So, again, this isn't really massage-related unless, like me, you consider that groovin' around a dance floor and allowing some excellent vibes to massage your tympanic membranes is massage, after a fashion. If you're with me on this, follow this link to hear said excellent vibes, then mark your calendar for Saturday, April 27 to hear it live and in the flesh.
Full disclosure: this is my darling husband's band, Life Sentence, and the event taking place on that date is a fundraiser for the Mid Coast Hospital Trek Across Maine team - they have a lot of fun spinning their wheels and raising money for lung cancer research when they're not taking care of folks. It's at the Frontier in Brunswick, and tickets are going fast so don't delay your purchase.
I hope to see you there!
Goal setting and strategic planning aren't my strengths. What this means for me is that things often progress a bit slowly, but I take full responsibility for that and instead call it "appreciating each moment." It works. Slowly.
So, I don't actually make new year's resolutions (see? it's March), but in my own sloth-like manner go about making incremental changes that eventually add up to something impactful, and that become an integral part of my daily life. Lifestyle modifications are important factors for us humans in many ways, as we continually strive to be healthier, happier, more connected to our communities. The healthier and happier pieces are why I like to talk with you when you come in for a massage about what you are doing with your body every day.
Today, it's the latter piece I want to highlight – the community connection. In a vital, healthy community, the strength of the local economy is a critical factor, and we, the people, are the drivers of that economy. Where we shop-dine-consume and otherwise spend our money has an immediate effect on our community by directly supporting the people who live and work there. The money stays at home. There are no middleman, no franchise fees to pay, no shareholders to please, just individuals and families making a living working at things they enjoy (don't we all want to be doing that?) and making them available to us. How awesome is that? It's one of the reasons I decided to become an independent massage therapist, rather than working for a national franchise. Even though there might have been some benefits to beginning that way, I get to do this my way, right from the start.
I hope you can see where I’m going with this. It's about the bigger picture around us, and our part in it. Each time you pay a visit to a local business and spend your money there, you enhance the vitality of your own community. It's all about the little things, these small changes we make in how and where we choose to open our wallets, and they do add up.
With that in mind, I wanted to share with you some of the local businesses that I enjoy visiting. Check them out, and if you live in Brunswick or Harpswell, or find yourself rolling through the neighborhood for some reason, stop in and say hello. I think you will be pleased with what you find - on the shelves, in the seats, on the helpful smiling faces – and in the satisfaction you experience shaking the hand of the proprietor and looking them in the eye.
(You may have to cut and paste links. Sorry.)
Fishmoon Yoga – https://fishmoonyoga.com/ Wonderful variety of yoga classes for all abilities, with a kind, patient, knowledgeable teacher, on the upper floor of a warm, sunlit renovated barn.
Two Coves Farm – https://www.twocovesfarm.com/ Eggs, beef, pork, lamb, chicken, veggies – yum yum – all grown up right there around the farm stand. Yarn, even. Lots of other goodies too, but you'll have to go in to see what I mean. :)
Black Sheep Wine Shop – http://www.blacksheepwine.com/Harpswell_Maine_Wine_Store.html Wine, beer, chocolates, cheeses – all the things you need to pick up on your way home, in one tidy and charming spot.
Vegetable Corner – 509 Harpswell Neck Road at Mountain Road, (207) 729-2715. Veggies, meats, fish, and a variety of staple items, plus wonderful baked goods made on site. Chicken pot pie (on certain days). Need I say more?
Maine PD News - http://mainepdnews.org/ If you or someone you love has Parkinson disease, check out this electronic newsletter full of information about the disease, research, treatments, and support systems. (Written and produced by someone near and dear to my own heart.)
Vet at Your Door – http://www.vetatyourdoor.com/ House calls! For your pet! Seriously! Okay, they're not based in my town but they promptly trek out to Harpswell whenever I call to take care of my kitty. He's alive and full of his catty self today thanks to their kind, compassionate, timely, excellent care, both when he was ill and now that he's healthy. The cost is reasonable, no more than I ever paid an onsite vet when I had to hassle the poor cat into a carrier and put him through a car ride which he NEVER enjoyed. SO much better now that neither of us has to go through that stress. I cannot recommend these folks highly enough. If you have a pet, call them. Okay, I'll shut up now. (But I Just. Love. Them. Can you tell?)
Deep Groove Records – https://deepgroovemaine.com/ All vinyl, all the time. Jazz, blues, boogie, classic and obscure, stuff you didn't even know you were looking for until you stepped in here. And if you still don't know what that is, David will tell you. Listen to him.
