Friday, October 5, 2018

Traveling Doesn’t Have To Be So Hard

This week I took a (very) short trip to Alpharetta, GA to check in on the Healing Hands team working at the offices of our largest corporate wellness client.  In less than 48 hours I flew to Atlanta, drove to Alpharetta, checked in on our business operations, took each of the 5 team members out for lunch or coffee, traveled back to Atlanta, and flew back home.  It was fun, but it was a lot of action in a short amount of time!

Traveling – especially for business trips – can be taxing.  They are often very short, and between coordinating flights, transportation, and meetings, things can get a little stressful.  Heck, sometimes even traveling for vacation can get overwhelming.  No matter how sweet the final destination might be, getting there can be a pain.

However, on my way home I noticed something I had never seen before at our airport here in Miami: a yoga room!  How awesome is that?  Which got me thinking…they’re on to something here. Yoga and mindfulness are becoming more mainstream, and for good reason.  Just a few minutes a day can have an amazing impact on energy levels and brain function.  A recent study by the CDC found that yoga practice among U.S. workers has more than doubled since 2002.

Clearly airports have caught on to the fact that some of that aforementioned traveling stress can be mitigated by practicing a few minutes of mindfulness at any point in your trip.  From practicing breathing exercises in long security lines to a 15-minute yoga session once you’re past the security gates, there’s plenty of things you can do to ease the hustle and bustle of a day of traveling.

So the next time you’ve got a flight to catch, try practicing some mindfulness strategies.  Or if you’re lucky enough to have a yoga room in your local airport too, and you find yourself with a few minutes to spare, give your body some TLC with a few much-needed stretches before all that cramped time sitting on the plane.  You may find it makes a world of a difference and leaves you refreshed and ready to take on whatever your travels may bring!

#healingshandsmiami, #therapeuticmassage, #corporatewellness, #massage, #wellness, #yoga, #mindfulness, #travel, #airports

Saturday, September 29, 2018

You want to do it, but how do you do it?

Have you ever had a goal of making a positive lifestyle change? One that you really want to accomplish…but you just can’t seem to make it happen? Chances are the answer is yes. The problem here is that most people think it takes pure self-control and willpower to make a change happen.

However, that is far from the truth. Willpower is a finite resource, and self-control depletes it. So if you’re relying on self-control to make your desired changes, chances are it won’t get you very far for very long.

Not to worry. There are other tools at your disposal:

·       Stimulus control: the concept behind stimulus control is that people respond in a certain way to the presence or the absence of a stimulus, which can promote or inhibit a behavior. So for example, if you’re looking to cut down on junk food, remove it from your home. This way instead of relying on self-control, you can rely on being too lazy to go to the store to buy some! Conversely, if you’re looking to make it to the gym after work, keep your gym bag in your car with everything you need in the passenger seat (where you can see it).

·       Start with small incremental changes: a common mistake is to try to do too much too fast. While there’s nothing wrong with ambitiousness, think about it; if you currently struggle with being active, which are you more likely to do consistently for the next month – get to the gym 6 times in one week, or once a week? The key here is to start with ONE goal so small you can easily commit and adhere to it, then work up from there to avoid becoming discouraged or giving up.

·       Make a specific and actionable plan: Let’s say your goal is to make time for yourself on the weekends so that you can go into work feeling refreshed. Plan ahead to achieve that goal. Schedule that massage a week in advance and make sure the babysitter is available so that once the weekend rolls around you’re all ready to go.

The goal here is to make that lifestyle change into a habit. By combining these strategies you’re able to remove willpower from the equation and make lasting change – pain-free!

#healinghandsmiami, #therapeuticmassage, #corporatewellness, #massage, #healthy, #howto, #healthylifestyle, #goodhabits

Sunday, September 23, 2018

On Living a Whole Life

We live in an increasingly interconnected world. In the age of artificial intelligence, social media, smart phones and email, the world never sleeps (and it seems, neither do we). We are in a state of constant engagement and stimulation. In fact, we have coined several new phrases to encompass our concerns; the importance of “disconnecting” or “unplugging”, the need for “recharging”, and “getting off the grid.”

Notice a trend?

These phrases are disconcerting metaphors that liken us to a piece of technology that is running out of battery and whose system is overloaded and in dire need of powering off. Yet despite this, we’re still throwing around a phrase that indicates a distinction in our lives that is no longer present; “work-life balance”.

Our newfound state of constant connection effectively renders this phrase outdated. There is no longer a separation between your life and your work, and continuing to think that way is problematic and stressful. Instead of focusing on separating all the different components of our life – relationships, wellness, hobbies – and giving each their due attention, why not attempt to integrate them?

