Monday, December 23, 2013

Massage Recipes
I was talking to a client yesterday about teaching and training other therapists. She is a nurse who has trained countless other nurses in several settings. She was telling me that I have a very knowledgeable, confident, knowing touch which is hard to translate when teaching others the same techniques. She equated it to recipes. She has a saying, as a Southern Grandmother, "You can give away a recipe, but you can't give away the flavor."

That was an interesting and very true analogy. The reason I use so many metaphors when I educate my colleagues and my clients, is to give more depth to exactly how, where, and why I use the specific techniques that I do. I love Alton Brown, the Food Network star of Good Eats, Feasting on Asphalt, and currently Cut-throat Kitchen. He doesn't just perform recipes on the screen, he gives some science, some personal experience, and some creative alternatives to conventional methods. He has some standard rules like "Organization will set you free" and "Don't buy a Uni-tasker." I have some massage rules like "Slower is better" and "Stretch it before you Poke it." If I can become a true educator, like Chef Brown, I feel that I can convey the techniques with enough depth to "Give away the flavor." 

How Much Water Should I Drink After a Massage?

I worked on a client the other day who frequents our clinic, but who I have only seen a couple of times over the past couple of years. He is a particularly inquisitive client and likes to get each different therapist's unique perspective on his situation, by asking thoughtful questions throughout the massage. I like his questions, because I feel that he takes advantage of my hands and my brain, which keeps me more mentally engaged in his needs in that session.
When leaving this last time, he asked me, "How much water should I drink after a massage?" I have several stock answers, because it's a common question, but my most common answer is "The most important thing is to stay well hydrated all the time. One half your body weight in ounces- for example, if you weigh 100 pounds, drink 50 ounces of water daily, to maintain normal hydration. Then, drink a bit more, like you've had a good workout, to minimize soreness from the massage."

Hydration is very subjective, however. My inquisitive client got me thinking. Staying hydrated all the time is the key. It's just like sleeping habits. If I only sleep 4-5 hours a night with ambient noise and light, most nights, then sleeping 12 hours on the weekend days isn't going to help much. I get clients who come in with a gallon jug of water and start chugging as soon as they stand up from the table. If they are primarily drinking diet soda and coffee most days, and only have a little bit of water daily, that gallon after the massage is an extreme change. The body doesn't handle extreme changes well. The body prefers consistent, well balanced habits. The gallon chugger probably isn't going to hurt himself, if he is already well hydrated from consistent intake of clean water as a daily practice.So, like getting a good night's sleep regularly, staying hydrated consistently will keep the body functioning optimally before, during, and after the massage.

Check out this nifty Water Intake Calculator with several unit conversions.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Fascia-ism vs. Fascism

I try not to be a massage fascist. A therapist can't force a muscle or tissue to do something it doesn't want to do. That's why I like "Fascia-ism." Myofascial release allows the body to respond the way it wants to, at its own pace, while the therapist gives guidance and direction as to what a positive course of action would be for the body.

Some therapists get caught up in working out the knots, by any means necessary. Gouging elbows into sensitive, over stretched, over worked, already achy muscles is not comfortable for the client and sometimes produces muscular rebellion- burning, spasm, bruising, tightening, or soreness. I prefer the passive aggressive approach of MFR, because if the body doesn't want to do it my way, I can adjust my technique and approach from a different angle or change some other variable, like adding more heat or creating movement in a tissue by stretching.

Clients seem to respond well to a balanced approach combining direct, assertive neuromuscular techniques and passive aggressive, more forgiving techniques like myofascial release and thermal therapy. It is both physical and mental- nobody likes to be forced into something they don't want to do. Mentally they have to know that the more aggressive techniques are meant to benefit them before they can accept them physically. That is where clear communication from the therapist is vital. Education of the client grows more and more important as the bodywork is more and more intense.

