Colds, Influenzas and Infections

Getting sick isn’t fun, and I’ve heard from several clients lately that they are dying for a massage to deal with the body aches and pains that come from colds and flu and infections.


Trouble is, it isn’t a good idea to get a massage while sick or on antibiotics. The thought is that since massage increases circulation of blood and lymph fluid, it could accelerate spread of infection to other parts of the body. It might also interfere with the actions of antibiotics and the lymph system’s ability to contain and kill off infections.

It’s tough to turn down a massage when that’s exactly what your body craves. I suggest to people they think of alternatives to feeling better without a massage until they have finished their pills.

One great alternative is a good Epsom salt soak in a tub. Be careful not to have the water too hot, as raising your core temperature too high can mimic the actions of a high fever. Use warm bath water, tepid enough so after five or so minutes you add a little more hot water. Follow the directions on the container, usually one to two cups of Epsom salt per tub, and soak for 20 minutes.

Epsom salts have been used for muscle aches for centuries because they contain magnesium sulfate, which eases muscle aches. I sometimes wonder if the Romans fought their way into England not to grab land, but a good source of Epsom. The Romans knew a lot about fighting and soaking.

One of my clients wants to soak, but is on antibiotics for a bladder/kidney infection. Hot tub soaks aren’t recommended for these infections, but there are some good alternatives. One is to use Epsom salts in a foot bath. Again, easy on the water temperature, use a quarter cup, and stay in for 20 minutes.

If you can’t do a foot bath, try using warm compresses soaked in Epsom salt and water. The compresses go over the achy area, covered by a thick, warm towel and an insulated moist heat pack. I use microwave packs instead of the plug-in kind to avoid the risk of electric shock.

And I’ll see you in the office for a massage as soon as you have finished your pills!


One-Second Fix for Holiday Leg Cramps!

The next time you have a late-night leg cramp, here’s how to fix it without getting out of bed. Bend your ankle so that your toes come closer to your nose. That’s it. Really.

That’s the tip, and here is the rest of the story. When we run around a lot, like during the holidays, chances are we are getting a bit dehydrated, we are walking a lot on hard concrete floors at places like the mall and we are skipping our usual stretches and workouts. That leads to tight, overworked, dehydrated muscles. Then we go to sleep, and as we relax the calf muscle actually tightens. A sudden movement, often a toe stretch, and the cramp is off and running. Instead of jumping out of bed and doing the cramp dance, try stretching the toes upward in the direction of your nose. “Toes to nose.” This forces the muscle to stretch, eliminating the cramp.

If you can’t avoid getting out of bed to fix the cramp, remember to gently place your foot down flat so the calf stretches. Then get a banana and a glass of water. Chances are you forgot to drink water and the vitamins in bananas are thought to prevent muscle cramps.

Come in and get massaged. Cramps can be a muscle’s cry for help when it is overloaded. I often massage the leg first to loosen muscles and flush out toxins, and then gently stretch it to make sure it is clear of knots.

A few unfortunate folks will get cramps in the front of the lower leg, in a muscle that runs along the shin. If this cramps, simply bend the foot down to stretch it. Same goes for other cramps, such as in the toes, arch or arms. Making the area stretch will shut the cramp off immediately.

How to reduce computer computer related injuries, pain and muscle tension

Q: Sometimes I think my job is killing me – I'm putting in a lot of extra hours on the computer – more than ever before – and I don't want to complain because I know things are tough all over. When I go home I have a headache on the left side of my head, and my neck and shoulders are so sore I could cry. What can I do?


These are tough times for anyone who works on computers – which seems like everybody in the workforce these days. Stretching breaks or pushing away from the computer is not very good for your career when the boss is asking folks to do more with less. I've got some survival tips. But I want every person tied to a computer to start thinking like a baseball pitcher. If you are going to pitch nine innings a day at the keyboard, you need to prevent injuries. Don't wait for them to happen.


