When you follow these tips, your massage will be more effective and enjoyable.
My personal definition of reflexology is a technique of systematically applying manual pressure to the foot (or hand), divided into five zones so that every part of the foot receives attention. This technique promotes relaxation, lowers the client’s stress level, and according to some studies provides at least temporary reduction of chronic pain.
That’s my personal definition, not how a dictionary, textbook or reflexologist would define it. According to The Reflexology Association of Canada, reflexology is:
"A natural healing art based on the principle that there are reflexes in the feet, hands and ears and their referral areas within zone related areas, which correspond to every part, gland and organ of the body. Through application of pressure on these reflexes without the use of tools, crèmes or lotions, the feet being the primary area of application, reflexology relieves tension, improves circulation and helps promote the natural function of the related areas of the body."
Healers have been using reflexology to diagnose and treat ailments for thousands of years. Many US practitioners rely on charts that Eunice Ingham, a nurse and physiotherapist, developed in the 1930s and ’40s to identify which areas of the foot reflect which body regions. Some reflexologists use other maps or charts, so different areas of the foot reflect the same organs to different practitioners.
As with many traditional healing systems, researchers have shown little interest in the system, neither proving nor disproving its claims. Although I know people who sincerely believe that reflexology can be used to treat an assortment of health conditions, I certainly wouldn’t be comfortable making such claims to my clients. To me, reflexology is an extended foot massage to relax, relieve both stress and foot aches, and maybe distract from or reduce other pain. That’s enough.
Researchers in Iran recently concluded that massage with aromatherapy eases the symptoms of menopause, and that even without aromatherapy massage offers more relief than doing nothing.
Women undergoing menopause live with some combination of irritability, depression, poor sleep, fatigue, hot flashes, increased perspiration and headaches. While hormone replacement therapy is the most effective way to treat these symptoms, it dramatically increases the risk of blood clots, heart attack, stroke and breast cancer. Researchers continue to explore alternative methods, trying to find solutions that are both safe and effective.
This study observed 90 women, who were scored from 0 to 44 on such menopause symptoms as irritability, depressed mood and sleep problems, with an average score of 22. After four weeks of massage twice a week, the group receiving massage combined with aromatherapy had an average score of 13; those receiving only massage scored 19; and the control group remained at 22.
The essential oils used with the aromatherapy group were lavender, rose, rosemary, almond and evening primrose. Aromatherapists often use other essential oils to reduce the symptoms of menopause.
Chamomile, clary sage, cypress, geranium, jasmine, lavender, neroli, rose maroc and sandalwood offer relief for general symptoms of menopause, according toEssential Aromatherapy by Susan Worwood and Valerie Ann Worwood. In addition, bergamot and rose otto may help with depression; marjoram, spikenard and vetiver reduce insomnia; and eucalyptus radiata, fennel, lavender and yuzu relieve hot flashes.
The aroma from combining all of these essential oils would be overwhelming and unpleasant. Massage lotion or oil for menopausal symptoms doesn’t have to contain all of these to be therapeutic. The formulation I use, for example, contains only four essential oils.
The study is flawed by the small size of the research sample and the fact that each group knew what treatment they were receiving. Researchers can’t prevent subjects from knowing if they received massage or aromatherapy.
Even so, the message seems clear: Aromatherapy massage reduces the symptoms of menopause without hormone replacement therapy’s side effects.
Callers sometimes ask if I do deep tissue massage. I’m never sure how to answer because the term may not mean to the caller what it means to me.
Most callers actually want to know if I perform therapeutic massage with strong pressure to relieve muscle tension, as opposed to simply offering light strokes for relaxation. That’s not deep tissue, it’s deep pressure. Such terms as light pressure, moderate pressure and deep pressure are used to describe how the massage therapist compresses muscle toward the bone.
Relatively few callers understand that deep tissue massage means working and pushing through the top layer of muscle to access tight muscle fibers or adhesions in deeper muscles. If that sounds uncomfortable, it is.
To increase the confusion, many spas and massage therapists don’t understand the distinction. They may list “deep tissue” on a menu of services when “deep pressure” more accurately describes their service.
Even “deep pressure” is subjective. One client may consider excessive the pressure that is ideal or even a little light for another client. A massage doesn’t have to hurt to be therapeutic, and a good massage therapist adjusts pressure to the client’s comfort.
