All about Arnica, and…An Awesome Giveaway!!

Many of you have probably heard of Arnica, some of you might even be intimately knowledgeable of its powers, but I’m betting there are just as many that, despite having heard the word before, aren’t fully versed on it’s properties, benefits, and uses.  I am a firm believer that our most potent, yet gentle treatments come from nature, and I incorporate many salves and oils in my massage practice as well as in my home.  They are used regularly as a “go to” first aid treatment, for muscle soreness, dry skin, burns, scars, etc, etc…

So what is Arnica, you ask?  Arnica (Arnica montana) is a daisy-like perennial flower in the sunflower family. imageIt has been used as a folk medicine for hundreds of years for sprains, bruises and wounds, particularly in North America, Europe and Russia, where it is a native plant.  It contains a chemical compound called helenalin, which plays a large role in the anti-inflammatory properties that Arnica is best known for.  Fun fact: it’s also known as Leopard’s Bane and Mountain Tobacco!

Common Uses and Benefits:  Although having been used for its medicinal properties since the 1500s, Arnica has made a recent comeback as a more natural assistant to reducing anti-inflammatory pain, pain and swelling from sprains and strains, shortening bruising time, placating insect bites, and reducing recovery time.

Options for Application:   There are hundreds of products on the market with Arnica in them, although the amount and quality of Arnica in them varies widely. Oils, salves, creams, tinctures and gels are some of the most common.  Much like the terms “organic” and “all-natural,” though, Arnica has become quite popular in certain circles and has spawned many products that I wouldn’t feel worthy of recommending.  When looking for a product to use, make sure it has a high concentration of Arnica (some products are extremely diluted) and that it is made from a reputable company with high standards.  One I would recommend is arnica2ozSierra Sage Arnica Salve. Hintthis is also the basis for my first giveaway, so stay tuned until the end of this post!  This particular salve includes several other herbs great for muscle soreness and inflammation, including rosemary, ginger, cinnamon, and menthol crystals.

Side effects and Contraindications:  Arnica is generally safe, but if you have an allergy to the helenalin compound, or if you use it for an extended period of time, a possible skin reaction, contact dermatitis, can occur.  It is not to be used orally or on broken skin.

In my massage practice, I often incorporate Arnica salve into my therapeutic sessions, especially when working with someone dealing with inflammatory pain, such as arthritis and acute injuries.  Arnica and massage complement each other quite well–I know I can’t think of a better way to use Arnica than having it massaged into my achy parts!

Now on with the Giveaway!!  In addition to the Sierra Sage Arnica Salve, I also use a wide variety of Sierra Sage’s other products in my massage practice and at home. The original product, Green Goo, a first aid salve, was my first introduction, and has remained a staple in my house for many years.  My family knows what will come out of my mouth when anything skin related happens to them, from cuts, to bruises, to burns…”Put some Green Goo on it!”  It is the only company I currently offer for sale in my private practice, mostly because I am adamant about only selling products that I use and would recommend whole-heartedly.

I am excited to offer a taste of their products to one lucky winner this month, in the form of their Sierra Sage Outdoor Travel Pack.  This includes a 1 oz tin of Arnica Salve, a 1 oz tin of Green Goo, 2 lip balms, and a 1 oz Bugs be Gone bug spray. ODTP To be entered into the giveaway simply follow the steps below:

  1. LIKE Santa Cruz Therapeutic’s Facebook page!  Not only is this the first step to entering the giveaway, but it’s also a great way to keep updated on new blog posts, see my schedule availability, and to learn lots of new fun facts about massage therapy and pain management!
  2. SHARE this Giveaway blog post from Santa Cruz Therapeutic’s Facebook page with your Facebook friends!
  3. COMMENT on the blog post on Santa Cruz Therapeutic’s Facebook page once you have “shared” with your friends!

That’s it!  Share the love and be entered to win some of my favorite products from one of my most favorite companies!  Entries will be accepted through March 31st, and a winner will be randomly selected and notified by April 2nd, 2015.

