The Health Benefits of Exercising During Pregnancy

exercise during pregnancy, pregnancy massage, post-natal massage, pre-natal massage, Massage Therapy at Dreamclinic Massage and Wellness Seattle and RedmondExercising during pregnancy has great benefits – it can help prepare for labor, boost your energy, soothe pregnancy aches and pains, and help your body bounce back faster after childbirth. While most women know that exercise during pregnancy is safe, there are still a lot of questions floating around about what you can and can’t do. Is it okay to do crunches? How low should my heart rate be? Can I still run?

A good rule of thumb is to check with your healthcare provider first, and use your pre-pregnancy exercise routine as a guideline. If you exercised regularly before pregnancy and your pregnancy is uncomplicated, you can most likely continue working out as before, with some modifications. If you didn’t work out often before pregnancy, you can definitely start now, but start off small, like a 15-20 minute walk.

Exercising doesn’t have to be an intense, uncomfortable experience. Swimming a couple laps in the pool or walking around your neighborhood can still provide amazing health benefits. All that matters is that you’re moving.

Here are some of the benefits of exercising during pregnancy:

Prevents back pain: Two-thirds of women experience back pain during pregnancy, but water workouts, yoga, and pelvic tilts can relieve this discomfort. Exercising during the second half of pregnancy seems to be especially effective.

Boosts energy: Exercise strengthens your cardiovascular system, so you don’t feel tired as easily. Pregnancy can sap your energy, but regular exercise will strengthen your muscles so you’ll need less effort to engage in daily activities.

Prepares for an easier labor: Moms who exercise tend to have shorter labors and are less likely to need medical intervention during labor, including C-sections.

Improves quality of sleep: Many pregnant women say that they have a harder time falling asleep, and staying asleep. Those who exercise consistently report their quality of sleep is better and they wake up feeling more rested.

Speeds postpartum recovery: The more you exercise during pregnancy, the faster you’ll recover physically after childbirth. Moms who exercise are more likely to socialize and enjoy new hobbies and entertainment post-baby.

Protects against gestational diabetes: Exercise may prevent this common problem, and the American Diabetes Association recommends moderate exercise as an effective prevention for women who are at risk. In fact, exercising can lower your risk for gestational diabetes by as much as 27%.

Now, you may be wondering what kind of exercise is best. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant women can participate in 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise everyday. The safest workouts are low impact – they are gentle on the joints and the body.

Here are three great workouts for expecting moms:

Walking: Taking a stroll is safe throughout all nine months of pregnancy, and is gentle on your knees and ankles.

Swimming: Swimming may be the best and safest exercise for pregnant women. It’s ideal because it works large muscle groups, like arms and legs, provides cardiovascular benefits, and allows moms-to-be feel weightless.

Yoga: Prenatal yoga classes help maintain flexibility and keep your joints limber. It’ll strengthen your muscles, improve circulation, and help you relax.

For the majority of women, exercising during pregnancy is perfectly safe and offers powerful health benefits. It can be a great way to meet other expectant moms and form friendships – walking around and catching up with a friend may not even feel like working out! Or, get creative – put on your favorite music and dance around the house while cooking or doing chores. Exercise doesn’t have to be boring!

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3 Subtle Signs You’re Stressed and What to Do About It

