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By West Norwood Therapies Team, Sep 8 2019 07:30PM

Sports Massage therapist Lauren O'Sullivan shares some insight into various types of stretching and suggests some things for you to try to improve flexibility.


Summer holidays are fabulous: sun, fresh air, and a well-earned rest. However, when you return to reality it can often be hard to get back into your exercise routine in a controlled and gradual way. Although it’s tempting, especially if you are working towards a goal, don’t feel like you’ve got to make up for any workout time missed while away. Bombarding your body with vigorous workouts after a more sedentary period is not ideal. Instead, keep the first few sessions back to steady cardio, bodyweight and resistance exercises.

The other important thing to consider when looking after your body is recovery from exercise. When increasing your exercise load you must consider how you are going to help your body recover and refrain from sustaining an injury. One of the best ways to help your body maintain good form is stretching.


Stretching comes in many different forms. The one you are probably most familiar with is static stretching, done passively: This requires an external force to hold the stretch and stretches are most commonly held from 15 – 60 seconds. Contrary to what most of us learnt in Physical Education at school, I would advise against this form of stretching pre-exercise. It has been shown in most studies to make little or no effect on performance and even decrease performance in exercise. Static stretching is best used post-exercise or gently in the evening before bed, preferably after a warm bath.


The current preferred pre-exercise form of stretching is dynamic stretching. This involves repetitive slow movements that progressively increase in range, for example joint rotations like ankle rolls or arm circles. Dynamic stretching improves flexibility in motion and can resemble movements you may make in a specific sport.


Can you touch your toes? For an increase in long-term flexibility, it is important to develop a continued stretching regime. Even if you just add on 5-10 minutes at the end of your usual workout you can improve your flexibility. As flexibility increases, the resistance against a joint rotation decreases and therefore the range of movement at that joint increases. It makes sense that with a larger range of movement, injury is less likely as a result of any unexpected sudden forces on the joint.


Your stretching regime should be carried out after exercise or completely separately. I would advise a mix of static stretching and something called PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) stretching. PNF is often recognised as the contract-relax method: a partner takes you to the end-range stretch of a muscle, you then contract the muscle against your partner’s resistance for a period of time, after which you relax and your partner stretches the muscle further. PNF stretching is something that I like to help my massage clients out with at the end of a session if increasing flexibility is a goal of theirs. If you are interested in PNF stretching why not book a session with me and we can work on it together post-massage!


When trying to increase flexibility it is likely that you will experience a level of discomfort when stretching to your end range. This is normal but the sensation should not be pushed into real pain as this can cause injury in itself. You know your body and its limits so stretch with consciousness!


With thanks to Jules Mitchell MS, CMT, Yoga teacher and massage therapist writing in Co-Kinetic Journal, July 2019.
With thanks to Jules Mitchell MS, CMT, Yoga teacher and massage therapist writing in Co-Kinetic Journal, July 2019.

Pictures are of me!







By West Norwood Therapies Team, Apr 29 2019 07:29PM

Sports massage therapist Lauren O'Sullivan shares her fabulous experience massaging at the London marathon in aid of the NSPCC this year, we're proud of her efforts and enthusiasm :-)



Last year I volunteered with NSPCC, giving post event massage at the London Marathon 2018. It was such a fulfilling experience that this year I went back for more and I couldn’t wait to put my green t-shirt back on! As you can probably remember, 2018 was the hottest London Marathon ever recorded. Water stations started running out of water and medical teams had their busiest year treating heatstroke. This year already looked to be shaping up for a stark contrast on the weather front. With strong winds and heavy rain dominating the weather forecast, I prepared to massage some soggy windblown runners!


Waking up this morning to calmer winds and a nice fresh feel in the air might have tricked some runners into thinking they were still dreaming! Pretty ideal weather conditions for long distance running. So far so good. I was feeling positive as I walked through Trafalgar Square and looking forward to working with Chris and the team again. After a quick hip loosening demonstration, Chris talked about posture and how to maintain good form. It’s all about keeping that chest forwards and proud!


At around 12:45 we applauded the first runner into our massage area. There was then a slow trickle of runners for about half an hour before the trickle turned to a steady stream and all 20 massage therapists were working flat out to ease the aches and pains. The atmosphere in the room was absolutely buzzing; you could almost feel a physical energy to it. Congratulations and elations never ceased and every time someone came up to me, no matter how exhausted they were, they had a smile on their face and such a sense of pride in what they had just achieved. Not one person was moaning or grumbling about any pain they were in, their achievement seemed to lift them above it.


