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Posts Tagged ‘Massage Therapy’

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

For the past few years, I’ve been reading and learning more about evidence-based practices, research methods, and, sadly, the paucity of solid research backing up the medical benefits of massage therapy. While some members of the massage community are diligently working to improve the quality and quantity of massage research, there are many misconceptions about massage that have been taught to massage therapists in massage school and then passed on to massage clients. Some of these misconceptions have to do with the idea that “massage releases toxins” (technically, it does not and what people mean by “toxins”is unclear as well), that you must drink water after a massage (often as way to “flush” these said” toxins”). Some massage therapists and massage clients believe massage is a healing modality and that massage can release muscle “knots,”  While massage can reduce muscle tension, the conceptualization of knots in our muscles is misleading.  Many of these claims have either been seriously called into question, or explained to be misconceptions caused by massage school instructors trying to simplify physiological explanations.

More will be revealed about how massage therpy works

More will be revealed about how massage therapy works

That all said, I do believe that massage has some physical, mental and possibly, medical benefits. I do believe that most massage therapists genuinely want to help people feel better, want to use massage as  a healing tool and are doing their best to teach clients what they know about the benefits of massage. And I think that while it is important to understand the mechanism of how massage therapist works on our bodies and minds, for now until the research we need pours forth, I would like to propose a few simple explanations as to how massage can benefit us:

1. Most massage therapy, whether performed on a massage chair or massage table, puts the person being massaged into a really relaxing comfortable position. And in our culture, people rarely have a chance to relax or just sit. If we sit down to relax, we often think we are being lazy or unproductive. So giving ourselves permission to get a massage “for our health” or to “reduce stress” allows us to give ourselves permission to sit down and do relatively nothing for a period of time. It’s not magical. It’s not mystical. But relaxing is good for our health. By sitting down or laying down for a period of time, from 10 minutes to an hour or more, allows our nervous systems to move from sympathetic (fight or flight adrenaline pumping mode) to parasympathetic resting and digesting mode).

Just laying down on a massage table is relaxing

Just laying down on a massage table is relaxing

This may seem obvious to you, and you may think, “well what’s the big deal about that?” The big deal is this, in my experience few people in this culture will take the time to just sit down and do nothing or to lay down and relax, especially during a work day or when the kids needs help with homework or they want to spend time with friends. Relaxing is only socially acceptable if we do it in a structured environment like during a massage or while doing meditation. (Even though yoga was originally designed to calm the nervous system and relax the body, in the U.S., we even add words like “power” to yoga and add weight training to a yoga session! Which in my view, really defeats the purpose of doing yoga in the first place.)

2. Another aspect of our culture is that we are super “busy”…and often touch deprived. Our to do lists have to do lists. If we are not accomplishing, if we are not helping kids, parents or friends or making money (or being good consumers by spending money) we are not being “responsible, we are not being “productive” and we are not being “good” parents, children, neighbors, workers, bosses, employees, friends, community members. We are, in an unspoken way, not supposed to take time for ourselves (unless it is to work out, “power” style) because that is considered to be “selfish.” But getting a massage lets a person take care of him or herself without guilt. Instead of this being a selfish act, getting a massage is now seen an act of self caring. If we do not take care of ourselves, we cannot give to others because we will be too sick or too stressed out to be of much use! When you get a massage we allow ourselves to say, “hey this is my hour, or my ten minutes and I want the attention to be on me. I want to feel good, I want to be touched in a positive,  kind way, without the touch feeling sexual or violent or ticklish. And it is for my health so it’s okay in this instance for me to do something for my self.

Getting a massage gives you a little window of time for self care

Getting a massage gives you a little window of time for self care

Likely down the road, we will be able to use science to explain the psychology of massage through random clinical trails. Someday soon we will be able to point to research that shows more specifically how one person touching another via massage actually causes the recipient’s nervous system to shift into parasympathetic mode. But for now, I am content in my own explanations. I know my clients, and clients of other Working Well Massage therapists, benefit from our massages. I know people relax and enjoy getting massages. The science will come. Until then, we will keep providing relaxation, comfort and care to massage clients. And we will acknowledge and encourage their willingness to take care of themselves.

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

I came across an interesting and, in my view, important blog today called KevinMD.com. (Founded by Kevin Pho, MD, KevinMD.com is the web’s leading destination for physician insight on breaking medical news.)

