Happy New Year

I’m hoping everyone has had a Merry Christmas and feels recharged and excited about the start of a whole new decade! However, we won’t all be feeling this way especially in the dull, dark January nights.
I’ve come to realise that Christmas and New Year can be a sad or thoughtful time for many of us, it can be full of memories that are joyful or sad or a mix of the two but will forever remain as memories of times past. I think for most of us as adults it is a mix of the two.
It is a time to remember childhood traditions some we no longer keep or to remember people we have loved who are no longer with us in person. It can be a reflective time as these memories are stirred and maybe we just have to sit with them for a while. However, the reality is that life goes on and although our memories are to be treasured we must be careful to make new ones. Allow the people no longer with us to remain alive in you when you carry out traditions that they made with you. Then honour their memory by living your best life.
So Happy New Year to you all; enjoy making plans to live your best life. It won’t always be easy but nothing worthwhile ever was. I wish you all you wish for yourself… health, wealth and happiness but most of all health.

Pain Management – how can massage help?


All client testimonials and case studies have been gathered with full consent and cooperation from each client. A full consultation was carried out for each one although details have not necessarily been included here. Many thanks to all my clients who have contributed, I am grateful for your time and feedback.

I have a long standing client with multiple pain patterns who has regular treatment from consultants that has included medication and back surgery. She has well managed Multiple Sclerosis and is active whenever she can be. Over the years we have known each other Jacqui has been through a variety of issues relating to the musculoskeletal and nervous system and always found great benefit from massage. Our history is long and varied but we enjoy the trust of the therapeutic relationship and also a friendship, confidentiality and common sense approach of to self help (something we both have empathy for!).

Currently Jacqui is consulting her neurologist with a view to undergoing major surgery of the lumbar and thoracic spine but the issues in her lower back are causing postural changes in the upper back that are very problematic. So this is what I will be working on with her to relieve the pain in this area, arrest the headaches and allow so quality of movement.

During all our treatment Jacqui continues to take her medication and has regular appointments to monitor progress and proceed towards what may be inevitable surgery.

As you can see from the photographs Jacqui has a stooped gait due to the lower back pain but is also unable to lift her head because of the strain placed on the upper back. This in turn outs tension into the neck and shoulder area compromising movement in the back to a much greater extent.

Tight muscles respond well to deep tissue massage and any relief we can bring about in muscle relaxation will help the overall situation. It is also worth noting that the non-medical help of the masseuse and the relaxing quality of massage even on tight tissues can well have an uplifting effect for the client. This may not last long when dealing with chronic pain but nevertheless relief however short lived is most welcome. Massage then becomes something in your pain management toolkit to compliment medication, surgery, exercise etc.

For this kind of massage you need to ensure your therapist is qualified and insured and ideally has experience in working in this area. Chronic pain is by nature changeable, you have good days and bad. You work hard one day and expect pain the next yet it doesn’t come, you have a restful day and a good night’s sleep and wake up in pain, to use an American phrase ‘go figure’. The more you can do to ease and fight the pain the better, if massage gives even temporary relief or the compassion of a masseuse to soothe and relax then isn’t it of value in pain management?

Building a community

Firstly thank you to everyone who came to the open day last Friday or sent good wishes as the clinic celebrated 18 years of Therapeutic Massage in Ponteland. It was lovely to have time to chat over coffee and reminisce about the years we’ve spent together. Some of you remember the early days working in The Spa others my time at Darras Hall Surgery or the Osborne Clinic. You have supported me and been most generous with the charity events I have taken part in especially my trip to Bosnia Herzegovina, my zip wire off the Tyne Bridge and of course cycling the Grand Depart of the Tour de France.

18 years is a long time and we have been through some times together, happy and sad, and that is what builds a community and allows a small local business to thrive. You have challenged me and encouraged me to be the best therapist I can. Continuing study and development supported by your feedback have put me in a position to try new things. Who’d have thought I’d ever go to the Olympics or Commonwealth Games? Working with elite athletes is an amazing experience made possible by an equally amazing group of people back home who support me in my business. You have been case studies for new treatments and waited while I took time out to be at events such as London 2012.

I will always be grateful to have found a job I love and a community to work with. Don’t ever think I work hard all day massaging for little reward! The rewards are beyond rubies.
open day

Help! Information overload

In the last 48 hours I have twice been asked about massage therapy and how to choose which therapist to go to.  One enquiry from someone who is getting conflicting advice from GP, chiropractor, physiotherapist etc and another who asked the difference between us all.  A good question and one I get asked often as it is not always easy to know who to go to when you are looking outside your own field of work.

The simple answer is you want someone firstly qualified and insured to give you advice.  Secondly they should be able to explain why they are suggesting the treatment they are so you can understand and make informed choices.  At the initial contact stage they should be able to tell you what they can do for you and gauge whether they can help or whether you will better going to someone with a different discipline.  If asked I would always explain how I think I can help or if I think someone else might be better suited to help and if in doubt would offer a free consultation to clarify this.  It is too easy to spend lots of money trying everything out before you find what works for you.