At events it is likely that you will be massaging through clothes and there are several techniques to achieve great results with this. One of them is simply compressions and you can even try these on yourself (mainly on the legs) after a hard training session, event or performance. Simply use the heel of your hand or make a fist and press down on the muscle using your other hand to create the force, holding the compression for 10 - 20 seconds. Vibrations can also be another useful tool, as well as pin and stretch – compressing a muscle when contracted and then slowly extending the muscle whilst keeping the compression; something I like to use on the hamstrings especially and it can be done passively or actively.

Conversations with the runners sometimes verged on hysteria due to adrenaline and exhaustion! However the main topic of the day was their appreciation for the overwhelming support they received: from the crowd, from the charity, from their friends and family and from us! Times didn't matter. They had just run 26 MILES. I chatted to one runner who was running a marathon for every month of the year...that’s 314 miles this year! What an incredible human feat let alone the amount of money raised for charities. The 500 runners for NSPCC today raised £1.1 million between them. What an amazing event to be part of.
Conversations with the runners sometimes verged on hysteria due to adrenaline and exhaustion! However the main topic of the day was their appreciation for the overwhelming support they received: from the crowd, from the charity, from their friends and family and from us! Times didn't matter. They had just run 26 MILES. I chatted to one runner who was running a marathon for every month of the year...that’s 314 miles this year! What an incredible human feat let alone the amount of money raised for charities. The 500 runners for NSPCC today raised £1.1 million between them. What an amazing event to be part of.

Even though it was a long and tiring day, I went home ecstatic and full of inspiration from everybody I had met, runners and volunteers alike. Just knowing that I had helped some of those amazing people in some way gave me my own sense of pride and achievement.


If you ever get the chance to volunteer with a charity at an event like the London Marathon, DO IT. You’ll find me massaging next at the Windrush Aquathlon on Sunday 30th June at the West Norwood Therapies stall. If you’re racing come and see me for some post event massage! If you’re there supporting, come and say hi to some of the team – we offer a whole range of complimentary therapies and classes.




By West Norwood Therapies Team, Jan 23 2019 09:00AM

Sports massage therapist Lauren O'Sullivan shares her experience of a yoga class and workshop with WNT yoga teacher Emma Klein


At our last meeting at the beginning of January we thought it would be a great idea to do practioner swaps and experience and enjoy our peers’ practices. Emma and I paired up for a swap: a sports massage for some yoga time! I’ve always enjoyed practicing yoga but often neglect it so this was perfect for me...


Tuesday mornings at West Norwood Therapies and it’s class time with Emma. A beginner class, the flow is quiet slow and allows time for correction and continuous reflection on your practice. I’m quite familiar with yoga however I haven’t practiced in a long time so this class was a perfect reintroduction for me. With a mix of complete beginners and experienced returners, Emma handled the class with consideration for both. Every position was explained and demonstrated with and without blocks or modifications and Emma also offered reasons for why each position helped certain joints and muscles.


Emma talks frequently about the importance of Yin and Yang – Yin being the slower more stable postures that increase flexibility and relax our bodies and Yang being the active, strength building aspect of yoga practice. The two opposites complement each other in working towards a strong and flexible body. I am constantly recommending my sports massage clients to take yoga classes as building strength protects our ligaments and tendons, and increasing flexibility enables our muscles to stretch more freely helping to prevent strains and tears. Emma’s class was a perfect combination of both and working on the two aspects side by side leads to a more lean and lithe musculature.


Perhaps one of the most important things Emma’s class inspires is judgement-free practice. One of her mottos is “All who breathe, can practice yoga”. There is no expectation or criteria that you need to conform to – as yoga has become more popular it sometimes seems to come with a certain archetype. People that can’t bend themselves in half or don’t have the latest designer leggings may feel uneasy and afraid to take class. Yoga practice is what you make it. Everyone’s practice will be different and will differ day to day; it’s a process and takes time. There is never an end goal, which is why it’s called practice. In Emma’s class you are encouraged to listen to your body. As it was a morning class I was personally feeling a bit stiffer than usual and I took that on board with my practice, I didn’t force anything.


Fast forward to Sunday and it was time to detox. Emma lead a detox yoga workshop for 2 ½ hours and at first I was apprehensive as to the length – that seemed like a lot of yoga! I needn’t have worried and even felt like I could go for longer at the end; the workshop was structured perfectly.
Fast forward to Sunday and it was time to detox. Emma lead a detox yoga workshop for 2 ½ hours and at first I was apprehensive as to the length – that seemed like a lot of yoga! I needn’t have worried and even felt like I could go for longer at the end; the workshop was structured perfectly.

