🙍🏻Stress, Anxiety, and Massage 💆🏻

Stress, Anxiety, and Massage
Why get a massage? According to a survey conducted by the American Massage Therapy Association, 28% of Americans who get a massage do so for relaxation and stress reduction. That’s a lot of people in the US who feel strongly enough about their own experiences with massage for stress reduction to put their money on it. But aside from individual feelings, what exactly do we know about massage and how it relates to stress and anxiety? And what does the research have to say about that?
What is stress? What is anxiety?
Stress is your body’s response to demanding circumstances. Working late hours? You’ll experience stress. Prepping for a big competition? Definitely stressful. Toddler throwing a tantrum? That’s no doubt stressful for both of you. When you’re stressed, your blood pressure goes up, your breathing and heart rate quicken, and you feel jittery and distracted. All this is useful if your stress is a result the big race you’re running, when you can put that energy to good use. It’s less helpful if your stressor is a friend in need of patience and comfort.
People who regularly put themselves into stressful circumstances on purpose (public speakers, for example) often learn how to channel that stress response for their own benefit, but it takes practice over time. When stress goes from being an occasional experience to a chronic condition, health problems result.
Anxiety, on the other hand, isn’t necessarily a reaction to circumstances. Most often, it’s related to anticipated future or potential stress. As with stress, anxiety isn’t necessarily an immediate health problem, although it’s unpleasant. Feeling a bit anxious about an upcoming exam, the imminent birth of a baby, or the quality of a presentation can give you a push to prepare as best you can. But anxiety becomes unhelpful when it is overwhelming, requiring you to focus all your energy on surviving your immediate feelings rather than addressing their roots. Pacing, nail biting, trembling, and vomiting are signs that anxiety is veering into unhelpful territory. Test anxiety, social anxiety, and decision anxiety are all common forms of anxiety.
Anxiety disorder is the general name given to chronic, excessive anxiety in response to everyday situations. Anxiety disorders include
  • Generalized anxiety disorder: excessive anxiety in general.
  • Social anxiety disorder: anxiety disorder related to interacting with others.
  • Separation anxiety disorder: anxiety disorder related to separation from specific people, often parents or caregivers.
  • Phobias: subset of anxiety disorders characterized by persistent fear of a specific thing.
  • Panic disorder: anxiety disorder characterized by reoccurring panic attacks.
Many people discover that they have more than one type of anxiety disorder, or deal with anxiety combined with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, alcoholism, or substance abuse. While stress and anxiety are more general terms that you can probably identify in yourself, anxiety disorders can only be diagnosed by a physician.
What kinds of studies have been done on massage for anxiety and stress?
Stress: 
While stress levels are largely subjective, studies focused on pain, sleep, and other outcomes often find that patients report decreased stress levels as one of the major benefits they receive from massage therapy treatments. In one study on pain in acute care settings, more than half of the patients mentioned relaxation in their survey responses. One described the experience of receiving massage as “very helpful, soothing, comforting, and relaxing,” which is notable considering how stressful being hospitalized is. Improved emotional well-being and sleep were also mentioned by many patients and nurses, both of which are good indicators of stress reduction.
Anxiety:
Most studies done on massage and anxiety have focused on specific populations. One study found significant improvement in both state (long term) and trait (immediate) anxiety in children with cancer and blood diseases who received Swedish massage. Another measured the physiological responses to stress (blood pressure and pulse) in hospitalized children and found similar results. Cardiac care patients were the focus of another study. Again, massage was shown to be helpful at reducing anxiety. Still, larger and broader studies on the matter still need to be done.
Anxiety disorders:
There have been relatively few studies on massage therapy for anxiety disorders specifically, and those that have been done have been small and generally lacking good control groups. One randomized controlled trial found that massage therapy was significantly helpful for people with generalized anxiety disorder, but no more so than thermotherapy (relaxing with hot towels placed in different locations on the body) or being in a special relaxation room with no additional treatment. This study only measured improvement over multiple weeks, and not feelings of anxiety in the short term, before and after treatments. Because this study didn’t have a no-treatment control group, they weren’t able to state whether all three were equally effective or equally ineffective.
What does all this mean?
People regularly feel that massage helps reduce their stress and anxiety. There are also other techniques that seem to be helpful to varying degrees, depending on the situation and the person. This is helpful to know, because not everyone enjoys massage. For some, touch itself can be a source of stress and anxiety, so it’s helpful to know that there are other complementary therapies available that also create positive results.
Stress and anxiety are closely tied to pain, sleep, and other factors. Reducing pain reduces stress levels. Reducing stress levels can also reduce pain. Improving sleep can impact both pain and stress, and vice versa. Does massage therapy work primarily through either pain or stress reduction, or does it impact both equally? This is an area for further study.
Massage therapy is a fairly safe way to manage stress and anxiety. With relatively few drug interactions and a very low chance for injury, massage therapy can be helpful to a wide variety of people dealing with stress and anxiety in different situations. From the smallest infants to athletes to people in hospice, there are few who could not benefit from massage therapy.
There is a lot more to learn. While there is a lot of research on massage for pain, massage for anxiety (and especially massage for anxiety disorders) has less research to back it up. It will take time and money before a large body of knowledge has been built up.
If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, massage therapy is worth trying. The evidence is still rolling in, but what we have is promising. Are you ready to give it a try? Book your next massage today.

