A Basic Massage in Beautiful Basel

When I travel, I like to check out the services offered at others spas to see how fibre is measuring up to well-known venues. In each case, I’ve found fibre offers exceptional, personalized service when compared to a European spa. The sessions also give me a chance to experience another therapist’s approach to massage so I can think about using them at fibre. And the best part is I get to relax and enjoy the many health benefits of massage.

This review focuses on a massage I received at the PÜROVEL SPA & SPORT in the Swissotel Le Plaza Hotel in Basel, Switzerland. Purovel provides a minimalist-type relaxation room, locker room and unisex sauna.

My massage therapist led me into the brightly lit and starkly decorated Treatment Room. She confirmed the service I wanted to receive, a 60 minute Classic Massage, then stepped out of the room so I could get the massage table.

Similar to other massages I have received in Europe, the session began with little or no discussion of the specific reasons for seeking a massage. At fibre, each session begins with an intake session. I want to know why you want a massage and if there are any specific areas needing attention or areas to avoid. By talking with you before the service, I’m able to give you a massage tailored to your needs.

The therapist gave me a Swedish massage which helped me relax. At the end, she stepped out of the room. I dressed and left the Treatment Room. She handed me the bill and then left me to enter the Relaxation Room or to return to my hotel room.

At fibre, clients are given the chance to linger and let their bodies and minds adjust to the idea of getting back into the “real world” outside the spa doors. Comfortable seating within reach of a stash of healthy or indulgent snacks and a refreshing carafe of alkaline water are available for you after any service offered at fibre. The after-session options at fibre are much nicer than the lounge chairs in the unattended Relaxation Room.

Overall, the session was effective. However, for the price (155 CHF/157 USD for 60 minutes), I expected more. At fibre, a similar service for Wellness Members costs 55% less and they receive so many more amenities (e.g., personalized massage, warm neck wrap, heated massage table, heated moist towels, comfortable seating).

If you’re in the Washington DC area, stop by fibre and get a personalized; yet, affordable massage with amazing amentiites.

Because the sauna is available to all hotel guests (no massage service required to use it), I didn’t consider it an amenity for the massage session.

Source: https://www.swissotel.com/hotels/basel/

Does Therapeutic Massage Help Lower Blood Pressure?

For the past four years, I’ve been taking medication to lower my blood pressure.  I’d like to think I can get away from the pills by changing my eating habits and increasing the amount of cardio I do on a weekly basis.  I also receive therapeutic massages about twice a month to help reduce stress and blood pressure.

To find out if the massage sessions had any effect on hypertension (i.e., high blood pressure), I looked for studies or articles related to the topic. I found the following two studies which discuss how massage therapy may be effective in lowering blood pressure:

For three weeks, study participants received a ten minute back massage.

For three weeks, study participants received a ten minute back massage.

  1. In 2005, the Biological Research for Nursing published a preliminary study which found massaging a participants back resulted in a positive impact on persons with clinically diagnosed hypertension; after the back massage the participants’ had lower blood pressures.  Over a three-week period, the participants received three back massages each week. This study included a control group which did not show the same results.

  2. In 2013, a clinical study conducted in Poland focused on the impact of daily massages on ten women with clinically diagnosed hypertension.  Each woman daily received one massage for ten consecutive days.  One minute before initiating and one minute after ending each massage session, the women had their blood pressure measured.  For each session, only the women's lower limbs were massaged using "classic" or "Swedish" techniques.  After the ten days of the clinical study, each woman had lower blood pressure readings.

I noticed the following similarities in each of the studies:

  1. The participants received therapeutic massage rather frequently (i.e, once every day, three times a week)

  2. The massage sessions were of a considerably shorter duration (i.e., less than 20 minutes) than services usually offered through a spa, which usually start at 50 minutes.

  3. The participant did not receive a full body massage; the sessions were limited to one area (e.g., lower limbs, back )

These similarities may stem from restrictions inherent in doing the studies. For example, they may have needed shorter sessions to reduce costs or to accommodate the participants' schedules.  Also, limiting the massage therapy sessions to a specific region of the body may have helped ensure consistent delivery of the massages.

