Relieving forward head posture: full body myofascial release (aka Deep Massage)

This is the fourth post in a series about Cate and me partnering in bodywork to relieve her forward head posture. Click here to read the first post, here for the second, here for the third, and here for a special post about the Still Point Inducer.

by Cate Radebaugh

Since I was in Austin for several days early this week, I opted to go to MaryAnn’s on Wednesday instead of Friday. She told me that it was time for a full body myofascial massage and gave me the familiar intake paper with four sketches of a human body — front, back, and both sides — and instructions to circle where I feel discomfort, pain, tension, etc.

It’s always the same for me: neck and shoulders, lower back, and feet — so that’s where I made my circles.

Then MaryAnn went out while I undressed, got on the table, and under the sheets. I’ve had massages before, so I knew about putting my face in the little face holder, but she also had a special pillow with holes in it that I could put my breasts in, and that was wonderful, because typically, they get smooshed between me and the table, which is not so great. With my breasts in a safe space, I felt completely comfortable for the first time ever laying prone on a massage table.

Continue reading

Relieving forward head posture: integrating bodywork techniques, plus, a still point

This is the third post in a series about my bodywork sessions with Cate to relieve forward head posture. Go here for the first post, here for the second.

by Cate Radebaugh

This session on September 30 is hard to write about because it was so fluid. I’d like to start, though, with something I left out of my last post, which is, I have a hard time figuring out where I am on the table. I’m supposed to lay centered on it, but I’m either too far to the left or right at my shoulders and too far the other direction at my hips, and sometimes, the direction I think I’m going in is not the direction I’m actually going in. This is an issue with proprioception*, and probably explains why I bump into things a lot. I don’t know where my body is in space or where my parts are relative to each other.

Anyway, our first task every session is getting me aligned on that table. I keep waiting for MaryAnn to say “goodgodamighty, get straight, Cate,” but so far she hasn’t even sighed.

I don’t know what modalities MaryAnn used in the session*, and I couldn’t recall the sequence of things after I left because the session felt so fluid. One discrete experience flowed into another, except for the first one, which was me on my back while MA held my heels in her hands and pulled on both my legs at the same time. It really does feel like my legs get longer as she pulls on them. Continue reading

Working with forward head: myofascial release

Read the first post in this series here. My notes are at the end of this post, along with a link to the following post. ~ MaryAnn

by Cate Radebaugh

So, I had another ‘forward head position’ appointment with Mary Ann. She is very excited about the new Zero Balancing work she’s learned and briefly contemplated adding that to this session, but decided against it. Myofascial release it was.


Notice that Cate’s ear is in front of the middle of her shoulder. The SCM runs from behind her ear to her chest.

First, she took a picture of my neck so we can all track my progress.

Then, because this is “take some of your clothes off and cover up with a sheet” work, that’s what I did. (Those sheets are so soft. They’re made of microfiber. I suggest you get some for yourself. Or go do work with Mary Ann, because they’re part of the treat. Now back to the forward head thingy.)

One of the advantages of working with Mary Ann is she shares her knowledge about bodies with her clients as she’s working on them. I feel on speaking terms with some of my muscles now.

Two big ones are the sternocleidomastoids, SCMs for short. They run from my mastoid processes – the two bumps behind my ears at the base of my skull – down my neck and attach to my collarbones and sternum, and are what turn and nod my head. Continue reading

Working with forward head posture: Zero Balancing and more

Note from MaryAnn: This is a guest post by someone I’ve known for nearly a decade. Years have gone by without us seeing each other, and then we reconnect, and it’s a happy occasion. She is a wonderful writer with a fascinating and fascinated mind, a perceptive presence, and a wicked sense of humor.

We initially did a 90-minute craniosacral therapy session with Zero Balancing. Then we did a 30-minute Zero Balancing session that she writes about here. This is the first in a series of posts about her experience receiving bodywork from me to help relieve her forward head posture (and the pain and tension that accompany it) and work with anything else that arises.

Forward head posture is becoming more common with our sedentary, screen-gazing habits. Several of the modalities which I’ve trained in and practiced are very effective at relieving forward head posture, including Zero Balancing, myofascial release/Deep Massage, and craniosacral therapy. And Cate will have homework to do as well.

I hope you enjoy reading these posts as we progress. The bottom of the post contains a link to the following post if you wish to read them consecutively.

by Cate Radebaugh

Over the years, I’ve developed forward head posture. Some of it comes from many hours in front of a computer screen, and obesity and self-image issues haven’t helped any. I recently became aware, though, that carrying my head out so far in front of my body is exhausting, and my neck, shoulders, and upper back are so constricted from the constant weight that they never really relax or rest, even in sleep.

So … I went to see my friend MaryAnn Reynolds to find out if she might be able to help. I’ve already said a little about my first visit* and my second was just as interesting. It was a Zero Balancing session. I think Zero Balancing is a really funny name and an even funnier intent, because I already experience moments of what I think of as zero balance and would just as soon not. MaryAnn’s Zero Balancing is different from that. In fact, it seems to be something of antidote. Continue reading

Working from home in the mornings

This morning I got a call from a client I hadn’t seen in a while, wondering if she could get an appointment for bodywork sooner rather than later because she had been experiencing the misery of muscle spasms.

She lives somewhere in south Austin, and I live in Manchaca, and depending on how far south someone lives, it can be more convenient to come to my trailer rather than drive to my downtown studio.  Continue reading

My work in May 2016: a massage therapist recounts what she actually does

I started offering my massage and bodywork clients custom sessions at the beginning of 2016. Clients choose the length of session they want, and when they arrive, we discuss their issues. I figure out how I’d like to proceed (that is, which modalities to use, in which order), run it by the client, get their input and consent, and the work begins. The client and I both know that if we need to change direction in the middle of a session, we can — and sometimes that happens.

Before 2016, clients signed up by length of session and modality (for example, 90 minutes of craniosacral therapy). Once I felt confident about mixing modalities, it made more sense to offer custom sessions, tailoring my work to the client’s needs. But without modality descriptors, I imagine that some people wonder what I actually do in a custom session — and how I work and follow up with clients, how people find me, how my practice grows. That’s the reason for this blog post. Plus, I’ve never really tried to summarize a month of work before. It seems worthwhile.

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Massage clients wanted!


Need to dump your stress, chill, release tension, move better, relieve pain, recover from an injury, treat a condition?

I can help.

I’ve been doing massage for four years now, and for the first time, a contract has fallen through. It’s nobody’s fault: my employer (a small unit in huge company) was internally audited. The audit caught some irregularities in my paperwork, and I can’t work there until it’s straightened out. Since it’s a huge bureaucracy known for its slowly turning administrative wheels, I have no idea how long that will take but I’m not holding my breath. Continue reading

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


  • 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