At Healing Hands, we propose a new term: whole-life balance.

So where to start? Personal wellness! By prioritizing your physical and mental health - both at work and out of work - you are priming yourself for success in all areas. Embracing the idea of yourself as a complete individual and adopting a dual-centric approach to life (as opposed to work-centric or non-work centric) has been shown by research to lead to higher performance levels at work as well as greater overall satisfaction.

Simple changes like skipping an hour of TV a day and opting instead to get in some physical activity or investing in a standing desk, or even a 15 minute chair massage, can all come together to leave you feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.

We only get one life, so we might as well start living our best life! By provoking a change in our mindsets that advocates viewing all our different ticking parts as one interconnected whole, we may stop feeling the need to disconnect, and instead opt to reconnect.

#healinghandsmiami #therapeuticmassage #corporatewellness #massage #worklifebalance #work #massage #technology

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Beyond the platitudes: how can we age well?

There are so many articles out there about “healthy aging”, but most of them are bizarrely vague.  Like ads for menstrual products or incontinence, they seem to be convinced that we’d all run away screaming if they actually mentioned what aging is actually like, so we’re left with commercials of silver-haired couples taking romantic strolls on the beach, senior women lifting two-pound weights in yoga pants, and similarly-aged men mowing the lawn and looking purposefully at the horizon.  It’s not that there’s anything wrong with beach dates or light workouts, but it doesn’t really address the issue of aging head-on.  It’s like a dream of healthy seniorhood, as imagined by people who still don’t believe they’ll ever actually be old.

(Yes, I said old.  It’s not a dirty word!)

But even if it’s usually polished up beyond recognition, healthy aging is a major concern.  Across the world, the percentage of the population over the age of 60 is increasing, and by 2050 this percentage is expected to surpass 30% in Canada and most of Europe.  We ain’t getting’ any younger!  So what does it mean to age well?  And what do we need to do in order to get there?

Defining healthy aging

Health is a broad term that means different things for different people.  But in general, it’s looking at functional ability, regardless of the particular quirks that your own body or mind develops as you age.  The World Health Organization defines functional ability in the following terms:

       The ability to meet your basic needs (healthy finances, a safe place to live, warm clothes, clean water, nutritious food, access to medical care, etc)

       The ability to learn, grow and make decisions (hobbies, autonomy)

       The ability to be mobile (walking, exercising, stretching, driving)

       The ability to build and maintain relationships (family, friends, community)

       The ability to contribute to society (volunteering)

Aging isn’t always easy

It would be nice if our minds and bodies kept functioning as though we were perpetually 25, but that’s not the reality we live in.  What is our reality is that we have choices available to us that can help us lead meaningful and fulfilling lives at every age, even as we face new challenges.  So today, think a little bit about the future.  Take a walk, call your sister, volunteer for that cause you’ve been meaning to help out, or schedule that massage.  Aging isn’t always easy, but it’s a privilege all the same.  So here’s to making the most of the opportunity.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

What do we really know about pain?

Pain is one of those “you know it when you feel it” kind of sensations. But it’s also a strange phenomenon, when you think about it. A snowball is cold, and so it feels cold when you touch it. A block of concrete is rough, so it feels rough when you touch it. But a knife isn’t painful on its own. Neither is a pot of boiling water or the leg of a table. We handle these things safely all the time, and experience their mass and temperature and texture. But pain exists only in the body, and even more specifically in our minds. But that doesn’t make it less real! So what exactly is happening when we feel pain, and how do we stop it from negatively impacting our lives?

How does pain work?

There are three primary types of pain, and each of them works a slightly different way.

Nociceptive pain (tissue pain)

There are many different kinds of sense receptors in the body. Some are sensitive to heat or cold, some to touch or pressure. Others, called free nerve endings, aren’t specialized for any one type of stimulus. When a significant stimulus triggers these nerve endings, they send a message through the spinal cord and up to the brain indicating that something potentially dangerous has happened. The brain then decides whether this is something to ignore or brush off or if it seems likely that damage has occurred, and sends this message back down to the affected part of the body.

If the message is “No biggie, ‘tis but a scratch,” then you’ll most likely shake yourself off and forget the incident even happened. If it’s “WHOA, THIS SEEMS LIKE A PROBLEM,” then you experience this as pain.

But brains aren’t always correct when it comes to assessing danger. Lorimer Moseley gives a brilliant example of this in his TEDx talk. What’s the difference between the pain from a scratch on the leg and the pain from a nearly-fatal snake bite? Spoiler alert: it’s whatever your brain is expecting. That’s why you might feel little pain after a bicycle accident, but be in agony when getting the wound stitched up two hours later. Pain is weird.

