Sue's blog

Back Spasm

My friend and colleague Hallee Altman was at her Pilates studio The Center Studio and over heard two women talking about one of them having a "back spasm". Perturbed by the generic words she called me and asked me if I would please blog about exactly what is a back spasm and how come it happens to people in the first place.

Okay, so a "spasm" is termed that when the contraction of a muscle is "sudden". It usually happens when someone twists their torso and flexes at the same time. However, I have to admit, there is rarely anything "sudden" about it. Most people who have repeated back spasms have inflammation in the tissues that are supposed to support, protect, and stabilize the lumbar (lower back) bones and the pelvis. This tissues is termed "Thoracolumbar Fascia". This massive connective tissue matrix, along with a fantastic network of muscles called "the core" (Multifidus, Transversus Abdominis, and the many muscles that comprise the pelvic floor are supposed to work in a co-coordinated way to create control and intra-abdominal pressure. Simply put, the connective tissue and deep muscles of the torso when in good condition control the stabillity and position of the spine and pelvis.

Lots of things can cause this system to become faulty, one of which is sitting, regardless if you sit slouched or upright. The position of sitting for long periods of time dehydrate the lumbar fascia and this can cause the co-coordinated potential of the muscles that surround the belly to become inhibited or poor in timing. Once this occurs, the hamstrings tend to get locked short, the hip flexors get stressed and over worked, the pelvis gets unstable and one day, your low back becomes so compromised, your body attempts to stop you from damaging the discs in your spine and stop you dead in your tracks!

The problem with this situation is that if the issues are really what I am describing above, if left untreated, you can herniate a disc, compress or irritate the nerve roots, and even cause some pretty permanent damage.

So what should you do if you have a back spasm? Well, you should consult with your doctor or a specialist if it persists. If it were my back, (which it would never be because I MELT so much) I would pop Advil like candy to reduce the inflammation and get off my feet. The act of walking is the worst thing for a back spasm, sadly. And then I would MELT... a lot... especially the 3-D Breath Breakdown.

In any event, that's my two cents on back spasms. Get MELTed and stop the pain!


The Toxin Dioxin

water bottleOn a recent episode of the Ellen Show, Sheryl Crow said that she felt her breast cancer was caused by the chemical reactions caused by leaving her water bottles in her car.  There have been many articles on this very topic over the years and Dioxin found in plastic water bottles has been identified as the most common cause of the high levels of dioxin in breast cancer tissue.

Sheryl Crow's oncologist told her: women should not drink bottled water that has been left in a car.  The heat reacts with the chemicals in the plastic of the bottle which releases dioxin into the water. Dioxin is a toxin increasingly found in breast cancer tissue.

As someone who is always searching for truths over myths I have to say, for as much information as I found saying Dioxin has been linked to breast cancer, I found just as many sites and articles saying dioxins aren't even found in plastics. For me, producing something as simple as a rubber ball was challenging as I was concerned about Phthalates that are sometimes added to plastics and rubber materials to make them less brittle being in a product people would rub on their body. It took me over a year to find a reputable company to certify that the balls had no toxins that were found to be hazzardous to humans.

I know we are all concerned, or should be concerned about toxins found in our food or materials we handle on a daily basis. Whether or not freezing plastics or heating them in microwaves or keeping them in your hot car for days will cause you cancer, let's all be proactive about these ideas. Although there are some researchers who have found that dioxins aren't even found in plastic materials that they used in their studies doesn't necessarily convince me that dioxin isn't found in ANY plastics.

My personal suggestions: don't reuse plastic bottles forever. Even if it's not because of the potential that plastic breaks down over time do it because bacteria can grow in your bottles and over time that can build up in your body and make you all kinds of sick. I wouldn't put your take-out containers in the microwave but then again, I rarely put anything in a microwave... except water. So although Sheryl is convinced that her breast cancer was caused by the water bottles left in her car, I would imagine there are many other things she comes in contact with that do have dioxin.

Dioxins are mainly by products of industrial processes but can also result from natural processes, such as volcanic eruptions and forest fires.  In terms of dioxin release into the environment, waste incinerators (solid waste and hospital waste) are often the worst culprits, due to incomplete burning.

Although formation of dioxins is local, environmental distribution is global. Dioxins are found throughout the world in practically all media. The highest levels of these compounds are found in some soils, sediments and food, especially dairy products, meat, fish and shellfish. Very low levels are found in plants, water and air.

Dioxin along with a lot of other chemicals in the "dirty dozen" are found all over the place. Can we avoid these toxins? Maybe not entirely but being mindful of simple things can aid us in decreasing how we come in contact with many of these toxic materials!

Until we have a way to filter out organic toxins from the world, all I can say is, be smart, stay healthy, eat clean food and continue to inquire about these ideas!

