Archive for the 'acupressure' Category

May 21 2011

Headache Free

This first article is about comprehensive natural approaches to headaches. All of us have clients/patients who suffer from headaches of varying degrees of severity on a regular basis. Any information we can provide, in addition to the relief we can give with our hands, can be very helpful. It is also appreciated that we care enough to provide information that might be helpful. This article could help with that objective.

Carolyn Chambers Clark, RN, EdD
is BellaOnline’s Holistic Health Host

Headache Free

This article explores a holistic approach to headaches that really works!

There are many types of headaches and some of them work in concert. For example, a muscle-tension headaches can increase the frequency and intensity and duration of migraine and vice versa.

Searching for the ideal pain killer isn’t the answer. For one thing, they have negative side effects and can create additional (rebound) headaches themselves. They are also toxic, especially the non-steroidal antiflammatory drugs (NSAIDS like aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, etc.) And can cause major trauma to your digestive track, including hemorrhage. Finally, they don’t touch migraine and have only limited success in long-term cures for other types of headache.

Remember, headaches are just a signal your body is giving you that you need to eat better, rest more, get enough exercise, allow yourself pleasure, release anger and resentment and get a healthier lifestyle. Medication only masks pain and prevents you from addressing the underlying sources of your headache.

Conclusion? Like so many other diseases, a headache approach requires a multi-facted, holistic approach.

Set reasonable limits on the activities and responsibilities you can handle.
Ninety percent of headaches are due to stress or tension, according to Dr. Seymour Diamond, director of the National Headache Foundation. Tension headaches are just that—the result of too much tension. Are you just too nice? A pushover for others? If you can’t limit yourself, consider professional counseling to help you get a handle on limit setting. At the very least, set aside at least 5 minutes for you every day. Go out and smell the roses or just enjoy a sunset. Let beauty, peace and joy surround you.

Avoid foods that trigger headaches.
The most common are lunch meats that contain nitrites, fermented foods (e.g., bread, cheese, beer and wine), MSG, Nutrasweet, roasted nuts, chocolate, citrus juice, coffee and tea. You may have your own sensitivities. Start a food/headache diary, charting what you eat and your reaction to it. Eliminate the foods that precede your headaches.

Use seated massage for tension headaches.
Give yourself a neck and back of the head massage or find a friend or massage therapist. Go ahead—you deserve to be treated well. Or get your office to allow massage therapist in to help out with the stress.

Try cold for migraines.
Migraines are a result of a forceful rush of blood through dilated arteries. Hot won’t work, but soaking a towel in ice water, wringing it out and holding it to the back of your neck should provide some immediate relief. Ice cubes can work, too.

Try magnesium
This mineral is known to relax smooth muscle. Because of our depleted soils, we don’t get enough magnesium in our diets. Low ionized magnesium has been linked to migraine headaches in at least one study (Kahn, Jason, Medical Tribune, May 18, 1995, p. 7). Unless you’re eating organic vegetables, consider taking 300 mg of magnesium daily to build up your levels of magnesium (which is also good for your heart) as a preventive strategy. Older adults need 600 to 800 mg daily to help absorb calcium.

Try more B-vitamins.
In one study, people who took 400 mgms of riboflavin (a B-vitamin) decreased the severity of their migraines by 70 percent (Cephalagia, 14(5), 1994). You can take a lot of vitamins, or eat organically grown liver, chicken, peanuts, hickory nuts, soybeans, soy flour, wheat germ, whole wheat cereal/bread/pasta, fresh spinach, kale, peas, lima beans, sunflower seeds, and eggs. You can also find “stress vitamin” capsules in your health food store, pharmacy and grocery store. This is a combination of Vitamin C and B-complex vitamins.

Ingest more fish oil.
Another good reason to eat more oily fish in your meals is that fish oil has a platelet-stabilizing and antivasospastic action that has been shown to decrease migraine. If you don’t like or can’t eat fish, you can get fish oil capsules at your health food store.

Picture that headache going away.
Find a quiet and restful spot and use imagery to picture the color surrounding your headache and its location. Picture the headache turning into a soothing color. Then picture the headache turning into a liquid. Now let that liquid flow out of you and far, far away, someplace where it no longer has any effect on you.

Try biofeedback.
Children are especially good at controlling their headaches through biofeedback reports Lisa Scharff, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Learning to cool their hands by controlling blood flow results in half the children reducing their migraines to half the intensity. Check out biofeedback specialists in the yellow pages.

Check your posture and pillow situation.
Some headaches are due to poor posture, huddling over a computer screen, holding a telephone between your ear and shoulder, and sleeping with too many or too few pillows.

Try feverfew.
For over 200 years, feverfew has been used to treat migraines and has been shown effective in clinical trials (Murphy and others, Randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial of feverfew in migraine prevention, Lancet 2(8604):189-92). Feverfew appears to work by reducing the pain and swelling caused by the body’s release of histamine and prostaglandins. Two 125 mg capsules daily or 60-80 drops of standardized tincture are used to prevent migraines. Find it in your health food store and double check for a standardized version and suggested dose. Not to be used when pregnant or nursing and not to be given to children under two years old.

Exercise daily.
Exercise can acquaint your blood vessels to the normal sequence of dilation, rather than the inconsistent dilation and constriction that takes place with a migraine, says Dr. Seymour Diamond, director of the National Headache foundation. Physical activity also alleviates pain by increasing endorphins and enkephalins, your brain’s pain-blocking substances. Consider a daily walk, a light swim or easy bike ride as a regular hedge against headache pain. Vigorous exercise is not recommended as you can bring on an exertional headache. At the very least, stretch your neck every half hour by gently rotating your neck from side to side and shrugging your shoulders to break the tension you’re holding in your muscles.

Try aromatherapy.
A blend of peppermint and lavender essential oil may relieve stress and muscle spasms. Consult an aromatherapist or get an aromatherapy book.

Breathe deeply.
Pay attention to the way you breathe. Under pressure you’re apt to take short, shallow beaths that fail to send enough oxygen to your brain. Allow yourself time to sit quietly and let your abdomen expand and deflate as you breathe in and out deeply, breathing in peace and relaxation and breathing out whatever it’s time to let go of.

Try acupressure.
Acupressure is acupuncture without the needles. Instead, use the tips of your fingers to press on special “point” from which nerve messages fan out and relieve your pain. Press hard enough to make the point hurt a little bit. Press the points for 15 to 30 seconds. Use either steady pressure or an on-off method, slightly decreasing the pressure, but not completely removing your fingers, every few seconds. Find the bony point just behind your ear. Next, find the big muscular groove at midpoint in the back of your neck. Halfway between these two places, on each side of your neck, you will find a small groove between two large muscles. Run your thumb up it until you come to the base of your skull. Push inward and upward hard into the groove and against the bone. Another point to press is between the outer corner of your eye and the outer end of your eyebrow. Find the ridge of bone at the outer edge of your eye socket. Move a finger’s width toward your ear to a small hollow and press hard.

Homeopathic remedies may help.
Many people prefer homeopathic care because it is so safe. In one study reported in the British Homeopathic Journal, 93% of people taking an individualized homeopathic medicine experienced good results, while only 17 percent given a placebo (sugar pill) did. Try a “combination” remedy, get a self-care book on homeopathy to select the remedy most closely matching your symptoms, or seek professional homeopathic treatment.

Stop smoking.
If you’re still smoking, be aware of the detrimental effects on your circulation. Find a good stop smoking class or purchase a stop smoking program or book.
As always, be sure to share your self-care plans with your health care practitioner.