Gulf of Maine Books - http://gulfofmainebooks.blogspot.com/ If you like to read, love the smell of paper and ink, and maybe you're looking for something about the natural world, or Maine's people, history, or land, stop in here. Make sure you have some time to hang out because it's also worth it just to listen in on the conversations that take place at the checkout counter.
Evening Star Cinema – http://eveningstarcinema.com/ Do yourself a favor and go see a movie here. This is what it's supposed to be like. The films will leave you thinking. And they have couches. And real butter on the popcorn. Oh, and wine, and beer! Oh my gosh, just go.
Fine Mess Pottery – Augusta - http://www.finemesspottery.com/ Lori Watts. Alright, I confess, she's not in my neighborhood, but it is so worth a visit to either her online shop, pottery studio, or Portland Pottery where she teaches classes. She makes lovely, imaginative things out of clay and beautiful soda-fired glazes that you can and should use everyday, to hold your food and lighten your mood. (Thank you, Lori, for helping me learn to not let things get too precious.)
Are there some local businesses where you live that you enjoy? Please share with me and other readers in the comment section below. I'm always seeking out the goodness, and the happy people, when I'm on the road. Where might I find them when I'm in your area?
I hear this question from time to time. Of course, the simplest answer is, "as often as your budget allows."
Any massage is better than no massage, but is once-in-a-while enough? If you don't have any specific goals in mind, absolutely. An occasional massage can deeply soothe your body, calm your mind, and significantly boost your mood.
A monthly massage can be an excellent addition to your fitness and wellness plan, keeping you attuned to your body and helping you stay ahead of developing tightness or pain. It can keep you loose for the gym, and it can help you stay aware of your posture as you go through your workday (I've experienced this benefit first-hand). It's a great way of offering yourself some regular kindness, and maintaining a good self-care routine.
If, however, you've got persistent pain, or if you'd like to push back against a problem that has taken a long time to develop (posture-related pain, nerve dysfunction, low mood), then a more assertive treatment regimen is a good idea. Most research on massage uses one session per week, usually for a duration of 12 weeks. When I talk about studies demonstrating benefits for physical and mental disorders, I'm talking about participants who are receiving massage with this frequency. There's a reason for this: massage doesn't often produce its results from any single session. Instead, it's a process of repeatedly interacting with the body in a way that soothes it, and that helps it realize that it doesn't need so much tension and guarding. That can take time.
The good news is that you can also achieve results from biweekly massage. If you've got pain or dysfunction that could use some relief, two massages per month will likely provide benefits. This frequency helped me to manage and overcome some neck and upper back pain that took years of poor posture habit to develop.
That said, there are some circumstances where I would recommend weekly massage. If you've got frozen shoulder, it can help immensely to have someone challenge your range of motion and soothe your nervous system once per week until symptoms abate. If you've got extreme low back pain, a month of weekly massage might be enough to break that cycle of spasm and inflammation that keeps it going. (There are some instances in which I will encourage you to seek diagnosis and/or care from a qualified medical professional in advance of receiving massage.)
Needless to say, I'm a big believer in massage. I think that, applied properly, it can make significant changes in people's lives. It is a dose-dependent therapy, however, so the amount of massage that you receive makes a difference. Some massage is always better than none, but I do invite you to explore a higher frequency when it's warranted. Scheduling, treatment duration, and pricing can vary, depending upon the issue at hand, and I encourage you to discuss your goals and concerns with me. I'd also be happy to show you ways that you can implement some self-massage, or partner massage, between sessions.
What do you think? Have you found that frequent massage has been helpful for you? Thanks for reading, and let me know if you have any questions you'd like answered.
Light up your valentine with the gift of massage!
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Risk and reward in massage
When I tell people that I’m a massage therapist, it sometimes causes a strong reaction. They tell me - whether verbally or through their facial expression and body language - that massage is not for them.
It may be that they just can't understand why anyone would want to do that, and I'm not likely to change their mind. That's okay.
But for some, it's a body image issue, and they don’t think anybody else would accept them just as they are. It might be a minor thing, and they get by with occasionally wishing they could change it. Or it may run very deeply through their lives, affecting how they feel about themselves on many levels. (I'm going to go out on a limb here and say I'm pretty sure we've all got something, whether anyone else ever knows about it, or sees it.)
