Friday, 29 August 2008

Desk Jobs and Indian Head Massage

Desk Jobs and Indian Head Massage
Photo by cheetah100.
More and more people have desk jobs and work with computers than ever before. Many of us go to work day-in day-out and sit in front of a computer oblivious to the fact that the way our desk area is set up and the way we sit could be contributing to poor posture which may lead to back pain, neck and shoulder tension, poor circulation, headaches, eye-strain, wrist-strain and many more posture related aches and pains.

The muscles which are particularly affected by sitting at a computer are the two Sterno-cleidomastoid muscles which run down either side of the neck, the large Trapezius muscle that spans the neck, shoulders and back, and the two Deltoid muscles at the top of the shoulders.

One of the best ways to relieve muscle tension is massage. There are many different types of massage but one of the best for relieving muscle tension in the neck and shoulders is Indian Head Massage. Indian Head Massage is a non-invasive holistic treatment which involves massage of the upper back, upper arms, shoulders, neck, scalp and face.

Indian Head Massage can help to relieve pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulders caused by poor posture and repetitive movements, increase joint mobility and flexibility in the neck and shoulder joints, relieve eyestrain and headaches caused by stress and staring at a computer screen, improve circulation, and reduce stress, tension and anxiety levels. To be effective, massage should be undertaken at least once a month.

Although Indian Head Massage and other massage techniques can help to relieve the symptoms associated with poor-posture, it is also important to correct the situation or behaviour which leads to the problem. It is well worth assessing your workstation and computer setup to ensure that it is suitable for you. You may find that your place of work offers ergonomic reviews or workstation assessments.

If you would like to find out more about Indian Head Massage and how it could help you, please visit the Balance Holistics website.

More information about workstation layout and working with VDUs can be found on the HSE website where you can download a free guidance leaflet.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Using Hot and Cold Compresses to Relieve Pain

Hot and cold compresses play an invaluable role in the management of pain. They are particularly useful in helping with acute pain, but are also beneficial if you are suffering with chronic pain. They can also help with stiffness and muscle tension.

Hot compresses cause widening of the blood vessels which in turn increases the blood flow in that area. It also draws heat to the surface, encouraging muscles to relax. The contrast of the cold compress causes the blood vessels on the surface to constrict causing blood to be pushed away from the congested and inflamed tissues. This blood carries away waste products and is replaced by fresh oxygenated blood which is full of nutrients which helps speed up the healing process. It also has an analgesic effect and helps reduce inflammation.

To make the compresses, you will need two small towels (when folded 2 or 3 times they need to be large enough to cover the painful area); two bowls; access to hot and cold water; and appropriate essential oils if using.

Fill one bowl with hot water - tap water should be hot enough, and fill the other bowl with cold water, again from the tap. If you are using essential oils, add 4-6 drops to the bowl of hot water. Soak one towel in hot water, and squeeze out the excess water. Fold the towel neatly to make a compress and place on the affected area for about three minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the cold compress in a similar way using cold water. As soon as you remove the hot compress, replace with the cold one for one minute. Then repeat the sequence – three minutes hot, one minute cold, three minutes hot, one minute cold – for about 20 minutes or even longer if the pain is acute. It is important to always finish with a cold compress, particularly in any areas where there may be inflammation.

You can use hot and cold compresses individually. Hot compresses are good for backaches, rheumatism, IBS, menstrual cramps, arthritis, earache, and toothache; and cold compresses are good for headaches, neck tension, insect bites, sprains, gout, and strains.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Essential Oil Of The Week: Tea Tree

Botanical Name: Melaleuca Alternifolia

Aroma Type: Herbaceous

Note: Top

Tea Tree is another popular and well known essential oil which nowadays appears in many shampoos, conditioners, spot treatments, lip salves, cleansers, mouth rinses, antiseptic lotions, toothpastes, and bath oils.

