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Headaches and Massage

December 5, 2010

I received an email this week from a new client who has been suffering from a headache lasting a week. I remembered reading a series in Massage and Bodywork Magazine, a publication of the Associated Massage and Bodywork Professionals (AMBP)), by Til Luchau. I pulled them out and reread them. Then I did a little more research online.

Luchau divides headaches into two broad categories: tension and musculoskeletal headaches in one category and migraine and other vascular headaches in the other. I’d add a third category: sinus headache. TMJ headaches might be a fourth category, and the general protocols for TMJ jaw pain often relieve the headaches as well. However, these headaches might be better categorized as a subset of TMJ dysfunction.

Luchau provides a chart for musculoskeletal/tension and migraine/vascular symptoms in his first article.  My other research differs a bit on some points, but is in general consistent with Luchau. Understanding the symptoms is important because slightly different massage techniques are used for each type of headache. The image below offers a capsule version with hunger and eyestrain headaches omitted in the discussion that follows.

Types of headaches

Common types of headaches

Tension headaches often arise when the muscles on the shoulders, back of the neck,  under the occiput (posterior inferior cranium), and scalp become tight and pull on the scalp and the lining (dura mater) under the skull. Clenching the teeth is also a tension response and can cause headache even if  TMJ dysfunction is not present.

Usually, tension headaches occur on both sides of the head, but if the musculature on one side of the body is tighter than the other, the pain may be worse on that side.  It may also be worse in the back of the head, but depending on which muscles are hypertonic, it can be located almost anywhere. The pain is often a dull ache, but it may be more severe. It sometimes feels like squeezing or tightness in the head. Physical activity usually does not exacerbate it.

According to Luchau, the hands-on goal of working with tension headaches is to reduce the myofascial tension.

Sinus headaches are caused when the mucous membranes that line the four air-filled sinus cavities become irritated and swollen. The sinuses produce more mucus as a response, and the mucus that normally serves to moisten the air and soothe the sinuses becomes thicker and adds congestion that further blocks the sinus passages often creating a vacuum within them.

The pain is usually felt as pressure and/or tenderness  just behind the eyes, cheeks, and forehead or near the upper teeth or temple regions. The pain may worsen if you lie down although lying down may reduce the pain of tension and migraine headaches. Bending over usually makes sinus headache worse. Your face may be noticeably swollen from a sinus headache.

If the cause of a sinus headache is infection, massage is contraindicated, and you should see a doctor immediately. Otherwise, massage with a hands-on goal of stimulating lymphatic drainage and relieving blocks caused by swelling and congestion may help.

Migraines are believed to be caused when the blood vessels inside the head dilate. Many migraine remedies include vasoconstrictors for this reason. However, according to Lachau, new research may point to another cause.

“Recent research suggests that migraines start as waves of nerve cell hyperactivity sweeping across the brain; the spreading waves in turn activate pain-signaling neurons in the brain stem. The root cause of these neuro-electrical ‘brain storms’ of abnormally increased activity is unknown. The hyperactivity is followed by inhibited nerve cell excitability; the cells seem to be worn out, and this exhaustion may explain difficulty speaking or thinking clearly after migraines” (Luchau, Sept./Oct. 2010).

The pounding or throbbing, sometimes stabbing, pain of a migraine is usually focused on one side of the head. It is frequently preceded by an “aura” or visual disturbance and is accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light, sound, and odors. Physical activity can make it worse.

Most migraine sufferers have ideas about the triggers that cause their headaches and the symptoms that signal one is starting. They may also know that the massage protocols that work on tensions headaches often have little lasting effect on a migraine. Luchau’s hands-on goal of migraine massage is to reduce cranial compression, and I would agree that even if the migraine is initially triggered by muscular tension or sinus blockage, by the time it is a full-blown migraine, work on the cranium and the cranial fascia is necessary to relieve it.

Sometimes it is hard to tell what kind of headache it is. Generally, a look at the location and quality of the pain and at the response to activity and sensory input can  help identify the type of headache you have. However, if you have a sudden, severe headache with no history of migraine headache or a dull headache that will not respond to treatment, you need to see your doctor immediately. Headaches can be a symptom of severe and even life-threatening conditions, stroke for example, and should not be ignored.

sternocleidomastoid trigger points

Trigger points on the sternocleidomastoid muscle can cause wide-ranging headache pain. The "x' marks the trigger point and colored areas on the head show the pain locations relative to the superior (pink) or inferior (blue) scm.

