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Are you a Registered Massage Therapist? Can I claim treatments under my health plan?
I am working towards getting licensed but I am not currently registered in British Columbia. Because of this, my treatments can not usually be claimed under private health plans.
I have fragrance sensitivity. Do you use oils or products containing fragrance?
I aim to have a fragrance-free space. As such, I use food-grade grapeseed oil and fractionated coconut oil for massage. I use organic laundry soap that contains some fragrance but I double-rinse linens, do not use any other scented products in washing and do not use fabric softeners or dryer sheets so as to limit scents as much as possible. As some clients may not be scent-free, I also use an air-purifier in my space to lessen potential reactions. If clients have a specific allergy or sensitivity, I ask that they let me know ahead of time so I can make the space as safe as possible.
What can I expect at my first treatment?
On the first visit you will complete a confidential health history as part of your assessment. This is important as a massage provider needs to know if you have any medical conditions or are taking any medications that may require treatment modifications. Try to show up 10 minutes early to complete this so it doesn’t cut into treatment time. After the form is completed, we will go over your major concerns and assess your individual needs as well as factors that may be contributing to your injury, such as occupation, hobbies, any repetitive movements involved in your day-to-day life and major life stressors. I may ask you to perform certain movements and have you describe your symptoms to get a clear picture of what soft tissue structures or other body systems may be involved. The goal is to develop a treatment plan that accurately addresses your needs. We also may go over a pain scale to make sure any treatment stays within your personal comfort level. This is a good time to ask any questions you may have about the treatment.
Do I need to get undressed for my treatment?
Many massage techniques I use involve direct skin contact and the use of oils. I ask people to undress only to their comfort level, and you may choose to wear underwear or not. I leave the room while you undress, and get on the massage table, covering yourself with the sheet and blanket. I will then knock before I re-enter the room. I undrape only the area being worked on to your modesty is maintained throughout your treatment.
It is also possible to provide an effective massage treatment over clothing so that is an option for people who prefer to remain clothed. It is preferable that you bring a sport bra and shorts, or other loose-fitting, comfortable clothing if you wish to receive your treatment with clothes on.
What should I be doing during a massage?
My aim is for you to relax and be comfortable. There are many options for positioning with that goal in mind. A client can lie on their stomach with their face in the face cradle or turned to the side, on their back, either flat, semi-reclined or with their head on a pillow or side-lying with pillows to support as needed. When lying face-down, arms can be at your side, draped over the edge of the table or supported under your head, whatever is most comfortable. Sometimes, limbs need to be moved to allow for more effective treatment but pillows and bolsters are used for support. If a position is uncomfortable, let the therapist know so adjustments can be made.
Some people like to talk with the therapist and that is certainly welcome. Some clients prefer to be silent or even to fall asleep. That is also fine. If you have a strong preference for either, let the therapist know at the beginning of the session. As much as we aim to read people’s body language and adjust the session accordingly, we can be wrong at times. Open and honest communication is essential for a good therapeutic experience.
Should massage therapy be painful?
Massage on healthy tissue usually feels very good. The normal response is to slow down, breathe deeply and relax.
Working on areas of injury or chronic pain may cause some discomfort at first, which usually lessens in the first few minutes. The goal is to minimize discomfort and if I feel spasm, I will work carefully to release it.
You can always tell me if you feel any discomfort so that I can adjust the techniques that I am using. I don’t take offense if you ask me to adjust pressure as I would like to work within what feels good to you. However, the saying ‘no pain, no gain’ is not precisely true for bodywork! Working deeply into injured tissue can cause further injury so don’t assume it has to be painful to help. I will ask you for feedback throughout your session to be sure that we are working within a zone of ‘therapeutic pain’ – this sensation is described as ‘good pain’ – a level of tenderness that you can breathe through comfortably, and that dissipates rather quickly as we work, essentially easing the initial discomfort.
When people have been living in pain for any length of time, it can be difficult to differentiate these sensations, so I encourage you to listen closely to your body and communicate with me what you’re feeling. We will work together to build a massage that fits your body. The most effective treatment works with the body’s natural responses, not against them.
What can I expect after a massage treatment? Is it normal to hurt for the next day or two?
Massage can be very relaxing and affect all your body’s systems. Take your time getting off the table and give yourself a moment to re-orient.
