Treating TMJ issues: a series of posts

I’ve been writing about TMJ pain and dysfunction both on my Facebook business page and on my Austin, Texas, USA, private-practice website’s blog.

If you have TMJ disorder and want to read any of those posts, here are links to them. (Many more people find this wellness blog first. It’s been around much longer and has an international readership.)

I view TMJ issues as not just biomechanics, although it plays a role. This issue has social, emotional, historical, biological, cognitive, and spiritual aspects. I am very aware that some people, especially in the mainstream medical and dental fields, may believe it’s unnecessary or even laughable to provide information on so-called “woo-woo” or “fluffy” topics like essential oils, yoga, and the throat chakra for people who are suffering from jaw pain and dysfunction.

So let me share how I came to write this series of posts. Instead of just going to experts (and I have done that), I also asked women who suffer from this problem what helps, and they told me.

Since nine times more women than men experience TMJ issues, this is super valuable information to share.

I want the world to know that TMJ treatment is available beyond night guards, pain meds, and surgery, and there are many options for self-care: massage, exercises, training yourself in new habits, reducing stress, improving posture, acupressure, nutrition, stretching, journaling, meditating, and more.

If you bump into this limited and limiting attitude, please share this post, and please share in the comments your experiences and any other resources you have found helpful.

Introducing one great lotion for face, hands, and body: Essentiel by Adele

I found a great new moisturizer and here’s the backstory: My dear friend Clarita’s daughter, Adele Uddo, grew up to become a parts model. That means she is a bit short to be a fashion model but is amazingly photogenic (and incredibly youthful looking in her 40s).

Adele’s hands, eyes, lips, face, legs, feet, torso, etc., have been used in numerous advertising campaigns for years: selling jewelry, nail polish, makeup, fragrance, shoes, food, wine, credit cards, paper towels, kitchen tools, etc., as well as in feature articles.

I bet you didn’t even know there was such a job title as parts model! I didn’t. But here you go: some images from Adele’s website featuring her parts.

Screen Shot 2018-04-26 at 9.35.17 AM

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Two remedies for muscle pain that everyone should know about: arnica and epsom salt

A marathon took place this past Sunday in Austin, Texas, and I’ve seen a few runners who came in for massages. It surprises me that so many runners, triathletes, bicyclists, and people who work out are unaware of two over-the-counter remedies that are very effective at relieving muscle pain. Hence this blog post!

It’s not that I don’t want to see you on the massage table. I do. Massage has great benefits, including pain relief. But it’s like this: Very few people can afford to get massage every time they work their muscles hard enough that they feel pain afterwards. Wouldn’t that be nice, though?

In between massages, here’s how you can find relief from muscle pain. These are remedies professional athletes, dancers, and others who work their bodies hard use. I first learned about them 20 years ago while attending a dance workshop.

Arnica gel and tabletsarnicagel

Arnica montana is an herb that grows in Europe. The homeopathic pharmaceutical industry sells an arnica gel that you can apply to your skin to relieve pain. It’s clear, goes on cool, has no odor, and once it dries, you can’t tell it’s there.

You can also get arnica cream, which blends more easily with lotion or creamy sunscreen.

Arnica relieves muscles aches and stiffness, reduces swelling, and prevents bruising. It relieves osteoarthritis pain as well as ibuprofen, without any side effects. I always have it available when I’m doing massage, to apply to bruises and to extremely sore, stiff, or swollen muscles.

arnicapelletsIf you’re more adventurous, you can take arnica tablets. There’s a little trick to dispensing the tablets: twist the lid to loosen. Hold the container upside down and twist it, keeping the lid stable. Pellets will fall into the lid one at a time. When you’ve released 5 pellets, remove the lid from the container and empty the lid under your tongue. Let the pellets melt in your mouth.

If you know you will be doing something where you’ll be in pain afterwards, like lifting heavy boxes, gardening, getting Rolfed, hiking with a heavy pack, etc., take the tablets beforehand to prevent or lessen pain, or take it afterwards for whole-body relief.

Where to get arnica

Here’s the tricky part. People “in the know” like athletes and dancers use arnica, but the makers don’t advertise (as far as I know), so others tend to learn about arnica via word of mouth. To buy it, you need to go to a store that sells homeopathic medicines. Ordinary drug stores and groceries typically do not (although that may be changing), but compounding pharmacies and health food stores (including Whole Foods and Sprouts) do. If it’s not available where you live, you can buy it online.

