Listening to Stories of Pain – Part 1

Everyone’s experience of pain is unique.  Generally, people don’t like to talk about their pain.  Stories of hurting are often kept silent. The silence is so deep that we often don’t even like to think about our own experiences of pain.

How can we break the cycle of pain that ebbs and flows between our body and mind?  How can we find ease in our bodies and minds when the discomfort feels unbearable? How can we begin to find relief naturally as to limit the harmful effects of many medications? I ruminate about these questions daily, but the answers are certainly longer than I can cover in a short blog post. I will attempt to scratch the surface.

 Before I begin, please know that I do not claim to be an expert on pain. Pain is an extensive topic that requires in-depth study, and perhaps a lifetime of commitment, to develop a comprehensive understanding.  I also sincerely recognize that my experience of pain is not chronic or extreme, and that for many people, their picture of pain is much different. I will simply share my experience and perspective on pain; as a woman, mother, massage therapist, feminist, trained counselor, and yoga teacher.  I will then offer some simple natural solutions that have helped me heal over the years.

My Stories

 I will begin with my stories of pain and discomfort, as an offering, and to open up this difficult conversation.  To the best of my recollection, here is a brief outline of my experiences of pain over the years. There are also some stories too personal and painful to share here, but this will give you a sense of my history.

  • -The earliest I remember, is the painful separation of my parents. They were divorced when I was 4.
  •  -When I was a young child, I had numerous, throbbing, burning, nearly deafening ear infections.
  •  -In my teens, I injured my neck during Nordic skiing and could not turn my head for several days.  I remember the lack of feeling in my   hands, and how scary it was to not feel in control of my body.
  •   -In my late teens and early 20’s, I struggled with intense emotional pain. I was most definitely depressed on some level for many years.
  •   -In my late 20’s/early 30’s, I had terrible stomach issues, that left me cramped over in pain for several hours at a time with little relief.
  •   -In my 30’s, I experienced the pain of childbirth.  And grief. So much loss and grief.
  •  -In 2017, at age 41, I birthed my 3rd child at home which was amazing, exhausting, painful, beautiful, incredibly empowering, and humbling, all at the same time.

 With a bit more detail, I will share my story from today. This is the beginning of my 42nd year of life.  I rolled out of bed this morning in stealth, slow motion, as my 11- month old slept soundly beside me.  I felt heavy and unmotivated to begin my day. My neck was sore, my hands were achy, my shoulders were tight and my low back muscles were twitching.  This is my current typical experience of pain. My pain can best be described as the general achiness that comes from being a woman, a parent, caregiver, and a massage therapist.  I do physical and emotionally challenging work that sometimes causes discomfort. This pain was uncomfortable and tenacious for a few hours, but luckily it did not stay with me. As the day moved along, and I took a hot shower, carried my children, chased the dog, sat and meditated, practiced yoga, drove my car, and worked with clients, I felt much better.

The Puzzle

 Pain is a small word with enormous meaning.  When I observe and touch the often painful areas on my clients’ bodies, I do my best to consider all of the parts of pain.  Pain may be described as achy, numbing, tingly, throbbing or sharp. I hear these words frequently in my healing arts practice.  But, beyond these words, there is always a story. A story of heartaches, loss, stress, injury, surgery, illness or insomnia. There is a huge mental and emotional component to how we experience pain. Pain may start as physical pain, but quickly cross over into the emotional realm; leaving us sad, stressed, depressed, angry, frustrated and usually exhausted.  Or, pain can travel the other way around. The pain may begin as a feeling or emotion, and then seep and spread into our physical body and take on a subtle (or very dominant) expression of headaches, abdominal discomfort, neck or back pain. The story of our lives speaks to us through our pain, and it’s important to listen.

 As I listen to the stories of women’s pain, I do my best to listen with my heart and my hands. Sometimes clients do not say a word, and my hands lead me to the place of pain. I may observe the imbalance or discomfort in their posture, facial expressions or movements.  From another perspective, a client may share they have intense neck and upper back pain, and I find their breathing muscles in spasm. Later I learn, they are not sleeping due to ongoing anxiety. They are holding their breath in worry and fear, and that is causing their breathing muscles to spasm.  It all circles around. It is all part of the puzzle of pain.

Recently, I started looking at how my clients are healing and sometimes fully recovering from the pain in their lives. Of course, I do believe that massage, bodywork, energy work etc. can all be catalysts for healing.  Our body stores memories, and many healing modalities are effective at getting to the root cause of pain. But let’s look at the bigger picture first. Here are some of my ideas on how we can begin to heal our pain.

Identify the pain

First it is important to tune into our bodies. Where do we feel the pain? What kind of pain is it? When does is bother us the most? Are their things that help? Simply bringing our attention to our body, our mind and how we feel in our bodies in different environments can tell us so much about our experience of pain.  We often move through our lives without any body awareness. We go about our days, months and years, not realizing how much pain we are carrying around with us.

