Looking After Yourself with Massage Therapy

It seems that there is little time these days for considering our WELLBEING. In the workplace, it doesn’t seem to get a look in. Our bodies have to perform day after day and it is unreasonable to not foresee that there are long term consequences on our health. especially as many of us are spending most of our time sat in front of a computer. The impact on health of this culture is well chronicled. We are told to move away from the desk, but the reality it seems still deems this as “unproductive”.

The cost of this is that we simply don’t have enough time to “look after ourselves”. But at the cost of our wellbeing. This a cost that we can we ill-afford to overlook!

As a Professional Massage Therapist, I endeavour to help my clients become more aware of the stresses and tensions that accumulate over time in their bodies, and empower them to become more aware of how their lifestyle may be impacting on their health, mobility & vitality. And that tension CAN be released, despite having been held for many years. But that is an ongoing process, a “work in progress” you might say.

Massage Therapy works on many levels and is often the only time that many clients have for themselves, in a space where they can just simply BE, if only for an hour. Its not really enough though. There is much more to massage than most people think.

Clients often ask me how often they should have a massage session……….I see it as medicine!!!! Something you take regularly to maintain integrity in the muscle tissue & prevent tension creeping up, & simply just feel good in your body We live in a society where the mainstream mindset is that medicine comes in a bottle. Usually taken long term. But there are other options, massage being one of mine. I live in hope of the time when Doctors will prescribe am massage session. So, in answer to my clients’ question, Massage Therapy is a long term commitment because your body deserves to be looked after….and it will thank you in countless ways. I certainly see it that way.

Massage Therapy comes into its own when one commits to regular treatment, be it weekly, fortnightly or monthly. Depending on the presenting symptoms.


Upper Back Tension - Forward Head Posture

Upper Body Tension is  something that people experience this days.  They talk about feeling of stiffness in the upper body but don't think anything of it, as if it's normal....and nothing to do with being healthy. They will say "my neck is giving me gyp" or "oh, it's just old age"  not understanding that what is actually going on is the build up of tension. And  I am hearing  this from people in their twenties!!  Our working culture is accelerating this syndrome of "Forward Head Posture".

"Forward Head Posture"; a phrase that has been coined to describe what is happening to us as we spend more and more time sat in a chair with our head craned forward, looking at a computer screen.  As your head leans forward it is losing the support of the spine and so it has to flex and strain the neck and top of the shoulder muscles.  Imagine your head being held up in mid-air with nothing below to support it.  These muscles will have to work really hard to HOLD the head up..... literally!

It has been said that this is the equivalent of carrying a four stone child around your neck.  It is little wonder that we can feel "weighed down" literally.  The longer this goes on the more tired and overloaded the muscles get, and slowly the neck starts to drop forward.  Further along the road this begins to impact on the upper spine and what you see developing is what is known as curvature of the spine.   

Did you know that up to 60% of tension in the body can be held in the Trapezius Muscles at the top of the shoulders and neck.  This "Forward Head Posture" syndrome need not have to become the case, with good postural practice & awareness; and Massage Therapy of course. Massage Therapy comes into it's own when dealing with the stress put upon the upper back and posture.  If those tense muscles could speak, they would probably tell you that they are tired, sore, need a break, or are quite simply not going to be able to carry on much longer.  

Massage Therapy helps to release tension in those muscles that have become very tight, and restore elasticity to the muscle fibres.  And improve circulation of blood and oxygen to the head and brain.  It also allows more flexibility in the spine thus improving postural alignment.  Otherwise, prolonged poor posture can lead to things like fatigue, low energy, headaches, and low mood......  

Upper Body Tension and "Forward Head Posture" are  most definitely something to become aware of if you are spending long hours at the desk.  The occupational health "hazards", and postural stress of desk-based work can produce similar characteristics to Sports Injuries.