stress massage seattleAs working professionals, we’ve mastered the balancing act. We work full-time, have a lively social life, and make time to be active. We move fast and that’s how we like it.
However, in between the happy hours and work meetings, stress can creep in without your knowing. Stress doesn’t always trigger a loud, red siren. Many times, there are quiet signs telling you that you may be stressed.
You don’t need to sacrifice your busy lifestyle to reduce stress, but you should be aware of three important, subtle clues and listen to your body when it’s time to slow down:
1. Changing sleeping patterns: Your subconscious can let you in on important, underlying mental and physical happenings, and you should listen to its messages. Pay attention to your sleeping patterns; trouble falling asleep and weird dreams are all signs that you may be stressed.
What to do: Ask yourself if you are getting six or more hours of sleep each night. If not, identify what is causing you to have trouble sleeping. Are you putting off a certain conversation? Are you up against a strict deadline at work? Addressing stress in your day will make your nights easier. To help you sleep, cut back on caffeine and alcohol, and increase your exercise routine.
2. Tight, aching back or neck: Many of us carry our stress in our necks and backs. High levels of stress can cause discomfort by tightening your muscles and causing muscle spasms. This is part of our natural flight-or-fight response, and is one of the ways our bodies respond to challenges and demands.
What to do: Massage, meditation, and yoga can all relieve tight muscles. Take time to stretch during the day to prevent muscles from knotting up, and do some yoga to unwind at the end of the day. A monthly massage can also drastically improve sore muscles. A 2011 study found that massage helped people in pain feel and function better, compared to people who didn’t receive any massage treatment.
3. A craving for dessert: Anytime you have a sudden change in cravings, you should interpret it as your body telling you something is different or off. A new study claims that stress can turn on certain hormones located in our taste buds, making us crave sweets.
What to do: Be mindful of why you are craving certain foods. Monitor your stress levels and when you feel like you need to have sweets, take a few minutes to breathe and retain focus, or take a brisk walk around the block. If you really do need to satisfy your sweet tooth, choose healthy options like raisins, dried fruit, or a small piece of dark chocolate.
The bottom line: practice self-awareness and listen to what your body is telling you. Maintaining an active, mobile lifestyle will allow you to bounce between social events, succeed at work, and maintain your health.

Athletes Discover Acupuncture Treats Injuries and Boosts Performance

Athletes of many stripes are turning to acupuncture for an effective method of injury treatment and prevention. Professional football players from the ranks of the New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings, San Diego Chargers and more have embraced acupuncture to manage pain, speed injury recovery, and achieve peak physical performance in their sport. A review of research studies on the use of acupuncture in sports confirms its efficacy at increasing muscle strength and power in athletes.1

Sports acupuncture is used for injury treatment, prevention and (in combination with Chinese herbs) to improve athletic performance.2 Acupuncture taps into the body’s natural ability to heal itself. It can work in conjunction with Western medical treatment, and in cases where rest is prescribed for an injury, acupuncture reduces pain and accelerates the healing process without side effects.

sports acup Tony+Richardson+1

New York Jets fullback Tony Richardson receives acupuncture regularly between practices and before games.

Matt Callison, a licensed acupuncturist and instructor at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego, has been using sports acupuncture to treat athletes for 11 years and counting. Callison says, “traditional Chinese medicine [including acupuncture, herbs and exercises] has been an extremely helpful and growing trend in athletics for quite a while. Steve Young and Jerry Rice [of the San Francisco 49ers] have been treated with sports acupuncture, and Canadian speed skater Kevin Overland received sports acupuncture to help him earn a bronze medal in the 1998 Olympics.”3

Baltimore Ravens safety Will Demps credits acupuncture with boosting his performance on the field. “In my extensive off-season workouts, I have noticed a difference in my balance and agility since receiving [acupuncture] treatments…I feel my muscles have been ‘turned on’ and are firing on all cylinders.”3

In Major League Baseball, the Seattle Mariners were the first team  to utilize acupuncture, primarily due to the influence of Japanese players such as Ichiro Suzuki and Kazuhiro Sasaki. Players opt for acupuncture to help their muscles rebound more quickly after intense training, or to support rehabilitation and speed recovery from injuries.4

Proprioception, the body’s sense of where it is in space, is a process of the muscles communicating with the nervous system. Injury interferes with the body’s proprioceptive signals and creates imbalance. Acupuncture serves to relieve stress on the musculoskeletal system5 and “is one of the quickest ways to restore muscle balance,” says Callison. “When acupuncture is used at specific sites, the muscle spindles are reset, and then that balance is reawakened.”

