Category Archives: Conditions

If You’re Sick Stay Home

20131002-182225.jpgWith the cold and flu season kicking off I feel compelled to give this advice. All the crappy symptoms you’re feeling are your body’s response to an infection. Your fever is to burn it out, your sore throat is your immune system killing off infected cells, and your grogginess is because your body is literally waging war on your tiny invader.

It takes alot of energy to wage a war. GO TO SLEEP! Let’s face it, are you really all that productive (or friendly?!) when you’re trying to power through a cold? Wouldn’t it be more efficient to get over it faster so you can be fully present at work instead of distracted by your currently miserable body? Of course it would.

Rest is key here folks. Go home and sleep it off for a day or two.

And a little tid-bit from the rest of us…we love you, but we don’t want your cooties. Get that business contained in a hazmat suit and stop spreading that particular love around. Also…NO massage while you have symptoms! For one, we don’t want it. For two, massage increases blood flow which could actually spread your infection. Please just call us to cancel asap and go to bed. We’ll understand 🙂

Jennifer Parker, Body Harmony Massage
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My Theory on Low Back Pain in Men

Take that big fat withered wallet OUT of your back pocket. I will personally petition for a resurgence in the coolness and popularity of fanny-packs for you guys if you would just pretty please at least take the wallet out when your sitting down!

Ok, I’m good now. Back to business. Though this little beauty of a tip may just cost me some clients who won’t need massage so much. Oh well…healing’s the goal!

What you fellas aren’t seeing from the perspective of a body worker is that you are wreaking havoc on your spine. By sitting on your wallet you are raising one side of your pelvis, sometimes by an inch or more. This tip in your pelvis eventually leads to a curve in your spine and a ton or low back pain. Check out this picture:


See! Bad ju-ju! You don’t even get a cool story to tell when you get asked about what happened to your back (sad face). Ok, I’ll take back the fanny-pack comment. You can keep your worn out old friend in your pocket while you’re up and about. But take it from me if you stop sitting on that guy all day your back will thank you. Just sayin’ 😉

Jennifer Parker, Body Harmony Massage
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My Theories on Fibromyalgia

painLet me first say I’m not a doctor. Anything stated here is solely based on my observations as a massage therapist and are in no way medically solid. I simply feel the need to write this as I find many similarities in my fibro clients that, to my knowledge, have not been brought up in medical studies. My observations are just something I thought we might all consider about this particular disease.

Now, I’d like to throw out a giant defense to all my chronic pain clients, especially fibromyalgia clients. “Just because you can’t see or understand these people’s condition does NOT mean it’s all in their head!” I’ve seen way to many clients come in truly upset because no one wants to accept their pain is real. I must admit my “mama bear” instincts kick in when I hear this as I find it extremely upsetting when someone dismisses what another person is feeling and will defend you dear people to my bitter end.

So I’ve noticed many, not all, of my clients have several of these traits in common:
1) They are givers who tend to put themselves at the end of their caretaking list…which makes them high-stress people. Not in an anxious kind of way, but more in a “weight of the world” kind of way. And the more stress the more pain.

2) Many are carrying a few more pounds than their frame should carry. Every body structure is different and I’m in no way judging here. I do believe that there’s a HUGE difference between “skinny” and “healthy”, and a healthy weight for your body type is always more beneficial than being skinny for society’s sake. However, these clients seem to be more sensitive to extra pounds.

3) They have very poor sleep patterns. Part of this is the nature of the condition as pain keeps them awake, and part of this is from stress as well. Their minds don’t stop just because it’s bed time.

4) This one threw me for a loop at first – When the touch is expected, like in a massage session, they’re typically ok. When it’s unexpected…that’s when it can be quite painful. A bump from a passing person, a hug that’s tighter than expected, a shirt that’s too tight; the things they don’t know and accept are coming seem to be more of a problem.

Because of these particular traits, I’ve wondered if stress and adrenaline have a part to play in this condition. We all know long term stress is bad for the body. The reason is that stress produces adrenaline, which is meant to be a short term chemical for self preservation. It is not meant to be in the body long term. It makes you hyper sensitive to outside stimuli…including touch. It makes you unable to relax and sleep. AND it slows down digestion (an unnecessary place to waste energy when your life is supposedly in danger) which over a longer period of time could lead to weight gain and digestive problems. My fibro clients have these problems! Could they at least partially be a symptom of adrenal overload?

I spoke to my acupuncturist about this little theory of mine. Her response was “Huh, that could actually make sense.” So what do I recommend? Relax more. Saying “no” to people is ok if you know you’re going to pay for it later. Learn breathing or meditation techniques to calm your body and mind. Take up Yoga. Get more relaxing massages. Try acupuncture. It’s ok to care for you. I’ve seen clients decide to make a commitment to care for themselves first have fewer flare-ups and are much happier overall. Try it….see if it helps. It’s just a theory on my part, but I’ve shared this theory with a few clients and it seems to help.

