Monday, September 20, 2010

Blindfolded Massage 09/10/10

At the beginning of our massage course the instructors had mentioned a blindfolded massage, I instantly felt a little nervous about it! But thought that it would be at a latter date and I would work through the anxiety. Then one day Michelle announced that the following class would be the day!! The anxiety had worn off but unfortunately physically I was not feeling well. I woke up with pain in my neck, shoulders and back all of which made me feel exhausted and sensitive. Because I was feeling so tired Carrie and I decided it would be best if I gave the first massage so that I could wake up a little bit. Beginning the massage was the easiest part. Being able to sit down was great because I didn't have to use my spacial awareness as much, I was grounded and the table was right in front of me! Going through the head and face felt good but there was some worry of poking an eye or finger in the mouth etc. Once it was time to stand up things got a little more complicated, for a couple of being the use of oil, it was hard to gauge the amount that was coming out of the bottle until there was too much. Also the draping and wanting to be respectful of the hand placement. It was a lot of fun to mentally visualize the individual muscles that I was working. I was fortunate that I am familiar with Carrie and her body, I think that it made me more comfortable and also easier to know where her body parts were based on "landmarks". For example: for both draping and massaging her legs, I first found her knee and was able to judge where her hips were because of my familiarity of her body length. As far as making the 1 hour time limit I think that I was only about 5 minutes over. It was great not looking at the clock and thinking about how much time had passed or was left.
Receiving the massage felt pretty much the same, except with more giggling! It was fun and light hearted. I look forward to trying another blindfolded massage again after working in clinic for a while!

Highlights of TCM Examinations and Treatments

Over the last few months I have had a wonderful introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and many of the unique modalities used to bring the body back into health and harmony. Many of the examinations and treatments used in TCM are very different from what Western Medicine is used to. By using non-invasive procedures and knowledge of the five-element theory TCM can identify disharmonies and restore balance to the body.
A few of the diagnostic procedures and therapies new to me that we were able to explore and practice in class were: tongue and pulse diagnosis, moxibustion, cupping, and auricular therapy.

As far as I know, tongue examinations are not a common place practice in American healthcare. Until this class I had never cared or desired to inspect other people’s tongues. In TCM it is said that the appearance and health of ones tongue directly reflects what is going on inside the body. In other words, imbalances within the body that we cannot see will manifest on the tongue. What a fascinating concept! It does make a lot of sense if you stop and think about it since the tongue is the only internal organ that is easily accessible to look at. Once you start looking at tongues you realize how many different shapes, sizes, colors, textures, and coatings are possible, and they all mean something different. It takes practice and knowledge to become good at tongue diagnosis but it is a valuable skill to have. One peak at a person’s tongue can give you a lot of information. For example; an abnormally pale tongue indicates deficient blood or Qi; a red tongue that it much redder than normal indicates a heat condition in the body; scalloped edges from teeth along the sides indicates dampness in the body; pale tongue with depression at the root (back of tongue) indicates decreased Jing(essence) pointing to deficient Kidney Qi; thick mucus coating points to digestive issues. These are few of many possibilities. With a trained eye this form of examination can be very useful.

Another interesting examination used in TCM is that of the pulse. This is not what most people in the Western world would think of when it comes to checking ones pulse, the standard quantifiable beats per minute and systolic/diastolic pressures. Instead, this is in an in-depth analysis of the radial pulse. TCM has three different positions on each hand for taking the pulse with each corresponding to a different organ.
There are two different positions for the pulse of the kidneys. The left side represents the Kidney yin, whereas the right side represents Kidney yang. There are also different depths at which a pulse can be read, either superficial, middle, or deep. Over time and with patience you can begin to feel the subtle differences in people’s pulses and decipher what they mean. A slower pulse is a sign of cold or insufficient Qi to cause movement, where as a rapid pulse is a sign of heat. An empty pulse which lacks strength and feels weak is a sign of deficient Qi or blood, where as a full pulse which feels strong and pounds hard is a sign of excess. There are many different classifications of pulse and to become good at pulse diagnosis takes many years of practice and experience. It is truly an art.