The massage protocol for a tension headache will include release of tight neck, shoulder and chest muscles and general relaxation strokes. Luchau’s first article emphasized release of the superficial and deep fascia of the scalp and a concentration of the suboccipital regions. I would add trigger point therapy of specific muscles likely to contribute to headache pain. Indeed, numerous research studies have cited the efficacy of massage, including specific pain-relieving modalities and more general relaxation type massage which tends to improve overall structural alignment and release endorphins into the body, as greatly relieving symptoms of tension headaches and even preventing headache recurrence when massage is received regularly.

Sinus massage with use of lymphatic drainage therapy is effective for relieving the pressure in the sinuses. (See my recent newsletter article on Sinus Massage.) The Lymph Drainage Therapy technique is slow and precise, and it uses feather-light strokes to move the lymph out of the head and into the nodes. It may also include the use of aromatherapy to further open the sinus passages.

Migraine headaches respond well to Craniosacral Therapy, especially intraoral work. CST allows the therapist to decompress the bones of the cranium and balance the blood flow. It also allows for structural realignment.  Luchau’s technique uses a little more pressure than CST, but it is similar. (Trigger point therapy is often not as effective on migraines and on tension headaches.)

According to Luchau, the effect of this cranial work may be to reduce the pressure on the trigeminal nerve or to affect the hypothalamus and pituitary glands which may be responsible for the “brainstorm” of  nerve cell hyperactivity mentioned in the quote above  (Luchau, Nov./Dec. 2010).

Regular massage may also increase serotonin levels in migraine sufferers and thus prevent recurrence. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter and low serotonin levels have been indicated in migraine sufferers. Low serotonin also causes depression, seasonal affective disorder, addictions and eating disorders.

Two other modalities that seem to reduce headache pain are Myofascial Release and Reiki. Myofascial Release used gentle, light traction and stretching to release the fascia, which is a single sheath of connective tissue that covers the muscles, bones, organs, and even the cells (everything!) inside your body. Craniosacral therapy and lymph drainage therapy always incorporate myofascial release as do other modalities, but it can be used as a “stand-alone” modality. Reiki is one of a number of energy modalities that can be used to work on the subtle energy body. In many cases, this gentle therapy alone can relieve the headache.

Massage has been proven in study after study to decrease the severity and frequency of headaches. When you see your therapist, be sure to tell her the following to help her determine the best therapy protocol for your specific needs:

  • Where your pain is located
  • How long you’ve had the pain and if it comes and goes
  • How often you have headaches in general
  • If you’ve seen a physician and if so, what is the diagnosis
  • What precipitated the headache if you know
  • What is the quality of the pain (dull, throbbing, stabbing)
  • How movement and sensory stimulus affect the pain levels
  • What you have done to relieve it, such as taking pain relievers or using cold compresses, before coming to her

Headaches do not have to be a fact of life. Self-care and regular massage can be of great help in preventing them and relieving them when they do occur.


Sources:
Institute for Integrative Health Studies. (2005, July 21). The dual concept massage approach to headaches. Retrieved from http://www.integrative-healthcare.org/mt/archives/2005/07/the_dual_concep.html.

Luchau, T. (2010, July/August). Working with headaches, part 2. Massage and Bodywork, XXV(IV), 111.  Retrieved from http://massagebodywork.idigitaledition.com/issues/13

Luchau, T. (2010, September/October). Working with headaches, part 2. Massage and Bodywork, XXV(V), 111.  Retrieved from http://massagebodywork.idigitaledition.com/issues/14.
Luchau, T. (2010, November/December) Working with headaches, part 3. Massage and Bodywork, XXV(VI), 111-112.  Retrieved from
http://massagebodywork.idigitaledition.com/issues/15/
Ulrich, C. (2010). Holding headaches at bay. Retrieved from http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php/article_id/1058/Holding-Headaches-at-Bay-.