Neuropathic pain (nerve pain)

This is pain that results from an issue with the nervous system itself, rather than surrounding tissues. If you’ve ever banged your funny bone, you know this feeling well. Common forms of neuropathic pain include:

       Sciatica: pain in the sciatic nerve running through the hip and down into the leg and foot

       Diabetic neuropathy: nerve damage resulting from fluctuating blood sugar levels

       Carpal tunnel syndrome: pain resulting from the compression of the nerves that run through the wrist into the hand

Less common forms include phantom limb pain (pain that feels like it originates in an amputated limb) and postherpetic neuralgia, which occurs as a result of getting shingles.

Neuropathic pain can be especially frustrating because the normal things we do to reduce pain are often useless when it comes to pain originating in the nervous system. Moving or not moving our muscles, applying heat or ice, can have relatively little impact on nerve pain.

What’s more, nerves don’t heal as well as things like muscles and skin do, which makes nerve pain more likely to become chronic pain.

Other kinds of pain

Pain is messy, and a lot of it doesn’t fall into either of the two categories above. Fibromyalgia is a great example of this. Is it pain resulting from tissue damage? Nope. What about nerve damage? Not as far as we can tell. It’s caused by the nervous system malfunctioning, sometimes in horrible ways, but that doesn’t result from actual nerve damage. And the world of medicine is still trying to figure out why.

So how do we alleviate pain?

There are several different options.

       If the pain is caused by some kind of physical injury or stimulus, you can work on fixing that. If your hand is being burned on a lightbulb, you can remove your hand, which will make most of that pain go away. If you’re experiencing a muscle cramp in your foot, you can flex the foot (manually, if necessary). If you’re experiencing pain from sitting in the same position for too long, you can move around and shake out your legs. If the cause of the pain is inflammation, anti-inflammatories and ice can reduce that. This is perhaps the ideal form of pain relief.

       You can block the messages that tell your brain you’re in pain. This is how many painkillers work. Ice also helps to numb nerve endings.

       You can convince your brain that you’re not in any real danger. This is a tough one, because the brain doesn’t just listen when you tell it things. But it’s well documented that fear, stress, and anxiety lead to increased pain perception. And of course, pain leads to stress, which leads to pain … General relaxation techniques—from meditation to light exercise to getting a massage—can all be helpful in turning the brain’s pain alarms down a notch. Physical therapy (practicing certain motions in a way that isn’t painful) can also be useful here too.

How can massage help with pain?

Sometimes the issue is one that massage can help manage on a physical level. But even more often, massage gives the brain a chance to let down its guard and experience something non-painful and even pleasant in the body. And while there’s no silver bullet for pain, that can mean a lot for people whose pain has defied more straightforward treatments and whose injuries or illnesses are already healed.

Feeling the hurt yourself? There’s a massage with your name on it. Book your next one today.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Skin in the game (literally)

Caring for the skin you're in: staying sun safe

Massage therapists see a lot of skin. All colors, all textures. Freckles, scars, stretch marks, moles. Skin with lots of hair and skin with none. Skin doesn’t surprise us.

Except when it does. That brown spot on your shoulder blade? It wasn’t quite that big when you came in a month ago. And it looks less like an oval and a little more like a blob. Maybe you should have that checked out?

Skin, we love. Skin cancer? Not so much. Which is why you’re here on your massage therapist’s website, reading about sun exposure. Because even though I’m not a dermatologist and you’re not going to burn while getting a massage, your skin is a friend I see regularly. And I want to be able to keep working with it for many healthy years to come.

What happens when you get a sunburn?

You’re exposed to the sun and then your skin turns red and itchy, right? Well, yes. But there’s more to it as well. 

When you step out into the sunlight, you’re immediately bombarded by UV radiation. This radiation causes mismatches in the curlicue of your DNA in the nucleus of your skin cells, which is dangerous and can lead to cancer. As soon as this starts to occur, your skin jumps into protective action redistributing melanin, the pigment that causes suntans, and which helps to protect your DNA from further damage.

But if you’re still outside and the damage doesn’t stop (especially if you’re fair skinned and don’t have much melanin to go around), you start to see an inflammatory response. This is the same kind of inflammation that you see when you sprain your ankle, only spread out across your damaged skin. Your blood vessels dilate to get more nutrients and infection-fighting cells to your skin, making the it red and warm to the touch. Itching and pain result, a warning signal from your body that something is wrong. You may feel thirsty and tired as your body works to repair itself.

