8 Tips for Healing Massage Hands

8 Tips for Healing Massage Hands

Hand AcupunctureThe massage profession is hard on our hands.  Be good to your hands.  Have tools around to soothe them.  Make your hand health a priority.  Here are some tips that have healed my hands after they were sore, and several massage therapist buddies of mine use some of the same tips.

Microwavable Hot Packs

1.  Keep your hands warm  Truly.  It really helps.  Do what ever it takes to keep them warm, especially right after you last massage of the day.  When your hands start getting sore, this is the #1 helpful tip!  I use a bean bag warmer to keep my hands warm: one of those bags that you put in the microwave for 2 minutes.  It’s awesome!

2.  Ice your hands after sessions  This seems counter to “Tip 1”, but it’s helpful.  Ice forno more than 10 minutes.  I use a ziplock bag of ice and usually no longer than 3 minutes at a time.  Soon after icing, I get my hands warm again.  For example, I get my hands warm after a massage: and by “after”, I mean, after saying “bye” to your client, changing the sheets, etc.  Get your hands warm again, and then ice them for 3-10 minutes, then use the bean/rice bag to warm them up.  I do this contrast therapy several times

3.  Use a paraffin hand bath often  Another “warming” option is the paraffin bath.  I have my machine on all the time.  Dip your hand in 5 times in a row and let it stay of for 5-10 minutes.  Because I’m
the only one using my paraffin bath, I put the wax back into the machine to reuse the wax.  If you’ve just iced your hands, let them get to room temperature before dipping into the wax.

Hand Acupuncture4.  Have Acupuncture on your hands!  This really helps!  After having a cyst in my Acupuncture for Handpalm, Acupuncture got rid of it in 5 sessions.  I went 5 days in a row.  1 hour session each day.  And I took the herbs they suggested.  A hand surgeon told me that surgery wouldn’t work and that the cyst would just get bigger and massage as a career was over.  Acupuncture worked great.  I used Acupuncture again when my thumb was sore and it helped that too… in 2 sessions.

Hand Stretch with a drum stick5.  Have a hand & body stretching routine  Here are some pictures of what I do.  I have a drumstick close by to stretch my hands/forearms and to show clients how to stretch theirs.  Stretch all the w
ay up to your neck, then also your back and side.  I roll my wrists, use the drumsticks for my forearms, a doorway to stretch my pecs, and an exercise ball to stretch my back, obliques, neck and triceps.

6.  Get Chiropractic adjustments  Sometimes the pain is coming from your neck…just like we tell your clients.  When I get an adjustment, it really helps my hands.  I try to see Dr. Marrich on a regular basis.  When you find a good chiropractor, it really helps to stay “pain-free” in such a physical job as massage therapy.  Often, my wrists, elbows and clavicle all adjust.

7.  Foam Roll under your arms  This really help my arms relax.  Get the teres major, minor and your lats.  Do this by putting your arm above your head and foam rolling the area under your arms.  Email me if you need some ideas with the foam rolling. When my hands are sore, I add this to my routine to soothe them.  It’s not always the obvious areas that make the most difference.

8.  Rest  Have rest days.  Make time to recover after a certain number of massage hours.  And then really rest your hands: no opening of cans, no pushups or weight holding at the gym on your rest days.  If you go to the gym, use the “hand rest days” as days for legs & core.  Do exercises where “gripping” isn’t needed.

I have many things I do daily to take care of my hands so I can continue to do deep tissue massage.  Email me if you want to chat about ideas to help if your hands hurt. 🙂 info@athletictouch.com

Your Massage Toolbox

Jesse Byrd, NMT instuctor

Jesse Byrd, NMT instructor

A common question we hear from massage therapists is what Continuing Education classes they should take.  This is a great question. Most states require 16-32 hours every 2 years to maintain a state massage license.  New Mexico requires 16 hours and an extra 8 hours for Instructors.

Consider your “Massage Toolbox”, loaded with the best “tools” to serve your clients.  Is it well rounded?  Does it help most clients?  Is anything missing?

The basics are usually covered in Massage School.  We call that the “Square Massage”, where you learn the VERY basics of giving a massage.

Next, add to those “basics”, taking more Sports Massage or more Myo-fascial work.  Each of these modalities can help.

Every Massage Toolbox should have basic “Body Mechanics” and self care and good business practices.  Taking care of your body is AS important as learning fascinating skills.  If your body gives out…it won’t matter what you’ve learned.

