There are a few things that make my job more difficult during a massage. Many times clients will hold their arms up where they think I want the limb positioned. Sometimes they will pick up each finger in secession as I massage each one. They anticipate where I will work next. When I adjust their head or move their hair, they pick their heads up from the table. Some clients will hold their heads rigid while I work their neck and don’t allow their heads to move with the natural flow of the massage. Instead of allowing their head to roll to the side, they will tense against the work I am doing. When I undrape their leg, they move it closer to the edge of the table.
Many of these motions are unnecessary. In the six years I have been doing massage, I’ve gotten very good at picking up limp body parts and positioning heads or limbs where necessary. The general rule in my massage is “If I need you to move, I’ll tell you or I’ll do it myself”. I can pick your head up and adjust your hair. I am able to pick up each of your fingers on my own. Your leg is fine where it is. Your only job is to enjoy the massage. And I will never tell you to “just relax” because the first thing you do is tense.
Many of my clients aren’t aware they’re being too helpful during a massage. They don’t know that instead of just allowing my massage to flow as I pick up each relaxed finger, I have to look down at their hand instead. I’m no longer intuitively following the flow of their body and where their muscles need focus. Instead I am focused on how high they’re lifting their finger, which finger they’re lifting, how much tension they’re holding and if that tension is from their help or if it’s instead from muscle tightness. I move from the fingers to the wrist and then into the forearm. As I friction up the forearm, their elbow goes rigid. They hold their arm up from the table.
I gently shake their arm and wait for them to allow me to do my job. I move into kneading or circular friction depending on the client. I’ve stopped picking up arms like many of my coworkers do. I allow them to lie on the table. Too many people would unintentionally straighten their arms and shove me away from the table. Sometimes I can completely let go of someone’s arm and they’ll hold it in the air. I call this the “ET phone home”.
The worst part for me is when clients won’t allow their bodies move to the rhythm of the massage. I do quite a lot of muscle stripping during neck massage. I begin at the point of the shoulder and move toward the head in one long, deep stroke. A client’s head should slowly turn away as I work and then very gently roll back toward me. This motion should just happen. There is no effort involved on the client’s part. It happens with the stroke of my massage. If I am putting my body weight into the base of their skull to try and force the head to turn and I can actively feel the client pressing back against me, that signals two things: they are not relaxed or the pressure is too much.
Unless your therapist specifically asks you to do so, do not:
- hold your arm up for them. We are all quite capable of lifting and holding your arm. You do not need to hold it up for us. I promise.
- lift each finger to meet them. We follow a groove. Many times I am not even looking at your hand as I’m working, I’m focused on how the muscle feels. I don’t see with my eyes as much as I see with my fingers.
- lift your head. Your head is not heavy. You do not have to pick it up or move your hair for me. I will do that for you. When I do a lift or stretch, you don’t have to move your head. Many times I am testing the motion of the muscle.
- fight against the massage. If you’re fighting against the motion I’m making, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. It actively works against what I’m trying to accomplish with my work. I can’t get in as deep and you won’t feel lasting benefits from the massage.
- move your leg closer to the edge of the table. If you are not in a good position for me to work, I will move you or ask you to move for me. Many times when you move, it puts your leg so close to the edge I can’t stand close enough to the table while still working.
- lift your legs so we can adjust the bolster. I’ve been kicked in the face twice and almost kicked another three. Not to mention I don’t know where the bolster needs to be when your legs are bent at a ninety degree angle. Leave them on the table so I can place the bolster at the curve of your ankle where it belongs.
In addition to distracting me from the work I’m doing, some of these motions will affect my body mechanics. Poor body mechanics lead to wear and tear on the therapist’s body. We want to do this job for a long time. If you want to be helpful to us, let us do what we love to do while you get the massage you need.
Many times when clients come to a massage therapist, all they know is that massage is supposed to make them feel better and that someone has spoken of it to them rather it be a coworker, a friend or family member or even a doctor or chiropractor. They don’t know what the various types of massage are, what they do or how they can help them. Many therapists, being surrounded by terminology and modalities all day long, often do not realize that a client doesn’t know exactly what it is they are looking for until they are a little more knowledgeable.
