Friday, November 5, 2010

ATTENTION ALL MASSAGE THERAPISTS! Here's information on an upcoming continuing education class held by one of the most respected doctors in Ann Arbor and one of my closest friends:

An Integrative Manual Approach to Lower Extremity Pain and Dysfunction
Presented by Jay Sandweiss, D.O.

Probility Physical Therapy
2058 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Saturday, January 29, 2011 (9:00 am - 5:30 pm)
Sunday, January 30, 2011 (9:00 am - 4:30 pm)

Jay Sandweiss, DO
Tel: (734) 995-1880

Download the brochure here.

If you would like more information about massage or would like to make an appointment with me, please visit my Website at

Monday, June 28, 2010

10 Easy Stretches for the Office and Elsewhere

Stretching an be a very important part of your workout routine since it will help you limber up before a workout, help you avoid injury during a workout, and loosen muscles that have been worked after a workout. But it is also important to stretch out occasionally when not working out. For instance, even if you exercise frequently during the week, but you sit at a desk staring at a computer all day, those eight or more hours with very little movement can put stress on the back, neck, shoulders and legs. It's a good idea to take a few minutes every now and then during the work day to walk around, stretch out and loosen up a little. And if you're still feeling pain, keep stretching and try using a heating pad--that will likely relieve some of that pain until you can get to a massage therapist.

There are a some easy stretches you can do, right in the context of the workplace. What's great about them is that they're also stretches you can do where people probably won't look at you and think, "What the heck are you doing?!?" The main thing to remember is to do these stretches whenever you feel tension or pain in the affected area. Hold the stretch for about 15-20 seconds, make sure to stretch both sides of the body and stretch as often as you can remember.

1. The Side Stretch: This one is easy enough to do and one that pretty much everyone knows. It targets the low back muscles just above your hip bones. First, stand with your legs about 1-2 feet apart. Raise both arms above your head and bend to one side. Make sure to really reach with your arms to make sure you get a good stretch. You can modify this by tipping forward or backward a little--this will stretch more parts of the low

2. The Neck Stretch: This is a good one to help relieve some of the tension in the neck after reading a book or staring at the computer for long periods of time and it can be done seated or standing. Let one arm hang down (if you're seated, hook your fingers around the edge of your seat). Take the other hand over your head to your ear and pull your head to the side. You can modify this by tipping your head forward to stretch those muscles that go down your neck into your shoulder. You can also tip your head back to stretch some of the muscles that travel toward your collarbone--these muscles can often become tight from looking down at a desk or book for long periods. It's more effective than just doing head rolls or trying to stretch without using the extra force from your hands.

3. The Pec Stretch: Because of the way nature designed our bodies, anything we do with our arms pretty much has to be done in front of us, which means that our chest muscles get shortened often, even when we're just typing away on our computers. Many of us slouch, which exacerbates this situation. A good way to counter this is to stand facing a wall. Put one hand up against the wall so that your arm is at about a 45 degree angle relative to the vertical line of the body. (Hint: If both hands were up, you'd be the "Y" in YMCA.) Now turn away from that arm and you'll feel it stretch the pecs close to the armpit. You can modify this by increasing or decreasing the angle of the arm relative to the body in order to stretch different fibers of the muscle.

Note: If you're having a lot of back pain between the shoulder blades because you slouch or because you're at a desk most of the day, this is a good stretch to help counter that. Sound weird? Not really. If you're hovering over a computer all day, you're shortening the chest muscles and overstretching the back muscles--this is why you're feeling pain in the back. If you do the pec stretch, you'll take some of that pressure off the back muscles. But it's a good bet you still need to see a massage therapist.

4. The Quad Stretch: If you're sitting all day or if you're driving long distances, chances are your quads are becoming shortened, just like the chest muscles I just mentioned. Get up and stretch your quads now and then by grabbing one ankle and bringing your heel to your butt-- but make sure you can grab something else with your other hand in case you lose your balance. This is known as "the runner's stretch" and the most effective way to do this stretch is to push your hips forward. If you don't, you're not really stretching enough.

5. The Hamstring Stretch (a.k.a. Touching Your Toes): Again, another easy one that everyone knows. Stand with your feet together, bend at the waist and try to touch your toes. Try to keep your knees as straight as possible. I like to do this against a wall or sitting on the ground so that I don't embarrass myself by pointing my butt in anyone's direction. You can modify this by placing your legs a few feet apart. This helps target the inner adductors of the legs (your inner thigh muscles).

