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.

ashiatsu nashville

What is Ashiatsu?

Have you ever seen photographs or video footage of a therapist walking on a client’s back, using overhead bars and straps as support?

That is Ashiatsu, a powerful and effective form of massage therapy that is one of our offerings here at Ha.Le’ Mind and Body. In Japanese, the root word “Ashi” means foot and “Atsu” means pressure.

Controlled foot pressure uses physics of both bodies – therapist and client – for maximum benefit. With feet, the therapist activates acupressure points and spreads tissue fibers, distributing more body weight and pressure than what is available during traditional massage therapy using fingers, hands and arms.

With the feet, Ashiatsu therapists push, pull and pump tissue to relieve symptoms of chronic soft tissue damage. Ashiatsu is very effective at treating scar tissue and is the most profound way to receive myofascial release.  The support bars and straps allow therapists to control the weight and pressure – Ashiatsu feels like a deep massage (which it is) more than it feels like someone is walking on your back.

Barefoot massage techniques have deep historical roots throughout Asia and date back at least 3,000 years. In India, oils on bare skin and one balancing rope characterize Chavutti Thermal. Elsewhere throughout the Pacific Rim, Buddhist monks would provide the healing art of barefoot massage, through clothing, to pilgrims who made financial offerings of support and devotion.

In the West, Ashiatsu was introduced by Ruthie Harding, who saw a group of women using their feet to massage a row of men on cots in the Philippines in 1967. The women all used one long rod suspended from the ceiling for support. During a trip to India, she saw a man stabilizing himself with two knotted cloths hanging from a tree while using his feet to massage a man on a mat.

I trained at Ruthie Harding’s facility in Colorado. Here in Nashville Ashiatsu massage is one of our specialties. The method creates a strong bond between therapist and client. Such a bond increases a client’s comfort level, making the massage more effective. We use a method of sinking into muscle fibers as breath allows, and the pace and knowledge of our therapist make our sessions therapeutic, profound, and beneficial.

One size does not fit all when it comes to body work, but for many of our clients in Nashville Ashiatsu is the perfect fit.

If you’d like to experience Ashiatsu, give us a call at 615-415-0242.

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.

What is Ear Acupuncture?

The eyes may be a window to the soul but the ears are a gateway to the whole human organism.

Ear acupuncture involves stimulating five points on the ear to help lessen pain and illness, much like foot reflexology. The ears, like the feet, contain groups of “pluripotent cells” that hold information from the whole organism, allowing local stimulation to target another area of the body.

Stimulation of ear points has a rich, ancient history across many cultures, but its efficacy as a complementary medicine began an ascent in the mid-1950s. Dr. Paul Nogier, a French physician, is considered the father of modern “auricolotherapy,” as the practice is known.

He observed repeated, predictable somatotopic connections between ear points and specific body regions. Dr. Nogier also was the first to recognize ‘the man in the ear,’ or homunculus – anatomical correlations of an upside-down fetus in the human ear to points on the body.

Ear acupuncture is helpful in treatment of stress, behavioral health, including addictions, mental health, and disaster and emotional trauma, post traumatic stress disorders, acute and chronic pain, anxiety-related disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, smoke cessation, alcohol withdrawal and substance abuse.

After training as an Acu Detox specialist (ADS) at Yale University in 2012 I started providing weekly sliding scale treatments for those within my community as a stress reduction service. The use of five specific points stimulated by disposable sterilized needles helps calm the nervous system, quiets the mind, and brings a more balanced state of being.

Ear acupuncture practitioners use different tools to stimulate ear points and prompt a relaxation response, from finger tools to acupressure, laser and electricity, magnetic balls and seeds, and tiny acupuncture needles.

