Benefits of Bodywork for Breast Cancer Clients

Did you know massage therapy can alleviate anxiety in cancer patients as well as improve symptoms of cancer treatment such as pain, fatigue and immune system function?  A 2009 study in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine measured anxiety, pain, nausea, sleep quality and quality of life in women undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Participants experienced a reduction in side effects from chemotherapy and radiation and had an improved perceived quality of life and overall functioning after 30 minutes of massage performed weekly for three weeks.

Manual lymph drainage (MLD), also known as Lymphatic drainage therapy (LDT) is a style of bodywork that calms the sympathetic nervous system, reduces swelling and improves immune system function. It has been shown to improve chemotherapy induced neuropathy, post-surgical swelling and scar tissue. In fact, a 2016 study in Lymphatic Research and Biology, showed self MLD combined with physical exercise was beneficial for breast cancer patients in preventing postmastectomy scar formation, upper limb lymphedema, and shoulder joint dysfunction. This study solidifies the importance of properly functioning lymphatics and empowers breast cancer clients to help themselves with recovery. Self MLD is easy to do, but it is important to first understand the how, where and when of using this technique. The way MLD is performed after lymph node removal, surgery and radiation is not the same as it would be prior to treatment.

Clients in treatment or with a cancer history benefit most by working with MTs trained in massage for oncology clients. Chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and lymph node removal have immediate as well as lifelong effects on the body that should be taken into consideration during a massage session. During cancer treatment, massage is a respite for body and mind, but therapy must be tailored to where the client is at in their treatment process. As chemotherapy progresses, cellular changes in the body result in fatigue, susceptibility to bruising and bleeding and an increased risk of infection.

The removal of lymph nodes, surgery and radiation cause damage to the lymphatic system, sometimes resulting in Lymphedema, a condition where fluid cannot properly drain from tissue causing swelling. Although Lymphedema usually occurs in the first three years following treatment, there is a lifelong risk of developing it, even years later. This is so important for two reasons. One, because onset is typically due to an event that over taxes the affected limb. Two, because Lymphedema can be reversed if treated early. This means paying attention when your affected limb feels heavy or fatigued during activity and taking a break. Avoiding things like deep tissue massage on the affected limb as well as blood pressure cuffs, shots, etc. and always contact your healthcare provider if symptoms do not go away.

Understanding the effects of cancer treatment, lymphedema risk and how to adapt massage for oncology clients is specialized training that is not typically taught in massage school. If you are going through cancer treatment or have a cancer history, always book your massage with a trained and experienced therapist.


by Aimee Kupcak



Cancer Council. (2021, September 25). Does Massage Spread Cancer? Retrieved from www.cancer.orgau

Sturgen, W.-H. (2009). Effects of therapeutic massage on the quality of life among patients with breast cancer during treatment. the journal of alternative and complementary medicine, 373-380.

Zhang, F. (2016, June 16). Combining Manual Lymph Drainage with Physical Exercise after Modified Radical Mastectomy. Retrieved from www.liebertpub,com:


What to Expect With Coronavirus Restrictions Lifted

At Loosen Up we have always prided ourselves on providing results-oriented bodywork in an environment that is supportive and safe for all who come through our doors. We’ve maintained this standard for over 15 years in the East Bay and we will continue to do so (even if it causes us a little whiplash as we adapt to ever-changing standards).

With the latest changes to our state and country COVID-19 restrictions standards, I want to take a moment to address what to expect at Loosen Up.

We have always operated more like a health clinic than a spa. Today, all our staff are fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. Our staff will continue to wear masks while on premises to comply with CAL/OSHA standards for our business. Please don’t take our masks as an indication of not being vaccinated and be respectful of our choice to continue to utilize them.

In addition, as of August 3, 2021, Contra Costa County is requiring masks be worn inside commercial establishments. To comply with this requirement, we ask all staff and clients to wear masks while in our common areas.

  • For our clients who are fully vaccinated, you may remove masks once in the treatment room. Proof of vaccination is required.
  • For clients who have opted not to be vaccinated, please continue to keep your masks on through the entirety of your visit with us.

We will not be requiring copies of vaccination cards. We trust that all of our patrons will act honestly and with integrity.

We continue to keep ourselves updated and current on all requirements for our practice. This has proven to be an almost endless task this past year and I am so proud of our team’s adaptability and dedication to provide the best care for all of our guests. I also want to express my gratitude for all the support we have received from our community. It has made a world of difference for all of us at Loosen Up.

Our team remains ready and well-equipped to help our clients with their relaxation, pain management, and performance-based work. We are looking forward to the next chance we have to help you achieve your health and wellness goals.

Yours in health,

Gina Tibbs

Ergonomics: Fixes for Neck and Wrists

Over the last year, the pandemic forced many people to switch from working in well laid-out and equipped offices to working from home. Some of you may even still be working from your kitchen tables. As massage therapists, we are frequently asked about how to avoid the recurring pain that creeps up as a result of less than ideal physical work environments.

I am not an ergonomics specialist, by any means, but I can offer clients some tips that may help reduce repetitive stress injuries. While creating a space that keeps our body in the most neutral position possible can be helpful, if you stay in any position long enough, it’s going to create problems. Try to incorporate frequent movement into your work routine. Even just a mild stretch or movement through our full range-of-motion can flush out metabolic waste and bring fresh blood to our tissue so it can continue to meet demand without fatiguing. Here are a few of my favorites.

Look over each shoulder
Tilt head side to side
Head circles each direction
Wrist circles both directions
Flex wrist with closed hand
Extend wrist with open hand
Shoulder circles forward and back

This little list of movements can be done once or twice an hour to really help support our muscles and structure when we are relying on them so much. I’ve included a link (below) to a video with a great condensed list of tips to try out at your workstation – wherever it might be. But remember, no matter how well thought-out your physical work environment is, our muscles require movement, so multiple mini breaks and regular exercise are always your best bets to keep your muscles happy.

Stay well,
All of us at Loosen Up Bodywork

How Massage Helps Anxiety

Many of us are familiar with the calming effects of massage therapy. Massage treatments, though, can be many different things. One approach and technique may be great for one person and torture for another. So as I attempt to offer insight into how massage can help alleviate the effects of anxiety, I will address several approaches and how they affect different symptoms associated with anxiety.

The standard circulatory or Swedish massage is amazing for increasing circulation and encouraging the release of endorphins. The effects are very similar to those you experience after exercise, with these hormones giving the body an exhilarating sense of well-being.

Sometimes, if we’ve been stuck in a state of anxiety for long periods, it can begin to affect our posture. Our shoulders hike up and round forward, our head becomes forward, and general tension builds up other places, as well. A fast or vigorous massage may be over-stimulating and won’t correct the long-standing posture issue. Instead, focusing on muscles that hold us in that posture with a slow sustained manner can allow our body to move toward a more neutral posture without being over-stimulating or agitating.

The last modality I’ll cover here, even though there are many others that have positive impacts on anxiety symptoms, is Lymphatic Drainage. This technique is my personal favorite for those who are really locked in that state of overwhelm and worry. Lymphatic drainage for the head, neck and face, in particular, put even the most high-strung person right to sleep. Pressure is light and rhythmic and because of that, the progression of movement can be easily anticipated by the client so the need for the body to guard itself absolves completely.

All of our therapists are trained to be able to meet our clients where they’re at when they land on our tables. While not all of our therapists are trained in every technique, each technique is adaptable to be able to meet clients needs. We love to hear from our clients and help them decide what will work best. And if our front desk can’t answer your specific question, we can have a therapist call you back.

Be well and we hope to see you soon.
Yours in health, Gina Tibbs

Exercise and Anxiety

Most of us have experienced anxiety at some point in our life. Stress from work or school; worries about finances, personal relationships and all the other stressors life offers is a normal part of living and when well-managed, can motivate us to do our best. But when stress is out of balance and becomes overwhelming we can suffer physically and mentally. Anxiety may present as nervousness, increased heart rate, sweating, difficulty breathing, and may even result in panic attacks.

We experience anxiety when our endocrine system is being overly stimulated. This can be caused by life events, specific thought patterns, or even by food and drinks we consume like caffeine and sugar. Our body over-produces a hormone called cortisol and it can perpetuate and build the longer we remain in this state of mind.

When you feel those symptoms of anxiousness start to develop, one way to help control them is to divert your train of thought by participating in activities. Staying busy helps us move our focus off of what we are stressing about.

