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Showing posts from 2012

Is Sports Massage for You?

Alright, so you may not be a star athlete playing on an NFL team, but you ARE physically active, right? So why use massage therapy only as a special “treat” for when you feel emotionally stressed out? The truth is that different massage techniques can also help heal your weekend-warrior, sports-related, and gym induced injuries. In fact, sports medicine has employed massage therapy as a complementary treatment for decades!

Have you ever seen a personal trainer massaging the legs or arms of a professional athlete during a big game? Well, that's not just for show. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases says the rubbing, pressing and body manipulation involved in massage therapy works to soothe muscles and increase blood flow. This, in turn, helps relax tense, sore, or overworked muscles. And, a further study published in February 2012 in Science Translational Medicine found that massage therapy can reduce inflammation and promote muscle healing on…

3 Tips for Transitioning the Winter Season

Living in Houston, we don't get the dramatic seasonal change that our neighbors to the north get; their brisk fall transitioning into blustery winter... Even so, as Houstonians our bodies must adapt to our own change. It is important to take care of yourself during this time of transition so that you can be at your best. I've listed some tips and tricks to aid you on your path towards a smoother season shift - despite our "warmer than the north" temperatures.

Getting Physical
No matter what time of the year it is, exercise should be top of the list especially in our cooler seasons. When the winter season rolls around for us here in Houston and temperatures drop to a mild chill, I find jogging or cycling outdoors to be especially pleasant. And while our cool fronts are known for bringing rain; that should not be a reason to tone down the exercise frequency or stop at all. Running the treadmill indoors or taking part in a group class or indoor boot-camp is always an op…

Pillow Time

I have got to say that my sleep is always best when I’ve got a cool pillow to rest my head on. Nothing starts your day off better than getting a good night's sleep. And, since getting a full night’s sleep is essential to overall health, finding the right pillow can help.

"Pillows can not only impact the quality of our sleep, but also how healthfully we rest and recharge," says sleep expert Michael Breus, PhD, a clinical psychologist and author of ‘Beauty Sleep: Look Younger, Lose Weight, and Feel Great Through Better Sleep.’

Just as a good pillow can help your health, using the wrong one can make you miserable.  A bad pillow won't be the cause of any of these problems, but using the incorrect pillow can worsen headaches, neck pain, shoulder and arm numbness, discomfort, and induce sneezing, and wheezing. All of which can keep you from getting a good night's rest.

Don’t forget that if your pillow is old, it is more than likely overflowing with dead skin cells, m…

Lessen Pain by Losing Weight

It’s a known fact that as we age we tend to have an increase in muscular and joint pain. It slowly creeps up on us because the actions that lead up to the symptoms are gradual, unassuming and thought to be a “normal” progression of aging. Take the few extra pounds we gain during mid life as an example. Left unchecked and you could be a candidate for obesity in no time.

The Institute for Preventative Foot Health discovered that obese people have a 40% increase in lower body joint pain. This makes sense because walking can place up to three times your body weight on your feet, knees and hips. Every step can wear joint cartilage and compress nerves which can lead to a life of chronic pain.

What’s the solution? Unfortunately, because pain is considered a “normal” symptom of aging, lifestyle solutions are often ignored in favor of treatment through medication. Let’s face it; when joints cause you pain, it’s much easier to just pop a pill to make the hurt go away. However, in this scenario…

Wellness Is Always in Season

Yes, I know. Halloween just ended... But, like it or not, the "Holiday Season" is officially here and that's what I want to write to you about.

Did you know that this Holiday Season we are expected to attend an average of around 30 hours (or more) attending parties, social events and family gatherings during the next 8 weeks alone? The number surprised me: that's nearly 5 hours of partying a week! What's more alarming is that those hours don't even include your shopping, travel time or the hours spent cooking in preparation for those parties and events! So, with this in mind, I offer 3 simple tips to help maintain your health, wellness and "sanity" through this flurry of holiday season activities.

