2014 World Reflexology Awareness Week

It is currently World Reflexology Week…who knew!?  Well, actually I knew because I got a call from the nursing home where I served as Activity Director eons ago to do a program to residents, staff, and families on the benefits of Reflexology.

What is Reflexology?

According to the American Reflexology Certification Board, Reflexology is a scientific art based on the premise that there are zones and reflex areas in the feet and hands which correspond to all body parts.  The physical act of applying specifric pressures using thumb, finger, and hand techniques result in stress reduction which causes a physiological change in the body.

from wikipedia
from wikipedia

Here is a really cool interactive hand and foot chart by the Barbara and Kevin Kunz.

Who developed Reflexology techniques?

Reflexology is ancient…so ancient that the first records of reflexology were pictures and statues dating back as far as 2500 B.C. when early Egyptian papyrus and wall paintings depicted medical practitioners treating the hands and feet of patients.  Cultures in India, Japan, China, Egypt, and Europe have been working on feet since the beginning of time. (Karen Ball 215 Hour Reflexology Certification Program, 2002)

Who can benefit?

Anyone who is under stress or who loves a great hand or foot massage can benefit, but research has shown positive results with the following conditions:

Reduction of pain and stress when trained partners provide reflexology to individuals undergoing cancer treatments. (Read more here)

Reduction of constipation and improved digestion.  One study of 20 women who had severe chronic constipation for an average of 24 years improved bowel movement frequency from once every 4 days on average to once every 1.8 days on average after 15 reflexology sessions over 7 weeks. (More information here.)

There have also been studies about Reflexology in pregnancy and labor and in migraine sufferers.  (more here.)

Who can do Reflexology?

Basically, anyone.  In Iowa, Reflexology is not licensed like Massage Therapy is.  If you are seeking to hire a reflexologist, you will want to do your research and check on their training and experience to make sure you are receiving the most beneficial services possible.  People who proclaim themselves to be reflexologists may run from self taught through books and videos to people who have taken an extensive training course to qualify for national certification. Many of our employees have about 50 hours, some more.  The certification track program I took was 250 hours.

There is really no harm in providing simple reflexology techniques to a loved one as a caring gesture so long as you aren’t causing pain.  Even the good intention of wanting to help someone feel better has physical and mental health benefits in itself, in my opinion!

Can I book a reflexology appointment at East Village Spa?

Yes!  We offer a Therapeutic Foot Massage which is primarily reflexology, but may integrate some stretching and deep tissue foot massage based on your concern.  Any therapist we open for that massage has specific training in foot reflexology.  The focus can be entirely reflex point based or can be entirely deep tissue or any combination.  If you book a longer body massage and your therapist is reflexology trained, she may incorporate some work on reflex points to enhance the overall benefits of the work.  For example, I had a client with jaw pain and after some facial and neck massage, I ended the session with some work on her jaw reflex points on the foot which were incredibly tender.  If a client complains of constipation, I’ll often blend abdominal massage with foot reflexology techniques. We think of this as the 1-2 punch!

Click here to schedule your reflexology or massage appointment at East Village Spa.

Cassie performing a foot reflexology treatment
Cassie performing a foot reflexology treatment

When muscles throw a tantrum

One common client myth our therapists would love to bust is the belief that massage has to hurt to work.  Despite over 1000 hours of training and continuing education and years of experience, we regularly have discussions that go kind of like this: “Well, I know you say it is best to NOT beat the snot out of my shoulders, but my cousin’s daycare provider says you are wrong so I want to feel like you just beat me up when I’m done!”

Many clients think hallmark of a good massage therapist is how much pressure they can use.  I’d argue that the hallmark of a good massage therapist is how well they can assess and observe your tissue to determine the precise amount of pressure needed to create change.  Anyone can use heavy pressure.  It is not hard to place a bony elbow on a sensitive muscle group and lean in, or use the edge of a warm stone to strip a tender muscle.   Sure those things can trigger a pain sensation, but that doesn’t mean they’ll do you any good.  A gifted therapist knows WHEN to use heavy pressure and when a lighter touch is more beneficial.

