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Massage at Claygate Clinic

The Beneficial Effects Of Massage

By Laura Stonehouse - Massage Therapist

Recent research is encouraging a fresh approach on how we view the benefits of massage to the point  that it could become part of a number of prescribed strategies to treat patients within the NHS itself. According to a report by the British Beauty Council produced in early 2021, massage therapy could reduce sick days by 1.76 million. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy commissioned the Report after the phenomenon was brought to their attention.  Key findings of the Report demonstrate that touch therapy as well as massage can have a significant effect on reducing mental health problems.  Mental ill-health is the single largest cause of disability in the UK, contributing up to 22.8% of the total burden compared to 15.9% for cancer.

So what are the benefits of massage and how can it support both the body and the mind? First of all, as within the first few minutes your mind will be (and should be) in a state of total relaxation (stress relief), your body is becoming active and in a state of recovery and renewal.  A massage stimulates the nervous system, wakes up your muscles, organs and glands, encourages blood and lymph circulation and increases the production of chemicals and hormones.  In short, massage helps the body to renew itself and reverse the effects of stress.  Massage and touch therapies can help manage back, neck and shoulder pain, support fatigue, osteoarthritis, cancer symptoms and fibromyalgia – and this list is not exhaustive.

Let’s explore the benefits even further.  The first moments of a massage will involve a series of deep inhalations; controlled, deep breathing is one of the first strategies in stress relief, and anxiety management.  Those first few moments are signals to your mind and your body that it is a safe place to rest and recover. As you relax your nervous system goes into recovery mode as well and for those areas of pain and tension on the nerves from tight muscles, there is relief.  This in turn reduces the production of stress hormones and increases the presence of endorphins – you feel happier, you begin to feel better in yourself.  Your body and your mind rebalance, you will generally sleep well after a massage.  Hormones that regulate sleep/ wake cycle, menstrual cycles, immune cells, blood sugar and even your appetite will perform better as the body and the mind find much needed relaxation.

As we are searching for much needed moments in our day from the stress and pressure of everyday life, this is one moment, one treatment in fact, that no should no longer be seen as an indulgent luxury but as a necessary element in our self care.

For more information about our massage services please visit our massage page 

Call reception on 01372 464659 or fill in the form below



    The Power Of Touch

    By Zoë Ross - Massage Therapist

    I sat on a train to Devon last Summer and listened intently to a podcast by the brilliant and enthusiastic Dr Chatterjee who welcomed discussion over the power of touch and how it is fast becoming a diminishing sense.

    I was reminded of this topic only yesterday when I called a patient (now friend) who has been self- isolating for over 6 weeks, he mentioned to me that he had not touched or been touched by anyone in that time, and how in a fleeting moment he felt saddened by this. He has a vast network of friendship groups who regularly ‘meet up’ via Zoom, and he has people willingly dropping food parcels and neighbours who check up on each other’s welfare, but it is not touch. It isn’t that instant sense of connection, or that soothing stroke, it isn’t the heartfelt warmth of a hug from a friend or partner, what we’re talking about here is a profound lack of positive touch.

    As a Body Therapist I am naturally tactile, I struggle not to hug people, stroke my dogs, hold the hands of my nephews or just place a hand on a friend’s back when they look like they need support. I like to touch, so why is it so taboo. Why do people fear it, why are we nervous about embrace? As children, we yearn for this touch and studies suggest babies who are cuddled often, have better growth rates and improved immune systems. We look at the chubby cheeks of a baby and their huge inquisitive eyes and we instinctively wish to reach out and touch (or pinch!) affectionately of course. It is natural human behaviour, but we have made it not so. Touch is a language. One we learn very quickly as a child, a vital form of non-verbal communication. A Parent’s touch enhances attachment, it can signify security, clapping hands together in a playful manner encourages play and makes babies giggle and a firm squeeze when crossing the road can help express potential danger.

    There are sadly too many times when we hear about the abuse of touch, the negative side to it, how it can used as a tool to make people feel fear, to immobilise them and bring about all sorts of mental and physical health concerns, impacting greatly on an individuals self-esteem, confidence in themselves and trust in others. This leaves people vulnerable and in a heightened state of stress.

    It is fundamental for touch to be consensual. The speaking out on this subject has empowered many who felt they had no voice, but in its wake, it has left this vital human sense clouded, almost like a dirty secret, the sordid world of touch. Ironically it is the one sense people seem to think they can do without but as the Psychologist Tony Robbins suggests ‘ there is no real substitute for touch’ Without sight, people turn to touch to feel their way through life, without sound, people use visual cues but without touch-what? Making touch consensual is crucial but eradicating it from our lives could ultimately be dangerous. It has a power to soothe, heal and promote wellbeing….and should outweigh our fear of it.

