ORTHOPEDIC MASSAGE THERAPY
Discover how targeted, responsive hands-on therapy can help you more fully inhabit your body and address pain in muscles, soft tissues and joints. My approach includes:
Patient, safe, highly attuned presence and touch that invites change, resourcing and healing.
Selected techniques from myofascial release, neuromuscular integration and craniosacral therapy
Biomechanically savvy assessment and balancing of structural and neuromuscular patterns.
Selective use of light touch and precise deeper pressure as appropriate.
Engagement of subtle, active client movements to harness the power of the engaged nervous system.
With roots in osteopathic manipulation and similarities to traditional hands on healing practices in many cultures, craniosacral therapy has evolved to incorporate insights from neuroscience, energy healing and contemporary trauma therapy. It starts from a place of deep listening and it looks looks for and supports the inherent health in all of us no matter our condition or stage of life. It is a light touch, high presence approach that supports healing for anxiety, headaches, neck and back pain, whiplash, concussions, jaw pain (TMJD), sinus issues, trauma and surgery recovery, and a variety of other conditions. It is also a lovely way to simply reconnect with the ancient subtle slow rhythms of our beings that easily get crowded out of our awareness.
Craniosacral therapy can be an effective complimentary approach to recovering from chronic stress and many types of trauma. It's emphasis on cultivating a pre-cognitive embodied sense of safety and as well as its attunement to the energetic qualities within organs and balance within various parts of the brain and nervous system helps to build capacity and resilience from the cells up, putting some embodied ground underneath cognitive and relational approaches. I am careful to focus within the scope of my training and refer to other providers when appropriate.
Like most effective healing practices, craniosacral therapy is built on a foundation of deep listening. A good therapist listens at many levels. A craniosacral approach is particularly attuned to subtle, innate rhythms in the body. Far more subtle but no less innate than our rhythms of heartbeat and breathing, craniosacral rhythm shows up as the intrinsic motility and sensitive resonant movement of tissues, organs and systems throughout the body. The classical defintion of the craniosacral system includes the 22 bones in the cranium, 33 bones in the spine, the sacrum, the membranes that connect them all, and the cerebrospinal fluid that circulates within the spine and cranium. The attunement to subtle rhythms, though, extends to all tissues, systems and energies in the body. Deep listening with the hands, mind and heart often wakes up the inherent healing intelligence in a client's body and starts a non-verbal conversation that involves as much or as little input from the therapist as a client's system is comfortable with in a given moment.
This kind of listening with just the right amount of input from the practitioner can be a powerful signal of safety and support for the body to unwind deeply held tensions in neural tissue, bones, muscles, fascia and organs that may not respond to more vigorous interventions. The practitioner helps create the conditions, but it is the client's system that does the real work of healing.
As a practitioner, I am particularly inspired by the imagery, science and sensation of the body as a fluid organism. When we first developed as embryos, before genes and neurons began to function, fluid dynamics guided our growth. These same fluidic, embryonic movement patterns are present within us through our entire lives. The craniosacral rhythms echo the different currents in the ocean - fast and choppy, slow and swirling, upwelling and sinking, still and deep. Just as in the ocean, there can be currents within currents.
The extracellular fluids of the body suspend and maintain all other tissues in a homeostatic matrix. Where the fluids flow freely and rhythmically, tissues and processes tend towards health. This aspect of our being resonates with a deep intuition for many: we evolved in water, we feel good around wild bodies of water, we formed our current bodies in watery womb, and our material bodies are mostly water. Recall the adage that our bodies consists of 60-70% water? New research indicates that on the molecular level, that number may be as high as 99%!
Beyond the readily apparent liquids in the body, though, all tissues express resonant fluidic movements that sensitive hands can often detect. "Sensitive" is a key word here. The measurable movement of cranial bones is on the order of 50 microns, the thickness of very thin paper, but the qualitative perception of living movement feels much greater to trained hands and often to sensitive clients as well. The nature of the craniosacral rhythms in any given moment is a response to conditions within and around the body. One of those conditions is the presence, intention and skill of the practitioner. That's one reason its been challenging to scientifically measure and quantify craniosacral movement, but the benefits of craniosacral therapy for a variety of conditions has been well documented. Like many things that are difficult to measure, felt experience is an important guide.
The experience of receiving craniosacral therapy is typically one of deep relaxation and enhanced perception of subtle layers of sensation within the body. The effect is often a body and mind with more fluid ease.