Finding the perfect balance of your exercise routine is the key to perfect health

Neuro-Muscular Massage and Kenny G's World Record

In my senior year of high school, I was REALLY into band. I was the drum major of the marching band. I was a flute player in the top concert band and a bari sax player in the top jazz band. I also had a teacher aide period in the band room where I could conduct the freshman concert band class and finally, I took music theory one term. Needless to say, I became very close to my band director, the late Marvin Bates. He was a huge believer in the concept that music has to sound good, or nobody wants to hear it. There are plenty of musicians with loads of technical skill and knowledge of music theory, but that does not mean that they will sell very many records.

Kenny G, for example, can do some amazing things with a soprano saxophone, but I don't want to hear any of them. He holds the Guinness Book of World Records record for holding the longest continuous note, by using circular breathing. His record is 45 minutes and 47 seconds- truly amazing, and truly irritating to listen to.

Neuromuscular massage can be like Kenny G.

I prefer, generally speaking, to use Myofascial release techniques first and more regularly than NMT, because it's "Warm and golden like an oven that's wide open" as the band Cake describes in Commissioning a Symphony in C. Good music is inviting, warm, gentle and enveloping. Good massage should have similar qualities. If it doesn't feel good, nobody wants to feel it. Neuromuscular is technical, direct, and reliable to produce helpful results to clients, but it doesn't always feel good. I like to sandwich it in between stretching, fascia techniques, thermal therapy, and reflexology, to add a more cozy dimension.

There is this adorable commercial I keep seeing lately where a penguin has its foot "Smoooshed" in a cupcake. Myofascial is more Smooooshy than Neuro-muscular, which is pokey. I want to start at Smooooshy and work from there. Again, Neuromuscular is a valuable tool in the massage toolbox, just not the most useful by itself, to keep clients feeling good while receiving therapeutic, problem solving bodywork. A best-selling therapist will be one who knows the theory of neuromuscular therapy and can apply it in a pleasing way.

Neuro-Muscular Massage and GeoCaching

The first time I went Geocaching was with my wife and her brother in Boston, Mass. Having only been to the city once before, I was tied to my GPS and route maps for the "T" - the local train.  When going on a scavenger hunt, a map will only get you so far. Once you get to the site, or GPS coordinates, you have to think smaller, more direct, less general. For example, we went to a sidewalk in the middle of a hill. It overlooked a fenced in basketball court at the bottom and a back door of an old brick building at the top. There were several big rocks piled on top of each other on the hill that we could climb on. There was a park bench. There was a small stone wall to one side. There was a tree and some flower beds on the other side. The GPS got us there, but then we had to start looking for things that were out of place. We had to pick up rocks and feel under the bench seat. We had to check window sills and bird baths to find what we were looking for.

I treat massage therapy in much the same way. My initial interview with a client is a general road map. They may say, I have pain in my hip and down my leg. That gets me in the right neighborhood. Followed up with some quick assessment, like leg length or range of motion testing, I can get to the right street. I follow that with hands on MyoFascial work like fascia fists or general drags to further assess movement, adhesion, and postural patterns. That gets me to the right property on the right street in the right neighborhood. Then finally, I get to Neuromuscular Therapy. I have to poke around until I find the trigger points on exactly the right muscle. Every step is important and I can't skip straight to NMT or I would spend way too much time with too small of a tool for the job. I would also wear out my fingers by doing trigger point work through muscles which haven't been warmed up, stretched, or softened in some other way.

Neuromuscular therapy is one tool of many that should be used cohesively to provide lasting results with massage therapy.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Painful Massage

Yesterday I had a regular client who is challenged by severe migraines, fibromyalgia, low back pain, and TMJD. Her sister, who has an integrative health degree, has been counseling her on the use of juices and supplementation of vital nutrients, such as magnesium. The nutritional therapy is giving her significant relief. Her goal is to ultimately stop taking meds for fibromyalgia. As she weans from the meds, she feels overall achy-ness, but not specific pain. This is all new to her and therefore new to me, as she relates her health changes during the intake interview. So she says to me, "You've never hurt me before, so just do whatever you do to your less picky clients."

