What Kind of Massage Should YOU Get? Types of Massage

What’s the Best Massage for You?
Sometimes it can be confusing – you know you’re stressed and everybody tells you that you need a good massage, but what type of massage should you get? There are so many options available, how do you know which one will suit you?

That’s where your friendly massage therapist comes in – if you’re not sure, just call or drop in for a chat and we can help you find the perfect technique and style for your needs. If it’s your first massage, too, we can put you at ease and make sure you know exactly what to expect.

In the meantime, here’s the lowdown on some of the different types of massage and what they can do for you.

Swedish Massage
This is one of the most popular massages – it’s sometimes called the ‘relaxation massage’ which is a clue; it’s absolutely great for getting rid of stress and anxiety. It’s also a good one to try if you’re new to massage as it doesn’t work too deeply into your muscles and the techniques we use are all designed to relax and de-stress.

So what can you expect? Well, we use long, flowing strokes all over your body, combined with kneading, tapping and circular motions. We’ll also use oils or lotions to make the massage smoother, and feel great for you. If you’ve got tight muscles, aches and pains, we can increase the pressure where you need it more. Swedish massage is helpful if you’re experiencing pain from conditions like sciatica and arthritis, and it can also give your circulation a boost as all the techniques are designed to help get blood pumping around your body.

Hot Stone Massage
This is a supremely relaxing massage where the therapist uses specially designed warmed stones to increase its effects. This one is designed for pure relaxation and is an indulgent treatment that’s also great for first-timers. While you’re enjoying your massage, we carefully place the smooth, heated stones on different areas of your body. Sometimes they are also used as part of the massage to help get deeper into any troublesome areas; the heat from the stones helps loosen the muscles even more. This one will leave you feeling calm and relaxed.

Thai Massage
Thai massages can be like a mini-workout so they are best for people who have had massages in the past but want to try something different! Thai massage is an incredibly effective, energizing treatment where your therapist will use techniques like deep stretching, acupressure and yoga style positions to give you a really intense massage. Thai massage is really good for you if you have a lot of muscle tension, posture problems, or headaches caused by bad posture. It can feel a little uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t hurt. Always tell your therapist if the pressure is too much, or if you’d like more.

Reflexology is so much more than just a foot massage. It’s based on a holistic therapy which teaches that there are pressure points on your feet which correspond to different areas of your body, and if there’s something out of balance in your body, working on the area of your foot that relates to it can help to relieve the symptoms. It’s also very calming. When you have a reflexology treatment, your therapist will work on these different pressure points, paying attention to any where she feels a blockage. Even if you normally squirm when your feet are touched, the specific techniques and pressure we use are really relaxing and most people say they find reflexology enjoyable.

Deep Tissue Massage
This is more of a remedial massage than a relaxing one; ideal for anyone who does a lot of sport or has very tight muscles. It can feel uncomfortable as your therapist will work deeply into your muscles and connective tissues to release any tension in them. It can feel slightly painful although people tend to describe it as a ‘good hurt’ – and you may feel a bit of soreness afterwards, especially if it’s your first deep tissue massage. Most people agree that it’s worth it as you’ll feel amazing afterwards!

Shiatsu is another type of massage that is carried out fully clothed, but using quite intense techniques designed to deeply relax you, and improve your wellbeing. Your massage therapist will use her fingers and thumbs, and occasionally knees and feet, to apply pressure where it’s needed. You’ll usually lie on a mat on the floor or a specially designed bench. Although it’s quite an intense massage, you shouldn’t feel pain or soreness afterwards.

With so many different massages to try, why not try them all?

Daily Quick Stretching

Having a good stretch once or twice a day feels good and can help prevent injuries (flexible muscles can do more), improve your posture (and as a result help with back pain), increase blood and nutrients to your muscles, and help you to feel less stressed.

Here’s what I do:
Spinal Stretch – lie on your back, bring your knee to your chest and then across your body. So your right knee will go over to the left side of your body. Hold this for at least 30 seconds. Then stretch the other side.

Forward bend – Sit with your legs straight out in front of you stretch your arms up to the sky and then bend forward as far as you can.

Spinal Twist- still sitting with your legs in front of you, bend one knee to your chest then twist your body and hug your bent leg.

Other quick stretches (you can do these at your desk)

Clasp your hands behind you and pull back to stretch your chest.

Hold your arm in front of your body and stretch it into your chest

Stretch your neck from side to side or do neck rolls

I bet you are feeling better already!

Also check out You Tube for some quick stretching routines:

5 Office Stretches


Common Health Problems: What Can Massage Do For YOU?

Massages are often sold as a purely indulgent treat that you get when you visit a spa or go on vacation, but there’s so much more to massage than just a feel good treat. Did you know that the symptoms of many health problems can be reduced and even eliminated with regular massage?

