Saturday, 10 June 2017

The sad truth about winter blues

When you are categorically NOT a ‘winter person’, there is no layered fashion or hot-cuppa-in-bed powerful enough to force you to embrace the dreariness of a cloud-plagued sky. You’ll probably notice your mood collapse with a thud as the temperature drops, and your motivation evaporate in front of the warm heater. Winter blues, we call it.

As it turns out, you could be experiencing a legitimate disorder with its very own acronym: SAD. Fitting, isn’t it? Seasonal Affective Disorder is actually classified as a major depressive disorder which recurs at around the same time every year and becomes dormant during other seasons. In other words, the symptoms are identical to those which constitute depression, only they are presented seasonally; loss of energy, feelings of sadness and hopelessness, irritability, lethargy, insomnia social anxiety and weight gain…which sheds a whole new light on that winter body vs summer body phenomenon!

SAD is caused by a triple-whammy of chemical changes in the brain. Melatonin is a hormone that responds to darkness by causing sleepiness. Combine the lethargy with inhibited serotonin activity and a lack of exposure to natural sources of Vitamin D – i.e. sunlight on the skin – and your internal rhythms are thrown completely out of whack. Who knew sunshine had such power over us?

As a strain of major depressive disorders, the treatments for SAD tend to imitate those of other mental illnesses, including cognitive behaviour therapy via counselling, and antidepressants, as well as Vitamin D and light therapy. If you recognise a recurring seasonal pattern of depression, it is recommended that you flag the issues with mental healthcare professionals and, in addition, explore a range of self-care methods including complementary therapies like massage therapy and acupuncture.

Massage therapy has been used to treat a multitude of ailments for 3000 years but has paved its way into scientific studies over the past few decades as a drugless-wonder in the alleviation of depression symptoms. This is primarily thanks to its affects on reducing cortisol levels, the ‘stress hormone’, and promoting the production of dopamine and seretonin.

Massage therapy has been noted to significantly alter the biochemistry of humans both immediately following massage sessions and over the course of massage therapy treatment periods - T. Field et al.

The best part is that feeling of instant gratification that you get from a massage which many clients attest to as they emerge from the treatment room, totally blissed out, but it lasts long after.

As you settle onto the heated massage table and relax into your therapist’s touch, you’ll discover that there’s nothing more luxurious than a remedial massage in the dead of winter. Oil is heated to a comfortable temperature before being applied to the skin in long, sweeping strokes called effleurage. The pressure will increase as the muscles are kneaded and manipulated, stimulating the flow of blood and lymph vessels, in turn improving circulation and keeping those extremities warm. Massage’s ability to nurture both the body and mind is what distinguishes it as the ideal complementary therapy in the treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Winter is a season that needs to be approached with a little extra self-care and sensitivity for a lot of people, so know that you are not alone. Seek assistance from your healthcare professional if you need help managing, and remember to be kind to yourself. On the upside…only three months to go!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

A taboo... but let's talk of massage and cancer.

We love to think of massage as something akin to pampering, not really essential but good to have every now and then, for relaxation or after a hard session at gym.

You'd expect the blog of a massage clinic to challenge this view, claim that regular massage helps you live a better life in so many ways... And that's true, of course. But today I want to mention a different group of people - those for whom massage, because of a medical condition, is a necessity rather than a choice.

Cancer is one such medical conditions.

Image of a distressed woman
Often it's referred to in hushed tones, as the word itself is too evocative to use. It does conjure up images of protracted suffering, of therapies laden with massive side effects. An insidious illness eating away at the body it's in. And - it's widespread. We all know someone who's been affected, directly or indirectly. Some of us have it – and of those, the lucky ones beat it and pray it won't come back.

Massage is not a cure, of course. As a 'complementary therapy', it can help manage ill side effects of cancer therapies such as radiation, chemo or surgery, and enable sufferers to better cope with the experience for their own comfort and psychological well-being. The Cancer Council lists massage among several complementary therapies that, while not aiming at curing the cancer,  are useful to help control symptoms such as pain and fatigue. 

[There's an important distinction between complementary and alternative therapies. Alternative therapies propose to cure cancer with methods not scientifically proved, which in some cases have been demonstrated to foster cancer growth or reduce the effect of conventional therapies. Complementary therapies – such as massage – have been proved to help in mitigating the side effects of conventional therapies and improve quality of life].

A main concern of cancer sufferers is that massage can help spread it to healthy cells.

