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American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) Professional Member


Self Care Tips

Tips to Save Your Wrists
Tips for Beginning an Exercise Routine
Self Care for Those Who Work on Their Feet
10 Ways to Relax and Reduce Stress
Got a Headache?
Stretches for the Back
Positioning Yourself at Your Desk



If you are having trouble with pain or discomfort in your wrist area, consult a physician or ask a massage therapist help you assess if muscle tension is contributing to the pain. If you work at a desk, you may want to look at your work setup and use these suggestions to reduce pain and avoid more serious injury. If your company has an ergonomics department, ask them to help you change your work station and body posture to work more safely.

1. Your keyboard height should ensure that your wrists are straight and level, never bent back. If you can't adjust your table height to accommodate this, you may want to move the keyboard into your lap.


2. When typing or using a mouse, your wrists should not rest on anything, and should not be bent up, down, or to the sides. Keep your hands relaxed hovering slightly over the keyboard and the middle knuckle aligned with the center of the wrist.


3. Move your hands using your whole arms instead of resting your wrists on something, and stretching your fingers to hit the keys. Move your hand to hit function keys instead of stretching to reach them. This may take some getting used to, but can help a great deal in preventing pain and injury.


When you stop typing for a while, rest your hands in your lap or let your arms hang to your sides. Take a moment to shake them out and enjoy the refreshed energy moving through them.

It may make a big difference if you take breaks to stretch. Bend your wrists forward and backward and circle them in both directions. Make tight fists and relax them 10-20 times. Ask your massage therapist for stretches specifically for the forearms. Set up a reminder chime on your computer or some other reminder to take frequent stretching


Repetitive Strain Injury: A Computer User's Guide. Pascarelli, Emil M.D., John Wiley and Sons, 1994.

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If you are just beginning to exercise, here are some guidelines recommended by fitness experts. It is advisable to get your physician's approval before you begin, especially if you have a heart condition or if you are recovering from a serious illness or injury. 1. Build your exercise program slowly. This will decrease the chances of injury and discouragement. Begin walking at a moderate pace for 5-10 minutes or so. Work your way up to 20 minutes gradually. It's creating the habit that's most important. As exercise becomes a regular part of life, it becomes a reward in itself.

2. When beginning something new, whether it's yoga or tennis, get some instruction. Qualified instructors can help you use your body correctly, progress quickly and avoid injuries.

3. Consider water exercise. It can be effective for both improving fitness and losing weight, no matter what your age or physical condition.

4. Yoga, tai chi and martial arts can be very helpful for back pain and fibromyalgia. They are also reported to improve flexibility, coordination, posture, and stress management.

5. Try different approaches. If you find it hard to walk consistently, sign up for a weight-training or water aerobics class. Different activities appeal to each of us. If you are an outdoor person, you may prefer the trail to the swimming pool, but if you've always liked to dance, you may want to sign up for African dance or even yoga, because you will probably enjoy moving through the postures. Ask about classes and instructors in the community.

6. If you are sore after exercising, take a hot bath or shower, include a few stretches after your workout, and try a massage in the hours after you exercise. Massage can help tight muscles let go and recuperate faster.


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If you work on your feet, you should wear comfortable, supportive shoes with flexible soles. Good quality athletic shoes are the best. If you can't wear them at work, see your physical therapist, doctor or podiatrist for other ideas for getting good foot and back support from your shoes.

For your exercise program, consider swimming or water exercise instead of running or walking. This will help you avoid further stressing your feet and legs.

To relax the muscles of your feet and ankles, soak them in warm water. Add Epsom salts and, if you like, a few drops of the essential oils of peppermint, eucalyptus, and/or rosemary to the bath water. Soak for at least ten minutes.

Roll a golf, tennis, or other small ball under the soles of your feet. Some people like to freeze the ball beforehand and use it after a hot bath for an additional boost to the circulation in your feet. If this sounds appealing to you, freeze water in a paper cup and massage your feet for a minute or two with the ice. Or fill a plastic pop or water bottle and freeze. Roll it under your foot like any other foot roller.

Foot Ball

Get regular massage to your feet and lower legs. Massage can relieve tension and increase circulation to the muscles, ligaments and tendons that do the hard work of supporting your body.

Foot Massage

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Relaxation is key to reducing excess stress and its effects. Here are some ideas which may help.

1. Get an extra massage. When you relax with massage, you let go of muscle tension, worry and mental confusion. This may be one of the few times you slow down and notice what it feels like to relax. This actually helps you program yourself to tune into those feelings and encourage your body and mind to let go of stress and tension.

2. Practice focused relaxation. Sit comfortably or lie down with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Support your neck with a pillow if you prefer. Scan your body, noticing where you feel tension or discomfort. Breathe slowly into these areas. Imagine relaxation flooding into the areas of discomfort. Begin by practicing ten minutes once a day.

