Joan Cole Massage

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DIY Tools and Aftercare

Notice: I am in the process of updating this page, but there may still be some dead links and missing information.

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The traditional advice is to avoid dehydration by drinking extra water.

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Traditional advice: Ice areas that received sustained friction during the massage or are sore. Icing (cryotherapy) limits swelling and decreases pain.

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The Great Ice vs. Heat Confusion Debacle by Paul Ingraham

Icing for Injuries, Tendinitis, and Inflammation by Paul Ingraham

  • Cryotherapy expert Dr Romain Meeusen of the Free University of Brussels says "Instead of putting ice on an injured area for 20 to 25 minutes, three or four times a day, as many athletes do, it's better to ice the damaged region for 10 minutes immediately after the injury, remove the ice for about 30 minutes, and then reapply it for 10 additional minutes. Repeat this cycle of about two 10-minute icings per hour as often as possible during the first 24 to 48 hours after an injury. Then, use the same technique (two 10-minute icings separated by a 30-minute break) about three to five times a day until the injury resolves itself."
  • Ice It (by Jonathan Cluett, M.D.)
  • More Detail about Cryotherapy
  • Making Ice Packs
  • ice bagThe Homemade Alcohol Ice Pack: 1 part rubbing alcohol with 3 parts water in a ziploc bag. Freeze it. It stays slushy when frozen so it conforms to the body part.
  • One of my clients clued me into this idea. When flying and traveling, gel packs may run afoul of TSA carryon restrictions and you can have problems finding a place to refreeze them. But the old fashioned ice bag is great. A stewardess can give you some ice and you can fill your bag. When you get to your destination, you can get ice from the machine at the hotel.

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Liniments and Rubs

Many people find liniments and rubs helpful for temporary relief of soreness. Liniments and Rubs are topically applied Menthol, Methyl salicylate (wintergreen), Camphor, Capsaicin) Do not use with a heating pad. You may not be able to tell how hot the heating pad is on the problem area, even possibly causing yourself to experience severe blistering.
Products Page for Liniments and Rubs

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  • How topical analgesics work - "Recent exciting research, however, has shed some doubt on the counter-irritant function as the only mechanism of pain relief for topical analgesics containing capsaicin and menthol. Researchers have shown that menthol, in particular, actually might stimulate the smaller-diameter nerve fibers, rather than the larger-diameter fibers..."
  • As with anything, don't overdo it. Methyl salicylate overdose has been implicated in at least one death.
  • Po Sum On (Protect the Heart's Peace) - Peppermint oil (nearly 15%), Tea oil, Dragon blood, Cinnamon oil, Scute, Licorice
  • Zheng Gu Shui (Rectify Bones Liquid) - Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) rhizome (hu zhang), Guangxi Zedoaria rhizome (guang xi e zhu), Croton root (ji gu xiang) listed as "camphor wood", Angelica root (bai zhi), Moghania root (yi tiao gen, qian jin ba), Inula cappa root (tu mu xiang, da li wang), Tien-chi ginseng root (san qi), Cinnamon bark (gui zhi), Menthol (5.6%), Camphor (5.6%)
  • White Flower Analgesic Balm - Wintergreen, Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Menthol, Camphor, Lavender
  • Biotone Polar Lotion - Menthol, Wintergreen, Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Lavender, Juniper, and Peppermint
  • Sombra Pain Relieving Gel - Camphor, USP 3.0%, Menthol, USP 3.0%, Aloe Vera, Capsaicin, Grapefruit Seed, Green Tea, Orange Peel, Queen of the Prairie, Rose Water, Witch Hazel, Yucca.
  • Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel Menthol 3.5% with Ilex, aka Yerba Mate, a plant in the holly family
  • Unker's Medicated Salve - Menthol 7.66%, Oil of Camphor 0.60%, Menthol Salcylate 0.96%, Eucalyptol Oil 1.92%, Oil of Pine Needle 0.72%, Snow white petrolatum
  • Homemade Tiger Balm - Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Clove
  • Capsaicin Cream (Capsicum frutescens, Capsicum annum, capsicum cream, cayenne pepper, chili pepper, hot pepper, paprika, pimiento, red pepper)
  • Badger Sore Muscle Rub - Cayenne, Rosehip, Rosemary, Ginger, Thyme, Sage, Cardamom and Lemongrass.

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A hot bath or jacuzzi can be deeply satisfying and comforting. There is much traditional lore about bathing in water with dissolved minerals. I wrote a blog article about this several years ago: Balneotherapy at Home

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Mobilize to Gently Maintain Range of Motion

I prefer not to call it stretching because you are not trying to push past any barriers. You are simply trying to move the areas that were released during the massage. This type of exercise can involve limb circles, passively swinging limbs, cat and cow/camel, pelvic tilt, spinal t-twist; basically moving anywhere your body folds from one direction to the other. My blog CU DIY Wellness collects resources on this type of movement, as well as meditation.

