Will Massage Help Me with My Pain?

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

Helping people to feel better, to move more easily, and to lower their stress & anxiety is what Quiet Strength Massage Therapy is all about. And some of my clients say that they’ve been experiencing tension and soreness for years. So, is massage therapy a helpful option for mitigating your muscle & joint pain?

When a client gets up from the massage table and tells me that their headache is gone, or their shoulders are loosened up, or their back feels so much better than when they walked in – that’s the best news of the day!

What do we really know about pain?

Pain is one of those “you know it when you feel it” sensations. But it’s also a curious phenomenon, when you think about it.

A snowball is cold, and so it feels cold when you touch it. A block of concrete is rough, so it feels rough when you touch it. But a knife isn’t painful on its own. Neither is a pot of boiling water or the leg of a table. We handle these things safely all the time, and experience their mass and temperature and texture.

But pain is a sensation in the body – specifically, in our minds. So what is happening when we feel pain?

How does pain work?

There are three primary types of pain, and each of them works a slightly different way.

Nociceptive pain (tissue pain)

There are many different kinds of sense receptors in the body. Some are sensitive to heat or cold… some, to touch or pressure. Others, called free nerve endings, aren’t specialized for any one type of stimulus. When a significant stimulus triggers these nerve endings, they send a message through the spinal cord and up to the brain. The brain then decides (without conscious thought) whether this is something to ignore, or if damage has occurred. Then your brain returns a message to the affected part of your body.

If the message is “No biggie, ‘tis but a scratch,” then you’ll most likely shake yourself off and forget the incident even happened. If it’s “Whoa! This feels like a problem,” then you experience this as pain.

This can be useful! Pain can alert us to a small problem before it progresses to a major disruption. Pain stops us from trying to walk on a sprained ankle, holding our marshmallow fork too close to a campfire, or going for a run when we have a fever.

Neuropathic pain (nerve pain)

This is pain that results from an issue with the nervous system itself, rather than surrounding tissues. If you’ve ever bumped your funny bone into a doorframe, you know all about that. Common forms of neuropathic pain include:

Some less common forms of neuropathic pain include phantom limb pain (which feels like it originates in an amputated limb) and postherpetic neuralgia (which can be a result of a shingles infection).

Neuropathic pain can be a frustrating experience. That’s because the normal things we do to reduce soreness are frequently ineffective at mitigating pain which originates in the nervous system. Rest/movement, or applying ice/heat, may have little impact on nerve pain.

What’s more, nerves may not heal as well as muscles and skin do, which can cause nerve pain to become chronic.

Other pain. (Yeah, we need a better name for that category)

Pain is messy, and a lot of it doesn’t fit either of the two categories above. Fibromyalgia is a common example.

Is fibromyalgia pain resulting from tissue damage? Nope. What about nerve damage? Not as far as we can tell. It’s caused by the nervous system malfunctioning, and can be debilitating, but may not present with nerve damage. And the world of medicine is still trying to figure out why.

So how do we alleviate pain?

There are several different options.

  • If the painful sensation is caused by some kind of physical injury or stimulus, you can respond.
    If your hand is being burned on a lightbulb, you’ll instinctively let go. If you’re experiencing a muscle cramp in your foot, you can flex the foot (manually, if necessary).

    If you’re experiencing tension from sitting in the same position for too long, you can move around and shake it out. If the cause of your discomfort is inflammation, anti-inflammatories and ice may be helpful.
  • You can block the messages that tell your brain you’re in pain. This is how many medications work. Ice can also numb nerve endings.
  • You can convince your brain that you’re not in any real danger. This is a tough one, because the brain doesn’t just listen when you tell it things. But it’s well documented that fear, stress, or anxiety can lead to increased pain perception. And that adds to your stress, which in turn can give you muscle tension.

    General relaxation techniques (such as meditation/mindfulness, exercise, or getting a massage) can help to shift your nervous system’s pain alarms down a notch. Physical therapy, yoga, or mental health counseling can also be beneficial.

How can massage help with pain?

Sometimes chronic or acute tension is something that massage can help you to manage on a physical level. But even more often, massage gives your brain a chance to let down its guard and your muscles can feel something non-painful and even pleasant.

