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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

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

Better self-care is a resolution that most people make each new year, most often to lose weight, eat healthier, start exercising, or to spend more quality time with loved ones. We’re all increasingly aware that stress reduction and relaxation are critical to our health. ‘Our bodies break down under the onslaught of stress—insomnia, anxiety, depression, and all chronic disease is made worse by unremitting stress,’ says Dr. Mark Hyman, an influential Massachusetts physician, author, and founder of the Institute for Functional Medicine.

Touch, stillness, relaxation, calming the mind—all are essential to healing, staying well, and thriving. We encourage you to think about how to incorporate these practices into your self-care plans. People are increasingly viewing massage as a significant component of a more relaxed and healthy lifestyle. And the many benefits of therapeutic massage are now being researched and recognized by the medical community. Make regular massage an essential part of your self-care plans for this New Year!

Reduce stress. Thrive. Get massage.

Massage Therapy Palo Alto

massage for tuning in to your bodyMindful attention to your body is a powerful self-care step. When you learn to detect the quieter distress messages your body sends, you can notice more quickly that you are out of balance and need to pay attention to self-care. To detect your body’s warnings requires increasing your sensitivity to the nuances of its messages, sensing smaller symptoms before they become full-blown. Though the body changes may seem relatively minor, they indicate early difficulty. If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the questions below, it’s worthwhile to take a general inventory of your stress level and self-care practices.

Warning Signs Your Body Sends

  • Are you chronically tired?
  • Have you experienced unexplainable symptoms?
  • Is your mind racing, your breathing fast and shallow?
  • Are you feeling off-center, numb, detached, irritable?

Massage gives you a time-out to tune in to your body.

Massage therapists have seen time and again how increasing body awareness facilitates prevention of illness. Getting a massage is a helpful time-out to slow you down, so you can better hear your body’s messages, restore balance, and stay well.

Massage Therapy Palo Alto

touch healsReceiving touch is a primary way to reduce stress and calm the nervous system.

There is a growing body of research that shows a link between many forms of touch—from massage to hand-holding—and improved health. A study from the University of North Carolina found that sitting in close contact with a partner for just 10 minutes lowered blood pressure. Other research has found that physical contact can trigger a boost in serotonin, a natural antidepressant.

Biological changes after a single massage

In response to massage, specific physiological and chemical changes cascade throughout the body, with profound effects, says Mark Rapport, MD, director of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He reports that they’re finding biological changes associated with a single massage session. ‘That’s saying something,’ he says.

Easy ways to get more touch

Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, recommends getting a ‘regular dose’ of touch. Here are some easy ways to incorporate more touch into your life:

  • Get regular massage. It’s a form of preventive care and can be a powerful ally in your healthcare regimen.
  • Find a hands-on form of exercise such as ballroom dancing. Or do yoga, which stimulates pressure receptors so is a form of self-massage.
  • Hug someone awarely (the longer the better). You stimulate their pressure receptors as well as your own.
  • Sit close to your partner more often, and hold hands.
  • Give your children short backrubs when you put them to bed. They will fall asleep more relaxed, and you get the benefit of touch, too!

Massage Therapy Palo Alto

Breathing during massageThe process of breathing, of the fundamental movement of inspiration and expiration, is one of the greatest miracles of existence. It not only unleashes the energies of life, but it also provides a healing pathway into the deepest recesses of our being. To inhale fully is to fill ourselves with the prana of life, to be inspired; to exhale fully is to empty ourselves to the unknown, to be expired. Through a deepening awareness of these ever-changing rhythms of this primal process, we begin to awaken to the possibilities of being truly alive – in a conscious way.

Conscious breathing taps into the healing forces of your organic intelligence.

When receiving bodywork of any kind, you can double the benefits of the work by consciously breathing ‘through your core.’ In other words, no matter which part of you is being moved, touched, stretched, or deeply released, you can wholeheartedly engage in this process by directing your inhalation all the way down your back to your sacrum/tail bone and thus allowing your exhalation to truly empty you.

The resulting deep relaxation of that moment allows the work done by your therapist to join deeply with the healing forces of your organic intelligence. I say ‘organic’ because life expands and contracts at this subtle level flying under the radar of your personality, or your thoughts about ‘body,’ or your ideas of what you think needs to happen. There is an innate intelligence with keeps your heart beating and your nervous system revising itself to deeper levels of coherency that is exactly how life is being expressed in you – in this particular moment. We can join our consciousness to this process! And by so doing multiply the effects of the movement of bodywork that are initiated by your therapist.

© 2009 Lucia Miracchi. Lucia Miracchi is the founder and owner of Massage Therapy Center, Palo Alto. She is an educator, body therapist, counselor, artist, and entrepreneur.

Massage Therapy Palo Alto

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