Saturday, October 24, 2020

Massage and Fatigue


The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines fatigue as “weariness or exhaustion from labor, exertion, or stress”.  The Mayo Clinic defines fatigues as “physical and/or mental exhaustion that can be triggered by stress, medication, overwork, or mental and physical illness or disease.

Western medicine recognizes that fatigue is not always related to an underlying condition. Exertion, sleep deprivation, heavy workout, stress, excess alcohol consumption, or boredom may also be causes.  Western medicine treats fatigue with a handful of pharmaceuticals.  Some of these are effective but possibly addictive, and some are not effective.   Traditional Chinese Medicine views fatigue as having a variety of causes.  These all include a deficiency:  deficiency in yang, deficiency in yin, deficiency in blood, or deficiency in qi.

Massage will help restore the balance between yin and yang and therefore can be helpful in all cases of fatigue regardless of cause.  Depending on the person, very light, almost energetic touch can be helpful relief.  Some people prefer a more vigorous approach.  Each therapist must gauge the approach to the individual. 

Very hot situations such as chemotherapy-caused fatigue must be treated with a light touch.  Lack of energy due to fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome may benefit from a more vigorous massage to bring out the qi.  Energetically stimulating the kidney qi can help with generic fatigue. 

Massage will restore the balance between yang and yin.  Returning the body to balance will eliminate fatigue.  Fatigue can be overwhelming, but massage is one of the many tools that can improve quality of life. 


Oriental Healing Arts Center, Anchorage AK

Tuesday, September 15, 2020


ASD and Art: An Invitation to Massage Therapists

Shakti Gawain said: “Our bodies communicate clearly and specifically if we are willing to listen.”

Such is the case when we consider treatment options in bodywork: small changes in approach can yield great results when applied correctly, and opportunities to “listen” for when these changes are appropriate are discussed widely among practitioners.

Regardless of the methods applied, hours – perhaps more – have been spent prior to treatment inspired by the clients we serve in Alaska. The allure of emerald lakes and mountain rainbows can lead to sore back muscles. Late nights in the city and Northern Lights viewing can strain necks and shoulders. A long day at work can inspire the therapist to develop new strategies for stress relief.

Massage Therapy has proven to be a successful intervention with a wide array of health concerns. Autism Spectral Disorder offers the massage therapist a unique opportunity. With a myriad of resources available relating to this disorder, an additional resource can be explored through art. The primary purpose of this blog post is to draw you into the experience of autism on the “Art of Autism” website as an entry into this unique genre of expression. A nice perk is that art such as this may help guide the massage therapist to better understand this disorder when considering a treatment plan.

Quick Facts:

·       ASD effects social skills and the ability to communicate (Centers for Disease Control, 2020)

·       1:54 children are identified to have ASD in the US as of 2020 (Centers for Disease Control, 2020)

·       Diagnosis can be obtained early in life; testing of certain benchmarks is part of a standard pediatric care plan (Centers for Disease Control, 2020)

·       There is no universal “cure.” Pharmaceutical treatments exist. Certain care plans include the coordination of several providers (NIH, 2020)

·       ~ 5,500,000 American adults have been diagnosed with ASD (Centers for Disease Control, 2020)

·       Some people experiencing ASD find physical touch difficult.

·       Causes, treatments and social perceptions of ASD vary widely with audiences.

Care for young children experiencing ASD can include any of the following medical interventions:

·       Psychiatric

·       Occupational Health

·       Speech- Language Pathology

·       Primary Care Providers

·       Dietary Specialists

·       Caregivers/ Educators (NIH, 2020)

Most children experiencing ASD are not under this comprehensive of treatment, however. Coordinating with other providers may leverage their knowledge of your client. 

Adults experiencing ASD also have diverse interventions, but may struggle to lead productive, healthy lives. Education level, unemployment and a lack of social interaction make coordinating care a challenge.

Consider the Following Potential Benefits of MT:

·       Positive social interaction

·       Anxiety relief

·       Increased circulation

·       Supports further coordination with other providers

The massage therapist should be aware of the wonderful challenge presented by working with those experiencing ASD. While not contraindicated, MT can be very intense, and the massage therapist should have a plan in place keep the client safe. 

How does one go about understanding ASD?

"Western" perspective: ASD is a developmental disorder. Communication is fundamental to this disorder. Each case is unique. The transition from childhood to adulthood presents the most critical (typically) phase of intervention.

TCM: ASD does not exist by this clinical designation but is described under the name: “Syndrome of 5 delays”. Speech is one marker used in the diagnosis of this syndrome. (Science, 2020)

The massage therapist looking for new methods of understanding ASD will find that the autist community excels in this very task – new methods of understanding. Nowhere is this more evident than in the writing and painting of those on the “Art of Autism” website. Consider Patrick Jasper Lee on Lee shares his experience and gives an account of ASD that is really fun to follow. I use his art to better understand autism and my role in caring for an ASD client.