6. The Calf Stretch: There are two ways to do this one. First, you can stand in a lunge position. Make sure your back knee is straight and push your heel down to the floor. The farther back you put your back foot and the more you press your heel to the floor, the more you'll feel a stretch. The other way to do this is to stand facing a wall. Point the toes of one foot up and try to place your sole as flat against the wall as possible, then push with the back foot into the wall. The more flat your foot is against the wall, the better the stretch.

7. The Piriformis Stretch: This muscle is located a few layers beneath your gluteus maximus and it can get very tight if you stand or sit for long periods of time. There are several ways to stretch this muscle, but if you're in an office, the easiest and least weird-looking way to do it is this: While sitting at your desk, place one ankle on the opposite knee. Then either reach under your ankle and try to pull it to your chest or simply bend your torso toward the ankle. You can sometimes push down on the knee of the same leg while pulling the ankle up to modify this stretch. This muscle can also be worked (in-between visits to your massage therapist) by using a tennis ball--either sitting on it or laying on your side with the tennis ball under the hip in the affected area.

8. The Spinal Twist: Another very easy one to do. An effective way to do this is to stand with feet apart. Use the momentum of your arms to twist from one side to the other, making sure to twist only at the waist while keeping the knees facing forward. (Think Karate Kid II, drum technique.) Another way to do this is while seated, use one hand to grab at the desk on the opposite side of your body (or your opposite knee) while the other hand reaches behind to the opposite side of the chair.

9. The Forearm Stretch (Flexor Side): This is great for people who use their hands a lot--those who type, play sports that involve gripping a racquet or club, massage therapists, assembly line workers, writers, etc. Stand at a desk or table. Place your hands flat on the table with fingers pointing toward your body and lean back. You're stretching the muscles that allow you to grip things with your hands, since the muscles run from the tips of your fingers (on the palm side of the hand) to your elbow.

10. The Forearm Stretch (Extensor Side): This is the complimentary stretch to the Flexor stretch I just talked about. Again, stand at a desk or table, but this time, place the backs of your hands on the table--again also, fingers pointing toward your body. Then lean back. This stretches the muscles that allow us to open up our hands because the muscles run from the tips of your fingers (on the back side of the hand) to your elbow. When the hands get tired, use the forearm stretches.

If you'd like to know more about these stretches or if you'd like to make an appointment for a massage, please visit my Web site at

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What Is Referred Pain?

Have you been experiencing muscular pain that just doesn't seem to go away? Have you tried getting massage, but it just doesn't seem to help? And have you asked yourself what else you can do to make the pain go away?

It may be that you're experiencing a phenomenon known as "referred pain." Because of the way we humans are built, it is not uncommon for this kind of thing to happen.

Referred pain happens when you have a trigger point--a hyper-irritable, tight area of muscle that's deprived of oxygen and nutrients--that causes pain sensations to run along the nerve away from the trigger point. Sometimes this pain can be experienced quite far away in areas you wouldn't think are related. But our bodies are designed in such a way that our nerves run along, around, over, under and sometimes right through the middle of our muscles. It's possible for tight muscles to impinge, or squeeze, certain nerves and cause not only pain, but numbness, tingling, even weakness or difficulty controlling the muscle. Some trigger points can even cause symptoms like nausea and dizziness.

This is why many people that are diagnosed with what the doctor refers to as Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, but surgery or other allopathic treatments haven't been effective and it may, in fact, be the brachial nerve being impinged by the scalene muscles in the neck that are causing Carpel Tunnel-like symptoms in the arm and hand. It's why you may be experiencing what you think is sciatica (nerve compression due to a bulging vertebral disk) with pain radiating down your leg, when it may actually be nerve compression due to a tight piriformis muscle.