Massage and Managing Diabetes

September 26, 2010
foot massage

Foot care is especially important for the diabetic. Have your therapist look for cracks and ulcerations and be aware of too deep pressure you might not feel. Image by HealingDream at FreeDigitalPhotos.net Click link at end of article to see HealingDream's portfolio.

One of my personal goals is to learn something new about massage and bodywork each day. Sometimes that is a new technique, and sometimes it is new information about a pathology or condition presented by one of my clients.

One of my regular, weekly clients has mild Type II diabetes.  She also suffers from being overweight and from arthritis, and although very active in her life, her range of motion is impaired by her ailments. Massage and regular chiropractic appointments make her feel better and help improve her ability to do the things she enjoys with greater ease of movement.

I’ve been trying to discover the reason for her toe cramps for a while now. Other massage therapists have suggested that these might be caused by mineral deficiencies (potassium, magnesium, and calcium primarily), dehydration or by the massage releasing a muscle and thus causing the antagonist areas go into spasm. My client has tried many of the suggested remedies, plus homeopathic quinine and switching to lite potassium chloride salt. She even put a cork under her pillow although that folk remedy didn’t work.

My client’s regular doctor suggested, however, that the cramps might be related to her diabetes. That led me to do more research, and I’ve learned a good bit in the last week about diabetes and massage.

First, I learned that if  the cramping is related to the diabetes, it may be coming from the drug she is using to control her sugar levels.  The cramping may also be a complication of Type II diabetes itself though it is not as well-known as neuropathy or even the skin hardening that may precede neuropathy. Ulcerated skin is one of the worst of these related complications, so while I advise using the mineral supplements with the doctor’s approval, I also want my client to be vigilant for any decrease in feeling in her feet and toes.

I also learned some general things about diabetes and massage. In general, massage is beneficial for people who have diabetes. Massage helps the client relax and release endorphins which in turn helps blood sugar levels balance to healthy levels. Similarly, massage improves circulation, which in turn improves cellular insulin uptake. Finally, regular massage improves the elasticity of the connective tissue and makes movement easier.

This last benefit got me thinking about how often the superficial tissue of my diabetic clients seems stretched unusually taut and how often even light pressure seems to cause an unusual pain response. So I began to do more digging. What I discovered is that increased blood sugars cause connective tissues to thicken and even harden. The is true of the superficial fascia and also of the deeper fascia that surrounds the muscles, muscle fibers and the organs themselves. The thickening also causes swelling because lymph flow is restricted and further inhibits the range of motion. The skin itself can become dry, calloused and cracked. No wonder my client hurts!

I always work slowly, releasing the superficial connective tissue before working individual muscles. This is the way I was taught and is also an intuitive response as I palpate the tissues. Working slowly and broadly with long strokes, myofascial stretching and energy techniques first relaxes and releases the dense connective tissue before I begin using more specific deep tissue pressure and trigger point therapy on individual muscles.

I remember this same client telling me that her previous massage therapist often made her hurt for several days before she felt better. I suspect the MT went into the trigger points too quickly and caused damage to the connective tissue by not warming and melting it first. Now that I know about the effect of diabetes on the cellular density of the tissue, I will be even more careful to warm the tissue and proceed slowly to the deeper layers.

Another thing I learned is both a benefit and a caution. Massage can cause the blood sugar levels to drop as much as 20-40 points. Overall, this is a good thing, but if the client’s blood sugar levels drop too much while on the table or just after the massage, it could cause hypoglycemia and be dangerous. That defeats all the potential benefits of the relaxing massage.

Symptoms of a dangerous drop in blood sugar levels include:

  • Excessive sweating or clammy skin
  • Faintness or headache
  • Inability to awaken
  • Certain “spaced-out” tendencies, such as slow speech or clumsiness
  • Irritability
  • Personality changes
  • Rapid heartbeat

That’s why I went out to the store and bought some fruit juice boxes to have on hand in case I have a client on the table whose sugar drops too much. However, if you are diabetic and receive massage, you should have a snack in your purse or car and always tell the therapist if you need to stop the massage and take care of your blood sugar needs.  I assure you, the therapist will be thankful. You also need to check your blood sugar levels for several hours after you leave the massage office because the effects of blood sugar lowering can continue for several hours.