Here are a few conditions that massage can work really well on; a few you probably know and some that may surprise you!

It’s no surprise that a regular dose of massage therapy is good for your stress levels, it works by helping to lower your blood pressure, improve your quality of sleep, and by reducing your stress levels, it’s also thought to help reduce the risk of heart disease. In 2008 the journal Psycho-oncology published a study which came to the conclusion “…a significant reduction in cortisol (the main stress hormone) could be safely achieved through massage, with associated improvement in psychological well-being.”

Lower Back Pain
This is such a common problem, often caused by bad posture at work, so no wonder many employers are drafting in massage therapists to help. Poor posture and sitting for too long can cause a lot of lower back problems, as can simply getting older. Get your massage therapist on the case and you can hopefully wave goodbye to a sore back.

Sports Injuries
Fitness and sport are great for your health but they can sometimes lead to injuries and overworked muscles. A regular massage can help to heal any wear and tear on your muscles and tendons, and can also help you manage the pain from a chronic or acute sports injury. Having well looked-after muscles may also help prevent future injuries – one more reason to book those regular sessions.

Joint Stiffness
Massage can be a blessed relief for people dealing with the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis and other joint problems. Research published in 2013 in the Complementary Therapy in Clinical Practice journal said that people with rheumatoid arthritis reported some relief from pain and stiffness after four once-a-week moderate-pressure massages, topped up with self-massage at home in between treatments. Massage can also help with your range of motion and flexibility, which can relieve pain in your shoulders, knees, and hips.

There are a whole range of health problems that can be caused by bad circulation, so it figures that boosting your circulation will be a bonus for your whole body. Regular massage helps to get the blood moving, getting essential nutrients to where they are needed in your tissues and vital organs much faster. The squeezing and pulling actions involved in a good massage also help to flush lactic acid out of your muscles and improve the circulation of lymph – the fluid that carries metabolic waste away from your muscles and internal organs.

Migraine symptoms
Nobody really knows what causes migraines, and there isn’t a cure, but if you’re a migraine sufferer you’ll be pleased to hear that studies have shown that massage can help reduce the frequency of attacks, and lessen the severity of the symptoms. Some migraines, especially those triggered by stress, are especially receptive to massage treatment.

Skin Cancer
Of course, we wouldn’t tell you that massage cures cancer; it can’t. But in some cases your massage therapist can notice abnormalities in your skin that you can’t see or just haven’t picked up on, and alert you to them. Regular massage can also be good for your skin as it gets the circulation going and the nourishing oils used in a treatment help to keep skin feeling soft.

A massage helps to stimulate lymph flow around your body, which boosts your immune system and can help to reduce the severity of allergic reactions. Sometimes a therapist might be able to tell just from your lymph nodes if you are an allergy sufferer as they can feel tender or swollen.

Did any of those surprise you? Of course, you don’t need to make an excuse for wanting a massage, but if you are dealing with any of these health issues, it’s good to know that your regular massage habit is helping.

Three Tips to Quiet Your Mind

If you are not extremely busy in today’s society, you are the exception and not the rule. We are all in high gear; we overextend, overachieve, and overstress ourselves to the point of breaking. This can have lasting negative effects on our health! Here are a few ways to break the cycle:

It is so easy to be upset when things do not go our way. From the moment we spill our coffee, lock our keys in the car, and forget our lunch, a spiral of circumstances can set us off into a tailspin of negativity. We can choose to stay in a state of discontent and let that dictate our day, or we can be grateful for the other things in our lives even if they are not present in front of us right now.

Did you ever notice that when something nice happens, we tend to smile for a moment and then move on? However, when something goes wrong, we feel the need to tell everyone and anyone that will
listen. It is in those exact moments that we need to focus on what we are grateful for, and that is how we can instantly change our perspective and attitude.

Keeping the focus on gratitude offers your mind something to smile about, regardless of outside circumstances. Focusing on people, places, and even things that make you grateful, gives your mind a break from stress!

Everyone has a busy schedule; that is a fact. We all tend to create schedules that are overflowing and then complain that we do not have time for ourselves! Take a good hard look at your schedule and see what you can delete and what you can delegate. If you are going to have a healthy mind, you need to take care of it just as you would your body, and that means giving it some rest.

One tip for quieting your mind is to put it on your schedule. Put it in big red pen on your calendar, text yourself a reminder, and place it on your list of things to do this week. Take time for you.

Stay in the Moment
Being in the moment has become a cliché; however, if you really take the time to focus on what it means, you can start to practice quietening your mind. Focus on what you are doing at the exact moment you are doing it. If you are washing a dish, focus on the water, the soap bubbles and the dish in your hand. When you take time to do this, you will be in the moment and not two days from now when something big is scheduled.

