The Roller Coaster Ride of Whiplash

Whiplash is a relatively common injury that occurs to a person’s neck following a sudden acceleration-deceleration force. Motor vehicle accidents, falls or impact to the body cause unrestrained, rapid forward and backward movement of the head and neck causing damage to soft tissue (muscles, ligaments, joint capsules), bones, and joints.

Common symptoms related to whiplash may include: neck pain and stiffness, headache, shoulder pain and stiffness, dizziness, jaw pain, arm pain, arm weakness, visual disturbances, ringing in the ear, fatigue and foggy headedness.

frustrated_indexMost people who have been in a motor vehicle accident generally expect to exhibit some of the above mentioned physical symptoms. Most people are not aware of the emotional symptoms of whiplash until they are in the thick of it. My clients have reported a wide variety of emotional states such as depression, anger, frustration, anxiety, stress and/or irritability. They report sleep disturbances and symptoms of post traumatic stress syndrome.

What sometimes will compound the situation is that they feel embarrassed or sillysad girl_morgue_file1801281015946 that they are so “irrational” or “out of control”. Some report that they are” quick to tears over the smallest thing”. They say “I don’t feel like myself.” They feel fragile. They can feel like they are on an emotional roller coaster.

They may feel isolated. One client reported that she wouldn’t go out of the house for over a month after her car accident.

They might find themselves viewing the car accident over and over in their head. They might have nightmares or day dreams about the accident. “What could they have done differently? Why did this happen to them?”

What they don’t know is that these emotional symptoms are part of a broader term called “Whiplash Associated Disorder”. It is very common and a normal part of a traumatic, stressful event. The added ups and downs of healing from the physical symptoms can further the feeling of frustration.

How can we as healers, bodyworkers and massage therapists help our clients? Here are a few guidelines that I find helpful for my clients on this wild ride.

First, I find it extremely helpful to reassure my clients that what they are experiencing is “normal” for a whiplash injury. There is a level of relaxation in their nervous system just to hear “No… you are not crazy. This is normal. Lots of people have the same experience.”

young couple holding handsIt is so important for them to know that are not alone in this process. This information alone can begin to turn the process around. The look of relief on my client’s faces when I share this shows me that this information is precious.

Encourage your clients to be gentle, compassionate and understanding with themselves as they move through their healing process, especially when they are having “one of those breakdowns”. The resisting of their emotional state adds to their stress and can become a vicious cycle.

If their symptoms are particularly strong, a referral to a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist or someone who does trauma work such as Somatic Experiencing may be in order. Make sure you know the names of a few mental health practitioners in your area so you can make a referral.

Second, working with the breath can have profound effects on the nervous system. All stress and trauma go to the respiratory diaphragm. People who are experiencing anxiety generally are not breathing in an efficient manner. They often are not fully exhaling. They are held in an inhale. Helping your client to find belly breathing can help ground their energy and reduce anxiety.

Have your client lie face up, knees supported in a bent knee position. Have them place their hands on their belly. Encourage them to gently take a few easy breaths initiating the breath from their belly. They can exhale through their nose or mouth. Exhaling through the mouth as if they were blowing out through a straw helps encourage a long slow controlled exhale. After 3-5 breaths, go back to normal breathing. Repeat. Encourage your client to do this at home several times a day.

Other beneficial options include:

Craniosacral Therapy. Because of its deep connection to the nervous system, Craniosacral Therapy can be helping someone move from sympathetic nervous system overload (fight or flight) to parasympathetic nervous system balance (rest and digest). Craniosacral Therapy can be very grounding and deeply relaxing. It can help to balance the bones and fascial lines. It is especially helpful to bring balance to the cranial base, the temporal bones, the atlanto-occipital joint and sacrum as these are often affected with a whiplash injury.

Essential oils can also be helpful with alleviating symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression. Lavender is calming and relaxing. Lemongrass helps to relax the nervous system as well as soothe  muscle aches. Essential oils that help with grounding such as the doTerra Balance formula (spruce, rosewood , frankincense and blue tansy) helps clients feel more connected and can relieve anxiety. Always check with your client for sensitivity to aromas before using any of the oils.

Above all, be kind, gentle and understanding with your client’s process.
Encourage them to be patient  with their recovery. Most people want to get back to their life as quickly as possible. I find the healing process is less bumpy when we acknowledge the impact of the trauma and honor the healing process.

