New work-related blog

I am blessed and fortunate enough to have a worldwide reader base for this blog. See the graphic map on this post to view all the countries where readers are from.

I live and work in the Austin, Texas, USA, area, and I have created a new website, MaryAnn Reynolds, MS, LMT, BCTMB, on WordPress for my private massage and bodywork practice. I also have a blog as a page on that site.

To prevent confusion:

  • The new blog will be limited to posts about local events I’m participating in and my massage and bodywork practice. If you are interested, check it out and see if you want to follow that blog.
  • This blog will remain dedicated to more general topics relating to wellness.
  • I haven’t done so yet, but I may occasionally cross-post if the information seems related to both blogs.

To your health and well-being!

Sacroiliac joint healed!

Back in late June 2015, I wrote about using a sacroiliac belt for pain in that joint. (See When the healer needs healing: chronic pain in a sacroiliac joint).

I posted a few updates. (See Update on using the sacroiliac beltA cheaper sacroiliac belt, working toward “the new normal”, and SI belt update, plus insoles for Morton’s foot.)

It’s now January 2017, and I’m here to give you an update, prompted by a couple of comments I’ve received recently from readers who are suffering from SI joint pain.

I finally stopped wearing the belt last month, in December 2016. That’s right, I wore it most of the time for 18 months, a year and a half. My pelvis feels pretty aligned now. It’s not perfect but it is strong and tight enough that it stays in place . Since I started wearing it, I haven’t had that unstable, painful feeling of my SI joint going out of place. Continue reading

TMJ massage relieves jaw issues and renews the spirit

A client came to me a couple of weeks ago for 90 minutes of “Whatever Works”. During the session, she learned that I offer TMJ* care sessions and asked a lot of questions about it. She had not known previously that a trained, skilled bodyworker could relieve the symptoms of TMJ disorder – jaw pain and tightness, clenching, grinding, popping, clicking, locking, etc.

I explained to her a bit about the anatomy of the jaw, my TMJ Care package, and the outcomes of my TMJ clients. Since others are likely unaware that trained massage therapists can offer TMJ relief, I’ll share that info here. Continue reading

Board certification achieved!

I just learned that I have successfully jumped through all the hoops on my way to becoming board certified in therapeutic massage and bodywork.

Board certification is a voluntary credential that means:

  • I took an exam and became nationally certified in therapeutic massage and bodywork.
  • I have received over 750 hours of approved massage and bodywork training.
  • I have over 250 hours of work experience in massage and bodywork.
  • I passed a national background check.
  • I maintain CPR certification.
  • I agree to uphold standards of practice and a code of ethics.
  • I oppose human trafficking.

Continue reading

Etiquette for massage: how to handle stinky butt

Warning: This is a delicate topic.

All massage therapists and bodyworkers who work with unclothed people have encountered this phenomenon, and it goes by several names: stinky butt, monkey butt, smelly ass, stinkbutt, stinky bum, ass stink, swamp ass, sweaty bum, and rotten smelly butt hole. You get the idea.

It happens like this: The therapist leaves the room, and the client undresses and lies down on the table between the sheets. The therapist re-enters and begins the session.

When the therapist is ready to work on the client’s hip/sacrum/gluteal muscles, he or she undrapes the area, usually leaving the butt crack covered.

Suddenly a nasty smell hits the therapist’s nose. Pee-yew! It’s gross, and the client is often unaware of it, which makes it embarrassing for both the therapist and the client.

And it can happen to anyone. Continue reading

Orthopedic massage for injuries and conditions

In the Advanced Program at the Lauterstein-Conway Massage School, I’m currently in the segment learning Orthopedic Massage, as taught by Jan Hutchinson, PT, LMT, and assisted by Lizabeth Franklin, LMT extraordinaire.

I feel very fortunate to be able to get this training, because I’m learning how to work on specific soft tissue injuries and ailments beyond simply relieving muscle tension. It’s very different from a full-body Swedish/integrative massage in that the focus of a session is on the injured/ailing part rather than working on the full body. I’ll get a history of the injury, observe, palpate, do range-of-motion and resistance tests, and treat.

foot milagroSo far, I’ve learned techniques for working on plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, and anterior compartment syndrome.

I just learned some fabulous foot exercises to teach for homework that can help strengthen the intrinsic muscles of the feet, the ones that don’t get used much because we wear shoes and walk on hard, flat surfaces all day. Using these muscles can prevent and relieve many foot issues.