Tip #1

Cool down your shoulder and forearm muscles before you start working. If you've got a 10-15 minute drive to work, this is optimum time to start with a gel ice pack wrapped around your elbow and another one tucked under your shirt covering the shoulder. After about 10 minutes, you can adjust the arm pack to the forearm or wrist, and flip the shoulder pack to the other shoulder. When I worked on a computer all day I started every day like this to keep my muscles from overheating. When you get to work, toss your pack in the break room freezer so you can use it at lunch and on the way home. If your company is going to be frosty to this concept, ice before you leave in the morning and when you get home. I like to ice while fixing dinner or watching the news.       


Tip #2


Get rid of the knots in your muscles. This is the step that is critical to feeling better. Knots in muscles inhibit their ability to contract and relax, so they don't get good circulation or good rest and they don't perform well when used. This starved, spastic state creates more injury and more knots. Massage is the way to get rid of knots so your muscles can recover from overuse.


Tip #3

Oppose your motions. Your muscles flex all day as you hit the keys, so your exercises should be in the OPPOSITE direction. I'm constantly seeing folks take beaten-down, exhausted muscles and trying to strengthen them with exercise. This is crazy. It’s like walking on a broken leg to mend it. What’s worse, a lot of time these folks have been to some sort of therapy and they've been given these exercises to help them!


Over-flexed muscles need extension. That means wrapping a big rubber band around the tips of your fingers and pushing them outward, in the exact opposite motion of hitting a key. Doing opposing motions with neck and shoulder muscles is tricky. Come see me and I'll make sure you have the right exercises and stretches.


Tip #4

Breathe. The computer posture limits your diaphragm’s ability to flex. That means you rely on neck and shoulder muscle to take short, shallow breaths. This is one of the worst causes of fatigue. Some people feel as bad as if they took a coach seat on a flight to Europe. It’s not your imagination, it is lack of oxygen. I can get you started and show you how to get that diaphragm moving. A diaphragm breath means expanding the stomach as you breathe in. Even if you lose it during the day, you'll be able to tune yourself up by doing some diaphragm breathing on the way home.


Does your whole department need a tune-up? I will go to your office and show everybody in your IT department or accounts payable or whatever how to prevent injuries. I'll bring my rubber bands and tennis balls. Give me 30 minutes and you'll get a program that works! 




Ice or Heat For Sore Back Muscles?

Q: Sue! Help! What can I do for a sore back? 

(Asked by J.B., Newport Coast.)

It depends on why it is sore. In general, soreness caused by working at a desk all day loves heat or ice. Soreness caused by injury, such as falling off your wakeboard, needs ice. If you are not sure what to use, use ice. There are some big secrets, however, to using ice or heat. You shouldn’t use either for more than 15 minutes. Why? Because both can boomerang when used too long – creating more soreness than relief.



Q: But I hate ice!


That’s OK. I hate ice, too. But I’ve learned to use it wisely. If I’ve had a long day, and my muscles feel sore, I’ll take a gel pad out of the freezer and wrap it in a thin towel. That towel protects my skin from getting too much cold too fast. After 15 minutes of lying on the pad or sitting back in a chair, I’m done and feeling better. If the pad is still cold, I’ll drop the pad to another spot for another 15 minutes. The wrapping pads that have a Velcro tab are easier to use on the arms. I can ice my wrist and elbow pretty quick while doing other things around the house or office. If I need to ice my shoulder, I’ll stick an ice pad on top of the shoulder in between a T-shirt and a hoodie. The hoodie holds that pack in place while I get other stuff done, although I do look like Quasimodo.


One caveat: If you have a fever and your back is sore, it’s time to see the doctor. All kinds of illnesses, such as infections, can show up as soreness. I’d rather hear that you ran up a medical bill - Good for the economy! - Than for you to discover you’ve been icing a kidney infection.




Q:  If I didn’t do anything all day, why is my back hurting?

(Asked by K.W., Huntington Beach)


 This is the paradox of all time. Doing nothing really takes an effort. We are built to move and do lots of different activities during the day. What we do is sit in a car, sit at a desk, scarf lunch at a table, work some more, drive home. By the time you take your back home it has been in a flexed, isometric contraction all day. Those muscles are tired, stuck and starved of the oxygen and blood that full contractions and relaxations of the back muscles provide. Ever been sore getting off a plane? I rest my case….Cool



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Certification Number: CMT #1039