👊Less Pain All Gain👊

What do we really know about pain?

Pain is one of those “you know it when you feel it” kind of sensations. But it’s also a strange phenomenon, when you think about it. A snowball is cold, and so it feels cold when you touch it. A block of concrete is rough, so it feels rough when you touch it. But a knife isn’t painful on its own. Neither is a pot of boiling water or the leg of a table. We handle these things safely all the time, and experience their mass and temperature and texture. But pain exists only in the body, and even more specifically (as people who’ve experienced anesthesia know firsthand) in our minds. But that doesn’t make it less real! So what exactly is happening when we feel pain, and how do we stop it from negatively impacting our lives?

How does pain work?

There are three primary types of pain, and each of them works a slightly different way.

1.) Nociceptive pain (tissue pain).

There are many different kinds of sense receptors in the body. Some are sensitive to heat or cold, some to touch or pressure. Others, called free nerve endings, aren’t specialized for any one type of stimulus. When a significant stimulus triggers these nerve endings, they send a message through the spinal cord and up to the brain indicating that something potentially dangerous has happened. The brain then decides (without consulting the part involved in conscious thought, alas) whether this is something to ignore or brush off or if it seems likely that damage has occurred. This then sends this message back down to the affected part of the body.

If the message is “No biggie, ‘tis but a scratch,” then you’ll most likely shake yourself off and forget the incident even happened. If it’s “WHOA, THIS SEEMS LIKE A PROBLEM,” then you experience this as pain.

This is useful! Just ask someone with CIPA, or congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis, a disease that leaves people insensitive to pain. Imagine not noticing a bit of grit in your eye until it damages your cornea, developing stress fractures in your feet because nothing is telling you it’s time to sit down, or ending up with burns in your mouth and throat because you don’t realize your coffee is scalding hot. Pain stops us from trying to walk on a sprained ankle or go for a run when we have a fever. Tissue damage, high temperatures, low pH, and capsaicin (the active ingredient in hot peppers) are all common triggers for this process.

But brains aren’t always correct when it comes to assessing danger. Lorimer Moseley gives a brilliant example of this in his TEDx talk. What’s the difference between the pain from a scratch on the leg and the pain from a nearly-fatal snake bite? Spoiler: it’s whatever your brain is expecting. That’s why you might feel little pain after a bicycle accident, but be in agony when getting the wound stitched up two hours later. Pain is weird.

2.) Neuropathic pain (nerve pain).

