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Essential Medical Massage & Wellness

2301 Ohio Dr, Ste 214, Plano, TX 75093

Essential Medical Massage

Specializing in Acute Pain, Rehabilitation and Cancer Care

Phoebe Courcy, LMT, MMP, CPMT

Health Blog


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Is gluten to blame for your neuropathy?

Posted on March 14, 2012 at 1:20 PM Comments comments (1)
Do you suffer from nerve pain, stinging, or burning sensations to feet, hands, both?  Peripheral neuropathy, or neuropathy, can describe a wide range of disorders characterized by nerve damage to one or more nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord.  Often the root cause of neuropathy is unknown, however the Mayo Clinic has been able to link autoimmune diseases and vitamin deficiencies as some of the potential causes. 

In people with a gluten sensitivity, eating foods with gluten triggers an autoimmune response, much the same way that the antibodies attack viruses.  This leads to intestinal damage and inhibits absorption of nutrients, leading to nutrient deficiencies.  According to the Center for Peripheral Neuropathy, gastrointestinal symptoms like an upset stomach, may signify that neurological damage has already been done. 

Gluten Free Society calls gluten a "potential neurotoxin".  This seems fitting considering that gluten damage can lead to numbness in the hands and feet, as well as dizziness, loss of balance, tremors, and trouble judging distances, and many more symptoms.  Gluten neuropathy is when the autoimmune response is the root cause of the nerve damage.

One study published in the Muscle and Nerve journal (December 2006) found that participants with neuropathy who followed a gluten-fee diet, showed significant improvement in symptoms after one year.  The control group had worsening symptoms.

But no need to wait one year to see results.  Usually, improvements can be felt as soon as 1 week when going on a strict gluten-free regimen.  In my practice, I have discussed possibilities of gluten allergies and sensitivities with clients, especially with those that have chronic pain, autoimmune diseases, and cases of neuropathy.  They have given positive feedback and saw reduction in their symptoms after eliminating gluten in their diets!

If you suspect that you have any gluten intolerance, the gentlest way to figure it out is by dietary therapy.  Avoid all gluten for 2-4 weeks and keep a food journal, documenting everything that goes in your mouth, your symptoms/reactions for each day.  After a few weeks, slowly re-introduce it and observe any reactions.  Gluten intolerance DOES NOT respond to simple allergy tests like milk or nuts.  Abstinence is key! 

For more information, visit


Peppermint - it's more than just a holiday treat.

Posted on December 12, 2011 at 11:47 AM Comments comments (0)
During this holiday season, candy canes and peppermints abound!  More than just a holiday decoration or tradition, however, peppermint has many wonderful natural healing properties.   
Peppermint can help with migraines, boost memory and concentration, relieve inflammation, and aid in digestion.   Personally, I use peppermint very often in my practice for keeping the sinuses open, uplifting the mood, and taming headaches.
"Whether in the form of essential oil, fresh mint leaves, or brewed tea, the refreshing scent of peppermint may be just what you need to perk up your mind."           
The antispasmodic properties of peppermint have also been confirmed in clinical trials.
Peppermint is one of the most effective oils of the digestive system.  The German Commission E Monographs recommends peppermint oil for obstructions of the bile ducts, gall bladder inflammations and severe liver damage.
Jean Valnet, MD studied peppermint's supportive effect on the liver and respiratory systems.  Peppermint helps the circulation as well.  More uses for this oil include the treatment of indigestion, flu, catarrh, headaches, toothache, and rheumatism. 
For a refreshing and easy to make hand soap for home, try this recipe:
Be happy and healthy with peppermint this holiday season!

Ice vs. Heat

Posted on July 26, 2011 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)
Regardless of whether your pain is acute or chronic, there are general treatment principles that you can apply to help ease the pain and swelling related to an injury or illness.  These approaches are commonly referred to as RICHES - rest, ice, compression, heat, elevation, support.  Severe sprains or other injuries should be evaluated by a physician, especially if symptoms worsen. 