6 Incredible Reasons to Get More Massages

By: Jordyn Cormier

While regular massages may feel extravagant and indulgent, they are an excellent tool for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Here are 6 excellent reasons to justify your next deep tissue appointment.

Counteracts the sitting
If you work sitting down all day, odds are your posture has suffered. Shoulders and neck hold tension when stressed, while prolonged sitting leads to weak gluteals and a weak low back. These muscular imbalances can lead to pain and dysfunction. Getting a massage on the regular can correct these imbalances, encourage proper muscle function, and reduce pain. That means less muscular pain, less exercise-induced injury, and greater range of motion — all from something as simple and pleasant as massage.

Squashes anxiety & depression
Human touch can be therapeutic and relaxing. A study of women with breast cancer showed that those who received regular massages felt less depressed about their condition than those who didn’t receive massages. Massage also increases happy hormones dopamine and serotonin while reducing stress hormones. If you’ve been feeling a little blue, treat yo’self to a massage and reap the relaxing hormonal benefits.

Reduces blood pressure
Studies have shown that those who partake in massage not only have lower blood pressure in the hours following a session, but lower blood pressure in the days and weeks following a session. It has also been shown to immediately reduce heart rate by as much as 10 bpm. This is incredible. If you are struggling with high blood pressure, try incorporating massage into your life on a semi-regular basis. It could work wonders.

Helps With Sleep
Massage encourages the release of certain hormones that aid in relaxation, like serotonin. It also helps people spend more time in deep sleep, the most restorative stage of the sleep cycle. A study of insomniac postmenopausal women showed that massage is an extremely effective treatment for increasing sleep and promoting relaxation. If you suffer from sleep disturbances, massage can become a positive force for encouraging sleep in your life.

Improves immunity
Massage actually boosts your white blood cell count, thereby improving your immune function. In fact, the benefits can be measured after only one session. Massage also reduces stress, which has a huge impact on immune function. Stress is the silent killer of a healthy immune system. Luckily, cortisol, the stress hormone which batters immune function, actually decreases with massage therapy.

Beats headaches
If you suffer from tension headaches often, regular massages can be key to thwarting them. It has been shown to decrease headaches in both frequency and severity, with many of the desired effects occurring immediately after the first treatment. And, hey, it’s way more pleasant and enduring than that Advil you were going to pop.

Massages can benefit almost everyone. From lymphatic to Swedish to rolfing, there is a therapeutic massage out there that can work for you. Yes, they can be expensive, but with all of these health benefits, even one session a month could indeed make all the difference in the long run.

Should Massage Hurt?

Have you been wondering if a massage has to hurt to be effective?
If so, you are not alone. Many people believe that a massage has to hurt in order to be effective. Well it doesn’t! You’ll be happy to hear that the saying, “No pain, no gain” doesn’t apply to massage therapy. Sometimes the most effective massages are the ones that don’t cause you any pain. Something that feels marvelous, and it’s good for you too? It doesn’t get much better than that!

Deep Tissue Massage might cause some discomfort….
A deep tissue massage is when the massage therapist manipulates the deeper layers of your soft tissue. Soft tissue includes your muscles, ligaments, fascia, and tendons (it’s pretty much everything that isn’t bones or organs). Usually your massage therapist will use lotions or oil, and will work lighter at first, this is important, it helps relax the top layer of tissue and muscle, meaning less pain for you. Then the deeper layers of muscle can be worked on more easily and with less pain. This will feel much better and you will get better results!

Typically, deep tissue massage is recommended for those with chronic pain caused by tight muscles or injuries. Deep tissue massage can be very therapeutic because it helps with relieving patterns of tension that have developed over time and helping with muscle injuries. With a good deep tissue session massage will feel more relaxed after the massage if no pain was endured during it. It’s hard (nearly impossible) to relax if you are in pain, and muscle tension will release in a state of relaxation.

Deep tissue massage is not for everyone! You are not a wimp if you don’t like it. It is one of the more involved and intense massage techniques. Some people simply like the feeling of more pressure, and a firm massage isn’t always deep tissue. Just be sure to communicate with your therapist about what you prefer and need. Speak up your therapist will appreciate your feedback, happy clients are regular clients, and your therapist wants you to love your massage.

Pain versus Discomfort
Muscles naturally react to any sort of pain. When your muscles feel that your body is about to be injured the reflex to deflect the pain is stimulated. If your massage therapist is ever applying too much pressure, your muscles tighten together to naturally counterattack the force, and that is not a great way to relax. A massage is meant to relieve the tension of your muscles so if you feel as though the massage therapist is applying too much pressure for comfort, just ask them to use less pressure. Seriously, they want you to.

Don’t go into the massage thinking there won’t be any discomfort at all though. Pain and discomfort are two different things. People usually describe discomfort as a “good hurt” – especially in reference to getting a massage. When you experience pain during a massage, it is more than discomfort and could even cause bruising or injury.

