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! Stress 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.
Circulation 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. Allergies 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.
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The wedding date is set, and the venue is booked, but what about the bride? How are you going to get picture perfect skin for your big day and a look that won’t let you down on the wedding photos? Start thinking about when to schedule your facials and treatments and do your homework before the big day and you can have a gorgeous glow that makes you smile even more on your wedding day...
Start Early with Skincare Treatments. There’s no quick fix to wedding perfect skin, so starting early will do you major favors. Most experts suggest starting your pre-wedding skincare routine a year in advance if you have long enough. Start scheduling your facials and skincare treatments with an esthetician or at a spa well in advance. Booking several sessions in advance is also kinder on your pocket as many places will give discounts for block bookings. Look into organizing monthly facials that include massaging your skin, scalp and décolletage, and ask for any specialist treatments to be booked at the same time. Your esthetician will be able to tell you when is best to have specific treatments. One treatment you may want to add to your pre-wedding prep list is microdermabrasion. It can smooth out your skin’s appearance and helps to reduce the appearance of enlarged pores – as does glycolic acid and other chemical peels. The right skincare treatments will work wonders as part of a pre-wedding routine, helping to exfoliate away the layers of dead skin and minimize pore surface.
Clean Up at Home. You’ll want to keep your skin as blemish free as possible for your wedding and the work starts at home with suitable skin products. Use a mild face wash or cleanser that’s suitable for your skin type, skip the toner – it makes oil production worse - and add oil-free moisturizer. Don’t overdo the cleansing as excessive face washing makes your pores produce even more sebum, leading to even oilier skin.
Get Your Moisturizer Perfect. This is where you also need advice from an expert. Getting a good moisturizer that hydrates well but doesn’t make your skin oily is paramount for perfect wedding skin. If you have oily or combination skin, you need to hydrate but without adding too much extra moisture so look for an oil-free formula with hyaluronic acid to help skin hold onto moisture. Hyaluronic acid is also good for drier and normal skin, but there’s no need to find an oil-free formula. For sensitive skin, just look for a gentle, preferably fragrance-free product. Your esthetician will be able to recommend a skincare range that works with your skin and give you any advice you need on what to use.
Keep Your Lips Kissable. You’ll be doing a lot of kissing on your wedding day, so make sure your lips are in tip top condition by protecting them with a moisturizing lip balm with SPF. This is especially important if you’re prone to chapping or spend lots of time outdoors.
It happens to the best of us; when we’re out in the sunshine it’s easy to forget to reapply sunscreen after swimming, or we may just misjudge the strength of the sun and get caught out. Sunburn can be extremely painful and it’s all too easy to end up with red and sore skin if you get too much sun and without using enough sun protection. Although it’s common and seems temporary, a sun burn actually causes serious and long-lasting damage to your skin. Sunburn also increases your risk of developing skin cancer as well as ageing your skin with wrinkles, lines and uneven skin tone.
The best way to deal with sun burn is not to get it in the first place – always remember to slap on your high SPF sun screen, stay out of the sun as much as possible and reapply sun screen regularly. When sunburn hits, treat it as soon as you notice it developing and get out of the sun as soon as possible. Find some shade, or preferably get indoors. Then you can start to treat the burns.
Keep It Cool. It sounds obvious, but a cool shower or bath will help to cool down your skin and take the sting out of the sunburn. Once you’ve bathed or showered, pat yourself dry gently, leaving a little water on your skin, and apply after-sun with built in moisturizer liberally to help keep the water in your skin and prevent it from drying out.
Treat the Soreness. If you feel very sore in any particular area, an over the counter hydrocortisone cream can help soothe the burn. Avoid products like benzocaine or anything that ends in ‘caine’, even if it starts to itch, as these will irritate the damaged skin and could even cause an allergic reaction. You can also take mild painkillers like aspirin or ibuprofen to help reduce any swelling and deal with the discomfort.
Stay Hydrated. When you’ve been burned, your body reacts by drawing extra fluids towards the surface of your skin to deal with the damage, taking them away from the rest of your body. This could lead to dehydration if you’re not careful. Avoid making yourself feel even worse and load up on water and cooling fluids to take the heat off.
Leave the Blisters Alone. There’s a reason that your skin produces blisters after a sun burn – they protect your skin from what’s actually a second-degree burn! If your skin starts to blister, don’t be tempted to burst them, just leave them to heal naturally. Blisters are there to help your skin heal and protect you from infection, so popping them just increases your risk of getting the burns infected. Just keep them covered if they are too tempting and pretend they aren’t there…
Stay Protected. You’ll need to be extra careful to protect your skin while it heals, as the damage has been done and you really don’t want to make it worse. Wear clothes that cover up your skin as much as possible when you’re outdoors, especially the areas that have been burned. Look for tightly-woven fabrics that you can’t see light through if held up to a bright light. Wear a hat and sun glasses too. Slather on extra high SPF sun screen after a burn, be very vigilant about reapplying it and if possible, stay in the shade.
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.
If you have dry skin, you can end up spending a lot of money on good quality moisturizers and products to treat it topically. Did you know that a few changes to your diet can also help to alleviate dry, itchy and scaly skin?
Fatty Acids Keep Your Skin Plumped. Fat – it’s a no-no in some of our diets but it really shouldn’t be. One of the most vital parts of our skin’s natural barrier is lipids, including, free fatty acids, cholesterol, and ceramides, which means that skin without enough fat resembles a mass of badly arranged protein blocks that doesn’t quite have enough glue to hold it together. Water can escape easily which means that your skin will become easily dehydrated. You need fatty acids in your diet to create the ‘glue’ that holds everything together under your skin surface – these are the omega-3s found in oily fish like salmon, herring and mackerel; eggs, grass fed beef and flaxseed oils. Omega 6s are commonly found in evening primrose oil and borage seed oil. Several studies have pointed to the benefits of fatty acids in the diet; in one study of 50 people with atopic dermatitis, 96 per cent of study participants who were given an evening primrose oil supplement reported less itching and dryness after five months.
Vitamins and Minerals that Soothe Dry Skin. Vitamins and minerals are essential for most of our bodily functions and repairs; skin is no exception. Vitamin C is needed for production of collagen – it produces an enzyme that causes collagen to form. Other trace elements like zinc and copper help to make the collagen denser and work together with vitamin C to keep your skin hydrated. You can get them from a good multivitamin or look for foods containing vitamin C (bell peppers, oranges and tomatoes) zinc (seafood, pumpkin seeds and spinach) and copper (beef liver, lentils and almonds).
Caffeine, Water and Alcohol. It’s very unlikely that drinking the occasional coffee will dehydrate you, but it has been shown that caffeine constricts the small blood vessels, which means less of the good stuff is getting through to your skin. Alcohol is also a diuretic and well known to be a dehydrator, but as with caffeine you’d have to be drinking a lot more of it than a couple of glasses of wine or beer with dinner to really feel or see the effects. There’s also a myth that drinking lots of water is the key to well-hydrated skin – although it sounds obvious, it’s not actually the case at all. Water that we take in is processed internally, and we’d need to be extremely dehydrated to notice the effects on our skin. The outer layer of the skin is the most important area for skincare, and it’s this area that needs to be fortified with the right hydrating and moisture-retaining foods. If you're already eating a balanced diet, not cutting out all the fat and eating a good range of fruits, vegetables and healthy foods, you shouldn’t need to use a multivitamin or supplement to improve the condition of your skin. Up your vitamin-rich foods, include some oily fish and fats and make sure that you enjoy a varied diet and your dry skin will thank you for it.