When a caller asks me about deep tissue work, I try to avoid the word “deep” entirely by explaining that I provide firm pressure for therapeutic benefit. I also identify and release trigger points, a form of deep tissue work, and that is the only deep tissue work I do.
When feet are tired or aching from too much standing, walking, or just from being cooped up in dress shoes, a good foot massage can reduce foot aches, relieve stress and improve the mood. A foot massage from a boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse is nurturing, comforting and even intimate.
How do you massage a friend or family member’s feet? Following the steps below will make you the go-to person for happy feet.
Soaking the feet before you start massaging them isn’t required, but it feels good and starts the relaxation. Put a handful of Epsom salts into a basin with a few drops of peppermint essential oil if available (substitute lavender or orange essential oil during pregnancy), then add three or four inches of warm water. Soak the feet about five minutes.
Gently pat each foot dry with a towel. Cover your knee with a dry towel and place a foot on your knee.
Using one hand to support the foot just above the ankle, grasp the foot in the other hand and rotate it gently.
You can proceed without using any lubricant on the foot’s surface, but I prefer the glide and aroma of peppermint foot balm. Peppermint foot balm, which comes in a small tube and is about the consistency of toothpaste, kills foot odor and provides a refreshing tingle. Place a small dab of peppermint foot balm on the palm of your hand, then rub your palms lightly together to warm the balm. Now wipe the palms of your hands several times firmly down the sole of the foot.
No peppermint foot balm handy? Substitute foot lotion, body lotion, or body butter in a pleasing scent. You’ll use a blob of lotion only the size of a dime on each foot. Or continue without using any lubricant.
Many people have ticklish feet. Broad strokes and firm pressure throughout the massage will prevent tickling. If your pressure is so firm that it’s uncomfortable, your massage recipient will flinch or speak up. If he or she is melting into mush, the pressure is perfect.
The following steps don’t have to be done in any particular order or for any specified length of time:
·Holding the heel of the foot in one hand, fist the other hand and run the knuckles from heel to toes several times.
·Grasp the foot in both hands and use your thumbs to draw circles up and down the soles.
·Squeeze the foot between your hands.
·Hold the heel with one hand while you gently grasp and tug each toe with the other.
·Roll a firm, bumpy ball, which you can buy in the pet department, across the foot.
Repeat each stroke as many times as you want. If your hands get tired or you get bored with the repetition, change to another massage stroke.
Rubbing the foot briskly with the towel is a good way to conclude the massage. This feels invigorating and rejuvenating as it removes any excess lotion or foot balm.
Now repeat the sequence on the other foot.
You can spend two minutes or 20 minutes with this foot massage; either will give your friend or family member happy feet.
If you want happy feet for yourself and don’t have someone handy to massage them for you, use a tennis ball or the firm bumpy pet ball described above. Place the ball on the floor and roll it with your foot, applying as much pressure as you like.
Aromatherapy isn’t about pleasant aromas that improve your mood, although that sometimes is an additional benefit. Rather, aromatherapy is about using essential oils from aromatic plants therapeutically, usually through either inhalation or topical application.
Because essential oils are extremely condensed, only a few drops of the appropriate oil are mixed into an oil, cream, or lotion for application. You may already use a cooling lotion that contains eucalyptus oil as an active ingredient to ease muscle aches, a warming lotion that lists cinnamon oil, or a foot cream that has peppermint oil. These products are all available at mainstream retail outlets – hippie dresses and New Age music are not required.
People use several methods for inhalation of essential oils. You can put a few drops of peppermint oil on a cotton ball, place it in a small zipper food storage bag, and inhale the scent as needed for nausea from motion sickness. You also can add a few drops of an essential oil to water in the top of a potpourri warmer, purchase candles scented with essential oils, or use a room scent diffuser.
You even can combine the topical application and inhalation methods. When you’re coughing or congested from a cold, put a few drops of eucalyptus oil on the floor of your shower and close the drain. Then inhale the essential oil through the shower steam as you take it in through the thin skin on the arch of your foot.
As with other natural products, essential oil quality varies from brand to brand and sometimes even from harvest to harvest. The government doesn’t regulate or inspect manufacturing and packaging essential oils, allowing more variety in quality and purity. Without regulation, the best tip to buying higher quality and more consistent quality essential oils is to purchase products from companies that have good reputations.
The therapeutic benefits of aromatherapy shouldn’t replace formal medical care or medications. In some situations, aromatherapy coordinates well with medical care; the Cleveland Clinic uses peppermint and ginger to ease nausea in patients undergoing chemotherapy.
