Our Body: The Universe Within Deal

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From Our Body website

There are several body exhibits showing dissected cadavers preserved.  Here in Orlando we have Our Body showing at 7220 Universal Dr.  This event was here a few years ago at the Orlando Science Center.  This is the same show, but the exhibit size seems a little smaller.  It isn’t my favorite cadaver exhibit I’ve been to, but I can’t beat the proximity.  It probably won’t be here forever and will eventually move on.

Right now you can get a deal and visit the show for cheaper.  It is normally $20, but for the next week you can get a deal through Living Social or Amazon Local.  Here is the Living Social link.  Through Living Social you can see the exhibit for $9, or pay $17 and pair it with the CSI forensic exhibit.

Our Body is broken up by systems.  There are sections exploring all systems like respiratory, digestive, respiratory, urinary, circulatory, reproductive, and more.  When you first go in there is a cadaver in glass in longitudinal sections.  The next cadaver is in glass in transverse sections.  These really let you see the whole body from most angles.  The following sections really allow you to focus on specific anatomy.

There is also an audio tour available for $5.  I suggest it if your anatomy is weak, like someone who doesn’t really study or just beginning to study.  If you have a decent grasp on anatomy I wouldn’t get it.  It’s not an advanced anatomy audio tour.

Textbooks are a weak substitute for seeing these cadavers in person and at just $9 this is much cheaper than an anatomy textbook.  Once you have your Living Social deal there is no rush in using it.  If anything I would suggest you take time, go over textbooks, and make your anatomy stronger before going to see it.

Lastly, most wonder how gruesome is it.  It’s not really.  My sons loved going and want to go back again.  The method they use to preserve the cadavers make it almost seem synthetic.  The reproductive section is all the way in the back if you want to skip it.


Halloween People Watching

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I love Halloween, but one thing I love the most is the chance to people watch.  Massage school changed me.  I noticed the change towards the end of my schooling when I parked at the gym and saw a woman running.  My thoughts were “her left patella is tracking laterally…hey she’s hot!”  When it came out in that order I realized what happened to my brain.  Ever since then I’ve been an avid people watcher.  As a teacher I make my students aware of postural and gait assessment.  At a past school I would take the students on a field trip to a mall for people watching.

There are several types of assessments.  Health history, palpation, postural, gait, active range of motion, passive range of motion, resisted range of motion, table assessments while they’re lying down, and special tests that are specific to an area.  You usually wouldn’t choose to do all assessments in a single session.  They are tools in your toolbox.  You have to learn when it is appropriate to use each, and if you choose to use them you must be capable of doing the assessment quickly.  Nobody wants to lose hands on time while you stumble through your assessment.

So you have to practice.  Halloween is a great opportunity to practice, because no one gets offended or defensive about your people watching.  It’s expected.  Enjoy your Halloween parties this weekend as a chance to sharpen your assessment tools.

Isometric vs Isotonic

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File:Medicine Ball Plank.jpg


It’s not enough for massage students to learn about the different muscle names, locations, attachments, and actions.  You also need to learn how a muscle contracts and the different types of contractions.  Sure you love muscles when you get to school, but by the end you feel like you’re choking on all the information being shoved into you.

Different types of muscle contractions used to not be a big deal if you didn’t understand, but lately many students have mentioned getting some questions involving eccentric muscle contractions on their licensure exams.  You have to understand this material now.  First we’re going to talk about the big categories.  There are two types of muscle contractions you need to know about.  Isometric and isotonic.

Isometric contractions are when your muscles are contracting, but they’re not changing length.  Another way to look at it is your muscle works (contracts) but the angle of the joint doesn’t change.  For example above is a picture of a man doing planks.  These are advanced planks, but nonetheless he is holding the position without moving.  This is an isometric contraction.  This can be done with weights also.  If you lift a weight and then hold it a specific joint angle without moving you’ll be doing an isometric contraction.



