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Massage Therapy
More Than Just a Day at the Spa

Massage TherapyMore Than Just a Day at the Spa

For most of us, the older we get the more conscious we become of our body's limitations. We sleep in the wrong position and our back hurts. We work at the computer for too long and our neck hurts. And let's not forget the company softball game. You may have played like an all-star but by the next day everything hurts!

When it comes to these types of "growing" pains, there are several methods we turn to for treatment. Some of us choose avoidance by ignoring the pain, hoping it will eventually go away. Others may choose to mask the pain through the use of over-the-counter medication.

Then there are those people who deal with their pain head-on and at its source. In many cases, the "source" happens to be a strained or injured muscle in desperate need of direct therapy. So what are these proactive folks doing, you ask? They're picking up the phone and making an appointment for a massage.

The word "massage" can have a different meaning depending upon who you ask. To set the record straight about what massage can really do, YOU Magazine enlisted the help of Jenna Lecce (lay-chay), a certified massage therapist in the San Fernando Valley of southern California.

Misconceptions about Massage
According to Ms. Lecce, the biggest misconception regarding massage therapy is that it's a luxury that carries no health benefit. She looks at massage as both curative and preventative, claiming, "The origins of many diseases are based in stress." She added that true massage therapy is a legitimate form of healing, both physically and emotionally.

Lecce claims that another misconception regarding massage has to do with the cost. She says this delusion is due to the emergence in popularity of the "day spa." While Ms. Lecce doesn't view the spa experience as a negative one, she does say that oftentimes spas are more focused on pampering rather than healing. And pampering of that nature doesn't come cheaply.

Instead, Lecce advises individuals to seek out a qualified physical therapist or chiropractor with a certified massage therapist employed on his or her staff. She says you may not get a white fuzzy robe, but you do get therapy for a reasonable cost.

"Massage is not just about working out a knot in your neck. It's about lengthening your muscles and ligaments," claims Lecce. An added perk to going this route is that many insurance carriers will help pay the bill. If this is the case, a great massage may cost you as little as an office co-pay.

Benefits of Massage
Aside from aiding muscles and ligaments, Lecce says that massage improves the body's circulation and lymphatic drainage (stimulation of the lymphatic vessels which support the body's immune system). She adds that massage is the only way she knows to create blood flow within a specific area of the body without exercise. It is this resulting increase in blood circulation that is the genesis of healing injured muscle and tissue.

Massage can lower blood pressure and aid digestion, along with other functions of the body. Lecce says it's been shown to improve motor skills, hand-eye coordination, reflexes, and mental focus. Massage also increases one's range of motion and boosts energy.

Additional positive effects associated with massage therapy include an increase in stamina, more restful sleep, and an increase in productivity. In terms of relaxation and stress reduction, Lecce claims, "It takes a little time." She says neither can be fully realized until comfort and trust have been established between therapist and patient.

A Therapist's Advice
Lecce advises anyone seeking a massage to look for a certified massage therapist (CMT) who is also licensed and insured. She says that certification provides proof of formal training. Having a business license will show that they've proven their certification to the city. And having an insurance policy provides a financial safety net in the case of any massage mishaps.

To get the most out of your massage, Lecce attests, "The best results come to patients who are fully invested in healing their body." She says it's the CMT's job to heal you from the outside in. Your job is to meet them halfway by taking care of yourself.

Obviously, a proper diet, regular exercise, and no smoking are a must; but Lecce goes one step further. She advocates the regular practice of yoga, tai chi, or Pilates. She says these disciplines not only promote a healthy spine, but are also highly enjoyable and relaxing. "You give a lot of time to your employer and family, but how much time are you giving to yourself?" she poignantly asks.

Other Good Practices
Aside from the prescribed forms of exercise, Lecce advises everyone to keep properly hydrated. We all know many of the benefits to drinking water but, according to the expert, proper hydration of your body keeps muscle and tissue suppler and, in turn, more responsive to massage.

For those seeking back-pain relief in between appointments, Lecce suggests the purchase of a foam roller, 3 to 4 inches in diameter. These rollers are available at any physical therapy supply store for roughly $15 to $20 dollars. Simply place the roller on the ground. Lying on your back, position yourself on top of the roller, ensuring that it is parallel to and directly underneath the spine. Allow your legs and arms to fall to the outside. Remain in this position for 10 minutes breathing deeply.

Lecce says you can also lie with the roller placed perpendicular to your spine. Position the roller directly underneath troublesome spots, and roll gently back and forth for relief.

For those who suffer from neck and shoulder pain, Lecce likes something known as a "back cane." Available at the same stores as the foam roller, the cane is an S-shaped device which should be placed over the shoulder and trapezius muscle. The bottom of the S curve can be held with the hand and maneuvered back and forth to create a soothing self-massage.

If you're one of those people who develop aches and pains while sitting at your desk all day, Lecce's advice is to regularly remove yourself from the chair and take a walk around the office. Sometimes it's just enough movement to prevent muscle strain.

Bad Practices
When asked about any daily practices that increase the chances of muscle strain, Lecce has two pet peeves. She claims that using your shoulder to hold the telephone to your ear is one of the easiest ways to strain both the neck and shoulders. The worst part is it's an unconscious, unrealized practice. As she suggests, "Get a headset!"

In terms of back pain, the therapist recommends that you never sleep on your stomach, craning your neck to one side. This practice not only provides little support for the neck, but it places excess strain on the back.

"It is possible to retrain yourself to sleep on your back or even your side," she claims, adding in the same breath that it's important to replace your bed pillows roughly every two years. For any "side-sleepers," Lecce says that many pillow companies are making pillows specifically designed for that purpose.

Finally, Lecce urges everyone to adjust his or her definition of massage. Albeit a relaxing experience, she contends that massage should be primarily looked at as a method for maintaining health and ensuring the body's peak performance. Using the analogy of bringing in a car for regular maintenance, she asks, "Why wouldn't you treat your body even better? It's your vehicle. "

Jenna Lecce is a certified, clinical massage therapist, licensed in the city of Los Angeles. In practice now for 6 years, Jenna trained under Boris Prilutsky, DC, L.Ac. at The Institute of Professional Practical Therapy. Jenna is available for private practice, corporate events, and public speaking. She also keeps limited office hours at Back to Wellness Chiropractic Corporation in Valley Village, CA. Jenna is currently obtaining her Masters in Science degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine at Dongguk Royal University in Los Angeles. She can be contacted at

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