And while there’s no silver bullet for soreness or discomfort, my clients say that getting a massage definitely benefits them!

So, contact me today and schedule a massage that is customized to help you feel better.

To Help Keep You Safer…

Swallowtail butterfly on orange flower

Here are some of my COVID-19 Commitments & Policies & Protocols!

I’m delighted to be open for massage appointments again. With everything that has happened in the pandemic, and because our situation is ever-evolving, I’m doing my best to keep up with the latest info.

Based on CDC guidelines, advice from medical professionals, and lots of input from some of my amazing massage therapist colleagues, here are some ways that I’m working to keep you safer when you come in for a massage.

Vaccination

I’m fully vaccinated.

At this time, I’m scheduling massages with clients who are vaccinated.

If you are unable to receive the COVID vaccine because of medical advice from your doctor, please contact me to discuss options.

Since the vaccine is widely available: If you’re choosing not to get the shot and that decision is for a reason other than your doctor’s advice, I’m unfortunately not the right massage therapist for you at this time. I have health risk factors, and so do many of the people I spend time with.

Masks

Masks are required while you’re in the office. Masks or face coverings must be worn over your nose and mouth. I will be wearing a KN95 mask to protect you.

HEPA filter

There’s a True HEPA air purifier running next to my massage table, the entire time you’re here. It’s filtering the air in the office 5 times an hour, and is rated for filtering 99.97% of particles as fine as 0.3 microns.

Purell

I have this trustworthy name-brand hand sanitizer available for your use. Clients and I will also wash our hands in the nearby restrooms before the massage begins.

Contact-free payment options

You can pay for your massage session with a credit card. Like many other small business owners, I have a Square reader that accepts all sorts of credit/debit cards. You can tap the reader if your chip card has that capability.

Protex

Protex is a hospital-grade disinfectant that I use in my office. Between clients, the massage table, face rest, any massage products & equipment that I’ve used, furniture surfaces, and door handles get wiped down.

Although our most recent information suggests that we’re less likely to catch COVID-19 from touching a surface, I just feel better about cleaning with a product that’s effective against the coronavirus.

Commitments and Agreements

If you’re experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, or have potentially been exposed to someone who has the virus, please contact me to reschedule your appointment right away.

Likewise, if I’m not feeling well or find out that I’ve been exposed, I will reschedule your massage.

I’m still limiting my in-person activities, and have decided that curbside pickup at Aldi’s and Target is pretty awesome 🙂

Before your appointment, I have a COVID information form that you’ll need to fill out online.

Even with increased sanitation protocols and preventative efforts, massage therapy involves close proximity in an enclosed space for an extended period of time. Therefore, massage therapy may include an elevated risk of infection, including COVID-19. The precautions I’m taking can reduce your risk of exposure to COVID-19, though they cannot eliminate all risk. Please consider your comfort level with the risks and the benefits of receiving massage during the pandemic.

Please let me know what questions you have about these protocols, and anything else I can do to help you feel confident about booking a massage appointment!

Q: Aren’t these policies more strict than the governor’s rules/what other therapists are doing/what the CDC said?

A: Maybe.

Q: Aren’t you just giving in to fear?

A: No.

Q: Are you looking forward to seeing your clients again?

A: Definitely!!

book an appointment

The Search Has Begun!

antique world map and compass

Finally, a bit of good news to share with you. I’ve received my shots and am (finally) seeking a new office in Virginia Beach. Quiet Strength Massage Therapy will be re-opening in a location to be determined.

Hopefully, I will be able to resume offering massage appointments sometime during this summer. It’s been way, way too long since we hit the pause button for the pandemic, and I’m definitely looking forward to being able to work with you all again!

If you’re signed up for my email list, I’ll send a newsletter as soon as I know more. So please check your inbox!

And I’ll update the info here on my website, Google page, and Facebook page too.

By the way — if you have a lead on a great location — please let me know.

  • Must be within Virginia Beach
  • Needs to be accessible
  • And, of course — the atmosphere has to be reasonably quiet! That’s important so you can relax and enjoy your massages 🙂

Can’t wait until I have more info! Please stay tuned…

FAQ: “How often should I get a massage?”

massage therapist working on male client shoulder

Many clients have wondered… how often is it OK to get a massage? While there’s no one answer to this question, we can look at it from a few different angles.

