migraine treatmentBy Magdalena Shemayev, LMBT, CPT

Too much sleep, not enough sleep. Extra cup of coffee, or you skipped your second cup today. You could be in the middle of finals at school, or maybe you just finally got a break after a long week at work. Yet, no matter what, it seems like it’s time for a migraine. The neck pain starts to creep in, maybe you yawn, and maybe you start craving sugar. You get nauseous, the pain creeps behind one eye, and all you can think about is crawling to a dark room and trying to sleep it off.

Unfortunately, it’s much harder to stop pain once it begins than it is to prevent it. A better approach lies in identifying as many migraine triggers as possible, and controlling the ones you can.

Migraine triggers are highly individual, but there are common themes. According to a large study, the most common trigger is weather, followed closely by stress and not enough sleep. For those who have dealt with migraines — many of us for our whole lives — some triggers are obvious and predictable (no, thanks, I’ll pass on the white wine!), while others are elusive and fickle. Maybe some days you can handle that extra cup of coffee, and other days, a few sips and you can feel the throbbing start. What gives?

This is where the concept of a trigger threshold is useful. A tool used to describe how and why certain combinations lead to that telltale pain, being able to identify and whittle away at your own trigger threshold is an invaluable tool for the migraineur.

Imagine a cup that, when filled, means you get a migraine. Some things add a few drops, like spending too many hours at your computer or forgetting your sunglasses on a long walk. Some things fill the cup halfway, like a glass of white wine or sleeping on your neck wrong.

What matters most is how full the cup already is. Say you skipped a meal — that’s a third of your glass. Unfortunately, you skipped that meal because you slept badly (another quarter, let’s say), and you tossed and turned so much you wrenched your neck (another quarter). Now your glass is five sixths full, so while your coworker wearing cologne isn’t usually an issue, BAM, the glass is full and now it’s migraine time.

Some triggers are controllable. Avoiding certain foods, for example, is a relatively easy solution, or sticking to two cups of coffee a day. Other triggers are completely outside our control, like the weather or whether a coworker piles on the cologne for a hot date. A lot of triggers can be controlled to an extent with regular massage to reduce stress, eating regularly and not skipping meals, stretching for muscle tension, etc. In particular, stress and physical tension reduction can go a long way toward preventing a migraine, or if one has already started, making the pain and symptoms more bearable.

One of the most common symptoms of migraines — more common even than nausea or the migraine aura itself in some studies — is neck pain. For many, neck pain is the final drop in their migraine cup, or perhaps the first symptom of the migraine itself. Many common prescription migraine medications, such as the triptans (Imitrex, Amerge, etc.) can cause muscle cramps and tension, which don’t feel great even if your head starts to feel better. Massage can help relieve the tension before and during a migraine, and regular bodywork can help reduce your overall stress levels and prevent the physical tension patterns from taking hold as easily.

Most importantly, find what combination works for you. The key is to control as many triggers and symptoms as possible so that when the uncontrollable happens, your cup isn’t already full. Many find it hard to tell what facets of their migraines are triggers and precede the migraine, or make up the migraine itself. By regularly emptying your migraine cup, or keeping the amount in it low, you can reduce your levels of pain and help prevent a migraine before it starts.

massage bodywork therapist certified personal trainer

Magdalena Shemayev is a licensed massage therapist and certified personal trainer at Renu Massage, Energy & Bodywork. She specializes in working with clients with chronic pain conditions, such as migraines or TMJ. Her goal in any session is to give the body and mind a safe space to find itself again, in order to facilitate relaxation and healing. You can contact her through her business Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/mshemayevLMT) or schedule an appointment with her through Renu Massage, Energy & Bodywork www.renumadison.com

References: “Common Triggers.” Migraine.com. www.migraine.com/mia2012/common-triggers/.

“Neck Pain.” Migraine.com. www.migraine.com/migraine-symptoms/neck-pain/.

Kathy Reiki Master crystal bowl therapy SedonaTime to stock up on that zinc and a tree! Wait, WHAT? Cold season is just around the corner whether we want it or not and, according to Dr. Oz, larch can help in the prevention of them. “A new study found that larch can help reduce the number of colds by 23%,” he writes. A separate study by the National Institute of Health backed up the findings. And, while the manner in which you take it wasn’t explicit, the fact that taking it reduces your chances, was.

There are a number of other steps one can take to strengthen your immunity. Some of those include the use of nettle, meditation and regular Reiki sessions. Why Stinging Nettle? Nettle and nettle seeds and their properties are curative acting as a tonic, astringent and antiseptic among other benefits. Its seeds, when soaked in wine overnight (see recipe below), can reduce fever and flus, and tone and strengthen capillary tissues to name a few rewards. It also helps support the adrenals, reduces hypertension and helps prevent the common cold. A simple recipe of nettle tea, infused for approximately 10-15 minutes will assist you on your way to health and healing.