After the basic classes are in your Massage Toolbox, then start looking for modalities that interest you.

Each therapist has specific talents and passions which they are drawn to.  Listen to your gut.

Medium deep trap work

Medium deep trap work

Massage CEUs are expensive, some more than others, and since each of us will only take 2-3 weekend classes each year, choosing your classes carefully is important.

Massage has so many options for Continuing Education!

  • Sports Massage
  • Neuromuscular Therapy
  • Pregnancy Massage
  • Oncology Massage
  • Cranial Sacral Therapy
  • Spa treatments
  • & many others

You can choose classes to help keep your hands and body from wearing out, or how to run your business.  Ethics is required by all and is often quite boring.

We can also use communication classes, personal training, nursing classes, aromatherapy, stretching, on and on.   Instead of learning ALL styles of bodywork, be specific.

If Sports or Trigger point is more your style, then ANY type of anatomy classes are a great help.  Or, if helping in a senior center or hospital is more your road, then you can find classes to help cancer patients, aging clients, or even hospice clients.

If moms are who you want to help, you could concentrate on pregnancy massage, infant massage, massage for migraines or massage for menopause.

photo-7

Whitney Lowe teaching Orthopedic Massage

If you have strong hands, then Sports Massage, Deep Tissue Massage or the like are good options.  Like Orthopedic Massage with Whitney Lowe was great.  He was easy to learn from and he very precise, which makes him good for “anal” students as well as those who don’t pay attention to details.  Or James Waslaski’s Ortho Massage is great, too.  James’ classes are more rugged or physical.  He really gets into each move and likes to manipulate the body more than other teachers.  Each modality I have found very helpful and effective back in the office.

 

Robert Stevens, Core Synchronism

Robert Stevens, Core Synchronism

 

If you don’t have strong hands or would like some smarter ways to work deeper, try Robert Stevens’ Core Synchronism  classes, which are incredible.  Even though “Core” is a subtle therapy, I use it in all of my “Deep Tissue” massages.  It is by far one of my favs.

Ultimately, you’ll need to choose your own path of learning, allowing yourself to be drawn to modalities that interest you.  Go with your gut.  The amount of CEU options is crazy and overwhelming.

Each therapist has great strengths and incredible talent in certain areas.  Explore different modalities to see which type of bodywork you excel in and like.  Which modality grabs your interest? Many will.  But, the better question is which modality KEEPS your interest.  Which do you always come back to? What is your “Go-to” when sessions get tough? When a friend or family member needs help with shoulder pain, what do you think of first?  In order to find your “Go-to” modality, you need to learn several modalities…different modalities.  I admit, some of the classes I took seemed to be a waste of time and money because I never used the specific style being taught…but I still learned from each instructor, and what was MOST important is to have clarity about what I DID NOT want to do.

Personally, I don’t think each of us is great at all modalities, and each of us has a specific way of helping people feel better.  Not each modality needs to be in your tool box….and not every person is going to “click” with you or you with them.

But, when you do “click” with a client, and you feel honored and genuinely respectful of their trust & concerned with the outcome of your time together, then having many different tools in your Massage Toolbox is very powerful. Using Trigger Points to specify pain, some stretches to loosen, deep tissue to lengthen, Core to synchronize, unwinding to calm and breathing to bring everything together, is one of oodles of examples of utilizing a well-rounded toolbox.  At the end of the day, when you get to make an amazing difference in another humans life, then ALL the classes are WAY worth it.

Corrective Exercises Specialist through the NASM

I love this live class and the book is even better.  Thumbs up, NASM.

What a great tool to help with massage and personal fitness training!

What a great tool to help with massage and personal fitness training!

The test was tough.  I didn’t open the book and thought I would cruise through the test without any preparation and I was very wrong.  Thank God the test is hard, because this is important info, and not info to dish out lightly.  I was thankful for a challenge and am happy I studied the book to the point where if it’s not memorized, I at least know what page to find the info I need.

Though the class I took was a bit loud for the first few hours of the NASM’s Corrective Exercises live workshop at BrikFitness in Redondo, California, I still enjoyed it and really enjoyed the great trainers taking the class with me.  There were healthy shakes being swirled together in blenders while enthusiastic personal trainers encouraged their exercising clients through their regular Sunday workouts all a while the workout music going and then the videos we were supposed to be hearing.

It was like trying to pay attention to a college professor speaking in a mall.  I was trying to pay attention, glaring at the instructors with all my might and sonic ear power, but the blender would win.

