Massage Therapy

Break up with chronic inflammation like the bad habit it is!

Being in the spa & wellness industry for the past 17 years I know a lot about chronic inflammatory conditions and people who suffer with them. Some people are in pain from a car accident, some from work related repetitive motion, some from auto immune conditions, and others just burning the candle at both ends for too long and becoming burnt out. No matter what caused your suffering, it’s up to you to take the steps to start feeling better, becoming unstuck if you will in the cycle of inflammation. In today’s blog I will talk about effective and affordable ways to do that.

  1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Maybe you’re not sick, maybe you’re thirsty! If you have ever been a client of mine you are likely already familiar with the sponge analogy, you have probably already heard it more times than you can count. If I have not had the pleasure of connecting with you yet, I’ll tell you all about it here. Your body is supposed to be 65% water, and I mean actual water, keep in mind coffee, sodas, etc. do not count (the diuretic effects of sweet, caffeinated beverages cancel out the hydrating effects). If your muscles hurt, they may be simply dehydrated. Water is free or cheap, so drink up. If you were washing your dishes and attempted to use a dry sponge it would not be very pliable, and may even break or tear, however when the sponge is wet it moves easily and freely, (sort of how your muscles should move, when they are hydrated). Should you really be walking around with dry muscles?
  2. Have you ever heard the term, “starve a cold”? Let’s say starve the inflammation! Stop feeding the inflammation and start feeling better. Cut inflammatory food from your diet. Inflammatory foods can be different for different people, however foods that tend to generally cause inflammation are:
  3. Grains- grains are hard for human intestines to digest, think about it this way if we were supposed to eat them, couldn’t we just go pick a piece of wheat, rice, or oat and eat it without it going through a ton of processing? Grains weren’t designed for humans to eat. You can go pick a cucumber from the garden and eat it without any process, although you should rinse it off first.
  4. Dairy- Cow’s milk is for baby calves. Humans aren’t supposed to be eating that stuff, we are not infant cows. You do not drink breast milk past infancy. The enzymes in cow’s milk are very large, making them hard for humans to digest because we are not baby cows. Our bodies attempting to break down and digest these enzymes is very inflammatory for the body.
  5. Sugar- Avoid white sugar and instead add a little raw honey if you need a little sweet in your day.
  6. Certain Fats and Oils- Avoid vegetable oil, canola oil, corn oil, and margarine instead use Olive Oil, Avocado Oil, or Coconut oil.
  7. Stay away from processed meats, instead look for organic, grass fed, and free range. High quality meats will provide you the protein your body needs without the added hormones, steroids, and antibiotics that your body doesn’t need that are typically still present in regular store-bought meats. I am a huge fan of Butcher Box personally.
  8. Overall, I have personally found the most success for myself and my clients with a strict Paleo or Whole 30 diet. You can goggle either of those for meal plan ideas and/ or allowed food lists.
  9. Yoga. I suggest #yogaeverydamnday but also realize that may not be possible for everyone. Muscle and joint movement and regular stretching is essential for free range of motion. If your muscles are not tight, they will hurt less, or not at all.
  10. Regular Massage. Receiving regular massage therapy care from a licensed and Insured Massage Therapist can help reduce or eliminate your aches and pains when performed in conjunction with an overall healthy lifestyle. It is important to continue receiving regular care even once you start to feel better for maintenance of your sacred vessel. Talk to your massage therapist to determine which type of massage is best for you and to determine how often you should schedule to receive treatments.
  11. Supplements. Keep in mind even if you are very restricted in your diet and taking excellent care of yourself, taking supplements may be indicated for you. Most of these are easily found at your local vitamin or herb shop. My favorites are listed below.
  12. A good whole food multivitamin recommended for your age range.
  13. Fish Oil- has been shown to fight inflammation, prevent heart disease, increase brain function
  14. Yucca- has been shown to prevent osteoarthritis, reduce high blood pressure, reduce migraine headaches, reduce inflammation, and increase circulation.
  15. Turmeric/ Curcumin- is an excellent anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant.
  16. Devil’s Claw Root- has been reported to be effective at treating a wide variety of pain including migraines, back pain, gout, tooth aches and more.
  17. Topicals. There are many excellent topical pain relievers on the market these days. I really like capsicum and CBD topicals. They work instantly and quality products will usually work most of the day and usually only need to be applied once or twice daily.
  18. Capsicum comes from hot peppers, so has an instant or gradually warming sensation, and penetrates deeply to relieve pain and reduce inflammation when applied to a painful area. Capsicum topicals are usually very affordable as well, since they are easily sourced and have been around for ages.
  19. CBD topicals are incredibly popular right now, and everywhere you look you can find testimonies to their efficacy. They are however usually at a higher price point due to the current demand and the higher overhead involved with sourcing, extracting and labor.