But even natural ingredients can interact with over the counter or prescribed medications. Grapefruit, as an example, makes some medications ineffective, so people on those medications should avoid aromatherapy products that include grapefruit oil. Ask your doctor questions and read ingredient lists to be an informed aromatherapy consumer.
No one said pregnancy would be comfortable.
During pregnancy, the expectant mother likely has backaches resulting from her changing posture as the baby grows. Her neck and shoulders also may hurt because the baby leaning on her diaphragm interferes with its function, forcing neck and shoulder muscles that assist in breathing to work harder. The changes in the mother’s body and hormone fluctuations cause both physical and emotional stress. A good night’s sleep is a fading memory.
Massage is a gentle, non-invasive way to cope with these issues, making the expectant mother more comfortable by relieving aching muscles, reducing leg cramps and improving her sleep. Endorphins released during massage ease irritation and anxiety. Massage also can lessen edema (swelling) in feet, ankles and hands and lower high blood pressure.
In addition, women who receive massage during pregnancy are less likely to have premature babies, and their babies are less likely to have postnatal complications. Labors of women who had regular massage averaged three hours shorter than women who did not receive massage, according to a study reported in Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. The study group receiving massage also reported less pain during labor and required less pain medication.
Differences in how a massage therapist works with pregnant and non-pregnant clients are minor. Unlike most massage clients, who lie face up or face down on the massage table, at some point in pregnancy the mother-to be can’t breathe or get comfortable on either her back or her stomach. The massage therapist props the pregnant woman who has reached this stage with pillows into a semi-reclining position or has her lie on her side with pillow support. The massage therapist uses only light to medium pressure strokes with the pregnant client and may avoid abdominal work completely.
One of pregnancy’s many myths is that massage on the feet or ankles is dangerous and should be avoided during this time. According to traditional Chinese medicine, a specific massage technique used on a specific point above the inner ankle may cause uterine contractions and encourage the onset of labor. While I’m not aware of any empirical research proving or disproving this technique’s effectiveness, most massage therapists either avoid or use very light pressure in that area for pregnant clients as a precaution.
Although massage is safe during every stage of a normal pregnancy, it might not be advisable during a high risk pregnancy. If a pregnancy is considered high risk, the mother should consult with her doctor before scheduling a massage.
When you have a pregnant friend or family member, she would love to receive a shower gift that is for her comfort in addition to pastel sleepers and blankets for the baby. Consider giving her a gift certificate for a massage.
If you’re married or in a long-term relationship, there’s a good chance that at some time you’ve offered or asked for a backrub or massage. But there’s a difference between a quick backrub that gets a polite thanks and one that really is appreciated by the person receiving it.
In this blog I’ll tell you how to give a killer backrub to your significant other, referred to as “wife” below for convenience.
You probably don’t have a massage table in your home, so have your wife lie face down, undressed to the waist, on a bed, a yoga pad or folded comforter on the floor. A rolled up towel beneath her ankles will relieve pressure on her lower back. Dim lights, scented candles and soft music also will help her relax.
A lubricant such as body lotion or oil will help your hands glide across her back without friction. If it has a pleasing scent, that’s even better. Pour a blob of lotion about the size of a half dollar into one hand (half that amount if you use oil) and rub it lightly between your palms to warm it.
Kneeling next to your wife’s left hip, place your hands next to each other at the top of her back on either side of her spine. Glide your hands down slowly, using light pressure with the full hand in contact with her skin. When you reach the bottom of her back, without lifting your hands off her, make a large slow gliding oval on her back, going up one side, across the shoulders and down the other side.
This warms up the muscles and spreads the lubricant.
Continue to warm her muscles by using the full hand with more pressure for several long gliding strokes from her left shoulder to her waist. Use the fingertips of both hands to outline her scapula (shoulder blade), starting at her shoulder, working down to the bottom of the scapula, then back up. You can use firmer pressure on this. With your fingertips, strum firmly from the base of her neck down across the muscles between the scapula and the spine.
Finish the left upper back with a couple of slow circular gliding strokes over the area you’ve just worked.
If she tells you at any time the pressure is too much, back off. Your goal is to make her comfortable and relaxed, not to demonstrate your upper body strength.
Now move to her right side and repeat that sequence.
