New Yew | Transformational Massage Grand Rapids Michigan Transformational Massage Therapy for a New You. Fri, 18 Aug 2017 16:00:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 39357191 Can Massage Help Vertigo? Fri, 18 Aug 2017 16:00:00 +0000 Red & white round abstract vortex Have you ever considered massage or bodywork for help with your dizziness or vertigo? If you’re like most people, you haven’t. And I totally understand why you wouldn’t. But maybe you should.

The usefulness of massage or bodywork to help with vertigo or dizziness depends on what’s causing it.

Massage Won’t Help If…

  • You have an ear infection. You should see a doctor and get some antibiotics if needed.
  • You have crystals in your ear that are out of place. A doctor, audiologist, or physical therapist should be able to do a maneuver to help move the crystals back where they belong.

Massage or Bodywork Might Help If…

  • You have trigger points in certain muscles. Some trigger points can cause dizziness or vertigo. Having a massage therapist release those trigger points can eliminate your symptoms.
  • You have migraine disease. One way that migraine disease can manifest itself is through ideopathic vertigo (vertigo that they can’t determine a cause for). If your massage therapist or bodyworker specializes in migraines, they may (MAY) be able to help reduce the intensity and frequency of your vertigo.
  • You have restricted fascia (connective tissue) around &/or in your ears. A massage therapist or bodyworker who does MFR (myofascial release) or otherwise works with the fascia can help release the fascia.

There is no guarantee that your vertigo will be eliminated or reduced, of course. Vertigo is a complex thing and all of its causes are not yet known, and you could have more than one thing going on in your body if you have repeated episodes of vertigo.

It may not be an easy task to find a therapist who can help but you can start by talking to your massage therapist to find out if they have the training to help you. If they can’t, ask if they can recommend someone.  If it doesn’t work, you’ll at least be able to rule out trigger points and fascia. But if it does work, the time you spend finding and going to a massage therapist or bodyworker will be soooooo worth it.

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When to Fire Your Massage Therapist Fri, 11 Aug 2017 16:00:00 +0000 shoe on a spring kicking businessman

Hopefully you’ve had nothing but good experiences with the massage therapists you’ve seen. If you’re like most people, however, you’ve likely had at least one less than favorable interaction. But at what point do you put your foot down and fire them. And what’s involved in firing them anyway?

Fire Your Therapist If…

  1. They EVER try to get sexual with you
  2. They ever negate your feed back that what they’re doing is painful.
  3. They deny your pain experience, i.e. they don’t believe that you actually have pain or they don’t believe the intensity of your pain. They don’t live inside your body and have no idea what you deal with on a daily basis.
  4. They don’t honor your requests for comfort such as adjusting their pressure or the temperature.
  5. They offer advice that’s out of their scope of practice. Massage therapists are not able to tell you what to eat (or not eat), what supplements to take (they should, however, know about the ones you currently take), tell you to change or stop taking a medication, etc.
  6. They perform services that are our of the scope of their practice, such as chiropractic adjustments, skin analysis/treatments, etc.
  7. Their treatment space is dirty and unhygienic.
  8. They are habitually late or run over on time so long that they make you late for the next place you have to be. I’m not saying ditch ’em if it happens once; we’re all human and run late or over  time on occasion… I’m talking about therapists for whom this happens more often than not.
  9. They text or take phone calls during your session.

How to Fire Your Therapist

The easiest way to fire your therapist is to simply never make another appointment, but that’s not the best way.

  • Sometimes you need to fire them during a session. For instance:
    • If a therapist gets sexual with you you should immediately tell them to stop, then end the session and leave. Make it clear why you’ve ended the session and also make it clear that you won’t be back. You should also report them to their state massage therapy licensing board and the police.
    • If they are causing you pain during your session and refuse to make adjustments to assure your comfort when you ask them to, you should end the session and be clear about why you’re ending it early.
  • Most of the time it’ll be a matter of not booking with them again. But here’s my request… even if it’s difficult for you, please tell the therapist why you won’t be booking any more. As hard as it may be to believe, your therapist may not have any idea that what they’re doing is causing them to lose clients unless someone tells them. And worse yet, someone else will have to endure their behavior if you don’t tell them.

So that’s it. Hopefully you’ll never have to fire a therapist, but if you do now you’ll be prepared.

PS – Don’t forget to use the handy buttons below and share this post on your favorite social media.