Be sure to update your therapist about what medications you are taking, especially if you are taking insulin shots. The injection sites are particularly sensitive to massage, and although the tissue there may feel especially dense (causing the therapist to work there more), studies have shown that massage on injection sites can increase the rate at which the insulin enters the blood stream and further lower your blood sugar.

Finally, be sure you eat before the massage and that you are hydrated both before and after the massage. If you feel unusual, after the massage, don’t drive until you feel normal.

The beneficial effects of massage for diabetics seem to outweigh the contraindications. However, it is a must that you and your massage therapist communicate effectively. Share you needs and concerns, and realize that  honest feedback allows you and your massage therapist to learn from each other and develop a supportive rapport.

Image: healingdream / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Incorporating Lomi Lomi into Massage Sessions

August 23, 2010

 

I just returned from the AMTA-NC conference in Cary, NC, and spent two days learning techniques of Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage from Brenda L. Griffith.

orchid at Daniel Stowe Botanical GardensIt was an amazing two days, not only because I got to network with other massage therapists, which is one of the benefits of belonging to AMTA, but because the techniques I learned easily incorporate themselves into my massage protocol. In fact, I’ve used some piece of what I learned in every massage that I’ve given over the last week.

Griffith, who is a former AMTA national president, studied with Aunty Margaret Machado in Hawaii in 1994 and 1995, and has taught classes in Lomi Lomi all over the United States. We spent most of the two days actually giving or receiving the work. The Lomi Lomi strokes are long and fluid and have been said to resemble a dance because the therapist moves her whole body to apply rather deep and yet soothing pressure through gravity and leverage.

Lomi Lomi is intuitive work. At the beginning of the session, the therapist sets her intention to help the client receive the greatest benefit and allow his/her body to balance and heal. Then using rhythmic, fluid motions with the forearms and the fleshy parts of the hands rather than relying on fingers and thumbs, the therapist uses long, full-body strokes to release blocked energy and tissues. Lomi Lomi feels wonderful to recieve, and as a therpist, I thouroughly enjoy giving the massage to others. It is almost as relaxing to give a Lomi Lomi massage as to receive one.

“Touch the body with a loving touch.
If your hands are gentle and loving,
Your patient will feel the sincerity of your heart.
His soul will reach out to yours,
And the Lord’s healing will flow through you both.”
~Aunty Margaret

Some of you will remember that a few years ago, I took a class in Huna from Angela Sherrill. Huna is the philosophy that underpins Lomi Lomi. Huna teaches that everything in the universe seeks harmony and love. Is it any surpise that one of the alternate names for Lomi Lomi is “loving hands massage”?  With long, continuous, flowing strokes over the client’s body, Lomi Lomi’s goal is to nurture the client and help him/her relax and simply be. What could be more loving?

Each of my clients who has experienced Lomi Lomi since I returned from Cary has loved it. Two of the regulars commented, “That’s new, isn’t it? I like it.”

For that reason alone, I appreciate the work. Moreover, I really like the emphasis on resonating with the client from the beginning to the end of the massage and relying on my intuitive sense of what the client needs to tell me what to do next. I also like the gentleness of the work and its profound ablility affect the tissues deeply without causing pain. Finally, I like that it follows the philosophy of Huna, which emphasizes love, tolerance, acceptance, respect, and compassion for all beings; Huna has an energy work component that I’ve been using for some time now.

This week I am planning to do my first full Lomi Lomi massage since the class rather than just incorporting pieces of it into the massages I am already giving. I’ll switch from cream to oil, and I’ll try to use most of the techniques I learned. I am looking forward to that. However, I am sure I’ll continue to use parts of Lomi Lomi, just as my teacher Brenda L. Griffith does, in nearly every massage I give.

Massage when Money Is Tight

July 11, 2010
money stress

Stress can wreak havoc on the body. Massage can help relieve stressors and initiate the parasympathetic "rest and digest" response. Image by Renjith Krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net. To see Renjith's portfolio, click the link at the end of the post.

If the economic downturn and summer vacation expenses have got you thinking that you need to cut back on spending, you are not alone. But if you’re thinking, “Massages are a luxury that I can easily forego,” think again. Massages are an investment in your health.

The recent discussion in Congress about the drain on our country’s resources by healthcare costs has made us aware that poor health is expensive. Besides lost workdays, the costs of visits to the doctor and medications can mount up even if you are insured.