After the examinations are complete a treatment plan can be put together that can include a variety of modalities such as acupressure massage, moxibustion, cupping, gua sha, acupuncture, auricular therapy and Qi Gong. Three that were new and unheard of to me were moxibustion, cupping, and auricular therapy.
Moxa is a dried and sifted form of the mugwart plant that is burned during moxibustion treatment. Moxa smolders, releasing smoke and creating a lot of heat and is burned either directly on or above the skin. Moxibustion is used to bring warmth, blood, and qi to a specific area such as a meridian, acupoint, or body part. This treatment aims to clear damp, free the movement of Qi and blood, coursing Qi, dispersing cold, and warming what is cold. Moxa treatment is great for deficiency syndromes and is greatly tonifying. There are different methods of burning moxa. A more direct method involves small cones that stick to the skin and are great for specific acupressure points alone or along a meridian. Moxa-irons are small metal boxes with a handle. The moxa is burned in the box and then rubbed over a client’s lower back to tonify the kidneys. There are also moxa sticks which can be used just above the skin. Energy work along with moxibustion strengthens the treatment and achieves better results. Treatment durations and amount used vary depending on client feedback and desired effect. Contraindications and cautions include pregnancy, heart condition or circulation disorders, signs of heat (a burn, rash, inflammation), on the face and sensitive areas, over a tumor, over damaged ligaments and tendons (until inflammation has gone down), and on persons who have just overeaten, are very hungry, or intoxicated (large shifts in energy can cause a person to pass out). Moxa also helps to boost the body’s immune system (wei qi).

Cupping is a method of drawing the skin up into cups using some form of suction over specific acupoints or areas of tension. Traditionally, fire was used to create a vacuum inside of a glass cup which would draw the patient’s skin up into the cup creating a nice suction grip. This method is still used but to avoid the dangers that fire can pose an alternative way has been developed. Now it is not uncommon to see the use of plastic cups with a small detachable hand pump that is used to draw the skin up into the cup getting the same desired effect. The purpose of cupping is to help dispel stagnations and relieve areas of tension and is usually prescribed in cases of excess, such as knots and pain. It relieves congestion and inflammation while opening up pathways to provide the smooth flow of Qi and blood to the area while eliminating toxins. Cupping is used in the West and in China to help an array of disorders from respiratory disease (chronic cough, asthma), paralysis, gastrointestinal tract disorders, frozen shoulder, depression, and soft tissue pain just to name a few. Cupping is preformed over fleshy areas of the body using different sized cups for the desired area. Although cupping is painless it can and usually does leave a mark. The suction that is used draws blood and toxins to the surface which can leave a mark that looks like an unsightly bruise. The mark usually disappears within a couple of days depending on how bad the stagnation was in the area. People with a lot of stagnation and tension will experience more blood and darker blood coming to the surface at the cupping site than those who do not have as much tension. Cups can be left on for anywhere between 8-15 minutes depending how quickly blood comes to the surface or until the desired effect is reached. The major contraindications for cupping include: inflamed areas on the skin (or any rash, open wound, ect..), high fever, convoulsions and cramping, easy bleeding (bleeding disorders, blood thinners), and areas over the lower back and abdomen during pregnancy.
Auricular therapy is a type of reflexology that involves the outside auricle of the ear. Just like there is reflexology for the hands and feet, there is also one for the ear. There are over 200 points in there ear that correspond to internal and external body structures and organs. Through these points a practitioner can stimulate all organs and functions of the body to help the body move back into a balanced state. This type of therapy was developed in China thousands of years ago but in the last century has been elaborated upon by the French. It has shown great results for helping with pain and pain management, stress and emotional disorders, addiction, common illnesses, chronic conditions, and much more. Stimulation of these points can be done through a variety of methods including needling (acupuncture), electrical stimulation, magnets, or ear beads (acupressure). Using ear beads was the method that was shown in class. Ear beads are very tiny round balls that can be made of gold, silver, or a small seed and have a small piece of adhesive to hold it in place over a selected point. A point combination of 5-8 points is selected for treatment in one ear and the beads are left in place for up to a week. The client is shown where each of the beads has been placed and is instructed to stimulate them manually up to 3 times a day. Auricular therapy using ear beads can be used to treat or help almost any ailment, disease, or condition since it has relatively no side effects and contraindications. Soreness at the point location and some possible temporary side effects such as nausea and dizziness can occur due to shifts in energy and changes in the body but these are usually brief and rare. Those who are pregnant, have just under gone an organ transplant or are in remission from cancer should consult their physicians before opting for any additional therapies.
I have learned so much about TCM in the last few months and it has been a very rewarding experience. Not just the new and exciting treatments but an entire new way of looking at and thinking about health and homeostasis. I have only barely scratched the surface here with this highlight of a few interesting examination and treatment methods but the foundation on which this knowledge rests goes so much deeper. The five element theory, which all of these treatments and diagnoses are based on, is truly a beautiful and elaborate web of the human microsystem. I encourage anyone who has an interest in these modalities for personal or practical use, or even just pure curiosity, look further into it. There are so many choices and possibilities when it comes to health treatment options, do not think that you are limited to only a select few!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Blindfolded Massage