Posted by Ralph at 04:05 PM
© 2009 Institute for Integrative HealthCare Studies. This work is reproduced with the permission of the Institute.>

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Sep 01 2009

An Overview of Self Fertility Massage

We all know that a well-done massage not only reduces pain and relieves stress, but also has other health benefits. Self Fertility Massage™ is completely natural and is a technique that women can use without any external aid to boost their reproductive ability and handle their menstrual cycles better. Another advantage is that the immune systems becomes stronger that help women have better bodies and also enhance their fertility. Caution must be exercised to not employ this technique when a woman is menstruating or thinks she’s pregnant. It’s also advisable to consult a qualified physician before starting on this massage therapy.

Why Use Self Fertility Massage™

If your fallopian tubes are blocked, or you have Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome or Ovarian Cysts, or Endometriosis, then Self Fertility Massage™ would prove to be really beneficial for you. Sometimes, your infertility could be due to inexplicable reasons or such a condition could even be causing stress. Hormonal imbalances, menstrual cramps, and poor circulation are other reasons why you should consider giving Self Fertility Massage™ a shot. Basically, the massage aims at improving the health by promoting blood circulation thus nourishing the organs.

What Makes Self Fertility Massage™ Work

This system supports the overall health of the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes in addition to having positive effects on the intestines, liver, and stomach. The uterus may be under a lot of duress and hence not seeing enough blood circulation. If you aren’t very active physically or you have been operated upon around the uterus region and it hasn’t completely healed, then again you could have issues. Fecal pressured intestines, endometrial tissues, and fallopian tubes that are twisted are other painful concerns. Ovaries are positively influenced by this massage because the eggs are supplied with fresh blood rich in Oxygen and nutrients. When you use the Self Fertility Massage™ technique, in case the fallopian tubes are blocked they’re cleared and the scar tissues are loosened.

Additionally, the massage helps digestion and elimination of toxins from the body. Even the surplus hormones that could do us considerable damage are flushed out. It’s essential that feces are moved out of the human system regularly to not cause any damage to the digestive system. Because of the fecal pressure, there could be unwanted impact on the reproductive organs.

What Comprises Self Fertility Massage™

Chi Nei Tsang ensures that the forces making up our body flow without any obstructions the different parts. Whether you have surplus heat or are deficient in heat, this type of organ massage helps clear blockage and is based on the principle that the body can heal itself.

Deep Tissue Massage is a great way to detoxify and improve circulation. You not only feel relaxed but any adhesions, if any, are broken down and fresh blood flows to the organs. In Myofacial Release, myofacia that could have become twisted due to improper usage is released. This makes it easier for Oxygenated blood to flow to the different muscles and organs.

Acupressure, the well-known Chinese technique centers on the belief that the pressure applied at strategic points can bring about better coordination and balance.

One of the other components of Self Fertility Massage™ is Reflexology. The foot points corresponding to endocrine, digestive, and reproduction organs are worked upon to ensure that the blood flow is encouraged and congestion is removed.

The healing therapy using Castor Oil is another facet of this massage. In this particular method, castor oil is applied on the lower abdomen to facilitate digestion.

Since you stand to gain so much with Self Fertility Massage™, it’s definitely worth a try. You can learn more about Self Fertility Massage here. You can also purchase the Self Fertility Massage DVD here.

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Jun 16 2009

Five Energy Tips to Keep You Going

Published by under acupressure,Massage Therapy

We can all use a substance-free boost to manage the demands of a hectic life. Incorporate some or all of these energy-stimulating techniques into your daily routine to keep illness at bay and maintain a steady stream of vigor.

Our bodies are intricately designed to maintain health and overcome illness. The body naturally seeks homeostasis both on a physical and energetic level. Electromagnetic and subtle energies give our bodies life and form the foundation of our well-being.

Chakras and meridians are two systems in which these forces are contained. The chakras form the body’s energy centers while the meridians form the body’s energy pathways. Both emit electromagnetic energy and light. The key to energy medicine is to keep these systems open and balanced so that our life force (qi) can support, shape and animate our physical body.

Both scientific research and personal experiences reveal that energy medicine has the potential to affect every aspect of our being – from healing trauma to balancing emotions. The fundamental law of energy medicine states when our energies are vibrant and balanced, so are our bodies. An increasing number of bodyworkers are enhancing their treatments by incorporating subtle energy work into their sessions. As this trend grows, it becomes more evident that these energies are intelligent, responding positively to intention and touch.

With a few well-chosen energy techniques, bodyworkers and their clients can maintain their vitality and reverse an illness at its onset. In her book, Energy Medicine, Donna Eden offers five useful tips for maintaining your energy systems and nipping an oncoming illness in the bud. The first four techniques can be performed on yourself for daily maintenance, while the last technique requires a partner’s assistance.

1. Separating Heaven and Earth

Rationale: This exercise opens the meridians, expels toxic and stagnant energies and stimulates fresh energy to flow through the meridians and joints. Do this exercise when you start to feel sick. If you do healing work, it moves out any energy you may have picked up from a client and helps to center restorative energy in the lower abdomen.

1. Stand erect with hands on the thighs, fingers spread.
2. Take a deep inhalation through the nose, circle arms out and bring hands together in the prayer position at the heart. Exhale through the mouth.
3. Take a deep inhalation through the nose, while separating the hands: one arm stretches straight above the head with the palm facing up toward heaven; the other arm stretches straight down to your side with the palm facing toward the earth.
4. Visualize that you are pushing something up to heaven and down to earth through the palms. Hold your breath in this position for as long as it is comfortable.
5. Release the breath through the mouth and return the hands in the prayer position. Repeat, switching arms. Do one or more additional lifts on each side.
6. Come out of this pose by bringing both arms down, allowing your body to bend at the waist. Hang there with your knees bent slightly as you take two deep breaths.
7. Slowly roll up to standing position one vertebra at a time. Roll the shoulders back.
8. Bring palms to cover the navel, close eyes and meditate for as long as you like.

2. The Hook Up and the Three Thumps

Rationale for the Hook Up: The Hook Up brings two major energy channels into balance: the governing channel (runs up the center of the back/spine) and the conception channel (runs down the center of the front of the body). The Hook Up strengthens the auric field, connects energies that flow from the front to the back of the body, bridging the energies that flow from the back to the front of the body.

1. Place one thumb or middle finger on the forehead between the eyebrows. Place the other thumb or middle finger in the belly button.
2. Pull slightly upward on the skin of both points. Close the eyes, take a deep breath, exhale and relax. Hold for about two minutes or until you sigh or take a deep breath naturally.

Rationale for the Three Thumps: Tapping specific points on the body will affect the energy field by sending electrochemical impulses to the brain and releasing neurotransmitters. The Three Thumps address fatigue, increase vitality and keep the immune system strong in the midst of stress. The specific locations for thumping are: Kidney 27, the thymus gland and the neurolymphatic reflex points for the spleen.

Thump Kidney 27 Points: boost energies in all meridian and increase concentration. Kidney 27 is the last point on the kidney meridian and its stimulation is indicated for adrenal exhaustion.

1. Place fingers on the clavicle and slide them toward the center. Find the bumps where they end, drop down about one inch and move slightly outward approximately one inch. There is a slight indentation on these points.
2. With palms facing these points, cross hands over one another. Rest the middle finger on these points.
3. Tap and/or massage these points firmly while breathing deeply — in through the nose, out through the mouth. Continue for about 20 seconds or 25-30 taps.
4. Boost the effects of thumping Kidney 27 by hooking the middle finger of one hand in the navel and resting the fingers of the other hand on the Kidney 27 points. Pull upward with the navel and hold for two or three deep breaths.

