Integrative Medicine, Massage Techniques Explained

Px Aromatherapy

My experience with essential oils began in high school when my friends and I would take little field trips into NYC’s East Village to buy viles of  Jasmine, Patchouli and other exotic oil mixtures like “Blue Nile” and “Dragon’s Blood” to wear as perfume. The Patchouli wearer would always leave a heady trail behind her that gave everyone in the group a headache and in my case, a twinge of nausea. Scents are powerful, in both the literal sense of the word and also in the ability they have to invoke memories and emotions deeply stored away in the recesses of our minds. To this day, whenever I smell Patchouli I immediately recall those field trips with a smile and slight churn of my belly.

Aromatherapy is defined as the therapeutic use of plant-derived, aromatic essential oils to promote physical and psychological well-being. This form of therapy has been documented since the era of ancient Egypt and was expanded upon by the Romans and Greeks. In fact, for 1500 years a text entitled “De Materia Medica” written solely on the medicinal value of aromatic botanicals by a Greek doctor/surgeon was the accepted reference book for Western Medicine. In modern times, it’s considered a part of Holistic medicine, which is an alternative to Western, ironically enough. In aromatherapy massage, essential oils are mixed with a carrier oil (something unscented to dilute the concentration of the essentials for use on the skin) and used on the client to address whatever issue they have come to their therapist for. The simplest choices on the aromatherapy menu tend to be a Lavender and/or Peppermint essential oil massage; the former to relax and undo stress and the latter to invigorate and refresh. Beyond these two, is a world of essential oil scents and combinations that a skilled aromatherapist can use to treat one’s state of mind and body.

This past month, my physical and emotional PMS symptoms have been especially acute. Stress is definitely a mitigating factor as well as the physical demand made on my body, but I haven’t had the time (HORRIBLE excuse, I know) to get any massage/bodywork to help smooth me out. The water retention, bouts of anger and tummy troubles (er…hem) have been almost more than I can bear. A funny thing happened yesterday, while massaging a client with a combination of the following essential oils: roman chamomile, clary sage, sweet orange and lavender. The agitation ball I felt lodged in my chest from earlier in the day was suddenly gone as was the low grade ache I felt across my abdomen. My coloring shifted and my mood improved tremendously. I did not feel these changes in the other appointments I had done prior to the aromatherapy. Since I had been researching essential oils for another client, I went into my reference book and looked up the above oils within this concoction. All of them address menstrual and pre-menstrual related symptoms including depressed mood, cramps, breakouts, tummy troubles (er…hem), elevated blood pressure and cycle regulation.


75 minutes spent in a windowless room with the lights dimmed inhaling the vapors and absorbing this combination of oils into the skin of my hands and forearms was enough to smooth the last 2 weeks worth of evil from my body. Amazing, seriously. My self prescribed aromatherapy regimen to truly test the efficacy of the above results will be moisturizing my entire body with these oils after a hot shower in the days prior to the arrival of my monthly visit. This will allow the therapeutic properties of the oils to be better absorbed into my skin. And of course, make the time for a long overdue massage.


Advanced Aromatherapy: The Science of Essential Oil Therapy by K. Schnaubelt, PhD, 1998.

More information on Px Aromatherapy can be found at the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy website:

Massage Products and Accessories

Pisces Productions saved my broken a**

Massage is very physical work. Even with proper body mechanics and self care, at the end of my day I am pretty exhausted. Try adding carrying my massage table and supplies up and down multiple flights of stairs and the exhaustion is two fold. I count my blessings that I have a growing number of private clients who prefer massage in their homes, but there are some days where I wonder if I can really keep doing this. While I was in school, I had purchased my first massage table to use at home for practice and eventually, private in call clientele. The table weight is about 42 lbs. With bolsters and supplies, I would fairly estimate the massage luggage to be around 46 lbs. This is the table that I have carried up 5 flights of stairs, precariously balanced on one shoulder while hailing a city cab and dragged into the narrowest of living rooms to perform what I can only describe as “ninja” massage for the contorted positions I had to take in order to do my work. This table was never meant to be portable and as this past summer came to an end, I knew I needed something lighter…FAST!