Everybody has different tolerances for pain, so a massage that is painful for one person may not be painful for you. If you find that your massage therapist isn’t working between your tolerance levels for pain, then it’s important that you say something. Massages should almost never cause you physical pain and very rarely is it okay for you to be left with marks on your body afterwards.

If you are booking your first massage, you probably don’t want to start out with a deep tissue session. Ease your way into massage therapy and start with something less specific, like Swedish or integrative massage. Most therapists combine massage techniques and will try to give you the best massage for you.

How Often Should You Get A Massage?

How Often Should You Get A Massage?

Every day! Well, maybe that’s not practical, even though it would be nice. This is one of the most common questions clients ask about massage therapy, and it really all depends on WHY you get massages. Do you get massages for health benefits? Or, to help you relax and handle the stress of everyday life? Most likely it’s a combination of the two, so let’s look at some of the most common reasons to get regular massages:

Relaxation & Stress Relief
One of the very best reasons to get a massage is for relaxation. Relaxation massage helps to support your body, including blood circulation and flexibility of joints. Regular massage can help prevent pain, muscle tension, and stress points from building up and causing problems. Why wait until you have a problem to get a massage? Massage is perfect for preventing issues with your tissues. Relaxation massage is usually recommended at least once per month, or as often as you want!

There may be times in your life where you experience higher levels of stress and more muscle tension than normal. It is especially important to practice good self-care during these times. When we “don’t have time” for a massage, is usually when we need one the most. Make yourself a priority even during stressful times, your health is worth it.

If you are in a high-stress job or you work in an environment where you stay in a certain position for a long period of time (at a computer for example), you may begin to develop tight or “knotted” muscles. This will frequently occur in your shoulders, arms, and back. All of this increased muscle tension will make movement harder and can cause a great deal of pain. Regular massage can help to keep you loosened up and will help to prevent pain and stiffness.

Living with high levels of stress for a prolonged amount of time increases the risk of contracting heart disease and other diseases. It has been estimated that 75 – 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress related problems. The good news is, massage can help! Just knowing your massage is coming up in a few days can help to relieve stress, and a massage every 2-4 weeks will help with stress related tension.

Sports Recovery
Are you a weekend warrior, or do you just like to stay in shape? Either way, massage can help with sports performance and recovery. Many athletes and physically active people receive sports massage because it enhances their performance, prevents injury, and speeds up their muscles’ recovery. Competitive sports can put a lot of stress on a person’s muscles! Research conducted at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging at McMaster University in Ontario shows that massage reduces inflammation and stimulates the growth of new mitochondria, the energy-producing units in the cells, after strenuous exercise. This means that massage can help relieve pain, build muscles and help with muscle recovery too! For these benefits it is recommended that you get a massage up to three times a week or at least three times a month.

Chronic Health Conditions
People with ongoing health issues often find massage very helpful to alleviate symptoms. Chronic health problems that greatly benefit from massage therapy include back pain, joint pain, and localized inflammation. If you get therapy for specific issues, the frequency of getting massage therapy varies with the type of condition you have and how severe it is. Relief from pain can usually be achieved with 2-4 massage sessions per month. Your massage therapist will work with you to help you get on the best schedule for your body.

Pregnant women can greatly benefit from massage therapy! Prenatal massage and is popular among expectant mothers, who often experience a lot of aches and pains as their pregnancy progresses. Many women suffer from back pain, hip & sciatic pain, headaches, and tired legs & feet. But you don’t have to, a certified massage therapist can help to relieve those discomforts.
Going to your massage therapist once or twice a month can help with the symptoms caused by pregnancy, and it can even help you sleep better. Of course, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor and your massage therapist to ensure that you don’t have any pregnancy related conditions that would contraindicate massage therapy for you. Most women experiencing a healthy pregnancy can and should enjoy regular massage sessions.

Your Mini-Guide To A 1-Day Detox

By Dr. Tiffany Lester

Considering doing a cleanse this fall after a summer of indulgence? Doing a one-day detox after a long weekend or vacation can be just what your body needs to get back on track. If you’re suffering from any of these common ailments, your body is practically begging you to hit the reset button:

Bloating, and/or constipation
Weight gain, especially abdominal
Joint pains
Low energy

Why fall?

As the seasons change, it’s the perfect time to re-evaluate our habits and cleanse our bodies, homes, and minds. Choose one sacred day this month and devote it to your health. Try to combine it with a digital detox by turning off the phone, computer, and TV and enjoy time alone or with family.

Or spend a portion of the day tackling a closet or drawer that needs to be cleaned out. (Think you’re bad at decluttering? Here’s some motivation.) Choose one physical thing that needs de-cluttering in your life and do it today.

