Rob Zukowski is a New York State LMT, certified by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, a Certified Medical Massage Therapist and holds a degree in Occupational Studies, with a focus on massage therapy, from the prestigious Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences. He has advanced training in sports massage, various relaxation therapies, and training in multi-therapeutic approaches to massage for oncology.

In addition to private practice, his experience includes being a massage therapist, lead therapist and member relationships manager in assorted fitness centers, spas, clinics and holistic healing settings and working in corporate wellness environments. Rob also works as a client services manager at a healing center, authors his own column on the subject of complementary and alternative medicine in a national HIV/AIDS magazine, works in student outreach and lectures on therapeutic massage for various pathologies.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Road to Wellness

Every morning I wake up and go to the medicine cabinet. Inside it are the pills for my high blood pressure. Really, it’s all a very simple process when we look at things from a conventional medicine point of view. My doctor runs some tests, sees some numbers and prescribes a pill. The label says take one capsule by mouth daily. Again, a simple process. Whole medicine, is not quite that simple. It is a very personal journey that one embarks upon out of a need to treat not just the physical body, but the mind, the spirit, the energy and the soul as well.
It would be wonderful if we could see our physician or pharmacist, tell them what we think, we feel, we lack or suffer from, and get a prescription for tai chi, aromatherapy, or meditation. The truth is that sometimes it’s not quite that simple. But starting down a path of whole medicine is exciting. Are there obstacles? Certainly. There is research to do. There is trial and error. But it is a journey well worth it. It is taking some matters into your own hands and empowering yourself toward enhanced wellness. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Aromatherapy & HIV

Essential Oils:  Aromatherapy may offer a host of possible benefits, from destressing to boosting immunity. 

The use of essential oils for healing, both emotional and physical, has been a part of the holistic wellness landscape for a very long time. In fact, some evidence suggests that the practice of using essential oils for medicinal purposes dates back around 6,000 years and has origins across the globe in places such as Greece, China, Egypt, India, and Rome—just to name a few. The word aromatherapy may imply that inhalation is the singular use of aromatic oils. This is not always the case. Certain oils can be applied to the skin and others even ingested. Of course, this depends on the type of practitioner you see and your specific needs and goals. Personally, mint and lavender are a part of my own aromatic rituals. Not only do I apply them to my body and use the scent, but I make tea from them. Mint is known for its positive effects on digestion and lavender is known to potentially reduce anxiety and stress, aid in sleep, and is said to possess anti-inflammatory properties. No matter how you intend to use essential oils, it is of the utmost importance that you work with a trained, experienced professional. There are dosages, contraindications, dilutions, allergies, drug interactions, and more that must be taken into consideration.

Read more at A&U Magazine

Monday, August 15, 2016

Tai Chi & Immune Function

Tai chi, a good fit for all fitness levels, may improve immune function.

Some years ago, I recall walking through Madison Square Park in Manhattan and seeing a group of people gathered in the grass. Each was performing identical actions and moving at a slow, rhythmic self-pace. In the midst of the usual New York City hustle and bustle, they seemed peaceful and unaffected by their surroundings. I stayed and watched for a while and spoke to one of the group members when they were done. I learned that they were practicing Tai Chi.
I have found that the specific history of Tai Chi varies depending on where you do your research and who you talk to, but many will agree that the art is centuries-old, has origins in traditional Chinese medicine and deep roots in martial arts. While Tai Chi may have begun, in part, as a method of self-defense from external attacks, many people practice it today strictly for its health benefits—perhaps a method of internal defense? While more research is needed, and, I believe, warranted, there is evidence that suggests a variety of health benefits from practicing Tai Chi, many of which may be of some importance to people living with HIV/AIDS.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Transcendental Meditation

My latest article in A&U Magazine details the benefits of Transcendental Meditation.

We have talked at length about complementary, alternative and integrative options that impact the body, our energy, and those that affect both simultaneously. When people speak of the assortment of alternative options, they use words like mind, body, spirit, and soul. I would like talk about a practice that begins in the mind and branches out to impact all the others. Meditation. More specifically, Transcendental Meditation.
I will be the first to admit that I was skeptical about meditation. To clarify, I did not question its effectiveness in any way. Many of my friends and colleagues, people whose insight and opinions I trust, practice meditation and swear by it. My skepticism was personally rooted and came from my own self-doubt. My mind, much like many others, was rarely quiet and at ease. My body infrequently still. I therefore wondered, if even for a short period of time, that I could meditate.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Going to the Mat

My latest article in A&U Magazine delves into the importance of yoga for individuals living with HIV/AIDS.

In my time in the field of complementary and alternative medicine, I have often heard a variety of practitioners remark that good health and healing is partially a state of mind. If I look at this theory from a conventional, western point of view, I am inclined to agree. How many times have you had a bad week or gone through a particularly stressful period in your life and found that you have become ill? It makes sense. In general, stress has a negative physiological impact on the body and the way our assorted systems function. But stress also releases hormones into the body that suppress the immune system.

In our quest for greater wellbeing we may seek out options that strengthen the body. Whether you lift weights, run, engage in sports or partake in any athletics that bring about physical strength and stamina, it is often for the sake of enhanced health. In addition, we may delve into practices that nurture the spirit and the mind, that bring about relaxation and erase anxiety. I can safely say that many of my own clients see me for stress and anxiety reduction. But whether you use massage therapy, meditation, or any other means of relaxation, we often do so in pursuit of good health. In yoga, we find a practice that encompasses both the building of the body and the mind.

