7 Goals for a Happy Belly by Marty Ryan, LMP, (guest blogger)

This post is written by Marty Ryan, LMP.  Marty is the owner of Love Your Guts Seminars located in Seattle Washington.


7 Goals for a Happy Belly

1. Decrease tension in the belly wall – a chronically hard belly wall challenges posture, spinal support, and the proper mechanics of breathing. The hard belly wall – a strange cultural goal to say the least – is a sign of anxiety, fear, stress, inflammation, and decreased abdominal organ function.

2. Easy penetration through the layers of belly organs – one should be able to move through the belly wall to all of the organs and front of the spine with little or no discomfort. Pain upon palpation at various layers of the abdomen is a sign of tension, emotional or energetic holding patterns, adhesion from inflammation or surgery, and dysfunction on some level.

3. Decreased pain in the abdominal organs – both upon touch and walking around in your life.

4. Decreased cramping – both after meals and during the entire day.

5. Easy and efficient transit time and bowel movements –food should move along the gut tube at a pace that does not create cramping, bloating, or gas and allows for 2 -3 easy bowel movements per day – usually after meals.

6. Reproductive system ease –

For females this means:
• regular and predictable menstrual cycles
• minimal abdominal cramping, breast tenderness, or headache with ovulation or menses
• minimal or no PMS / menopausal symptoms
• no cysts, masses, endometriosis, or fibroids in the pelvis
• easy access to sexual energy

For males this means:

• no prostate swelling or nocturnal urination
• easy erections without pain or premature ejaculation
• easy access to sexual energy

1. Ease and grace with your own belly – instead of hating or fearing your belly, you enjoy feeding it, looking at it, massaging it, hugging it, and knowing that it serves you well. This is the broadest and most encompassing of all the goals here and subsumes all of the above.


If you want help achieving these goals, you can make an appointment with Marty by calling 206-729-6211.

Marty has taught belly massage and palpatory anatomy seminars across the US since 1998. Marty also served on the faculty of the Seattle Massage School and the Northwest Institute of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

Thanks for reading, PJ Harris, LMP

What Can You Do to Relieve Hammer Toe Pain?

What is hammer toe?

The term hammer toe came from the way the toe hits or hammers on the floor with each step. Hammer toes are generally caused by a tendon imbalance in your toes and tight muscles in your feet. The discomfort from this and cramping in your toes can radiate to your entire foot and lower leg, and this might lead to posture and balance changes (affecting the way you walk). Often people will develop hammer toe from leaning too far forward causing the toes to grip the ground to keep them upright. People with hammer toe may also have difficulty finding comfortable shoes due to the pain they feel in their toes or feet.  The toe first affected will generally be your longest toe and will only affect your middle three toes.

There is conflicting beliefs in the medical community whether or not shoes might be part of the cause of hammer toe. Shoes that narrow toward the toe may make your forefoot look smaller, but I believe they also push the smaller toes into a flexed (bent) position. The toes rub against the shoe, leading to the formation of corns and calluses, which further aggravate the condition. A higher heel forces the foot down and squishes the toes against the shoe, increasing the pressure and the bend in the toe. Eventually, the toe muscles become unable to straighten the toe, even when there is no confining shoe. Also, the chances of getting hammer toe increases from 2-20% as you age.

What can you do?

Make sure your shoes are:
Properly sized
Lots of room in the shoe box
Made out of breathable and flexible materials
Avoid vinyl or plastic materials

Cushioning or supportive items such as straps, non-medicated felt pads, moleskin, splints, toe shields or caps protect and reposition your toe and relieve pain. Talk to your doctor, podiatrist or chiropractor about corrective footwear, orthotics or other foot devices. These can provide support and alignment (check to see if you wear out the soles of your shoes on one side) You should also avoid super-snug stockings, nylons and socks.

Professional massage, physical therapy, foot manipulation and reflexology are so very good for hammer toe. You could also give yourself a gentle foot massage after vigorous activities or long periods of standing. To take care of your corns and calluses you can soak your toes in alternating warm and cold water baths; gently rub your corns or calluses with a pumice stone or nail file while your feet are in warm water.

Exercises that stretch and strengthen your foot muscles and tendons keep your muscles balanced. Stretching your toes manually by taking each one individually and stretching them in all directions will help increase their flexibility. One exercise can be done by placing corks or foam separators between the toes and squeezing for 5-10 seconds, performing 10 repetitions. You can also use your toes to pick things up off the floor. While you watch television or read, you can put a towel flat under your feet and use your toes to crumple it. Another exercise involves stretching a thick rubber band around all five toes and stretching the band as wide as possible by flexing the toes outward. Repeat on each foot 10 times.