In summary it’s hard work to live your best healthy life, but easier and cheaper than taking pills every day in my opinion. What do you think? Are you ready to make the appropriate lifestyle changes to be well?

Spa Treatments with CBD for Pain Relief and more.

So I recently wrote about using CBD oil to manage my MS symptoms. Since I started adding CBD to my daily regimen, I experience less brain fog during the day, less anxiety, and almost no debilitating fatigue. However, there hasn’t been any improvement in my chronic pain or spasticity. I initially wanted to try a topical CBD product to alleviate these symptoms. However, Brandi Bovell of Affordable Spa Services had a better idea: try spa treatments with CBD products!

I like spa treatments! And I like CBD products! This makes sense! I will make time for this self-care!

Let’s Recap: What is CBD?

CBD (Cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive component of industrial hemp. (Translation: CBD does not get you high.) It affects the endocannabinoid system, which is involved in regulating a variety of physiological and cognitive processes, including but not limited to pain-sensation, mood, and memory. CBD products have been shown to soothe anxiety, stress, pain, and insomnia. The ingredient has soared in popularity over the past few years, and it can now be found in a number of products, pain creams, moisturizers, gummies, teas, beer, ice cream, massage oils, and dog treats, just to name a few.

My initial experience with CBD products was good – so much so, that I continue to take CBD oil to this day. I have more focus and energy, and less anxiety. I consider it a tool to help me deal with my very, very stressful life. However, it has not helped me with my chronic pain – which is mainly due to my MS, but I can’t help but think that being a 42-year-old woman who is stressed and busy and spends a lot of time in front of a computer is contributing at least  partially to my pain issues. In other words, it’s very easy to blame everything on a chronic condition, but it may not be completely fair.

When Brandi offered me the opportunity to have a CBD-infused spa day, I was all in. We’ll call this my CBD Spapertunity! 

Spa Treatments with CBD: Mineral Bath

This is the bathroom at Affordable Spa Services (Richmond, VA) where I relaxed in my CBD-infused mineral bath.

I arrived at my appointment and was taken to a room with a super-cute clawfoot tub filled with water and soaking salts. Affordable Spa Services uses the Empower® brand of soaking salts, described as, “a luxurious brand of Epsom, Dead Sea, and Pink Himalayan salts, carefully infused with a proprietary essential oil formula and third-party, lab-tested, domestically-cultivated, 2014 Farm Bill Compliant hemp-derived Cannabidiol (CBD).”

That ticks all the important boxes. As you know, quality is extremely important to me.

So, I stepped into the super-cute clawfoot tub. I will spare you the bathtub pics.

Let me just say:

ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

I felt relief! After a few minutes, my pain had subsided – from where I typically am on the 1-10 scale (a 5-6) to a 2-3.

I soaked and soaked. It was wonderful. My only wish was that I could soak the side of my face more , since my MS causes trigeminal neuralgia, and the water level didn’t quite reach as far as my face. They call it there “hydroponic” treatment. TEE-HEE!

My time in the tub was up. On to the next part of my CBD Spapertunity!

Spa Treatments with CBD: The Massage

Now I have had massages before. Every massage therapist has his or her own technique. And as a general rule, I don’t like massages. I find that they are not effective, or cause me pain and discomfort. I usually walk out of the massage therapist’s office feeling as if I have wasted my money. And there is always the caveat that you have to keep going back to see a real difference. Well, why would I go back if I didn’t receive any benefit or enjoy it the first time?

This was not the case with my CBD-infused massage.

Massage room at Affordable Spa Services

My massage therapist was an imposing figure who towers over me (as many people do) and has enough muscles in her arms and hands that she could potentially break me in half. But attached to those arms and hands are fingers of MAGIC. Over the course of the massage, her magic fingers worked knots out of several areas, including my back, shoulder, and neck.

So What Makes it a CBD-Infused Massage?

The experience was enhanced with the use of CBD-infused massage oil by a company called apothecanna, based out of Denver. CO. Their mission is simple: to spread the wisdom of traditional plant medicine. (OK, I’m on board with that). According to their website, they, “thoughtfully source organic and wildcrafted essential oils from their native regions of the world… do not use artificial ingredients, fillers, parabens or GMO ingredients.”  The company does not test their products on animals, and strive to create products with uncompromised purity, quality, and functionality.

