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Posts Tagged ‘back pain relief’

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

My mother gave me the Miracle Ball Method for Christmas last year.  I have to say, they do work to release tension in specific muscle areas also known as Trigger Points. Chiropractors have told me to use tennis balls for self massage and you can use Miracle Balls the same way. Basically, you lay on the floor, place a Miracle Ball under your back in the area that is tight and then rock back and forth on the ball until it “massages” your muscles.

Tennis balls are harder and if you need a firmer “touch” you may want to use the tennis balls. But I found the larger size and “squishiness” of the Miracle Balls made them more comfortable to use and I could lay on them longer.  Andrew, one of my massage therapists at the Working Well Massage chair stations, uses golf balls to massage his back, but he is a lot tougher than I am!

The key to using tennis balls, or Miracle Balls, is to place them on areas of your muscles only–not on bone and definitely not directly on your spine.

Chrissie and Dan, Amazon reviewrs, Demonstrate Micracle Ball placement

If you are under a doctor’s care for muscle or spinal problems, consult your doctor before using tennis or miracle balls or any other exercise!

Seniors and those with excess body weight may have a hard time using these balls according to Amazon reviewers. And of course, there is no substitute for human touch and a real massage. But in a pinch, I find the Miracle Balls a nice quick self massage tool.

Read what Amazon Reviewers say about Miracle Balls

• When I first saw this set of 2 small, blue-green balls, I really wondered whether they were any good. Decided to take a chance, and I am sure glad I did. Propped myself over these 2 semi-inflated balls on the floor and it was sheer bliss as my own body weight sank upon them.

The set consists of 2 approximately 4 inch (11 cm) diameter therapy balls (re-inflatable) and a pocket-sized 296 page insruction book packed in a transparent casing. The balls are approx. a half-inch (1 cm) thick each, and are not as thin-skinned as might be imagined. The book says that the balls are built tough, and are good for up to 300 pounds, and I believe the claim is sustainable.

In my opinion, these 2 little balls are fantastic value for money for what they are capable of, and you would be surprised how nice it feels once you prop your tired body over them at the end of a long day. Although these are therapy balls, you may also want to use them as I frequently do – a simple and ‘fun’ way of giving your body a much needed self-massage, merely by placing them at strategic locations beneath your body and resting over them.

By the way, I am not one of Ms. Elaine Petrone’s student, since I am writing from half a world away. But, I am definitely her fan now after being convinced by these 2 little ‘Miracle’ balls! Go http://www.elainepetrone.com for more info.

My advice: considering their low price, get them while they are available, as these little balls are ‘hot’ – they were all sold out on Amazon.com until recently.

• I am a licensed Massage therapist in Hawaii. I stumbled upon Elaine’s book and started using it for my neck & back pain. I was pleasantly surprised at how deep my muscles and spine could be worked while I did two simple things Breath and Relax. Although breathing and relaxing is simple it becomes more difficult the longer the balls are in one position and works deeper into the muscles. At that point I choose either to move positions or focus on relaxing further and deeper breathing to let the ball(s) work deeper.

I’ve recommended the product to clients to use in-between massage treatment however discipline to use the balls is a stumbling block for many. I have found if a client uses the balls prior to a massage treatment, generally don’t have to work the muscles as deeply because they have already begun to relax. Deep tissue client get much better result than just a massage alone.

I’m buying more to give away and sell in my practice because when used correctly on it’s own can be a healing resouce for many patients who are disiplined to use this self treatment.

• Just a suggestion on this product: start out easing into it. Too much too fast will put you in pain, but with starting gently for a very short time you can find relief. It really has been helpful with sciatic pain using one or two balls in the lower back/sacariliac area. I’ve wanted something like these balls for a long time as I sensed that putting pressure on a spot by lying on a ball could help. They do work. Worth the price.

• If you have serious pain or injury, like sciatica, consult your doctor and see a chiropractor. However, if you have nagging back pain that you know is brought on by tight joints and muscles, stress, or exercise, I would definitely give the Miracle Balls a try.

Order Miracle Balls from Amazon for about $12.00  here.

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

I like to think of myself as not only a good massage therapist but also a good judge of massage therapists. I’ve had thousands of massages and given thousands of massages. As the owner of a wellness company, I interview many massage therapists and receive regular massage myself. Often, when clients travel or move out of town, they ask me how to find a good massage therapist.

It’s a question very similar to “how do I find a good dentist or a good doctor”. Since massage is a personal service, my first impulse is to say, ask your friends and coworkers who they go to and start there. But then, we’ve all had referrals to service people that our friends liked that were not a good fit for us. (One person may like a deep massage and you may like a lighter touch or vice versa. One person’s fantastic hair stylist may be great for that person but be unable to cut your style of hair well.)

Before you search out massage therapists, take a minute to think about what you want from a massage experience. Then when you call different therapists or massage centers, ask questions to make sure you get the massage therapist that best fits your needs.