REST is a period of time in which little to no movement is allowed.  This allows your body to heal and repair the injured tissues.  During this time, you should also assess pain levels and even take notes to monitor your progress.  Once you feel improvement, slowly resume activity.  Most minor injuries heal in 1-2 weeks.

ICE is particularly recommended for injuries to the musculoskeletal system.  It is a tried and true anti-inflammatory!  Typically, a cold treatment should last 10-20 minutes and repeated every hour.  Keep in mind that prolonged use of ice treatments may cause damage.

COMPRESSION to an injured area can help prevent swelling.  One common form of compression is an ACE bandage applied to the injured area.  Make sure it is not too tight, and seek approval from a medical professional.

HEAT may be used for an injury and can help relieve tightness and spasm.  Make sure that at least 72 hours as passed post-injury before beginning heat treatments.  Applying heat too early in the recovery phase may actually make an injury worse. 

DO NOT use heat in the following cases:
-during acute phase of healing.
-if swelling/discoloration is present
-if there are any signs of infection (i.e. redness, heat, swelling).
-if you are prone to blood clots or have high blood pressure.
-against the advice of a physician.

ELEVATION of the injured body part above the heart can help decrease swelling, and allows gravity to assist moving fluids back towards the heart.

SUPPORT and protection of the area is critical.  It may be necessary to wear protective splints or braces if injury requires.

A good rule of thumb to follow is "When in doubt, use ICE."  Within the first 72 hours of an injury, ice is the most effective in relieving pain and swelling.

Remember, always pay attention to your body and its pain signals!  If ice is not helping to relieve your painful muscle spasms, switch to heat, preferably a moist heat source.  One easy trick is to place moist washcloths in the microwave for a couple minutes and use as local spot treatments.  Careful, they may be very hot at first.  Moist heat penetrates the muscles easier without dehydrating them!  If you choose to utilize heating pads as your heat source, do not use more than 15- 20 minutes at a time, doing so will only cause a reverse reaction.  It is very easy to overdo this approach.  Monitor your time and try again every hour if needed.

Hope some of these tips help you decide on your next RICHES approach.

Jagged Little Pill

Posted on June 29, 2011 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (0)
This month's issue of Health Magazine has at least 11 advertisements for prescription drugs...11!  You can see commercials on the television for prescription drugs every 5-10 minutes.  Our country's health system is based on Big Pharma's 'diagnoses' and structured around treating symptoms with an RX pad.  What about treating the actual CAUSES of conditions such as rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, depression, allergies, etc? 

It is our duty as a society to research/find alternative, natural treatments for such conditions.  More importantly, we can prevent most of these conditions through healthy lifestyles.  I take full pride and pleasure in knowing that the focused massage treatments I provide, using a variety of techniques based on clients' needs, are an integral part of staying healthy and an effective treatment for pain relief.  There is a plethera of information out there offering information, research, articles, etc. that may offer more effective and safer alternatives to the ill side effects of precription drugs. is one such website that I use frequently. 

Now don't get me wrong...there is a place for prescription medications.  They have their place and their absolute necessities.  However, I urge you to ask questions, do your own research, and don't be afraid to ask your doctor for alternatives.  Make sure that you are willing to live with the possible side effects if beginning a new medication.

And of course...
"Talk to your doctor today about Essential Medical Massage for your symptoms.  Possible side effects may include (but not limited to): increased circulation; pain relief; lowered blood pressure; decreased joint pain; increased mobility/range of motion; lowered anxiety; feeling of calmness; happiness!"

Lavender Oil for Fungus?

Posted on June 23, 2011 at 1:18 PM Comments comments (0)
Lavender oil has been proven to aid in relaxation and promote sleep, but did you know that lavender oil is also effective against fungus?