Once you’ve settled down with a hot cup of nettle tea, try some meditation. Om’ing your way into blissfulness has been proven to reduce stress, which helps to strengthen your immune system. But you don’t need to sit on a pillow with crossed legs to meditate. Simply finding a quiet place and listening to white noise or, meditation music will help boost antibodies. “A recent study,” Deepak Chopra, M.D., writes, “…confirmed that, after being given weekly meditation training for 8 weeks, 48 biotech workers had significantly higher levels of antibodies than the control group (coworkers who didn’t meditate) as well as higher levels than before the study.”

You can also try a walking meditation: Head out on your favorite trail; walk in cadence with the chant: “Sa-ta-na-ma” as you swing your arms and touch your thumbs on both hands to each of the four fingers (you can chant silently if there are people around. Or not!) This multiple activity may balance out the brain allowing one to take the focus off of Self and find an inner connection with something greater. 

Meditation also stimulates immune functions within the brain. When you meditate, your brain “lights up” in the prefrontal cortex, the right hippocampus and, the right anterior insula. All three of these areas directly correlate to the command center for your immune system allowing it function more effectively.

Adding Reiki treatments, whether on yourself or receiving from another person, can only assist in further strengthening your body’s immune system functions. Reiki gets to the “root” of physical illnesses by clearing out energetic blockages created within the body. These areas, if unchecked overtime, begin to build-up, which in turn creates physical warning signs: a sore neck, an irritated throat, twitching in the foot. The state of relaxation one can attain while receiving Reiki is similar to that of mediation. While in this state, the practitioner can then work on those areas of the body that contain this stuck energy. This allows those energy blocks to loosen and release.

Overtime, your whole body begins to function like the well-oiled machine it is supposed to be – keeping you healthy and free from illnesses.  As with any type of bodywork, drinking plenty of water before and after will assist in the release of toxins and blockages. These suggestions, along with advice from your doctor and a regular exercise routine, can bring a body back into tip-top health.  So, drink, zen and Reiki your way back to health before cold season sets in!

Nettle Wine

From Wise Woman Herbal by Susun Weed.

1 Tablespoon/15mil nettle seeds

1 glass wine

Soak seeds in the wine overnight. Strain seeds then warm and sweeten if desired and sip throughout the day. Note: If you are taking any medications, please check with your doctor first before taking herbal remedies or drinking alcohol as these can interfere with medications effectiveness.

Kathy Bryant owns and operates White Lotus Healing, a Reiki centered wholistic healing business based in Madison. She ensures whole-body focus as part of her practice and incorporates herbology and acupressure into the client sessions as appropriate or, upon request. To set up a session go to her website at www.whitelotushealingwi.com  or, contact her through Renu Massage, Energy and Bodywork at www.renumadison.com .



Weed, Susun. Wise Woman Herbal: Healing Wise. 1989. Ash Tree Publishing. Woodstock, NY

Oz, Ahmet. Dr. Oz’s 14 Natural Immunity Boosters. Oct. 2013. 

Riede. L., et al. Larch arabinogalactan effects on reducing incidence of upper respiratory infections. Epub Jan 2013.  National Institute of Health; US National Library of Medicine. 

Sarich, Christina. 29 Nettle Tea Benefits: Sipping On Nettle Tea For Better Health.  July 29, 2013.  

Reiki AcupressureAcupressure for Insomnia

By Kathy Bryant

As a long time advocate for cures to insomnia (read: the positive side of “suffering from”), I have tried a lot of different sleep remedies. White pills, yellow pills, blue pills (they’ll really put you in LaLa Land), exercising before bed, positive imaging, mantras, different sleep positions, going to bed and waking up at the same time, etc. All of them had their benefits and drawbacks, but I was not able to stick with any until now. Applying a few simple and quick acupressure points before bed has me knocked out until my alarm goes off — a sweet and welcome respite from many, many sleepless nights.

Acupressure, for those of you who haven’t tried it, is an ancient Chinese healing method where you place pressure on certain points of your body to release the qi, or energy, that has been built up or blocked. It provides a wonderfully easy and simple way to relieve many ailments like stress, pain, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and lowered immunity among others. Here you will learn a few points for insomnia and some other techniques to help you relax into a deep and restful sleep.

There are several points to focus on for insomnia. The first two we will be looking at are called, “Joyful Sleep” and “Calm Sleep.” The point for joyful sleep is located on the inside of your leg just below the ankle (about a pinky finger’s width). Find the dip and place light to moderate pressure there with your thumb. An alternative to holding this point is to press three times then draw tiny circles three times, repeat two more times (total of three). Do whatever feels best to you.

