Harvard Health)

Sleep is crucial to our health, and Massage, Yoga, and Mindfulness are all effective tools for improving the overall quality of our sleep without using pharmacological drugs. They help with insomnia, fatigue, pain levels, sleep pattern organization, and sleep efficiency. Getting enough high quality sleep is a cornerstone of a healthy life, and there are many ways to improve your sleep and your sense of wellbeing.

Reasons Why You Need a Massage

from Erin Law

The first thing I want to say is, energetically, I feel lighter when I get bodywork and I want other people to feel that way. It’s like 10 pounds lifts off the body just from getting a massage. I think that setting that time aside for yourself is a testimony to self love and self care. It is preventative medicine really, it keeps us out of the doctor and out of the chiropractor. I also think that when you go and get bodywork and feel better, it is easier for you to give love. I really believe that it ripples out on the goodness quotient.

Massage also brings body awareness. I consider myself someone who is incredibly aware of my body, but I will get bodywork and think, wow, I didn’t know my body was experiencing tightness and constrictions there. It reminds me how interconnected the body is in general. I might have tension in my glute, but it could be coming from something in the front of the body. Also, a lot of us spend time looking down at our devices, which really rounds us down, and massage can help return us to a healthy home base. We use so much technology that it is easier and easier to forget about how the whole body is connected, and so it is good to develop the awareness of the relationships of our body.

Massage also allows for some deeper work to be done, and gives us a chance to sort of tune up the muscles that are doing all the supporting and the grunt work, if you will. Once that muscle tension has been alleviated, performance is automatically enhanced in whatever activity you are doing. Having that tension limits possibilities for range of motion, and so releasing it increases possibilities in the field of whatever you are doing.

If you are an athlete, getting massage is as important as brushing your teeth in the morning. You can’t expect that much out of your body if you don’t give it the care it deserves. Massage promotes longevity, because you can be active for longer, or be an athlete for longer. If you want to be active, you have to treat your body well.

Cupping Therapy Plays Well with Others

Cupping therapy is an important part of our integrative health practice because it supports the process of many of our treatments. I talked with several of our talented therapists about how it complements the work that they do. Every session of Ha.Lé Bodywork is adjusted to meet the needs of the client in the moment. For example, our therapists may take a sports massage focus for highly active bodies, a therapeutic or medical massage focus to treat pain and structure issues, or a lymphatic focus to move fluids and support the healing process. Often a combination of techniques are used, and cupping therapy helps support many of these treatment goals.

Sports bodywork:

Cupping therapy helps to jump start myofascial release. The negative pressure of the suction combined with movement gives a different sensation than other myofascial techniques and helps the muscle reset itself to where it needs to be because the fascia has released. It is a great complement to other techniques and can sometimes create shifts that provide instant relief and allow chronic problems to just fade away.

Therapeutic bodywork:

Using cupping therapy after an Ashiatsu treatment really helps to bring the blood flow to the area, especially any area that is feeling stagnant, like the back or arm. The suction also helps to release the muscle when it is contracting, making for a faster release and bringing blood flow more quickly to the area. Afterward, people tend to feel either really energized or like they just ran a marathon.

Lymphatic bodywork:

Cupping can be very effective in helping to break up scar tissue that is impeding lymph flow, but it is not usually indicated for treating lymphadema or other lymphatic issues directly because it can be too aggressive for the lymph system. However, cupping works through the use of negative pressure, and there is ongoing conversation in the lymphatic massage community as we learn more about how to use cups and other negative pressure tools gently enough to support the lymphatic system.

Acupuncture:

Cupping facilitates better movement of blood and qi in an acupuncture treatment because of the openness of the tissue. The cups create negative pressure, as compared with massage, which uses positive pressure. This negative pressure opens up muscle and tissue, which works in concert with acupuncture needles to move qi.

In Your Words… No longer prone to falling

by Barbara Y.