This is pain that results from an issue with the nervous system itself, rather than surrounding tissues. If you’ve ever banged your funny bone, you know this feeling well. Common forms of neuropathic pain include:

  • Sciatica: pain in the sciatic nerve running through the hip and down into the leg and foot
  • Diabetic neuropathy: nerve damage resulting from fluctuating blood sugar levels
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: pain resulting from the compression of the nerves that run through the wrist into the hand

Less common forms include phantom limb pain (pain that feels like it originates in an amputated limb) and postherpetic neuralgia, which occurs as a result of getting shingles.

Neuropathic pain can be especially frustrating because the normal things we do to reduce pain are often useless when it comes to pain originating in the nervous system. Moving or not moving our muscles, applying heat or ice, these can have relatively little impact on nerve pain.

What’s more, nerves don’t heal as well as things like muscles and skin do, which makes nerve pain more likely to become chronic pain.

3.) Other kind of pain. The unknown. Where and Why? 

Pain is messy, and a lot of it doesn’t fall into either of the two categories above. Fibromyalgia is a great example of this. Is it pain resulting from tissue damage? Nope. What about nerve damage? Not as far as we can tell. It’s caused by the nervous system malfunctioning, sometimes in horrible ways, but that don’t result from actual nerve damage. Often a lot of it. And the world of medicine is still trying to figure out why.

So how do we alleviate pain?

There are several different options.

  • If the pain is caused by some kind of physical injury or stimulus, you can work on fixing that. If your hand is being burned on a lightbulb, you can remove your hand, which will make most of that pain go away. If you’re experiencing a muscle cramp in your foot, you can flex the foot (manually, if necessary). If you’re experiencing pain from sitting in the same position for too long, you can move around and shake out your legs. If the cause of the pain is inflammation, anti-inflammatories and ice can reduce that. This is perhaps the ideal form of pain relief, although it’s not always in the realm of the possible.
  • You can block the messages that tell your brain you’re in pain. This is how many painkillers work. Ice can also numb nerve endings.
  • You can convince your brain that you’re not in any real danger. This is a tough one, because the brain doesn’t just listen when you tell it things. But it’s well documented that fear, stress, and anxiety lead to increased pain perception. And of course, pain leads to stress, which leads to pain … General relaxation techniques—from meditation to light exercise to getting a massage—can all be helpful in turning the brain’s pain alarms down a notch. Physical therapy (practicing certain motions in a way that isn’t painful) and talk/art therapy can also be useful here too.

How can massage help with pain?

Sometimes the issue is one that massage can help manage on a physical level. Such as trigger point therapy or even cupping. But even more often, massage gives the brain a chance to let down its guard and experience something non-painful and even pleasant in the body. And while there’s no silver bullet for pain, that can mean a lot for people whose pain has defied more straightforward treatments and whose injuries or illnesses are already healed.

Feeling the hurt yourself? Suffering from chronic pain? Need pain management? There’s a massage with your name on it. Book your next one today with Annie at ZenGate Healing Arts! 

☀️ SunBurns ☀️

Caring for the skin you are in.