Kevin-Pho-MD, Founder of KevinMD.com

Kevin-Pho-MD, Founder of KevinMD.com

The blog is written by medical doctors and covers topics about health care in general from a doctor’s point of view. Sadly, as I read some of the posts, I realize that doctors are as frustrated with our health care system as we are. Many of them want to help their patients but health care billing and payment cause them to make some hard choices in order to survive. In the post, Why I decided to opt out of Medicare as a provider by Dr. Natasha Deonarain, it is clear why continuing to see Medicare patients is not financially feasible for many physicians. I also believe that relying on insurance companies and Medicare separates people from their own health care decisions. Health care can be costly, but there are other options for routine checkups and basic medical needs.

In another blog post, by Dr. Doug Olson, Primary care doctors may no longer be needed, he explains how nurse practitioners (with nurse practitioners complete 2,300 – 5,350 hours of education and clinical training during five to seven years, compared to physicians’ standardized path of 21,700 hours over 11-12 years) and physician assistants can see 80-85% of the patients medical doctors see. Dr Olson believes that “we need to develop systems that get that select the 15-20% of patients that need a physician.” In his view this is  a better use of primary care physicians training and expertise is to treat the more complex medical cases while the nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants treat the remaining 80% of less complex cases. as patients relatively healthy folks can self select our health care providers by only going to primary care docs if they need complex services, and using Walgreens, Target and other urgent care centers for simple colds, flues and minor injuries and illnesses. And recently in Chicago, there is a service that offers doctors making house calls, Chicago Express Doctors.

Chicago Express Doctors

Chicago Express Doctors

Massage Therapy and The New World Of Health Care

So where does massage therapy fit into all this? First off, I acknowledge that at least in the State of Illinois, massage therapy is not really a recognized health care option. According to the scope of practice for Illinois Massage Therapists, we are to provide massage therapy for the purposes of general health and well-being, but not to treat nor diagnose illnesses. Yet one of the most reported benefits of massage therapy is stress reduction (which can be thought of as pertaining to “general health”). The health effects of stress on the body include numerous illnesses and can even lead to injuries. KevinsMD has an article on How the stress of caregiving can lead to stroke. The Mayo Clinic reports that many health problems can be effected by stress including stomach pains, headaches, chest pains, sleep problem and anxiety. According to WebMD, “Seventy-five percent to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.”

So what does massage therapy do for clients with stress-related ailments? According to one research study at Duke University, massage therapy was shown to reduce self reported stress in patients with brain tumors. Another pilot study showed that stress levels of inpatient psychiatric patients were reduced after massage therapy. And, according to the MayoClinic, massage therapy can not only reduce stress, but lead to other health benefits as well.

I do not think massage therapy is s substitute for medical care. And I do not think massage therapists should try to act as doctors nor prescribe nor diagnose illnesses. But I do believe that massage therapy sessions can be a source of relaxation, a time for our nervous systems to ramp down to parasympathetic mode versus ramping up to sympathetic (flight or flight) mode. Allowing ourselves to be cared for, relaxed and to spend time in an environment of reduced noise, stress and constant demands allows our bodies to better do what they do naturally: our hearts beat, our immune systems fight off infection and our lungs and muscles allow us to work, move and life. Allowing our bodies to stay healthy means less needs to visit the doctor so our medical providers can focus on us when we very sick, not for routine illnesses and injuries. For this reason, I think that massage therapists can offer stress relief BEFORE we get an illness, a stress-related injury or just plain get cranky from stress!

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

The world of massage research is in many ways, still in its infancy.  As such there is a lot of conflicting studies that can easily lead people to draw incorrect conclusions. mainstream press often takes the most sensational points from a study and broadcast those points to the world as if it were the Gospel. How do concerned citizens, loyal readers and fellow massage aficionados cope with the deluge of conflicting and confusing information about massage research?  one magazine that does a pretty good job of reporting on massage reasearch is Runner’s World.  In his article, Massage Q+A: Does it Work?, author Sam Murphy writes about a number of studies and explains how research results can be misleading when they don’t compare apples and oranges. or in this case, when research doe snot compare the effects of multiple massage session with the effects of a  single 8-minute session. Runners and research consumers,  take a few minutes to read Sam Murphy’s article. It may clear up questions you have about using massage to improve your athletic performance and or aid recovery from muscle injury.

