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.

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 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!

 

Massage Myth-Busters…

client having massage on their mid-back.

Myth: You can’t get a massage if you weigh too little, or too much.

There are so many variations of this misconception. And the myths sound like they were made up by the MeanGirls.

  • “Skinny people don’t have enough “meat on their bones” to get a massage, they’ll just bruise.”
  • “Overweight people can’t get a real massage because there’s too much tissue between their skin and their muscles.”
  • “People without perfect bodies shouldn’t show their skin to anyone.” Umm, Nobody has a perfect body…
  • And so on. Yada, Yada. 

Big people like massage. Small people like massage. In-between people like massage. And we massage therapists love providing massage to all kinds of people. It’s a perfect combination!

Are there different techniques better suited to bodies with specific needs? Of course. Is weight or size a prohibitive factor? Nope. Not by a long shot. The folks who make these kinds of comments and judgments, are either misinformed or just being mean.

I don’t judge my clients’ weight, or whether or not you are working on losing or gaining pounds. My table is called an Earthlite Ellora, and it is sturdy enough for the vast majority of people. (It’s rated for 600 lbs.) And it has an electric lift, by the way… which means that the table height adjusts. It’s a nice feature, because it makes the table easily accessible for any client!

So this myth is definitely history. I’m not critical of my clients’ weight… I just care about helping you feel better.

Ideas for Better Sleep!

photo of woman stretching with sunrise

Sometimes getting a full night’s sleep seems impossible to achieve. No matter the cause — stress? pain? your work schedule? or some other reason — if you are not receiving regular quality sleep, it can lead to other health problems. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says, “Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions – such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression – which threaten our nation’s health.”

Sleep Awareness Week (March 10-16, 2019) gives us an opportunity to leave insufficient sleep behind and get back to the quality sleep that is so vital to our health and wellness.

And here are a few ways you can start getting on track to better sleep habits.

Say adios to technology… well before bedtime.

Smartphones follow us everywhere these days. Consider moving your phone charger and making your nightstand a no-phone zone. Nix the TV, tablet, laptop and whatever electronic device has found its way into your resting space. Break the screen-time habit and allow yourself to relax on a deep level.  

Establish a routine that is calming and relaxing.

Humans are habitual creatures. How you wrap up your day can greatly impact the quality of sleep you receive. Finish the day with a warm bath, a cup of herbal tea, cool the temperature in your room, and shut off the lights. Establishing a routine can put you into the mindset, “it’s time for sleep.”

Massage. Massage. Massage.

There, I said it. Massage can be VERY helpful when it comes to improving your sleep. According to the Mayo Clinic, studies have found massage to be beneficial for stress, as well as:

  • Anxiety
  • Digestive disorders
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Paresthesias and nerve pain
  • Soft tissue strains or injuries
  • Sports injuries
  • Temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ)

Massage can not only increase relaxation and lower your fatigue, but it can reduce pain and improve your quality of sleep. Which can also help restore your sleep pattern.

Our need for sleep has dramatically increased with the infiltration of technology and the busier our schedules get. Massage is a great way to fulfill that need & be on your way to a better night’s rest. 

“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…

3 Ways a Massage Can Help You Today!

Closeup view of client having left hand massaged

(1) Got a Headache?

Tension headaches (often called stress headaches) are the most common type of headaches among adults.

Pain or pressure in your forehead, or on the top or sides of your head? Could be a tension headache. It’s especially likely if you’ve been hunching over a desk, spent a lot of time in a car, or if you’re shivering & huddling to keep warm in the wintertime.

A massage can help get rid of that headache, and regular massages may lessen its frequency.

Male client having scalp massageHave you tried adding a scalp massage to your session? A lot of my clients love it, and say that this makes their headache feel better.

(2) Help for Low Back Pain

A major research study was published in 2011 showing that massage therapy was better than drugs for general lower back pain. (“Better than drugs.” I just had to say that twice.) 

Just about everyone will experience low back pain at some point in their life. If it happens to you, don’t suffer. Schedule a massage and get back into action.

(3) Improves Irritability

Have you ever been so cranky you got on your own nerves? Yeah, me, too. It isn’t fun. It might be time for some self-care.

Massage is great for stress relief. You get to shut off all the electronic gizmos that buzz & chime & demand your attention, and take some time out.

Music, silence, warmth, massage. All the crankiness disappears. This is dual purpose. You’ll feel better and all the people around you will be happier that you’re back to your sunny self.

To Sum Up…

Got a headache, low back pain, or a case of the grumpies? Let me know when you’d like to come in, and we’ll help you feel better ASAP.

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.

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.