Healing Hands

Bodywork practices have power to alleviate pain, improve mood and aid performance.
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Tiffany Bedolla, CMT, founder and owner of Safe Space Bodywork
Tiffany Bedolla, CMT, founder and owner of Safe Space Bodywork. Photo by West Davis.

What do floating hands that guide energy through the body, the satisfying crack of a chiropractic adjustment, suction cups that reportedly draw metabolic waste to the surface, and the right amount of pressure in the right spot for the right amount of time all have in common?

They may be able to reduce your pain and give you your life back. While falling under the scope of alternative medicine, these techniques are hardly secret or fringe: Nontraditional bodywork practices have been helping people with chronic and acute pain, sleep, mood, stress, anxiety and trauma for hundreds of years. Now, more than 30 percent of Americans seek out modern applications of ancient remedies every year.

Perhaps the key to a better night’s sleep, straighter posture or a pain-free tennis swing is just a touch away. Here are a few options in the city.

CHIROPRACTIC AND SPORTS MASSAGE

Active Bodywork
Midtown: 2131 Capitol Ave., Suite 204
Arden Arcade: 2041 Hallmark Drive, Suite 2
activebodywork.com

For those seeking: Pain relief, injury prevention, improved muscle function, improved blood flow and heightened threshold for muscle fatigue.

How it works: Chiropractors use hands-on manipulations to joints, enabling the body to heal itself without surgery or medication. Sports massage is a preventive therapy that addresses muscle symmetry, tone and balance as well as range of motion. When soft tissue is manipulated to reduce pain and tension, muscle condition and range of motion are improved. What to expect in a session: After evaluating your pain level or decreased range of motion, the practitioner will work on you—and then you’ll immediately retest for improvement.

What’s different about it: Measurable results can be observed after a session. During your evaluation, if the massage therapist determines that significant results won’t be quickly obtainable, they can refer you across the hallway to the chiropractor. If your problem can be fixed without surgery or medication, it will be.

As the contracted massage and manual therapists for the Sacramento Kings for the past four seasons, Active Bodywork knows a little something about how to prevent and treat sports injuries. Fortunately, former athletes, weekend warriors and those of us still in the “couch” phase of couch-to-5K can take advantage of their offerings—the clinic is for everyone, not just professional athletes.

Todd Neider, CMT, owner/founder of Active Bodywork, was in a bad head-on collision as a teenager and tried every method and specialist to feel better, but the only thing that helped was the kind of massage that he offers today.

Todd Neider
Todd Neider

A current triathlete, 100-mile bike racer and half-marathon runner, Neider attributes the longevity of his love for active recreation to massage therapy. “With most massages, you just lay there, but life happens with movement in three dimensions—so we move your body while we work on you to get to the fibers from every angle,” he says.

While chiropractic care is already classified as alternative medicine, in-house chiropractor Scott Saberniak, DC, CFSC, is a bit of an alternative chiropractor himself: He still does adjustments, but he considers himself more of a movement rehab specialist. The ideal client for Saberniak is someone who has been in repetitive pain and maybe tried other treatments or even chiropractors, but still hasn’t found relief.

“In one session, you can definitely make some kind of improvement,” says Neider.

REIKI

Sacramento Reiki Center
2528 I St.
sacramentoreikicenter.com

For those seeking: Healing support with anxiety, depression, chronic illness, stress overload or grief.

How it works: Trauma, emotional pain and physical injury can create blocked or stagnant energy in the body, which can cause illness. Also referred to as hands-on healing or palm healing, this Japanese energy healing technique uses gentle hand movements to move energy through the body and guide patients to heal themselves using deep awareness, compassion and love. The practitioner harnesses universal life force, or “qi,” to rebalance the spirit, body and mind of the recipient.

What to expect in a session: Prior to the session, you’ll have an intake conversation to explore what you’re seeking support with and what outcomes you’re looking for. When you arrive at the center, you’ll lie down on your back, fully clothed, with just one job: to relax. Using their hands, the practitioner rebalances the areas of the body where there are stuck emotions, imbalances and blockages, and may also provide a guided meditation specifically tailored to your needs.

What’s different about it: “Reiki is different from other bodywork modalities because we treat the root of all illness: emotional imbalance and trauma,” says Selysa Love, Reiki master teacher and owner/founder of Sacramento Reiki Center. “Massage is for the muscles. Chiropractors are for the skeleton. Reiki is for the soul.”

Selysa Love
Selysa Love

Love says that she didn’t choose Reiki—it chose her. After her mother passed away, she was given a Reiki session that provided her with guidance and soothing for the deep pain and confusion she was experiencing. A few months later, while getting certified as a yoga teacher in India, Love was invited to participate in a Reiki training and attunement. When she returned home, she opened Sacramento Reiki Center.

The center specializes in helping people who suffer from anxiety, depression, chronic illness, stress and grief. For people who seek support with their physical health, Reiki can help them discover what emotional imbalance or trauma led to the manifestation of a chronic illness, Love says. And for those seeking support with mental health, Reiki can provide “total healing from all past traumas,” Love says, as well as the ability to achieve peace on your own. “We aim to heal the root cause of the disease, which will inhibit the further development of the illness and, in some cases, reverse it in its tracks,” Love says.

Curious but skeptical? Sacramento Reiki Center offers a complimentary call with a practitioner to discuss where you are, where you want to be and how Reiki can support your journey. During the call, you and the practitioner explore if you would like to continue working together.