If the burn is bad enough, you’ll start to see blisters as the plasma leaks from inside cells into the space between the dermis (the bottom layer of skin) and the epidermis (the top layer). These blisters form a cushion of fluid over your damaged tissue. (At this point, your body has already written that top layer of skin off.)

Eventually, even if you didn’t have any blisters, you will get flaking and peeling of the top layer of your skin. Interestingly enough, these skin cells weren’t killed by UV radiation. When skin cells recognize that their DNA has been severely damaged, they deliberately die off rather than risk becoming cancerous. This planned cell death is called apoptosis, and it’s the reason you see massive numbers of skin cells coming loose at once.

So to be clear: all sunburns, no matter how mild, contain the beginning stages of skin cancer. It’s only because our skin kills itself off before these cells go haywire that we see as little skin cancer as we do. Even so, more than 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed in the US each year, and 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70. UV radiation will play a role in many of these cases.

How can you protect your skin?

The short answer: Stay away from UV radiation. This means tanning beds as well as sunlight.

The longer answer: Unless you plan to become a vampire, you will probably be exposed to sunlight at least some of the time. The trick is to reduce that exposure to a safe level by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and using sunscreen.

How much sun is safe?

This depends on two main variables: the UV Index and your skin type.

UV Index

The UV Index is a measure of the level of UV radiation in your location at any given point in time. It’s something you can easily look up on your computer or phone before heading out the door. In general, global UV Index recommendations look something like this:

       1-2: Low. Enjoy being outside!

       3-7: Medium. Seek shade at midday, put on a shirt and hat, wear sunscreen.

       8+: High. Stay indoors at midday, seek shade as much as possible, sunscreen is an absolute must.

Skin type

With the exception of people with albinism, everyone has some melanin in their skin. Those with more of the protective pigmentation are less susceptible to DNA damage in their skin cells from UV radiation than those with less.

       Type I: Very pale, burns quickly, never tans.

       Type II: Pale, burns easily, rarely tans

       Type III: Burns moderately, tans over time to light brown

       Type IV: Burns minimally, tans to medium brown

       Type V: Rarely burns, tans to dark brown.

       Type VI: Never burns, rarely tans, deeply pigmented skin.

People with Type I skin can burn after as little as five or ten minutes, while those with Type VI skin can sometimes be outside for an hour without damage.

Note: You might have seen a skin type scale that goes from I-IV, especially if you are looking in an older medical textbook. That’s because the original Fitzpatrick scale was made in the 1970s for white people. This is the same scale, but expanded to include everybody.

Is sunscreen safe?

A 2001 study raised concerns that oxybenzone (the chemical that makes most sunscreens so effective) might impact hormones. In this study, rats fed large doses of oxybenzone developed enlarged uteruses. Studies in humans haven’t been conclusive. What we know for sure is that, if you’re a rat, you shouldn’t drink sunscreen.

Some pediatricians recommend sticking to mineral-based sunscreens for infants and very young children just in case, until long-term studies are concluded over the next twenty or so years. But these are thick and need to be reapplied regularly. If your children are experiencing sunburns with mineral-based sunscreens, they are being put in significantly more danger than any potential hazard from oxybenzone.

What about vitamin D?

Yup, you need vitamin D in your body to stay health. And yes, your skin manufactures vitamin D in response to UV radiation. (People with lighter skin types make more vitamin D with less sun exposure than people with darker skin types.) So shouldn’t you go without sun protection sometimes for the nutritional benefits?

Luckily, there are a number of sources of vitamin D that don’t also cause skin cancer. Fish, mushrooms, eggs, and fortified dairy products are all excellent sources. And if you’re a tremendously picky eater, there are also vitamin D supplements you can take. For the severely deficient (diagnosed with a simple blood test), there are high-dose supplements or injections your physician can prescribe.

Caring about your skin isn’t about vanity.

It’s a critical organ, like any other. In fact, your skin is the largest organ in (on) your body! If you exercise for your heart and quit smoking for your lungs, then preventing sunburns is just another healthy habit.

Massage therapists love skin. We work with it on a daily basis and appreciate all it does to keep your insides in and your outsides out. It keeps you cool, it tells you what’s around you, it prevents infections and repairs itself at a remarkable rate. So take care of it!

And maybe bring it in for a massage.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Dealing with Rotator Cuff Injuries

You’ve been doing Olympic lifting for a while. Or stocking tall shelves. Or cheerleading, throwing your partners overhead. Everything was great! Until suddenly, it wasn’t. Ice and ibuprofen didn’t quite do the trick, so you visited the doctor. And lo and behold, you’ve got a rotator cuff injury and two questions:

How the heck did this happen?