Relax Your Muscles. After spending time on your feet, sit down and actively relax your muscles by tensing and relaxing each large muscle group. Start with your head by doing some gentle neck and shoulder rolls. Then work your way down through your hands, a…

Pay Attention to Your Everyday Aches.

According to the Institute for Preventative Foot Health, almost 80% of American adults have encountered some type of foot problem. This is a number I find surprising considering our overall sedentary lifestyles. None-the-less, it seems that anything from improper shoe size, high-impact exercise, slips & falls, and "surprise-surprise"  - obesity -  can trigger a pain causing condition.

To avoid a lifelong injury it is important to take your discomfort seriously. Even something as seemingly minor as sore feet or bunions can worsen over time. If left unchecked, they can ultimately result in costly surgery and time away from doing the things that you love. For more information, visit the American Podiatric Medical Association's web site:

As always – Enjoy Your Life!

John Aaron Villarreal

Bio: I am a Houston based, male massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I lau…

Sports Massage for Total Body Wellness

Sometimes I’m asked why people seek out my services as a massage therapist. Well, for some, massage therapy is used as a treatment to relax from emotional stress or to heal the body from physical strain. Considering the various massage treatments and styles that are available, there is sure to be something that naturally targets any specific area of the body that needs special care.

Sports massage, for example, helps to break down acids which build in the muscles during strenuous activity. For these clients, sports massage helps get the muscles back into acclimated form, and also helps to restore and maintain proper body movement and muscular function through incorporating stretch and joint mobilization into the massage.

A sports massage can aid in both pre and post sport events by increasing blood and nutrient circulation to the muscles and by assisting the body in eliminating metabolic wastes that are the byproducts produced by strenuous activity. If there is a sports injury, mass…

Lowering Blood Pressure with Low-Fat Dairy

Moo juice. It’s more than a kid’s drink and fortunately for me, I never grew too old to stop appreciating a tall cold glass of milk. I’m even more psyched about it now that I know about a Dutch study performed on hypertensive adults 55 and older. The research data suggests that low-fat dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt may lower blood pressure or even help prevent hypertension all together.

Here’s How it Works:
The key is in the minerals and avoiding “fat free” dairy. It seems that consuming milk with a modest amount of fat helps to increase the bio-availability of calcium in the dairy. This makes the calcium easier for the digestive track to absorb. In addition to being a great source of calcium, low-fat dairy is also an excellent source of two other blood-pressure-lowering nutrients: magnesium and potassium.

Here’s How Much You Need:
As part of a daily regimen, you should consider following the guidelines of a 2006 study from Harvard Medical School, which suggested th…

Discovering a Skeleton

They’re scary. My proverbial closet has them. Yours does, too. But the skeletons of one’s past don’t necessarily mean shameful, scandalous, hidden secrets. They are the life experiences that help mold each of us into the unique individuals that we are.

You can know someone superficially. On the surface they appear to be whatever we project them to be. For example; you’re in a parking lot when someone who appears dazed, walks across your path. Hair is unkempt; he’s red-eyed, shabbily dressed and smells like he hasn’t bathed in days. First thought; probably a homeless street beggar.

It’s when you get down to the actions and events that got that person to the place they now are, that you really understand who that person is; A loving and dedicated father who has spent a week at the hospital by his child’s side fighting some deadly serious disease. He is stressed, and afraid to be away from her side for even a moment, but is currently trying to fulfill her only request for a Happy Meal.

The Hot & Cold Back Pain Remedy

As a massage therapist, backaches are one of the most common complaints of pain that I receive. Often times we stress our backs through overuse or injury which can cause painful swelling of the joints and surrounding tissues. So what do I do when my back gives me trouble? I change the temperature...

Cold is known for its ability to shrink things, and that includes bodily inflammation. So I turn to it regularly. I use ice bags or bags of frozen veggies to treat my back. To reduce risk of further injury, I place a cloth or thin towel between the ice pack and my skin and alternate therapy like this; apply for about 20 minutes (but no more than 30 minutes) on the achy area followed by 30 minutes off (or 30 minutes of moist heat), then another 20 minutes on again.

