About Me

My photo
I have actively practiced as a Holistic Health Practitioner (HHP) and massage therapist since 1993 with special interest and training in the Vodder method of Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) technique. My experience is with lymphedema disease, edema in general, pre- and post-surgery massage, cosmetic surgery edema  and more.   My search for a low or non impact movement modality led me to become a certified trainer in the GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM® I have found it to be a helpful movement modality to stimulate the Lymphatic system and other stagnation out of the body. The Gyrotonic method is the base for movement sessions used at the office. Palliative care is another direction of great interest, as many of my clients are in disease states.  My mission is to provide compassionate care and resources for my clients.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Can Massage Help Sciatica?

Sciatica is low back pain that radiates down through the buttock and back of the leg, often on only one side of the body. It is due to impingement of the sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in the body. The sciatic nerve forms from nerve roots in the lumbar spine, your low back. There are two sciatic nerves, one for each leg, and they travel down through the buttocks and the back of the leg to your feet.

The nerve can be compressed or pinched in the spine or further down the length of the nerve. Conditions such as a herniated vertebral disk, spinal arthritis, uneven pressure on the vertebrae from imbalanced muscles or other disease conditions in the spine can narrow the space around the nerve, causing swelling, pain and irritation. However, often the symptoms of sciatica are caused by muscle impingement, specifically by the piriformis muscle which is located deep in the buttock.

The piriformis muscle connects the sacrum to the upper leg, across the back of the hip joint. The sciatic nerve usually is trapped on the deep side of the piriformis, but in some people the nerve actually pierces the muscle, making nerve compression even more likely to happen. The piriformis muscle is a lateral rotator, and when it tightens it rolls your leg outward. If you sit in a chair, raise one leg straight out in front of you and then roll the entire leg outward so that your toes point to the outside, you can feel the piriformis tighten in your backside. Overuse, such as standing too long, exercising too much, sitting too much, climbing stairs or doing exercises such as squats, can all make the piriformis too tight, so that it pinches or compresses the sciatic nerve.

A simple test is just to try to reproduce the symptoms you experience by doing a piriformis stretch. Lie on your back, bring your knee to your chest and then press it to the opposite shoulder with your hands. If you experience the usual sciatic pain, it's likely that your problem is piriformis syndrome. Your massage therapist can gradually stretch out the piriformis muscles and can balance all your muscles from low back and abdomen to the legs and feet. Stretching exercises can help, as can ice packs or hot packs. If your sciatic pain is due to muscle spasm you should experience relief after a few massage sessions.

If massage doesn't help, you may have a more serious problem such as a herniated disk or spinal arthritis, and you should get an evaluation from your doctor. A final note: something as simple as sitting on your wallet or on a lumpy car seat can compress the sciatic nerve and cause severe pain.

Back Pain and Sciatica
Picture of Sciatic Nerve
Ohio State University Medical Center: Sciatica
Piriformis Syndrome
Low Back, Piriformis and SI Joint Pain By Erik Dalton, PhD
Assessing Sciatic Pain

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome -- Can Massage Help?

The thoracic outlet is a space between the clavicle -- or collarbone -- and the first rib, one on each side of the neck. A vein, an artery and a bundle of nerves travel from the neck through the thoracic outlet toward the arm. Thoracic outlet syndrome is a collection of symptoms that develop when this opening is narrowed, compressing the vessels and nerves. The symptoms include numbness and tingling in the arms and hands, coldness in the chest or arms, weakness, pain and fatigue in the arms. The problem can be on one side only or bilateral.

If you look at a good picture of the anatomy in that area, such as this drawing here on the UCLA School of Medicine website, it's easy to see that there are three places where the compression can occur:  between the anterior and medial scalene muscles, between the clavicle and first rib, and where the vessels pass between the pectoralis minor muscle and the first rib.

Compression in these areas can be due to an injury, such as a fractured clavicle, or to repetitive movement, such as repetitive exercises that require you to lift your arms over your head, or exercises that tighten the scalene and pectoralis minor muscles. It can also be congenital, due to a malformation of the clavicle and/or the first rib.