I perused a number of sites including Massage Warehouse, Massage King, Best Massage and finally, Most of the tables that were listed as portable were between 25 and 35 lbs. Although way lighter than the 46 lbs. bundle I had been lugging about, this range was not what I defined as easy to carry. Nevertheless, I finally settled on a 25 lbs. table advertised on Amazon that was ridiculously cheap due to its unpopular baby pink hue. In the description, it noted the total package weight (i.e. table with packing materials in its box) to be 32 lbs. When the table arrived, I was surprised to see the only packing material was a single plastic sheath. The table weight was 32 lbs. When I contacted customer service, they told me I had “misread” the BOLDED seller description that stated “Lightweight Massage Table – just 25lbs.” I could argue till blue in the face, but in the end, there was no way to get a refund or exchange because the table was on clearance. Despite my deep frustration, I tried to make the new table work and it did…I ended up leaving  it at a client’s apartment and it has essentially become her private table for our sessions. I reverted back to the 46 pounder during the Holidays for a few sessions, but felt broken by Valentine’s. I refused to believe that there weren’t any tables on the market below 25 lbs. I just hadn’t searched hard enough or opened my budget up to a bigger investment. In the long run, if I am going to have a successful practice, I kind of need my body to not fall part at the seams.

Cue the angelic chorus in the background…

HUGE search later, I found the California based company Pisces Productions whose New Wave Lite II massage table is “The lightest full size massage table available – a remarkable 20 1/2 lbs.” See below for the goods:

I was able to customize my table, via the drop menu order form, to the specifications of my choice. The whole thing came out to just under $700. I placed the order last week and hoped that the multitude of guarantees on the site would ensure that this table would indeed be 20.5 lbs. I curl 20 lbs weights in my sleep, kid! (sorry, the Queens in me just slipped out on that one).

On Tuesday evening, my New Wave Lite II arrived. I slid it out of the box and with one hand lifted it above my head. Yes, it was SUPER light.

Breathing a sigh of relief, I examined its mechanisms and read the Quality Control sheet and Manufacturer Guarantee they included. Here are the facts: The table is supported by an interlocking canvas weave with a buoyant enough soft vinyl bed and face pillow; however it is pretty vulnerable. The table closes by velcro, which over time will start to wear off. If I am not careful to overly bump around while riding the subway and city transit, I could pop a hole in the vinyl of both the table and face cradle. The table can handle up to 500 lbs of body weight, BUT the larger your client is the more towards the ends (front or back) the client will have to mount the table in order to get on it because the center is its weakest point. The guarantee for the table is 5 years, but if damage happens to any of the vulnerable noted points, they will not replace the table. The face pillow is only guaranteed for a year, which is the most vulnerable of all parts because people’s faces are pressing into it for lengthy periods. The pillow can be re inflated, but the air hose for that is not included with the table.
This all being said, the table has in theory saved my broken a**. In practice remains to be seen, but I am optimistic my tendons will be thanking me.


Massage Products and Accessories, Massage Techniques Explained

Where my hands may fail me: Massage by Foot

In my waking life, I do a hell of a lot with my body, especially my hands. From clutching weights, punching pads or carrying my massage table around, my hands and upper body really serve me well. Factor in 15 to 20 hours of hands on massage per week and those are some busy hands indeed. Sometimes I wonder what I would do if something happened to my arms. Last year, when I was recovering from my supraspinatus injury, every day of massage was followed by an immense amount of stretching and icing of my tendon. I worked through it; however it gave me a sneak peak into just how over my career would be if I injured myself permanently. So many therapists leave the profession prematurely due to musculoskeletal injuries resulting from overwork, poor body mechanics and poor self care, to name a few. I love what I do, but much like my voice defines me as a singer, my hands, forearms and elbows define me as a massage therapist. They are my tools of the trade.  Without them, I am useless…or so I thought.

Take a look at the inspiration that is UK massage therapist, Sue Kent:

Sue was born with a deformity of her upper extremities rendering her hands useless for massage. Her feet are her tools, which she has trained to such a level over the past 7 years of practice that she is now an official therapist to the Paralympics of 2012 in London. She also rows, skis, swims, sails and runs. Her specialty is sports massage, which from experience requires precision, deep pressure and specificity. I’m totally awestruck that she has trained her feet to achieve these three requirements. Below is a video of her technique in action. I am truly amazed by the strength of her feet and the way she uses her big toes and heels to access muscles.

It’s people like Sue who show me that you can always find a way to make what you are passionate about a reality. At least I know that where my hands may fail me, I can always look to my feet.

More Info on Sue Kent here: