Struggling with sleep?

At Loosen Up we often receive questions regarding ideal sleep recommendations; best positions, pillows, mattresses, etc. These are tougher questions to answer than you would think. There are many contributing factors to preferred sleeping position, pillows, and mattresses; previous injuries, room orientation, or sleeping companions. How we sleep is a personal topic and effective tips and tricks vary for each person.

There are several ways that the topic of sleep comes up with our clients here at Loosen Up. Most people are able to experience initial benefits of massage that relieve stress as soon as they’re on our table. Others feel the benefit of a nice nap once they’re on the massage table. And some experience pain relief that allows them to get a better night’s sleep once they leave our table. While massage does not necessarily affect sleep directly, what is keeping us from dozing off can be profoundly influenced by massage.

Research on the subject of how massage therapy may affect our sleep is centered around the idea that a reduction in pain will have a positive effect on our quality of sleep. This concept is one I often review with clients when they inquire about stretching and foam rolling. Like most of our clients, you may have had the experience of laying your head down to fall sleep only to feel aches and pains that you hadn’t noticed earlier in your day. This leads to tossing and turning and having difficulty finding a comfortable position to drift off. But by taking the time to stretch or foam roll before bed, you can create length in soft tissues that may have been tugging at your structure when you initially laid down. And a comfortable sleeping position may be a little easier to find.

Another one of the things I review with every client that comes in with chronic pain issues is the pattern of their sleep hygiene. We may not always think of our sleep as pattern forming, but improper sleeping positions may reinforce some structural tensions, positions such as a pillow being too large or small for the neck, or the lumbar spine being twisted in a side sleeping posture. Many persistent pain issues can actually be resolved by simply introducing a prop to the arms or legs. Setting the intention of resting your body in a supported, safe position can make a big difference on your night’s sleep.

Finally, massage, stretching, and foam rolling (and upper cervical chiropractic work) all have the effect of activating your sympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as your “rest and digest” state. The activation of this part of your nervous system stimulates the release of endorphins and other neurotransmitters that then cause us to go into a calm and relaxed state.

If you struggle with sleep due to aches and pains, you can request a consultation with one of our therapists or schedule an appointment to come in Click Here to make an appointment or Call: (925) 289-9750. Sleep well and we look forward to hearing from you.

Stretches for Your Legs

Leg Stretches | Walnut Creek MassageIf you’re an active runner, cyclist, or just work on your feet all day, consistent stretching can decrease muscle pain and tension.

Only stretch to the point of comfort, not of pain. If any of these stretches are difficult because of muscle tension, let your massage therapist know you would like to work on releasing that area of your next session. If you experience intense pain with any of these stretches, discuss them with your physician before continuing.

Hamstring Stretch

Stand upright, with your leg straight and your foot resting on a stair or low stool in front of you. Exhale and slowly lean into your straight leg until you feel a comfortable stretch. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat on both sides.

Calf Stretch

Stand facing a wall with your toes almost touching it. Lean into your hands placed at shoulder height against the wall. Move one leg back only as far as you can keep that foot flat on the floor, but far enough that you can feel a comfortable stretch in your calf muscle when you lean into the stretch. Keep your toes pointing straight forward. Repeat on both sides, holding for 10 to 30 seconds.

Calf Stretch #2

Place the ball of one foot on the edge of a step. Lower your heel of the step to stretch your calf muscle for 5 to 10 seconds. Stretch one calf muscle at a time, alternating legs.

Quad Stretch

Holding onto a table or back of a chair, grasp your foot or ankle. Let your knee dangle straight down. Without leaning forward, move your knee backward to a comfortable stretch, hold for a few seconds, then return, repeating on both sides.

In the Hours After Your Massage

After a massage, you may notice a lot of changes going inside your body and mind that often bothers us. Fortunately, we have some tips for you to do after a massage in order to help you get its full benefit and reduce any possible soreness.

Self-Care Tips for After Your Massage


First, let’s address the possible soreness you might feel after a massage. This is common with Deep Tissue and Sports Massage, but it can also happen with lighter-pressure massage as well.

Massage is a type of passive exercise for your muscles. If your muscles are not used to the type of massage you requested, you may feel soreness within two days of your massage, just as if you were trying a new workout.

