From sitting at a desk all day and active wear-and-tear to heavy-lifting and unexpected tweaks, we’ve all experienced some degree of muscle, joint, and body pain. In an effort to help you relieve it, our massage therapists share their five top tips.
Your spa day won’t be complete without receiving a luxurious massage at the hands of one of our amazing massage therapists. Let’s meet this talented bunch.
“It is gravity that is the tool; it is gravity that is the therapist.”
— Dr. Ida Rolf
What is Rolfing?
Rolfing is sophisticated system of manual therapy and movement education that — over a series of sessions — help restore and improve structural alignment and functional movement. From this treatment, clients enjoy improved uprightness and range of motion. Many have reported that they experience an increase in energy, ease, and lightness within the body. In a way, it’s a life hack to better performance and quality of life.
Is Rolfing painful?
Rolfing can and does get more intense; though, many usually described it as a “good” pain. It’s important that the Rolfing massage therapist know how much intensity the client’s nervous system can accommodate in order for this treatment to remain safe and effective. Some Rolfers are known for the white-light pain they cause. I am not that kind of Rolfer, but I do understand that this may be what some clients want and expect. Regardless, the experience differs quite a bit from massage, but still feels good for the most part. Furthermore, every intervention has a purpose — structurally or relationally — it’s not random.
How does a Rolfing series work ?
Most Rolfers model sessions to follow one another in a progressive and thorough series. Traditional Rolfers tailor a Ten Series to meet their client’s needs. Each session may have its own goal, but this series will ultimately aim to align your body vertically within gravity. Many of us believe that it is gravity and its effect on our structure and nervous system that produces the incredible effects of Rolfing.
The story of Rolfing is inseparable from its founder. In the 1920s, Dr. Ida P. Rolf began working as an associate in the chemistry labs at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York City. There, she first began to study fascia. Fascia is the archetypical representation of our bodies’ connective tissue and is the basis of Dr. Rolf’s work.
Later in life, she began remarking on body’s plastic nature, its ubiquity, and its tensile strength. During her study, she found she could elicit astounding changes in posture, function, and stress. During the 1960s, Dr. Rolf was invited to demonstrate her work at Esalen Institute, where she codified her work into a teachable body of craft that she called Structural Integration. Her students and clients called it ‘Rolfing.’ In 1971, she left Esalen and established the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration in Boulder, Colorado where students could learn to become Rolfers.
What are the benefits of Rolfing?
Rolfing is good for people too healthy to receive a diagnosis from a doctor, but not quite as vital as they would desire. It can delay surgeries and it can help people recover faster from surgery. It makes an excellent support for people making a fresh start, people beginning a new fitness regime, or even a new commitment to mental health. It is good for feeling a little younger — for personal “spring cleaning.” It simply helps people to realign themselves in gravity. Obstacles dissolve and people discover what they need when gravity can flow through them in a healthy manner.
Today, one of our expert 2nd Street District massage therapists, talks jaw pain — and how to ease the tension we create for ourselves.
Many of my clients experience jaw pain and tension — it’s very common. Too often, we clench and grind our teeth as a response to stress, a habit that occurs when we try to concentrate, or sometimes, it manifests itself as a subconscious holding pattern we’re not even aware of.
Let’s start from the beginning. In orthopedic medicine, there is a prevailing idea that the mandible (jaw bone) and the pelvis “talk” to one another. Both of theses bones are directly connected to one another via the spine. The jaw connects to the hyoid bone, which dictates posture and alignment in the neck, along with the atlas. And, on the pelvic end, the pelvis and the sacrum work in tandem to balance us in an upright position at the base of the spine. In short, jaw tension can throw off your entire posture — and it can even cause both hip and lower back pain.
Tension in the jaw can lead to lots of symptomatic pain in the body. For example: did you know that your Masseter muscles — muscles that run from your cheek to your jaw — can exert upwards of 250 pounds of pressure per bite? Now, if you think about that kind of semi-constant tension in your head, it makes sense why those who suffer from chronic jaw tension experience headaches, neck and shoulder pain, and whole-body misalignment.
Another culprit of jaw tension, pain, and TMJ is Malocclusion. Malocclusion is when your teeth meet in a misaligned way as the two dental arches approach each other as the jaws close. Almost everyone has some form of malocclusion, and, generally, orthodontists are only interested in your malocclusion if it causes you pain.
Many orthodontic surgeons think that the best way to treat severe malocclusion is through surgery, believing that night guards, retainers, and other dental applications will not help. What many orthodontist don’t take into consideration is that chronic jaw tension is more often than not a symptom of anxiety and high stress. More importantly it’s a postural choice we make. Whether we are aware that we are making that choice is another question entirely.
