Massage Choices

All You Ever Wanted to Know About Massage

What's All This Talk About Massage?

Unlike most things that you can do to improve your health, massage is the one thing that feels absolutely great and leaves you feeling good for days. Massage is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Anyone that has had a good professional massage knows this; which is why there is so much talk about it. Athletes use it to help improve their performance and recover faster from the pain of aggressive workouts and long training sessions. Likewise dancers and gymnasts benefit from the added flexibility and tone that massage helps muscles achieve. But by far the greatest use of massage is by everyday business professionals who find much needed stress relief from the pressures of their professions. For nothing relieves the tension and tight muscles, that are built up from a day at work, quite as thoroughly as a massage.

Massage History and Why We Care

No one knows for sure when the use of massage first began. The earliest detailed writings on massage techniques are attributed to the ancient Chinese, dating back to before 720 bc. But even before this, Egyptian hieroglyphics show evidence of slaves performing massage on their masters as well as nobles massaging themselves. Nevertheless these do not prove when the act of manually manipulating the tissues of the body, whether for health, comfort, or the relief from pain, first became used. Why this is significant enough to spend time considering brings to light the reason why massage does what it does so well. The thing which is most important and therefore worth proving, is that massage is an instinctual means by which we relieve stress and pain. For instance consider that immediately after bumping into a hard surface, getting your hand caught in a door, or falling and twisting your ankle, you place your hand on the injured spot. This simple act produces a small amount of relief. It is a natural mechanism and there's a reason why we do it. First off, endorphins are released in response to a caring touch or the soft pressure from a hand placed on the body. Whether this involves a biochemical stimulus, the exchange of energy from one body to another, or just a nervous system response to warm pressure is a matter of debate and study. What has been scientifically proven and measured is the increase in hormonal activity which stimulates healing, and the decrease of both stress and pain.

There is one note of caution that must be addressed in cases involving physical injury. The body's natural healing mechanism, after cells are damaged from an impact or infection, is a temporary swelling of the area. Like many automatic responses in the body, too much swelling may occur to the point of causing additional damage. Massage has the negative impact of increasing the amount of swelling in an area and therefore should be avoided immediately after an injury, and for the time that swelling is present. If an injury is to an extremity such as an ankle or a hand, the person can still receive a massage, so long as it's not directly on or near the injured location. Their are other specific issues relating to this that the therapist will understand and know to avoid. As a rule of thumb, you should avoid massage to the area of injury for up to three days after an accident. There are of coarse exceptions to this.

Contraindications for Massage

Contraindications are conditions in which getting a massage may prove to be more detrimental than beneficial to the condition, or your general health. In these cases you should not get a massage or at the very least consult with your physician first. It is very important to let your therapist know of any existing medical conditions which you may have. The therapist will determine if it is safe to continue the massage treatment, or if any modifications need to be made to avoid aggravating the condition. There are two types of contraindications: general and local. General indications affect your whole body system and indicate that massage as a whole should not be applied. Local contraindications are conditions on a part of the body which will necessitate avoiding the specific area, and in some cases the areas which are distal (leading away from the area in the external direction) to the condition. to see a list of the General and local contraindication 'click here'.

General Contraindications

  • Fever or influenca
  • First trimester pregnancy (unless performed by a certified pre-natal tharapist and under the guidance of your doctor)
  • Infectious diseases
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Un-controlled high or low blood presure
  • Severe atherosclerosis
  • Some cancers
  • Thrombosis

Local Contraindications

  • Acute Rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, or gout
  • Acute trauma, bone injury, or tear on a tendon or muscle
  • Phlebitis
  • Skin rashes, infections, burns, or bruises
  • Open wounds
  • Swelling
  • Varicose veins

What to Expect from your Massage Session

Your experience when receiving a massage will depend on many factors. Your choice of location, type of massage, and reasons for getting a massage, all affect the overall experience. Below is a breakdown on what can be expected from different settings.

Massage in Spas

The goal of most spa goers is to relax and be pampered , while escaping from the tensions of daily life and experience a day of indulgence. Knowing this spas plan their massage treatments to create a sense of overall relaxation and well being. More emphasis is placed on the aspects of relaxation, comfort and rejuvenation than on treating conditions of structural deficiencies or injury. The biggest benefit for spa goers is the large number of varying treatments and the many different features available in spas which are not limited only to massage. A spa is therefore, a mini vacation for the Body and soul. Spas tend to enhance the experience by surrounding you in an esthetically pleasing environment, created for the sole purpose of bringing a little piece of heaven down to where mere mortals can indulge in it.

