East Bay Massage: Massage and the Immune System

Happy Holidays! 

To keep healthy during this cold and flu season, be sure to take some time out of the hustle and bustle for massage. In addition to relaxation and relief from muscle fatigue, bodywork helps keep the body healthy by increasing the germ-killing cells in the immune system. This is the body’s way of protecting us against this season’s inevitable exposure to bacteria and viruses. Additionally, massage improves circulation overall within the body, making it more effective in delivering those killer cells to areas of the body under siege from germs that would otherwise send us to bed with a box of tissue. Aromatherapy oils can be added to your session to enhance your body’s natural defense against sickness– eucalyptus can help to clear the sinuses, peppermint cools the body and calms digestion, and lavender helps to maximize the body’s natural relax response to soothing touch. Massage is infinitely more enjoyable that a flu shot– why not bolster your immune system the natural way? Shot or not, your body will benefit from massage by relaxing into fighting off infection.

Thank you for visiting East Bay Massage!


East Bay Massage: Pregnancy and Massage

Being pregnant changes things forever. At the end of these nine months, you’ll have a precious little baby to fall in love with, to learn about, and to whom you will devote untold amounts of energy, attention, and love. Being a parent changes life, starting literally from the inside out.

When you are pregnant, you can reasonably expect to feel fatigued, especially in the first trimester. Growing that little bean takes a lot of energy! Be kind to yourself– take naps, eat well, and drink plenty of water. You may experience nausea, either sequestered to only one part of the day, or, more commonly, periodically and across the day. If this is the case, I feel for you! Be sure to get rest and fluids, and don’t lose hope that you will once again remember what it was like to not feel perpetually hung-over.

Many women find that by the second trimester, their energy levels have increased and their nausea has decreased. This is a great time to start receiving massage! You can continue to receive regular bodywork up to and including labor.

As you well know, ligaments are stretching and becoming more flexible in order to accommodate the birthing process. You may experience lower back aches as the sacro-uterine ligament is taxed by the growing baby in your uterus. This also changes a woman’s center of gravity, so be mindful about how you use your body. As breasts grow ready to produce milk, you may experience upper back/shoulder tension. Receiving massage during this time can help to relieve tension at the shoulders and around the shoulder blades.

Receiving massage while laying on your side gives your body the chance to be supported. Taking the load off your lower back in and of itself often brings delightful relaxation. From this side-lying position, work can be done around the shoulder girdle and scapula. 

Women commonly experience leg and foot cramping during pregnancy, especially if they are on their feet all day at work. The extra weight and increased fluid volume in the body can tax the lower extremities. Rexflexology for the feet is effective in relieving tension and can be done while side-lying.

Be sure to tell your massage therapist if you have vericose veins, high blood pressure, or gestational diabetes. While these conditions do not necessarily rule you and baby out for massage, your therapist needs to know in order to tailor the session to your unique needs.

If you’re expecting, do yourself and baby a favor and get some good bodywork! Relaxation is therapeutic, especially when you’re growing a person!

Thank you for visiting East Bay Massage!


Although miscarriage is something that many women experience, it is not something often openly talked about in our culture, even among other women. Sadly, a sense of isolation can develop in addition to mourning the loss of a pregnancy when there is no obvious way for a community to support a woman after miscarriage.

Women may find that the use of therapeutic touch can become an important part of their healing but may have questions as to whether massage is safe after miscarriage.

Massage can be deeply healing in times of grief. It can stimulate the production of beneficial hormones like oxytocin and serotonin. A woman’s hormone levels can fluctuate greatly after pregnancy loss. The comfort of touch can benefit a woman in grief, but it may also help her body produce those hormones which can help her feel better– less isolated– and this can have an emotionally stabilizing effect.

Massage after miscarriage is generally safe for women. If you or someone you love has experienced pregnancy loss and are wondering if massage could help, rest assured that massage is as therapeutic as it is relaxing. Check with a doctor or midwife to be sure that massage is right for you if you are not sure, but massage is generally only contraindicated during the acute phase of the miscarriage.