I get some clients who believe that if a massage doesn't hurt, they didn't get their money's worth. Others, come in with pain, and do not want it beaten out of them. This client yesterday never wants to feel pain from a massage. I never want to deliver pain to my clients, especially the really sweet ladies with debilitating migraines.
My high school band director was a big proponent of "Sounding Good." He would say that playing highly technical and difficult music won't matter, if it doesn't sound good. If nobody wants to hear it, why are we going to play it? The band as a whole has to sound good- balanced, warm, accessible.

I take that philosophy into my massage practice. If it doesn't feel good, at least in some way, all of my technical, nerdy skills won't matter. If I can warm up the tissue (hot towels, hot stones, Prossage, heating pads) and stretch the problem area gently instead of bashing it with my elbows, that's what I'm going to do. I guess I'm passive aggressive that way. 

Photo courtesy of ABMP

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What is Myoskeletal Alignment Therapy?

Now that I've finished the first level of training for Erik Dalton's Myoskeletal Alignment Therapy from the Freedom from Pain Institute, I find a need to explain what the heck that means to people. Until a year ago, I had never heard of that specific massage modality and have only heard of it since when I have specifically searched for it myself. I don't foresee anyone asking for it by name anytime soon.

I chose the class because of Dalton's reputation for scholarly, research based, results based live seminars and his many years of experience developing and practicing these techniques. Myoskeletal Alignment Therapy (MAT) is the system he developed.

If you go to a Certified Myoskeletal Alignment Therapist for a massage treatment, you should expect a methodical, well planned, deep tissue massage that aims to create muscular balance and optimal movement in the body. As a "Posture and Pain Specialist" I would focus more specifically on the muscles of the spine to create comfortable mobility in the hips, sacrum, lumbar (low back), thoracic (mid-back), and cervical (neck) areas. The techniques are targeted to very specific needs, unlike other massage modalities that aim to be symmetrical and all-inclusive. MAT is also not going to chase the pain- meaning that treatment may be in an unexpected area to fix a larger issue. For example, the Psoas, Quads and Adductors of the leg may need attention when the symptomatic pain is in the low back. A MAT therapist will work out the areas that will get the results, not just temporarily soothe the painful low back.

Clearly, as a massage therapist, I do not manipulate the bones directly and do not expect to "crack" backs, like a Chiropractor or Orthopedist. But a Myoskeletal treatment should complement the work of those other professionals. The techniques do involve direct pressure on the muscles directly on and around the vertebrae, so the feel of receiving the treatment may be more similar to a DC adjustment than a typical massage feel- nothing like Swedish massage.

It will typically take several treatments, within a plan developed individually, depending on each client's needs, to get lasting results. Aside from my obvious bias to sell my new skill, I really believe these are powerful, meaningful techniques which have already brought significant healing to several of my clients.

Here is an example of the treatment protocol for head forward posture:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

CMAT: Posture and Pain Specialist


I've been working on this material for over a year now and am happy to report that I have passed the test and received my official certification. It's funny that I feel even more confident in using these techniques in  my daily practice, now that I have a piece of paper to back me up. I will be doing a video soon with my specific thoughts on the class and how it has helped me.

Overall it was well worth the money, because I believe it is valuable knowledge that directly helps my clients in ways I could not help them before. I also get my name on another online directory of massage therapists- we'll see if that generates any traffic- another topic for the video review of the class.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fourth and Goal

Fourth quarter of the year so I thought it was about time to checkup on my list of goals...

I've had to drastically alter some things, such as moving to Tennessee, which was going to happen in August. I'm in Tampa for another year, at least. My wife lives with me again and our stress level about the housing situation is hugely improved by our move from Land o Lakes to Tampa. That was mainly due to landlord issues that were beyond our control, unless we completely separated ourselves from the situation, which we did. Lowered stress level is a significant improvement for our health, so while I could not have planned on it specifically on a list of goals, the final result is a step in a healthful direction.