After any massage session, most people feel very relaxed. There is often relief from aches and pains that have built up over months of tension or repetitive activity. With a deep tissue massage, some areas may be a bit sore but not bruised. Often, flexibility has increased or muscles that used to “catch” or pinch with movement now go further without any restriction.
It is normal to feel drowsy or dopey right after a treatment. I advise caution with driving immediately – if you feel sleepy, take a short walk to clear your head before operating machinery. After this initial period, people often experience an increase in energy, heightened awareness and greater productivity which can last for several days. Because we’ve released muscles that may have had poor circulation previously, toxins are released from your tissue during a massage. It is recommended that you drink plenty of water following your massage to help your body flush this out.
Following a massage, it is possible to have some soreness for 24-48 hours, similar to what you would feel after a good workout. This is a normal response within the body when circulation and resulting detoxification is increased. With myofascial release, people can have emotional response to the treatment. This can feel freeing but sometimes brings up memories of the original injury or emotions surrounding it. This is normal and should subside in a few days. If you experience this, be kind to yourself, take some time for more self-care and try to find healthy ways to reflect on the emotions that are coming to the surface.
You will likely feel subtle changes occurring over the following days as well. Some examples are:
- pain relief with both a decrease in intesity and duration of pain in various parts of your body
- easier mobility when walking and moving in your daily life
- deeper sleep, waking up feeling more rested
- stress, irritability and anxiety may lessen
- increased energy and motivation
As with exercise, the benefits of massage increase with regular treatments. As your body-mind awareness is enhanced, you may find that you are able to achieve deeper relaxation and more gains in overall wellness with each massage therapy session.
How regularly should I schedule my massage treatments
This obviously depends on many factors, such as your budget, your available time, and most importantly, what your treatment goals are. While there are no simple answers to this question, here are some guidelines for deciding what treatment schedule is best suited for you.
It’s important to remember that the effects of massage are cumulative. Each massage builds on the one before it. If you wait too long between treatments, your tension may have come back and then we may end up back where we started. On the other hand, if you are diligent about following home care advice you’re given, you’ll find that you can maintain benefits of the massage treatment longer and decrease symptoms. It is always my goal to make you as self-sufficient as possible.
Something to consider is how long you have had your pain. If you’re experiencing a chronic, long-standing condition, several treatments close together might be more effective. This tension has built up over weeks, months, or years, and it will take more than one or two treatments to get back on track. Coming more frequently will give the best opportunity to override habitual muscle patterns and get to the root of your problem. For instance, if you’ve been suffering from headaches for a few years, weekly treatments for 3-4 weeks will have a better impact. Once you’re seeing the results you want, it’s time reduce the frequency to every 2 weeks. Don’t reduce the frequency until you are getting consistent results. Follow up with monthly maintenance so the headaches don’t come back. Chronic conditions are often related to your more frequent activities such as your job, household tasks, hobbies and sports. If you can avoid the trigger, maintenance may not be necessary, but if your injury is related to your job or a common household task, maintenance is recommended.
If you’ve come for massage therapy for a recent injury, get a treatment as soon as you can safely do so. It can reduce the pain, speed up your healing time and promote better healing with fewer adhesions and more mobile scar tissue which can have a long-term impact on the success of your recovery. You don’t have to wait until the pain is gone. Your massage therapist is able to use many techniques within your pain tolerance that will still be effective even if very gentle massage is all you can tolerate. Get a few short treatments, perhaps twice a week during the acute phase, reducing the frequency as your body heals itself.
For athletes who are currently in training, weekly or bi-weekly massage can support your training and help you avoid injuries. It’s a great way to keep your muscles healthy, improve circulation, flush out toxin build-up, and improve your body awareness. You’ll find that your regular massages will inform you of asymmetry in how you’re strengthening your body, postural imbalances, weak muscles, and trigger points which may negatively affect your training, all of which may leave you vulnerable to injuries.
If massage treatments are to de-stress, reduce anxiety or just relax, you can choose a massage schedule that works best for you. Many people come in for a monthly massage for stress maintenance. If you are going through a life crisis or a particularly stressful month at work or home, you may come in weekly during that time as a sanity break. Remember, self-care can carry you through those times; massage encourages the release of many brain chemicals that reduce pain and stress and promote a sense of well-being.
Every situation is unique and needs are always changing, so talk to your massage therapist about your goals. Of course, you are always welcome to come as often as you’d like though I usually recommend at least one or two days between sessions to avoid overloading the body.