If instead in the above picture he wasn’t holding the weight there, but was curling the dumbbells up and down this would be an isotonic muscle contraction.  In an isotonic muscle contractions there are two phases: concentric- when the muscles shorten, and eccentric- when the muscles lengthen.  For example if we think about the biceps brachii during curls when the dumbbell goes up the biceps is shortening, concentric, and when the dumbbell lowers the biceps is lengthening, eccentric.  The important point is that both parts are contractions.  Just because the muscle lengthens doesn’t mean you stopped contracting and it is a stretch.  In the gym these two parts are referred to as positive reps, the concentric contraction, and negative reps, the eccentric contraction.  The eccentric contractions are theorized to rip off more myosin heads and leads to better gains, but more soreness.

So, now you have a basic understanding.  All of the muscle actions/functions you learn in school are concentric contractions.  It wouldn’t be decent of us to make you learn both for each muscle.  You already have an overwhelming amount of material to learn.  Yet, both are a part of the way you move everyday.  Anytime you start a movement, speed up, or do something explosive then you are doing a concentric muscle contraction.  Whenever you try to slow down a movement, or lower with control you’re doing an eccentric muscle contraction.  The eccentric contractions are the opposite action than the concentric.  For example imagine you dropped your phone on the floor.  You bend over to pick it up.  This would be flexion of your vertebrae.  You learn in school that rectus abdominis flexes your vertebrae.  However, gravity is already helping you to the ground.  If you concentrically contract your rectus abdominis then your face would smash into the ground.  If you decide to prove me wrong please record and send the video.  Instead you lower yourself slowly and under control.  You’re using erector spinae to control your movement down.  Erector spinae is contracting to slow you down from hitting the ground, but it’s lengthening.  This is an eccentric contraction even though you learn that erectors extend vertebrae.  Another example would be when you step off a curb, or land after a jump.  You don’t land with your knees locked out.  You flex your knees to absorb the shock.  Even though the quadriceps are knee extensors, they are going to eccentrically contract during knee flexion to slow you down.  If you used hamstrings you would collapse onto the ground.

Just to mention there is one more type.  Isokinetic contractions are contractions where you use a piece of equipment, that no matter how hard you push, makes sure you concentrically contract at the same speed through the range of motion.  Massage licensure exams don’t ask about this type of contraction.

To recap during isometric contractions your muscles don’t change length and your joint stays at the same angle.  You’re holding a position.  During isotonic contractions you are actually moving and the muscle can shorten or lengthen.  Concentric contractions are when muscles shorten and these are the actions you learn when you cover muscles in school.  Eccentric contractions are when the muscle lengthens and these are used when you are slowing down or controlling yourself.

Should I Massage With Shoes or Barefoot

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Few students and therapists really think about this.  Usually you fall into a routine at massage school, and bitch about it if you don’t like it, but mostly therapists continue doing what they’re used to.

Some modalities require that you don’t wear footwear.  Ashiatsu, pictured above, and Thai massage are examples of massage modalities where you use the feet as tools.  Many therapists don’t practice those styles.  This post is for therapists who normally work on the table and don’t use their feet as tools.  Also, this will answer why some schools require shoes.

If you’re at a school that doesn’t require shoes then it’s probably not a large chain school as they seem more concerned with professionalism.  If you work in a relaxed environment you may also see more therapists slipping off their shoes.  You probably can’t get away with this at a high end spa.  I’m going to present both sides and not pick for you.  YOU’RE RESPONSIBLE for knowing the consequences of your actions.  If your school or job requires footwear don’t mess with them.  When you’re on your own or in a relaxed center you choose.

Arguments for going barefoot.  You didn’t become a therapist so that you can dress up in a suit and sit in a cubicle all day.  We are supposed to be in a relaxed environment and enjoy our work.  Part of that allows us to have different standards on professional dress, listen to soothing music, having candles burning, or whatever creates a nurturing environment for you and your clients.  Going barefoot also helps you feel grounded.  Some clients have a lot of issues they will throw at you, or you may be going through your own things.  Getting to a peaceful place where you are safe and relaxed is important while massaging.  Finally, some therapists feel that going barefoot gives them a better grip.  I don’t like this reason, because I wonder what kind of footwear they’re buying that has such a horrible grip.  Isn’t grip a factor when you choose a shoe.  When I was in the restaurant industry I chose a shoe that gave me a great grip in case the kitchen floor was greasy or wet.  I remember seeing some servers take a fall, and after making sure they weren’t hurt, running around them pointing and laughing.  Well, maybe not in that order.  I don’t require the same grip now, but I still make sure not to get slippery footwear.  If you go this route PLEASE TAKE CARE OF YOUR FEET.  Even if your client is comfortable with your bare feet they don’t want to see your toe jam and dirt trapped under your toe nail fungus.