What on earth do I do now?

You and your shoulder: it’s complicated!

Dem bones

Despite it all falling under one general name, the “shoulder” actually consists of four (or maybe five) different joints. The sternoclavicular joint is where your collar bone connects to your breastbone. The acromioclavicular joint (which even doctors just call the AC joint, because nobody has time for all that) is where the very top of your shoulder blade connects to the far end of your collarbone. The glenohumeral joint is where the ball of your humerus fits into the bowl of your shoulder blade. And then there is another joint (or maybe two, depending on who you ask) that is a “false joint” as well.

The meat of the matter

Into this complicated mechanical mess go a host of muscles. There are chest muscles that move the shoulder. There are back muscles that move the shoulder. And there are even muscles of the arm that help move the shoulder, even though that sounds weirdly like trying to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.

But not everything is about movement, which is why you have a rotator cuff. These are the muscles that keep your shoulder stable. These four muscles (Yes, four. I told you it was complicated.) include supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor. If you feel like those all sound like fun spells you might learn at Hogwarts, you’re not alone. If they all sound very sensible to you, optime bene! Write your high school Latin teacher a thank-you note. These four muscles keep your arm from dislocating when you lift it over your head or move it around. Which is kind of magical, if you think about it.

How rotator cuff injuries develop

If you are building strength in the muscles that lift and move your arms at the shoulder, this allows you to lift more. But when this is done in a way that is too fast, or with poor technique, or when already tired, or without a corresponding amount of attention given to strengthening the stabilizers of the shoulder, this puts a lot of extra stress on those rotator cuff muscles. This can cause them to fail in their job, allowing the shoulder capsule to stretch (not good), the head of the humerus to start to migrate out of its spot in the shoulder (kind of bad), or the muscles of the shoulder literally shearing off from their bony attachment (DEFINITELY bad). Other injuries caused by overloaded rotator cuff muscles include tendonitis and nerve impingement. Ouch!

So... I messed up my shoulder.

Go see your doctor

For real. Ice and ibuprofen will get you some relief, but as mentioned earlier, shoulders are incredibly complicated. The chances of your being able to accurately self-diagnose your specific problem as a layperson are slim to none. And if you’ve got a serious tear going on, waiting to have it repaired will only lead to further degradation of the joint. If you don’t have arthritis yet, that’s like begging for it to start. Nobody’s excited about a trip to see their physician, but that’s what adults do. Sorry!

Okay, okay. But then what?

It totally depends on what kind of injury you have going on. It might be the sort of thing that taking a break from Crossfit for a while can fix. You might need injections. You might need surgery. There will probably be physical therapy involved, to strengthen your shoulder stabilizers and correct any outsized range of motion you’ve developed from lifting/gymnastics/swimming/pitching/etc. But regardless, you’ll need to be more mindful of how you use (and abuse) your shoulders in the future.

Actually, it turns out my shoulder is fine. But how can I prevent rotator cuff injuries in the future?

Get serious about form

Yes, if you work out, it’s fun to see if you can do things as quickly as possible (I’m looking at you, Crossfitters), but that’s also the fastest path towards injury. Working with a trainer or coach and really nailing down the details of form before increasing the intensity and speed of your exercise will help keep your shoulders working properly.

If you don’t really need to be reaching overhead, don’t do it

Climb up on a stool when you’re pulling down boxes in the garage. Get a good stepladder when you’re painting your dining room. Reaching overhead is the toughest movement on your shoulder muscles, and adding weight or resistance to that only increases the strain. It only takes a minute to be kinder to your poor shoulder joint.

If you’re working out your arms, make sure to address your shoulder stabilizers too 

Working with a personal trainer (or, if you’re already experiencing problems, a physical therapist) can help you get on the right track with a routine to gradually build up more stability in your shoulders.

Can massage help with rotator cuff injuries?

Well, it’s not going to magically fix your shoulder.

BUT, there is a small but growing body of research that shows massage can help with shoulder pain, especially in conjunction with physical therapy. So if you’re already recovering from your injury, getting a massage can help you to feel better while you regain your range of motion and strength.

If you’re an athlete or work in a field requiring a large amount of physical labor, it’s also natural to feel some degree of anxiety about being injured. This is an area where massage really shines, helping you relax and cope with the stress that comes along with injury.

How do I find a good massage therapist to help me with my shoulder?

Good news: you’ve already found one. Click here to schedule your next appointment, or contact us with questions.