Balance Blog

Jul 31st

What Massage Can Do For Your Insomnia

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Insomnia occurs when a person is either unable to get to sleep or unable to remain asleep. People require at least 8 hours of good sleep per night for optimum health, and chronic insomnia can lead to long-term health problems, so seeking relief is important.

Some causes of insomnia are stress, depression, anxiety, certain medications, trauma, health problems, and even inadequate sunlight during the day. In addition to or instead of medication, people who suffer from insomnia can often find relief through alternative means. Deep breathing, meditation and yoga are just a few ways people with insomnia get their sleep. Many doctors recommend massage therapy as a first step in treating insomnia, before trying medication. Many sleep medications can cause psychological and physical dependence.

A massage from Balance Therapeutic or other licensed massage therapist can:

* Help your heart work easier
* Relax your respiratory passageways so that you can breathe better
* Provide an overall calming sensation
* Calm your mind
* Loosen your tense muscles, thus reducing the amount of pressure on your joints
* Increase your body’s production of serotonin, which is something that people who suffer from insomnia don’t produce enough of
* Relieve the stress that your mind and body are feeling

Massage for insomnia will activate the part of your autonomic nervous system that helps you to relax. It will also turn off your sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the stressful feeling you may sometimes experience. When this happens your sleep patterns can improve dramatically.

Doctor Linda Sykes, founder of Meditation For Health in Toronto, is one of many doctors recommending massage and other natural practices to complement and support conventional medical care:

If you or someone you care about suffers from insomnia, consider massage as a tool to help get some sleep.

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May 30th

Stress is a Pain in the Neck!

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There are many different reasons for neck pain. Some are medical, while some are caused by plain old stress.  Excessive noise, financial worries, and even what to fix for dinner can add to the stress of your day. For many, this stress lives in the neck, causing discomfort or outright pain due to tight muscles.  Daily stress can wear on your posture, including misalignment of the cervical vertebrae – your neck bones.  That’s what we call a pain in the neck.  

In today’s world of technological dependence, many new stressors add to stress-related neck pain. Poor posture while playing such games as X-Box or Playstation is one such factor. The hours many of us spend hunched over a computer at work or using a smartphone is also a culprit.  The ever increasing pace of society brings more stress every day, as a multitude of demands are made of us.  As a result, people often find themselves progressing more into “forward head” posture – bringing the head and shoulders forward, as if carrying a heavy load.  For each inch that the head is brought forward from its normal neutral position, more weight is added for the neck to handle.  “For every inch of Forward Head Posture, it can increase the weight of the head on the spine by an additional 10 pounds.” -Kapandji, Physiology of Joints, Vol. 3

We’ve all heard about how to resolve stress in our lives (daily meditation, yoga, deep breathing, gentle exercise and massage are often recommended), but what can we do about this neck pain? The first step is to find out what could be causing the pain.  It could be that changing something simple can help, such as how you carry a child, switching up how you hold a purse, or changing where you position your phone when texting.  If it’s an old injury, such as whiplash, massage can often help work out the built-up scar tissue and adhesions that cause chronic pain.  A massage therapist skilled in assessment will also take your history, look at your structure and posture, and make suggestions for home care as part of a plan to help alleviate the pain.  In some cases, such as a possible bulging or herniated disc, your massage therapist may suggest that a call to the doctor is in order.

Whatever the case, don’t give up on getting rid of that stress and pain in the neck.

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May 16th

Deep Pressure: Does Massage Have to be Painful to be Effective?

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One of the most popular forms of massage is deep tissue massage.  In my practice, I’ve encountered a large number of massage clients who have learned that in order for it to be effective; a deep tissue massage must be painful.  Fortunately, this is not the case!

Deep Massage is a modality developed by David Lauterstein, writer, massage therapist and owner of the Lauterstein-Conway Massage School in Austin, Texas.  David writes, “The idea is there are many ways to deeply affect a person—heavy pressure is just one way—not necessarily the best. The key is to find the best way to touch the person in order have a deep, positive, and long-lasting therapeutic benefit.” (

The most effective way to address pain due to old injuries, accidents, surgeries, etc, is for the muscles to be relaxed during the massage.  I’ve also encountered the belief that by using heavy pressure, a massage therapist can force tight muscles to relax.  In reality, relaxing the muscles is the job of the nervous system. Heavy, painful pressure can engage the client’s sympathetic nervous system – the body’s response to pain and danger.  Everything gets ready for fight or flight, including tensing of the muscles.  Imagine your fingers passing through sand to find a shell.  Now imagine trying to pass your hands through a brick wall.  Sand = relaxed nervous system; brick wall = fight or flight, too much pressure.   When a client is able to enter into a trusting, relaxed state, the muscles release.  The body allows the therapist entrance.   Heavy pressure on a brick wall is simply not therapeutic!

Deep pressure does have its place in massage. When the muscles are relaxed and good connection and communication is established between client and therapist, pressure can be added gradually.  The goal here is for the therapist and client to find the pressure that comes just up against your tolerance – maybe, in some cases, uncomfortable pressure, but not beyond what you can handle.   This is the key: does the pressure being used engage your fight or flight response?  Here’s another way to gauge it: is it painful enough for your fists to clench, for you to have to hold your breath to get through it, for the muscles being manipulated to tighten up reflexively?  If the answer is yes, the pressure is too deep. If you can breathe through the discomfort and maintain relaxed muscles, this is the best possible place for the deepest healing to happen for injuries and other chronic pain in soft tissues.

Here’s a final word from David Lauterstein on the benefit of the Deep Massage method:  “Deep tissue works from outside in and therefore may be more temporary in its effect. Deep Massage works from inside out, stimulating the nervous system’s ability to relax. Therefore it usually results in more thorough, longer-lasting relaxation as well as deeper pain relief, and postural benefit.”

To learn more about David Lauterstein and Deep Massage, click here .  You can also purchase David’s book, the Deep Massage Book, here.

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Apr 17th

Massage and Childhood Stress

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People of all ages are affected by stress.  Unlike adults, young children may not have developed coping skills to deal with their anxiety, and grownups can step in and help out.  Bringing your child to a massage therapist may not solve the stressful situation, but the soothing touch of massage can help even the youngest children to cope better with their feelings.

Children can be very sensitive to their surroundings, leading to anxiety when those surroundings change. Childhood stress can result from starting school, transferring to a new school, the death of pets and other loved ones.  Children are also very sensitive to tension in the home, despite parents’ best efforts to shield them.  Like adults, children can also be sensitive to pressure – from their parents, teachers, peers or society.  Usually these messages are subtle, and often inadvertent, such as pressure to perform better in school and sports, to fit in, to have a certain body image and appearance.  These subtle messages can weigh down young spirits and create anxiety.

The caring touch of childhood massage can help counteract these messages by allowing the child to become physically grounded in a positive message: I’m ok, just the way I am.  By providing a sense of calm and well-being to the child, anxiety can be lessened.

In some instances, such as when a child is not as comfortable with strangers as with family, caregivers may choose to learn childhood massage techniques and provide the massage themselves.  Louisville has massage practitioners who are able to provide that training.  Look for someone who has experience both providing hands-on pediatric massage, and training others in massage techniques.

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