Thump the Thymus Gland: stimulate all energies, boost immune system and increase strength and vitality.

1. Move fingers down about two inches from Kidney 27 points and into the center of your sternum.
2. Breathe deeply while tapping the thymus point with the four fingers of each hand for about 20 seconds or 25-30 taps.

Thump the Spleen Neurolymphatic Reflex Points: lift energy, balance blood chemistry and strengthen the immune system (remove toxins, fight infection).

1. Find these points by moving fingers down from the thymus, out at the level of the nipples and straight down to beneath your breasts. Then move them down over the next rib, just below the breasts.
2. Tap firmly with several fingers for about 20 seconds or 25-30 taps. Breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth.

3. Massaging Neurolymphatic Reflex Points for Each Season

Rational: Each organ has corresponding neurolymphatic reflex points. Massage re-energizes these points by removing toxins from the muscles. Blood, lymph and the corresponding meridians are stimulated.

Neurolymphatic Reflex Points for Fall Immunity: work the lung and large intestine points to boost immunity during fall.

• The Lung Reflex Points: Front lung points are located in the second, third, and fourth intercostal spaces close to the sternum; back lung points are located between the second, third and fourth transverse processes of the spine. Place the fingertips in the intercostal spaces lateral to the sternum and massage briskly for about 15-30 seconds. For the back, use two tennis balls side-by-side on the floor; lay down with the tennis balls just under the fourth transverse process, then roll back and forth covering the reflex points along the spine.
• The Large Intestine Points: Points are located from the transverse processes of the second, third and fourth lumbar vertebrae to the crest of the ilium. Locate these points and use your fingertips to massage the triangular area for about 15-20 seconds.

4. The Crown Pull

Rationale: Energy naturally accumulates at the top of the head. When this energy does not exit out the crown, it becomes stagnant, often causing headaches and mental fatigue. The crown is the gateway to the higher energies of heaven. This exercise opens the crown chakra, releasing mental congestion and refreshing the mind.

To Open the Forehead:

1. Place thumbs at the temples. Place fingertips on the forehead just above the center of the eyebrows.
2. Slowly and with some pressure, pull fingers apart, stretching the skin. Breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth.
3. Place fingertips at the center of the forehead and repeat the stretch. Breathe.
4. Rest fingertips along the hairline above the forehead. Stretch laterally with the fingers. Breathe.
5. Repeat each of the stretches one or two more times.

To Open The Crown:

1. Place fingertips about two inches down from the center of the crown. Slowly and with pressure, pull down. Breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth.
2. Place fingertips at the center of the crown and pull them apart. Breathe.
3. Place fingertips about two inches down from the center of the back of the crown. Slowly, pull apart with the fingers. Breathe.
4. Place fingertips at the center of the back of the crown and pull apart. Breathe.
5. Repeat each of these stretches one or two more times.

5. The Spinal Flush

Rationale: The spinal flush works with the lymphatic system, the cerebrospinal fluid system and the reflex points along the bladder meridian. Reflex points on the bladder meridian correspond to every organ in the body. This technique is great for anyone under intense emotional or physical stress. It is best performed with a partner, but if in the absence of a partner, use tennis balls along either side of the spine to work small sections of the back at a time. The points are located from the base of the neck, at about C7, to the bottom of the sacrum, between the transverse processes of the spine. Perform this exercise three times, once for the lymphatic system, once for the cranial-sacral system and once for the organs.

1. Lie prone on a massage table. Have your partner begin at the base of your neck, C7, and massage the points between the transverse process of the spine using the thumbs. Apply strong pressure using your own body weight.
2. Work each point for about five seconds by moving the skin up and down or in a circular motion.
3. At the sacrum, massage the entire area. Repeat the massage.
4. To close, sweep the energies using the flat of the hands, moving from the tops of the shoulders down and off the feet. Repeat once or twice.

The key to performing these exercises is to use your intention to move the energy. The energy follows the mind. Visualizing the energy moving coupled with your intention help you feel the effects of these exercises. When working on a client with any of these techniques, help them to visualize and hold their intention of moving the energy in their own body.

Energy techniques can be used by anyone, anywhere and at anytime. They are easy to use, inexpensive, don’t require complex equipment or instrumentation and have no known adverse effects. Using these tips on a regular basis can be truly healing. Share them with those you love.


Chaitow, Leon. Modern Neuromuscular Techniques, Churchill Livingstone, 1996.

Eden, Donna. Energy Medicine, Penguin Putnam, Inc., NY, 1998.

Osborn, Karrie. “Energy Medicine, A Field of Potential,” in Massage and Bodywork, August/September, 2005.

Posted by Nicole at 09:48 AM

© 2009 Institute for Integrative HealthCare Studies. This work is reproduced with the permission of the Institute. <>

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Jun 01 2009

Effective Pain Management Techniques

Pain management techniques are as diverse and far ranging as the areas of the body pain impacts. Massage represents the safest, most effective component of a multi-disciplinary approach to pain management. Discover the options available to your clients in addition to your valued services.

by Nicole Cutler, L.Ac.

Dealing with chronic pain is big business for healthcare practitioners in the 21st century. An April 2005 nationwide poll conducted by Stanford University Medical Center, ABC News and USA Today found that more than half of Americans suffer from chronic or recurrent pain, and of those surveyed, 25 percent reported back pain as a significant disability. This translates into more than 11 million Americans being significantly impaired by chronic and recurring pain, and more than 2.6 million being permanently disabled by back pain alone.

Time is repeatedly proving that chronic pain has the best outcome when a multi-disciplinary program is followed. This indicates that pain relief finds clients seeking treatment from a variety of sources. The installment of pain management centers across the country have tapped into this success by combining a facility with physicians, pharmacists, rheumatologists, physical therapists, acupuncturists, nutritionists, fitness trainers, chiropractors and of course, massage therapists. Massage therapists can further expound upon the multiple modality approach by utilizing an array of techniques to shift clients out of their pattern of chronic pain.

There are three primary categories in which pain management focuses:
· Non-invasive, non-drug pain management
· Non-invasive, pharmacologic pain management
· Invasive pain management

Non-invasive, non-drug pain management
There is a wide variety of noninvasive non-drug pain management techniques available for treating chronic pain. A few of the most widely accepted in comprehensive pain management programs are the following:

· Exercise—physical exertion with the aim of training or improvement. This can include strength training, water therapy, flexion exercises and aerobic routines involving active, passive and resistive elements. Exercise is necessary for proper cardiovascular health, disc nutrition and musculoskeletal health.

· Manual techniques—manipulation of affected areas by means of chiropractic adjustments, osteopathy, massage therapy and other tactile applications. Manual techniques use physical touch to alter tissue morphology, structure and function. The primary goal is increasing local circulation through muscle/ joint elongation and oxygenation.

· Behavioral modification—use of behavioral methods to optimize patient responses to pain and painful stimuli. Cognitive therapy involves teaching the patient to alleviate pain with relaxation and coping techniques. Biofeedback involves the gradual alteration of neuromuscular signals for symptomatic improvement.

· Cutaneous stimulation —superficial heating or cooling of skin. These pain management methods include cold packs and hot packs, and yield the best results when used in conjunction with exercise and other circulatory methods.