The practice of acupuncture views pain as an imbalance or interruption of one’s qi (life force energy). The insertion of acupuncture needles triggers the release of pain- and inflammation-fighting chemicals in the body, and restores the cyclical flow of qi, allowing the body to function at more optimal levels. A qualified acupuncturist will first conduct a thorough intake and evaluation of symptoms, then create a targeted course of treatment for maximum results.

This is an original article from Dreamclinic, Inc. Dreamclinic is a Health and Wellness company committed to sharing information about commonly experienced health conditions and how they may be impacted through the use of bodywork and other natural approaches. Dreamclinic offers massage, acupuncture, and Reiki sessions at its Greenlake and Queen Anne clinics, as well as onsite massage at workplaces around Puget Sound. Contact us to learn more about how Dreamclinic can help you, your family or your workplace experience greater health.


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Massage Therapy for Low Back Pain Relief

by Diana Khoury

A large percentage of the population will experience some form of lower back (lumbar) pain during their adult life. In fact, lumbar pain is one of the top 5 reasons people seek medical care in the United States today. “Total incremental direct health care costs attributable to lower back pain in the U.S. were estimated at $26.3 billion in 1998. In addition, indirect costs related to days lost from work are substantial, with approximately 2% of the U.S. work force compensated for back injuries each year.”1


Financial costs aside, dealing with acute or chronic lumbar pain can be physically and mentally challenging, and disruptive to an active lifestyle.

The causes of lumbar pain vary.  It can result from an imbalance in the bones, muscles, joints or nerves in the lumbar region, or a combination. The imbalance may originate from bad postural habits, uncomfortable seats/chairs, poor footwear, skeletal misalignment, injury, asymmetrical muscle use (due to sports or other activities), or other, non-spinal sources within the body. Another factor is stress. Tired, aching, sore lower backs are often exacerbated by stress.

The Western medicine approach to lower back pain may involve treatment with medication, injections, or sometimes surgery. Increasingly, however, and for those patients that do not improve with anti-inflammatory medication, clinicians are recommending non-pharmacologic therapy with “proven benefits for acute lower back pain…[including] exercise therapy, acupuncture, massage therapy, spinal manipulation, yoga…or progressive relaxation.” 1

Josephine Briggs, MD, Director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, reports, “Massage is among the top ten most frequently used complementary health practices by adults and by children. Researchers have been investigating the effects of massage therapy on a number of wide-ranging conditions…[and] there is scientific evidence that points toward beneficial effects on back pain. low back massageIn fact, the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society have issued joint clinical practice guidelines that include massage therapy as one of the non-pharmacologic treatment options that should be considered for patients with lower back pain.”2

A 2011 study from the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle investigated the effects of massage vs. medication and physical therapy on 401 participants suffering from non-specific lower back pain. After 10 weeks, two-thirds of the study participants receiving massage reported partial or full relief from their back pain, as opposed to a one-third success rate in those receiving standard medication and physical therapy.3

Massage is a non-invasive, low risk method of relieving lower back pain with little to no side effects. It can be sought independently or in support of a medical treatment plan.  It works by relieving muscle tension and increasing circulation and oxygenation of tissues, improving range of motion in the affected area(s). Massage also releases endorphins in the body, reducing pain and anxiety and lowering stress levels.4Whether lower back pain is acute or chronic, massage can facilitate the return to a pain-free, active lifestyle.

This is an original article from Dreamclinic, Inc.  Founded in Seattle in 2003, Dreamclinic is an award-winning Health and Wellness company, specializing in Massage Therapy, Acupuncture and Natural Health education.  We provide massage services at our Seattle area clinics and at Workplaces around Puget Sound.   Contact us to learn more about how Dreamclinic can help you, your family or your workplace experience greater health.