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The Massage Client’s Guide to Leaving Reviews Fri, 04 Aug 2017 16:00:00 +0000 3 generic online client reviews

So you’ve just gotten a fabulous massage and want to leave a glowing review for your therapist (awww, thanks) but you don’t know what to say. You’re not alone. Writing reviews isn’t easy, as evidenced by the fact that you’re reading this.

I used to struggle writing reviews for other providers. Ok, fine, I still struggle sometimes. But the thing is, it doesn’t have to be hard.  Once I figured out a couple tricks it became a whole lot easier. Today I’m going to share those tricks with you.

What to Say and How to Say it

Let’s start with a few examples of reviews that are glowing but less helpful than they could be:

  1. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Great!
  2. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Wonderful!
  3. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Best massage ever!
  4. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I would take one of these any day of the week if the alternative is no review at all. The only problem is they lack the one thing that would make them super helpful: specificity.

There are basically three ways to go about writing a great review:

  1. Think of reviews you’ve read that have been the most helpful and model your review after them.
  2. Begin with the problem you came in with, tell about your experience with the therapist as they addressed your issue, give concrete examples of how the therapist helped you with your problem, and tell how you felt afterward. Caveat: Be as succinct as possible (1-2 short paragraphs (6-12 sentences) is about all anyone is going to read) and leave out unnecessary details… you’re writing a review, not a novel.
  3. Give a balanced review of information that other people will find useful.
    1. Example: Did you have to play phone tag with the therapist in order to schedule an appointment, but it was so good you feel it was worth the effort it took to schedule? Someone else would love to know that information.

What Not to Do

Here are a few tips for what not to do or say. These will save you tons of possible embarrassment and humiliation.

  • Whatever you do, don’t lie or exaggerate. You will be found out and the internet has a way of dealing with people who do this. FYI, the result usually isn’t pretty. As the Brits say, “The truth will out.”
  • Know the therapist’s policies as stated on their website, on their intake forms, and in their office. Let’s say you go off on a rant about being charged full price for a shortened session because you were late and your therapist has a policy that says late arrivals are charged full price and still end at the original time. Either the therapist, or one of their loyal clients, is going to screen shot the policy and post it in response to your review and then you look like a whining dufus.
  • Don’t tip your therapist and then leave a bad review saying they never even offered you a refund. (Yes, I know someone this happened to. No, it wasn’t me.) FYI, tipping indicates you were happy with the massage and will in no way trigger a therapist to think you were the least bit unhappy. The therapist will probably call you on this which will make you look like a donkey’s backside.

That’s it. While I want you to remember the dos and don’ts, it’s just as important to write it in your voice; your review will influence fewer people if it sounds like it was written by a robot or grammar textbook.

Now you’re ready to go leave a review on your favorite therapist’s Facebook page, Trip Advisor, Google, or where ever they’ve asked you to leave a review.

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Do You Have Unrealistic Massage Expectations? Fri, 28 Jul 2017 16:00:00 +0000 Reality Check Ahead sign on desert road

How Realistic Are Your Massage Expectations?

I can’t tell you how many times in the past 15 years I’ve heard from people who’ve had a bad experience with massage. It usually comes down to not having had their expectations met. The reasons are varied: The office was dirty, they didn’t get the type of massage they asked for (i.e. fluffy instead of deep tissue or vice versa), the therapist talked (or didn’t), or *gasp* the therapist texted or took phone calls during the massage (like, what the…). These situations fail to meet the client’s very realistic expectations and they have every right to be upset. I’ve also blogged about them before, so I’m not going to address them today.

But sometimes, people are upset because they still have pain at the end of their massage session. This is a bit more complex and we need a lot more information to determine how realistic their expectations were. *Hint* Sometimes they had very realistic expectations and the therapist fell short for whatever reason, but sometimes, as you’ll see in a minute, expectations can be a bit pie in the sky.

Realistic vs. Unrealistic Expectations

It’s realistic to expect a flowing massage tailored to your comfort level if you book a Swedish massage. It’s also realistic to expect that a trigger point or neuromuscular therapy session will be quite uncomfortable at times and that it won’t feel all flowy but it will make you feel better.

It’s not realistic to expect the pain you’ve had for 9 months from a pinched nerve, that 3 rounds of physical therapy hasn’t helped, to be relieved in one 60 minute session. It’s also not realistic to expect your injury pain to be totally relieved if you haven’t given the injury the appropriate time or opportunity to heal.

Things That Matter

While I can’t address every possible thing that might be a factor in your expectations, I can address the ones I see most commonly.

