By Sarah Spruill
Osteoarthritis of the knee is a very common ailment which manifests itself primarily in people over 50, although it shows up in younger individuals as well. There are around 3-million cases of osteoarthritis in the knee diagnosed every year. Because it is so common, and so painful, there are many many researched and proven treatment options for this type of “wear-and-tear” arthritis.
Massage therapy is one of these treatments., with so many benefits., especially the reduction of pain.
Massage can be an immensely helpful, supportive treatment to alleviate the symptoms of osteoarthritis in the knee and help get people back into comfortable movement. A 2012 study explored massage therapy as a practice to alleviate osteoarthritis pain in the knees.
The study took a group of 125 individuals and randomly assigned them to one of four groups, each treatment group received a different combination of half or full hour massage, once or twice weekly. After eight weeks, the study showed that those who received hour-long massages, either once or twice weekly, “had significant improvements in pain, function, and global response.” Moreover, those who received hour-long massage had great results in reducing the intensity of their pain. The study concluded that “the optimal dose of massage was, on average, 60-minutes once per week” and that there “is promising potential for the use of massage therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee.”
While this study has shown an "optimal" dosage of massage - we at Alchemy know that everyone is different and those with osteoarthritis of the knee are individuals with complex lives and bodies that play a part in how they experience their symptoms and the kind of treatment that would best suit them.
We work to develop a treatment plan that takes many factors beyond knee pain into account to be able to provide effective, individualized support. Our goal is to get people out of pain and back into comfortable movement and living their life. From years of client experience, we have seen that many choose to continue massage for maintenance, often monthly.
If you are ready to experience the benefits of massage for knee pain or any other challenge, please schedule a session with one of our therapists or practitioners. They will help develop a treatment plan that works for you.
We are also available by phone at 410-263-1272 if you would like to discuss your situation.
By Amelia Mitchell
Families and friend groups have systems, and we each have a special role with clear expectations, change rocks the boat. We all know what to expect from Uncle Matthew, or how Mom and your sister interact over cooking, and these days some of our differences have become even more polarizing and challenging.
From what I can tell, my buttons, triggers, and soft spots were installed early. Some seemingly before birth. It then follows that the people most able to push those buttons, find my weaknesses, and trigger a response are those who have known me for a very long time, they are my family.
In order to shift a dynamic, we do need to become aware enough of ourselves and how we are participating in it to make a change. For example, as the oldest daughter, I am a caretaker and uber-responsible. When I do this for others it is easy to go too far, I am often allowing them to be less responsible for themselves and am I then taking extra credit for my “goodness.” This dynamic leaves me cranky, tired, and feeling like I am carrying and processing far too many people’s emotions. All of a sudden, I am managing everyone’s expectations and keeping the peace.
Wow. That’s too much. Are you aware of any family dynamics that you get sucked right into when you are together? Are there scripts or emotions that always show up? Is there a good person and a bad person? Or an old bruised wound that gets the band-aid ripped off each holiday dinner? Perhaps there are misunderstandings that sit just below the surface, leading the conversation to reaffirm everyone’s point of view over and over and over? It might go like this, Mom love’s you more, or Cousin Sue always gets treats from Grandma, or nobody has ever understood who I actually am!
I’d love to be the family dynamic fairy who could pop into family events and sprinkle fairy dust over you all! Instead, I do have some ideas about how strengthening your personal boundaries can begin a shift.
First off, you have to be willing to be a bit uncomfortable, a short uncomfortable conversation will NOT KILL YOU. It is hard, it can feel like the room is closing in, you can do it, it will be ok.
Now, as with anything practice improves our skills. Let us start with something smaller, not the biggest issue. That way you get to practice and ease into the process. A few small successes will help you build skills and confidence.
So, what are boundaries?
They can literally be the physical edges of your skin, and saying no to a hug, or noticing you feel uncomfortable when crowded is a clue to where your physical boundaries lie. We have awareness of our personal space beyond our skin and some of us are more and less comfortable with others in that space.