· Electrotherapy —the most commonly known form of electrotherapy is transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). TENS therapy attempts to reduce pain by means of low-voltage electric stimulation that interacts with the sensory nervous system.

Non-invasive pharmacologic pain management

Pain relievers and related drugs are used at every stage of western medicine’s treatment for chronic pain. The most common noninvasive pharmacologic treatments for chronic back pain are:

· Analgesics—includes acetaminophen. Long-term use involves risk of kidney damage.

· Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs)—includes aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and the controversial COX-2 inhibitors.

· Muscle relaxants—used to treat muscle spasms due to pain and protective mechanisms.

· Narcotic medications—most appropriate for acute or post-operative pain. Since the use of narcotics entails risk of habituation or addiction if not properly supervised, they are seldom used for chronic conditions.

· Antidepressants and anticonvulsants— primarily used to treat nerve pain. However, an increasing number of physicians are experimenting with their use for all kinds of chronic pain syndromes.

Determine how client medications influence massage with a comprehensive, easy to use reference chart.

Invasive pain management techniques

Invasive techniques in pain management involve invasion of instruments and devices into the body. In general, surgery is not included in pain management, so invasive pain management techniques typically are less traumatic to the body than surgery. Some of the most popular invasive pain management therapies include:

· Injections—direct delivery of steroids or anesthetic to nerve, joint or epidural space. Injections into the facet, peripheral nerve, trigger point and other locations are also known as “blocks”. These may provide relief of pain (often temporary) and can be used to confirm diagnosis.

· Prolotherapy—injection of a solution to stimulate blood circulation and ligament repair at the affected site.

· Surgically implanted electrotherapy devices—implantable spinal cord stimulators (SCS) and implantable peripheral nerve stimulators. This is essentially an internal TENS device.

· Implantable opioid infusion pumps—surgically implanted pumps that deliver opioid agents directly to an affected nerve. Typically a last resort, this technique carries a high risk of addiction.

· Radiofrequency radioablation—deadening of painful nerve via heat produced by a specialized device.

Massage Therapy’s Role

Massage therapy’s role in pain management can be substantial. Fitting into the safest category with the best long-term outcome, massage is an excellent, non-invasive, non-drug, pain management, manual technique. Analogous to the overall pain management approach of inter-disciplinary healing, the reliance on a variety of massage techniques will give your client the greatest chance for pain relief. In order to visualize this approach, begin by imagining a stream filled with debris that prevents water from flowing downstream. With the goal of increasing water flow, one could choose from the following strategies:

· Physically removing the debris
· Digging a trench around the debris to encourage flow
· Opening an upstream dam to naturally force the debris through
· Pulverizing the debris

A comprehensive approach to increase your success rate would be combining all of the above. A massage therapist can take advantage of this comprehensive approach by relying on a variety of massage techniques, such as Swedish massage, Reflexology, Neuromuscular Therapy, Myofascial Release, reiki, or acupressure. In addition to collaborating with other healthcare professionals, diversifying within one’s own field will amplify your effectiveness. When choosing to enter the ever-growing market of pain management, keep all of these integrative concepts in mind for the ultimate benefit to your clients and your practice.

Recommended Study:
Myofascial Release, Neuromuscular Therapy, Pharmacology for Massage, Reflexology, Shiatsu Anma Massage, and Swedish Massage for Professionals.

References:, Poll: Americans Searching for Pain Relief, Gary Langer, ABC News Internet Ventures, May 2005., Pain Management Techniques,, 2006.

Posted by Editors at 01:35 PM

© 2009 Institute for Integrative HealthCare Studies. This work is reproduced with the permission of the Institute. <>

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May 27 2009

Beat the Heat: 7 Tips for Cool Summer Sessions

Are your client sessions already starting to heat up to an uncomfortable level this summer? Here’s how to support the body’s cooling mechanisms without losing the assistance heat lends to therapeutic massage.

by Nicole Cutler, L.Ac.

As summer sends the mercury rising, intolerance to excessive heat grows. When it comes to massage administration, this intolerance poses a contradiction. The nature of bodywork is enhanced with warmth, as higher temperatures encourage tissue relaxation and fluid circulation. However, when a person is overheated, adding even more heat is anything but therapeutic.

At first thought, a cooling technique, such as ice massage, appears to be a logical technique to balance the fiery heat of summer. While valuable for reducing inflammation in acute sports injury work, ice massage will not increase local circulation or relax tense muscles. The solution to providing a balanced therapeutic massage this season is to find ways to support body cooling without sacrificing the aid of warmth in the healing process. Try incorporating some of the following suggestions, or use them to jumpstart your own ideas into your summer client sessions:

1. Cool moonstones – Consider learning how to do a cool moonstone facial. While hot stone massage is a popular choice in colder months, the heat translated by hot stones can be too warming for many individuals already heated by summer’s temperature. The Institute offers the continuing education course, Stone Massage, which includes cool moonstone facial instruction. In addition to the moonstone facial, cool stones can be held in the palm or placed behind the neck to comfortably reduce body temperature.

2. Aloe Vera – A massage medium containing aloe vera creates a cooling sensation, and is particularly effective on sunburned skin. When applied to the lower legs and feet, aloe vera can bring the body’s temperature down a few degrees without inhibiting circulation or relaxation.

3. Room Temperature – The temperature in your massage setting is always a crucial factor, particularly during summertime. Especially if a client is already perspiring and feeling warm, stepping into a hot, stuffy room will only perpetuate their experience of heat. A ceiling fan’s slow setting is an ideal choice to make certain there is air circulation in the treatment space. However, finding the right semblance of cool can be a fine line, as an air conditioner blowing directly on a client can initiate muscular tension and contraction from its chill.

4. Hydrosol Misting – Hydrosols are the pure, water-based solutions created when essential oils are steam distilled. Take advantage of the cooling properties of peppermint or wintergreen to cool and refresh your client. When spraying a hydrosol mist, be aware of and refrain from its use if there are any contraindications present. Additionally, avoid irritation with any essential oil derivative by preventing any eye or mucus membrane contact.

5. Cucumber eye pats – Often used in spa settings, a disc of fresh cucumber placed over the eyes can cool down a flushed face quickly. The cooling and moisturizing properties of cucumber are ideal for a supine client struggling with a hot perspiring body. Always seek permission before placing fresh veggies on your client’s face.

6. Water consumption – Staying hydrated in the heat is crucial, especially when combined with bodywork’s characteristic release of toxins. To reduce overheating, offer your client a bottle of water to sip during, as well as after, your session.

7. Cooling Acupressure – According to Oriental Medical Theory, working the following two locations can reduce internal body heat:

Large Intestine 11 – Located at the lateral end of the transverse cubital crease, midway between the radial side of the biceps brachii tendon and the lateral epicondyle of the humerus. This is a traditional point to reduce fever, revive from heatstroke and reduce all kinds of internal heat conditions.

Governing Vessel 14 – Located just below the spinous process of cervical vertebrae 7. The main point for reducing summer heat, all of the yang (heat containing) meridians intersect here, and is therefore an extremely accessible location to release interior body heat. When this intersection of yang energy is opened, it reduces the accumulation of body heat.

Being aware of your client’s body temperature translates into your awareness of their comfort. The differences in body constitutions will lead some individuals to extreme discomfort in the heat while others will feel their best. When a therapist pays attention to temperature variations and then institutes methods to balance those variations, the client’s experience will be that much more beneficial and therapeutic.

