It all started when this happened…

closeup of antique typewriter keyboard

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 receive 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…

 

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Body Image Risk and Reward in Massage

person wearing blue mittens and holding large white snowflake ornament

(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.