It is true that there can be a crossover between therapists in that your personal preference can lead you to for example a massage therapist or physiotherapist and for some conditions either could help but then there are cases where one is preferable to the other.

So how do you know and how do you stop this conflicting advice and improve?

How do you know?  Do your research by asking for recommendations or if unavailable check the web registers for each regulatory body.  As a massage therapist I am a member of www.sportsmassageassociation.co.uk who ensure good practice amongst their members.  Then get in touch with the therapists you feel might be able to help.  I will always offer a free consultation if preferred but can often give some guidance from years of experience over the telephone as to whether I am the best person to help you.  I will explain my reasons for or against and if necessary have a good list of fellow professionals I work with to refer you to.

How do you make sense of conflicting advice?  Any advice I offer I am able to give sound reasons for.  So if I think I can help you or not my reasoning will be based on 25 years experience of not only massage therapy but working with a wide range of fellow professionals and knowing how they work.  I would always recommend you to ask someone to explain why they are advising as they are.  If it is good advice based on knowledge then they will be happy to do this and that allows you to make more sense of it.  I can always say why I am suggesting a certain form or course of treatment, I will explain what I can do and give aftercare advice but will always be happy to refer you to someone else if I’m not the best person to help.

Working with Children

As a massage therapist I often get asked if I work with children. My reply is always yes of course I do! Active children get sore muscle the same as adults and can intermittently experience what we usually refer to as growing pains.
The young people I have seen have loved the massage and found great benefit very quickly. Parents have brought their children in from the world of sport and dance to keep them fit and active.

Physical activity has so many benefits for young people including:

• Building healthy lifestyle habits
• Keeping weight down
• Developing social skills and team work
• Encouraging drive, stamina, focus and determination
• Proving exercise is fun

There are different guidelines when working with children to include chaperoning, adjusting pressure and timing of treatments but youngsters can really benefit from a massage. You can check your therapist is checked by the Disclosure and Barring Service (formerly Criminal Record Bureau, CRB) and also qualified to work with children.

Helen Richardson
DBS checked since 2006

Level 2 Child Protection in Sport and Active Leisure 2016

Child Prot cert

Great North Run – 13 tips for 13 miles

The Great North Run is a fantastic local event to be part of but running 13.1 miles is a big ask of the body!  Make sure you take good care of yourself in these next two weeks so you arrive at the start line in peak fitness and at the finish line in good shape.

1. Plan, Plan, Plan. The old saying fail to plan and you plan to fail was never more true. Set yourself a good training plan which can be found in any running magazine or on the web and tick off your achievements as you progress. A great way to stay motivated as you complete each target and also to know you are on schedule to finish the event safely.
2. Listen to your body. Increase gradually and adapt slowly, don’t beat yourself up if you have a ‘bad week’. Let it go and get back on target the following week.
3. Have regular scheduled sports massage to assess any potential injury or trouble spot, relieve fatigue and ensure good recovery and training practices.
4. The essential piece of kit – good running shoes. By good shoes I mean ones you are comfortable in whatever the science says!
5. Diet=fuel, don’t run out of steam but ensure you eat the right foods to fuel training and aid recovery. Plan your food intake for the week before and also for your recovery week, don’t leave it to chance.
6. Don’t ignore any niggles or illness. Rest if you need to and see your doctor or sports therapist and get things sorted quickly so you’re not side lined for the big event.
7. Don’t be tempted to over train. Rest is an essential part of your training plan if the most difficult to do.
8. Cross train to build all round strength and stamina and prevent overuse injuries.
9. Stretching is important and something easy to ignore! Try to stretch after each training session and if possible do a separate stretching session to see the benefits.
10. Mental preparation is important, try to schedule training around work and home commitments. Training when you know you should be somewhere else is never easy. So again plan your training and get good at time management.
11. Hot or cold? The general rule is hot for chronic conditions and cold for new injuries and swelling. If in any doubt contact your sports therapist for specific advice.
12. Tapering is always a good idea. You’ve done the mileage in training now rest your body in the days prior to the event so you don’t arrive on the start line already tired.
13. Enjoy – this is an amazing challenge you have set yourself so enjoy the ride!

Never Give Up!

Usain Bolt

“Accept the challenges so you can feel the exhilaration of victory” said General George S. Patton, a sentiment that has sprung to mind numerous times this year. Those of you who accept life’s challenges inevitably reach a point where in a particular field you have taken things as far as you can. I have seen a few clients this year who are reaching the point where participation in running and contact sports like football are causing injuries and taking too long to recover from. Part of the process of not being 18 anymore! However, I have also seen one of my heroes retire in the form of Usain Bolt, although a young man he can no longer keep up with the 18 year old sprinters perhaps? He has risen to challenges throughout his career and achieved highly in a very competitive arena, so much so he is recognised throughout the world as ‘The World’s Fastest Man’ or the ‘Lightening Bolt’. Like the clients I see he has to reassess and look for a new challenge, he is unlikely to be the type of personality to sit back with pipe and slippers!
I think we all have these times if we are the type to strive to do well and accept and look for challenges. The type of challenge may change but we can still set goals, still stay fit and healthy and certainly still rise to a challenge and feel that adrenaline rush when we reach our target or feel the extreme joy of a job well done.
Challenging ourselves to do better or be better people is a lifelong endeavour and makes us more interesting and fulfilled as well as a fully fledged contributor to the incomparable human race. The clients I see who are these people are great to be around, they are energetic and they are interested in others. They make the world a better place by trying to do better and raising the bar.
I would like to leave with another quotation to make you think as you wonder if you can rise to another challenge,
“Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan”, President John F. Kennedy