The blog site “Art of Autism” is a collection of paintings, poems, books, and photos. Very few disorders have a “symbol” attached to it. The puzzle piece seems fitting here (where it may not be fitting elsewhere):  “solving the puzzle” seems impossible  - until the piece itself shows you where it fits. 










Art of Autism. (2020, June 26). Patrick Jasper Lee. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control. (2020, June 26). Autism Spectrum Disorder. Retrieved from

NIH. (2020, June 26). Autism Spectrum Disorder. Retrieved from

Science, P. C. (2020, June 26). Traditional Chinese Medicine and Autism. Retrieved from

Trumpet Behavioral Health. (2020, June 26). Retrieved from




Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Massage For Acute Torticollis

By Shannon Goolsby
Ever wake up with a kink in your neck or have a stiff neck that doesn’t seem to go away or keeps coming back? This could be acute Torticollis.

What is Acute Torticollis?
Torticollis is involuntary muscle spasms or contractions of the neck. The head will tilt or twists to one side, while the chin pulls down towards the shoulder on the opposite side. This typically affects not only the head and neck but can affect the shoulders and back.

Torticollis is often referred to as a stiff neck and often known as Wryneck, Twisted Neck or Loxia.  Other forms of Torticollis include Congenital, Spasmodic and Idiopathic.

Causes of acute Torticollis
·       Improper position of the neck
-          Sleeping wrong
·       Injury to the neck and head
-          Whiplash
·       Over use or tension of the neck muscles
·       Infections or abscesses in the head, neck, throat or upper airway
-          Ear or sinus infection
-          A cold

How long do symptoms last?
In cases of improper position or overuse, symptoms typically resolve within 1 to 2 days. From infections or injury, typically resolution will be within a couple of weeks.

Seek immediate medical attention if the following symptoms occur:
·       Trouble swallowing or breathing
·       Impaired speech
·       Pins and needles, numbness or weakness in the arms and legs
·       Difficulty walking
·       Fever, swollen glands or headache associated with torticollis
·       Mouth or tongue swelling

Western Medicine Approach
Western medicine primarily treats Torticollis through physical therapy and oral anti-inflammatory medications.   In more severe, resistant cases additional medications, botulinum toxin injections and surgery may be used.

Eastern Medicine/TCM Medicine Approach
TCM believe that Torticollis is a stagnation of the blood and Qi of the neck caused by an invasion of cold, wind and damp entering the channels supplying the neck area.

Acupuncture and Cupping of the Ashi and Empirical points with the use of Moxibustion are the treatment of choice in conjunction with Massage Therapy.

With Massage Therapy the SCM, Trapezius, Scalenes and Levator Scapula muscles are massaged and stretched for relief of pain and preventative for reoccurrence.  Contra-indications include:
·       Avoidance of full stretches to the SCM if the Vertebral Artery Test is positive or if the client gets dizzy with stretch
·       Avoidance of the Carotid Artery when treating the SCM
·       Massaging when the muscles are in spasm


Friday, June 26, 2020

Healing Depression Through The Essence Of Touch

A man once told me a quote that I lived by due to the sheer strength and masculinity of it, “I was born by myself, and I’ll die by myself”. It has taken me over 30 years of my natural born life to realize that the quote is actually sad, lonely, heartbreaking, and utterly depressing if you allow it to digest for a moment. After serving over 20 years of military service, countless deployments, dozens of countries visited, interactions with all sorts of cultures, more death than any man should ever witness, I’m shamed to say that I once stood proud and not only believed but lived every syllable of that quote. In the midst of all the catastrophes going on in the world today, a pandemic, police brutality, a corrupt government, poverty, unemployment, and I could go on for days. Actually, that is the root to every single problem if you take a moment to dissected it. What we need as a human race is the exact opposite. We as a human race thrive and survive from human touch. From the moment we are born our functionality and survival rate depends on the touch of the woman who birthed us and gave us life. Throughout our toddler, adolescent, and teenage years how we develop as a functional member of society depends on the values, beliefs, and discipline instilled upon us. But most importantly how much or how often we were touched and showed love and affection. Veterans take their own lives at an astonishing rate of 22 lives per day, solitary confinement inmates are twice  more likely to revisit jail or take their own lives, Alaskan suicide rates are up by 13%, children who experience bullying are two times more likely to commit suicide. I could continue to spray statistics at you, but my heart is to too heavy at the moment. What I will do is direct you to the common denominator in every case, feeling excluded, alone, a lack of interaction, and zero positive and encouraging touch. American culture has somehow taken what we truly need to survive and gave it a different name, and better yet represent a different tone. If I hug my co-worker we must be fooling around, If I smile too much at the checkout I must be flirting with the cashier, If I were to console someone of the opposite sex there’s a time constraint placed on the embracement. Well my fellow Americans, I am here to tell you that particular thought process is wrong as the quote I once lived by. When here are a few fun facts to support the opposite of what the majority believe. Massage/touch calms the mind, massage/touch eases aches and pains, massage/touch relieves depression, massage/touch increases blood flow and promotes relaxation. So how about we do away with all the vices that surround us in the world today and experience a different healthier type of euphoria. Visit your local massage therapist to begin your journey toward better body, soul, happiness, and heart mind. NAMASTE!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Back Mice