 

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

I ran across a very funny post today “How to get a Bad Massage” linked by a fellow Massage Therapist on Facebook. It’s a sarcastic list of things you can do to guarantee you will have a horrible massage experience. Posted by “Mole” a part-time massage therapist, former artist, part-time not-for-profit worker, and  blogger. And he loves wind and rain and clouds.  Click here to read the entire post. Well worth the 5 minutes of your time.

Who is the Mole?

Dale Favier, a massage therapist in Portland Oregon.
Dale does a nice job explaining who he is on his About Me page here.

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

Massage for Pain and Stress Relief

Massage for Pain and Stress Relief

I’m really happy for Jennifer Love Hewitt. After being bashed in the tabloids for being a bit chubby, she has lost weight, got her body into great shape and graced the cover of People Magazine in a  swimsuit. She looks great and she worked hard to get back into shape! But now she uses her new curvy but fit body to star in a made for TV movie on Lifetime network that disparages massage therapists. Her film is called  “The Client List.”

In the movie, Love Hewitt plays a woman who turns to illicit activity to feed her family during the economic downturn. Love Hewitt’s character takes a job in a massage parlor that turns out to be… a front for prostitution. Despite claims that the movie is “based on a true story,” it is fiction.The movie, it turns out, is not a biography of the woman in Odessa, Texas that was arrested for prostitution which the movie is “loosely” based upon. The movie is a fictionalized account. (According to new reports, in real life, the woman arrested in Odessa did not have a current massage license, did not have a husband and used the money she made to pay for her cocaine habit, not for her family. )

Normally I wouldn’t protest Ms. Love Hewitt’s choice of movie role.  But right now, there seems to be a disturbing trend in the media, from The View to Lifetime to just about every media channel I turn to. The trend is to depict the entire profession of massage as prostitution.

Think about it, what if other professions were used by criminals to hide their real business dealings. What if prostitutes pretended to be interior designers or accountants and then professionals from these businesses had to prove that they were legit and not prostitutes. What if it became a trend for prostitution rings to set up shop as fake dentists offices? Would dentists then have to submit to fingerprinting and police background checks? Would Elizabeth Hasselbeck then joke on The View about being nervous when her husband goes into his office with a hot looking “interior decorator” to discuss “fabric swatches”?

Massage is Boring
The recent Zoning change in the city of Chicago shows just how damaging movies like The Client List can be for the massage therapy profession. Few Hollywood movies or TV shows depict the massage profession in a favorable nonsexual light.

It’s not that Hollywood has it in for us. It’s just that healthy is boring. Watching someone get a sports massage or deep tissue massage is about as entertaining as watching someone get a tooth filled. If Elizabeth Hasselbeck had stayed in the room with her husband while he was getting his massage, she would have likely fallen asleep due to boredom instead of sitting outside letting her  imagination run wild. (Previously this month, members of the View were disparaging the entire massage profession to make light of a complaint against Al Gore here.)

Watching people get muscle pain relieved is not a big ratings draw, it seems. It’s not life threatening as in an Emergency Room drama. And Massage Therapy lacks the excitement of a forensic lab. Or does it?

The Real Stories of Massage

Hollywood is really missing out on the real stories, the real drama behind legitimate massage therapy. Instead of waiting until someone dies and trying to find the cause of death like on many police drama, Licensed Massage Therapists try to find the source of your muscle pain while you are still living. It may not be as interesting to watch, but if you have ever had chronic low back pain or neck and shoulder pain, finding relief for that pain is pretty darn exciting!

Legitimate massage therapist also give clients a safe place to relax from the stress of every day life. In the massage room or even the massage chair, massage therapy clients get a little bit of time and space that’s all about them. It’s the one time they get to be the center of attention. Getting a massage is one place where you can talk about yourself, have someone attend to your aches and pains and literally get a break from stress and demands for your attention.

In some ways I do blame myself for Hollywood’s insistence on showing sensationalized sexual massage versus healthy but boring legitimate massage. I blame myself because, if I had followed a different dream and gotten my MFA in creative writing, I could have written a lot of great scripts about the world of massage!  But then my clients would still be in pain and I would not have had the benefit of helping many people over the past ten years to recover from muscle tension, pain and stress. Which is the real story about massage therapy!

