Cherry Blossoms

Take a moment to look closely at these Spring flowers—the details, the color, the vibrancy. Then notice, at the same time, what you perceive in your body as you are been touched by this beauty? Is there a small movement inside that helps you expand and relate differently to yourself? As you resume what you were doing, what shift do you notice in your perception?

If all the working and commuting and errand-running and parenting and partnering and cooking and cleaning and living you do on a daily basis sometimes leaves you feeling just a tad stressed-out, take heart. Though you may think it’s impossible to de-crazy your life, there are plenty of ways to create some much-needed calm. Those peaceful pauses? We call them ahhh moments. They’re the brief but restorative times when you stop thinking about your have-to list and focus instead on the things that lift up your spirits, stir your soul, and nourish your body.

AcupunctureCarpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), also known as median nerve entrapment, occurs when swelling or irritation of the tendons in the carpal tunnel results in pressure on the median nerve. This causes pain in the palm side of the wrist and pain and tingling in the fingers. The median nerve controls sensations to the palm side of the thumb and fingers, as well as impulses to some small muscles in the hand that allow the fingers and thumb to move.

Symptoms usually start gradually, with frequent burning, tingling, or numbness in the palm of the hand and the fingers, especially the index, middle and ring fingers. Pain can sometimes travel up the arm and affect the shoulder. The symptoms often first appear during the night. As symptoms worsen, people might feel pain, weakness, or numbness in the hand and wrist, radiating up the arm during the day. Decreased grip strength may make it difficult to form a fist, grasp small objects, or perform other manual tasks. If not properly treated, CTS can cause irreversible nerve damage and permanent deterioration of muscle tissue.

From a Chinese Medicine perspective, carpal tunnel syndrome is seen as a disruption of the flow of vital energy (Qi) and blood (Xue) within the area and is associated with cold, dampness or wind penetrating the muscles and sinews. Acupuncture points, stretching exercises, herbal remedies, and nutritional supplements are chosen to treat accordingly. In addition to reducing the swelling, inflammation, and pain, acupuncture addresses any headaches, neck pain, shoulder stiffness, and sleeping problems that often accompany this condition.

According to a randomized, controlled study published in the May 2009 issue of The Clinical Journal of Pain, acupuncture is as effective as the corticosteroid, prednisone, for the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Winter Blues

Seasonal depression affects many of us. If you have found yourself experiencing the winter blues, try the following tips to help overcome depression and restore joy to your life.

  • Get a massage, and take a hot bath afterwards, to increase blood flow to muscles and allow you to relax.
  • Turn on some background music which can offer a relaxing way to take your mind off your worries.
  • Unwind with a relaxing walk to help you reduce stress.
  • Treat yourself to a nap. Too little sleep causes slowed metabolism and increased appetite, risking over-eating, unhealthy food choices, and inactivity.
  • Keep finances in check. Studies show that financial stress is one of the main reasons adults worry.
  • Go Zen. Take up restorative yoga, tai chi, or meditation. These mind-body strategies incorporate improving posture, relaxing, and stretching to improve balance and coordination while simultaneously decreasing stress.
  • Release inner tension. Never underestimate the power of a good sex life and reconnecting with your significant other.
  • Take time to laugh. Comedy is good for the soul. Whether it comes from rented movies, downloaded comedy sketches, or going to improv or karaoke, a good laugh goes a long way.
  • Go hiking, bicycling, or skating by yourself, or with your family, to breathe good air and re-balance your life priorities.

All these activities increase your energy, and the more energy you have, the less likely you’ll be overwhelmed by depression that sometimes comes with the winter season.

So says Dr. Moshe Lewis, Chief of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at California Pacific Medical Center, St. Luke’s Campus in San Francisco.

Massage Therapy Center Palo Alto

We’ve chosen to feature Acupressure this week because it is an excellent way to refresh ourselves, balance our energies, and help us get ready for Spring. Acupressure Bodywork is the traditional Chinese medicine art of balancing Chi energy—the circulating life force in the body—by stimulating its healthy flow along energy pathways called meridians. Practiced through clothing, practitioners utilize finger and elbow pressure on the same meridian points stimulated with needles in Acupuncture.

During treatment there is elongation of the muscle fibers, which contributes to the release of toxins and waste materials within the tissues, and an increase in the circulation of oxygenated blood, thereby promoting cellular nutrition and stronger resistance to disease.

Through acupressure, the body is rebalanced, which prompts a reduction in emotional and psychological tensions. As with most bodywork, there is a stronger sense of body awareness after a treatment. Acupressure is used to relieve pain, increase blood circulation, remove toxins from the tissues, and treat many conditions including muscular aches, sinus congestion, headaches, menstrual difficulties, and discomforts of pregnancy and labor.

Massage benefits for relationships

Oxytocin—the hormone-like chemical produced in the brain when we feel safe, connected, and receive caring touch—regulates the arousal level of our nervous system, and it produces a sense of safety and openness in our relationships.

Whenever we feel stressed, volatile, or are escalating into an argument, the stress hormones that are coursing through our body have revved up our nervous system out of our window of tolerance. And whenever we shut down and withdraw, disconnecting and isolating for safety, our nervous system has become too constricted, and we are unable to engage and repair relationships.

