Sunday, July 28, 2013

More Massage Therapy FAQs- Lotion and Talking

Very recently, I've had some new questions asked by the-person-on-the-table-who-shall-always-remain-nameless.  I really enjoy it when clients ask direct questions about their treatment, and relish the opportunity to demystify any aspect of massage therapy.  Of course, my answers are from my perspective and experience, but I hope they are helpful.

Also, you do not have to be a client to have your Q answered here.  Feel free to email me at with anything you'd like to say - massage therapy, or otherwise.  Your idea may appear here anonymously (or with full credit, if you prefer!)

Q:  What type of lotion do you use for my treatment?  What's in it?

A:  Some people think in terms of actual ingredients (and rightfully so). I've heard the statement "don't put anything on your skin that you would not eat".  It's a great concept, as skin is a breathable organ, but perhaps a bit of an overstatement.  For example.  Would you drink the pool or lake water you swim in?  Do you use Neosporin on your morning toast?
It makes sense to minimize the number of ingredients in the lotion we use, but most of what is on the mainstream market is generally considered very safe.  I have gone almost exclusively with professional products like Biotone and Lotus touch, which are widely used in the industry.

My largest concern when choosing a product is whether it is fragrance and petroleum free and the correct viscosity for the particular type of massage.  Thinner lotions are more conducive to Swedish-style work, while thicker lotions tend to absorb more slowly and are better for deep tissue.  Those of you that have been on my table know I use a minimal amount of lotion for most treatments.  Lifting the tissue and sports work calls for little or no emollient.
Also, I personally do not like the feel of oil, no matter how fine, on my skin.  This is one exception to the "don't put your preferences on your client" rule.  If I am creeped out by the feel, how can I be effective?
I do use a tiny drop of aromatherapy oil here and there, mixed into the other product, however.
Finally, I always invite you to bring your own product(s) if you have sensitive skin or a strong preference. 
I will roll with it!

Q:  Does it bother you (the therapist), when I talk during my massage? 

A:  It probably does not come as a surprise that I LOVE to talk, and I am NEVER bored by the chats I have with clients.  I also recognize that talking can be part of the relaxation process - it was for me when I first started receiving massage.  It's a safe place to hash out your day, discuss your recent vacation,  upcoming event or even an annoying store clerk.  I really do consider it an honor to provide an atmosphere of privacy that allows this to flow.

Now. Here is the other side of that coin.  There are times when (usually a first-time client) feels the need to "entertain" me while I work.  This is very common, and I pride myself on putting people at ease.  So, usually by the second or third treatment the topics change, and they are able to relax more quickly. 
Also, when receiving work to the front of the neck, face, or scalp, it is HIGHLY recommended that the client not only be silent, but also meditate on letting go of each area touched.  Even 10 minutes of this will be day-altering! 

Lastly, it is absolutely more than fine to say at the beginning of treatment that you really desire quiet.  I am usually pretty in tune to when to stop engaging a client in talk - you know, the moment when your brain goes numb and begin to trail off.  But, you will not hurt my feelings by requesting an hour of complete silence at the outset.  I even keep music to a very background level so that it can be tuned out completely when your brain is relaxing. 

Bottom line:  It is YOUR time.  One of my favorite aspects of my job is leaving myself at the door and being present for another person.  Do what feels right to you in regards to communicating.  Sometimes you may know what you need on a given day, other times you can let it  happen organically.  Just be sure to make it about what YOU need in the moment.  Massage should be a different experience each time you receive.

We fight gravity all day every day, massage is your opportunity to let it win for an hour.  Have fun with it!