Make Yourself Aware
Body awareness is a somatic skill that must be honed in everyone, but especially when you’re dealing with chronic pain and stress. Meditation and physical practices like yoga, pilates, dance, or sports can help you become aware of the inner machinations and connections between your body and mind. See if you can catch yourself in the act of clenching and grinding your teeth.When this happens engage in the mantra, “soften jaw and breathe.” Notice the breath in your body when your teeth are clenched: is it deep or shallow? Rapid or slow? Notice the position of your shoulder blades. Inhale deeply, shrug your shoulders up by your ears tightly, then exhale and drop them completely. Do this several times to allow all of the muscles in your shoulders to release.
Remember you are in control of what you are aware of. Where awareness goes, energy grows.
In a spa setting, chronic jaw tension and TMJ pain can be addressed, as long as the client is consistent with massage appointments. Regular-focused masseter, pterygoid, scalp, face, and neck massage can relieve built-up tension and pain. Therapists trained in Craniosacral Therapy can address jaw pain and tension via manual adjustment.
The spa environment, and even the act of carving out time on a consistent basis solely for self-care and self-love, is a huge step toward managing stress. Often, massage therapists and other spa employees are a lot like ESS (Emergency Stress Services). Ideally though, we want our clients to live their best, pain, and stress-free lives. In this day and age, massage and other self-care services are not luxury experiences, but necessary investments in overall well-being and health.
If you are experiencing chronic jaw or if you suffer from TMJ, know that you have support from milk + honey. We have an amazing team of massage therapists who can help you if you are experiencing acute discomfort, and we can refer you to other wellness professionals in the area who can help you tackle the issue from a multidimensional approach.
Don’t think about it as one day out of the year where your love is on blast. Instead, look at it as the perfect excuse to treat yourself — and the ones you love — to something unbelievably relaxing and well-deserved. We’ll make it easy on you. Limited-time only Valentine’s Day packages are just the thing to make this Friday anything but dreaded.
Valentine’s Dreamy Retreat
90-minute Lux Massage with Exfoliating Back Scrub and Hydrating Hair Mask
m + h Manicure and Pedicure
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- Blowout, $45
- Blowout with Makeup Application, $75
- m + h Manicure, $30
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milk + honey is one of those things that is even better when shared. You’ll each enjoy a 60-minute Lux Massage in our couples room, a Signature Facial, and a m + h Manicure. About 3 hours for $449.
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A customized, luxurious Swedish-style massage for relaxation that treats your problem areas and releases stress from your muscles. 60 minutes for $100, 75 minutes for $120, 90 minutes for $140, 120 minutes for $170.
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Your body works hard for you, so say “thank you.” The Manly Retreat includes a 60-minute Sports Massage, Men’s Deep Clean Facial, and Manly Manicure. About 2.5 hours for $259.
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The Spa Partisan
The signature milk + honey body treatment. Body brushing opens your pores before the skin is polished with a blend of brown sugar, coffee, crushed almonds, and dehydrated milk. Next, a steam treatment moisturizes, and a 60-minute Lux Massage with body butter completes the relaxing treatment. 100 minutes for $190.
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Reduce your stress with a Stress-Fix Massage. Try our newest massage sensory experience available this month only at Hill Country Galleria.
Clinically proven to reduce feelings of stress, the Stress-Fix Aroma is infused with organic lavender, lavandin and clary sage. The Stress-Fix Massage incorporates Swedish and deep tissue massage, along with foot reflexology, acupressure points, and a guided meditation to calm and rejuvenate you.
60 minutes for $125, plus a free take home gift. Call 512.236.1115 to schedule your Stress Fix Massage today.
Matt is one of our fantastic massage therapists at milk + honey 2nd Street District.
There really isn’t anything like a proper back rub. A quick session on the shoulders and neck at any given time does wonders, too. Some people really do keep all of their stress there, but what about the neglected head, hands, and feet?
After all, these three features all but define our humanity, if not our human form. Only humans have feet shaped to accommodate bipedal motion for long periods of time. Our hands, sensitive and dextrous, allowed our ancestors to shape our environment to our purposes. Over time camp sites became villages, and villages became cities. With these hands we carried and cared for our young, for much longer periods of time than other mammals. Human children require longer periods of dependence on their parents than other mammals, thanks to the size of their brains. We have huge heads relative to our bodies. Starting from within, the eyes are the windows of the soul. Our face carries our past while, to some, our palms describe our future. Many of us never consider these unsung heroes, but they have allowed us to accomplish all that we have, and define us as individuals.