There you go folks, a lot of information about hammer toe. Believe it or not I pared it down. Thanks for reading PJ Harris, LMP http://www.pjharris.com/

Why Should You Avoid Using Mineral Oil On Your Skin?

As a massage therapist, I spend a great deal of my time in close proximity to skin. The care of skin is pretty important to me. I want to let you all in on some information about mineral oil.

Mineral oil is a common ingredient in many household products. It is found in lotions, soaps, cosmetics and motor oil. Mineral oil is a clear, liquid oil with no sent and will not spoil.  The word “mineral” makes this product sound like a nutrient, but in fact it is produced as a by-product of the distillation of gasoline from crude oil. Mineral oil is the leftover liquid, and because it is abundant, it is very inexpensive. In fact, it is more expensive to dispose of mineral oil, than to purchase it.

Remember the skin is the largest organ in the body and the only protective barrier you have. The importance of your skin’s health is immeasurable.

The problem is that mineral oil is foreign to the human body and has many harmful effects:

  • Mineral oil acts as a thin plastic layer on the skin.
  • It is difficult to absorb and clogs the pores, which slows the skin’s ability to eliminate toxins.
  • Once the oil is absorbed, it is broken down by the liver and passes through the intestinal tract. When the oil is present in the intestinal tract, it will absorb all of the fat-soluable vitamins found there. It is essentially stealing important vitamins from the body, which the body will not be able to replace. This can eventually lead to nutritional deficiencies.
  • Studies have also shown forms of pneumonia caused by mineral oil decreasing lung function, known as lipoid pneumonia. Because of these dangers, the medical community has condemned the use of mineral oil taken orally or as an ingredient in medications.

In my private massage practice, I have started using a lotion from all natural ingredients. It wont clog my client’s pores or leave them feeling greasy after they leave my office.

Here are some other helpful links about mineral oil:

Material safety Data Sheet from JT Baker http://www.jtbaker.com/msds/englishhtml/m7700. htm

Call For Change To Mineral Oil Label http://www.personalmd.com/news/a1998122802.shtml

Thanks for reading, PJ Harris, LMP. http://www.pjharris.com/

What Do You Think About the USPSTF Breast Cancer Prevention Guidelines?

I admit, when I first read the USPSTF Mammography guidelines that no longer recommends routine screening for women between the ages of 40 and 49, I was outraged. It seems like a way for insurance companies to cut costs at the expense of women’s lives. I decided to do some research starting with an answer to the question; What is the American Cancer Society’s response to these new guidelines?

I found an actual official response statement from Otis W. Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer, American Cancer Society. Dr Brawley states regarding his opinion of  routine mammograms;

“As someone who has long been a critic of those overstating the benefits of screening, I use these words advisedly: this is one screening test I recommend unequivocally, and would recommend to any woman 40 and over, be she a patient, a stranger, or a family member.”

Further in his response he continues;

“With its new recommendations, the USPSTF is essentially telling women that mammography at age 40 to 49 saves lives; just not enough of them.”

I don’t know about you, but my outrage is not decreasing.

Dr. Brawley says that the ACS also studied the same data that the USPSTF studied and they do not change their opinion of yearly mammograms for women 40-49 and;

 “In fact, data show the technology used today is better than that used in the studies in this review, and more modern studies show that mammography is achieving better results than those achieved in these early experimental studies that go back as far as the mid-60’”

Read the full article HERE.

I am long past being ready for a cure to this dreadful illness that takes so many lives and makes lots of money for the medical industry. So, I am wondering, what do you feel about the new guidelines? Let me know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading PJ Harris, LMP. http://www.pjharris.com/

Is it Time for a Hot Stone Massage?

As the winter is drawing nearer, what would be better than a Hot Stone Massage. This amazing experience is even better than it sounds. It is no wonder Hot Stone Massages are a top seller in most spas, especially ones in cold places like ski resorts.

What should you expect from a Hot Stone Massage?

First, your massage practitioner will apply massage oil allowing the stones to smoothly glide over your skin. Then the therapist will take hot water heated stones and place them on your skin. They will check the temperature with their hands to make sure the stones are not too hot. You must be quite clear about communicating your heat preferences. This is for muscle relaxation not skin burning.