 The scalene muscles and the pectoralis minor not only stabilize the neck and shoulder area, they are also secondary breathing muscles. They can become overdeveloped due to asthma or to constant exercise that forces you to breathe very deeply to catch your breath. If they are tight and overdeveloped, they squeeze the nerves, veins and artery.

If your symptoms are due to tightening of these muscles, massage can help by releasing them and balancing your shoulder and neck muscles. However, because of the presence of delicate nerves and blood vessels between the scalene muscles, only an experienced massage therapist with an excellent knowledge of anatomy should massage that area.

If your symptoms are due to an injury to the clavicle or the first rib, you'll need to see an orthopedic physician for an evaluation. If the clavicle is broken, massage is not advisable. If the clavicle has healed incorrectly so that it is pressing on the nerves and vessels in the thoracic outlet, surgery may be necessary.

There is another important consideration: sometimes compression on the veins can cause thrombosis -- a blood clot. Massage is definitely contraindicated if there is a blood clot, as dislodging the clot is very risky. So, if you develop the symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome, see a physician to rule out damage to the bones or a blood clot. Once you are sure there is no risk of blood clot, your massage therapist can certainly help you with the muscles involved in thoracic outlet syndrome.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What is the Purpose of Different Kinds of Massage?

Swedish massage is the basic European style massage with oil, lotion or cream. The pressure is light to medium, and the basic strokes are long sweeping effleurage and the more focused kneading. The purpose is to increase circulation of blood and lymph as well as relax muscles.  It is probably the most relaxing and luxurious massage, and even though the pressure used is moderate, it definitely improves your muscles, posture and movement. It isn't generally necessary to have a deep, painful massage to get good results.

Some of the techniques of Swedish massage are used in sports massage. Massage therapists use different techniques for athletes depending on their need: during training, before or after competition, off-season and to treat common injuries such as muscle strain or spasm. Lymph drainage massage is used to reduce swelling and pain, and to speed the healing of injuries. Techniques such as cross-fiber friction are used to reduce spasm and increase the flexibility and tone of injured muscles.

Reflexology and acupressure are similar techniques, but they developed from different sources. Acupressure is a generic term for the kinds of massage that developed in Asia and that use pressure on energy points. Originally these techniques -- such as the Japanese shiatsu -- all developed in China. Besides massaging energy points, acupressurists use muscle massage -- without oil -- and joint movements to help you relax, reduce pain and improve your flexibility.

Reflexology involves massaging tender points on the feet, hands and ears that are said to reflect and treat blocked areas in the rest of the body. While there is no scientific evidence to prove that the theories of reflexology are true, it is definitely a beneficial and pleasant massage. There's something really luxurious about an hour-long, detailed foot massage.
Aromatherapy massage is any kind of massage with the addition of essential oils. Essential oils are produced through steam distillation, which dissolves the fragrant volatile compounds in plants. There is an art to choosing the best essential oils for each individual, based partly on tradition and partly on modern scientific information. Besides smelling wonderful, essential oils contain antioxidants that stimulate your immune system, pain relieving compounds, antiseptic compounds and emollients to soothe your skin.

  1. Antioxidant and free radical scavenging activities of essential oils. 
  2. Effects of Essential oils obtained from the families of Asteraceae (sunflower family), Fabaceae (Leguminosae), Lamiaceae (Mint Family), Lauraceae (Cinnamon family), Myoporaceae (Buddleja family), Myrtaceae (Eucalyptus family), Poaceae (Grass family), Rosaceae (Rose family)and Solanaceae (Potato family)
  3. Antioxidant/lipoxygenase inhibitory activities and chemical compositions of selected essential oils.
  4. Phytotherapy Research: A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea.
  5. Nutrition Journal: The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide. 
  6. Antioxidant activity and phenolic compounds in 32 selected herbs.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Benefits of Dry Skin Brushing

Dry skin brushing is a simple and inexpensive technique that can improve the appearance of your skin and stimulate the circulation of lymph, improving your immune system. This gentle technique exfoliates your skin, helping to remove the outer layer of dry skin cells and reveal healthier living cells in your skin. It makes the skin look and feel smoother.

