Sunday, May 31, 2015

7 Ways to Feel Happier Right Now

I ran up on an article from Glamour magazine that had some interesting points in it about happiness and I am all for happiness. Check it out!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Chronic Pain, Addiction & Encouragement

Ten percent of people who are prescribed opioid analgesic drugs to address chronic pain become addicted to them.
Please allow that to soak in for a moment. Ten may not sound like much in the broad scheme but couple that with the finding that 20-30% of those prescribed these drugs are misusing them. That comes out to 1.9 million Americans living with prescription opioid abuse or dependence. These types of drugs are commonly prescribed for chronic pain and bear familiar names:

•codeine (Atasol, Tylenol 2, 3 or 4)
•meperidine (Demerol)
•hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
•oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)

The CDC conducted a survey with the following as one of the findings...
"By 2010, enough OPR were sold to medicate every American adult with a typical dose of 5 mg of hydrocodone every 4 hours for 1 month."
 This has not improved despite efforts to more closely regulate and monitor, not only the drugs, but the patients themselves through adequate follow-ups.  Overdoses from opioid analgesics are frighteningly high and misuse is not decreasing despite widespread information of how damaging these drugs are.

The science and complexity of addiction are clearly a large body of information unto themselves. I keep learning about addiction and researching ways that massage is helpful as a tool in the treatment of addiction and there is so very much to learn; so much that makes me hopeful for the clients who need this kind of care. Which brings me to my point: Besides the obvious downsides of abused pharmaceuticals, are the reasons that people need them in the first place...pain.

Chronic pain cycles are often vicious and always exhausting. The symptoms can and do vary widely and what works to manage it during one pain cycle may not even touch it during the next. Opioid analgesics provide relief. They do not treat the problem but they do address the pain. There is nothing in the world wrong with accepting pain killers when you need them. There is no shame and no need for guilt because they are another tool and one with a definite place. Pain is underappreciated by those who have never really suffered with it long term.

What I would implore is that you...
1. Know the facts about the prescriptions that you take. Understand what it does. I mean, what it really does. Learn about the short and long term effects on the body. Learn about the addiction risks. Learn how to use them responsibly. Do not underestimate the power of brain chemistry and how it can change your behaviors. Research it a little. Even a few minutes spent researching is a few minutes that you have put toward being responsible for your well being. You'll know more than you did before and that is never a bad thing.

2. Explore your options for chronic pain control. Try a massage! Massage has a huge and proven success rate with c.p. sufferers. Make it part of your own wellness plan and don't let yourself be distracted from getting to those appointments. Engage your own self care and create the toolbox that you need to manage your pain. Talk to your massage therapist about protocols regarding prescriptions and getting a massage. There is a time period between when you have taken a prescription and receiving massage that must be respected and anything that you confide to your massage therapist remains private.  Try acupuncture! Try essential oils! Try meditating! Try Reiki! Blend holistic therapies into your standard medical care (with plenty of communication with your physician, of course.) to reap bigger and better results. You are mind, body and spirit. Address yourself as a whole.

3. Keep learning! Chronic pain syndromes are not curable as yet. It is diverse. Not all of them share a root cause and with many of these, there is yet to be a discernable cause at all. Hopefully you trust your doctor but, above all, I hope that you trust yourself as well. Be a responsible caregiver to yourself. Have your best interests at heart at all times because no one will care for you like you will! There is a world of knowledge out there and I hope that this will help lead you on the way to learning more about your prescriptions, more about why you are in a pain cycle, more about how to manage what you are going through.

Every day you hear of prescription drug abuses. "On the rise" is a phrase I regularly hear on the news when this topic comes up and, despite more and more public awareness, it is, indeed, increasing. Opioid analgesics are a current leading cause of death. Just be aware and know that there are options out there to aid you in pain relief and control. You are not alone. There are many health professionals out there who are devoted to healing pain and who will work with you earnestly to get you where you want to be as well as providing support. Believe me, pain treatment does not begin and end with pain killers. You have options.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Imagine that...