Some of you are first-hand familiar with these conditions/injuries, and I want you to know that while I am in this program, I’m offering half price sessions so I can put into practice what I’ve learned in class. I’m a pretty good student, so you’ll get your money’s worth. If you are in the Austin area, I’d sure like to see you on my table.  Continue reading

Announcing a new massage modality: Craniosacral therapy for jaw problems

Many people have problems with their temporomandibular joints (TMJ), such as:

  • pain in the jaw, neck, ear, and/or head
  • jaw tightness or stuckness
  • limited ability to open the mouth
  • clicking or popping noises or a grating feeling when opening and/or closing the jaw

TMJ issues are often accompanied by behaviors of clenching the jaw or grinding the teeth, sometimes in one’s sleep. Eating and even talking may become difficult. There isn’t a clear cause, although stress or injury probably bear some responsibility. Continue reading

Building my massage practice

I have not been posting here quite as often as I used to because I’m working on building my massage practice, which includes not just giving massage (which I enjoy and am good at) but also learning about business matters like marketing, bookkeeping, scheduling, pricing, and so on.

That kind of practical, down-to-earth stuff that doesn’t seem to fit well with the themes of this blog. You’re not here to learn whether to use Quicken or Quickbooks, read about using incentives to attract and retain clients, or sift through research on gift certificate law in Texas, but currently I am a sponge for all that.

I’d love to share some of my lovely experiences! I had fun on Friday morning doing something new: going to each business on the block where my studio is located, introducing myself as a new neighbor, and letting them know I’m available for massage just a short walk away.

My friend Keith came with me. We talked to people at 19 businesses and left a flyer for the bulletin board and business cards at each one. I was glad to have his company.

One of my pet peeves is that I work hard to get stressed people all nice and relaxed, and when their session is over, they get in their car and drive away, which can so easily undo the relaxed state.

I’ve begun suggesting that they enjoy their relaxed state as long as possible, just becoming alert enough to drive themselves safely home.