The Sacrum Dance

The sacrum, located at the base of our spine, is one of the five parts of the Craniosacral (CS) system. It is one of the bones that make of the pelvis. The sacrum is wedged between the ilia at the sacroiliac joints. A healthy and happy sacrum has a small amount of allowable movement at this joint for most of our lives. Sacrum loves to move. It loves to wag its tail. It loves to express itself and it loves to dance.

Yoga lotus pose Padmasana with colored chakra points
The CS system has an inherent rhythmic movement that Craniosacral Practitioners tune into when placing their hands on specific areas on their client’s body. The quality, amplitude and symmetry of this rhythmic movement can be used as an indicator of the client’s health and vitality.

The sacrum is the lower pole of the Reciprocal Tension Membrane (the RTM). The RTM is the fascial system that connects the craniosacral system from head to tail. What happens at the sacrum affects the entire system and visa versa (as above, so below).

There are many life factors that can affect the inherent movement of the sacrum – physical injury, emotional, energetic and spiritual issues and challenges.

Energetically, the sacrum is related to the first and second chakra.

The first chakra, Muladhara is our “root chakra”.  muladhara chakra vectorIt relates to our most basic survival needs, our sense of security and safety in the world  and our sense of belonging, whether to our family, our community or Mother Earth. It is where we get our sense of ground – a firm place from which to take a stand for what we believe in.

When this chakra is clear and free, we feel secure and stable.  We feel confident that we can easily fulfill our needs. We have a sense of who we are and feel connected to our “tribe”. On the other hand, blockage in this area can cause us to feel fearful, anxious and worried. We might feel like we are alone and separate from the flow of life.

swadhisthana chakra vector symbolThe second chakra, Svadhisthana, resides in the reproductive area and is associated with fertility, creativity and birth. We most often associate the second chakra with sexuality and childbirth but it is also where new projects, ideas and new aspects of ourselves can be birthed.

When this chakra is healthy and open, life feels juicy. We feel tapped into a source of creativity that helps us write beautiful poetry or music, develop a innovative business, or create a loving family life. When this chakra becomes congested, we may experience a block in our creative powers. Life might feel dry or empty. We start to feel like we are just going through the motions of life – not fully engaged.

The sacrum loves to move both physically and energetically. When there has been injury, trauma, or abandonment there is a normal and natural tendency for the energy of this area to be congested, diminished, fragmented or completely shut down.
It takes energy to maintain these areas of congestion. Our life force energy can get depleted and over time fatigue, pain and illness can set in.

Our intention for healing is to bring the fragmented parts back into unity and to free the life force energy so that we can feel more whole, vital and more “at home” in ourselves.

In Visionary Craniosacral Work, as we make contact, we have a “quiet conversation” with the sacrum. “What is alive here?” “What needs to be seen or heard?” “What is needed for you to feel more free, alive and a part of the whole?” We then give sacrum the presence and the space it needs to unwind its tensions at whatever pace it needs. 99249.attachWe have no agenda for its release. We compassionately respect and honor whatever is needed at this time. Sacrum then feels seen and heard and honored. The trauma can begin to release its grip and sacrum can begin to integrate into the whole. Inherent movement increases and balances. Freedom, vitality and relaxation can be felt. Sacrum can begin to dance its sacred dance.

Visionary Craniosacral Work®?

Like Craniosacral Therapy, Visionary Craniosacral Work® evolved from the work of Dr. William Sutherland D.O. Sutherland was profoundly struck when witnessing his mentor, Dr. Andrew Taylor Still D.O., work with a patient.  In his own words, Sutherland speaks about Still’s perceptual abilities “Still was like the X-ray: he could look right through you and see things, and tell you things, without putting his hands upon the body.  I have seen him do that!  Time and time again.  When some of the early teachers had a clinic up before class, hunting for the lesion, in would come the old Doctor from the rear, ‘Here’s your lesion.’  How did he do it?”

Visionary Craniosacral Work® (VCSW®) was developed by Hugh Milne, D.O., a Scottish Osteopath.  It includes various approaches to working with the Craniosacral System:  Biomechanical, Biodynamic, Energetic, and Visionary.