I find that alternating heat with cold, really improves my circulation, healing and pain relief. Alternating application of heat and cold is sometimes called a vascular flush because the heat expands the blood vessels, and the c…

Lowering Blood Pressure with Black Beans

I love black beans. In fact, they are a staple of health and wellness, so we usually have them as a main course at least once a week. They’re versatile in recipes, tasty by themselves and very easy to prepare. Black beans also have a high fiber-to-protein ratio that’s hard to beat. It’s this combination that helps in keeping blood sugar in check and maintaining lower blood cholesterol levels.

Here’s How it Works:
Although black beans are a nutrient-dense source of fiber and magnesium, what puts them at a distinct advantage over other foods is the folate you'll find in these delicious little legumes. Folate (folic acid) is a B-complex vitamin that appears to lower blood pressure (especially systolic blood pressure) by relaxing blood vessels and improving blood flow.

Here’s How Much You Need:

While a single cup of cooked black beans only yields about 256 micrograms of folate, tossing them with a cup of spinach salad will bring you slightly over the daily recommended allowance of at…

Being Happier with Less

Tomorrow marks the first full day of autumn and the third anniversary of my newest tradition: The Autumn Toss-Out.

I began this ritual a few years ago after reading a book by Peter Walsh called, “It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff.” (Well, I’m over forty. I had a lot of stuff!) How can this effect your health and wellness? Well, Peter explains in real-world terms, and with as much sympathy as possible, that in our accumulation we create unnecessary stress and overwhelm in our lives. An excerpt from his book reads;

“You want a life built on a solid foundation, but you can’t even see the floor beneath you. You want to lose weight but your kitchen is overwhelmed with appliances you never use. You want to build your career, but your office literally makes you feel ill. You want to change? This is where it starts: your home. Where you live, breathe rest, love and create. Get rid of the clutter. Get organized. If you do, I promise that every aspect of …

Autumn Health and Wellness and Pumpkins

I count down to the autumnal equinox like a kid waiting for Christmas. Living through the sweltering summer heat in Houston, Texas you might understand why I can get so excited about this time of year. And since we’ve just received our first "taste" of cooler weather, I decided to start my official fall activities a bit early with one of the most ubiquitous symbols of autumn: the pumpkin.

Amazingly healthy, the pumpkin is stuffed with antioxidants, and essential nutrients like iron, zinc and fiber. But what fascinated me the most were the numerous references to the health and wellness benefits of pumpkin and its effect on;

Prostate Cancer – For example, compounds present within the pumpkin seeds (phytosterols) are believed to lower the risk of prostate cancer. They work by shrinking the prostate and stimulating the secretion of chemicals that protect against the transformation of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (known to cause enlargement of the prostate gland at high …

Orthopedic Massage: Helps Heal Injury

Have you ever considered the amount of money we spend each year treating pain from chronic conditions and injuries? Hint: it’s in the billions. It’s around $560-$635 billion annually according to a recent report by The Institute of Medicine.

My recommendation is proactive maintenance which includes nutrition, movement, stretching and the application of a variety of massage therapy techniques. Take orthopedic massage, for example.

A unique Approach
Orthopedic massage is not a “spa type” of massage. It’s a type of massage that more specifically deals with the problems of the musculoskeletal system.

While the goal of a spa type of massage is to reduce stress and tension in the body and mind through relaxation; orthopedic massage helps improve or heal a particular problem, usually an injury, and restore range of motion to the area.

What to Expect
When requesting an orthopedic massage, be sure to tell your therapist that your goal is to reduce pain, restore range of movement and support …

Lowering Blood Pressure with Whole Grain Oats

A recent study reports that in a nutritional comparison between whole-grain oat-based cereals and refined wheat-based cereals, hypertensive participants consuming whole-grain oat-based cereals were able to lower their blood pressure over the course of the 12 week study. A whopping 73% of that group did so well, they were able to cut out their anti-hypertensive medications all together, or at least reduce them by half.