The more poetic expressions of medical practice intuited and explored the importance of our head, hands, and feet, most famously, the doctors of traditional Chinese medicine. They understood the head, hands, and feet are doorways through which they could gain entry to the rest of our body. Here the ears symbolize and relate the fetal body, and acupuncture treatments can focus solely on this area. Furthermore the eyes, tongue, face, and pulse all inform a TCM practitioner’s diagnosis. The aruvedic traditions of India privileged the hands and feet with special importance. They understood that the minor chakras embedded in the hands bore a special relationship to the heart, and those of the feet related to the root chackra, almost like ambassadors. Other wellness practices, such as reflexology, have grown from a similar synecdoche. Reflexologists treat the entire body, focusing on major body structures and organs, by manually manipulating the feet and hands.
Relying on a more direct connection, Rolfers and structural integrationalists target the hands and feet for some of their most significant fascial interventions. These body workers avail themselves of the collagenous network that forms the warp and weft of our body, connecting us from tip to stern. The arches of our feet contain fibers that connect, blend, and piggy back all of the way into the reaches of our diaphragm, our pericardium, and the inside of our heads. The hands too, share a fascia that stretches inward, relating wrist to elbow to shoulder before diving inward toward the torso.
One of the strongest connections these extraneous structures have with the rest of the body resides in our brain itself. Our bodies show an enormous degree of enervation and sensory intelligence in our head, hands, and feet, disproportionate to the rest of the body. Nervous tissue arranges in a series of one way streets, motor neurons travel from the central nervous system and sensory neurons travel toward it. Sensory input goes back into the brain, the greater detail of which, is the greater effect. Therapeutic, supportive, and sympathetic touch in these areas will go far to calm the mind, and thus the body.
In short, one cannot avoid affecting the entirety of the body when only working the head, hands, or feet.
Often we neglect these in practice and in memory. I find that most people are unaware as to how much tension they hold in their hands, feet, jaw, scalp, and so on, until another human works those areas.
I find it intriguing that, regardless of whether one favors a physical, structural relationship, or a more poetic and energetic one, that the very structures of our bodies that help us relate to and alter the outside world, in turn have the richest relationships to the core of our being … our hearts and minds.
Matt is one of our fantastic massage therapists at the downtown milk + honey spa. In this article, he discusses the benefits of finding a balance with your massage therapist.
Finding the Balance With Your Massage Therapist
When it comes to massage, it really does come down to different strokes for different folks. The give and take inherent in any bodywork exchange reminds me a lot of a dining experience. The menu outlines your options, for which you have a provider, and you mostly understand what to expect. But the entire exchange is predicated on those expectations. Generally speaking, a successful exchange occurs when a chef’s expectations match or exceed that of the diner.
Have you ever gone to dinner with a friend, ordered the same thing as one another, and had totally different reactions to the experience? How did that happen? Presumably the same hand is behind the creation of both dishes, presumably creating from the same ingredients under the same conditions of production.
I bring it up because something similar plays out throughout the entire duration of any service at the spa. I do not mean to suggest there is no such thing as objective standards in the realm of massage, or facials, or dining, but I would like to point out that the energies playing out during any service in the spa is subject to the influence of both the personal preferences and expectations of the client and the practitioner.
Basically, though it would be pretty rare and represents an extreme case of the phenomenon, you could have a wonderful service and thoroughly hate it at the same time. The case of harmonizing expectations or assumptions is a constant factor for any exchange between a client and a provider. You and a given therapist may never really click, but an intelligent consumer of services may be able to control the quality of the service they receive to the extent that they can identify this constant.
I only bring this up because of how it enable diplomacy. I think most people live their lives based on assumptions. We have to base our actions on assumptions because we would never get anything done if we didn’t.
If we begin at the most convenient case, it would be a case where two people have mutual goals for the exchange. In this case let us assume that the practitioner and client both want the client to receive a great massage. The practitioner assumes a great massage satisfies certain requirements, and the client does as well. Those assumptions may or may not match, and that will create an experience of harmony or disharmony.
What the two parties are selecting for their wish and action could be as separate as day and night. Some of this is inherent in the vagueness of the language. Take a client that “just wants to relax.” If I work on them the way my body would need to be worked, they may not be happy. I cannot relax if someone is just petting me like a cat and talking my ear off. I want quiet, variety, medium deep pressure, and if I’m honest, I want some knots worked. Swedish isn’t relaxing to me, but I find conservative deep tissue massage extremely relaxing, while too much is … simply too much. I also do not think it is that relaxing to have an overly clinical massage that doesn’t have any art in it. I like a little yin with my yang, and I feel like a good massage leaves me feeling better for the week, not just the day.
