By Sue Shekut, MA, Clinical Professional Psychology, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Today a dear friend, who has a very generous spirit herself, shared a great resource,  The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose.” This  book that explores the science behind the relationship between giving and well-being. The book is timely in this holiday season with emphasis on giving and gifting.

The Paradox of Generosity Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose

The Amazon page describes the book as focusing not only on material giving to others, but on the many forms that giving can take. Authors Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson explore and illuminate the impact that giving has on people.  This book explains the The Paradox of Generosity study and uses data from an extensive survey of 2,000 Americans, over sixty in-depth interviews with people across twelve states, and analyzes  over 1,000 photographs and other visual materials. This study shows a consistent correlation between demonstrating generosity and leading a better life. According to the study, the more generous people are happier, suffer fewer illnesses and injuries, live with a greater sense of purpose, and experience less depression than less giving individuals.

I appreciate that the study did not measure giving solely through monetary means. Anyone can benefit from generosity, even if a person has little material wealth. Giving one’s time and energy, sharing a kind thought or simply giving undivided attention to another versus being preoccupied with one’s self, can be a form of generosity.

Working Well Massage has many corporate clients who make generous donations to charities, schools and communities. We value our client’s privacy and so we do not divulge their names nor their giving records, but we are proud to ally with our corporate partners and we celebrate their generous spirits! We at Working Well Massage also give to organizations and individuals who are near and dear to our hearts such as Climate Cycle, massage research related organizations and to our clients, business partners and staff!  Giving helps us stay healthy as people and as an organization. (Being balanced, selective, and private about our giving allows us to remain in business so we can keep on giving.)

Read an in-depth article about the book by the study authors, Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson, in Fast Company here.

Read a really intriguing article from PBS NEWSHOUR about the alleged stinginess of Americans and the reasons why so many of us having difficulty giving.  In the PBS article, Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson state that: “When it comes to generosity with money, time, skills and relationships, we know that relaxing, letting go, and giving away is not often automatic or easy. This is especially true in American culture, which from all sides constantly pounds home messages of scarcity, discontent, insecurity and acquisition. These messages may serve to grow the consumer economy, but they are often not good for the consumers.”


By Sue Shekut, MA, Clinical Professional Psychology, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Mercy Home Mentoring

Walking, dancing and playing all all great forms of exercise. Photo from Mercy Home Training.

In the article, “Exercise reorganizes the brain to be more resilient to stress,” we learn that Princeton researchers found that exercise “reorganized the brain” to make  anxiety less likely to interfere with normal brain activity and to reduce the stress response.  How did they find this out? They tested the effects of exercise and stress on mice. Mice who had regular exercise experienced less anxiety when exposed to stress (cold water) than mice who were sedentary.

What does this mean for us humans? First off, I know mice are not human, but they are mammals like us, and researchers often use mice to investigate potential impacts of  different experiences on humans. Secondly, anxiety is a huge problem in our modern world. If exercise can help us better handle stress (and, hint, hint, Winter has a lot of cold weather, which can add to our stress levels!) and help us be less anxious when exposed to stress, it is yet another reason to make regular exercise part of your daily life.

Keep in mind that exercise does not have to mean going to the gym and lifting weights for 3 hours. (Although that is fine too if that’s what floats your boat and you have time and energy to do so!) Expecting yourself to do more than you can do can create anxiety, so don’t set yourself up for failure by expecting yourself to become a gym rat to be healthy. Exercise can be going for a walk, doing yoga or lifting dumbbells in front of your television. The point is to sit less and move more to improve your ability to manage stress in your life!

Now, I’m going to get off my computer and get some exercise!

By Sue Shekut, MA, Clinical Professional Psychology, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

In Cranial Therapy Discredited, one of my favorite science-based authors, Nick Ng, writes about the likely mechanism for client improvement in cranial sacral therapy… it really is likely all in your head! Nick explains that proponents of cranial sacral therapy claim that bones in our heads need to be moved to keep us healthy. Yet science has yet to show this to be true. First off, adult skull bones are fused and do not move. At all. Unless they move in unison with your head (when nodding and shaking your head, your whole skull moves).  Secondly, the idea of people moving cerebral spinal fluid via small hand movements defies what we know of science.

