It all started when this happened…

Yeah, I was featured on a radio traffic report.

Sometimes a client will ask, as they are settling into their massage, “How did you decide to become a massage therapist?”

Actually, that’s an easy question to answer.

Well, you see. . . it all started on my way home from work (quite a few years ago). It was rush-hour, and suddenly a vehicle two cars ahead of me stopped abruptly. I tried to stop, but hit the car ahead of me (and he also hit the first car). My Chevy bounced back, just as a truck rear-ended me with such force that he pushed my vehicle into the car ahead again. Aaaaack! My poor Chevy sedan was the first casualty of that altercation.

A coworker told me later that the pile-up had made the radio traffic update. That’s not a good way to get yourself on the news.

…next, painkillers?

Anyway, after the accident, my chronic neck and shoulder pains began. I went to the doctor to make sure nothing was seriously wrong; he gave me some prescription muscle relaxers, but all I really wanted was for someone to get in there and work out my tense shoulder spasms!

I didn’t know any massage therapists at this point, so my solution was to seek out my friends who (a) possessed strong hands, and (b) had enough patience to deal with my frequent requests for help. Very quickly, I decided that some kneading for my upper trapezius trumped a Flexeril tablet every time! 🙂

Massage was a better painkiller for me

It was several years until I had the opportunity to go to massage school. But, during that time after my car accident, I gained a better appreciation for natural treatments. I knew I wanted to help other people feel better with massage therapy!

Sitting at the computer all day…

And here’s the other part of the story. In a previous career, I was a graphic artist (wedged into an office cubicle with a drawing board & a T-square). In the 80s and 90s, the tools of our trade transitioned to workstations with glowing computer monitors, mice, and non-ergonomic keyboards.

Then after 12 years of spending hours & hours each day typing and clicking and pasting,  I experienced chronic neck pain… tight shoulders… headaches… and occasional wrist soreness. Does that sound familiar?

Massage therapy can help!

Massages can definitely help you if you’re using a computer or tablet all day long. No two bodies are alike, and no two massage sessions will be alike. But there are some typical patterns computer-users often have with their necks and shoulders.

Tell me where the majority of your pain & stress lies, and we can spend some time focusing on that during your session. Let me know how I can help!

 

Should I talk during my massage?

Client is face up and therapist is using stones on their left leg.

Good question!

And the answer is… there’s no right or wrong answer!

Sure, if you’d like to talk during your massage… go right ahead. The important thing to remember is that this treatment is all about you relaxing & enjoying the experience.

Many therapists discourage talking in hopes that you will relax, let your mind float free, and enter a state of massage bliss. I have an introverted nature, and I want to offer that as an advantage if you prefer quiet during your massage.

However, I’m not going to pressure you to stop talking, if that’s what helps YOU to relax and settle into your massage session.

There are times when you need to speak up. If anything about your massage is making you uncomfortable, please let me know immediately.

  • If you get too warm or too cold, let me know… I have a fan, extra blankets, and a cozy table warmer that can all be adjusted.
  • If the lighting is too bright or too dim, let me know… the wall sconce is on a dimmer switch.
  • If you were expecting a different pressure, let me know so we can address that right away.

And if you have any questions… feel free to ask anytime during your massage! I want your session to be the most helpful and beneficial and awesome that it can be for you.

“Are you certified in Oncology Massage?”

Therapist performing massage on client's lower left leg on table

Good question. Short answer is, I’m Licensed by the state board (which is the board of nursing in VA… we don’t have our own dedicated Massage Board at this time.)

Society for Oncology Massage logoI’m a member of the Society for Oncology Massage (s4om.org) and have taken classes to learn about safely adapting massage therapy for clients who are dealing with cancer. And the learning never ends 🙂

At this time, we don’t have a specific certification for Oncology Massage Therapy (OMT). A therapist who has taken the advanced training, can join S4OM and be connected with like-minded therapists across the country.

There sure are a plethora of classes that I want to enroll in to learn more about OMT. New perspectives to listen to. Webinars to watch. And new insights to gain about clients and what they are going through, and the best ways to help. Plus sacred cows to question. It was formerly believed that someone who has cancer, could not have a massage. Thankfully, we have learned that this isn’t true.

(Along with my underlying healing-process. Cancer diagnosis hands you a new normal, and I’m still working on what that really means in my own life, too.)

I’m excited to be able to offer OMT and to be given the tools to adapt massage therapy so that it’s safe and beneficial. And we need more therapists to take OMT training courses, so that fewer people will be turned away from getting a massage. Maybe someday the S4OM will create a Certification for our specialty. We’ll see…

What Should I Expect When I Come In for a Massage?

Exterior of building where Quiet Strength Massage Therapy is found.