MEDICAL/NEUROMUSCULAR MASSAGE

Oak Park Massage Clinic
(inside Evergreen Beauty and Wellness Collaborative)
2845 35th St.
oakparkmassageclinic.org

For those seeking: Accessible and effective wellness; restoration of mobility or relief from pain.

How it works: Stretching, application of heat or cold, and intentional, focused direct touch to the areas in pain (or areas that may be affecting it) allow muscles to relax.

What to expect in a session: There’s no need to get undressed! You aren’t there to be pampered in the traditional sense—you’re there to feel better. Before you do, though, you might feel a little more pain (but it’s worth it). “Bodywork can be uncomfortable or painful for people at times, but [it’s necessary] to make changes and fix things,” explains Rico Gordon, certified neuromuscular massage therapist and founder of Oak Park Massage Clinic. “The reason things are uncomfortable or painful is because those areas have been ignored for too long.” Instead of lotions and oils, think posture evaluation, muscle testing and a movement exam. After this, Gordon determines if the problem can be fixed on his table, or if you might need a doctor, X-ray or MRI.

Rico Gordon
Rico Gordon

What’s different about it: “It’s not a typical massage experience,” Gordon says. Rather  than a neck massage if you’re feeling pain, Gordon gets to the root of the issue by channeling focus and intent to the body part causing problems. “I hear from my patients that I have the ability to really access and affect their muscle knots, tissue and trigger points that other massage therapists can’t.”

There doesn’t always have to be a big life event like an accident to cause distress: We unknowingly hurt our bodies in little ways every day, and eventually it catches up with us.

“The last few years, many of us have been thrust into work environments that aren’t work environments—they’re our homes,” Gordon says. With people sitting in chairs or at desks, often not ergonomically optimized, for longer than we are used to, he has noticed an uptick of people experiencing pain or dysfunction in the body.

Gordon is passionate about making wellness accessible and affordable. “Everyone should have access to this type of healing,” he says. Offering internships for students at massage schools and sliding-scale payments, Gordon says, “I want to bring healing to my community in a real way. When you look at people of color, we are subjected to less access to resources and we don’t always have health insurance, but [people of color] are the largest groups suffering from mental illness and substance abuse.” If you’re in pain and unable to obtain a pain medication prescription, he explains, you might turn to liquor or other drugs. “I’m trying to heal generations of trauma. Hopefully I’m making an impact.”

CUPPING

Safe Space Bodywork
717 K St., Suite 510
safespacebodywork.com

For those seeking: Pain relief from previous accidents, trauma or conditions like TMJ, and help for swelling and allergies.

How it works: Cups are applied to the skin and create suction, increasing blood circulation to the area where the cups are placed. The new blood circulation can improve overall blood flow and promote cell repair, and may assist in the formation of new connective tissues and new blood vessels in that tissue. A traditional Chinese medicine practice that also dates back to ancient Egyptian and Middle Eastern cultures, the suction is thought to help facilitate flow of “qi,” or life force, in the body.

What to expect in a session: The first thing everyone wants to know is if it hurts. “It shouldn’t be painful,” says Tiffany Bedolla, CMT, owner/founder of Safe Space Bodywork. “On a scale of 1 to 10, we stay around a 5 or a 6. You should be able to feel the work, but it shouldn’t be uncomfortable.” Sessions usually last an hour but can be extended to two hours. The cups stay on one spot for 5 to 10 minutes before the practitioner glides them across the body to perform lymphatic drainage.

Tiffany Bedolla
Tiffany Bedolla

What’s different about it: Cupping differs from other bodywork because, instead of acupressure (where pressure is applied to the body), cupping does the opposite. “It’s negative pressure,” Bedolla says. “It lifts the layers—all of the compressing blood vessels and nerves—that are pressing together.”

Bedolla was born in Chicago but grew up in Mexico City, where she was raised on homeopathic, natural remedies. Though Bedolla ended up working in hospitals as an adult, she felt pulled to the holistic world and left her job at a physical therapy clinic to open her practice.

She offers several cupping options: glass cups heated by fire (the hotter the flame gets, the more suction the cup produces to help relax muscle tissue); plastic cups with manual pumps (described as “needleless acupuncture,” the cups have magnetic tips inside that are thought to aid with the flow of energy within the body); and orthopedic cups made of medical-grade silicone (they can be placed directly over bone and glided around the body, plus small amounts of air can be released if they are too tight). Bedolla also offers facial cupping, where the cups are much smaller and create much less pressure. “Cups used on the face create enough suction where you lift some of the fluid stuck around the face, especially with allergies, and release the muscles that get tight around the jaw. But these cups don’t leave any marks,” she says.

Speaking of marks: “People think they’re bruises, but they’re metabolic waste,” Bedolla says. “The more metabolic waste you have in your muscle fibers, the more the cups lift up to the surface and the darker the marks are.” Regular cupping, she says, leads to less metabolic waste in the body and lighter marks over time.

“After all of the metabolic waste comes to the surface, your lymphatic system is on high alert, like, ‘What’s going on?’ A lymphatic massage gets everything moving again,” she says.

Bedolla offers this method of bodywork because she feels it’s the best way to help people raise their quality of life. “Quality of life is the number one thing,” she says. “If you don’t have it, you can’t do anything.”

While alternative treatments in conjunction with traditional medicine may be helpful, always consult your primary care provider before beginning alternative care.