East Bay Massage: Massage and Holistic Health

A recent New York Times article took an interesting perspective on why massage is good for us. The author was given an assignment to try out as many local massage therapists as possible, and to review his experience receiving bodywork (way to go, NYT!).

What I appreciated the most about John Jeremiah Sullivan’s article was the insight into his personal experience as a client receiving bodywork. Oftentimes, we massage therapists and holistic health educators are quick to cite all the many physiological health benefits of massage. Lowering blood pressure, increasing lymph flow, immune system boost, increasing range of motion, decreasing aches and pains– these are all legitimate, medically proven benefits to receiving bodywork.

Sometimes it can be difficult to articulate the other piece– that making an appointment for a massage is making time to take our attention, so often outwardly focused on accomplishing tasks, maintaining personal or professional relationships, processing information about events in our communities or around the world, politics, projects at home or at work, etc., etc., etc., and turn that attention inward. In this way, we can experience the anatomy of emotion as it resides inside us. Sullivan says:

After all, even if there’s something inherently funny about massage, down to the very word, massage, there’s also something unavoidably intense about paying that much attention to your body, not as an abstract concept but as the physical dying fact of it, lying in all its animality like a study by Lucian Freud. At certain moments I missed my old mode, which was to proceed as if I had no body at all…

In order to tolerate sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day, not including that commute to and from work, it may require a little bit of droning out the messages from our body. In order to comply with societal norms, we are taught from a very young age to sit still, to complete tasks, to take things in passively. To accomplish this, we have to learn how to either manage our lives to include other opportunities for movement or for mindful stillness, or (commonly) we have to learn how to play by the rules and shut out messages from the body. This often to our detriment.

One recent client described to me how she had been working a string of 12 hour days, taking only two breaks a day to use the restroom. This kind of living pulls the life energy upwards from the body and fuels the brain, privileging its functions and awareness over the intelligence found throughout the body. We are amazing creatures, capable of such focus and will! But it’s important to give ourselves the opportunity to rest and to notice our own aliveness.

While receiving craniosacral therapy, the author also noted:

Whether something was being effected through the laying on of hands, perhaps through some unknown mechanism of the physical world, I can’t say. It seemed to matter less and less. Maybe that’s what massage is to a lot of people, those who don’t have chronic pain or migraines — it’s enforced meditation for those of us too distracted to meditate. You’re paying someone to meditate you. It’s not anything they’re doing, necessarily. It’s that they open a little window. They give you an excuse to lie there in silence and pay a deeper attention to the fact that you exist. The true value of shamanism may be a concealed one, that it holds us in place and says this.

Holistic health, a concept that includes a multiplicity of perspectives on health, includes this piece. Not only are we bodies with aches and pains, rheumatoid arthirits, or migraines, we are alive creatures, sensate beings that process the world around us. We are in relationship with the world, and we are in relationship with ourselves. Sometimes the greatest therapeutic benefit of massage is simply the opportunity it gives us to notice that we exist.

Thank you for visiting East Bay Massage.

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East Bay Massage: Why Did I Cry During My Massage?

I can say from personal experience both as a recipient and as a practitioner of massage that sometimes, people cry during massage. As a recipient, it was such a powerful experience that it inspired me not only to move into the field of therapeutic bodywork, but to learn more about my self, too. Post miscarriage, I was in the throws of profound hormonal flux, and felt lost in grief. Massage gave me a window into my own pain at a time when I thought it was too overwhelming to navigate.

As a grad student in somatic psychology now, I am gaining in understanding as to how this happens and what can be done to support this process. As a massage therapist, my scope of practice includes craniosacral therapy and massage that allows for and supports people when they are negotiating intense emotions if they are ready to be expressed. Some clients think they are signing up for physical therapy-style deep tissue and are shocked to find how powerful touch is– even the gentlest, mellowest variety.

Because touch outside of very discrete circumstances (like, fighting, doctor’s exams/procedures, and sex) is culturally unusual for us Americans, we are often deeply impacted when we allow ourselves to truly feel what it feels like to feel. The truth is that it is normal and healthy to notice emotions!