We recommend full communication with your therapist during your massage, especially if it’s your first time receiving a massage. Let your therapist how the pressure is. Massage should never feel painful. Open communication with your therapist will prevent excessive soreness after your massage.

Care for Specific Injuries

If you had a massage that focused on a particular body part or injury, take action on the advice your massage therapist gave you. You may have been advised to stretch or apply a warm or cold compress. Sometimes your massage therapist will even recommend walking after a massage to stimulate your muscles. Ask your massage therapist for customized self-care tips for injury recovery.

Drink More Water

A massage improves the circulation around the body, stimulating the continuous removal of wastes from fatigued muscles and stressed tissues. Not only does drinking water reduce the feeling of exhaustion and soreness after a massage but it also helps the kidneys to function well and relieve wastes effectively.

Take a Bath

Taking a warm bath with Epsom salts while doing some stretching can help alleviate the pain. Remember to always discuss this with your massage therapist so that necessary adjustments can be done during the next sessions.

Have a Weekly Practice of Reflection & Observation to Keep Your New Year's Resolutions

Now is the time of year when we all put ourselves under a microscope. After some time spent reflecting on the year just past, we observe the things we would like to do better in the next one. “I’d like to shed some pounds”, or “I’ll be better about balancing my budget”, “exercise more”, “eat better”, and so on.

Healthy New Year's Resolutions


While these are all great ideas, the typical new years resolution doesn’t last. I’d like to encourage you to spend the next year practicing this sort of reflection on a weekly basis.

Setting aside some time once a week to put just the previous week under the microscope. Maybe your time last week was spent heavily on work and you and your family are now feeling drained. And maybe your next week will be spent heavily on nurturing yourself and now your bank account is a little low.

The one after that may be spent mostly on family and getting organized. You can start by finding a quiet place and lighting a candle, using some essential oils or burning insence to set the intention that this time is for you. Using a journal or just taking mental notes, take inventory of your last week.

This weekly practice of reflection and observation can help us be more aware of what is out of balance in our day to day lives and creates a life style that supports us in achieving all of our goals. Finding an accountability buddy to start thus practice with you can also reinforce your new weekly routine.

May your new year be filled with health and happiness and I wish you all the best.


Gina Tibbs, Walnut Creek Massage TherapistYour partner in health,
Gina Tibbs

7 Effective Steps for Managing Holiday Stress

Holiday Stress Management in Walnut CreekThe holidays can bring a lot of stress — high expectations, one too many parties, out-of town guests,…

Learning to manage stress is the first step to prevent overwhelm.

Try these seven steps to effectively manage holiday stress:


  1. Get a good night’s sleep.
    Your body repairs itself during while you are sleeping. Most people need seven to nine hours a night, especially if you have an unusually busy day.Also, if you’re more introverted, being around people constantly, whether it’s crowded shopping malls, or a holiday party, you’ll also need more rest and quiet time than usual.
  2. Keep up your exercise routine.
    It’s easy to skip your workouts when you have a busy week. However, exercise helps you to use oxygen more efficiently and gets more oxygen to the brain. It’ll increase your focus, which may help you see solutions to problems rather than simply worrying about them.  It can also increase your stamina as you rush from the office to shopping to home to parties, etc.If  you do have a major time crunch, try a high-intensity 10-minute workout you can do at home. (We recommend these fitness reports from Transform FX Fitness.)
  3. Meditate.
    Meditation isn’t about chanting mantras. Meditation can be in the form of yoga.  Or you can take five minutes of deep breathing and clearing your mind.
  4. Manage the worry.
    When you feel your pulse start to quicken, count backwards from ten. As you count, focus on the situation. What has actually happened? Resist the urge to read anything more into the situation.
  5. Limit your alcohol intake.
    You might think that the glass of wine is relaxing your tension, but alcohol is actually a depressant. In can also be harder to face another busy day if you’re recovering from a long night.
  6. Enjoy relaxing activities.
    Stress, noise, people can rob you of your energy. Do something you enjoy that’s relaxing as well like painting, reading or listening to music.
  7. Pre-book your massage.
    Look forward to time just for you by scheduling your massage early.  Think about it as a reward for getting through a stressful holiday season!

It’s no wonder that a time that’s meant for giving and celebrations, we might forget to take care of ourselves first.  Prevent as much holiday stress as possible by taking these seven steps.


What’s your favorite way to prevent holiday stress?