“Calm Sleep” is found on the outside of the leg also just below the ankle. To find this one, rest your shin on top of your opposite knee, then reach down with your hand and rest your thumb on the joyful sleep point. Wrap your hand around the back of your heel. Next, let your other fingers fall naturally on the outside ankle. Your middle or pointer finger should fall exactly where the calm sleep point is (whichever falls “naturally” just below your ankle). Don’t worry about getting this exactly right. Just have the intent that it will work. Hold these two points for about two minutes.

Another important pressure point is the one that is in the corner of each eye to the side of the nose. This point is called “Eyes Bright.” Lightly place a finger there on each side of your nose and press up toward your brow. Hold this point for a minute. The last point we will focus on is called, “Mastoid Process,” located in the hollow behind the ear. If you take your hand and lay it on your head with your palm covering your cheek/touching your nose, then let your pointer finger naturally fall just under the lobe and behind the ear. It will lay about where the dip is. This point is especially good for insomnia created by stress and tension. Hold for a minute, then relax.

After you’ve held these four points, take a deep breath. Imagine yourself getting tired, open your mouth up and yawn, take another deep breath, and fake another yawn. Stretch your arms, your legs, roll your eyes in circles and then crisscross to the left and right (eye “stretches”), fake another yawn (are you starting to feel sleepy?). Doing these few points and steps is a great way to put you into relaxation mode.

Still don’t feel sleepy after trying this? You may need to look at other things you are doing. Things like eating habits, how you handle stress, your thought patterns and whether or not you’re taking medications can all affect how sensitive you are to acupressure and energy changes in your body in general. Practicing these tips will help change that and provide you with many benefits, the least of which are a good night’s sleep!

Kathy Bryant practices acupressure and is a Reiki Master Teacher. She owns and operates White Lotus Healing, a whole body-based healing business, out of her home and contracts with Renu Massage, Energy and Body Work part time. 

References: AcuTouch Facial course. www.cherihaines.com. Cheri Haines.

“Insomnia and Sleep Disorders Acupressure Points and Tips.” http://www.acupressure.com/blog/index.php/insomnia-sleep-disorders-acupressure-points-tips/. Michael Gach Reed, Ph.D.

Reiki Acupressure CranialAs a bodyworker and certified cupping therapist, I am familiar with chronic pain. I’ve also experienced a significant amount of chronic pain personally over the years, which has led me to the work I do. Since becoming a therapist, I’ve been slowly unraveling what has built up in me all these years, including injuries, internalized stress, and the resulting emotional connections to those things. I learned in studying the body that emotions stay in our tissues, associated with the originating event that caused trauma or stress, until it is released through various forms of bodywork that I have been trained in. What I didn’t fully realize was how helpful Reiki can be in moving that process along and clearing up energetic blockages that keep the body in its same patterns of chronic pain.

I’ve worked with multiple chiropractors and physical therapists over the years, and I’ve had regular massage for the last decade both to keep my back pain in check and also because I can see the positive changes it has made for the rest of my body. After a herniated disc and all the melodrama associated with that for a good portion of a year, I have worked diligently and consistently to get my movement back so I can do the activities I so enjoy. Yet that chronic stiffness and pain still linger — even after my sacrum is back where it’s supposed to be, and the surrounding low back tissue feels soft and movable like it’s supposed to. There doesn’t seem to be any physical cause for the pain and stiffness that lingers and resurfaces from time to time. My current chiropractor suggested Reiki or another type of energy work as the next step. I had not considered this! I have two Reiki practitioners at my business, and my acupuncturist also does Reiki along with other energetic and spiritual work. It was high time I gave it a try.

I’ve been seeing one of the practitioners who works with me, and I was amazed how much I felt during the first session. Reiki works with your chakras and your energetic forces to help bring balance and healing on an energetic and spiritual level. I could literally feel energy move through my body, and my practitioner could see and feel various things happening on an energetic level as well. (Some practitioners are gifted with that, and I am fortunate to be working with one!) I have felt like I am purging deep emotions that have been buried a long time, and I am feeling lighter, more energetic, and yes, my back pain and stiffness are improving. I am going to stick with this a while. Stay tuned for another article after I feel the journey is complete! I knew several of my chakras needed work, but I am pleasantly surprised to find yet another layer of healing that can happen with the types of chronic pain issues I see so frequently with massage clients.

The body is a wondrous and complex system; we truly need to heal not just the body, but also the mind and the spirit if we want to experience complete and full healing. If there has been any physical or emotional trauma that has resulted in any kind of chronic pain over the years and you are ready to let it go, perhaps Reiki is something that can help. I’ve been very much enjoying the beginning of my journey and am so happy I was directed that way.