Big heartThe VCSW® practitioner is trained to be present, to be quiet and to listen without judgment – what is called “The Heart of Listening”. This presence enhances the ability of the practitioner to be with every client uniquely, with no agenda or preconceived notions about who the client is, what they need or how the healing session will unfold.

The visionary can perceive four things equally well, and hold all four things as equal in importance. They can perceive:

  • the whole of the client’s anatomy and physiology.
  • the individual parts of their client’s   anatomy and physiology, and perceive which parts are not in alignment with the whole. •
  • the client’s process – mind, body, spirit and hold no judgment about what they perceive.
  • their own inner process and hold this without inner criticism or judgment.

Most beings have a deep longing to be seen, heard and met. To be seen and acceptlotus position yoga vectored for who we are. To have someone be completely present with us without judgment.
The VCSW® practitioner brings their open heart and presence to every client and opens their channels of perception in order to see, hear, feel, sense and touch each client in a way that is most suitable, true, and precise to that moment in time. This space of stillness, of listening, and of presence that is created between client and practitioner is what facilitates and empowers healing to occur.

Sometimes, when we are touched in just the right place in just the right way, our deepest self feels seen and touched. The body sighs with relief, the heart rejoices. Our defenses can begin to loosen and it allows us to open to life in a new way. It gives access to deep resources of  wisdom within that enable us to respond to life circumstances in a healthier way. We feel whole and in touch with the flow of life. We feel more at home in ourselves.

Visionary Craniosacral Work® is gentle yet profound work. As Hugh Milne says “It’s amazing how much how little will do.”

For more information about the Milne Institute and Visionary Craniosacral Work®, visit

What is YOUR gift?

There are no two people on this planet alike. Everyone is unique. Everyone has their own unique vibration. Everyone has their own unique gift that they bring into this world.

You were called to do your healing work. Whether you made the decision to enter the health and healing profession from a rational and practical view or from an inner knowing, you answered the call.

Whether you have awareness of it or not, you have a very unique gift, talent, or vibration that comes through you, resonates through your work and through your clients and patients.
I would like to invite you to sense into YOUR unique gift.

When you begin to touch in on your gift, it gets illuminated. When your gift is illuminated, there is space for it to grow, expand, be nurtured, cultivated and shared. As it grows, you begin to own it. Not in an egoic possessive way but in a confident “I know who I am way”. When you own it, you let it shine more brightly. And the world needs YOU to shine more brightly!

Here are a few prompting questions to help you with your illumination process:

  • What do your clients say about your work? This is a good place to start. When your client says, “That was a great massage!” Ask them “What did you like about it?” or “What worked for you?”
  • When you are working, do you experience a shift in consciousness? Describe it.
  • How do you prepare for a session?
  • What is the quality of the energy in the room when you are working?

I will share with you one of my gifts that I have taken the time to get in touch with and articulate so that it can be further nurtured and cultivated. One of my gifts is that I willing to BE with whatever arises in a session and then hold open and sacred space for liberation. I apply this to all of the work that I do, whether it is doing craniosacral work, massage, teaching, or writing. I also endeavor to apply this to all aspects of my life – family, relationships, travel, etc.
This is the perfect time of year for this kind of inquiry and introspection. As we move from the dark time to the light you can then share your gift and let your light shine even brighter! And Thank You!

In Awe of Trigger Points

The more I study Trigger Point Therapy, the more I am in awe of Trigger Points (TPs). They are a very common cause of chronic pain and are often overlooked and undiagnosed.

neckEven though Massage Therapists might study the muscles in depth, they may overlook the source of their client’s pain. It is common to address an area of “chief complaint” in the body. But it may not  be the source of your client’s pain, but an area of referred pain.

For instance, your client may complain of pain in their thumb. It is common to start rubbing away on their thenar eminence. It might feel good but what if the source of their pain originated from the Subclavius muscle. Your treatment would have little or no long term effect on their thumb pain. Or your client may be complaining about low back pain – a very common complaint. It would be easy to concentrate one’s efforts on the erector spinae. And why not? They are often tight and feel good when massaged. However, the source of your client’s pain could be a trigger point in the gluteus medius. Janet Travell referred to the gluteus medius muscle as the “Lumbago” muscle. Lumbago is a nonspecific term for dull, aching pain in the lumbar region. The gluts are a very common source of TPs with many paths of referral, often to the low back and area of the iliac crest.

