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.


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.

Body Mechanics, Massage, Shiatsu

Simple guide to arm and hand Pain

If you clicked through to this link there is a good chance that you get occasional hand and arm pain.  You may have tried to Massage your hands only to get no relief.  There’s a trick to this-pain in the hands almost never originates from the hands.  Hand pain is almost always referred from higher up on the body.

Culprit number one: The Forearms……

Pain in the hands often starts in the forearms. The joints of your hands are mostly surrounded by tendons that connect to muscles that are located in your forearms.  It is often the muscles in your forearm that are contracted and tug on the tendons in your hands.  The remedy is usually to stretch and massage your forearms.  In particular there are usually trigger points around your elbows.  To review, trigger points are little sore spots in the muscle belly that refer pain to another part of the body.

See the source image
Notice the white tissue over the fingers and hands-those are tendons and ligaments.  See how the white tissue connects to red muscles further up the arm. When those muscles get tight they tug on the tendons in your hands.

See the source image
Because of this connection between the muscles of the forearms and tendons in the hands you will notice some common referral patterns.  The T shows the trigger point and the red shows the referral patterns.

You do not need to memorize this chart.  I just want you to understand how this pain relationship works.  Go ahead, do your favorite arm stretches.  It’s always a good idea to self-massage around the elbow.

I put the hurting arm down on the table.  I cross the other elbow over and place it on top of a sore spot.  I lean in and press for 3-5 seconds.

See arm massage video here.

Culprit number two: The shoulder. 

A lot of arm pain actually starts in the shoulder girdle.  There is a really good reason for this-the brachial plexus nerves starts up in your neck, goes under the clavicle and works it’s way down to your arm. Different branches of it go into your pecs, your armpit and back.  Often when you come into my office with arm pain I will check out your neck muscles, chest muscles, armpit muscles and back to see if we can find any referral patterns.   This is why it is erroneous to only think locally about hand pain.

Over the years, when I have had bouts of thumb pain it has been very important to have a Massage therapist work on my pectorals as well as dive into my armpits.

arm anatomy
As you can see the brachial plexus starts up in the neck, works its way under the clavicle and then down the arm.  It’s no wonder that tight muscles along this nerve pathway will cause discomfort in the arm and hand.

My clients are often surprised that a session treating arm pain will include the shoulder girdle.

This image shows the referral pattern of a trigger point in the pectorals.  The x is where the trigger point is and the red shows the referral pattern.

Stretch the shoulders for the good of your hands

This is why it is also important to stretch out the shoulders.  For Massage therapists our all time favorite stretch is the “Doorway stretch”  This opens up the shoulder girdle and allows blood flow to the hands.

Guess what I am usually doing when I am waiting for you to come out of the room?  That’s right, leaning into the stairwell doorway next to my office.

Keep those shoulders loose to keep your hands warm…..

As a side note, I’ve learned that opening the shoulders is key to keeping the hands warm on a cold day.  So much blood passes through the shoulder girdle that if you are tensed up whilst outside on a chilly day your hands will get cold.  Breath while raising and lowering those shoulders and you will notice your hands warm up. Swing your arms in front of you-it’s better than a hot pocket!

Same thing with biking

Similarly, you may  numbness notice tingling while riding your bicycle.  Most likely, the pain is not directly in your hands, but rather from crunching the shoulders in.  I find that if I can stretch my arms behind me while riding I can usually get better blood flow in my hands.

What about arthritis?

Arthritis is deterioration of cartilage of the bone.  Massage cannot reverse arthritis-however we can reduce the inflammation in the tissue surrounding the arthritis.  Sometimes the irritated tissue is as painful, if not more than the arthritis itself.  Also, I have formulated an ointment specifically for joint pain using trauma oil, essential oils of cardamom, ginger, and juniper. Read more about April’s Active Again Arthritis Antidote.

Hopefully, I’ve given you some insights into hand pain.  Self care is awesome and a Massage or Shiatsu from a trusted professional is even better.  All the best.

Body Mechanics, Massage

Bend Over Better

One of my longtime clients recently sent this article to me.  It’s on the NPR website.

Lost Art Of Bending Over: How Other Cultures Spare Their Spines


This article compares the American way, where one curves the spine to reach down and pick something up, with the “table method” of our global neighbors.

This article advocates for the “table method” where one keeps the back straight and hinges at the hips. I personally have been trying out this table method over the last couple of weeks.  I notice that I have to actively engage the hamstrings to be effective. I felt it most in the hamstring attachments (where the underside of the butt meets the upper legs).

A lovely picture of me bending over to pick-up a toy from the yard. My attempt at a flat back and hinging at the hips.  I can feel it in the back of my legs.

How To ‘Table’ Bend (Excerpt from article)

To hip hinge:
1. Place your feet about 12 inches apart.
2. Keep your back straight.
3. As you bend your knees, allow your pubic bone to move backward.
4. Fold over by allowing your pubic bone to slide through your legs, down and back

By the way, I can help with those low back injuries.  Better yet, let’s just avoid them in the first place.