Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tom Heals Mom?

My Mom is in the hospital with elevated ammonia levels caused by liver malfunction. I asked the ICU nurse today how we were supposed to know what appropriate food for her would be, upon her return home. His answer was that it wasn't too important to worry about, since the cause of this particular ammonia issue was internal bleeding, caused by an impaired liver digesting blood. Her diet is always important as a diabetic and more so now, with limited liver function. The doctor even mentioned the idea of getting a liver transplant.

According to Livestrong.com, "Since the liver plays such a large role in our body's functions, eating food to support it is critical."

That's for a normal health maintenance type of situation. Proactive healing of the liver will take at least 2 years to complete, according to this blog.

Cirrhosis of the liver is also a term being thrown around in regards to dear old mum. "To overcome these problems, drugs can only play a limited role that is mostly concerned with the control of symptoms. To treat the underlying causes we need to turn to the power of nutritional medicine."

Several sites have mentioned the harmfulness of artificial sweeteners to the liver as well as fatty meats. Both are regulars in mom's diet. Seems we need to boost her intake of fresh raw fruits and veggies for cleansing and easily assimilated, bioavailable, simple proteins. Bleeding Esophageal Varices, a symptom of advanced liver disease, caused the ammonia problem in the first place; increased roughage would probably irritate that problem. Which brings me to juice...because I'm kinda juice obsessed at the moment.

With fresh veggie juice, higher doses of diverse micronutrients can be absorbed quicker. A juice fast with limited fruits would be optimal to keep blood sugar under control. Kale has relatively high protein, which also helps stabilize blood sugar, and is an excellent cleanser. Thankfully it is the perfect season to go into a juice fast and I can use all my first hand experience to help.

For example, we stopped by the Land o Lakes Produce Market again today and grabbed a huge pile of veggies for about $30. I've been behind on my juicing and my craving was re-inspired by Mom's situation. These juicing pics show about one tenth of the produce we bought. If you take out the fruit, I estimate $30 would pay for about a week's worth of veg easily, or $4ish per day.

Beets, Lemon, Celery, and Cabbage were on several Liver Detox lists.
4 stalks celery, 1 whole beet, 2 peppers, half a small cabbage, 1 whole lemon, and bunch of cilantro.

All those veggies in about 3 glasses worth- took me about 30 minutes to drink casually.

Aside from raw veg, onions, garlic and red peppers are all highly beneficial to the liver and retain a lot of those properties when cooked (sulfur, for example). Cooked garlic and onions can make almost any veggie taste better and add a bunch of dimension. I'm tempted to go on the diet along with her for moral support...IF she would even consider drinking some beet juice every day.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Why Myofascial?

Frequently asked question #3 is What is Myofascial Release and Why do you do it?

Let me give you the text bookish answer to the "What is it?" part of the question first:

Myofascial Release is a hands-on, soft tissue therapy that provides sustained pressure into fascial restrictions along with slow, gentle stretching to eliminate pain, restore motion, and provide lasting flexibility.  

Fascia (aka connective tissue) is a very densely woven fibrous sheet that surrounds every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein as well as all of our internal organs including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord (think sausage casing- metaphor #1). 

It is not just a system of separate coverings. It is actually one structure that exists from head to foot without interruption. Each part of the entire body is connected to every other part by the fascia, a wetsuit underneath the skin, so to speak (metaphor #2).

 In the normal healthy state, the fascia is relaxed and has the ability to stretch and move without restriction (Think of fruit (organs and muscles) suspended in a warm Jell-o mold- metaphor #3).

When we experience physical trauma, intensive exertion, chronic stress, or scarring, however, the fascia loses its pliability; it becomes tighter, harder, more restricted, and calcifies over time- becoming painful and stiff (kinda like clay- metaphor #4 or Patrick Swayze's acting skills - metaphor #5).

So why do you care what your sausage-y, jello-ish, wetsuit-like body is doing during a massage?