Trigger Points are hyper-irritable areas in a muscle. They feel like a nodule or taut band. They are usually quite sensitive or tender to the touch. They typically refer to an area of pain that your client is familiar with. A TP in a muscle prevents the muscle from being fully stretched to its full range because of pain. It will restrict the muscle’s strength and endurance.

TPs can be caused by injury, stress, acute overload, fatigue, postural stress, or impact trauma.

They can cause symptoms ranging from pain, radiating pain, numbing, tingling, cold or heat sensations and goose bumps. They can also cause other types of symptoms such as eye tearing, dry eye, blurred vision, headaches, stiff neck, or toothache. I have SCM_TP_IMG_0527heard clients describe their pain as a “steel rod through my head”, a “hot poker in my ear”, and “deep pain through my eyeball”.

Referrals can mimic the symptoms of atypical facial neuralgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, tooth infection, and sciatica.

Key TPs can be responsible for the activity of satellite TPs. For instance, a hyper irritated active TP in the SCM muscle may cause satellite TPs to form in the Temporalis, Lateral Pterygoid, and Masseter muscles. The affect of Trigger Points can be far reaching, debilitating and not very well understood by Western medicine.

It would benefit any and all massage therapists and manual therapists that work with clients with pain to learn about TPs. The study of TPs has been made easier by the work of Janet Travell and David Simons. Their book Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual published in 1983, mapped out the most common TPs and their common referral patterns.

It is good to have at least one good reference guide in your office. Take a Neuromuscular Therapy class or a class specifically on Trigger Point Therapy. Purchase Travell’s book for an in-depth education about TPs – anatomy, causes, their neurology, common referral patterns, treatment, etc. You can also find quick reference guides such as flip charts and posters to help you in your exploration.

2164-1-muscle-trigger-pointsIf you like technology, there are apps for the iPhone and iPad created by Real Bodywork. You can explore by the zone of pain that your client complains about or by the muscle. I often look up TPs while my client is preparing to get on the treatment table.

Knowledge of TPs can take your work to a new level. You will be able to bring ease to clients in pain. You will feel  a level of mastery with your work.

The Mirror of Relationship (part one)

Have you ever had the experience of seeing a stranger across tbeauty is skin deep - bulldog looking at herself in the mirrorhe room at a workshop or a party and you instantly decide that you don’t like them? Or maybe you find yourself moving across the room to meet them or to ask them to be your practice partner in the workshop. People are great reflectors. They reflect back to us things we like about ourselves and things we do not like about ourselves

In our lives we regularly encounter clients, friends, family members, or lovers that “push our buttons”. We might find them annoying, pushy, demanding, needy, or aggressive for example. Our tendency might be to become defensive, shut down or to avoid them. Or we might find ourselves bending over backwards to please them all the while judging and resenting them.

Did you know that those “button pushers” can become our deepest and best teachers? The mirror of relationship is an important tool for personal growth and transformation if we are willing to bring some consciousness into the relationship.

Let’s look at the mirror of relationship. I will briefly go over 4 mirrors.

The Clear Mirror: This is someone you are attracted to, you move toward them. They are someone you like to be around. They are reflecting back to us aspects of ourselves that we like or admire, or parts of ourselves that are ready to bear fruit.

The Smoky Mirror: This is where we are repelled by someone.They are reflecting back to us aspects of ourselves that we do not like, aspects that are shut down or laying dormant. They could be aspects we are in denial about or aspects that we wish we had.

The Split mirror: This is a mix of smoky and clear. We like some aspects of the other person and there are aspects that we don’t like.

No mirror: This is where someone is invisible to us. Nothing is reflected back. You might have been in a weekend workshop and at the closing circle you see someone that you did not notice all weekend.

Let’s look at Smoky Mirror since this is likely to be the one to grab the most attention. It usually brings up the strongest feelings.

The Smoky Mirror can get in the way of deepening a relationship because we are often on the defensive, busy criticizing ourselves or we are busy judging the other person. A sense of self-righteousness is often a clue that a smoky mirror is in action.

Look at a relationship in your life – your spouse, a challenging client, a sibling. A useful exercise is to inquire into a relationship that elicits a strong emotional charge – someone that “pushes your buttons”. Take a moment and write down all of the traits that bother you – annoying, pushy, rude, impatient, they don’t speak up for themselves, needy, complaining, manipulative, controlling, etc.