Good questions to consider:

1. Are you going for stress relief or pain relief or both? Swedish massage or “relaxation massage” tends to be best for stress relief. Deep tissue or therapeutic massage tends to be best for pain relief. If you have a specific injury or chronic pain pattern, you will want a massage therapist with skill in relieving muscle pain, not just in relaxation therapy.

2. What’s your budget for massage?
Can you afford a weekly full hour (prices ranging from $65 to $120) or only mini-sessions (like the 15-20 minute $1 per minute chair massages offered at Whole Foods and similar places). If you have a chronic neck and shoulder pain, it’s often more cost effective to get weekly 20-minute massages than a one hour once a month.

3. Do you want someone you can go to regularly or just on a pamper yourself basis?
Spas tend to charge the most for massages and tend to be the place people go for pampering. However, some independent massage therapists may be able to offer you better prices and a really personalized pampering experience. Spas charge the most but they will give you the whole pamper yourself experience. However, if you want a regular massage your best bet is to find a good practitioner that is reasonably priced. If you can’t afford an hour regularly, try chair massage for 15-20 minutes if you want more frequent upper body massages.

4. How much do you care about the quality of the massage?
If you just want someone to pamper you and rub oil on your back while you relax and snooze away your stress, you don’t need someone with extensive experience or medical massage training. If you want someone to help you recover from an injury or deal with a chronic tension issue, you will likely want someone with a good deal of experience and skill working with similar conditions. Make sure you massage therapist meets minimal licensing and certifications standards if you want more than just relaxation massage!

5. Do you want the whole massage enchilada: the robe, slippers, the soothing music and spa environment? Or do you care more about the environment or more about the actual massage?

For the slippers and robe, go to a spa like Urban Oasis or Exhale in Chicago. For a great therapeutic massage, it’s more important to find a good practitioner. Use the locator services below and then speak with the therapist about his or her skill before you commit to the appointment.

Massage Locator Services
My top sources for great massage therapists are massage locator services (versus Google or any other search engine). Massage therapists that register with these services must meet minimum standards of training, normally 500 hours or more and have graduated from an accredited massage school.

One of the best is the Association of Bodywork and Massage Professionals massage practioner site here.

Massage Today also has a great service as well here.

Insider Pages is a review site that provides user comments about massage and spa services.

How Do I know if My Massage Therapist is Qualified?
In the State of Illinois, Licensed Massage Therapists are required by law to have at least 500 hours of training and graduate from an approved school. You can look up your therapists to see if he or she is licensed at this site. This site will also display a Y or N to indicate whether the massage therapist has ever undergone disciplinary action by the state of Illinois’s Department of Financial and Processional Regulation.

Other states vary in requirements. Some states do not require a license at all and allow municipalities to regulate massage. For example, in California, there is no state license. Hours of training required vary depending on the city. So some therapists in Northern California only have 100 hour of actual massage training! The Truth About California Massage Licensing here. However, at the other end of the spectrum is New York State, which requires 1000 hours of training. New York Licensing Requirements here

Still Unsure, Try a Sample Massage
Lastly, if you want to try a sample massage, your best bet is to try a chair massage at Whole Foods Gold Coast or Lincoln Park in Chicago. Or at a local health food store or mall. You can get a few minutes of massage, determine if the therapists fits your needs, then ask for his or her business card to set up a longer massage!

If you have questions about Chicago area massage therapists, feel free to contact Working Well Massage here!

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

Through the years I’ve had a number of massage therapy clients say things like, “I know it has to hurt to be effective,” and “no pain no gain, right?” Actually, massage does not, and should not ,“hurt” to be effective. In fact, if the massage you are receiving is so painful you have to grit your teeth or hold your breath, it likely isn’t going to be very effective.

The idea that we have to experience pain in order to heal is a holdover from the 1980’s when people were “going for the burn” and many bodywork modalities were just starting to take root. Some massage therapy schools of thought held that people were experiencing deep emotional breakthroughs if they cried out or had an emotional “release” during a particularly intense bodywork session. This led to the idea that you HAD to have a deep emotional outburst or had to feel pain to have a really “good” bodywork experience.

Since then, somatic psychology and bodywork has matured. As have bodywork practitioners. Many realize that, especially for people that have already had a physical trauma such as a car accident or injury, the body has already been through deep trauma. Working too deep, giving too much pressure, or expecting clients to have radical transformation from a single session can be retraumatizing.

Some massage therapists still hold to the belief that trigger points need intense compression to release the knot. Sometimes this is true. But holding a trigger point for too long, or pressing too deeply into a sore muscle area can cause more pain and damage than healing. (Trigger points are areas of the muscles that have a cluster of muscular adhesions or “knots” that refer pain elsewhere when compressed.)

Good Pain Versus Bad Pain
Does that mean that massage should be painless? Well herein lies the rub (pun intended). Massage is not painless any more than working out is painless. There can be muscle soreness. When we first press on a sore or extremely tight muscle area, there may be tenderness or soreness. We call this “good pain” similar to the soreness you may experience when you lift weights or do a prolonged cardio session. However, if you are working out and you “pull” a muscle or sprain your ankle, that would be “bad pain.” That type of pain indicates an injury to the tissue and requires medical attention. Muscle soreness during an exercise or massage session is not abnormal and can indicate that healing is occurring.