Before setting an expectation for your next massage, consider the following:

  • How long you’ve had the pain – The longer you’ve had the pain the more likely it is to have become either chronic or intractable, both of which makes it a very difficult and lengthy process to relieve all or part of it.
  • How severe the pain is – Pain that has you in tears is going to be much harder to relieve than pain that’s only at the annoying level.
  • What else is going on with the body that massage can’t address – For instance, do you have a gall stone or tumor and not know it? (I had a gall stone for 8 years before they were able to diagnose it, despite numerous visits to the ER and my doctor’s office, because I had atypical symptoms.) Pain that comes from non-muscular sources like gall stones, kidney stones, liver disease, tumors, infections, etc. can sometimes be felt in the muscles, but there’s also a deeper quality to it. Massage cannot relieve these types of pain.
  • Your stress level – Are you stressed to the max? Stress causes a lot of changes in the body, including protective muscle tension and a resistance of that muscle tension to release (because it thinks it’s protecting you from a sabertooth tiger… it doesn’t realize that the tiger is your boss and won’t actually eat you). Remember also that some types of massage can easily stress an already stressed out body, which makes it less likely to be effective.
  • Your personality – If you’re a worrier, are hard on yourself, are a people pleaser, etc, it’s going to be harder to relax and, therefore, harder to relieve your muscle tension. These are a form of self-induced stress (and I should know… I resemble at least half of these remarks) which means your muscle tension is also going to come back in a quicker than average time span.
  • The experience and/or expertise of the therapist you choose to go to – A therapist that’s right out of school or one who specializes in relaxation or spa techniques may not be the best choice if you have a complex pain syndrome. Ideally you’d choose one who specializes in the type or location of pain you have.

So, let’s see how much of this you’ve taken in. Here’s a quick 2 question quiz (it’s an open book, or rather blog, quiz, so no pressure):

  1. If you’ve had a tension headache for the last 5 days, will it be easily relieved in one 60 minute session?
  2. If most of your pain is caused by stress-related muscle tension and you start taking concrete steps to either reduce or better manage your stress, will massage be more effective?


  1. No (but it depends)
  2. Yes

Congratulations! You passed. Now all you have to do is pass this on using one of the handy share buttons below to see if you’re friends pass, too. 🙂

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A Different Way to Choose a Massage Therapist Fri, 21 Jul 2017 16:00:00 +0000 kid on beach with binoculars

Finding a Massage Therapist is Hard

I often get asked about how to find a good massage therapist. To be honest, I totally understand the question, but I kind of hate it at the same time, for two reasons. First, It’s a bit of a loaded question to start with because “good” is a subjective term. So, short of getting a referral from someone who you know loves exactly the same type of massage as you, it’s nearly impossible to answer. Second, it’s been answered about a bajillion times on a zillion different blogs, including this one.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you know all about the professional directories, personal referrals, etc. so I’m not going to address those. Instead, I’m going to give you a different way to think about finding a therapist. One that will make it easier to know, like, and trust your therapist, because they’ll start out being part of your tribe.

Where to Look to Find a Massage Therapist

Your new awesome strategy: Find one that supports or belongs to groups that you support.

Here are a few examples of what I mean

  • Green business associations – If you’re environmentally minded try looking for a massage business that’s a member, that way you know you won’t get bottled water or products with excess packaging, etc. Many of these organizations have online member listings that you can search by type of business.
  • Children’s organizations or charities – If your child needs a massage therapist, or helping children is your passion, you might feel more comfortable with a therapist who feels the same way.
  • Local business associations – If you’re a passionate supporter of local businesses don’t you want your local therapist to also support local businesses… other than their own, that is. Many of these organizations have online member listings that you can search by type of business.
  • Health related charities – Do you or a loved one have a condition that also has a local, state, or national association or support group? If so, look for massage therapists who volunteer their time at local events or who are members at the national level.
  • Religious organizations – If your faith is one of the most important things in your life, try looking for a massage therapist who attends your church or volunteers at local or regional church-related events. If there’s a [insert your faith here] business association in your area, that will be even easier.

Business organizations are the easiest way to find massage therapists because they all have online directories. There are all types of business organizations out there for all types of businesses – green businesses, christian businesses, hispanic owned, woman owned, etc. so do a web search for what you ‘re looking for. With any luck, there’ll be one in your town.

Other organizations and charities can be a great resource as well, but you may have to get involved in the charity, or at least be active on their social media.

So now it’s your turn. Have you ever found a massage therapist through any of these means? If so, how did it go? Let me know in the comments below.

