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Myth - "Massage releases trapped toxins in the body, and drinking lots of water will help to flush them out."

There are a number of pervading myths floating around in the massage world, and over and above all others is this one right here. The above statement is actually a two-for, as far as myths go, but because they are so often cited together I want to address both parts here. Though massage has many wonderful benefits for health and well-being, detoxing is not one of them, so let's clear the air.
A highly beneficial natural treatment like massage does not need false advertising mucking up it's reputation, after all.

Unfortunately, the myth of toxins being released by massage therapy is still taught in some schools, and therefore continues to be repeated by therapists old and new. Despite the fact that it has been debunked, it continues to persist, for a few reasons that I can tell - for one, not all massage therapists or instructors keep up with the latest research; two, it sounds good in a world where clever (but inaccurate) marketing has popularized the idea of "detoxing"; and three, clients often feel "massage drunk" after a session, and it sounds like a good explanation for that phenomenon.

Research has not found any evidence to show this supposed increase in "toxins" circulating through the body after a massage, trying to find the exit now that they have finally been let loose. Probably because our muscles don't store them up to begin with. Fat cells can hold onto certain types of toxic substances (more specifically, persistent organic pollutants, or, POPs), and heavy metals can build up in your bones, but



 
 
Do you find it difficult to communicate to your therapist just what it is you want from your session? Or, do you feel like you are communicating, and yet you still aren't getting what you were seeking? It seems there are a lot of people out there complaining that they have often left a massage therapy session a bit disappointed. Usually this is because either the pressure they received was too much or too little, or the therapist did not spend enough time working on the achey areas, or because the therapist was too chatty and they just wanted to relax. I'm not big on lengthy intros, so let's get the to the meat of the article - tips on how to get the massage you really want.

The best time to specify most of your requests is before the session, during intake. A caring therapist will spend a few minutes finding out just what the client has come in for, but this is also the time for the client to speak up.

1. Do you find the therapist doesn't seem to spend enough time on the area that was your main complaint? If, for example, you have a stiff neck, don't be shy in specifying you want at least ten minutes on just your neck, for example. That way if the therapist tends to only usually spend five minutes, they will know you really want more and need that from your session that day. I wouldn't recommend trying to allot specific time frames for multiple areas, because that can be tedious and your therapist will be too busy clock watching to be able to focus on you, but if you have a special concern that you know you prefer a certain amount of time on, say it! When a client has multiple areas of concern, the therapist may not realize one is 

 
 
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Aaahh, stretching. There are many reasons we think we need to stretch (unfortunately most of them are wrong, but I'll address that in future posts), and there are a few very therapeutic uses for stretching. One thing stretching is definitely good for is feeling good, but it also helps to loosen up tight muscles and keep them from giving you trouble.

Unfortunately, some of the muscles that could seriously benefit from stretching just can't be stretched. The reason being simply the way we are built doesn't allow for us to contort ourselves in such a way that will apply tensile pressure to some key muscles.

A quick breakdown of some of these muscles and why it would be awesome if we could actually stretch them:

Supraspinatus and Subscapularis (2 of the 4 rotator cuff muscles) - These muscles that are part of the rotator cuff group are often the cause of pain in the shoulder, but unfortunately they can't be stretched effectively. The supraspinatus lifts the arm to the side, so moving your arm in the other direction far enough to stretch is impossible, since your torso is kinda in the way. The subscapularis is attached to the underside of the scapula, sandwiched between the shoulder blade and ribs. No matter how you try to twist your shoulder, the trigger points in the portion of the muscle attached to your scapula will not stretch out. Bummer.

Quadriceps - This one is probably surprising, since we often see athletes pulling their foot back against their backsides to stretch the quads. However, though it feels like you are stretching them, it is only one of those muscles - the rectus femoris - that is stretching. The other three (vastus lateralis, vastus medius, and vastus intermedius) are not being pulled enough to stretch them. Mostly these three muscles don't cause issues, but sometimes the vastus lateralis can be a bit of a troublemaker.