Now … ask yourself, “Do I possess any of these qualities?” If we are honest with ourselves, we will likely see that we also have exhibited these qualities of rudeness, impatience, etc at one time or another. These behaviors often emerge when we are under stress.

If you find yourself saying, “But I would never behave that way”, it is likely denial at work. We have probably behaved that way and feel embarrassed or ashamed and can’t quite admit it to ourselves.

When we can gently accept that we may at times be pushy, demanding, or needy, liberation is at hand. The more we accept ourselves – the negative and positive, the more authentic we can be. You will find more ease, grace and spontaneity in your life.

If we are willing to inquire into the nature of the relationship, we get to see that we have more in common than we have differences. And if we are gentle, accepting and forgiving of our “faults” then we can be kinder, compassionate and understanding in our relationships.

You may come to a point on your journey that you welcome the Smoky Mirror into your life. What an opportunity for self exploration! You will learn to recognize yourself in other people. You will be given opportunities to heal and come back to wholeness.

Enjoy your Self!

The Healer’s Report Card

Are you living a balanced healer’s life?sweet_white_trillium

When I use the word “healer”, I am referring to anyone who uses their intention, presence, intuition, touch, words and/or heart to care for and help move another toward wholeness.

The Healing work that we do whether it is massage, energy work, counseling, etc calls upon every part of a healer’s being. It calls us to be a clear vessel. It calls us to know how to set our agenda aside. It calls us to see our clients with new eyes. It is a calling and when we say ‘yes’ to the calling there is a hidden unwritten ‘Healer’s Contract’.

There is a clause in the contract that states that the healer must include themselves in the healing container. Healer Heal Thyself! (This must be written in 8 point font because it is so often left out.)

Burnout is very common in the healing profession. It is the tendency of healers to be givers. We feel called to serve, to give, and to make people feel better. But it is often at the expense of our own energy system. Chronic fatigue, adrenal burnout, and physical pain are very common complaints. There are limits to giving.

Think of yourself as your vehicle. For every 10 gallons of gas out, at least 10 gallons of gas need to go in (maybe even 11 or 12). If you run on reserves for too long, you will run out of gas.

It is important to live a balanced life when we are doing healing work. It is important that we are disciplined for self-care. Body, mind and spirit must be cared for and balanced.

We don’t have to be impeccable to be a healer but we do need to be earnest in our efforts. It is important to aware of how and when we override our inner knowing of what is enough and what is too much. If you listen closely enough your body will tell you.

Below is a Healer’s report Card. Don’t worry, nobody will be standing over you to reprimand you. You get to rate yourself. Be open and curious. Be honest, kind and gentle with yourself. This could be quite illuminating.

Rate yourself on a scale of 1 – 10 . 1= rarely , 10=regularly

  1. I engage in physical exercise (yoga, walking, biking, swimming, etc).
  2. I eat whole foods (veggies, fruits, organics, etc)
  3. I drink plenty of water.
  4. I get plenty of sleep.
  5. I limit the amount of mind altering substance (alcohol, drugs, TV, etc)
  6. I limit the use of caffeine.
  7. I engage in energy exercise (tai chi, chi gong, etc).
  8. I receive healing work.
  9. I find time for solitude.
  10. I find time for quiet (meditation, prayer, etc)
  11. I spend time in nature.
  12. I cross whole days off in my calendar to engage in wholesome, replenishing activities or rest.
  13. I have an awareness of my emotional state and tend to those emotions in a kind and gentle way.
  14. I tend to my emotional life (heartfelt conversations, counseling or therapy, NVC, etc)
  15. I am on a personal healing journey (to heal trauma, wounds, conditioning, belief systems that don’t serve me, to understand my emotional/spiritual being, to heal and open my heart, to fully love and accept myself, etc).

So… How did you rate on the Healer’s Report Card?

150 points: Awesome! Your mind, body and Spirit deeply thanks you! You will likely have long and fruitful journey as a healer.
70 Points: You are hanging in the balance. You are doing some self-care. Yea! Now, look closely at the missing pieces and kindly add a few.
15 points: uh oh! It is time for a deep inward look. Why are you neglecting yourself? Find some support to help you learn to care and love yourself.

Here are a few good questions to ask yourself on a regular basis: What can you do to nurture and care for yourself better? What can you do to maintain or build your energy reserves?  What boundaries do I need to set so that I don’t give all of myself away?

