Alternative Health Inquiries
Karen M. Diefenbach, Holistic Health Practitioner
N.Y.S. L.M.T., C.Hom., C.C.H., R.S.Hom.(NA), & R.Y.T.
What is massage?
It is a manual manipulation of muscles, tissues and joints.
What can massage therapy do for me?
Massage assists your circulation, helps to balance the nervous system and in turn aids your immune system. It also addresses specific problems like back spasms, tendinitis, arthritis, chronic headaches, anxiety and more. It increases body awareness and recognizes human touch as an indispensable form of healing. Consequently, massage therapy can be a wonderful ally in attaining a vibrant, healthy lifestyle.
Do I need a prescription?
No, but sometimes a doctor will prescribe a certain type of massage to address specific ailments, like sports injuries, gastrointestinal disorders, asthma or chronic or acute pain, circulatory problems and stress. If that happens, the massage therapist often becomes part of a therapeutic team that could include a physical therapist, chiropractor, or even a psychotherapist, working with the client to achieve a specific goal.
What can I expect from my first session?
First, we’ll work together to assemble a massage plan based on your medical history, ailments, and desired goals. I’ll begin to implement that plan during the first session. When it’s over, most clients usually feel some relief of their problems, and are ready to come back for more. If they do, I carefully monitor their progress and adjust the massage plan accordingly.
Are there different kinds of massage?
Yes. I use the following: Swedish, medical, deep tissue, shiatsu, reflexology, and pregnancy in my specialty, Therapeutic Massage. I also use another type of manual therapy that is not classified as massage. It is called, CranioSacral therapy. (Full explanation of these to follow.)
How does massage therapy relieve pain and stress?
Massage helps to increase the local circulation within muscles, which is a key to maintaining healthy tissues. Good circulation supplies cells with nutrition, antibodies, hormones and enzymes, along with oxygen for energy production. It also aids the process of elimination of wastes that irritate the tissue. Healthy tissues are pliable, free from pain, spasms, adhesion, and swelling and have adequate self-healing capabilities in tact.
Massage also triggers the release of endorphin’s and reduces the level of stress hormones. It can also slow the heart and breathing rate, aiding organ recuperation and better immune function. Regular massage therapy can establish a balance within the nervous system helping to alleviate nervous conditions like insomnia, irritability and anxiety.
What can cause muscle pain?
Some scenarios can disturb the health and balance of tissue metabolism causing pain, stiffness and decreased mobility. They are: stress, over activity, under-activity, diabetes, incorrect body mechanics or injury. Massage therapy can help muscles recover. Massage imitates the wringing effect of normal muscle action. When the muscle is bogged down or in spasm, massage can hasten the elimination of irritating by-products, break-down adhesion’s, and speed up the inflow of nutritive substances. This restores integrity and balance to the muscles. It also soothes nerve endings, and enhances flexibility.
What can I expect from routine visits?
Receiving regular massage is a way of life. It decreases stress, strain and pain and increases relaxation and body awareness, creativity and productivity. It is also a preventative therapy. You don’t have to be in pain or overly stressed to benefit. Our bodies respond best to a rhythm when seeking to engage it into a healing mode. Each mindful massage builds onto the last one on its way to increasing a better quality of life. A rhythm of either 1-2 times per week, or twice a month or monthly are most beneficial. But it’s really up to the client to set his or her own destination, including any self-care activities between massage sessions that support or enhance their goals. For those suffering from anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, depression or those making life-changes, or individuals doing repetitive activities, like musicians and athletes, for example, are especially suited to highly benefit from regular visits.
What if my problems stem from poor body mechanics?
Along with your massage plan, I can address your body mechanics, too! We can address these issues through Neuromuscular movement and yoga to help correct your posture.
What can I do before and after a massage to gain the most from a session?
At the beginning of your massage treatment, especially your first session, be prepared to discuss your goals. Once you can establish a high level of commitment to massage, you are well on your way to gaining more than your money’s worth. Leaving your beepers and cell phones out of the massage-office is a very good start, as quieting the mind and calming the body are a large part of the healing process. Being on time is of great value. Treat your massage session with the reverence you deserve. If you are seeking a more centered life, start using your massage treatment to clear your mind. After the massage session, hold your intention for as long as you can. Pace back into daily life or simply enjoy the renewed pace set by having a massage as you return to normal activity. Abstain from large meals, coffee, alcohol and tobacco, before and after a massage. Also, avoid alcohol, coffee and tobacco for the day. Following up your massage with a good amount of pure water helps detoxify. Keep in mind, aside from the massage routine, it is generally recommended to have 6-8 glasses of water per day.
