Deep Tissue Massage

As with anything as personal as massage, there are no absolutes involved. One person’s too deep might be another client’s not quite firm enough, but the point for the therapist is to have an effect on the muscles.

In the photo above, you see that the therapist is using her forearm. (And also the client’s head is properly positioned for once, which is why I chose this picture from Photobucket.)

I can’t be sure, but it looks like the thereapist’s elbow is on top of what I call the spinalis, which is the stack of several muscles that run along both sides of the spine. A lot of tension is stored in these muscles, as one would reckon given that they are holding the back upright all day, so getting in to stretch, separate, and relax these thick muscle groups will naturally take some doing.

But digging an elbow right in anywhere on the human body should never be attempted without some kind of warm up, so even when a client insists on deep work, and even when it’s obvious to my fingers that she or he needs deep work, I always start out easy and ramp it up from there.

This not only warms the client’s tissues and helps the muscles start to stretch and separate, but also brings more blood and oxygen to the area so that when I do start seriously digging with my thumbs, knuckles, and elbows, the client’s body is prepared to deal with the onslaught.

And of course I go into onslaught mode only on muscles that really require that, such as trapezius muscles, the ones that stretch across the shoulders and upper back, that feel like sheets of armor plating.

A lot of that stiffness and tension is due to trigger points, of course, which I usually squeeze out with my thumbs to release the nerves that are causing the localized and sometimes distant tension, that ‘clenching’ feeling, and that also hurts a bit, but often in a ‘good hurting’ way, as I am often told by my clients.

It also matters a great deal where the deep tissue pressure is needed as to how much is enough. For instance I would never put the same kind of pressure at the base of the neck as I would in the gluteals, the butt muscles. The gluteals are wide and thick, and I can lean into those if necessary, while the neck muscles are much smaller and more fragile, and also very near to the spine and the spinal nerves.

So with very severe cases, I will use the side of my forearm on the lower neck sometimes, though I prefer to use my thumbs if possible. And then too, some people can’t take very much pressure in the gluteals, where most of us have at least some trigger points. Here too I am very good at finding the trigger points, and if the client is willing, mashing them out with my thumbs.

Usually this works because trigger points in the glutes most often are superficial, though not always. If they are very stubborn, the client often is used to deep work anyway, and can stand an elbow point jammed in there for a minute or so.

The other place that very often requires deep work is the lumbar region, the small of the back. If a client has any stiffness at all there, nearly invariably I find trigger points right in the lumbar curve, underneath the spinalis muscles in the quadratus lumborum, which is actually an abdominal muscle.

These are a bear to take out and I always ask permission to go after them, because they’re so close to the spine. They do hurt, squeezing these things away, but once they’re gone it truly does feel a lot better when it stops hurting.

I go deep just about everywhere on the body if necesary, but those are the main places on most of my clients. Athletes, runners, and weekend warriors often have leg issues in the hamstrings, calves, and quads, but they’re used to deep and hard sports massage, so I drop the table a little and really lean into them. They need it.

That is all.

Mark out.


Incense and Peppermints – Dabbling In Aromatherapy

Some of you might remember that song by the Strawberry Alarm Clock from The 60s (here it is on YouTube if you’re interested) – vaguely psychedelic, vaguely political, vaguely philosophical, and like really far out.

Okay, I never said ‘far out’ back then because I was way too cool for such hippie hyperbole, but even in that dim, dark, patchouli infused time people knew that scents are powers to be reckoned with.

And if you reckon that by ‘therapy’ we mean anything done purposefully to make someone feel better, then introducing pleasant aromas into his or her environment certainly counts.

We all know that the opposite is true, of course – standing downwind of a large hog farm, for instance, does not make one feel better, unless one happens to be a successful hog farmer. But even he wouldn’t necessarily consider the smell therapeutic.

In any case, for a large portion of my life, 45 years more or less, aromas were not a terribly important factor because I smoked cigarettes, and could not detect any but the strongest of them due to deadened olfactory nerves.

I quit smoking just over two years ago because it was time to do so – no one wants to be massaged by someone who smells even vaguely like smoke – and now I am always pleasantly surprised by how good some scents make me feel. Of course the opposite is also true, as mentioned above, but only rarely do I detect hog farm aromas in or around Pensacola.

So today as a sort of Christmas present to myself, I went to the Massage Warehouse site and ordered a whacking great bunch of essential oils.

Okay, the “whacking great bunch” were only nine, but ten if you count the ginger scented soy candle. Still that’s a lot for a first timer, and some of these oils are quite pricey.

But what I bought today are the pure, ‘single note’ oils, which are pressed, distilled, steamed or otherwise extracted from various plants, their roots, flowers, seeds, and so on.

A lot of study has been done, not by me I assure you, on the effects these scents have on the human mind, and I made a list of the ones I bought and their supposed effects.

And just FYI, while I’m writing this there are scented candles burning on the mantlepiece. Scented candles you buy at Target do not constitute REAL aromatherapy, mostly because there is little if any essential oil in the candles, although the Christmas Spice or whatever it is smells good.

Besides that, this sort of candle likely is made of paraffin, though the label doesn’t say, which is a petroleum product, so basically I’m inhaling diesel exhaust along with the Christmas smell.

That’s all right too. I used to live in southern California, drove a commuter bus on the freeways there, and also worked at the airport. My lungs laugh at diesel fumes, and my nose still thinks burning jet fuel is the smell of a good day’s work in the sun, though of course I never would expose a client to such as that, and that’s why I ordered the soy ginger candle.

But to continue, here is the list of scented oil goodies I ordered for my own Christmas stocking.

Bergamot: uplift and balance. Sure, why not? All I know is that bergamot smells good in Earl Grey tea, and if it’s good enough for Captain Picard, it’s good enough for me.

Eucalyptus: clearing scent. You betcha, bucko! There was a huge eucalyptus tree in my back yard in California. When it was hot out, the air smelled like a cough drop.  A few drops of this one are going into the bathtub with the Epsom salts.

Clary sage: relaxation and comfort. I don’t know this one at all, although a Swedish woman called Clary works at Emerald Coast Massage Specialists, and she gave me a really excellent massage once.

Ginger: warming, stimulating, improves circulation. Who doesn’t like gingerbread? And if it improves circulation, I’m in. This stuff is expensive though.

Lavender: relaxing, calming, excellent for healing burns. I didn’t know that last bit, the healing burns part. This definitely has a home-like smell to it, although the home you might think of could be your grandmother’s.

Lime: refreshing and energizing. I’m sure that’s why they always put it in your gin and tonic, but I expect the oil is a lot more than that. Looking forward to this one especially.

Peppermint: cooling, invigorating, clearing. I do enjoy the mint scents.

Rosemary: stimulating, energizing. I love the rosemary smell, roasting away on top of a leg of lamb. Who knew it was that other stuff too?

Tea tree: camphorous, medicinal. I couldn’t find any ‘oil of camphor’ in the list, though I know it exists. My mother used to use a product called Campho-Phenique to treat my bug bites. It was great stuff. We’ll see how this compares.

So what I plan to do with these oils when they arrive is mix them, singly at first and later in duets and trios, with plain grape seed lotion and use them on myself, to make sure they do what the brochure says they do. Or more probably to find out what they really DO do.

 Then I’ll use them on my private clients, if ever I get some.

Any volunteers in the Pensacola area? No extra charge for the aromatherapy. At first, anyway.

That is all.

Mark out.