For my entire life, I’ve been somewhat clumsy. I tripped over things, ran into corners and fell often. As a kid, this wasn’t so bad but as an adult it became more problematic. As a result, I’ve needed a good bit of bodywork, having done various types of massage with many different therapists for over 20 years.  I always thought it was just me, something in my personality that made me prone to falling. However, all this changed when I had the great fortune to meet Will Ravenel at HaLe’.

Not only has Will, through Rolf Therapy and Myofascial Release, balanced the structure of my body so I’m more grounded with better posture, I haven’t had a bad fall since working with him (knock on wood). Rolf Therapy was something I’d always heard about with curiosity but kept putting off. I’m forever grateful to Janice Cathey for suggesting this form of bodywork, as it’s been perfect for me. I’ve heard others talk about their Rolf therapists with mixed reviews. I have only glowing praise for Will. He is not only extremely knowledgeable about the human body, he’s a kind and generous person. He takes time to explain the work, giving exercises and advice on maintaining good posture. Will has helped me understand how integrated we are physiologically and how to maintain a balanced and grounded way of moving through the world.

Lymphatic Massage Speeds Recovery from Surgery

The lymph system is both a producer of materials that help us heal and a septic system, and so supporting its function through lymphatic massage can speed our recovery from surgery. Lymphatic massage assists the body in moving inflammatory components back out of the system and it gooses our immune system function to help the healing process.

There is a cascade of events that allows us to heal. Part of that process is the inflammatory response, which is necessary for healing to happen when we disrupt the body through surgery. Inflammation also means there will be swelling localized to the surgical area, which slows the lymph system’s ability to do its job of moving wastes out and healthy components in. After surgery, it is also the lymph system that helps the body process all the materials that need to be moved out, including excess fluids given during surgery.

Lymphatic massage assists the function of the lymph system through all these processes. It also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is especially good in healing times because it allows our bodies to really rest in order to heal efficiently and effectively. This also has an analgesic effect because the parasympathetic nervous system calms our perception of pain. There is a whole interplay of physiological functions that lymphatic work supports, helping to heal from surgery, reduce post surgical pain and swelling, and speed return to function. It also helps avoid infection because it helps keep the immune system more fully functional.

Receiving lymphatic massage feels gentle and rhythmic, helping us to breathe more deeply and rest more fully, and is safer for tissues that are still healing after surgery. Even clients who have always thought they need deep and vigorous massage are surprised at how effective and soothing lymphatic massage is, with its relatively light touch. It is both satisfying and plenty deep enough to do profound work in supporting the healing process.

The Magic Muscle: the Psoas

The psoas (pronounced so-az) is the one muscle that attaches the upper body to the lower body. It allows locomotion by allowing you to lift your legs to actually walk. It is the filet mignon of the body, the tenderloin, and is actually very delicate. It needs to be treated with sensitivity, so that it becomes juicy and full and soft. When it is juicy, you walk like a dancer, with legs that just swing from your body.

It is also the emotional core of the body, holding massive amounts of emotional information. It is where we hold birth and childhood trauma, or any other trauma, because it is directly a part of our flight or fight response. This makes sense because you are either running or curling into a ball, which are both primarily psoas reactions. When you’ve been traumatized and just want to curl up, that is the psoas acting as a protector, and when you release that, you can stand up straight, face the world, and approach it with ease.  It can also hold good stuff if you create that. A relaxed and juicy psoas leads to full body orgasms that flow through your whole body.

One of the best things you can do for your psoas is Constructive Rest Pose, where you lie on your back with your knees bent and feet parallel to each other at the width of your hip sockets, about 12-16″ away from your buttocks. You can also put your feet up on a chair. This pose allows the psoas to drop and lengthen. A fetal curl also allows it to soften and relax. These simple relaxations are so important. They not only change the body physically, but you can feel yourself moving more deeply into the floor. Your sympathetic nervous system gets a break and the body gets soft, bringing us a treasure trove for the body, mind, and spirit.