Not all of my clients agree. Some of my clients want to be worked briskly and lightly, others want to feel like they are stepping down from a raft that has been gently bobbing up and down when they’re done, and on occasion my clients cannot relax unless I bury my knee in their back.
Practitioners can vary the speed, depth, rhythm, approach, priorities, and techniques in a given session. They can even change the music or temperature of the room. Most of them cannot read your mind, and even your body language may be hard to read.
The client on the other hand, may be rightly concerned about hurting the therapist’s feelings, which contributes to the quality of work they do. So, what should be done if their expectations fail to harmonize?
If it is in the beginning of the session, you can wait and see. I have seen many therapists change their “tone” for lack of a better word, based off what they feel. Personally, I will not go deep into muscle tissue without trying to warm it up a bit first. If the session is not meeting your expectations, identify what it is you would rather not experience, and then lie about it. No really, “That feels good, but…” Then reveal the truth in the form of a question, “Can you slow it down?” Basically what you will be doing by adopting this approach is building rapport with your therapist in such a way that it builds harmony. I mean, if you’re nice about it.
You are allowed to reiterate or clarify your goals, “I appreciate the attention to that area, but it’s a little overwhelming, and I really just want to zone out.” You are also allowed to change your mind about what you want, and you can redirect your therapist based off of what you have felt so far. “It feels really good when you work that area like that, will you hang out there?”
Actually, you are also allowed to be really abrupt, abrasive, or obnoxious about it, and a good therapist will try to comply. Let’s face it though, honey’s better than vinegar.
I know it can be tough catching the therapist at the right moment, but I think it is worth the effort to get what you want. There will probably be a small period of adjustment, but if you make the assumption that your therapist wants you to enjoy this, and is talented enough to adjust what they are doing, you may better approximate your experience at the table so that you won’t have to complain about it later.
Today, one of our expert 2nd Street District massage therapists discusses what is a “knot.”
What is a muscle knot?
“What is that thing, anyway?”
I’m always getting asked this question. I’m a massage therapist, and “that sore, crunchy thing” is a muscle knot. But what actually is a “knot”?
Muscle knots are small bumps that commonly appear on the back, neck, or shoulders and usually feel tender or sore when touched. They are comprised of muscle fibers and bands, which form a bump or “knot” when tightened under stress or tension. While knots are the commonly used term among the general public, medical experts refer to these spots as myofascial trigger points, which are classified as either active or latent.
If a trigger point is classified as latent, you’ll only feel pain when the area is pressed. On the other hand, active trigger points can produce random feelings of pain even without being touched.
It’s important to note that muscle knots/trigger points can also cause pain to radiate to surrounding muscle tissue and even other areas of the body in some cases. For example, a trigger point in your trap muscles (upper back) may radiate pain into your lower back, and it could even lead to pain in a completely different area of the body such as the calves.
What does a muscle knot feel like?
As noted, muscle knots are small bumps that feel painful to the touch. Knots can vary significantly in size, from the size of a pea up to a golf ball or larger. In most cases, you will not be able to see a muscle knot but will be able to feel it when touching the area. Muscle knots will feel swollen and tense compared to the surrounding area. When feeling around to find muscle knots, it’s important to be gentle because aggravating them can lead to more inflammation and discomfort.
Where do muscle knots occur?
Muscle knots can occur anywhere in the body where there is muscle or fascia (connective tissue). However, the most common places we see muscle knots develop are:
- Neck (typically on the sides)
- Back (upper and lower)
- Legs (quadriceps, hamstrings, and thighs)
- Upper arms
What causes muscle knots?
It would probably be more accurate for me to say that no one really agrees on every aspect of what constitutes a knot, how you get knots, and how to get rid of them. However everyone agrees that a knot forms in muscle tissue. This includes connective tissue such as fascia and tendons. Blood almost certainly plays a role, as does our nervous system. They are raised from the rest of the surface, and sometimes they are tender.
The most common causes of muscle knots are:
- Stress and anxiety
- Overexertion (such as overdoing it while exercising)
- Poor posture
- Sitting for too long
- Unhealthy eating
As noted, knots tend to form in stressed or damaged muscle. Overdoing it in the gym or on the trail will certainly aid this, but most massage therapists I work with are more inclined to find knots in muscles associated with desk work. These associate with the commute and compute postural distresses of holding your head and arms away from your body for too long.