Saturday, July 20, 2013

In Praise of Western Medicine

Man, I love to play devil’s advocate.  On the subject of traditional v holistic approaches to wellness, I have a fairly good view from both sides.  My mother was an old school Registered Nurse, before and up until the shift in the healthcare system.  For those of you who are not old enough to remember, let’s call it “the time before open heart surgery was practically an outpatient procedure.”
Common in our house growing up were graphic hospital work tales of motorcycle wipe outs, accidental needle sticks, and various and sundry unchecked venereal cases.  Somehow, out of this, I grew to have a deep respect for medical doctors.  Along with this appreciation, we were taught that our health was, ultimately our responsibility.  A doctor is one person, who largely uses the information you provide to help you.  He or she does not have a crystal ball, and it is your job to help them connect the dots when you are sick, and express concerns you have about staying well.  For example, you’d be surprised the number of women who cannot tell the obgyn when was the start of their last period.  C’mon ladies. 
Ask yourself this:  What if next time I went to the doc, I whipped out a well kept log of (insert symptoms here), including times, possible triggers, what I did to calm it, etc.    Do you think maybe the doc would respond in kind and be grateful for an informed and motivated patient?
I am a practitioner of what is largely regarded as a holistic practice, Massage Therapy.  Though I would argue that it can be very clinical, it meets the holistic requirement of facilitating the body’s natural inclination to seek homeostasis, or “perfect” balance. 
Obviously, I am a huge believer in massage and its power.  But, I am respectful of the boundaries of “natural” practices, up to and including acupuncture, hypnosis, homeopathy, yoga, chiropractic, reflexology and a whole host of others.  Just as these have limits, so too does traditional medicine - and  I don’t ever want to be without either side!
My point is this.  All practitioners are just human beings.  Doctors do not live inside your body, feel what you feel, and they cannot be expected to hatch a proper course of treatment without your help.  I hear a lot of anti medical community banter, and I don’t agree with it.  I assure you that doctors are not lying awake at night trying to figure out how to poison you with pills.  And if you have a condition that can be controlled ONLY with holistic practices, that is wonderful.  It is my greatest wish for all of us.
But should you ever need something a bit stronger, please give your MD a little something to go on.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Babies Juggling Chainsaws - A Story of Craigslist Faith

This is a true story of a situation that could have gone very wrong, but didn’t.  I choose to view it as a testament to old fashioned trust, meeting up with a great work ethic.
This spring I had finally had enough.  The yard had been steadily getting worse over the last 3 – 5 years, as we were doing only the bare minimum to keep up with it.  We had to admit defeat over the overgrowth of bushes, trees, weeds and uncharted, plant-able areas.  I say “we”, because my husband lives here too, but would rather hang by his toenails than spend weekends carrying out landscape projects.  Whatever happened to kids (my own, the neighbors’) who would do odd jobs for cash? 
On a whim, I opened up my local Craigslist page and searched “landscapers”.  One of the first to pop up was clearly put up by an individual and not a big company.  The ad said they served ours and the towns surrounding us, and contained a number I spontaneously dialed.
After an initial overview, we settled on a date for him to come out and look at the job.  He showed up promptly, in a new pickup truck with a small wood chipper unit in back.  I was struck by how young he looked, but he listened intently and was professional.  We settled on a date to start the work.
On that date he showed up ready to work and brought his younger brother.  Adorable, brace-faced kid I figured for maybe 15.  What followed was the most anxiety-inducing afternoon of my life
Watching two kids, on a ladder, with a chain saw hacking and trimming and using a wood chipper was agony.   I mean, it literally felt like I’d hired babies to juggle chainsaws on our property!  I gave the younger one some work gloves, and sheepishly asked if they had safety goggles.  Nah.  I also distantly wondered if their mother knew where they were.
They worked like troopers until nearly dark and did an amazing job.  In one day, the yard was taking shape!  I will not tell you what they charged, but I will tell you I paid about a third extra and told them they are under-valuing their work.
I found myself inviting them back for more yard projects.  Instinctively, I knew I’d found a gem.
The second visit, he brought his sister.  A beautiful young girl who pulled every weed, no matter how small.  I couldn’t resist asking “how old are you and your brother?”  She replied that she’s 18 and he is 26.  Twenty six!  A grown man, who I had taken for maybe 19.  Sadly, everyone looks like a teenager to me these days.
They have been back to our yard 4 times, and scheduled for a 5th.  Last time, an older brother came, too.  He worked until dusk with the other guys.  That time, as I brought them sandwiches, I couldn’t resist asking “how many of you are there?”  To which he replied, “twelve”.  I’d like to shake the hand of those parents. 
How many of us, usually myself included, would be too afraid to take such a leap of faith?  I mean, they could have been anyone, and up to anything.  But in this instance, not over-thinking it yielded one of the best contractor experiences I’ve had as a homeowner.  And, it feels good to give money to such industrious, professional and pleasant “children”.   
So, for me the moral of the story is that sometimes, “cover your ass” mentality keeps you from the very best things.  Try a little more trust – in your own judgment, as well as the decency of others. 
Helen Keller said “Avoiding danger, in the long run, is no safer than outright exposure”. 
Wonder if she ever used a chain saw.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Your Lymphatic System and You. Yes You.