Massage Therapy can reverse the hardening, painful process, returning the soft tissues to their healthy, relaxed, flexible state. Myofascial Release massage therapy techniques aim to release connective tissue restrictions in the body, and to break up any muscular adhesions.  It helps to relieve chronic tension, increase the body's range of motion, improve posture and enhance the entire body by targeting specific problem areas.

Why do you want Myofascial Release? 

It's slow and gentle yet deeply effective. Unlike painful, pokey, deep tissue massage modalities like Neuromuscular therapy, for example, MFR is about slow heat and pressure over time to re-adjust the soft tissue on the body as a whole structure. MFR is a massage based therapy which means it addresses the SOFT tissues, not bones, but it can greatly benefit skeletal mobility. 

Time, heat and pressure can move mountains (metaphor #6).

Why do I do it? 

Clients frequently get impressive and predictable results from these techniques. It's different from the gliding, oily, slippery Swedish Relaxation norm (MFR uses little or no oil usually). I can incorporate stretching techniques from other modalities while still applying MFR ideas in my head. It is a very tangible, medical/physiological/anatomy based perspective- meaning I can see it, feel it, and explain it with easy metaphors and examples (as opposed to something like Reiki which is energetic and less mechanically explainable). It fits my personality with the non-pushy, patient, warm, gentle approach. 

My exact use of Myofascial Release as a modality and how I mix it with other techniques is unique, as is every therapist's massage on any given day. I'm not specifically a John F. Barnes guy or a CORE Myofascial guy, but I believe John Barnes and George Kousaleos are absolutely ground breaking with their work in this modality. I'm not officially certified in any way. 

What training I have in MFR came from Pete Whitridge, LMT. He's another amazing teacher, healer, and role model.

The moral of this story is that I always approach soft tissue issues from a MFR perspective first, then adjust to the client's needs from that starting place.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why Massage Envy?

Continuing my FAQ series, I'm going to jump into one of the tough ones to get it out of the way:

Why do you work for Massage Envy?

Aren't they the Walmart of massage? Don't they undervalue the industry? Aren't you worth more than what they pay you? Do you like being an assembly line/sweat shop/Mcdonald's fry cook worker?

I hear a lot of complaints about Massage Envy as a company, from inside and out, so let me defend my employer for a few minutes...

I started at the Massage Envy clinic in Tallahassee (Bull Run) at the recommendation of a real estate agent who was helping us with our house. She was a friend of one of the owners. Kayla and I both interviewed for jobs, side by side in the Starbucks next door with the Therapist Manager and one of the Owners. I had worked for several types of massage establishments for more then 4 years prior to that interview. I worked poolside in a pop up tent at a resort by Port Canaveral. I worked in a medical clinic by Holmes Regional Medical Center (A hospital in Melbourne). I worked in a day spa in downtown Tallahassee. All of these had pros and cons and obviously the cons had outweighed the pros in each situation, because I was still looking for an outlet for my massage skills. Both of us had solid resumes and easily passed the practical portion of the interview.

From day one, I was impressed with the organization. The strip center was in a good location and had been well planned and researched by the corporate folks before the franchise was signed over to the owners. There were rules about what other businesses could be their neighbors. Each room's dimensions and decorations were laid out in the rulebook. Everything felt clean and simple, like a medical clinic setting, but also comfortable and relaxing, like a spa type setting.

Kayla and I had tried briefly to start our own establishment in one of the cottages at Lake Ella in Tallahassee. That venture fell apart for a number of reasons, but the moral of the story was that we could not have made a setting for massage, on our own, that was anywhere close to the standard that Massage Envy had established.

She was in school and I worked full time for the state. We needed a boost in our income from part time jobs. Massage Envy was perfect for that need. We didn't have to do sheets in our free time. We didn't have to call anybody or handle money or make bank deposits. We didn't have to have wildly variable schedules because the clinic was used to working with the many college students/LMT's they had working. The owner told us what the minimum requirement was (10 hours a week I think) and we agreed happily.

About a year passed and the owners at that clinic had a falling out- it was two married couples and one of the pairs bailed. It happened to be the guy I liked who left, but that wasn't really important to my daily life. Kayla and I started an event planning company during her senior year of school and I needed to cut back my workweek to something less than 50 hours to accommodate my part in the new company. My full time with benefits state job wasn't going to be the one to go, so I left Massage Envy- honestly a bit disgruntled, but only because of personality conflicts with the remaining owner who was in over his head now that his partner had abandoned him.

