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Merri Lou Dobler, Thai Massage for Sciatica
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Merri Lou Dobler
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February 27, 2022 - 10:04 am
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Module 1. I am looking forward to this course on Thai Massage for sciatica, both a personal interest and also to develop my massage skills.  I enjoy learning anatomy and physiology and I am a big fan of using Thai Massage, which has mainly been practicing with my youngest daughter as well as some sessions with a few women in my 55+ community. 

This first module lays it out clearly about the sciatic nerve and how it relates to the Piriformis muscle. The video has some good pictures which show how the sciatic nerve works, or doesn't work, for whatever reason or reasons are involved. I can check off at least five of the reasons why Sciatica is something I periodically deal with, as I sit here with one leg crossed over the other (!)

I have one yoga student in her 80s who asked me two weeks ago about possible symptoms related to Sciatica, and I kept that conversation in the back of my mind for choosing this course. A previous neighbor had once expressed her frustration with having Sciatica pain that would never go away, and I think of that too, what could I offer?

There are so many questions in life, Shama, and I am looking forward to answering a few of them with this course on Sciatica!  Thank you so much.

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Shama Kern
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February 27, 2022 - 10:20 am
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Amazing - you are a real powerhouse when it comes to learning. I am impressed with your determination and ability to digest all this material so rapidly, one course after another. Smile

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Merri Lou Dobler
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March 2, 2022 - 3:17 am
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Module 2.  This module was laid out exactly as if someone came in with all their questions about how they got sciatica, how do they test for it, how can you help yourself and will it go away for good! It's very clearly stated information and understandable. Since there are other syndromes and problems that may seem like sciatica, this material is important to ask the right questions back to the client.

It helps to have a list of all the ways massage can help with sciatica, and the simple tests to determine if it actually is sciatica was great information. The piriformis muscle identification can be a tricky one. And you come back to the holistic approach to this problem for people, who will be so focused on that one area of pain that it is your job as therapist to back them up a bit, help identify lifestyle concerns, reassure them about the benefits of massage for their body, and be a support to them.

Thank you Shama!

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Shama Kern
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March 2, 2022 - 6:18 am
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And all this and more will be addressed in detail in this course, including self-help exercises.

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Merri Lou Dobler
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March 3, 2022 - 5:00 am
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Module 3.  I appreciated the overview of the whole area to work with, the low back, glutes, piriformis and getting familiar with hands-on work for them. The footwork was also good, especially if you have a big person to work on and you need to get movement going to loosen things up. The low back movement is super important and the techniques of creating space around the spine, with one hand holding the space and the other carefully working around the erector muscles.

The tips on how to use your foot for effective Thai massage are so good!  Turning 45 degrees, stepping back instead of right next to the person, using your heel and other parts of the foot, helped me to understand how to make a difference with this. My daughter was ticklish with my hands on her glutes but she allowed me to use a foot on her low back.  I could move my foot carefully, keeping my balance, something I will work with. It was  a good experience,  and when I could finally  breathe into it, I think I had the correct sensations and body sense to at least understand what to do. Relax and breathe, use the whole body, be with my daughter.  Thank you!

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Merri Lou Dobler
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March 5, 2022 - 9:41 am
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Module 4. I am glad of some experience with using the elbow on the back to loosen up muscles and, in this case, to loosen up the lumbar spine for the sciatic nerves underneath it.  Anatomy part was explained well, and I liked the sacrum explanation  as beneficial for loosening it to move the sciatic nerves that extend out from S 1-S3. It really helps to have a location to work on and then to understand what you are dealing with. It has been quite a while since I've had a review of this, and it was great to put some pieces together. Learning always motivates me.

My daughter loves percussion, and she also did well with hand/palm rocking, circles, back and forth.  I could have done percussion for a long time! I worked in one area and modified the techniques, to see what she could tolerate, and I moved up a little, lumbar to thoracic, but not very far since she was doing okay with the lumbar area.  The fingertips wiggling actually had her giggling, so it was best to use the elbows, and then she relaxed again. My daughter is attuned to when I am shifting to straddle her, and as long as one knee is up then she is fine.  I think her lower back had some soreness in it, I could feel some tension in the groove.  I eased in and out to loosen it.  We came back to some rocking which felt good to her and it brought me out of the mental state of getting the exact location, to enjoying being with her in a more holistic way.  Thank you Shama!