Low back pain can be caused by many things including poor posture, arthritis, spinal disease such as a ruptured or bulging disk, or it may be a muscular problem due to postural distortions like scoliosis or work habits, such as sitting at a desk all day. But just because you're experiencing low back pain doesn't mean the muscles you think are causing the problem are actually the real cause. It may be referred pain due to other muscles. For example, many people who feel pain in the low back automatically--and understandably--think it's being caused by weak or tight quadratus lumborum (a.k.a. "the QLs") muscles, the muscles that attach to your lumbar spine, 12th rib and posterior iliac crest. But the iliopsoas muscle--which attaches on the anterior side of your spine and runs down to your femur--is a known culprit for causing low back pain. So if you've been trying to fix it with massage, but the massage therapist is only working on your QLs, perhaps it's time to suggest they work on your psoas*. (*Note: Working on the psoas involves the massage therapist going deep through your abdomen. It may feel quite uncomfortable, such as bad menstrual cramps, especially if your psoas has never been worked before.)

If you're experiencing pain that you have not been able to get rid of, talk to your doctor and call me. Perhaps working together, your doctor and I can figure out the real cause of your chronic pain and help you eliminate it. Visit my Web site at for my contact information.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What to Expect During Your Massage Session

I'm sure that those of you who have never experienced a table massage have many concerns about what to expect during a massage session. Many times, preconceived notions cause the unexperienced to avoid getting massage, even if they need it badly. So, to put your minds at ease, I'd like to address those concerns.

Will I have to be naked during my massage?
How much clothing you remove is completely up to you. Any reputable massage therapist will use professional draping with the sheet--meaning that only the area being massaged will be exposed. For your safety and security, absolutely NO private parts or genitals should be exposed at any time.

It is easiest for the massage therapist if you undress down to only your underpants. The reason for this is so that if massage oils or creams are used, it won't get all over your clothes. I personally prefer to use the elastic of the client's underpants to tuck the sheet in to help ensure that you are properly covered. However, if you are more comfortable with leaving more clothing on, I can still work through the clothing, though, to protect your clothing, no massage oils can be used.

The most important thing is that you feel comfortable during your session.

Should I Tip My Massage Therapist?
Again, that is completely up to you. In general, tips are appreciated, but certainly not required. If you do decide to tip, you may tip however much you feel comfortable. It is generally understood that some people are uncomfortable tipping or are financially unable to tip, so if you don't tip, your massage therapist shouldn't take it as an unspoken commentary on his or her work.

What Kind of Massage Can I Expect?
When you call to make an appointment, ask questions about what kind of massage is offered. It's also a good idea to ask if the massage therapist you are scheduled with is nationally certified. Some states also require massage therapists to be licensed--Michigan currently has a licensing law, but has not yet implemented the process to hand out those licenses.

Many other styles of massage exist, including Thai massage, Reflexology, Lomi Lomi, Hot Stone Therapy, Craniosacral massage, Shiatsu, and several others. If you are interested in a particular style of massage, please ask if it's available.

I offer therapeutic massage including Swedish (or relaxation) massage as well as deep tissue massage, chair massage and some sports massage. I don't perform any of the other styles. I do not perform sensual massage.

Tips for a Successful Massage Session
1. ARRIVE ON TIME! If your appointment is scheduled for 1:30, please try to arrive about 5-10 minutes before so that you have time to disrobe and get onto the table. You may also need a few minutes to fill out a health history form and to talk to the therapist so that s/he can determine what problems you're having and formulate a plan on how best to help you.

2. COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR THERAPIST. Giving accurate information about your health is important to the therapist--s/he must know if you have a condition that might contraindicate a massage. In order for your massage therapist to be effective, it's very important to tell your therapist if they are using too much or not enough pressure. And if, for any reason you feel the need to stop the massage or if the therapist is doing anything that you dislike, please say so. Don't feel you need to keep quiet about anything.

3. ASK QUESTIONS. If there's anything you want to know, don't be afraid to ask questions. Ask why you've been experiencing that back pain or why you've been getting headaches. Ask what you can do to help reduce your pain. Ask what you can expect during the massage. Ask about what your therapist specializes in and how they can help you. Whatever you may be curious about, ask questions.

If you'd like more information or would like to schedule an appointment with me, please visit my Web site at

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What IS Deep Tissue Massage Therapy?

Deep tissue massage therapy is often mistaken by many people for any kind of massage that is performed with hard pressure. Deep tissue massage can utilize hard pressure, but it doesn't have to. With any good massage therapist for any type of manual massage, the amount of pressure should be dictated by the client. Some clients can take harder pressure than others. But harder pressure can also be utilized during a relaxation massage--it just depends on what the client wants.