Boundaries are also interpersonal, a line in the sand that says, this is ok with me and this is not. For example, I’m happy to shop and cook a big family meal, and I expect you dear family members to clean up afterwards. Or, I’d love to watch the grandbaby on occasion or one specific day of the week, however I am not able (interested in) to provide full time care when you go back to work. Boundaries are often a combo of interpersonal and energetic, we don’t exactly know what we do want, we know this doesn’t feel right. Coming to trust what your gut is telling you, the yes/no is very helpful.
Boundaries are also flexible, it is perfectly reasonable to have different boundaries with different people. For a whole combination of reasons, I am happy to help out one friend in a challenging situation, while for another all I want to do is send them my good wishes in messenger. That is 100% ok. Boundaries should be fluid.
If it feels like your boundaries have been washed away by tidal waves of other people’s needs or requirements, a tune up is needed.
Back to choosing a couple of things to work with, remember, start small.
Saying no when you have always said yes or acquiesced non-verbally is a good place to start reinforcing your boundaries.
I live in a large body, that’s simply what it is, we have a good relationship and I don’t expect it to change size. Because restaurants are often more interested in fitting in another booth than making sufficient space for their patrons, sometimes I will be shown to a table that I literally don’t fit at. Years ago, I might have simply gone along and sat their uncomfortably, squished in a tiny chair with arms or a booth with no room for me. I’ve come to realize that my body isn’t bad or wrong. There is really good science to explain my body size and I’m not going to apologize or feel unworthy of a seat in a restaurant. So now, as happened today, when offered a table that I cannot be comfortable at, I said No, this won’t work for my body, and simply asked for another. I am a patron and deserving of a seat that accommodates me. If that isn’t possible, I can go somewhere else. (yes, part of saying no, is feeling of value)
What small thing happens a bit too often that you say yes to when it coulda, shoulda been a No? Are you now picking up your nephew from school all the time after you did your sister a favor one month when she was in a training program? Have you lent money a few too many times to someone? Are you going along with something simply to avoid disappointing or angering someone? Are you trying not to rock the boat?
Again, start small here, and find something you can say no to. Disorganized host who calls you three times before you arrive for holiday dinner to pick up extra things? Perhaps you say yes to the first request and then say no, I’m not able to do that, to additional requests? Friends you really enjoy, however as an introvert it is exhausting to be there for the whole event, say yes, I’d love to come for dessert. Effectively saying no to spending longer than you are able.
You see, a short hard moment brings a whole lot of relief. It is not our job to keep the peace and make everyone happy. Actually our job is to take care of ourselves first. You know, as the flight attendants always say, put on your oxygen mask first, before taking care of others who need help.
I am asking you to take a moment and find a gentle no that will bring space and peace to your life. It might even show up at a holiday dinner this weekend.
What could you say no to?
If you want to learn more about boundaries, you can join me for Balanced Boundaries, an Alchemy Evening on Thursday, May 15th at 7:00pm.
We will also be offering a one day class on getting grounded and healthy boundaries this summer.
Which leaves me with my final tip for those no’s.
If you have identified a place where it would be good to say no, and it feels a bit daunting, take a moment before speaking it. Feel your feet firmly on the ground, sink in a bit and feel the support of the earth beneath you - I like to imagine/feel roots of a tree growing out from my feet going deeply into the earth. When I need that extra support, I take a few deep breaths and make that contact, it brings me stability, strength, and grace. This can be done in an instant and once steady I feel able to go and speak what is true and valid for me.
by Sarah Spruill
When most people think about massage and therapeutic bodywork they think about the physical benefits of pain relief and healing. Beyond that, many think of massage as an immensely relaxing, calming experience. Although all these things are true, there are many more positive benefits from massage. One of these that many are unaware of is the positive effect massage can have on our mental health in addition to physical health.
