Recover like an Olympian!

By now I’m sure you’ve seen or read about those circle-like marks on the Olympic swimmers and gymnasts.  They are caused by a treatment called “Cupping” that is an effective way to ease muscle tension, boost circulation, and reduce fascial adhesions. Cupping can be done in a variety of ways from a manually pumping vacuum cups, by heating glass jars (fire cupping), and with silicone cups that we use at East Village Spa.

Michael Phelps posted a photo of his cupping therapy on his Instagram account.

Michael Phelps posted a photo of his cupping therapy on his Instagram account.

At East Village Spa, many of our licensed massage therapists are trained to use silicone cups in a session.  This addition to your therapy is especially beneficial in helping to break up muscle or fascia adhesions, scar tissue, and increase circulation to an area. Cupping is great for lymphatic drainage and helping treat areas that are difficult to stretch, like the IT Band.  Instead of pushing into the tissue, the cups lift the tissue.

Cupping does not always lead to the circular marks everyone is talking about at the Olympics.  These are caused when cups are left in one place for a long period of time. In the cupping sessions we do at East Village Spa, we typically leave cups a shorter period of time in one spot, or are moving them over an area to help lift the tissue.  This therapy is combined with hands-on modalities like deep tissue, myofascial, or trigger point release.

Check out this video of our massage therapist Tisha demonstrating cupping on Molly:

If you are interested in booking a massage session that includes cupping therapy along with traditional massage, call (515) 309-2904 and ask to schedule a massage with one of our therapists with experience in cupping.Massage Therapy Cupping

 

What kind of massage should I book?

People always want to know which massage is the best.  It is a great question and not always the easiest to answer until we get to know someone a bit, but I hope this post helps you to sort through our four most popular massage styles to find one that suits you best!

THE EV SIGNATURE MASSAGE:

EV Signature Massage East Village Spa

This is our most popular massage for a reason: It is easy to customize for many preferences.  Our Signature Massage is usually full body, but can include more focused work on a specific area of tension.  Your massage therapist can vary your pressure from light to firm throughout the session based on your needs and preferences.  He or she will also incorporate a few warm stones on the back and feet (not to be mistaken with a hot stone massage, the stones are used for only about 5-10% of the treatment time in the Signature massage).

Your therapist will often blend some essential oils into your massage cream based on your health intake and he or she will also use a warm honey mask on your back with hot towels to soften skin (and the towels feel amazing).

If this massage was a vacation it would be: A trip to Colorado to take in some nature, great food, light hiking, and a visit with an old friend.

If this massage was a flavor of ice cream it would be: Neapolitan or cookies and cream

THE ATHLETIC EDGE MASSAGE:

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All of the therapists who offer the Athletic Edge massage at our spa have extensive training in deep tissue techniques or sports massage, myofascial release, trigger point therapy, and/or assisted stretching.  You don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from this service, it is for anyone with a busy lifestyle, injury, or chronic aches and pains.

Don’t book the Athletic Edge massage if you want to drift off to sleep, but when you want to feel like you and your therapist really accomplished something.  This massage is generally not full body, but is focused on a few areas of pain or injury.   Your therapist will incorporate a variety of techniques and possibly even stretches, products to warm or cool muscles to reduce inflammation, and might ask you to participate by engaging muscles or assisting with a stretch.

If this massage was a vacation it would be: RAGBRAI, a ski trip, or a week off work spent remodeling your kitchen.

If this massage was a flavor of ice cream it would be: A frozen fruit and protein smoothie or rocky road

TWO FEET DEEP BAREFOOT BARS MASSAGE:

TwoFeetDeepMassageEastVillageSpa1

If you love firm pressure, but still want a full body massage that lets your mind drift away, this is a good choice.  Your massage therapist will stand on the table and use bars overhead for balance as she massages you with her feet.  Unlike a traditional deep pressure massage that uses hard surfaces like the therapist’s elbows or knuckles, the feet are softer and spread pressure evenly over a broader surface.  Your therapist isn’t “Walking” on your back, but rather using her feet to provide a massage that includes flowing and targeted strokes. This is a great choice for people with a more dense musculature or people who like to feel like the pressure is firm, but don’t like to feel sore the next day.

If this massage was a vacation it would be: A trip to Thailand or Bali

If this massage was a flavor of ice cream it would be: Dark chocolate chili pepper or Cherry Garcia

HEAVENLY HOT STONE MASSAGE:

The therapist uses a variety of different shaped warm jade stones as an extension of their hands to relax tense muscles.

We call this massage “Heavenly” for a reason.  This is our most relaxing massage.  Your therapist uses warm jade stones of different shapes and sizes to provide a massage that is extremely relaxing and boosts circulation.  He or she will use a combination of long, flowing strokes and quicker, focused techniques with the stones to increase blood flow while warming and relaxing the muscles.  While this treatment doesn’t use heavy pressure, the heat of the stones works deep to relax the muscles for the muscles.

If this massage was a vacation it would be: Relaxing on a beautiful beach with a cocktail and a great book.

If this massage was an ice cream flavor it would be: Mango sorbet or a hot fudge sundae with a toasted marshmallow

Ready to schedule your massage? Click here to book online at East Village Spa!

Quickly stop a calf cramp with this easy trick

Of all the self care massage techniques and tricks I’ve learned in 10 years as a massage therapist, the concept of reciprocal inhibition has been the most useful to me personally.  Put simply, if a muscle is in spasm, you can stop the spasm by engaging the opposing muscle.

I’m frequently awoken by charlie horses (calf cramps, or a spasm of the Gastrocnemius muscle).  The natural tendency is to want to grab the muscle and massage or to stretch it out.  This can help, but what works best is to engage the opposing muscle, the Tibialis Anterior, as both can’t be firing at once!

To stop the gastrocnemius (calf) muscle from firing, you have to engage the tibialis anterior muscle.

To stop the Gastrocnemius (calf) muscle from firing, you have to engage the Tibialis Anterior muscle.

 

Reciprocal Inhibition with a partner

Reciprocal Inhibition with a partner

If you have a partner (or are helping someone else who is in the middle of a spasm in their calf) you’ll want to push their their toes toward the ground, then have them flex their ankle to bring their toes toward their body.  Basically, have them resist you, thus engaging the muscles in the front of their lower leg (specifically, the Tibialis Anterior).  In this photo, my partner is trying to push my toes toward the ground but I’m resisting so she can’t.

This should stop the spasm right away.  If you don’t have a partner (or you are courteous enough to not wake your significant other up in the middle of the night when you get a charlie horse!) you can apply the same principle yourself by using your other foot to push the against the top of the foot on the side with the spasming calf muscle while you try to draw your toes toward your body to resist the pressure.

Applying reciprocal inhibition techniques to your own muscle spasm

Applying reciprocal inhibition techniques to your own muscle spasm

This technique can be applied to many different muscles, but the calf is an easy spot to start and a common trouble spot for many people.  I have tried this successfully many times at 3 am.  I’ve even applied the same principle during open water swim races when I get calf cramps by letting one of my feet press against the other foot and resisting.  I don’t even have to stop swimming (just kicking) to do it!  It has saved me from some serious issues in the middle of a lake.

Curious about other applications for reciprocal inhibition or just want a more in-depth explanation?  Click here for a good article!  If you ever have the opportunity to test it out, I’d love to hear if it worked for you.  Feel free to post a comment.

Proven benefits of massage therapy

In the nearly 10 years I’ve been a massage therapist, it has been really fun to see the shift in attitudes about massage therapy.  It used to be viewed as more of a luxury, or something to do only for fun or a special occasion.  While massage therapy is still an awesome way to celebrate an anniversary or birthday, more people are using it as a regular part of their health and wellness routines.

Groups like the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami have published great studies on the benefits of massage therapy.  The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is another great resource for good, solid FACTUAL information.

Findings from massage therapy research is well summarized on an article at MassageTherapy.com and highlights include the following benefits of massage:

  • alleviate low back pain
  • Shorten labor, reduce labor pains, and reduce hospital stays after delivery
  • Exercise and stretch weak, tight, atrophied muscles
  • Help people working to ease dependence on pain medications
  • Increase joint flexibility
  • Help after surgeries to reduce adhesions and swelling
  • Reduce scar tissue
  • Reduce anxiety and depression (there are great studies on the effects of massage on people undergoing cancer treatments and the effects of massage to reduce their anxiety about their diagnosis)
  • Reduce migraine pain and frequency

The Mayo Clinic lists other benefits including:

  • Help with digestive concerns
  • Help reduce insomnia related to stress (I can personally attest to this!  A hot stone massage does the trick for me!)
  • Reduce pain from TMJ
  • Help recover from sports injuries
  • MORE!

Really, the best way to see if massage can help you is to book one.  Not every kind of massage is beneficial for every condition.  For relaxation, circulation, and stress reduction, a Swedish or Hot Stone massage might be the ticket.  For recovery after a sprain or strain, a myofascial or sports massage is best.  If you’re struggling with migraines, a cold stone massage, craniosacral massage, or other focused massage could help.

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Also, because massage therapy can serve to help so many conditions, it is important to note that not every  massage therapist specializes in every type of massage or in work with every type of injury.  Our clients who are happiest and benefit most from their treatments have 2-3 therapists at the spa they see based on their needs.  They might see Tiffany during their pregnancies and Justin for sports therapy.  They might see Clair for deep tissue and stretching work, but Teresa for migraine help using Craniosacral techniques.  All of our therapists are very flexible in their treatments, but they also are very familiar with what their colleagues specialize in so are always happy to make a referral.  And NO!  You aren’t cheating on your LMT if you try a different style of work!

We have a little quiz (not super scientific, more for fun and info) to help guide you in choosing the best spa massage for you to try for your first time, or you can call and ask Kelly at the front desk what she recommends based on your needs!