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Shama Kern
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March 5, 2022 - 8:08 pm
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Your daughter and you are quite the team! Did you start working on her when you came across the Thai Massage courses, or did you always do that before?

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Merri Lou Dobler
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March 7, 2022 - 9:52 am
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Module 5.   Thank you for the question about my daughter!  She has needed special heel cream for cracked heels over the years, and it was never anything scheduled, just as she needed it or I noticed it. And then we settled into a really neat routine when I started the Complete Thai Massage course. Now it is every night, usually on the Thai mat or just a blanket on the floor. If my daughter is really tired she sets a towel on her bed and lies down, closing her eyes, relaxing while I do massage. It is the neatest thing for our relationship, and the stress of these times makes Thai massage a very good tool for her.

It was so cool to see how the forearm, then elbow, then knee can be used in the piriformis muscle. My daughter was okay with the forearm and elbow in her left piriformis but she is generally tighter in her right one and she did not want the techniques. Practice will have to come with other people.  My daughter was happy with rocking instead and it is beneficial for general relaxation.

I went slow with the sacrum in case it was ticklish to her, but as long as it was just the palm of my hands on both sides, then she was fine. I will need some practice to get comfortable with this too.  The transition from one side to the other looks smooth on the video. I practiced with a rolled up Mexican blanket today as I reviewed a sequence for my upcoming yoga classes, all of it good for flexibility. You have to practice so you can get it in your body and can do it without a lot of thinking, thus taking focus off the person on the floor.

Good information to be practiced, and a lovely relationship time with m daughter with Thai massage. Thank you!

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Shama Kern
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March 7, 2022 - 10:30 am
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"You have to practice so you can get it in your body and can do it without a lot of thinking, thus taking focus off the person on the floor."  -  It reminds me of something. My wife is a good driver, but only on an automatic. I am just teaching her how to drive a stick shift. For me, after 50 years of driving, it is totally in my body, but not yet for her.

I told her that she needs to get to the point where she doesn't have to think about the gears anymore, where it is totally part of her body. I told her that it works the same as in Thai Massage (which she is an expert in) where you have to feel the moves and have them in your body without needing to think about them. That example made a lot of sense to her. Smile

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Merri Lou Dobler
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March 11, 2022 - 3:09 am
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Module 6.  Great comparison to driving stick shift. You are very brave to sit with someone learning this! 

I am finishing up Module 6; my daughter was not feeling good for a few days so we didn't get to do much, although I practiced with my granddaughter's doll and really enjoyed the power technique for rocking, leg over thigh, reaching under the waist and leaning back. It feels like a lot of power.  I also used the doll for the piriformis with forearm to release the piriformis and can see how this technique would be. The trick was gradually increasing the pressure, which applies just about everywhere else too.

My daughter liked using pillows for a modified face cradle and she tolerated the hamstrings stretch of using the forearms. Clasping the hands, doing circles, was soothing to my daughter, both legs. I hope to do the hip rocking with the straddle sometime. 

We did what we could; I feel good about some techniques and want to learn to do others. A work in progress, and thank you.

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Shama Kern
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March 11, 2022 - 9:26 am
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I hope your granddaughter's doll is quite big! Smile

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Merri Lou Dobler
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March 12, 2022 - 8:15 am
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Module 7.  This "Sweetie Mine" doll is 43" tall, life-size it says!  It is bigger than my granddaughter, who is only 3 1/2 years old. There are two dolls in this Anico life-size doll category on Amazon and it has helped me a lot to have it to practice on.  So, we are on piriformis stretches.  My daughter's anatomy is such that she has chunky and short thighs, and her bent leg, cross-over, won't allow her foot on the floor wthout turning her body and elevating the hip. I was able to stabilize the other foot, with a little shifting up to align with it, and I modified  things to bend her knee as it could go and also reach her sacrum. She really enjoyed the contact and movement  but my body mechanics were off. The other side  with the same techniques were the same way, but it was relaxing for my daughter, so worth it all.

The classic piriformis was also pretty tight with not as much flexibility evident but a rocking motion felt good for her. I was cautious with a circling of the knee, small circles but going well.  I again don't think I had body mechanics right for supporting her bent leg in the groin and then pulling the leg back, but then I was able to do rocking and that was great. Once you get something you know immediately it is going to be very good.  I could feel the hip tightness with the next technique, some of her foot, bent out, and the stretch in the knee was good. The stretch worked with holding the opposite hip, with rocking, and was amazing to me how this went.