Recommended Study:

Stone Massage


McCampbell, Harvest, Light Summer Massage Lotion Recipe, Massage Magazine, January/February 2001., The Five Element Theory, Stefan Karlsson, Dipl. Ac., 2006., Summer, Fire, Spirit, Tofinotime Magazine, June 2004., Acupuncture Points Database, Yin Yang House, 2006.

Posted by Editors at 01:01 PM

© 2009 Institute for Integrative HealthCare Studies. This work is reproduced with the permission of the Institute.>

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May 27 2009

3 Imbalance-Specific Bladder Point Combinations

Understanding Oriental Medical theory to appropriately choose the best acupressure points typically requires years of post-graduate education. Our experts have provided a quick and easy summary of three common health imbalances and recommended point combinations most supportive of their healing.

by Nicole Cutler, L.Ac.

Most bodyworkers now perform a substantial intake evaluation prior to conducting their respective sessions. The interview process has become a requirement for conscious care, arising out of the profession’s increased presence in the healthcare industry. Once a therapist has the informative details of their client’s health, it is easier to create a customized treatment plan from the many possible massage therapy applications.

Acupressure practitioners are familiar with the meridians of the body, accessing the energy within these meridians to influence health. Out of the 12 primary meridians, the Urinary Bladder (UB) meridian is unique. With the most number of accessible points along its path, the UB meridian begins just medial to the inner canthus of the eye, ascends up the forehead, around the cranium, runs all the way down the dorsal surface of the body and finally ends at the lateral edge of the little toe. When this meridian descends along each side of the spine, UB points provide access to toning every organ system in the body.

Although not diagnosticians, bodyworkers can use the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to offer particularly beneficial treatments to their clients. In TCM, an imbalance of health is characterized by a symptomatic pattern. Discover the most beneficial points to work on the UB meridian for the following three commonly encountered imbalances:

Heart Blood Insufficiency
The symptoms of this pattern are characterized by anxiety and insomnia. Additional symptoms may include memory and concentration problems, heart palpitations, pale complexion, dizzy spells, vertigo and blurry vision. This pattern can manifest after blood loss (examples include: giving birth, surgery, trauma or heavy menses), or can be a result of chronic disease.

Working with Urinary Bladder points 15, 17 and 20 can be useful in bringing about balance to heart blood insufficiency.

UB 15 is located approximately two finger widths lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the fifth thoracic vertebrae, at the height of the paraspinal muscle. This is the Associated Point of the Heart, and is indicated for its calming properties and ability to strengthen heart insufficiency.

UB 17 is located approximately two finger widths lateral to the lower border of the seventh thoracic vertebrae, at the height of the paraspinal muscle. This is the Influential Point of Blood, and is useful to build and nourish the blood.

UB 20 is located approximately two finger widths lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the eleventh thoracic vertebrae, at the height of the paraspinal muscle. This is the Associated Point of the Spleen, and is indicated because the spleen is the primary source of nourishment for making blood.

Liver Invading the Spleen
The symptoms of this pattern are characterized by abdominal distention and pain aggravated by emotional upset. Additional symptoms typically include alternating constipation and loose bowel movements, flank pain, decreased appetite, dysmennorhea, irritability, depression and fatigue. In TCM, unreleased emotions create stagnation in the liver, which in turn, disturbs the spleen’s digestive functions.

Working with Urinary Bladder points 18, 20 and 25 can be useful in bringing about balance to a liver invading the spleen.

UB 18 is located approximately two finger widths lateral to the lower border of the ninth thoracic vertebrae, at the height of the paraspinal muscle. This is the Associated Point of the Liver, and is used to relieve stagnation in the liver.

UB 20 is located approximately two finger widths lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the eleventh thoracic vertebrae, at the height of the paraspinal muscle. This is the Associated Point of the Spleen, and is indicated to strengthen the spleen’s digestive functions.

UB 25 is located approximately two finger widths lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the fourth lumbar vertebrae. This is the associated point of the Large Intestine, and can help regulate the intestines.

Lung and Kidney Yang Deficiency
The symptoms of this pattern are characterized by asthma and coughing with watery sputum. Additional symptoms typically include a sensation of cold throughout the body, lower limb edema, low back cold and pain, fatigue, desire for warm beverages and breathlessness. In TCM, when the kidneys are lacking their life-giving fire and lung energy is weak, the body fails to transform fluids and warm itself. This pattern is commonly seen in chronic disease and the elderly.

Working with Urinary Bladder points 13, 23 and 43 can be useful in bringing about balance to lung and kidney yang deficiency.

UB 13 is located approximately two finger widths lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the third thoracic vertebrae. This is the Associated Point of the Lung, and is useful in strengthening the lung.

UB 23 is located approximately two finger widths lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the second lumbar vertebrae, on the quadratus lumborum muscle. This is the Associated Point of the Kidney, and tonifies kidney yang.

UB 43 is located approximately four finger widths lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the fourth thoracic vertebra, on the spinal border of the scapula. This point is commonly used in chronic conditions where the lung and kidney need strengthening.

While arriving at the correct TCM diagnosis is complex, the key to this analytical process is looking at the pattern from an overarching perspective. There are at least five or six possible imbalances each for anxiety, stomach pain and asthma, so investigate further to see if a client’s additional symptoms fit the rest of the pattern as described. If the imbalance seems to fit the presented case, working with the UB points listed abovie will aim your client in the direction of healing and recovery.

Do not press on disintegrating discs or fractured or broken bones. If your client has a weak back, use caution with a stationary, light touch. If you have any questions or need medical advice, seek permission to discuss your client’s health with their physician.

Editor’s Note
For more information on acupressure, read the article, Ten Highly Effective Acupressure Points

Flaws, B., Finney, D., A Compendium of TCM Patterns and Treatments, Blue Poppy Press, 1996.

Lade, A., Acupuncture Points: Images and Functions, Eastland Press, 1989.

Liangyue, D., Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 1993.

Maciocia, G., The Foundations of Chinese Medicine, Churchill Livingstone, 1995.

Posted by Editors at 10:39 AM
© 2009 Institute for Integrative HealthCare Studies. This work is reproduced with the permission of the Institute.

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May 23 2009

Differentiating Back Pain from Kidney Pain

Massage therapists are often in a difficult position; western medical diagnosis is beyond their scope of practice, yet awareness and recognition of medical disorders is crucial to their client’s well-being and safety. Mistaking kidney inflammation for a muscular strain can result in inappropriate therapy. Learn how to detect kidney inflammation masquerading as back pain, and what to do about it.

One of the primary reasons for client visits to clinically oriented massage practices is back pain. Recognizing the signs of kidney inflammation enables therapists to differentiate it from a muscular strain/sprain.

Often mistaken to be tense or strained back muscles, kidney inflammation’s most prominent symptom can be back pain. Three kidney inflammatory conditions that can cause back pain are:

• Nephritis — kidney infection
• Renal calculi — kidney stones
• Polycystic kidneys

When a client complains of back pain, from the lower-thoracic to the mid-lumbar regions, it is important to rule out kidney inflammation. When the kidneys are not functioning optimally, the body’s ability to manage fluid balance is impaired, often resulting in edema. Systemic circulatory massage is inappropriate for these individuals, as it would push more fluid through an already overburdened system. Additionally, if the kidneys are inflamed, they are more susceptible to injury from vigorous massage. The kidneys are vulnerable because they are only partially protected by the rib cage. The right kidney’s location underneath the liver results in its position being slightly lower than the left kidney.