Tea tree was named by Captain Cook’s crew, who brewed the small dark leaves and drank it as a tea substitute. The Aborigines first used it for its healing properties. During World War II, Australian soldiers were issued with Tea Tree oil in their first aid boxes as they recognised its powerful germicidal and antiseptic effects.

Its main properties are antimicrobial, antiseptic, antiviral, bactericidal, cicatrisant (promotes the healing of a wound), expectorant, fungicidal, insecticidal, stimulant and sudorific (increases perspiration).

Tea Tree can help with the following conditions: fungal infections, thrush, athlete’s foot, colds / flu, cuts, burns, blisters, cold sores, nappy rash, insect bites, breathing problems, bunions, chickenpox, chilblains, dandruff, insect repellent, measles, cystitis, sinusitis, sore throat, bronchitis, muscular aches & pains, boosts immune system, boils, warts, verrucae, bacterial & viral infections, catarrh, coughs, ringworm, PMT, anxiety, depression, and stress.

Like Lavender, Tea Tree oil can be used neat on the skin - apply one or two drops directly to spots, cuts, insect bites, stings, cold sores etc. If you or someone you live or work with has a cold, to combat the spread of airborne germs place 4-6 drops of Tea Tree oil in to some water in an oil burner. If you suffer with athlete’s foot, Tea Tree is a must – it is an efficient way of getting rid of it without having to use heavy chemical products.

I recently scalded my hand and was in quite a lot of pain with it. I placed a few drops of Tea Tree directly on to the affected area and I also placed a few drops in a bowl of cold water which I kept plunging my hand in to. It really eased the pain and stopped the throbbing and burning feeling.

Tea Tree blends well with frankincense, lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus, pine, chamomile, geranium, mandarin, marjoram, and peppermint.

Although Tea Tree oil is non-toxic and a non-irritant, it may cause some skin irritation to people with very sensitive skin. It is also advisable to avoid long-term continual use of the oil.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Hopi Ear Candling and Flying

Hopi Ear Candling and Flying
Photo by nordlicht.
Are you jetting off on your Summer holidays but not looking forward to the pressure pain you get in your ears during take-off and landing?

Then why not try Hopi Ear Candling. It is an excellent treatment to have before you fly to help ease these symptoms.

When you take-off and land in an airplane, the altitude at which you are travelling changes quite quickly. When there is a change in altitude, there is also a change in air pressure. On take off, the air pressure decreases and on landing, the air pressure increases. Whenever the air pressure of your surroundings changes, the air pressure inside your ear has to adjust. To do this, the air trapped in your inner ear escapes through the Eustachian tube (a narrow tube that links the inner ear to the back of the nose and throat). The opposite happens on landing and the air travels up the Eustachian tube into the inner ear. When this happens, you feel your ears pop.

Most people suffer from ear popping during take off and landing, but some people experience pain and discomfort when their ears fail to pop due to congestion.

If you have congestion, especially in your Eustachian tube, due to a cold, sinus infection or allergies, your ears cannot equalise the pressure. This leads to a build up of pressure making your ears feel blocked and painful, and causes hearing to become muffled. It can also cause fluid in the ears.

Hopi Ear Candling helps to balance the fluids in the labyrinth and inner ear. This helps to relieve pressure in the ear and helps combat inner ear pressure pain associated with flying. Ear Candling also helps release any congestion allowing air to pass more freely in and out of the ears via the Eustachian tube which allows the ears to equalise pressure more effectively.

If you are due to fly and you are suffering from congestion, a cold, allergies or sinus infection, or if you know that you suffer with ear pain or discomfort while flying, I would recommend you have a Hopi Ear Candling treatment 24 hours before take off if possible. You may also find it beneficial to have a treatment after your return journey home.

More information about Hopi Ear Candling can be found here.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Using an Oil Burner

Using Essential Oils in an Oil Burner
Oil burners are a great way to benefit from the healing properties of essential oils and fill your house with pleasing aromas. It has many uses – for healing, as an alternative to chemical-laden shop-bought air fresheners, as a room disinfectant in the case of colds and flu, as a room freshener, and to eliminate unpleasant odours.