For further information about massage after miscarriage, see East Bay Massage: Massage After Miscarriage. Thank you for visiting East Bay Massage.


East Bay Massage: Reiki

I have to be honest– I am of two minds when it comes to some of the more ‘esoteric’ practices in the healing arts. You could say that I am in the midst of a paradigm shift– or developing one that can hold two points of view simultaneously. By this I mean holding a critical eye to the ways in which things work, wanting repeatable results and a clear explanation on the one hand, and on the other maintaining the capacity to experience new things and the openness to allow new experiences to simply be as they are, trusting my perceptions and the experience I see my clients having.

Reiki fits into this ‘double-mindedness’ for me.

Loosely speaking, “Reiki” means the ‘free flow of universal life energy.’ In Japanese, Rei means spirit, ghost, or soul. Ki means force (which seems related to concepts of ‘chi’ or ‘prana’ in other traditions).

The story goes that in the 1870’s Dr. Usui, the president of a small Christian University in Japan, was asked by his students how Christ managed such incredible healing feats. Truly, anyone who has read of them in the Bible can appreciate how absolutely improbable and miraculous those stories are. This sent Dr. Usui on a quest to discover the mechanism for healing. Dr. Usui meditated and fasted for several weeks and was given the symbols associated with Reiki energy in a bolt of light on the 21st day. He taught these healing symbols to his friend Dr. Hayashi who opened a Reiki clinic in the early 1900’s in Japan. In the 70’s, a Hawaiian woman by the name of Hawayo Takata was very ill and made a pilgrimage to the clinic in Japan. She experienced the powerful healing property of Reiki, decided to study it, and brought the Reiki tradition back to Hawaii with her in the 1970’s. It subsequently moved with her to California, and since, all over the world.

Reiki is a healing force that moves through the practitioner and through the recipient. In order to become a channel for Reiki, one must become ‘attuned.’ Reiki energy has an intelligence of its own and moves as it needs to. It’s impossible to direct Reiki energy– the practitioner simply allows the force to move, trusting in the healing that will take place.

Now, if all of this sounded a little hard to digest to you, you’re not alone. I *am* a Reiki practitioner, and sometimes I have a hard time coming to terms with the story of it. In my Western-oriented mind, that Newtonian-style thinking comes into play: I want to know HOW it works.  Part of me would like a diagram, with arrows, color coded, and labeled, somehow.

But the truth is this: the way that we come into knowing the benefit of Reiki is not the way described above. There isn’t the kind of map for Reiki that dissects it in a way we might like it to. It has to be said, though, that I have been awestruck consistently by the effectiveness of Reiki.

When I was in training for my Reiki practice, we sat in a circle and our teacher came to each of us to help us become ‘attuned.’ When my teacher came to me, I had a powerful response that seemed to come out of ‘nowhere.’ I started to feel a bit dizzy– I closed my eyes and started taking deep breaths in order to regulate myself. But the sensation got more and more intense. I clung to the sides of my chair for fear of falling off. I had the sense that I was inside a twirling, golden tube that shimmered and moved as though it were alive. After about ten minutes of feeling like I was spinning in circles, the sensation subsided. I was breathless. How do I explain this, I wondered. But my Reiki attunement changed my massage practice.

Sometimes, clients request Reiki specifically. I have heard them describe the sensation as a tingling, a warmth, or like liquid flowing through their bodies. How can I justify their experiences? How do I account for it when Reiki has such an obvious effect on a client? What about the client whose spider bite that had been swollen and infected started to go down and heal after a Reiki session? How do I explain it when a client finds emotional comfort through Reiki after a miscarriage? There isn’t a ‘logical’ explanation, but I see it happening in my practice all the time. It seems to embody that mysterious part of life, that space where potential is open to experience, where wonderful, hard to anticipate things happen.

At the end of the day, Reiki is powerful. Studies have shown that Reiki decreases chronic pain, reduces side effects like fatigue or nausea from chemo treatments, reduces anxiety, and can improve depression symptoms.

