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.

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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.

FAQ, Massage, Shiatsu

Tipping and Massage

photography of one us dollar banknotes
Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

Clients often wonder: Do I tip my Massage Therapist and if so how much?

Here’s the clear answer:

If the Massage Therapist works at a Spa, especially a Massage Envy type place then you absolutely must tip them!!!!  Their wages are lower. If it is a Groupon then you must tip them well!!!!

Here’s the less clear answer:

If you are seeing an independent practitioner like myself it can vary.  We can set our own rates and have more control over our overhead. I have some colleagues that set their prices about 15 percent higher than mine, but don’t accept tips at all.

I would say 70 percent of my clients tip me and they tip between 15 and 20 percent.  My clients that tip me usually have the financial means to do so and come in about once a month.

For the clients that don’t tip, the appointment with me is already a financial stretch and the tip would be cost prohibitive. Some clients also don’t tip because they take the view that I am a private business owner and I can set my own rates.

I don’t want to turn anyone away because they can’t tip and it is really important that you come in as often as you like.

I have colleagues that don’t accept tips, but charge a higher hourly rate.  I prefer to keep my rate lower.  As I said, those that can usually do and those that can’t don’t.  I want to leave that up to the client to decide.   It’s like a self-selecting sliding scale. Whether you tip me or not I am grateful for your patronage and will give you a great Massage or Shiatsu.

 

Massage, Shiatsu

Thai Reflexology Massage

 

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Thai Reflexology is a wonderful way to feel more grounded and calm. In addition to using my hands and fists,  I  use a rosewood stick blessed by Thai Buddhist monks to perform a reflexology treatment for feet.  This is an overall treatment that will make your feet feel great as well ground your whole being.   It is deeply rhythmic and relaxing.  Pairs great with a foot soak.  Can be incorporated into a Massage or Shiatsu of any length session. When I do the full treatment it is about 10 minutes total.

Thai Reflexology is a free add-on to any service by request!

Four years ago I learned this technique from Jill Burynski, Thai Yoga Instructor.  It was one of the best workshops that I have ever taken and use these ideas in many treatment sessions. In addition to learning to do a Thai reflexology session I learned some wonderful stretches for the legs.  I often incorporate Thai Massage Techniques into a Shiatsu therapy session.

 

Massage, Shiatsu

Abdominal Massage

Do you have indigestion, constipation or menstrual issues?  What about scars from a C-section?  What about that uneasy feeling in your abdomen when you are feeling anxious? Did you know that the Practical Healer has extensive training and experience working with these issues?

Benefits of Abdominal Massage

Relieve Constipation:

In a nutshell we get things MOVING.  The goal is to stimulate peristalses of the large and small intestines and get everything stuck in there unstuck. Also there are acupressure points in the tummy that are relieving.

Rest and Digest

We are also stimulating the Parasympathetic Nervous System. This system is also known as rest and digest.  We are getting your body to wind down and relax so that the body has a chance to heal itself. A gentle tummy rub is very soothing.  I will often have you breath into my hands as this is also very relaxing.

Menstrual Cramps:

Also caused by muscles spasms in the lower portion of your abdomen. We are getting those to calm down with specific Ampuku techniques.  Some of the work is done very gently on the skin over the area where the Uterus is.

Low Back Pain

What’s on the front side of the back; the stomach.  Sometimes we actually need to access the low back through the stomach in order to get the qi moving in the low back.  In particular this is how to access the Iliopsoas muscle group.

Abdominal Scars:

One of my favorite workshops I ever did was on erasing scars with Marjorie Brooks. This is especially important after abdominal surgeries like those involved with C-Sections and Fibroids. Scar tissue can actually spread and go deeper, below the surface.  These little fibers grab onto muscle tissue and organs and sometimes cause other pesky problem down the road, not to mention plain old discomfort.

Post-Partum:

The goal is to help everything under the surface to settle back into place.  The baby and placenta push the organs every which way in order to have enough room to grow.  We also want to aid the uterus in contracting back down to its normal size. Not to mention help heal the separation of the rectus abdominis.

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How it is done:

If I am doing a Shiatsu it is easy.  I just lift up your shirt use a little of my essential oil creme.  If doing a Swedish Massage I have a draping method to keep the breasts covered while exposing the tummy as seen in the above picture.

I do some nice gentle circles over the whole abdomen.  This is very calming and stimulates the digestive system.  Then I will use pressure and do a pattern in a clockwise direction.  You will probably hear some gurgles.  The pressure can be fairly light or go deep depending on need.  Then I will press specific points for specific conditions.  Sometimes I will just hold my hands

These techniques take about 4-10 minutes of your appointment depending on need.

In the case of C-Section scars or other scars it will take more.

Most of my clients choose 75 or 90 minute sessions so that we can cover everything including abdomin.

Training:

When I went to  Shiatsu school I learned three different styles of abdominal massage.  Later I went deeper into the topic with a workshop on Chi Nei Tsang-an esoteric style of abdominal work from Asia. If that wasn’t enough, I learned Western Abdominal Massage in the Swedish Massage Program at Centerpoint.  Also, I have taken a workshop on scar tissue massage which is particularly important when working with C-Section scars. I have practiced these a lot on myself.   I can personally testify that I have cured my own menstrual cramps with Shiatsu.

Essential Oils and Abdominal Massage

I pair abdominal massage techniques with an essential oil creme blend that I created myself.  Essential oils included in that blend are Cardamom, Ginger, Laurel, and Peppermint.  I will use this creme blend when working on your abdomen.

Also available as a roll-on for $10.00.

 

FAQ, Massage

Where to get a cheap Massage?