Every day choose a minimum of 5 things that you can do to care for yourself.
Fill in the blank and then put this into your written schedule:
Every day I refuel myself by:
Enjoy your Self!

“Do you take regular visits to yourself?” ~Rumi

Why the Healer’s Gathering?


A little over a year ago The Healer’s Gathering was birthed. Tamra Fleming, Sandi Hanson,
Katie Cavanaugh and I were each on our individual healer’s path, each with a strong desire to make a difference in the world. We were all brought together in a magical and mystical way.  We knew when we met that something big was brewing.

Along our journeys we each had opportunities to have conversations with many healers and they have shared their struggles and frustrations about their journeys with their work.  We found there to be common threads to these challenges. I now refer to these as “The Universal Struggles of the Healer”.

  • Have you felt the calling to serve others in their physical, emotional or spiritual pain, but are not sure how to move forward with this path?
  • Or maybe you are already following your calling but you feel isolated and ‘on your own’ in your work?
  • Do you struggle with how to put yourself out there in the world and still feel authentic?
  • Do you find that you compromise yourself – physically, energetically, and emotionally?
  • When you hear of the success of a fellow practitioner do you feel jealous or envious? Or maybe you have thoughts like “That can never happen for me.” Or “I try and try and I don’t why that doesn’t happen for me”.
  • Are you predominantly right brained and find it challenging to ‘run a business’ in this left brain world?

You are not alone in these feelings and struggles. Most healing practitioners have been challenged by most if not all of these issues. I have certainly lived all of these challenges at one time or another in my 27 years of practice.

The Healer’s Gathering was created for people just like you. We want you to feel empowered, supported, and inspired to do your work – your unique work without compromise. The world needs YOUR healing touch.

The inaugural Healer’s Gathering took place in Sisters, Oregon
in September of 2012. It was a resounding success – “life changing” was the overall feedback.

Katie and I have teamed together to carry the torch forward. The second annual Healer’s Gathering will take place September 20-22, 2013 in Sisters.

The 2013 Healer’s Gathering promises to be more powerful. We have brought together an amazing array of teachers that will help you “supercharge” your gifts as well as give you practical tools to move your work forward and upward. Our teachers include Colby Wilk, Marcia Bench, Barbara Largent as well as your co-hosts Katie and Regina. We will also be graced with the music of beautiful singer/songwriter and healer Anastacia. Please visit the website to see the offerings of our teachers.

Here are 10 reasons for you to attend the 2013 Healer’s Gathering:

  1. You’ll be inspired by incredible teachers to stand more fully in your role as healer.
  2. You will discover new tools to empower you as a healer.
  3. You’ll gain the skills and knowledge you need to take your career and business to the next level.
  4. You will build a valuable community of healers, a support network, and mentors.
  5. You’ll discover a new sense of confidence and passion for who you are and what you do.
  6. You will receive tools to help you become more grounded, centered and balanced.
  7. You will learn to amplify your impact as healer in your work and in your community.
  8. You will learn ways to walk the path of the healer with ease and grace.
  9. You will be investing in yourself and in your ability to help others.
  10. You will connect your unique gifts and to the truth of who YOU are – as a healer.
  11. You’ll have fun!

TempleKatie and I have also collaborated together to create “The Four Pillars of Your Sacred Healing Temple” – a forthcoming book and as well as a series of FREE supportive “Healer – to – Healer” tele-calls. We speak to your challenges and you will receive guidance and practical tools to authentically bring your healing work into the world.
Sign up for our newsletter to receive updates, words of wisdom as well as access to the tele-calls (live and archived).

Register now and save!

We currently have an early bird special rate. Receive $100 off the ticket price of $297. This special price ends on July 5th. Click here to register NOW!

In the spirit of collaboration, we would so appreciate it if you shared this email and information with 5 of your friends (or more!)

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I look forward to connecting with you soon!
K and R in field

Work Smart! Not hard! Body Mechanics: The Wrist

Massage therapy can be physically demanding. Many massage therapists end up needing to leave the profession due to injury. I am fortunate to be able to say that I have been doing massage and bodywork for 27 years. But it wasn’t always smooth sailing. I had some struggles on and off for the first years of my career until I figured out what I was doing wrong, how and where I was compromising myself and how to use my body more efficiently.

