The Covid-19 lockdown has had a huge affect on businesses and it’s no different for massage therapists. In Scotland, we don’t know when therapists will be able to return to work. We’re hoping it’ll be August (Phase 3) but nothing is certain. When we do finally reopen some things will be a bit different for a while due to new health and hygiene measures, for example, we’ll need to wear face masks. I find it quite daunting reading these new measures but we need to make sure clients and therapists are safe.
‘You should march towards the sound of gunfire. On the other side of that it’s always very interesting, whereas if you run away you don’t learn anything.’ Penny Woolcock, filmmaker & director
We know how important our sleep is – it’s an opportunity for essential full body and mind maintenance work. However many of us struggle to get enough. If you’re looking to improve your sleep or quality of sleep you might find some of these useful.
– Try breathing exercises. By slowing down our breathing – using the diaphragm and avoiding shallow chest breathing – we can calm the nervous system. Lie on your back and place your hands, fingers loosely interlocked, across your belly. Slowly inhale through your nose and feel your belly expand and let your hands move slightly apart. Imagine the air entering your airways making it’s way to your lungs. Then as you exhale let the old stale air make its way out through your mouth. I like the 4-7-8 method. Inhale for 4 minutes, hold for 7, then exhale for 8.
– Switch off your electrical device. Whether it’s the TV, laptop, smart phone etc, switch it off at least 30 minutes before you go to bed and that will help switch off your brain! These devices emit the short wave-length, artificial blue light, which acts as a stimulant.
– Heaven scent. When it comes to choosing an essential oil for bedtime that one that always comes top is Lavandula Augustifolia aka Lavender. Thanks to the high Ester content this bushy perennial calms and soothes the nervous system making it the perfect bedtime companion. You could also try drops of roman chamomile, mandarin or ylang ylang on your pillow or oil diffuser. I like to use a combination of these essential oils in a nourishing face oil.
– Is there something on your mind? Whether you’re struggling to get to sleep or you wake up during the night unable to get back to sleep, our monkey mind can be a nightmare to keep at bay! It might help if you get up and write things down. Or picture a relaxing scenario – lying on the beach, designing your perfect house, picking your dream football team. My cousin does the tried and tested – she counts sheep!
– Too light? We’ve just had the longest day of the year – sunrise at 0426 and sunset at 22.02. Bliss! However you might find the light creeping in to your bedroom when you don’t want it to. Make sure your room is dark enough. Use a sleep mask or invest in some blackout curtains.
– Book a massage. By making an appointment for the late afternoon / evening, this is a great way to help the mind and body relax before bedtime.
– Do your exercise in the morning. The World Health Organisation recommends we do 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise every week. When we exercise our body produces certain hormones, including dopamine and cortisol, which play an important role in regulating our circadian rhythm (body clock). Better to do more vigorous exercise earlier in the day and do yoga or stretches closer to bedtime for good quality sleep.
– Eat a healthy & balanced diet (not too late in the evening). I’m always on the look out for a good recipe book. The two that I can’t get enough of at the moment are: Anna Jones The Modern Cook’s Year and Hemsley Hemsley The Art of Eating Well.
– Keep hydrated. During the day carry a reusable bottle with you. There are plenty of places where you can fill it up and Scottish Water have installed Top Up Taps in ten locations around Scotland. To find out the nearest one go to https://www.yourwateryourlife.co.uk/find-your-nearest-top-up-tap/
In the evening, drink herbal teas. Clipper is good quality.
– Okay, now I know I said switch off your phone but the Insight Timer app is worth checking out. It includes hundreds of guided meditations on various topics (sleep, anxiety, depression…the list is endless), of various lengths of time (from 3 minutes to 60 minutes). It switches itself off at the end and it’s free!
One of the first questions I’ll ask a client who’s presenting muscular pain is, ‘Have you done anything differently recently that might have caused it?’
