New Blog Post for Therapy Junction for International Stress Awareness Day


This blog is about the benefits of massage in dealing with stress.  International Stress Awareness Week takes place between 1st November-5th November 2021.  The highlight of the week is International Stress Awareness Summit, running from 3-4 November.  This awareness week was first held in 2018 by the International Stress Management Association (ISMAuk), a charity and the leading professional body for workplace and personal stress management wellbeing and performance.  You can find out more about the organisation and the work they do here.   

What is stress and why is it so bad?

Put simply, stress is the body’s reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure.  It happens all the time and can be useful in helping us to cope with the demands of work, home and family life.  

Too much stress, however, can affect our mood, our body and our relationships in negative ways.  When stress becomes a chronic state of being, it can have a physical effect on us, as well as affecting our mind.

Some of the physical symptoms you may experience include headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain and insomnia.  You may also feel fatigued, have muscle tension and physical pain.

Your behaviour might change, leading to increased levels of anger, drug/alcohol abuse, over/under-eating and social withdrawal.

Your mood will almost certainly be affected, leading to you feeling anxious, sad, depressed, irritable or restless.  You may lack motivation or focus when it comes to completing even the most straightforward of tasks. 

How can massage reduce stress?

I’m a massage therapist, and my clients regularly rave about how relaxed and calm they feel following treatment with me.  Having experienced massage myself, I agree that I leave a treatment feeling much calmer and more relaxed than when I entered the treatment room.  But is there any scientific proof that massage can help you to manage the stress in your life?

You may be surprised to hear that the answer is yes.  Scientific studies have been done that prove massage is an effective treatment in reducing stress, pain and muscle tension.

In particular, a study carried out by scientists at the University of Konstanz in Germany in September 2020, concluded that even a short 10-minute gentle massage can lower the heart rate enough to reduce stress.

Other studies have proved that massage increases the production of stress-busting hormones in the body, such as oxytocin and endorphins.  Swedish massage has been proven to reduce blood pressure and heart rate by inhibiting the body’s natural stress response.

What are the benefits of having a massage?

As I’ve already mentioned, there are many benefits from having massage treatment, including the stress-busting effect.  Some of the other things a massage can do are:

  • Reducing blood pressure and heart rate
  • Lowering insulin levels and the stress hormone, cortisol
  • Relaxing the muscles
  • Increasing blood circulation) leading to more oxygen and nutrients flowing into the body tissues)
  • Enhanced lymph flow for improved removal of waste and toxins
  • Boosts immune system
  • Releases endorphins, serotonin and dopamine
  • Reduction in stress-related pain

Can any massage work in reducing stress?

The studies I’ve read while preparing this blog indicate that even a short, gentle massage can lower blood pressure and reduce your heart rate.  Regular visits to a qualified massage therapist can only have a greater and longer-lasting effect in helping you manage the stress in your life.

I offer a wide choice of massage treatments, from facial to full body Swedish massage and everything in between.  A list of my treatments is available on my website, here

Details of how to contact me if you’re interested in making an appointment to visit me at the Zen Den, located in the grounds of Briardale House, Blyth, are also on my website, or you can find me on Facebook and Instagram.  


Hands up if you’ve ever had a migraine?  I don’t mean a bad headache or a hangover.  I mean a full on, at times debilitating, mind-bending migraine.

I do, and I’ve suffered from them for several years; for many of them I didn’t realise they were even migraines.  Even after I was diagnosed with them, I still struggled with spotting when I was actually having one.  Looking back, my first recollection of having a migraine comes from when I was quite young, and was at home.  I was watching the TV, and suddenly had this feeling of the telly being huge and coming towards me, enveloping me in colour and sound.  When I described this memory to someone many years later, they agreed that it was a migraine aura.

I think I’m better aware of the warning signs now, but I still sometimes miss them.  My sister has, at times, pointed out that she thinks I’m having a migraine; she’s better at recognising the signs than I am!

Now, after years of battling through and trying to carry on through an attack, I’ve developed strategies that help me to get through and recover a bit more quickly.  It’s really helped me to understand how migraines work, and to realise that I don’t always get the same symptoms every time.

There are 4 stages to a migraine; Pro-drome, Aura, Attack and Post-drome:

  • PRO-DROME – This refers to the pre-cursors to an attack and can include tiredness, cravings for certain foods, mood swings, extreme thirst, neck stiffness and frequent yawning.  These feelings can span between 1-24 hours.  Just a note; many people associate some foods with causing an attack, such as chocolate or caffeine, but if you crave these things during the pro-drome stage, they are not the cause of your migraine.
  • AURA – About 1/3 of people experience aura, but this doesn’t happen every time.  They occur due to a spontaneous, slow-moving wave passing over the surface of the brain which temporarily affects the way parts of the brain functions as it travels over them.  The symptoms depend on which parts are affected.  Typical aura are visual, where you might see flashing lights, wavy lines, distorted or blurry vision or even a blind spot.  The other kind are sensory aura, including ringing in your ears, smelling strange odours or just a ‘funny feeling’.  Aura typically last less than an hour, and can bleed through into the next stage.  The majority of migraines strike without the presence of aura, but it’s useful to be aware of how your migraines manifest as they’re an important warning sign of an imminent attack
  • ATTACK – This is the main stage and can include intense pain on one or both sides of the head, nausea, vomiting and light and sound sensitivity.  The attack phase can last up to 3 days if untreated, and the severity will probably be different every time.
  • POST-DROME – Also known as the recovery phase, this is often described as feeling like a hangover or being extremely tired.  Other symptoms include brain fog, trouble concentrating and depression.  This phase can last up to 24 hours, although this varies from person to person.