Sure, it feels great to pop in and see your massage therapist every now & then. I’m always glad to hear from clients who I haven’t seen in a while. Besides that, “no worries” if you’ve been busy or just haven’t had the chance to get on the schedule. (My goal is to help you with your stress level, not add more to it!)

Goodness knows, we all tend to put self-care on the back burner when life demands so much from us. However, have you considered the value of regular, monthly massage appointments?

Besides the emotional boost of having that “me time” reserved on your calendar, you can actually start to see some physiological effects of regular massages as well.  Here are a few short-term (& long-term) health benefits you may discover when you make that goal of getting a massage on a monthly basis.

Lowered Anxiety & Stress Levels

Even after your first massage, you will start to notice that you feel more relaxed, which can be a major plus if you suffer from stress or anxiety.

After all, when our bodies experience stress, we tend to tense up our muscles, which leaves you feeling fatigued & sore. I’ve especially noticed this with my clients who work at a computer all day! But a massage session is tailor-made to loosen your tight neck & shoulders.

Help with Cancer Treatment Side Effects

With clients who are going through chemotherapy, radiation or other treatments… Oncology massage can give you some relief from side effects such as pain, nausea, anxiety, fatigue, and depression.

To that end, I’ve taken some specialized training to learn how to adapt your massage sessions so that they will be safe & helpful.

And if you’re out of active treatment, but you’re continuing to experience side effects… a massage can address those issues that you have. It’s in your best interests to work with a massage therapist who has taken advanced classes in OMT.

Reduced Chronic Back Pain

If you are suffering from the debilitating problems associated with chronic back pain, you know how much it can cut into your daily routine and leave you feeling frustrated, in addition to the muscular pain you’re already experiencing.

A Seattle study found that after 10 weeks of regular massage, people experiencing chronic back pain felt less discomfort, and even needed fewer painkillers to manage their symptoms.

Help with Insomnia

Massages can increase your serotonin level, which aids in your ability to fall asleep & stay asleep. Unlike other sleep aids which can be harmful or addictive, you’ll experience no negative side effects from a massage!

Reduced Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Some clients have experienced benefits like these which have improved their quality of life! After receiving massage therapy consistently, some fibromyalgia patients have reported:

  • Better sleep (especially after sessions that are later in the day)
  • Improved muscle strength and function
  • Improved mental clarity (as a result of lowered stress)
  • Headache relief
  • Decreased stress and anxiety

Focus for ADHD

Studies have suggested that massage could be helpful in increasing focus and decreasing the stress and anxiety that can accompany ADHD, especially in children.

Lowered Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can leave you at risk for stroke & other major health complications, but studies support that regular massages could benefit your BP numbers. That comes from massage therapy’s potential to help you lower your stress.

(Important Note: It’s crucial that you continue to take your prescribed blood pressure medications, and consult your physician regularly with any concerns you have.)

Additional Health Benefits

Research in the use of massage therapy is steadily growing. I like to steer clear of massage myths or absolute claims, but one thing that I’ve noted over the course of my practice: a majority of clients who make that commitment to their health and self-care, tell me that they have seen benefits for their happiness and emotional well-being!

Massage Mythbuster: Get Those Toxins Out…

illustration of right and left brain

Happy 2020! For a lot of us, the new year means a fresh start and brings resolve to take better care of our bodies. Maybe you’ve had your fair share of wine & delicious food over the past few weeks. (Most of us have the tendency to eat a bit more over the holidays.) Should you detox with a juice cleanse? Or perhaps a massage will flush those toxins from your body!

With the general rise of health consciousness, there’s also been an increase in the idea of “detoxing.” It’s hard to avoid the plethora of ads on TV or Facebook these days, trying to grab our attention with detoxification promises.

You can choose from the latest diet craze, a cleanse that’s endorsed by a famous actress, or a foot pad that claims to pull your toxins out via the soles of your feet…

And some massage therapists claim that massage can help flush toxins out.

But what exactly are these toxins? And do these detox methods really work?