Listen to the pain

Listening to the pain involves feeling it, experiencing it and allowing it teach you what it needs to bring forth in your life.  This may sound crazy, but it is vital to not skip this part. This goes along with believing in our body and mind to tell us the truth.  We must find the courage to confront the discomfort. Just like having a difficult conversation with a friend or family member, addressing the tender spots on our heart is probably the last thing we want to do.  However, it is imperative.  It must be done to move forward and move through the painful experience. The pain is telling us a story of past, present and future. Be brave and breathe as you listen.

Short visits are enough

We all know that pain can be miserable and wretched. And the point is to get rid of it, right?  No one wants to live with pain. So once we identify and embrace the pain, we need to find ways to let it go. Learning to let go of pain, may involve finding the right medicine, or the right treatment for a disease, or it may mean developing a regular exercise, meditation or yoga practice.  There are as many ways to reduce and eliminate pain, as there are ways to experience it. Explore the ways of dealing with pain that work best for you, and then dedicate yourself to it, so you can encourage the pain to move on as fast as possible. If something is working, do it more. If something is not working, try something new.  

Healing Tools

Throughout my lifetime, movement has always been a key to helping me deal with pain on many levels. I grew up deeply involved in the world of ballet, and contemporary dance.  The most meaningful dances were the ones that happened with friends in my college dorm, alone in my room after a long day or with my family to relax at the end of a full week. This is when I feel the organic, satisfying ability to let go of mind-body pain. Whether I am stressed, overwhelmed or sad, dance almost always helps me to feel better.  Try this method. Dance as often as you can without worrying about what others think or say. Dance can be so simple. You can sway back and forth or hold a loved one in your arms and spin in circles. Dance is the ultimate way to release what is bothering you, inside and out.

Similarly, I discovered yoga in my 20’s, and fell in love with the way it made me feel.  I developed a slow, gentle, private, personal practice that taught me to be kind and compassionate with myself.  Yoga in many ways brought me out of some of my more depressed and anxious times. Yoga is an incredible healing modality that helps many people with varied types of pain.

Next on my list of helpful tools is receiving professional bodywork.  Following my skiing accident in high school, I received my first professional massage. In a couple sessions, it not only reduced my pain, but made me feel stronger and more focused. The impact of those first massages, are what led me to becoming a massage therapist. I believe the power of touch can make a difference in the lives of people of all ages.  Sometimes sports/therapeutic massage works wonders on pain, and other times, gentle touch or Reiki can support and shift a person’s experience of discomfort, loss or pain for several days or longer. Bodywork is a wonderful modality to try to bring forth the connection of the body and the mind, and support the restoration process.

Lastly, I will close with my more recent discovery of the world of aromatherapy.  Over the last few years, I have studied the incredible benefits of plant essences or essential oils. I have seen lavender oil take away a headache and rosemary oil lift the spirit of a client experiencing grief. I have seen bergamot oil soothe an upset stomach and sweet orange oil relax my child after a long day.  There are too wonderful aromatherapy approaches to mention for now. If you’re interested, please read my article about aromatherapy for pain here.

Pain is the part of life that helps bring us back to ourselves.  It is a reminder that we are human. With each experience of pain, we have the opportunity to rise to resurface and appreciate the simple, comforting times in our life.  Listen to your story, chapter by chapter, and explore the tools that help you feel alive and well.

Be well,

Jenny Baltazar, MA, LMT

www.botanicamassage.com

 

 

 

Prenatal Massage: Bringing the truth to light

Women need to know the facts about Prenatal and Postpartum Massage. Women see me for Prenatal Massage to help ease the mental, physical, and emotional stresses of pregnancy.  But often during the appointment booking, or before we begin a massage session, women have concerns.  As a highly trained and experienced Certified Prenatal & Postpartum Massage Therapist, and mom who received massage during all three of my pregnancies, I want to share my knowledge and perspective on this topic.

For 19 years, I have been working with women throughout their childbearing years.  I trained with several seasoned practitioners to develop skill and comfort with supporting women throughout their pregnancies, during labor and in postpartum. Before having my own children, I offered Prenatal Massage in my practice, and continuously observed how amazing women felt after receiving massage and bodywork.  The women felt less pain, had less stress and anxiety, and overall felt more healthy and well.  However, still today, there are many myths about Prenatal Massage and women often contact me in a state of fear, worry and even panic that perhaps massage is not safe, or could hurt them, or their baby, in some way.  There continues to be a lot of mystery around Prenatal Massage.

