Body Mechanics, FAQ, Massage, Shiatsu

Don’t your hands get tired?

That is probably the question I am asked most above all others.  Do my hands hurt? 

Rarely, but when they do it usually is not related to Massage.  A skilled body worker does not rely solely on one’s fingers to do the work.  In a session I will use my palms, knuckles, fists, elbows, and on special occasions-feet. 


A good Massage or Shiatsu session will also include stretches and body mobilization techniques; which are great for the client and the therapist.  They add variety as well as they are very effective.

Now that I am teaching Swedish Massage, I drill the students constantly on proper body mechanics.  Our work doesn’t come from the hands, but rather the core.  If you watch a Massage therapist work you will notice a lot of lunging.  It is from that movement that the pressure comes.

Over the last 17 years when I have had hand injuries, the culprit has often been a vigorous day in the garden or too much typing.  Rest assured your massage is not causing my hands pain.


Massage, Musings, Shiatsu, Wellness

Massage and Anxiety


On a regular basis clients experiencing some sort of anxiety come into my office.   Anxiety shows up differently from person to person; for example, one client may have a general sense of stress and worry while another might already be under the care of a doctor or psychologist for a diagnosed condition. Some people feel it in a general sense of agitation while others might have headaches. Body work helps ameliorate the signs and symptoms of anxiety both on a mental and physical level.  

Bodywork calms down the nervous system

Basically, Massage therapists are wizards of the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic system is in charge of “rest and digest” and is when it is on the healing happens.  Part of what is at play with anxiety is a heightened flight or fight response which is hardwired into our sympathetic nervous systems.  We live our lives with our sympathetic nervous systems keyed up to handle what ever threats(real or imagined) are around the corner.  What we do as body-workers is provide an opportunity for your sympathetic nervous system to turn off and your parasympathetic nervous system to turn on. Signs that your body has switched to the parasympathetic nervous system are slower breathing, gurgling tummy, and a drop in body temperature. When you sit up and say, “wow, I can get on with my life” I know that I have done my job.

There is a method to the calmness of a Massage room as the soothing music, the aromatherapy, the heated stones all trigger the relaxation response.

The Physiology of Worry

Not only does body-work engage the parasympathetic nervous system, it actually causes changes in the endocrine system; the system in charge of hormone secretion.

For example, massage has been linked to elevated levels of dopamine and lower levels of cortisol, which provides evidence of reduced stress.”

Benjamin, Patricia J Tappan’s Handobook of Massage Therapy p.136

Dopamine and oxytocin are feel good hormones whereas cortisol is emitted during times of stress. Due to the relationship of the PNS and impact on hormones Massage also helps with the psychosomatic signs and symptoms like headaches, tight muscles and upset tummy through hands on application.  Regardless of the science behind Massage, caring human touch makes people feel good.

Emotional Release

Emotional release  is when a clients might have a deep sense of letting go of some intrinsic stress that has been held in the muscles and it usually involves a good cry during a bodywork session.   Our muscles store our memories and sometimes when we are touched in a safe environment our minds and muscles let go of some negative feelings that has been stored inside. Not to worry if this happens, crying is a normal way to shed stress and most people feel better afterward. 

It’s not the job of the Massage therapist to process the feelings like a talk therapist would, but rather to hold the space so that you can release deep tension.  I like to say that we listen with hands and heart.

The Practical Healer Full Body Approach

Whether you choose Massage or Shiatsu a full body approach is best.  For example; the scalp muscles can tense from making worry faces.   Also Abdominal massage is great if worry has your stomach tied in knots.  Rubbing out the shoulders is a way to take off the weight of the world.  Working on the feet helps bring the energy down from the head and is deeply relaxing.  Also, evening out the energy of the channels from an Asian bodywork perspective helps support the underlying condition.

Comfort and Safety are Key

The cornerstone of working with anxiety is good communication.  No two clients need the same thing.  I have anxious clients that prefer the deep pressure points of Shiatsu and others that prefer a soft Swedish Massage.  One thing that everyone has in common is a need to be comfortable and safe.  It’s not uncommon for those with anxiety to need adjustments to the bolsters, face cradle, music, lighting and so on.  A good Massage therapist is there to help and can make infinite adjustments.


As far as aromatherapy goes, Frankincense, Lavender and Ylang Ylang are notorious for calming the mind.  I can send you home with an aromatherapy inhaler which you use in times of stress.  It’s also great to use before you fall asleep.

Acupressure Points

There are many acupressure points that are associated with couple the mind. Below are a few examples. A therapist trained in Shiatsu can access these points to augment a treatment for someone struggling with excess worry.

Gently Pressing on Pericardium Six Reduces Nausea and Anxiety.


In conclusion bodywork is an effective tool for coping with anxiety-whatever form it takes.  On a personal note, I too can find myself taking a ride on the worry wagon.  Over the years I have learned that that talk therapy, medication, exercise and great body work are all helpful ways for me to deal with stress of anxiety. In particular bodywork helps with the psychosomatic manifestations like headache and stomach ache. I hope that you will find relief too so that you can continue to enjoy a vibrant life.

Shiatsu, Wellness

Shiatsu for you!

Swedish or Deep Tissue Massage are probably the most well known forms of bodywork. Did you know that there is another great form out there just for you-Shiatsu?.

Like with a good Massage the goal of Shiatsu is to ease pain and help you feel more relaxed. The intention and methodology, however, are a little different. The most noticeable difference is that it is done fully clothed which allows for more stretching. The technique also is more pressure point oriented. The acupressure points are activated along the meridians- the same as used in Acupuncture. It is through this manual manipulation of the energy that the muscles, tendons and ligaments find relief.

For example, if you come in experiencing neck pain I will work along the meridians of the neck. Those meridians extend down into the finger tips and for that reason I will work the whole meridian. I will also use corresponding acupressure points on the feet to ensure that your energy is balanced also.

Main advantages of Shiatsu

  • No greasy lotion
  • Keep clothes on
  • More energizing than Massage.
  • More efficient-I can cover more territory faster with pressure techniques
  • Awesome stretches for upper and lower body are included
  • Great for anxiety
  • Great for low back-in part because it’s easy to achieve side position,
  • Full body approach.
  • Good for digestive or menstrual complaints -do to abdominal massage component.

What’s with the Pulse?

It is traditional to take the clients pulse before beginning a Shiatsu treatment. This pulse is not like at the Drs. office. There are three different positions and two different depths. I am looking for the overall quality of your energy and will then work according to ancient principles.

History of Shiatsu

Body Mechanics, Wellness

Better Phone Ergonomics

Ergonomic use of the cell phone is a regular topic around my Massage office. Sometimes, we talk about tech thumb from too much game play or texting. Other times we discuss a kinked neck and locked elbow from too much chatting with on the phone. Unless one is extremely disciplined, it is all too easy to find oneself drifting into electronic reality and staying there longer than our bodies are comfortable.

Photo by on
In this stock photo you see that this women has brought her phone up closer to her eyes and her elbows are resting on her body. The kinked wrist of her left hand could cause chronic discomfort.

It’s true that Massage can unravel some of the distress created by cell phone overuse. As it is said “Prevention is the greatest cure.”

I personally had to take my favorite game(June’s Journey) off of my phone and put it on the computer because it was aggravating my thumbs.

Here is my home video PSA on Tech Neck.  Hopefully, you find it instructional and entertaining!

Here is a longer phone ergonomics video made by somebody else. This presenter basically compiles ideas from other websites into a more entertaining format. Everything he talks about I have seen in other YouTube videos by experts.

Phone ergonomics!

  • The most important thing is to keep it up at eye level.
  • Bring the phone to you and not the other way around.
  • If you can rest your elbows on a table or your own body that is fantastic.
  • Try to use both hands to text.
  • Adjust the brightness so you are not squinting.

Practicing what I preach!!!

While we are on the topic of ergonomics let me tell you about my new electric table. The electric lift raises and lowers the table so that I can always work at my best height. It is also much easier for me to lower it so that I can do the full range of stretches. The electric table facilitates the transition between Massage and Shiatsu.

Recipes, Wellness

Summer Zucchini and Tuna Salad!!

This zesty and refreshing salad is healthful, easy to make and uses one of Summer’s most abundant ingredients-Zucchini.

This is a variation of recipe I found while watching “Lidia’s Kitchen” on PBS.

This Tuna and Zucchini Salad is a healthful way to enjoy one of Minnesota’s most prolific vegetables. The unique boiling method for the Zucchini works particularly well.
I buy this Tuna from the Wedge Co-Op. It is ethically caught, delicious and a fair price. The herbs I used are from my garden and include Thyme, Oregano, Basil, and Parsley

For the Recipe you will need:

4 small or 2 large Zucchinni (whole to cook)

1 Can of Tuna-drained

1/2 Cup of Kalamata Olives(whole, pitted)

1 TBLS Parsley (minced)

1 TBLS Fresh Herbs (minced)

1 TBLS Lemon Juice

2 TBLS Olive Oil

1/2 tsp + Salt

1/4+ tsp Red Pepper Flakes

The method:

Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil. Put the Zucchini whole into the water. Boil the small ones for about seven minutes and the large ones for ten minutes. Get a bowl of ice water ready. When Zucchini are done put them in the bowl of iced water to cool.

While Zucchini are cooling put everything else in a bowl and mix up.

Slice Zucchini into big half moons and stir in with everything else.

Serve on it’s own or with crackers. Goes great with a pesto Pasta.

Serves Two. Easily doubled.

FAQ, Massage

Does Massage remove Lactic Acid?

A client recently asked: “Massage removes lactic acid, doesn’t it?” This gave me pause. While it was thought to be true a decade ago, it is now considered to be unequivocally false. At that time it was also touted that massage removes toxins. It turns out that wasn’t accurate either. 

Twenty years ago there was very little research or science around why massage does what it does and why it might be good for a person. Thankfully, research and science have come a long way in proving what many have known all along — therapeutic touch is good for health!

For more information on lactic acid read this article from Scientific American. It explains how lactic acid is part of a chemical reaction involved with anaerobic activity. Along these same lines it has been determined that lactic acid has nothing to do with delayed onset muscle soreness caused by exercise. 

What does cause delayed onset muscle soreness? When muscles are exercised beyond their normal load they experience micro-tears. These tears incite inflammation. The good news is that studies show that massage helps reduce the inflammation associated with second-day muscle soreness.

This article from WebMD describes exercise related muscle soreness. Of note, this article specifically recommends massage to cope with it.In review, what does massage actually do? With the proper techniques applied it can accomplish the following:

  • Lengthen shortened muscles
  • Erase scar tissue
  • Loosen fascia
  • Stop muscle spasms
  • Work out trigger points
  • Move Qi, or universal life energy
  • Sedate the nervous system
  • Decrease cortisol (stress hormone)
  • Increase oxytocin (feel good hormone)
  • Move lymph
  • Increase range of motion
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Most importantly — Make you feel good in your body

I call that an impressive list!


To wear or not to underwear?

Have you always wanted to know but were too afraid to ask if you should wear underwear during your Massage?

The answer: It is really up to you. I would guess that 60% of my clients keep their underwear on while 40% take them off.

Either way I will use good draping techniques so that you do not feel exposed. There are a couple of moves that I can accomplish a little more easily on the lateral hips without underwear. For deeper work along the sacrum work I will ALWAYS work through the sheet for your own safety and comfort.

Why keep them on: You feel safer and more secure.

Why take them off: You feel more comfortable and want me to be able to do effluarage or petrissage on your lateral hips.

In fact, when I get a Massage I sometimes keep them on and sometimes take them off. I get a good Massage either way.

Shiatsu Style:

If you feel more comfortable keeping all of your clothes on try Shiatsu. I use pressure points and stretches and work through the clothing.