It’s finally here! The workshop designed to show you how to help yourself. Using tools you probably already have scattered around your house, this workshop will give you a step-by-step guide to self-massage. You will understand what causes muscle tension, learn useful tips on how to create good self-care habits, and leave with a better range of motion and more pliable muscles.

For the class you’ll need: 2 tennis balls, a lacrosse ball, and a foam roller. Cost for the class is either $30 (bring your own balls and roller), or $45 (balls and roller provided). You’re encouraged to bring any other self-massage tools you have.

Sign up here!


Anatomy Moment: Iliopsoas

What is your iliopsoas? Where is it? And why should you care?

In the most basic description, the iliopsoas is part of the “Hip Flexor” group. The iliopsoas muscle is actually a duo consisting of the Iliacus and Psoas Major muscles.

They’re the strongest for the job they do – flex the hip. But to get to know each muscle more intimately, see below..



Actions: Flex the hip, Laterally rotate the hip, Flex the torso toward the thigh, Tilt the pelvis anteriorly.
Attaching: at the top of the hip bone to below the hip joint. You could think of it as where you’d put your hands on your hips. Your iliacus rests under where your fingertips land.

Action: The same as above plus assist to laterally flex the lumbar (lower) spine.
Attaching: from the lower spinal vertebrae to below the hip joint. It extends diagonally from your lower spine to the front of your hip.


When would you use these beauties? Standing, walking, and perhaps while doing sit-ups – to name a few examples. If you’ve taken [especially] a yoga class, you may have heard the cue to not fire from the hip flexors.

Often times – because of the job they do – it is easier for us as humans to engage the hip flexors instead of our abdominal muscles. If you find yourself becoming too familiar with your hip flexors (over-using them), then you might want to remind yourself where your abs are. 😉

Another common way to anger your iliopsoas is to sit for long periods of time without taking breaks. You see, the flexors do want to work and be useful, but they don’t want to be over-worked. They also don’t want to remain in a scrunched up position while you sit all day….. [This has been a paid-for advertisement from your iliopsoas.]


Please allow me to now give you plenty of options to apologize to your iliopsoas.
1) Drink water. This will actually solve two problems – keeping the muscles hydrated to keep fresh blood and nutrients pumping, as well as to get you up and walking to the bathroom. Thumbs up for hydration!
2) Selfmassage. (If you’re already a client of mine, I feel your smiles through the internet.) I have found that using a dimple softball for this area works best. It’s wider than a tennis or lacrosse ball so it really enables you to get to the muscle belly. You could also use a tennis or lacrosse ball on top of a foam block or a couple books.
SET UP: (for your right iliopsoas) Lay flat on the floor on your back. Using your fingers find your belly button, go right about 3″ and down 1″. Place the ball here. Roll to your belly (keeping the ball in place). At this point, just breathe with your body resting and the ball pressing into your iliopsoas. Let your breathing and gravity do the job.

3) Stretch. My favorite stretch is a simple one you can do on your bed (morning and/or night).
SET UP: (for your left side) Lay flat on your back in a bed or on a couch with your left leg draped off the surface. The end. …Seriously, that is it. Stay here for as long as it feels good. (Numbness and tingling mean you’ve gone too long.)


What I detailed was a brief summation of the iliopsoas. If you’d like to geek out over some fun anatomy terms and visuals, check out this helpful video. An added note.. the plural of  “psoas” is “psoe or psoi”.


**Thanks to Trail Guide to the Body Flashcards by Andrew Biel for the iliopsoas actions and attachments bit.

Those Trapping Traps..

Oh how I love word play!

Let’s get right into it – the traps. The full name is Trapezius, but that makes it sound more like a contraption used in the circus.

Where are the traps? What do they do that I need to know about? Allow me to explain…

The traps cover a larger area than most of you may realize (please see the picture below). I’ve also inserted an image from the 4th edition flashcards by Trail Guide to the Body to help you identify where these muscles attach and what actions they’re responsible for.



Times you may notice these boogers? When you’re holding your cell between your shoulder and ear. Also when you’re tilting your head back in attempt to show your feeling of boredom.

The traps are one of the “hot spots” for where people think their tension resides. What is actually happening is this: when you’re stressed because of the traffic you’re stuck in or the fact that you’re going to miss a presentation because you’ve missed your flight, your body is displaying that stress. Your body physically displays all your emotions. When your body contorts itself to display those emotions, there are muscles contracting to put you in those positions. When the muscles are contracting like that for a lot of time on end, it’s like you’re giving those muscles a workout you didn’t intend to. They’re getting stronger and those tight spots are getting tighter. Eventually leading to reduced ROM (or range of motion) and often times pain.

