In this article complementary therapist, Ros Barresi shares how massage can support our stress levels during these uncertain times. How working with a massage therapist is being kept safe through COVID 19 and shares some self-massage tips for instant tension release!
Lockdown Stress and How to Manage It
By Rosalia Barresi
Stress during lockdown has been a difficult thing to endure. We have all had to manage such a difficult time. The emotional stress is first, then the mental stress which both can manifest into physical stress. If you have been living alone the lack of touch may have been tough to endure too.
As a massage therapist and reflexologist, more than half my work dried up. I took on some care work to keep busy and earn some money. But I started to miss the profession I have been doing for over two decades. I longed for the physical contact, the input, and the close conversation. I also work as a nutritionist and for a local mental health team.
Massage therapy and reflexology weren’t happening at all during this time. The future had a huge gaping hole in it when it came to some professions. No one knew what would happen with us this social distancing (a phrase I come to really dislike). After a couple of months, I had some requests but wasn’t able to take them on. It wasn’t worth the risk. It was an alien time. This time was impossible to measure, no one could have predicted this.
I wasn’t even sure if I was ever going to do a massage or reflexology treatment this year. The stress has impacted on many people.
Some of my work involved teaching massage and reflexology as well. It was all canceled.
By the time it was allowed to happen the demand was high. I believe I did my first treatment in July. I don’t work as a sports massage therapist anymore, I mainly use the massage chair, so this is good as the person faces down. It is a safe way. I went on to do a few reflexology treatments. It has been fairly consistent since.
I also had been volunteering at Royal Berkshire Hospital for two years practicing reflexology for cancer patients and this stopped immediately as the patients were classed as vulnerable. This was a great shame as the treatments really help patients to feel relaxed during chemotherapy and radiotherapy. But also, the physical contact is important. This has been a huge loss to many.
But soon we are going back with special precautions. So that is great news. Plans are being put in place now.
I go to a sports massage therapist in Oxford, Chris Chesterman. He works for Oxford United Football Club, and has his own practice in Risinghurst, Oxford. He has kindly answered some questions for me.
1) Has massage been highly demanded during the time you have been able to work? How much would you gage?
My client base has increased significantly after the return on 14th July, with returning clients keen to progress with their rehab, people who have suffered inactivity through lockdown causing muscle atrophy and general weakness in their postural muscles, and also those who have found a new love of running or indoor exercise and need a little help with their physical well-being. The increase of home workers has also introduced a lot of postural tension with people sitting incorrectly for prolonged periods at home, with their posture affected by the use of laptops on a low base, sitting for hours on chairs designed for low to mid-use with minimum support (kitchen chairs, etc).
2) When you were providing your volunteer service online was there a good uptake?
I thought that I’d spend my furloughed time being proactive, and as I was one of the lucky ones being able to receive the Government Self Employed Income Support during the 16 weeks where I was unable to open my clinic or work with Oxford United. I decided to take the initiative and offer my experience in postural conditions and soft tissue trauma-free of charge to all levels of NHS workers via online video calls, emails, and good old-fashioned telephone calls. I didn’t have any expectations but was pleasantly surprised how fast the intake was. I only advertised this online, but with the help of the Oxford Mail & Oxford Utd sharing my support services on their social media, it quickly spread and I supported a total of 85 NHS workers during the 16 weeks from a carer in Oxford with lower back pain to an anesthetist in Scotland with repetitive strain injury in her forearm. Some people required general one-off advice and others a more structured programme throughout the entire lockdown period.
3) Have the new rules affected the way you work? Is it very invasive?
I fully redecorated my clinic including installing antibacterial flooring, increased the natural airflow, and removed all unnecessary furniture, pictures, and books, etc. I now allow 30 mins in between clients to sterilise all equipment used and to air the room. Although this has increased my actual time spent working, this also prevents clients from waiting before their appt and stops them from being in contact with one another as one leaves and the other arrives. I have also changed the way I record clients’ personal and assessment notes from using paper records to now being all electronic. My personal wear has changed from mainly sportswear to wearing scrubs, and I have 8 tops so that I can change after each client. My PPE is advised by the Government and I wear a full-face visor, disposable face mask, and medical gloves when required. The response from my clients is very positive, as I generally treat people who are trying to look after themselves and appreciate that we all need to adhere to the Government’s guidelines for as long as it takes to help us return to normality.
Self-Massage Points that Can Help With Relaxation
1) The shoulders can get really tense. If we use the opposite arm and reach over to the shoulder and squeeze. This can give mild relief for a little time. By pulling down on the shoulder we can feel the benefit. It stretches and softens the muscles in order to feel more relief.
2) Squeezing the brachioradialis muscle can work wonders on each arm. Use the opposite arm to squeeze or rub the brachio muscle or forearm. This muscle can be so tight. Use your thumb to press along. We use it extensively. It operates our two middle fingers.
3) The soft pad area by our thumb and down from our index finger is a very good pressure point for headaches and tummy pain. By squeezing this during headache and tummy pain we can alleviate it.
4) On the feet there are some points that are used for reflexology. Our ankle area represents the reproduction area so by pressing and rubbing all around this area can help alleviate menstruation pain for women. The points all around the ankle that are indented can help with this pain.
5) By squeezing our big toe on each foot can help alleviate headaches. In reflexology, this represents the head.
6) By squeezing and rubbing the area on the foot under the little toe this can help with tense shoulders. The area under the toe represents the shoulder.
7) By rubbing the nape of our neck, we can help with tension headaches, make small circular motions to generate this. And of course, our temples can help with headaches too. Make small circular motions and this can ease tension.
8) Use of heat is often helpful as well. When relaxing on a sofa or chair use a hot water bottle or wheat cushion (microwaveable), these can help the muscles relax as well as having a bath. Include Epsom salts for extra relaxation.
About Rosalia Barresi
Ros is a Complementary Therapist & Nutritionist. First qualifying as a massage therapist in 1999, then moving into sports and remedial massage in 2002.
Ros began her career as a massage therapist in Selfridges (London) and has over the years worked in many different environments, such as Holmes Place Health Club at Reaqua Spa, Farmacia Urban Healing in Covent Garden.
Ros works with clients who have severe learning disabilities, in particular, those with cerebral palsy and autism. She has also spent time working with those with drug and alcohol issues.
Ros went on to study reflexology in 2009 and Nutrition in 2012. Ros offers therapies at www.santoshawellbeing.co.uk in Wallingford.
You can read more of Rosalia’s articles and learn more about her work at www.rosbarresi.co.uk