Image by Shinichi Maruyama
RESTORATIVE MOVEMENT TRAINING
Build functional strength, mobility and body awareness to stay active without pain. I want to help you develop your personalized movement practice: an evolving toolbox of skills that empowers you to address your own body and situation.
I draw from the science of the Postural Restoration Institute as well as from from a variety of fitness and somatic movement practices. I encourage clients to feel movements from the inside out and explore what works for them.
Sessions are highly individualized with varying emphasis on manual and movement therapy as needed and desired. I cover a range from pain relief and postural retraining exercises to modifying daily movements and fitness activities.
Thank you, Thank you, Sam. I was told over and over by other doctors that my shoulder injuries would be with me always, that my range of motion would always be limited. Within a couple of months of working with you, I am amazed and delighted to report that there is no pain and I have complete range of movement. It's as if the the injury never happened. ~ Marie
Sam is a skillful diagnostician able to discern what’s wrong structurally and how to correct it. He’s helped me with hip and knee pain that I was worried would be permanent. The pain is almost gone and the changes I notice in how my body moves and balances make me I feel I’m getting my body back. ~ Kate
Sam also teaches me what to do to avoid the problems I create and works to repair and restore a working body so less and less goes wrong. I wish I had know him many years ago and would be less repair to do going forward. ~ Carole
Some of the common conditions that respond well to my approach include:
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Tennis Elbow and Golfers Elbow
Sacroiliac Joint Pain
In addition, by addressing neuromuscular patterns and supporting nervous system regulation, my work can be a key part of interdisciplinary care for these potentially complex conditions:
Surgery and Trauma Recovery
Chronic Low Back Pain
Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury
SAM HAMMER LMT CCST CPT
As a highly trained clinical massage therapist, biodynamic craniosacral therapist, and a certified personal trainer focused on healthy movement skills, I infuse my work with the power of connected touch, therapeutic relationship and embodied intelligence while drawing on science, intuition and experience. I enjoy empowering clients to develop more body awareness, ease, and vitality.
I have focused my ongoing education and practice on the combination of hands-on manual therapy and somatic exercise for addressing musculo-skeletal pain and developing adaptive strategies. I have over 1800 hours of continuing education beyond the base Massage Therapy and Personal Trainer professional licensure and certification programs.
BIG PICTURE TREATMENT CONSIDERATIONS
My work with clients focuses on responding to pesky or chronic musculoskeletal pain as well as disequilibrium and dysregulation challenges such as headaches, anxiety, balance issues, complex pain syndromes and more. Most treatment time is spent in hands on work, unraveling deeply held bodily tensions. Some time may be spent trying out different exercises appropriate to the client and situation. Woven throughout are a few larger perspectives often help to set the stage for better experiences in treatment sessions, in the client's life, or both.
Reduce overall physiological load. Simply put, reducing the overall stress on the system speeds healing on all fronts. Basic health maintenance often provides the biggest levers for change. Smart sleep hygiene, good nutrition, supportive relationships, tonic levels of exercise, appropriate amounts of sunlight, intentional relaxation practices, etc. These habits are simple and powerful but easily brushed aside behind other priorities and distractions. High levels of physiological stress could also result from more subtle drivers like inflammation or toxin exposure. Hands on therapy can't replace attention to these issues, but bodywork can help reduce the overall stress in the system by facilitating tissue healing process that depend on mechanical stretch and by helping a stressed nervous system access parasympathetic mode, a prerequiste for healing.
Understand the role of patterning in creating tension in the body.Nearly everything that we do and experience in our lives creates a level of tension in our tissues. Much of that tension is routinely released as we go through cycles of diverse activity and rest. Highly repetitive or highly intense experiences create more persistent patterns, the kind of patterns that don't resolve quickly and lead to altered tissue and joint mechanics that in turn often lead to nagging pain. Generally speaking, the more heavily patterned we are - in our activities, movements, and overall behavior - the higher the risk of problems developing. In most things, there is a range of familiarity and variability that promotes health. Many of the patterns I see in clients are somewhat predictable responses of our asymmetrical anatomy to common modern everyday activites. Helping the body shift out of these patterns and helping the client understand how to minimize heavy patterning can go a long way towards relieving and preventing musculoskeletal pain.
