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.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

What to Do If You’ve Got High Cholesterol

As I've gotten older I've realized that takes more than an apple a day to keep the doctor off your back.

If you've got high blood pressure or cholesterol levels, the good doc is going to pester you about it—apple or not (and he should!). But don’t blame him - he’s trying to save your life.

According to the American Heart Association, 105.2 million adults have borderline to high risk blood cholesterol levels. In addition, nearly one in three adults suffers from high blood pressure and these numbers grow every year.

Even more frightening; 82% of those at high risk are unaware of their condition. Could you be one of them?

Whether you've had your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked lately or not, these conditions are deadly and sneaky—many people are unaware of the danger lurking in their own arteries. In fact, many firmly believe that what you don’t know can’t hurt you… They’re dead wrong.

What’s so bad about high blood pressure and cholesterol levels? In a nutshell, these conditions raise your chances for having a stroke, kidney failure, heart disease or heart attack.

Here’s the lowdown:

Blood Pressure is recorded in two numbers. The first describes your systolic blood pressure. This is the pressure when your heart is squeezing blood out. The second is your diastolic blood pressure. This is the pressure between heartbeats, when your heart is filling with blood.

The ideal blood pressure to have is 120/80 or lower. Blood pressure that falls between 120/80 and 140/90 is considered to be prehypertension—meaning that your blood pressure is higher than normal. If your blood pressure is 140/90 or higher then you officially have high blood pressure.

Cholesterol is also recorded in two numbers—high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL). The distinction between HDL and LDL is actually quite important—LDL delivers cholesterol to your body while HDL removes cholesterol from your bloodstream. In other words, HDL cholesterol is good and LDL cholesterol is bad.

When there is extra cholesterol in your bloodstream it lines your arteries, causing them to narrow. These deposits can eventually block an artery that flows to your heart—resulting in a heart attack, or they can block an artery that flows to your brain—resulting in a stroke.

The ideal cholesterol level to have is a number less than 200. Between 200 and 239 you are considered to have borderline high cholesterol, and 240 or higher puts you in a danger zone.

Exercise is the answer:

Exercise really will help lower your high blood pressure and improve my cholesterol levels—and here’s how:

Weak Heart Muscles pump little blood with lots of effort. By exercising you strengthen your heart muscles and train them to pump more blood with less effort. The stronger your heart is the less pressure will be exerted on your arteries.

For some people, exercise increases HDL levels—this equates to a decrease in risk for heart disease. Other heart disease risk factors such as weight, diabetes and high blood pressure all show improvement with regular exercise.

Think Medication is all you need? Well…

Let’s be totally honest for a moment. Sure, you may be taking medication, but the truth of the matter is that you need to fix the disease rather than simply trying to only treat its symptoms.

If exercise isn't currently part of your lifestyle you will be amazed at how it will improve your health once you start. I’m sure your doctor could share a myriad of success stories involving people just like you who dramatically improved their blood pressure and cholesterol through exercise and proper nutrition.

Good health. Isn't that the most valuable thing we have aside from life itself?

If you are struggling to maintain good health, let me just say that exercise is your answer.

The benefits of a consistent and challenging exercise program are numerous—did you know that exercise will even improve your sleep?

I am in a unique position to assist you in securing the good health that we all hold so dear. Call me today to schedule your fitness assessment and let's get you started on an exercise program that will change your life - for the better!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

When Should I Get a Massage and How Often?

This is a question I get often…

Let’s face it, if it were up to massage therapists we’d say that you should get a massage every day, but in reality – very few people ever have the means or time to make this scenario play out in their lives. So technically speaking, your frequency should depend on how much you like massage, how often you experience chronic pain, and your budget.

If you’re able to afford it, getting a monthly or weekly massage works best at helping prevent injuries by catching tight areas before they become problematic. With my more athletic clients (runners, weightlifters, gymnasts), I usually recommend timing their massage to coincide with the times they are training their hardest. For example, runners can develop tight hamstrings and hips, gymnasts and weight-lifters can get tight shoulders. These tight muscle groups can elicit injuries over time if they aren't treated by massage.

If you are physically active, I recommend getting a massage within 24 hours after a hard workout. Doing so will enhance the body’s reparative abilities thereby providing you with the added bonus of a speedy recovery from your workout while keeping potential pain and injury at bay.

For runners wanting to perform at prime levels, it’s best to schedule your massage at least 3-5 days before your next big race – especially if it’s been a while since your last massage. In fact, if you haven’t been consistent with self-care massage, it would be best to schedule your professional massage therapy session a bit further out. I say this because deep tissue massage also puts your muscles through a workout that can take additional time for your body to recover from. And the last thing I’m sure you would want is to be “sore” from a deep tissue massage on ‘race day.’

