Spring: A Fresh Start for Nature and You

Spring has finally arrived in Rochester. The robins have returned, tulips are stretching their green leaves through the soil, hibernating animals are waking. Do you feel a renewed sense of energy? You’re not imaging it. Although Americans celebrate January 1 as the beginning of the new year, nature recognizes spring as the true start to a new year.

Are you ready to make some healthy changes? Now is the time, especially if your plans include getting more exercise. We’ve spent the winter hunkered down, conserving bodily energy and finding comfort in warm clothing and heavy foods – a sort of hibernation for the modern human. When spring arrives, there’s almost a feeling of seeing the world anew. Overnight the grays and whites of winter are replaced with the verdant green of fresh grass, a dazzling blue sky, the pinks, reds, blue and purples of the season’s first flowers. It is only natural that humans, too, suddenly feel urged to spend as much time as possible outside after an interminable winter. So get outside and stretch those muscles!

How do you start a springtime wellness journey? First, start slow. After weeks of snow and freezing rain and frigid temps, a sunny day in the 50s might inspire you to play 18 holes on the golf course or run a few miles. However, if you haven’t been exercising all winter, you run the risk of injury. Take a long walk or limit your run to a mile or two. Try nine holes before you tackle an entire course. See how your body feels after a trial run before you resume the levels of physical activity you were at at the end of the summer.

If you’re starting a new healthy habit, set your starting goal low – walking around the block twice a week, for example. Once you’ve reached your first goal, set a higher goal. Sound familiar? That’s because research shows that setting incremental goals is more effective than setting one large goal. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment more often, and it will be easier to pick up where you left off if you miss the mark.

Don’t forget to stretch! No matter what you have planned for the day, make sure to find a few minutes to stretch your limbs and muscles. Your fascia and your body will thank you.

Finally, make sure to stay in tune with your body. Do your joints feel extra creaky after the winter? Did your back feel stiff after spending an hour working on your garden? Does your knee feel sore after a long hike? If you’re feeling aches and pains after enjoying the fresh air – or if you want to prevent those – schedule a massage therapy appointment with me. I can help you get ready for new physical activity and show you some moves to do at home.

Massage for Back Pain


Did you know that approximately 80 percent of Americans will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives? If you’ve ever had an achy back, you know just how terrible back pain can be. This condition can be as mild as a little stiffness in your lower back to being unable to straighten your spine. Back pain can be a minor inconvenience at best or it can interfere with daily life and negatively impact your quality of life at worst.

The medical field is catching on to what holistic health practitioners and many people with chronic back pain have known for a long time. There are more effective ways to treat back pain than with drugs. The American College of Physicians recently released new guidelines advising against drugs as the first step in treating back pain.

Back pain has traditionally been treated with over-the-counter or prescription painkillers, depending on the severity. In cases of severe or chronic back pain, doctors sometimes also recommend physical therapy. The American College of Physicians now recommends massage therapy, acupuncture, heat and spinal manipulation. Yoga, stretching and exercise are also effective in managing and reducing back pain.

There are several ways that massage therapy can ease back pain. One is by relaxing the muscles and ligaments that have tightened up to protect the site of injury. Easing those muscles allows the client to regain some range of motion, which in turn allows him to perform stretches and exercises to assist in healing his back. Furthermore, massage therapy targets not only the muscles directly at the pain site, but also other muscles that are connected to but not immediately surrounding that area of pain.

Remember the fascia? Knots and kinks in your fascia near your back can cause extreme discomfort. Massage therapy smoothes the wrinkles layer by layer, until your back is again free of pain.

Finally, massage therapy is relaxing. Sometimes simply managing to let go of physical and psychological tension can have a huge effect on lessening your pain.

Knowing how to treat pain once it occurs is important. However, it is also essential to know how to prevent that pain from happening in the first place. The same methods recommended for pain treatment can also help to prevent back pain for many sufferers. Even people who suffer from chronic back pain conditions can benefit from massage therapy and other non-drug treatments. These methods may not only reduce the frequency of pain, but may also reduce the severity.

Whether you suffer from chronic back pain or the occasional sore lower back, proper back care is essential. That includes taking steps to prevent pain as well as knowing hot to manage the pain when it does occur. Massage therapy can play a role in keeping your back healthy.

