Common Health Problems: What can Massage do for YOU?

Massages are often sold as a purely indulgent treat that you get when you visit a spa or go on vacation, but there’s so much more to massage than just a feel good treat. Did you know that the symptoms of many health problems can be reduced and even eliminated with regular massage?

Here are a few conditions that massage can work really well on; a few you probably know and some that may surprise you!

Stress

It’s no surprise that a regular dose of massage therapy is good for your stress levels, it works by helping to lower your blood pressure, improve your quality of sleep, and by reducing your stress levels, it’s also thought to help reduce the risk of heart disease.  In 2008 the journal Psycho-oncology published a study which came to the conclusion “…a significant reduction in cortisol (the main stress hormone) could be safely achieved through massage, with associated improvement in psychological well-being.”

Lower Back Pain

This is such a common problem, often caused by bad posture at work, so no wonder many employers are drafting in massage therapists to help. Poor posture and sitting for too long can cause a lot of lower back problems, as can simply getting older. Get your massage therapist on the case and you can hopefully wave goodbye to a sore back.

Sports Injuries

Fitness and sport are great for your health but they can sometimes lead to injuries and overworked muscles. A regular massage can help to heal any wear and tear on your muscles and tendons, and can also help you manage the pain from a chronic or acute sports injury. Having well looked-after muscles may also help prevent future injuries – one more reason to book those regular sessions.

Joint Stiffness

Massage can be a blessed relief for people dealing with the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis and other joint problems. Research published in 2013 in the Complementary Therapy in Clinical Practice journal said that people with rheumatoid arthritis reported some relief from pain and stiffness after four once-a-week moderate-pressure massages, topped up with self-massage at home in between treatments. Massage can also help with your range of motion and flexibility, which can relieve pain in your shoulders, knees, and hips.

Circulation

There are a whole range of health problems that can be caused by bad circulation, so it figures that boosting your circulation will be a bonus for your whole body. Regular massage helps to get the blood moving, getting essential nutrients to where they are needed in your tissues and vital organs much faster. The squeezing and pulling actions involved in a good massage also help to flush lactic acid out of your muscles and improve the circulation of lymph – the fluid that carries metabolic waste away from your muscles and internal organs.

Migraine symptoms

Nobody really knows what causes migraines, and there isn’t a cure, but if you’re a migraine sufferer you’ll be pleased to hear that studies have shown that massage can help reduce the frequency of attacks, and lessen the severity of the symptoms. Some migraines, especially those triggered by stress, are especially receptive to massage treatment.

Skin Cancer

Of course, we wouldn’t tell you that massage cures cancer; it can’t. But in some cases your massage therapist can notice abnormalities in your skin that you can’t see or just haven’t picked up on, and alert you to them. Regular massage can also be good for your skin as it gets the circulation going and the nourishing oils used in a treatment help to keep skin feeling soft.

Allergies

A massage helps to stimulate lymph flow around your body, which boosts your immune system and can help to reduce the severity of allergic reactions.  Sometimes a therapist might be able to tell just from your lymph nodes if you are an allergy sufferer as they can feel tender or swollen.

Did any of those surprise you? Of course, you don’t need to make an excuse for wanting a massage, but if you are dealing with any of these health issues, it’s good to know that your regular massage habit is helping.

 

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Reflexology: I’ve never tried it – what can I expect?

There’s nothing to be nervous about when you have your first reflexology session; it’s a gentle, safe therapy that’s designed to relax and rebalance your body. You don’t need to undress for a reflexology session – you will only need to remove your shoes and socks so that the therapist can get to work on the soles of your feet.

It’s best not to eat a heavy meal before a treatment, and it’s not advised that you drink alcohol before your visit either. Other than that, just turn up as you are, in loose, comfortable clothes, and get ready to relax.

Getting to know you

As this is your first session, before you get started your therapist will ask you some questions about your health, lifestyle and any health problems you might have had in the past. This is just so that they can build up an overall picture of your health. Like all holistic treatments, reflexology is designed to work on the whole body and not just one area, so it’s important that you tell the practitioner as much as you can. You’ll also be asked about your reasons for trying reflexology – whether it’s to address a specific health concern or for your overall health and wellbeing.