Relaxation (or Swedish) massage and deep tissue massage are two completely different styles. When we massage therapists refer to "deep tissue," we're talking about affecting the deeper layers of muscle and fascia. True deep tissue massage includes two styles: Myofascial therapy and Neuromuscular massage therapy.

Myofascial therapy loosens the bonds between the fascia and the muscles to increase range of motion, decrease tissue adhesions and loosen scar tissues that may have formed. It also increases the oxygen and nutrient supply to muscular and fascial tissues to improve muscular health.

Neuromuscular therapy employs trigger point therapy. It works with deeper layers of muscle to deactivate points of pain which refer pain around or away from the knots. These points of pain are known as trigger points. Trigger points can cause pain because they are areas in the muscle tissue that are tight and lack proper blood supply. Referred pain happens because the tightness in the muscle sends signals along the nerve path. Nerves travel along, around or next to muscles, which is why you can feel pain in areas that are distant to the tight area. The muscle may also compress the nerves and cause pain, numbness, tingling and/or other sensations other regions of the body along the path of the nerves.

Deep tissue massage therapy is intended to work out these knots and increase circulation, giving more oxygen and nutrients via more blood to the area, thereby decreasing pain and possibly compression of the nerves.

Be aware that deep tissue massage therapy can sometimes be somewhat uncomfortable and somewhat intense. However, it is not intended to cause pain--as in when you react by saying "Ouch!" If it hurts too much that your body seizes up and you jump, then the massage therapist should back off. If it's uncomfortable but bearable, try taking slow and very deep breaths--this will usually help you through it until the massage therapist moves on to a different area. If it's too uncomfortable to bear, don't be afraid to speak up! Communication between you and your massage therapist is extremely important. If you don't say anything, how can they know they're hurting you?

It should also be mentioned that with deep tissue massage therapy, you may sometimes feel bruised. This is normal! Because it's deep tissue work, some of the blood vessels and capillaries in the skin may be ruptured. It's ok to have a few bruises, especially if you really need the work done. Also, some people bruise more easily than others, especially if they are taking blood thinners. But again, if you experience too much pain that you can't breathe through it, you should tell your therapist to use less pressure.

A good massage therapist who performs deep tissue massage therapy should have sufficient training in both Myofascial massage as well as Neuromuscular massage therapies. If you're not sure whether your massage therapist is trained in deep tissue massage therapy, ask them.

I am a nationally-certified massage therapist who specializes in performing deep tissue massage therapy in Ann Arbor, MI. To find out more about me, please visit my Web site at

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Is Your Massage Therapist Nationally Certified?

Do you know whether your massage therapist is nationally certified? There are still many states that do not require certification and/or licensing. In fact, Michigan has only recently passed a law to require massage therapists be licensed--though our state has not yet enacted the process for handing out those licenses. That being said, in order to be licensed, one must first be nationally certified by the National Certification Board of Therapeutic and Massage Bodywork (NCBTMB). This means a person has gone through a qualified massage therapy school and completed at least 500 hours or more of education or proven that s/he has worked a certain number of years in massage therapy.

Because licensing and certification are not yet required (or enacted) by all states, there are many places where massage therapy is offered by people who are actually unqualified. Why is that so important? Well, because passing the NCBTMB test maintains the highest degree of validity, integrity, and reliability. Being nationally certified means you represent the highest of standards in the massage therapy profession, distinguishing you above the rest. It means that those who are certified have the adequate and proper knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and pathology as well as therapeutic massage modalities. Someone with this level of knowledge is likely to know exactly why something is bothering you and when it is or isn't safe to massage.

Think of it this way: would you go into a doctor's office to be treated for a serious illness if s/he didn't have a medical degree? Of course you wouldn't! So going to a massage therapist who isn't nationally certified would be like rolling the dice at the craps table. You might get lucky, you might not. Would you really want to risk having someone who doesn't know what they're doing to work on you?

Consider this possible scenario: a client walks in to receive a massage. He is a soccer player who was injured during a game after another player kicked him in the lower left leg two weeks ago. He complains that his right calf has been painful and swollen ever since then and thinks a massage will make him feel better. A massage therapist who has been to massage therapy school and has learned about the pathologies that would contraindicate massage (that is, someone who knows when it's not safe to massage due to injury or disease) would refuse to massage this client. Why? Because the client is displaying possible signs of having a deep vein thrombosis--clotting in the leg. If the therapist were to massage this client, it's possible to dislodge the clot which could travel through the blood stream into the brain and possibly cause a stroke. And as scary as that sounds, this type of situation can and does happen.

