Below you will find helpful tips that will keep you feeling good between massage treatments:
- Keep hydrated! YES! We say it over and over again! Your body is roughly 72% water. Your muscles are almost 80% water. When muscles work or contract, a chemical by-product, lactic acid is formed. Water will help your body flush out what it doesn't need. Massage can also help this process. When your body is hydrated, there is enough fluid to act as a shock absorber which in turn means better muscular health. Habitual dehydration can make your muscular system more prone to cramps and spasms.
- Do you constantly have knots in your shoulders? To alleviate pain from knots and spasms between appointments, you can use a tennis ball and lean it between you and wall on the area that is bothering you! Just do not lean directly on the spine to avoid injury.
- Stretch! Stretching is just as important as exercise. Regular stretching conditions your muscles and helps with strength training. It increases flexibility and range of motion. The most important rule to remember is, "if you feel pain, STOP." Light stretching before exercise to warm up your muscles and deeper stretching afterwards can help your muscles stay in good shape while avoiding injury and chronic spasms.
- Do not put heat on inflamed areas! Try ice instead. You can make your own ice pack by mixing 1 part rubbing alcohol to 2 parts water and putting it in a freezer ziploc bag. Throw it in the freezer, it won't freeze so you can conform it to your body! Note: Never put an ice pack directly on your spine. Rosemary and garlic are great anti-inflammatory herbs. Also, you want to rest the area as much as possible. I always recommend Tiger Balm, Dit Da Jow and Biofreeze to my patients. I have used them religiously myself and found them very beneficial in treating muscle sprains, spasms and general muscular soreness.
- Exercise! If nothing more, I recommend a light routine in the morning that involves calisthenic movement just to get the body going for the day!
- Watch Your Posture! When I was learning Tai Chi, which is an excellent discipline for people of all ages, I learned about Wu Chi Posture. Another brilliant tool I have picked up along the way that I would like to share with you! Standing in Wu Chi: feet shoulder width apart, toes straight ahead, knees slightly bent, back straight, shoulders back and relaxed ( I imagine a string running from the base of my spine through the top of my head that guides and lifts me into posture), palms facing body and imagine under your armpits are two tennis balls. To make sure your back is straight, put your hand behind you on the small of your back, this area should be flat to your hand. Eyes straight ahead and relaxed. Fixate on one point on the wall ahead and continue to relax your eyes but keep them opened. In the beginning, it may feel awkward but this is proper posture. You might feel like you are going to fall forward. A little rocking might start happening. In Martial Arts discipline, students are required to stand in Wu Chi for various lengths of time. In the beginning try to do it for one minute and gradually increase it as you feel comfortable. Do it every day for one minute and then maybe in two weeks, increase to two minutes. Then in two weeks, increase to five minutes. Whatever works for you as long as you do it regularly, the length of time doesn't matter. Do it to your comfort level and stop if you feel dizzy or in pain. Breathe into any areas of tension as you stand. To do this direct your focus to the area of tension and breathe in while you think/focus on the area and then breathe out. If you come out of posture, correct yourself and believe me, once you start doing this regularly, you will really notice more and more when you're posture goes on the slack. Once you are familiar with Wu Chi posture, you might want to try using it when you are out and about or at work. You think you are standing funny but the adjustments are slight enough where no one will notice a difference.
- Proper breathing involves using your diaphragm. When you breathe in your belly should expand and consequently deflate when you breathe out. Your shoulders should not move up when you breathe. Proper oxygen ratios are very important to your body's homeostasis. When you breathe from your diaphragm you are filling up your lung capacity and breathing optimally.
- Deep breathing is a great tool for stress relief. One that I use all the time. Breathe in for a count of five, hold your breath to the count of five and then exhale to a count of five. You want to control your breathing to some extent. If five is too much, try to a count of three. Do this 3 - 5 times. Stop if you feel dizzy. It takes some getting used to. This is also a great practice to start if you are interested in taking up meditation. Meditation is simple awareness of breath. Nothing more, nothing less. It is becoming an observer. Observing your thoughts, being aware that they are there and just watch them pass like cars on a freeway without attachment. Any one who tells you the goal of meditation is to empty your mind is giving you an unreachable goal. Like those cars on a freeway, your thoughts will always been there 24/7. The key is to not give them so much importance just continue focusing on your breath. Life itself can be a walking meditation and that's how I try to live my life. I invite you to do the same. If you would like to add a guided meditation to your massage, I would be happy to help you.