Emotional release happens because we are finally in a position to let our guard down– we begin to notice how sensations are paired with emotions. For instance, the sensation of a tight throat is often paired with the emotion of sadness. The sensation of a tight chest is often paired with anger. The sensation of pain across the shoulders is often paired with a heavy sense of responsibility. If we feel safe enough, we might finally allow those emotions to fully manifest. While this might seem impossible or dangerous in our regular lives, sometimes the power of touch can guide those emotions into expression.

Most massage therapists are aware that touch can bring up intense feelings for their clients. Sometimes all you need is to be offered a tissue and the space to shed a few tears. Sometimes, in addition to receiving that massage, you can use your breath to let go of the hiss of anger. Next time you receive a massage, just try noticing if any emotions come up for you before, during, or after the session. Simply notice if there is anything there. If not, allow yourself to fully drop in to the experience of relaxation. If so, see what it’s like to have them with you.

Increasing awareness of the experience of your body from the inside– that is, its sensations and emotions– can go a long way in alleviating stress. Bodywork is a wonderful opportunity to get some therapeutic massage and a great chance to learn more about your self, too.

Thank you for visiting East Bay Massage!

East Bay Massage: Intra-Oral Craniosacral Therapy

I woke up a few days ago and my face was on crooked.

My son has been going through a phase of waking up four to five times a night and the lack of sleep was catching up with me. In the foggy sleeplessness of the three o’clock hour, I started clenching my teeth. Without realizing it, my body was closing the doors of my jaw the way I wished I could (but would never) close the door to my son’s room without opening it until morning.

When I woke up, the roof of my mouth felt like a misaligned gate. I became disconcertingly aware of what I would describe as the floor of my nose. The roof of my mouth ached. Even my right cheekbone felt sore. In this state, I was able to feel acutely how our facial bones fit together (or in this case, how mine weren’t fitting so well!). Some structures of the head are best palpated from inside the mouth– after all, the cranium is like a globe made from interlocking pieces. That makes certain bits hard to get to, except that the mouth provides us with a door to those inner-most bones. In cases like this, or in cases like TMJD, intra-oral work is the most direct way to make contact with these structures. (For those of you of an anatomical mind, the structures I’m referring to are the vomer, maxilla, zygoma, lateral pterygoids, and palatines of the sphenoid, among others.)

Off I went for some intra-oral craniosacral work. This kind of approach is gentle– not like getting your chops cleaned at the dentist. A fellow cranio therapist put on some gloves and made several contacts inside the mouth. She made sure that I was comfortable on the table and applied very light pressure (the weight of a nickle, people) to a series of bones inside the mouth. Spending a few minutes contacting the maxilla, for instance, allowed for the right side which had been so painfully jammed to find its happy place again. After a bit more room was created, other bones were able to float back into place.

We probably spent fewer than ten minutes doing this kind of cranial work, but the effects were quite noticeable. The roof of my mouth was no longer a closet door that had fallen off its hinges! The next day my face felt much closer to my ‘normal’– my cheekbone was not sore and (thank GOD because it creeped me out big time) the floor of my nose was no longer something I was so aware of. I am always humbled by the profound power of subtle techniques!

If you have symptoms associated with TMJD, tend to grind or clench your teeth, have suffered an injury to your jaw or face, get migraines, have recently had dental work, or have unusual discomfort, intra-oral cranial work is worth trying. It has helped me for sure, and the clients I work with tend to find the techniques effective not only in relieving symptoms, but in increasing body awareness, too.

Thank you for visiting East Bay Massage!

East Bay Massage: Migraines and Headaches

One of the most common complaints I hear from clients is their frustration with neck pain and related headaches. If you suffer from migraines, tension headaches, or even occasional headaches without a clear trigger, you understand how frustrating it can be when they won’t go away.

Headaches can feel mysterious and inexplicable– what causes them? when will it go away? why are some so debilitating? Here’s a basic over view of the different kinds of headaches, and how bodywork and Craniosacral Therapy (CST) can help.

