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Cupping is an ancient healing technique used by Chinese with evidence dating back to Egyptians, Arabs, and the middle ages.

What is Cupping or Cupping Therapy?

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Cupping Therapy: An Ancient Healing Technique Still Present in the Modern Day

The Suction Cups (Bá Guàn 拔罐 in Chinese), is an ancient technique that comes from traditional Chinese medicine, cupping therapy basically consists in using suction cups that adhere to the skin at specific points by the vacuum that is created within them.

There is evidence that not only the Chinese used it but also the Egyptians, Arabs, Greeks and in Europe during the Middle Ages, they were built of bamboo, glass, clay, bronze. Today they are usually made of glass or plastic.

Suction cup massage and other application methods

Although formerly cupping suckers could be ceramic, clay or bamboo, nowadays they are made of glass or plastic (with or without valve). In glass, this vacuum is obtained following the traditional method: by lighting a piece of cotton inside it to perform the combustion of oxygen and thus generate the vacuum once the suction cup is placed on the skin. The professional can resort to different methods of application with their manipulation, according to the objectives of the treatment:

 

  • To free the body of toxins that circulate in the blood and lymph. This type of massage requires previously applying oil on the skin to easily slide the suction cup, which is usually plastic.
  • Application and rapid extraction or flash cupping: this method is usually done with glass suction cups and is recommended to apply specifically on the back, for purposes of pulmonary decongestion. It is based on the placement of a suction cup for 2 or 3 seconds on a specific point and its withdrawal with a rapid movement. The process is repeated until the tour of the entire area to be treated is completed.
  • Fixed suction cup or retained cupping: This technique is recommended to treat organic reflex areas at their reflex points in the back and also for the treatment of the points of maximum pain, the so-called trigger points, usually caused by severe contractures and structural blockages. It consists of leaving the suction cups on the skin for a few minutes, at specific points determined.
  • Suction cup bleeding or needing cupping: it is a recommended method to reduce tension in highly inflamed or congested areas of the body through a slight blood draw. The skin is gently punctured to then place the fixed suction cup until the body releases the necessary amount.(Al-Bedah, 2019)

 

Muscle, energy and circulatory benefits

The experience of professionals who apply cupping and that of the patients themselves who undergo it allows us to say that the application of this therapy entails numerous health benefits of various kinds, sometimes in a preventive and another rehabilitative manner. Among them, the following:

  • Increased blood and lymphatic circulation.
  • Decreased pain.
  • Detoxification of impurities.
  • Work on contractures.
  • Work at the energy level.
  • Stimulation of metabolism and defenses.
  • Relaxing, analgesic and anti-inflammatory.
  • Debugging and myofascial release.
  • Strengthening tendons.
  • Improvement in disorders of the digestive system.
  • Reduction of allergy symptoms and chronic fatigue.
  • Evacuation of retained liquids.
  • Improvement in the absorption of edema. (Castro, 2018)

 

Role in sport and scientific evidence of cupping

After a cupping session, also known as cupping therapy, it is possible to reduce muscle pain and fatigue, reduce inflammation and accelerate recovery. Hence, many high-performance athletes, such as athletes and Olympic swimmers, often use this technique to recover their physical condition quickly when they are in competition. In addition to resorting to it to eliminate contractures and prevent injuries.

A recent study on cupping, New is the well-forgotten old: The use of dry cupping in musculoskeletal medicine ensures that there is initial scientific evidence on its effectiveness in reducing musculoskeletal pain. There are also works that underpin the validity of cupping therapy for back pain by stopping inflammatory processes. And postulates that recommend it when it comes to the autonomic nervous system and reduces pain. Now, it is true that new scientific papers are needed that provide more light on their real clinical and therapeutic effects. (Rozenfeld & Kalichman, 2015)

From the point of view of Western medicine, it is necessary to continue researching about this therapy and its scientific evidence. In this sense, professionals of Traditional Chinese Medicine recommend research aimed at standardizing protocols, types of suction cups, number of sessions and frequencies, etc. On the other hand, as it is an alternative therapy, the placebo effect may be at the origin of its benefits, since there are not enough studies to verify the number of benefits attributed to it.

What risks can the application of Cupping or suction cups have?

In the hands of an expert professional, the use of suction cups is a simple and meticulous job, without risk to the patient, who in turn will begin to feel the improvements he was looking for. However, it is advisable to convey security and confidence at all times, explain slightly what will be the method to be applied, tell you that you may feel some discomfort and warn you about the reddish appearance of the skin after the session. Normally, it shows circular welts or purple spots, the product of suction and blood flow congestion. But in a few days, these bruises disappear naturally.

Bibliography

Al-Bedah. (2019). The medical perspective of cupping therapy: Effects and mechanisms of action. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine.

Castro. (2018). Cupping therapy and chronic back pain: systematic review and meta-analysis. Elsevier.