I have always experienced Reiki as being like a leaf-blower for the soul– but I am grateful that my clients experience it as a calming, clearing experience. If you have experienced Reiki, you probably know what I mean. If you haven’t, maybe it’s time to?

Just today

Don’t get angry

Don’t worry

Show appreciation

Work hard

Be kind to others

–Dr. Usui

Thank you for visiting East Bay Massage!

East Bay Massage: Whiplash and Massage

Whiplash effects 50-100 million Americans every year. Cervical pain (pain in the neck area) is the second most common source of pain, second only to lower back pain. While we most often associate “whiplash” with that back and forth motion of the neck occurring in auto accidents, whiplash can also occur slowly over time! Over-stretching (think prolonged shoulder stands in yoga), poor posture (with the chin jutting forward), and sitting in front of the computer for too long can all also cause the pain we associate with whiplash. Either the sudden motion of a rear end collision or the more gradual injury to neck ligaments or muscles can cause cervical dysfunction.

‘Whiplash’ is a general term that really describes the action that causes cervical spine symptoms. Injury to the neck can occur to any and all of the structures found there. Most commonly, the supraspinous ligament (that ligament that runs down the center of the back of the neck connecting one vertebrae to the one following) has been injured through over-stretching or tearing. However, any of the muscles in the neck may be strained (the occipital muscles, splenius cervicis and splenius capitis, the SCM, and the scalenes). Very rarely, the discs can be damaged and press into the cervical nerves.

Symptoms of whiplash can include headache, shoulder pain, pain at the edge of the shoulder blade, dizziness, fatigue, jaw pain, arm pain, ringing in the ears, visual disturbances, as well as emotional symptoms. If you have been suffering with neck pain for any length of time, it’s easy to see how unresolved symptoms can become frustrating. Referred pain can complicate the painful symptoms of whiplash. A knowledgeable massage therapist can help you understand referral patterns from the cervical spine.

Massage is helpful in the treatment of whiplash symptoms. Deep friction techniques serve to break up scar tissue in the neck structures that may limit neck mobility. Massage will serve to relax those neck muscles that have contracted and become stiff and painful. While ligaments take a long time to heal and may not recover after over-stretching, much can be done to mitigate the effects of whiplash. Keeping the surrounding muscles both flexible and strong will support the ligaments of the cervical spine.

Your massage therapist may conduct some simple passive and resisted tests to determine if the neck pain you suffer from is whiplash and should be able to recommend some simple exercises to keep your neck muscles flexible and stable.

Thank you for visiting East Bay Massage!



East Bay Massage: Somatic Awareness and Massage

In our high speed culture, it’s not hard to fall out of connection with the internal experience of our bodies. The “soma” is the body as it is experienced from the inside. Even emotions have an important component  of physical sensation– we see this revealed in the language we use to describe feelings. “My heart was singing,” “My blood was boiling,” “He gets under my skin,” “I had a lump in my throat,” and even “It scared the shit out of me” all reveal the physical side of emotions.

Between work, commuting, child care, Facebooking, and any one of the many tasks possible on our smart phones, we are increasingly engaged with things that may pull us away from connection to self. When we are out of connection to self, we may begin to take the view that our bodies are “things” more than our “selves.” We may increasingly find fault with our bodies, feel frustrated in its limitations, or even come into an adversarial stance to our own bodies. Or, we may simply fall out of communication with our bodies– why do we raise up our shoulders to our earlobes? Why do we tense up our neck muscles? Why do we clench our muscles chronically? If we’ve fallen out of contact with our selves, we might a) not even notice when we do these things and b) feel confused as to why we do once we have made that giant leap of noticing in the first place.

Awareness of the soma is something that can be tamped down, sometimes out of necessity. On some level, our bodies and minds may, by way of a coping mechanism, reduce somatic awareness if the sensations inside are unpleasant because of trauma. Yet tapping in to the experience we have on the inside can be profoundly healing if we are supported in safety. A somatic psychotherapist is the best support for this process, as long-silent emotions coupled with a new level of somatic sensation may take us into uncharted territory. A professional trained in how to help others integrate somatic experiences with appropriate interventions will help create an environment that is supportive and safe.