Continue reading here...

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Low Back Pain: Quadratus Lumborum

Low back is a common complaint among people who seek out massage therapy. With the complex anatomy of the back, coupled with daily wear and tear, any number of muscles could be responsible for what ails you.

Often times, when a client complains of low back pain, the erector spinae group of muscles is targeted. This is a complex group of muscles that, very generally speaking, run from the sacrum and lumbar spine area to the neck and the base of the skull. The iliopsoas muscle, which is actually made up of two separate muscles located in the anterior of the hip area, may also be the culprit. Indeed, these are an excellent muscles to target and consider when a clients chief complaint is lower back pain. But, one particular muscle, sometimes overlooked, called Quadratus lumborum, or “QL” for short, is often a source of lower back pain. To provide an idea of where a muscle "lives" inside you, I like to discuss the origin(s) and insertion(s) of muscles. That being said, anatomists will often disagree about the pin point accurate origins, insertions and actions  of certain muscles. QL is one of those sometime debated muscles. QL originates on the pelvis. More specifically, on the posterior lip of the iliac crest of the illiim. It is also said that QL, in part, originates on the illiolubar ligament. It runs on an upward, sightly medial trajectory from its origin(s) and inserts onto both the transverse processes ( bony protrusions on either side of a vertebra) of the lower lumbar vertebrae, approximately  L4 through L5, depending on what book you read or who you ask, and on the lower border of the 12th rib.

QL is a hard working, busy muscle. It performs a number of common actions. When the muscle contracts ipsilaterally,  meaning either only the muscle on the right side or left side is contracting at once, QL performs lateral flexion of the lumbar spine, or bending the trunkk of your body to one side. Additionally, when only one side contacts at a time, QL “hikes” the hip. With bilateral contraction, meaning both the right and left muscle contact at once, QL extends the lumbar spine, or helps us to stand up straight. Not only does it help to bring us to an erect position, but it keeps us there, making it a postural stabilizer. A lot of pressure is put on QL as not only does it help to keep us upright, but it is located in an area of the body that takes the brunt of our upper body weight. It is also said, by some anatomists, that when contracted, QL, holds the last rib in place, or fixes the last rib by its contraction. It therefore acts as a muscle of inspiration (inhalation) by helping to stabilize the lower attachments of the diaphragm. It is also a common area for trigger points (deep, hyperirritable bands of tissue)

Pain from QL is generally deep, dull, and achy, but it may be sharp during movement. If you are suffering from low back pain related to QL there are certain symptoms you may note such as pain when you are in an unsupported, upright position, pain on only one side of the lower back, a feeling of restriction in your spine,  pain when rolling to either side while lying down,  pain that seems to travel towards the pelvic, gluteal and groin region, or pain felt along the crest of the ilium (pelvis). Tenderness may be felt in the greater trochanter (mid, lateral hip). Coughing and sneezing can be painful.

What causes pain in QL? Many of the usual suspects, such as sleeping on a mattress that is too soft, lifting heavy objects, a frequent seated position, twisting as you lift or a slip or fall. Horseback riding, golfing and kayaking are also hard on QL. In addition, a discrepancy between the length of your legs – one leg shorter than other - can be a cause. This, of course, can be natural, born occurrence or due to injury. It is also often seen after a leg has been in a cast or splint. Dysfunction in QL may arise from labored breathing, weakness in gluteus medius, or imbalances in other postural muscles.  Tightness in this muscle contributes to excessive lumbar lordosis and anterior pelvic tilt and may cause trigger point referral pain in the gluteus minimus and cause it to refer its pain down the leg and mimic sciatica. It is said that QL dysfunction may be the cause of non-congenital scoliosis. 

From a fitness standpoint some exercises that target QL are side planks, side bridges (a more dynamic version of the side plank), and asymmetric kettle bell carries. In fact, asymmetric kettle bell/weight carries target challenge the QL muscles on opposite side because they are working to keep your spine straight. But in general, any exercise, such as lifting, that stresses the low back or twists the spine will have an impact on QL. 
Common techniques for relieving pain in QL include muscle stripping, which is a deep pressure applied along the muscle fibers from origin of the muscle to insertion, ischemic compression, or deep pressure, to release trigger points within the muscle and passive stretching of the muscle. Personally, I like to employ the use of heat prior to bodywork and stretching to make the tissue more malleable.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

New Adventures

My most recent article in A&U Magazine focuses on assorted healthy possibilities for the new year.

With a New Year comes the opportunity for new beginnings. While any random day of the year is a perfectly wonderful time to make positive changes, the coming of a New Year provides a stellar landmark for important resolutions and tends to offer a renewed sense of determination for living a healthier life.
I consider this time of year an opportunity to not only look back, but to look forward. As it pertains to my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, I make it an annual practice to review, renew and resolve. What practices have made me healthier? What has made an impact? What didn’t quite work for me? What aspects of my being should I continue or set aside? It is a chance to do away with what might be better left behind, carry the successes forward, and explore new options and ideas. Read more at A&U Magazine... 

Photo from the Northeast AIDS Ride: Cycle for the Cause