Take Care of Your Heart

February: the time of year when it seems everyone is focused on finding and keeping love. Fancy dinner reservations, wine and chocolate abound in a world awash with pink and red hearts. But it’s also a time to focus on your physical heart.

Your spiritual and emotional well-being is connected to your heart health. According to the American Psychological Association, your mental and emotional health can impact your physical health in two ways. First, stress can lead to high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease. Secondly, emotional distress can prevent you from making and sustaining the healthy choices necessary for cardiovascular health.

How do you ensure your spiritual and emotional well-being? A nice glass of wine and some good chocolate always make my heart swell. So does practicing kindness, particularly making time to care for others. Find some time this month to do something nice for someone – check in on an elderly neighbor, drop off some soup or cookies to a friend (store-bought is just fine), or finally grab coffee with that friend you keep saying you’ll get together with.

Did you know massage therapy is also good for the heart? Massage therapy can lower many of the risk factors associated with heart disease. Recent studies have shown that massage therapy can lower your blood pressure, and the effects can last for at least several days. Massage has also been demonstrated to reduce hypertension and heart failure.

Although stress is not a direct cause of heart disease, it can contribute to some of the risk factors of heart disease. And we all know how effective massage therapy is in managing stress.

Have you had cardiac surgery? Research shows that massage is beneficial both before and after surgery. Massage therapy can help a patient with the pain, anxiety and tension typically associated with surgery.

No matter how you choose to recognize American Heart Month, make sure you take care of your own.

New Year, New You?


The start of a new year is a time of reflection on the previous year and the positive changes you can make for the year ahead. Many people use the new year as an excuse to set lofty goals of self improvement. You’ve heard the ambitious wellness resolutions: going to the gym every day, eating more fruits and vegetables, ditching take-out, cutting out sweets. Maybe you’ve even made some of these vows.

Unfortunately, most New Year’s resolutions fail. Do you know why? Because the goals are unattainable.

If you haven’t set foot in a gym for the past five years, is it truly realistic that you’ll suddenly find time for working out every day?

And the first time you miss your goal, you give it up as a failure.

This isn’t to say setting healthy goals – or even making New Year’s resolutions – is a lost cause. It is never a bad thing to work toward positive change.

The key to making a change stick is to set realistic goals. Start slowly. If you want to exercise more, set a more achievable goal, such as going to the gym twice a week. Instead of cooking every meal at home, try making dinner at home once a week. Instead of completely cutting out sweets, limit yourself to a small dessert.

As your small changes become habit, you can increase your goal. Add a third day to your gym routine. Bring your lunch to work twice a week. Swap that bowl of ice cream for a square or two of really good chocolate.

Change is never easy, especially when you don’t see huge results right away. Give yourself time. Check back in after two months to see whether you’re still sticking with your plan. You just might be surprised.

Avoiding Holiday Stress


This time of year is stressful for many. They have stress headaches and tightness in their necks and shoulders. The cause? Holiday stress. Between Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s – and all the parties in between – people feel overwhelmed and spread too thin.

What’s the cure? It’s a balance between physical and mental wellness.

To take care of your physical wellness, make a massage therapy appointment. I can help to ease the tension from overscheduling and the effect of your relatives. I can teach you stretches to ward off physical tension between appointments.

The true joy of this season is taking the time to slow down and spend time with your loved ones. It doesn’t mean adding stress to your life trying to please everyone else. To address your physical wellness, celebrate the holidays the way YOU want to celebrate.

Remember, the holidays are a season, not a single day. Who says you have to cram all your celebrating into a single day? If you’re becoming overwhelmed with trying to finagle schedules so that all of your friends and family can be together for a few hours at the same time, consider breaking a large, single dinner into several smaller get-togethers. Does the thought of cooking for a dozen people fill you with dread? Assign everyone a dish to bring to lessen the amount you have to cook. Or trim your invite list to a more manageable number. Perhaps hosting a laid-back open house is more your style.

Changing the way you celebrate might be hard to understand at first for some of your relatives. But what will cause you more stress: doing what others expect in order to keep the peace or taking a step back to keep your psyche in balance?