Arguments for shoes.  It just looks more professional.  Isn’t the industry constantly struggling with professionalism.  Does any other healthcare practitioner take off their footwear.  Can you imagine your doctor or dentist slipping off their footwear as they come in to check you out.  Also, safety and health concerns like a hot stone falling off a client onto your bare foot.  Your employers carpet may look clean, but when was the last time you saw it getting cleaned.  What if the last therapist in the room was barefoot, but they had althlete’s foot.  Your feet could become filthy, not to mention prone clients can sometimes drool.  Imagine effleuraging the back and drool falls onto your foot, or you step in a puddle of it.  Some clients don’t like feet.  Just seeing feet is enough to get them to shut down and you don’t want your client getting offended.  Sure they may never know, but some will open their eyes and not like what they see.  Worse they may not like what they smell.  On the other hand some clients like feet too much.  If a client is excessively pestering you about going barefoot this is probably a red flag that your client is interested in becoming aroused by looking at your feet.  I didn’t become a therapist to get people off, including with my feet, not that my feet would be arousing for anyone.  Shoes offer more support if your day is long, so you don’t start getting foot pain.  It would be ironic if a therapist got plantar fasciitis from massaging.

I’ve massaged both ways.  I get the appeal of being barefoot, but prefer shoes because I like the support and I feel my shoes give me a better grip.  Also, I don’t get lots of pedicures or meticulously clean my feet.  In truth after minimal care, wrestling, and martial arts I’m sure nobody wants to look at my beast feet.  I didn’t mention socks in this post.  They can be a middle ground, but hurt grip.  Whatever you decide make sure to get off on the right foot.  Hmmm, I’m leaving that last line in, but will apologize for it.

How to Make Massage Cream

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I mentioned I wanted to make my own massage cream that used only natural ingredients and gave a good drag for deep tissue work.  I wanted something that would absorb well, have a light scent, a good shelf life, be unlikely to trigger allergies, and should wash out well.  Here’s my chemistry experiment.


These are my five ingredients: grapeseed oil, coconut oil, jojoba, cocoa butter, and beeswax.  I’ve worked with all of them before except the grapeseed oil.  I needed a gentle way to warm them for blending.


Using a water bath is popular.  You place a glass bowl in a pot or saucepan with water.  If using this method be careful of getting water in your cream.  Also, make sure that you have a glove or something to protect your hand when you remove the bowl.


Another popular method of delicately heating something is using a double boiler.  I don’t own a double boiler so I improvised one from a metal bowl on top of a pot with water.  Don’t fill the water so high that it touches the bowl.  You still want the glove or oven mitt.


I’m pretty sure I should have timed out when to put in which ingredient, but I decided to keep it simple and put all the ingredients together from the beginning.  I used a 1/3 cup of each ingredient.  I was worried it might come out too thick, so I went with a small batch for now.  I know that the solid cocoa butter wafers and beeswax have space between them, so they don’t technically fill up the 1/3 cup.


I didn’t boil the water.  I just had the heat on medium.  It was enough to steam the water.  Here the coconut oil and most of the cocoa butter have melted into the grapeseed oil and jojoba leaving mostly beeswax.  It took about 20 minutes to melt it completely on medium.


After it finished melting I poured it into a 20 oz tin with a fork to stir it every fifteen minutes or so.


Here is what I thought was the finished product.  It actually became slightly more solid than this and slightly lighter in color.

I’m happy with this as my first run.  I gave it a small test run.  It spreads the way I want and then begins absorbing allowing me to still slide but with grip for deep tissue work.  In the past I’ve used an all natural cream made from olive oil, beeswax, and coconut oil.  That cream was, I don’t want to say gritty, but maybe felt a little more grainy when I first spread it.  This definitely has a more cream like texture and a little goes a long way.  It matches mostly what I wanted.  The cocoa butter scent is definitely there with hints of coconut oil, but I don’t think it is overpowering enough to be a deal breaker.