Frozen Shoulder is Unlocked with Bodywork

by Diana Khoury

Frozen shoulder is a disabling condition characterized by pain, inflammation, stiffness and limited range of motion in the shoulder joint. The first symptoms are pain and an inability to perform daily tasks such as reaching or lifting. Shoulder function may be restricted for months or years, depending on the severity and course of treatment sought. Triggered by minor injury or improper movement (such as reaching backward from an abnormal position), the onset of frozen shoulder is gradual. Bodywork is often recommended as primary treatment for frozen shoulder – to improve function of the joint, reduce pain and facilitate increased range of motion.
Frozen shoulder currently affects around 5% of the population. However, the condition is 5 times more common in Type I and II Diabetics, possibly due to elevated blood sugar levels, which cause increased stiffness (glycosylation) in connective tissues over time.1

Those additionally at risk for incidents of frozen shoulder include:

  • Individuals between the ages of 40-65
  • Women (60-70% of cases)
  • People with poor posture
  • Those engaged in regular overuse of shoulder muscles (in sports, manual labor, etc.)
  • People with recent shoulder injuries
  • Patients recovering from shoulder or reconstructive breast surgeries
  • Family members with a history of frozen shoulder issues (genetic component)1

The onset of frozen shoulder is gradual and symptoms may last from 1-2 months to over 3 years, depending on treatment. Once a frozen shoulder is treated and healed, recurrence is uncommon. However, a small percentage of patients develop it in the opposite shoulder within 5 years.

There are three identified stages of frozen shoulder:

The acute stage (lasting 2-9 months), is characterized mainly by pain, limited range of motion, and interruption of sleep due to increased pain at night.2

The subacute or “frozen” stage (4-12 months) is marked by reduction in pain, increased stiffness and severely restricted range of motion.

The chronic or “thawing” stage (12-42 months) is the beginning of recovery, where pain is gone and range of movement gradually starts to improve.3

Since many shoulder problems are misdiagnosed as frozen shoulder, a proper evaluation should be performed by a medical professional to determine the most appropriate course of treatment.4

The standard medical treatment approach may include anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections, forced shoulder joint manipulations under anesthesia, or in the most extreme cases, surgery.3

A more conservative approach to frozen shoulder treatment includes manual therapy, bodywork and exercises, and is often recommended as a primary course before more invasive treatments are entertained.

Acupuncture used in conjunction with exercises have been shown to be an effective treatment for frozen shoulder.5Acupuncture releases endorphins which act as pain inhibitors, and stimulates the body’s natural healing abilities. The Healthcare Medicine Institute reports new research out of China and Germany that concludes acupuncture can release frozen shoulder pain and improve joint function and range of motion by targeting specific points related to muscle release in the shoulder capsule.6

Therapeutic massage techniques such as trigger point therapy, myofascial release, stretching and joint mobilization can be applied individually or in combination to address frozen shoulder, with positive results.7

For maximum effectiveness, therapeutic massage techniques are applied in moderation to break down adhesions (stiffness) in the shoulder joint, increase circulation (of blood, oxygen, synovial fluid), release locked muscles, and facilitate movement. Depending on which phase of frozen shoulder the patient is in, the massage therapist can design a series of therapeutic sessions to continue to unlock and unwind the stiffness in the shoulder, improve function and gradually restore normal range of motion.

This is an original article from Dreamclinic, Inc. Dreamclinic is a Health and Wellness company committed to sharing information about commonly experienced health conditions and how they may be impacted through the use of bodywork and other natural approaches. Dreamclinic offers massage, acupuncture, and Reiki sessions at its Greenlake and Queen Anne clinics, as well as onsite massage at workplaces around Puget Sound. Contact us to learn more about how Dreamclinic can help you, your family or your workplace experience greater health.


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USA Today Proclaims Health Benefits of Massage Therapy

Massage is not just for pampering anymore. Research continues to prove massage’s efficacy at addressing a variety of health-related conditions.  USA Today’s USA Weekend Health Smart column recently featured an article proclaiming the medical benefits of massage. In fact, a survey indicates that more people today seek out massage for medical purposes than for relaxation.

Based on scientific evidence, massage therapy has been shown to:

  •  decrease blood pressure
  •  lower anxiety levels
  •  relieve chronic low back pain
  •  decrease levels of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, by as much as 50%
  •  elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, therefore reducing depression
  •  boost immunity, by increasing levels of killer T-cells in the body.

To learn more, read the full column here or watch the video below.