The Cancer Council devotes a full page of information to cancer and massage, and deals with this common and justifiable (although not justified, as it turns out) concern. It says that “light, relaxing massage can safely be given to people at all stages of cancer.” It adds that tumour areas should be avoided, and suggests that sufferers should seek doctor advice if they have any specific concerns.  Those who look for more detailed information will find it here

The benefits of oncology massage can be extensive. They'll vary depending on the type and stage of cancer. During all stages, however, the sensation of human touch can be vitally important to a person whose main source of physical contact is the medical treatment that causes them such discomfort. 

Many studies – mostly American - have documented the positive effects that massage can have on relieving the symptoms of anxiety and depression which is particularly important for patients in the lead up to, and throughout, surgery and other treatments. Humans are biologically designed to respond to touch, and it is this stimulation that triggers the brain to shift into a calmer state. The gentle, consolatory nature of  massage encourages deep relaxation and assists in increasing mental clarity and alertness, giving patients some respite during what often is the most trying time of their lives. 

After a session with a professional massage therapist, many  cancer sufferers have reported to having more restful sleep, eased constipation, improved self-body image and increased energy, which they find extremely beneficial during all stages of their condition. Massage is also useful in the days or weeks proceeding other treatments, whether it be surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy; the most notable benefit is reduced pain and nausea but also a reduction in the swelling often associated with chemotherapy.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Why massage is still important after you've had the baby.

Childbirth may be the only pain known to humans that usually results in a positive outcome. But the tremendous physical strain a new mother experiences during this period of her life extends far beyond labour.
picture of newborn baby
In our previous post just below, we outlined the importance of pregnancy massage in preparing a woman and her foetus for birth, both psychologically and physiologically. Keeping up the good habits acquired during pregnancy, as this next phase of motherhood kicks in, could be the key to maintaining balance and managing the aches and discomforts associated with tending to a new life.
Whether you've made the decision to leave the workforce after having bub, or have chosen to return as soon as possible, it's a pretty well-known fact that mothers of today have a LOT on their plates and often have very little time to take proper care of their own needs. Their perseverance during such an incredible lifestyle change is a feat that's nothing less than admirable (if I may say so, having gone through all this myself), particularly when we take into account the sleepless nights of endless feeding and comforting, the nappy changes and of course the relentless wiping-washing-cleaning-discarding that goes with it.
Post-natal massage has a vast range of benefits on all bodies in all of the stages they pass through, but can be particularly soothing on Mums fresh from the delivery room. With the exception of Caesarean births and abnormal situations which suggest caution, post-partum massage is perfectly safe as soon after birth as you are comfortable. Your therapist will need to tailor your treatment to your new needs,like by using lighter and more passive techniques for the first six to 12 weeks after birth, while you still have in your system 'relaxin', the hormone that relaxes the ligaments in the pelvis and softens and widens the cervix during labour .
We'll avoid deep tissue work on ligaments and tendons during this period, as a precaution against further stretching and potentially damaging them. Using this modified pressure will also ensure the safety of the veins in your legs which don't return to their pre-pregnancy state until up two two months after delivery. All of the therapists at Balmain Massage and Wellness Centre are fully qualified in these procedures to give you the best quality care.
PLUS... you can take your bub with you when you come for your massage!
Baby in pram
Our nanny, Amylea, will take your kid off your hands and entertain him/her for the duration of your session. You can relax in the knowledge that your most precious possession is next door, professionally cared for by a fully qualified, responsible nanny.
And during August our nanny's service is free! ...not that the extra $5 per kid per hour we normally charge is likely to break the bank...
So call us on 0295555121 or 0406896525, or text us, or email us, or book online (you get extra “frequentlywell” points for doing so) and get yourself an hour of peace.

the balmain massage & wellness centre
suite 8, 2 beattie street, balmain 2041
tel 02 95555121 cell 0406 896 525  |  web
10-7 weekdays, 8:30 6:30 weekends  |  bookings always required