In truth, there’s little scientific evidence to prove that detoxes of any kind work, and that goes for massages as well.

While there are plenty of health benefits to massage, ridding your body of toxins is not one of them. I’m here to debunk the myth of toxins, and get down to the nitty gritty of what actually makes massage so good for you.

What are “Toxins?”

Let’s take a look. These indefinite “toxins” sound scary… definitely something that you should try to avoid or get rid of at all costs.

But toxins are just a normal part of life. Like anything else, in small doses & within context, they are generally fine.

Perhaps what we actually fear are “poisons,” which are different from toxins. Poisons are harmful substances, but it’s important to remember here that even good things in too-large doses can be considered poison. (Ingesting large amounts of certain vitamins or minerals, for example.)

Toxins are a kind of subset of poisons; they are poisons produced by living things. Technically, drinking alcohol, getting a massage, and hard exercise can all produce toxins. But these toxins are just part of how our bodies metabolize, rebuild, & process substances on a daily basis.

Consider: Your doctor wouldn’t recommend that you give up your exercise routine to avoid toxins, and any toxins created by massage certainly won’t be harmful either.

No, Massages Won’t Cleanse Your Body of Toxins.

In truth? Your body does a pretty great job of flushing toxins all on its own. If you are in good health, your kidneys & liver should already be doing a great job of removing toxins.

Except for very rare occasions like overconsumption of drugs or alcohol, your body doesn’t need extra help detoxing. It just needs time to do what it does best.

Detox regimens, like juice cleanses or “detoxing massages,” don’t really do much to release toxins from your body. Unfortunately, these quick-fix claims are mythical. In fact, many of these juice cleanses are actually just crash diets with major caloric deficits that can leave you feeling weak, sluggish, & tired. And they certainly are not sustainable ways to meet your body’s nutritional needs.

But can’t a therapist dig in & work those toxins out?

If you’ve received an intense massage that left you feeling sore, tired, or disoriented, what you’ve actually experienced is post-massage soreness and malaise (PMSM). Excessive pressure is ill-advised for extremely vulnerable patients, such as the elderly or those with health issues.

Besides that, it’s not what I offer.

If you work with an experienced, knowledgeable massage therapist, PMSM should not be an issue.

Not only should a responsible LMT not claim that she can detox you, but also, it is inappropriate for them to overwork your muscles or to use excessive pressure.

It‘s not my style, and other therapists shouldn‘t go beyond beneficial levels of pressure when you‘re on their table. “No pain, no gain“ does not apply here.

The Water-Toxin Myth

Water glass with fresh berries and mintYou may have heard that it’s necessary to drink water after a massage… because some have claimed that massages send toxins directly into the bloodstream, & the best way to flush ’em out is to drink plenty of water to encourage your kidneys to remove those toxins from your body.

This rumor has been going around for many years. However, this myth is… busted!!

It never hurts to drink plenty of water, so it can’t hurt to rehydrate after a massage session. But massages don’t flush toxins into the bloodstream, and water wouldn’t help this process even if it was true.

Know that massage doesn’t liberate environmental pollutants from cells or “squish” them into your bloodstream or excretory systems to be expelled. Again, that’s what your kidneys and digestive system are designed to do.

The Lactic Acid Myth

Here’s another myth that LMTs used to circulate in the early 2000s… that massage breaks up lactic acid in the muscles after a long run or hard workout.

The soreness and stiffness you experience after your first run of the season actually isn’t from lactic acid building up in your muscles, it’s what’s called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).

When you work out, it’s like pulling on a long rope; some of the fibers in your muscles may break during the workout, in what are essentially tiny microtears. Unlike pulling on a rope that loses some of its strength, your muscles rebuild themselves and become larger and stronger.

Your massage therapist can reduce the pain and stiffness after a hard workout.  When you heavily work out a muscle group, it loses some of its flexibility & tenses up, making it easier to tear. Massage can ease this tension. Also, you may see improvement with inflammation & swelling, or experience less fatigue… gearing you up to conquer your next race, conditioning class, or hot yoga session.

Other Benefits to Massage Therapy

Don’t worry. Although I’m not gonna claim to detox your body…there are still plenty of reasons for regular massages, & benefits from receiving even an occasional massage.