Caring for the skin you’re in: staying sun safe 
I see a lot of skin. All colors, all textures. Freckles, scars, stretch marks, moles. Skin with lots of hair and skin with none. Skin doesn’t surprise me.
Except when it does. That brown spot on your shoulder blade? It wasn’t quite that big when you came in a month ago. And it looks less like an oval and a little more like a blob. Maybe you should have that checked out?
Healthy skin we love. Skin cancer? Not so much. Which is why you’re here my blog for ZenGate Healing Arts, reading about sun exposure. Because even though I’m not a dermatologist and you’re not going to burn while getting a massage, your skin is a friend I see regularly. And I want to be able to keep working with it for many healthy years to come.
What happens when you get a sunburn?
You’re exposed to the sun and then your skin turns red and itchy, right? Well, yes. But there’s more to it as well.
When you step out into the sunlight, you’re immediately bombarded by UV radiation. This radiation causes mismatches in the curlicue of your DNA in the nucleus of your skin cells, which is dangerous and can lead to cancer. As soon as this starts to occur, your skin jumps into protective action redistributing melanin, the pigment that causes suntans, and which helps to protect your DNA from further damage.
But if you’re still outside and the damage doesn’t stop (especially if you’re fair skinned and don’t have much melanin to go around), you start to see an inflammatory response. This is the same kind of inflammation that you see when you sprain your ankle, only spread out across your damaged skin. Your blood vessels dilate to get more nutrients and infection-fighting cells to your skin, making the it red and warm to the touch. Itching and pain result, a warning signal from your body that something is wrong. You may feel thirsty and tired as your body works to repair itself.
If the burn is bad enough, you’ll start to see blisters as the plasma leaks from inside cells into the space between the dermis (the bottom layer of skin) and the epidermis (the top layer). These blisters form a cushion of fluid over your damaged tissue. (At this point, your body has already written that top layer of skin off.)
Eventually, even if you didn’t have any blisters, you will get flaking and peeling of the top layer of your skin. Interestingly enough, these skin cells weren’t killed by UV radiation. When skin cells recognize that their DNA has been severely damaged, they deliberately die off rather than risk becoming cancerous. This planned cell death is called apoptosis, and it’s the reason you see massive numbers of skin cells coming loose at once.
So to be clear: all sunburns, no matter how mild, contain the beginning stages of skin cancer. It’s only because our skin kills itself off before these cells go haywire that we see as little skin cancer as we do. Even so, more than 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed in the US each year, and 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70. UV radiation will play a role in many of these cases.
How can you protect your skin?
The short answer: Stay away from UV radiation. This means tanning beds as well as sunlight.
The longer answer: Unless you plan to become a vampire, you will probably be exposed to sunlight at least some of the time. The trick is to reduce that exposure to a safe level by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and using sunscreen.
How much sun is safe?
This depends on two main variables: the UV Index and your skin type.
UV Index
The UV Index is a measure of the level of UV radiation in your location at any given point in time. It’s something you can easily look up on your computer or phone before heading out the door. In general, global UV Index recommendations look something like this:
  • 1-2: Low. Enjoy being outside!
  • 3-7: Medium. Seek shade at midday, put on a shirt and hat, wear sunscreen.
  • 8+: High. Stay indoors at midday, seek shade as much as possible, sunscreen is an absolute must.
Skin type
With the exception of people with albinism, everyone has some melanin in their skin. Those with more of the protective pigmentation are less susceptible to DNA damage in their skin cells from UV radiation than those with less.
  • Type I: Very pale, burns quickly, never tans.
  • Type II: Pale, burns easily, rarely tans
  • Type III: Burns moderately, tans over time to light brown
  • Type IV: Burns minimally, tans to medium brown
  • Type V: Rarely burns, tans to dark brown.
  • Type VI: Never burns, rarely tans, deeply pigmented skin.
People with Type I skin can burn after as little as five or ten minutes, while those with Type VI skin can sometimes be outside for an hour without damage.
Note: You might have seen a skin type scale that goes from I-IV, especially if you are looking in an older medical textbook. That’s because the original Fitzpatrick scale was made in the 1970s for white people. This is the same scale, but expanded to include everybody.
Is sunscreen safe?
A 2001 study raised concerns that oxybenzone (the chemical that makes most sunscreens so effective) might impact hormones. In this study, rats fed large doses of oxybenzone developed enlarged uteruses. Studies in humans haven’t been conclusive. What we know for sure is that, if you’re a rat, you shouldn’t drink sunscreen.
Some pediatricians recommend sticking to mineral-based sunscreens for infants and very young children just in case, until long-term studies are concluded over the next twenty or so years. But these are thick and need to be reapplied regularly. If your children are experiencing sunburns with mineral-based sunscreens, they are being put in significantly more danger than any potential hazard from oxybenzone.
What about vitamin D?
Yup, you need vitamin D in your body to stay health. And yes, your skin manufactures vitamin D in response to UV radiation. (People with lighter skin types make more vitamin D with less sun exposure than people with darker skin types.) So shouldn’t you go without sun protection sometimes for the nutritional benefits?
Luckily, there are a number of sources of vitamin D that don’t also cause skin cancer. Fish, mushrooms, eggs, and fortified dairy products are all excellent sources. And if you’re a tremendously picky eater, there are also vitamin D supplements you can take. For the severely deficient (diagnosed with a simple blood test), there are high-dose supplements or injections your physician can prescribe.
Caring about your skin isn’t about vanity.
It’s a critical organ, like any other. If you exercise for your heart and quit smoking for your lungs, then preventing sunburns is just another healthy habit.
While in session I love supporting your skin with organic, vegan, and without parabens, dyes or synthetic fragrances. Using only high quality lubricants with my Nature’s Root’s Sore Muscle Body Oils and lotions containing the proprietary blends of exquisite oils and herbs, fortified with non-GMO hemp oil (natural SPF, everyone!) & jojoba as natural emollients.
I love skin. I work with it on a daily basis and appreciate all the skin to keep your insides in and your outsides out. It keeps you cool, it tells you what’s around you, it prevents infections and repairs itself at a remarkable rate. So take care of it!
And maybe bring it in for a massage.

