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Friday, December 26, 2014

Tips for Treating Your Skin with Massage Oil

Human skin is amazingly resilient. It’s designed for both strength and flexibility, so that it can both stretch and maintain its shape. It also performs several vital functions including UV protection, moisture and body temperature regulation, waste elimination, and protection from disease.

Unfortunately, because it is so exposed, our skin is also prone to many of the effects of aging. Perhaps, one of the biggest effects is the loss of moisture, which can affect the strength and elasticity of your skin.

Massage therapy can reduce the effects of aging on your skin by improving circulation, stimulating oil production, removing dead skin cells, and providing external moisture from the use of massage oil. The good news is that you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars getting a professional massage; you can get the same benefits by massaging yourself at home.

Massage for Healthier Skin

There are a few things that you need to consider if you are going to massage yourself at home, and the biggest is what type of oil to use.

Massage Oil

If you go to any massage store, or even a regular drug store, you will find that there are several different kinds of massage oil, in liquids, creams, gels and solids; and they all have different functions and benefits.

•  If your primary focus is moisturizing your body, then you will want to use a heavier oil, such as olive oil or apricot oil, which will coat the skin. You can also use a heavier cream or a body butter as long as it allows your hands to glide smoothly over your skin. Thinner oils can absorb too quickly, which would require you to use more to achieve the same effects.

•  If you are massaging your face, then you want to use a light massage oil specially formulated for faces. These oils are designed to absorb without leaving heavy residue which can clog your pores. You don’t need to use as much of these oils, as you would the oils for your body.

•  If you are looking to soothe sore muscles, in addition to making your skin more supple, you might want to consider massaging a medicated gel with menthol or arnica into the sore muscles, and then following with a medium to heavy massage oil, cream, or solid.

•  If you have allergies, then you want to avoid nut-based oils, and oils with heavy fragrances, and instead choose hypoallergenic oils like grape seed, soy, or jojoba.

•  Avoid mineral oils and petroleum-based oils, which tend to clog your pores and leave a heavy residue on the skin.

The other thing you need to consider is how you are going to use the oil.

•  If you are giving a massage to someone else, consider wearing a body massage oil holster, so that you don’t have to worry about the massage container being out of reach during the massage.

•  Put the amount of oil you wish to use in a separate container, such as a smaller plastic bottle or a small bowl. If you want to warm the oil, put the bottle or dish you wish to use into a larger container of hot water. Do not heat oil directly.

•  If you do prefer a scent, it’s better to add essential oils to the massage oil on a case-by-case basis rather than scenting the whole bottle.

•  Apply a small amount of the oil to your hand, and rub your hands together before applying the oil to your body. This will warm the oil, and will also prevent you from using too much. When using additional oil, always apply it to your hands first.

•  If you find that you have too much oil on your body, wipe your hands with a dry towel and then apply some hand sanitizer to them. That will remove the excess oil from your hands, and as you continue rubbing your hands will absorb the excess oil from your body.

•  If you are using several different types of oils, always wipe and sanitize your hands between each type of oil.

•  Store your oils in a cool, dry place. Excess heat and moisture can cause the oils to go rancid. Rancid oil will still work, but it will smell really bad.

This is a blog post by Nancy Evans.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Protecting Your Back at Work

If you have an office job you probably spend the majority of your day sitting behind a desk. In fact, 50 to 70 percent of people spend at least six hours a day sitting. On the surface it might seem a lot better, and easier on your body, than jobs where you have to spend the bulk of your time standing or walking around.

The truth is that spending a lot of time sitting is one of the worst things you can do for your body because of the long-term effects on your health.

The Long-Term Effects of Prolonged Sitting

Sitting takes its toll on all parts of your body, from head to toe.

Effects on the Spine

Starting with the spine, which tends to show the most immediate effects, prolonged sitting can cause trouble in your lower back, in your shoulders and upper back, and in your neck. When you sit, all of the muscles on the front of your body pull forward, which over-stretches the shoulder, back, and spinal muscles on the back of your body. In your lower back this can put you at greater risk for herniated lumbar discs; in your shoulders and upper back it causes pain and inflexibility; and, in your neck it causes muscle strain from you having to hold your head at an awkward angle.

Effects on the Rest of the Body

Sitting causes you to pull your shoulders forward and your chest down toward your lap, which compresses all of the organs in your torso. However, it’s actually the cardiovascular effects of sitting that have the worst effects.

Prolonged sitting constricts the blood vessels in your legs, leading to poor circulation. That poor circulation can lead to varicose veins in the legs, and also to a condition called venous insufficiency which can cause blood clots and damage to the valves in your veins. This poor circulation can also affect how efficiently blood returns to your heart for oxygen, and ultimately how well the muscles, organs, and other tissues in your body get the oxygen and nutrients they need.

Sitting can also lead to muscle atrophy in your core – specifically your upper legs, lower back, and abs – because these muscles often go unused when you sit. As muscles atrophy they use less energy, which affects the way they respond to insulin, which triggers the pancreas to produce more insulin in response.

These are just a few of the effects that sitting can have on your body, all of which can lead to a higher risk of developing certain cancers and a shortened life span. Luckily, there are things you can do to stop the decline, and counteract the effects of sitting.

Turning the Tables

The most important thing you can do is get moving. While going to the gym several times a week is a good start, it’s not enough to counter the effects of hours of sitting. You have to incorporate movement and standing into your routine all day, every day.

One option is to use motorized stand up desk with adjustable height, which will allow you to stand up to do your work. That way, even if you are chained to your desk for the day, you can still get some movement in – especially in the leg muscles that are so important for good circulation. Adjustable desks can also help you improve your posture to relieve the strain on your lower spine, upper back, neck, and shoulders. If an adjustable desk is not an option, then the next best thing is to stand up at your regular desk, and only sit down if you need to write or use your computer.

You also need to schedule periods of movement throughout the day. For example, you can set a reminder to get up and march in place for 60 seconds, every thirty minutes. You can get up and talk to people face-to-face instead of calling or sending emails. Another option is to give yourself minibreaks, after you finish each task, where you get up and move around before moving on to the next task.

If you absolutely must sit, then practice proper eating to reduce the amount of strain on your spine and organs.

•  The seat of your chair should be high enough that your thighs are parallel to the floor and your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.

•  Your shoulders should be relaxed; your arms close to your sides, and your elbows bent 90 degrees when resting on your desk.

•  Your chin should be parallel with the floor, and your ears in line with your shoulders.

•  Your feet should be flat on the floor.

Your chair should also have lumbar support. If the support is not built in, then use a pillow or cushion. Your monitor should be at, or slightly below, eye level so that you don’t have to crane your neck or tilt your head out of alignment.

At the end of the day, you should do exercises that stretch out the front of your body, and help relieve the strain in your back, including:

•  Back bends;

•  Hip flexor stretches; and

•  Spinal twists.

You should also do exercises that strengthen your core muscles, such as Pilates, crunches, back extensions, squats, and lunges.

This is a blog post by Nancy Evans.