A solid, anatomical understanding of each kidney’s location will contribute to accurate differentiation. The superior border of the kidney reaches the level of the 12th thoracic vertebrae. The inferior border lies just above the horizontal plane of the umbilicus, typically level with the 3rd lumbar vertebrae. The inferior border is one finger breadth superior to the iliac crest. The center of the kidney, where the ureter is attached, is level with the intervertebral disc between the first and second lumbar vertebrae. Therefore, pain originating in the kidney is typically felt in the upper lumbar region and can radiate to the upper right or left quadrant of the abdomen.

A thorough client history and intake is an essential component of safe practice, especially when evaluating back pain. To help the bodyworker identify kidney involvement, the three kidney inflammatory conditions previously listed are explained below.

Nephritis typically causes tenderness, pain and swelling in the back, below the costal margin and lateral to the vertebrae. The pain can be constant or sharp, and is typically unilateral. Other symptoms can include one or more of the following:

• Dark, red or foamy urine
• Decreased urine output
• Urinary urgency and/or burning
• Groin pain
• Fever
• Recent history of sore throat
• Abdominal pain or pressure

Severe infection may also include:

• High fever
• Chills
• Extreme fatigue
• Nausea or vomiting
• Confusion
• High blood pressure
• Edema

An individual with nephritis has an impaired ability to process fluids, contraindicating circulatory massage. However, non-circulatory techniques can offer substantial benefits without challenging fluid balance. If you suspect an untreated kidney infection, an immediate referral to a physician is warranted. Medical professionals take these symptoms very seriously, as an untreated kidney infection can have dire consequences.

Kidney Stones
A kidney stone is a solid deposit of crystalline substances inside the kidney. Stone size can vary greatly, ranging from the size of a grain of sand to a small pebble. When the stones are large enough, they scrape the delicate lining of the urinary tract, causing an enormous amount of pain. The intense pain, referred to as renal colic, comes and goes in waves, is typically unilateral, and is often likened to giving birth. Additional symptoms can include:

• Nausea and vomiting
• Back pain referred to the groin
• Frequent urination
• Blood in the urine
• Fever and chills, if accompanied by an infection

Those prone to kidney stones are excellent candidates for massage, as long as they are asymptomatic. If kidney stones are suspected, most sources suggest avoiding massage during the acute phase. However, some Asian styles of bodywork include specific techniques that may reduce the spasmodic pain of renal colic. These techniques involve bodywork on the following distal areas:

• The kidney area is on the sole of the foot. In reflexology, this point is near the center of the sole of the foot, level with the arch. In acupressure, this point is in the center of the width of the foot, one-third of the way down from the toes, just proximal to the distal pad of the foot. Stimulation of this area may ease kidney pain.

• According to Chinese Medicine, Stomach 36 is widely used for invigoration. This invigoration is gentle, so as not to overload the kidneys, yet effective. Stomach 36 is located four finger breadths below the eye of the knee, one finger breadth lateral to the anterior crest of the tibia, in the tibialis anterior.

• According to Chinese Medicine, Urinary Bladder 39 opens up water passages in the lower part of the body. Urinary Bladder 39 is located in the transverse crease of the popliteal fossa, lateral from the center, on the medial border of the tendon of the biceps femoris. While deep pressure should not be applied to the back of the knee, energy techniques can be employed.

• Gently massaging the entire Kidney meridian can relax its associated organ’s tissues, calming renal colic. The Kidney meridian begins under the little toe, crosses the sole of the foot, ascends along the medial aspect of the leg, follows the postero-medial aspect of the thigh to the tip of the coccyx, and goes up the anterior aspect of the abdomen and chest to just below the clavicle. Meridian work on the foot and lower leg will have the greatest affect on the kidney.

• The Four Gates are four points used in Chinese Medicine to ease pain. Simultaneously apply pressure to Large Intestine 4, located on the dorsum of the hand, in the center of the 2nd metacarpal bone on the radial side, and Liver 3, located on the dorsum of the foot in the depression distal to the junctions of the 1st and 2nd metatarsal bones. If you have access to an assistant, it is ideal to stimulate all four of these points at the same time.

Polycystic Kidneys
Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is an inherited disease where sacs of fluid (cysts) grow in the kidneys. If too many cysts grow or if they get too big, the kidneys become damaged. The cysts may also cause pain or may get infected.

The most common symptom of PKD is high blood pressure. Other symptoms include:

• Pain in the back and side
• Abdominal pain
• Increased abdomen size
• Blood in the urine
• Frequent kidney infections

Abdominal massage is contraindicated for polycystic kidney disease. In an effort to remove toxins from the body and to prevent an excessive circulatory load on the kidneys, lymphatic drainage massage is an excellent choice for someone with PKD.

As an increased number of people with complex medical disorders seek the benefits of massage therapy, bodyworkers need to have a basic understanding of the conditions they may encounter. Practitioners should never assume back pain is due to a muscular imbalance and should have a screening process to rule out kidney inflammation in place. Taking the extra time during a client intake will enable you to administer a condition-appropriate massage, prevent symptom exacerbation and could even lead to a referral your client will be extremely thankful for.


Premkumar, Kalyani, The Massage Connection: Anatomy and Physiology, Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2004.

Werner, Ruth, A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology, Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2005., Kidney Infection (Pyelonephritis), Merck and Co, Inc., 2006.

Posted by Nicole at 04:09 PM
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May 22 2009

Be Prepared: What to do When a Client Faints

Regardless of the training received in massage school, the fainting of a client is a stressful situation for any bodywork professional. Review the causes and warning signs of fainting, preventive measures, as well as the necessary steps to safely and confidently handle this unpredictable occurrence like a pro.

by Nicole Cutler, L.Ac.

Realizing clients may faint during massage therapy does not mean you possess the confidence to handle the real, live situation. A formal massage education does not include an emergency room internship, where challenging experiences take place under the watch of a professional. Often, the first time a client faints during massage, the practitioner is on their own.

Why do Clients Faint?
Fainting, or syncope, is a sudden, brief loss of consciousness. Someone who faints may only pass out for several seconds or for as long as an hour. There are hundreds of possible causes of syncope, most of which are due to the vasovagal reflex, where blood vessels relax and dilate, causing a sudden drop in blood pressure.

Some of the most common reasons clients faint include:

· Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), common in early pregnancy and diabetes
· Anemia
· Heat stroke or heat exhaustion
· Dehydration
· Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia
· A sudden change in body position like standing up too quickly (postural hypotension)
· Extreme pain
· Sudden emotional stress or fright
· Anxiety
· Taking some form of prescription medication. Examples include medicines that lower high blood pressure, tranquilizers, antidepressants, or excessive use of some over-the-counter medicines.
· Being in a hot, stuffy room or hot, humid surroundings
· Alcohol consumption

Fainting Prevention
The number one way to prevent client syncope is through being prepared and communication with clients.

· Be familiar with the medications clients are taking, including new medications and anything that may lower blood pressure.
· If your client has just come from physical activity and is overheated, allow them to cool down and re-hydrate.
· Know if your client has a history of orthostatic hypotension, fainting or dizzy spells.
· Be aware if your clients are diabetic and make certain they have checked their blood sugar or have sugar pills, juice or cookies available if necessary.
· If your client is hypoglycemic, or hasn’t eaten within the past five hours, provide them with a light snack or refuse treatment.

Even if you have no reason to suspect that a client may faint, there are a few signs that may precede a temporary loss of consciousness. If any of these signs appear, verbally check with your client to see if they are okay prior to continuing a session.