Spend some time on my massage table, taking care of you. You can request an appointment right here,  or call me at 630-935-171 to make your appointment.

Annie Van Zeyl, LMT

Annie Van Zeyl is a Licensed Massage Therapist of ZenGate Healing Arts, who loves working with the most stressed out career professionals, moms with kids of all ages and individuals with medical conditions.  Annie uses an integrated approach of massage therapy, guided meditation, chakra balancing and energy work to help reduce stress, anxiety & muscle tension in her sessions for improving the overall well-being.

 

5 Tips for Neck and Shoulder Care Between Massage Appointments

Self Care is not indulgence

People with neck and shoulder issues often have their pain return before their next massage appointment. Work, play and children all make demands on the body. A dull ache can quickly turn into a burning pain especially while folding laundry, doing yard work, playing on the computer or any of the other million things you do.

What can you do between professional massage appointments to take the edge off neck and shoulder pain? Here are some ideas.

1.Take a Break
Take short breaks as often as you can if you sit at a computer all day. Move your shoulders around and s-t-r-e-t-c-h. Ideally you can get up and move around a bit. But even if you’re chained to the desk, you can rock out a little Deskercise to stay loose.

2.Get the kids into it
Have a short yoga break together! There are plenty of videos made especially for kids, and the moves are just as beneficial for adults. Bonus: got a little one averse to naptime? Try the lying-down postures here and maybe you’ll get a short break.

3.Heat it
Just 10-15 minutes of heat on your shoulders can make a huge difference in how your tissue moves and feels. You don’t need a fancy heating pad, you can DIY that.


4.Self-massage
Try it, you might be surprised how much it helps! It’s not complicated, just grab a tennis ball or a red rubber ball and check out these techniques.


5.Choose the right pillow
You spend about a third of your time in bed, be sure it’s cozy for your neck. Side-sleepers have different needs than belly-sleepers. The right pillow at night can help you all day.


A few minutes of self care every day, little changes, can make a huge difference in how you feel. See you at your next appointment!

Specialized Pregnancy Massage

shutterstock_114618175ZenGate Healing Arts is THE destination and preferred place for massage & bodywork among ZenMommas of all ages.

Annie Van Zeyl, LMT is a 2005″ Certified Prenatal Massage Therapist” by Peg Johnson, RN from the formally known Wellness & Massage Training Institute, Woodridge, IL.  Undergoing an advanced certification level program in massage for pregnancy, labor and postpartum. Annie’s advanced prenatal education has helped improve the level of health of the expectant and postpartum woman for over 10 years. Whether it’s an opportunity to simply unplug and relax during this special time, or reduce pain and discomfort related to the changes your body is currently going through, a prenatal massage session with Annie is guaranteed to improve your overall health & wellness.

Have more questions about massage therapy for pregnancy and postpartum? Call Annie @ (630) 935-0171 or send her an email. She is more than happy to answer any questions!