Massage at Home (mobile, outcall massage) or at a Therapists Private Practice.

At home massage and likewise in a therapists private practice location, can offer a greater degree of flexibility in the kind of experience a client may experience. The degree of knowledge possessed by the individual therapist can impact the types of massage and overall range of treatments given. The purpose of such a massage is usually for relaxation and stress relief. Many people who receive regular massage treatments at their home or in a private practice do it as a form of preventative health maintenance. But mobile. or private office massage can offer a higher level of personalized injury rehabilitation and medical treatment massage as well. With mobile or outcall massage the therapist is not limited to the constraints which are placed by medical offices or spa settings. Another benefit to outall massage is that you have a greater range of options in choosing a therapist. Additionally, once you find a therapist you feel comfortable with, that therapist is only a call away.

Massage in a Sports Center or Clinic

Usually the type of massages performed in these settings are for either athletes concerned with improving their performance and maintaining themselves in top shape, or anyone recovering from injury, or with some physical deficiency or problem. Medical massage, sports massage, neuromuscular, myofacial, trigger point therapy, kinesiology, PNF and facilitated stretching are among the most common forms of treatments performed in these settings. All or most of the work is deep tissue in nature, and many times the treatment sessions are limited to the areas of concern and are far shorter in duration than in relaxation full body massage. The facilities tend to be much more sterile, or filled with sports equipment, and the massage is usually performed in a plain room. The greatest advantage in these settings is the amount of experience in treating injuries, and performing medical and sports rehabilitation, that most of the therapists employed in these location have to offer. Many times this is the focus of study by these caring individuals so you are almost assured to get the best treatment plan for your recovery, That is not to say that a therapist with their own medical massage practice in their own Private office or performing outcall massage will not be equally knowledgeable or experienced. It all depends on what the therapist specializes in and in their educational background whether formally or through experience. Just that in a medical office or sports facility the concentration of therapists with such experience is in greater abundance.

At a Chiropractic Office

A chiropractic office is a similar setting to that of a medical holistic office. The main focus in a chiropractic office is that of chiropractic care. Chiropractics and massage are actually opposite ends of a complete treatment protocol. Together they offer a complete physical maintenance program, combining the best of both holistic medical approaches. A chiropractor will target the skeletal structure almost exclusively while a massage therapist will only concern him/herself with muscles and tendons. The combination of the two can enhance and prolong the affects of each to create a longer lasting and more beneficial outcome. Many chiropractors aware of this employ one or more massage therapists as part of their regular staff. As in a medical office or sports center the treatments are dictated by the doctor in charge of the patient and are limited to the specific conditions being=g treated. Duration is also limited to under fifteen minutes per treatment.

All Massage Sessions

Initial Consultation

It is common when getting a massage with a therapist for the first time, to undergo a consultation and evaluation. There are several objectives that are achieved by this. First it allows a therapist to fully understand what the client's needs may be, as well as their expectations. It is important for a therapist to first determine all of a client's expectations so that he can pinpoint which areas to concentrate on and explain to the client what he will be doing and what outcome can be expected from the treatment. Secondly it will inform the therapist of a client's physical history and limitations. This way the he will be able to determine what techniques cannot be performed on the client, and which areas should be avoided if any.

With this information a therapist can better design a treatment plan, and by doing so, be able to perform a more effective massage for the client's needs. If the purpose for the massage is general relaxation or relief from soreness then the consultation may be shorter , but will still give the therapist a good idea of how to proceed. After your initial visit, When returning to a therapist, the consultation may only be limited to being asked how things are progressing in the case of a medical condition, or just a question or two on how you felt with your last massage. Whether the consultation, be it the first visit or later session s is treated as part of the session time by the therapist depends on the setting and the individual therapist.

A majority of therapists, spas, and medical offices do include the consultation as part of your treatment time, so expect your first massage to be a few minutes less of hands on work.

The Massage

Ahhhh finally, the good part. Usually, on an initial visit, the therapist will explain briefly what you need to do. This normally consists of instructions on how to prepare for the massage and what to expect. He may also instruct you on how to report any issues you may have during the massage. Then he will instruct you in what you will need to remove and how to drape yourself. After this he will leave the room, or if that option is not available, turn around so that you will have privacy, while getting on the table. This is the standard procedure that is used by most therapist, and in most states that require a license to practice, it is part of the ethical guidelines. Which brings us to draping.