Rozenfeld & Kalichman. (2015). New is the well-forgotten old: The use of dry cupping in musculoskeletal medicine. Beër Sjeva: Elsevier.

back pain relief options

Relieve Back Pain Through Massage

By Health No Comments

What causes back pain?

Most people will experience back pain at least once in their life. Although this pain or discomfort can occur anywhere in the back, the most commonly affected area is the lumbar region. This is because it supports most of the body’s weight.
Lumbago is the second reason why Americans go to the health care provider. Lumbago refers to pain that is felt in the lumbar region. You may also have a stiff back, decreased movement of the lumbar region and difficulty standing straight. You will usually feel back pain first after lifting a heavy object, suddenly moving, sitting in a position for a long time, or suffering an injury or accident. Acute lumbago is most often caused by a sudden injury to the muscles and ligaments that support the back. The pain can be caused by muscle spasms or strain or tear in muscles and ligaments and it can last from a few days to a few weeks.

Does dehydration influence back pain?

The intervertebral discs have an outer part that is strong but flexible and a gelatinous inner part, formed mostly of water. Daily activities dehydrate the disc and hydrate again at night while we sleep and lie. The outer ring absorbs 25% of the body weight and the inner part 75%. When there is an absence of water, the inner part becomes dehydrated and is not able to absorb the shock of the weight properly and causes the outer part to do this work stressing its structural integrity, causing protrusions and disc herniations over time.
Back pain can be a sign of lack of water in the spinal discs that are the shock absorbers that support the weight of the body. These discomforts should be treated by increasing the amount of water to drink. Tragedy: Not recognizing back pain as a symptom of dehydration in the joints and treating it with analgesics, massage, acupuncture and eventually surgery. Over time this will cause osteoporosis when the cartilage cells in the joints eventually die and cause a deformation of the spine, which will lead to the physical inability of the lower limbs.
Dehydration can cause muscle pain, headache, lethargy and drowsiness, nausea and tingling in the extremities. Our body is largely water, just losing 2% can cause a headache, since it can appear by not drinking enough water during the day. In addition to headache with the loss of 2%, it can also reduce memory, have concentration problems, general fatigue, so it would also cause back pain.

How to relieve back pain with only breathing?

It is a simple and practical technique that can help you reduce back pain and, therefore, can be considered as a method to achieve relaxation, reduce stress and anxiety or simply reduce back pain. The key is to properly maintain proper posture during inspiration and expiration.
The exercise consists of lying down, sitting or, just standing but with a straight back trying to maintain the neutral positions of our body. The human body has a “transverse abdomen” muscle (a kind of girdle that lines from the spine to the dawn line, the one below the belly button). It is a very important muscle for lumbopelvic balance and, consequently, for the entire spine. Its main function is to stabilize our posture to protect the lower back and also acts by compressing the viscera of the abdomen. It is an intrinsic muscle of the spine and it is also an exhaling muscle which means that it can be detected when the air is expelled. The importance of exhaling all the air is that the transverse has to contract as much as possible. The contraction exercises of the mentioned muscle are a good basis to protect the lower back. In some people with low back pain, alterations in these reflex mechanisms and different breathing patterns (from those of healthy people) have been found in efforts. Training and coordination of the inspiratory musculature (diaphragm and deep abdominals) could help improve back pain. Breathing is, therefore, among others, an exercise against back pain.
In addition, good and adequate training of our respiratory capacity will improve the mobility, flexibility, and stability of our spine. After a period of adaptation to training, with the consequent increase in tidal volume and respiratory rate during physical activity there will be an increase in expiratory time, which benefits us, because increases in inspiratory time mean a sustained contraction of the diaphragm and other inspiratory muscles, while a reduction in expiratory time would mean less rest and recovery for these inspirers and therefore higher energy cost of ventilation and early fatigue on the inspirers.

Ayurvedic Massage

Developed in India as part of an ancient medicine system that emerged more than 3,000 years ago, Ayurvedic massage focuses on specific energy points within the body and uses essential oils to help relieve stress and maximize relaxation. Massage therapists can also use tuning forks, which vibrate at particular frequencies and can help release tension. Ayurvedic massage is different from many other techniques since the patient is seen as a complete person. Massage is not only physical: it also relieves the emotional burden that leads to the tension that accumulates in the first place.

Deep tissue massage

This last technique is self-explanatory. Advocates believe that by using a lot of sustained pressure, they can reach areas under the skin where pain and discomfort originate. While traditional massage uses light to moderate pressure and focuses on the level of the skin, deep tissue may be momentarily uncomfortable as the massage therapist enters the muscular area, but it can help a lot in the long run.

