The Duke Diaries – Life Without Duke

Ted The Alarm Clock

Today is three months since our Sweet Dukie left us. Ted has really stepped up his game as Alpha. Cecilia, while I believe she could absolutely fill the role, just won’t. Ted is the new Alarm Clock – man he makes so much NOISE – and he has no concept of the 9 minute snooze. He makes little chortling noises “mmm, mmm, grunt grunt mmm mmm, grunt grunt,” usually accompanied by some sort of physical abuse. If I don’t respond rapidly enough in his furry little mind, he stands on my pillow and whacks me in the head. On occasion he will lay on my head and knead my scalp. Honestly, it feels really good, so sometimes I pretend to be asleep just to see if I’m gonna get a kitty paw scalp massage. 

He’s a pretty good food reminder – but usually only when he’s hungry. Duke would start “reminding” me at least an hour before meal time, usually with a death stare. Ted is much more vocal. He trots out, happy as a clam (he’s ALWAYS happy as a clam) and says, “Meow.”  I say, “Are you ready for dinner?” and he says, “Meow.” We chat back and forth discussing menu selection and I ask him to go get his sister… we go through a whole vocal routine which he fully participates in.

Cecilia is another story. I got them new beds: round, with high sides, fluffy, fuzzy, soft, cheap Amazon delights. They LOVE those damn beds. Cecila only gets out of hers when she gets too hot. This morning I had to coax her out to get her breakfast. She loves to prop her head against one side and stretch a leg out so its hanging off another edge. She’s happy as a… cat in a fluffy bed!

My heart still aches for Duke. I keep his yellow flower shrine going. I talk to him a little. He still watches over things for me. It makes me reflect often on loss and grief. A distant friend lost her husband 7 months ago. I think of her so very, very, often yet do not reach out as frequently as I would like. At least three people I know have lost pets in the time since I lost Duke. I think of them too. A couple very close to me suffered a miscarriage earlier this year.  My grandmother and grandfather lost their daughter a month ago.  Through their grief they are packing up their home in Arizona to move to Florida and they are planning to stay with me for a spell while we locate a new home for them. Hmmm, my Spidey Senses are tingling. Perhaps a new Blog Category: Stories of a Sicilian Grandmother? Hahahaha. Stay tuned.

Today I send out love to all of those who have lost. Right after I lost Duke, my friend sent me this TedTalk by Nora McIlnery. I love her message and I’d like to share it with you here. It’s for those who have lost, for those being supportive of those who have lost, and for people who know someone who have lost (aka this is for EVERYONE). It’s totally worth 15 minutes of your day.

Sending out love and light to all,

Erin

All About Cupping Marks

Cupping is one of those modalities that has a lot of mystery surrounding it. For a long time I didn’t receive, nor did I use cupping in my practice because I didn’t understand it. After venturing into the unknown and receiving cupping for the first time, I was hooked. I completed a cupping training course over a year ago and have incorporated it into my regular practice. For many of my clients it’s the first time they have experienced it and majority request cupping in each of their sessions. In this post we are going to discuss the biggest mystery of all: Cupping Marks.

It’s Not a Bruise

As ugly as they can be, cupping marks are not bruises. Bruises are caused by blunt injury or trauma. They are the blood from broken capillaries trapped under the skin. 

Cupping marks are stagnant blood, cellular debris, or pathogens that are brought to the surface for the lymphatic system to clear away. The stagnant blood, cellular debris, or pathogens are there as a result of past or present injury or illness. 

Bruises can hurt to the touch. Cupping marks do not.

The Marks

Not all cupping treatments leave marks and the marks actually indicate different things. They give some insight to what’s happening inside your body. 

Cupping Chart

 

Normally there will be some flushing or light discoloration immediately after I remove the cups. I always incorporate manual lymphatic drainage with my cupping and that helps dissipate the metabolic waste. The lymphatic system is what processes and carries these waste products out of your body.  There may be light cupping marks that last a day or two. This describes the first picture noted above “Healthy Blood Circulation.”

Moderate and severe stagnation will typically leave marks that last a little longer. They indicate that something is happening (or has happened) in the tissue, leaving behind the stagnant blood, cellular waste, and / or pathogens.  You are most likely feeling discomfort in this area, which is probably why you sought treatment to begin with! With repeated treatment (yes, it’s a process), the severe stagnation would eventually lessen and the marks would become lighter or eventually not reoccur in those areas.

Since the moderate and severe stagnation marks are the most curious and can look down right frightening, I’m going to go a little more in depth by describing the cupping session I received this week. I was experiencing annoying aching in my left shoulder that was resulting in restricted range of motion in my neck. I massaged myself quite a bit, and cupped myself (nope, it’s NOT easy to cup your own back). Since the aching persisted and I couldn’t properly reach the areas I needed to, I booked myself a massage treatment. The photos below were taken just a few hours after my treatment.

 

 

The entire area surrounding my scapula was cupped and these are the resulting marks. You can see some areas are very dark (severe), some are lighter (moderate), and some have no markings at all (healthy).

