All posts by hrichardson


The chair is a killer

As we are all now spending more time in our living rooms it is a good time to remember the mantra ‘the chair can kill so don’t sit still.’

There was a really interesting episode of Horizon on the BBC exposing ‘The Truth About Exercise’. It raised some excellent and thought provoking points, not least that a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to exercise is not the way forward, we need less generic fitness manuals. As we all respond to and like different things so it will be with our chosen form of exercise.

However, for me the most striking point was raised by Dr. James Levine (Mayo Clinic) who claimed with a touch of hyperbole that “the chair is a killer”. He is advocating a ‘get moving stay active’ approach to health.

In the episode presenter Michael Mosley tested the theory for 24 hours. He admitted to a sedentary job and similar lifestyle so for the 24 hours he moved about as much as possible, standing when talking on the telephone, taking stairs instead of lifts, walking whenever possible.

Just everyday activities we can all take advantage of if we put our minds (and bodies) to it. In the one day he burned an extra 500 calories – no sweat, no cost, no extra time, very little effort but a great result.

By simply moving more in our daily lives we could see real health benefits, more so if we are currently stuck in a sedentary way of life.

I accept that this is a limited form of exercise but it is an excellent starting point for anyone new to exercise and a way to increase for those of us already convinced of the benefits of staying fit and active.

So my challenge to us all echoes Dr. Levine – my new mantra is ‘the chair can kill so don’t sit still’. I invite you to join me.

*If you have any medical condition or are unused to physical exercise it is advisable to consult your physician before beginning any exercise programme.


Holiday health – Well being

Well we’re not exactly on holiday but many of us have more time at home than we usually do. As for the amazing key workers who are still at work doing such a phenomenal job please still try to be kind to yourself. These are very unusual times that most of us never thought we’d see in our lifetime and using this time for renewal is crucial.

I am not necessarily talking about learning a new skill or learning to speak a foreign language, although both of these would be a good use of the time, but learn to relax and take care of your own well being. The biggest aim is to get through this safely and with our well being intact and preferably improved.

This is a blog post from summer 2015 when we were all looking forward to sunshine holidays and a break from routine. Well, no holidays this year but certainly a break or change of routine. The chance to relax and revitalise on holiday is of vital importance but maybe we can follow the same rules and improve our well being at home.

Review, renew, resolve
Holidays allow us time to reflect – on life and on work. Do you always get the balance right? Giving yourself some me time allows your mind to switch off and can bring clarity to your thoughts. Just allow the thoughts to come and go, maybe make a note of some insights to come back to once the holiday time comes to an end. Don’t address everything at once or you could use all your time off thinking about when you get back.

Think about any resolutions or goals you had for the new year. Have you achieved them and need new ones? Are you not there yet and need to redefine? Take this opportunity to look at the balance of your life and make sure it is just how you want it. This is the only life you have right now and no one else can make it how you want, you have to do that for yourself.

If finding your way is too difficult or you don’t know what you want, try different things until you find your niche or read so-called ‘self help’ books for inspiration. Here are a few suggestions.

* Chicken Soup for the Soul
* Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Richard Bach
* Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl
* The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
* Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom
* The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce

Self Help
* The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, Robin Sharma
* The Road Less Travelled, M. Scott Peck
* The Chimp Paradox, Dr. Steve Peters

Biographies to inspire and entertain
* How to be Champion, Sarah Millican
* Becoming, Michelle Obama
* My Story, Jo Malone
* Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson

For more prescriptive inspiration why not read autobiographies of your hero or favourite sports person? There are some amazing stories out there from people just like you, be one of them!

Helen in lockdown
Me in lockdown
Helen in coffee shop
In a coffee shop – remember those days?!

Advent Promise Remembered

This was originally posted Christmas 2016 reminding us to think of others even when we are really busy with our own lives and problems. I don’t think this has ever been more important in my lifetime.

Kindness comes in two forms; kindness to others but also to yourself. If you know someone who may be alone or struggling, reach out to them; if it’s you, reach out to someone who can talk to you. Those of you who know me know that talking is one of my favourite things… just ask.
Although this original post was about Christmas cheer, it is relevant now when we need cheering more than ever. Some of the kindness suggested cannot be practised now because of our new favourite phrase ‘social distancing’ but let’s be kind from a distance.

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 to 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.

“Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone:
Kindness in another’s trouble,
Courage in your own”
Adam Lindsay Gordon

Helen Richardson
Be kind x

Time to reorganise

I have spent quite a bit of my lockdown time sorting and filing doing all those less important jobs I put off in busier times. Having looked through some of the old blog posts it seems a few are more relevant now than they were when I wrote them.

I am going to repost some over the coming weeks to help us all focus and get through this pandemic as safely and as healthy as we can. Our daily dose of fresh air and exercise is hugely beneficial and especially on a day like today where I sit typing with the sun streaming through the window. However, our mental health and attitude will get us through this and should also be addressed.

As I am by nature a planner I have a list of things I want to do while I’m unable to work in the clinic. I am doing lots of reading, research and administration so once I can get back to treatment there will be no holding me! I will share some of my goals with you and keep you posted as I achieve them but really the big goal is to get to the end of this safe and well. I know some of you are using the time to learn a new skill or do things such as gardening that you usually don’t have enough time for. Many of us are also missing our friends and family, if you are shielding someone these are very hard times.

Although we cannot talk in the clinic as we always do and I am missing that every day I am still at the end of the phone or via an email. If you want to chat or ask anything I can help with then I’d be delighted to hear from you.

So challenge number one – stay safe and keep in touch.

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 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!