My experience of migraine is that can’t always identify a cause, although I’m aware that stress is a major factor for me.  I’ve also noted that I sometimes get a migraine around the time of my period.  A change in hormone levels due to both of these things has been identified as a cause of migraines.  At this point it’s useful to note that migraine affects 3 times as many women as it does men. Typical! 

My strategy for dealing with my migraines has improved over the years as I’ve come to understand my triggers and what works.  I have medication prescribed by my GP, and if I can take that early enough in an attack it can really help, but I’ve also found various other things help me.  Going to bed in a dark room (or wearing an eye mask) with a weighted blanket, listening to a guided meditation to help me control my breathing, stodgy food, drinking water, if I can tolerate it —sometimes a sip of water can bring on nausea —, caffeine, a hot bath with CBD bath salts and eucalyptus oil to help clear my sinuses.  This isn’t a exhaustive list; there are other things that sometimes work or help with the symptoms, depending on which stage I’m in when I realise it’s a migraine.  

One of the most obvious signs that give away the fact that I’m having a migraine attack is that I can’t find the right words, or it takes my brain longer than normal to process what I want to say.  I also become very sensitive to light and sound.  These effects often bleed through into the post-drome stage for me, and I can have a brain fog feeling for a couple of days after the attack phase.

I very rarely give in to the migraine; if I’ve got stuff I need to do, I take my medication, and carry on through the attack as much as I can.  If I’ve got nothing urgent that needs doing, then I can take the time to sleep, use my meditation and breathing techniques and get through the attack in that way.  I hate giving in to the attack though, and can be too stubborn for my own good at times, in wanting to battle through.  But I firmly believe that this condition will not define me, and that I will not let it rule my life.  I think of myself as a migraine warrior; I don’t suffer, I power on!


Stages of a migraine attack – The Migraine Trust

What are the different types of migraine aura?

Understanding the Postdrome Stage of Migraine Doctor Q&A – Migraine Again

Hormones and Migraine – National Migraine Centre

Ear Candling Myth Buster


Right, let’s get this sorted right at the start.  There is no evidence that ear candling originated with the Hopi Indians in North America.  A representative of the Hopi Tribal Council has stated that ‘ear candling is not and has never been practiced or conducted by the Hopi people.’

So that’s one myth shattered.  I’m on a roll so I’m going to shatter another one.  

Are you ready?  

Ear candling will NOT remove earwax from your ears.  

That is NOT what the treatment is for.  



Well then, you’re probably thinking now, what the heck is it for?  It’s actually a treatment to help alleviate symptoms relating to blocked sinus and nasal canals.  These can lead to a variety of chronic mucus problems such as sinus congestion, postnasal drip, blocked nose, ear pressure, mucus cough and earache due to pressure problems.

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that ear candling can also help to improve balance, vertigo symptoms, snoring and smell or hearing issues.  

The only scientific research I’ve been able to find focuses on the fact that the candling treatment doesn’t remove earwax, but as I’ve already said, it’s not actually meant to do that.  Any therapist who claims that this treatment will do this probably was trained many years ago before further research was done.

Modern ear candles are made from unbleached cotton or linen, soaked in paraffin or beeswax.  The candles are formed into a tube, and infused with a variety of therapeutic herbs, which can have an aromatherapy effect, and helps the vapours from the burning candle vibrate against the ear drum, which is what eases pressure and allows fluid, or mucus, to drain from the sinuses.  I follow the burning of the candles with a lymphatic drainage massage to help with this process, as part of my ear candling treatment.

When you come to have this treatment with me, I’ll ask you to lie on my couch on one side, and I use a tissue, with a hole torn in it to protect you from the cold ash which may fall from the candle.  I’ll try the candle in your ear to make sure it feels comfortable to you, before lighting the candle and placing it in your ear.  As the candle burns it’s perfectly normal to hear crackling and popping sounds as the candle burns and the air heats up and causes the fluid in the sinuses to vibrate and loosen.  

I remove the candle, which has a built in filter to ensure no debris can fall into your ears, by the way, and extinguish it.  I’ll then ask you to turn over to the side and repeat the process with your other ear.  My hope is that as the candle is burning you’ll feel your sinuses start to clear; you’ll be able to breathe through your nose easier, and you may feel the pressure easing.

Once the second candle has burned down, you can lie on your back and I’ll perform a soothing lymphatic drainage massage on your face, focussing on the sinuses to help the mucus drain away.

This treatment is not a cure; you’ll feel the benefit from one treatment, but the symptoms will probably return.  Repeated treatments are recommended, depending on when you feel they’re necessary.  I have this treatment myself, and I try to have it at least every 2 weeks, if not weekly.

If you’d like to talk some more about the treatment, or make a booking, please contact me here


Ear candling – Wikipedia


Positive Health Online | Article – Ear Candling: The Basic Facts

Origins of ear candling (

Ear candles by Naturhelix – Balance Energy Health

Ear Candling: A Fool Proof Method, or Proof of Foolish Methods? Heather L. Shenk Jess Dancer Medical and Surgical Miscellaneous 1010 (