Conclusion

Finally, it is important to note that, unlike many other medical conditions, the experience of pain in the lower back tends to be different for many people. For example, two people may have exactly the same condition, but for one it is disabling and for the other, it is just a nuisance. In fact, for most people, an abnormality of the spine (such as disc degeneration that can be seen through an MRI) is painless. In addition, there are other factors – psychological, emotional and economic – that often contribute and influence a person’s experience with their pain in the lower back.
Massage Therapy for Blood Pressure

Can Massage Therapy Help With High Blood Pressure?

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Massage Therapy to help heal the dis-ease of High Blood Pressure

 

What is high blood pressure and how can it affect your health?

High blood pressure (HBP) or hypertension (HTN or HT), is a long-term medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently elevated (1). More easily understood, blood pressure is determined both by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure. High blood pressure typically does not cause symptoms. Long-term high blood pressure, however, is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease, stroke, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, peripheral arterial disease, vision loss, chronic kidney disease, and dementia (2).

How does a person develop high blood pressure?

Hypertension is classified as either primary (essential) high blood pressure or secondary high blood pressure (3). About 90–95% of cases are primary, defined as high blood pressure due to nonspecific lifestyle and genetic factors. Lifestyle factors that increase the risk include excess salt in the diet, excess body weight, smoking, and alcohol use. The remaining 5–10% of cases are categorized as secondary high blood pressure, defined as high blood pressure due to an identifiable cause, such as chronic kidney disease, narrowing of the kidney arteries, an endocrine disorder, or the use of birth control pills (3).
Blood pressure is expressed by two measurements, the systolic and diastolic pressures, which are the maximum and minimum pressures, respectively. (3) For most adults, normal blood pressure at rest is within the range of 100–130 millimeters mercury (mmHg) systolic and 60–80 mmHg diastolic. (1) For most adults, high blood pressure is present if the resting blood pressure is persistently at or above 130/80.
New guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology were released in November 2017, lowering the definition for high blood pressure from 140/90 to 130/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). (4) High blood pressure affects no small number of people — about 70 million people in the United States have the condition. That means approximately one in every three Americans, or 31.3 percent, has high blood pressure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. (5)

Is high blood pressure curable?

Dr. Naomi Fisher, director of hypertension service and hypertension innovation at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Hypertension, and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, says “It is well documented that lifestyle changes can lower blood pressure as much as pills can, and sometimes even more.”(4)

Massage Therapy for High Blood Pressure

In addition to lifestyle changes encompassing, lowering salt intake, alcohol, smoking and weight, massage therapy is also a safe and effective method for changing the state of stress and anxiety and thereby controlling high blood pressure.  According to an article published by the National Institutes of Health, International Journal of Preventative Medicine, the following study was conducted on a group of women diagnosed with pre-hypertension (pre-hypertension is considered as a cardiovascular disease predictor):

Methods:

This was a single-blind clinical trial study. Fifty pre-hypertensive women selected by simple random sampling which divided into control and test groups. The test group (25 patients) received Swedish massage 10-15 min, 3 times a week for 10 sessions and the control groups (25 patients) also were relaxed at the same environment with receiving no massage. Their blood pressure (BP) was measured before and after each session and 72 hours after finishing the massage therapy. Analyzing the data was done using descriptive and inferential statistical methods (Chi-square, Mann-Whitney, paired t-test and Student t-test) through SPSS software.

Results:

The results indicated that mean systolic and diastolic BP in the massage group was significantly lower in comparison with the control group (P < 0.001). Evaluation of durability of the massage effects on BP also indicated that 72 hours after finishing the study, still there was a significant difference between the test and control groups in systolic and diastolic BP (P < 0.001).

Conclusions:

Findings of the study indicated that massage therapy was a safe, effective, applicable and cost-effective intervention in controlling BP of the pre-hypertension women and it can be used in the health care centers and even at home.
As described above, scientific studies provide measurable data in support of managing and reducing high blood pressure for people suffering from the condition.  As we learn further the benefits of providing complementary therapies for individuals suffering from dis-ease, the more we may help by providing such therapies on a routine basis.
  1. Naish J, Court DS (2014). Medical sciences (2 ed.). p. 562.
  2. Lackland DT, Weber MA (May 2015). “Global burden of cardiovascular disease and stroke: hypertension at the core”. The Canadian Journal of Cardiology. 31 (5): 569–71. doi:10.1016/j.cjca.2015.01.009. PMID 25795106
  3. “High Blood Pressure Fact Sheet”. CDC. 19 February 2015. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  4. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/6-simple-tips-to-reduce-your-blood-pressure
  5. “Considering Massage for High Blood Pressure? It Helps,” Acupuncture Massage College, https://www.amcollege.edu/blog/massage-lowers-blood-pressure (2016)
  6. “Durability of Effect of Massage Therapy on Blood Pressure,” NIH, International Journal of Preventative Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3733180/ (2013)
massage therapy program in san diego at ICOHS College to help relieve sciatica

The treatment of Sciatica using Massage Therapy

By Health, Massage Therapy No Comments

How Can Massage Therapy Help Relieve Back Pain From Sciatica?