With Peace and Gratitude,

April

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Bringing the Benefits of Massage Home…Self-care for the Forearms, Continued…

                                                                                                      March 3, 2015
           I hope that those of you reading my blog found the stretches and self-massage techniques from my last blog post helpful!  This next blog is a continuation of that, focusing on increasing our awareness  of our daily habits, how they may contribute to our forearm pain (or any pain–as many of these ideas can be easily transferred), and some quick and easy changes we can make at the home, office or in the car.   ” We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” Well spoken by Aristotle–and quite true when you also apply it to our bodies.  Our bodies “become” what we repeatedly do, as well.  If we don’t change habits or alter what we are doing regularly, we can run into problems, sometimes quite painful, disheartening ones, or even expensive ones!
           We only get one body, so even if changing a habit seems impossible, start with baby steps, every tiny change leads us toward our goal, so don’t give up!
It’s easy to think, “But I work at a desk all day!  I can’t just quit my job! What am I supposed to do?!”  Many of us have jobs where we just can’t stop doing what we are doing–BUT, we CAN change HOW we are doing the SAME thing,  and there’s the catch!  Let’s look at some common repetitive tasks we do on a daily basis that can create pain and dysfunction in our elbows, wrists and forearms.  We’ll follow these with some quick and easy suggestions that will help bring awareness and change to how you are doing these “must-do” tasks.
1)  Sitting at a desk working on a computer with a mouse.
** First and foremost, TAKE BREAKS!! My clients often look at me with that “I know I should, but I just get so busy” look!   Well, I say, put all of that technology to good use and set your iPhone, Android, tablet to an hourly timer. Whatever you are doing when it goes off–STOP (or multitask–if you are on the phone, use a bluetooth,
for example), and stand up, move around, do the stretches/self massage I talk about in the last blog!
** Check your ergonomics at your desk. How do I do this, you ask? A few weeks ago I posted some images on my Facebook Page
images
           keyboard ergonomics
These are a good place to start.  If you notice your wrists in any of these incorrect positions, then you know something has to change, either with your desk set up, or your chair set up.  You want your elbows at 90 degree angles, so adjust your chair up or down do accommodate.  Your mouse and keyboard should be on the same level, so if you use a keyboard tray, make sure both items are on it–elemental-ergonomics-graphic-use-thisthat way you can adjust your height to match both the keyboard and the mouse, not just one or the other!  In addition, your keyboard should be center directly in front of you as well.   Check out this image for some additional tips to help make your desk ergonomics the best possible.

2)  Driving a car.
** In many cars, especially newer ones, the car companies have made it a lot easier for us to have good ergonomics while driving.  Unfortunately, though, many of us don’t know how to properly adjust our driver’s seat to maximize our comfort and decrease undo repetitive strain.  This video is a quick guide to how to properly adjust your seat, including distance from the steering wheel and pedals, proper arm/hand positioning on the wheel, and seat angles.  Next time you get in your car, take a few extra minutes to make sure you are adjusted to the best of your car’s ability before heading out!
** If you still need some adjustments, consider a lumbar pillow, like this one to help position your back in the best possible position to decrease pain.  Check out Car-Posture the image for an overall visual of what you should be aiming for when preparing the driver’s seat for yourself.

These tips might seem obvious to some–but often times the most effective changes we can make are easy fixes, that just take a bit of dedication to create new habits in our every day actions. Whether these are new tips or old reminders for you, I hope that they spur you to take a closer look at where you can make small, but effective changes in your posture, office workspace and daily commute to help reduce any pain you are feeling in your arms and hands!

Next up, I have a lot of great things happening right now with Santa Cruz Therapeutic Massage, from a continuing education workshop with Tom Myers, an expert anatomist and bodyworker, to a new line of products from Sierra Sage Organics.  I’m am very excited to share them with you over the coming weeks…so stay tuned!!

With Peace and Gratitude,
April

Bringing the Benefits of Massage Home…Self-care for the Forearms

                                                                                                                   January 27, 2015
          That moment when my clients realize they can take some of the benefits of their massage home with them is often priceless, and one of the many joys I have doing my job.   Given my career choice,  it would be safe to assume I think highly of getting massage, for, to put it mildly, a plethora of reasons.  But, what I also value is educating myself and my clients on ways we can take care of ourselves in between those sessions too.  Over the next few blog posts, I’ll be talking about some often-heard complaints caused by common repetitive use activities, and showing you some great self-care options, including self-massage, stretches, and easy changes to counteract the effects of many of these activities that we can’t just stop doing (like work!)