Driving one of these Big Boy Trucks
The move was hard work in terms of physical labor, but thankfully, I'm as healthy as I have ever been during a move, so it was a nice pat on my back to feel fine- even after several strenuous days. I was careful to eat bananas, drink plenty of water, and to pace myself all along the way. Surprisingly, the big increase in driving during the moving week seemed to fatigue me more than the actual heavy lifting. I got a 90 minute massage at the end of our moving week which helped me sleep better, even on an inflatable mattress, and greatly minimized soreness. Massage really works!

My main personal goals on the official list were re-connection with the Wife and regular Bible study. Having my wife move back in with me after 3 months out of state obviously helped our relationship. As soon as she got back, we started prepping for the move, which took most of my waking time away from work. I have read very little of anything lately, especially my Bible. Hopefully my spiritual journey will resume after my earthly journey calms down a bit. We have several churches to try based on several recommendations from friends and family. Finding a church home will strengthen the Wife relationship as well.

This is what I use- not fishy at all. 
Physical goals were very diet and nutrition oriented: More veg, less meat, low fat and low processed sugar, about 50% raw whole foods, less caffeine, and eat or drink leafy greens daily. I did great when I was on my own- lost some weight, felt great, awesome digestion, clear skin. As is the story of my married life, as soon as I get in a good diet routine, we end up really broke and can't afford the optimal food choices. If nothing else, I am certain to eat plenty of bananas and leafy greens. I've learned that about myself- that I miss those when I don't eat them. I've also added spirulina to my smoothie regimen, which is amazing nutrition for the price.
Pic from

Also on the physical list were Run 5k in 30 minutes by May and sleep more. Running will resume very soon, now that we are in a more pedestrian friendly neighborhood with good lighting at night. The distance and stop watch times are nowhere near what I had planned, but I don't feel like crap when I do run short sprints with the dog, so I'm not too concerned about picking up the routine again.

More, better sleep is also more attainable in our new home, for many reasons. The main thing I've learned from this goal setting exercise this year, in terms of sleep, is how to notice in myself when I need to get more sleep- more awareness of  how I feel, with or without quality sleep time.

Long story short, my goal setting has made me more aware of these aspects of my health - I pay attention to them more, whether I meet the goals or not.

10 Year Old Massage Therapist

Happy Folding Sheets in 2003
As I sneak up on my 10th anniversary as a licensed massage therapist in the state of Florida, I've been thinking about the beginning of my career frequently, lately. My first year with a license had me running all over Brevard County doing independent contracts for several resorts along the coast. During that year, I met the woman of my dreams, a massage therapist as well, and got engaged. Once we got married and moved to Tallahassee for her to attend FSU, I got sidetracked from my massage career while I worked for the Department of Children and Families using a completely different skill-set. 5 years later, we moved to Tampa and I started full time as a massage therapist again. During these 3 and a half years in Tampa, I feel like I've grown, developed, evolved, and blossomed as a massage therapist.

Also lately, I've been thinking about the business/entrepreneurial side of my career much more. I recently read a Lifehacker article about personal branding for introverts (like me). It spoke of the advantage we have in forums like blogging and social networking in terms of focusing our alone time to find a voice that resonates with a larger audience- as opposed to an extrovert who is handshaking at live events giving out one business card at a time along with a 3 minute sales pitch to only a couple of people.

In my 10 year career, my brand has changed many times to fit the establishment I was working for. When I try to do something independent with a private client, I feel like I'm carrying over whatever "product" I sell at the establishment. That works really well, now that I'm a Massage Envy guy, since they are trying to be as accessible as possible to as many customers as possible.

All that being said, it turns out that this blog is exactly my chosen route to finding my personal brand. What sets me apart as a therapist in this very competitive market, is the extra mile of nerdiness that I revel in. Every book, documentary, seminar, scholarly journal and newspaper article I consume that can tie into health, wellness, and massage, helps to define who Tom Maxson, LMT really is. Once I can write down the important pieces of those information sources and apply it to either my health or a client's health, I consider it to be properly assimilated into my arsenal of healing tools. Better yet, I can share that with the world, thanks to the blogosphere, and help even more people than one at a time.