Where can massage fit into the process? Connection with another can help us direct our attention inward if the touch is therapeutic in orientation. When you book your next massage, try making a special note of what sensations or emotions arise in your body as you are touched. You may be surprised to find times when tears seem to float to the surface. You may experience a deep sense of stillness and calm like the deepest waters of the ocean. You might feel jittery and agitated. All of this is helpful information that takes you into a deeper connection to self. Try not to judge your sensations or emotions, but if you do, just notice that. Bringing our awareness to our somatic experience is a practice much like meditation– it may take time. You may find that dropping in to your felt sensations during massage is a gentle invitation to the body to arrive fully in the present moment.

Remember that somatically oriented psychotherapists are trained in helping you to integrate your new found awareness, and that the right massage therapist can support your journey into increased somatic awareness through the application of therapeutic touch.

Thank you for visiting East Bay Massage!


East Bay Massage: Massage After Miscarriage

It is estimated that somewhere between 15% and 20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. Because a good portion of miscarriages occur before a woman is even aware she is pregnant (so-called “chemical pregnancies”), the actual statistics are likely much higher, with some estimating as much as 50%. Emotional responses to pregnancy can be mixed, especially early in the pregancy, but many women, in particular those who were trying to become pregnant, experience enthusiasm, excitement, and joy as they begin to envision their lives including their new baby. When these women experience miscarriage, the emotional repercussions can be deep and long lasting.

So, it stands to reason that miscarriage can be a devastating loss, and one that can leave the woman feeling isolated in her grief. Even the word “miscarriage” seems to imply a wrong carrying, a failure to carry her baby into the world. Many women experience feelings of guilt, shame, and loneliness. The physical experience of miscarriage is often painful, and depending on the gestation of the baby, sometimes similar to labor, but without the benefit of a child to bring home at the end of the experience. As hormone levels plummet after the miscarriage, it is common for women to experience depression, anxiety, and despair. Women can become frustrated in addition to their grief if miscarriage has become a pattern of infertility. Women may even feel betrayed by their bodies. It is hard to underestimate the somatic implications for women experiencing neonatal loss. Body image issues are sadly not unusual for many women, and miscarriage can add a new dimension to the struggles they face.

Massage can play an important role in helping women after miscarriage. The comfort of touch is healing. A woman healing from miscarriage will need a network of support from her friends, family, therapist, support groups, and wellness practitioners. Massage’s contribution is an important aspect of this caring network. Helping the woman find places of comfort, ease, and safety in her body is an important benefit offered by massage– especially at a time when her body may feel less like an ally and more like something that is broken, insufficient, or inadequate. If you or a loved one is healing after miscarriage, the caring hands of a skillful massage therapist can meet the woman in her grief by providing a safe environment in which to not only experience comforting touch, but to perhaps find a place of compassion within for herself.

Miscarriage can be challenging to talk about. As a culture, we don’t seem to have a ritual surrounding miscarriage. It’s hard for others to know the “right” thing to say, and it may even be challenging for the woman to express her experience to others. Support groups can be helpful to find a community of other women to share their sense of loss. Bay Area listings are provided below for women seeking support.

Thank you for visiting East Bay Massage.

San Francisco SAND (Support After Neonatal Death)
UCSF Women’s Health Building
2356 Sutter Street, San Francisco

HAND (Helping After Neonatal Death) of the Peninsula

HAND of Santa Cruz 831-438-4513

HAND of Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Santa Clara County, Central Valley 888-908-4263

Alta Bates Medical Center
2450 Ashby Ave
Berkeley, CA 94705
They meet on the first and third Wednesday of every month from 7-9.  Twenty-four hour telephone counseling is available.

SAND Mt Diablo
Mt Diablo Medical Center
2540 East Street Concord, CA 94524
A bi weekly support group that also has 24 hour telephone counseling.

Women’s Miscarriage Support Group
Muir OB-GYN Medical Group
112 La Casa Via, Suite 200
Walnut Creek, CA 94598

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