Monday, November 15, 2010


On Sunday, November 7, the New York City Marathon was run by 46,000 athletes, making it the largest race on earth. Students from Swedish Institute, as well as SISTEM therapists, joined in the excitement of the day by caring for athletes at the start and finish of the race. Charles Pegg, director for Offsite II, and Executive Director of SISTEM, created the following time line of the day to give a sense of just how much our team of therapists accomplished.

6:00 am
Race day started early for two of our senior therapists who were hired to work for the NYRR at the Continental VIP tent in Staten Island. Natalie and Teruko get on the sponsor’s VIP bus and head to the start line.

7:30 am
Natalie and Teruko provided pre-event support to the athletes in the Continental VIP tent. They were done by 10:30 am and driven back up to the finish line in Central Park to join in there.

Meanwhile Scott and Will loaded the van with equipment for the SISTEM teams in the medical tents, the OS II student training events with Fred’s team, and the area for runners from the FDNY.

9:00 am
SISTEM Supervisors Thom, Carrie, Natalie, Brenda, Lori, Betsy and Kendall met at the corner of Central Park West and 66th St. (During visits to the NYRR Operations Trailer to provide paid stress reduction teams throughout race week, I had decided on having us meet tucked out of the way on the North East corner. This was quickly changed by popular need to the sunny West side of the street. The weather was brisk and our race day plans were escalated!)

9:30 am
Twenty-five SISTEM therapists and interns met, signed in, and were placed into teams and dispatched to medical tents.

9:45 am
We passed through security and our teams were established in one of four medical tents around the finish line in Central Park. We were provided with “bibs” that said LMT and worked as part of integrated teams alongside equally bibbed physical therapists, nurses, medics and doctors.

10:00 am
The first wheel chair athletes crossed the finish line.

10:45 am
Extra Wonder Warmers were delivered to each SISTEM team.

What are Wonder Warmers? These are brilliant little heating devices: Silicone bags filled with saline solution. Food grade and environmentally friendly, they trigger a crystalline reaction, get hot and stay hot for 40 minutes. They can be boiled to reuse. A great product that’s invaluable for the cold. Temperature control is always a large part of our service and from the forecast we were expecting a chilly day. Thankfully, our wonderful product sponsors were able to provide for our race week’s needs. Having them made us the envy of all the other practitioners.

11:30 am
Carrie and I started working with the elite professionals. We provided emotional support, cramp relief, temperature control, pain management and more cramp relief. Interesting to see how we fit in to the plans of the other practitioners. Who wants to do what and what are the different techniques being used? Always nice to see the other modalities warm to our approach and usefulness. The WWs helped too!

12 noon
The equipment team delivered tables and admin supplies to the FDNY OS II event at a hotel in midtown.

12:30 pm
Supervisor Jen, SISTEM therapists and Renee’s FDNY team report in to work at the OS II site.

12:45 pm
OS II student therapists reported to work, were signed in and briefed, then set to work with the fastest FDNY finishers.

1:00 pm
Natalie returned from the VIP tent and rejoined the SISTEM teams that were hard at work looking after the quicker athletes. Cramp relief, muscle tears, exhaustion, temperature controls, breath support and backing up the medics doing BPs, temps, electrolyte readings, IVs and oxygen.

1:30 pm
Student intern teams were assembled and allocated to bolster the medical teams. We met up, distributed passes and walked in past the streams of athletes in the finish line shoot. The crush of bodies, the vibe, the smells! We worked the current, regrouped and interns were distributed to medical tents along the way.

2:00 pm
The equipment team delivered massage tables and admin supplies to the second OS II event with Fred’s Team at their hotel in midtown.

2:30 pm
OS II supervisors, Taiine and Jess, reported in and prepared to work.

2:45 pm
OS II student therapists reported in, were briefed, prepared and set to work with the Fred’s team athletes that run for Memorial Sloan Kettering charity.

4:00 pm
FDNY OS II interns finished their 3-hour requirement. Through this event, most students find they’ve realized their massage skills and are thrilled by the experience; some volunteered for more and other therapists were reallocated to assist the firemen.

