Month: February 2016 (page 1 of 2)

Your Heart: Not Just Any Muscle

Our hearts beat endlessly: all day every day, all night every night. We don’t think about them until there’s a problem, but we should. This is your heart we are talking about, after all! The one that you follow, the one that you wear on your sleeve, the one that breaks or the one that you give away. How often do you use those sayings, or these phrases: that’s heartwarming, your heart is in the right place, heartfelt, wholeheartedly, crazy heart, my heart belongs to you…

Your heart is at the center of both your emotional self and your physical self, which is why heart trauma and cardiovascular surgery make such a big impact on your body. Think about it: we don’t feel the same way about our gallbladders as we do our hearts, and we don’t regard gallbladder surgery with nearly the same weight as we regard cardiac surgery.

diagram of human heart

Your heart is the endlessly working muscle that pumps blood throughout your body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to feed your cells and get rid of the carbon dioxide and metabolic waste. During stressful situations, like when you’re being chased by a lion, the heart works with the sympathetic nervous system and signals the release of hormones to push blood to the muscles so you can run away. When the lion is gone, it triggers the parasympathetic system, or relaxation response, to bring the body back into balance.

Stress Is Hard On The Heart

The problem we face today is that the “lion” never goes away. We are in a constant state of stress, from commuting nightmares, to overbearing bosses, to kids, spouses, family, money — we identify as being constantly under stress.

Committing to a heart-healthy way of living requires more than just exercise and watching what we eat. Stress and depression in our lives play a huge role in our cardiovascular health. These risk factors are especially prominent in younger women balancing careers and family responsibilities, and are particularly common among young women with early-onset heart disease. Experts agree that more research is needed into heart risk factors for the younger populations.

Mindful living and self-care along with a healthy diet and exercise can prevent decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, especially when lifestyle changes are adopted early on. Incorporate massage therapy into your wellness routine along with yoga, meditation, gardening, social activities, or reading – whatever your prescription is for relaxation and self-care.

Your Heart Is In Good Hands

If you or a loved one has faced heart trauma, hypertension, or cardiovascular surgery, our specially trained therapists can help alleviate the stress from diagnostic procedures and prepare you for surgery mentally as well as physically. Specialized techniques and positioning can relieve post-procedural trauma, post-surgical discomfort and address swelling and edema of the chest, arms or legs. Massage therapy for the cardiac patient can alleviate anxiety, depression and negative emotions and provide a sense of well-being, positive reinforcement and reconnection to the body for a healthy recovery.

If you’d like to know more about the sessions and how SMART integrative massage group can help you, please call us at 973-744-1576 for a consultation.


Research- A new muscle discovered!

quadriceps new muscle tensor vastus intermedius TVI

Researchers in Switzerland identify a new muscle called the tensor of vastus intermedius or TVI

A new muscle discovered? As a licensed massage therapist, I am a muscle specialist, but also an anatomy geek and a research nerd. Always combing the halls of the Massage Therapy Foundation and PubMed for the latest research studies, I am always surprised by how much we still have to learn about how the human body works. In the upcoming article to be published in the journal Clinical Anatomy, researchers in Switzerland have found a new muscle – tensor vastus intermedius- in the quadriceps! (This means we will have to change the name of the muscle group.- Quinticeps? )

The quadriceps femoris is traditionally described as a muscle group composed of the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and deep to rectus femoris, the vastus intermedius. The researchers have found a second tensor-like muscle between the vastus lateralis and the vastus intermedius, hereafter named the tensor vastus intermedius. (TVI)

How did they find it? During the dissection of twenty-six lower limbs, special attention was paid to the nerves and blood vessels attached in this area. All muscles were traced separately from their origin to their insertion. In all twenty-six, a TVI was found, supplied by its own nerve and artery branches and merging separately into the quadriceps tendon into the medial aspect of the the patella – inner side of the kneecap. There are variations between subjects. In fact, four different variations were found during the study. It begins at the upper part of the femur between the insertions of the vastus lateralis and vastus intermedius and continues down the leg mainly as a thin tendon before joining the quadriceps tendon and ultimately attaching via the patellar tendon below your kneecap onto the tibia.

What does this mean for your massage or your workout? Not a whole lot. It’s always been there. You’re not going to notice a difference as this new muscle is likely unable to be differentiated from the surrounding tissue with palpation, but I always find it fascinating when researchers discover something new in the body. Just like this previous blog post about the recently discovered lymphatic system in the brain.

For more information read the abstract on PubMed here:

Grob, K., Ackland, T., Kuster, M., Manestar, M., & Filgueira, L. (2016). A newly discovered muscle: The tensor of the vastus intermedius. Clin. Anat. Clinical Anatomy, 29(2), 256-263.


Love, Chocolate, and Massage

Valentine’s Day means chocolate is everywhere … chocolate hearts, chocolate covered strawberries, giant hearts filled with chocolate covered strawberries…

If you’re trying to cut down on sugar consumption like I am, this time of year can be rough. I was worried it would put a quick stop to the successful path I got on with my yearly January reboot. That is, until I found my favorite paleo cookbook by Diane Sanfilippo called Practical Paleo. It’s available here on Amazon.

My favorite treats and sweets recipe (found on page 394) is the Chocolate Coconut Cookies. You likely have all the ingredients in your pantry right now. It’s so easy that you can whip them up after dinner and enjoy them straight from the oven!


  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup (or more, for sweeter cookies)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup shredded coconut. (I buy the unsweetened kind.)
  • 1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 pinch baking soda
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds or 1/2 cup fresh raspberries (optional)

(Another option: Add walnuts and chocolate chips for added texture and some crunch.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, melted butter, maple syrup, and vanilla. Mix in the unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda and shredded coconut until well combined. Fold in the almonds, if desired.

Divide into 12 dollops on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, and flatten them with a fork. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until slightly firm to the touch.

If you wish to add raspberries, add one at the center of each cookie after baking and before eating.

All-Day Dessert

Cookies aren’t the only sweet treat awaiting you this Valentine’s Day.

For the 10th year in a row, Jill Breier and I are teaming up to offer couples massages over Valentine’s Day weekend! Bring your partner, your best friend, your cousin — whoever you want to spend the day with in a relaxing, intimate environment.

Because we only offer these couples massages for two days, we don’t allow online booking. But these spots fill up FAST! If you’re interested in a 60-minute couples massage and a free gift basket full of goodies (more desserts?), I suggest you contact us NOW at 973-744-1576 or email me at

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