Monday, June 28, 2021

What IS that therapist doing?... a modality primer

Not all bodywork is "massage" ...and not all massage is bodywork.

Therapeutic Bodywork is the general term that encompasses all bodywork styles from Massage Therapy to Reiki, and includes over 200 modalities. At The Highland Backrub, we are committed to your best health outcomes through Bodywork.


What type of bodywork do YOU need? You can make that determination yourself by trying different modalities to see what "fits" for you. We recommend that you spend some time looking over the modality descriptions below, then check our therapist bios before you schedule a session so that you know what type of bodywork you will experience.


While not all therapists are the same, finding a MODALITY that fits your body type, personality, pressure needs, and health outcomes can help you to always get the modality you need regardless of whether your favorite therapist is available.


Massage Therapy uses the palms of the hands, fingers, forearms and elbows to gently or deeply massage muscles and fascia. 

If you are in extreme pain, it may take up to 3 or 4 sessions to get you to pain-free if you haven’t ever had a massage OR if you have just waited too long to get the care you need. Keep in mind that it can take just as long to heal from pain as it does to develop it. Expecting one massage to cure you is like expecting a dollar to cover your phone bill.

If you suffer from chronic pain, you may require more than one session each month to keep you out of pain so that you can truly enjoy your life.


Thai Massage Therapy is very deep and expands on massage therapy through active stretching, compression and holding techniques that give the body time to release complex contraction patterns. Thai is especially useful for chronic conditions that you are ready to move on from. One Thai Massage session can move you to the next level so that other, more gentle modalities can have a greater effect.


Deep Tissue Therapy can be gentle, but people typically experience pain when receiving it. Allowing yourself longer sessions of Deep Tissue Therapy will reduce the pain you experience by giving the therapist time to slowly go deeper into chronic or locked muscle systems. It is common for people to assume that a short, painful session is best for them, but most Deep Tissue therapists will disagree. Having the time to slowly penetrate locked or stubborn muscle contractions is generally best for both you and the therapist you will be working with.


Shiatsu is a therapeutic form of massage that originated in Japan and traditional Chinese medicine, and has been widely practiced around the world since the 1970s. Shiatsu means “finger pressure,” which describes the technique. In Shiatsu, pressure with thumbs, hands, elbows, knees or feet is applied to pressure points on the body. This form of massage also focuses on rotating and stretching limbs, joints, and pressure points, or meridians, as they’re called in traditional Chinese medicine.


One of the fundamental concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine is Qi.

Qi is vital energy in our body that underlies all functioning. Health is present when there is abundant Qi in the meridians and the flow is unobstructed. When Qi becomes out of balance, deficient, or obstructed, symptoms arise. As minor symptoms emerge, such as weekly or daily headaches, digestive difficulties, body aches..., this indicates the imbalance of Qi.

Unaddressed, minor symptoms can progress into a multitude of symptoms as the result of the body developing combined patterns of imbalance (tendonitis, headaches, muscle spasms, poor sleep, mood swings etc.). Shiatsu therapists are trained to recognize these patterns of disharmony and restore the flow of Qi throughout the body, leaving your body more balanced and feeling rejuvenated.

Shiatsu can be used to resolve a wide range of internal, musculoskeletal, and emotional issues. When using a Traditional Chinese Medicine approach, Shiatsu can address these imbalances within our bodies that bring on the many symptoms of discomfort that we may experience. Starting the session with an assessment of the client’s overall health experiences helps locate the root cause or the root imbalance, making it easier to restore harmony to the body. 

Japanese Head Massage was brought over from Japan, and developed as a complimentary therapy with Shiatsu by Ayako Nakadakari, ShT

Japanese Head Massage uses palms of the hands and fingers (no oils) to gently stimulate the head, face, neck, and shoulders to assist the body’s secretion of dopamine. You may experience a reduction of weariness of the brain, stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms, as well as a reduction of pain or tightness in muscles of the scalp, face, neck, and shoulders.