Understand the role of trauma and chronic stress in creating long lasting patterns of tension in the body. Most of us have had intense experiences that overwhelmed our capacity to adapt. These traumatizing experiences, whether acute episodes or long standing conditions during a part of our life, create some of the most persistent patterns of tension. Shock, emotional guarding patterns, and physical injuries leave strong imprints in our nervous systems and tissues that can last for decades. Our bodies, in their survival driven wisdom, develop compensatory postural, movement, and behavioral patterns that allows us to continue to function and perform. We subconsciously figure out how to walk with a pelvis frozen in one position. We keep breathing even with a rib cage compressed on one side. We function the best we can even with a vigilant nervous system that prevents truly restorative sleep. These persistent patterns, sometimes obvious, sometimes more more subtle, typically underlie chronic musculoskeletal pain symptoms. This is the area where bodywork can really make difference.
Recognize that pain is an emergent property of our complex bodies, minds, lives, and environments. Pain science has repeatedly shown in the last few decades that long lasting chronic pain is poorly correlated with tissue damage and structural issues in the body. The emotional context of an injury, the history of prior traumas, the amount of social support, the level of overall health, and other complex bio-psycho-social variables help explain why two people can incur the same injury yet have dramatically different outcomes in the following months and years. Given this sometimes strange reality, how can we work towards chronic pain relief and resilience? The next article offers some of my thoughts.
PERSPECTIVE ON CHRONIC HEALTH CHALLENGES:
HEALING THRESHOLDS AND THE POWER OF LISTENING
It feels tidy and cognitively satisfying when there is clear cause and effect behind symptoms and treatments are able to create the conditions for the once-and-for-all resolution of a specific symptom. Thankfully, many of the health issues we encounter are to an extent amenable to this kind thinking with which we as a culture are getting fairly adept. Much of my effort in learning and practice is devoted to this analytic understanding of structure and movement, technique and strategy.
Often, though, ongoing health challenges can be seen as the tip of a web of mind-body response deeply enmeshed with individual and collective history and circumstance. An innumerable number of variables, often operating under our conscious awareness, reach a threshold to create symptoms that are very much in our conscious awareness. There is no going back across the threshold that brought us to this present moment and condition, but we may have the opportunity to cross a new threshold of healing.
Perceiving events on our mind-body web in terms of thresholds means being open to the reality that there is more going than we or anyone can fully control or analyze. This can be humbling at best and potentially discouraging if we are prone to seeking the one right answer to our problems. The threshold model can also be encouraging because it means there are many answers that have varying degrees of rightness. It means embracing our opportunities, our power to influence a great many of those variables on our web.
Getting to that new threshold may involve any number of nodes on our complex bio-pscyho-social-spiritual web.
Getting to healing thresholds may mean changes in our habits, activities and life choices as our priorities shift. It may mean reaching out and accepting support. It may mean exploring different treatments, perspectives and experiences to find what resonates with our own inner knowing. It may mean a shift in our attitude towards our body and ourself, cultivating both humility and gratitude. It may take courage to look at things we’ve avoided. It may mean weeks or days or moments of relief while acknowledging the ebb and flow of symptoms over time. It may mean cultivating a soft openness that invites big moments of grace and sees the small moments of everyday grace. It could mean feeling our impermanence while embracing our present realities.
Thinking and perceiving in terms of webs and thresholds also reminds us also that we are not alone on our web. Whatever is happening on our web is partly a result of the people and worlds around us now and the people and worlds that came before. Whatever we do in our webs now will in turn have some impact on worlds to come.
There are many impulses and circumstances that can lead us through such processes of personal learning and evolution, but health challenges can provide particularly potent and multilayered impetus. They can be an invitation - sometimes gentle and subtle, sometimes painfully demanding - to attend to our bodies and our beings in some way.
This perspective has been growing in me for some time, shaped by and influencing my life experiences and my work with clients. It has greatly deepened and clarified through my study and practice of somatic meditation and through my training and practice in biodynamic craniosacral therapy. While both approaches provide powerful conceptual frameworks and visions, both demonstrate the limitations of concepts in the face of our lived experience. I’m referring not to what we think about our experience, but to what our bodies actually experience before we overlay it with stories.
Our linear, analytic, discursive mental functions - what’s come to be popularly known as the left brain functions - helps create our sense of self and enables essential decision making and communication. It drives our doing but it represents a tiny fraction of our being. Neuroscience estimates our discursive thinking represents about one billionth of the input into brains. If we expand our concept of mind beyond the brain-centric approach, the fraction gets even smaller. What does it mean to begin to access the rest of our mind?