The Healing Crisis

What is a healing crisis?  It is a term used in the world of complementary therapy to describe a reaction by the body to some kind of therapeutic intervention or treatment.  Things get worse before they get better.  The medical world views this concept as "illness" that is defined by the presence of symptoms, and treats the symptoms.  For example, a cold.  I recently experienced the worst cold I have had in years, which lasted nearly a month, but I would say I had a healing crisis, or an "acute", which is a naturopathic term that says the body is using it's energy to make something happen in order to make us well.  If you need to have the cold, then welcome it.  It's just nature doing it's thing.

It felt like I was clearing out old stuff, and I had a fever which I have not had for years.  I could have treated it with paracetamol or other such medications to stop me feeling the way I was, but I view that as suppression and stopping the body from doing what it knows what to do ie. heal.  We have an immune system to take care of us and if the immune system is repeatedly suppressed, that is the pathway to the body manifesting some other "dis-ease".  When you produce mucus during a cold, you are getting rid of toxins in the body that have accumulated over time, through stress, poor diet, environmental factors etc.  Stress incidentally weakens the immune system & digestion system (80% of our immune system is in our digestive system).  Traditional Chinese Medicine calls this dampness which can manifest as joint pain, fatigue both mental and physical. If this continues to deepen, it hinders out body's ability to heal and weakens our immune system.  We just get more tired, and less healthy and more "toxic".  That then may give rise to a different & more severe illness/healing crisis further down the line.  Think of it as the body getting rid of all the rubbish.  You don't want that lying around festering in your system.

In Massage Therapy clients may experience sensations of pain or tenderness during the massage session, which if left undisturbed, can give rise to longer-term chronic tension, fatigue, pain or mobility issues.  These sensations are just indications of the build up of stress so there may be some kind of healing crisis response after the treatment, like the feeling you get when you use muscles that have not been used for a long time.  This usually passes after a couple of days, leaving the body feeling a sense of renewal and lightness, because the body's innate healing ability has been activated.  Rather than opting for a painkiller.

So  we can choose to experience the symptoms of cold (runny nose, coughs, feeling pretty rough) or in massage, the feeling of therapeutic release of pain and tension.  Rather than make it go away.  Because it does not go away.  It just hides and resides in the body.   Our culture these days does not seem to allow time off to be "unwell".  But our bodies need to have time off from time to time in order to allow and actually FEEL what is going on, and to be able to notice what in our life may be causing us to be unwell. That is another story.

This is healing and preventative medicine, that is necessary in order to maintain and enhance our health & well-being.  And it is my practice.  Perhaps it can become your practice too.  I am here to help.  Go to www.johnmackie.co.uk to contact me.

Healing and the Heart Workshop - Sat 15th April 9.45-4.00

Join us for a day of sharing and healing, in well-tested approaches to understanding  and unravelling what obscures the radiance of the Deeper Heart, opening to presence and inspiration.  A variety of world spirituality & positive emotion practices will be shared in a safe and supportive space.  Includes mindfulness, qi gong, sufi chanting & sharing our personal experiences.

John and Steve are both experienced facilitators with peer support backgrounds.  Steve is a mindfulness specialist and John is a massage therapist, support worker & practitioner of Chinese Physical Culture.

Venue:  Parochial Hall, 5 Fitzroy Drive, leeds, LS8 4AB

Cost:  £40 waged, £25 unwaged.

More details: www.leedsmindfulness.uk

Maintaining Health with Massage Therapy

Tension gathers and accumulates in the muscle tissues by STEALTH.  One day, one bend, one stretch or one lift too many......and then something goes.  It doesn't take much to trigger a spasm or muscle pull/tear.  I often see this with clients.