With an increase in the use of aromatherapy and essential oils, oil burners have become very popular. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colours, and materials, and can be purchased from health food stores, chemists, department stores, new age stores, and on the internet. The type of burner you choose comes down to personal preference.

You can get metal and ceramic oil burners. I have both at home but mainly use the metal one. They both have their advantages and disadvantages. I think as long as the bowl on top is quite large and is far enough away from the candle it doesn’t matter too much what the burner is made from.

Some oil burners have a removable bowl and others are all in one. I personally prefer the ones with a removable bowl so that you only have to take that part to the tap to fill with water rather than the whole burner plus it makes it easier to clean in between use.

If you don’t feel comfortable using candles especially if you have children or pets around, you can purchase an electric “burner” known as an Aroma-Stream, which works by blowing air through a pad which holds the essential oils. It also means that you can use it at night to help you get to sleep or if you are suffering from a blocked nose or cold. The downside to the electric “burners” is they are quite expensive to buy, uses electricity, and you have to buy replacement pads.

Once you have purchased your oil burner, you will also need some small tea-light candles. Make sure that these are unscented otherwise they may mask the smell of the essential oils when they are lit. You will also need some pure essential oils of your choice and a lighter or matches.

Fill the top bowl of the oil burner with water. Add 6 - 8 drops of essential oil to the water. If you have a small room use less drops than if you have a large room. Stand the wick up on the tea-light candle, light it, and place in the base of the oil burner. As soon as the candle starts to heat up the water above it, the essential oils in the water will start to evaporate and the aroma is diffused along with the water vapour into the room.

Don’t let the oil burner burn dry as this can cause ceramic and glass burners to crack. When the water and essential oils have evaporated, either put the candle out or refill with more water and add a few more drops of essential oils.

Lighter oils (top and middle notes), such as lemon and lavender diffuse quicker than thicker oils (base notes), such as sandalwood and rose. You may want to top up the oil after a little while to maintain the aroma.

Some safety precautions. Never leave a lit candle unattended. Ensure the oil burner is secure on a flat surface and out of the reach of children and pets when in use.

The essential oils that I purchased along with my very first oil burner (way before I trained as an aromatherapist) were Lavender, Ylang ylang, and Eucalyptus. I have listed below some example blends for you to use in your oil burner.

As an insect repellent, add 2 drops each of Lemongrass, Lavender, and Tea Tree essential oils to a little water in the top of your oil burner.

To mask the smell of cigarette smoke, use 4 drops of Peppermint essential oil.

To wake you up in the morning, add 3 drops Grapefruit, 2 drops Rosemary, and 1 drop Peppermint essential oils.

To relax after a hard day at work, use 2 drops each of Lavender, Chamomile (I prefer Roman Chamomile to German and Maroc but it depends on what you are using it for as they have slightly different properties), and Sandalwood essential oils.

To help you study and improve concentration, use 3 drops Rosemary, 2 drops Eucalyptus, and 1 drop Peppermint to your oil burner.

I hope you get as much pleasure and healing from your essential oils and oil burner as I do from mine!

If you would like to purchase any of the essential oils mentioned in this post, please contact me for more details.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Professional Association Membership

After qualifying as a Holistic Therapist, I chose to join a professional therapists association called the Federation of Holistic Therapists (FHT). It has the largest membership of any therapy organisation in the UK with over 21,000 members.