You can also work with balls to soften and hydrate the feet, standing up and pressing and releasing the foot onto a ball. This hydrates the tissues all the way up to the psoas, which is why we do a lot of it in class.

The psoas is fascinating because everything lands there, all your emotional issues, everything, and it works best when it is soft and relaxed. We can play with it, approaching it with a childlike curiosity of how things move. And when the psoas is juicy, we will all walk like dancers, with an easy flow.

Massage Therapy for Older Adults

Massage therapy for older adults helps improve balance

Massage therapy for older adults is a promising way to help them retain health and independence.

Older adults who received an hour-long massage once a week for six weeks showed significant improvements in balance, neurological and cardiovascular measures. In the recent study, 35 volunteers were randomly assigned to the massage group or a control group.

Those who received massage therapy had lower blood pressure and more stability immediately after the sessions, an hour after and even a week after the regimen ended.

The participants were healthy volunteers aged 58 to 68 who were recruited through brochures and posters in medical offices, libraries, stores, fitness facilities and by word-of-mouth in and around Birmingham, Alabama. People with a history of chronic disease that affected balance, heart health or nervous system function were not eligible to participate.

Each person in the treatment group received a standard, 60-minute massage therapy protocol once a week for six consecutive weeks. The study, published in 2012, is especially significant because most prior research examined the effects of a single session.

Older adults need options to help them stay independent and active, and massage may be a great non-pharmaceutical approach. Falls, many of them debilitating if not fatal, occur in one of every three adults 65 and older. Health care costs associated with falls alone are expected to reach $32 billion by 2020, according to a 2009 study.

Multiple factors contribute to falls among older adults, including visual system influences, balance impairment, and cardiovascular and neurological conditions. Falls break hips and arms, cause head injuries, and contribute to decline in quality of life.

Even bruising and emotional trauma from a fall can make someone more hesitant – and lack of confidence can compound the risk of additional incidents. Trying to compensate for muscle imbalances, pain and new or old injuries often actually cause the fall.

We already know massage therapy reduces pain and improves clients’ sense of well being. This study suggests that regular massage for older adults can do far, far more.

The study by JoEllen M. Sefton, Ceren Yarar and Jack W. Berry, Neuromechanics Research Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, Auburn University, AL, and Department of Psychology, Samford University, Birmingham, AL, was published in the September 2012 issue of the InternatIonal Journal of TherapeutIc Massage and Bodywork.

massage for fibromyalgia

Massage for Fibromyalgia brings relief

Fibromyalgia is a frustrating syndrome.

People with fibromyalgia suffer from generalized pain, rigid joints and at times overwhelming fatigue. Performing basic activities becomes difficult. Trigger points, or areas of intense tenderness, make matters worse, both physically and emotionally. Depression, with or without anxiety, is common.

Massage therapy for fibromyalgia symptoms makes intuitive sense but research backs the approach as well. Studies show myofascial release therapy can be especially helpful in relieving symptoms. In it, therapists palpate, pull and stretch soft tissue known as fascia that surrounds and separates muscle layers. Circulation increases and contracted muscles relax.

In a 2010 study, 64 myofascial patients were assigned to one of two groups. In one, patients received 90-minute weekly treatments for 20 weeks. In the second, patients received “sham” treatments -30 minutes with a magnetic therapy machine that was disconnected. They did not know the treatments were fake.

Researchers evaluated myofascial therapy’s effects on pain, anxiety, and quality of sleep and depression in fibromyalgia patients. Measurements at baseline, after 20 weeks and six months following the treatments showed myofascial therapy provided significant benefits.

The patients in that group experienced  improved sleep and quality of life and reduced anxiety and pain — both immediately following the treatments and up to one month after. Six months after therapy, patients continued to report improvements in sleep.

The benefits did not extend to the control group.

The study was led by Adelaida Maria Castro-Sánchez at the University of Almería in Almería, Spain. She led a similar study in 2011 that examined more closely how fibromyalgia patients respond to massage therapy and found reductions in pain sensitivity to their pain, including some improvements that lasted as long as a year after the study was over.