Back pain is a common occurrence in many adults from young adults to those that are advanced in age. While there are many possible reasons for a person to develop back pain, Sciatica is one specific condition that causes pain for many. The effects of this are felt by people in many walks of life, from athletes to working men and women at desk jobs. Some of the methods used for treating this include physical therapy, pain medication and in severe cases, surgery may be used. My contention is that massage therapy possesses techniques that can be more than effective in treating this ailments pain as well as treating its causes.

What is Sciatica?

‘Sciatica’ gets its name from the part of the body that it primarily affects.Simply put, Sciatica occurs when a part of the Sciatic Nerve is compressed as a result of contracted muscles, spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spine) or a bone spur in its vicinity. The Sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the body. It begins at the Sacral Plexus and runs down through the Iliofemoral joint and down the lower leg. Sciatica symptoms include sharp pain or dull throbbing that can remain local or can be felt radiating down from the lower back, through the buttocks and down to the back of the thigh and calf. Some of the risk factors for developing sciatica include age, physical fitness, and occupation. With advancing age, bone spurs and herniated disks become more likely to develop and cause sciatica related pain.Obesity can trigger sciatica due to the increased weight and strain on the spine, thus possibly compressing the sciatic nerve. Occupations that include heavy lifting and twisting or jobs that involve sitting for long periods of time also increase one’s risk of developing Sciatica. Treating the situations that compresses the sciatic nerve and reducing the associated inflammation are effective strategies in treating this condition.

Deep Tissue Massage Therapy for Sciatica

Massage Therapy is a powerful method for treating this condition because it utilizes techniques aimed at releasing tension in associated muscles and reducing inflammation. Studies have shown that deep tissue massage is particularly effective at achieving this goal. Deep tissue work achieves this goal by applying deep and intense pressure to myofascial tissue over a series of extended compressions. It is a versatile tool which allows for a therapist to use any part of the body best suited to accurately apply pressure to a localized area. In the case of Sciatica, a session would be targeted primarily at tissue in the lower leg, particularly those in the gluteal region. Muscles to be addressed would include but are not limited to the Gluteus Maximus, Medius, and Minimus. It would also include the muscle attachments of the hamstring muscles, which attach at the Ischial tuberosity of the lower pelvis. The Piriformis muscle is another muscle which commonly contributes to irritation of the sciatic nerve and is adjacent to the sciatic nerve. This muscle originates from the anterior portion of the sacrum and the superior aspect of the greater sciatic notch, runs through the sciatic foramen and it inserts at the anterior portion of the Greater Trochanter.
Deep tissue massage can easily address this muscle if indeed it is confirmed to be the primary agitator of the sciatic nerve. In addition to all these benefits from the implementation of deep tissue massage, Circulatory massage can be integrated into treatment to further increase blood flow to the muscles mentioned and add to their relaxation which will compliment the actions of deep tissue work.

Final Thoughts

Based on the research and findings of medical professionals, Massage Therapy offers effective and non-invasive treatment options to the pain and discomforts of Sciatica. It accomplishes this by addressing the two primary causes of the syndrome: tension and inflammation. Massage techniques use prolonged pressure and circulatory manipulation to induce release of tension in muscle tissue and increase of healing blood flow to the affected areas. These techniques are proven to have a positive effect and I encourage those who suffer from Sciatica to consider massage therapy to treat and relieve themselves and regain function and quality of life.

For more information about how to help relieve people who suffer from sciatica of their pain, check out ICOHS College’s Professional Massage Therapy Program.
By: Quenton A. Perry
Massage Therapy at ICOHS.edu

Launch Your Own Motor Home Massage Clinic with These 7 Steps

By Massage Therapy No Comments

Create a successful massage business on-the-go.

With a world that is becoming increasingly digital, new types of jobs have started to appear. From digital nomads who can work remotely anywhere in the world to individuals whose careers depend upon traveling all around the world, there are a multitude of opportunities that support employment on-the-go.

If you are a licensed massage therapist, you do not have to be tied down to one place either. Mobile massage clinics allow professionals to accept a diverse clientele without requiring a concrete office space or storefront. While there are a few different ways to begin with starting your own mobile massage clinic, this article specifically focuses upon a motorhome-style clinic, in which the office goes along with you.

By having your massage clinic on wheels, massage services are made more conveniently available to clients, who can enjoy the therapeutic benefits of massage from the comforts of their own area without having to commute very far. This concept could be especially favorable in large or crowded cities where traveling becomes increasingly time-consuming.

While it may seem confusing at first, opening your own motorhome massage clinic can be less of a difficulty, so be it that a concrete plan of action is set into motion. Of course, starting any business comes along with its challenges but committing to a particular path can offer a lot of direction and motivation to reach milestones.