I could delve into why there are so many myths about Prenatal Massage, and why there is fear created around the idea of women receiving bodywork during their pregnancy.  But instead, let’s talk about the truth about massage and bodywork for pregnancy. Let’s dispel the mystery here and now.  Here are some of some of the most common questions I receive, and the answers:

“What is Prenatal Massage?”  Prenatal Massage is a specialized type of massage therapy. A Certified Prenatal Massage Therapist provides a nurturing environment for women during pregnancy to receive gentle, non-invasive, therapeutic touch that focuses on the mother’s physical and emotional needs.  Prenatal Massage is a highly varied type of bodywork that may include gentle touch or energy work, acupressure for moving or calming energy, Swedish massage for circulation, lymphatic work to decrease swelling, or deep tissue massage for softening tense muscles and relieving pain.  Prenatal Massage may be focused on one area of the body, or it may include the full body. Every session is as different as every pregnancy.

“Is it safe to have a Prenatal Massage?”  This is a very common question.  The short answer is yes.  As long as the mom is having a normal pregnancy, with no significant complications, Prenatal Massage is a perfect complement to her ongoing care by a midwife or doctor.  It is important to work with a massage practitioner who is trained, and or certified in Prenatal Massage, because they have the skills and expertise to create a session that is safe, comfortable and nurturing, as well as individualized to meet a woman’s needs.

If a mother is having a complex pregnancy, massage can also be beneficial… sometimes even more so, depending on what she is going through.  If you are a pregnant mom with concerns, simply ask your care provider if it’s ok to receive massage, or contact me to reach out to your midwife or doctor and discuss how massage can be part of your care plan.   I have worked with many women through their challenging pregnancies.  Some women seek out Prenatal Massage when they are having a difficult pregnancy, because they know it helps them relax and breathe through the stressful times.  In most cases, and in most situations, massage or bodywork during pregnancy is safe and effective.

“I have heard there are pressure points on my body that I shouldn’t touch when I’m pregnant.  Is that true?”  There are certain points on the body that a knowledgeable massage therapist will not press on during most of a woman’s pregnancy because they are acupressure points to encourage labor.  These points need to be pressed quite hard, with direct pressure, repetitively and with intention to be effective. Simply touching these points is not going to make a woman go into labor, or be unsafe for the mom or baby.  For instance, a woman’s partner can definitely massage the tops of her shoulders to help with muscle soreness during her pregnancy. During labor, the mother’s partner may put direct pressure down on the tops of your shoulders, over and over, to help move labor along.

“When can I receive Prenatal Massage?” You may receive massage throughout your entire pregnancy.  Yes the whole thing! Now, perhaps you are dizzy or nauseous in the first trimester, you may feel massage is not a good fit for you.  I know that I didn’t feel like receiving massage in the first few weeks of my pregnancy.  But by my second month, I was comforted with soothing bodywork and gained relief from extreme nausea with acupressure.  

Often women are fearful in the first trimester because it is such a delicate time for the growing baby. However, receiving a gentle, relaxing massage brings rich, oxygenated blood to the baby and can create a relaxation response in the mom’s body, which supports the healthy development of their child. Massage therapy for mothers are the first massages for their baby. Babies benefit from the power of touch.  A calm, comfortable mom is best for baby.  

In the second and third trimester of pregnancy, massage therapy can play a strong role in a woman’s overall sense of wellbeing.  At this time, Prenatal Massage will typically be more focused on comforting a woman’s aches and pains and relaxing the mind, thus helping her feel strong, flexible and calm, which will all ultimately help her during childbirth.  Receiving massage all of the way up to one’s due date and beyond is ideal!  Scheduling a due date massage is a beautiful way to celebrate pregnancy and prepare for birth.

At a mom’s request, at or beyond the “due date,” specific massage techniques and acupressure points, with a focus to bring on labor.  This approach may help to encourage uterine contractions, open up energy pathways and relax the mom’s body and mind, so she is ready for the birth.  

“Why do you do Prenatal Massage in side lying position?”  Prenatal Massage is done in a variety of positions, depending on the way the mother is feeling on any given day.  A mother may be side lying, on her back with her head, knees and feet elevated, on her stomach (early on in pregnancy), or sitting completely upright.  I predominantly work in side lying position with the mother fully supported with pillows between her knees and feet, a pillow in front of her for support, and another one under the neck and head for comfort.  I prefer this position for Prenatal Massage because it allows the spine to be in alignment with the least pressure on any one area of the body. Typically half the massage is spent on one side, and then I help the woman turn to the other side for the second half of the session.  

“Will Prenatal Massage make me to go into labor?”  My answer to this is the same as above, but it’s worth repeating. There are certain points on the body that a knowledgeable massage therapist will not press on during most of your pregnancy because they are believed to encourage labor.  These points need to be pressed hard, repetitively and with full intention toward birth to encourage labor.  Simply touching the contraindicated points is not going to make a woman go into labor or be unsafe for the mom or baby.  If you someone is on or past their due date, and wants to bring on labor, Prenatal Massage can help naturally induce labor with specific work on reflex and acupressure points that promote the birth process.  Some women also receive massage throughout their birth, by a nurse, midwife, doula, massage therapist or their partner, to move the birth process along gradually.