5:00 pm
More interns were requested to back up the farthermost medical tent and we responded with a team of five, bringing extra blankets and WWs. We were busy immediately and the students did a great job providing basic skills. This stuff works and the students’ confidence lights them up. The suffering athletes appreciate the work; recovery times improve.

5:30 pm
By this time, medical tent 5 and Brenda’s crew had seen 1,000 athletes. This number was announced as 400 more than the number at the main finish line tent. A cheer went up! One hundred cots were still full of athletes waiting for care.

6:00 pm
Fred’s team OS II wrapped it up and the equipment team joined the supervisors with the FDNY.

Medical tents were closing and we were still providing care. The older and the slower athletes, having given just as much, if not more than the quickest of pros, needed a little help and a moment of care to get them home.

7:00 pm
Over 3,000 competitors were cared for today. Skills and products were utilized and recognized. Next, we needed to get equipment back to the school.

Slowly, we were able to congregate, greet each other and share stories of the day—how Will was able to show an MD how to treat a cramp, how often we’re the ones to have hands on first, the things we do well. Opportunities were earned for races and situations to come.

Volunteers were thanked, especially Hallie for being there first and for her admin support, Chisato for her language skills, Sang for stepping in when necessary, Kasha for being there at the end and all the others that did something special that went unseen!

Thanks also to Dr. Weiss and the New York Road Runners, who have stepped up and started to include us. There’s more paid work and volunteering on its way…. so get prepared and be ready for next year!

Charles Pegg, LMT
Offsite II Supervisor
Executive Director of SISTEM

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Farewell to Fall


OK, so it’s starting to get cold outside. The change of seasons is always a challenge to body and mind. We know this from Shiatsu and acupuncture studies and from the way we start to feel right about now.

At the end of spring, we asked students to share what they looked forward to in summer. It’s only fair, now that it’s late fall, to give winter an equal opportunity to be welcomed. Because it seems a little harder to face winter, let’s see if we can generate some community warmth about it!

Send in your thoughts about winter—what do you like, look forward to, or remember fondly about it? What are your getting-ready-for-winter rituals? We invite writing, poetry, painting, photos, songs, or any other creative outlet.

Entries will be posted on The Swede (writing may be edited for grammar or length with your approval) and all entries will be put into a drawing for a $25 gift certificate for Starbucks. Send entries to [email protected] by November 19, 2010. A winning entry will be selected on November 22, 2010.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Alumni Services at Spa Expo


Geoff Dawe

Swedish Institute hosted a table at the Spa & Resort/Medical Aesthetics Expo held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center on September 28-29. Spa owners and suppliers from around the world attend this show, which bills its focus as “the business of aesthetics and wellness”. Our Alumni Services department wanted to be there to remind everyone about our school and the high caliber of massage therapists that we train. We also wanted to remind participants how important it is to hire massage therapists who are licensed.

Graduates and students were invited to attend the exhibit free of charge, as guests of the school. Many stopped by to chat and say hello and update us on what they’ve been doing.

Instructor Geoff Dawe was on hand to give a presentation about bringing clinical skills to a spa environment. A former lead therapist at the Peninsula Hotel spa, Geoff shared his knowledge about spa services and customer service. His lecture and demonstration caught the attention of a spa owner from Turkey, who later asked for information about how she could hire a teacher to provide classes for her therapists. Will Geoff, who recently returned from working in Hawaii, soon be leaving for a stint in Turkey?

The next opportunity to visit this Expo will be June 2011. Mark your calendars and stay tuned.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Massage Therapy in The News


The need for touch is in the air again. Two stories about the benefits of massage therapy were recently reported in the media.

On Monday, September 20, National Public Radio ran a story called “Human Connections Start with a Friendly Touch”, which briefly explained how touch affects the body and mind. It began with a description of the sensitivity of the skin, our largest organ. Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institutes at the University of Miami in Florida, explained that when somebody touches the skin the pressure activates receptors called Pacinian corpuscles.

The Pacinian corpuscles' signals go directly to an important nerve bundle deep in the brain, the vagus nerve, which goes down to several internal organs, including the heart. The vagus nerve then slows down the heart and decreases blood pressure.