After reading how the frequent yet shorter duration massage sessions helped lower blood pressure, I have a better sense of how often a client diagnosed with hypertension might want to consider receiving therapeutic massage.  As often as three times a week may be needed to reap all of the benefits of a massage in terms of lowering blood pressure readings. 

The studies’ results inspired me to update the services offered at fibre in Silver Spring.  The fibre Wellness Program provides clients with the option of choosing affordable monthly massage sessions.  To make it align with the study format (shorter massage sessions with a limited focus) have been added to the list of services.

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fibre now offers two therapeutic massage sessions (i.e., facial or a foot massage) which can be completed in considerably less time than a full body massage.  The reduced time commitment helps fit the therapeutic benefits of a massage session into any schedule.

Eucalyptus Helps Relieve Pain

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Pain Relief

Eucalyptus with a high chemical component of 1,8-cineole has analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.

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Aromatherapists often use essential oils to help alleviate pain or reduce inflammation. A Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) information sheet identifies the specific components in an essential oil. An aromatherapist relies on the GC/MS when selecting essential oils.

An article published in Molecular Pain (subsequently in SAGE Journals) in January 2012, found eucalyptus oil with a high 1,8-cineole component to be a particularly effective analgesic because of its ability to activate a specific transient receptor potential (TRP) channel while inhibiting another.

Before looking at the research results, let’s consider what is a TRP channel.

The Encyclopedia Britannica provides an excellent image and describes the TRP channel as a “superfamily of ion channels“ in our cell membranes. They help us receive a variety of sensory information (e.g., heat, cold, light or touch). As TRPs respond to various stimuli, they help regulate the flow of ions through our cells. The changing ions cause a sensation or perception of a change.

Researchers sought to find out how essential oils work on molecular mechanisms because they are not widely known. Their tests showed that 1,8-cineole helped ease pain caused by sensory irritants.

Source: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1...

Why Recurring Massage Therapy Sessions Improve Retirement

Planning for retirement, include regular massage therapy sessions in your plans. 

Planning for retirement, include regular massage therapy sessions in your plans. 

A few friends recently attended a retirement workshop which sparked discussions about Roth IRAs, survivor benefits and long term care.  One focused on the benefits of having long term care to remove a financial burden from family members while securing assistance with daily tasks if needed.  

Most of the discussion centered on persons outliving partners and possibly needing medical care in an independent living setting.   After our talk, I noticed the topic of loneliness or social isolation which stem from fewer interactions with others who provide emotional support or friendship didn't surface.   

I think it's important to consider loneliness or social isolation, which may occur at any age, because a person in an assisted living facility or aging-in-place may have less contact with friends and family members due to mobility issues.  Either the person lacks access to transportation or friends and family aren't able to visit frequently due to commitments. 

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In 2016, an article in Psychology Today referred to a study indicating a large percentage of elderly Americans have had hallucinations of their deceased partners while experiencing loneliness and isolation.   The article ends by noting "in the absence of actual human contact our brains may manufacture social experiences in an attempt to preserve our sanity."

To me, a regular still touch or Swedish massage through a wellness program would help reduce the social isolation.  By having a regularly scheduled visit, the impacts of social isolation would be minimized.  

In 2016, the International Journal of Older People Nursing, published, "Massage, a complementary therapy effectively promoting the health and well-being of older people in residential care settings", which focused on the possible benefits of massage for those living in assisted living-type facilities.   After looking at fourteen studies, the article points to evidence of massage enhancing the quality of life (i.e., health and well-being) for those living in these types of residences.  It specifically saw massage as having a positive impact on the following factors:

  1. Emotional Status
  2. Psychosocial health
  3. Pain
  4. Sleep
  5. Pharmacological intervention
  6. Necessity for restraint
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The article recommends using massage to promote health and well-being of those in residential care.  To me, the positive impact of massage on emotional status and psychological health directly aligns with reducing loneliness and social isolation.

When you consider your long term care arrangements, check and see if it includes massage services.  You'll gain many benefits when you schedule regular massages. 

How a Massage in Vienna Might Compare to a Washington, DC Offering

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When visiting a new-to-me city or country, I try to get a massage.  From the scheduling process to the closing of the session, I hope to find something unique during the experience to incorporate into my practice. 