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Massage during pregnancy

The physical changes that occur during pregnancy are some of nature's most incredible wonders... wonders that can be downright uncomfortable.
How the body profile changes over the 9 months of pregancy
As the body adjusts to accommodate the expanding uterus, organs begin shifting and ligaments stretching, and that alone can cause some serious discomfort. Add to this the pressure (from baby's rapidly increasing weight) on the pelvic bone and on the nerves that run between pelvis and legs and you have a recipe for a tense and achy disaster. Obviously there is also a significant weight gain which the spine must support, and with an altered centre of gravity often comes a gradual change in posture which can cause muscle and joint strain. Fluid retention, sleeplessness, cramping, fatigue; doesn't sound fun so far, does it? Thankfully it's always worth it when the end result is a healthy bouncing bub, and there are some measures we can take to manage the symptoms. Exercise, of course. And... you guessed: massage is one of them.
Massage increases blood circulation, which is of particular importance to the uterus and placenta during pregnancy, providing more oxygen and nutrients to both mother and baby. It improves the function of the lymph system which is responsible for the removal of toxins, resulting in boosts in immunity. But aside from remedying many of the aches and discomforts experienced during pregnancy, the mental benefits are similarly notable.
You probably don't need to read this post to know that massage is relaxing. The comforting sensation of human touch in a calm, quiet environment with no buzzing electronics or nagging children is something I'm sure we all crave, and massage guarantees you an allotted time to focus on breathing and centring the mind. Whether you are in the room for 30 or 90 minutes, you are experiencing a period of complete stillness. You can choose to have meditative music playing in the background, and can request the use of pregnancy-approved essential oil; your therapy is your time to free your body and mind of stress. Let's explore what happens during the massage.
Cortisol is called the 'stress hormone'. It's similar to adrenaline and is released when faced with a stressful situation, when the body is thrown into survival mode by its 'fight or flight' mechanism. Irrespective of any additional sources of stress, cortisol levels begin to climb during the second trimester of pregnancy and are substantially higher than usual in the weeks leading up to the birth. This hormone plays a very important role in nature, particularly in regulating body functions during life-threatening situations, and in priming pregnant women and their foetuses for labour - if it is secreted in optimal amounts. Trouble occurs when cortisol is released continuously, resulting in dangerously elevated levels. This has been linked to increased risk of early miscarriage. Massage helps the body regulate cortisol levels, recede from this 'red alert' state and restore a sense of calm. Reduced cortisol levels will also help to keep blood pressure in check which is crucially important during pregnancy to prevent complications with the mother's organs and the delivery of her baby.
All the massage therapists at the Balmain Massage and Wellness Centre are qualified to provide pregnancy massage and are able to give you the particular care and understanding required during this precious time.
“Pregnancy massage is safe for all stages, but there are slight modifications in terms of pressure in some areas”, says JoAnn Hill, one of our more experienced pregnancy massage therapists. From approximately the start of the second trimester, depending on individual development, a specialised pregnancy cushion is placed on the massage table to allow women to lay on their stomach and be completely supported and can be adjusted as the body changes.
If you have been experiencing any aches or discomforts in your pregnancy, including muscle or joint pain, tension, headaches, cramps, fatigue, mild varicose veins, colds or congestion, heartburn and acid reflux, stiffness and knots or shortness of breath, massage may help a lot.
We suggest you check with your doctor before making an appointment if you have any concerns. If you get the green light, give us a call on 9555 5121 or 0406 896 525 or book from our website. Booking online will also get you some extra points in “frequentlywell”, our loyalty rewards program.

Monday, 27 April 2015

What a week!

Lymphnodes to the rescue

Well, what a chaotic week it was in Sydney! As the cyclonic conditions begin to ease and floodwaters dissipate, we hope that all of our wonderful clients are safe, dry and warm...
If you haven't managed to escape to a tropical island over the past few weeks, chances are you would have already begun to notice the effects that the cold weather can have on your body: dry skin, sluggishness, aching joints or the dreaded cold may be plaguing you as the wintry season creeps in. In our previous blog post we discussed the immune boosting power of remedial massage when incorporated into your regular routine for optimum health, but when you have specific areas of concern related to circulation, lymphatic drainage may produce the desired results even more effectively.
As you probably know, the lymphatic system is a network of tubes, known as lymph vessels, which drain and filter from tissues fluid that seeps though the walls of blood vessels. Working in unison with the blood system, nutrients are carried to cells and debris is removed as the fluid passes through lymph nodes. The human body contains 600-700 such nodes and their job is to collect waste material and trap bacteria and other microbes. Sometime, for a number of reasons, these tubes can become partially or fully blocked - which is why nodes (or glandes, as they are also called) become swollen when you have an infection.
In order for lymph fluid to circulate through the body efficiently, it requires a certain amount of physical movement and muscular action, in addition to adequate fluid and nutrient intake.
A common example of when these high standards of circulation are not achieved is during long-haul flights; if you've ever experienced tight and puffy legs while travelling, this is why... and it can be dangerous (read: deep vein thrombosis or DVT). It may surprise you, however, to learn that such puffiness can also occur at ground level during winter. Frequency of exercise may decrease as we trade in braving the icy air for a night in front of the heater watching television. At the same time, our intake of starchy comfort foods is probably on the rise. It won't take long before this combination has us feeling sluggish and our bodies crying out for us to get that stagnant lymph fluid moving again.
If exercise and diet alone isn't enough to remedy fluid retention, manual lymphatic drainage can really help. Lymphatic drainage is a specialised form of massage whereby fluid is coaxed through the lymph vessels in a very slow, gentle rhythm.
As the vessels are small and close to the skin, it is important that the massage is not too deep otherwise they could get blocked, preventing free flow of the fluid. During the procedure, therapists will use a soft, circular pumping motion to stimulate the system, encouraging fluid away from swollen areas and into sections where it can be moved more efficiently.