Of course I love muscles. They are the “meat” of my business so to speak.  But today I woke up thinking about the lymph system (I know, it’s a problem).  We spend a significant amount of time studying it in school, only to not speak much about it in practice.
Stimulation and draining of the lymph system is believed to be one of the biggest benefits of regular massage.  A good deal of the relief you feel after a massage is due to even incidental movement of lymph fluid back into the “hopper” as I call it.  Unlike blood, lymph does not have an automatic pump to move it through the body to be cleansed.  It requires muscle contraction to force it along.  Think of the analogy of a self-winding watch.  Leave it on the dresser and things stop moving. 
Now, the job gets done primarily by living our daily lives, walking around, exercise programs etc.  Massage can give a serious boost to the process.  There is even a specialty in massage called MLD (Manual Lymphatic Drainage) that is gaining popularity.  It requires lot of additional training and in future I believe will be used widely as a pre and post operative treatment, particularly for oncology patients.
So what IS lymph fluid?  It is a clear, watery fluid containing protein molecules, salt, glucose and urea and works sort of like a soldier – collecting the used components from around the body and returning them for cleansing and responding to invaders.   You do not lose or gain significant lymphatic fluid (we each move about 3 liters per day), it just keeps wagon training through.  You can see how the filtering of it through the lymph nodes, spleen and liver are vital.  It’s the ultimate recycling process!
What does this mean to your life?
If you were inclined, you could get much more detailed information about these things by searching Google.  What I am hoping to impart is a wider appreciation for the water consumption, movement throughout the day (ahem, office workers), and regular massage that we Massage Therapists are always preaching.  By the way, you can ask your therapist to give priority to lymph fluid movement.  That is a completely valid request and the firm, consistent pressure feels great.  Consider this type of massage before and after a long trip, or even a long week behind your desk.  You will feel better and give your immune system a boost!
Thank you for giving 5 minutes today for this unsung hero, Your Lymphatic System.
Please enjoy your day.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Irish Have Oatmeal - A Recipe

McCann’s Irish STEEL CUT Oatmeal is so under appreciated.  The texture is a bit different than traditional “Quaker” type oats, but I actually prefer it.  It is less processed and has more nutrients and fiber naturally than quick cook oats.  I think it’s used less often because there is a 30 minute cook time.  But made this way, you’ll have breakfast for a whole week prepared in your fridge and ready to go.
Use recipe on container of McCann’s Irish STEEL CUT Oatmeal.  Up the recipe to make SIX servings.  Package says 30 minutes cook time, you can lessen that just a little bit to keep more of the grainy, chewy texture (I love that!).  Also, lessening the amount of water used in recipe just a tiny bit will ensure that it will get nice and solid in the fridge and be easy to cut into portions.
Once it has cooled a bit, pick one or more of the following to stir in (or come up with your own twist)
-Raisins or dried fruit of any kind
-Cinnamon or nutmeg
-Nuts of any kind.  I like walnuts, pecans or sunflower seeds best
-Sugar or Stevia
-Dark chocolate bits or even cocoa powder
Fold your choices into the oats and pour it all into a (preferably) glass baking dish.  Put into fridge overnight.  In the morning, cut into six slices.  Each one is a meal.  You can eat it cold or better yet, put a bit of milk or cream on top and heat in microwave for one minute. 
As prepared (without the goodies you may have added), one serving has 150 calories, is loaded with both soluble AND insoluble fiber, low sodium, zero cholesterol, and has just a half gram of saturated fat. 
Ah, those Irish : )