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  • A site with a bunch of exercises of this type: Exercise and Arthritis
  • Qigong silk-reeling from Taiji are excellent versions of this type of exercise.
  • Mobilizing! An alternative to stretching that "massages you with movement" by Paul Ingraham
  • Immediately after a deep tissue massage, you might want to hold off on very strenous exercise.
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    On the Mat, Foam Rollers and Trigger Point Tools

    Passive Lengthening and Self Myofascial Release Exercises - The key with passive opening is to put yourself in the position that will open a compressed area, and relax into it. Stay with it, breathing deeply, breathing into the constriction for 3 minutes. Progressively, you will feel a "letting go". With self myofascial release, when you find the tight spot with your tool (roller, ball, etc.) stop and let yourself melt over the tool. If you just roll over it quickly, you will accomplish nothing more than annoying the knot. Products Page for Self Myofascial Release and Trigger Point Tools

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    • The trainers at Studio Helix are the experts in exercise. These are simply some things that I have personally found helpful that you might experiment with.
    • Supported Savasana (also see #9 in this article to see a nice way to use a bolster to open the shoulders.) Listen to your body. If it hurts, don't do it. Jennifer Allen at Living Yoga Center teaches a monthly yoga class on restorative yoga with props. It's a good idea to learn yoga from a live instructor.
    • Tips for tight neck and shoulders - What needs strengthening?
    • Pain-Relief Exercise: The Lower Back by Marc Heller DC (PDF)
    • Back Pain Exercises
    • book cover Pete Egoscue in his book Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain describes a series of passive openers type exercises as well as explaining in fairly plain english about body alignment.
    • Self-Myofascial Release and here - using Foam Rollers
    • Tennis Ball and other Tools
      • Once you have experienced the feel of a taut muscle band "releasing" and can recognize it, you can use some tools to do a little work on yourself. It's not as good as having a professional work on you, but it can extend your comfort between massages. Tennis balls are a classic self-massage tool. This article describes the process very well. For work in smaller areas, pink gum erasers are also good.
      • Be aware that with some conditions, this type of work can be too aggressive. Pushing your body farther than what it wants to go can lead to rebound pain. Do a little at a time and don't brutalize yourself.
      • book cover Clair Davies' Book about Trigger Points, The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief is written for the layperson, and goes into ways to figure out which muscle is probably needing work, and tips on how to position yourself and what tools might help to do the work.
      • More specialized tools than the tennis ball are also available. Trigger Point Triangle - like a tennis ball, but with a point. This is what I have in my suitcase when I fly, as it does bad things to be stationary for hours in one position. My only caveat - when I ordered mine, it took a while to receive it.
      • There are a number of canes with knobs for pressing into knots. MyoTool is one, and TheraCane is another. I fear that it's easier to overdo it (and possibly bruise yourself) with these, but there are more specific than a ball if you are competent with getting release with the ball.
      • balls and rollersThe TP Therapy Kit is a set of balls and rollers, but much more expensive than the tennis ball. It comes with a DVD and you can get a booklet that tells more specifics about using the tool. This set was initially designed for runners.

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    Alignment Tools

    Like orthotics in the shoes (which are helpful when shin/arch support muscles are weakened or inhibited and are unable to hold up the arch), there are alignment tools for the hips and back.

    Most back pain is caused by the repetitive activity of sitting. Our normal chair and car-oriented life creates a number of chronic muscle shortenings in the hip flexor muscles. They cause your hips to be compressed, and your pelvis to be unstable. The design of most chairs will not allow you to sit in proper alignment:

    • Sit with your weight in front of the sits bones (ischial tuberosities)
    • Sit with your hip sockets higher than your knees
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    • A slanted hard foam cushion may help open the hip socket. These are typically called seating wedges. I really like the Fitball Wedge Balance Cushion for a smaller chair, like an office chair. I like the Sloping Coccyx Cushion for a wider chair, like an easy chair or recliner.
    • The ball chair will help you improve your core muscle strength while you are sitting. Active sitting is better than passive sitting.
    • The traditional Japanese zabuton and zafu combination is a classic for meeting the sitting alignment rules.
    • If you find yourself on a regular chair that has your hips below your knees, you can improve the situation and help prevent back pain by sitting toward the front edge of the chair and engaging your glutes and lower abdominal muscles while imagining the back of your head hanging from a string on the ceiling so that your spine is elongated.
    • Articles for more understanding:
    • book cover8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back: Natural Posture Solutions for Pain in the Back, Neck, Shoulder, Hip, Knee, and Foot (Remember When It Didn't Hurt) by Esther Gokhale gives photographic instruction in alignment

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    Why Your Neck Hurts

    Other Tips

    • Remind yourself. When you have a blank moment, ask yourself alignment questions. For instance, "Are my shoulders up by my ears?" or "Am I standing on all four corners of my feet?" Whatever your issues are that keep you out of neutral.
    • Don't live in just one direction. Counteract the constant flexed-forward position by giving your body opportunities to go into expanded open positions.
    • Take Naps. If you can possibly find time, do so. Naps are especially helpful after getting massage to help your body process the changes massage can create.
    • Nurture yourself by practicing Taiji, Yoga, or another somatic art that pays attention to structure.

    After a deep tissue massage, some people experience muscle soreness for a day or two. Post-treatment soreness is traditionally explained to be the result of manual manipulation and release of the spasm and myofascial trigger points in your muscles or as a result of the mobilization and release of accumulated metabolic waste products from your tissues into your system. I'm skeptical of the traditional explanations, but the phenomenon remains. I attempt to calibrate my work so that people do not experience this post-treatment soreness. My suspicion is that it is a sign of overtreatment from the perspective of how much handling the nervous system is ready to assimilate - but the jury is still out on this. At any rate, the sensation of soreness is similar to what many people experience after a strenuous or sustained physical activity. Water, ice, and other nurturing self-treatments will help minimize any discomfort.