Craniosacral Therapy (CST) was developed by Dr . John Upledger, D.O., O.M.M.

CST evaluates the body's movement in response to the Primary Respiratory Mechanism -- often referred to as the Craniosacral Rhythm-- which cycles the body through phases of extension and flexion, or expansion and contraction. The Quality, Symmetry, Amplitude, and Rate of movement of all parts of the body in response to the PRM can highlight the areas of the body which lie at the root of dysfunction.

CST practitioners use gentle touch, often less than the weight of a nickel, to induce "still points" to allow the body a moment of reprieve in the face of the dysfunction.  We then invite the body to make corrections at the compromised site. This process is repeated until the body can maintain the changes.

Myofascial Release (MFR) Myofascial Release was developed by John Barnes, PT, LMT,

MFR uses extended holds to encourage change in the body. These holds are often not painful and feel like "a good stretch." MFR practitioners hold this good stretch at each resistance barrier, allowing for the tissue to melt and change, and repeating until the targeted area releases. 

The time component is what makes Myofascial Release so special. Muscle only takes 20-35s to release; it takes a full 90-120s to extend to the collagenous barrier which gives the structure form; at this barrier, the gentle forces bring more energy to the area allowing it to change phase like ice melting into water, this process takes a minimum of 3-5 minutes; at the 7-8 minute mark, the body reaches resonance with the previously distressed tissue. From here, the body releases it's own anti-inflammatory interleukins which finish the healing process.

Myofascial restrictions and adhesions can hold a tensile strength of over 2,000 pounds per sure inch. These restrictions can lead to pain, dysfunction, and a lack of coordination in the body-- melting them has shown to be beneficial for myriad disorders. 

Reiki is a Japanese word, meaning universal life force energy. Reiki is an unlimited healing energy that is available in the universe.  During a session, the Reiki practitioner simply channels the Reiki healing energy from the universe by placing his/her hands lightly or a few inches above the client’s body (the client does not absorb the practitioner’s energy).  


Prenatal Massage Because a woman’s pelvic bones become soft during pregnancy, hip, low-back and mid-back pain are common symptoms that are routinely addressed with massage therapy.

Through the gentle attention to muscles, fascia and lymph by palpating, kneading and the application of smooth strokes over areas of pain or discomfort, prenatal massage can provide a heightened level of increased well-being, flexibility and pain relief. Prenatal massage is safe, effective and necessary for any woman determined to have the best outcome for the birth of her baby.


We hope this primer has been worth reading! Bodywork can be a fundamental health tool when used regularly. We recommend at least one bodywork session a month if you are young, and weekly to bi-weekly sessions once you reach the age of 50 to keep you fit, circulating and off of the operating table.



Friday, May 21, 2021

The Four Pillars of Good Health


Of the four pillars of good health, diet, exercise, sleep, and social connection, diet is probably the most studied and the most understood. Diet or what we eat, can seem simple, right? Most of us know we need to eat things like fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, nuts and dairy. The tricky part is that everyone does not do well on the same diet and many of us need to, often through trial and error, figure out what is best for us.

Some people do well on a high meat diet, others as a vegetarian. Certain foods can enhance one person’s wellbeing but be detrimental to someone else. How do you determine what is good for you? Let’s start with some general rules around food and then you can tweak the specifics independently.

Rules for a Healthy Diet

1)    Drink lots of purified water. Skip bottled water, it has leached plastic, and skip tap water it has numerous unhealthy chemicals.  

2)    Buy local and organic. Fruits and veggies should be chemical free and grown locally if possible. Locally grown produce has the right vitamin content for people living in that particular region.

3)    If you can’t get organic follow the Clean Fifteen and the Dirty Dozen. Easily found online these are yearly lists of the best and worst foods to buy non-organic.  

4)    Free range and grass fed when it comes to meat and dairy. Especially with beef, look for 100% grass fed. Corn fed beef turns the meat into a form of carbohydrate and acts very differently in your body from naturally grass fed meat.