With massage, you can potentially:

  • Reduce stress hormones like cortisol
  • Get help dealing with the side effects of cancer treatment
  • Improve joint function and reduce pain for those with osteoarthritis
  • Lessen muscle soreness after a hard workout
  • Speed healing of overworked, sore muscles
  • Reduce inflammation and helping the muscles’ repair process
  • Lessen fibromyalgia-related pain
  • Help with anxiety and insomnia
  • Lessen the effects of temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ)

Massage has countless health benefits, but flushing toxins isn’t one of them.

If you’re looking to remove pollutants and poisons from your life, there’s no quick fix: you have to do so with conscious lifestyle changes.

Once you let go of the “myth of toxins,” though, you can let go! Enjoy your massage appointment, & the many benefits you’re receiving from your time on my table.

Feedback Please…

massage therapist working on the sole of client's foot.

…or, the Importance of Speaking Up!

Chances are you know the value of a truly great massage. Especially when you’re going through times of stress or chronic pain, we all look forward to the physical and emotional benefits of coming in for a massage session.

But what can you do if your massage isn’t quite what you expected? When your massage is “fine,” but just not what you’re needing?

You might feel like you’ve been shortchanged of the relief you were hoping to find, whether you wanted to deal with stress… get help with symptoms of a chronic illness… or improve physical stiffness or muscular pain.

Or: what if your massage is absolutely fantastic, and you’d love for every session to be just as helpful in alleviating your aches, pains, and woes?

Perhaps you’re a runner, and a certain technique is really relieving the tension in your IT band. Isn’t that important to share with your massage therapist so they can continue to implement that into future massages?

I can’t stress enough how important your feedback is, in order to deliver you a stellar massage every time. I never want to let a session go by without you feeling like you’ve gotten the massage you need & deserve. And the best way to get your best massage? Communication & feedback!

The Positives

By now you’ve probably noticed that during your massage I check in with you from time to time about all sorts of different things: the temperature of the room, the pressure I’m using, how you are feeling.

Although I named my business Quiet Strength (& I’m no chatterbox), I want to know what’s working for you and what isn’t. Let’s agree to have an open line of communication, so you can share what you need. So if something feels great? I’d love to know!

Please speak up about what works for you and exactly what your preferences are. The more communicative you are about what works best for your body in a session, the easier it is for me to personalize your massage.

I won’t be offended if you express what you like or don’t like about your massage. And feel free to speak up at any time.

The Not-So-Positives

Just like I want to know what feels great, I also want you to feel safe sharing what I can do better. What’s right for some clients, isn’t right for everyone. We all have different opinions, preferences, & feelings, and that’s what makes us unique.

And your feedback is the best way for me to know if there was something you didn’t like… so that moving forward, we can figure out together how to arrive at your perfect massage.

In the same way that sharing what you like helps me focus your massage towards the things that work for your body, sharing what doesn’t feel comfortable for you gives me the opportunity to change it.

How You Can Help

So what’s the best way to open up our line of communication, so you get the best massage for you? I want you to share.

Don’t assume I always know best: You know your own body better than anyone else, so if something is uncomfortable, tell me! While I am a trained professional, you are the foremost expert on your body and what feels right & what doesn’t.

Yes, I know how to find specific tight or sore areas, and I know numerous techniques to relieve tension in them. But what I don’t know is exactly how you are feeling on the table. So trust yourself as the expert on how you’re feeling, & know that it’s safe to communicate those thoughts with me!

Communicate before you get on the table: You don’t have to wait until you are on the table to tell me what you need. During the first few moments of your appointment, and on your intake form, you can tell me how you’re feeling.

That sets your priorities of where we should focus that day and what techniques will help you the most. Maybe you’re sore from a long run the day before, or maybe you’re experiencing a flare-up of chronic pain. Let me know right away, and keep the communication flowing during the massage too.

Don’t hesitate to speak up

Say something right away: If you’re not happy about how the massage is going, you don’t have to wait to see if things improve. (No massage therapist worth their salt will be offended if you ask for more pressure or less pressure, or for something else to change. In fact, we love feedback!) Please promise to speak up right away.