My classmate and I gave and received blindfolded massage last week. I found it to be a rich experience. I received first, and contrary to my usual trance, I worked hard to pay attention to the sensations.
Starting at the head in the usual pattern, it felt kind of tentative, and slightly off center, but as Trinity progressed she seemed to gain more confidence in herself. the rhythm was good, not a lot of fumbling and stumbling. She paced the massage well, and did a 1 hour pattern pretty close to on time.
When I was blindfolded, I was disoriented a bit at first. The blindfold was pressing against my contacts funny, and they kept feeling weird throughout the massage. Working on the head and face pattern was different, not used to not being able to see, but the hardest part was worrying about poking her in the eyes. I had to switch out oil bottles because the first one I had felt wrong, didn't glide right. It was a little awkward doing the pecs, first worrying about draping and exposure, and then I bonked her on the chin when I switched sides. I was informed that my arm and leg draping was good, did covered abdomen massage, and covered glute massage. I slipped off of the center of the back a bit during the back section, but once I got centered again it worked better.
When giving a blindfolded massage, you can tell where you are by the muscles themselves, and you can gauge your pressure easily. My only big issue was being unable to gauge how much oil I was getting from the bottle. Several times I had to squirt more onto my hands, and once or twice I had to wipe off a bunch. I think that if I had been using a pump bottle I might have done better on oil amounts, but I haven't practiced much with one in regular use.
I think that giving blindfolded massage can make you a better therapist, because you rely on your sense of touch more and you listen more for feedback from your client. Working in dim light is often very relaxing for the client, and I have occasionally caught myself working on someone with my eyes closed. Touch and hearing are really the only senses you need; I haven't figured out what help smell and taste give, unless you are using moxa or incense or scented candles.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Six Week Case Study

Over the course of six weeks we were given the assignment to massage only one person. We were given this assignment so that we as massage therapists would have the oppurtunity to experience the changes in a single persons body wheather it be muscle tension or any mental as well as physical improvements. I chose to work on a 32 year old licenced massage therapist who for the past couple of years has been experiencing alot of pain around her upper back and shoulder area.

Some of this pain could stem from her spinal/ hip missalignment. since she happens to work for a chiroprachtor she is able to receive spinal adjustments as often as her schedule allows her to. She told me her spine and hips have improved significantly due to the adjustments ,yet she like most hard working massage therapists forget or don't even consider to take time out for themselves. over time all that physical work begins to wear you down physically and mentally. In my first session with her we sat down and went over all her medical history I scanned the form looking for any specific areas that stood out or seemed out of balance. she was very open to the idea of receiving any kind of massage for six days a week. Due to her past massage school experiences she had been exposed to the concept of oriental medicine but they had only touched on the subject very briefly. oriental exercise and medicine had always held her intrest so she was very eager and facinated to learn more about the practice.

On day one I gave her just a general relaxation massage to introduce myself to her body and get a feel for her muscles. throughout the massage I used very long soothing strokes feeling for any areas of tension. throughout the next couple of days I found she was tight and knottted usually in the same areas which was around the neck , trap , and shoulder area. some of the sessions she seemed very down and emtionally distraught, so with her permission I incorporated very calming anti-anxiety accupressure points such as stomach eight and stomach forty. Throughout our massages I tryed to channel very calm, loving, and compassionate energy. I gave her some chi-gong exercises to do to help improve her motivation and open her heart center, such as smiling heart chi-gong she told me she loves that chi gong and does it every morning which helps her to start the day off right. The experience was a very rewarding and awe inspiring awakening to the power of massage. throughout those six weeks her stress and tention areas began to melt away she was able to have the motivation to get up early and workout, and she felt everything about her life had completely shifted in a positive way. In the end she requested that I be her only massage therapist which really filled my heart with joy.