The goal remains the same: use five points in each ear for each person. In this way, the therapy creates a collective healing experience by tapping into points connected to body systems:

  • Sympathetic point: relaxes the entire body, stimulates the vagus nerve, promotes a shift from sympathetic mode to parasympathetic mode
  • Shen Men (Spirit Gate): relaxes the mind, calms the spirit, reduces anxiety
  • Kidney: promotes optimal kidney function, transforms the effects of excess fear
  • Liver: promotes optimal liver function, transforms the effects of excess anger and frustration
  • Lung: promotes optimal lung function, transforms the effects of excess grief and loss

Many clients immediately report better sleep, fewer headaches, less physical pain, and greater emotional wellbeing. I hope to see you soon!

 

acupressure improves sleept

Acupressure Improves Insomnia

A simple acupressure intervention, pressure applied to a point on each wrist, improved sleep for residents with insomnia in a long-term care facility during a five-week study.

The study involved 50 residents of two facilities in Taiwan who were randomly assigned to a control group or an acupressure group. Four assistants were trained to provide acupressure. Those in the control group received light touch with no pressure on both wrists. Those in the acupressure for insomnia group received pressure at the HT7 point, also known as the Shenmen point, for five seconds, then a second of rest, for five minutes.

Participants in the acupressure group reported no insomnia symptoms from week three to week six. They only received acupressure through week five. Even at week seven, their insomnia scores remained lower than their baseline levels.

Acupressure is part of traditional Chinese medicine and is gaining broader popularity as a therapy with well-supported benefits. The mechanism may involve bioelectrical energy, and Western science has shown that specific acupoints have a higher electrical conductivity that surrounding areas.

Insomnia is one condition that responds well to acupressure. In the Taiwan study, before receiving therapy, participants rated eight measures – including difficulty falling asleep, awakenings during the night and sleepiness during the day – to establish their baselines. They rated the same measures weekly for seven weeks.

Benefits lasted two weeks after acupressure therapy ended, and participants’ insomnia gradually returned to what it had been before the study. Still, the study has significant implications. Caregivers and clients themselves can be taught to deliver wrist acupuncture, a non-invasive intervention that can improve both the depth and quality of sleep.

We use acupressure in combination with massage techniques. Applying pressure to specific locations on the body helps stimulate the body’s own natural healing processes. The action of Acupressure at HT 7 (Shen Men), also known as “spirit gate,” will tonify deficiencies of the heart, qi, yin, yang, and blood,. These are related to emotional issues such as ruminating and muddled thinking as well as physical responses to stimuli, anxiety, heart palpitations, and irregular heartbeat.

The Taiwan acupressure study was originally published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies, 2010, Vol. 47, pages 798-805.

gentle stretching exercises

Guided, gentle stretching exercises create foundation for wellness

This 11-minute audio podcast guides listeners through a series of simple, gentle stretching exercises that release tension in the neck, shoulders, chest, back and spine.  The way we stretch helps determine the quality of motion we display.

Beginning with basic neck rolls, the series progresses through four stretches. Stretching should be gradual and slow and paired with deep breathing. Hold each stretch for 2 seconds, then release.

I recorded this guided session for a series on self-care for providers within the National Health Care for the Homeless Council who are dedicated to breaking the links between poor health and homelessness.

Those of us who provide care know we do our best when we take care of ourselves, though these stretches will benefit anyone at nearly any fitness level. Designed to relax and restore, this short routine is a healthy way to start the day or take a break from your work.

Mindful breathing energizes our minds as well as our bodies

Babies are better at breathing than almost all of us. They instinctually breathe with their whole bodies, flooding every cell with oxygen.

As adults, most of us have forgotten what a full breath feels like. But breathing is crucial not only our respiratory system, but our cardiac, neurological, gastrointestinal, muscular and psychological systems, too.

How we breathe affects our sleep, energy level, memory and concentration. Because breathing is automatic and not an intellectual activity, we at times take it for granted. Cultivating or “practicing” a better way to breathe seems strange.

Yet mindful breathing is one of the best things we can do for our health. This 8-minute audio podcast, also part of the Self-Help for Health Care series, offers guided breathing exercises to help energize our bodies and our minds.

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