What About Soreness?
When a tight muscle is massaged, at first you may notice the sensation of soreness or tenderness. Initially you become more aware of that muscle area and that may include an awareness of just how very tight and sore the muscle is. Then as the massage therapist continues to work with the muscle tissue, fresh blood flows into the muscle area as the therapist presses down (as in compressions or gliding strokes). This fresh blood helps “loosen” the muscle tissue and also helps bring nutrients and oxygen into the muscle. At this point, especially in a deep tissue massage, you will likely notice less soreness in the area. If the muscle gets more and more sore, the massage therapist may be overworking the area and it’s best if you tell him or her to stop massaging that area and to move elsewhere!

That all said, after a deep tissue massage, you may feel some muscle soreness a day or two afterwards, just as you may feel sore after a workout. In essence, a deep tissue massage is like having someone else give your body a workout. Soreness or bruising lasting longer than a day or so may indicate the massage was too intense. Let your massage therapist know if this happens so he or she knows to work with less pressure for your next massage. (If you go back to him or her at all!)

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

Are you an avid video gamer or person that likes to read or work sitting upright on the couch or in bed? Or are you of wider than “average” girth? Keep in mind that average is not the norm these days. Recent statistics state that 62% of the American population is considered “obese.” A person is considered obese if his or her fat body weight is more that 30 percent of his or her total weight.

Funny thing is, office furniture is still made for the Hollywood ideal, the office workers of Mad Men days. If you don’t fit that body ideal, we are not going to lecture you about the need to lose fat. Being height/weight proportionate is the healthier goal. However, getting fit is not something you can do overnight. So what do you do to sit comfortably when you have a wide girth?

A good backrest for people with wider girth or those that want a bed rest for reading or working sitting upright in bed or on a couch is the Orbus Forme Wide-back Backrest. It’s also great for gamers that rest on a bed or couch playing video games. (Of course, if you get a Wii Fit you can game and get fit!)

Obus Forme Wide-back Backrest

On Amazon for $66.66

Orbus Forme Wide Backrest


According to the manufacturer:

• 3 inches wider and 1 inch taller than normal backrest
• Enhances overall posture and provides relief from pain from poor posture
• S-shaped frame
• Portable and lightweight

Amazon Reviewers Say:

• It is the PERFECT “pillow” with back support and the BEST I have found for sitting up to read or use a laptop in bed. It offers the kind of support that other sitting up in bed pillows don’t. I think I have tried every style of bed pillow ever made for reading in bed without being 100% satisfied with their performance and my comfort. So, I am delighted with this use for this backrest. This backrest nearly hits the 100% mark as a reading pillow.

• The one big problem with this backrest is that the curve of it sticks far from the chair making the space where your legs go is cut to half of what it originally was. My back feels better but now my legs hurt because they hang over the edge too far because of the curve of the backrest.

However, if your chair allow for the backrest and you are of wider than Mad Men ideal girth, this backrest may be the perfect fit for you! Until they start making wider, better cushioned office chairs.

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

Are you taller than average or have a long torso and find that standard office chairs don’t offer you enough back support?

Why settle for uncomfortable office chairs when you can easily upgrade your seating setup with a easy to use backrest!

For about $100-$150 you can put together your own “ergo” seating to accommodate your height requirements. We’ve reviewed many of the products out there and found the best prices and reviews on Amazon. You may be able to find the same or similar products elsewhere, but you will pay about 10-30% more from other vendors.

To save you time, we pasted the links and pictures of the products in a few separate posts about backrests and seat cushions. This post covers the need for back support for those that are either taller than average height or have long torsos.

We also included pertinent tips from the Amazon customer reviews so you don’t have to wade through them yourself. However, if you want to read all the reviews yourself, simply go to the Amazon product link below and check out the customer reviews.

If you are above average height, or if you simply want extra head and neck support for your chair, try the:

Obus Forme High-back Backrest

On Amazon for $79.95

Orbus Forme High-back Backrest

According to the manufacturer:
• Enhances overall posture and provides relief from pain from poor posture
• 8 inches taller for head and neck rest
• S-shaped frame
• Portable and lightweight
• Black

Amazon Reviewers Say:
• It has a lumbar support that is moveable and it is high enough to support my head comfortably.

• I have used this product before and this was to replace one, which I had worn out. I have 3 at the moment – 1 for my easy chair, 1 at my office at work and 1 in my car. At various times I have lent one of these to friends and the biggest problem is to get them to return them.

• This is not a magic cure for all back problems but it is magic if it helps your back problem and since it is high back it does seem to help many people.

• The height of the product works well with my long torso.

• The calzone-sized pillow attaches with Velcro. Depending on preference, it can be discarded or placed at the lumbar spine or head.

• The product is sturdy but not immortal. After a couple of years of steady use, the joints attaching the top third of the piece to the lower part are prone to break.

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