· The skin becomes hot and sweaty or cold and clammy.
· A client suddenly becomes fidgety.
· Complaints of dizziness or light-headedness.
· The person lifts their head out of the face cradle to yawn or take a breath. According to David Palmer, this is an involuntary reaction to not getting enough oxygen to the brain.

What to do
Although a client becoming fully unconsciousness is rare, it is best to be prepared. The following is the preferred order of steps to address syncope:

1. Be Calm – The number one thing to remember if a client loses consciousness is to remain calm.

2. Proper positioning – If the client is not lying down, assist them into a position where they can’t fall, their head is below their heart and the legs are elevated. This position promotes blood flow to the brain. If a victim who is about to faint can lie down right away, he or she may not lose consciousness. Call for assistance if you need help in accomplishing this, but do not leave the client’s side.

3. Check breath and pulse – If there are no sounds of breathing, make sure the airway is open and begin rescue breathing. If there is no pulse, begin CPR. Look for a medical identification bracelet, necklace or card that identifies a medical problem, such as epilepsy or diabetes. In either case, have someone call 911 for emergency help.

If the client has a pulse and is breathing, it is not necessary to call 911 unless the client does not regain consciousness in a few minutes or if the person is diabetic. A diabetic may be in insulin shock, requiring additional support.

4. Comfort measures – Make sure there is no tight-fitting clothing around the client’s neck, that there is adequate air circulation, and keep the client from getting chilled.

5. Acupressure – Only after the first four steps have been taken, consider this age-old technique for fainting. Oriental meridian theory suggests applying firm pressure to the following locations to revive someone from syncope:

· Governing Vessel 26 – Located in the philtrum, about 1/3 the distance from the bottom of the nose to the top of the lip.
· Stomach 36 – Located four finger breadths below the eye of the knee, one finger breadth lateral to the anterior crest of the tibia, in the tibialis anterior.

Additional Tips
Upon fainting, a common mistake is to try to give the person something to eat or drink, including water. This gesture must wait until the client is fully conscious. Additionally, don’t allow the person who’s fainted to get up until the sense of physical weakness passes. Then be watchful for a few minutes to be sure he or she doesn’t faint again. Once again, don’t leave your client’s side until they have fully recovered.

Other Reasons to call 911
If your client also has signs of a heart attack, call for emergency help. Such symptoms include:
· Chest pain or pressure.
· Pain that spreads to the arm, neck or jaw.
· Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
· Nausea and/or vomiting.
· Sweating.
· Rapid, slow or irregular heartbeat.

If your client also shows signs of a stroke, call for emergency help. Such symptoms include:
· Numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg.
· Temporary loss of vision or speech, double vision.
· Sudden, severe headache.

While episodes of syncope in the massage setting don’t occur every day, most massage therapists may encounter a few in their career. A thorough intake will provide the therapist with the information to prevent such an episode by alerting them to a fainting possibility, discovering if the client hasn’t had anything to eat or drink prior to a session, or by prompting modification of the session. Such modifications include avoiding strokes or techniques that further lower blood pressure or those drawing energy away from the head. Reviewing the causes of syncope, including these warnings and procedures, will build your confidence so if you do encounter syncope, you are both calm and prepared.

Massage professionals interested in enhancing their knowledge on this subject would benefit from the Institute’s Pharmacology for Massage distance learning program. This 13-credit course covers different medications that may render clients more susceptible to fainting and also suggests massage strokes to use to counter this tendency.

Editor’s Note: This information is for education purposes only, and is not intended to replace professional medical care. If not completely sure of your client’s well being, seek emergency medical help.

Recommended Study:

Pharmacology for Massage


Palmer, David, Fainting and Chair Massage, Massage & Bodywork, June/July 2000.

Shanghai College of Traditional Medicine, Acupuncture: A Comprehensive Text, Eastland Press, 1995: 572-3., First Aid for Fainting, American Institute for Preventive Medicine, 1996.

Posted by Editors at 09:28 AM

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May 22 2009

Relieve TMJ Pain with Massage

Published by under acupressure,Massage Therapy

With its multi-faceted functions, the jaw’s temporomandibular joint is vulnerable to a variety of ailments. Learn what modalities best ease the pain and discomfort of TMJ as well as self-care suggestions to share with your clients.

By Nicole Cutler, L.Ac.

The jaw or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a major target for an array of joint disorders. Disorders of the jaw are typically referred to by the same name, TMJ. The temporomandibular joint connects the mandible to the skull’s temporal bone and contributes to the acts of biting, chewing, swallowing, speaking and making facial expressions. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states over 10 million people in the United States suffer from TMJ problems.

Pain is the most common TMJ symptom. The pain is often described as a transient, dull ache in the jaw joint and nearby areas, including the ear. Instead of pain, some sufferers only have problems in the use of their jaws. Additional symptoms of TMJ can include:

· Inability to open the mouth comfortably
· Clicking, popping or grating sounds in the jaw joint
· Locking of the jaw when attempting to open the mouth
· Headaches
· A bite that feels uncomfortable or “off”
· Neck, shoulder and back pain
· Swelling on the side of the face
· Tinnitus or ear pain
· Dizziness

TMJ symptoms often improve without treatment in a matter of weeks to months. However, some individuals experience an increase in symptom severity, and may develop long-term chronic jaw pain.

TMJ can be caused by a number of factors, including:

· Local injury
· Dental work/oral surgery
· Whiplash
· Arthritis
· Widespread joint pain from another condition
· Sinus or ear infections
· Headaches
· Bruxism (teeth grinding and clenching)
· Stress

Although teeth grinding and stress are not the leading causes of TMJ, difficulty relaxing may be a common cause many sufferers are unaware of. Holding the body tout, including the jaw, is a common response to stress. Whether metaphorical for “keeping one’s mouth shut”, a result of the incredible strength and control we have over the mandible, or due to another reason, emotional tension can easily be reflected in the temporomandibular joint.

Many types of healthcare professionals can be involved in TMJ treatment. This spectrum includes, but is not limited to, physicians, pain specialists, chiropractors, physical therapists, acupuncturists, dentists and bodyworkers. In certain cases, a splint or mouth guard is crafted specifically for the individual to prevent the TMJ from slipping out of place. Reconstructive jaw surgery is rarely employed for TMJ and is typically the very last resort. Some self-help suggestions to offer clients suffering with a painful jaw include:

· Maintain good posture while working at a computer, watching TV and reading. Pause frequently to change position, rest hands and arms, and relieve stressed muscles.

· Make a habit of relaxing the facial and jaw muscles throughout the day.

· Avoid chewing gum and eating hard foods.

· Apply moist heat to increase the circulation around tense jaw muscles.

· Use relaxation techniques to reduce overall stress and muscle tension in the entire body.

Bodywork is an ideal modality to relieve the pain of TMJ. According to medical massage proponent Boris Prilutsky, “Massage therapy should be focused toward the reduction of tension in the masticatory muscles, releasing tension in fascia, and elimination of trigger points. Post-isometric relaxation is an extremely important tool for the restoration of the range of motion.”

Training in the following five modalities is particularly valuable when treating jaw pain:

1. Neuromuscular Therapy – The application of ischemic pressure to trigger points in the jaw muscles (temporalis, masseter, lateral pterygoid, and medial pterygoid) can help relieve their spasms.

2. Cranial-Sacral Therapy – In addition to activating the classic stillpoint, adjustments to the mastoid, temporal, zygomatic and sphenoid bones can provide enormous TMJ relief.