Even better would be if people could walk to my studio, get a massage, and walk back. Walking anchors the relaxed state more deeply, and the neighborhood is old and lovely, a visual treat.

~~~

I’ll be sending off for my certification in Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy today, having done the requisite 20 practice sessions with evaluations. I’ll take the test and get the paperwork in the mail. That feels good. I’m really grateful I can offer this modality.

I’ve just ordered a workbook on trigger points and am looking forward to learning how to work with them. I will be able to make even more of a difference when clients experience muscle pain.

I’ve been fortunate to have worked on some people who are themselves highly experienced bodyworkers, who have shared tips and wisdom with me. I feel immensely grateful for the support.

When I start each session, I like to be still for a moment, connecting my energy to earth and heaven and then connecting to my client’s energy. It feels appropriately responsible when someone has come to me with trust that I can help them feel better. I know it sounds like a cliche, but that moment feels sacred.

Also, all of my clients are really great clients!

A day in the life of a massage therapist

I’ve been doing massage since June, but I haven’t posted very much about it on this blog. I’ve been getting my bearings, gaining hands-on experience. I also maintain the confidentiality of my clients.

I’d like to write about my work, as long as my clients remain anonymous. I would have liked to read about what it’s like to work as a massage therapist, so maybe me posting about it will serve that need for someone else.

I massaged a woman who had recently had jaw surgery. She was going to physical therapy, and the PT said her neck muscles were so tight, a massage was in order.

At her request, I just worked on her back, shoulders, and neck, and I persuaded her to let me spend some time working on her feet.

It is incredibly relaxing to have foot reflexology and/or foot massage. I gave her both. There are zones on the feet that correspond to the rest of the body, so working the feet softens tense areas before I even get to them.

If you ever just want to relax and don’t have time for a full body massage, foot massage and reflexology are wonderful.

I allowed plenty of time in our session to work on her neck both when she was face down and after she turned over. I did a combination of Swedish massage and deep massage (Lauterstein method) to work on her circulatory and lymphatic systems and her structure and energy.

She told me she was having difficulty sleeping. She said she had always slept on her stomach with no pillow. Post-surgery, she was having to sleep on her back, propped up on pillows. She found it awkward and uncomfortable.

I shared with her what had helped me after I had had some major chiropractic work on my neck and was told to sleep on my back: hugging a pillow against my body. The weight of it feels comforting to a stomach sleeper.

Afterwards, she said she felt much better.

That’s one of the things I love most about being a massage therapist. What I do makes a tangible difference in people’s quality of life.

I worked on another woman who had been on her feet all weekend at an outdoor music festival. She wanted a lot of attention to her feet and legs as part of her full body massage. She booked a 90 minute massage, which is twice as relaxing as a 60 minute massage!

Truthfully, I don’t know how to quantify how relaxing a massage is. That’s a subjective measure. I just know that when I give a 60 minute massage, if the person is larger than average or has an area that needs extra attention and still wants a full body Swedish massage, the massage feels rushed, to me.

I don’t know if it feels rushed to them. Maybe that’s all they’ve ever known, and they have no idea how much more relaxed they could feel if they had a longer session. It’s their choice — and I’m not beyond suggesting that a client book a longer session next time!

I did Swedish/deep massage and reflexology/foot massage on her and was able to work at a more relaxed and relaxing pace. IMO, she did herself a huge favor by booking 90 minutes. She relaxed very deeply and looked happy when I met with her after the session.

I like using aromatherapy. It adds a nice dimension to a massage both to the client and to me.

I often put the essential oil blend Valor (from Young Living) on the client’s feet before massaging them. The way I see it, everyone needs more valor to face life, and here’s a way to get some!

When clients turn over from being face down, their breathing is often congested. When that’s the case, I like to take a drop of Eucalyptus radiata oil, rub it between my hands, and then place my hands near the client’s nose. Their eyes are covered, so they don’t see it coming. They simply smell the eucalyptus, a pleasant surprise, and it clears their breathing passages.

At the end of a massage, especially when the client has gone into a deep trance or fallen asleep, I like to rub a drop of peppermint or rosemary oil between my palms and allow the scent to help wake the client up in a refreshing way.

I’ve touched 100 naked people

I realized today after carefully counting that I’ve touched 100 naked people in the last 7 months. That probably makes you wonder if I’m a sex worker.

I’m not. I’ve been a student of massage therapy since June 2011, and I’ve worked on my fellow students and teachers, many of my friends and family, and clients at the student clinic.

I’ve worked on many of these people several times. When I complete just 10 more massages in the intern clinic, I’ll have completed the requirements for graduation and will have given about 150 massages.

Every person I’ve touched has gotten my full attention, presence, and skill. Even that one person who happened to be my fourth recipient in one day, when it crossed my mind that I felt tired and cranky — I pulled myself out of that mindset, got a second wind, and gave them my best.

A naked and vulnerable human on the table in front of me is a divine gift with whom I hold a sacred contract to give my best.

Every person I’ve massaged has contributed immensely to the intelligence in my hands, heart, instincts, and awareness.

Most people are fairly silent when receiving massage, their attention on their bodies or breath or my hands, I presume, or perhaps their grocery list. I don’t read minds, so I don’t really know.

Silence helps me work.

Some people stay mentally alert and present the entire time. Some sink quickly or slowly into a state of deep relaxation, that state of no effort where the body is being breathed, the mind is loose and free, and imagery bubbles up out of darkness. Some fall asleep. Their snoring tells me.

Sometimes I go into a trance with you, and those are the best massages.

I watch and listen to you breathing. I feel your pulses. I see your scars — the ones on your skin and the emotional ones like the chronically rounded shoulders, that one tight hip, the rigidity in your torso. Sometimes your bodies tell me stories, of weight gained or lost, an old injury with a long recovery, a recent injury complete with road rash, surgery, playing a sport, working out regularly, working at a computer.

No one — so far — has had a perfect body. I belief that’s likely a myth created by airbrushing.

I’ve learned that nearly everyone has some tension in their shoulders — in the upper trapezius muscle, to be specific.

The low back is also a popular place for tension and pain to hang out. It’s amazing that by working on your rectus abdominis (the abdomen’s six-pack), the front and back of your body become balanced and your low back pain goes away.

I’ve learned that due to handedness, no one’s upper trapezius muscles are exactly symmetrical.

Some people think they’re relaxed, but when I pick up their arm or leg, they have a hard time letting go of control, giving me the full weight.

Some people want more pressure, some less. I’ve gained strength in my arms and hands and can now deliver more consistent firm pressure.

I’ve worked on fat people, skinny people, people with chronic health problems, healthy people, a lot of people stressed out from office work (I’ve posted before about too much sitting), an age range from 11 to 85, people with tight bodies and loose bodies, and one pregnant woman.

All precious.

When I worked on my daughter, memories of her infancy arose, and I realized that everyone who gets naked on my table is just this:

an old baby
no longer tiny or quite so helpless
nonetheless innocent and vulnerable like a newborn

I’ve learned that some people are not very knowledgeable about their own bodies, misnaming their body parts, unaware of tensions, oblivious to the postural or movement habits that cause them pain — that they’ve unconsciously created for themselves.

Your body tells the truth. It can’t lie.

Why aren’t body awareness and anatomy taught at home and in schools?

There are certain massage strokes that tend to get sighs of relief and moans of pleasure. I’ve developed an opening routine that opens.

Receiving massage is all about you becoming more alive and your nervous system waking up, your body shedding tension and moving into relaxation and pleasure, not to mention improving your circulation, breath, brainwaves, mood, compassion, immunity, energy flow, digestion, posture, alignment, balance, movement, and presence.

In many ways, allowing me to massage you is like letting me to take your armor off — the armor you probably weren’t aware of putting on until you started feeling tense or in pain.

Everyone can benefit from taking their time getting up afterwards, not rushing off in their cars to get somewhere else, not re-engaging their left brains too quickly.

Yes, leave your armor off for a while and stay for a cup of tea with me.