Your Mini-Guide To A 1-Day Detox


When you wake up: Drink warm lemonade. Mix 8 ounces warm (not hot!) water with half a lemon (freshly squeezed) to hydrate your body and stimulate digestion.

Meditation: Set yourself up for success and quiet your mind with a 10-minute meditation. To settle yourself before you begin, take 10 deep cleansing breaths. Not sure how to begin meditating? Try the Calm app, which has a timer with guided meditations for every mood.

Breakfast: Start your day by flooding your body with antioxidants, thanks to a green smoothie. So many delicious ways to go about this, but go easy on the fruit. A simple rule of thumb is to use three servings of vegetables for every piece of fruit. My favorite combo is the following:

A handful of spinach
A cucumber
Half avocado
1 inch freshly peeled ginger
Add filtered water or coconut water then blend for 30 seconds.

Mid-morning: Enjoy a cup of matcha tea and a handful of raw, unsalted almonds. This will calm any cravings and the matcha tea will give you a calm alertness for the rest of the day.


Lunch: Avoid the afternoon slump by eating a light lunch. Try a marinated kale salad with a cup of carrot ginger soup. Add as many different colors as you can to your salad including a healthy fat, like avocado. Avoid store-bought dressings as they’re often filled with preservatives and hidden sugars. Dress your salad with extra virgin olive oil and the other half of your lemon from the morning.

Exercise: Go for a light 20-minute walk outside after lunch — without your phone.

Mid-afternoon snack: If you’re hungry, eat a half cup of goji berries with 8 ounces filtered water. If possible, take a 20-minute nap!


Unwind: To aid your body in releasing toxins, unwind with a hot stone massage or an infrared sauna treatment. This will provide relief for sore joints and muscles while also helping you to relax.

Dinner: Keep it simple while focusing on whole foods. Try roasted chicken with brussels sprouts; cruciferous vegetables are great for liver detoxification.

Nightcap: Drink a cup of hibiscus tea. Filled with antioxidants, it reportedly helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol while also supporting your digestive system. When buying at the store, make sure it is caffeine free as some brands blend with green tea. I like to enjoy mine in a wine glass – it looks just like red wine!

Gratitude: Write down three things for which you are most grateful today in a journal or scrap of paper. The practice of writing versus thinking has a way of activating the pleasure centers in our brain. Go the extra mile, and add in another 20-minute meditation before drifting off to a restorative sleep.

Notice how your body feels after just one day of avoiding common food triggers like gluten, corn, dairy, caffeine, and sugar. I hope you’ll feel fantastic!

Reaching Out by Shirley Vanderbilt

Originally published in Massage Bodywork magazine, June/July 2000.
Copyright 2003. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.


A Crabby Old Woman

The body it crumbles. Grace and vigor depart.
There now is a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass, a young girl still dwells,
And now and again my battered heart swells.
I remember the pain, and I remember the joys,
And I’m living and loving all over again.
And I think of the years, all too few, gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing will last.
So open your eyes, nurse, open and see
Not a crabby old woman,
Look closer: See me.

Reaching Out Blue Skies Massage

These words, from a 90-year-old woman in a nursing home in England, depicting so acutely her struggle to be seen as something other than a decrepit body, brings us in touch with the plight of today’s elderly.1 Their body betrays their mind, and sometimes their mind betrays their heart. For some, like this woman, they are aware of who they are inside, but no longer have the physical power to put it into play. Many of them have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia. They will never recover. They can only submit to the ravages of disease as they struggle to find a lucid moment here or there, some kind of connection that allows the “me” inside to have contact with the world around them.

When dementia knocks it comes to stay, bringing with it a suitcase full of challenges for both the victim and caregiver. It was once called senility. Today the syndrome is neatly metered out into specific clinical categories. Whatever the cause, the symptoms are fairly common throughout. Memory loss, disorientation, agitation, and changes in mood and behavior all take their toll on the quality of life for the patient, nursing home staff and family.

A century ago, the elderly were cared for by their children and grandchildren at home, where they were nurtured, loved and touched until the end of their lives. Today they are sent to nursing centers and assisted living facilities. For many, touch and nurturing are harder to come by. Care is provided by strangers rotating through their daily routine on pre-set schedules. But as recent research has shown, touch is what our elders need and may very well be the catalyst to making contact with that inner “me,” calming the agitation and disorientation of a confused mind and bringing moments of comfort to failing bodies.

A Growing Problem

The Alzheimer’s Association states that, “Approximately 4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease,” and if no cure is found, we may expect that number to climb to 14 million by mid-century. The disease has affected nearly half the elderly population over the age of 85 and one of every 10 of those over age 65.2 While Alzheimer’s accounts for more dementia than any other cause, another 60 diseases can contribute to Alzheimer’s-like symptoms, including strokes, AIDS, Parkinson’s and Pick’s Disease.3 In addition to the phenomenal costs of caring for those with dementia, there is the daily challenge of handling difficult behaviors, such as agitation and aggression, brought out by the affliction.