3. Meditate. You will probably have a better chance of sticking with a technique you learn in a class or other group, but in the meantime, try this. Silently repeat a word that has little emotional meaning for you, such as "one." Give it your full attention. When other thoughts or images come into your mind, ignore them and return your focus to the unspoken word. Don't strain or try too hard. Simply let your mind keep coming back to your chosen word again and again as thoughts pass through your mind.

Lotus Position

4. Practice abdominal breathing. Inhale slowly through your nose. Exhale completely, squeezing the belly tight. Begin by practicing for 5 minutes at a time. Try it when you feel anxious or can't sleep.

5. Soak in a hot bath. Add several drops of essential oils like lavender or ylang-ylang for relaxation. Or just soak your feet. Add Epsom salts to a bathtub or basin of warm water and enjoy!

6. Try biofeedback. A professional biofeedback practitioner can help you develop self-regulation over the mental and physical processes that are associated with stress-related disorders.

7. Take a nap, even if it's only for ten minutes.

8. Take a warm shower. As the water rushes around your neck, drop your neck forward and stretch it from side to side. Then circle your shoulders slowly under the hot water.

9. Try autosuggestion. Frequently repeat a suggestion to yourself such as "Shoulders free" or "Neck relaxed." Repeat the suggestion, but dont strain or do anything at all but say the phrase. This plants an idea which may gently support muscle relaxation.

10. Take a yoga class. Many people find yoga increases relaxation and relieves many of the effects of stress.

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For a headache in progress, try the following. You may find the earlier you stop whatever you're doing and try one of these techniques, the more likely you will find relief.
Note: If you ever experience a sudden severe headache unlike anything you've experienced before, seek medical attention immediately.

1. Cold or hot packs. Put ice (or a bag of frozen peas) in a cloth and press it against the painful spot, or against the back of your neck. If you don't get relief, switch to a heating pad, hot water bottle, a microwavable hot pack, or a hot, wet towel, covered with plastic wrap and a dry towel or fleece to hold in the heat. Try each for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.

2. Brush your hair. Brush from the temple, moving gradually to the base of the skull. Do one side a time. Then work down the center of your head.

3. Massage your head.

* Use your fingers to make small circles on your forehead, temples, and scalp. Massage for up to 30 seconds in each spot. Use a comfortable amount of pressure.

* Try this acupressure technique. With your thumb and first finger, squeeze a point near the base of your thumb on your other hand in the webbing between your thumb and first finger. Hold until the discomfort subsides. Repeat up to five times.

4. Also try neck massage. Reach around and cup the base of your neck with your palm. Using a comfortable amount of pressure, knead the muscle slowly from bottom to top.

Neck Massage

5. Consider increasing the frequency of your massage sessions, even if you must reduce the length of each session. The benefits of massage are cumulative and may act to prevent the development of tension that can lead to headaches.


Headache Help: A Complete Guide to Understanding Headaches and the Medicines that Relieve Them.
Lawrence Robbins, MD and Susan Long.
An Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide to Headaches.
Robert Milne, MD and Blake Moore with Burton Goldberg.

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For mid-back and low-back pain, try these. You'll get the best results if you repeat them several times a day. If you feel any of these movements are difficult because of tension, let your massage therapist know you would like to work on releasing that area at your
next session. If you experience pain with any of these stretches, discuss with your physician before continuing.

1. Knee drop. Lie on your back with your knees bent, keeping your feet flat on the floor. Keep both shoulders relaxed and flat against the floor. Let your knees drop to one side only as far as they will go comfortably. Relax there for a few seconds and then bring them up again. Repeat on the other side, up to five times on each side. If your neck is uncomfortable flat against the floor, use a hand or pillow to support the back of your head.

Back Stretch

2. Side bend. Stand with your feet together, your heels about two inches from a wall. Lean back and rest your back flat against the wall. Bend to the left, stretching your arm down one leg as far as it will go, keeping your entire back and head against the wall. Gently straighten up. Repeat 3 times to the left, then repeat the sequence to the right 3 times.


3. Knee lift. Lie down with knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Press your low back into the floor. Raise your left knee up to your chest as far as possible without pain. Hold for 5 seconds. Return the foot to the floor and slide heel forward until leg is straight. Now gently roll the leg from side to side and return to starting position. Do 5 times and switch legs.


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First, make sure your workstation is set up correctly. Here's a checklist.

1. Your chair and keyboard should be set so that the thighs and forearms are parallel to the floor.
2. The keyboard height should ensure that the wrists are straight and level.
3. The keyboard should be close enough that you don't have to stretch forward to reach the keys.
4. The mouse should be close to the keyboard where you don't have to reach to use it.


Now check your body position.

1. Keep your hip, knee, and ankle joints open slightly (90 degrees or more).
2. Keep your head aligned with your spine.
3. Keep your upper arms close to your sides, hanging straight down.
4. When typing, your wrists should be relaxed, not be bent up, down, or to the sides.


Repetitive Strain Injury: A Computer User's Guide. Pascarelli, Emil
M.D., John Wiley and Sons, 1994.
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety website:

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