The article "Air travel: effects of sleep deprivation and jet lag," presents some of the the side effects from crossing several time zones.  It mentions how jet lag impairs cognitive ability.  With this in mind, when I traveled recently to Vienna, Austria, I made an appointment for a massage to help combat jet lag.  The hotel's spa offered a variety of massage services; I selected the 60 minute "Be Well" service.

When I arrived 15 minutes before the start of the session, the therapist remarked on my early arrival then gave me a robe and slippers after walking with me to the locker room.  After changing, I returned to the lobby where the therapist ushered me to the softly lit treatment room furnished simply with a massage table, a comfy armchair and a floor lamp with shelving. 

Lobby in Fitness Center at the Vienna Marriott Hotel

Lobby in Fitness Center at the Vienna Marriott Hotel

The session proceeded as usual.  The therapist stepped out of the room while I got situated on the table.  After a few minutes, the therapist knocked at the door and asked for permission to enter the room.  She stepped into the room, adjusted the covering then initiated the massage. 

The massage session seemed very similar to a Swedish massage.  Lots of oil applied to my body before the therapist executed long, flowing strokes.  Most muscle groups received attention; my abdominal muscles, face, scalp and diaphragm were left untouched.  With minimal verbal communication, the session proceeded and succeeded in helping my muscles and mind relax into a deep sleep. 

At the end of the service, the therapist gently woke me from my slumber then left the treatment room. I slowly made my way back to the locker room.   I enjoyed the session and highly recommend the "Be Well" service.  The following week, I scheduled another "Be Well" session with a different therapist.  The second session with a male therapist  proceeded in the same manner as described above;  except, I arrived only five minutes before my appointment.

The following observations might be useful if you choose to visit a spa in Vienna:

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  • An intake process (i.e., therapist asking for your specific reason for getting a massage and any areas to avoid such as irritated skin) wasn't used.  The therapist conducted the massage based on the selected service without asking about my current health (e.g., injuries, medical conditions). 

 

  • I arrived early to complete the intake forms before the session began.  Unlike in the USA where spas ask you to arrive early to complete required forms (click here to read some reasons why intake forms are used), I wasn't given a health history form, a consent form or any other form to be completed. 

 

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  • In the Washington DC area, most massage tables are covered with sheets which are used to cover parts of your body which are not being addressed by the therapist.  For example, when the therapist is applying massage techniques to your arms, then your legs and midsection are usually covered with the sheet.  In Vienna, Austria, a bath towel was provided for covering my body.  The therapists generally used the same draping principles as used in the DC metro area with a smaller cloth. 
  • For me, music plays a major part in a massage session.  For this session, a music player - like a "boom box" appeared on a shelf; however, it wasn't emitting any sound.  When I asked for music, it was turned on.  Please remember to let your therapist know what you want in your session to make it more relaxing for you. 

These observations note differences in how massage services are offered in Vienna when compared to the DC metro area.  In my opinion, they underline the less litigious nature of the society (e.g., not required to complete numerous legal forms) and the reliance on the client to understand if they have conditions which are not suitable for massage and to communicate any concerns before the session begins.  If you're staying at the Vienna Marriott, I recommend their "Be Well" massage.

 

 

Source: https://journal.chestnet.org/article/S0012...

Why Sodium and Water Intake May not Reduce Muscle Cramps

Vastus medialis, or the "tear drop" muscle, is shown in red. 

Vastus medialis, or the "tear drop" muscle, is shown in red. 

A friend, who regularly runs several miles each week, experienced intense cramping along the "tear-drop" shaped muscle on the front of her thigh (the Vastus Medialis, a quadricep muscle).  She asked me for ways to lessen the chance of cramps recurring.  She mentioned increasing her waster and sodium intake before her runs and after them; unfortunately, this didn't prevent cramping. 

We talked about the quadriceps and how they enable or support certain movements (e.g., primarily extending and stabilizing the knee with one quadricep, Rectus femoris, playing a role in movements at the hip joint).  We also reviewed ways to stretch the quads. 