Your reflexology session

Now the treatment begins! The therapist should give you a quick explanation about what she’ll be doing and how reflexology woks, then will get to work. Often, the feet are cleansed with hot towels and essential oil for proper hygiene. The use of a castor oil and shea butter foot cream also provides anti microbial, anti bacterial, anti fungal, and anti viral properties. If you prefer not to have either of these, don’t be afraid to say so.

They will look at your feet to see if there are any obvious issues that need addressing, and then start to gently press around different areas on the soles of your feet, toes, heels and ankle areas. They usually work on one foot at a time, and will cover both feet during the course of a full treatment. Sometimes, they may go back to an area more than once if they feel more work is needed there. If you feel any discomfort from the pressure, you should tell the therapist. The sensation should be firm and you might feel a little discomfort in areas that are being worked on but it should never be painful.

A reflexology treatment usually lasts anything from 30 – 60 minutes and should leave you feeling relaxed and with a renewed feeling of energy. Afterwards, drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol and stick to light meals for 24 hours if you can.

Alex Stenger is a licensed Massage Therapist practicing inside BalanceDiet Billings.

Websitebillingsmassage.amtamembers.com 

Contact: Email: mthealingart@gmail.com   Office (406) 652.9142 Cell (406) 780.0535

Facebookfacebook.com/billingsmassage/

Side-lying Massage for the Shoulder

A couple weekends ago I attended a side-lying and para-spinal class taught by Brian Utting. Before taking this call I was some what intimidated by side-techniques mostly because of The class came during a time where majority of my current clients were coming to me for shoulder pain. While majority of side-lying techniques are utilized for expectant mothers, massage while lying on the side offers an advantage to the shoulder girdle the typical face up/face down position does not.
Before taking this class I was intimidated by the idea of asking a client to roll on their side for a couple reasons. Properly draping a client so that they feel comfortable takes practice and when I applied the techniques it was difficult to judge pressure and keep consistent. After leaving Brian’s class I had all the confidence to bring these new techniques into my practice.

The biggest advantages of side-lying for shoulder pain are:

1. The ability to take the shoulder into full range of motion.

Because the shoulder isshoulder_ff made up of three bones the collar bone, scapula and humerus side-lying facilitates taking the shoulder in front, behind, above and to the side of the body.

2. Access to the arm pit and rib cage is greater.

3. The client becomes extremely comfortable on the table allowing them to relax and receive the work. (Majority of  my clients sleep on their side and once they are bolstered with a pillow between the arm and legs they are really able to let go of tension and stress.)

As I’ve been using these new techniques clients receive the shoulder  in a deeper way while they remain relaxed on their side with the support of pillows.  Not only is side-lying great for shoulder work, but it also feels great on the neck, low back and muscles along the spine.

Alex Stenger is a licensed Massage Therapist practicing inside BalanceDiet Billings.

Websitebillingsmassage.amtamembers.com 

Contact: Office (406) 652-9142 Cell (406) 780-0535

Facebookfacebook.com/billingsmassage/

 

Identifying Pain with the Comparative Pain Scale

What is pain to you? How do you experience pain? What does pain feel like? Where is your pain on a scale of 1-10. Almost every patient in the ER has been asked this, and questions like these can be very difficult for massage clients to answer during an interview.

Let’s face it, pain is subjective. Have you ever heard someone say ‘I have a high pain tolerance’? I hear it all the time in the treatment room and this can make it very difficult to gauge the client based on what level of pain they are experiencing.
Thankfully, there are pain scale’s out there to help client and therapist better communicate pain.

Some of my favorites are the funny meme pain scales with the Lego faces or the funny looking stick figures. They make me laugh, but when it comes to my client’s pain I’m not laughing and neither are they.

lego pain scale

The most effective pain scale I like to use is one an instructor in massage school gave to me, and was very useful when working with my Case Study client called the  Comparative Pain Scale. The scale is broken down so the client has context to which they can relate the experience they are having. For example: minor, moderate or severe pain if 1-10 is too broad. If numbers are easy for you then the descriptive word associated with a number is helpful ex. 3=tolerable, 6=intense or 9=unbearable. Further the scale lists descriptions you can compare you’re current experience to.