Note: You may have heard people say homeopathy doesn’t work. If you’re skeptical, try this: The next time you feel muscle pain equally on both sides of your body, apply arnica to one side and do nothing to the other side. Wait a few hours or overnight and note the difference. Or you could apply it to half a bruise and see what happens.

Epsom salt baths

My second recommendation for muscle pain is taking epsom salt baths. Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) is a mineral made from sea water that looks like rock salt. It has several uses, including taking internally to relieve constipation (taking too much orally can cause diarrhea) and fertilizing plants.

Fortunately, the body absorbs magnesium really well through the skin, and there are no adverse side-effects.

epsomsaltThe best use for sore bodies is to add two cups of epsom salt to a warm or hot bath and soak in it for 12-20 minutes. Swish the water until the epsom salt dissolves. If I take an epsom salt bath in the evening, it calms me and I sleep like a baby.

Epsom salt eases muscle cramps, pain, and inflammation. It reduces insomnia and anxiety. It pulls toxins out of cells, softens skin, improves blood circulation and oxygen use, increases the effectiveness of insulin, aids in nutrient absorption, lowers blood pressure, and relieves migraines and cold/flu symptoms.

Most of us are deficient in magnesium. Stress (including muscle overuse) depletes magnesium, and depleted magnesium creates stress, so it’s easy to get stuck in magnesium depletion.

I believe magnesium is the new Vitamin D because most of us don’t know we’re deficient, and once the deficiency is remedied, well-being increases.

I’m not the only one that thinks so.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, American’s magnesium deficiency helps to account for high rates of heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, arthritis and joint pain, digestive maladies, stress-related illnesses, chronic fatigue and a number of other ailments.

The other component of epsom salt, sulfate aids joint health, improves absorption of nutrients, strengthens the gut lining, forms healthy brain tissue, and plays an essential role in detoxing. It may ease or prevent the pain of migraines.

If you think you might be deficient, take 2-3 epsom salt baths a week for a month. Once the blood levels reach optimum level, you stop absorbing it, so it’s safe.

Where to buy epsom salt

You can buy plain epsom salt at mainstream grocery stores and pharmacies. I bought a 4 pound bag from the Texas grocery chain H-E-B for $2.86. Four pounds makes 8 cups, so using two cups per bath, a bag provides enough for four baths at $.71 per bath.

Think about it: For a little over $2 per week, you could sleep like a baby, ease sore muscles, detoxify your body, improve digestion, lower blood pressure, and increase your feeling of well-being!

Bonus: You can reuse the bath water as a plant fertilizer! Epsom salt is often used to fertilize tomato and pepper plants as well as rose bushes. My bathtub drains into a hose that I can move around outside so various plants get the benefit of this fertilizer.

Also, you may see epsom salt sold in smaller quantities that’s had fragrant essential oils added. It’s usually marked up quite a bit. If you’re frugally experimental like me, you’ll want to get the plain generic epsom salt and experiment with adding your own fragrance.

For relaxation, add lavender, chamomile, frankincense, sandalwood, patchouli, or florals like rose, jasmine, neroli, geranium. To stimulate your energy, add citrus scents, mint, ginger, cinnamon, or rosemary. Put the scented epsom salt into pretty jars, tie with ribbons, and give as gifts.

Self-care for massage therapists, part 1

I’ve been doing 16-20 hours of massage per week lately, mostly Swedish but also a little deep tissue work. (I’m still getting up to speed on ashiatsu.)

The up side? I burn a lot of calories so I can really dig in at the table (one of life’s sweet pleasures), and I sleep well, being physically fatigued, another sweet by-product. And of course I’m the richer for it, in money, skill, connections, and making a difference.

The down side is that such physical work can take a toll on my body. I understand why a lot of massage therapists get burned out and leave the profession. From my fingers to my spine, I have felt achiness, inflammation, swelling, tenderness, stiffness.

Luckily, I belong to a group on LinkedIn, the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP). I joined to keep up with discussions about the profession. One person not long ago asked the following question:

What do you do for your hands when they ache after giving a series of massages? I am using proper body mechanics. My hands ache. I appreciate your feedback.