 

Here are the 7 most important steps to running your own motorhome massage clinic so that you can launch your very own on-the-go business.

 

The 7 Steps to Initiating Your Own Motorhome Massage Clinic

While there may be other arrangements you will need to make in order to get your motorhome-style mobile massage practice up-and-running, here are the 7 most valuable steps that will get your on-the-go business rolling in no time.

 

  1. Make sure you have your massage therapist license and all the necessary certifications.

First thing’s first, do you have all the right massage therapist qualifications and certifications? In the United States, it is not permitted to practice massage therapy without a qualifying license. For those that reside outside of the United States where laws may vary, getting the right licenses helps protect you from any potential liabilities in the future and maintains a higher level of professionalism.

 

  1. Buy a motorhome plus all of the required equipment and insurance.

What’s a motorhome mobile massage clinic without the actual motorhome? Securing a reliable and professional motorhome is definitely one of the first steps when it comes to initiating this type of business. Check listings in your area for motorhomes or trailers that can serve as a spa on wheels.

Once you have decided upon the right motorhome for your business, you will also want to make sure the facility is well equipped which includes having all of the required equipment present.

Finally, make sure not only your business is insured, but all your equipment as well along with the motorhome itself. Organizations such as the National Association of Complementary and Alternative Medicines offer liability insurance for practicing massage therapists.

 

  1. Design your mobile massage clinic menu and define your services.

Since by this point you have already purchased equipment needed for your massage practice, you likely have an idea of the types of services you would like to offer. No two massage therapists are the same, which is why providing clients with a menu of your services is important so that communication remains clear and open.

Do you intend to offer any specialty massage services such as lymphatic drainage massage, craniosacral therapy, or sports massage? You will want to let potential customers know exactly which forms of bodywork you specialize in so that they can proceed with their decision making accordingly. Be sure to keep this menu also within easy reach so that clients will not have to jump through any hoops to discover prices or treatments offered.

 

  1. Convert your motorhome into a massage clinic that is comfortable and professional

After you have secured your motorhome and all the needed equipment plus defined your price list and menu or services, it is time to design your mobile massage clinic. For most purposes, the ideal aim or aesthetic of a clinic should be a professional yet comfortable feel.

This includes clean linens and up-to-date equipment as well as a tidy environment, but also a space in which a customer can feel relaxed enough to be able to fully unwind during the massage. After all, the comfort of your client should be the number one priority.

 

  1. Determine a marketing and publicity plan and decide on a clever business name.

Facility, menu, equipment, and massage license? Check! Now the next step is naming your business-to-be and getting going with a solid marketing and publicity plan. Sure, word of mouth can be a great way to get new clients to walk through those motorhome doors, but you cannot only rely on word of mouth and often need a little bit of an extra push.

Before you decide upon how to tackle the marketing factor, come up with a business name that exemplifies whatever image you would like your company to represent. Additionally, the name should be easy for people to understand, and it helps if it has a connection to mobile massage.

Once your name is set in place, now comes branding and marketing. Get a quality logo designed for your business and generate business cards. Open social media accounts for your business including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and possibly even get a website developed. This helps clients remember your company long after their appointment has passed and conveniently get in touch if need be.

If your budget allows for it, consider hiring a marketing professional to strengthen the buzz around your business. Once you have a solid foundation of clients, you will not need the marketing professional anymore and will be able to maintain a steady flow of customers, but in the very beginning, gearing up with all of your resources in place is the best way to make a full force premier into the corporate-world.

 

  1. Set up payment plan options and prepare customer consent forms.

Chances are you will not want to be running a cash-only business. Not only can this become dangerous without a collections company storing your profits, but it also can mean difficulties when filing taxes during tax season. Most of all, it can be an inconvenience to clients who potentially do not carry banknotes around in a technologically advancing world. For this reason, you will need to set up a payment plan with a credit card processing company as well as obtain a credit card reader.

In addition to possessing the needed digital money exchange technology, the preparation of consent forms also becomes an additional vital factor in running a mobile massage clinic. You do not want to be liable on the off chance that a client becomes injured or has a medical incident. For this reason, spas and massage clinics normally have every patient sign a consent form.

If you have been in the professional massage industry for a while then you are already familiar with this practice, but for those just beginning to dip their toes into the water, requiring every single client to sign a consent form is immensely important.

 

  1. Be confident and start spreading the word about your new business.

While planning, coordination, investment, and marketing are all essential pieces of this process, a massive portion of success directly correlates to confidence and believing in yourself. With that being said, out of all people, you should be the one that believes in your mobile massage clinic the most. By supporting your own business endeavors, you will feel more comfortable spreading the word about your new company, which will definitely help bring in more customers.

As is the case with many industries, word of mouth can still often be the best form of publicity and marketing no matter how digital the world turns. Dedicate yourself to ensuring happy clients leave your mobile massage practice and they are bound to tell their friends and relatives about your bodywork services bringing in new customers. If you also provide your clients with extra incentives to spread the word such as a discount on future services, this will help drive even more business to your motorhome massage clinic.