That all said, for some, laying on a massage table for an hour, having a kind person gently hold and rock the body can be relaxing all by itself. And in our hectic modern lives, being gently held and therapeutically touched for a period of time, away from cell phones, family obligations, work stress and traffic, is something people pay money for.

Read Nick Ng’s entire article here. Nick is a fitness trainer, bodyworker, and science writer.

Nick Ng, photo by Writerscsasozi

Nick Ng, photo by Writerscsasozi

By Sue Shekut, MA, Clinical Professional Psychology, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Undergoing cancer treatment is stressful. Trying to take care of your housecleaning adds to that stress.  Cleaning For a Reason offers free house cleaning services to women, 19 years or older, undergoing treatment for cancer (any type of cancer) in the United States and Canada.

Incorporated in Texas in 2006 as a not-for-profit foundation, Cleaning for a Reason has provided more than 17,000 cleanings nationally for  women, with a value of more than $4,500,000 with the help of over 1,100 participating maid services who volunteer their time to clean.



How Does The Service Work?

Cleaning for a Reason partners with professional residential maid services (who are insured or insured or bonded and perform background checks on their employees) to participate in our foundation. The partner companies take 2 patients at a time and offer each patient 4 free cleanings, one a month for 4 consecutive months as a way to give back to their community. Patient applications are accepted online. Once Cleaning for a Reason staff receive a patient’s physician’s verification of treatment, they match the patients with a maid service partner. Patients can schedule cleaning services through the partner maid service while they are undergoing treatment or at a time that is convenient for them. FAQ page here.


How Do Patients Sign Up For the Services?

Patients Can Sign Up Here by filling out a short online application.    Do not contact the cleaning service directly.


How Can I Help?

Cleaning For a Reason cleaning services are not done by volunteers. However, the foundation does need donations and volunteers in other capacities for fundraising and office work in local partner offices.   Donations are always needed and appreciated as well as being tax-deductible. Click here to donate to Cleaning For a Reason. If you are able to Donate $1000 or more, become a sponsor by clicking here.


How Did Cleaning For a Reason Get Started?

From their website: Cleaning for a Reason was the brainchild of President and Founder, Debbie Sardone, owner of Buckets & Bows Maid Service, Lewisville, TX.


Debbie Sardone, President/Founder of Cleaning For a Reason

Debbie took a phone call from a prospective client several years ago. After providing the woman a price quote, the prospect paused before saying, “I won’t be able to afford that now; I’m undergoing cancer treatment” and hung up. Debbie hadn’t gotten the woman’s phone number and was unable to call back to make arrangements. In that instant, Debbie decided that no woman undergoing cancer treatment would ever be turned down by her business. In fact, they would be given free housecleaning service.

Calling her staff, Debbie announced the new policy, which the company has used over and over, through the years. In 2005, Debbie shared her story with other maid services at a national cleaning industry convention. She shared her conviction that it was these women, undergoing the physical, emotional; and financial rigors of cancer treatment, who needed professional housecleaning services the most. An onslaught of cleaning business owners began expressing their interest and support. When she returned to Texas, Debbie registered Cleaning For A Reason as a 501(c) 3 non-profit corporation. With word of this at the next convention, maid services began signing up to donate their services on the spot.


Why Not Offer Cleaning Services to Men or People With Other Illnesses

While Debbie and the foundation would like to help everyone, they realized they do not have the resources to offer their services to a wide range of people with a variety of illnesses. The team at Cleaning for a Reason wants to remain focused on their primary mission. However, others are free to start free cleaning or helping services with their own foundation. Debbie and Cleaning For a Reason is a great role model for how to go about creating such a service!

By Sue Shekut, MA, Clinical Professional Psychology, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Recently I came across an article from one of my favorite blogs, Sciencebasedmedicine.org.  The post, The Role of Anecdotes in Science Based Medicine” struck a chord with me. In the world of massage therapy and complimentary or alternative medicine, anecdotes are the main source of “proof.” For example, I hear people say, “My friend went to this lady who did Reiki on her and she recovered from her fibromyalgia…after a while. It must be the Reiki!” Or, “I’ve been drinking this (coconut water, gogi juice, kombuchu) and now my (skin, bowels, emotional state) is much improved. It must be the coconut water. I am buying a case.” Or, of course, “Dr. Oz says…”

I’ve learned to be skeptical of websites touting the latest cure/fad/craze of some new miracle drug/herb, supplement/technique that cures all ills based on anecdotal evidence. When actual medical scientific research is conducted (not a You Tube video of a guy in a lab dressed up in a white lab coat waving at some machines), there tends to be no evidence, weak evidence, or no effect beyond placebo, to show that the claims have any validity. To put it in old-fashioned terms, it’s usually snake oil. But some people believe the snake oil claims more than they believe medical science. Why is that?