 

Severe Stagnation

 

These three marks are pretty ugly (okay, super duper ugly). Purple. They are also the attachment points for the muscles that were causing my issues. Coincidence? Nope.

Mild Stagnation

These marks were also left right after treatment, but you can see they were very light, indicated mild stagnation, and by Wednesday morning were just about gone. 

 

Old Marks

 

These old, yellowish marks were from Friday night when I cupped myself. There was some moderate stagnation in this area, and these are how the marks faded by Monday afternoon. 

The End Result

The most important thing to me is that my pain went away. I regained my range of motion with the combination of massage and cupping. This practitioner did not use lymphatic drainage post cupping, so the marks may or may not have lessened in severity if that had been incorporated. Also, the marks did NOT hurt. By Friday morning (four days later) this is what my marks looked like:

Marks – 4 Days Post Cupping

 

The cups that were used in my treatment were glass and a pump was used to create a very intense suction. They were also not left on long at all – I would guess 2-3 minutes max. That demonstrates how much stagnation I had in that tissue. The cups I use in my practice are a soft silicone and no pump is used. They are not quite as intense and they allow me to maneuver them around more than the glass or plastic cups. I find them to be excellent cups for people new to the cupping experience.

I’m working on more cupping posts – there’s so much interesting information out there! So please let me know what questions you have and I’ll be sure to include them in our next educational blog!

Cheers!

Erin

Manual Lymphatic Drainage – Part Three – Self Care

As promised, here are some tips for YOU to help YOU. Keep your lymph flowing in between your Manual Lymphatic Drainage sessions with some easy self care tips:

  1.  Exercise: Move around! You don’t have to kill yourself with burpees or run a marathon. I’m a fan of jumping jacks, but walking works (pump those arms!), and the new trends of rebounding and even just bouncing on a fitness ball can help.
  2. Dry Brushing: A superficial technique, dry brushing can stimulate your lymphatic system, aid with cellulite reduction, and slough off dead skin cells. It’s not very comfortable – I have to psyche myself up to do it – or perhaps I need a slightly softer brush. Here’s a little video demo selected because it is short, to the point, and I found that Margie made me smile. Remember: always dry brush towards the heart!
  3. Stay Hydrated: This is hands down the most important self care tip. Every system in your body works better when you drink water. So you just need to break down and do it. Here’s a list of hydration apps to help remind you (did you know once you’re feeling thirsty you’re already dehydrated?). I’m guilty of not drinking enough water too, so if you have a clever way to remember to hydrate, please share!
  4. Wash those fruits and veggies: This falls under the realm of paying attention to the environmental toxins around you. We are exposed to many environmental toxins that are out of our control, but be sure to always wash your fruits and veggies. If you’re really diving deep into healthier, cleaner living, please visit my Lemongrass Spa Products page. Lemongrass Spa’s mission is to provide natural products that are clean and made fresh, right here at home in America. The family skin care products range from cosmetics (I adore their lipsticks – no chemical taste and amazing pigment!) to lotions, scrubs, soaps, hair care, and essential oils.

Ready to try our Manual Lymphatic Drainage? During the month of September you may try our full body Lymphatic Drainage Massage for the special rate of $40 for a 60 minute treatment. May not be combined with any other offers; additional charge applies for mobile massage.

Manual Lymphatic Drainage

Manual Lymphatic Drainage – Part Two – The Technique

What Does Manual Lymphatic Drainage Feel Like?

This is an excellent question and it always helps to know what to expect before you receive any type of treatment. Personally, if I don’t know, my mind is spinning trying to figure out what comes next and I never fully relax. This segment of my Manual Lymphatic Drainage Series reviews the location of the lymph nodes and what it’s like to experience the Manual Lymphatic Drainage Technique.

Your Lymph Nodes

We have lymph nodes throughout our body. All of the nodes eventually drain into two “mother nodes” located in the supraclavicular area (just above your collar bone). Working the way down the body, the next major nodes are in your armpits (axillary nodes), your cisterna chyli is located in your abdomen, and your groin (inguinal). Below is an abbreviated chart to give you a basic visual.

The Manual Lymphatic Drainage Technique

When performing full body manual lymphatic drainage the client starts face up and the therapist starts by clearing the nodes just above your collar bone. Everything else eventually drains to this area, so you need to clear the path and give everything a place to go! We work through the body clearing the areas closest to the nodes and working away so we are always directing the lymph to towards the cleared areas. We work through the face, scalp, and neck all the way through the front of your body before turning you over. Majority of the work is actually completed with the client face up (supine), so it can be a much more comfortable experience, especially for those who get congested easily in the face down (prone) position.

The technique itself is very gentle. This is not a deep tissue massage. The lymph system is located very close to the surface of the skin, so the sensation you feel during the massage is very light pressure with a slight tug of the skin, typically in the direction of the nearest mother node (the tape playing in our heads is, “how light can I go, how far can I stretch”). There are a few areas that are massaged where you may not be used to receiving massage.