Overall it had been a highly satisfying, Godsend of a job. I met some outstanding people who really supported me and helped me grow as a therapist- clients and co-workers alike. Most of my Facebook friends are still affiliated with Massage Envy clinics or I met them at one. As a company and a business model- it was absolutely beneficial to my wife and me.

When Kayla finished school and we planned to move to Tampa for her to pursue a seemingly perfect job in her field, I started job hunting in Tampa. Being a highly experienced and extraordinarily nerdy social work techie was great for a dude who lived in the state's capital, but getting a job anywhere else was next to impossible. I also had massage as a backup plan and had done some due diligence in job hunting with my alter ego's resume.

Nobody in Tampa would talk to me about massage. My experience, rock solid resume, diverse training, and outright natural talent never made it past the initial question of whether I had a penis or not! I called, I emailed, I kept scouring Craigslist and newspapers and finally went right up the road to Massage Envy in Lutz. I dropped off my resume, telling the manager that I had prior Massage Envy experience, and she asked when I could work.

I admit I was a little disappointed that I was back at the same exact company I had left, since I was actually pursuing massage as a full time career now, with no other jobs, I was hoping for more money, professional respect, or something. My first day was May 20th- the beginning of Summer, the dreaded "Slow Season." Sure, I was spending a couple hours a day in the breakroom- getting plenty of reading done- but I was also building up regular requests at a steady pace. The policy of Massage Envy call takers is to offer male therapists first whenever possible to help offset the bias of stereotypes.

To make a long story short, Massage Envy's model came to the rescue a second time in my life. I showed up, they kept me busy, I went home with some cash and knew a paycheck was on the way on an exact date. I still didn't have to wash any laundry or call any people or drive all over the county- pretty good gig in my opinion.

So a quick rundown of why I love working for Massage Envy:

The male therapist first policy not only levels the playing field, it's far more progressive than all the potential employers who saw me as unhireable.

They pay other people to answer phones, do laundry, take out the trash, wash toilets, and handle money.

The pay may be on the low end, but the overhead they provide is worth it to me- I know the owners of my clinic aren't getting rich quick by standing on my back- the economics just don't support that cynicism. Have YOU ever tried to lease a credit card reader and the service plan from a bank?

Because it's a franchise, clients from out of town know what to expect.

I meet all kinds of clients and other therapists who I would never have access to through my own marketing and networking efforts.

Did I mention the MARKETING? They have this ridiculously effective marketing machine- it's why I don't make 70% commission, but I don't have to stand by the road in a funny suit and wave a sign either! Have YOU ever done market research?

The membership plan is affordable, easy to understand, and allows people to get regular therapy at a good price. My goal in life is to heal people, not to come up with package deals and price structures. This is as plug and play as I can get in this industry and IT WORKS. Repeat clients who make real progress in their journey because of the system Massage Envy offers- why does that bother so many people???

Inexpensive massage for me. I learn something every time I get a massage. Every time. $25 for an hour massage and I get to chose from several therapists I respect and know I will benefit from. That's awesome.

One more thing to wrap this up...

The question of undervaluing the massage industry. Don't kill the messenger- Massage Envy Corporate figured out what the market in this economy could bear and put it into action. Don't get mad that they're successful at bringing affordable massage to as many people as possible- way more than all the mom and pop massage establishments could serve, with consistency and limited liability. Overall they are a good thing for the industry.

"I didn't sell out Stevo, I bought in..." -Christopher McDonald as Stevo's Dad in SLC Punk

Before and Before Pics

June 2010
 I've been trying to find good before and after pictures because a picture is worth a thousand words. This pic is of Kayla and me at our going away from Tallahassee lunch at the Red Elephant. This is a clear vision of how pudgy I was. 5 years of sitting at a desk and eating super sugary cake at least weekly for whatever office party was happening. It's not that I've ever felt grossly obese or anything...what's more important to me is that I couldn't do the things I wanted to do without getting winded. I was also really moody all the time from blood sugar fluctuations, which I didn't know until well after the fact.