On to the lower back. Place your thumbs on either side of her spine with your hands spread out. Glide slowly up to the bottom of her scapula with firm pressure. Bring your hands back down to the starting position, keeping contact with her back but using minimal pressure, and repeat several times. Using the side of your fist, drum lightly on her lower back, avoiding the spine.
Conclude the backrub with a couple of long, slow gliding strokes from the lower back up to her shoulders and out along her arms.
A few things to remember:
This technique is not the equivalent of a professional massage, but it’s a heck of a good backrub. If you need to practice it again and again to do it well, your wife, husband or significant other will be happy to volunteer to be practiced upon.
Some people miss out on the benefits and relaxation of receiving a massage because they have misconceptions or have heard myths on the subject. Let’s consider some of those myths and the actual facts.
Myth #1: Massage is an unnecessary luxury. I don’t need that kind of pampering.
Fact: Massage relieves stress, lowers your blood pressure, relaxes tight muscles and helps you sleep better. That isn’t pampering, it’s taking care of yourself.
Myth #2: Massage is expensive.
Fact: An hour of massage costs less than many people pay for coffee in a week or for a salon appointment, and you feel a lot better afterward.
Myth #3: If a massage doesn’t hurt, it isn’t going to help.
Fact: Moderate to firm pressure during a massage isn’t painful and will relax tight muscles. Deeper pressure feels wonderful to many clients but may be uncomfortable for someone who is sedentary and who never has had a massage. If that’s you, simply ask the massage therapist – hey, that’s me! – to lighten up on the pressure a little. Your massage should be comfortable and enjoyable.
Myth #4: Pregnant women can’t have foot massage because it might make them go into labor.
Fact: There is no evidence that massage causes the onset of labor. In traditional Chinese medicine, massage with a specific technique and pressure for a specific time at a specific pressure point a little above the outer ankle is supposed to induce labor, but as far as I know no research confirms the technique actually works. If the possibility is a concern for you, avoid massage just above your outer ankle when you’re pregnant.
Research has shown, however, that massage during pregnancy reduces the mother’s anxiety, relieves back pain and muscle aches, makes her more comfortable and helps her sleep better. Massage is safe for both mother and baby during every stage of a normal pregnancy. Women who have massage regularly during their pregnancies tend to have shorter labors.
Myth #5: Massage is a sleazy business, especially those strip mall massage offices.
Fact: While it’s true that sometimes “massage” is used as a euphemism for other services, that clearly isn’t the case for my business, About Massage. My office, located in a strip mall, is clean, professional looking, and staffed by a Licensed Massage Therapist – me. The business is regulated, licensed and city and state inspected.
Myth #6: Only large men can give great pressure during a massage.
Fact: Great pressure relies more on the therapist’s technique than on size. I often have had clients say they are surprised by my pressure.
If you don’t have the time for a full-body massage or you’re uncomfortable with the idea of undressing to receive a massage, a chair massage can be the solution. It’s a comfortable way to receive the benefits of stress reduction and relief for aching muscles without the awkwardness of removing clothing. If you’ve never had a massage, chair massage is an excellent way to sample it for the first time at little expense.
You may have seen the oddly shaped chairs in a convention exhibit hall or at a chair massage business in a mall or airport. You sit, lean against the chest rest and place your face in the face cradle, giving the massage therapist easy access to your neck, shoulders, back, arms, hands and scalp. The chair is adjusted to fit your body and make you comfortable. The massage session, typically five to 30 minutes, focuses on your areas of greatest tension and discomfort.
Like full-body massage on a table, chair massage reduces tension, decreases muscle aches, provides headache relief and improves sleep. It eases muscle tension that contributes to chronic pain. It has the additional benefits of taking less time than table massage, being more affordable and allowing recipients to remain fully clothed, which encourages a feeling of safety. All those additional benefits help reduce stress.
Because some employers make chair massage on the work premises available as a benefit to employees, it also is known as corporate massage or on-site chair massage. Corporate massage may be paid for in part or entirely by the employer, or may be paid totally by the employee. In the workplace, a brief massage increases employee attentiveness and focus, as well reducing absenteeism on the day scheduled for massage. Like other employee benefits, chair massage contributes to building employee loyalty.
Savvy vendors offer chair massage services to draw in potential customers at sales meetings and conferences. Long lines form at the chair massage booth in the exhibit hall even when adjacent booths have little business. At the conclusion of each chair massage, the vendor has the opportunity to extoll the virtues of his product or service to the happy conference-goer while the massage therapist moves on to the next person in line.