I can't presume to have many answers to that question and certainly my words on a screen are firmly in that left brain realm. I can, however, say with some embodied confidence that the felt sense of our bodies is one important way we can begin to open those doors and start a conversation with that intelligence. As we turn our awareness away from the rushing stream of language based thinking and cultural filters into the fluid layers and subtleties of sensation in our bodies, not only may the muddy waters of mental chatter begin to still and clarify while our perceptions deepen, we may well encounter intelligence that is quite distinct from our left brain discursive thinking.
Among the many doorways into our non-cognitive intelligence, massage, bodywork and especially biodynamic craniosacral therapy can offer effective, healing and often profound ways to get a little human to human help attending to the layers of experience that our bodies hold just below the surface of our day-to-day consciousness. These practices, though, can only function as doorways if we approach them with that intention as both giver and receiver. It takes our left brain to approach the doorway, but the door opens only through relaxed and receptive somatic ("right brain") functions: sensing, perceiving, feeling, opening, being.
Accessing the vast world beneath and beyond our discursive thinking can be simple but not always easy in today's world. Setting aside intentional quiet time begins to create the environment - the field - of awareness. The intention can be taken a step further with an open, curious orientation towards the layers of subtle body sensations or energetic overtones that may be precursors to emotion. We may feel as though our body delivers to our awareness images or memories that seemingly come from nowhere and carry a weight, a potency beyond what a wandering thinking mind could deliver. Our open attention and deeper embodiment may invite subtle but palpable shifts in how we sense and relate to the world around us.
The field of awareness can be amplified and influenced by the perceptive touch, knowledgeable approach and attentive presence of a trained and conscientious practitioner. While verbal interaction in treatment is important in setting the stage and building the container, bodywork treatment is a mostly non-verbal, right brain conversation. The practitioner “listens” to different aspects within a client’s system: the subtle motility of an organ, the balance of different parts of the nervous system, the receptivity of a cranial bone on a given day, a pattern of tension that seems to cut across tissue boundaries and hold layers of prior experience.
While touch isn’t always for everyone, none of us would be alive without it. We needed it for our early survival and development and most of us can find soothing, grounding and integration through the right kind of touch. Our bodily ecosystems generally like to be listened to, to be respectfully engaged with, sometimes in a close, supportive way, sometimes with a wide and grounded neutral presence. This quality of listening and attuned engagement within the joint client-practitioner field of compassionate awareness has the potential to invite layers of tissue tension and nervous system overwhelm to gently release and reorganize, allowing the inherent intelligence and health within the client to bring a little more vitality, resilience and ok-ness to the present conditions.
Book an Appointment With Sam Hammer LMT CPT
What to Wear
Wear whatever you are comfortable moving in. Unlike a traditional massage session, many sessions with me involve client movement on and/or off the table. Athletic shorts, yoga pants and leggings, workout tops and t-shirts all work well. Jeans are not recommended. Your comfort is paramount.
What to Expect
Appointments can be a mix of on table and off table work as needed and desired. After thoroughly discussing relevant history, I may assess some specific movements and perform orthopedic tests. Table treatment is a mix of slow and relaxing myofascial release, light touch craniosacral holds, precise neuro-sensory-muscular retraining movements, and occasionally cupping. I sometimes include a few homework exercises before or after the table work to reinforce the treatment and to provide self-care tools to speed your improvement.
Full payment is expected at the time of service. I accept cash, checks, and credit cards.
I do not bill health insurance plans. I can provide documentation for you to submit for reimbursement.
You can pay for massage with Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Savings Accounts.
60 Minute Manual and Movement Therapy $100
75 Minute Manual and Movement Therapy $122
90 Minute Manual and Movement Therapy $145
CONTACT, LOCATION AND PARKING
There is free 2 hour and also metered street parking. There is free longer term parking at the Park-and-Ride lot under the freeway, which is a 5 minute walk. There is also a PCC Parking Garage 3 blocks away, which is free for 90 minutes with a PCC purchase.
414 Ravenna Blvd. NE
Seattle, WA 98115
THE RESILIENCE STUDIO
Located in the Greenlake neighborhood in north Seattle close to Greenlake Park and I5.
Small, quiet, private bodywork and movement studio with two therapists.
Treatment table uses an amethyst biomat with infrared heat and negative ion generation.