Here’s How it Works:
The blood pressure benefits noted in this study are derived from the fiber and magnesium found in oats. Both have beneficial effects on blood pressure. What’s more, oats can slow and possibly reverse the progression of atherosclerosis; the plaque buildup that occurs in blood vessels.

Here’s How Much You Need:
You should aim for a typical serving (about three-fourths of a cup) of whole-grain oats daily. For example, eating whole-grain oatmeal topped with skim milk (or unsweetened soy milk) and banana will also give you the added blood-pressure-lower…

Massage: Relieve Pain and Restore Movement

One of the most common complaints a client presents to me is pain. Neck, shoulder, elbow, hip, lower back – you name it. What’s interesting is that most of my clients blame getting older as the reason for their aches and pains. However, the problem is not chronological; it repetitive use.

In pro sports it's commonly called a “repetitive stress injury,” but this syndrome isn’t limited to athletes.

Repetitive strain injuries (RSI’s), can affect anyone who lives long enough.  Did you understand that? What I mean is that you don’t get pain because you are getting older. In this case, you experience pain due to repetitive actions done over many years.

These actions can be anything from the way you walk, sit or lift, to the way you work, write or sleep. Sometimes RSI’s can be diagnosed as tendinitis, frozen shoulder, tennis or golfer’s elbow, plantar fasciitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome just to name a few examples.

So - Do you have an RSI?
You may have an RSI if you have chronic muscl…

Embrace the Traffic

Houston. It’s the fourth (or is it now third?) largest city in the nation. Goes without saying that traffic here can get pretty grizzly at times. Road rage has been responsible for more than just a few car accidents and deaths. But did you know that it can contribute to ‘silent killer’ heart diseases like high blood pressure, too?

Like most commuters, I used to boil while stuck in rush hour traffic. I used to rant and curse; give the “stink eye” to a couple of drivers I considered crazy. Never once thinking of the view they must have had staring back at me in my wild-eyed, crazed mess… Houston traffic simply drove me in sane.

Then, I had a kid. I know you’re probably thinking I drove more safely because I was concerned for my daughters’ welfare. Well yes, that’s partly true. What I was really concerned with was the example I was setting for her. Raging, throwing tantrums and my yelling at other drivers was not doing a single thing to improve the journey. Not one single thing! Instead…

Lowering Blood Pressure with Broccoli

My four year old daughter loves broccoli and I couldn’t be happier about that. Especially since broccoli is a well-known regular for healthy eating. You may already know the super-food reputation this cruciferous veggie has because of its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. But what you may not know is that, when it comes lowering blood pressure, broccoli is another winner.

Here’s How it Works:
Loaded with fiber, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin C, broccoli’s nutritional properties can help lower blood pressure. Just one cup of broccoli gives you more than 200 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. Research suggests that vitamin C helps reduce blood pressure by protecting nitric oxide, a molecule that relaxes blood vessels, thereby increasing blood flow. While theories vary, scientists agree: Antioxidant vitamin C helps normalize blood pressure.

Here’s How Much You Need:
Regular consumption of broccoli can provide you with a myriad healt…

Is Organic Milk the Better Option?

A study published by scientists at Stanford University has pushed the debate on whether or not organic foods are more nutritious than foods grown conventionally. In short, they say no. There is one exception though: organic milk.

A few years ago media focused on a growing concern on childhood puberty. On average, it appeared that girls were reaching puberty at a much earlier age while boys were reaching their stage of puberty at a slower than normal one.  This gave rise to growing concerns over bovine growth hormone.

BGH is commonly used to stimulate milk production on conventional dairy farms. Because the hormone occurs naturally in cows, and the Food and Drug Administration has argued that the additional BGH injected into cows does not change the milk. However, this is debatable.

To maintain milk’s “organic status,” organic dairy farms are required to allow their cows to spend a certain amount of time grazing on natural grasses. It is believed that this in combination with limited …

Relieving Pain in America

If you are over forty, this should interest you. Did you know that every year, about 100 million adult Americans experience chronic pain, and that this condition costs our nation somewhere between $560 billion and $635 billion annually? These figures come from a new report by the Institute of Medicine. Much of this pain is preventable or could be better managed, added the committee that wrote the report.