As the stones sit on your skin the heat will sink into your muscles down to your very bones. The massage therapist may even take one of the stones and work your muscles with light or deep tissue massage depending on your preference. The stones will liquify your muscles allowing the therapist to go deeper to work out all of those stubborn knots that have been bothering you for a long time. Stones might even be placed in your hands or on the soles of your feet if you wish. Some massage therapists place stones on points that are thought to be energy centers of the body to rebalance the body and mind.

 What kind of stones and equipment are used?

The hot stones used in this form of massage are usually river rocks that are smooth for gliding nicely and made of basalt so that they retain heat. The stones are placed in water that is heated by an electic device kind of like a big crock pot. The stone warmer is preheated to just the right temperature before you even walk in the room.

~~If any of this sounds tempting to you, I suggest you book an appointment to receive a Hot Stone Massage immediately. I provide them in the Seattle area. If you do a Google search in your area, I am sure you find someone who can give you an amazing Hot Stone Massage. Thanks for reading, PJ Harris, LMP http://www.pjharris.com/

Can Massage Help Heal Frozen Shoulder

Frozen Shoulder is also known as adhesive capsulitis. The capsule that holds the bones, ligaments and tendons of your shoulder thickens and tightens around the joint causing a restriction in movement.  The symptoms start gradually, get worse over time, and include stiffness and pain in your shoulder joint. Some people might notice their pain getting worse at night when they are sleeping.

There are typically three stages of Frozen Shoulder:

  • Painful stage. This is the stage where pain and limited range of motion start.
  • Frozen stage. In this stage the pain might decrease and, unfortunately, your limited range of motion and stiffness gets worse.
  • Thawing stage. During the thawing stage, the range of motion in your shoulder begins to improve.

Massage can break up the holding associated with Frozen Shoulder. Massage incorporated with exercises and stretches a therapist can give you, will help you to be well on your way to recovery.

Some others things that have been known to help heal Frozen Shoulder:

  1. When lifting with just one arm, lift with your unaffected arm.
  2. When lifting with both arms, do not lift over your head.
  3. Ice your shoulder after heavy activity for up to but no longer than 15 minutes.
  4. Heat your shoulder by taking a shower or using a heating pack in the morning.
  5. Heat your shoulder, if you are not inflamed, before doing your exercises.
  6. Ice your shoulder several times a day when you are inflamed or in a lot of pain.
  7. Support your elbow with a pillow when you sitting and your arm with a pillow when you are sleeping so that gravity does not pull your shoulder down.
  8. In the first painful stage, don’t do something that causes pain. Be very gentle.
  9. Do the exercises you get from your treatment massage therapist every day. The improvement might seem slow but this is very important.
  10. Acupuncture has been known to be helpful with decreasing the pain and symptoms that come with Frozen Shoulder.

Thanks for taking the time and reading this post. If you have Frozen Shoulder, I hope you recover quickly. PJ Harri, LMP http://www.pjharris.com/

What is Reiki?

reikiReiki is a healing approach that uses light touch from the practitioner to channel the healing life force energy of the universe to the recipient. Used to relieve physical and emotional pain and to promote spiritual clarity and relaxation, Reiki also speeds the healing process and balances the body’s energy.

What a Reiki session might be like can vary from practitioner to practitioner. Some sessions might start with the practitioner placing their hands in a set pattern. Other sessions the hand placement might be more random with the practitioner using a more intuitive approach. Reiki can also be given from across the room. This is known as beaming.

Reiki training usually comes in levels of 3-4 ending in the Master level where the practitioner can teach others the art of Reiki. It is a good idea that a practitioner practices Reiki for a while between levels to gain a greater understanding of this amazing healing tool within each level.

As a Seattle massage practitioner, one of the things I appreciate about Reiki is you can treat any condition. I can not give massage to the severely wounded or on a broken bone. With Reiki that is not an issue. I have had great results giving Reiki to folks in Seattle with conditions that are not advisable for massage.

Another wonderful facet about Reiki is that a practitioner can actually give Reiki to themselves. As a matter of fact, it is encouraged to give yourself Reiki everyday and why wouldn’t you?

Thanks so much for reading this week’s post about Reiki, PJ Harris, LMP and Reiki Master http://www.pjharris.com/reiki.htm#classes

What Can You Do for Restless Leg Syndrome?

awake 5Before we launch into how to relieve Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), it is important to know you don’t have another condition. There are no test to find out if you have RLS, but there are tests your doctor can give you to rule out some other things. That could be important information because the treatment for those other conditions would be very different.

