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Beating a Holiday Headache

woman with holiday headacheIf you suffer from frequent headaches, you probably dread the stress of the holidays, the winter weather, and the bombardment of pain-producing stimuli and allergens.

According to the National Headache Foundation, over 45 million Americans suffer from chronic headaches, and there are over 150 different categories of headache established. The largest percentage of people, well over 28 million, have recurring migraines. Tension headaches, sinus headaches, and combination headaches are other common forms of headache that can be brought on by the holidays.

Massage has been shown to help decrease and even eliminate headaches. In a study conducted by the American Massage Association, "massage therapy recipients exhibited fewer migraines and better sleep quality during the weeks they received massage, and the three weeks following, than did participants that did not receive massage therapy" (Source: American Massage Therapy Association).

There are several ways massage helps the headache sufferer, and first among these is stress relief and muscle relaxation. Swedish massage, by far the most popular type of massage for relaxation, provides overall stress relief by helping the body quiet the "flight or flight" response and release endorphins, the body's natural pain killers, into the blood stream. It also improves circulation of the blood and lymph and helps realign structural imbalances.

Pressure during a Swedish massage can vary from light to deep. Light touch breaks up superficial fascial adhesions and can easily be combined with deeper, more specific trigger point therapy to release taut bands in the muscles that refer pain from other parts of the body to the head. Indeed, trigger points in the muscles of the head and neck are major causes of chronic headache pain.

Neuromuscular Therapy specifically focuses on the hyper-irritable trigger points. Trigger points occur when the muscle seeks to avoid pain from an injury. This muscle memory can produce unexpected pain years after an injury has occurred, especially during times of physical and emotional stress. A trigger point causes the muscle in which it resides to shorten, thus limiting the muscle's mobility. Like a sweater with a picked thread that warps the shape of an entire garment, the trigger point can cause pain far beyond its immediate location.

Another modality that studies have shown to be effective against headache is Craniosacral Therapy. CST improves the flow of cerebral spinal fluid and blood to the cranium, easing the vascular constrictions that cause migraines and cluster headaches and allowing the bones and tissues of the face and head to realign. Considered to be a deep tissue modality, CST is nevertheless very gentle with no more than five grams of pressure. CST normalizes the autonomic nervous system. It effectively mobilizes the membrane system within the head, taking pressure off either the constriction in the blood vessel that is causing the headache or the nerve that is controlling the blood vessel. As an effective stress reducer, it is particularly effective with headaches that are precipitated or triggered by stress.

Sinus massage can open the sinuses and is often combined with acupressure massage and reflexology to drain the pressure that causes sinus headaches. Often using essential oils such as eucalyptus and peppermint or special sinus blends like Sunbreeze balm, this relaxing technique can stop sinus headaches in their tracks. Sinus massage with lymphatic drainage is another, more intense form of sinus massage and provides at least and hour of attention to the sinuses alone.

Since temporomandibular joint dysfunction can also cause headaches, the specific intraoral techniques used to release the muscles and bones of the jaw can also be effective in treating headache pain.

One word of warning is in order. If you are experiencing fever, chills, or any type of infection, massage is not recommended. Because massage flushes the lymph and increases circulation, it could also spread infection and make you sicker. Although you may hope that a massage will alleviate your symptoms, if you are sick, you should wait until you have gone 48 hours without a fever or infection before getting a massage.

To read more about headaches and massage and for links to other expert articles, please visit our blog.

The regular cost for a one hour massage session at at Suzanne's office is $60 (excluding Hot Stones or Raindrop Therapy). To schedule your massage session, please call Suzanne at 828-315-9900. You can also buy gift certificates online.


woman feeling holiday stressTips for Beating Holiday Stress

During the holidays, it is easy to overdo and get stressed so that we find ourselves short-tempered and worn-out from all the hustle and bustle.