To prevent cross contamination of my tin I went to the local restaurant supply and bought metal ramekins a.k.a sauce cups.  Now I can scoop out what I need for each session keeping my tin clean from cross contamination.

This is just a beginning recipe.  Alter as needed and enjoy.

My Favorite Online Massage Forum

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More therapists are getting online and I think that’s a great thing.  When I first became a massage student there weren’t many online resources.  Add that many massage therapists first entered the field because they didn’t want to deal with technology and you see why it took a while for this field to start getting its share of the web.  Now we’re using the internet as a tool.  It allows us to learn things, network ourselves inexpensively through social media, and there are many online programs that help us handle communication, scheduling, and documentation.

I wish I had found a good forum when I was a student.  I don’t know if I would’ve posted.  I probably would just sit back and read all the posts.  It’s nice to hear what other therapists and students experience, struggled with, and how they overcame their mistakes.  My favorite massage forum is http://bodyworkonline.com/forum/

This forum has a simple layout that is easy to navigate.  Most members are very welcoming and you can read the occasional debate.  The posts are also geared toward the professional massage therapist or student.  There is a section for clients to ask therapists questions.  Too many other massage forums are unprofessional or they simply do not have the number of therapists needed to keep it going.  This forum has been around for some time and I even like the layout more than my association’s forum.

Even if you never post please visit as it is a great way to learn more about the field without costing you anything.  Now with facebook groups therapists are not posting here as often, but if you’re willing to dig through past posts you’ll find a lot of information.


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Sa Sa Sartorius!  So many students end up singing sartorius to the rhythm of No No Notorious from Notorious B.I.G.  There are several questions about this muscle that may pop up on your licensure exam.  We’ll explore attachments, actions, and etymology.

Sartorius’ claim to fame is that it is the longest muscle of the body.  Make a note of that, because you may see that question on a school or licensure exam.  This muscle runs diagonally across the anterior femur.  It is also the most superficial muscle of the anterior thigh.  It’s a thin muscle, so despite it being superficial it is hard to differentiate.

The sartorius originates from the ASIS (anterior superior iliac spine) and inserts on the proximal, medial tibia through the pes anserinus tendon.  The ASIS is the bony landmark on your hip that sticks the farthest anterior (forward).  Pes anserinus means goose foot.  It is a special tendon that three muscles, including sartorius, attach to.  The way the tendon splits for the three muscles gives it the appearance of a goose foot… to somebody.  Names are never creative, but sometimes what anatomists see can be.  Sartorius’ actions can actually be explained by what sartorius means.  It is derived from sartor, the Latin word for tailor.



Once upon a time tailors would sit cross legged on their tables while handling their garments.  The actions of the sartorius are hip flexion, hip lateral rotation, hip abduction, knee flexion, and medial rotation of the flexed knee.  I imagine you’re sitting as you read this.  I want you to use your right leg.  We’re going to try to get close to anatomical position.  Start with a straight leg position with the heel touching the ground and your toes pointing up.  Now I want you to flex your hip (raise your lower limb so your foot is up in the air).  Then I want you to laterally rotate your hip (turn your lower limb so that your toes are pointing to the right).  Now slightly abduct your hip (move your lower limb slightly away from center towards the right).  Finally flex your knee (bend your knee until you have crossed your leg across the left thigh).  You have successfully used your sartorius.

I didn’t forget about the final action.  Most students think that you can’t rotate your knee.  Usually you stick your leg in front of you and try to turn your foot out without using the femur.  If you try from a straight knee position you’re correct, it’s impossible.  But if you try while seated you’ll see it’s possible.  I want you to sit with both feet on the ground.  Now lift the heel of one foot up leaving the ball of the foot on the ground.  Begin swinging your heel back and forth, like you’re trying to put out a cigarette with the ball of your foot.  Magic, your knee rotated without breaking.

You can strip this muscle from attachment to insertion using your fingertips or palm.  Sometimes I like to follow this muscle using sun and moon on the thigh.  If this muscle is tight it could stop piriformis from getting a good stretch.

Recap: longest muscle of the body, most superficial muscle of the anterior thigh.  Runs from ASIS to proximal, medial tibia.  Innervated by the femoral nerve and its actions are hip flexion, hip lateral rotation, hip abduction, knee flexion, and medial rotation of the flexed knee.