Gil Hedley and "Our Sacred Hearts"

Gil Hedley and Sue HitzmannLast week my friend, mentor, guru, and colleague Gil Hedley was once again out at UMDNJ to do his annual group disseciton course. Yes, they are real bodies, forms really that have graciously given their body as a gift for us somanauts to learn more about what lies beneath our skin. This years event was a record breaker I think with over 20 participants ranging from yoga teachers to bodyworkers to curious minded people wanting to understand the body far out of the confines of traditional anatomical books and materials.

Gil's dissections are like no other I have experienced. His layer-by-layer approach allows all participants to truly embody the profound yet intrinsic and whole-body connections that go undiscussed in most if not all anatomical studies I have encountered over my years of practice.

I have some exciting news. Gil has finally made it to social media land! He is now on facebook and you can find some fantastic clips on youtube as well. One that has made an explosion on line is his "Our Sacred Hearts" video. This short 3 minute clip explores the beauty and elegance of the human heart and its dynamic connection in shape and structure of all living, moving things. He describes the vessels as rivers, making it easier for anyone testing their boundaries of viewing an actual dissection. If you don't know Gil Hedley's work but are involved in health and fitness in any way, I encourage to put Gil on your radar. To say the least, I am blessed to know this man as well as I do and am thrilled to introduce him to my little network in the social media realm.

Become a somanaut and check out this link from Our Sacred Hearts.

Mother's Day

To all mom's today I shout out a universal I LOVE YOU! Especially for my mom who has helped me more than anyone else in my business and has been a great support over my lifetime! Make sure to call your mom today or spend some time with her today. Let's celebrate mom's all over the world today. Have a super one!


It's not just the size of your balls that counts... it's how you rub them!

Have I gone to far? Well, at least I have your attention. For those of you who know what the MELT Hand and Foot Treatments are, you already know what I am talking about here. I'm talking about the MELT Treatment balls! Because of the ball sizes and the pretty colors people immediately think they are just basic bouncy balls or super balls but I have to tell you, looks can be deceiving. It took me over a year to get the right squish to these balls. It's no easy feat developing a product and bring it to market. Of course if I were a HUGE manufacturing company with a million bucks to spend,  I am sure it would have been a lot easier but developing balls that people are going to rub on their skin meant taking the time to find a manufacturer that could create balls with no toxic chemicals that would cause bad reactions. Trying to find organic materials, the right dyes and such for products like this really is a job in itself! I wouldn't rub any old ball on my body everyday if I thought it could harm me, would you?

Then I had to get the little ball to have the right amount of squish (too hard and it would actually hurt more than help) and the large firm ball also had to have the right texture for maximum results. And the soft ball, well that was the biggest challenge. The soft ball needed to be durable but pliable. But once you look away from just the idea of the balls, you really have to understand the MELT Techniques and how valuable each one is as a daily self-care technique.

I've spent the last 12 years not only being a manual therapist but inventing techniques that would simulate the techniques I use with my hands in a one on one session and become a hands-off therapy treatment a person could do on their own. It started out as homework for my clients and in 2004 I came up with the crazy idea that I could teach this in a group environment... not so crazy now because it actually worked!

So it's not just the size of the balls that counts, it's how you rub them! There are multiple techniques I've developed to improve whole-body efficiency. All of us have an "autopilot" that is constantly regulating our body so it moves and functions efficiently. If the autopilot becomes inefficient, (which happens just as we age and due to our daily habits) over time, this inefficiency can cause actual body ache and pain. With MELT you are able to assess if your autopilot is functioning inefficiently BEFORE you are in pain! This is how a person becomes truly proactive rather than reactive when it comes the the longevity of their good health and functionality.

The hand and foot treatment are frequently misunderstood. Many people think they are treatments specifically for hand or foot problems. Although MELTing your hands and feet do make both feel great, the techniques are far more beneficial than one might think. For example, the "position point pressing" technique mobilizes the joints of the hands and feet but also stimulates what we call "myofascial meridians" or connective tissue guywires that create seamless connection from head to toes and fingers. When you MELT you stimulate the connective tissue cells (not to mention your muscles and bones) but you also wake up the aspects of your nervous system that allow you to sense and feel your body while quieting down  the stress levels. Many people are surprised how tender their hands and feet are - a sign of autopilot inefficiency and cellular dehydration. MELTing shouldn't hurt... to the contrary, it should feel good! But if you MELT and you find the position points tender, well, you need to MELT more and you need to take a look at your diet and water intake. When you do either of these treatments, as you reassess you can sense all of the changes your body can make on a very deep level just by tapping into your hands and feet!