Among the many benefits of massage therapy are a reduction in mental fatigue and pain in your neck and shoulders, plus lower stress and anxiety – all symptoms commonly experienced in November and December.

No matter how you celebrate your holidays this year, I’m here to help ease your stress.

Why Massage Therapy Isn’t a Quick Fix


In a world in which everyone is on deadline and two-day delivery from Amazon is the norm, clients often expect to be pain-free after a single massage therapy session. It’s just a crick in my neck, patients say. A quick massage is all that’s needed to erase that ache, right?

While I would love to be able to provide an immediate cure in under an hour, body work takes time.

Remember my post about the fascia? In it, I explained how every bit of your body is intricately connected, both inside and out. And the pain that you are experiencing in your lower back wasn’t caused by a single awkward movement when you reached for your glasses on the coffee table but is rather the result of years of small twists and slips. Those minor injuries, which you might not have even noticed at the time, continued to add up until your back could take no more and froze while you bent over.

Just like it took time for your body to reach the state that it is in now, it takes time to undo the many wrinkles in your fascia that have accumulated over the years.

Body work is like unraveling a garbled ball of yarn. You can’t pull one end of the string and expect the entire knotted mess to unwind. A massage therapist has to work at one snarl at a time until the entire ball of yarn is sorted out.

When I am working with a client, I can feel where those knots are. And as the knots on the top layer are eased, I can feel the location of the knots on the next layer down. This process continues until your entire fascia is smoothed out.

This doesn’t mean that you won’t feel any relief after or even during your first massage therapy appointment. Most of my clients say they feel some immediate pain relief. However, that back pain will likely require a few appointments before you can declare yourself pain-free.

And I, like most massage therapists and others in the field of wellness and body work, recommend period massage therapy appointments as part of your regular health maintenance ritual. Even though I may have unraveled the kinks in your fascia accumulated throughout your life up to this point, your body is absorbing little injuries each day – the stumble on a crack in the sidewalk, the unbalanced weight of a heavy purse on one shoulder, bending to lift groceries from the shopping cart to your trunk, neglecting to stretch every day.

Massage therapy, like other aspects of body work, doesn’t provide instant results. Some of the best things in life take time and effort – your health and wellness is one.

What is Craniosacral Therapy?


At the end of this month, I’ll be continuing my training in CranioSacral Therapy. I’m very excited to offer this new service to my clients. But many of you may be wondering what CranioSacral Therapy is, and why you would want it.

CranioSacral Therapy is based on the theory that the craniosacral system, which is composed of the membranes and fluid surrounding the spinal cord and brain, greatly impacts the central nervous system. Similar to your fascia, your craniosacral system is sensitive to the daily minor and large injuries suffered by your body. These injuries can add up to strain and distort your craniosacral system, putting pressure on your central nervous system. When your central nervous system is under stress, your other internal systems can likewise be negatively affected.

Using a light touch – think of the weight of a nickel – I make subtle manipulations to your skull and spinal cord. These adjustments are designed to return your craniosacral system to a healthy state of balance so that your central nervous system can function healthily.

CranioSacral Therapy looks at the patient as a whole, rather than focusing on the single issue for which they are being seen. It is this view that drew me in, and it fits well with my holistic approach to wellness.

In addition to preventing illness, CranioSacral Therapy can be beneficial for many existing ailments, such as:
• Migraines and headaches
• Chronic back and neck pain
• Stress and tension problems
• Orthopedic issues
• Chronic fatigue

If you are interested in experiencing CranioSacral Therapy or wonder if this may be beneficial for you, please call me to schedule an appointment.

Fascia: What is it and How Does it Impact Your Wellbeing?


Have you ever noticed the thin, translucent film covering a raw chicken breast? That is fascia, connective tissue that wraps around every muscle, bone and fiber in your body. And up until about 10 years ago, fascia was dismissed as virtually meaningless – something to be pulled away so you could get to the good stuff.

However, those of us in the medical and body work fields have discovered that fascia is more than a covering. Fascia is what holds all of our internal parts together and makes them move smoothly. Fascia is vital to your body’s wellbeing. When your fascia is damaged, your body feels stiff and achy.