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10 Things You Don’t Know About Peppermint Essential Oil Fri, 14 Jul 2017 14:00:00 +0000 Fresh peppermint and essential oil on wooden backgroundPeppermint (Mentha piperita) essential oil is one of the most common essential oils. It’s easy to find, easy to afford, and useful for a huge list of things from headaches to tired feet and from deterring ants to deodorizing the trash. But there’s more to peppermint EO than meets the eye, or should I say nose.

For instance, here are 10 things I’ll bet you didn’t know (unless you’re a geeky aromatherapist or mint grower):

  1. Right after distillation, peppermint EO smells vomitous and slightly sulfurous
  2. The essential oil is taken through a process called rectification in which the the undesirable (stinky) components are removed to give you the clean, crisp pepperminty smell you’ve come to know and love
  3. The US Pharmacopeia requires rectification of peppermint oil (The USP develops standards for medications, dietary supplements, food ingredients and supply chain issues.)
  4. Peppermint plants need a lot of water to grow but also need adequate drainage. Water-logged soil will adversely affect the quality of the oil
  5. Timing is crucial when harvesting the plant to assure a high enough quantity and quality of menthol (menthol is what gives it that characteristic minty smell) to assure a quality essential oil
  6. Once harvested the plants are left to wilt in the field. The timing of the wilting process is also important, otherwise the plants could lose oil due to evaporation or the plants could start to ferment which will compromise the quality and quantity of oil
  7. The USA produces nearly 80% of the world’s peppermint essential oil, and only about 1% of that is available to the aromatherapy market; most of it’s sold to the food industry.
  8. Common adulterants of peppermint essential oil include other mint species like cornmint  (Mentha arvensis) and synthetic menthol.
  9. Peppermint essential oil has 2 sets of contradictory properties depending on when and how it’s used: It can be either cooling or warming, and it can be either relaxing or stimulating
  10. If not stored properly, peppermint oil will easily oxidize and lose its efficacy.

This was a very different type of aromatherapy post than I normally do, so tell me what you think:.

Should I 1) do more posts like this, 2) do occasional posts like this, or 3) don’t do any more posts like this. Let me know in the comments below.


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The Eucalyptus You Don’t Know (But Need to Meet) Fri, 07 Jul 2017 16:00:00 +0000 Eucalyptus plant and essential oil bottle

You’ve heard of eucalyptus essential oil. But did you know there’s more than one type of eucalyptus? I can think of 4 off the top of my head: Eucalyptus globulus (the most popular and most prevalent), Eucalyptus radiata (slightly softer smell and great to use proactively), Eucalyptus citriodora (lemon eucalyptus, a great insect repellant), and Eucalyptus dives (peppermint eucalyptus).

The first 3 have gotten a fair amount of press, but I’ll bet you’ve never heard of the last one: Eucalyptus dives.

2 Types of Eucalyptus Dives

Technical note:  Eucalyptus dives has 2 chemotypes (a chemotype occurs when plants of same genus and species grow in different locations)

  • Piperitone – especially useful for thick mucus, it’s a great decongestant for stuck mucus
  • Cineole – clears normal congestion like regular eucalyptus (eucalyptus globulus) does

Therapeutic Properties of Eucalyptus Dives

In case you’re interested, here are a few things that you can use this oil for:

  • Reduces thick mucus* (great for the cold or flu you just can’t get rid of and also for the congestion that’s driving you crazy)
    • Steam with it
    • Use it as a chest rub (diluted, of course)
    • Massage your feet with it (diluted)
    • Diffuse it
  • Helps strengthen body’s resistance to infective organisms
  • Assists in fighting germs/infections
  • Helps alleviate inflammation
  • Destructive to bacteria
  • Reduces nasal mucus production and swelling
  • Calming
  • Clears the mind
  • Aids concentration
  • Cooling
  • Cleansing
  • Soothes exhaustion

*Remember, it’s only the piperitone chemotype that helps with thick mucus.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Nature’s Gift, one of my 2 favorite essential oil suppliers, says about the piperitone chemotype (abbreviated ct) of peppermint eucalyptus:

“Sparkling and bright, smelling like a blend of your favorite Eucalyptus species with just a touch of sweet Peppermint, this new addition to our collection is recommended for pain relief, whether from sinus headaches, any other type of headache, arthritis pain, and respiratory problems.