Another way touch is beneficial is through hormonal changes that were described by Matt Hertenstein, an experimental psychologist at DePauw University in Indiana. He explained that touch can reduce the stress hormone cortisol and increase the neuropeptide oxytocin. "Oxytocin is a neuropeptide, which basically promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding," he said. Research shows that oxytocin levels go up with holding hands, hugging, and especially with therapeutic massage.

Listen to the report or read it on NPR. Comments on their site about this report remind us that touch is not universally accepted, something that professional development class goes into in detail.

On Tuesday, September 21 The New York Times ran an article entitled “Massage Benefits are More Than Skin Deep.” A report on research sponsored by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the article ran in the science section.

Researchers recruited 53 healthy adults and randomly assigned 29 of them to a 45-minute session of deep-tissue Swedish massage and the other 24 to a session of light massage. All of the subjects were fitted with intravenous catheters so blood samples could be taken immediately before the massage and up to an hour afterward. Volunteers who had the light massage experienced greater increases in oxytocin, a hormone associated with contentment, than the Swedish massage group, and bigger decreases in adrenal corticotropin, a hormone that stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol. Volunteers also had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system. The study was published online in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

Monday, September 27, 2010

CE Coordinator Heather Hart Launches Art Project


Heather Hart

Join our Continuing Education Coordinator, Heather Hart, at her latest art project titled “Barter Town”. This free event will be held on October 3 from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm as part of the Art in Odd Places Festival. Location is on 14th Street and Ave C. Four Swedish Institute alumni will be among the participants who will barter services, objects, ideas or performances with the public in this street art project.

We appreciate the wonderful job Heather does as part of the Alumni Services Department. But her creativity is more fully unleashed as an artist and sculptor. She just completed a residency at the Franconia Sculpture Park. She was selected for participation in the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program and was a recent NYFA Fellowship recipient. If you want to see some of her beautiful or whimsical pieces, go to her website www.heather-hart.com.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

M.D. Points to Stress Reduction, Not Drugs, for Disease Prevention



Once when I was supervising an offsite internship for the Massage Therapy Program, I overheard a fourth semester student explain apologetically that he was interested in providing “only relaxation massage”. I interjected that there was no reason to apologize, because a truly relaxing massage could be just as significant as more targeted types of massage such as sports massage or myofascial release. Research into the impact of stress on every level of health and healing continues to shed light on just how important reducing stress can be.

In the current issue of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine (May/June 2010, Vol 16, No.3) Mark A. Hyman, MD looks at some large drug trials that attempted to demonstrate that targeting risk factors with pharmacological agents would reduce the risk of chronic disease endpoints such as cardiovascular events, diabetes, and mortality. Although drugs aggressively target risk factor reduction—lowering glucose, blood pressure and lipids, for instance—the data from these trials indicate that these efforts consistently failed to show benefit in primary prevention.

“Lipids, glucose, and blood pressure were all effectively reduced in these trials,” Dr. Hyman writes. “But there was no reduction in morbidity and mortality in any of the trials reported, and there were significant side effects.” Dr. Hyman compares the risk factors of elevated blood pressure or cholesterol as “the smoke, not the fire” that creates chronic disease.

Although seventy-five percent of statin prescriptions are written for primary prevention at a cost of more than $20 billion per year, Dr. Hyman points out that, “While there is some evidence for benefits of statin therapy for those with existing disease, there is no good evidence for primary prevention.” He concludes that, “A dramatic paradigm shift is needed in the targets for primary prevention. The era of individual risk factor reduction must now be supplanted by treatment of the etiology of chronic disease through a systems or functional model of diagnosis and treatment.” Dr. Hyman suggests that underlying causes of conditions like cardiovascular disease most likely result from insulin resistance, inflammation, environmental toxins, and stress. He suggests that treatment should target these factors.

Measuring the stress response 
Hans Selye, MD, the physician who first wrote about the effects of stress from a medical perspective in 1950, would be very excited about the research going on today. Dr. Selye’s contribution to medicine was defining the general adaptation syndrome (G.A.S), a response which involves virtually every organ and chemical constituent of the human body. In doing so, he proposed a way to measure stress objectively in terms of physical and chemical changes in the body.