5)    Have variety in your diet. If all you eat is chicken and broccoli, they may be healthy in and of themselves, but they will not provide enough range of vitamins and minerals to obtain good health. Incorporate lots of variety in what you eat.

6)    Read the labels and skip packaged food if you can. A general rule of thumb is, if a packaged food has more than five ingredients, pass on it. After that you are getting mostly unwanted chemicals.

7)    Love and bless your food. Remember the movie Like Water for Chocolate? There actually is scientific evidence that the attitude you hold towards food affects your digestion and absorption. Eat mindfully and express gratitude for your food.

If you start working on these areas, you will see your health improve. Diet is foundational because we literally can’t live without food. Try one or all of the above and start to create a healthy structure around food.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Bodywork, Coronavirus, and Health

Therapeutic Bodywork, be it deep massage, shiatsu, reiki, or others, is all part of a system that sees health as a product of balance, taking care of yourself, listening to your body, and building your immune system. A natural or integrative approach to health which more readily embraces bodywork is based on supplying the body with what it needs to stay healthy, to ward off disease, and to be strong in the face of environmental assaults like viruses and toxins. The body, even if it does get sick, even with maladies as serious as cancer, has the ability to fight off disease if it has what it needs.

Right now, we are culturally immersed in questions about viruses and the coronavirus in particular. We are no longer daily hearing about how to avoid getting cancer, heart disease, or overcoming obesity, even though these, and other diseases like lung disease, Alzheimer’s, pneumonia, and suicide are each causing far more deaths than the coronavirus. It appears that coronavirus is the new, and shiny disease de jour.

So, let’s look at the coronavirus through the lens of both traditional medicine and integrative medicine. To start, both schools of thought generally agree that a virus is a microscopic organism that can infect a host and cause unpleasant symptoms and even death. Where these two schools of thought diverge is in their approach to dealing with it. Neither is right or wrong and both have efficacy. Here is how they stack up.

Traditional or Allopathic medicine thinks like this: We are waging a war against a foreign enemy. We must not let it invade our bodies. We must stay inside and keep away from it, kill it on every surface, and filter our breathing through a mask. We need to keep at a distance from other people in case they are carriers and get vaccinated to lower our chances of it being deadly. Here, we only get bodywork when we are in pain as a stop-gap measure to "getting back to work."

Alternative, Integrative, or Natural Medicine thinks like this: Viruses are naturally occurring in the environment. People get them, people get over them, and we will constantly be exposed to them throughout our lives. We need to build strong immune systems to guard against sickness. We need good food, clean water, exercise, social contact, low amounts of toxins, sunlight, and fresh air. Take vitamin C and get in the sun. De-stress, get bodywork, spend time in nature and your body will naturally reject the virus if exposed. Here, we get regular bodywork as a "preventive" measure to boost our immune systems along with our other health-promoting good habits.

The reason that these two systems are so at odds is because one is based on improving the immune system and the other on fighting it by unnatural and artificial means that in essence reduce the effectiveness of the immune system.

Allopathic Approach: We stay inside where the air quality is 2 to 5 times more polluted than outside which lowers our immune system. We sanitize every surface with harsh chemicals that also lower our immune systems. We breathe through a mask and re-breathe our own CO2 which lowers our immune system. We keep at a distance from other people, creating a lack of social and physical contact that further lowers our immune system. We get vaccinated to lower our chances of dying from a virus, but of course the chemicals in the vaccine can injure or kill us first.

Integrative Approach - Time spent in the pleasurable pursuit of good health:  The "terrain" approach promoted by integrative, natural and functional medical professionals promotes the idea that the body as a healthy organism can defend itself, heal itself and recover fully from any hostile attack. The reason people choose an integrative approach is because they do not want to spend their life being afraid and fighting for their health. They want to spend their time in pleasurable pursuit of good health. Many find fighting to avoid a virus stressful and stress further lowers the immune system.  