I got into the business of massage therapy to help make people’s lives better. I want to know ASAP if something is bothering you, because relieving pain & releasing stress is my life’s work!

Be specific: We’re a team. The more specific you are with me, the easier it is for me to figure out what you’re looking for and provide exactly the massage you’ve been wanting.

Maybe you want me to use a little more pressure or a little less pressure. You can always say something like, “Can you deepen the pressure one or two notches? That feels better, but you can still drop one notch deeper? That’s great!”

This lets me know exactly what you are wanting…from wanting more pressure to the exact amount, and then when things feel just right.

The bottom line? I want your feedback, so I can provide you with the best possible massage, every single time. After all, my objective is always to make you feel as well as possible.

It’s why you’re seeking a massage, and it’s why I went into the massage therapy business in the first place! Massage can be a major pillar of your wellness plan if you & I have a clear, open, & honest line of communication.

Don’t hesitate to speak up and let me know. How the massage feels to you, is the most important thing.

It’s not just to be nosy…

Magnifying glass with colored papers

… or, Why I’m asking you all those Health Questions.

Before your first massage at my office, I’m going to need some information from you about your medical history. I’ve got a questionnaire that will ask about what medications you take and medical conditions you have, and various questions about your health history.

So why is this? Am I being nosy? Why do I need to know such detailed, personal information that you may only otherwise share with your doctor?

While it may seem like a hassle or invasion of privacy to fill out an intake form, there’s a great reason I want to know so much about your health! Knowing your medical history not only protects you from potential injury during your massage, but it also means I can better personalize your massage to your needs. This ensures that when you leave the massage table, you feel better than ever.

What is a contraindication, and what does it have to do with my massage?

Every so often, it turns out that for some people with specific health situations, massage could potentially be harmful. This is referred to as a contraindication, and there are two different classifications of those for massage therapy.

  • Relative Contraindication: Relative contraindication means that caution should be used when performing a certain procedure. In the world of massage therapy, this means that a client can generally receive their massage. But I will need to modify my techniques and particulars of the session (like positioning, pressure, &/or products used) to stay safe & effective.

Some conditions just mean that we should avoid massage to a particular area of the body (such as a broken bone). These are local contraindications.

  • Absolute Contraindication: Absolute contraindication is the term used when massage could cause harm, and should not be applied at all. This is pretty rare, but it happens.

Here are some examples of conditions I’ve seen with clients, which can be contraindications for massage therapy:

  • Varicose veins
  • Undiagnosed lumps or bumps
  • High-risk pregnancy
  • Bruising, cuts, abrasions, and even sunburns
  • Psoriasis
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer (I specialize in oncology massage, and in many cases can work with you)
  • Osteoporosis
  • Heart problems
  • Epilepsy

Fear not: Not all of the above listed medical conditions rule out massage for you.

In fact, for some of these conditions, massage can have major soothing effects.

However, I will need to give you specific care. This is one of the main reasons it’s vital to share information with me about your medical history.

Also, colds, the flu, skin infections, or the presence of a fever are all reasons to wait to get a massage until you are feeling better. Read more about my cancellation policy here.

“Why do you need to know what medications I am taking?”

There are some medications that have an effect on your body’s ability to heal and process correctly and I need to be aware of what you’re taking so I can make adjustments.

For example, firm pressure in a massage could be dangerous if you are taking blood thinners. Or, if you’ve been on corticosteroids for a long time, you may have low bone density or thin skin as a result.

If you have been affected by cancer, we will discuss your side effects and make modifications for the treatments you’ve been receiving.

Again, in almost all cases, we can make adjustments to keep your massage safe and effective for you. The key is to keep me fully informed.

In a nutshell, even if you think a detail may be irrelevant, it’s smart to complete my intake form entirely & honestly. That helps me create the best and safest massage, just for you.

Oh, by the way… don’t be concerned if it takes a few minutes at your first appointment to go over the details of your health history. I’ll probably have some followup questions to ask, and you can in turn ask me any questions that you have.

But, since I’m an independent business and not a franchise, this consultation time doesn’t take away from your massage time on the table. Your 60-minute massage should still be a 60-minute massage. That’s my intention… to make your session the best that it can be for you!