Myofascial release is an effective alternative and complementary therapy for patients with fibromyalgia. Research as well as our own experience in Nashville with massage for fibromyalgia suggests regular sessions can make day-to-day living less painful, and more enjoyable. Watsu for fibromyalgia also is quite effective. Warm water alone helps our clients relax but gentle manipulations with a Watsu therapist can reduce pain and fatigue.

We’d love to tell you more.

Nashville Massage for PTSD

Massage for PTSD creates space for healing

PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is commonly associated with soldiers and other people in war-torn areas but it doesn’t take a war to manifest. Massage for PTSD is a powerful treatment form.

Any sort of prolonged chronic stress, from the loss of a loved one to an undiagnosed or misunderstood health condition, from marital discord to caring for a loved one, can result in PTSD.

I’ve seen it following knee replacement surgery, after replacement of a natural body part with a mechanical substitute. The surgery itself causes stress of many kinds – physical and emotional. But anxiety, grief and confusion often accompany the loss of an original part of the body in subtle but profound ways patients don’t expect.

PTSD also is caused by childhood trauma, including diseases and abuse, that carries forward.

PTSD is tricky. Unknown triggers set it off. The disorder comes and goes. It can manifest as depression, addiction of any kind, high anxiety levels, neuromuscular ticks, restless leg syndrome and balance problems.

Massage for PTSD has two important components. Massage with a trusted therapist creates and strengthens a trust bond that allows the client both physical and emotional comfort. That comfort and trust, in turn, create a space for coping with the stress the body is under.

Of course manipulation of tissue fibers is important, too. Massage for PTSD and generally increases relaxation, boosts mood and improves the quantity and quality of sleep. We have an amazing and innate ability to heal ourselves, and massage increases awareness of both physical and psychological stress. Massage for PTSD is empowering.

PTSD can be illusive, frustrating and at times debilitating. It doesn’t have to be.

Yoga therapy and ear acupuncture, like massage therapy, are effective in treating PTSD. Please contact us to learn more.

Massage for knee arthritis eases pain

Cartilage is our friend.

Protective cartilage on the ends of our bones cushions the bones and allows easy movement. Over time, though, this firm yet slippery tissue wears down, and the rough surface creates friction. Friction creates pain. The pain intensifies when cartilage breaks down entirely and bone rubs on bone.

This is the most basic definition of osteoarthritis, which is also known as wear-and-tear arthritis and degenerative arthritis. Not surprisingly, it develops most often in joints we use a lot: hands, neck, lower back, hips and knees.

We commonly see clients with joint pain, inflammation, and connective tissue conditions. We also see many clients who have rheumatic conditions such as gout, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis has no cure; treatment is about managing symptoms of pain and stiffness and increasing range of motion. A new study suggests a massage regimen for knee osteoarthritis helps decrease pain and improve function.

The study is especially important because the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicines, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, funded the research.

The findings? Weekly massage for knee arthritis decreased pain and stiffness and increased functionality for at least 16 weeks after the massages ended, according to a 2012 study.

In the study, 125 adults with osteoarthritis of the knee were assigned to eight-week regimens that included usual care with no massage, 30-minute massages once or twice week, and 60-minute massages once or twice a week. Baseline metrics included participants’ ratings of pain, based on an accepted arthritis index; range of motion and time to walk 50 feet.

Massage therapists involved followed protocols for techniques and massage strokes to be used on specific body regions to keep treatment patients received as uniform as possible.

People in the group that received massage for knee arthritis demonstrated “significant improvement” over baseline at weeks 16 and 24. Researchers found the people who received 60-minute massages once a week reported the greatest reduction in pain.

At our practice we’ve successfully treated cases of osteoarthritis and pain associated with rheumatic conditions by reducing pain, increasing range of motion, restoring function, and decreasing the need for NSAIDs and other pain medications.

The study, “Massage therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized dose-finding trial,” was originally published in PLoS One. 2012; 7(2):e30248.

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