First, close your eyes and visualize three of the main activities you do during the day–mine are massaging, driving and typing/mousing on a computer.  What are your arms and hands doing during these activities?  How many hours a day are you doing these activities?  Me?  Sometimes hours and hours…and hours of forearms extended, wrists scrunched up…  No wonder so many of us have tension and pain in our forearms?!  So, what can we do about it to counteract some of these repetitive motion activities?  If you are like me, you can’t just STOP working or STOP driving–so what CAN we do?   Luckily, there are some easy techniques that you can do to at home or at the office (probably not while you’re driving though!)

Some general anatomy might help make these techniques easier to utilize.  The forearm is comprised of the flexor muscles; the muscles on the 0_0_0_0_250_184_csupload_30819764_largepalm side, and the extensor muscles, those on the opposite (top) side.  As you can see from the image, when we are doing many of our daily activities, we are putting our forearms into some level of extension, almost constantly.  The brachioradialis is the large meaty muscle on the extensor side, that starts near the elbow.  When doing anything that puts your forearm into extension for a long period of time, the muscles contract, and tighten, and can cause pain, discomfort and even inflammation in the elbow joint, forearm, wrist and hand.
Our goal is two-fold really.  Massage and stretch to help decrease the discomfort and to release some of the tightness.  But also to develop a consciousness around what specific activities you are doing that contribute to the pain–and then see if there are alternative or better ways to do the same thing.

First, let’s learn some massage and stretching options that you can do for yourself.

  • Forearm stretch wrist_stretches:  Extend arm out with palm down.  Bend down at the wrist, use the other hand to gently push the hand into a stretch.  Hold for 30 seconds and then gently shake out.  Repeat 3x.
  • Active stretch and squeeze massage: This has two parts.  The first part, with your arm extended in front of you with your palm facing out (like you telling someone to STOP), you will be slowly moving from this position to the opposite, with your palm facing inward (like the stretch you just learned!).  The second part, with your other hand, palm/thumb on the flexor (palm) side and fingers on the extensors (top) side (forming a duck bill with your hand), and firmly squeeze the forearm, starting at the wrist and moving up to the elbow.   Now, combine the two parts, by squeezing and holding while you slowly move the wrist from palm up to palm down.  The idea is that you are “pinning” the muscles in place, while you stretch them–allowing for a more localized and intense stretch!  Experiment with it and see what feels best–it should all feel good!
  • Forearm Ironing images copyis a self-massage technique that I use often for myself.  As in the image, using your other forearm, starting at the elbow joint, and working from the meatiest part of your forearm (the brachioradialis), slowly “iron” down your forearm towards your wrist.  Adding a tiny bit of oil or lotion can be helpful, but not necessary, if going slow enough, as our natural oils are usually sufficient.  I often position myself either at a table, leaning over it with my body weight doing most of the pressure, or sitting in a chair with my forearm to be worked resting on my legs.  Experiment, and use whichever is most comfortable for you.

The second part of self care is to build a new level of consciousness around the repetitive actions we do that contribute to the pain.  In my next blog post, I’ll be addressing some simple but effective techniques we can do to decrease the strain and stress on our elbows, forearms, wrists and hands in the office, car and at home.  Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

With Peace and Gratitude,
April

Beginning the New Year off Right

January 13, 2015

             It may seem cliche, but the new year is still a great time to reassess priorities, change bad habits to good, and set goals for the year ahead.  I often find I have many “great” ideas for life improvement and career improvement  floating around in my head, that I never actually work towards actualizing.  
            My goal, in this new year, is to “Allow myself the time and compassion to explore these ideas.  Acknowledge that some (or many) of them might turn out to instead be lessons in graceful acceptance of failure.  But, some of them might just be a “great idea” and one that can challenge me to be the best I can be, as a person, as a partner, a mother, and of course, a massage therapist!”
           So, on that note, some goals for my massage practice in this new year!
** Expand my knowledge base even more, by taking new continuing education workshops.  (I am on my way with this one, with one workshop already registered for by one of the great teachers in our field–Tom Meyers!)
** Create educational opportunities for my clients and my local community by offering workshops, updating this blog, and volunteering my time.
** Expand my scheduling availability to allow for more accommodations in my clients’ schedules (I have already begun this as well–see my Services and Rates page–and will continue updating it as I am able).

What are your goals this year and how are you working to integrate them into your life?

With Peace and Gratitude,
April