To wrap this up, I also want to mention how grateful I am to still feel child-like in my awe of the human body and its healing processes. Hence the "10 Year Old" wording in the title. The more I learn, the more I want to learn. I hope to never lose that.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mrs. R Case Study 1 Year Anniversary

Here are some notes about Mrs. R, how she's doing after a year of my treatments, and how I'm integrating several modalities and perspectives into her care.

Overall, I feel like I've been helping her tread water for a year, with no significant forward motion, but we are both grateful to each other for the experience and learning that has occurred.

Prior Blog Posts about Mrs. R

The technique I mentioned in the video- good for drivers- I started my upper hand lower than is shown in this pic. 

From Bodyworker Seminars Deep Tissue Therapy Class

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Cranial Sacral Therapy Classy Thoughts

I took a Cranial Sacral Therapy class today from Bodyworker Seminars. Heath and Nicole Reed were extremely knowledgeable and generous with their expertise. I highly recommend them if you get a chance to work with them- I certainly intend to keep in touch with this amazingly talented pair of educators.

Into the Deep End of CE's

I took a continuing education class called Deep Tissue Therapy from Heath and Nicole Reed at Bodyworker Seminars. Here is my video review of the class:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Moderation Mods

I just watched this video: Why Deficient Raw Vegans Become Meat Eaters

It was perfectly timed for me because I've been thinking the same thing lately, "Why don't I eat meat in moderation to balance out my diet?" The overarching theme of the video was that meat is never the answer because it creates more problems than it solves. Most (if not all) deficiencies come from dietary imbalance, not lack of animal products.

They discussed cravings for certain specific components like salt, iron, protein, and fats. They suggest swinging your pendulum back from a restrictive, raw vegan, super low fat diet to a moderate vegan diet including some cooked beans and lentils, to balance out the overeating of fruits. One of the misconceptions I personally can see coming from the 80/10/10 diets touted on YouTube would be the amount of leafy greens these folks are eating. They're so busy using the shock value of "30 Bananas a Day" to get our attention, that they don't mention how amazing it would be for most Americans to simply switch to Vegan diets of any combination.

In this video, I really enjoyed that they frequently clarified that the same diet does not work for everybody. Some people can't handle grains and some people can't handle soy. The secret is to find what works for you and don't beat yourself up over cooking foods that still have vast nutritional value, with the goal of maintaining a label of 'Raw Foodie'.

For me, I'm already cooking at least one meal per day and I'm re-energized to balance out my diet with more than bananas. Lately, I've been eating (drinking) a green smoothie for breakfast with about 2 cups of kale or turnip greens, some berries, ground flaxseed, and some chia seeds. Lunch has been cooked potatoes with fresh herbs but no fat OR veggie fajitas. Other meals are bananas by the bunch with an occasional apple or handful of almonds thrown in.

My concern was getting enough calories and how to add some calories without using grains too heavily. I like the raw vegan approach that you have to eat large portions, because I like to eat. I've never been consistent in eating a big leafy green salad every day, but with my Nutribullet, I get plenty of greens first thing. not feeling bad about cooked foods is going to really give me more options. Thanks for the clarity, guys. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Best Goals of 2013

Since my last post was about goal setting and how to achieve them, I want to update blog world on my goals and how they're going. The last post was also kind of new years inspired and I have been remarkably focused on maintaining my forward motion in achieving those goals.

I have a list of my goals in a word document on my desktop. Since I am so OCD about icons on my screen, it really sticks out, which is good to remind me to click it every time I sit down to the computer to rot my brain checking Facebook. There are four categories: Personal, Physical, Professional, Financial; in that order. Personal comes first because God comes first in my life. Daily Bible study is #1. If I do nothing else in a day, I should spend at least a few minutes making sure my heart and soul are in the right place for everything else I do. Tuning into the Holy Spirit while reading and praying has kept me grounded during some very difficult weeks lately. This blog, falls at the end of my personal list, after "Read 1 book every 14 days." The blog is here to help me document what I'm reading (if it pertains to anything health related, which most of my reading does), so one goal feeds into the other.