That’s not even putting a value on the time you spend in waiting room or on the quality of life lost when you are debilitated by pain and disease.

Receiving massage from a capable, qualified massage therapist can relieve pain and greatly improve your physical and emotional health.

Therapeutic massage:

  • Increases circulation thereby benefiting the organs and muscles on a cellular level by increasing their oxygen and nutrient supply;
  • Stimulates the lymphatics thus supporting the body’s natural immune response;
  • Flushes toxins from the tissues;
  • Stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, improving the “rest and digest” response (and calming “fight or flight”);
  • Loosens adhesions in the fascia and tissues;
  • Relieves chronic pain;
  • Provides “safe touch” for people who don’t otherwise receive tactile contact (touch helps reduce stress);
  • Relieves anxiety and emotional stressors;
  • Releases endorphins to promote feelings of well-being and reduce depression.

Wow! With all the benefits of massage, it looks like Congress would add that the the healthcare package!

The fact is we are living in the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. And besides the financial stressors and threats of job loss, we are coping with the ordinary demands that plague us anytime, such as the demands of families, friendships, loss, transitions, illness, pain, and similar circumstances.

Massage can help you deal with these stressors and can help you maximize the return on your other self-care measures.

Regular massages are a sound investments. Pain and stress are expensive. Getting a massage is an investment in your future health.

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Usui Reiki II Class Offered

June 1, 2010
Reiki kanji and hands

Reiki is a powerful energy healing modality that anyone can learn.

Now that I’ve received my NCBTMB Approved Provider number (451254-10), I am pleased to announce that I will be teaching an Usui Reiki II class on August 7, 2010, at the Wepner Wellness Center, LLC, in Newton, from 9 AM – 6 PM for 8 CE hours for licensed massage and bodyworkers. However, you can take the class whether or not you are a LMBT if you have the Usui Reiki I prerequisite.

The cost is $150 if you register by July 23, and $200 thereafter. 

Reiki is the first modality I learned. In fact, I probably would never have considered massage school if it hadn’t been for Reiki. One of the students whom I know will be attending this Reiki II class just told me today that she is enrolling in massage school in the fall. Including myself, she is the third person I know who came to massage and bodywork by way of Reiki.

Reiki (pronounced ray-key) is an energy modality that was developed during the last century by Dr. Mikao Usui, a Japanese healer. (The history of Reiki is readily available online and is both interesting and controversial.) The word itself means “universal life energy”, and Reiki is administered by “laying-on hands”. It is a simple and powerful technique that can be learned by anyone. It is passed from teacher to student by attunement. 

The thing that continues to excite me about Reiki is that first of all, it works, and secondly, that experiments in quantum physics are proving this beyond doubt. I use Reiki nearly every day on myself, my clents, and even my dog and my plants. Furthermore, what Dr. Usui, other Eastern healers and their patients, and countless Reiki practitioners have proven by experience is now being proven in Western laboratories through double-blind studies.

One of the things that quantum physicists have proven is the existance of the Zero-Point Field, which is a substructure of energetic frequency (sometimes wave and sometimes particle) that underpins the universe. The Zero-Point Field also functions as a recording medium of everything, providing a means for everything to communicate with everything else. When you consider that on a subatomic level, cells and DNA also communicate through frequencies unrelated to the physical nervous system and that they also communicate directly with the Zero-Point Field, you have the basis for how Reiki works. 

Reiki makes use of the energy from the Zero-Point Field to balance the Human Energy Field. The attunements that Reiki healers receive (and that students will receive in my class) set intentions that, incredibly, are part of the record of the Zero-Point Field and serve to insure that Reiki does no harm to the healer or the client. It seems that the more people who hold and intention over time, the greater the probablility that the intention becomes “fixed” and affects the physical universe from its quantum origin.

Reiki kanji

The Reiki kanji: the top symbol is "rei" or "universal", and the bottom symbol is "ki" or "life force"."

If this seems to resonate with your own understanding of how things work and you’d like to take the class, please contact me through my website or my email link. 