In his book The Stress of Life, Dr. Selye predicted that “The study of stress differs essentially from research with artificial drugs because it deals with the defensive mechanisms of our own body. The significance of this kind of research is not limited to fighting this or that disease. It has a bearing upon all diseases and indeed upon all human activities.”

Anticipating Dr. Hyman by more than half a century, Dr. Selye proposed that the cause of conditions such as cardiovascular disease and digestive disorders stem in part from failures in the stress-fighting mechanism of the body.

Strengthening the body’s adaptive response 
Integrative health care offers many ways for people to reduce perceptions of stress and reactions to stressors. Yoga, meditation, imagery, exercise, acupuncture and massage can all be part of alleviating stress. Most of these modalities are generalized responses, which naturally enhance the general adaptation response of the body. From Dr. Selye’s viewpoint, they would be a valuable part of the future of medicine, offering “a new type of treatment, whose essence is to combat disease by strengthening the body’s own defenses against stress.”

Alumni from our programs are among the pioneers bringing the benefits of massage therapy and acupuncture to people they see privately as well as in hospitals. Their efforts are being looked at in a new light, as researchers uncover more about the role they play in reducing stress and pain. Far from being apologetic about it, therapists who provide stress reduction while understanding its far-reaching effect will be excited about their future work. They may be at the heart of the emerging field of integrative care that has prevention at its core.

Barbara Goldschmidt, LMT
Sinews editor

For more information:
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
Touch Research Institutes 
Tiffany Field, PhD. Touch Therapy. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone, 2000.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ericka Clinton is Light-Hearted on Sirius

Ericka Clinton
Clinic director Ericka Clinton was a guest on a Martha Stewart Radio program on Monday, February 8, giving hosts Kim Fernandez and Betsy Karetnick tips on how to provide a loved one with a massage for Valentine’s Day.

The first question for Ericka: Why is it that when you give someone a massage at home, it often starts out with a kind of shriek of surprise from the receiver? That’s not what happens during a professional massage. How do you ensure a smooth start?

As it turns out, the host confessed that she often wants to dig in with a “Vulcan death grip”. Ericka laughed, and suggested the most basic element of offering massage: take your time.

“Rub your hands together briskly to warm them up,” Ericka advised. “Just place your hands on the receiver’s low back and hold them there, to get the ‘conversation’ going.” She encouraged simple gliding strokes up along the spine and around the shoulder blades, just enough to get the muscles warmed and increase the blood flow.

The hosts asked what they should do if they find a “knot” in someone’s back, should they “knead” it, could they use the “Vulcan death grip” then? Ericka laughed again. “Well, kneading and working out knots would involve more advanced knowledge,” she replied. “If you find a lot of knots, then you’ll want to give your loved one the gift of a professional massage.”

Friday, February 12, 2010

Kettlebells and Vincent Metzo going global!

Vincent Metzo, MA, LMT, CSCS, will be teaching Kettlebell Concepts (Instructor Training Level 1) and his Flexibility and Corrective Exercise Specialist course at Seoul University in Seoul, South Korea next week.

Vincent Metzo is director of the Advanced Personal Training course and chairman of the Massage Therapy Science Department here at Swedish Institute. He offers Kettlebell Bootcamp classes on campus every semester through Continuing Education.

Follow Vincent on Facebook or check back here for updates on the trip and whether or not his kettlebells make it through airport security! Bon Voyage, Vincent!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Paula Chin, LAc, LMT

Paula Chin
Paula Chin’s smile is as wide as her hair is long. She has a different look on her face, however, when she is wielding a knife. That’s because she is trained—in the tradition of the Chinese scholar-warrior—in both the healing and the martial arts. In addition to massage, acupuncture and Tui Na, Paula is skilled in Kendo and Filipino Stick and Knife fighting.

It takes a warrior’s spirit to face people’s pain with little more than your hands. Asked how she approaches a client’s pain Paula explained, “It really depends on the individual, and what they are seeking.” Her approach to a client’s condition reveals the creative process at work in a complementary approach like massage or acupuncture.