Scientists have demonstrated that lavender oil's effectiveness against two important fungal strains: 1. Candida species, which cause thrush, and 2. dermatophytes, which cause athlete's foot and ringworm.  Lavender oil attacks these fungi by damaging their cell membranes.  In cases of nail infections, for example, lavender oil may be applied topically, directly onto the nail bed where they have little to no blood supply.  They are unreachable by medicines taken internally because medicines only work if the infection is in the blood.

The recent increase of drug-resistant fungal infections, especially to those who are immunocompromised, has prompted renewed research of natural remedies such as with this essential oil. Lavendula oil also shows wide-spectrum anti-fungal properties and is a highly potent oil.

More medicinal uses:
-Antiseptic & pain reliever.
-Applied to minor burns and insect bites/stings.
-Used in massage oils for joint and muscle pain relief.
-Chest rub for asthmatic & bronchitic spasm.
-Hair rinse to treat head lice.

And of course my personal favorite, in aromatherapy, lavender oil is an anxiolytic, which induces calmness and relieves anxiety. 

Lavender oil smells wonderful so why not keep some on hand for its many medicinal purposes as well!

Stretch your psoas for low back pain relief.

Posted on June 20, 2011 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (0)
Psoas (pronounced, 'so-az') muscle!

I love talking about the psoas, iliacus...AKA, hip flexors. If you suffer from low back pain, sit a lot through out the day, have tight quads, and stiff knees, then you probably have tight hip flexors.

Stretch these muscles daily and you will discover less pain.

Here is one great example of psoas/hip flexor stretch with release of trigger points prior to the stretch:

Let's Talk Traps

Posted on May 12, 2011 at 8:41 PM Comments comments (0)
The word trapezius comes from the Greek word for a small table, a reflection of the muscle's relative flatness and four-cornered shape.  I like to refer to it as the butterfly muscle. 

Many people don't realize that the trapezius covers most of the upper half of the back, extending upward to cover the central part of the back and neck, finally attaching into base of the skull.  Not only is this a large muscle but it lays superficial (on top) to deeper back muscles. 

The trapezius helps support the weight of the head and neck when you bend head forward or to the side.  It functions mainly to move the shoulder. It also supports the weight of the shoulders and must contract strongly to rotate the shoulder blade every time you raise your arm. 

Trigger points tend to develop in the trapezius when they are in a state of constant contraction, and/or are too weak to counteract the strong pulling in the pectorals in front of body. A primary source of headaches and neck pain pain arises from trapezius trigger points!

Most people experience trigger points in the upper part of the trapezius.  Their effects often cause tension headaches and possibly even dizziness.  More importantly, upper trapezius trigger points are capable of inducing satellite trigger points in muscles of the jaw and temple, making it an indirect cause of jaw pain and toothache.

Mid-trapezius trigger points are often a major source of pain at the base of your skull, which you may feel as a headache or sore neck.  When neck massage feels good but doesn't get rid of the pain, the problem may be trapezius-related.
Heading down to the lower traps we reach middle back area.  If you've ever felt a nagging ache or burning pain in the middle back, trigger points here may be responsible.  This is also a common area for weakness, and although trigger points here are a long ways away from the neck, it's one of the many causes of astiff neck.  Also, If you have ever noticed someone with "winged" shoulder blades that tend to stick out in back, it is due to weakness in the lower trapezius muscles and serratus. 

Some main causes of trigger points in the trapezius:

  • Faulty Posture - eg. slumping while seated.
  • Shortened Pectoralis Muscles -indicated by rounding of the shoulders.
  • Emotional Tension or any activity which keeps your shoulders raised.
  • Arms held out in front of you for extended lengths of time.
  • Heavy-breasted women may be especially vulnerable, or those carrying heavy backpacks & purses.

Strengthening the lower traps can help counteract the ill effects of poor posture, including the long hours spent sitting in front of computer.  However, it also requires stretching various anterior muscle groups on opposing side of body, to retrain postural muscles. 