The following tips can help you set boundaries and enjoy this special season more fully:


Essential Oil of the Month: Basil or Sweet Basil

You may have used essential oils for headaches, and chances are that lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, rosemary, and chamomile are already part of your personal headache arsenal. You might want to add basil, which has been shown to be especially effective against migraine and other stress related headaches, to that list of aromatherapy remedies.

steam inhalationMost people think of basil as the main ingredient in pesto and reach for it as a good herbal addition when cooking Italian dishes.

The essential oil, like the herb, has a number of health benefits. Both are sources of Vitamin A, magnesium, potassium, iron, and calcium. The essential oil is widely known for its ability to treat nausea, indigestion, constipation, motion sickness, and respiratory problems.

Sweet basil has a peppery, sweet scent akin to licorice. It blends well with other oils, and aromatherapists especially like it with citrus oils like bergamot and lemon. It also combines well with lavender, clary sage, eucalyptus, juniper, and clove bud.

Considered a natural nerve tonic with neuro-regulating properties, Basil essential oil is an effective treatment of nervous disorders and stress-related headaches, migraines and allergies. It clears the mind and relieves intellectual fatigue. Use it in the bath, in a hot compress, in a vaporizer or steam bowl, or mixed with a carrier oil and applied directly on the skin.

Basil essential oil is beneficial to the skin and is a good treatment for itching from bites and stings from honey bees, insects and even snakes. It can be used topically to enhance the luster and tone of dull-looking skin, and it is also used for acne and skin infections.

Basil is a good essential oil to use if you are experiencing respiratory problems. It has been shown to be effective in providing relief from viral infections like cold and influenza and can help diminish the associated fevers. Due to its antibacterial and antispasmodic nature, it is used against asthma, bronchitis, and sinus infections, and even in cases of whooping cough. It can also be used as a mild muscle relaxant.

Inhaling basil and peppermint together may provide quick relief from hot flashes. Applied in a hot compress, it can relieve menstrual cramps, flatulence and bloating, and chronic constipation.

There are few contraindications for basil, but like other essential oils, you should not use basil if you are pregnant or epileptic.

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Some Thoughts
for the Season

christmas hearth"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."
~Norman Vincent Peale

"At Christmas, all roads lead home."
~Marjorie Holmes

"He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree."
~Roy L. Smith

"What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace."
~Agnes M. Pharo

"Perhaps the best Yuletide decoration is being wreathed in smiles."
~Author Unknown

"My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?"
~Bob Hope

"As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, compounded by December's bad weather, it is good to be reminded that there are people in our lives who are worth this aggravation, and people to whom we are worth the same."
~Donald E. Westlake

Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.
~Oren Arnold

"May Peace be your gift at Christmas and your blessing all year through!"
~Author Unknown

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Dec. 2009

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In This Issue

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Basil Essential Oil

essential oil

For digestion, combine 4 drops Lavender, 3 drops Bergamot, 2 drops Peppermint, 2 drops Basil, and 1 drop Neroli in a small amber bottle. Add 1 T. carrier oil. Apply to the stomach and back of hands, 1/2 hour before meals. Use sparingly, as this is a concentrated blend. Inhale as needed from back of hands.

For hair loss, combine 10 drops of Rosemary, 10 drops of lavender, 5 drops of Basil, and 4 ounces of jojoba oil. Blend well in an amber bottle and massage a few drops into your scalp at night or apply them on your hair brush and brush your hair thoroughly. This blend will give your hair a nice shine and helps to stimulate growth.

For decongestion, combine 3 drops Basil, 3 drops Thyme, and 10 drops Lemon essential oils. DO NOT INGEST! Blend the oils in a bottle or small glass. Drop into your favorite diffuser, humidifier or simply breathe deeply directly from your blending glass. When finished with the blend, simply set the glass aside in a place that is out of the reach of children. The oils will continue to volatize and the aroma will be useful and enjoyed for hours. You may also choose to empty the oils into a sink, bathtub or shower where the oils will continue to volatize until they are washed down the drain. Natural diffusers in your household like pinecones, dark carpets and pillows are also excellent choices.