Later, her question led me to search for more evidence supporting a specific approach to avoiding muscle cramps.  In the journal, Sports Medicine - Open, I found a study comparing ultra marathoners (i.e., 161 km race runners) who experienced muscle cramps to those who did not. 

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The study considered water and sodium intake.  The results showed those with a history of muscle cramps were the ones who experienced muscle cramps during the race.  Although their water and sodium intake may have been comparable to those who did not experience cramps, the muscle cramps reoccured in persons who had previously experienced cramps.  

Sports Medicine - Open also has other research supporting this conclusion for those participating in ultra marathons which may take up to 30 hours to complete (e.g., "Sodium Intake During an Ultramarathon Does Not Prevent Muscle Cramping, Dehydration, Hyponatremia, or Nausea").  

An article, "Muscle Cramps and Diuretic Therapy," in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension focuses on muscle cramps which commonly occur in medical patients and particularly the elderly.  The article notes sometimes an electrolyte imbalance cannot be directly associated with cramps.  In these instances, stretching is recommended. 

Although it may not help with muscle cramps, I aim to drink at least 64 ounces of water daily because it helps on other physiological levels.  And I'm a big proponent of stretching, especially when you're asking your body to cover several miles each week.  I found Coach E's blog post,  "The Only 3 Quadricep Stretches You Need for Flexible Quads" to be very informative and effective.  

The stretches combined with increased awareness of how we use our quads may help prevent or reduce muscle cramps. 

 

Thumbnail image courtesy of Francesco Gallarotti

Source: https://sportsmedicine-open.springeropen.c...

Resist a Sedentary Lifestyle: Movement is Essential to Life

When temperatures soared above 80 degrees in the middle of April, the warm air prompted me to begin transitioning from heavy winter clothing to a Spring “capsule” wardrobe; the much needed essentials, or core, garments.   

Similar to having a wardrobe of essentials garments, human beings must be able to carry out essential or core functions to survive.  These essentials are: to be able to maintain boundaries, create movement, be responsive, digest, metabolize, excrete, reproduce and grow. Understanding each of these functions is essential, let's consider the ability to move. 

Most people have the ability to move in response to stimuli from internal or external forces.  We use our muscles which connect to bones to move our bodies from one location to another. We use movement to lift a cup of water to take a sip.  Movement is useful in chewing food to begin the digestion process which fuels our metabolism and promotes growth.  When we're unable to move, someone or something steps in to assist; such as a caregiver  or a mechanical device is used (e.g., a wheelchair, a prosthetic, braces ). 

Although intentional physical exercise is movement, sometimes movement does not require strenuous efforts. Our chests rise and fall as our lungs take in air and exhale; this sometimes imperceptible movement impacts our cardiovascular system as our capillaries respond to the air inhaled. Movement at the molecular level is simply amazing; as it happens automatically.  

Physical movement also aids in chemical and muscular changes in the body.  Moving your muscles helps blood circulate through your body and deliver nutrients.  

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In 2014, the Los  Angelos Times printed an article, "Sitting is the New Smoking- 7 Ways a Sedentary Lifestyle is Killing You," outlining the key points from an interview with Dr. James Levine, who at the time was the director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative.  He had completed research focused specifically on sitting anywhere for long periods of time.  He found prolonged sitting increased the risk of developing a variety of cancers and heart disease.  

The article continues to cite other research which underlines the irreversible effects of prolonged sitting.  The research shows if you do moderate or strenuous activity for a few hours during the week, you won't reduce the negative effects of sitting for an extended amount of time.  

The reason you can't remove the negative effects is related to your body being frozen or stalled. While seated, you use very few muscle movements to keep your body seated on a stable surface.  Because you're not moving, you are not stimulating other processes related to your metabolism (remember your metabolism is one of the core "pieces;" it is also essential to life.  

While other research points to fidgeting as being enough additional movement to stimulate metabolism, to me, the best way to avoid negative effects is to reduce the amount  of time spent sitting while working at a computer, watching a television screen, driving a vehicle, etc.  

As you think about the conveniences being offered through numerous apps and consumer services, remember to resist the sedentary lifestyles being promoted.   Try to keep movement a part of your daily regimen by choosing to walk to your co-worker's office, when the location permits, instead of sending an email or calling.  Choose to walk to the other side of the room and turn off the lights instead of asking a smart device to switch them off.  Find ways to incorporate more reasons to stand and step away from your chair, for example, consider a standing desk or placing your laptop on a higher surface so it is easier to use while standing.