2016 Christmas Special

Purchase a 30 or 60 minute massage gift certificate and receive a 30 minute free Winter Solstice Sugar Foot Scrub with your session. Offer valid until December 31st

Purchase a 30 or 60 minute massage gift certificate and receive a 30 minute free Winter Solstice Sugar Foot Scrub with your session.

The Winter Solstice Sugar Scrub is an exfoliating  treatment for the feet with the invigorating oils of Palo Santo, Mint and Sweet Orange. Hot towels are placed to further soften the feet along with a Winter Solstice Essential Oil lotion for the foot massage leaving you feeling grounded and calm.

Pre-purchase and bank for personal use at a later date. Foot scrub and massage must be used during the same session.

Special pricing good through 12/31/16

 Click here to purchase Online Gift Certificates
Click here to purchase for pick up

 

open your heart

Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts

Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts

 

Why your legs need a massage

Why your legs need a massag

Why your legs need a massage.

Our legs do a lot for us. We use them all day, every day. Like other parts of our body they can get tired, overused, sore, and in need of some care.

Our legs take us where we want to go. They let us walk around to do what we need to do – even if it’s just to grab a snack from the kitchen.

Some jobs are physical and involve being on your feet a lot. If lifting and moving things are involved you use your legs to lift and haul them around. Job responsibilities can have repetitive actions than can overwork your muscles.

Other jobs are not very physical and involve a lot of sitting. Long periods of time with your legs in the same position causes your leg muscles to shorten, so when you do stand and walk your legs feel tight. Add commuting time in a vehicle and your legs may spend most of the day inactive. Try to include regular times through the day to get up and walk around if you can.

We may run to catch a bus, keep up with a child, or to get out of the rain.

At home we walk around to take care of our place, our family,  and our belongings. We carry laundry and groceries. We shop, cook, clean and put things away. If you have stairs you will make multiple trips up and down every day.

Yard work and home maintenance such as shoveling, snow blowing, and climbing up a ladder for christmas decorations puts our legs to use.

If you enjoy sports you use your legs to run, jump, and kick. You pedal your bike, kick your legs to swim, and run and kick in soccer. You jump in volleyball and basketball. Depending on where you live you may surf or ski which involves a lot of leg use.

For exercise or fun activities you use your legs for yoga, pilates, or fitness classes. You use your legs for lifting weights, boxing, hiking, climbing, kickboxing, and dance.

Your hip, knee, and ankle joints are all affected by your legs. Joints are under pressure from muscles and bones pulling and twisting on them. Relieving muscle pain decreases the pressure on those joints and you feel better.

Wearing high heels can add to pain in your legs, too. The heels cause your muscles to be used in different ways since they not in their natural positions.

Hip and back pain can start in your legs. If one leg hurts you will change how you walk, stand, and even sit to keep it from hurting. That adjustment will affect your other leg. Your legs attach to your hips, which connects to your back, and as more muscles are out of normal position pain begins to develop there too.

Your legs do a lot for you. Give them some attention with a massage so you can keep doing what you want.

Gift Certificates Available!

Traditional Gift Certificates are redeemable for services and products in-store at ZenGate Healing Arts. Your gift certificate can be available for office pick-up or it can be promptly mailed for your convenience, with the options of gift wrapping and a personal message.

Traditional Gift Certificates are redeemable  at ZenGate Healing Arts.

Traditional Gift Certificates are redeemable for services and products in-store at ZenGate Healing Arts. Your gift certificate can be available for office pick-up or it can be promptly mailed for your convenience, with the options of gift wrapping and a personal message.

Purchase Traditional Gift Certificates Here

Instant Online Gift Certificates!

Instant Online Gift Certificates are redeemable at ZenGate Healing Arts. You will receive your online gift certificate immediately through email.    

 Gift Certificates are redeemable at ZenGate Healing Arts. 

 

Instant Online Gift Certificates are redeemable for services and products in-store at ZenGate Healing Arts. You will receive your Gift Certificate immediately through email, with the option of a personal message.

Purchase INSTANT Online Gift Certificates Here.