Once we’re out of the acute stage of anxiety, exercise can benefit both our physical and mental health. Staying active helps our endocrine system to produce more endorphins, which are “feel good” chemicals produced by the pituitary gland. Going on a walk, run, hike, bike ride, or any other activity you enjoy helps encourage this internal response.

Massage therapy has also been proven to help reduce anxiety. Even just having a quiet room to yourself and being able to relax in a controlled atmosphere helps to reduce stress hormones and puts the body in a state of relaxation. It helps a person feel calmer and more able to cope with everyday stresses.

We all aspire for good habits that support our bodies in staying healthy and calm. But life has a way of throwing all of us off our “A game” from time to time. Though we agree with Ben Franklin that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, if you need a reset to get you back on track — we’ve got you.

Stay well, stay healthy, stay moving, and we hope to see you soon.
All of us at Loosen Up!

Updated Hours–March 2021

We are now offering services at both our Walnut Creek and Danville locations! We are limited to Monday through Thursday appointments in Danville while we continue our search for additional talented staff for that location, but are open 7 days a week in Walnut Creek.

You can visit our Book an Appointment page to schedule and learn more about our current protocols. You can also call us at (925)289-9750 and we are happy to answer any questions you may have and assist you with scheduling your next appointment.

Updated Hours–February 2021

As a result of the changing Covid restrictions and guidelines of the Bay Area, we have made the following changes to our hours:

Walnut Creek

  • Office hours: Monday – Friday 10am – 6pm
  • Open for massage appointments: 7 days a week
  • Appointments outside of office hours available upon request.


  • Office hours: Monday – Friday 12pm – 6pm, by appointment only

If you have any questions, please contact our main office, or leave us a question in our comments section below. We appreciate your continued support as we navigate this pandemic and the challenges it brings. Loosen up Bodywork wishes you a safe and healthy 2021!

Updated Hours–December 2020

Today it was announced that the Bay Area will be the first to enact the more restrictive Stay at Home order to prevent the ICU Hospitalization rate from going higher than 85%. This means that we are going to be required to close our Danville offices again on Sunday night, December 6.

We will, however, continue to be able to work with clients who have a recommendation from a MD, Nurse Practitioner, or Chiropractor at our Walnut Creek facility. In addition, we are currently open on Sundays in the Walnut Creek office to accommodate your schedule.

As frustrating as it is to have to go through this back-and-forth with our operations, we want to do our part in any way we can to help curb the progression of Covid-19 in our community. The Bay Area has not been hit as hard as many parts of our country and we are willing to do whatever it takes to keep this pandemic in check and keep our community resources available for those who need them.

Please reach out to our Walnut Creek office if you have any questions at all. We are wishing all of you a healthy and safe Holiday season.

We Are Officially Open!

Last Tuesday (September 30), Contra Costa county was moved from the Purple/Widespread category to the Red/Substantial category of the state’s four-tiered color-coded reopening system.  This means that some restrictions have been eased, and we can now begin the next phase of reopening.  I can’t express how proud I am of our community for doing its part in slowing this pandemic down.  My family and our staff’s families thank you for your efforts that have gotten us to the point of being able to get back to work!  We truly are all in this together.
Our Walnut Creek team is already in full swing with our new protocols.  The list of changes we made to adapt to our new environment is long, but our team has risen to the occasion.  Having a productive, therapeutic environment requires that both the practitioner and the client feel comfortable and safe.  I am truly impressed, yet again, by our team’s commitment to adopting new procedures to maintain our facilities for us all – our patrons and our staff.  Click here to learn more about our new processes.
Our Danville offices will be reopening on October 19th.  Sadly, a few of our employees left the area during the time we have been closed, so for a time, our hours in Danville will be limited.  We want to fill a couple licensed CMT spots and one Admin spot, so if you know anyone who’s looking to work for a local business that’s dedicated to elevating the health and wellness of their community, please send them our way!  Here is a link to the job postings if you’re interested.
Last, I want to remind everyone that we are going to be raising our rates November 1st.  This increase is going to bring us closer to what other establishments are charging and will go towards raising all of our staff’s regular pay.  They deserve it with all the extra efforts they are putting in!  That makes October a good time to buy packages to lock in the lower rate a little longer for those of you who know you will be coming back regularly.
We hope you and yours are well and look forward to seeing you soon.