The IOM committee called for coordinated, national efforts of public and private organizations to create a cultural transformation in how the nation understands and approaches pain management and prevention. They believe that some of the recommended changes can be implemented by the end of 2012 while others should be in place by 2015 and maintained as ongoing efforts.

As always – Enjoy Your Life,

John Aaron Villarreal

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diag…

Younger With Each Day

It’s no big news. I turned 46 last week. My birthday was low-key and reflective, mostly spent with my family and friends telling jokes about the good old days and flipping through pics of a younger me on Facebook. It’s strange to look back at those times. Sort of feels like visiting the grave of a long-lost friend. Each of us re-living those memories, and realizing how invincible we thought ourselves to be.

Now older, we know how much we have changed over time and have learned to treasure those things which matter most to us like family, health, career, personal fulfillment and life purpose. What we may have originally thought to be important in our youth has now been replaced with the need for meaning, love in its genuine form, emotional strength and above all the physical stamina to do all those things which make our lives full and rich.

And, something else occurs to us… It’s something that most of us never even thought of in our “younger” days. We become keenly aware of our morta…

Natural Human Grown Hormone and Aging

I often wondered about the ads I’ve seen in magazines and billboards advertising the youthful benefits of Human Growth Hormone (HGH). I know that this particular hormone is produced by the pituitary gland to fuel childhood growth and help maintain tissues and organs throughout life. So, why is it so important that companies have unleashed a barrage of ads? Two words: Baby Boomers.

It seems that, around the age of forty, the pituitary gland begins a process of early retirement by slowly reducing the amount of growth hormone it produces. Although this is a perfectly natural transition, the volume of Baby Boomers that have reached this stage is a market to big for supplement and pharmaceutical companies to ignore. And this, has prompted an "on mass" interest in the use of synthetic human growth hormone (HGH) to stave off the realities of old age.

But before you rush out to the 'flavor of the day' clinic or demand synthetic HGH from your personal physician, consider tha…

How Light Bulbs Make Us Fat…

It’s true. It’s Edison’s fault. While technology has advanced our species it has also impacted eons of evolutionary progress. Few people understand the connection or how the process of invention can have a negative effect on our health, but I can’t help but sense their related connection.

For example, “circadian rhythm” is a term used to describe the internal clock regulating the activities all living creatures perform throughout a 24-hour day. While this internal clock may differ, some animals are nocturnal while others are active during the daylight hours, the circadian rhythm reigns supreme over everything within the body like temperature, appetite and energy level. It’s the reason why some people can regularly wake up at a specific time without the use of an alarm clock.

Before Edison’s miraculous invention came about, our human circadian rhythms were closely matched with the 24 hour cycle found in nature. We got up with the Sun and slept when it went down. By nature, and extens…

Science Proves: Stress Ages You

As if you didn’t already know, right? Well, now it seems that science has discovered a cellular link to the process of aging. They have discovered that the tips of chromosomes have a cap-like structure that resembles the plastic caps of shoelaces. Called Telomeres, these structures respond to stress, and if you are chronically stressed, they can cut your life span short.

Here’s why; in young cells, these telomeres appear to be very long. In the cells of old people, however, they are nothing more than mere nubs. It seems telomeres do play a part in the aging process because further research indicates that every time cells divide, the duplicate cells have shorter telomeres. This process is repeated until the telomeres become less than nubs, and cell division stops.

What’s worse is that chronic stress can speed up this process by shriveling the tips of the telomere bundles of genes inside cells, thereby shortening their life span and accelerating bodily deterioration. There is hope, th…

Lowering Blood Pressure with Fish

Along with obesity, it seems that high blood pressure is epidemic. What’s amazing to me is that you don’t have to be overweight to have HBP. For that reason, many people assume they are safe from this disease and unknowingly increase their risk of stroke and death. For the most part, HBP doesn’t really carry any significant symptoms, which is why it has earned its moniker, “The silent killer.”