The paradox here is that massage can really help with body image issues. In massage school, my classmates and I were all a little nervous about taking off our clothes and letting somebody else touch us. If we didn't already know, it didn’t take long for us to discover that bodies are just bodies, and we could become much more comfortable with our own. We also experienced how good receiving a massage made us feel, inside and out. Something wonderful happened – when our bodies felt better, we felt better about our bodies.
If you have a "thing" about your body and have avoided massage because of it, consider your three options and potential outcomes of each. Let's evaluate the risks and rewards:
1. Don’t get a massage. Easy-peasy, right? This is the easiest option because it involves doing nothing. The risk is low since you are not letting another person see or touch you at all. The reward is zero. You didn’t get a massage so your body doesn’t feel any better, and you still have the stress you had before. You experience no change.
2. You get a massage, but the massage therapist makes note of how you look, as if it makes a difference to their work or your benefit. If you've had this happen, I am very sorry. You got a crappy massage therapist. (Yes, sadly, I understand there are a few out there who do not represent our profession well. Thankfully I do not know any of them personally.) You took a risk, and even if the massage was otherwise okay, you received very little reward and perhaps feel even worse because of it.
3. You get a massage, and it's a great massage. The therapist does nothing to make you feel uncomfortable about your body. In fact, you feel pretty good about your body after the massage. In this option your risk is low. Maybe you’re a little nervous at the start, but I don’t care how your body looks, I just want to help it feel better. Your reward is high. Your body, and your mind, feel better from the massage, and you can take that out into the world with you.
If you have been avoiding massage because you feel uncomfortable about your body, let’s find an option that works for you. Leave your clothes on if you want, stay sitting up, or face down, or lying on your side, or however you want. It’s up to you. Just please don't stay away – massage feels so good. Together let’s find a way to help you relax, ease your pain, and relieve your stress. I look forward to meeting YOU.
While giving a client a full body massage, I wouldn't dream of leaving off their hands or feet, or neck, or back (unless, of course, the client requested it). So why would I ignore the abdomen? As my esteemed teacher, Nancy Dail, is fond of saying, "The abdomen is the front of the back!"
And she is so right: the muscles that make up our core and support us in standing, walking, running, bending, lifting, and twisting every day are not limited to those in our back. We may not think of them often, but our abdominal muscles are hard at work nearly all the time, and when they are in proper tone, balance the work of our back muscles and help prevent injury. So, do a few crunches each day, or bridge and plank if that's more your style, and consider the benefits of abdominal massage.
According to Debra Curties, RMT, writing for Massage Magazine (2018) abdominal massage:
-makes the massage feels more complete and holistic;
-can aid in intestinal function, promoting peristalsis and helping to ease constipation;
-promotes a sense of well-being via the enteric nervous system, directly connected to the brain by the vagus nerve (no kidding – read Curties' full article linked below for more fascinating information about this division of the autonomic nervous system);
-benefits conditions such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and low back pain.
All that, and it just plain feels wonderful! Ever had a dog or cat roll over and practically beg you to rub its tummy? They get what I'm talking about.
(Of course, there are some contraindications to consider: acute gastrointestinal illness and chronic conditions such as Crohn's disease, celiac, and ulcerative colitis; early or high-risk pregnancy; hypertension; and abdominal aortic aneurysm, to name a few, are reasons to forego abdominal massage, or receive only very light work after consulting with your healthcare provider. Always, always, give your therapist a full and complete health history before receiving massage. Please.)
Another positive outcome of abdominal massage that I have personally experienced is a kind and loving acceptance of a part of my body about which I haven't always felt great. I sometimes joke that I have an awesome "six-pack" that I keep tucked inside a very well insulated cooler – and that's true, especially since having babies. My waist size does not match the rest of my size (according to clothing manufacturers, anyway), so garments are forever either too tight there or too loose somewhere else, and I get bloated and uncomfortable when I eat or drink too much of the wrong thing. Receiving abdominal massage has helped me connect with and appreciate all that is there, and all that goes on there, and feel a little less self-conscious about it. To be sure, it is still a closely guarded bit of my anatomy, but an integral part of the whole and as deserving of tender care and touch as any other.
Next time you are visiting me and my massage table, if you haven't yet treated yourself to abdominal massage, perhaps be open to the suggestion and avail yourself of these potential benefits. If you decide against it, though - no pressure (pun very thoroughly intended).
Curties, Debra. (2018, April 24). "4 reasons you should include abdominal massage in your practice." Massage Magazine. https://www.massagemag.com/abdominal-massage-techniques-88920