    Robbins also discusses a fascinating social experiment about how culturally touch is viewed very differently. A study in café’s around the world looked at physical interactions between people dining together, it gave a startling indicator as to the expectations of touch globally. In Puerto Rico for example, the average times people at a table touched was 200 per hour, in Paris this dropped to 40 times, again in New York just 5 times and sadly in London 0. Not once did the diners gathered (whether friends, family, colleagues) touch one another.

    There is no denying that the power of positive touch can be profound, as a Therapist I know this to be true, the unique connection between a Patient and Therapist is symbolic of how enhancing touch can be. As you physically feel tension release under your hands and a trust building between you and them, the body responds to touch, and as the skin is the largest organ at approx. 2 metres it is indeed the pathway to touch. Touch, among other things, can reduce stress, heart rate and blood pressure. We are wired to experience touch, it is not a design flaw that we respond so well to it, from birth until the day we die, our need for physical contact remains

    As we sit and re-evaluate many areas of our lives during this somewhat strange time, thought should certainly be given to touch, it’s power to heal, express emotion, and connect deeply with people. Think about the first friend or relative you long to hug and know that contact will reinforce your connection to one another and set off a wonderful dose of endorphins. It is like a daily dose of happy medicine! Do not shy away from connection, positive touch should be worked on and we should look to cultivate this once normality resumes. Do not underestimate that touch given positively and consensually, with true meaning, is a great gift.

    For more information about our massage services please visit our massage page 

    Call reception on 01372 464659 or fill in the form below



      Whiplash Injury

      What is Whiplash?

      By Helen Amembal - Registered Osteopath

      Neck pain caused by whiplash is very common. According to one leading insurer, it accounts for 76% of all bodily injury claims made in the UK.

      Whiplash is a neck injury caused by a sudden movement of the head forwards, backwards or sideways. Whiplash injuries need not be the result of car accidents only. It can be due to a sudden blow to the head – for example, during contact sports such as boxing or rugby, a slip or fall where the head is suddenly and violently jolted backwards or being struck on the head by a heavy or solid object

      How is whiplash caused?

      Normally the joints at the back of the neck glide over each other but a whiplash injury forces them together damaging the surrounding area containing nerves, muscles, ligaments and discs. The damage to the nerves can cause the most problems as they are very sensitive compared to the nerves in the rest of the body.

      The pain from a whiplash injury doesn’t always happen immediately after the accident. The body can compensate in the short term for injuries and often it is not until later that pain develops. The neck pain and stiffness is often worse on the day after the injury and may get worse for several days afterwards.

      Common symptoms of whiplash include:

      • neck pain, shoulder pain and stiffness
      • tenderness over the neck muscles
      • reduced and painful neck movements
      • headaches

      If you experience prolonged pain, you may find it difficult to carry out daily activities and enjoy your leisure time. It may also cause problems at work and could lead to anxiety and depression without treatment.

       How can you help your neck pain?

      Gone are the days of lying in bed for a week to rest your injury – GPs traditionally recommended rest for neck pain but the research now disproves that. In the beginning if your see a GP or an A&E Doctor they may give you a soft collar it may offer some relief but do not use it all day. If you become reliant upon your collar the muscles of the neck will be come weaker as their job is being performed by the collar.

      I always recommend that you move around gently and regularly (within your pain limit) which improves your recovery time and strengthens the damaged area. We also recommend that our patients at home use ice and heat to help the pain and also an over the counter pain relief medication for the first 24 hours if you know it is safe for you.

      If possible sleep with your spine in a straight line so make sure that pillow is not too high or that you are not using too many pillows. It is better to sleep on your back or on your side rather than on your front with your neck twisted to the side.

      To prevent the whiplash pain from worsening, review the things that aggravate it triggered it in the first place such as not exercising regularly, sitting for too long and using computers or driving.

      Getting the right advice and treatment is important for neck pain to resolve as quickly as possible but also important if you want to prevent it from coming back.

      A note about serious Injuries. Since some symptoms of neck pain are similar to those of more serious conditions, it’s important to get checked out by a medical professional. if in any doubt you should seek help immediately.