How do you keep your fascia in good shape? By staying hydrated, stretching every day (especially before any physical activity) and by listening to your body.

Unfortunately, your fascia is constantly under attack. When you slipped on the ice walking to your car, a wrinkle formed in your fascia. When you strained to pick up that overloaded bag of groceries, another wrinkle formed. When you spent hours hunched in your garden weeding, when you forgot to stretch before playing golf. All of those activities created new wrinkles in your fascia. All of those wrinkles add up to little aches and pain, stiffness when you move, and your back going out when you reach for your glasses on the coffee table.

Because your fascia is wrapped around every bit of you, all of your body parts are intricately connected. That’s why damage to your fascia in your right shoulder can lead to lower back pain.

Fortunately, you can repair the damage to your fascia. That’s where I and other massage therapists come in. We target the areas that are damaged to smooth out the wrinkles in your fascia. By stretching and smoothing your fascia, we can restore the suppleness that allows your body to move freely.

If you’ve been feeling tight and sore, or if you have pain that just won’t go away, call me. I use a variety of massage therapy techniques, plus rolling when appropriate, to address your individual needs.

And if you want a great visual of fascia, check out this video from Gil Hedley: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=VCfclmGrjMk. Be warned, however, that Gil uses a cadaver for his demonstrations.

Move of the Month: Rolling the Plantar Fascia


If you’ve ever suffered from plantar fasciitis, you know how painful this common condition can be. You’ve probably also noticed that the pain is worse when you first get up in the morning or after extended periods of inactivity and lessens after you walk around a bit.

In other words, disuse exacerbates the problem. And if that is the case, do you think your foot will feel better or worse if you treat plantar fasciitis by putting a cast or splint on your foot? Your foot will feel better in the short term, but what about the long term? As Alexandra Ellis points out in her AE Wellness blog, “you wouldn’t wear a cast on your broken forearm for the rest of your life just to prevent it from breaking again, would you?”

Orthotics, splints and other stabilizing devices can be useful to relieve pain in the short term, but there is a better solution for long-term treatment. If plantar fasciitis pain eases with use, then doesn’t it make sense that you may find long-term relief by letting the muscles and tendons in your foot do the work they are intended to perform?

The simplest way to put your foot muscles to work is to simply walk – without shoes. By walking barefoot, you force your muscles to work harder to stabilize your feet and legs.

However, if you currently suffer from plantar fasciitis, merely walking barefoot isn’t enough. If you have therapy balls (or some tennis-sized firm rubber balls), you can stretch and massage your plantar fascia. Watch this plantar fasciitis video to learn how. Or, schedule an appointment with me for a thorough therapeutic massage.

Move of the Month: Kegels


Peeing a little when you sneeze, run or cough is a normal part of getting older, right? Wrong! Women should not pee or leak a little as they age.

Every woman has heard of the importance of doing kegels. While women’s magazines tout this exercise as the key to mind-blowing sex, kegels provide a health benefit that goes far beyond sex. By strengthening the pelvic floor, kegels decrease the likelihood of incontinence and painful prolapse.

However, most women don’t know how to do a kegel correctly. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Lie on your back on the floor. Use a yoga mat if you have one.
  2. Bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor.
  3. Relax and take a deep breath.
  4. Lightly press your feet to the floor as you contract the muscles you use to stop urinating. It’s ok if your hips raise off the floor like you’re doing a bridge.
  5. Hold for five seconds.
  6. Take another deep breath as you release your muscles. The release is as important as the contraction. A muscle needs to go through both movements in order to function properly.

If you’re suffering with leakage, pelvic floor discomfort or prolapse, call me. I can work with you on additional techniques to improve your pelvic floor strength.

New Location

In order to better serve my clients, I am moving my Penfield office to Pittsford. As of October 1, I will see clients on Tuesdays and Fridays at Bella Zen Spa, 1 Grove St, Suite 117, Pittsford, NY 14534. I will also continue to see clients at my home office in Irondequoit.

Connect

Carol Kennedy, LMT

Home office

4572 St. Paul Blvd., Irondequoit, NY

Bella Zen Spa

1 Grove St, Suite 117

Pittsford, NY 14534

Carol@CarolKennedyLMT.com

585-317-8179

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