Sometimes when I meet somebody and tell them I’m a massage therapist, they tell me they have been meaning to get a massage.

They mention tension in their shoulders, or they feel stressed out because of their job, or they have pain in their back that never seems to go away. Oftentimes, they had a massage before… but it’s been a long time ago.

Or they tell me that their overbooked schedule makes it difficult to fit some self-care into their calendar. And many people that I’ve talked to, are just nervous about coming in for a massage, because they aren’t sure what it is like. And they’re not sure whether or not a massage will help them. Or whether they’ll like it.

Don’t hesitate to ask me any questions that you have about massage therapy, or if you’re wondering whether bodywork can help you.

Over the years, I’ve worked with lots of clients who never had a massage before…and the vast majority really feel better after they try it!

Because I’m a small business with just one client at a time, I can offer you a relaxing atmosphere that won’t feel like “rush ’em in, & rush ’em out.”

Red alarm clock with grass backgroundFor your first appointment, try to arrive 10 minutes before your scheduled time. That gives you time to sit down, relax, and fill out a form (your contact information, some questions about your medical history, and what you want me to help you with).

My intake form is pretty thorough, but that’s important… so that I can adapt your massage to any medical issues that you might have (past or present).

It’s in your best interests to let me know your health history. I’m not just being nosy, but I want to work in a manner that is safe & beneficial for every client.

Overall, therapeutic massage is safe, but there are lots of health conditions that affect the way that I should work. So yeah, I ask questions, but it’s in your best interests.

As we go over your information questionnaire, please tell me if there are areas that you would like me to focus more time on during your massage.

Most of the time, when clients are new to massage therapy, I’d suggest working on all these areas: your scalp, face, neck, shoulders, arms, legs, feet, and back. But if there is something you want me to leave out, that is completely your decision. Some people are too ticklish to enjoy work on their feet, for example. No problem. Let me know and I will respect your preference. It’s YOUR massage!

Of course, when a client comes in with a particular problem that they want me to spend all or most of their massage time on, that’s fine too.

After we have talked about your goals and preferences, I will show you the massage room and step out so you can get ready.

My table is comfortable and has some thick padding on it with an adjustable warmer to help you relax. It’s up to you whether you remove clothing… most people do, because it makes it easier to work on your muscles. But again, this is your choice.

You then will get under the sheet & blanket and I will knock on the door to see if you are ready before I come back in the room. (Note: Draping with the sheet, blanket, &/or towels, is required for all massages at all times. I am a professional Massage Therapist licensed with the Virginia Board of Nursing, & that is the law.)

Usually I use organic or pesticide-free jojoba for massages. Jojoba is a non-allergenic ester that is close to your skin’s natural oils. If you want aromatherapy oils added, the oils I use are organic. But I won’t use scented oils without permission. I know that many people are sensitive to perfumes & scents! Nope, no “surprise” odors used on your skin that you were not expecting!

I have a towel warmer in the massage room, and normally incorporate some nice cozy towels during a session. But if you are sensitive to heat, just let me know.

If you have booked an hour massage with me, normally that means you get an hour of actual massage time on the table. As an independent business owner, I’m adamant that an hour massage should be an hour massage. (Many of the massage franchises or spas give you a “50-minute hour” and then rush you out the door. Not here.)

One of the most important things I can say about your massage is this: Please speak up and let me know at the time, if there is anything I can change in order to make you more comfortable.

If there is too much pressure, or if there isn’t enough pressure; if you’d like different music; if you’d like another blanket, etc. Please tell me right away, so that your session is what you wanted.

Normally, I do not talk very much during your massage, except to check in with you and get feedback. I don’t want clients to feel like they need to carry on a conversation. It’s your time to relax and enjoy. If you would like to talk, of course you can. But don’t feel like you have to.

When your session is over, I’ll leave the room. I don’t want clients to feel rushed after their massage! Please let me know how you feel and if you have any questions. Sometimes it helps clients to drink some water and stretch a bit after their session.

I want to help you meet your goals for getting massage therapy, whether you mostly want to relax & destress, or you have particular “issues with your tissues.” So please keep me informed about how I can help your massage be what you want it to be!

Body Image Risk and Reward in Massage

(This is a guest post by Barry Hatfield, a massage therapist & blogger who practices in Ohio. Shared with you by permission.)

Body image. Almost everybody has something about their body that they don’t like. For many people it’s a minor issue, no big deal. But some people have a major issue with their body image. It affects how they live and their happiness.

When I tell some people that I’m a massage therapist it can cause a strong reaction. They tell me, whether verbally or through their reaction and body language, that massage is not for them. Their body image is such an issue that they don’t think anybody else can accept them.

