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.

Celebrate Easy Random Acts of Kindness

Tealights burning in Himalayan Salt candleholders

International Random Acts of Kindness Week was founded by a nonprofit organization in Denver. Their website is packed with great ideas on how to celebrate, and I especially love the approach of committing a random act of kindness for three different people:

• Someone you don’t know

• Someone you know

• Yourself

Someone you don’t know

This is pretty simple and can quickly become a habit. (That’s a good thing!)

Smile. When you’re in a depressingly long line at the bank, watching a parent deal with their toddler’s public meltdown, or sitting next to another car in traffic. A kind grin goes a long way when you’re feeling a bit hopeless about the daily hassles in life.

When I was going through chemotherapy, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed. But I decided that I would do my best to smile at the other patients in the treatment room. It wasn’t easy to act positive, but I hope I helped someone along the way.

Someone you know

Take a moment to think about who in your life may be a little touch-deficient. Maybe you know someone who is recently widowed, a single parent with older children, or a new empty-nester. Maybe even a young teenager in an especially introverted stage of awkwardness.

Make it a point to touch someone. It could be a warm hand shake, high-five, or great hug, whatever is appropriate for that person and situation. Touch is shown to make us happier and healthier, and it benefits both you and the receiver!

Yourself

People depend on you, so it’s important to take care of yourself. If you’ve only got a few minutes, close your eyes, and take some deep breaths. Or put on some of your favorite music and chill. Or put on some of your other favorite music and dance like nobody’s watching 🙂

If you can set aside some more time, get a massage, go for a walk by yourself to recharge, or window shop at your favorite mall.

Kindness doesn’t have to cost you anything, and it doesn’t need to be a grand gesture. A little goes a long way!

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.