3. Post-Isometric Relaxation – Using isometric contraction to actively stretch tensed muscle fibers, adding minimal resistance for a further stretch, followed by relaxation allows for enhanced relief of the targeted muscle. This technique can restore the range of motion that typically regresses with TMJ disorders.

4. Acupressure – Massaging the meridians, both distally and locally, that wind around the jaw can bring increased circulation and thus relief to TMJ. The primary meridians to the jaw are Gallbladder, Stomach, Large Intestine and Triple Warmer.

5. Swedish Massage – The relaxation that results from a full-body Swedish massage should not be underestimated. Since stress is a major contributor to TMJ disorders, initiation of the relaxation response can have a significant impact in reducing tension held in the jaw.

For bodyworkers, TMJ is no mystery. Many clients present jaw pain as their primary complaint, or as a secondary nuisance. Approaching TMJ pain by utilizing techniques from the described five modalities provides an inclusive, holistic and effective treatment.

Recommended Study:

Neuromuscular Therapy, Cranial-Sacral Therapy, Swedish Massage


Lewit, K, DG Simons DG., Myofascial pain: relief by post-isometric relaxation, Arch Phys Med Rehabil., 1984 Aug;65(8):452-6.

Prilutsky, Boris, Medical Massage for Jaw-Joint (TMJ) Disorders, Massage Today, 12/04., TMJ Disorders, A.S.A.M., Inc, 2005., Basics, TMJ Association, Ltd., 10/31/05.

Posted by Editors at 09:14 AM
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Apr 29 2009

Massage and Bodywork to Reduce Fatigue and Build Your Practice

Fatigue is the most frequently seen symptom in clinical practice. Learn how to implement a therapeutic protocol to support clients suffering from fatigue while enhancing the value of your services.

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac.

The explosion of research centering on the benefits offered by massage therapy clearly demonstrates the modality’s ability to reduce fatigue:

• As published in Alternative Therapies for Health and Medicine, hospital nursing and physician staff members were provided massage therapy, relaxation therapy and music therapy. All of these therapies significantly reduced anxiety, depression and fatigue as well as increased vigor.

• As published in the Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, patients with chronic fatigue syndrome experienced a reduction in depressed mood, fatigue, anxiety and stress hormone (cortisol) levels immediately following massage therapy.

• As published in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, massage therapy (as compared to transcutaneous electrical stimulation) improved sleep patterns and decreased pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression and cortisol levels in adults with fibromyalgia.

• As published in the Journal of Nursing Research, acupressure followed by leg massage eases fatigue and depression in people with end-stage renal disease.

Acupressure for Fatigue
While there are just as many variations of fatigue as there are ways to help it, acupressure provides a solid theoretical basis and effective means for its treatment. Traditional Chinese Medicine thoroughly chronicles and seeks to balance energy flow within the body’s meridians. This intricate system of healing has been thoroughly studied and relied upon by acupuncturists, but massage therapists performing acupressure can also utilize this vast pool of therapeutic information.

Traditional Chinese Medicine discovered that when performed excessively, certain activities strain the energetic balance in specific meridians. This strain can result in weakened immunity and fatigue. Administering acupressure to specific points along these meridians can correct the offending imbalance and increase the client’s energy.

According to Michael Reed Gach, PhD’s book, Acupressure’s Potent Points, the following activities can result in fatigue:

• Excessive standing damages the bladder and kidney meridians, which can cause fatigue and low backaches. To restore these meridians, stimulate the following points:

Bladder 23 – located approximately two-finger widths lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the second lumbar vertebrae, on the quadratus lumborum muscle.

Bladder 52 – located approximately four-finger widths lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the second lumbar vertebrae, on the quadratus lumborum muscle.

Kidney 27 – located in the depression on the lower border of the clavicle, approximately three finger widths lateral to the sternum.

Kidney 3 – located in the depression between the medial malleolus and tendo-calcaneus, level with the tip of the medial malleolus.

• Excess sitting can damage the stomach and spleen meridians, contributing to fatigue, anemia and digestive disorders. To restore these meridians, stimulate the following points:

Stomach 36 – located four finger breadths below the eye of the knee, one finger breadth lateral to the anterior crest of the tibia, in the tibialis anterior muscle.

Spleen 6 – located four finger breadths directly above the tip of the medial malleolus, on the posterior border of the medial aspect of the tibia.

• Excess lying down can damage the large intestine and lung meridians, which can cause fatigue, respiration difficulties and elimination problems. To restore these meridians, stimulate the following points:

Large Intestine 4 – located in the web on the dorsum of the hand, between the first and second metacarpal bones, approximately in the middle of the second metacarpal bone on the radial side. Note: This point is contraindicated during pregnancy.

Large Intestine 11 – When the elbow is flexed, in the depression at the lateral end of the transverse cubital crease, midway between the lateral epicondyle of the humerus and the biceps brachii tendon.

• Excess use of your eyes (as in close desk work) or emotional stress can damage the small intestine and heart meridians, causing fatigue. Pressure or tapping on the following can restore balance in these meridians:

Conception Vessel 17 – located on the anterior midline, level with the fourth intercostal space, on the sternum.

Heart 3 to 7 – runs along the palmar aspect of the forearm, in a line from Heart 7 (the ulnar end of the transverse wrist crease, on the radial side of the tendon flexor carpi ulnaris), to Heart 3 (in the depression between the medial end of the transverse cubital crease and the medial epicondyle of the humerus).

• Excess physical exertion can damage the gallbladder and liver meridians, which can cause cramps, spasms and fatigue. To restore these meridians, stimulate the following points:

Liver 3 – located in the web on the dorsum of the foot, in the depression distal to the junction of the first and second metatarsal bones.

Gallbladder 34 – located in the depression anterior and inferior to the head of the fibula.

Asking the proper questions of a client during an intake interview can reveal excessive activities in their lifestyle that may be creating a fatigue-causing imbalance. For example, a client experiencing fatigue who sits at a computer all day likely has imbalances in the spleen, stomach, heart and small intestine meridians. Applying acupressure to the points most likely to balance these meridians could provide enormous therapeutic benefit. Massage therapists can take advantage of Traditional Chinese Medicine’s knowledge in a hands-on, healing manner to conquer the typical clinical struggle with fatigue.


Field, T., Quintino, O., Henteleff, T., Wells-Keife, L., & Delvecchio-Feinberg, G., Job stress reduction therapies, Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 1997.

Field, T, Sunshine, W., Hernandez-Reif, M., Quintino, O., Schanberg, S., Kuhn, C., & Burman, I. Chronic fatigue syndrome: Massage therapy effects on depression and somatic symptoms in chronic fatigue syndrome, Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, 1997.

Gach, Michael Reed, PhD, “Acupressure’s Potent Points”, Bantam Books, 1990.
Liangyue, Deng, et al., “Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion”, Foreign Languages Press, Beijuing, 1987.

Rho, Yi-Ching, RN, Shiow-Luan Tsay, RN, PhD, Acupressure for Fatigue and Depression in End-Stage Renal Disease, Journal of Nursing Research, 2004.

Sunshine, W., Field, T., Schanberg, S., Quintino, O., Fierro, K., Kuhn, C., Burman, I., and Schanberg, S., Fibromyalgia benefits from massage therapy and transcutaneous electrical stimulation, Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, 1996.

Posted by Editors at 11:51 AM

© 2009 Institute for Integrative HealthCare Studies. This work is reproduced with the permission of the Institute.

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