Monday, September 15, 2014

How to Prepare for Deep Tissue Massage

Since my previous post, I received a few questions from some clients who are new to “deep tissue” massage techniques. So, I thought perhaps writing a follow-up on how to prepare for, and what to expect from, your first deep tissue massage treatment.

First, it’s always a good thing to be well hydrated, and have eaten a small meal (just a little something), to arrive warm from a workout or from stretching. All this can help ensure you get the most out of your deep tissue treatment.

Always let your therapist know all the issues and symptoms you may be facing right up front and before you begin — after all, stiffness and chronic pain can sometimes result from other injuries, poor posture, etc. The more your massage therapist knows, the more he/she can assist you during the session.

Do your best to arrive a bit early for your first appointment. A good and professional therapist will have forms for you to fill out and questions to ask you before beginning your treatment.

The Experience

I usually ask my clients to make themselves comfortable on my massage table and encourage them to breathe deeply, relax and prepare for the massage. My deep tissue treatments tend to consist of longer, deeper, and more intense strokes. Sometimes I may use my elbows, forearms, fingertips and specialized tools to access the deeper layers of muscle where the initial problem may reside.

Because I am massaging the innermost layers of my client’s connective tissues and muscles, there are times when my client may experience a slight increase in pain or discomfort. This is why it is imperative that you take an active role in the session by not dozing off and by continually offering feed-back regarding the levels of pain you may be experiencing. Just note that some level of discomfort is normal as the deeper knots, adhesions and injuries are being addressed.

Although my treatments generally last about 90-minutes for deep tissue therapy, if you massage frequently, the time required will usually shrink to about an hour. This is because the body gradually releases its knots and becomes more quickly receptive to my touch.

What About After a Deep Tissue Massage?

I always council my clients that after receiving a deep tissue massage, they may experience some muscular soreness or stiffness 24 to 48 hours after their session. Typically this doesn’t last more than a day.

Immediately following my client’s session, I offer bottled water and request that they drink plenty of water and to avoid strenuous exercise the day after our massage session in order to help the muscles heal.

If the session was particularly aggressive, or if the pain remains acute, I typically recommend the client ice the areas in question, or that they try a 20-minute, hot bath soak with Epsom salts — depending on the situation.

As for YOUR particular experience and depending on the severity of the issue you’re trying to address, you may find that you feel a whole lot better after just one visit.

Still, if you are attempting to resolve a chronic condition, injury, or a condition such as extreme muscular adhesions, you may have to have a few treatments in succession before you begin to feel well again. So at the end of your session, make sure you ask for your therapist’s recommendations on the need and frequency of any related follow-up visits.

I hope this helped! :-)

Listen to Your Body,

John Aaron Villarreal

Monday, September 8, 2014

Benefits of a Deep Tissue Massage

I’ll admit, I’m not a big fan of Swedish Massage. I prefer a firmer, “heavy handed” touch. This is especially true whenever I am experiencing joint stiffness, muscle tension, or any time I find myself “knotted” up by stress.

It seems most of my clients feel the same way, too. Muscular overuse, trauma and repetitive stress can cause muscles to form a band of rigid inflexible tissues called adhesions (known colloquially as “knots”).

While most adhesions are seldom dangerous (they’re mostly painful annoyances), I know that extreme cases can sometimes hinder blood circulation, limit movement and flexibility, and be extremely painful. Often, the only way to address these adhesions is through deep tissue massage treatments.

Adhesions, tension and stiffness can be related to a range of chronic conditions, and I have found that using a combination of techniques with particular emphasis on the use of deep tissue massage to be particularly effective in easing client pain from:

  • Chronic muscle tension, pain, spasm or stiffness
  • TMJ
  • Limited range of motion
  • Sciatica
  • Muscle, tendon and ligament injuries
  • High levels of stress

Each of these conditions is improved by releasing the corresponding “knots” (muscular adhesions and tension), thereby increasing blood flow, and promoting healthy movement in the area.

While deep tissue massage is helpful for a variety of conditions, and may seem like a cure-all for muscular pain, it should most definitely be avoided in cases where you have:

  • Inflamed skin or a rash
  • Bruising of any kind
  • Suffered a recent fracture or hernia

And although I probably don’t need to mention it, deep tissue massage is also off limits to those who may be pregnant...

Now while my personal preference leans toward deep tissue massage, the technique may not suit everyone. My advice: If you think deep tissue massage may be able to help you recuperate from pain or improve physical performance, make sure you check with your doctor first.

Oh, and don’t just think you can just get a “friend” to just press “really hard” on the affected area! Plenty can go wrong in this scenario that can exacerbate the problem (from creating bone fractures, to muscular tears and nerve damage).

So never —I repeat, NEVER— let anyone who is not qualified give you a deep tissue massage do so!
Oh, and when you DO find the licensed massage therapist that is right for you, don’t forget to examine his/her reviews and qualifications, too.

Listen to Your Body,

John Aaron Villarreal
massage therapist | heath coach

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Exercise for Pain Relief.

I hope you had a wonderfully relaxing (and pain free) Labor day Holiday.

I spent my weekend celebrating my birthday with my family and friends. I ate way too much food and WAY too much chocolate birthday cake. So I was glad to get back in the gym today for some much needed exercise.