Human beings are creative. We are creative through hobbies, daydreams, critical thinking, hopefully in our work and in a thousand other ways. I know that I am occasionally guilty of using my imagination to fuel darkly creative anxieties. For example, the last boy scout camping trip that my sons went on with their father had me absolutely paranoid that they were hurt, somewhere off in the woods, because they did not get an opportunity to call me as soon as I had hoped that they would. Like every other time that I can't immediately reach my husband or kids, these kind of thoughts step in and I imagine the worst. It's not just me, either.

I have heard other people describe going through just the same thing. Anxious thoughts took over their thoughts and every horrible situation that they are capable of imagining springs to life in their minds. I suppose that when you love something - are so soulfully invested in it - whether it is your family, your home, your job, etc., we are naturally afraid of losing it. That cruel fate will snatch it away. It happens to other people sometimes, right? Well yeah, sometimes it does. The thing is, do you really have grounds for the anxiety that takes over in those moments? You may have something tragic and painful in your past and I would never want to cheapen that. In my experience though, most people have not had those awful situations occur and with that in mind, I would ask you to reassess your reactions.

Does the worry help? Certainly not. It makes you edgy, nervous, ill tempered and any other number of negative qualities crop up depending on just how well you handle strain. I am working on not allowing my imagination to run away with me into these dark places anymore. Is it easy? Definitely not. It makes my will power really sweat it out and yours will go through the same thing. The thing is, I value peace of mind. If something bad happens, as it may, to some of my loved ones, well then it happens. There is nothing that I can do about that. If I am having an off day, does it mean that I am a bad person/ awful at my job? Nope. It means that I had an off day. That's all. And that's enough, isn't it? There's no point making it worse with negative imaginings.

 So, let's work on it together and reexamine where these types of thoughts come from and start building some new habits for our imaginations in uncomfortable, stomach ache inducing situations. Positive thinking can sound pretty hokey and I don't think that it gets you anywhere without positive, forward action but this requires some serious positive thinking and forward motion internally. It is also going to require repetition. You are going to retrain your mind and make it think in a whole new way. We can do this because our brains are pretty darn miraculous and also because I value my health and stress is counter to being healthy. You already know that, so this is kind of a no brainer. Use your imagination - your creative essence - to do wonderful things, to create wonderful things - not to diminish your wellbeing.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A letter to those who love a chronic pain sufferer...

Chronic pain is very real. Ask anyone with a chronic pain syndrome and they will all tell you similar factors that they experience, not only day to day, but during flare-ups as well. Many will also tell you the frustration of people around them making light of it, sometimes offering up useless sometimes cruel advice ( i.e. exercise more, shake it off, toughen up...), or acting as though they are making up the pain they are experiencing.
Sometimes, unless we have experienced things personally, we fail to be able to empathize with what our loved ones are telling us is going on. Then there are those of us who can empathize deeply and we understand it intellectually. If you are the former, then I beg you to learn more and provide support for what your loved one is experiencing. They need you to understand. The cycle with pain syndromes is exacerbated by stress, which leads to depression, which leads to further compromising of the immune system and, more pain. It is a vicious circle and one that is hard to break.
Sometimes, part of love is making the concession for patience, kindness, and understanding when we don't necessarily understand what is going on. If you do have someone in your life that is suffering chronic pain, then please, take time to educate yourself and be the support they need. Become one of the positive factors that will help outweigh the negative ones that keep pulling them down. It all starts with our environment and our relationships are a part of that.
Do not underestimate the power you have to make a positive difference in the life or lives of the people that are the most important to you. Please be willing to be that difference and be the beautiful shining light that they need, the balm to feelings that are often invalidated by a world that expects to see outward symptoms of illness to justify being ill. This is your chance to truly shine bright and make a difference!
Namaste, my friend.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Three Types of Change

Change. We love it, we hate it but nothing stops it. Granted, some changes are more positive than others and so we understandably like to stick with what we know. There is safety and comfort in familiarity and that is not a bad thing. However, some circumstances in life demand our participation, our willingness to let go of what we know in favor of something perhaps much less familiar but far more positive and even necessary. Embracing change to become happy, healthy individuals is often surprisingly threatening, not only to us but to our family and friends who may not understand what all of this change ultimately means. That will pass as they see what you are doing for yourself and that it isn't a threat to them. It will also pass for you. As you work at it and make progress, even tiny increments, you will feel more sure of yourself and the forward momentum will gain speed. So, let's talk about the three types of change...