Advent Promise


Do you remember the excitement of putting up the advent calendar when you were a child?  It meant Christmas was really on its way.  It’s a practise I gave up years ago but I saw something this week that is making me reinstate the idea of ‘opening a door’ each day.

I have spoken in the year and in the clinic about Random Acts of Kindness and how they are so easy to do and so lovely to receive.  So every day in advent I plan to ‘open a door’ and spread Christmas cheer with random acts of kindness.  The easiest will be smile, holding a door open or acknowledging a kindly driver who lets me through the traffic.  I will try to remember that the person holding up the supermarket queue may be chatting to the cashier because it is the only conversation they will have today.

I challenge you to join me and we can all add up our open doors on Christmas Eve and congratulate ourselves for spreading the real meaning of Christmas.  Please feel free to spread your random acts of kindness on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

Be a Firework

I feel I’ve been listening to fireworks for the last three weeks but Bonfire Night is finally over.  Maybe it’s a sign of how hectic life has become and how instant, we cannot wait for things to come.

Yet for some things we do wait, often too long.  We get busy working, taking care of family, keeping fit, running homes etc we forget to get busy taking care of ourselves.  We sit at desks tensing our neck and shoulder muscles, we run before work and don’t have time to stretch or relax afterwards.  If something hurts we wait to see if it gets better on its own…  with time, yet we still want instant results.  So things get more difficult and we become tired and worn down and find it difficult to do what we want to do.

Therapeutic Massage is the perfect antidote to this negative cycle.  Remedial massage helps reduce tension in tight muscles for the office worker and sports massage relieves fatigue and muscle strain for the athlete.  If you’re more in need of relaxation then aromatherapy, reflexology or muscle melting Lava Shell warming massage can provide some respite.  Whatever you chose you get ‘me time’ and are investing in your well being.

Life has much routine, it is how we get things done but it also has firework moments that we want to be fit enough to embrace and enjoy.  So be a cascading fountain or high flying rocket at time with regular periods of being a super sparkler, but balance it with an investment in well being.



Post Great North Run tips

Well done the training paid off and you’ve made it to the finish! I hope you have some sort of victory celebration organised as you certainly deserve it. To aid your recovery to get back to normal as soon as possible here are some post run tips.

Post event recovery.
 First aid is always RICE – REST, ICE, COMPRESSION, ELEVATION for any potential injuries or trouble spots. Do this for 20 minutes and repeat every couple of hours for the first 48 hours if necessary. If things don’t improve or get worse consult a medical practitioner.
 Food glorious food – you may feel so good now you have finished the event but don’t neglect your energy levels which will be dipping. Water is essential unless you have a preferred sports drink in which case stick with what you’re used to. Ideally refuel in the first 30 minutes when the body is most responsive but certainly within 90 minutes.
 The main running muscles of the calves, quadriceps, hamstrings and hip flexors will be aching and may be threatening to stiffen up. Remember to stretch well and regularly to help prevent this, hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds.
 Shower or bathe as soon as you can to prevent and chaffing rashes or bacteria on the skin. If you do have sort of skin irritation seek medical advice as to what to use.
 How do you know if you have an injury or are suffering from Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)? Generally speaking DOMS tends to be in the muscles used and less localised than an injury, it peaks around two days then begins to ease whereas injuries get worse especially when you try to use the injured area. If in doubt give it 2-3 days and if not improving seek professional help.
 Sports Massage is essential for speedy recovery and to check any potential injuries or trouble spots. I you haven’t already arranged your appointment then get yourself booked in within the first week to help remove fatigue and check for any potential injuries or problems.
 Should I use heat or ice? For discomfort and fatigue in the first 24-72 hours ice is considered best to relieve fatigue and reduce inflammation. If you’re not up to an ice bath that then ice packs on the areas for 15-20 minutes work well and can be reapplied every two hours if necessary.
 So are you keen to get out there and train again? As a guide an easy rule of thumb is one day off for every mile ran so a couple of weeks off running following a half marathon. When you can walk comfortably and pain free you can begin jogging then increase gradually but remember other training can be beneficial as active recovery. Above all be kind to yourself, you’ve just achieved something amazing!
Having completed your event can leave you with a feeling of anti-climax and nothing to aim for. Recover from this one while you plan your next adventure.