For the first hour and a half we practised a fairly fast flow with time to explore new poses and depth once we were warm. We then talked about Ayurveda: an ancient Indian system of medicine that supports and guides a whole holistic approach. Many people turn to its philosophies and basic constructs when considering detoxing their body. It was a lovely open and inviting space to share our thoughts, ask questions and gain insight into how we might incorporate some Ayurveda practices into our own lives and their individual needs. For the last 20 minutes we snuggled into some blankets and Emma guided us through some Yoga Nidra practice. Yoga Nidra is a form of guided sleep meditation that focuses on finding that window between waking and sleeping for ultimate relaxation. If you are interested in finding out more about Yoga Nidra, contact Emma and come along to her weekly Sunday evening Nidra classes at WNT!


Emma left us with a complete print out information pack of everything we had covered in the workshop - the poses, Ayurveda and even a detox recipe: Kitchari. I always find in workshops that there is so much information to take in that we frequently get home and forget everything, so a print out was such a great addition. As adults we often don’t get the chance to study and learn new knowledge and I relish this! I will definitely be reading up on the things we covered and practicing at home. I highly recommend Emma’s workshops – the next one is on 24th March and this will be a restorative yoga workshop focusing on de-stressing.


Thanks Emma, I thoroughly enjoyed our practitioner swap! Look out for more practitioner swap blog posts throughout this year as we all take it in turns to experience each other’s practices.








By West Norwood Therapies Team, Nov 28 2018 02:11PM

Sports massage therapist Lauren O'Sullivan shares some information to help you choose the right massage treatment for yourself. Come along and meet Lauren and some other members of the WNT team on Sunday for our open day with hot mulled apple juice and baked treats - YUMMM!

I am a Sports Massage Therapist. Does that mean that I must restrict myself to this ‘type’ of massage? No. As practitioners we are constantly learning and updating our skills and we may take a workshop or further training in something slightly outside of our normal ‘type’ of massage. Each therapist, no matter what type of massage they deliver, uses a whole range of techniques. Therefore there is often a lot of overlap between the different ‘types’ of massage – differences between massage therapists can be as large as the differences between types of treatment.


If you are curious I would recommend that you try a few different massage treatments with a few different therapists and get a feel for how they differ. A good massage therapist should listen to your needs and preferences before any massage and deliver it tailored to you. However that being said, if you know you want a nice relaxing massage and your reason for going is stress related, an invigorating and most likely painful sports massage is probably not a wise choice. Really ask yourself why you are going for a massage and what you want to get out of it.


Receiving a massage can feel like quite a vulnerable experience; you may be feeling exposed and may not be used to the level of physical contact by a stranger. This is completely normal. Don’t let it stop you from being assertive and confident to ask for what you want. Be clear and direct with your needs and receive the best massage for you.


If you are wondering where to start, here’s a rough guide to what to expect from each type of massage out there (all offered at West Norwood Therapies):


Swedish massage: “the most commonly used form of classical Western massage, generally performed in the direction of the heart, sometimes with active or passive movement of the joints. It is used especially for relaxation, relief of muscular tension, and improvement of circulation and range of motion.”

Deep tissue massage: “Deep tissue massage therapy is similar to Swedish massage, but the deeper pressure is beneficial in releasing chronic muscle tension. The focus is on the deepest layers of muscle tissue, tendons and fascia.”

Aromatherapy massage: “bodily application (as by massage) of fragrant essential oils (as from flowers and fruits) for therapeutic purposes”



Sports massage: “A massage which addresses specific needs of athletes/sports people. It’s techniques include Swedish massage, cross-fibre friction massage, deep-compression massage, trigger-point therapy. Massage can occur pre or post training/events or just as maintenance, to enhance performance or promote healing.”


Indian head massage: “Indian Head massage includes massage of the shoulders, upper arms, neck, scalp, face, ears & rebalancing energy flow, it relieves upper body tension & restores joint mobility; soothes, comforts & gives you a deep sense of peace and calm.


Pregnancy massage: “Benefits include easing aches and muscle soreness, promoting relaxation, releasing endorphines and helping to balance hormones, especially helpful to both mother and baby.”


Tui na massage: “Tui na is a dynamic and flexible form of massage, routinely practised alongside acupuncture. A variety of massage techniques, gentle body manoeuvres and stretches are combined in an individually tailored, wonderfully relaxing or invigorating treatment.”


Piqued your interest? Massage can help with a whole host of things from muscle imbalances and aches to stress –related discomfort. Why not come down to our open clinic day at Feast this Sunday 2nd December and meet some of the therapists. We would love to answer any questions you may have over some hot mulled apple juice and some baked treats!






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