I have seen this delightful specimen described as “cooling, refreshing, and energizing.” Peppermint Eucalyptus Oil is said by some to have strong anti-asthmatic properties and to be a remedy against infections of the lower respiratory tract…bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma. Like Frankincense, Eucalyptus dives causes one to breathe deeply and forces the bronchioles to dilate. By diffusion, it is useful for general colds and chest infections. My Australian mentor states, “Eucalyptus dives ct piperitone is excellent as a bronchial dilator and for dealing with lower respiratory tract conditions like bronchitis.”  It is also a powerful mucolytic, helpful for loosening up a dry, unproductive cough.”

You don’t need to have allergies or a cold, or any other respiratory issue, to use this oil. It smells sublime straight out of the bottle; a softer smell than you get just mixing peppermint (Mentha piperita) and ecualyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) together. Seriously, go out and buy a bottle… you won’t be sorry.

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Why Lavender Essential Oil is NOT Overrated Fri, 30 Jun 2017 16:00:00 +0000 sun shining on lavender

Confession: There was a time, when I’d roll my eyes every time someone recommended lavender essential oil for one problem or another. “Don’t you know any other oils?!?,” I’d scream in my head, “OMG, there are sooooo many more oils that could be useful for that. Simpleton.”  I may have been a tad hasty in my judgment. *Sad face of shame*

Since those days of my early aromatherapy education, when I knew just enough be dangerous and judgmental, I’ve changed my tune. Now I embrace lavender essential oil for all of its wonderful, myriad properties. Keeping the individual nature of people and essential oils in mind, it’s a great oil to keep on hand because it will still be useful for most people even if it isn’t the best possible oil choice for that person.

Properties of Lavender Essential Oil

  • affordable (it’s actually often underpriced and used as a loss leader by many companies)
  • reduces anxiety
  • reduces fatigue
  • relieves stress
  • balances hormones
  • boosts immune response
  • lowers blood pressure
  • relieves pain
  • helps heal minor burns

Home Remedies

Mix 5-10 drops lavender with 1 ounce jojoba or unscented lotion to:

  • take sting out of insect bites
  • take heat out of minor burns
  • relieve earaches – rub a drop of diluted EO behind the ear
  • relieve headaches – rub diluted EO to temples, forehead, and base of neck


  • add a few drops of EO to a bowl of warm water and breathe to calm and uplift the mind
  • Add a few drops of EO to a diffuser to help ward off colds and other infectious diseases
  • 3 drops in a warm footbath to help relieve stress
  • 6-8 drops in a warm bath (Mix with epsom salt of full fat milk first) before bed to relax
  • add 1-2 drops of undiluted EO to the underside corner of your pillow to help you sleep

When an oil can do all that, and more, it certainly isn’t overrated.

What else have you used lavender essential oil for? Let me know in the comments below. (And don’t forget to share)

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5 Essential Oils You Should Always Have Fri, 23 Jun 2017 16:00:00 +0000 4 essential oil bottlesI haven’t done a post about aromatherapy for a while. It’s time I remedied that.

I know it’s summer and I know you want to get out and enjoy the 5 minutes of good weather we have each year, and so do I. So, I’m going to keep this short and sweet and tell you the 5 oils I always make sure to have on hand and why.

Lavender Essential Oil

Because it:

  • calms the nerves
  • relaxes the mind
  • helps minor skin burns heal faster
  • soothes menstrual cramps
  • relieves stress
  • relieves tension headaches
  • aids sleep

Eucalyptus Essential Oil

Because it:

  • loosens phlegm
  • reduces coughing
  • helps you breathe when you’re stuffy
  • speeds healing of colds
  • is antiseptic
  • repels insects

Rosemary Essential Oil

Because it:

  • is invigorating
  • is mentally stimulating
  • aids concentration
  • aids memory
  • is antiseptic

Tea Tree Essential Oil

Because it:

  • is anti-viral
  • is anti-bacterial
  • is anti-fungal
  • speeds healing of pimples

Ylang Ylang Essential Oil (Complete or Extra)

Because it:

  • is relaxing
  • is a supposed aphrodisiac
  • aids sleep
  • helps regulate hormones (and aids pre- and perimenopausal symptoms)

That’s it. Two other reasons I’ve chosen these oils is that they’re all readily available online from reputable suppliers and they won’t break the bank.

So… if you’ve wanted to start your own essential oil kit but were a bit overwhelmed by all the possibilities, you’ve now got a good place to start.

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The Massage Client’s Guide to (Not) Shaving Fri, 16 Jun 2017 16:00:00 +0000 one leg shaved the other hairy

Clients often apologize for not having shaved this or waxed that, but it’s really no big deal.