Dementia is described as a progressive deterioration of mental function leading to loss of memory, striking changes in behavior and mood, and inability of the person to continue self-care. The deterioration is uneven, in that parts of the brain remain functional while others are destroyed. This accounts for the drastic personality changes noted and the unexplainable outbursts and resistant behaviors of patients. As the loss of memory and cognitive function increases, the patient becomes anxious and confused, often feeling vulnerable.4 For caregivers, this behavioral reaction complicates daily tasks and can sometimes act as a barrier to patient interaction. A gesture on the part of the caregiver may be accepted one moment and rejected an hour later. Finding a way to connect with these patients, as their numbers in nursing homes increase by the day, is essential to providing them with the quality of healthcare management and the nurturing they deserve.

“Hands-On” Approach

In the traditional medical world of the past, management of dementia behavior was handled by administering pharmaceuticals and physical restraints. But as in many other fields of health, geriatric caregivers are beginning to turn to alternative therapies as a means to provide patient-centered care. The 1987 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act made it “imperative that health care workers explore the use of alternatives to physical and pharmacological restraints for the management of agitation behaviors.”5 But even before this mandate surfaced, the quest for more humane, behavioral interventions had begun.

As early as 1975, researchers in France studied relaxation as a non-pharmacologic approach to treating geriatric patients, but surmised that dementia may be contraindicated for this technique.6 Throughout the 80s, researchers tried their hand again, many times without success, at zeroing in on a specific approach that would break through communication barriers with this population. In a 1987 study conducted in Sweden, researchers utilized music, touch and object presentation to elicit appropriate behaviors from dementia patients. The small study of only two patients was basically unsuccessful in regard to touch stimulation, described as “small circular stroking movements” applied to various parts of the subjects’ bodies. However, the study team gleaned some insight into their methodology of assessing the subject’s reactions, noting that autonomic responses may not be readily observable through their behavioral criteria.7 Others were slightly more successful, obtaining a modicum of improvement here and there, concluding that “the use of touch, as a form of nonverbal communication alleviates anxiety in situations of stress through providing comfort, reassurance and support to patients with dementia.”8

Encouraged by previous results in the use of touch, researchers of the 1990s expanded their sample groups and continued to work around the concept of massage. The team of Snyder, Egan and Burns from the University of Minnesota began exploring the use of hand massage, therapeutic touch and physical presence. Working with patients in an Alzheimer’s care unit, they found that massage, more so than therapeutic touch, significantly increased relaxation in their subjects. On the basis of their findings, they pursued the study of hand massage as a means of ameliorating the frequency and intensity of agitation behaviors associated with care activities.9

The team’s subject group of 26 patients in Alzheimer’s care units ranged in age from 60 to 97. A Swedish massage protocol developed in the original pilot was administered prior to care activities, 2 1/2 minutes on each hand, with the result of a documented decrease in agitation during the morning session, but not in afternoon sessions. These differences may be explained in terms of degree of stress on the patient and less enthusiasm from the staff members participating in the study as the day wore on.10

Aromatherapy was added to the massage approach, with mixed results, in an English study published in 1997. Only one of four study subjects benefited to a degree of statistical significance, while two subjects demonstrated an increase in agitation behaviors. Protocols included massage of the hand and lower arm with and without aromatherapy, and aromatherapy alone. What was most notable in this study is the variation of individual reactions of the subjects. This led researchers to propose that single case methodology may be more appropriate than group design to pinpoint specific needs of each patient.11

In 1998, Australian researchers working with a dementia day-care population reported success in using a gentle hand treatment applying essentials oils. The study took place over a period of 18 months and utilized not only the center’s staff for administration of the procedure, but also family caregivers. Among the benefits to the patients were increased alertness, improvement in sleep, and a decrease in agitation, withdrawal and wandering. Family caregivers also reported improvements in their own lives, such as improved sleep and less distress, along with decreased difficulty in managing their relative’s difficult behaviors.12

Building on findings of the past two decades, some of the most recent research highlights an expansion of the previous hand massage techniques and incorporation of what has been learned regarding the positive effects of a calming, physical presence.