Massage in itself is a great opportunity for relaxation which can be beneficial to our mental health; however, massage can go beyond simple relaxation. The benefits of massage for mental health purposes have been researched and studied for years. A recent 2010 analytical study of 17 clinical trials found that massage therapy may aid in reducing depression. The study included 786 participants who received massage therapy as an interventional treatment for clinical depression. This intervention proved to be effective as “all trials showed positive [effects] of massage therapy on depressed people.” The clinical trial concluded that “massage therapy is significantly associated with alleviated depressive symptoms.”
Not only can those of us living with depression find benefits from massage, but anxiety disorders have also been shown to benefit from massage therapy. Another 2010 clinical research trial found that massage is equally effective in lessening the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder as breathing exercises and a calming environment. The trial concluded that massage is an effective complementary and alternative medical treatment for anxiety. Each year there is more and more cutting-edge research on the topic of massage therapy for mental health benefits.
Massage has countless benefits and for our minds bodies and spirits, and can be the perfect moment for us to quiet our minds and be present for ourselves. Be it for simple relaxation or as a tool to potentially help alleviate symptoms of depression or anxiety, massage therapy can have a place in everyone’s lives. For more information about the benefits of massage and differently modalities offered please visit Alchemy Healing Arts Center’s website or give a call to 410-263-1272.
My specialty, and our specialty at Alchemy is assisting, guiding, and supporting the body in dropping out of an on-the-go aroused and stress-filled state.
There are dozens of studies that reference the value of massage and other hands-on modalities in reducing the body’s response to stress, inciting relaxation, and bringing calm to an over aroused person. There are also hundreds of studies showing how powerful massage is for actual healing - I could write about that all day as well, we see those successes regularly. Today I am focused on the simple value of relaxation.
Because I am fascinated by the fact that therapeutic massage, craniosacral therapy, lymph drainage, all of these forms of touch switch the system to a new place, switch chaos to relaxation. Bring us down off the ledge. And that is a much nicer place to live.
Even more importantly though, coming back to a place of relaxation, coming to know a life with less stress, learning to make choices, over and over that bring you to a place of peace. I think these are the choices that will bring us true health and well-being. No matter how long or short our lives are.
We know that massage can effect biochemistry with decreased levels of cortisol and increased levels of serotonin and dopamine across dozens of studies. These studies show us that the actions of intentional informed touch can bring real and lasting physiological change to the body.
That’s not a good enough reason to get a massage though is it?
They may be relaxing, but shouldn’t it do more to be health care or important?
And hey we are often proud of our stress, strut our “busyness”, our multi-tasking.
It has come to define us, and I invite you to let that one go - let’s look at shifting towards health instead. For me, I have learned to bring more and more stress relieving awareness and practices into my life over the years. That said, there is always more to do, however I am as gentle as I can be with myself - because if BEING HARD ON MYSELF WORKED - IT WOULD HAVE WORKED BY NOW!
That something so simple as getting a regular massage could really significantly change your body and reduce your stress response is wonderful and amazing to me. That is the news, that is what I want to crow about. That feeling after a massage - that wonderful place of relaxation, that not a care in the world, that slowness, that deep breath, that is the news! That is enough! We can create the space and time to make getting bodywork a priority.
I challenge you, add a regular massage with a quality licensed therapist to your life once a month. In six months, please share with me how your life has changed. I promise it will.
Amelia Mitchell, LMT, LLCC, BCTMB
A survey of over one thousand fibromyalgia (FM) patients revealed that regardless of age, gender, or duration of symptoms, people coping with this painful and fatiguing condition prefer massage therapy over other non-drug therapies (Fibromyalgia Network Journal July 2004)
“Fibromyalgia syndrome is a group of signs and symptoms that include chronic pain in muscles, tendons, ligaments and other soft tissues. It is one of a collection of chronic disorders that often go hand in hand. Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is frequently seen with chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine headaches, sleep disorders and several other chronic conditions.”
While Fibromyalgia is seen to be a relatively new condition, at this point we do have sufficient information to discuss its treatment with massage therapy. In 2000 the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) stated: "Fibromyalgia is another pain condition frequently seen by health care providers, and one in which there often is no universally effective treatment. Studies have found that up to 91 percent of people with fibromyalgia use some form of CAM, and up to 75 percent use massage therapy."