Hairy Legs

Ladies, this is for you. Shaving our legs is a cultural thing. Here in the U.S. it’s considered normal, and even expected, for a woman to shave her legs. But not all cultures take that view. Some cultures view women who shave their legs as prostitutes.

Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t shave your legs. I firmly believe it should be your choice if you want to shave your legs or not. You shouldn’t be shamed by society, or even yourself, if you don’t shave them everyday, or even if you don’t shave them at all.

It’s no big deal to work on hairy legs. Really. Most guys don’t shave their legs and we don’t have any problem working on their legs. We won’t have any problem working on yours. But… there’s stubble, you say. So? We massage a lot of 5 o’clock shadow and, believe me, that’s way more coarse and prickly than your legs.

Let me guarantee you that most women do NOT shave their legs every day. My evidence: 15+  years of working on hairy or stubbly legs and hearing, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t shave my legs today,” several times a week.

Hairy Backs

Your turn guys – Newsflash: Having hair on your back is normal. It’s also normal to not have hair on your back. Sure, some people hate hairy backs, but you only need to worry about that if you’re pursing them as a romantic partner (which probably isn’t a great idea, imho), not if you’re looking to get a massage.

Massage therapists work on hairy backs all the time. We also work on naturally hairless backs, backs that have been waxed smooth, and backs that have obviously been waxed but are starting to grow back. It doesn’t really matter to us which it is. The only thing it impacts is which, and how much, lubricant we use on the hairy part.

Hairy Armpits

This last one is for the ladies. We don’t care if they’re shaved or not. Seriously. As long as your pits don’t reek so badly we gag, we don’t care what you do or don’t do with them. Judging by the feedback I get from clients, there are many therapists out there who don’t even work in this area anyway. For those of us who do, the presence of hair doesn’t matter. We work in men’s pits, too, and they don’t shave. It’s no big deal.

So what I’m really saying is this: We don’t care if your don’t shave.

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No, Your Massage Therapist Doesn’t Want to Play “Hide and Seek” Fri, 09 Jun 2017 16:00:00 +0000 detective with magnifying glassAs a kid, I used to love to play hide and seek. I thrilled to find the perfect hiding spot, which was different depending on who was searching. I also loved being able to figure out each person’s favorite type of hiding spot and finding them with relative ease afterward. Truth be told, I still love a good game of hide and seek, just not in the massage room.

Every massage therapist has had at least one client who has tried to play some version of hide and seek with them. The type of hide and seek that people play in the massage room isn’t the fun game of my childhood.

There are 2 ways to play hide and seek during a massage and most massage therapists have very little patience for either. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, I’m certain that you have never played the first type, but you may have inadvertently played the second type.

Creepy Hide and Seek

The pervs play all sorts of games (both subtle and overt) that result in them uncovering part of all of their junk in the hopes that we’ll “massage it.” All that’ll get them in the office of a legitimate massage therapist is a lecture, a session that ends immediately, and/or a ban from ever returning to that therapist.

This Is Not A Test

The testers either refuse to tell us what’s wrong, saying “You’re the professional. You’ll find it,” or they fail to fill in their health history forms completely. We ask questions before your session to help us devise a treatment plan so you can have the maximum benefit possible from your massage. If you only tell us you have back pain (for example) but won’t narrow down where you’re feeling discomfort you aren’t helping us help you feel better. If you won’t tell us what movements or positions make it better or worse, again, you’re simply complicating and possibly delaying your own pain relief. If you don’t tell us that you’ve had a spinal fusion or a bulging disc, we won’t know that we need to modify the massage to account for that. The back is a large area and the muscles that cause upper back pain probably won’t have much, if any, effect on low back pain. When you *hide* the answers we might spend all session *seeking* the problem you came to see us for. That means you won’t get nearly the amount of relief you could have, had we known what we were actually looking for in the first place and started there instead of ending there.

I understand that you want to get on the table as soon as possible. Really I do. I also understand that you respect our knowledge and skill, but being able to put our knowledge and skill to its best use for you is dependent on knowing the particulars of what’s going on with *your* body.

So the takeaway for today is this: You’ll get a much better massage with greater results if you are willing to take a couple extra minutes to answer a few questions before getting on the massage table.

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What You Need To Know About Pain And Massage Fri, 02 Jun 2017 16:00:00 +0000 No Pain No gain

painful massageI can’t speak to the benefits of “no pain no gain” in relation to sports or weight training, but I can tell you that it doesn’t hold water when it comes to massage. That’s not to say that massage might never be uncomfortable, but it should never be downright painful.