Migraines are the biggest and baddest of the bunch. If you’ve ever had one, you know! Apart from the severe pain they can cause, oftentimes in an arc stemming from the base of the skull and around the ear to settle behind one of the eyes, migraines can cause confusing symptoms. Light sensitivity, sound sensitivity, nausea, and even a metallic taste in the mouth are all common symptoms associated with migraines. Some even experience visual distortions or an eerie sense of disconnection with reality (commonly referred to “Alice in Wonderland Syndrome”). Children occasionally will experience  migraines not as a pain in the head, but as a stomach ache which in later years surfaces as a traditional migraine.

Migraines occur when blood vessels in the brain become dilated (vasodilation)– typically due to the sympathetic nervous system’s stress response (fight or flight), food allergies, or some other chemical reaction. They occur when the body is under stress, whether the stressor is known to the sufferer or not, frustratingly. Tracking one’s diet can help to identify if there is a food allergy trigger.

Migraines are often treated with medication, sometimes to of little avail. Bodywork can serve an important role in decreasing the frequency of migraines and help the sufferer cope with the discomfort.

Tension Headaches are perhaps the most common type of headache. They too can start at the base of the skull and spread in an arc around the head. They typically occur when there is muscle tension in the cervical spine or neck area. This can be due to a number of factors– if cervical vertebrae are out of alignment, nerve conductivity can be compromised or pinched. The muscles surrounding the vertebrae can become accustomed to supporting the neck in misalignment and may need to be encouraged to relax to allow the spine to find its balance again. Muscle tension is contagious– once the neck is tight, the scalp often responds in kind, expanding the area of contraction around the skull. Secondly, stress can encourage certain postures in the body– raised shoulders, shoulders that rotate forward, neck tension, or a furrowed brow are all common physical postures of stress. Amazingly, it is possible to assume these postures so frequently that they become the way we exist on our bodies, over time. Improving posture can go a long way in helping to reduce tension headaches.

Combination Headaches are fittingly a combination of these two kinds of headache. Muscular tension can result as a complication of the discomfort associated with vasodilation in the brain. If a sufferer is prone to these headaches, (s)he knows that typically the tension headache kicks it all off, and the migraines seems to develop in response to the pain.

How can bodywork help with headaches?

I have found a combination of techniques to be most effective in helping clients cope with headaches and even decreasing the frequency with which headaches occur. Massaging the upper shoulders, neck, scalp, and face helps these muscles which are in contraction to let go. Physically addressing any knots or impingements helps to free these muscles up, but the oxytocin produced during massage also soothes the body into relaxation. Relaxation is therapeutic! Stretching muscles which are overtaxed due to stress-posturing goes a long way, too.

CST plays a key role in helping relieve migraine or headache symptoms. I suspect that vasodilation and muscle tension can both contribute to compression of the cranial bones and tax the brain’s membranes. Helping the occipital base (the back of the neck where it meets with the skull) to regain mobility, as well as the temporal bones (the ones at the sides of the head where the ears are) can have near-magical effects. It has been my experience that CST is an important component to managing headaches and migraines. Sometimes, simply allowing the time and space for therapeutic relaxation has surprising healing effects.

Thank you for visiting East Bay Massage!

East Bay Massage: Suture Self! What’s that supposed to mean?

“Suture Self” is a concept that occurred to me in a moment of unadulterated nerdiness. It’s on all my business cards, frequent client cards, coupons, letterhead, gift certificates, etc.(Vistaprint is a dangerous, dangerous place….). I think it’s an important idea that might bear some explaining.  It came together as I pondered a few different ideas several weeks ago and as a result, has become the tagline for my business.

Concept 1: Anatomically speaking, the kinds of sutures I’m alluding to are cranial sutures. And no, they aren’t the nasty black stitches that stick out of your skin like bug’s legs when you get a nasty gash. Cranial sutures are the area between two cranial bones which is connected by ligament. Bones in the head fit together in several different ways, and because they are separated by ligament, do have some movement. If you think of the bones in your head like tectonic plates in the earth, you can imagine how two structures butt up against each other. If the bones in the cranium begin relating to each other in a way that is compressed, cramped, subluxated, or angled off in a weird way, it can create anatomical and energetic volcanoes, earthquakes, or new mountain ranges in the skull.