1) The eye sockets. I found it was a stranger sensation to perform this technique than to receive it. You can do it to yourself (pretty please be gentle and don’t poke out your own eye). Close your eyes, place a finger tip (preferably a clean one) on the bone UNDER your eye. Slightly roll your finger in until you feel the flat part of the bone. Yes, this helps relieve eye puffiness.

2)  Your armpits. It’s a quick technique, but if you aren’t expecting someone to put their hands in your armpits it can catch you off guard. The full palm goes in your armpit, so there are no little finger tips tickling around. It’s actually kind of a comforting sensation (I find this whole treatment to be very comforting in general).

3)  Under the breast. There are lots of nodes at the breast fold. The technique I use is for one hand to be on the side of the chest (kind of holding up the side of the breast tissue with my forearm and the other hand is under the breast, at the fold. Again, this felt much more invasive to perform than it did to receive. The hands barely move and the motion of the technique is towards your side and up into the armpit (to the auxillary nodes). Fun Fact: Wearing underwire bras and very tight sports bras can inhibit the full function of these nodes, which is why it’s important to clear them. It’s also important to let the girls breathe, either bra-less or with soft bras so your lymph can flow.

4) The Groin. Again, this sounded much more invasive to me than it felt when receiving the technique. The therapist’s hand is placed approximately between your hip bone and pubic bone and I always use secure draping. There’s lots of nodes in this area which is why it’s important to treat, and the therapist hangs out there for a while (about 30 seconds where other areas are about 10 seconds: one Mississippi, two Mississippi…).

Please note that techniques will vary by therapist and the issue you may be having treated. These notes are based on full body manual lymphatic drainage, but if your therapist is treating a specific area for any reason, that may be the only area treated. As with all my treatments, there may be techniques I do not perform if I’m not comfortable or if you’re not comfortable. It’s all about communication.

In addition to providing a stand alone lymphatic drainage massage, I will be adding this technique to select areas of the body during my Integrative and Ashiatsu massage sessions at no additional charge. Typically these will be areas that require extra attention or deeper work and the lymphatic drainage techniques will help minimize inflammation in those areas.

SPECIAL: During the month of September you may try our full body Lymphatic Drainage Massage for the special rate of $40 for a 60 minute treatment. May not be combined with any other offers; additional charge applies for mobile massage.

 

 

Manual Lymphatic Drainage – Part One – What is it?

The lymph system is really very fascinating and I’m so excited to share what I learned in my Manual Lymphatic Drainage course (I have a fancy certificate and everything!). There’s so much information that I’m going to split it up into a series; but if you have any questions you want answered, give me a shout! It’s likely that if you have the question, someone else does too. In my series I’m going to share what the lymph system is, what it does, what YOU can do for YOU, and how I can help.

What IS the Lymphatic System?

The lymphatic system is part of your immune system helping to defend against bacteria and other intruders. It aids with fluid balance and the absorption of fats and fat-soluble nutrients. It clears away bacteria, cell debris, excess water, proteins and wastes from connective tissue and returns it to the bloodstream for removal by the kidneys. Fun fact: when you feel like you have an infection and your “glads” are swollen (think neck, armits, groin) these “glands” are actually swollen lymph nodes (Resource: What Does the Lymphatic System Do?, MacGill, Marcus Feb 23, 2018, Medical News Today.)

The Mechanics of the Lymphatic System:

The lymphatic system consists of lymph, lymph nodes, and lymph vessels and it is located parallel to the venous system. The lymphatic system is similar to the circulatory system (blood); however, your circulatory system has a mechanism to pump your blood through your body (Anyone? Anyone? Yep, it’s your heart). Since the lymphatic system doesn’t have an automatic pump it requires YOU to do the work for it. The most common way to make this happen is to exercise.

Why Manual Lymphatic Drainage?

If you can just exercise to move your lymph system, why do you need manual lymphatic drainage? Surgery and other damage can cause a build up of fluid in the lymph system. While a certain level of inflammation is important to protect damaged tissue, some of the fluid can be moved away to help the healing process. In healthy bodies, it aids in the flow of lymph and can help keep the nodes clear. By encouraging circulation of fluids and degongesting tissue you can ultimately assist your organs to function at optimum levels (yes, your kidneys and liver are the star of this show!). Manual Lymphatic Drainage also has a positive effect on the parasympathetic nervous system (your “rest and digest” nervous system) and helps keep the autonomic nervous system in balance. As I mentioned in my Facebook Live Video (see the replay here on YouTube), a sluggish lymphatic system can make you feel sluggish too. Symptoms and signs of an overly stressed lymphatic system can include: chronic fatigue, joint pain, fibromyalgia symptoms and muscle aches and pains. For your reading pleasure, there’s a very thorough article by Dr. Axe on the lymphatic system: The Lymphatic System: How to Make it Strong and Effective.

Try it Now

SPECIAL: During the month of September you may try our full body Lymphatic Drainage Massage for the special rate of $40 for a 60 minute treatment. May not be combined with any other offers; additional charge applies for mobile massage.