At Essential Medical Massage, we will guide you through the process of improving posture by demonstrating stretches and strengthening for the trapezius muscle and other affected postural muscles. 

You do not have to suffer from headaches, neck tension & pain, TMJ pain, or back pain. Perhaps the source may be trapezius-related!

Come on in and let us find out!

To schedule conveniently online:
Or contact directly:
(214) 864-9463

My Vibram Five Fingers

Posted on March 13, 2011 at 12:22 AM Comments comments (0)
 While training for a half-marathon, I recently began to feel the very familiar
aching, burning, and then stinging in my shins...the 'shin splints' which have ailed me for years since my days as a ballet dancer.  Through proper rest, training practices, massage, ice, etc., I have been relatively pain free during my runs.  However, after a swift (and uneducated) decision to try out different running shoes with more heel and arch support, the pain in my shins returned in just a couple miles of use.  I quickly realized that these shoes weren't allowing me to run in proper form (on mid-to balls of my feet).  In fact, I was almost forced to run on my heels because of the bulk in the shoes.
 This led me to the Vibram Five Fingers.  You have probably seen them or maybe wear them already.  I went to a running store where I could be fitted properly and have now worn my Five Finger 'Sprints' for 4 days.  The 1st day, I wore them for a couple of hours around the house. By day 2, I felt confident enough to wear them to work (about 7 hours).  During those 7 hours, I never once felt the pain in my shins!  The slight separation in the toes and the grounding I felt while wearing them felt rather ....well, wonderful!
  I look forward to testing them during my runs but also feel a little aprehensive until I know the inflammation in my shins has improved.  However, this has proven to be a positive start.  Surprisingly, the thought of putting on running shoes with a lot of padding is a bit unappealing. 
 These shoes may not be meant for everyone or every type/shape of foot.  Whether they are healthy options for those who already suffer from plantar fasciitis/heel pain, I cannot say at this time, nor have I read any research on the subject.  I would suggest using caution of you have a history of foot pain.  However, the delicate muscles in the feet need strengthening, just like any other muscle, and these shoes allow for that.
Here are6 Reasons Why You May Want To Consider Wearing Vibram Five Finger Shoes:
  • Vibram Five Fingers is different than any other footwear.  Not only do they bring you closer to your environment, Five Fingers deliver a number of positive health benefits-by leveraging all of the body’s natural biomechanics, so you can move as nature intended.
  • Strengthens muscles in the feet and lower legs – wearing Five Fingers will stimulate and strengthen muscles in the feet and lower legs, improving general foot health and reducing the risk of injury.
  • Improves range of motion in ankles, feet and toes – no longer ‘cast’ in a shoe, the foot and toes move more naturally.
  • Stimulates neural function, important to balance and agility – when wearing Vibram Five Fingers, thousands of neurological receptors in the feet send valuable information to the brain, improving balance and agility.
  • Improves proprioception and body awareness – those same neurological receptors heighten body awareness, sending messages about body mechanics, form, and movement.
  • Eliminates heel lift to align the spine and improve posture – by lowering the heel, our body weight becomes evenly distributed across the foot bed, promoting proper posture and spine alignment.
  • Allows the foot and body to move naturally, which just FEELS GOOD.

If you have any of your own feedback regarding these or similar type of shoes, I would love to hear from you.  Until then, keep those feet (and legs) happy!

What is Fascia?