Whatever system fits best for you, getting bodywork can be a great support for stress reduction and better health.  Both allopathic and natural medicine approaches can support improving your immune system if you are healthy... and bodywork is exactly the partner you are looking for to keep you on track!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Frozen Shoulder

As we've been looking at how the Backrub can help in the bodies natural healing process, today's post will concentrate on Adhesive Capsulitis or, more commonly known as, Frozen Shoulder. 

There are a few factors that may contribute to Frozen shoulder, including surgery, diabetes, cervical disk disease or a shoulder injury. It happens when the ligaments surrounding your shoulder joint become inflamed and stiffen. It causes pain and stiffness and a difficulty to rotate your shoulder. 

After getting advice from your doctor, if you are looking for natural ways to ease the strain in your shoulder, the tips below may lead you in the right direction.

Stretching -  Try watching this video for a guide on quick stretches you can try daily and learning your own limitations if you have frozen shoulder. There are also periodic classes at The Backrub on AIS (Active Isolated Stretching) for a more one-on-one experience. Have a look at our  blog post from a few months back for more information.

Essential Oils - we've talked a lot about the power of essential oils and Frozen Shoulder is not exempt. Have a look at this recipe from Natural Mom's Blog for a recipe for Frozen Shoulder. If you'd like a more personal recipe, try contacting our resident EO expert, Nikki Wells, here at the Backrub.

Applying Heat - many people swear by a heat pack as an effective quick relief. Try to take a hot bath; applying heat and then a cold pack also may work. The key is listening to what your body needs.

Massage - not only will a visit to The Backrub give prompt alleviation, it will promote oxygen flow in the blood and relax the muscles. Both shiatsu and massage therapy are offered here at The Backrub and both have benefits toward thawing frozen shoulder. Give us a call at 651-698-3338 to talk to a practitioner to find what would be right for you.

Diet - last but not least, checking your diet will have numerous perks to your whole body. While there is no dietary plan for frozen shoulder, you should be concentrating on anti-inflammatory foods (fruits, vegetables and nuts) and avoiding trans and saturated fats. 

The thing to stress most about Frozen Shoulder is that it will not be healed naturally in a day, or even a week. Frozen Shoulder takes time and dedication to healing, through stretches, body work and other remedies to discuss with your practitioner. We're here to help ease that process and by following a these few helpful tips, you could be on the way to a natural thaw.

Have questions or comments? Follow this link to contact us!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Sciatica : What You Should Know

Ever get a sharp pain in the back of the leg? A leg cramp that won't go away? You might have sciatica. 
There a lot of issues people come in to the Backrub to remedy. One of these such issues is sciatica- an ailment some people do not even realize that they have. So, what is it and how can you get rid of it?

Sciatica generally comes from pressure on the discs that cushion the bone- a "pinched nerve".  The nerve might be pinched inside or outside of the spinal canal as it passes into the leg. 
Aging wear and tear also can contribute, with sciatica effecting people aged 30 - 50.

Common symptoms of sciatica include:
- Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg or foot- A constant pain on one side of the rear
- A shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up
- Pain in the rear or leg that is worse when sitting
- Burning or tingling down the leg

The main goals you want to reach when you're looking to treat sciatica is to reduce the inflammation and muscle spasms. Luckily there are ways you can do this without heading to the doctor:

Icing and Heat: Ice your lower spine area and around your hips for about twenty minutes - this will lessen the inflammation. Follow by applying heat, either through a hot bath or heating pads - which will increase your circulation and quicken the healing process.  

Stretching and Core Muscle Strength: Although you may not want to, a few stretching moves will help release muscle spasms and help prevent sciatica pain in future. Try this short helpful video for a stretching guide.

Massage Therapy: If stretching is out of the question, a massage can get you immediate relief. The Backrub practitioners offer deep tissue massage - for sciatica that means calming the muscle spasms and restoring the "numb" feeling you may have in your legs and feet. Regular visits also contribute to restoring your balance and body structure, an important component to healing many body ailments including sciatica. 

Come into The Backrub today for a session to help restore you body's natural balance - we're open 7 days a week! Walk-ins or booking available - 651-698-4567

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Winter Hibernation: What to Eat

The holidays are over for the most part and we've had some time to sit back. This is also the time of year when we feel the winter slump. We can't sleep well, yet the gloomy cold just makes us want to wrap up in our duvets and stay in bed all day. Our diets, which is one thing that we start focusing on after the holidays, can help us gain some energy as well as help us fall asleep faster. We've compiled a list of what to munch on during the day for a more restful sleep.

Nuts: Grab a handful of nuts during the day and not only will it give you a healthy boost of energy, some of them can also help aid sleep. Walnuts contain their own amount of melatonin, an important hormone that helps regulate sleep. Almonds help muscle relaxation through their source of magnesium, also present in Brazil nuts and sesame seeds.

Fruit: There are certain fruits with components that promote a healthier sleep- Bananas are packed with melatonin and potassium- a nutrient that is another natural muscle relaxer. A handful of dates are high in carbs and L-tryptophan- the amino acid that helps you crash after a big meal. Cherries also naturally boosts levels of melatonin in our bodies. 

Fish: Vitamin D is important to achieve optimum perkiness during the day. Salmontrout, anchovies and tuna are an excellent way to ward off daytime sleepiness and welcoming a better sleep come bedtime. Check out this link from Fitness Magazine for 34 delicious healthy and quick fish recipes. Avoid protein-rich foods too close to bedtime though - try having your last big meal 3 hours before you sleep.

Tea: Head to the grocery store and you'll find a few brands of tea that promote sleep. If you've tried and tested these and are looking for something a bit different, a few other types of teas can do the same job: Steep some Passionfruit tea for a more sound sleep, or Magnolia Bark tea to calm nerves and anxiety. Even the ritual of sipping some tea before bedtime can aid the relaxation process. 

Food is also known to effect our moods. While some foods, like the ones above, can promote relaxation and less anxiety, others can have the opposite effect.
 Have a look at this article for how some foods can make us touchy and even angry:
Food Swings- Can Food Make You Angry?

What rituals and snacks do you try before bedtime? Let us know in the comments below! Want to keep in touch? Like us on Facebook or pop into The Backrub - we're open 7 days a week! 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

AIS At The Backrub

Have you made it to an AIS class at the Backrub lately? You may know instructor Nikki Wells through her monthly Essential Oils classes at the Backrub - she is also instructing classes on AIS (Active Isolated Stretching). These classes and semi-private classes are helping to improve the bodies of many people over the winter months as our muscles turn tight from cold winter days. 

If you are unsure what AIS is and what the benefits are, read on! 

 What AIS is:
Uses full range of motion movements to contract and strengthen targeted muscles while at the same time stretch the opposing muscles.  
This simultaneous strength and flexibility training makes it functional and safe.  
Stretches hold for no more than a few seconds.
Concentrating on breathing - exhale on stretch, inhale on release.

What AIS benefits:
 Techniques benefit muscles, fascia, tendons, ligaments and bones.  
They also develop brain-muscle connectivity.  
Treats a range of musculoskeletal conditions to relieve pain and facilitate the healing process.  
Can relieve muscle tension, alleviate fatigue, improve flexibility and efficiency of movement, increase strength, and achieve a balanced alignment.  
Weakness, excess muscle tension and lack of flexibility of the neck, shoulders and back--which leaves you more vulnerable to injury--can be changed through training with AIS.

During a class, Nikki will teach and assist you in stretches that can benefit your problem areas- from neck and shoulder tension to abdominal and back pain. 
Taking home what you learn from one of these classes could be the progressional kick to feeling better in the long run - these are stretches you can do every day!

There are so many benefits to AIS that Nikki would love to talk to you about- drop us a line or an email anytime for more info and remember to check back here for more health and well-being tips!