 

Conclusion: 7 Steps to Launch a Motorhome Mobile Massage Clinic

While reading all of these steps may appear overwhelming at first, remember to take action one effort at a time. Particularly if you have a strong passion for owning your own massage practice, in the end, all of the hard work will be worth it as your goals and dreams come into fruition. At the end of the day, the most important part is to enjoy what you do in life and to be happy, so if this mobile massage clinic offers that opportunity then it is certainly time well spent.

If you still have not received a formal education and have been searching for massage schools in San Diego or affordable career colleges, ICOHS is a non-profit vocational school that offers a tailored-to-you professional massage therapy program that will teach you what you need to know to secure a massage therapy license.

Reach out to us today to get started.

Hot Stone Massage Therapy

Hot Stone Therapy: Understanding This Massage Practice

By Fitness, Health No Comments

A Quintessential Complement to a Relaxing Massage

There are many known benefits of massage therapy, from improved circulation and reduced stress to stimulation of the lymphatic system and increased joint flexibility. Many medical resources encourage readers to get massages, including Mayo Clinic and WebMD, and the major reason why is because people seem to be noticing a difference.

As the practice of massage continues to expand throughout the Western world, many variations of the treatment have come to light. From deep tissue and sports massage to Swedish and Thai massage to craniosacral therapy, there is an extensive number of techniques along with qualified specialists who are skilled at their respective styles of bodywork.

One form of massage therapy, known as hot stone therapy, has become a restorative, relaxing, and rejuvenating favorite. In order to encourage a better understanding of this massage practice, in this article we discuss hot stone therapy, explaining what exactly it consists of, along with the potential benefits of this treatment.

What Is Hot Stone Therapy?

Hot stone therapy is the practice of using heat-retaining flat rocks, typically basalt, on specific regions of the body (often referred to as acupressure points.) Hot stone therapy often begins with deep tissue massage (such as Swedish massage) to loosen tight areas of the body. Then, flat river stones that have been warmed between 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit are aligned along the spine, palms of the hands, bottoms of the feet, and close to the toes. Your massage therapist may place them in other regions of the body as well, but usually, the spine is the most common region of application.

The stones are warmed in a specialized stone heater, which looks much like a crockpot. This is done to better control the temperature of the rocks in order to prevent any chances of burns or scalding.

Massage professionals do not use hot plates, microwaves, or ovens to warm the rocks, so to avoid injury, be sure to look out for any mispractice that might take place amongst inexperienced massage therapists.

Hot Stone Therapy: The Benefits

Due to the immensely relaxing nature of hot stone therapy, it possesses a number of benefits. The primary way in which this treatment helps is by loosening muscles, which is ideal for those who have aches and pains on the body.

Although many do receive hot stone therapy because of the benefits it might provide, their accounts of success are more so personal for research is seriously lacking. That is not to say, however, that it does not exist.

Moderate-pressure massage, which hot stone therapy does qualify as has been said to assist with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. A 2013 study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice reported that participants with arthritis felt less pain after a mere month of medium pressure massage.

In addition to physical pain, hot stone massage is also at times linked to potentially reduced stress, and in turn, reduced anxiety and an overall better mood. A study published Bowling Green State University in 1997 found that those who received a 15-minute chair massage during a break were reportedly less stressed than those who did not and merely rested on their break.

Although related specifically to the broad description of massage, a 2014 study published in the journal Sleep Science found that postmenopausal women who were dealing with difficult insomnia slept better after receiving a massage, expressing it is a promising solution for such applications.

In addition to potentially reducing stress or anxiety, improving insomnia, and lessening various aches and pains, receiving a hot stone massage is a pleasant experience, particularly for those who enjoy receiving rejuvenating bodywork and find it to be effective.

While these studies mentioned are all a start, they do not fully confirm that hot stone therapy is a treatment for any of the above referenced medical conditions. As always, communicate with your doctor first if you determine that massage or hot stone therapy is the right option for your medical needs.

 

How to Practice Hot Stone Therapy

The process of application throughout a hot stone therapy appointment is fairly straight forward and normally unfolds in the following steps:

You will arrive at your appointment and the receptionist will have you fill out a health questionnaire if you are a first-time client.

Someone will guide you into a dressing room where you can prepare for your massage by removing your garments. Begin to relax already, the massage will be soon.

Your massage therapist will greet you and have you get situated comfortably on the massage table.

The massage therapist will have heated basalt or smooth stones in a specialized stone warmer which will heat the rocks to 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit typically.

Your massage therapist will likely begin the massage by performing some type of deep tissue technique, for instance, Swedish massage. They may then refer to an anatomy chart for stone placement or simply place the stones on the acupressure points along the body that are most tailored to you.