First Order
Second Order
Third Order

First order: You are reacting to the environment around you. This is not proactive. In this phase, there is no taking responsibility for the state or course of your health, well-being, etc. The mindset here is "the victim" and we all know what that is. Whether we recognize it in ourselves, past or present, we have almost all certainly seen it in someone else. Everything that has happened to us or is happening is because of someone or something else and there are no decisions being made.

Example: I hate my body and I am stuck feeling sick and unhappy all the time. This is just how it is.
Second order: This next level is when something vital has shifted that allows us to take in more information about our situation. Perhaps a breaking point has been reached. Reactivity to our environment drops. You begin to consider that by integrating the new input into your life, you can make positive impacts. This is where change begins and the key word here is "integrative".
Example: I can like my body more, feel healthier, and be happier if I make these changes.

Third order: We have integrated the new ideas and change has and is occurring. We have kept up with the hard work to see results and now we have them and are transformed. Our beliefs about ourselves have changed and breakthroughs are happening. Life has changed and will continue to change...for the better. The word here is "transformative".

Example: I am doing good things for myself and my quality of life has improved.

The three orders of change can be viewed as a tool to assess where you are and where you want to be. Expand your comfort zone, research and integrate positive protective factors into your life. It is common sense that the more healthy, life sustaining elements you add, the better off that you will be. Your best strategy for success is to be aware of the areas of your life that need your attention and must be addressed to get the results that you are looking for. This might even include asking ourselves what our worldview is that creates our very individual reality, what are our core beliefs  that are at the root of the decisions that have gotten us where we are. Self knowledge is super important!

Where does a massage therapist fit into all of this? So many of my clients are STRESSED OUT, combatting chronic pain, or don't like their bodies very much. There is a disconnect because, in all of the aforementioned cases, they are unhappy with themselves on some level or another. Massage really does help change that. It decreases the stress response, can help manage chronic pain syndromes, and reconnects us with our bodies in a positive way because that is the magic of respectful, healing touch. So, yeah, get a massage! It will be one of the positive elements that can change your life especially if you do it on a regular basis.

Also, mantras are a simple means of hitting the reset button on your thought patterns. Find one that clicks with you and use it often. Change it when it stops working and find the new words that you need. Your needs will change over time. I like to journal my mantras as well as saying them. Getting creative and painting them might be something that you'd enjoy.

Exercise within your abilities and within the range that your doctor is cool with. Exercise has a number of benefits provided your aren't injuring yourself. I have a membership at Planet Fitness that I love. It works for me better than exercising at my house. I also have a yoga practice that I love and I recommend yoga to everyone. Yogis and massage therapists tend to go hand in hand.

De-clutter your house! It will ease depression, and lower chronic stress levels. It worked for me and it can for you, too. There are a lot of ways to get this done but one of the best that I have found is getting a Facebook group that is dedicated to this. The before and after pictures along with their stories are the best motivator that I have found.

Help others! It's a fact that a "helpers high" exists. Not only do we feel good when we help other people but it also moves us into a mindset of gratitude. Find a cause that you feel passionate about but not one that stresses you. I have a pretty tough rule about refusing to stay in toxic situations and that includes volunteer situations that are volatile.

Find something that gives you purpose and direction. You may already have this but maybe not. If you don't, then find it. From personal experience I can tell you that finding that purpose, that thing that stokes your passion, is pivotal and necessary for positive change. It keeps you from just floating along, something that I once found myself doing.