Understanding the client’s pain isn’t the only reason why therapists use a pain scale. As I was working with my case study client in research class, the number the client gave to me before and after the treatment was used as measurable data. Something that is very difficult to gather in massage therapy because so much is subjective. This information is very valuable down the road when I look back at your SOAP charts (a post about SOAP charting and why massage therapists chart will be linked here). It’s one of the ways we can track a client’s progress over time. So if I seem real pushy about where you are on the pain scale and insist a number, please remember it’s because achieving measurable results really matters to me.

The comparative pain scale is printed and laminated in my office for clients to use as a tool together in understanding pain, for specific techniques and has been proven useful in gaining results in my massage practice.

 

Alex Stenger is a licensed Massage Therapist practicing inside BalanceDiet Billings.

Websitebillingsmassage.amtamembers.com 

Contact: Office (406) 652-9142 Cell (406) 780-0535

Facebookfacebook.com/billingsmassage/

 

Benefits of Cold Stone Massage

This summer I’m offering a cold marble stone massage. This therapeutic treatment is a great way to relieve the body of discomfort associated with hot temperatures. Cold stone massage is not as common as the hot stone massage, but everyone enjoys it just the same.

Cryotherapy (cold therapy) has many physiological benefits to soft tissue, and most people don’t understand what they are. Cryotherapy is the application of cold for the first aid of trauma to the musculoskeletal system to promote healing.

What exactly happens to the tissue when ice is applied? Initially, the opposite of what happens when you apply heat. Vasoconstriction. The blood vessels and capillary beds constrict the passage way for blood to travel. Next is vasodilation or widening of the vessels. Followed again by constriction and finally numbness when the ice is then removed. The application of ice allows new blood from the heart that is nutrient and oxygen rich to rush back into the tissues to initiate the healing process. 
There are four stages of the skin’s response to cold.ince-massage

1. Cold sensation with vasoconstriction
0 to 3 minutes.
2. Mild burning, aching with vasodilation
2 to 7 minutes.
3. Stinging sensation with vasoconstriction
5 to 12 minutes.
4. Numbness  7 to 20 minutes.

Although the intention is not to achieve all four stages and numbness of the skin, the use of cold stones as a form of cryotherapy during massage can have many of the same benefits.

The benefits of cryotherapy include: decreases swelling, decreases pain, decreases bruising, decreases muscle spasm, reduces fever, increases resistance to disease, speed up recover time (sprains, strains, contusions, fractures) speeds healing of minor burns, increases removal of wastes, decreases secondary injury causes by inflammatory response.

 

Alex Stenger is a licensed Massage Therapist practicing inside BalanceDiet Billings.

Websitebillingsmassage.amtamembers.com 

Contact: Office (406) 652-9142 Cell (406) 780-0535

Facebookfacebook.com/billingsmassage/

FAQ: Massage at BalanceDiet, Billings

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions from massage therapy clients. If you have unanswered questions please leave a comment below.

What should I expect during my first massage treatment (tx)? 
Completed paperwork (contact info, health history, allergies) is required before your first treatment only. It is very important for you to list all past and current health concerns and medications for the therapist to meet your specific needs.
Arrive early to use facilities and begin the interview process on time. A brief Q & A together of your health history, what your goals are, if massage therapy is appropriate
 for you and creating a tx plan can take 2-10 minutes and begins every massage thereafter. An exit interview concludes each visit, and is a follow up of the initial interview.

What is appropriate to wear?
Wear loose fitted clothing as if you were to exercise. The massage therapist may use techniques that require clothing that do not restrict range of motion. Basic Swedish massage techniques are performed undressed between sheets, and draping that respectfully exposes only the body parts being treated. 

Please practice proper hygiene or use shower facilities (only offered for women), or request a wet towel.

How long is a massage?
30, 60 and 90 minute massage time slots are available. All times include enter & exit interviews.

How often do I received massage tx?
As often as seems necessary. If you are in acute pain from whiplash, multiple 30 minutes treatments in a week may be recommended. If you suffer from chronic work related stress it may take longer to meet your goals and a long-term treatment plan can be created. All plans take into consideration your wellness goals, budget, time allowance and convenience.