Just as your car runs more smoothly and uses less gas when it is tuned up and the wheels are in alignment, you will perform better and for longer if your body is in alignment.

In 2006 the ABMP surveyed 600 massage therapists. They inquired about musculoskeletal symptoms and injuries among massage therapists and bodyworkers. Go to the end of this article to see their frightening statistics.

I am sometimes flabbergasted at the lack of alignment that I see when some of my students enter my classes. Massage therapists sometimes do some crazy things with their hands. So I am on a mission…. I want to help you stay in the profession as long as you want. My students hear me say over  and over, “Work smart. Not hard”.

I highly recommend that at all times, you use proper alignment of your thumbs, fingers, wrists, arm, shoulders as well as your upper and lower back, pelvis, hips, knees, ankles and feet.
That is a lot to be mindful of.  Let’s start with the wrist.

Image #1

Image #1

Using the fist is a common tool used is massage therapy. This is an effective tool. You can achieve deeper pressure with a soft fist than with the thumb. It gives a much broader base of contact than the thumb. We always want to work with the wrist in a neutral position. Look at the image #1 to the right. This is neutral. In a neutral position, the bones are aligned and the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joint capsule are toned but not overworking.

Image #2

Image #2

Now look at image #2.
In #2 the flexor side of the wrist is compressed which means the bones are compressed, the ligaments and joint capsule are compressed. The extensor side of the wrist is elongated which means the ligaments and joint capsule is stretched open. The therapist has to work hard to stabilize the wrist so they are using extra effort to do the stroke. If you currently have this in your massage repertoire, take it out.

Image #3

Image #3

In image #3, the wrist is ulnar deviated which compresses the medial wrist bones into the ulna. If you currently have this in your massage repertoire, take it out.

Image #4

Image #4

Look at image #4. Well…
that is just plain awful.
Please don’t EVER do that.

Look back to Image #1. Make a soft fist. Tone your hand but don’t squeeze it. I find lightly pressing my finger pads into the proximal thumb and pinkie pad to be helpful with the maintaining of this tone. Pretend you have a roll of dimes in your hand so that you are not squishing the metacarpalphalangeal joints.

When you perform a “soft fist” stroke, stack you bones. Align your softy flexed elbow over your wrist. This eliminates any deviation. Look at it to make sure you are aligned. After 27 years in the profession, I still look to make sure I am aligned. Always align the thumb in the direction you are stroking. Don’t use your upper arm/shoulder (biceps, coracobrachialis, anterior deltoid) to push the stroke forward. Use your legs. Stack you bones, feel the vector forces lining up through the bones and then move from your legs. It is better to push the stroke than pull.

I have many tools in my toolbox. I set it on a table next to my massage table. Every couple of minutes I pull out a different tool. Sometimes I use my thumb, then I will switch to my fist, then an elbow, sometimes the flat of my hand. This way no tool ever gets overused.

General principles to pay attention to:

  • Use a variety of tools.
  • If you feel like you are working too hard… you are! Stop! Reevaluate how you are doing the stroke. Look at the alignment of all of your joints.
  • If you are experiencing pain doing a particular stroke, STOP! Ask yourself “How long do I want to remain in this profession?” Then choose another tool out of the tool bag.
  • If you don’t know if you are in or out of alignment, seek out a teacher or colleague that can watch you work and guide you to greater ease in your body.
  • Learn  how to move from your center by familiarizing yourself with Tai Chi principles.

ABMP Stats:

  • 77 percent experienced pain or other musculoskeletal symptoms related to massage work.
  • 64 percent sought medical treatment for symptoms.
  • 41 percent were diagnosed with an injury.
  • Shoulders, thumbs and lower back were the most common injury locations.
  • “Applying pressure” was listed as the most common cause of work-related symptoms.
  • 67 percent had ongoing symptoms.

Think about this….

If you leave this career (a career that I assume that you love), due to injury from poor body mechanics, think of all the people that will never get to experience your unique loving touch.

May you have a long and flourishing career!

The Healing Power of Presence

We often hear the suggestion to “be present” in our work. But what does that actually mean?
featherPresence is being here, now – meeting this moment without judgments, agendas, effort or ideas of what “should” be happening. It is being open, curious, aware and mindful.  It is a simple state of being. And sometimes the simplest things are the most powerful. The simple practice of being present with someone can be the most transformative ingredient to a healing session or in your relationship with yourself.