So what can you do to help yourself if you have issues with your traps?

  • Static stretching of the Neck and Scapula. Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 12.06.04 AM( Shot 2016-03-31 at 12.08.18 AM.png(
  • Self myofascial release such as foam rolling. These are some of my favorite tools for the traps: tennis balls, lacrosse balls, and foam balls. Recently I’ve become a huge fan of using dimple balls for the traps and any other muscle with really solid muscle spasms.
  • Take breaks! If you work at a desk, taking breaks can be hugely beneficial. It might not seem like much, but even looking up for a minute or two or standing up for 30 seconds could help break the constant muscle contraction.
  • Hydration! As always – drink 1/2 your bodyweight in ounces per day to keep you on track to not dehydrate. Your muscles are thirsty! Also – this is a great way to get those breaks in.

Until next time!


How Massage Can Help You

Good evening (insert clip of Jeff Dunham with Achmed here).

I’m going to describe a typical client. Your mission is to make sure you don’t match any of the description – I dare you!

You have headaches regularly. (Fun stat: “normal” amount of headaches per year: 2-3. ..yeah.)
You go to the gym…sometimes. You kind of workout…sitting on the stationary bike while watching TV counts, right?
You notice your back hurts after sitting all day at work. You sometimes make it out of your chair to run to the restroom or grab a quick lunch (or to run home at the end of the day). Your neck hurts and you find yourself leaning into your work. Literally – like you are in the computer. You are one with the computer.
You are off balance frequently. Possibly leading to falls here and there.
Your wrists or elbows pop or feel uncomfortable sometimes, but you can’t figure out why.
You have an old sports injury that just won’t stop rearing its nasty head.

Now that we’ve determined you match something on or related to items on the list, let’s really talk. What can massage do for you?

Here’s another question I ask my clients – have you ever really given massage a chance? By this I mean..
– Have you tried using massage as a consistent means of helping heal your body, or keep your body in a wellness state?
– Have you done your homework between sessions (“no” is not the correct answer here)?

If, for any reason, you answered “no” to the above two questions, massage may have been your saving grace and you just didn’t know it. Massage should be done on a regular basis for best results. If a client only gets a massage here and there, what I’ve found is that the muscles start running the show again and causing problems.

The muscles become tight again and the massage generally doesn’t feel as relieving as it should (if done on a consistent schedule). Our lives don’t stop after a massage. Our muscles and bodies are never truly given a moment to chill out and do nothing. That means that those muscles, ligaments, tendons, and fascia that were just worked on are going to go back to being angry and tight if they aren’t kept in check. This happens simply because we keep using them.

I mentioned doing your homework between massages. Before giving homework to my clients, I ask “Are you going to do a couple stretches if I go over them with you?”. I need to know that you’re in this wellness plan with me. It takes my effort during your massage and your effort between massages to keep your body well. This means: using the tennis ball, breaking out that foam roller you purchased a year ago, waking up and stretching, drinking half your body weight in ounces every day, etc. It may sound challenging and daunting, but won’t it feel good to feel good?!

Let the message from this post be this:

Massage can work wonders for your body. It can relieve physical and emotional stress, promote proper circulation, increase range of motion, and give you a general sense of well-being. Massage can do all this and more for you. But the real healing is when you decide you want to help yourself.


Well, What do You do?

Happy Monday, All!

Today I’m letting you in on my personal self-care tips. One of the questions I get asked frequently – “Well, what do you do to take care of yourself?”

Folks, today you get your answer! Let’s begin..

Of course this must be on the list! I have one fellow therapist I’ve been lucky enough to find and work with for more than a year now. As massage therapists, we often schedule our clients before ourselves. However, just as parents, friends, employees, and students must take care of themselves before being able to complete their tasks properly and to the best of their ability, so must therapists. If you want to do a good job for others and be there when you’re needed, you must be well.

I see my acupuncturist on a regular basis. This started out for me being a visit of wellness and curiosity. What this ancient healing technique ended up being for me was a welcomed addition to my self-care routine. While needles may be an issue for you, I’d strongly encourage you to share any concerns and ask any questions of a licensed acupuncturist. They’re always forthcoming with information and love to share their passion for this holistic wellness method.