Great question.   First of all, a Massage from me isn’t “cheap”  I would go on a limb and say it’s a good value.  At $80/hour you are paying the going rate for an experienced Massage Therapist located in a major metro area.  You get 60 plus minutes of my time devoted just to you.  My office is nice and provides an escape from your daily life.  A Massage with me includes Aromatherapy.  It’s also custom tailored.  You also get someone that you can talk to or not talk to.

 

What if you really need a Massage and you don’t have $80.00

 

Look for an intro rate coupon.

Most places offer a generous first time discount.  I do too-(20 percent off)!  The down side is that your therapist will never get to know you or your body because you keep skipping around.  If you are going this route choose a Chiropractor’s office or Independently run Massage Clinic.  They tend to hire more experienced Massage Therapists and you will probably get a decent Massage.

If a Massage therapist is serious they will try to get you to come back for more.  If you are skipping around intermittently for a Massage you probably are as tight as the therapist says that you. Trust me, I know what “average” tight feels like and “haven’t had a Massage in a year” tight feels like.

 

Massage Envy or other Francises

The monthly membership is a good value if you really do commit to getting a Massage once a month.  I think it is around $60/Massage.  Non-Membership Massage is pricy.

A couple of things to keep in mind:  Their hour Massage is only about 45-50 minutes of hands on work.  With an independent practitioner an hour usually means about 55 minutes of hands on work.

Higher Turnover:  Chains do have good people on staff and they also have students just finishing school.  They aren’t too picky with the hiring.  It’s also really hard to set up a regular appointment with someone that you like.  Because the pay isn’t that great and the hours are long with few breaks, the turnover is higher.  Also, you will find more practitioners offering a generic Swedish Massage.  If that is what you need then Massage Envy might be just the place for you.

 

Mall Massage:

These usually have names like Dragon City, Massage Oriental or some other name that alludes to Asia.  The Massage Therapists are for the most part from Asia.  The prices are usually pretty good: sometimes as low as $52/hour including steamy towels.  You can just walk-in and state how many minutes you would like to do.  The rooms are semi-private and Asian relaxation flute pop is guaranteed. These therapists are STRONG and good with their hands.

But, and this is a big but-they don’t speak English.  If your problem just involves pointing, your pain issues aren’t that complicated and intense pressure doesn’t bother you then this can be a great choice.  Hint: I’ve been know to go here now and again-especially Massage Oriental.  In fact,  I appreciate the fact that I can’t communicate because I am a natural blabber mouth and this forces me to be quiet. I’m use to strong pressure and due to getting regular Massage  my neck and shoulder problems are pretty typical.

Do not go here if….. you have a complicated medical condition or know for yourself that you are more sensitive or bruise easily.  If you do, speak up if it is too much pressure.  These employees have good hands-on skill but they just cannot communicate enough to problem solve chronic or more rare problems.  They don’t do a lot of on the front side. Sometimes the draping is a little awkward-I always ask for a female practitioner because of this.

 

Groupon

Do not buy a groupon Massage.  I repeat: Skip the groupon Massage!!!!  I’ve both serviced these appointments and talked with many dissatisfied customers over the years that have used groupon.

Here’s the deal: Groupon pays the therapist next to nothing.  Groupon also requires the business to sell a boat load of these.  What this means is that the business often becomes inundated with a lot of new clients looking for a cheap Massage.  These Massage therapists easily become overworked and injured.  They are not enjoying giving you the cheap Massage.  There’s a special place in hell for you if you do not tip generously a groupon Massage!!!

Tip: With any of these places try to go first thing in the morning while the therapist is fresh.  You do not want to be their seventh Massage of the day.

I have the luxury of pacing my schedule so that I can give everyone my full attention.

Best wishes getting the Massage you want!!!

 

 

 

Aromatherapy, Massage

Aromatherapy Program Completed

I did it!! I completed the 36 hour Aromatherapy for Massage Therapists program. This was a blast and has given me so much inspiration to bring into Massage services with you.

certificate
Certificate from Aromahead

Custom Aromatherapy Massage Lotion

I will still be using Biotone as the base for your Massages. It’s a high quality creme that absorbs well into the skin and doesn’t leave you feeling greasy. I can use oil upon request. Now I offer a couple of choices.

 

 

Relaxation: This blend is mild smelling with Lavender, Sweet Orange, and Frankincense. These smells are comforting and sedating as well as anti-spasmodic and skin nourishing To this I can add Ginger or Cardamom for tummy troubles.  Patchouli or Ylang Ylang are added for deeper relaxation.  Ravinstara or Marjoram, are added to open the sinuses.  With 20 oils to choose from we can also add in something that you really like just because you like it!!

Muscle Magic: A client favorite. It has essential oils with properties known for soothing aching muscles and increasing circulation. It is also energizing and clears the head. It includes essential oils of Eucalyptus, Juniper, Lavender, Rosemary and Peppermint. It smells stronger and opens the pathways.

Muscle Magic Salve:  Take home Muscle Magic in a concentrated formula to apply anytime you muscles feel sore.

Shiatsu clients:

I can still use this on your neck and feet.

 

Stay tuned for specialty ointments for specific aches and pains.

Aromatherapy, Massage

Foot Soak

Imagine yourself laying face up on the Massage table. I put your feet into a perfectly warm foot soak tub filled with Epson salts and custom essential oils. As your feet soak I Massage your neck, shoulders and arms. With a 90 minute session there’s still plenty of time to work out all of your kinks. Includes Thai reflexology.

Favorite Blends Include:  Cold and Cough Support; Relaxation; and Invigorating

 

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