At these times, therapeutic massage is especially valuable since oxytocin is one of the most effective tools we have for regulating the physiological arousal or dampening down of our nervous system. Because oxytocin is also the neurochemical basis for the felt sense of safety and trust, it is the hormone of relational repair. It instantly antidotes the fight-flight-freeze response to any perceived threat or danger. Stress hormone levels are reduced, blood pressure is lowered, and we become less emotionally reactive.

This emotional calming can facilitate greater flexibility and openness, and restore a sense of connection that enables more collaboration and creativity. And when we feel safe and relaxed, we are able to be more generous and loving to everyone around us.

Safety. Openness. Massage.

Massage Therapy Palo Alto

caring touch creates well-being

Oxytocin is a naturally occurring chemical produced in the brain when we feel safe, nurtured, and receive caring touch. It acts like a hormone in our bodies to regulate the arousal level of our nervous system. It is also the hormone of attachment, the ‘neural cement’ of all loving bonds.

Because babies are unable to regulate their own nervous system, loving touch and closeness are critical for them to feel safe, calm, and not overwhelmed. The oxytocin that is released during close contact generates a satisfying relaxation and a blissful sense of safety, contentment, and belonging for the infant. It produces the wonderful feeling that ‘all is well.’ And it profoundly shapes their ability to love and trust others. The oxytocin response is key to maintaining healthy relationships throughout life.

For adults, caring touch and closeness provide the same calming of the nervous system and sense of well-being. We need caring touch, warmth, presence, and connection to cause oxytocin to cascade through our bloodstream, to help our nervous system be in the state we naturally like—calm, relaxed, alert, engaged. And to help us feel open and trusting in our close relationships.

That’s why we feel so good after a massage, and why regular massage is so beneficial to our health, sense of well-being, and our relationships, too!

Calm. Alert. Massage.

Massage Therapy Palo Alto

dwell in your own tranquility


Over against the world
With all its turbulence,
Distraction and worry,
One can only cultivate a mind
That can reach through
To an inner stillness and calm.

The world cannot ruffle
The dignity of a soul
That dwells in its own tranquility.

Gradually, this serenity
Will begin to pervade our seeing
And change the way we perceive
All things.

~ John O’Donohue

Tranquility. Dignity. Massage.

Massage Therapy Palo Alto

Robin Malmquist, Seifukujitsu practitionerI have been practicing massage for over 20 years. My goal with each massage is to discover and address the client’s individual needs for balance, alignment, and vitality. My style is similar to Clinical Deep Tissue massage but so much more.

Seifukujitsu is a Japanese restorative bodywork developed 100 years ago as a sports therapy for injuries resulting from martial arts practice. It is also a highly effective treatment for stress, headaches, stiff neck, pain in the low back, ITB, sciatica … the list goes on.

This is an oil based massage, a firm approach to muscle function and structural anatomy. 

I apply broad stroke forearm movements right at the edge of pain, right at the edge of muscle resistance. A rocking movement of my forearm produces a palpitation that effects changes deep into the body. These palpitations and the pressure from the movements of my forearm guide me in quickly discovering the muscles that need working, sliding past those that don’t. Old injuries can be addressed; additional sessions may be needed to break through established holding patterns. No two sessions are identical. 

Try something different. Try Seifukujitsu, the practice of restoring alignment.

Align. Heal. Get massage.

Massage Therapy Palo Alto

massage therapy palo alto

Why do we spend roughly 10 percent of our waking hours with our eyes closed, blinking far more often than is actually necessary to keep our eyeballs lubricated? Scientists have found that the human brain uses that tiny moment of shut-eye to power down.

The mental break can last anywhere from a split second to a few seconds before attention is fully restored, researchers from Japan’s Osaka University found. And in the brief break in attention, brain regions called the default mode network collectively power up. This network is the brain’s idle setting. In times when our attention is not required by a cognitive task such as reading or speaking, this far-flung cluster of brain regions comes alive, and our thoughts wander freely.

Most of us take between 15 and 20 such moments of downtime per minute. It has been observed that most blinking takes place near the point of an implicit stop. While reading or listening to another person, this generally comes at the end of the sentence.

Another highly intelligent way our nervous system knows how to balance itself!

Rest. Stay smart. Get massage.

Massage Therapy Palo Alto

Immune Enhancing Foods

A surprising immune-building food that will keep you strong all winter is lean beef since it is full of iron and zinc, which protect against infection by bacteria, viruses, and parasites, according to Dr. Salge Blake, Clinical Associate Professor of Nutrition at Boston University. Beef is also an excellent source of the antioxidant selenium which helps defend and repair immune cells. A portion of 3 ounces per week is plenty.

Other foods that boost the immune system are beans and peas since they are good sources of immune-boosting iron and zinc, and they’re also loaded with vitamin B6, which helps create infection-fighting white blood cells called lymphocytes. You can double the amount of iron you absorb from legumes by combining them with ¼ cup of broccoli, which will give you a fair amount of vitamin C, says Dr. Blake.

—Julia Maranan/AARP Magazine/Oct-Nov2012

Eat well. Stay healthy. Get massage.

Massage Therapy Palo Alto

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