To ensure high professional standards, the FHT devised a Code of Ethics and Professional Practice. As a member of the FHT, I have agreed to abide by this code as follows:

• Acting in the best interests of my clients and treating them with respect
• Taking responsibility for my own actions
• Respecting other practitioners and health professionals
• Practicing only within the limits of my competence
• Making sure my behaviour does not damage the professions reputation
• Observing confidentiality
• Practicing within the law
• Maintaining high standards of hygiene
• Maintaining and developing my knowledge and skills

The FHT encourages all its Members to continue to improve their skills and grow their knowledge. Each year, I am required to practice Continuing Personal & Professional Development (CPPD) in order for me to stay a member of the association. I regularly attend workshops/seminars, talks, training courses and conferences. I also regularly read books, magazines, journals and websites related to Holistic Therapies, general health, and wellbeing. All these activities help to enhance my skills and knowledge in the therapies I practice, broadens my knowledge of holistic therapies as a whole, and keeps me in touch with current practices.

Although not part of the CPPD program, I regularly receive massages. I feel that this is an important part of being a therapist as it allows me to experience what it is like to be a client, to see how other therapists work, and it also looks after my own wellbeing.

By choosing a therapist who is a member of a professional association such as the FHT, you can be safe in the knowledge that your therapist
• is fully qualified and holds a nationally recognised qualification in the therapies they practice;
• holds a Public Liability and Professional Indemnity insurance policy;
• abides by a code of ethics ensuring professional practice and conduct; and
• is continuously honing their skills as a therapist.

More information about the Federation of Holistic Therapists can be found on their website.

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Monday, 4 August 2008

Essential Oil Of The Week: Lavender

Lavender Essential Oil
Photo by M@rg.
Choosing the right essential oils to use at home can be difficult - particularly with the wide range of essential oils available today. Each week, I will choose an essential oil that I find particularly useful outlining what it’s good for, how you can use it, what oils it blends well with, any safety precautions and any interesting facts about how the oil has been used historically. For the first Essential Oil of the week, I have chosen Lavender – my favourite of all the essential oils.

Botanical Name: Lavendula officinalis

Aroma Type: Floral

Note: Middle

Safety first! It should be used with caution if you suffer with low blood pressure as it can cause drowsiness so take it easy when you get off the massage couch. Those who suffer with hay fever or asthma may find that they may be sensitive to Lavender. Unlike the other essential oils, Lavender can be used neat directly on to the skin.

Lavender was used by the ancient Romans and Greeks to perfume bath water and was also burned as an incense to honour their deities. It has long been used to speed up the healing process. Since the 18th century it has been widely used in perfumes, soap, talc and pot-pourri.

Lavender is a very versatile oil with a wide range of therapeutic properties and can help with many physical and emotional conditions. Its main properties are calming, soothing, balancing, antiseptic, analgesic, anti-depressant, anti-rheumatic, anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, decongestant, deodorant, diuretic, emmenagogue (induces menstruation), hypotensive, nervine, and sedative.

Lavender can be used for the following conditions: burns, muscular aches and pains, headaches, fatigue, tension, irritability, depression, insect bites, anxiety, arthritis, athlete’s foot, bruises, chicken pox, poor circulation, colds, cramps, cuts, dandruff, hangover, cold sores, indigestion, insomnia, jetlag, measles, menopause, perspiration, PMT, rheumatism, stress, sunburn, thrush, fungal infections, migraine, cystitis, sprains, strains, rheumatism, bronchitis, earache, ringworm, high blood pressure, lack of / irregular periods, period pain, colic, asthma, diarrhoea, and flatulence. It also boosts the immune system. What a list!

It is an excellent first aid oil and I take mine everywhere with me. I use it on my temples and forehead when I’m feeling stressed, anxious or have a headache, I dab it on spots, insect bites, burns and cuts as soon as they occur, and it is excellent for helping you get to sleep. Just add a couple drops to a tissue and place on your pillow before going to sleep.

Lavender blends well with many other essential oils but my personal favourites to mix it with are patchouli, rosemary, ylang ylang, chamomile, clary sage, geranium, lemon, peppermint, and tea tree.

Lavender can pretty much be bought anywhere as is probably the most popular and well known essential oil. Most chemists, health food shops, and supermarkets sell it and it is one of the cheaper oils. If you had to buy just one oil, make it Lavender!