The massage lotion contained a combination of arnica, peppermint, juniper, and cannabis (CBD). Each ingredient is designed to provide a specific therapeutic element:

  • Arnica: heals bruising and relieves sprains
  • Peppermint: relieves pain and soothes skin
  • Juniper: reduces swelling and soothes nerves
  • Cannabis (CBD): anti-inflammatory and relieves stress

It may have been the relaxing mineral bath that I took before the massage. It may have been Ms. Magic Fingers who was working away my knots. Or it may have been the pain-relieving CBD cream. Maybe it was a combination of all three. But I can say that this one of the best (read: therapeutic and effective) massages I have ever received.

Spa Treatments with CBD: Skin Care

Oh, but we can’t forget about this face, can we?

Dr. Jess Norris sitting in the lobby of Affordable Spa Services, Richmond VA

I know what you are thinking: Why mess with perfect?

Truth be told, some of the medicines that I have taken over the past few years have really done a number on my skin. Cystic acne, dehydration, and hyperpigmentation have all been my nemesis since my MS diagnosis and subsequent change to my prescription medicine regimen. Alas, any skin care treatment that I have received in a spa has made things worse.  And there is always the caveat that you have to keep going back to see a real difference. Again. if I come out of the facial looking worse than when I went in, why would I come back?

And so I prepare for my skin treatment with Amanda Roberto, an aesthetician with Affordable Spa Services. Amanda knows her stuff. Also she has met Sylvester Stallone. Neat. She explained each step in the process, including the cleanse, exfoliation, serum application, and hydration. This process included applications of two CBD-infused products, including the same extra-strength lotion used during my massage (which was wonderful for my trigeminal neuralgia), and a CBD-infused facial serum.

Seriously, my skin glowed after this facial. And with the added benefit of the CBD-infused products, my face actually felt some temporary pain relief.

Spa Treatments with CBD: the Bottom Line

CBD-infused spa treatments are rapidly becoming more popular, and for good reason. Throughout my spa treatments, I experienced relaxation and pain relief. There is no doubt that I will continue to add CBD-infused products to my self-care regimen – at home and at the spa!

It’s important to remember that, when it comes to CBD products, quality counts. And unfortunately, CBD is being produced without any regulation, resulting in products that vary widely in quality. Brandi and her team of professionals have carefully vetted the CBD-infused products used at Affordable Spa Services. It is clear to me that customer safety and product quality are among their top priorities – and this is KEY when choosing any aesthetician or  massage therapist. When it comes to self-care, be sure to set your standards high.

Let me know.

Innovative treatment for acne, wrinkles, pain relief and more.

LED light therapy treatment

How I personally got rid of my acne.

I was that teen that always got picked on, “pizza face”, “zit face”, or “you can fry a French fry with all the grease on your face” became part of my daily life. Kids at school picked on me, coworkers berated me (I started working bagging groceries when I was 14), even my own mother tormented me daily (I think she thought if she insulted me enough I could somehow control my own hormones). I tried all the cleansers, scrubs, masks available, heck I worked in a grocery store, I hit the personal care aisle weekly trying product after product. Spent the little money I earned bagging groceries to visit skin therapy clinics and see professionals, nothing worked. I finally made it to my 20’s my skin started to look better, not 100% but not “make me cry with embarrassment and shame” face covering acne. Late 20’s my skin looked normal and even radiant, I thought I was in the clear. Then came my 30’s and a whole new round of crazy female hormones made their way into my life, and I was a teenager all over again, except adults are too politically correct or kind to call names, they would just stare, or say “have you tried this or that, it worked for me”, which of course I thought I had tried it all, Hello I own a day spa! I have access to the best products, the best specialists, and equipment, however suddenly what had been working no longer worked, ah ha moment! Your skin changes with the seasons, age, the environment, and stress and what has worked for the past 10 years, or the past 2 weeks may stop working today. I adjusted my products, and tried to adjust my stress level. I finally visited a dermatologist, which of course he listened to my concerns, told me my issues were hormonal and he could prescribe me a medication (spironolactone) to lower my testosterone, and thus clear the acne. I am a person who avoids medications unless I’m dying, I won’t even take a Tylenol if I get a headache, and instead I massage essential oils on my temples. I very gently explained my views to the doc, hopefully without sounding like a wack-a-doo. He smiled a beautiful ear to ear grin, and said “Well, we have this light mask that a product rep dropped off a while back to give away to an acne patient to try, and no one before wanted it because usually everyone just wants a prescription medication, you can have it to try if you would like”. A light mask? Well sure it doesn’t require me to ingest chemicals, I’ll give it a go! I accepted it, and started using it per the instruction manual for 10 minutes a day, every day and within 2 weeks my skin was transformed. I had my confidence back, along with gorgeous skin. I feel my skin looks better now, in my late 30’s then it ever has.  Because of my personal experience I decided to go back to school to earn my Master Aesthetics License so I could perform LED treatments on my clients and share this wonderful treatment with others.