People ask me, "can't I just use a golf ball or a tennis ball" and all I can say is NO. Not if you are doing MELT Techniques. If you want to rub your foot over a tennis ball to massage your feet, super but MELTing is way more than a foot massage! And a golf ball is way too hard. You can actually irritate the plantar fascia (connective tissue on the bottom of your foot) and give yourself foot pain.

Whether you have neck pain, arthritis, neuromas, or a recovering from any type of injury from knees to shoulders, strains or sprains, the hand and foot treatments are simple ways to improve your body's natural healing abilities. So again, although the balls might look like balls out of a candy machine my balls are more than that! And the technique itself is nothing short of astounding. It really will help you feel better - your whole body will feel better. Your mind will feel better!

What are you waiting for? Grab your MELT balls and give them a rub!! A little shearing and rinsing will do you good today! Have you been MELTed lately? Come take a class with me or a MELT Instructor! Help us help you feel better.

What's not to love about Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen DeGeneres:

I have to say, I am not one to write about other people, especially celebrities but I love Ellen DeGeneres. There is just something about her (actually there are a lot of things about her) I really just admire and like. She holds an energy outside of her that you can actually see! It's like a glow when she smiles with those bright blue eyes darting through my TV screen! As an avid watcher of American Idol (I know this has nothing to do with wellness or fitness but...) she brings a much needed energy to the judging panel. Even though I am not psyched about the contestants this year, I watch it because Ellen is on it.

Of course she is totally funny too but she also has a love of animals like me and I just love that she is on the cover of Shape Magazine this month, is a Covergirl, and also the spokes person for Vitamin Water Zero. I never really saw her as a fitness buff but from the sounds of it she has made yoga a part of her daily life. She said in her article that she doesn't work with a yoga instructor, rather a "yogi". So not only is she funny, she's smart. 

However, I have heard her mention that her low back gives her trouble regardless that she does yoga on a daily basis. Although she shows her dance moves daily on her talk show and seems to engage in a healthy diet and lifestyle, it just goes to show you that sound exercise and nutrition are not enough to keep even the smartest, savvy movers out of pain.

So once again, I am going to toss out a request for those of you who might be linked to this particular celebrity! Attached is a "part one" MELT for low back pain. I am going to entitle this the Ellen DeGeneres Low Back MELT Map. Pass this one on to friends and let's see if we can get Ellen on the map!

Happy MELTing everyone!



MELT and the JCC Biennial in Atlanta, GA

This morning I woke up at about 5:25am (even though my 5am wake up call at the Marriott never happened...) and headed down to one of the many conference rooms used for this years JCCA Biennial. As the eyes and ears of the JCC Movement, the JCCA follows the latest trends and developments, and explores the ways that local JCCs can use this knowledge most effectively. They organize annual continental programs after months of meetings, thousands of hours of staff and lay leadership involvement to bring everyone together every two years for the N. America JCC Biennial.

Steve Becker asked me to come and present MELT as part of their "fitness-to-wellness initiative" and share why MELT is a much needed program that should be implemented in ALL JCCs across America.

This morning I taught a 6:30am class to about 25 participants that packed into a tiny Marriott conference room to experience MELT first hand. Leaders from Texas, Toronto, New Jersey, and Atlanta all approached me afterwards asking me for my card saying, "We need the MELT at our location. Our members will love this... and they NEED it! Will you come to train our staff?" Ah yes, the ball is rolling. Tomorrow I will present a 10 minute presentation to a very large group of lay leaders and management staff about bringing MELT as the first step in putting the JCC on the map as a desitnation for wellness!

I will check back tomorrow to share how it went. But if you have a JCC near you, tell them YOU WANT TO MELT!!!JCCA Biennial MELT Class 2

Can Using An I-pad Near Bedtime Cause Insomnia?

On my taxi ride from my home in NYC to LGA, I heard a segment on "taxi tv" about the new I-pad potentially causing insomnia. I say adamantly, THIS IS TRUE. I teach a workshop called, " 7 Simple Steps to Longevity". These seven things are what I have learned are simple things EVERYONE should do or consider doing if one goal in your life is living an active, healthy, pain-free life - longer. Feeling good everyday, for me is a necessity. One of my 7 steps is on sleeping. Not just the action of sleeping, but preparing for sleeping and making a good environment to have good sleep in. This type of information seems so simple, but think about it, have you ever taken a class or studied how to sleep? I would bet most people reading this will say no.


As a bodyworker, I am always trying to help my clients feel better. I ask a lot of questions. What I have learned is that 9 out of 10 clients I see do MULTIPLE bad habits leading up to sleeping and are one reason their body aches and they feel unwell. Most of my client's sleeping environments are less than optimal. 