Monday, July 8, 2013

Proper Hygiene for Insomniac Zombies

Since I was a kid, people have been saying “Hi Jean”, and then chuckling when they realize it sounds like “hygiene”.  So let’s get that little joke out of the way first. 
Tapping foot…

Okay.  I’m not actually talking today about cleanliness.  Most of us have that down pretty well.  But the (I think underused) term Sleep Hygiene is an important topic.  With the ever changing and growing stresses we all face, proper sleep of 7 to 9 hours in each 24 hour period can seem elusive and luxurious.  I’ve also sensed an undercurrent of status among people who almost brag about being tired, but too busy to rest. I gotta say, this is a pet peeve of mine.  Time to make it uncool to zombie your way through the day.

Some of you are now saying, “What does she know?  I want to sleep, but can’t!” We’ve all been there.  This piece is not about the truisms of being sleep- deprived.  To those excuses I say - all the better reason to make sleep a priority!
Here are just a few examples, for clarity.

Just had a baby, work stress, spouse snores, going through menopause, can’t fall/stay asleep (no particular reason), too much to do, caretaking a loved one, financial woes, only have late night time to myself, shift worker, side effect of medication..did I miss any? 

So now I am on a soapbox and, as such, better come up with something that is not in your basic Google/Bing search result.  I am not a doctor or researcher, most of this information IS anecdotal.  But a lifetime of considering sleep sacred may have yielded something you can use. 

-If you’ve ever put a child to bed, you know that a routine leading up to bed time is invaluable.  Consider what you do the two hours before sleep.  Whatever you decide is appropriate, keep to it as much as possible.  Your body will grow to think of these things as “sleep triggers”, just like a child.
Note:  Hot shower or bath is great.  However, our bodies require a drop in temp to become drowsy and fall asleep.  Do all hot stuff a good two hours before bed.

-Your bedroom is for sleep and intimacy.  Make it dark, cool, quiet and uncluttered.  Even a small amount of light can cause you to wake for seemingly “no reason”.  Do you have a computer in there?  Charging your phone, with a glowing cord?  TV….really?  I’ve even put a piece of tape over the fan I run in the bedroom.  It has a little yellow light on top.  Oh, that reminds me, a fan or other form of “white noise” is a must to drown out little noises.

-This is a very personal point, but during difficult sleeping periods, it may be helpful to have a retreat.  If possible, have a separate space to go to for rest.   Your significant other will understand!  Being able to turn on a light, read and move about freely will at very least make time awake more comfortable for you both.  It’s okay to leave the wrapped-up-in-the-sheets scenes for the movie screen sometimes.  No, really, it is. 

-As Homer Simpson once said, “Alcohol -the cause of, and solution to ALL of life’s problems.”  A drink or two may help you fall asleep, but even if you haven’t made the connection, is a common cause of middle-of-the-night wakefulness.  This is primarily due to a drop in blood sugar from the pure sugars of booze.  If you do wake from this, a sensible snack can make you drowsy again.  Try a small bit of cereal with milk, toast with butter etc.  Also, eating a pure protein with dinner can help regulate the blood sugar overnight.

- Keep realistic goals.  Even 20 extra minutes per night can make a big difference.  We need less sleep as we age, too.  I’ve noticed that some nights, 5 hours is plenty.  Other times I get 8 and feel pooped.  Who is to say what our body’s rhythm is?

-Finally, if you have a bought of truly unexplained insomnia, be the willow and not the oak.  Consider it an opportunity to enjoy some quiet time.  Experts recommend if you are awake for more than 20 minutes, you should sit up and do something else.  Lie down again only when you feel drowsy.

Hope you found something here that is helpful.

Please make sleep a priority.  Crabby is never a good look.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Another 2 Ingredient Recipe What What?? Avocado n Egg Bake

I overheard this one on the train.  No joke.  Since two of my favorite things in the universe are eggs and avocados (and foolishly, I never thought to put them together), this may be a regular at our house.

It occurs to me that they would look fantastic on a brunch buffet, but are easy enough to make for an everyday meal.