Draping During Your Session

Draping methods varies somewhat from therapist to therapist but the rules of the state usually set minimal guidelines that must be met. In most states that regulate massage, and currently this is the majority, draping must be provided by a therapist, and unless both the treatment protocol or modality requires otherwise and consent is given by the client, only the part of the body being currently treated can be uncovered. What this dictates is that First, the client must give consent or specifically ask to be undraped during a massage for a therapist to proceed to do so, and secondly, the therapist can agree or disagree to allow the client to be undraped depending on the type of work being done or specific reason for the undraping. In other words, for those who are not following, Both therapist and client need to agree that draping is not necessary in order for it not to be used. So in terms of what to expect from any massage session, as far as how you will be covered during the session is such; you can expect that you private regions will always be maintained covered ad that a high level of modesty will be observed through the massage. As said this will depend greatly on the massage style. In modalities like shiatsu, Trager, and Thai, loose clothing can be worn throughout the massage. Styles like Lomi Lomi and Esalen conversely, require that only the genitals and breasts be draped, leaving the rest of the body uncovered throughout most of the massage, allowing for the full body length sweeps that are common in many of their techniques. Swedish massage falls somewhere in the middle as do other forms of bodywork.

Other Things to Take Off.

You might want to leave all that jewelry at home. If you go somewhere to get you r massage or if you prefer to have your therapist come to you; remember to remove all your jewelry, this includes watches, rings, and earrings if her are larger than a dime. Some therapist manipulate the ear loaves during the massage especially in cranial sacral therapy as well as some Asian modalities, so if you're not sure, then just remove it prior to your treatment. You wouldn't want to loose valuable session time in the process, or worst go without experiencing the full wonders of the treatment because of some dangling trinket.

To Pony or Not to Pony

Many people with long hair wonder what to do with it during a session. This actually depends on the behavior of the hair in question. Some hair just insists on falling onto a person's back and getting tangled in a therapist's hands. Other times hair is very well behaved, and a good scalp massage on free flowing hair feels wonderful. So as long as it can keep out of the way, it is not usually necessary to tie it back.

Most importantly, you may want to schedule you massage before washing your hair or getting it styled at the salon. "It just don't make a lick of sense" to quote a wise man, why someone would want to pay for a massage and ask the therapist to avoid the hair. This not only hinders the ability of the therapist to correctly work the neck area, but they also lose out on the wonders of having their scalp and hair included in the treatment.

Ok, Now the Massage...Really

Once you have decided whether you want a massage at home, at a spa or sports clinic, you need to determine which style of massage is right for you. If you've never had a massage and just want an overall relaxing, wonderfully de-stressing experience, then you might want to try a general style of massage like Swedish. If you like very firm or even deep pressure, especially if you have seriously tight knots on your back and shoulders, a deep tissue style might be more to your liking. In any case variety is the spice of life and we use this cliché here because it applies so well to massage. There are literally dozens and dozens of massage styles to choose from. Just look at our modalities page to get a good idea on how many there are. It's also a great tool for deciding which one is right for you. Keep in mind that a therapist's knowledge and experience in any given style, as well as a healthy dose of love and natural instinct for the art, greatly affect the overall interpretation of the style being performed. Not all styles are created equal and the same applies to therapists. We are just killing the clichés today.

On a happy note: there is no such thing as a bad massage, and a bad massage on a good day is better than a no massage at all. Or something like that. Anyhow, No matter whom you choose, and whatever style you choose, massage is always the most wonderful experience you can indulge in.

All Good Things Always Come to…

After the massage, you can expect two things, a bill, and an offer for a glass of water. Not necessarily in that order. Why the water? And more importantly, why doesn't anybody ever ask, "why the bill"?

Water is literally the essence of life. Water makes up about 85 percent or so of your body, depending on who you believe. But most importantly, it is one of the main ingredients in the flushing and removing of toxins and waste from your body. Why is this so important that we are dedicating a whole section to it? Well, it's like this; during a massage, toxins and stored metabolic waste are being squeezed out of their comfy cubby holes of interstitial pockets and cell meshes that surround muscle fibers, layers of fascia, skin, and fat. Yes my friends, During a massage you are getting flushed, blood pressure goes up and down, up and down, and fluids are pushed all around your body. Hence the not so miniscule list of contraindications that need to be addressed prior to your service. This may sound like a bad thing, but it is actually very good for you. This cleansing effect and increased fluid circulation, are two of the wonderful benefits of receiving regular treatments. It's like taking your car to get a lube job. However, after a treatment you will want to have some water to assist in eliminating what was released.