People that do not understand science do not trust it, understandably. Some point to an article of a scientist selling out his research to Big Pharm to justify their general mistrust of science and research.  However, this ignores the many scientists who don’t sell out. Or people firmly believe their own experiences and do not question the sequence of events that led to a miracle cure. Yet our experiences may be colored by our perceptions and may not be as objective as we think!

For example, let’s say I fall and hit my knee, which proceeds to swell up. I take a few ibuprophin pills and put an ice pack on my knee.

About 20 minutes later a shaman friend stops by and I ask him to help me. He waves his hands over my knee and chants something mystical sounding. Soon I look at my knee and wow, the swelling is going down!  So, was it the ibuprofen (which takes about 20-30 minutes  to take effect), the ice pack (which also takes time to take effect), or the shamans hand-waving chant-making that reduced the swelling? In such a situations, it is hard to tell. But in retelling the story, if all I recall is the shaman because that was the most unusual and memorable portion of the experience, then it may seem as the shaman did the healing. And, if the shaman was kind to me and I felt cared for, that also may lend me to want to believe it was his actions.

Many anecdotes (stories of someone’s experience) of non-science based healing may leave out the important elements of what helped someone heal. The person retelling the story may not recall the boring normal medical aids they used to overcome an illness or injury. Instead they recall the fantastical interventions because they make a better story and can serve to “prove” to themselves, if not others, that magical cures do work. The only people talking about the miracles of ibuprofen are on television commercials theses days.  People in 2014 are so familiar with over-the-counter drugs like Ibuprofen, that it no longer amazes us that a small pill can reduce physical pain! If you think about it, to a Highlander in 1744, ibuprofen would have been magic or witchcraft. But in 2014, we have research studies showing that ibuprofen works well on most pain for most people and we have science that explains how it works biochemically. Science explains that which was once magical, and also allows us to distinguish between that which is real and that which is folklore.

An attitude of skepticism is a sign of a good scientist and a careful consumer. Let research inform our choices of  health care services, not good marketing, celebrity endorsements or anecdotes alone.

By Sue Shekut, MA, Clinical Professional Psychology, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

For the record, sports massage should not be painful. Let me say it again. Sports massage should not be painful. Especially not excruciatingly so!

Sports Massage of lower legs muscles post race

Sports Massage of lower legs muscles post-race. 

Journalists tend to write about massage as though it were an endurance sport, rather than a therapeutic tool. Which is unfortunate, because while articles like “The Sheer Hell of a Sports Massage,”   are humorous, they also provide a great deal of misinformation and may cause people to fear massage. The article author,  Andrew Griffiths, writes that he found sports massage to be a hellish pain to be endured. He also provides a fair amount of inaccurate information about sports massage removing “toxins,” and “realigning the muscle tissue and connective tissue  fibres” and describes being misdiagnosed (inaccurately, yet unknowingly) by his sports massage therapist as having plantar fascilitis.  Sadly, this author’s understanding of sports massage was not enhanced by his experience with Vaska, his “sports” massage therapist.

Hopefully, however, the author, Mr. Griffiths, and readers, will pay more attention to the comment on the article made by a fellow science-based massage therapist, Jason Erickson.

Mr Erickson, massage therapist, personal trainer, former competitive athlete, therapist educator, and sports therapist for elite athletes clearly, concisely refutes most of Mr. Griffith’s points and explains that sports massage should not be painful.

As Mr. Erickson’s comment is so articulately written, yet it is buried under ads and other links to articles on The Telegraph, I am reposting the main points of his comment with credits to Jason Erickson. In his comment, Mr Erickson notes:

When working with athletes (and those aspiring to become athletes), a competent sports therapist focuses on restoring/improving function as quickly as possible with minimal risk of causing tissue damage, nor of reinforcing neurological protective responses to innocuous sensory input. As a protective output of the brain in response to perceived threat, pain is something that competent sports therapists should seek to avoid triggering in their clients. There are many, many ways to achieve positive results without pain being a component of the treatment experience, and in my experience pain usually indicates that I need to adjust what I am doing to minimize/prevent it.