Episacroiliac Lipoma, otherwise known as Back Mice, are a cause of low back pain caused by fatty tissue that has herniated through the fascial layers in the low back. The term Back Mouse was coined by Peter Curtis in his 1993 paper: In search of the back mouse,’ due to its mobility and change of size over time.i I first encountered the back mouse while performing chair massage in massage school. I had no knowledge of the condition and I was curious as to what they could be. The few clients I observed them in were middle-aged women with complaints of low back discomfort though the palpation of the nodules did not invoke a pain response.  

The basic characteristics of a Back Mouse are firm, rubbery, mobile nodules located in the sacroiliac, posterior superior iliac, and, lumbar paraspinal regions. Observing these characteristics upon palpation combined with either relief of pain with local anesthetics or positive identification upon ultrasound are key in diagnosis.ii The back mice are easiest to palpate when the patient/client is slightly bent over at the waist at a 75-degree angle.iii When the back mouse nodule is causing peripheral nerve neuropathy and/or entrapment, differentiating back mice versus spinal stenosis/herniation or neuropathy can be accomplished by negative straight leg raises, lack of sensory findings, and intact reflexes. 

Western Medicine treatment considerations include local anesthetic injection, corticoid steroid injection with repeated needling, surgical resection of the herniated tissue, and liposuction. Treatment is not usually required unless the back mouse is causing unmanageable pain.iv   

Massage Therapy can help manage the pain and discomfort caused by the back mouse. Paraspinal massage, hip massage, and thoracodorsal fascial stretching can be a good treatment for reducing pain/discomfort and providing relief from the back mouse. When massaging a client with back mice it is important to avoid direct pressure over the nodule as well as avoid stretching and bending that weakens the low back.v 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Back Mice are considered to be caused by damp/phlegm stemming from water accumulation in the low back due to low kidney This can be treated by clearing damp from the Large Intestine with digestive cupping and citrus essential oils, and tonifying the Kidneys by using moxibustion on the Kidney Shu points.


i The Best-Laid Plans of “Back Mice” and Men: A Case Report and Literature Review of Episacroiliac Lipoma, retrieved from:

ii Trapping “Back Mice”: A novel approach to the evaluation and treatment of painful subfascial fat herniations, retrieved from:


iv Are Back Mice Real?, retrieved from:

v The Problem with the Back Mouse, retrieved from: 

vi Back Mice! A Weird Cause of Back Pain, retrieved from:

Friday, February 21, 2020

Psoriasis and Massage Therapy

Psoriasis affects a large amount of our population, but it’s not only physical. It can affect self-confidence, relationships with others, getting out and doing things, and even contribute to depression. I am one of those people it has affected. 

According to Western medicine, Psoriasis is a hereditary, non-contagious, autoimmune overreaction of the skin. It presents usually with thick, white, silvery, or red patches on the skin that may form clusters, along with possible inflammation, itching, and/or flaking scaling on the skin. Basically, skin cells grow about 5 times faster than normal and the old cells build up instead of being shed. In Western medicine, it is not known exactly what causes the immune system to be set off this way. Although, it is widely believed that flare ups can often be associated with an increase in stress and hormonal changes. 
Western medicine usually treats Psoriasis with topical treatments, light therapy, and oral and/or injectable medications. Some natural methods may be recommended as well, including herbs, vitamins, natural sunlight, ocean water, bath solutions, natural ointments, and diet changes.

According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Psoriasis is an outward expression of Heat emanating from the deep bone level, associated with the Kidneys, the body’s deepest constitutional level. If Heat is not being cleared sufficiently through urination and deification, it can be pushed upward and cause issues with Lung energy. Therefore, it is also associated with Heat in the Lungs (Metal energy) and, over time, can weaken Lung Qi, energy and the immune system. Also, in TCM, clustering indicates internal Dampness that exudes out to the skin, and is likely related to diet. The Heat creates the redness, itching, and spreading of the condition, and the Dampness produces the clustering sores.
According to TCM, too much Heat can come from emotional trauma, excessive mental stress, smoking, unhealthy diets, environmental toxins, and even excessive exercise and sex.
It is believed in TCM that psoriasis can be brought under control through the use of acupuncture, herbal medicine, essential oils, and diet modifications. 