One last word about water; it does a body g…. actually that might get us in trouble. What you need to know, is that your body requires a constant regular intake of h2O, in order to maintain itself in proper working order.

How much is that regular amount? Well that depends on your actual health, bodyweight, activity levels, environmental conditions, metabolism, and substance (alcohol, caffeine¸ herbal...) intake. The short answer is about 8 regular glasses a day or 64 ounces, for a normal person of average weight, daily activity, and diet.

We only mention this because it's important. Not because we are doctors, and you should take our word for it; but, because we care, and want to relay healthy ideas to you.

Disclaimer: for this and all other matters please seek the opinion and advise of your doctor and/or psychiatrist.

What Else you Say…

Things to expect in the next few days following a session can include feeling great, more alive, and having a greater sense of clarity. Most of this can be attributed to the reduction of stress that comes from getting a treatment. You might also notice that annoying ache on your back has gone to visit another one of your friends and is no longer hanging around you anymore. It is also possible to feel a little sore in spots after a session of deep tissue. But this usually goes away after a day or two, and your left without much of the pain you had been feeling prior. You will also most probably feel looser, even lighter than usual, and find that you have more energy to do things.

What Gives?

Well, these are all results of having tight tissues stretched, and squeezed, and molded out of their contracted state. It is also due to natural endorphins and hormones released by the mere act of being manipulated by human hands in a rhythmic, gentle and flowing fashion. Massage is the art of healing and as such has been adapted through generations, whether by accident or intentionally to effect biorhythms both mentally and physically, which enhance and encourage the well being of a person. Another aspect is the energy flow between the client and the therapist. Therapists by their very nature are usually beings of good healing intuition. Most great therapists are born to be such; not only possessing a natural feel for how to apply pressure, but also an aura of good positive energy about them. All these elements come to play in deciding the outcome of each massage and how a person is affected.

Woe, we got a little metaphysical there for a moment. So before chanting the lyrics to Aquarius, let's conclude this discussion with a word on THE BILL; or, the part that most people are usually confused with, the tip. What is a tip and how did that practice come into being. We are not sure, but now that it is a common practice, the important question is; when is it appropriate to tip? ALWAYS! No no, just kidding. Actually, it depends on many factors, such as where you are receiving the massage, by whom and what the policy of the establishment is. Some spas include an automatic gratuity and use it as one of the incentives when hiring a therapist. Most importantly, how do you feel you were treated, was the service done professionally or did it feel like the person didn't care. Hopefully all your services will be wonderful.

In truth, there is no set answer. In the end it all boils down to your personal feelings on the matter. So, are you more confused now than before reading this? "That's ok, have a cookie, before you know it, you'll feel right as rain". That's a line from The Matrix. If you've never seen it, our hearts bleed for you.

How Often Should One Have A Massage?

Looking back at the discussion of the benefits and effects of massage, gives some insights into this important question. As therapists making our living from massage, we like to say "everyday!" duh! Moving on...

Seriously How Often?

Ok, If you insist. Theoretically speaking, weekly would be the best answer. This is not always the case, and in reality, it will depend on several factors. Remember, one of the greatest benefits of massage is the reduction of stress, not only throughout your body, but in your mind as well. So if the having to schedule a weekly massage adds stress to your life, then that may be too often. Let's break it down so that it all makes sense.

The reasons not to get a weekly massage are these:

  • It can become quite expensive.
  • If you already have a busy schedule, the one or more hours dedicated to each session may be an added pressure.
So why would weekly sessions be preferable? You will experience optimal results by getting a massage once a week. The overall effect of a massage session lasts for about seven days; this again depends on your way of life. If time and money are not an issue, then weekly is best. As far as maintaining a generally stress free feeling, and not allowing the body to tighten up too much, some people do very well with only one session a month, or even fewer then that. If you live a completely stress free life and you are very active, you can go as long as six months to a year without needing to get kneaded. Activity, specifically those which involves a lot of full range movement, relieves stress in the body and loosens muscles. On the other hand, if you are very stressed and have over time, developed tight knots, then you will need to get at least couple of session within a seven days, and repeat this for two or more weeks, to break up the tension and get some freedom of movement back into your muscles. This also depends on the cause of your stress and if you are still building it up daily. Once the degree of tension in your life is reduced then you will not need to have sessions as often.

We hope this has been helpful. Please enjoy your massages and remember to live healthy.