Jennifer Parker, Body Harmony Massage
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Hypermobility…My Chronic Pain Condition

20130912-171913.jpgAs some of my clients know, and as I’ve said on my website, I myself have a chronic pain condition. I’m genetically hypermobile, meaning all my ligaments are to loose, resulting in unstable joints. It doesn’t take much for me to suffer a partial or full dislocation. Over 32 years I’ve dislocated my right hip, left collar bone at the shoulder (twice), all of my ribs at least once, my knees hyperextend and I’ve rolled my ankles so many times they don’t even bother to swell up anymore. Needless to say, high heels are not my friend.

Also, because my ligaments aren’t doing their job my muscles over tighten to compensate and try to stabilize my joints. This leads to chronic muscle tension and, if left unchecked, even calcification of my muscle tissue. That means that the muscles are so tight for so long the body decides “must be bone!” and starts throwing calcium in there, giving the muscle a grainy texture.

Yay for me huh :p Fortunately, I found massage in my early 20’s which helped a ton. The muscles stopped pulling my bones so hard, so I ended up with fewer dislocations. I have to be more careful now, and admit that I may not actually be She-Ra Princess of Power, but I have felt 100+% better since I found massage therapy. I was so impressed with the improvement I became a massage therapist.

Many of my chronic pain clients find comfort in my experience and understanding of what they’re going through. Because I was also told that I was lazy or needed to suck it up, I get very defensive of my clients who’ve been told the same. I’ve dedicated a good portion of my education and research to chronic pain conditions and the correct techniques to give them relief from their pain. We have to accept that these conditions are a part of us…but we don’t have to believe there’s nothing we can do about it. Keep looking for your solution. It took me years to find mine and I’m grateful every day that I found massage and alternative care. It’s given me my life’s purpose…and I never would have found it if I never had this condition.

Jennifer Parker, Body Harmony Massage
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(image from

Cross Tension & Your Mind

Did you know your brain will create tension patterns to compensate for a painful area? That one single injury can cause problems in a seemingly unrelated area? Hmmm…what does that mean for muscle tension??

Welll…say your left foot hurts from stepping on a lego. You start favoring that leg and putting less weight on it. Do that long enough and you’ll end up with a tension pattern that hikes up that left side a little for you, resulting in a pelvis that is higher on the left.

Theeenn your low back gets all grumpy, with tension on the left side and over stretching on the right. Now, since your spine is a nice straight line this throws your upper body off to the right. What happens next you might ask? Well, your brain will tell your muscles to tighten in the left mid-back vicinity to pull your shoulders back over. Inevitably your muscles, poor dumb creatures that they are, will pull to far so you’ll have to tip your head slightly to the right. Mission accomplished: Eyes now at the level! Way to go brain :p

So what do we have now: a left foot that hurts, left IT band all tight, a sore rear end, low back pain, shoulder tension, a tight neck and probably headaches. Again…Way to go brain.

Now this is a slight exaggeration of a lego incident, but similar to what we see in massage all the time. One thing in an unrelated area causing a zig-zag of cranky muscles. A cross-tension pattern.

“But how can I prevent this atrocity from happening to me” you might ask your friendly massage therapist. My advice: learn to be “body aware”. Check yourself before you wreck yourself as my honey would say (though I think he’s referring to my attitude or something *insert rolling of eyes here*).

Anywho, the pelvis is a good place to start. Go look in the mirror. Start by checking your hips at the little bony points in the front, called the ASIS. Is one side higher or farther backward? What about your shoulders? Any difference there? If so you may have an alignment issue, which can cause a tension pattern of compensating muscles. If you see any of these variations it’s a good idea to visit your massage therapist or chiropractor to check for any potential problems and prevent future discomfort.

Jennifer Parker, Body Harmony Massage
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TMJ Syndrome – What it is

Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome – or a pain in the jaw. It can present itself as a clicking when you chew, tension and pain in the face or even a general ache in the ear or side of the head.

To understand this condition let’s start with what the heck a temporomandibular joint is. Right where the jaw meets that nice little notch on the skull is your Temporo (Temporal Bone) mandibular (Mandible) joint. There’s a little disk in there, similar to the ones in your spine between the vertebrae. Now if that little bugger gets inflamed – bam – TMJ Syndrome. If that guy swells it’s going to be sore like any other swollen joint, and may even cause that joint to dislocate.

I’ve had discussions with my chiropractor and my dentist about this little beauty of a condition, as I frequently treat it in my office. What we’ve concluded is that in a majority of cases we see these patients/clients have forward head posture.

What does that have to do with the jaw? There can be other causes, but head posture seems to be a big player in this condition. There are muscles in the neck that open the jaw, and muscles in the face that close it. When you carry your head forward, meaning your head sits more forward than it should, muscles in the neck are now constantly being pulled and pull down on the jaw. In response many of these clients subconsciously will clench the jaw, especially while sleeping, to keep the mouth closed. Now we’ve got opposing forces pulling an already delicate joint and sliding the jaw around which irritates the joint and disk. No worries, it’s treatable. Depending on the cause either your chiropractor, massage therapist or dentist can get you some relief.

If any of this sound like something you have it’s worth having checked out. With any condition, the longer it’s left untreated the harder it is to fix when you do…and by that point it can be really painful.

-Jennifer Parker, Body Harmony Massage