So, what to do? Well, check your blood pressure regularly, especially if you are over the age of forty. Then, set an appointment to see doctor if you see a trend where your BP numbers are higher than 120/80. Your physician can help sort through the many medications that can help in maintaining your blood pressure. However, my preferred treatment is prevention thorough exercise and diet.

It doesn’t have to be complicated either. A daily walk and some minor adjustments like adding cleaner foods to your diet may be all you need. Take cold-water fish for example. Cold water fish are rich in omega-…

How to Start

Starting a new exercise routine can be tough. I know. I’ve been there, too. The biggest obstacle I faced was fear. I was never athletic as a kid. Always told I was too skinny or weak, I found myself believing that. Maybe you have a similar story. What I can tell you is this: you are more than you think (in every way). I got over those fears with a friends encouragement and a plan.

First, and this is important, if you haven’t already been told to exercise by your physician, it would be wise to make an appointment to get approval before you begin. You never know what you may have done to yourself in the years of neglecting your body…

When I first began exercising, I wasn’t aware of pacing myself. I was so out of shape that I literally got nauseous after only a few minutes of exercise. So it is from experience that I encourage you to begin your exercise program slowly and with thought.

There is truth to the cliché “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” My body had years to learn it’s sedentary …

“Not at all: They’re Family.”

We were feeling good! In fact, we were somewhat giddy. We had just returned from picking up our daughter from her week-long visit with Granny & Pawpaw in Northeast Texas. And at the same time, we were expecting the homecoming of a very dear friend that had been working in New York for the past three months. Alex asked if it wasn’t kinda silly to be so excited to have them back home. I said, “Not at all. They’re family.”

That phrase stuck in my head and got me to thinking.
I know – dangerous, right?

Well, the funny thing is that when I look back on our life together, I would have never pictured Alex and me to be where we are now. Oh, we’ve had our shares of ups and downs. There have been times, scary times, when it felt like the only thing holding us together was a worn out piece of string. Yet here we are, together still, nineteen years and counting.

How did we do it? Well, I could say it was purely devotion, discipline or true love. I could even say stupidity and I wouldn’t be …

Don’t Reach for that Heating Pad!

If you’ve ever had a muscle strain or achy back, you probably did what most of us do; reach for a heating pad. It feels good. It feels comforting. But, did you know that it may be the wrong thing to do?

Whenever the body experiences trauma or some type of injury, a complex set of reactions occurs called the Metabolic Response. The metabolic response is a complex interaction between many body systems in an effort to restore physical health.

In many cases the affected area experiences inflammation, stiffness, and swelling. Because the use of heat therapy is comforting to most of us, we tend to reach for it first. However, while it may relax the muscles (thereby easing pain a bit), heat therapy does nothing to address the swelling associated with your body’s metabolic response to trauma. As a result, inflammation increases once the heat is removed and in many cases the pain returns even worse than before.

This is why my first choice for treating pain if cold therapy (Cryo-Therapy). It i…

Lighten Your Load: Your Brains (plural) Coping with Stress

We thrive under pressure. In fact, evolution dictates that the survival of our species relied on facing life challenges, adapting, and then overcoming those obstacles. Thereby arriving  to where we are today. But, today things are different. No longer something physical like a Saber-toothed Lion we can run from, stress is invisible, ever present and just as deadly as it ever was.

Let’s step back for a moment. Did you know that evolution has given you three brains: the lizard brain, the dog brain, and the human brain (Reptilian Complex, Limbic System, and Neocortex)? Each one marks a progression of sorts.

The lizard brain is of basic instinct and need: purely selfish. However, about 100-million years ago mammals came into existence and with them came the Limbic System. A second brain the covers the first. Suddenly, emotions were introduced. Mammals were able to experience loyalty, jealousy, compassion, etc.

More recently, say 100-thousand years ago, the precursor to humans; primates…