Q&A with Massage Therapist Carrie Graham

Carrie Graham
Carrie Graham, Massage Therapist

1. What is your number one piece of advice for people with tense neck and shoulders?

This is the #1 complaint I hear from my clients.  The top piece of advice I have for anyone suffering from tight neck and shoulders is to check in with your posture about every 15 minutes, especially if you are at a desk or computer, and do a chest-opening stretch

If you find that your shoulders are slumped over, head is stretching forward, or one shoulder is higher than the other, move away from your computer screen and stretch out your chest.  You can do the stretch seated, standing or assisted using a doorway (door must be open)
Bring your arms parallel above your head then slowly bring the arms into a goalpost position (if seated or standing) and slowly move your elbows up and back towards the back of your head, rotating from the shoulders (it’s a small movement).  

Seated Chest-Opener:
seated chest-opener

If you are standing in a doorway: bring your arms to look like a goalpost, place your forearms on the doorframe, then move your feet back about 8-10 inches, bend your knees slightly, then shift your body weight forward (keep your head looking straight in front of you). You should feel a stretch along your chest, abdominals and calves.
Doorway Chest-Opener:
Doorway Chest-Opener
Also, when seated at a desk, make it a point every half hour to sit up and walk around to ease tension off the quads (if you tend to feel tense when standing after sitting for a long time) and reposition your back. This will make a huge difference in your awareness and in lessening that tension.

2. What do you do to help your body feel its best? 

I foam roll any time I wake up in the morning and my body feels sore. For example, if my feet hurt, I will use a foam roller on the front and back of my calves. It doesn't feel the best along the front of the calf, but it really helps relieve soreness in the feet!  

Calf Foam Rolling for Foot Soreness:
Calf Foam Roll

If my back is hurting, I start the foam roller at the base of my neck with my hands supporting my head (as if I was doing a crunch) and slowly move down my shoulders then rest it on my low back then to the top of the glutes.  I repeat that about 4 times and pause if it’s especially tender in one or two spots.  

Foam Rolling for Back Soreness:

3. What is your favorite way to stay active around Austin?

I love stand up paddling on Lady Bird Lake and jogging the 10 mile loop of the hike and bike trail.  It's the best for people watching and dog watching! 

4. Speaking of the hike and bike trail, any recommendations for cyclists with back pain?

Cycling and spinning are awesome workouts, but cycling and/or taking regular spin classes can start to create a concaveness in your back and posture.  Performing regular chest-openers especially right after biking or after a spin class will help with this (as demonstrated above). 

5. How often should someone get a massage if they want to see real differences in overall tightness? 

I would recommend at least twice a month, and all the way up to twice a week if your budget allows.  Getting up into the twice a week range will greatly reduce tension.  Even the act of getting into a massage routine helps because your mind enters a more relaxed state leading up to the service. 

6. Do you have a favorite spa treatment right now? 

Body scrubs are really great because they exfoliate, renew and detoxify all in one treatment.  You don't just have to do a traditional body wrap to get detoxifying benefits.   One key tip for scrubs: if you spray tan, be sure to get a scrub before you tan so that you don't undo your efforts or end up splotchy. Exfoliation before the tan provides a softer surface that helps the color absorb better and more evenly. 

7. Speaking of suntans, what are you looking forward to most this summer? 

I'm excited to visit my brother who lives at Lincoln Park in Chicago right near the beach.  I love visiting the zoo in Lincoln Park which is free and really great, and the cultural center there always has a really fun art exhibit on the first floor. Whether it's an emerging or student artist,  or a traveling a show from a university, it's always one of my favorite stops.  It's also key to go to Chicago in May-August when the temperatures are great!