Category Archives: Self Care Tips

Relieve Back Pain with Massage Therapy

Bodywork For Life's Seasons/spine imageChronic or not, a little bit of back pain goes a long way! Massage Therapy can be a key component in gaining relief from back pain. In my massage practice in Iowa City, IA I see a diverse population. Neck and shoulder pain is a common complaint with back pain following close behind.

When folks come to me with back pain I find out as many details as possible. To form a comprehensive plan of treatment I want to know it’s origin, intensity of discomfort/pain, length of time of discomfort and about consultations with doctors or specialists.

I combine several different massage techniques and find that working the affected area of muscles releases tension and spasms while producing feel good hormones (endorphins)
that result in less pain and discomfort and help with depression and anxiety caused by back pain. By treating the affected muscles, metabolic waste from the tissue will release and circulation will increase to bring nutrition to the muscles and tissues. This combination assists the muscles in recovering from soreness or soft tissue injury and begin renewing.

It’s important to take your back pain seriously. Speaking from my own experience I know that it can be a long road to recovery. Finding a comprehensive team of both traditional and alternative practitioners who can assist in your recovery plan is important for your recovery.

Remember, Barb Brender of Bodywork For Life’s Seasons in Iowa City, Iowa has your back! I would love to team with you and your other practitioners to ease your pain and discomfort into a distant memory. I am living proof that with dedication and perseverance it can be done!

Trouble Sleeping? Massage Therapy Helps!

Keep Calm:dreamDo you have difficulty with sleep? Is it hard to unwind? Do you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep? Does your mind take you places no mind should go, especially in the middle of the night?

Try this simple series of self-massage to shift your mood from frustrated to relaxed.

Begin by noticing your breath, take a slow, soothing breath in filling your lungs comfortably, and exhale out sending that soothing feeling throughout your body. Just breath! So easy, yet we forget that this simple act will always bring us back to the present moment, not the moments before or after.

Sleepy Time Self-Massage

Stimulating specific acupuncture points relieves tension and helps release melatonin, your body’s natural sleep hormone.

Begin by massaging the crown of your head with fingertips, in a circular motion for approximately 30 seconds. Don’t watch the clock! Massage long enough to feel the soothing affect.

Next, with fingertips, make small circular movements at the outer ends of your eyebrows for 30 seconds.

Then, with the pads of your thumbs, swipe the upper, then lower edges of your eye sockets, from the inner to the outer corners. This feels really good.

Finish by rubbing your palms together until they feel warm, and then place them over your eyes for 45 seconds. Gently rest the heels of your hands over your closed eyelids for another 30 seconds.

And remember, having regular massage therapy helps balance your over all sense of well-being, benefiting every part of your day, waking or sleeping.

Massage Therapy Helps Support Immune System


It’s fall in Iowa City. With the change of seasons, daylight savings time and colder temperatures, it’s ripe territory for seasonal allergies, colds, flu and SAD. Studies have shown that massage therapy is a viable option in our regiment to stay healthy, happy and active during the fall and winter months. In addition to other benefits research shows that regular massage therapy helps support our immune system, keeping us healthier.

Researchers from Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles found that people who receive regular massage experience measurable changes in their body’s immune and endocrine response and had an increased number of lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are white blood cells that defend the body from disease.

Boost your immune system, increase circulation and overall well-being by enjoying the many benefits of massage therapy this fall and winter season.

Creating a Sacred Space

Rodeo Beach CA

Rodeo Beach CA

My new massage therapy studio, on the east side of Iowa City, has been open for one month. I have received lots of the same feedback about my new space. My clients tell me it’s a magical place.


I ask each one what they mean by that. Here’s a compilation of what they’ve said. It’s the deep sea blue color of the wall that makes me feel I’m floating on water, it’s the sound of the water trickling over the rocks in the fountain that helps me drift away and along, it’s the photographs on the wall of favorite beaches and cliffs along the Pacific Ocean, it’s the low lighting of the screen lamps and candles that relax and help me let go, it’s the music playing softly and rhythmically in the background, it’s the soothing smell of lavender, it’s the placement of the furnishings which lets the energy flow, and so on.

This got me thinking about how much the healing space has to do with the healing happening in the space. How much our environment impacts us on a subconscious level. If you think about it you will quickly see what I mean. How do you feel in a sterile doctor’s waiting room? Are you calm and relaxed, or maybe a little anxious and on edge? How do you feel when you walk in nature? Are you absorbed by what you see and hear and transported beyond your daily stresses? What about when you walk into a place of reverence, a place where you worship or a place where you go to see beautiful art and artifacts of the world? How do you feel in your everyday life?

I am committed to my intention to create a quiet, healing and safe place for my clients. Each day, and between clients I clear the stagnant energy and refresh it with new universal healing energy. I set my intention for my time with each client, remembering the uniqueness of each and addressing and honoring what I have learned and continue to learn from them. I center myself before each session, anchoring solidly to my root and other chakras. I send gratitude to each and every individual who spends time with me and strive always to provide what it is they are seeking.

I like to share with my clients the fact that giving massage therapy to them is also deeply relaxing and healing for me. I experience a state of meditative focus where all my worldly stresses fade away and my focus and intention come to the forefront. I see with my fingers, letting them feel and tell me everything I need to know about the tissue I am working with. I use my sense of hearing to guide me deeper into the work. I get lost in the journey of each massage as it guides and informs me of the work at hand. For this I am very grateful and constantly healed.

Self Care Tips

Breath ImageAs your massage therapist I will suggest things you can do between appointments to assist in your well-being. Here are some favorites I like to share with my folks.

One I like to suggest to folks who are feeling achy, have tight or sore muscles, or are avid athletes is to take Epsom Salt baths. Take a couple of handfuls of salt and put it in a very warm bath. Sit and relax until the bath cools down. I do this often because it draws out any tension or stress in my muscles. Grandma was right about Epsom Salt baths!

I like to tell my folks this little trick using tennis balls to help work out chronic knots or areas of discomfort. You can make a handy little massage tool with two tennis balls and a knee high sock. Simply place one ball in the toe of the sock and knot then add the second ball and knot. Lean up against the wall or lie on the floor and place the balls over any tight or uncomfortable areas and work them out. The beauty of this is that you control the pressure and the placement of the balls. Remember; never roll directly over your spine!

Another favorite is to remind folks that our breath will always bring us back to the present. It’s something that is always with us. When you feel stressed or tense pay attention to your breath. Are you breathing fast and shallow? Stop and mindfully bring your breath all the way down to your belly, even stick out your belly as you fill it with healing “air” energy. Then slowly exhale, from the bottom of the belly to the top of you lungs and let go of anything that is not serving you in this moment. Do this a few times and you’ll soon notice you are feeling more focused and calm. The oxygen you are sending to your muscles is helping them relax and let go too!

Stay tuned for more suggestions and remember to breath, breath, breath!