Sunday, March 15, 2015

What To Do When You’re Chronically Stressed

Of all the modern-day ailments that seem to affect us, none is more pervasive than stress. Everywhere you turn, there are factors lurking to redirect you from your peaceful pursuit of happiness and lock you in the clutches of “stress.”

What exactly is stress—and what more insidious effects does it cause? The dictionary defines stress as “great pressure or force; strain.” In today’s world, we think of stress as the result of too much pressure laid upon us by life, causing mental worry or anguish. This, in turn, manifests itself in tight neck and shoulders, headaches, nervous stomach, etc. But these physical and mental conditions are really only the beginning.

Studies show that stressful situations can develop into more threatening health conditions. For instance:

A sudden or unexpected stressor can activate your adrenal glands, which sends adrenaline and other hormones into your bloodstream. This brings about an increase in your breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and blood flow to the muscles. This physical response was appropriate generations ago when it was needed for our very survival, but today much of our stress is emotional. With the high number of mental stress incidents that we can experience each day, these repetitive physical responses can begin to wear out all of the body’s intricate systems.

When your stress is chronic, your body releases cortisol, a hormone designed to help the body handle a period of prolonged physical stress. This hormone is hard for the body to metabolize and consequently can lead to an immune system that becomes heavily suppressed, a damaged cardiovascular system, and a worn out endocrine system (the system responsible for handling stressful conditions).

According to Paul J. Rosch, M.D., president of the American Institute of Stress, in Yonkers, N.Y., the following are some of the common stress symptoms:

  • Frequent headaches, jaw clenching, or teeth grinding
  • Neck ache, back pain, or muscle spasms
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Rashes, itching, hives or unexplained allergy attacks
  • Chest pain, palpitations, or rapid pulse
  • Excess anxiety, worry, guilt or nervousness
  • Depression or frequent mood swings
  • Insomnia or nightmares
  • Difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, confusion
  • Significant weight gain or loss without diet change
  • Nervous habits such as fidgeting
  • Constant tiredness, weakness, or fatigue

Regular massage is the ideal remedy for a stressful life. You first experience the relief from massage’s soothing movements that can loosen tense muscles, but there are so many more benefits.

Massage can open the lines of communication throughout your body. For instance, your blood and lymph circulation is increased, which helps all parts of your body to receive essential nutrients, dispose of waste products, and defend against disease.

Stress may take its greatest toll on the nervous system. Massage can address the imbalances that stress causes in your body by stimulating the sensory receptors that interconnect and harmonize all areas of your body, bringing it back into proper balance. This brings about that sense of well-being you experience that goes far beyond the release of tense muscles.

Studies from the Touch Research Institute in Miami indicate that stress hormones consistently fall after massage, no matter what the age of the client. Workers receiving massages showed brain waves that reflect greater mental alertness, and their feelings of job stress were markedly reduced. Nighttime sleep patterns also improved. Tiffany Field, director of TRI, summarizes: “People think massage is just running hands over the surface of the body. But in stimulating the skin, we’re showing you’re overhauling the nervous system.”

Between massages, try to lessen stress in your life by avoiding its causes. Try to identify what gets you stressed. Is it necessary to be affected by the situation? Can you alter the situation so it’s no longer stressful to you?

Realize that in most cases you have to agree that something is stressful to you before it can affect you adversely. Are you actually creating the stress yourself?

If you want further information, or have specific questions regarding stress, just ask at your next session or leave a comment below.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Simple Steps to Spring Forward Toward Fitness

Daylight savings time is a sure reminder that spring is just around the corner and there WILL eventually be an end to the winter weather. And while much of the country still dealing with bitter cold, here in Houston, we’re definitely ready for the warmer days. In fact, this is the time of year when you’ll find many of us increasing our outdoor activities and all too often push ourselves a little too hard. Unfortunately, what can result is often a few days of painful recovery time.

So, I've got a short list of suggestions to consider as you pursue your favorite warm-weather pastimes this season:

First, increase your activity level gradually— Pay attention to your body’s signals so you can avoid serious injury and don’t have to pay the painful price of overindulgence. Start slowly and do a little more each day and you’ll be up to speed in no time.

Warm up— Plunging into activity before you get your body warmed and ready is inviting potential trouble. Avoid possible sprains, torn ligaments, etc. by taking a few minutes to get the blood and oxygen flowing. Just as your car needs a few minutes to get warmed up to prevent mechanical problems, so does your body!

Drink plenty of pure water— Proper hydration is highly important to safely maintaining your body. Water helps to regulate body temperature, helps flush toxins and body waste from your system, and it can help insure your internal organs (like your liver and kidneys) are performing at optimum levels. Shoot for drinking half an ounce of water per pound of body-weight. So, if you weigh 160, that means you should strive for drinking about 80 oz. of water daily (or about 10 cups).

Lastly, schedule a therapeutic massage — Did you think I was actually going to let you forget about this one? LOL! Nothing feels quite as nice as working out the kinks and sore spots after a day of sports or outdoor activity. Your massage session can help relax your muscles and relieve soreness, as well as flushing out the chemical by-products of exercise and physical activity.