For those who must sit for long hours before taking a break, try some of these exercises explained in this video by Dolvett Quince, The Biggest Loser Trainer, or this SELF sponsored video which can be used to create a ten minute workout at your desk. The exercises shown in the videos help those at home or in an office setting.  

If you have to drive for long hours (e.g., Lyft or Uber drivers, soccer moms) here's a Scania driver care video with directions for the obtaining the proper seated position when driving and exercises you might want to try while the vehicle is in motion. 

Maryland Readers: The Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Control is presenting "Be Active Maryland Conference" on May 23 at the University of Maryland in College Park.  The event is designed for those interested in "leading Maryland communities to a more physically active state to decrease health burdens." Free admission; follow link to register. 

Source: https://www.theactivetimes.com/sitting-new...

How to Reduce Neck and Shoulder Tension

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Before a massage therapy session begins, each client takes a few minutes to explain the specific areas to address during the session.  Most of my massage therapy clients ask for relief from neck and shoulder tension.  Holding the sides of their neck or gently touching the tops of their shoulders, they indicate where the tension resides.  

Muscle soreness in the neck and shoulders may appear after long hours spent using a computer screen; driving a car or truck on city streets, through neighborhoods or on interstate highways; or  slouching while reading or texting. The muscles may be strained from being held in the same position for a lengthy amount of time.  In September 1986, the New York Times published Daniel Goleman's article , "Relieving Stress: Mind Over Muscle", which noted how the electronic conveniences in the workplace reduced movement needed to accomplish assignments.  Since 1986, the modern day conveniences continue to increase with the introduction of mobile "apps" offering services which continue to decrease physical activity (e.g., apps to pick up and deliver groceries, meals, dry cleaning), the resulting increased muscle tension from less movement continues too.

At fibre, to help start relaxing these muscles before the session begins, each client is offered a heated shoulder wrap while participating in the foot bath ritual.  The foot bath ritual incorporates  a few relaxation techniques to help start the tension relief.  

When you have muscle tension in your neck and shoulders in-between therapeutic massage sessions, try some of the techniques recommended in Mr. Goleman's in article  or some of the steps listed here.  

Each step seeks to increase blood flow to the muscle tissue or to lengthen the muscle.  Treat your muscles gently during this time and avoid forcing the movements.

Let's start with an understanding of which muscles will be addressed; these may be experiencing tension.  In the  line drawing of the person with a hand on a tilted head, several neck muscles are identified along with the upper trapezius muscles which are predominately on your back.  

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The levartor scapulae, a back muscle, impacts the neck as it helps in maintaining posture and moving the arm.   The levator scapula helps keep your head from jutting too far forward by lifting your shoulder blade (your scapula).  

Three scalene muscles (posterior scalene isn't shown) are commonly referred to as the "scalenes" instead of naming each muscle individually. The scalenes help you flex your neck and they may be used to assist with breathing (i.e., perform as accessory muscles to respiration).  For someone in respiratory distress, the scalenes help raise the first and second rib which permits an increased volume in your lungs. 

To alleviate the pain, the first step is to introduce new movement in your neck and shoulder region.  

Step 1: Stand up or walk away from your computer screen.  If you're driving, pull into a rest area or park safely in a lot and step out of the vehicle. 

Step 2: Tense the muscles then relax them.  For example, shrug your shoulders in an exaggerated movement then let them drop.  Squeeze your shoulder blades together then release them.  You should feel the blood flow increasing through the muscles and they may begin to feel warmer. 

Step 3: With your right hand, grasp the muscles along the left side of your neck then squeeze gently.  Continue this motion down towards the top of your shoulder.  Repeat on the right side of your neck. 

Step 4: Use the fingertips to gently massage the same muscle tissue.  Use small circular motions and a moderate amount of pressure; avoid causing more pain.  

These steps combined with the techniques mentioned in NYTimes article will help reduce tension in your neck and shoulders.  

Source: https://www.verywell.com/levator-scapula-m...