What about a headache, for instance? “Headaches are complicated;” she replied, “because all headaches are different. Energetically, I look to see if it is part of a pattern. For instance, it might be due to a hormonal imbalance, or an acute pathogen, or a tendino-muscular disturbance. Depending on the pattern, I’ll choose which channels to work on and which external applications to use.”

What about a direct trauma, like a kick in the shin? Is that more straightforward? When you work energetically, maybe not. “With a direct trauma, I first want to know if it is acute or chronic,” Paula said. “I might start by applying lubricant using general strokes over the leg. Then go into deeper strokes. Then add medicated lubricants, like Dit Dat Jiao (an herbal liniment) or White Flower Oil.

“I might add Luo points, as well as work above and below the injury. The more you know, the more selections you’ll have; it allows you to be more creative in your treatment plan. One thing leads to another, like an unfolding path that takes place between me and the client.”

And where is the path going? “I’m seeking to free up an area so the body can heal itself,” Paula answered. “I want to release constriction so fluids and energy can course thru the muscles. With most injuries we have pain, but it’s not necessarily a negative thing; it’s the body’s way to protect itself from further injury.

“Pain comes from tightness, an inability to move forward. If you’re injured and you’re stressed, the body doesn’t know what’s healthy anymore. It goes from one state of tension to another. What I hope to do as a practitioner is help people restore movement and help them go forward with less fear.”

Paula has been teaching Swedish massage and other classes in the Massage Therapy Program since 1988 and in the Acupuncture Program since its inception in 1996.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Resilience and Bodywork

George Russell
When clients new to my chiropractic practice tell me stories of injuries, they will often say something like this: “The thing is, I wasn’t doing anything. I was just bending over to pick up a paper clip and—boom—my back went out.” Or: “It all started last winter, when I slipped on the subway steps—before that, I never had a problem.”

Many people, whether or not they believe they know the cause of an injury, simply want the pain and physical limitations to go away so that they can get on with their busy lives. Who can blame them? Who among us hasn’t wanted the same thing? However, in order to prevent future injury—and possible catastrophe—we all need to be willing to look more deeply at ourselves and engage in a dialogue with our body.

I think of the “phenomenon” of injury as the meeting of a long-held habit with an unfortunate event. The unfortunate event is the more obvious factor; it may take the form of a fall, a car accident, lay-off from a job, or a sudden decline of health in a family member. These events are often truly unpredictable. We may think that the place we injure, whether it’s our back, elbow, or ankle, is also random. Yet the injury is determined largely by habits we had acquired long before the event occurred.

Our habits are recorded in our body and reflect our experiences in the same way that the rings of a tree reflect its life. We can talk about breaking habits we have that lead to bad backs, sore necks, or disease and cancer, but our talk often doesn’t lead to action—we still hunch head-forward toward the laptop screen, smoke, leave late for work and run for the train. We get stuck, and our bodies reflect the way we habitually act. Form follows function.

How can we begin to know ourselves—our many forms and functions—on deeper level? Through a new dialogue with the body. Some experienced bodyworkers facilitate this by touching, shifting and moving the body, not only within and between muscles and joints, but also within the automatic, unconscious part of the mind that controls how we stand and hold ourselves. It is this dialogue that opens the door to change and acclimates our bodies to the change. Bodywork interrupts nervous system patterns and opens the door to new patterns that are more functional, and helps us have fewer injuries and greater resilience.

Resilience is more about the nervous system and mind than it is about our bony and muscular structure or the particulars of the environment. To be resilient is to be open to change. Resilience requires the breaking of habit, which almost always requires an outside perspective, and often requires a crisis, small or large. A wonderful tool for building awareness, breaking habit, and opening to change is to be touched and moved by massage and bodywork.

Dr. George Russell is a bodyworker, chiropractor, teacher, counselor and movement specialist. He is a former professional dancer, and a long-time student of Yoga, Pilates and Alexander techniques. Energy medicine, guided imagery, the 12 steps, and psychotherapy all inform his approach to care. He is a popular teacher in our Continuing Education Department and has several upcoming classes in our current semester

Take a look at all of the classes for Winter/Spring 2010.