The Usui Reiki II course outline includes:

  • Atunement to the Usui Reiki II symbols
  • Meanings and uses if the Usui Reiki II symbols
  • Self-healing teachniques
  • Working with clients and distance healing
  • Building a Reiki practice
  • Ethical considerations
  • Hands-on practice
  • Certificate of attendance

Join Your Professional Organization

April 28, 2010

I attended the AMTA-NC Conference (American Massage Therapy Association) in Hickory over the past weekend. It was a wonderful experience. I took some wonderful continuing education— one on Deep Tissue Made Easy taught by Eric Stephenson was especially good— made some new friends and visited with old ones, and met some vendors with whom I’ll probably continue to do business.

Before I became a massage therapist, I was a teacher. I have always belonged to my professional organizations, and I find it hard to understand when others don’t. The reason I most often hear is that the professional groups are too expensive. However, I would counter that it is more expensive not to join. I certainly get direct personal value for my money, and I have a voice on a state and national level that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

For example, this first of two AMTA-NC Conferences this year cost me $200, which was $100 less than for attendees who were not AMTA members. For that I got 15 hours of usable continuing education. I went to the AMTA volunteer luncheon, so I ate one meal free, and the night before I went to the AMTA social that had heavy hors d’oeuvres and let that be my dinner. During both these meals, I interacted with other AMTA massage therapists and felt the kind of cameraderie that comes from being with people who share the same passion. The conference was held in my town, so I didn’t have to get a motel room. The fall 2009 Conference was in a nearby city, and again I drove. The next one will be in Cary, which will mean I have to find a place to stay, but those two nights won’t be too much extra considering I will have gotten 45 hours of continuing education for about $600, networked with other MTs who may send me referrals, and met teachers, vendors and MTs who can give me usable ideas that I can apply to my business now. As a member, I can also go to any of the district continuing education offerings in the state and learn other techniques for a reasonable cost. I can even check out videos of different modalities from the AMTA-NC library for free and further expand my knowledge base.

On a state and national level, the AMTA supports me by lobbying for legislation that maintains the integrity of massage therapists as professionals and balances the amount of regulation between what keeps us safe and reputable and what limits our ability to do our jobs. So far, I have no grievances with how this is being done or with how I am being informed of what is happening. I am glad someone is fighting for me.

There are other benefits I get from AMTA that are similar to the ones I get as a retired member of NCAE (North Carolina Association of Educators) and NEA (National Education Association). These include liability insurance, other insurance offers (particularly important for MTs as they are offer group rates for people who are very often self-employed), discounts on products and services, and legislative updates.

As a retired educator, I was recently elected vice president of the Catawba County Retired School Personnel. My job will be mostly to find programs for our meetings. CCRSP is the local unit of the North Carolina Retired School Personnel and is connected to the NCAE and the NEA, both of which I was a member from the time I took my first teaching position in 1973.

For my entire teaching career, NCAE fought for higher salaries, lower class sizes, a research-based curriculum model, and better conditions for students and teachers. I never minded paying my dues, and during the best years, I worked in schools that had a 100% membership. That simple fact gave us more clout with the local adminstration and school board, the state legislature, and Congress. Sadly, many teachers in the schools currently do not belong to NCAE/NEA. I see many of the reforms for which we fought by going to Raleigh, marching, and speaking directly to legislators falling like a house of cards. I have no doubt that those who stand together are stronger than those who stand apart.

That said, I’d like to encourage you to join your professional organizations, no matter what your profession. It is my experience that these organizations try to self-regulate the profession in ways that maintain the integrity of the members and to keep unnecessary legislation from doing for us what we should be doing for ourselves. Likewise, it provides a network of other professionals enabling us to learn from each other and support each other. Finally, it give us a voice that comes from the very people who are most affected by regulations and who understand and care about the professions they love. That seems a bargain to me.

Forgiving Ourselves

April 11, 2010

 

man in shadow

Getting free of our superego's constant criticism can enable us to relate more authentically with ourselves and others.

I always look forward to the Easter season. When I was working in the public schools, I got a week’s vacation, and that was worth something in itself. But now that I’m a massage therapist and not teaching, I still look forward to Easter. Maybe more so this year because the winter was so cold.

Easter heralds spring and new life. Not a little of its charm, I think, is its coming after the season of Lent when we are charged to look into our own hearts and to acknowledge the ways we have fallen short in our lives. Somehow, as it is meant to do, Easter morning redeems that forty days of introspection, and everything feels crisp, clean, and possible.