What are the results that patients with Fibromyalgia are receiving with massage?
Massage truly is an antidote to the feeling of being a cog in the medical machine. Patients, caregivers, health care workers and others under unremitting daily stress find massage is an oasis of peace in a frantic world.
What type of massage is recommended for Fibromyalgia?
Studies have shown that gentle massage (which does not cause pain) brings the greatest symptom relief over time. Intensity can be increased over time, if desired by the client, however maintaining a pain-free session appears to be important.
One thing that we have noticed at Alchemy with our clients with Fibromyalgia is that their symptoms, pain levels, and responses are quite variable, so there is no “one size fits all” protocol from person to person or even from session to session.
We use a foundation of classic Swedish massage, with added techniques from Lymph Drainage Therapy, Hot Stone Massage and Myofascial Release. Energy techniques such as Reiki can be very helpful during a painful flare-up.
How Often Is Massage Recommended?
Many report that a higher frequency of massage does help in reducing the symptoms more quickly, so weekly or even twice a week is somewhere to start. That said, at Alchemy, we are always looking to move our clients to a place of maintenance, out of a more acute situation. So we will be looking for what a good schedule is for your body. For some, it is weekly, for others massage less frequently still provides major benefits.
Notes from Catherine Whelan's Alchemy Evening Presentation
The Gut Brain Connection - A CranioSacral Perspective.
Ways to combat chronic stress: we are not trying to avoid stress we are trying to change our reaction to it.
“Adopting the right attitude can convert negative stress into a positive one”
Stephen Porges Poly Vagal Theory
Dan Siegel Wheel of Awareness
Hans Seyle first researcher of stress
Peter Levine, Waking the Tiger
Alchemy is Fragrance Free and we want to explain this, because it isn't a random rule, there are many good reasons for our policy. To honor it, we ask that you refrain from applying scented products such as perfume, aftershave, hairspray, strongly fragranced soaps and lotions.
We do make one exception, we have an add-in of hot towels and aromatherapy available and will add carefully chosen organic oils to your massage or reflexology session by request.
Now on to the Why:
oh, and those candles... yes, most are full of artificial fragrances...
Here are some links and resources:
"Take your time getting up - move gently and slowly"
Why do we say this?
Because we want to help you maximize the benefits of your session.
So, before you get up, rest gently on the table for a couple of minutes, breathe deeply and simply notice. How does your body feel right now? What is different? What feels good? How could you move differently? How would you like to spend the rest of your day?
Take this time to notice and let the changes and the sensations sink in. It is a delicious time after a session, you are alone, it is quiet and peaceful and you can indulge yourself with a bit more me time.
If you are concerned you will fall asleep, let us know, we will set a gentle alarm or knock quietly in 2-3 minutes.
Let it sink in, you just had a marvelous bodywork session, let it permeate deeply into your body, move slowly, be gentle, honor how well you are taking care of yourself.
A few other after session thoughts. Consider handling scheduling and payment before your session so that you don't have to get back in your head too quickly. If you feel a bit un-grounded when you get up, sit quietly and press your feet into the floor. Have a drink of water to help you refocus before driving and to re-hydrate.
Take your time.
by Amelia Mitchell, LMT, LLCC, BCTMB
Stressors, compensation patterns, self-healing, and neuroplasticity are just some of the fascinating subjects we covered during a recent long weekend in San Francisco.
The beautiful city was a wonderful backdrop for a deep dive into The Brain Speaks Two. This Upledger course builds on the foundation of neuro-anatomy and physiology, as they pertain to CranioSacral Therapy taught in the first level course I took about a year ago. As a reminder or intro; CranioSacral Therapy is a light touch form of bodywork that releases restrictions in the central nervous system, the brain and spinal cord.