Posted on February 11, 2011 at 11:41 PM Comments comments (1)
Fascia is very dense covering, interpenetrating every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein as well as all of our internal organs including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord. The most interesting aspect of the fascial system is that it is not just a system of separate coverings. It is actually one structure that exists from head to foot without interruption. In this way you can begin to see that each part of the entire body is connected to every other part by the fascia, like the yarn in a sweater.
  In the normal healthy state, the fascia is relaxed and wavy in configuration. It has the ability to stretch and move without restriction. When we experience physical trauma, scarring, or inflammation, however, the fascia loses its pliability. It becomes tight, restricted and a source of tension to the rest of the body. Trauma, such as a fall, whiplash, surgery or just habitual poor posture over time and repetitive stress injuries has a cumulative effects. The changes they cause in the fascial system influence comfort and the functioning of our body. The fascia can exert excessive pressure producing pain or restriction of motion. They affect our flexibility and stability, and are a determining factor in our ability to withstand stress and strain. 
***Since many of the standard tests such as x-rays, myelograms, CAT scans, electromyography, etc, do not show the fascial restrictions, it is thought that an extremely high percentage of people suffering with pain and/or lack of motion may be having fascial problems, but most go undiagnosed.

Sleep Well For your Health

Posted on February 3, 2011 at 1:32 PM Comments comments (0)
  Sleep is extremely important in order to maintain good health.  Sleep may even be more important than exercise and diet, because even more incredibly, we spend up to a third of our lives asleep.
Restorative sleep is necessary to repair damage done to our bodies during the day.  Cells get replenished, immune system is boosted, metabolism is regulated, cognitive function improves, toxins and other free radicals are eliminated, hormones are balanced, adrenal glands are restored, etc.

  Some causes of insomnia are induced by prescription and over-the-counter medications and/or physical problems such as sleep apnea, rheumatoid arthritis, nerve disorders, restless leg syndrome, and so on.  Adrenal hormone imbalances such as high cortisol levels are known to reduce sleep quality.  Nutrition deficiencies (such as B vitamins, magnesium, & protein) can affect sleep.  Inactivity is also not conducive to sleep.

 Among the many variables affecting sleep, however, PERSISTENT STRESS is the most common cause of chronic insomnia!  And poor adrenal functioning leads to poor ability to handle stress.  It is important to know how to handle that stress, rather than focus on how much stress is in your life.

Here are some wonderful tips for getting a better night's rest!
  1. Relax before bedtime (i.e. dim lights, relaxing bath, quiet music, or read).
  2. Set a schedule -Your natural circadium rythyms are ruled by rising and setting of the sun.  Try to go to bed the same time every night/wake same time every morning.
  3. Avoid stimulants  -Such as coffee, alcohol, chocolate, sodas, cigarettes.
  4. Maintain a comfortable temperature.
  5. Exercise - Just 20-30 minutes of activity daily (preferably during early part of the day) will help improve sleep quality.  Yoga, stretching, breathing will also help.
  6. Eat Well - Refrain from overeating at dinner time.  Include whole natural foods and avoid hydrogenated oils, fried foods, or sugar.
  7. De-Stress - Learn  how to handle your stress through such things as meditation, biofeedback, or relaxation techniques.  If you tend to worry about things, get in the habit of writing them down on paper, instead of thinking about them all night.
  8. Last but not least, try professional interventions such as massage therapy, chiropractic adjustments & acupuncture.
 Valerian root is one of the most well-known (and most studied) herbs to help improve sleep quality.  It is safe and effective and increases GABA receptors, the neurotransmitters involved in regulating normal sleep.  Learn more at

**Sleeping pills are often addictive and do not allow for natural sleep.  More importantly, they reduce the time spent in deep sleep, the most restorative stage of sleep, and can result in rebound insomnia when discontinued.

"Masking the symptoms of insomnia does not constitute good sleep any more than masking the symptoms of anxiety with alcohol provides good mental health."  --Rubin Naiman, Ph.D

 My clients more often than not tell me that they have the best night's sleep after getting a massage.  And those that receive regular massages sessions find that they are better able to manage their stress and do not suffer from the aches and pains that often keep people awake at night.

"A dream can be a place of healing, initiation, higher education, and outrageous fun.  If we are closing off our dreams, we are closing off worlds of possibility, entertainment, and learning."  --Robert Moss