When can’t I have a massage?
When you are suffering from infectious diseases, or are running a fever or have certain circulatory conditions. In addition, areas affected with phlebitis, rashes, inflammation, infected injuries or unhealed wounds, cannot be massaged. As far as those suffering from cancer, there are really wonderful benefits to having massage therapy, as long as your doctor is consulted during each phase of treatment, regardless of prognosis. This is also the general rule for anyone with chronic illness under a physicians care.
How does each modality differ?
Each offers a distinct technique to achieve a specific goal.
Tell me a little bit about the different approaches. What is therapeutic massage?
It uses an array of techniques- like, deep tissue, reflexology and CranioSacral- in a full-body massage that fits the client to support their natural healing mechanism, addressing general and specific complaints or ailments as needed.
What is medical massage?
It is designed to restore damaged tissue. It addresses a range of specific medical problems including, sciatica, carpal tunnel, TMJ, tendonitis, tennis elbow, migraine headaches, bone healing, stiff neck, hypertension or scar tissue. The protocol usually involves a variety of techniques, as well as ice and /or heat treatments, vibration, exercises and stretching. Medical massage often requires more frequent sessions, but the sessions are shorter, lasting between 15-45 minutes.
Can massage help me even if I have a broken arm in a cast?
Yes. A program can be developed that works around the cast and provides relief.
If an injured area (like a muscle strain) is still healing, how does the practitioner avoid re-injuring the patient?
I proceed cautiously, especially during the acute stage of inflammation, lightly massaging above and below the affliction. As the injury begins to heal, I’ll gradually progress to working directly on the injury. I would also rely on medical doctor’s supervision when appropriate.
What is Swedish massage?
It uses a compliment of manual manipulations, including long strokes, gentle stretching, kneading, hacking, vibration and superficial friction to soften muscles. It’s great for increasing circulation, and range of motion, easing sore joints and releasing muscle tension and stress.
What is Shiatsu?
Shiatsu is an Asian massage method to balance the energy flowing through the body.
How is Shiatsu done?
Pressure is applied to meridians (the vessels of energy that flow through the body) and acupuncture points (the relay stations on the course of energy flow). There are 14 meridians and numerous acupuncture points to work on. Traditionally, Shiatsu is done with the client dressed in loose clothing, on a mat on the floor, but it can also be done on a table, especially when combining it with other massage techniques.
How does the practitioner come up with a treatment plan?
Treatment plan is based on the five-element theory like Chinese medicine, Feng Shui or Tai Chi.
What’s the main benefit of a Shiatsu session?
Shiatsu is deeply relaxing. It helps rejuvenate muscles, nervous and visceral systems. It also facilitates balance within these systems. And can enhance the body-mind connection.
What is deep tissue massage?
It uses most of the techniques in Swedish massage, but it addresses constrictions and dysfunctions that lay deeper into the muscles. The practitioner uses elbows, fists, knuckles and finger pressure to seek out trigger points, break down adhesion, and help relieve the roots of the pain.
Is deep tissue massage painful?
It might feel concentrated at times but overall, it should feel good. A treatment starts with gentle Swedish strokes to warm up and soften the muscles, preparing them for more, penetrating work. The technique is slower than Swedish massage and should encompass awareness of client sensitivity to increased pressure. In some cases, ice may be recommended after a treatment to help facilitate healing and prevent swelling.
How many sessions will I need to relieve my pain?
Every case is different but it commonly takes between 1-5 sessions, spread out over 2-5 weeks. In some cases, 2-3 short sessions a week for a few weeks. And sometimes problem resolves after 1-2 treatments. Massage therapy may also be implemented to help manage certain chronic pain.
What is Reflexology?
Reflexology is a treatment usually done on the feet. It relieves tired, sore feet and induces overall relaxation. The theory behind reflexology is that the foot represents the whole body, and each spot on the foot relates to something on the body. By applying pressure to the feet, the reflexologist can interrupt patterns of stress in the body.
How did this theory come about?