In this article, Mr. Griffiths also stated, “Sports massage works deep in the muscles, realigning the muscle fibres and connective tissue, and flushing away the toxins. Regular sessions will increase joint mobility and flexibility, and reduce the risk of injury during exercise.”

Not one part of this statement is correct. Thirty years ago, these are things that were believed, but science has advanced considerably since then. I don’t know where the author encountered these claims, but I question the veracity of his source(s).

It would have been more accurate to restate that paragraph thus: “Sports massage works with all of the body’s tissues, from superficial to deep, often via neurophysiological mechanisms. Functional changes in the recruitment of muscular, vascular, and other systems may accompany reduced pain and improved performance. The nature and timing of sports massage sessions may vary considerably depending on the athlete’s training/competition schedule, and a good sports massage therapist will be prepared to educate the athlete accordingly.”

If you take the time to read the article, hopefully for the laugh factor, then scroll down to Mr Erickson’s comment and read a more realistic, (albeit less humorous) explanation of sports massage. If you are an athlete, or have any muscle related pains, you will be glad you educated yourself about sports massage so that you can find a sports massage therapists like Jason Erickson, not like Vaska, to save you from painful, potentially damaging,  sports massage!

And how do you find a knowledgeable, science-based massage therapist like Jason Erickson, versus a novice with a poor understanding of human anatomy, massage therapy and the nervous system like Vaska?

First off, when you call a massage therapist to book an appointment, ask him or her questions about training, their experience with athletes and how they view pain in massage. If the massage therapist tells you something like, “no pain no gain,” hang up the phone (after saying goodbye politely) and call another massage therapist!

If the massage therapist tells you that he or she will work to help relax your nervous system while they work and aim to reduce your pain, not increase it, then you have a good chance of receiving an excellent sports massage!

Readers, what is your experience with sports massage?


Jason Erickson

Jason Erickson, NCTMB, CPT, CES, BBA, BA, AA

More About Jason Erickson

… from his company website, Keep in Touch Massage Eagan, MN
Jason Erickson, NCTMB, CPT, CES, BBA, BA, AA

Originally from Rochester, Jason studied Pre-Law, Marketing and Economics for his undergraduate degrees by day while practicing martial arts and vocal performance by night. He pursued a corporate career until he discovered the benefits of therapeutic massage and corrective exercise while rehabilitating from some injuries. Inspired, Jason became a certified personal trainer (CPT), then entered massage school and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Northwestern Health Sciences University.

Jason loves continuing education and may be found teaching classes when he isn’t attending one! He holds National Certification in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCTMB), certification in Bodywork for the Childbearing Years® (pregnancy massage), Myofascial/Fascial Release, American Council on Exercise Personal Training (ACE-CPT), and is a certified Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES) with the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). He has also studied orthopedic massage, sports massage, positional release technique, dermoneuromodulation, structural integration, assessment and treatment of headaches and neck problems, foot/ankle/knee injuries, massage for cancer patients, etcetera. Jason is also an advanced practitioner of Active Isolated Stretching, a powerful method of increasing pain-free range-of-motion, strength, balance, and neuromuscular integration and function.


Related articles

Massage Myths That Need to Be Trashed by Nick Ng.

Toxins, Schmoxins by Paul Ingraham

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Many years ago, I started practicing yoga. Back then, doing yoga at work was seen as “odd” or unusual. Now yoga is so mainstream that apparently working at Huffington Post allows young office workers to balance work and yoga by performing asanas at work. Click this link for a true yoga at work photo series entitled,  “These Photos Prove You Really Can Do Yoga Anywhere.” Check it out!

I am a big believer that seeing is more effective than telling when it comes to body movement. HuffPo, seems to agree. Watch the video, “5 Yoga Poses To Get You Through Your Midday Slump At Work,” to learn how to do some yoga poses at work. The HuffPo Desk Yogi demonstrates Seated Cat Cow, Seated Twist in your chair (Which requires no chair arms or this won’t go well), Mountain Pose (Side stretch), a forward bend with flat back at your desk (L pose), and a standing forward fold (Forward bend). Personally I could do with out the shots of the desk and twigs and flowers in this video, but it is  a quick look at easy poses most anyone can do to improve flexibility and release tension.


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