One of the challenges of Lent and Easter is to forgive the people who have taken advantage of us, who have broken faith, who have ignored our wishes and needs. That is easier for me to do when I remember to live in the present moment and don’t constantly replay the tapes of my past. Indeed, living in the present cures more than just my victim mentality.

Still, when it comes right down to it, the hardest person for me to forgive is the one who looks back from the mirror each morning. I guess part of our hardwiring as human beings includes a superego voice whose sole purpose it to judge and criticize our every thought and move–to make us feel bad about ourselves.

Of course, occasionally the superego pats us on the back and tells us how much better we are than some other poor slob, but that kind of narcissism is just as deadly to our self-forgiveness as the constant critical voice.

Indeed, if we are honest, we often don’t forgive others because they have in fact hit the very sore spot that our superego has been attacking our whole lives. 

The only way we can be free to forgive ourselves (and others) is to tell the superego to shut up! When I first started trying to do this, I was met with even more guilt and shame because it felt to me like I was telling my mother to shut up, which was not a good idea in my childhood home. A wise friend helped me see that the difference was that my mother’s criticism came from a place of love, but my superego has no emotions. Its purpose it to make me feel rotten about myself or rotten about everyone else.

Originally, my superego may have started as the voice of my mother trying to protect me, and its function may have been to protect me. But I have outgrown its scare tactics and its self-righteous analysis of events. I am not a child anymore. I have experience of my own to draw upon. I don’t need protecting and certainly not by a disembodied, cold, cruel imitation of someone who actually had my best interests at heart. I can tell it to shut up!

Once my superego is silenced, I begin to see that whether my mistakes of the past were made from ignorance, fear, anger, or even hatred, they came from a place that now deserves compassion. (Surprisingly, I also see the same is true for others.) I can begin to atone for my mistakes, either directly if it is possible, or indirectly if direct recompense would make matters worse. I can begin to acknowledge my weaknesses and also begin to see my strengths. I can get in touch with something inside myself that is good and true. I can begin to really like that person in the mirror. 

The critical voice of the superego is not honest conscience. My Enneagram teacher, Don Riso, told me that you will know the difference between the two by their fruits. My conscience tells me what is good, decent and right. My superego attacks no matter what decision I make. It is just as relentless when I am gentle and kind as it is when I am forceful and cruel.

When I silence my superego, I can begin to allow a deeper place to open inside. That is the place of my true self. It is a place that knows what is good and true and beautiful because that is its own nature. It is connected to Source. It can be found in the silence that comes when I tell my superego, “Shut Up!”

Intention

March 31, 2010
fractal

Image from TrixiePixGraphic.com Free Fractals

During our February couples massage special, I met a client who has since become a colleague and a friend.

During our first massage session, she was interested in my Theta Healing work, which I was happy to talk about since I had just finished the Advanced Theta Healing class in Greensboro. She said it nicely complemented her work with Matrix Energetics and suggested we do a phone session trade. I eagerly agreed as it gave me an opportunity to practice my skills and receive work myself. This marked the beginning of a ride I am finding immensely exciting.

My friend is correct that the Theta Healing work and the Matrix Energetics work have some similarities. In our first and second sessions, we have both cleared some limiting belief patterns she using Matrix Energetics with me and I using Theta Healing with her. We’ve also read the first books in the other’s disciplinemdash; I read Matrix Energetics by Richard Bartlett, and she read Theta Healing by Vianna Stibal so we both have an idea about what the other is referencing.

I have enjoyed Bartlett’s decidedly more scientific approach to the idea of healing in an instant. He uses ideas developed by quantum physicists to explain his work. He provides the “brain candy” I need to understand is happening when seeming miracles happen. My friend has enjoyed Stibal’s more spiritual style and finds structure in the explanation of the seven planes. We plan to continue our phone sessions.

The work has sparked me to read more about quantum physics and the inquiry into consciousness, the effect of the observer on the outcome, and the Zero-point field of random, conscious energy that may hold the key to destroy the notion that there is no God. At the very least, it confirms that we are all connected and that whatever we do affects everything else.