Huh? Bascially, if the bones of your head get out of alignment, it can create uncomfortable symptoms in there. Head injury, concussion, facial, eye, teeth grinding or clenching, or dental work can all contribute to a misalignment. This can effect the membranes that encase the brain, the way cerebral spinal fluid flows up and down the spine, and the way your nervous system functions. Some symptoms may include but are definitely not limited to: migraines, headaches, dizziness, neck or back ache, or emotional disturbance/discomfort.

Concept 2: Oftentimes, people struggle with justifying receiving bodywork. It is an expense that our culture and our present economy categorizes under the column of ‘want’ not ‘need.’ Sometimes it feels like people who receive body work must have extra money to throw around, and extra time. Or, perhaps more subconsciously, must be people who really think a lot of themselves to justify spending time and money on something as frivolous as relaxation. It’s a projection that people who afford bodywork really don’t mind taking up a lot of room for themselves, while the rest of us put everyone else first and do without, for the team.

Concept 3: There is a dirty little secret about bodywork. (No, not that.) It’s that moment of bliss after your session has ended, when the therapist leaves the room, and you are on the table, in total relaxation, still fully in the balmy glow of the session. For that moment, you don’t feel guilty about having taken the time or the money for yourself. You feel awesome. Like you’re having your cake and eating it, too. But what you might not appreciate at that moment is that your secret doesn’t have to be dirty! And it doesn’t have to be secret!

Bodywork feels good, sure. But, it’s also good for you. Go ahead! Take up some room! Suit yourself! You don’t feel this surrepticious after getting blood work, done, do you?

Concept 4: Bodywork, and especially craniosacral therapy, in my opinion, help people achieve their greatest version of health. Health looks a little different for each individual, but our bodies are all capable of finding greater balance. When we take a little time for self-care, we are more fully engaged with our lives, and by extension, becoming more fully our best selves. If our heads are on straight, we are better able to let go of dysfunction and embrace health that works. We begin to embody our Suture Self.

Suture Self is both a noun and an imperative. It is a way of describing ourselves in balance and harmony, and it is an encouragement to be that person who unapologetically takes a little time out for her/himself in order to do so, even if it feels self-serving. It’s a way of rewriting the concept that serving self is selfish or bad.

As the awesome Maurice Sendak said, “Live you life! Live your life! Live your life!”

Thanks for visiting East Bay Massage. I’m off to get some bodywork!

East Bay Massage: Welcome

Welcome!

I am a Certified Massage Therapist through the state of California and am certified to practice Esalen massage through the Esalen Institute. I also practice Craniosacral therapy and draw on these modalities to tailor each session to the client’s needs. Other modalities I practice include pregnancy and infant massage, deep tissue, hot stone, and Reiki.

I work primarily as a massage therapy vendor for the employees of SAP-Dublin. My office here is open Monday-Friday, and I book appointments beginning at 11 am. If you are an employee of SAP-Dublin, you can schedule your appointment by clicking the “online scheduling” button and selecting the service you are interested in. You can also email me at Amanda.Flasck@sap.com, or ring x 8116. Discounted packages of three are available for any service!

For the public, I have an office in the lovely Montclair neighborhood of Oakland, CA. You can find me at the Montclair Wellness Center located at 5737 Thornhill Dr., Suite 203. I am currently taking appointments for Sundays here. You can book a session by clicking the “online scheduling” button and selecting the service you are interested in. Be sure to select “Amanda Flasck–Montclair” as the provider. You can also email me at amandaflasck@massagetherapy.com, or call (510) 282-6248.

The source of my interest in the healing arts has always been my curiosity in the connection between the mind and the body. We truly embody our thoughts, beliefs, trauma, and stress in the expression of muscle tension, chronic injuries, and protective posturing. Bodywork, through the practice of therapeutic touch, can serve to ease dysfunction and pain while encouraging the body to find natural balance– its unique expression of health.

I look forward to working with you in the pursuit of greater health.

Be well,

Amanda Flasck, CMT