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

Wondering why I haven’t posted much this week? I’ve been busy making changes to the Working Well Massage chair massage stations. We completely remodeled our massage booth in Whole Foods Market-Gold Coast at 30 W Huron. We replaced our paper screens with beautiful maple shuttered screens and new cabinets. Check out our new look below.

The New & Improved WWM Gold Coast Booth at 30 W Huron. Image by Sue Shekut.

WWM Chair Station at Whole Foods Gold Coast, 30 W Huron. Image by Sue Shekut.

And at night you can still see our new shiny massage station outside Whole Foods Market-Gold Coast.

WWM Gold Coast Booth from outside Whole Foods at Night. Image by Sue Shekut

Working Well Massage provides chair massage for corporate clients, special events and daily at our two Chicago chair massage stations. Chair massage at our WWM stations are convenient and affordable. You don’t need an appointment, you don’t need to disrobe and you decide how long you want the massage to last: 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15, 20 or 30. But if you really need focused work on your upper body, we can even give you a 45-min to 1 hour chair massage at our booths!

Working Well Gold Coast inside Whole Foods Market-Gold Coast

30 W Huron, Chicago, IL

Hours: Daily, 12 noon-8p.m.

Working Well Lincoln Park inside Whole Foods Market-Lincoln Park

1550 N. Kingsbury, Chicago, IL

Hours: Daily, 12 noon-8p.m.

Prices for chair massage at WWM booths

Quick Fix (5-Minute Massage) = $6
Short Stop (10-Minute Massage) = $12
Mellow Moment (15-Minute Massage) = $18
Complete Retreat I (20-Minute Massage) = $24
Complete Retreat II (30-Minute Massage) = $35

Additional increments of 5 minutes = $6

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

I recently had a fantastic massage from Mysti Cobb at our Working Well Massage station inside Whole Foods Lincoln Park. One of the reason I like getting massage from Mysti is that she knows her anatomy and kineseology. When I told her I was having pain in my wrist and my pecs were tight, she knew exactly where to work and how to position me on the massage chair to get maximum exposure of my pectoral muscles. (She sat me facing away from the chair as opposed to how you would normally sit, facing the chair.) I have had experience both receiving and giving massage for chronic tension and injury rehab, and Mysti has had similar experiences as both a patient and a massage therapist.

Mysti Cobb-smiling and providng pain relief at Working Well Massage. Image by Sue Shekut

A personal trainer and Pilates instructor as well as a massage therapists, I think Mysti brings more to the massage session than your average massage therapist. (Or course, we don’t have any average massage therapists in our booths!) Since Mysti is female and has a fantastic smile,  some people think Mysti is a lightweight massage therapist. Those people would be sadly incorrect! Mysti is STRONG and can give super deep tissue massages or she can back off the pressure and give a more gentle relaxation massage. For me, I go to Mysti for deep work though!

Mysti hard at work, concentrating on releasing muscle tension. Image by Sue Shekut

Mysti Cobb’s Bio

Tall and lean, it’s no surprise that Mysti’s passion for movement began in her ballet classes at age 4.  Her years of practice and love of dance led  to a full dance scholarship with the Joseph Holmes Dance Company in 1993. Unfortunately for Mystia, she later tore her ACL while studying at Millikin University and that put an end to a full-time dance career. After six months of physical therapy and rehabilitation, Mysti realized strength training was a new way for her to incorporate movement into her daily life and career.  In 2003, Mysti began studying at the Personal Training Institute in Chicago. In 2004, Mysti completed her personal training (NSCA) certification. Between her dance injury and experience as a personal train, Mysti decided to  add a therapeutic and healing dimension to her work by becoming a licensed massage therapist in 2005 through the Soma Institute of Clinical Massage Therapy.

While rehabbing, dancing and strength training,  Pilates had been an core element of Mysti’s personal fitness routine. In2009, Mysti became certified through the Body Arts and Science program as a comprehensively certified Pilates Instructor. For Mysti, the Pilates certification has added analytical and intuitive tools to help her clients gain strength, eliminate pain, and fine tune body alignment, finding focus in their sessions which carries over into their daily lives.

You can try out a massage session with Mysti at Whole Foods Lincoln Park every Tuesday from 4pm to 8pm. But come in soon because with skills like these, Mysti tends to book up fast!

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