So why do researchers think the I-pad can cause insomnia? Simple. Because research has shown that light, natural or not inhibits the production of serotonin in the body. This is one golden rule of good sleep is to sleep in a dark room... pitch black if you can do that. Not even a little crack of sunlight should get in. 

Hey I-PADers: If you are now using your new toy to read a new book instead of just reading a book, or you are checking your emails, or surfing the net just before you go to bed, over time it is HIGHLY LIKELY you will cause your sleep patterns to alter. There are multiple reasons this will happen. Here are just 3:

1. You stimulate your brain using those devices and that's not a good thing to do before you go to bed. But by the way, even watching TV up until you turn the light off and try to sleep isn't good either.

2. The I-Pad omits a tremendous amount of light and people hold it very close to their faces while reading them. Again, even a TV omits a lot of light but when you hold it very close to your face, closer to your eyes, YOU ARE CAUSING CHEMICAL IMBALANCE! Seriously. Serotonin is really important (along with many of its counterparts) to the well being of your body over your lifetime. 

3. The I-Pad also omits heat and vibration. Both can also cause a flux in your ability to fall asleep easily. Televisions and computer equipment are best left in the living room. Sleeping with these large machines running are yet another thing that we could write about that cause insomnia behavior. 

Bottom line, if you want a good nights sleep, try turning off all your toys and fun computer gizmos AT LEAST 30 minutes before you actually turn off the lights and go to bed. But 2 hours before you go to bed, start dimming your lights down, turn the sound down from your TV and have your last glass of water. Prepare for bed before you go to bed if you can. 

Also, make your room as dark as possible. There are about 10 other tips on sleeping I could tell  you about but those are for another blog. Got to get on a plane to Atlanta in 20min. 

I'm headed down to present MELT at the Biennial Event with the JCCA and JCC managers and dedicated investors. Their initiative to bring Wellness to all the JCCs (350 across the country). First initiative: implement the MELT Model of Wellness. 

Sleep tight tonight.

4 Hands are better than 2

Last week my friend and colleague Hilary Bilkis and I spent the day practicing hands-on techniques together for an afternoon of sessions at my private studio. These types of days are fun for me to say the least! It's one thing to work with a person one-on-one but when you have two skilled practitioners working to rebalance and reconnect your body's natural healing abilities, let's just say great change can be made in a short amount of time.

I just spoke with one of my clients who three years ago was suffering with chronic fatigue and horrible symptoms caused by the Epstein Barr Virus. The first year I saw her she used to "crash" every few days, sometimes for days on end with head aches and body pain and now has gone well over a year without an episode lasting more than a day and only happening a couple times through the year. She had a 4-hand session with us last Thursday and called shocked at the changes her body is making and how her general energy is.I am excited to see her for our next session in a few weeks!

Some of you might be thinking, "What do you do in a session? What is it like?" First, it isn't like getting a massage in any way. There is very little rubbing going on in any kind of way. For me, it's about vibration and where I do or do not feel its consistency, then through assessment determine what might be causing the lack of vibrational movement or force in an area and then using different skills and techniques to "unblock" or "release" or "reconnect" the body to it's self and get the vibrations moving again. Simple, right? It's taken me many years, study and practice to do what I do but I have to say, get another practitioner who does mostly energy healing and it's like a medley in perfect harmony! My specialty is in organ function, palpation, mobilization and motility. Working with intuition also is a factor but really, my best asset is working on high volumes of people and spending a great deal of time listening, sensing, and assessing what I feel. I've learned to find an "average" or "neutral" that I would consider healthy or balanced of any body and work to assist the body in reclaiming it if it has lost its way.


For some people, immediate benefits come with a session, and for others the body processes and moves from where the changes were made, slowly improving until balance can be maintained. One way or other, like I said, it's not a massage. After a weekend to take some perspective on how our sessions went, I must say, maybe in June another 4-hand day should go on the books! More on this sort of stuff another day!


I don't know what it is about May, but it's my favorite month of the ENTIRE year. Here on the upper west side of NYC, the trees are budding, the tulips are out in RARE form this year, the air is crisp and the sun is warm. I love May. April isn't done though and for me, the final day of the month... the MELT Hand and Foot Treatment Kit will be highlighted on the sindicated show, The Doctors (CBS owns it) segment called, "Hot Topics". On Friday, April 30th!

Debbie and I have managed to complete a book proposal for the MELT Method as well this past month so spring is looking lovely as far as I am concerned. I've decided MAY is MELT Month! Our instructors are ramping up for a spring MELT fling of events and series all over our country! We even have one instructor heading up to MELT on Martha's Vineyard!

Keep your eye open for our monthly news letter coming next week. It's filled with exciting info, classes, and special events coming your way in May! Happy Spring!

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