Some of the symptoms of RLS include:

~A creeping, crawling, jittery, tingling, burning, aching in legs at night or during inactivity

~Irresistible urge to move the legs

~Persistent leg movements during sleep hours

~Sleeping difficulty

~Not usually a muscle cramp or numbness

~Symptoms will have temporary relief with movement

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for RLS and they are not sure what causes it. There are a few treatments that have  provided some folks with RLS relief. If your physician suspects you have RLS check with them to see if you could try these treatments.

~Make sure you are eating a healthy diet.

~Avoid caffeine.

~Exercise has been known to help. Make sure you don’t overdo or excercise too late in the evening.

~Massage can help you relax.

~Try other relaxation techniques like yoga, a warm bath or meditation.

~Make sure you have a regular sleep cycle and are getting enough rest.

~Alternating heat and cold packs or just one or the other can lessen the sensations.

~Have your iron levels checked.

~Cut back on alcohol and tobacco and see if that helps.

Hopefully these ideas can provide you with some relief. The RLS Foundation is also a font of information. Thanks for reading PJ Harris, LMP http://www.pjharris.com/

Fun Massage Quiz


I wrote you all a little fun quiz. It is multiple choice to make it easy peasy. The answers are at the end of this post. Find out how much you know about massage and the body. Enjoy!



1. Do you need a Rx for massage to have it covered under insurance?
a. Yes
b. No

2. What is the longest muscle in your body?
a. Sartorius, a muscle in your leg
b. Latissimus dorsi, a muscle in your back
c. Abdominis rectus, in your stomach

3. What is the strongest muscle in your body?
a. Gastrocnemius, a calf muscle
b. Masseter, a jaw muscle
c. Gluteus maximus, your largest glute muscle

4. Which one of these is not a Swedish massage technique?
a. effleurage
b. petrissage
c. tapotement
d. isterband
e. all of the above

5. Is it legal to practice massage in the State of Washington without a license?
a. Yes
b. No

6. Does a massage increase your ability to kiss your elbow?
a. Yes
b. No

7. What is the most common cause of headache?
a. lack of sugar
b. too much television
c. dehydration
d. allergies

8. What part of your body does TMJD (temporomandibular joint disorder) effect?
a. wrist
b. stomach
c. knee
d. jaw
e. all of the above

9. Which one of these is a benefit of massage?
a. Helps relieve stress and aids relaxation
b. Helps relieve muscle tension and stiffness
c. Reduces muscle spasms
d. Promotes deeper and easier breathing
e. All of the above

10. Where does Lomi Lomi massage originate?
a. Burundi
b. Hawaii
c. Switzerland
d. Thailand
e. New Zealand (Maori)







1. Do you need a Rx for massage to have it covered under insurance?
a. Yes, in the State of Washington

2. What is the longest muscle in your body?
a. Sartorius, a muscle in your leg

3. What is the strongest muscle in our body?
b. Masseter, a jaw muscle

4. Which one of these is not a Swedish massage technique?
d. isterband is a type of sausage.

5. Is it legal to practice massage in the State of Washington without a license?
b. No, and a big NO at that.

6. Does a massage increase your ability to kiss your elbow?
b. No. The only thing that might do that is if you shoulder was dislocated. Dont try that at home.

7. What is the most common cause of headache?
c. dehydration.

8. What part of your body does TMJD (temporomandibular joint disorder) effect?
d. jaw

9. Which one of these is a benefit of massage?
e. All of the above

10. Where does Lomi Lomi massage originate?
b. Hawaii

Thanks for reading this week everyone. PJ Harris, LMP http://www.pjharris.com/

A Frequent Culprit of Shoulder and Upper Back Pain II

bad postureIn the original post “A Frequent Culprit of Shoulder and Upper Back Pain” we spoke to the issue of having a bound up Subscapularis and how that can pull your shoulders inward causing them to be rounded. There have been so many hits on that post. So, I thought I would write about another issue that is a culprit for medial shoulder rotation or rounded shoulders and sunken chest. I see so many people at my Seattle Treatment massage practice with this issue.back-bones-muscles

Often if you have a bound up or tight muscle pulling a joint in one direction out of alignment while you have another muscle on the other side letting it go. How does this happen? Usually, one of the muscles is weak and not pulling it’s weight, literally. Often with medial shoulder rotation the muscles that are weak are your upper back muscles.

 To help with upper back muscle strengthening I have posted videos of a few great exercises below. Always consult with your physician before doing any new form of exercise.






Remember if you want to get rid of pain and stiffness in your shoulders and upper back from sitting, standing, walking or sleeping with poor posture, you need to make sure your upper back is strong enough to correctly hold your frame. Thanks for reading this post and watching the videos. PJ Harris, LMP