There were 55 responses that I’m going to summarize, because I feel so grateful to have this resource. Thanks to all the MTs who responded.

Please note that many of these are new to me; I am just summarizing what people posted. Later I will post what’s worked for me (that I’ve tried so far) along with a few of my own discoveries.

Recovery time

  • scheduling days off to recover
  • taking a 30 minute break after 3 hours (or however long works for you)
  • taking adequate time between clients to recover
  • not scheduling deep tissue sessions back to back

Body mechanics, stretching, strengthening, and recovery

  • paying attention to how you use your hands on your days off
  • doing hand stretching and strengthening exercises
  • resting in semi-supine position to open the brachial plexus (on your back, knees up, feet flat, book under head for 15-20 minutes)
  • paying even more attention to body mechanics as you work
  • getting a colleague to observe you work and give feedback
  • stretching after each client
  • lifting weights to strengthen arms and hands
  • punching a punching bag (with training)

Therapeutic devices

Heat and cold

  • dipping hands into hot wax/paraffin bath
  • applying hot and cold hydrotherapy
  • dipping hands into ice water

Self-massage

  • getting regular massage yourself
  • stripping your own forearm muscles
  • getting Reflexology on your hands or doing it yourself
  • learning Trager self-care movements for the hands
  • getting myofascial release work done on your arms
  • this page describes how to release wrist trigger points
  • this page describes how to release tennis elbow
  • cupping with suction cups

Delivering massage

  • working within your limitations (i.e., telling clients you don’t do full body deep tissue work)
  • reading the book Save Your Hands!
  • switching to Trager
  • learning Reiki so the energy goes only one way
  • learning Bamboossage, Ashiatsu Oriental bar therapy, or floor Ashiatsu to deliver deep tissue work
  • use alternating areas of the hand/forearm/elbow in moderation
  • having a box of tools available (balls, bamboo sticks, knobbers) to use on clients’  tough spots
  • using Art Riggs’ techniques for deep tissue work
  • using your forearms instead of hands whenever possible
  • using cupping
  • applying hot towels to client
  • holding thumbs tight against hand and using body to push for static pressure point work
  • using the edge of your hand or base of palm area instead of thumbs for sweeping or kneading motions

Oils, herbs, creams, gels, minerals

  • applying essential oil of rosemary for warming or peppermint for cooling (add to jojoba oil)
  • applying oils that are anti-inflammatory: helichrysum, frankincense, German chamomile, Cape chamomile, katrafay, and ginger
  • applying oils that are analgesic: lemongrass, clove, litsea cubeba, peppermint, wintergreen, and eucalyptus citriodora
  • combining anti-inflammatory and analgesic oils; applying them to neck, shoulders, forearms, hands, and feet to relieve hands
  • applying St. John’s wort oil, white willow tincture, fresh turmeric tincture, comfrey fomentation, raw apple cider vinegar fomentation
  • using arnica cream
  • applying Biofreeze
  • applying magnesium oil or gel
  • soaking in an Epsom salt bath
  • soaking your hand in lukewarm or cold water with a minimum amount of salt

Diet, teas, supplements

  • staying hydrated
  • changing your diet to lower inflammation (no details given)
  • drinking coconut water
  • drinking a blueberry smoothie
  • eating cucumbers with sea salt
  • avoiding eating sugars, nightshades, baked products with flour and corn
  • avoiding caffeine
  • taking turmeric internally
  • drinking comfrey tea
  • taking supplements for joint health (no details provided)
  • taking MSM with glucosamine

Healing bruised, sprained toes

A friend called me last night, said she had injured her toes, wondered if I could help.

Of course, I said yes, come on over. While she was driving to my place, I got the massage table ready, with a round bolster for her knees and half bolster for her heels or ankles to rest on, to keep her toes elevated.

G0t an ice pack out of the freezer and wrapped it in a kitchen towel.

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 10.25.32 PMI checked my collection of Young Living essential oils and immediately pulled out the PanAway. I looked in the Essential Oils Desk Reference to see what else might be helpful. My friend had said she thought her toes were bruised and sprained but not broken. I didn’t have geranium, helichrysum, or German chamomile on hand, any of which would have helped, but I did have lavender, peppermint, and wintergreen.

I decided to just stick with the big gun, PanAway, a blend that includes helichrysum, wintergreen, clove, and peppermint.  Continue reading