August 2010
August 2010
People talk about yo-yo dieting and having clothes which only fit part of the year, or every few years. I had a strong resolve once we moved to Tampa to get more active- hence adopting our greyhound mix puppy ensure that I would have to keep moving. This was the morning after we brought her home from the pound. A quick walk around the block was all I could manage, especially in the summer humidity. It struck me that I had to buy size Extra Large workout clothes so I could get down to a 
Medium body. That particular combination of brainwaves had never occurred to me before.

 My maternal grandfather passed away at the age of 72 when I was almost 7 years old.  I have been told that I look exactly like him in a lot of ways. In these two pictures with Peanut, I see his face looking back at me- what I remember of him with advanced diabetes and 40 more years of age. He was a good looking guy, but I prefer to look like the comparably aged version, instead of the unhealthy version.

Frequently Asked Questions

It's always funny to me when websites have a FAQ section that sounds completely contrived, as if nobody has ever actually asked a question. Through my 8 years of massage therapy practice, I have encountered several frequent questions that I still don't have clear answers for, at least during a short conversation with a new client. So now, here, I intend to flesh out some of my answers to explain how I got where I am today.

"How did you get into massage therapy?"

My first exposure to any type of massage therapy was when I was 16 years old and started dating my 1st girlfriend. I met Girlfriend through my older sister's college bible study group at our church where we were very active. Girlfriend was 19 years old. She had read some books about massage techniques and we "practiced" on each other to be affectionate and intimate, in lieu of more typical sex oriented teenage behavior. After 3 months of that I was hooked- perhaps for some of the wrong reasons, but definitely hooked on the idea that massage was more than a collection of techniques.

Aside from being in the marching band at whatever college I went to, I had no clear direction for a lifelong career to pursue. I liked University of Central Florida for several reasons (especially the Marching Knights), applied, was accepted and started looking at majors. Physical therapy was the only thing that answered my interest in bodywork but there was a 2 year waiting period to get into the program and my high school experience was too heavily weighted in band classes to compete with the math and science types who were trying to decide between pre-med and PT at UCF, so I marked it off the list in about 5 minutes. I chose Psychology because it was easy for me, there was a tiny spark of interest and the one positive thing anyone said about it was that it was a good choice for an undecided major to get pre-req's out of the way.

Psychology lead me to Criminology to correspond to my job as a police dispatcher and potential career in law enforcement one day. I knew the guys who had a bachelor's degree made a bit more money than the 19 year olds who left high school and went straight to the academy, so I took full advantage of the PD's tuition reimbursement program and aimed my sights at police work. When 9/11 happened, while I was sitting in a Psychology class having been up all the night before on midnight shift, I discovered just how insane police work could become. Our tiny little unrelated city in Florida got racist, paranoid, and irrational in a matter of hours and it stayed that way until I left a year and a half later. I was already burned out on studying the criminal mind. That combined with working 50+ hours a week in a high stress job BEFORE anyone would have a reason to shoot at me, lead me to the other end of the spectrum of public service. 

Massage is a job in a softly lit room with as few noisy distractions as possible. Massage is a job that helps people cope with their stress and builds health in a positive way. Police work, as I saw my ability to participate in it at that time and place, was high stress, high risk, and largely ineffective at helping anybody. The one good thing about frequent, mandatory, overtime as a police and fire dispatcher is BIG paychecks. As a single dude living with my parents at 21 years old, my bills were nominal and my bank account was swollen with money I had no time to spend.

I took my money and paid for massage school at Space Coast Health Institute in West Melbourne, out right. After the first 6 months of school, I quit my PD job and finished the last 6 months. Then I focused on my new career full time. There are certainly no regrets about my Psychology schooling or my experiences at Cocoa PD. Every bit of those experiences progressed me into the therapist I am today.

Perspective is extremely valuable to me and I sincerely believe God has put me in each job I've had and introduced me to each important person in my life to enhance my world view, to become a more effective healer.