I began reading The Field, by Lynn McTaggart just after Bartlett’s first book. McTaggart is a journalist reporting on the scientific research into the mysterious field and its implications for us as healers and as humans living on this planet. If you like this sort of scientific confirmation of what the mystics has said since the dawn of time, I urge you to read it and then comment.

This is not the place for me to try to explain Zero-point theory though perhaps I will talk about it more in later blogs. For now, others can explain the theory more concisely and eloquently. What I want to say here is that what we think when we interact with another matters. If I, as a massage therapist, touch a client with the intention of helping him/her out of pain, that result is more likely to occur than if I give the massage thinking about the fee I will collect at the end of it. My intention influences outcome.

I am excited by the implications of this work and my research. This I have felt were true are being proven true in quantum physics. The science has far-ranging spiritual implications, and I am excited to learn more.

Tips for the Flu Season from a Massage Therapist

October 27, 2009

Tips for the Flu Season from a Massage Therapist

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Taking Care of Winter Feet

October 23, 2009

 

eight toesCooler weather means losing the sandals and stuffing our feet back into socks, hosiery, and closed-toe shoes and boots. It is likely that your feet will protest, and by the end of the day, they may ache from their confinement.

Keeping your feet flexible can combat many of the aches as well as postural problems. I was surprised when my chiropractor, Dr. Matt Crouse of Crouse Chiropractic, told me that my tilted pelvis and neck problems were a result of my over-pronated, flat feet. It makes sense; the feet are your body’s foundation. If something is amiss with them, it can affect the alignment of your whole body.

The foot is an amazing structure. Each foot has 26 bones (together the feet account for a quarter of all the bones in your body), 33 joints, and over a hundred muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Both strong and delicate, this complex structure takes an incredible amount of stress with each step we take.

If your feet are bound up in shoes all day, and you don’t counter the stress with exercise, the bones and muscles can degenerate and lose tone. Likewise, the joints and tendons can freeze up rather than gliding freely as they should.

So how do we care for our feet in the fall and winter months?

Practice foot exercises and stretches.

  • A simple stretch is to sit in a chair or on the floor and thread your fingers through the toes. Press gently between each toe to relax and release the tension of the foot muscles. The gently pull on the end of the toe and wiggle it to stimulate chi. Finally, rub your fist down the foot from the ball to the heel to release the plantar fascia.
  • Pick up a pencil or other objects with your toes.
  • Raise your body up and down on your tiptoes.
  • Fill a plastic bottle with water and freeze it. Place the frozen bottle on the floor, and roll your foot over the bottle. (You can also do this with a ball—a golf ball is particularly good.)
  • Write the alphabet in the air with your toes.
  • Using a scarf, towel, or resistance band under the ball of the foot, pull the foot back in a dorsiflexed position and hold 10 seconds.

Alternate shoes each day.
Changing shoes each day allows the shoe to dry out and extends their life. Your shoes absorb about a quarter cup of perspiration each day. You can wear the same brand shoe, but I’ve found that if I change styles each day, my flat feet are happier.

Invest in a good pair of athletic shoes for exercise.
Buy the right shoe for your exercise. If you play tennis, buy tennis shoes, not running shoes and vice-versa. Buy the right shoe for your gait. Feet that over-pronate need a different shoe than feet that over-supinate. (See article in our newsletter Warp & Weft ) Replace athletic shoes when they wear-out; athletic shoes lose their support over time.

Wear moisture-absorbing socks.
Foot moisture can lead to blisters, fungus, and foul odor. Socks and foot powder can help. If blister are an ongoing problem, try putting a thin layer of petroleum jelly on your foot as a preventative.

Have your gait and foot-strike analyzed. Buy custom orthotics if necessary to correct.
Postural analysis, shoe-wear analysis, digital foot/gait scanners, and bone density evaluations can give you a great deal of information about your feet. See your chiropractor, podiatrist or doctor. Some shoe stores now have digital foot/gait scanners, and if it has been a while since you had your foot measured for size, you should have that done again as well.

Keep your feet clean.
Moisture and dirt can cause fungal infections and gritty abrasions. Don’t forget to dry between the toes.

With proper care, you can avoid both foot problems and their attendant structural effects like low back and shoulder/neck pain. Take care of your feet this winter.