Physical goals seem to fit here most appropriately, so let's focus on those.

1. More Veg, Less Meat
My wife is on an extended out of state work assignment, so I have absolute control over my diet with no funny looks or commentary. After she left, I finished eating whatever meat was fresh in the house, but have not purchased any more. I really haven't missed it because I've been loading up my day with plenty of calories in raw fruit form.

2.Low Fat, Low Processed Sugar, Low Salt
After Forks Over Knives, Food Matters, and several other collections of experts have explained how fat intake directly affects insulin resistance and how toxic refined sugar is, I'm very motivated to keep these items in acceptable levels. Again, after the wifey left, I cleared out the fridge of everything that didn't fit the right nutritional criteria and only bought produce.  I'm not a huge salt fan anyway, but I still have to keep an eye out for packed products and sauces.

3. Raw Whole Foods (50%)
I'm not sure why I am aiming at 50% and I'm not keeping track too much. I eat about 1 cooked meal per day, more due to convenience of munching on fruit like bananas and drinking my smoothies, than because of a Raw vs. Cooked ratio. If I had to guess, I'm probably higher than 50% and I'm happy with that.

4. Decaf All Year
I sometimes swing back towards regular coffee and that habit always makes me miserable for several days when I adjust back down. I'm also incorporating Green Tea into my warm beverage repertoire for its health benefits.
5. More Sleep
It's hard to find any health advice that doesn't include getting at least 8 hours of consistent, uninterrupted sleep per night. It's important for detoxing, hormone function, brain function, memory, athletic prowess, mood, and metabolism, to name a few. I have a habit of staying up late watching YouTube videos and not getting to sleep until 2am. Then my dog wakes me up at 8am to go out, so I never get back to sleep for the remaining 2 hours. Since my wife is an hour behind me, our Skype time is perfect for me to get to bed at a decent time right after we finish chatting- as long as I keep doing that, life is good.

6. Green Smoothie Daily
I got a Nutribullet blender for my birthday. The age-ometer clicked up to 33 on February 5th and I've used the blender everyday, usually twice a day, since then. I had never heard of them before, but my wife saw it on HSN and said it was perfect for me. I watched the video and was hooked instantly. I really don't like leafy greens in the Breville juicer and the Breville isn't very good at extracting the juice. The Nutribullet, however annihilates the greens and keeps the fiber intact- best of both worlds. The infomercial is cheesy, but the device lives up to the hype. The greens combined with fresh fruit in the "Nutriblast" smoothies give me about 6 extra servings of fruit and veg a day, that I was not getting before.

7. Run 5k in 30 minutes by May
I know I talk about running all the time with my clients and in this blog. I got back out on the track a couple days ago and felt great. I ran/walked about 1.5 miles and kept a decent pace during the running portions for much longer than I've ever done before. I attribute that to the low fat, low salt, and high fruit intake. The day before that, I was sprinting around the yard, playing with the dog, and I noticed how powerful I felt- like I was really connecting with the ground and had power to spare. That was mind-blowing because I haven't done ANY exercise for months, aside from massage work.

8. Memorization Skills
My studies of Dr. Daniel Amen's books and some other neuroscience books lately have lead me to pursue bulking up my brain muscles. Memory can be greatly improved with proper nutrition, practice, and method. Some of my other goals in all categories include memory boosters disguised as quantifiable skills such as, playing and singing 30 minutes of acoustic guitar, memorizing the Gospel of John, and finishing my Erik Dalton Myoskeletal Alignment Certification. All are quite tangible, I believe, using what I've learned in the 1 book every 14 days I've been reading. 

Overall I am happy with my accomplishments so far and will probably keep adjusting the big list every few months.