Manual lymphatic drainage massage is an excellent form of detox therapy and, when incorporated into your wellness regime, will help improve energy levels, allowing you to feel your absolute best this winter without needing to slow down. Several of our therapists at the Balmain Massage and Wellness Centre are trained in lymphatic drainage – call to enquire now on (02) 9555 5121, or 0406896525, or visit our website

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Massage your way through winter: the immune boosting power of remedial massage

Boo-hoo... it's getting colder!
Of course, remedial massage in a warm environment is the ultimate treatment for when the chilly winter air has you in need of some serious comforting; it is calming, eases anxieties, can be a drug-free antidote to sleeplessness and just feels generally good.
The immediate advantages of massage seem obvious, but did you know that its therapeutic benefits extend to the immune system as well? After just a 45 minute massage, participants of a study published in the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine were found to have an increased number of lymphocytes, the white blood cells integral in defending the body from disease. The promotion of lymphatic circulation means that lymph travels through the body at an advanced rate, eliminating waste and pathogens and strengthening infection-fighting capabilities. Even a single massage can cause enough of a biological change to trigger a boost in your immune system, which we can all benefit from during this flu season.
Additionally, massage has the power to reduce your levels of cortisol - also known as the 'stress hormone'. Cortisol is secreted in higher than normal quantities during the body's 'fight or flight' response to stress, producing some positive, though short-term survival reactions. It becomes problematic, however, when the body's functions don't have a chance to return to normal between periods of high tension, resulting in a state of chronic stress. Low levels of cortisol will ensure your blood pressure is stable and allow immune cells to do their job without interference.
In addition to the effects on the immune system, massage assists in the treatment of various other concerns we face during the winter months. Increased circulation to the muscles, joints and organs will warm the body, and is particularly beneficial in relieving aches and pains, such as arthritis, which can be aggravated by cold weather.
Also, as your circulation improves, your skin is able to absorb the massage oils and lotions more effectively which will leave you feeling hydrated despite the drying weather. Best of all, a regular massage will ward off the winter blues by releasing serotonin and endorphins, enhancing your warmth and overall wellbeing; it will make you happy no matter how miserable the weather.
As you reach for the kale and garlic smoothies and acai bowls this winter, consider reaching for your massage therapist as well; your mind and body will thank you.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Nannies to the rescue

We have loved meeting lots of beautiful babies at the Balmain Massage & Wellness Centre over the couple of months that we've had a nanny onsite, and we've been receiving  great reports back from some very relaxed mums.
Some of us here are Mums (one is a father) so we do understand how difficult it can be to squeeze in some time for yourself when you have a little one, and that you don't want the hassle of arranging a babysitter so you can leave the house for an hour. With our nanny service, you have the freedom of bringing bub with you and having the peace of mind in knowing they're in the next room playing while you're being pampered. One happy mum is excited to continue taking advantage of the service, saying "it will be the only way I can get a massage with a baby!"
Amylea: just loves kids

Our nanny, Amylea, has been working with children in various roles for several years and currently works in after-school childcare at Eaton Street Centre in the Balmain Public School grounds at Gladstone Park, in addition to our Centre. She has a current Working With Children Check, Child Protection Certificate and Behaviour Management and Bullying Certificate.
"I've had the opportunity to meet so many gorgeous babies during my time here and it's just a shame I don't get to spend longer with them", says Amylea. "It definitely can be a challenge, as for many of the children it is their first time being cared for by someone else. Very rewarding too though, of course, and the mums are always very grateful after an hour of relaxation."
Our nanny service is currently available every Thursday and it adds just an extra $5 per child per hour to your bill. To book, please call 9555 5121 or 0406 896 525 and request the nanny, or book online.