I can see how this can really help someone with their piriformis issue, and I will be doing pigeon pose at my next yoga practice!  Thank you!

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March 13, 2022 - 10:11 am
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I came up with the idea of a sciatica course because once I had a client with sciatica, and I got the nerve to release with just a couple of techniques. I thought that this is worth sharing. Of course I put a lot more into the course than a couple of techniques. Smile

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Merri Lou Dobler
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March 16, 2022 - 8:57 am
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Module 8.  This module opened my awareness to the many ways clients can be helped who have sciatica. Lifestyle habits are very basic and a motivated person can bring their own healing ability by making some changes in their habits, small steps first. How motivated a person is to making a change can be a big deal!  

This module makes a lot of sense in how it is laid out, with an outline of four basic ways to approach sciatica and then a great demonstration of yoga and exercises specifically to help sciatica and piriformis and loosening up the back muscles. People know that walking is good for them, and now they might be more motivated to walk if they have sciatica issues.

My daughter liked doing the standing poses, laughing at me as we did them, so much fun. I actually have one person in my class who has taken belly dancing! And I enjoyed all the exercises, which can be adapted to this population that I work with. I'm always interested in yoga therapy applications and this section was a delight!   Thank you!

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March 17, 2022 - 8:41 am
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The next and final module will give you even more ideas and inspiration for many ways to treat people.

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Merri Lou Dobler
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March 17, 2022 - 9:17 am
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Module 9.  So inspirational, Shama. Your stories were really fun to hear. Energy techniques are good to use for someone who is open to them, which it seems is more people now than ever.  I especially liked the guided visualization story that helped a woman find her way to some healing. I've not done Quigong but have done Reiki for years; it is really wonderful work. Now I'd like to try the herbal compresses and a massage hammer!

Your words related to giving positive messages to people, helping with small improvements that can mean a lot to someone who wants to  be "cured" and thus help them see the reality of life ,were great messages. In this module you expanded the message to using Thai massage for sciatica in treating the whole person, using your skills in a regular practice or specializing, showing people there is much more than one part of the body that can be addressed in Thai massage, and listening to the real message that people want to share.

Great course!  I really enjoyed these modules on sciatica.  Many thanks Shama!

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Shama Kern
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March 17, 2022 - 9:37 am
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Congratulations - another course completed. I am really impressed with you! Smile

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Merri Lou Dobler
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March 17, 2022 - 10:49 pm
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Thank you Shama!  This keeps me going, and learning continually is important. I did many of the Sciatica/Piriformis yoga and exercise moves in my yoga class this morning. The women were impressed with how these felt, like new muscles, new tenderness, new awareness,  and because it was much more than one or two yoga/exercise poses, but a complete series, they got to really feel it. It was combined with lots of rocking, staying with the intensity for them into the next pose, and coming back to breathing. Great mix of poses to balance them out and then, to their relief, time for Savasana.

Much enjoyment and learning with your courses, many thanks again.

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Merri Lou Dobler
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April 1, 2022 - 8:26 am
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Update:  A neighbor of mine asked if I could help with her sciatica, of course I was super excited.  I looked up the two tests to determine if it is sciatica and the tests helped me see how her lower back was definitely a factor. My list of abbreviated techniques gave me a plan. Symptoms were described and I rolled out my Thai mat for the massage.  The communication was a key factor, and my neighbor was great at giving me numbers in the 1-10 system; it helped with focusing on all the areas of pain. I did a fair amount of rocking as the pain and tension of 2 weeks slowly was released to a workable level, and we did supine/prone work in all the areas affected as well as focus on the piriformis and surrounding muscles. I was comfortable shifting from one side to the other and helped my neighbor with some relief. I checked in with her in the evening; she had started drinking water and found it was helping her feel better. It's her vacation time with her daughter next week and she feels like she can have more fun now.

Just proof to me how great these courses are, Shama, that builds my skill level and allows me to use Thai massage to help people. Thank you!

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April 1, 2022 - 9:35 am
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Thanks for this update. I am happy to hear how you get to use what you have learned, and I imagine that for you this is a confidence builder and a source of satisfaction!

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