What takes skill is finding source of the pain and paying close attention to how muscles respond to different techniques, speeds, and pressures to determine what to try for the best result.  And a therapist who has lots of techniques to try if their first attempt isn’t working.

Think of a trigger point or “angry” spot in a muscle like a toddler who is throwing a tantrum.  You can yell back all you want, but usually you’ll just exacerbate the tantrum.   Same with “beating up” an already inflamed or tense muscle.  Applying heavy pressure for the sake of applying heavy pressure may just further inflame the tissue which with most techniques, isn’t the goal.tantrumThe best approach to a tantrum (or trigger point) is to stay calm.  Instead of meeting aggression with aggression, a good therapist will calmly try to get to the root of the problem.  It might take a bit of exploration from what seems obvious.  For example, a tantrum in a grocery store might seem like it is about not getting a candy bar, but the root of the tantrum might be a missed nap.  Just like a painful muscle in your calf might be caused by a tight muscle in your gluts.

You never know if your first approach to calm a tantrum will work.  Your massage therapist needs to make an educated assumption at the speed, pressure, or technique to try to relax a muscle or trigger point.   If the muscle isn’t responding to one approach, a therapist will use his or her “listening skills” to gauge if the muscle needs a firmer OR lighter touch, a different position, or even a heat or cold application to encourage the desired response. Sometimes a heavy pressure is the answer, but not always.  One reason people feel like a really painful massage is helpful is because the pain sensation can trigger an endorphin release.  This can mask the pain in the short term, but won’t get to the root of the problem and the pain will most likely return.

Image courtesy of ABMP
Image courtesy of ABMP

Like in a tantrum, sometimes moving away from the situation that has triggered the tantrum will help.  In massage, sometimes moving the body to a new position on the table or incorporating a stretch or movement during treatment will coax the muscle into relaxing.

I took a course from massage therapy pioneer and hall-of-famer, Ralph Stephens and he nailed it with the saying “You cannot inflict relaxation on a muscle.”  Muscles need coaxing, not bullying.  If you have questions about why your massage therapist is using the pressure they are using or whether more or less would be beneficial, please do speak up!  Your feedback is important to help us work with you for the best result, but do understand that if you allow your therapist to do what they are trained to do, really “listen” to the muscle to find the approach that will work best in each situation, you will most likely have a better, longer lasting result.

Safety and Prenatal Services

We’ve been getting lots of questions about the safety of spa services for pregnant women and I’m excited to share more information with you!  First of all, massage therapy is a time-tested and safe way to help nurture a mom-to-be.  Unfortunately, many people hear conflicting information about what is and isn’t safe and we’d like to help dispel any myths.

Myth: Prenatal massage is only safe in the second and third trimester.
Truth: Prenatal massage is safe throughout a healthy pregnancy.  If your physician has any concerns or you are at particularly high risk, please consult with them so they can share with your massage therapist their recommendations for the best treatments.  If you are having a healthy pregnancy, massage is great throughout!  For a great article about the safety of massage in the first trimester, click here.

Myth: Pregnancy massage should be performed with the client laying face down and her abdomen poking through a hole on the table.

Truth: While many prenatal therapists do use a table or pillow positioning system that has the pregnant guest laying face-down, more and more therapists and experts are recommending the sidelying positioning for pregnant women (which we have always used) to prevent injuries to the back and uterine ligaments.  Also, sidelying position allows great access to the hips, gluts, shoulders, low back, and legs, where most pregnant women complain of pain.

Myth: If you rub over a point on the ankle a woman can go into labor
Truth: Pregnant women have been getting foot massages from their untrained partners for ages, wearing tight shoes, and more without stimulating preterm labor.  True, some forms of therapy (particularly Reflexology, Acupressure, and other Eastern techniques) do focus on points in the body that correspond to other areas of the body like the uterus and some practitioners feel that if intentional, firm, and sustained pressure is applied, those points could stimulate uterine contractions.  However, for a normal foot or leg massage, this will not be the case.  Your massage therapist and nail technician can give you a great foot massage (which is very helpful for feet with swelling and pain from the added weight) without lingering deliberately on those points.  If you have any concerns, please talk to your massage therapist and if it helps you to rest easier, we can skip the foot massage, but truly, your poor feet deserve it and experts from the American Pregnancy Association feel it is safe.

Myth: All spa services are safe for pregnant women.
Truth: While most services, including modified facials, pedicures, and massage are safe and very beneficial for pregnant women, some forms of these services should be avoided including facial peels or facials that use ingredients that are not pregnancy safe (we only use the products recommended by the Derma E for pregnant women, our estheticians know which ones to avoid!)  Our massage therapists will not perform heat treatments like body scrubs (lots of hot towels) or hot stone massage on pregnant women so as not to raise core temperature.  The only therapists who perform our prenatal massage are those who have training and who LOVE helping our pregnant guests.  We also recommend that if pregnant women want nail services, they look for nail salons who have very high safety standards and who use high quality products.

For more information on the safety of prenatal massage from a trusted source, The American Pregnancy Association, click here.

To schedule a prenatal service, including our Pampering Pregnancy Massage, our Pregnancy Glow Facial, or any of our manicures and pedicure, click here.

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What to expect at your first massage

Even our most experienced massage therapists had to receive their first massage at some point in their lives, so believe me, we all know that your first massage visit can cause a bit of anxiety if you aren’t sure of what to expect.  Even if you have had massage before, your first visit with a new massage therapist can be a bit unnerving, so I’d like to walk you through a visit with our therapists.

Step one: Arrive a bit early (about 10 minutes) to complete a detailed health history.  This is important because certain kinds of massage are better for certain health concerns.  Some medications, especially blood thinners and pain medications, require us to use different techniques to avoid pain and bruising.  Your allergies and sensitivities help us to choose the best products to avoid irritation.  Also, our therapists can help with many more concerns that people realize!

Step two: Your therapist will greet you and take you back to the treatment room for a consultation about your health and your needs for the session.  This is a great time to ask any questions you might have about the session or tell your therapist about areas you want him or her to focus on more or areas you want them to avoid.

Step 3: Your therapist will give you instructions about how to get on the massage table and will leave the room to give you privacy to undress to your comfort (underwear on or off, either is acceptable.  A back massage does feel much better if you remove your bra though).  You will get UNDER the top sheet and blanket and cover yourself. 

Step 4: Your therapist will take the time you’re getting ready to get your massage cream ready.  He or she will knock and then enter the room and offer to adjust the table or use a pillow under your ankles.  If anything is uncomfortable from temperature to the head rest, please let your therapist know, everything can be adjusted for your comfort!

Step 5: Your therapist will move the sheet from the parts of your body that he or she is working on, apply massage cream, and start massaging with their hands and forearms (unless you book a Two Feet Deep massage in which case they will also use their feet!).  Your therapist will never reveal more of your body than you’d show at the local public pool.  They are draping for both your comfort AND their own!

Step 6: You can start to take some slow, deep breaths and let go of the tension.  Your therapist will check in with you to see if you need heavier or lighter pressure, be sure to let them know, this is your treatment and every massage therapist appreciates your feedback, in fact, our favorite clients are the ones that will work WITH us.  If your massage is for relaxation, feel free to doze off or zone out, we don’t expect you to chat and we can focus better if we can concentrate on your massage.  If your massage is a sports massage or for an injury, your therapist will probably ask you to assist in some stretches or give more feedback.

Step 7: Your therapist will let you know when your session is over.  He or she will step out of the room to give you privacy to slowly get up and dress and will wait for you outside the door with a cup of water or hot tea.  Your therapist might offer some stretches or helpful home care tips.  Feel free to ask them any questions you might have!  We love to share information.

Step 8: You’ll head home (or to your next spa service) blissfully and wonder why you haven’t treated yourself to a massage sooner and start planning your next visit!

Ready to book your massage at East Village Spa? Click here to book online! Read about our therapists here.