      Why back pain doesn’t ‘Just Go away’

      Helen Amembal - Registered Osteopath

      When my Clients use the Internet to learn about back pain they can find a common myth repeated – that back pain can resolve on its own within 2-8 weeks. But as I explain to my Clients, you’re not “healed” just because you don’t feel pain. When it comes to the most common injuries affecting the back, pain is usually the last thing to show up, and the first thing to go away.

      These are the top three reasons why back pain sticks around……..


      1. Our muscles and brains are linked

      Our nervous system changes when we are injured, say in our back. In some cases, our brains stop “seeing” the area that was injured, and research has shown that your brain stops telling your back muscles to work in the damaged area. This means that your back muscles become weaker and unable to support your spine regardless of whether you feel pain or not. Consequently, the link between your brain and the muscle and joints in the injury is altered following an injury, without treatment.


      1. Deconditioning

      One of the common myths surrounding back pain is that you need to rest for it to get better (I talk about this in my ‘back pain myths’ post).  Lack of activity is also a key reason for the breakdown in the body’s ability to control and withstand the stresses imposed on it. Using our muscles and joints to support our posture is fundamental to preventing injuries from occurring in the first place.

      Evidence has shown that poor endurance in our back muscles is a risk factor for developing low back pain – and this is an important thing that I get my patients to do; start exercises and self treatment at home to build up back strength so that their injury does not come back.


      1. Just because it doesn’t hurt

      If we scratch our skin or cut it, we have a constant reminder of that damage through the formation of a scar. However the minute back pain goes away it is easily forgotten – there is scar tissue but we can’t see it. The scar tissue replaces the muscle fibres in your back that have been injured – but this scar tissue forms in ‘clumps’ and sticks to the muscle tissue which makes the muscle weaker. So injuries will happen in that area again and more easily. But if healing muscle fibres or joints are gently moved and stretched it encourages the scar tissue to grow stronger and prevent further injuries.


      One way to think of it is when you put spaghetti into a pot of boiling water and then leave it without stirring, it all clumps together like a knotted up ball of string. If you add motion, like stirring the pot, you help to separate the spaghetti and keep it from sticking together. Your body is the same way: Motion is Lotion!

      What causes back pain/ sciatica?

      Helen Amembal - Registered Osteopath

      Back pain is very common – 49% of the adult population of the UK report low back pain during any year. It’s the second most common reason people see their doctor.

      Some back pain occurs due to a lifetime of bad habits. Other back pain causes include accidents, muscle strains, and sports injuries. Although the causes may be different, most often they share the same symptoms.

      However as debilitating as back pain can be, most instances of it are manageable, and people who get proper care and advice often see improvement within a matter of weeks. Here we look at the main types of back pain, the causes, and symptoms and what you can do to get better.

      Lower Back Strain

      Is the main cause of back pain, whether short term (acute) or long term (chronic). Symptoms of lower back strain include:

      • Pain and stiffness in the back.
      • Pain in the buttocks and the legs, often in the back of the thigh.
      • Pain that worsens when bending, stretching, coughing, or sneezing.

      Lower Back Strain occurs because a series of muscles and ligaments in your back hold the bones of your spinal column in place. You can strain these muscles by stretching them too far, causing tiny tears. The muscles are then weakened, so they may not be able to hold the bones of your spinal column in place correctly. The spine becomes less stable, causing low back pain. As nerves stretch out from the spinal column throughout the entire body, low back strain can cause pain in areas other than your back.

      Low back strain can be caused by:

      • Extreme physical exertion.
      • Repetitive movements such as lifting, driving, bending, twisting may also result in a bad back.
      • Accidents such as a fall
      • Poor posture, especially when sitting
      • Being overweight
      • Weak muscles in your back and abdomen
      • Sitting in the same position for long periods of time.
      • Emotional stress

      Keep in mind that low back strain can’t be blamed for all back pain. There are many other causes, like ‘slipped discs’, fractures, pinched nerves, arthritis, and infections.


      Sciatica is another common type of back pain affecting the sciatic nerve, a large nerve extending from the lower back down the back of each leg. For some people, the pain from sciatica can be severe and debilitating. For others, the sciatica pain might be infrequent and irritating, but has the potential to get worse.

      The Symptoms of Sciatica are

      • Pain in the buttock or leg one side side that is worse when sitting
      • Pain, burining or pins and needles in the leg or foot
      • Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg or foot
      • A shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up

      Sciatica usually affects only one side of the back and lower body. Often, the pain extends from the lower back all the way through the back of the thigh and down through the leg. Depending on where the sciatic nerve is affected, the pain may also travel to the foot or toes.

      What Causes Sciatica?