An additional therapy for Psoriasis can be Swedish massage. In the body, it can increase circulation, stimulate the lymphatic system, reduce inflammation, and provide stress relief. Swedish massage includes long strokes, kneading, and soothingly manipulate muscle and connective tissue. The only modification that is recommended for a therapist to make is light, less intense, massage on areas that are red and inflamed, or avoiding the those areas, to meet the client’s comfort level.
Another body treatment that may help is acupressure that uses gentle pressure on the body’s key healing points to assist in opening pathways of flow and release in the body, increase circulation, boost the immune system, and reduce pain and stress.
People with Psoriasis may also want to ask about massage oils that may be used, or ask to bring their own. It’s good to be up front about the Psoriasis when setting up a massage appointment. Therapists should already know that it’s not contagious, but it can’t hurt to mention that as well. It’s good to let therapists know of any body conditions ahead of time before each appointment.

Swedish massage can be incredibly relaxing and provide wonderful relief of stress. Give yourself, or someone you love, the gift of massage. It can help the body, mind, and spirit heal in limitless ways.

Sited sources:

WebMD, Psoriasis Health Center, Articles on Psoriasis including “12 Psoriasis Causes and Risk Factors”, “Psoriasis Treatments”

China Education Center, “Traditional Chinese Treatment for Psoriasis”

A Center for Natural Healing,“Is your skin driving you mad? A classical Chinese medicine perspective on psoriasis and eczema”, May 11, 2017, by Salvador Cefula, M. S., L. Ac.

National Psoriasis Foundation, “Alternative Therapies”, 

Everyday Health, “Massage for Psoriasis: Is It Safe?”, by Beth W. Orenstein, Medically reviewed by Sanjai Sinha, MD, March 15, 2017

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Iron-Deficiency Anemia

In Western medicine, iron-deficiency anemia is a condition in which, due to insufficient iron levels, there is a significant lack of red blood cells in the body, resulting in low hemoglobin levels and low oxygenation of the body and organs. Anemia comes in many forms and is the most common blood condition in the United States, affecting around 6% of the population.

Symptoms of anemia in Western medicine are fatigue/lack of energy; rapid heart rate; shortness of breath and headaches; difficulty concentrating; dizziness; pale skin; leg cramps; insomnia; very heavy and painful menstrual flow.

The most common treatments for iron-deficiency anemia in Western medicine are iron supplements and a change in diet or nutrition. The change in diet would be to eliminate most dairy products and to begin to incorporate more dark, leafy greens, seafood, and lean, red meats. In severe cases, iron injections can be prescribed as well.

Traditional Chinese Medicine doesn’t use the term “anemia” and instead this condition would be treated under a more general description of “blood deficiency.” Primarily an Earth element condition, the focus for iron deficiency anemia would be directed towards the stomach and the spleen, which generates and controls the blood.

Traditional Chinese Medicine symptoms differ slightly in their description from Western: pale complexion, lips, nails; weak and thready pulse; pale tongue; dizziness; blurring vision; insomnia; numbness of limbs; irregular menstrual flow, poor digestion.

TCM treats blood deficiencies by way of acupuncture/acupressure, massage, diet, and herbs. Herbs that can be used to treat anemia should only be consumed if the client’s doctor has deemed it to be non-interfering with any medications that the client may be on. Herbs used would include astragalus, spirulina, burdock, dandelion root, and ginger.

Massage is indicated for anemia as it helps to dilate blood vessels,increase red blood cell count, and improve circulation and oxygenation throughout the body.
If giving a Swedish style massage, a lighter pressure should be used unless deeper pressure is signed off on by a doctor.
Tuina is also incredibly beneficial for anemia and can actually help to increase hemoglobin levels and the red blood cell count.

During a massage, focus should be directed towards the spleen and stomach meridians, which are Earth element meridians, potentially including acupressure points along those meridians if the client is comfortable with that. Excellent points to include are Stomach-36, Stomach-34, Spleen-6, and Spleen-9. Burning moxibustion on those points can be beneficial as well, as the moxibustion will bring the Qi to those points and reinvigorate the flow of Qi through those meridians.

Including abdominal massage is also beneficial for anemia patients as it helps to increase circulation and oxygen flow through the intestines and the stomach.

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  • Ginger Could Treat Anemia - North Carolina Research Campus BDamron. (2015, September 23). Retrieved February 13, 2020, from 
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  • Kent-Stoll, G. (2018, April 3). Nourishing the Blood: TCM and Ayurvedic Perspectives. Retrieved February 13, 2020, from 
  • Reller, P. L. (2017, August 3). Anemias: A Wide Variety of Types and Causes. Retrieved February 13, 2020, from 
  • The Massage Source. (n.d.). Retrieved from