The paradox here is that massage can really help with body image issues. In massage school we were all nervous about taking off our clothes and letting somebody else touch us. It didn’t take long for us to discover that bodies are just bodies and become much more comfortable with our own. We also experienced how good receiving a
massage made us feel. Something unexpected happened – when our bodies felt better we felt better about our bodies.

I think there are three options to consider. Let’s look at the risk versus reward for them.

  1. Don’t get a massage. This is the easiest because it involves doing nothing. The risk is low since you are not letting another person see or touch you at all.The reward is zero. You didn’t get a massage so your body doesn’t feel any better, and you still have the stress you had before.
  2. You get a massage, but the massage therapist makes note of how you look, as if it matters.If this has happened to you, I’m sorry. You got a crappy massage therapist. That’s a bummer, and I’m really sorry. You took a risk, and even if the rest of the massage was decent, got very little reward.This is not going to happen if you come to me. Never. No way.  I can’t say this strongly enough. It goes against the very nature of who I am, how I treat people, and what I believe.
  3. You get a massage. A great massage. And the therapist does nothing to make you feel uncomfortable about your body. In fact, you feel pretty good about your body after the massage.In this option your risk is low. I don’t care how your body looks. That’s none of my business. I just want to help it feel better. Your reward is high. Again your body will feel better from the massage and you can start feeling better about it.

I have no idea how your body got to be in the condition that it’s in. You may be dealing with something that you can’t control, such as a medical condition or an injury or accident. You may be in a lot of pain or are limited in what you can do physically.

Since I don’t know what caused your body to be like it is now I can’t make any judgments about you.

I’ve worked on hundreds – maybe thousands – of people. Each body is interesting and I’ve yet to come across one that I could not help.

If you have been avoiding massage because you feel uncomfortable about your body:

Let’s find an option that works for you. You don’t even have to explain anything to me. Leave your clothes on. Stay sitting up or face down or lying on your side or however you want. It’s up to you.

It’s my job to help you feel better. That’s it. Together let’s find a way to help you relieve your pain and stress. Don’t let your body image keep you from feeling good.

Be Safe when You’re Outside!

Blue sky and clouds with palm trees in Hawaii

Learn about Skin Cancer Awareness

One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime. (Source: the Skin Cancer Foundation)

In 2014, I was diagnosed with melanoma. It was caused by sunlight exposure… although I didn’t use tanning beds, I loved to be outside and rarely wore adequate sun protection. This has changed my life in many ways, and I try to share what I’ve learned whenever possible.

Did you know…

• Sunscreens are not created equal! Here is a resource to help you choose one with safer ingredients.

• Sun exposure adds up day by day… you need protection from UV rays 365 days a year,
even when it’s cloudy. Here are some suggestions.

• Melanoma can develop between your toes, on the soles of your feet, or other less exposed areas. Sometimes it appears as a small spot.

Watch for any changes in your skin, and visit a dermatologist to have your skin checked at least annually.

Because I’m fair-skinned and have many moles, I assumed that the melanoma was “just another mole.” It didn’t look like any of the melanoma photos I had seen in school.

My intention is not to bring anybody down, but I want to help increase awareness & help others to avoid melanoma and other cancers. If there is anything you want to ask about my experience going through treatment, please don’t hesitate.

3 Keys to Successful Massage for Your Lower Back Pain

Client face down having a back massage

Massage can help your lower back!

Low back pain is one of the most frequent problems I hear from my massage clients. If your lower back muscles are giving you grief, you are in good company! Fortunately, most clients find that massage therapy helps them.

To get the best results from your lower back pain treatment, keep these points in mind:

First: We should work on your legs, too!

• You will enjoy the most relief when we work on the underlying causes of your muscular pain.

Your glutes, hamstrings, and IT band pull on your lower back and hips. So, if these
muscles are tight & restricted, you will feel pain in your lower back. You’ll get more benefits from your session if I work on these muscles, and not just on your back itself.

“Where you think it is, it ain’t.” (Ida Rolf)

When a client tells me that they have low back pain, I also want to pay attention to their feet. Your shoes, and how much time per day you stand on your feet, and what kind of surface you’re standing on, are major factors in how your back feels.

Second: We most likely won’t “cure” your back pain in one session.

(I don’t claim to “cure” or “fix” anybody, by the way.)

• To feel relief from a chronic back problem, your best plan may be to come in for a series of focused appointments.

Although your muscles may feel better right away after your first session, massage
therapy has a cumulative effect on your body.

Just as you can gain muscle tone if you exercise consistently, your back pain will improve more over time if you come in for massage therapy regularly!

Third: Share feedback about how you felt.

• Be sure to keep me updated about how you felt after your previous session. It’s normal for your back to feel less painful on some days and to feel tight on other days.

Don’t give up! You’re moving in the right direction! We can always make changes so that your massages will help you as much as possible.