Dry skin brushing also stimulates the circulation of blood and lymph, bringing fresh nutrients to your skin cells and removing metabolic waste, which keeps your cells healthy. Beneath the skin you have a rich layer of lymph vessels, which are concentrated near the skin more than any other area in the body. These lymph vessels absorb fluid from your skin and other tissues, along with metabolic waste and toxins such as harmful organisms, microscopic particles and harmful chemicals. The light pressure of dry skin brushing causes the lymph vessels to contract, pumping lymph fluid through the vessels toward the lymph nodes. In the lymph nodes lymph fluid is purified by white blood cells, which destroy anything harmful to your health.

How To Do Dry Skin Brushing

Use a soft brush, a dry loofah pad or terry cloth. Hold the brush in your hand, or hold it by the handle if it has one. If you are using a loofah pad, slide your hand between the strap on the back and the loofah itself. If you are using dry terry cloth, place it over your palm. Use your other hand to grasp the corners of the terry cloth around the back of your hand, then twist them into a handle. You'll hold the handle with one hand and use the other hand for polishing your skin, with the flat palm covered by the terry cloth.

Brush lightly in one direction, from the feet up to the lymph nodes in your groin, from the hands to the lymph nodes in your armpits, and on the trunk from the bottom up toward the lymph nodes in your neck. Use a long-handled brush for your back or ask your massage therapist to do dry brushing on your back before a massage. It's all right to alternate light circles with the lengthwise strokes.

Use light pressure, and repeat the strokes several times in each area. Using heavy pressure -- scrubbing your skin -- causes irritation and invisible scratches that can be susceptible to infection. To avoid dryness, follow the dry skin brushing with an application of oil, cream or lotion. For a really relaxing experience, ask your massage therapist to give you a dry brush treatment before a massage.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Does Exercise Help Your Immune System?

Exercise is beneficial in so many ways -- stronger lungs and heart, stronger muscles, better balance, increased stamina and endurance. It also impacts your lymphatic system on several levels, resulting in better health and immunity.

Most of your lymphatic vessels, a mesh of microscopic pathways like veins, are located just under the skin, to protect you from external disease-causing organisms that might penetrate your body and cause disease. This network of lymphatic vessels is surrounded by fibrous connective tissue which connects the lymphatics to your skin and muscles. Regular, low-intensity movement such as walking at a gentle pace makes your skin move, and this pulls on the connective tissue surrounding the lymphatics -- causing small windows in the lymphatics to open so that tissue fluid can enter. Fluid that enters the lymphatics at this level is processed in your lymph nodes where white blood cells destroy anything that might cause harm.

More intensive exercise also affects the lymphatics, at the deep level in the abdomen and chest. When you exercise with more intensity, you breathe deeply, completely filling and emptying your lungs with each breath. The largest lymphatic vessel -- the thoracic duct -- arises in the abdomen and is located in the chest. Each breath squeezes the thoracic duct, causing it to empty into veins near the neck. Then when you exhale, more lymph is pulled into the thoracic duct from the lymphatic trunks located deep in the chest and abdomen.

When you inhale deeply, during intensive exercise, for instance, your diaphragm presses down on your abdominal organs, moving them downward and forward in the abdomen.. When you exhale, the pressure relaxes and the organs move back into their resting places. This constant movement is a kind of innate organ massage and it stimulates lymph circulation in the organs and in the abdominal cavity.

However, extremely intense exercise, for instance the kind of workout a high-level athlete might perform to get ready for competition, can actually suppress your immune system for a few hours after the workout. Unless you are at that level of competition, try to work at about 75 percent of your full capacity rather than pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion. If you do work out that hard, be aware that for a few hours afterward you will be more susceptible to minor illnesses like the common cold.