Simply put – massage can’t be beat for helping your body function at its best!

So there you have it — simple steps to get back into the swing of fitness. Now go have fun! Spring forward toward those outdoor activities and enjoy the warmer weather (whenever you can)! And when you are ready to reward those muscles for giving you a wonderful day of play – be sure to give me a call. Your body will thank you for it! ;-)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Benefits of Regular Massage Sessions

Once people discover the many joys and benefits of massage, a common question arises—“How often should I schedule my massage sessions?”

Of course, there is no set answer, but studies indicate that massage at regular intervals is most beneficial to your overall health.

In a Newsweek article entitled “The Magic of Touch,” the advantages of frequent massage are considered. The following excerpts help to answer the question, “How often?”

“A weekly massage may seem an indulgence, but new research suggests it can have major health benefits...

“Since instituting a program of massage, job-specific exercises and ergonomics in 1990, the Virginia-based company [Wampler Foods] has cut repetitive-stress injuries by 75 percent...

“From assembly lines to corporate headquarters, Americans are discovering the magic of massage. At Boeing and Reebok, headaches, back strain and fatigue have all fallen since the companies started bringing in massage therapists...

Doctors have started prescribing massage to help patients manage stress and pain. And a few HMOs have begun sharing in the cost. ‘Massage is medicine, not merely an indulgence,’ says Laura Favin of Not Just a Luxury Onsite Massage in New York.

“Scientists are now finding that massage can reduce blood pressure, boost the immune system, dampen harmful stress hormones and raise mood-elevating brain chemicals such as serotonin. And you can’t beat massage for relaxation. Babies fall asleep faster when massaged than when rocked—and they stay asleep, rather than waking the moment Mom tiptoes away. All these factors, says Tiffany Field, founder of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami’s School of Medicine, ‘put massage in the same category with proper diet and exercise as something that helps maintain overall health.’ . . .

“The effects aren’t always so straightforward. Massage can also stimulate nerves that carry signals from the skin to the brain, triggering changes throughout the body..."

Field showed that massage (as opposed to light touch) stimulates the brain’s vagus nerve, causing the secretion of food-absorption hormones, including insulin. Nerve stimulation probably explains other benefits as well. . . . Dr. James Dillard of Columbia University [says], ‘Every nerve cell in the body has some connection to every other nerve cell.’ . . .

“Like exercise, massage does more for you if you engage in it regularly - even a monthly treatment can help maintain general health. ‘Touch is basic to survival,’ says Elliot Greene, past president of AMTA [American Massage Therapy Assn.]. That’s all the excuse anyone should need to indulge.”

Remember, your body strives to maintain optimum health by keeping all of its systems in balance. Along with proper nutrition, exercise and rest, massage relaxes tense muscles and stimulates the body’s communication lines to help it do its job—and to keep you feeling your best.

So, don't worry about "when" you should schedule your next massage. Instead, focus on making regular massage a priority in your schedule (every week, every month, every quarter? The temo is up to you). Consistency is your key for a healthier tomorrow!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Not tonight… I've got a headache.

Headaches… the perfect way to ruin a romantic rendezvous. No? With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought I would talk about headaches and suggest ways to prevent this trouble maker from ruining not only your love life, but your daily life, too.

According to Web MD, 30 to 80% of the adult Americans suffer from occasional tension headaches. Some of these may have hereditary causes, while others can be caused by lifestyle or environment, such as poor posture, unhealthy eating habits, a high stress job, or a demanding home life. Any combination of stress-inducing factors could become the trigger, really.

That said, massage therapy may be your best secret weapon to keep headaches at bay. At the very least, massage therapy can help you deal with the pain while you determine the best approach to maneuvering through the mitigating factors that might be causing your headaches.

But don’t just take my word for it…

According to The American Journal of Manipulative Physiological and Therapeutics; a 30-minute massage on cervical trigger points may improve autonomic nervous system regulation in chronic tension headache patients. Patients also exhibit a better psychological state and reduce the stress and anxiety associated with this disorder. Patients reported relief of symptoms within 24 hours after the massage.

So there you have it.

True, stress is a part of most everyone's life. But finding ways to manage stress, such as making massage therapy a regular part of your health regimen, can help you relieve the pain of tension headaches. And, that can go a long way toward improving your love life, too! ;-)

Monday, February 2, 2015

How to Sleep Better for Back Pain Relief

When you have back pain, sleeping can be hard. Not only can pain make for a miserable bedtime, but not getting enough sleep can actually make chronic pain hurt more the next day.

It can be a vicious cycle.

Aside from a good therapeutic massage, finding a proper sleep position can also help reduce back pain. So if you are a side sleeper, try placing a pillow between your knees to keep your spine in a neutral position and relieve strain on your back. If you need to sleep on your back, sliding a pillow under your knees should help, too. And always be sure to sleep on a comfortably firm mattress.

If pain persists and is still making it hard to sleep after a few days, be sure to talk to your doctor.

Oh, and getting into good bedtime habits -- including keeping a regular bedtime and wake time schedule -- can help too.