So what is LED?

LED stands for light emitting diode and is essentially fast flashing lights that cause positive changes in the appearance of the skin. Another term for the use of light therapy to treat conditions of the skin is photo modulation. 

The benefits of LED technology were originally discovered by NASA while they experimented with ways to increase plant tissue growth in space, they also learned that LED’s have a similar physiological effect on human cells and tissues. Body tissues have the ability to absorb light and convert it into energy. LED’s can be used to deliver beneficial light energy to the skin. In further research NASA proved that particular wavelengths (different colors penetrate to varying depths) of LED light have positive effects on the body’s ability to regenerate and repair human tissue, as well as inducing different benefits for the skin and fascia.  This happens because LED therapy stimulates the release of ATP- (adenosine tri phosphate); an organic chemical that provides energy for many metabolic processes in living cells. Think of it as fuel for the cells: by increasing cell activity, cell repair is increased. The process is very similar to photosynthesis in plants, a reaction occurs which triggers the conversion of light energy into cell energy. More basically it harmonizes cellular activity.

“Different wavelengths of light (colors) have varying depth penetration, to stimulate different results in the skin” says Bedeha Hamze, Master Aesthetics Instructor at American Spirit Institute. By penetrating to varying depths the different colors are able to either make your skin do things that they no longer do well on their own, or can create an effect on the surface of the skin. They also increase the efficacy of serums by causing greater product penetration when used over a serum or treatment.  LED should not be mistaken for UV lights (like those in a tanning bed), or for lasers (like those used in hair removal, or for IPL- intense pulsed light (used in photo rejuvenation), as LED does not produce intense heat. Because it does not produce heat it does not cause damage to the dermis, nor does it hurt to use. Bedeha also stated “LED is an absolutely painless procedure that can be done alone or added to another facial treatment”. LED has been used to treat sun damage, redness, rosacea, visible telangiectasia, uneven skin tone, fine lines, wrinkles, acne, wounds, pains, and bruises to name a few. LED also stimulates fibroblasts (cells responsible for making extracellular matrix and collagen; which are critical for proper wound healing) to increase collagen, resulting in smoother texture, tone, and reduced appearance of fine lines.

Red light is typically used for increasing circulation, increasing moisture retention, stimulating cell turnover, reducing appearance of large pore size, fading photo damaged skin, reducing inflammation, speeding up the healing process, decreasing fine lines and wrinkles, and stimulating collagen production. Red light LED’s are also beneficial for temporarily relieving minor muscle and joint pain, reducing the severity of bruising, temporarily reducing arthritic pain and stiffness, and temporarily increasing local blood circulation.

Blue light is antibacterial making it best for the treatment of acne because it penetrates below the surface of the skin to kill bacteria deep within the epidermis before it reaches “a white head” or closed comedome. Basically it kills it before it happens, however it will also rid the skin of existing acne by sanitizing surface bacteria as well. It is one of the few acne treatments that works without causing irritation in the process. 

White light is often used to tighten, and reduce inflammation.

Yellow or Amber light can also be used to reduce swelling, redness, pigmentation, and to stimulate collagen and elastin.

Green light is most often utilized to decrease dark circles (I sure need that under my eyes), reduce hyperpigmentation, lessen the appearance of broken capillaries, break up discoloration such as sunspots, and calming angry skin.

Keep in mind, LED and other photo modulation techniques should not be used on folks with seizure disorders, unless permission is given by a medical doctor.

LED can be added to your facial treatment during your mask, or during serum application, or you can use a daily at home device. Because LED will take more than one session (usually a minimum of 6) to achieve desired results, an at home device that can be used daily may be a better fit for someone on a limited budget. For clients who are on a restricted budget, and want to treat more than 1 issue at the same time (IE: acne, wrinkles, and sunspots) a multi color LED at home device would be the most effective way to get the most bang for your buck. At Affordable Spa we accept HSA and FSA cards for our services and products to help you make your skins wellness a priority.

Is LED right for you? It is certainly worth discussing with your Licensed Aesthetician.