What Is Pain?

For our purposes today, I’m going to define pain as eliciting one or more of these responses:

  • Involuntary gasp, grunt, cry, yell, or scream
  • Involuntary withdrawal or protection of offended body part
  • Holding your breath in response to the sensation
  • Clenching fists, eyes, or toes in response to the sensation
  • Change in breathing in order to tolerate the sensation
  • Change in speech in response to the sensation
  • Marked increase in heart rate

Pain is Never the Right Answer

Pain during a massage could be a sign that your therapist might be fighting your body instead of working with it. This can include working too quickly on an area, working too deeply, or trying to force their way into protected tissue.

Pain is often a sign that something’s wrong. The only protection a muscle has to pain is to contract. When a muscle is trying to protect itself and someone else is trying to get that same muscle to “release” microtears can be created in the muscle. Ouch!

What to do if You Have Pain

As I said, the only thing a muscle in pain can do is contract, and that’s counter to the end goal of a massage session, which is to release or relax muscles that are causing pain. So, if you feel pain from something your massage therapist is doing, please speak up. If you want less pressure, tell them. If you thought the last massage felt fine, but then couldn’t walk for 2 days afterward, tell your therapist (if not by phone, email, or text, then at your next appointment) so they can alter the way they work on you so you don’t have pain.

Remember, too, that your massage therapist is only as human as you are. So… if you tell them what they’re doing is painful and they don’t alter the pressure, speed or location, reword your statement and ask them to slow down, lighten up, or move on to somewhere else. A good massage therapist will be happy to comply. A better therapist will ask questions about the pain to better understand what may have caused it.

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What it Means When a Muscle Feels Tight Fri, 26 May 2017 16:00:00 +0000 I’m sure you’ve felt tight muscles on yourself. Whether you physically touched the muscles with your hands or just felt the sense of tension in your body, there’s a good chance you rubbed those muscles yourself or asked someone else to do it for you. Maybe both.

But what does the term “tight muscle” mean? What makes a muscle feel tight and do you always need or want to release it?

Muscles Can Be Contracted Short

muscle length contracted vs relaxedWhen a muscle feels tight, it could be tight from being shortened or contracted. This is what most people assume whenever they feel a tight muscle… that it’s contracted and needs to be released or relaxed. But that’s not always the case

If the muscle is contracted tight it will feel thicker than normal. (see picture)

Muscles Can Be Stretched Long

But muscles can also feel tight because they’re being pulled or stretched when other muscles that move your body in the opposite direction are contracted. Both sets of muscles can feel tight to the touch, but it’s likely that only one set of muscles will hurt. Often the ones that hurt are the ones being pulled. (Not always, but often.)

My favorite (albeit somewhat oversimplified) example is a kid pulling on your arm to get you to come see or do something with them. If you’re in the middle of doing something, you’ll put them off. If for some reason they were to keep pulling on your arm (and you let them) until you were ready to go with them, your arm would likely begin to hurt. No amount of massage on those arm muscles is going to relieve the pain of the muscle being stretched until the kid stops pulling.

The same thing happens when you have one set of contracted (tight) muscles pulling on another set of muscles that are pulled (or stretched) tight. One set will usually hurt while the other doesn’t.

If the muscle is stretched or pulled tight it will feel thin and taut like a trampoline or army cot.

If you “release” a muscle that’s being stretched tight, you’ll do yourself quite a mischief. That stretched muscle is usually pulling back (or trying to) in an attempt to keep itself from being pulled even farther. In other words, it’s bracing your body against further pain. If you release it, the contracted muscle will be allowed to contract even more and stretch the already stretched muscle even further. If you thought it hurt when the muscle was being pulled before, it’s nothing to how it will feel if the shorted muscle is allowed to pull even harder.

The Long and Short Of It

So… just because you have a muscle that feels tight doesn’t mean you necessarily want someone to release it for you. *Shameless Plug* You want a professional massage therapist to evaluate your body and release the shortened muscles while comforting the stretched ones.

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The Massage Client’s Guide to Taking Off Your Clothes Fri, 19 May 2017 16:00:00 +0000 Knight with plate mail armour

You could wear this and it would be OK.

Exposing the Truth About Getting Undressed (tl;dr version)

Only undress as far as you’re comfortable. Really. Yes, I mean it. No, I really don’t have a preference.