That’s right! 5-7 times a week you can find me in one of four places: Pure Barre, Cary Flow Yoga, on a treadmill, or outside. (On a crazy day you might find me seeking two of those locations out!) There are different reasons for why I frequent each of those locations – I’ll explain briefly.
Pure Barre (or PB as I often refer to it): is where I want to go when I have 55 minutes, want to work out intensely, stretch my shaky muscles afterward, and meet up with familiar faces.
Cary Flow Yoga (or CFY..see the theme with the abbreviations?): is where I want to be when I need to calm my mind, center myself back on my body and what it needs, and still challenge myself.
Treadmill: ok, so I’ve started this new burst training method – check out the video. I’m loving this so far. I feel like I get so much out of a short time spent working out. And it is something I can do – no excuses – because it’s not a huge time commitment.
Outside: I love hiking. I could hang out outside all day long – on one condition – that I’m allowed a modern shower afterward!

Drink Water
Guys – this is a biggie. As a massage therapist, I can tell instantly if you’re a good water drinker or not. It’s all in your skin and muscle texture! When I ask you the question, “Are you a good water drinker?” it’s not for my benefit – I want you to hold yourself accountable. You need to drink half your body weight in ounces – every day.

Yes – I’m stating the obvious. What I mostly want to point out is bolstering during sleep. Bolstering meaning using pillows or bolsters to brace your joints as to not put undue pressure where you can avoid it. With as much time as we spend in slumber, we might as well make it comfortable! I fall asleep on my side, have a water pillow for my head, a pillow behind me, and a third pillow between my knees. The water pillow has kept me from waking with neck tension that leads to migraines for me. The other pillows keep me tucked in comfortably and well-supported.

I hope you all take these personal habits of mine into consideration in exploring what might be the best self-care routine for you! Ask your therapist what he or she does! There are many more excellent ideas out there.

5’s on the First: Top 5 Self-Massage Tools

Today is the first Monday of 2015! As such, I’d like to introduce my first theme (of many) – 5’s on the First. 5’s on the first is designed to be a handy intro to 5 quick tips, resources, and much more.

To get started, I’d like to talk about the importance of self-massage. The more you do on your own as a client, the better your massage sessions will be and the longer you’ll feel your results of the massage last. I talk with my clients about this topic daily! Let’s get started..

5. Thera Cane
Although this is mostly only talked about with clients who are familiar with therapeutic tools, this is a very useful tool for anyone. You might need an instruction sheet for the first few uses, but you’ll get the hang of it! The Thera Cane is very useful for those hard-to-reach spots (ie. knots in your back). Many stores sell them nation-wide, and they can also be found online. If you feel like you’re not getting in the groove with it still, take it to your next massage – we love show-and-tell!

4. Foam Roller
These are some of the easiest tools to come by. I highly recommend foam rollers for use with larger muscle groups – glutes, quads, etc. They are great for getting a generalized self-massage. I typically suggest the use of a tool for general massage before using a tool which gets more specific. This allows the fascia and muscle tissue to break up easily, allowing for a more gentle massage.

3. Your Hands, Fingers, & More
Shocking! You’ve been blessed with a set of self-massage tools right in your own body. You’ll often find me working on my palms with the point of my elbow, working on my scalenes (topic for another day, guys) with my fingers, or working around my pec attachments with the palm of my hand if it’s been a particularly grueling day for my upper body. If you need some specific advice, don’t be shy – ask your therapist!

2. Tennis Ball
I’m sure my clients will read this one and roll their eyes – I’m the queen of tennis balls! I proudly keep one in my bedside table, in my car, and occasionally in my purse. They’re portable and help really get into some trouble spots for clients. I love using them to get into hip attachments, around the scapula, and placing two tennis balls in a sock and resting my head on them (placed at the base of my skull). A helpful rule of thumb – keep away from most bones – the scapula and hip are exceptions. Always check with a therapist about exact placement.

1. Foam Ball
Honestly foam balls and tennis balls are tied for my top tools. I absolutely love anything that’s portable. It allows for no excuses to use them! Especially with my world travelers, self-massage is key! I picked up my foam ball from a therapy center nearby – Trinity Wellness Center in Raleigh, NC. ( The staff was in the midst of a team lunch, but was still kind enough to let me pick up one of my all-time favorite massage tools. Similar items can be purchased online. This foam ball is great for some general, but mostly specific work. I use it mostly on my quads and glutes.
Foam Ball

It’s important to keep in mind that we all have different struggles and each situation requires a different bag of tools. Talk to your therapist about your goals and individual concerns.