Your massage therapist will likely ask you how you are feeling throughout the massage, but you should always remember to speak up and ask for any adjustments as desired.

The hot stones will be placed along the body and then rubbed into the tissues and muscles of the body to further stimulate healing, recovery, and rejuvenation. Because of the oils and application, the smooth rocks will slide with ease and the experience is often said to be comforting.

Some things to note:

Consider arriving a bit earlier to your appointment. Allow sufficient time to speak with the receptionist if need be, as well as prepare mentally and physically for such a relaxing experience. Spas often require you to fill out a questionnaire if you are a first time client, so you do not want to feel rushed or in a hurry right before your treatment. Arriving well in advance (10 minutes is plenty) will save yourself from any extra stress.

Communicate clearly with your massage therapist. Are you experiencing pain? Are the stones too hot? Speak up and let your specialist know right away! Hot stone therapy, although at times a little intense, should not be painful or uncomfortable. Although sometimes deep tissue massage can feel overwhelming, it should not leave you suffering. Your massage therapist wants your experience to be as pleasant as possible and this can be further achieved with a straightforward transmission of how you are feeling.

Drink plenty of water after your treatment! The heat from the stones can be at times dehydrating, and in general, it is important for the body to rehydrate after any form of bodywork. Opting for an herbal, caffeine-free tea is also a delightful and health-inducing way to unwind after a massage.

Use Your Discretion with Hot Stone Therapy

Hot stone therapy is not right for everyone. In fact, those who have heart disease, migraines, arthritis, decreased pain sensitivity, metal implants, tumors, diabetes, or high blood pressure should not agree to receive hot stone therapy. Please consult your doctor beforehand if you intend to get hot stone therapy and have a medical condition.

Understanding Hot Stone Therapy: Final Words

Overall, many clients experience hot stone therapy as a pleasant and refreshing body treatment that helps knots, aches, and pains release because of deeper applied pressure and increased heat. Although not the right option for everyone, those who are fond of deep tissue massage and intense application of pressure generally really enjoy hot stone therapy, and some claim the heat from the rocks is comforting and soothing.

Interested in becoming a licensed massage therapist? Searching for massage schools or career colleges in San Diego? ICOHS College is a non-profit vocational school offering a Professional Massage Therapist program. Our dedicated educators are passionate about supporting students on their journey towards reaching their career goals.

Reach out today and request more information to learn more about the Professional Massage Therapist program.

Craniosacral Therapy for Better Health – by Amber Dambacher

By Health No Comments

Imagine for a moment a scene unfolding: an idyllic landscape of infinite beauty ranging as far as the eye can see–a broad canopy of trees interspersed with bountiful bushes and greenery, a lush jungle full of vibrant hues, fresh scents and exotic creatures, where nature thrives independently. A natural lake lies within this serenity, drawing to it all walks of life to hydrate and bask in its sun-kissed glory. Among these is a young monkey, at ease in his leisure, playfully enjoying some space from the others. All seems peaceful when suddenly a leopard appears from the perimeter, poised to attack. BOOM! A fast-paced chase ensues, the monkeys running all out full throttle toward safety, adrenaline pumping. The adolescent one, slower than the others and lagging behind, barely escapes the danger alive.

This high intensity, stress induced situation is our current reality in today’s society. With traffic jams, work/school pressure, partnership/family issues, financial expectations, environmental factors (e.g. EMF radiation), social media and constant advertisements, anxiety is rampant among Americans. Abundant overstimulation wreaks havoc on the function of our nervous system, deteriorating both physical and emotional health. When we view an ordinary event as traumatic, the body perceives it to be a real threat and responds accordingly as a defense mechanism. According to Hans Selye’s General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS), stress manifests in three stages—alarm, resistance and exhaustion. The first reaction occurs as the “fight-or-flight” response kicks into gear and stimulates the sympathetic nervous system to mobilize resources needed to meet the danger. Next, the parasympathetic nervous system attempts to return most physiological functions to normal levels while simultaneously remaining alert. Finally, the potential for disease is heightened when the stressor pushes the body beyond its capacity. [1] Due to the interconnected web that is the bodymind and the fact that our muscles house feelings, it is imperative to maintain emotional balance as part of an integrated system of overall health.