Reflexology, is believed to be born from the ancients and developed over centuries. Reflexology as we know it today is based on zone therapy that is, parts of the body correspond to other parts within their own zones. An alternative to working on the feet would be either the hands or ears. Eunice Ingham, a physiotherapist for Dr. Joseph Shelby Riley, a student and advocate of the theory, mapped the whole body onto the feet, also onto the hands and ears. In addition, she discovered the reflex technique used today.
How is Reflexology applied?
It applies a combination of general massage and “finger-walking” techniques to the feet, or hands, or ears.
Why is Reflexology done primarily on the feet?
Not only are they more accessible being a larger surface area than the ears, for example, they are very sensitive to touch, which makes the treatment more effective, (there are 7200 nerves in each foot) The feet and legs are wired such with our nervous system to be in a constant state of readiness receiving information from the body, gravity and movement. Feet and legs work closely with the fight or flight, rest and digest mechanism of our nervous system, and literally take us out of danger. When the legs and feet are massaged and sore points are pressed, they release tension built up in the muscles and nerves which in turn reflect this relaxation response to the whole body.
What is CranioSacral Therapy?
CranioSacral Therapy is a gentle hands-on body work that connects with the CranioSacral system and all the connective tissue of the body using very light pressure. It’s applied by monitoring movement of the CranioSacral system and blending with the connective tissue. It follows tissue wherever it leads honoring the inner wisdom of each client. It’s extremely relaxing, as it can stimulate connective tissue to release deeply held tension and increase mobility within the system.
What is the CranioSacral system?
It is a distinct system that includes the cranial bones and sacrum, the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord and line the sacrum, and the cerebral spinal fluid. It has its own pulse and circulatory system. The rest of the body responds to this pulse through the networking of the connective tissue.
What does CranioSacral therapy address?
It tones the nervous and organ system and helps restore them “by removing stones from the road,” as says, Dr. John E. Upledger, the co-founder of CranioSacral therapy and president of the Upledger Institute, a resource center for CranioSacral studies in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. CranioSacral therapy is best known for helping with headaches, whiplash, some learning disabilities, like dyslexia and autism, sinus problems, allergies, high blood pressure, Temporal Mandibular Joint dysfunction (T.M.J.), post-traumatic stress, chronic pain, depression or fatigue.
What is pregnancy massage?
It is a therapeutic massage that focuses on both the expectant mother and baby. It can relieve insomnia, backaches, swollen ankles, aching muscles and feet, fatigue, breast soreness or headaches. A session will include suggestions on stretching to relieve muscle cramping, heartburn and constipation. We will also work to increase awareness of body mechanics to prevent body strain. Being an experienced mother myself, I can also offer a wealth of information and support to the expectant mother.
How does the massage affect my baby?
The growing baby can feel and hear its inner world and the world outside Mom. It can feel through Mom’s body chemistry, which affects the nervous system and hormones. Massage can help to reduce stress hormones bringing both mother and baby into balance. The mechanism that is present during gestation is marvelous and intricate. So much is changing relatively fast. To learn more about massage, acupuncture, reflexology and herbology during pregnancy, I recommend,” Mother Massage,” by Elaine Stillerman, L.M.T.
When should I start getting massage?
Massage therapy is beneficial before pregnancy, during and after delivery. Regular massage may increase chances of getting pregnant by reducing stress. Massage after delivery will ease lactation and iron out any left-over soreness. It may also help remedy new mom anxiety.
Is there anything else I need to know about the procedures of receiving a massage?
The client privately disrobes and lies on top of the massage table (which is graced with a fresh sheet) under a towel and then is wrapped with the sheet, if it is cool. A blanket is also available for additional warmth.
Generally, I’ll massage one area of the body-like the right leg or the left arm-at a time, using either oil or cream, depending on the client’s preference. It helps if the client focuses on each area as I work it. Music may be provided if the client wishes, but it’s best to keep talking to a minimum- except for feedback on the massage.
Privacy is granted routinely for undressing and dressing; but, if someone is still uncomfortable about undressing, I can modify the procedures to meet with their comfort level. Reflexology, CranioSacral and shiatsu require very little disrobing, if any at all.
* Changes are variable from person to person. Information imparted is for educational use and does not constitute medical advice.
© 2001-2021 Karen M. Diefenbach. All Rights Reserved.