Exercise is how I've managed to maintain relatively pain free movement despite having a couple of ruptured disks and some spinal arthritis.

I'll admit it, exercise is sort of a Catch-22: You're hurting, so you don't exercise; but let me say that without exercise, you may lose muscle tone, balance and strength, thereby making pain worse in the long run.

Fortunately, even mild exercise releases endorphins, the feel-good brain chemicals that lift mood and block pain. If you're interested in learning more about exercise for lower back pain, here's a link to a great post on the subject:

4 Lower Back Exercises To Help Relieve Back Pain

It's an old article written by a guest blogger, but the information still holds true. If you are also seeing a doctor about your pain, you may consider asking him or her if aerobic, strengthening, or stretching exercises can give your body the boost -- and relief -- it needs.

Then, of course, I am always here when you need a good deep tissue massage and a firm stretch, too! ;-)

“Listen to your Body”

John Aaron
massage therapist | health coach

Monday, August 25, 2014

Does That Hurt..? Your 5-Step Injury Prevention Plan

Doing what I do, massage specializing in pain relief, I mostly see clients "after" they have encountered some type of trauma that causes physical pain. Most of them are athletic, some are weekend warrior types, and some are desk jockeys. That said, the best pain management plan is the one that includes a "preventative" program, and that's what I will be giving you here.

Injuries don't have to slow you from meeting your fitness goals or keep you from enjoying your daily activities. The following 5 steps that I have outlined below will dramatically reduce your chance of experiencing a pain causing injury and if you do find yourself injured, but have been following these 5 steps, your recovery will be quick and efficient.

Step 1: Stretch
What is more boring than stretching? You have stuff to do; work to finish, meetings to attend, cooking, cleaning, exercise! The last thing you want to do is to sit around touching your toes -- right?

Well, even though it isn't exciting, stretching is the best way to increase muscle elasticity and durability. Tight muscles are big contributors to strains -- remember? The older we get, the less flexible we become which leaves our muscles, tendons and ligaments wide open for injury and strain. Take the time to stretch every day at your desk, in the shower, and before/after your workout to stave off injury.

Step 2: Warm Up
If you are preparing to do any physical activity like working out, remember that your warm-up should not begin and end with putting on your gym clothes. Your muscles need to be coaxed into motion by way of a 10-15 minute warm up in order to prepare them for injury-free use. Cold muscles are less elastic and are therefore more prone to tears.

Step 3: Proper Gear
For most fitness enthusiasts proper gear has everything to do with their shoes. But don't be fooled -- not just any shoe will do. Find shoes that offer support and traction for your activity of choice, and make sure that they aren't too tight or too loose. If you are prone to ankle injuries then try a pair of high-tops for extra support.

Step 4: Lifestyle
Stop for a moment and think about your car -- if you don't maintain it with regular tune ups, oil changes and quality fuel then you can't expect it to perform well on the road. Treat your car poorly and sooner or later it will leave you high and dry at the most inconvenient time. The same applies to your body. Getting healthy amounts of sleep, eating well balanced meals, staying hydrated and getting regularly scheduled massage therapy will all contribute to your ability to live injury free. Simply put: The healthier your lifestyle is the less likely you are to suffer an injury.

Step 5: Condition
This may seem like the most obvious step to injury prevention, but unfortunately it is the most overlooked. Believe it or not; People who keep their bodies in top condition by exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are the least likely to injure themselves. That's right. It's when people randomly exercise in an inconsistent manner. When exercise programs are started and stopped sporadically that your muscles are most likely to become injured.

Of course being conditioned also has another great benefit that everyone enjoys - you get to look and feel great! And who doesn't want that, right?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Reducing Stress and Boosting Well-Being with Massage

Few people know that therapeutic massage has been used for stress and pain relief around the world throughout the ages. As long ago as the 5th century Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, wrote, "the physician must be experienced in many things, but assuredly also in rubbing."

Bringing it into modern day, studies such as the one conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Medical School, have demonstrated that massage is extraordinary in its ability to reduce the effects of stress and promote well-being.

Therapeutic massage has become well known as one of the best ways to deal with the overload of stress so common in today's world. And because we live in a 24/7, go-go-go-world, we must face the facts - stress overload is inevitable.

Therapeutic massage can give you a break from the buildup of stress and trigger the "relaxation response," a natural function of the nervous system that reverses the effects of excess stress. It can provide relief from chronic headaches, reduce anxiety, and promote more restful sleep, all conditions associated with an overload of stress.

Massage improves circulation, promotes healing
One of the key benefits of therapeutic massage is improved circulation. Good circulation is essential to bring oxygen and nutrients to healing tissues and remove irritating waste products. This, in turn, can help decrease inflammation and pain from injuries or overdoing it at work or play. Massage also increases circulation to the joints, improving their function and mobility.

Massage increases awareness of mind and body
Massage therapy can help increase awareness and sensitivity to the body's signals. As you get to know your body with massage you may be better able to listen to your need to take breaks at work or stretch after exercising. Increased awareness may even inspire you to spend more time doing the things you love, like painting, gardening or hiking.

Respond to stress with grace and balance; book your massage today.