The cool exercises that the personal trainers were trying also stole my attention for seconds at a time, which was enough to loose entire blocks of information from the class.

Finally, after several hours of being in a health store locker room with 80’s workout music tapping at my brain, all the noise went away, the blenders stopped, the clients and trainers went home, and the workout music was turned off.  Phew…now, what did you say for the past 2 hours?

Besides the major distractions, the information is excellent and I am already using it in all my massages and personal training sessions.

Corrective Exercises is just that, exercises to correct imbalances in our bodies.  We learned to assess what is off balance, either because a muscle is weak, overactive, too tight, etc.  From how a person moved in a certain exercise, we learned how to tell which muscles need foam rolling, which need stretching, and which need strengthening.  Awesome!

Every massage therapist should take this class because it really fits hand in hand with how we can help people.  Then, if you add personal training, you are several steps ahead in being able to massage their body back into balance.

The Best Schedule for Injury Care

Massage for injury rehabWhen clients come in with an injury that stops them from playing their sport, they usually want to know when they will be 100%.  And they usually hope you can tell them.  They want anyone to tell them.

They know their body pretty well, and they know how severe or mild their own injury is, so the answer or words they are really hoping to hear is for someone to tell them “out loud” what they are thinking to themselves.

“Oh, this is terrible.  Just terrible.  You are out for 6 weeks or 12 weeks.  Then you’ll be right back where you were before you got hurt.”

We wish it were that easy to know the future of when and/or how fast or slow someone will get back to 100%.

But it’s not that easy.  Every human body is different.  Every injury is different.  Every athlete is different and has unique styles of discipline, rest, recovery, diet, positive self-talk, etc.

Even the exact same doctor performing the exact same ACL replacement has different outcomes.  A different muscle tone before the surgery, different muscle imbalances that probably caused the ACL tear in the first place, etc, etc.

So, when helping athletes, put yourself in their shoes.  Consider their fear of NEVER playing their sport again.  Even with a simple injury, THIS is their main concern.

This is the schedule I usually try for acute injuries: (not the plan for post-surgery)

  • First Session: 1 hour in length, massage with assessment, ice, ice massage, stretches if indicated, refer to doctor if indicated.  You are looking for the specific muscle affected, how hot/swollen it is, is it even safe for you to work on them. After isolating the problem area, assess how much pressure they can handle, how strong of a contraction if any can they make, how much stretching of the area can they handle. Ice the area, and ice massage if tolerated.
  • Next Day, Day 2: 30 minutes in length, quick massage with assessment, ice massage, stretches
  • Next Day, Day 3: 30 minutes, same as yesterday
  • Two Days later, and every 2 days for 2 weeks: 30 minutes, same treatment plan using more pressure as tolerated, adding more stretching as tolerated.  If you are also a personal trainer, add strengthening as tolerated. Start assessing why the injured area is possibly out of balance.  If injury does not improve, or keeps coming back with little activity, send them to a doctor
  • 7 & 14 days after first session: 1 hour in length (in the middle of the 30 min/every other day schedule), massage with assessment, use more pressure as tolerated, ice massage, stretches and start adding opposite areas.  Always check in with the athlete about their workout schedule and how they are feeling, are they back to regular workouts? How is the pain right after the massage? When do they feel best? Worst? What are they doing themselves to help heal? You are looking for the swelling to go down, the heat in the affected area to go away, the pain to go away with pressure and then with action of that muscle, and lastly no pain with both.
  • Next twice per week @ 30 minutes or 1 @ 60 minutes, if they are still hurting, or this is a more serious injury that will take more time, pull back to 2-30 minutes or 1 60 minute session per week, depending on their availability and yours.  Be consistent & show them their progress.

Hope this helps.

 

Kid’s Sports: Finding the Happy Medium

I grew up playing soccer and played into my adult life.  For many years I’d have practice 6 days a week with little rest.

Now, in my sports massage office, I see plenty of athletes of all ages with chronic pain from whatever sport they played growing up and in college and beyond.  Now there is the new generation of athlete, in middle school or high school, playing their sport 6 days a week without much rest.

They show up in my office in pain.  Chronic Pain.  At 12.  Really?

What is the goal, parents, of sports?  Is the goal to have chronic pain and ulcers from the emotional stress?

I understand, and often pursue & encourage, that paying for college with a sport, or playing professional whatever sport is the American Dream.  But, realistically, how many of our children will do this?

Given the obesity problem in our country, exercise and sports are a great outlet and can be very healthy.