Can my doctor prescribe treatments?
Many of my clients are referred by another health care professional to receive massage. This is NOT a prescription for massage. You’re primary care physician can write you a RX that includes how many and how often to receive a massage treatment related to the current medical condition being treated by your doctor. With your permission the massage therapist may contact your doctor.

Does insurance cover my massage?
Check with your insurance provider to find out if massage is covered. Insurance billing is not offered through the massage therapist. A receipt for your records will be issued to you for later submission if you choose. All charting and documentation is available to you upon request and stored within HIPPA privacy guidelines.

When should I NOT receive massage tx?
You should not book a massage if you have a fever, cold/flu, or contagious skin infection. Always ask your primary care physician if massage would benefit/harm your current health conditions.

 

Alex Stenger is a licensed Massage Therapist practicing inside BalanceDiet Billings.

Websitebillingsmassage.amtamembers.com 

Contact: Office (406) 652-9142 Cell (406) 780-0535

Facebookfacebook.com/billingsmassage/

 

A Year in the Books

This month marks the first successful year of my massage therapy practice. I wouldn’t be here without the wonderful support of all my clients and the people at BalanceDiet Billings.

Two weeks before I graduated from Health Works Institute I decided to no longer work at the spa in Big Sky. Working there over the past 2 years was such a wonderful time spent with the owner Jacque and all the therapists and estheticians, but there was something calling me back to Billings, MT where I am from.

When the original location in a salon fell through, I was relieved because I knew my practice wasn’t the type to be in that particular location. I had training in clinical massage therapy and the luxurious type of massage (a lot of Swedish) wasn’t what I wanted to do.  So,  I replied to a craigslist ad at BalanceDiet, a women’s weight loss facility, and after the interview I knew this is exactly where my practice could grow.

Since graduating I’ve received certification as an Integrative Reflexologist. This is something my grandmother taught herself and practiced many years of her life and I watched growing up. To now offer reflexology to clients is rewarding on so many levels. I have’t decided what continuing education I will pursue this coming year, so if you know of a modality or training you’d like to see me offer please comment below!

What I love the most about my practice over the year is the wonderful variety of people I meet and help. Their needs are all so different and I constantly reference my text books, the internet and latest massage research for new or forgotten techniques to help them with their pain.

What I like the least about my practice over the year, and a new client told me this the other day “It’s so hard to get in to see you.” Now, I understand there is a compliment below the surface of that statement, but when someone is experiencing discomfort and pain in that moment and it takes 3-4 days to get in to see me the compliment goes from sweet to salty real fast.

 

Alex Stenger is a licensed Massage Therapist practicing inside BalanceDiet Billings.

Website: billingsmassage.amtamembers.com 

Contact: Office (406) 652-9142 Cell (406) 780-0535

Facebook: facebook.com/billingsmassage/

Lower Back Pain, Repetitive Motion and Massage Therapy: A Case Study

This is a retrospective case study of a client who came in for low back pain. I prefer to present the data in a story format without the SOAP charting jargon for those of you who are not familiar with charting terms. If you would like more information on the objective findings and exact treatment please contact me.

The study is a 57 year old female who works full time at UPS in shipment/package processing. She complained of low back, upper shoulder and neck pain. She described a feeling of her breath ‘taken away’ when laying on her back.  Her job at the time was very stressful as it was the beginning of November and the busiest season for shipping.  She describes to me what her job consists of daily. Lifting boxes with both hands and twisting to the left to place them elsewhere. Over and over again.

The postural assessment revealed a short leg of about 1 inch difference.  The left side of the back was severely elevated in comparison to the right (see photo below). She also presented very limited neck, shoulder and hip ROM.

benson_1
Severe L side elevation causing low back pain and tension in the shoulders and neck.

Over the next 5 months the client received a 30 minute treatment once a week. During the first month we were able to decrease pain symptoms in the low back, shoulders and neck with Swedish Massage and Trigger Point Therapy allowing her to lie flat on her back without the sensation of not being able to breath. We then addressed the leg length discrepancy and balanced the hips with Myofascial Release. Around month 2 the short leg length began to decrease and stay consistent of 1/2 inch. The following months consisted of maintenance massage over the entire back, shoulders, neck and hips.