Pec Minor - Or, more properly, pectoralis minor. This muscle can be a major player in serious problems such as thoracic outlet syndrome, and is often the main culprit in pain between the shoulder blades. When 


 
 
Not just for the typical reasons you might imagine – such as, an aversion to touching people – and I’ve heard that one plenty of times.  Of course, anyone who cannot get past that thought would never choose to be a massage therapist (or any number of other careers that involve human contact – physical therapy, nursing, etc.).  It’s all about perspective. After all, the healing power of touch has been written about almost since the dawn of civilization, and those who work in careers like this take a positive viewpoint.  Physical contact with other people is not that gross, I promise!  But, hey, it’s not for everyone.
Choosing massage therapy for a career is more than choosing a job.  It’s a way of life, a philosophy.  One cannot follow such a path unless they have a true passion for it and everything it represents.  This career is not like the office job you can leave behind at the office when you go home.  It takes dedication to follow the path of a massage therapist, in part because of the many ways it affects the life of the therapist even when they aren’t on duty.  Not everyone can handle marking “get a manicure” off the to-do list permanently!  I cut my nails off and filed them smooth for the first time in less than a week after beginning massage school, and cut and filed they have remained ever since.  Truly, I jest that this is any real sacrifice (though I know plenty of women who would beg to differ!), but there is so much more to it.

For one, massage therapy is a physically demanding job.  An MT has to take good care of themselves both on and off duty in order to maintain their own physical well-being enough to be able to help the physical well-being of others.  It’s hard to help others in pain if you yourself are suffering.  That means exercise, LOTS of stretching, and receiving massage on a regular basis, as well as drinking plenty of fluids and eating healthy, and taking precautions at all times to avoid illness and injury.  Obviously, the bulk of wear and tear is on the hands, forearms, shoulders, and back.  And, in my case, my right foot.  A key element is self-massage.  I know I do self-massage on my hands and forearms on an almost daily basis.  If I didn’t,

 
 
Most people have heard of muscle “knots” and, for that matter, experienced the discomfort of said knots themselves. But I have a lot of clients asking me, “Just what is a muscle knot anyway?” Hey, good question. The truth is, there is no such thing as a muscle knot. Muscles just don’t get tied up in knots. Not literally, anyway. What we typically are referring to is actually localized muscle tension.

Quite often a whole entire muscle gets tensed up and can feel hard as a rock. But seemingly just as often only a part of the muscle gets tensed up while the rest of it may be relatively okay. There are certain areas of particular muscles that are especially prone to this problem – mostly in the shoulders, neck, and mid to upper back regions, though I find them in various leg muscles as well, and sometimes in the arms. What does it mean when a muscle is tense? A simplified explanation is that the muscle is stuck in a state of contraction. Repetitive movements, stress, injury, overuse, etc., have caused the muscle to be unable to go back into a relaxed state after contraction, usually bit by bit, until it basically stays that way all the time. Or, in many cases, just a part of the muscle remains that way.

Keep in mind there are many causes and this is a simplified explanation, but you get the idea. The muscle fibers become, for whatever reason, stuck together and incapable of letting go. These tight, stuck muscles are called ischemic.  Once that happens, the problem will often increase over time as the area of tension grows larger and more toxins and debris get trapped in the ischemic muscles. An excellent way to remedy this problem is, of course, massage therapy. Massage breaks up that tension, stretches and loosens the muscles, releases and flushes out toxins, and gets those fibers to let go of each other so the muscle can once again return to its natural relaxed state of being.

Neelou Saleh
Licensed Massage Therapist
Kingwood, TX
www.spiritoflotus.com

 
 
In the time since I humbly ventured into the world of massage therapy, I have become keenly aware of the many misconceptions and misinformation about this industry. The one most common is that many perceive massage as something only those with excessive disposable income seek as a form of pampering. This could not be more off-base. Only a very small percentage of my clients come to me for nothing more than to be pampered. On the contrary, the majority come to me because they are in pain, hence the “therapy” part of my trade. They suffer from stress and muscle tension, resulting in pain, low energy, and limited physical mobility. There is nothing more enjoyable about my line of work than to help improve the quality of life for my clients – especially the warm, fuzzy feeling I get as each client leaves my studio feeling refreshed, relaxed, and free of the torment in which they arrived.

I’d have to say that pain relief is the number one reason anyone walks through my doors. The caring, intuitive, high-quality service I give is why they come back. That, and to maintain a healthy physical and mental state of being. Many would be amazed at the numerous benefits that regular massage therapy has to offer.

Aside from relief of pain and maintenance to keep those muscles loose so it doesn’t come back, massage increases blood circulation into the muscle giving it the nutrients it needs, lowers blood pressure, and increases flexibility and range of motion, which decreases the likelihood of injury to the muscle during activity. Keeping those muscles nourished keeps them healthy and functioning at maximum capacity. A tight muscle is a starving muscle, is not fully functional, and will fatigue more quickly than a healthy one. There are many more benefits to massage, but more on that later, as well as how to maintain healthy muscles on your own so you don’t have to suffer between appointments!

Neelou Saleh
Licensed Massage Therapist
Kingwood, TX
www.spiritoflotus.com