Massage therapists often refer to the different types of massage available as their “modality”, defined as ‘the application of a therapeutic agent, usually a physical therapeutic agent’. It also refers to the sense of touch, which is especially poignant for massage therapists who “see” through their hands. The modality each therapist employs will be dependant on their education level. Most massage therapy schools teach Swedish massage with small supplemental courses in other types of massage such as trigger point, lymph drainage, deep tissue, pregnancy, and hot stone. Many therapists right out of school are only comfortable in Swedish massage, but some will supplement their education while in school to attend workshops and classes to learn more about their craft.
The first thing you should expect from your therapist is professionalism. They should conduct themselves in a manner befitting a member of the medical community. A client’s body should be properly covered and draped at all times. Women’s breasts and male and female genitals should be covered at all times by sheets and/or blankets. Many therapists will use a chest towel to cover women’s breasts when doing abdominal massage if requested by the client. Each therapist should ask either on their intake form or verbally if you are comfortable with abdominal, gluteal or face massage and should respect these wishes. Each therapist should consult with their client before a massage to find out what their trouble areas are and explain briefly the type of massage to be performed.
Communicating discomfort to the therapist during the massage should result in an immediate correction of the problem. Some forms of massage therapy are not always pleasant, but it should not be painful or cause clients to feel exposed or vunerable. Many therapists will be more than willing to correct their pressure, technique or draping to make a client feel more at ease. If at any time a client feels uncomfortable before, during or after the massage, that client has the right to end the session or discontinue their sessions entirely.
Therapists will ask their clients about pain or tight areas, where the client would like work done and ask if the client would like their entire body massaged or just upper or lower body. Depending on the pain levels and the necessity of work, a client may decide they would like only their upper body worked on from the waist up, the lower body for feet, legs and gluteal region, or a full body massage that works in elements of the entire body. They will also ask about pressure. Some clients prefer light pressure, some prefer medium and still others prefer deep pressure. If a client is unsure, they may ask for medium pressure and instruct the therapist to use more or less pressure for each area worked upon.
All of this and we still haven’t covered the types of massage available. It’s easy to see how clients could be confused, let alone covering any body issues they may have. This series seeks to explain each of the different modalities of massage and explain each one to give prospective clients a good idea what it is they’re looking for and what to expect from their first massage session.
With all of this going through your mind, are you really prepared to answer the question, “What kind of massage are you looking for today?” You mean there’s more than one kind? When you first walk into a massage therapy clinic, it may be slightly disorienting. Not only are you becoming acquainted with a new setting, the tranquil music and subdued colours might seem rather odd compared to the bright colors and flashing lights that surround us from day to day. Each clinic is different from the way the therapists dress to rather or not there is a receptionist to greet you and even your surroundings. Given there are many misconceptions, you may be confused or overwhelmed about what you may find or what to expect from your therapist, especially if you have never been to a massage therapy clinic before.
I’ve begun research on trigger point therapy yet again, pulling out and dusting off one of the books I’d been reading while I was still in school. I also pulled out a few other books I’d been meaning to read and put them on my Amazon Reading List on LinkedIn. So far I’ve been plugging away at the Trigger Point book and what I’ve found is amazing. What I’d like to do eventually is write up a few pages about the therapies that I offer and link to them from my webpage. That way clients know exactly what they are in for when we speak about therapies. That will probably be something that I begin work on here at WordPress before it becomes a final thing on my website. Trial and error and editors are fantastic, in my humble opinion, before you post something live on a professional website. Anyone who follows my blog can read the information as it happens.
Coincidentally, as I get things written up, I have a couple of websites that I want to add my articles to as well and get my name out there with research and facts. There are so few credible sources that I would like to join their ranks. I can also add a hands-on and experience base that not everyone has.
I have a lot planned for this happy little blog. Be sure to check in. I’m even planning a Twitter account for Touch of Nirvana since that seems to be all the rage. Look for the trigger point article within the next few months.