Ease away a sore head with scalp massage
Scalp massage has been practised in cultures worldwide for millennia to release tension. It can help banish neck ache, diffuse niggling headaches and be a potent aid to deep relaxation, as YOU Magazine tester Rosalind discovered when she had a treatment at the refurbished Macdonald Randolph Hotel spa in Oxford. Warmth helps release knots in muscles, so Rosalind relaxed in the steam room first. Spa therapist Elisha Charles started by stroking her feet with warm mitts dipped in scented water, then gently massaged her soles. Before starting the head massage, Elisha applied fragrant Elemis Frangipani Monoi Oil/£35 at johnlewis.com, to her scalp.
Rosalind recommends having the treatment in the late afternoon before an early night. ‘The blissful sensations helped quieten the to-do list in my brain,’ she says. ‘I drifted off during the 25-minute treatment and slept really well later on, so I began the working week with a lovely clear head.’
THE AT-HOME SCALP MASSAGE
Nurture yourself – or another deserving person – with these simple techniques, perfect for reducing pre-Christmas frazzle. Use very gentle pressure and check with your doctor first if you have any health concerns, including recent head or neck injuries.
1 Link the fingers of both hands and place palms flat over the centre of the scalp, near the hairline. Gently press together for a few seconds and repeat along the centre line to the back of the head. Slowly take three deep belly breaths, inhaling for a count of four, holding for a moment and then exhaling to eight.
2 Separate your hands then walk your ring fingers alternately along the centre line from front to back, pressing gently on each ‘step’ for a few seconds.
3 Place the fingertips of each hand on either side of the centre line, just above the forehead. Using small circular movements, massage down and round both sides of the skull to the back. Then place fingertips a little further back on the centre line and repeat until you have covered the whole scalp.
4 Using your fingertip, press the bone behind the right ear from top to bottom. Then gently tilt the head towards the opposite ear. With long sweeping motions, move your fingers down the side of the neck and along the top of the shoulder. Massage along the muscle at the back of the shoulder and then sweep up the centre of the neck towards the back of the skull. Repeat on the other side.
5 Massage both temples simultaneously, working your fingertips in a circular motion.
Q. I am about to start my first round of IVF for unexplained infertility. I am anxious about the process and wonder if you can suggest anything to help?
A. Consultant gynaecologist and fertility expert Michael Dooley (thepoundburyclinic.co.uk) says it is vital to create time to accommodate the inevitable stress both at this stage and later.
• Try not to schedule demanding meetings or extra social events.
• Prioritise whatever you find calming, whether that is a walk in the park, yoga, tea with a friend or making jam.
• Complementary therapies such as aromatherapy, reflexology or hypnotherapy can be helpful, but ensure that the practitioner is appropriately trained and qualified and, importantly, understands fertility. Ask the unit for recommendations.
• Lack of information (or not understanding the information you are given) can make you anxious, so take a companion to appointments to write notes and support you generally.
• Encouragement from family and friends – as well as the medical team (you should have a specific contact) – is vital, so do ask for help.
SPA VOUCHERS FOR CANCER PATIENTS
Vouchers for spa treatments make a wonderful present, but many spas are unwilling to take people who have been treated for cancer. One notable exception is Surrey’s Grayshott Spa, which offers the four-night Nurture & Support Post Cancer programme, specially designed by ESPA founder Susan Harmsworth with Elaine Williams, Grayshott’s director of natural therapies. From £1,165 for four nights in a single room (grayshottspa.com). Spabreaks.com also offers Recovery Retreat packages, including spa days, for clients with cancer (spabreaks.com/recovery_retreats).