Let me start by familiarizing you with the structures we are working with as CranioSacral Therapists. When first learning Craniosacral Therapy (CST) the therapist learns to work with the dural membranes and the cerebrospinal fluid around the brain and spinal cord. The dural membrane is the connective tissue, fascia, “casing” that creates a protective environment for the brain and spinal cord. Our body’s fascia is one continuous web from the bottom of our feet to the top of our head in every cell. This is why restrictions in the fascia surrounding your brain can have an effect on shoulder tightness or why an ankle sprain could affect your hips. The dural membranes are where the cerebrospinal fluid is made, held, and reabsorbed. The cerebrospinal fluid, a filtrate of blood, suspends the brain in our skull for protection; it is how the brain receives nutrients and how the brain gets rid of waste products. This fluid has a rhythm and is tracked during a CST session by the therapist to evaluate changes and illuminate significant pieces. CST works to release these restrictions in the fascia using the fluid as a guide to increase flow and space to the very important central nervous system.
The central nervous system, the brain and the spinal cord, governs all of the activities of our body. This system is made up of a variety of parts which is what was covered in The Brain Speaks One class, the neuro-anatomy and physiology. To simplify a complicated system we have the forebrain, which allow us to think critically, have emotions, regulate visceral functions like temperature control, eating, and sleeping. Then there is the midbrain which aids in movement, controls eye movement, processes hearing and visual input, and connects the forebrain and the hind brain. The third division of the brain is the hindbrain which controls all functions outside conscious control, like breathing and blood flow.
These three parts of the brain are not separate, in fact nothing in our body works alone. Everything we do involves many parts all working together beautifully and seamlessly. The Brain Speaks Two class brought the parts together and showed how our systems work as a whole. But what happens if there has been an injury, trauma, or disease? When these events happen our bodies do the very best they can in the moment, they make brilliant decisions quickly to keep us safe. And if it is just a single instance we recover quickly without the need for much intervention. The problems occur when these events happen during neuro-development, if stress lasts for longer than a system can compensate, or when the injury is too devastating.
The Brain Speaks Two taught us how to support our clients overall well-being when these problems create compensation patterns. And more importantly it taught us to trust the client’s own treatment plan, because our bodies know how to heal themselves, we may have been missing some of the essential resources at the moment of injury. Our brain is especially self-healing due to neuroplasticity meaning it can change, adapt and grow at any age. This class helped to bridge a gap I hadn’t realized was even there. It helped me to understand why some clients have a harder time healing when their life is filled with continuous, prolonged stress. This work is paramount in being able to reduce stress and our autonomic response to stress. I have been incorporating this wholeness approach into my sessions since taking the class and it has made a difference.
The founder of this work, Dr. John Upledger believed that every client is a teacher and I whole-heartedly agree. I am excited to continue working with and learning from all of my clients at Alchemy Healing Arts Center using these new skills. I will also be adding to my skills in March when I take a class working with the Glia cells in the central nervous system! Stay tuned for that report.
When is a massage gift certificate the perfect gift?
And when is it not?
Gift giving is a joy and sometimes a challenge. Gift certificates are often touted as the "perfect solution", yet are they really? We would like to offer some guidelines to help you decide if a massage gift certificate is the perfect gift.
Not so Perfect:
While we have worked with people who don't like to be touched, this can be a challenge. Many of our therapies do not require people to undress, so that is an option for someone who is very shy or modest. We hold very high standards for professionalism at Alchemy Healing Arts, we do our best to help people feel comfortable, safe and welcome. If you really think that someone you love would benefit from bodywork and they are reluctant, feel free to suggest a consultation, and we can explain more and perhaps ease their concerns.
If it is a yes, do feel free to click here and purchase an instant gift certificate for yourself, your loved ones or friends!
You can choose a dollar amount or check "Services" and a list of services and packages will show for your selection. Gift certificates can be emailed, printed or we can mail them for you from our offices.
The recipient can redeem their gift certificate at our office, by making an appointment for the session they would like to receive. Gift Certificates retain their dollar value for 5 years, prices and services may change however.
Owner Amelia Mitchell, brings her years of experience as a therapist as well as a deep interest in wellness, self-care, and healing to Alchemy's blog.