Gay Hendricks and Kathlyn Hendricks make a powerful statement in their book At the Speed of Life: A New Approach to Personal Change Through Body-Centered Therapy, “Problems persist to the extent that we fail to be present with them and with the feelings associated with them. When we can simply be with an issue (rather than judging it or trying to change it), the issue has room to transform in the desired direction.” Gay Hendricks and Kathlyn Hendricks promote “presencing”: being deeply, mindfully, non-judgmentally present with yourself or another — as THE fundamental healing technique.

An important aspect of presence is being willing to be with “what is”. It takes courage to be with someone else’s or our own pain, fear, sadness, or anger. In the book Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen, Donald P. McNeill, and Douglas A. Morrison state “Simply being with someone is difficult because it asks of us that we share in the other’s vulnerability, enter with him or her into the experience of weakness and powerlessness, become part of the uncertainty, and give up control and self-determination.”

When we have painful or sick areas of our bodies or lives, we tend to wall off tsweet_white_trilliumhese areas or dim the light of our essence. The shining light of presence reconnects us to those ailing, hurting parts that have been abandoned. Our spirit yearns for wholeness and all of those walled off parts are yearning for reconnection. Presence is a simple statement “I deeply see you and I am ok with you just the way you are.” That illumination and allowing brings a melting and a spaciousness to enter. “Being present has a great deal of power in it: the power to alter irrevocably the structures and assumptions by which we live.” ~Gay Hendricks and Kathlyn Hendricks

Consider this… (without any judgment)
How often do you approach something whether it is your client, your relationships, yourself, an illness, a pain, or an injury with no agenda? No agenda to fix, to change, to make different or wish it away. But to meet it exactly where it is, as it is, in this moment.
How often do we experience someone just willing to listen to us without trying to advise or guide us, lessen our pain, make helpful suggestions, etc.?

It is very common and natural in our work to want to help or heal our clients. After all, we feel called to serve. Yet, it is a common tendency for our desire to help to get in the way of truly seeing or hearing the deeper needs of our clients. It is hard to be a good listener if I have an agenda to heal or fix this client, or to prove myself, or to feel special with my healing capabilities. It is important in a session to put aside our agenda, be present and hold the intention for the highest good. We can still do our work, whether it is massage, craniosacral therapy, counseling, etc, but presence puts us in an open and receptive state where we more able to listen to what is needed.

I had a very affirming experience recently. I work with a very sweet man with multiple illnesses including a degenerative brain disease which manifests in many ways from emotional bouts, to tremors, full body contractions and overwhelm. I was moved to tears when he shared with me what impacted him most about our sessions together. He said”Nobody knows how to be with me with this disease. You are the only person who is willing to just BE with me in this condition.” I really got what a rare gift this was for him. And it is also a sweet gift for me.

The practice of presence begins “at home”. How would it be for you to meet your own sadness or anger with presence, kindness and compassion? Can you give yourself this rare and beautiful gift? I invite you to the Self-Healing Presence Meditation below. Remember that presence is an ever evolving, deepening practice. Begin where you are and ALWAYS be kind and gentle with yourself.

Self-Healing Presence Meditation

Take a few minutes to sit quietly. Take some time to get in touch with your breath. Just be willing to be here and now. Let yourself settle.

After several calming breaths, notice if there is any tension or pain your body or think of an area in your life where there is pain, discomfort or distress?

Bring your compassionate Awareness and Presence to this area in your body or your life. Just meet it there without thoughts, without an agenda, without effort. Allow it to be exactly as it is. Notice the sensations in your body. Be aware, open, loving and curious. Open to it. Breathe. Don’t be attached to the outcome. Change or no change. Just be with it.

Notice what you notice. Notice if you become impatient, or a tendency to shy away from it, or if you have a hidden agenda under the guise of “no agenda”. And allow that too. With no judgment.

When you are ready, come back gently to ordinary time, giving yourself a few moments to transition.

Take comfort in the fact that presence and consciousness are always healing and transformative.This simple meditation has brought you into a greater state of balance and harmony.

May the healing power of presence infuse all aspects of your life.
Infinite Love and Gratitude!

“I learned how to listen, to listen with a still heart,
with a waiting, open soul, without passion, without desire,
without judgment, without opinions.”
~ Herman Hesse