For headache and stress, combine 35 drops Basil, 35 drops Bergamot, 5 drops Eucalyptus, 10 drops Lavender, and 15 drops Peppermint essential oils. Use in a diffuser, humidifier or breathe directly as above.

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AWEO basil essential oilAncient Wisdom Essential Oils
Basil 15 ml: $22.00

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Upcoming Events: Free Wine and Cheese Tasting

deborah barham

Join acupuncturist Deborah Barham at Taste-Full Beans Coffee House, 29 2nd St. NW, in Downtown Hickory, on Thursday, Dec. 10, from 5 and 7 PM for a free wine and cheese to promote her new DVD, Over a Century of Alzheimer's Disease: Changing Focus from Memory Loss to the Stress of Life.

Other artists will also be there with their work. Much of the money collected at the event goes to support Alzheimer's Disease research, Aids and the Humane Society.

The DVD can also be purchased from our office or from Deb's website.

The DVD includes discussions of: ::Where is our emotional brain?
::What does our early social-emotional development have to do with our mental-emotional health?
::Neurogenesis vs. degeneration in the hippocampus.
::How might chronic, unresolved stress be a precursor to AD?
::Is there a logical progression from stress leading to anxiety, depression, insomnia or other mental illness & AD?
::What does case study reveal about mental-emotional disease & AD?
::Can Alzheimer's Disease be prevented?
::Other research & development considerations.

We hope to see you at Tasteful Beans on Dec. 10, 2009.

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Copyright 2009
Suzanne H. Eller

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If you are like most of us, you have a love-hate relationship with the holiday season. There are huge demands made on our time with shopping, parties or gatherings, and family obligations. Nevertheless, these same activities can help us reconnect with those we love and give meaning to our lives.

Since last year, the economic situation in our area hasn't improved much--if anything, it is worse. That reality has helped many of us reassess what is truly important in our lives.

We are finding that it is not the things we own that make us happy, but rather it is the little things that make the biggest differences in our lives. Sharing time with the people we love is more important to us than receiving expensive gifts. If there is a silver lining to the recession, it is that it has helped us get our priorities straight.

With this issue of Warp & Weft, we hope to offer in some tips for stress-relief during this busy season. We discuss ways to beat a holiday headache and offer some quotes to help get you into the holiday spirit.

You might also want to think of us when you choose a gift for that hard-to-buy for person on your list. A gift certificate for massage and bodywork is a great way to wish others a happy holiday.

May you experience a truly joyous holiday season.

Suzanne's Picks: Books that Entertain and Enlighten

mother reading to children in santa hats

Now that the days are getting shorter and colder, there is nothing better than a cup of cocoa or hot tea and a good book to help you relax and revitalize or to learn something you didn't know before.

The following are my picks for this holiday season. Maybe some of my book recommendations will spark your interest or suggest a gift selection for that reader in your life.

I bought The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook for myself when I was in massage school. Later then I started using the techniques on others, and I recommend it to clients as a self-help tool. It is one of a series on trigger point self-care, and I think the best on the market without paying the big bucks for a textbook. It has great illustrations.

Trigger Point Therapy for Headaches and Migraines is another in the series that began with The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook above. This book is great for helping you understand headache causes and for helping you target specific trigger points that may be causing headache pain.

Michael Malone is a NC writer best known for his detective novels. The Last Noel departs from that format and focuses on lasting friendship. It tells the story of a wealthy white girl from Moors, NC, and the son of her mother's African-American maid. Both children are born within hours of each other on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, 1956. The twelve chapters tell of Christmases that span the next four decades and of their friendship. Naturally, there is the conflict with their family dynamics as well. The ending is a tearjerker, so have your tissues handy.

In many ways, Bruce Lipton uses science, especially quantum physics and epigenetics (cell biology) to bridge the gap between faith and science, spirit and matter. A follow up to his Biology of Belief, this book explores similar ideas with humor and insight and leads the reader to a greater understanding of that which human beings are capable when we work and live together in harmony as the Creator intended. Spontaneous Evolution is highly recommended to those who are searching for answers.

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