“How soon after I have my baby can I receive massage again?”  A woman may receive massage therapy as soon as she feels ready. She is the best judge of her own body and what it needs to heal.  During the first two weeks postpartum, it is best for new mothers to stay home and allow their body to rest, begin to recover, and stay close to your newborn.  They can have a massage therapist come to their home though.  I make plenty of outcall visits to women who are in the first few weeks postpartum.

After the birth, mothers may notice that their care provider will massage your stomach to promote healing of the uterus and other internal organs. This is also something a woman can do for herself.  The abdoman will be tender at first, but eventually the massage should feel relaxing.  A trained massage therapist can teach you more about these techniques to use at home.

Postpartum Massage is an incredible way for a woman to receive body-mind support after her birth, to promote healing and ease stress or anxiety. If a woman had c-section, massage therapy can also help with scar healing and tissue regeneration.   

“What is Postpartum Massage?” After a mother’s baby is born, massage can be an important part of her healing process.  Postpartum massage includes time to share one’s birth story (if she chooses) in a nurturing environment, as well as receive therapeutic bodywork to help increase circulation, re-balance soft tissue and help the whole body and mind realign.  In the months post-birth, abdominal, back and hip massage are important for healing and recovery.  Also, in addition, a mom’s upper back and neck are often sore from leaning over and caring for a newborn.  Postpartum Massage can soothe this pain before it becomes intolerable or leads to headaches or other back pain.

A Postpartum Massage therapist provides the space and time for moms to feel relaxed as they adjust to motherhood.  This is crucial in supporting women through their postpartum feelings and emotions.  Women who I see for postpartum massage are invited and encouraged to bring their babies to their sessions, so baby can stay close by their side at this important time.   

Pregnancy is an incredible, natural and transformative time of a woman’s life.  Along with 9 months of wonder and amazement, also come common aches and pains as the body goes through tremendous change.  During the childbearing years, massage therapy is the ultimate form of body-mind self care.  Feel empowered in your pregnancy and beyond, by experiencing Prenatal and Postpartum Massage.

Jenny is a Certified Prenatal & Postpartum Massage Therapist. She sees clients at Waddle n Swaddle Poughkeepsie on Fridays, and at her New Paltz office most other days.  Hours are by appointment. Please email to book an appointment: jennybaltazarlmt@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Botanica is Moving and Growing...

Big news! We are moving to a new location (just down the street)!! Beginning June 1st, we will be located at The Loft @ The Sanctuary at 5 Academy Street in New Paltz. We look forward to expanding into this beautiful studio space. We will continue to offer therapeutic massage and bodywork for people of all ages. In addition, we will have an Aroma Bar, stocked with essential oils and amazing carrier oils for making yummy smelling, custom, therapeutic blends. Jenny will continue to do Aromatherapy Consultations and make custom blends for clients with an even larger selection of pure, wildcrafted, fair trade, organic oils. New to Botanica in New Paltz... We will be offering several group classes such as: yoga, aromatherapy, infant massage and couple's massage. Join us! As always, please call 845-419-8445 to schedule or register for a class. Thank you for all of your support as we grow and bloom in 2016.

Yoga with Jenny!

I am thrilled to announce that I recently completed my Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) at Vitality Yoga Flow in New Paltz.  Pursuing a YTT is something I have wanted to do for many years.  The six month training was intense, invigorating, beautiful, challenging and life changing.  Now, I am ready to share what I have learned with my current clients and anyone who would like to join me for a class.  

I am offering One to One Yoga Sessions at both of my office location.  One to One Sessions are a great way to develop comfort with basic yoga postures and individualized support around a particular injury or area of pain.  First sessions will be $50 until September 1st.  Please email me for details: jennybaltazarlmt@gmail.com.

I will also be offering group Yoga Classes in a couple locations.  Beginning March 31st, I will be teaching Prenatal Yoga at Hudson Valley Midwifery in Kingston, NY.  Prenatal Yoga is a natural class for me to teach as most of my work in my practice specializes in the care of women throughout the stages of pregnancy and beyond.  My Prenatal Yoga class will be a meditation in motion.  It will be a mindful, balanced blend of creating strength and finding a place of relaxation. The class will help women bring awareness to their body and mind connection, as they move through pregnancy and prepare for the birth of their babies.  

In addition, I will begin teaching two Restorative & Aromatherapy Yoga classes in April.  One will be at Hudson Vally Midwifery and the other at The Highland Cultural Arts Studio.  More to come on these classes soon!

Be well,

Jenny