The team of Kim and Buschmann at Taejon University in South Korea utilized soothing speech and an intermittent gentle touch to the arm and shoulder just before and after hand massage. The 30 subjects, with a mean age of 76.58 years, demonstrated a reduction in anxiety and dysfunctional behavior as assessed by behavioral scales and measurement of pulse rate. The study team concluded that, “Expressive physical touch with verbalization effectively keeps individuals feeling safe and calm before catastrophic events occur. Therefore, it behooves caregivers and family members to use expressive physical touch and verbalization when caring for these patients, since it is cost-effective in improving and maintaining patient’s high quality of life.”13

In 1999, investigators in Texas published results of a study using a highly detailed, slow-stroke massage protocol administered in the patient’s home. Community-based family caregivers were recruited from the local Alzheimer’s Association to participate in a three-week study sequence, with training in the use of the protocol and rating scales being provided by the research team. Of the 14 original subject families, nine patient-caregiver dyads completed the project, with one patient dying and two others being admitted to long-term care facilities. The patients’ age range was 68 to 90 and their caregivers’ ages ranged from 54 to 82. The first and third week of the sequence were used to establish baseline data, with treatment being provided during the second week. Massage was administered with the patient seated in a chair, leaning over a table onto pillows. Gentle strokes were applied to the shoulders and upper back, base of the skull and upper neck, and the spine.

Caregivers had noted that agitation behaviors occurred more frequently in early morning, associated with dressing and feeding, and also increased in later afternoon and evening. For these caregivers, the study offered an easily applied treatment to diffuse the agitation behaviors and in some cases ward off potential aggressive behaviors.14

The study findings indicated that while verbal expression of agitation was not reduced, “the more physical expressions of agitation, such as pacing, wandering and resisting were decreased when slow-stroke massage was applied.”15 In light of the adverse affect of agitation behaviors on both patient and caregiver, this model offers the family hope in their attempt to successfully manage their loved one at home. In conclusion, the study team suggested that, “Any member of the health care team, at a moment’s notice, can administer massage effectively to diffuse agitated behaviors. It requires no special tools, education or certification,” and may contribute to “maintaining the patients in a familiar environment for a longer time.”16

It’s Time to Touch
Ashley Montagu, the late pioneer and revered expert in the field of touch, stated, “…it might be conjectured that the course and outcome of many an illness in the aged has been greatly influenced by the quality of tactile support the individual has received before and during the illness.”17 He notes that especially in the aged, there is an inherent hunger for touch and the absence of touch from others may inhibit the patient from seeking it. For those suffering the isolation of dementia, reaching through to that need becomes even more essential. In Montagu’s piercing words, “A perfunctory peck on the cheek is no substitute for a warm embrace, nor is a conventional handshake capable of replacing a caressing hand…It is especially in the aging that we see touching at its best as an act of spiritual grace and a continuing human sacrament.”18

Shirley Vanderbilt is a staff writer for Massage Bodywork magazine.


1. Montagu, Ashley, Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin (New York: Harper Row, 1971), 400.
2. “Alzheimer’s Disease Statistics.” Alzheimer’s Association. www.alz.org/media/understanding/fact/stats.htm (Mar. 2000).
3. Medina, John, What You Need to Know About Alzheimer’s (Hong Kong: New Harbringer, 1999), 17.
4. Ibid.
5. Snyder, M., Egan, E. C. and Burns, K. R., “Efficacy of hand massage in decreasing agitation behaviors associated with care activities in persons with dementia,” Geriatric Nursing 16,2 (Mar./Apr. 1995): 60-63.
6. Richard, J., Picot, A., de Bus, P., Andreoli, A. and Dalakaki, X., “Indications for relaxation in geriatrics,” Annals of Medical Psychology 2,4 (Nov. 1975): 703-721.
7. Norber, A., Melin, E. and Asplund, K., “Reactions to music, touch and object presentation in the final stage of dementia. An exploratory study.” International Journal of Nursing Studies 23,4 (1986): 315-323.
8. Kim, E. J. and Buschmann, M. T., “The effect of expressive physical touch on patients with dementia,” International Journal of Nursing Studies 36,3 (June 1999): 236.
9. Snyder, 60-63.
10. Ibid.
11. Brooker, D. J., Snape, M., Johnson, E., Ward, D. and Payne, K., “Single case evaluation of the effects of aromatherapy and massage on disturbed behaviour in severe dementia,” British Journal of Clinical Psychology 36,2 (May 1997): 287-296.
12. Kilstoff, K. and Chenoweth, L., “New approaches to health and well-being for dementia day-care clients, family careers and day-care staff,” International Journal of Nursing Practice 4,2 (June 1998): 70-83.
13. Kim, 235-243.
14. Rowe, M. and Alfred, D., “The effectiveness of slow-stroke massage in diffusing agitated behaviors in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease,” Journal of Gerontological Nursing 25,6 (June 1999): 22-34.
15. Ibid., 22.
16. Ibid., 33.
17. Montagu, 396.
18. Ibid

Combating Stress

How Much Would You Pay to Combat Your Stress?