Cut the avocado in two (a less ripe, more firm one works best)
Remove pit, and perhaps two tablespoons of the flesh (eat it while no one is looking)
Place the halves in a baking dish, preferably so they fit snug and don't rock.
Crack an egg into each one.  Use a fork to semi mix it/break up the yolk a bit as it will cook more evenly.

Place in 425 oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until cooked to your satisfaction (I like everything WELL done) 

Serve immediately with salt, pepper, salsa, hot sauce, cheeses...whatever appeals!

Wow.  Loaded with fiber, protein, and good fats!

You're welcome.



Saturday, July 6, 2013

Talented Teen Poetry

Our local high school publishes “Menagerie”, an annual of poetry, short story prose, and visual art made by students.  Each time I read through it, I am struck by the fact that about the same percentage of the work as in a “grown up” publication, is excellent.  Art that is uncontrived and guileless, yet meaty, is indeed rare.  The poem below was written by a 12th grader.  Poetry can be funny, it can be gruesome, it does not have to be pretty or quaint.  This gal has figured it out at the ripe old age of 18.

A Confession - written by Nora McCarty
People sometimes ask me
where I get my ideas from.
It’s time to come clean –
I steal them.
Sometimes I peel out of the parking lot
with a whole car-full
given up
at gunpoint.
Sometimes I fill my pockets
and my sleeves.
Sometimes it is pieces
in passing.
like a bike
laying out
in the sun.

People sometimes ask me
what I do with my ideas
once I have them.
I should warn you; this is where it gets
a bit graphic.
I line them up on my basement floor,
in an inch
of bleach
and quicklime
and I ravage them
As they rot.
I grind up the dust
of their fragile bones
and bake them into poetry
which I wrap in wax-paper
and peddle
to chumps
on the street.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Street Wise, How I Love Ya!

It is unique to Chicago.  It gives entrepreneurial opportunity to those who wouldn’t otherwise have it.  It is easy-reading-local-artsy-news.  It is Streetwise magazine, and all things I hold in high regard.
I was surprised to find during a recent conversation with a friend, that the magazine’s core purpose was not widely understood.  Clearly stated, homeless people who meet certain criteria can become registered sellers of Streetwise.  They buy each copy at a super low price, let’s say 25 cents.  At the time I am writing this, the reader purchase price printed on the front says $2.00, although additional tips are welcome.  It comes out each week on Wednesday.  Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are fresh sale days in the loop.
I have been buying Streetwise religiously, from various vendors, since I went to Massage Therapy Training in 2008.  A gentleman by the name of “Moody”, who writes a regular poetry piece in Streetwise spoke to our class.  Although I found the mission of the school in inviting him was some sort of “sensitivity training”, and thusly insulting, his speech was very impactful to me.  He told the story of how he lost his family and landed on the street with the humility of a truly changed person.  He has put together a new normal, and Streetwise helped him do it.  You can find Moody most Wednesdays at the corner of Randolph and Michigan, outside the Cultural Center.
The catalyst for writing about the magazine now is a funny story in itself.  From inside my studio on State  for several weeks, I had been hearing a faint cry of “why, why, why” from the street.  It was not only perplexing in its persistence, but also sounded like whining.  A brief investigation yielded the cause as my new Streetwise vendor, Cynthia.  She was, in fact, calling “Streetwise, Wise, Wise” over and over.  I do not know how locations are assigned or chosen at Streetwise, but she had mine.  I vowed to speak to her when I had a chance. 
When I finally did, it was because I saw her but had NOT heard her from the studio.  She informed me that all that hollering made her lose her voice.  She was not happy about it, but I bought a magazine and told her I was indeed happy about it.  We had a wonderful exchange and she will be getting my Streetwise business from here on out – provided she doesn’t project her call quite so clearly outside my window.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Independence Day Nutella Brownies - Only 3 Ingredients!!

I have not made these, but fully plan to tomorrow morning.  According to a source, as written the recipe yields  12 brownies and each one has lots of protein (17 g), and fiber (8 g) and 157 calories.  Woot!

You will need:

1 C.  Nutella
2 Eggs
10 Tbsp. Flour

Mix till smooth and spread into pan (doesn't say to grease it, but I will when I make them)
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Happy 4th of July, my fellow Americans!!!