At month 5 we were able to increase the time between massage to 2-3 weeks. The client began yoga at home, and exercised regularly. She was no longer feeling the neck and shoulder tension, some low back pain on occasion and commented that she was finally able to enjoy the massage without the presence of therapeutic pain.

benson_2
Change in elevation treated with Swedish Massage, Trigger Point Therapy and Myofascial Release.

This case study was 100% dedicated to finding relief through massage therapy.  With patience and persistence she is now taking control of life with out the pain.

 

Alex Stenger is a licensed Massage Therapist practicing inside BalanceDiet Billings.

Website: billingsmassage.amtamembers.com 

Contact: Office (406) 652-9142 Cell (406) 780-0535

Facebook: facebook.com/billingsmassage/

Enjoy Balance and Aging with Massage Therapy

Falls are the primary cause of accidental death in persons older than 65 years of age, often resulting in hip fractures, decreased mobility and independence, and increased morbidity. Age-related factors may include modification of the nervous and muscular system function with resulting changes in mobility, gait, and strength. These factors, along with disease and the increased use of medications that tend to come with aging, combine to make falls in this population a serious healthcare issue.

footbalanceWhen the muscles in charge of proper posture become more rigid and flexed our center of gravity moves farther forward and postural instability increases. Massage therapy has proven to produce short-term improvements in balance, neurological, and cardiovascular measures in older persons. A cost effective treatment in comparison to the billions of dollars in annual medical costs for persons who fall.

A single 60- minute, full-body massage therapy treatment was shown to have a stabilizing effect on measures of balance and physiological factors related to stability in older adults. As massage therapy has been shown to decrease stress and anxiety and improve mental state, these factors may also have a positive influence on balance. With massage therapy, proper exercise and nutrition you can greatly decrease your risk of falling and enjoy aging!

Alex Stenger is a licensed Massage Therapist practicing inside BalanceDiet Billings.

Website: billingsmassage.amtamembers.com 

Contact: Office (406) 652-9142 Cell (406) 780-0535

Facebook: facebook.com/billingsmassage/

Restorative Yoga @ BalanceDiet Billings

Yoga is one of my favorite complementary forms of exercise I love to suggest to massage clients. What I like most about yoga is that it offers many different styles just like massage offers different modalities. Like Swedish, Deep Tissue or Trigger Point yoga has Vinyasa, Flow or Restorative (and much more) so you’re sure to find a perfect fit for you!

Recently, BalanceDiet Billings began offering yoga videos for members to try together or alone in their fitness room through The Yoga Collective. A website with a library of yoga videos for every level of yogi to try.

I recently fell in love with restorative yoga through a client who came to me describing shoulder pain that was causing her to lose sleep and back off using weights in the upper body. She explained how she wasn’t able to do yoga either, which she was really enjoying.

After her massage treatment and some relief I offered to dig around in The Yoga Collective for some videos that don’t require your body to feel the deepest stretch with each pose. That’s when I found Gentle Yoga (20 minutes) and Relax and Restore (30 minutes) which left me feeling like I did yoga and had a massage all at the same time!

I began with GY and finished with RR yoga for a total of 50 minutes. I found I could take my time and stay longer in a certain pose if needed. The RR poses offered enough of a stretch to release muscle groups but supported my body the whole time through the use of blocks and multiple blankets. The perfect way to self massage the body!

This type of yoga is great for those who have difficulty with balance (check out Sierra’s Balance class on Tuesday), shoulder impingement, hip displacement or low weight bearing on any area of the spine. If you’re a beginner at yoga this is a great way to ease into level 1+ videos.

yogaprops
Yoga accessories: blocks, blankets, straps.

Check out BalanceDiet Billing’s Group fitness class schedule here to see the other classes they have to offer.

Please, let me know if you try out these yoga videos and what you think! Both videos have been added to favorites for quick and easy access. Stop by to see me in the massage room if you have any questions or would like to book an appointment!

Alex Stenger is a licensed Massage Therapist practicing inside BalanceDiet Billings.

Contact or booking: Office: (406) 652-9142 Cell:(406) 780-0535

Website: billingsmassage.amtamembers.com

Facebook: facebook.com/billingsmassage/