Melissa Leong | March 11, 2014 4:39 PM ET
More from Melissa Leong | @lisleong

According to a 2006 study for the Fraser Institute, people spent an average of $365 on massage therapy, up from $211 in 1997 — and almost 60% of the cost was covered by insurance.

Knowing that stress comes with nasty health consequences such as heart disease and stroke, it makes sense for us to spend money to fight it.

We would save more for retirement, if it just wasn’t so far away

In the back of our minds, we know we need to save for our golden years, says one advisor, but our brains tell us to go on vacation instead. Here’s why

But as our stress levels soar, many of us are reluctant to “treat” ourselves. Even when our company health insurance helps cover the costs, the vast majority don’t fully utilize those benefits.

Massage and combating stress in Longmont Colorado

Great-West Life Assurance Company reports that even the most basic of stress reduction techniques, massage therapy, is only claimed by 27% of its plan members. In 2001, only 10% took advantage of the benefit.

The use of other paramedical benefits such as physiotherapy and psychology services are used by a still smaller percentage of those eligible. Only 4% of members made claims for psychological services in 2011, compared to 2% in 2001.

Thirty-five percent of respondents to a 2011 Sanofi Aventis Canada Healthcare survey said that workplace stress had been so overwhelming that they’d been physically ill in the last 12 months.

“Stress is a reality for most of us and to think that you don’t need to do things to manage it would be a little irresponsible,” Jasmine Baker, president of For The Love of Food, an event planning business based in Toronto. She works out more than four times a week and once a month sees a massage therapist ($100) and visits a spa ($250). “These are things that allow me to physically keep doing what I love. For me, it’s the cost of doing business.”

Nearly one-quarter of all Canadians (23.5%) aged 15 and older reported most days were “extremely or quite a bit stressful,” according to a 2010 Statistics Canada report. Stress rates were highest for 35- to 54-year-olds.

Yet, a number of Canadians don’t even use their allotted vacation time to unwind. Twenty-seven percent of Canadians in 2013 were carrying over unused vacation from the previous year, an Expedia.ca survey said.

So take time off. Save money throughout the year to fund a relaxing getaway. “Getting away from it all helps to put things in perspective,” says Kelsey Matheson, a Toronto resident and one of the owners of the Anamaya Resort in Costa Rica, which ranges from $795 to $1,895 for a week-long retreat.

Or visit a wellness centre specifically for stress. The Gaia Clinic in Canmore, for example, features a restorative health week which ranges from $3,500 to $5,000. The program includes services such as psychological work, stress testing, brain testing, nature walks, meditation, yoga and massage therapy.

“If I hadn’t it done the investment, what would have been the other option?” says Olympic gold medalist Chandra Crawford who attended the clinic last year to curb stress. “It would’ve been to carry on struggling, carry on diminishing my health and had even more serious consequences in health and lost career time down the road.”

These are things that allow me to physically keep doing what I love. For me, it’s the cost of doing business

At the least, use your work benefits, including any spending accounts that your company might have for health-related expenses, that’s what they are there for. More than 23 million Canadians have supplementary health coverage for things such as massage and psychological services, the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association says. (The association says stress and mental-health related problems represent 40% to 50% of short-term disability claims in some of Canada’s largest corporations.)

According to a 2006 study for the Fraser Institute, people spent an average of $365 on massage therapy, up from $211 in 1997 — and almost 60% of the cost was covered by insurance.

Some benefit plans require that you have a doctor’s note for services to be covered. Be mindful that if you ask your doctor for a recommendation to see a psychologist for stress, for example, this could affect your future applications for long-term disability coverage. In their underwriting process, an insurance company could choose to exclude coverage for stress leave.

“If somebody has a boyfriend with a break-up or a parent died or they went through a job change, these are very stressful situations and people often can cope with it themselves or they need some help. If it was a time-bound situation, there should be no problem getting disability insurance without an exclusion,” says Mark Halpern, a certified financial planner with illnessprotection.com who sells insurance.

Meanwhile, some people find spending money stressful and indeed, financial issues are one of the top stressors in people’s lives. In this case, opt for free relief: go for regular walks at lunch, take up meditating and interact more with your social circle.

Another option would be to rejig your budget to cut back on some expenses to make room for more stress-relieving expenses, especially if the stress is having an adverse affect on your health.

Jennifer Podemski says that any extra money she has is going to her well-being.

The 41-year-old Toronto resident was producing a television show and a movie while racing to finish by 4 p.m. to pick up her two and three-year-old from daycare when her stress caught up to her and manifested into a health condition.

One morning in November, she woke up and her legs felt as if they were filled with cement and being pricked by needles. To help de-stress, in December, she purchased a $2,000 infrared sauna for her home.

“These are the kinds of investments that I’m making for my health and my sanity so I’m a better mom, a better entrepreneur, a better person, a better wife.”