The key to regaining homeostasis is allowing the body’s instinctual intelligence to take control and naturally reset. This is achieved when we can reach a dynamic state of stillness and live from it. One of the most effective ways of activating the parasympathetic nervous system is through craniosacral therapy, a modality of massage that involves holding specific areas along the spine and cranium with a light touch. Occupational therapist Susan Kratz explains the craniosacral system well: “The three layers of membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord (meninges) plus the volume of cerebral spinal fluid constitute the craniosacral system. The tissues extend through the bones of the skull, face, and mouth (the cranium), and then down to the tailbone (the sacrum). Not only does this system protect the brain and spinal cord as a shock absorber, but it also serves to facilitate the electro-chemical conduction of nerve signals. As cerebral spinal fluid is produced within the brain itself, it swells the cranial cavity. The fluid is reabsorbed once reaching a certain pressure gradient and the brain narrows and contracts. This cycle creates the craniosacral rhythm…” [2] The intention of the practitioner is to connect in with this rhythm and be present. As Cara Holland describes, “Not many of us have been given time and space where we are listened to and heard. Where we are offered a connection to a witness who has no agenda, no judgment and who is grounded, present with us as we take this journey into craniosacral therapy. Holding and allowing, waiting, neutral space requires that the practitioner be grounded, centered, present, mindful, physically and energetically connected. From that place, each craniosacral practitioner simply holds the intention to allow time and space to provide the client and their body to heal, find structural, emotional balance and center, in whatever way they need to.” [3] Though it is one of the more subtle therapies existing in the bodywork field, the results in alleviating symptoms such as pain (physical and emotional), anxiety, depression, insomnia, appetite, inflammation, aggression, sensory processing, social engagement/behaviors and overall quality of life have been astounding.

The explanation to how so many benefits can be achieved from a singular modality lies in the complex matrix that is the brain: “There are three cranial meninges, or layers, that surround the brain: pia mater, arachnoid mater and dura mater. The pia mater membrane is adhered to the surface of the brain. The arachnoid membrane is adhered to the dura mater membrane. The dura mater membrane is formed of two layers: The periosteal layer is adhered to the inner surface of the skull bones, and the meningeal layer is adhered to the periosteal layer. Strands of collagen, or trabeculae, span the subarachnoid space and are attached to both the arachnoid membrane and the pia mater membrane. All three meningeal layers encase the brain. The dura mater’s meningeal layer separates from the periosteal layer in a few places to form membrane sheets that fold inward into the brain tissue. These sheets are arranged vertically between left and right hemispheres of the cerebrum and cerebellum, and horizontally between the cerebellum and the cerebrum. The arachnoid membrane follows the dural meningeal layer, and the pia mater membrane remains adhered to the brain surface.” [4]

When any part of this system becomes blocked or ground substance flow is restricted through pathways, problems begin to arise. “These substances are not only vital, nourishing and cleansing substances; they are also molecules that create extracellular communication among cells. Extracellular communication helps regulate and integrate cell processes, and in the brain extracellular communication also helps modulate neural signaling.” [4]

A double-blind study performed in Spain clearly shows evidence of significantly improved levels of pain and anxiety in those with fibromyalgia directly following craniosacral therapy treatment, which we can assume would also be true of healthy individuals. This group also showed positive influence on factors such as physical function, general health, vitality and social function. What’s more, these participants maintained that improvement one year post-study. [5] In another study done by Upledger Institute International, both practitioners and parents of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder were asked to evaluate the clients after having received between 1-5 sessions of craniosacral therapy. Twenty characteristic behavioral or functional features of ASD were rated to measure the experiences gained with CST. Huge behavioral advancements were reported by almost all clients in categories including general behavior, cognitive function, communication, sensory reaction, social skills and emotional stability. [6] Due to the intricate network of cranial anatomy, all body systems stand to benefit from CST. Since there are no contraindications for this modality, it is safe to employ for everyone. When we find our home in a restorative and rejuvenating parasympathetic state of being, we are able to maintain the alignment and balance needed to both heal and obtain optimal vitality so we may truly thrive.


References

1. Lucille, H. (2016, August 31.) General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) Stages. Retrieved July 10, 2019, from https://www.integrativepro.com/Resources/Integrative-Blog/2016/General-Adaptation-Syndrome-Stages
2. Kratz, S. (2009.) Craniosacral Therapy: Helping Improve Brain Function. Retrieved June 24, 2019, from https://www.iahe.com/docs/articles/Brain.pdf
3. Holland, C. (2019, January.) Craniosacral Therapy: Finding Your Way to Neutral.
4. Wanveer, T. (2014, September.) How Craniosacral Therapy May Contribute to Brain Health. Retrieved June 14, 2019, from https://www.iahe.com/docs/articles/Article_-_How_Cranio_Sacral_Therapy_May_Contribute_to_Brain_Health.pdf
5. Matarán-Peñarrocha, G; Castro-Sánchez, A; García, G; Moreno-Lorenzo, C; Carreño, T; Zafra, M. (2011, June 15.) Influence of Craniosacral Therapy on Anxiety, Depression and Quality of Life in Patients with Fibromyalgia. Retrieved June 14, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3135864/
6. Kratz, S; Kerr, J; Porter, L. (2016, June 1.) The use of CranioSacral therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorders: Benefits from the viewpoints of parents, clients, and therapists. Retrieved June 24, 2019, from https://www.iahe.com/docs/articles/final-publication-cst-for-asd-feb-2017.pdf

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