If you're not sure whether your massage therapist is nationally certified, ask them! If you're in Ann Arbor, MI and need a massage therapist, look no further--I am NCTMB-certified. For more information about my qualifications and to contact me, please visit my website at

Monday, April 12, 2010

Do you REALLY have Carpel Tunnel Syndrome or is it something else?

Are you experiencing pain, numbness or tingling sensation in your arms, wrist and/or hands? Have you been diagnosed with Carpel Tunnel Syndrome? It's possible you may actually have Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, but it's possible you may have been misdiagnosed.

Carpel Tunnel Syndrome is caused by compression of the median nerve in the wrist. This compression is caused by inflammation of the retinacular tissue in the wrist. This leads to pain, numbness, and weakness in the hand and wrist. People experience pain upon doing things like opening jars or have trouble grasping objects.

However, there are some people who have been misdiagnosed with Carpel Tunnel Syndrome. What may be happening is muscular compression of the brachial plexus nerves. In plain English, there are a series of nerves that pass right through the middle of a set of muscles in the neck called the scalenes. When the scalenes are tight, they can squeeze the nerves which causes pain, numbness and other sensations to travel down to your hand, actually mimicking Carpel Tunnel Syndrome. This is why many people are misdiagnosed.

The good news is I can help those of you who have this "pseudo-Carpel Tunnel Syndrome." By loosening the muscles surrounding the nerve, I can help restore your proper range of motion and feeling in your arm, wrist and hand. Schedule a massage with me today and we'll work together to rid you of this annoying problem!!


Got Back Pain?

Did you know that working in an office all day might actually be causing your back pain? It's true! When you sit in one position all day and don't get up to walk around much, you may be contributing to your low back pain.

Human bodies weren't made to stay in one position for long periods of time. Sitting in an office chair, staring at a computer screen for 8 hours a day isn't good. Your quads and lower torso muscles become tight and over-shortened while glutes and hamstrings become overstretched, not to mention that sitting for long periods of time decreases blood flow. As a result, pain can manifest in the low back, hips and thighs which can be exacerbated if you don't exercise regularly and use a chair with inadequate padding and lumbar support.

What can you do? Well, obviously, the first step is to start exercising regularly. Try taking short 5-10 minute breaks throughout the day with short walks around the building or avoid the elevator by going up and down stairs instead. Get up and stretch at least a few times a day. Do some side stretches, bend over and touch your toes, put your hands on your hips while bending backwards, and do some twisting at the waist. This will help loosen up those tight muscles and keep you more limber. Also, make sure to pay attention to your posture. As your mother told you, slouching is bad. But what she didn't know is that even sitting too straight can tax your back muscles and cause pain.

If you are also experiencing neck pain that frequently turns into tension headaches, it's possible this is caused by your computer monitor being set at the wrong height. Try raising or lowering your monitor to see what effect it has on you. You shouldn't have to bend your neck up or down to look at it--it should be right at your eye level.

Of course, the best thing you can do is get a massage on a regular basis. Massage therapy can be extremely helpful in getting rid of that chronic neck and low back pain. I can help! Make an appointment with me and I will work with you to define your pain issues and decrease your pain. For those of you in Ann Arbor massage may be the answer you're looking for. Find out more about how I can help you by visiting my site:

Read about other causes for back pain:

Coming soon: Do you have Carpel Tunnel Syndrome or something else?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Amy Prior Massage Ann Arbor Welcomes You!

My name is Amy Prior and I am a massage therapist. I offer deep tissue massage therapy in the Ann Arbor, MI area. If you experience lots of stress and anxiety, chronic pain issues, muscle soreness, throbbing tension headaches, low back/neck/shoulder/hip pain, postural imbalances, or reduced range of motion, I can help!

Work situations, posture, and sleep positions are some of the things that can contribute to muscular imbalance leading to chronic pain. I focus on neuromuscular massage therapy and myofascial massage therapy. I work with you to determine your pain issues and attack areas of pain and tension by loosening the muscle and fascia and bringing you better muscular health and balance.

I also practice Swedish relaxation massage therapy for those of you who don't want deep tissue massage.

Cash/check/credit card payments accepted.

Visit and schedule an appointment with me today!