So, in keeping with these guidelines, here are a few more recommendations:

Drink water - lots of water - particularly after your massage. Active muscles (even muscles in pain) produce metabolic waste. Increasing your intake of H2O will facilitate your body’s ability to process these toxins and waste products (flushed from the muscles) out of the body.

Massage does not have to hurt to be effective. While working on a tight, troubled area will certainly cause some discomfort, it shouldn't leave bruising or cause you to jump off the table. If you do find yourself consistently bruised after massage sessions, you may be going to the wrong therapist! Or, you may not be communicating enough with your therapist regarding the pressure and your sense of pain. Take steps to correct this immediately.

Most people (and some massage therapists, too) often confuse ‘deep tissue’ massage with deep ‘pressure’ (like when you say “go harder”). Deep tissue massage targets both the superficial and deep layers of muscles and fascia and although it can often be quite intense due to the deliberate, focused work, it needn't always elicit pain.

When I perform deep tissue work, I typically focus in on a few specific problem areas and work the entire muscle. Because physically active people often have quite a few tight spots and interconnected issues, deep tissue massage is often the modality I use the most. That said, deep tissue work is not an “every day” sort of therapy.

With the exception of athletic training and performance, the best policy for most of the general public is a regular schedule of maintenance massage which typically means a full-body massage about every 3 to 6 weeks.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

5 Awesomely Easy Ways to Recover From The Holidays

Alright! The holidays are officially over… and Public schools officially resumed classes today. Yeah!!! (For those of you with kids, you know what I’m talking about…)

Anyway, two weeks of vacation – holidays, family, food-food-food, flus and lots of late nights all came to an end this past weekend. Whew! Now I’ll bet I’m not the only one left to deal with the aftermath of all that less-than-healthy eating… Is your body puffy and bloated? Your joints are achy? Your clothes feel tight?

Me, too… ;-)

So to help us both through this “recovery” plan, I've outlined the 5 awesomely easy steps you’ll need to quickly and seamlessly get back on the fitness fast track.

Step One: Get Focused.

The holidays happened. You ate things from your “never eat these” list, you drank more that you should have, but now the party is over.

Draw a line in the sand. The bad eating stops now. Today.

Don’t beat yourself up for falling off the fitness wagon particularly if it was shared in the company of good friends and loved ones. Instead, simply get back up, dust yourself off and get re-focused. Leave the past, and your slip-ups, in the past.

Step Two: Get Hydrated.

Poor nutrition can take on many forms, and the end result is most often dehydration and water retention. However, there is a simple way to restore balance: get hydrated.

Your first priority in getting back on track is to drink plenty of water throughout your day. Start with a tall glass of water in the morning, and carry a water bottle with you so that you’ll have no excuse not to sip throughout the day.

Instead of adding artificial sweeteners or stimulants to add interest to your water – try adding flavor by placing slice fresh fruit, herbs or vegetables in your water, just like at the spa. Have you ever tried a little bit of lavender & a slice of lemon I your water? Delicious.

Step Three: Get Picky.

Don’t resort to holiday leftovers or sweet treats. You’ve had enough of those! Instead, be extra picky about what you eat. Try sticking with only whole, real foods like fruits, green leafy vegetables and some lean meat. Whole, real foods will quickly help to restore balance.

Although work schedules are returning to their normal rhythm, avoid fast food or typical convenience foods for lunch. In fact, don’t eat packaged foods for the next few days. This means saying no to the snack machine, processed meat slices, dairy, baked goods and alcohol.

Step Four: Get Juicing.

If you can’t seem to “eat” enough fruits and vegetables, juicing may be a perfect fit for you. Making your own juice can be beneficial to your health, but especially good for you when recovering from several weeks of bad eating. The key is to use ingredients that will hydrate and nourish your body and to avoid ingredients that are high in sugar.

These ingredients are fantastic for your recovery juice: fresh ginger, spinach, cucumber, kale, green apple, lemon, and celery.

These ingredients should be used sparingly, due to high sugar content: carrots, oranges, red apples, melons or pineapple.

Step Five: Get Moving.

Now… it’s now time to sweat it out.

Lace up your athletic shoes and put on your favorite gym clothes. When you start your workout, ease in slowly. Take the time to warm up and stretch your muscles before powering up to a solid 30-minute exercise routine.

I have just the exercise plan for you – one that will not only help you recover from your holiday indulgences, but will help keep you motivated and going strong in the future.

If you haven’t participated in any of my Locomo Weight-loss programs yet, now is the perfect time to start. Together we will get you focused on your goals with my results-driven method.

Simply log-in on-line here to set up your first workout.