These are all just suggestions and I can only speak for what has worked for me. I have completely changed my life in the last few years and it has become better and richer for those changes. I still have things to do, areas to improve, projects to complete but I know that I have the ability to do those things now where three years ago, definitely five years ago, I did not. As a massage therapist, the only thing that I can really speak with authority about is massage. As a person with their own struggles, I can speak to you as a friend. I hope you find this post useful and that it is received in the spirit of friendship. Namaste, my friends.

Any feedback that you would like to leave would be awesome. This article is not meant to diagnose, psychoanalyze or anything else along those lines.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Love for my clients...

The new client loyalty cards debuted this week and have been a big hit! I am so glad that these have been so well received and it is such a beautiful place to be in to give something back to the people who make what I do possible. It's just one of many good things that are in place for my awesome clients this year!

Thursday, February 26, 2015



Increasingly, fibromyalgia is making the news and within my own practice, fibro is a pretty common occurrence among my clients. No two clients have the same pain patterns, need the same kind of massage and from visit to visit, what a client needs can, and often does, shift dramatically. To take the best care of my clients, education about chronic pain has become paramount and right at the top of the list is fibromyalgia. So, what is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is an arthritis related condition, with the most common symptom being widespread musculoskeletal pain, affecting both women and men with the current number standing between 6 and 12 million sufferers. Women are ten times more likely than men to have fibromyalgia, especially in the 25-60 year old age range. (1.) While it is related to arthritis, there is no joint deterioration or inflammation brought about by the fibromyalgia itself. A definite cause is not currently known for this chronic pain condition. The possible causes, though not exhaustive, include trauma, repetitive stress injuries, lupus, central nervous system issues, or gene pain regulation. (2.)

Anyone that has fibromyalgia will attest to the negative impact that it has in their lives and that management is often very difficult. Unfortunately, with no known cause and such a wide variety of symptoms, learning the best ways to manage fibro is the only recourse that you have. With any kind of chronic pain, alternative medicine provides an array of pain reducing possibilities. Results will vary per person so the goal is to try as many as you can or are comfortable with, keep what works and add it to your tool box of pain management techniques.

A 1996 study published in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology (3.) found that people receiving ten 30 massage sessions reported a 38% decrease in pain,  anxiety, and depression; better energy levels and improved sleep quality. The results of this study are extremely impressive and the reasons for these results are due to the muscle relaxation, decrease of joint pain, flooding of tissues with oxygen, increased circulation and finally, the overall state of relaxation that massage induces.

As with any treatment, patience is key. In an age of instant gratification, remaining with a treatment long enough to see marked improvement can be a trial. One thing that can definitely help is to keep a pain journal. This can be any kind of notebook that you like or an online pain tracker but the end goal here is to monitor your pain levels day by day. Chronic pain is by nature demoralizing and it can feel as though your treatments aren't getting you anywhere unless you have something tangible to measure it against. A pain journal will provide you with a clear picture of what is working for you and what is not.

For further information, I absolutely recommend checking out this article by the ACPA. They are a reliable source for additional study as well as offering tools for tracking pain, lifestyle checklists, etc. There is definitely hope for getting fibromyalgia under control and massage can help get you there. Find a therapist that you click with, one who listens and please don't give up on your goal of managing your pain. It can be exhausting and, as one client once stated to me, "damned unfair". You won't get an argument from me but I will tell you that there is hope for keeping the pain levels under control and there are people out there willing to help you do it. That is where your power is.

(As always, this article does not diagnose and if you feel you need a diagnosis, go visit with your doctor. Massage should be additional care to whatever medical care you are already engaged in with your physician. If in doubt if massage is right for you, ask your doctor.)


3. Fibromyalgia 
    Sunshine, W., Field, T., Schanberg, S., Quintino, O., Kilmer, T., Fierro, K., Burman, I.,          Hashimoto, M., McBride, C., & Henteleff, T. (1996). Massage therapy and transcutaneous electrical stimulation effects on fibromyalgia. Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, 2, 18-22.