Let’s Cover That A Bit More Thoroughly

Think about it. If you’re feeling a bit “exposed,” despite being covered by a sheet and blanket, you’re going to be holding tension in your muscles. You’ll especially be holding tension in your leg muscles as you attempt to make sure that as little as possible can be accidentally seen or felt. If you’re a woman, you’ll undoubtedly also be holding tension in your arm and chest muscles as you strive to keep your breasts fully covered. If one of your massage goals is to reduce pain and/or muscle tension you’ll be hard pressed to make much headway if you’re holding tension in the very  muscles you’re asking us to release.

Not only that but you’ll be nervous, anxious, and/or fearful, which puts your stress response on red alert. No matter how relaxing the massage is, your constant alarm bells are going to keep you from feeling relaxed, or at least as relaxed as you could be if you’d left a bit more clothing on before getting on the massage table. Add to that the fact that when you’re nervous, anxious, or fearful you simply can’t enjoy anything as much as you otherwise would.

A competent massage therapist will be able to work with any level of dress or undress. This is your session and you’re paying a lot of money for it. All that money will be wasted if you’re not getting the full benefit because you’re “underdressed.”

Let’s Wrap This Up

To recap… when you’re tense because you took off more than you were comfortable with it makes our job harder, reduces your enjoyment, and reduces the benefit you’ll receive from the massage.

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Should You Really Take Your Time Getting Up After A Massage? Fri, 12 May 2017 16:00:00 +0000 massage clock If you’ve ever had a massage, you know that some sort of time warp takes place once you set foot in the massage room. It speeds up, it slows down, you may even start to lose track of what day it is. Or maybe that’s just me.

So much of massage is time-based that we massage therapists tend to pay close attention to time and use a lot of time-based language. Sometimes that language is specific and necessary as in, “I have you scheduled for a 60 minute massage at 3:00pm.” Sometimes, it’s more vague and polite such as when we say, “Take your time getting up.”

Massage Time Part 1: The Quicker Stripper

I’ve had clients take as little as 30 seconds (or less) to take off their clothes, throw them on the chair, get on the table, and cover up. The average time it seems to take my clients is somewhere around 1-2 minutes (I’ve never actually timed it), depending on the time of year and the care they take with their clothes.

This part of the massage is least subject to the time warp I mentioned above. You’re still in your normal multi-tasking, get-things-done mode and you’re excited to be getting on the table. You’re using all of your multi-tasking skills to get on the table as soon as possible so the massage can start.

Massage Time part 2: Table Time

I don’t know about you, but every time I get a massage, it always ends up being the fastest 60 or 90 minutes of my day. Truth be told, it’s often that way when I’m giving massage as well. I’m telling you, there’s some sort of time warp that happens.

This time warp has a lot to do with something I’ll broadly call mindfulness. Your mind may be racing when you first get on the table, but as you start to focus on how good your body feels (or how the pain is subsiding) it starts to calm down and you start to focus only on the bodily sensations. It’s the same thing that happens when you focus solely on a hobby or activity you enjoy… you lose track of time. I could do a whole blog post explaining this mindfulness, but that’s the gist of it.

Massage Time Part 3: Dazed and Confused

Then comes the time that your therapist tells you in a soothing voice that the massage is over and to take your time getting up. You probably don’t want to get up; you’d prefer the massage continue for another hour. Who wouldn’t, right? But getting off the table and coming out of the room isn’t nearly as easy as getting on the table.

The average time it takes my clients to get off the table, put their clothes on, and come out of the room can be anywhere from 3-10 minutes. It makes sense, right? You’re relaxed, warm, and perfectly content… of course you’re going to move more slowly getting off the table than you did when you were enthusiastically anticipating getting a massage. You might even want to stay on the table and take a nap.

What We Really Mean When We Say “Take Your Time”

I’m gonna be honest. When we tell you to take your time getting up we don’t really mean it. Well, we mean it in the sense that we don’t want you rushing around to get dressed and come out of the room because that would undo a good portion, if not all, of the stress relief and lowered muscle tension you may have just experienced. We want you to move at a relaxed pace, but we don’t mean take ALL the time you want. Don’t sit in the room checking your Facebook or Twitter feed, don’t sit in there having a text conversation, and don’t (for the love of all that’s holy) give yourself some extra “pleasure” after the massage; we especially don’t want you doing the last one.

Remember, unless you’re the last client of the day your massage therapist has a client after you. Even if you are the last client of the day, the therapist still has to clean the room to get it ready for the next day. And hey, they may even have an actual life outside the office that they want to go participate in. So throw us a bone, eh? Don’t rush when you’re getting up, but try not to lolligag either.

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