There has to be a happy medium.  Maybe if we could encourage sports as a fun daily activity that ADDS to life….instead of BEING our life.  An activity that we can do into our 80’s without surgeries and joint replacements in our 40’s.

Our kids watch us limp around, exercise in gyms and then drive to buy coffee.  We don’t take care of our bodies in America, and I really hope to remind us to, including myself, to be more mindful of our healthy limits.  If we could remember to hydrate…really hydrate, to stretch, add massage as a monthly or weekly part of a self health insurance program of preventative maintenance.

Our kids don’t need to have the same battle scars of their parents.  My own 2 blown knees, broken neck and broken sternum from years of soccer show their ugly whining as I get up from a restaurant table or can’t run with my daughter more than a 9 minute mile and she is running circles around me, literally. Our kids can be smart, notice their physical limits, how to de-stress their own bodies with breathing, stretching, massage, ice/heat and rest.  Lets teach them healthy habits, not the idea of getting used to pushing their bodies, emotionally and physically, past a healthy point of return.

Our kids can play hard and still stay healthy, with rest, hydration, massage, stretching, better nutrition and WARM DOWNS.

My goal for sports in my athletic children’s lives:  to give them an emotional outlet, to create fun & team work, great friends, good sportsmanship, family fun and strength/speed.

What I hope NOT to do, even though I lived this, is NOT to put their sport above their health, above their schoolwork, above family time.

Runner’s Edge: Stretch Problem Calf in Different Directions

As a runner with chronic foot/leg pain, or as a massage therapist working on a client with this issue, you may need to be creative to find relief.

I’m going to address this article to the massage therapist, so if you are trying this on your own leg or foot, just keep that in mind.

First, try myofascial release (MFR) from the bottom of the foot all the way past the knee, deep stripping, petrassage and cross fiber friction.  Next, Stretch the effected area and do MFR and deep stripping again.  Go past each joint with your work, being mindful of the area behind the knee and the possible tender areas around the ankle.

If these techniques are not getting the job done, and the pain or tightness is still there, make sure you are stretching the effected area in different angles.  We were taught that the gastroc flexes the foot, but you must flex and move the foot in many angels to pinpoint the specific strand of the muscle that is feeling pain.

Usually, you must try several different angles of stretching to find the angle you need.

First, find the specific area that is bothersome. Hold your finger in the middle of the most painful or most tense area.  Have them flex their foot.  Have them push against your hand, with pressure on the big toe, little toe, side of their foot, etc, one at a time until you get the effected muscle to contract.

Once you find the problem spot, stretch it in the opposite direction, do MFR, compressions and deep stripping. You can also do ice massage and heat, which I discuss in another article, “Self-Care for Bruises,” and “Ice Massage”.

If you ever have any questions, email me and we can try to find a solution.

Ice Massage for Stubborn Bruises

Image

Use ice massage for stubborn leg, foot, hand or arm injuries.  I have also used it on the neck and shoulder, but those are a bit harder to make work without getting your client soaked with cold water.

Ice massage is very quick.

It is also a good idea to use a heated table cover and to cover your client with a blanket.

I use a cup especially designed for ice massage, and it’s very convenient but not essential.  Before these cups I used paper cups, filled them half-way with water and froze them.  When I needed them, I would simply rip the top of the cup off and was ready to go.

So, get your ice and 2 towels.  Put the larger towel under the area to protect your sheets and soak up any melting water from the ice.

Have your massage lotion or oil close because you will want to use it directly after icing.

Drape the 2nd towel over your shoulder, having it ready to blot any drops of melting ice.  There is nothing more uncomfortable than dripping ice-water.

On the focus area including at least 3 inches beyond the focus area, move the ice quickly back and forth in a circle, then blot the drips; move ice quickly back and forth, then blot, etc, until the skin is bright pink and the client tells you that their skin is numb to the touch.  This will take about 3-5 minutes.

Put the ice in a set, safe location, dry off the focus area as you are getting oil or lotion and immediately begin deep stripping on the most sensitive area, pushing towards the heart.

Use cross fiber friction as well as deep stripping, trying to feel for the knot(s).  Only do 4-6 passes with deep pressure. Next, widen the area on which you are working and assimilate all areas.

The next deep passes will need to wait for about an hour, after the area is warm again and the skin is not longer cold.  Stretch, use MFR, and NMT and deep tissue between sessions.

I will try to get a video of this out soon.  If you have any questions, email me. 🙂