Knots, as we vaguely understand them, are also likely to form in individuals who are stressed or have high anxiety. I don’t mean to overstep my scope of practice here, but I will simply observe that people undergoing emotional stress due to family, career, or other life events may be more likely to develop knots as a result of the physical manifestation of that stress in the muscles. I’m constantly hearing, “Oh I keep all my stress in my neck and shoulders.” And I often find knots up there.
If you frequently deal with muscle knots, examine the causes above and see if there are any lifestyle changes you can make to help prevent knots from forming in the future.
What are muscle knots that crunch with massage?
Some knots seem to invest more than one muscle tissue. Comprised of inflamed myofascial layers, and almost always including a concentrated degree of connective tissue, these knots feel gristly, and their size does not predict sensitivity to pressure. These knots tend to sound and feel “crunchy.” I’ve heard this crunchiness comes from either connective tissue build up or from calcium crystal build up.
Essentially, muscle knots have reduced blood flow and circulation, which means toxins can become trapped in these areas. Over time, trapped toxins will solidify in the muscle knot if not dealt with, resulting in hard, crunchy bumps. To get rid of crunchy muscles, you’ll need to break up these deposits by gently massaging the area and encouraging circulation.
How to get rid of muscle knots?
Keeping in mind that muscle knots seem to form in relation to how we use our bodies, I would first suggest taking the time to assess your lifestyle and how you inhabit your body throughout the day. You may be able to change a habit or arrangement so that you don’t form the knots as quickly in the first place.
If you find that lifestyle changes aren’t helping to the degree that you need relief, massage can help get rid of muscle knots.
Most therapists will treat knots of any variety with localized pressure delivered directly to the knot. More sophisticated practitioners, whether from training or experience, will undoubtedly apply different techniques to your knots based on what they feel. Generally speaking, true trigger points respond better to direct pressure than the more gristly “adhesion” knots. Releasing trigger points in this way can relax the entire muscle. Adhesive knots seem to respond better to being “ironed” or “combed” out of the tissue. Sometimes separating one muscle from the other through movement can deal with those types of knots.
If you’re dealing with muscle knots and seeking relief, book a massage with our experienced massage therapists. Massage therapy helps treat knots by increasing circulation and improving blood flow, which loosens stiff muscles and relieves tension. Choose from several types of massages and get a thorough consultation with your massage therapist to address specific pain points. Book now or give someone else the gift of relaxation with a gift certificate.
milk + honey is home to a very special massage therapist named Tanner. He performs Zero Balancing for his clients who are looking to relieve body aches and pain, release restrictions in movement and provide lasting relief from emotional distress. There are many more great benefits from Zero Balancing. Call 512.263.1115 to schedule your session with Tanner today!
What is Zero Balancing?
Zero Balancing is a unique form of bodywork that recognizes the relationship of body structure and body energy. It is a body-mind therapy that uses skilled touch to address the relationships between the structure and energy within the body. It involves the use of finger pressure and gentle traction on the bones and joints to create a point of balance, or a fulcrum, around which the body can relax and reorganize itself allowing the receiver to let go of held tension and pain and experience a new level of integration.
How is Zero Balancing different from other modalities?
Forms of bodywork, such as massage, chiropractic, and Rolfing are mainly focused on improving the function of the physical body. Other modalities like acupuncture and Reiki work to enhance body energy. Zero Balancing engages both the body structure and body energy simultaneously allowing the person to come into balance with themselves and one another.
How will a Zero Balancing session work for you?
A session begins with a discussion of your current state of health and goals for that particular session. This conversation may range from reducing discomfort or tension in a specific area to improving energy levels to helping with stress relief. Next you will sit and then lie on your back, FULLY CLOTHED, unless it is integrated into a massage session. If you do combine Zero Balancing with a massage, please allow an additional 30 minutes when booking. Once you are on the table, the practitioner will assess your body for tension mainly held in the bones and joints. Then your Zero Balancer will apply gentle finger pressure or traction called Fulcrums into areas around the hips, spine, ribs, feet, and neck to support the body, allowing it to deeply relax and release held tension in these areas. This enables your own energy to flow in clearer, stronger fields and helps you to feel more in your body. The session typically lasts 30-45 minutes and can be combined with massage and other health regiments. After the session, you are given a few moments to rest or dress if needed. Then you will be asked to walk to integrate the work and to give you an opportunity to notice any changes that may have taken place during your Zero Balancing session. Zero Balancing can often take you into enhanced states of enlightenment similar to meditation, so it is helpful to walk or receive a hug. This helps to transition you back into the rest of your day.