So when I started getting a sharp pain down the back of my right thigh it didn’t take me long to work out why. I’d recently increased the length (by five minutes) and regularity (from one to two/three times a week) of my run. The increase hadn’t been a chore. I have Arthur’s Seat on my doorstep with wonderful views of the coastline and across Edinburgh. Yet, I hadn’t experienced this kind of pain in my leg before. I’ve had clients who have. In those cases it was piriformis syndrome, the sharp pain caused by the piriformis muscle pressing against the sciatic nerve.
So I made an appointment with my massage therapist. In the session she focussed on the hamstring muscles and it did the trick as I’ve only had the odd twinge since. However I know that I need to take care so it doesn’t flare up again. I’d previously managed on a minimal warm up / cool down routine and my new run clearly was a step too far. Now I’m doing more although the time spent on the cool down varies!
My experience made me think about what cardio exercise I’d do if I couldn’t run. I love being outside, seeing the different seasons come and go across Arthur’s Seat, Holyrood Park and beyond. I know how important it is to have a varied fitness routine so it’s not just the same muscles getting the work out. During my run I try to include some side stepping so that those neglected leg and hip muscles also get a work out (I don’t manage this every time as I feel slightly self-conscious doing it!). The other fitness I like doing is boxing at Holyrood Boxing Gym, which is a great work out, but I can’t go as often as I’d like. I realise that I need to look after my legs!
There is much talk about the benefit of massage for runners. Some claims (that it can flush out toxins and lactic acid) remain unfounded, however research backs claims that it breaks down adhesions between muscle and fascia, which restricts muscle movement, and reduces DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). It’s definitely helped me by relieving the pain that would have stopped me running.
I’ve got a feeling my running routine may change again now that the colder months are upon us. 😉
I don’t have any tattoos but if I was going to get one (this is highly unlikely!) I think it’d have to be something with an anatomical theme. As someone who is fascinated in anatomy it would make sense to wear my heart on my sleeve (or shoulder or ankle…)!
I came to this decision after seeing this beautiful image by Diana Eastman (top image). I love the fine detail. But I quickly discovered that it’s not a tattoo after all. It’s a drawing from Grey’s Anatomy which Eastman (she’s a photographer) photoshopped an image of on to her back. Pretty nifty work eh?
Around the same time I came across Danny Quirk’s anatomical paintings. They have a more contemporary, darker, edge than Eastman’s Grey’s Anatomy. Check out Quirk’s Facebook page – Danny Quirk Artwork – for examples of his art, as well as clips of him doing his unique body painting. Also go to http://www.medinart.eu/works/danny-quirk/
Most massage training teaches budding therapists that they can’t massage someone who’s had cancer until they’ve had the five year all clear. I started my massage training in Edinburgh, two months after my dad died of lung cancer, and at the time I thought (and worried) about what I’d say if someone with cancer came to me for a massage – as at that time I’d have had to say it wasn’t possible due to my lack of training (and therefore insurance). It turned out that I never had to have that conversation but since my oncology massage training with Iris Cancer Partnership in Edinburgh I’ve met those who have been on the receiving end of that conversation due to their cancer diagnosis. And some of these frustrating stories were at five-star hotels – they went to the hotel as a treat but left there feeling far from being treated.
In Scotland, every day 90 people are told that they have cancer (source: Macmillan.org.uk) so that’s a lot of people potentially feeling disappointed. However when I did my training with Iris I understood why training is important. The effects of cancer are physical and emotional and as a massage therapist it’s important that you massage safely and the client receives the treatment best suited to them. For example, if certain lymph nodes have been tested/removed they are at risk of lymphoedema so the massage treatment needs to be adapted accordingly. Or they might be receiving chemotherapy and experiencing side effects such as fatigue, which you don’t want to exacerbate.
So what’s the answer? Already massage training covers a lot (anatomy, physiology, pathology and more) but why not make space to include education about massaging someone with a cancer diagnosis, in the same way that, for example, pregnancy massage is included in our first training? You can go on to do courses which specialise in pregnancy massage, but we’re taught in our initial training how to safely massage someone who is pregnant. I’d like oncology massage training to be treated the same way so that someone isn’t turned away from getting a massage at the very time they need it.