Massage Therapy will look after your body, enabling it too function well into the future.  This is about maintenance, which is something we all notice & pay attention to if we are a car owner. You will usually be able to notice immediately when your car needs some attention.  Surely our body merits the same care and attention.  Regular massage is a powerful preventative tool and will greatly enhance our body's ability to maintain good posture and muscle tissue integrity.....if we choose to look after it with good maintenance.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, M.E. & The Blood Brain Barrier

We are a nation who don't like to make a fuss when it comes to pain, but this can be harmful to our health. We tend to grin and bear it.  An estimated 56% of pain sufferers reach for painkillers as a way of managing it.  Pain is one of many symptoms experienced by sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and M.E.  Previously it was thought that there was an impenetrable barrier between the blood brain barrier and cerebro-spinal fluid, but current new research has found that aspects of modern life is creating conditions  where there is an increased leakage of toxins across the Blood Brain Barrier into the Cerebro-Spinal Fluid,  CAUSING INFLAMMATION.  The interruption to lymphatic flow & drainage, as well as a general decline in the immune system,  is giving rise  to an increasing vulnerability to conditions like M.E.,  C.S.F. and precipitation of strokes, and there are implications for mental health and it's decline eg. Dementia.

I am working with a new technique called Balanced  Ligamentous Tension - BLT.  This looks at assisting lymphatic drainage from the head.  As  a massage therapist, this cutting edge new work is opening doors in the treatment of these "medically unexplainable" low energy conditions and  I am excited to be integrating BLT into my massage treatments.  I have already begun with some clients who are experiencing low energy symptoms and  will be observing the outcomes.  The findings of this new research offer  great healing possibilities to the increasing numbers of people who are being diagnosed with  CFS/ME.

The SENSATIONAL experience of Massage Therapy

The experience of massage can be SENSATIONAL and is often experienced as sensations of comfort, pain, relief, achiness, having the memory of an injury when it occured, to name but a few.

  These are all part of the healing process which massage aims to facilitate.  The client will often feed back on how the massage is feeling, as it progresses, guiding the practitioner in their work.  Working on old/chronic tension & postural issues can be painful, but if the pain can be willingly experienced more as a sensation,  then I may hear the client say that it is "a good pain". and that feels like it is releasing tension.  It is deeply rewarding to hear the client say this.  This can also be reflected by the quality of softness I can now feel in the tissues.

Thus we are able to let go of the tensions we are carrying/holding........giving rise to a new sensation of RELAXATION that may not have been felt before.  This is often felt after the massage session has finished.  And that can truly feel SENSATIONAL!!!

Accepting that pain is present, be it physical or emotional

It's not pain if you are not trying to resist it or get away from it.  It's a feeling, but not necessarily pain, and it's not something that we have to deny.  We can also create pain by our thoughts about the pain.

It's useful because we can become pain-free, by working with it.  Otherwise it can remain unresolved, lurking in the shadows.  We can acknowledge that we have been caused pain or stress in life, without any judgement.  And accept that it is present, in the same way that we experience painful emotions.

Palpation (or touch) can mediate between the body and mind to change how a client feels about me working on their body during a massage session.  One client informed me that her calf felt like it was about to cramp and on first touching it, her calf flinched.  I spoke to her so that her body "could hear" this.  My training in Bodymind Therapeutic Massage taught me that if the body/muscles could talk, then this is literally what they might say.

On returning to the calf I simply held it, and noticed that it had yielded, and the client said that now she felt completely different about me working on it.  How the body responds to being touched, and having a dialogue with or "listening" to it, is at the core of my massage therapy.  The body needs to be touched, actually craves it, and responds to being soothed.  An innate desire to rub and make better is something we intuitively did as children when we were hurt.

And as adults, when we experience an injury or trauma, gentle palpation or listening to how that part of the body feels, will let me know what it needs to recover and feel healed.  This is our Bodymind.


Looking after your posture

Most of the time, sat in front of the computer, we are lost in our minds, day dreaming of where else we would rather be, and "mindless" of what is happening to our neck and posture.  Unaware of how tension is building up around the upper back, neck and shoulders. Sounds familiar?? Massage can release that tension and revitalise our mind, thus enhancing our focus & energy