      Sciatica is caused most commonly by the Sciatic nerve being irritated, either by a tight muscle near to the nerve or by pain chemicals that are released in your body when you have an injury.

      There are less common causes of Sciatica; narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back, the discs in the spine losing their height through wear and tear or disease, or one vertebra slipping forward over another – sometimes due to a fracture in the vertebrae or just how the bone is formed at birth.

       Spinal Disc pain

      Most patients know this type of back pain as a ‘slipped disc’ although the discs do not actually slip.

      The symptoms of disc pain

      Spinal discs are fibrous rings (like in a tree), containing a soft gel-like ‘cushion’ between each of the bones of your spine. Discs cannot ‘slip’ because they are attached to the spine but the term ‘slipped disc’ can mean a tear in the fibrous rings, where the gel can push through.

      The resulting pressure or irritation on the nerves that exit your spine can cause pain in your back, or referred pain over an area through which the nerves pass such as your legs. Leg pain, pins and needles, weakness or numbness can be caused by nerve irritation or pressure in the lower spine.

      What causes disc pain?

      Although a violent injury can damage a disk, problems with disks are often brought on by the normal aging process or by everyday activities, such as lifting heavy objects the wrong way, or slips and falls. A sudden movement like this can cause the fibrous outer covering of the disk to break or distort to the point that the gel leaks out and presses on a nerve or releases chemicals that irritate the nerve.

      Discs can also suffer wear and tear through normal living but research has so far proven only that genetics is a factor in this.

      How can you help your back pain?

      Gone are the days of lying in bed for a week to rest your injury – GPs traditionally recommended rest for back pain but the research now disproves that.

      At TCHP we recommend that you move around gently and regularly (within your pain limit) which improves your recovery time and strengthens the damaged area. We also recommend that our patients at home use ice and heat to help the pain and also an over the counter pain relief medication for the first 24 hours if you know it is safe for you.

      Getting the right advice and treatment is important for back pain to resolve as quickly as possible but also important if you want to prevent it from coming back.

      To prevent back pain coming back, review the things that may have triggered it in the first place such as being overweight not exercising regularly, sitting for too long, wearing high heels, or sleeping on a mattress that is too soft.

      A note about serious Injuries. Since some symptoms of low back strain are similar to those of more serious conditions, it’s important to get checked out by a medical professional. Any numbness and weakness in your legs, bowel and bladder problems, or pain at nighttime that is not eased by changing position can be a sign of nerve damage and is serious and could lead to paralysis so if in any doubt you should seek help immediately.

      How to ease your back and neck pain in 15 minutes

      By Helen Amembal - Registered Osteopath

      I am so impressed with the Mobiliser that I have bought one for my Clients to use at the Claygate Clinic. The Mobiliser is also used in Professional sports – the GB Cycling Team, Sir Steve Redgrave and Golfers such as Bernard Gallacher.

      Bernard wanted to tell his story to the Mobiliser manufacturers as it helped him to fight a career-threatening back injury:

      “In late 2004, just before I went out to commentate on the Ryder Cup, I experienced agony throughout my back. An MRI scan confirmed a prolapse [‘slipped disc’] at C5 [neck]. My Consultant said it was going to be a two year recovery period, which left my golfing career at great risk”

      “As luck would have it I found the Mobiliser. I was sceptical that it could help. My first experience of using it was very uncomfortable, [but] I’d been prewarned that it might hurt, so I persevered, and within two or three days of using it the Mobiliser no longer caused discomfort”

      “Within two weeks the difference in my whole body was obvious, and after a month, the pain was less and my flexibility was better than it had been for years.”

      “After four months I am back playing golf and I’ve begun to increase the intensity of the Mobiliser to seek further improvement. I’m looking forward to renewing my play on the Seniors’ tour later this year. I want to emphasise the sense of optimism that I have. The Mobiliser really helped the rehab from my prolapse and by combining this with [Therapists’] advice and a good Alexander teacher I am very optimistic of recovering more quickly. I feel all three are a permanent part of my regime to prevent a recurrence and to keep my back flexible”

      “I’ve become aware how golfers assume that increasing age means decreasing ability. Yet I’ve found out for myself that it is possible to restore spinal flexibility. I can strongly recommend the Mobiliser! Not only to any golfer who wants to recover from back injury, but to those who find their enjoyment of this great game is limited by not being able to rotate fully and freely.”

      You can book a free Mobiliser introduction session (including a postural assessment) at the Complementary Health Partnership on 01372 464659 /