Written by Lisa Holbrook, Licensed Massage Therapist
note: this information may not be copied or used in any way without permission.
The Missing Piece
There is much more to massage therapy than is realized, and knowing the psychology behind the body is key to being a good massage therapist. For instance, what factors play into the body? Are you experiencing trust issues and that is why your body can’t relax? Are you experiencing money problems and that is why your body aches? Are you an excessive worrier? These are things to think about and how I help my clients connect the mind-body symptoms. Sometimes you have to address other areas of your life to help heal emotional pain that has manifested as physical pain.
Some people hold onto their pain consciously and subconsciously and don’t want to let it go. That is why Jesus often asked individuals, “Do you want to get well?” Because there is a choice instilled in us as humans that must want to change; whether that is emotionally, physically, spiritually, or mentally. We have to acknowledge that we want things to be different, and that is the starting point. We have to give our body and mind permission to change and release the tension and pain. We have to make decisions and act on them. Holding on only causes the pain to continue. We don’t ignore it, we acknowledge it. We then address it and make the changes. Success is following through with the changes to completion.
I am not saying this is easy, I am saying it is necessary and effective. This is why a support system is crucial and why professional massage therapy is an important piece in the puzzle of healthcare.
Breaking the Pain Cycle
The body can experience pain or tension for so long that it gets used to feeling pain, and a 4 out of 10 pain level seems normal. Therefore, instead of feeling or continuing to process the pain, the body goes on autopilot. Individuals then start to experience symptoms of low energy, are more tired than not, or can be irritable.
Massage therapy can holistically help break the pain cycle when other treatments and solutions have not been effective. Massage therapy helps in these ways:
1. Simply acknowledging the part of the body in pain through massage treatments helps the body respond positively and learn to identify discomfort if it has been ignored for so long.
2. Massage helps disrupt the pain signals which helps the muscle and body relax.
3. Distraction: loosening and activating the muscles unrelated to the painful area, allows the brain to focus on other parts of the body and takes the focus off the chronic pain area.
This is why massage therapy continues to be an effective medical treatment. Schedule an appointment today!
It was the straw that broke the camel’s back
Have you heard this saying before? Most of us have, and I can show you how this relates to massage therapy. Our bodies build up knots from stress and overuse. If we do not take care of releasing those knots and trigger points, eventually the body cannot support the load we are asking it to carry, whether it be emotionally or physically. This is why I educate my clients that although they often forgo regular massages, this is not in the best interest of their health. Because it is only a matter of time before one small (or large) move will cause significant pain for days; or something more serious such as injury to a disk. Regular massage sessions, in fact, keep the body functioning at best so it can withstand the everyday stress, and recover quickly from that one awkward twist while carrying a box.
Regular massages sustain and stabilize the body along with proper lifting body mechanics, working ergonomics, as well as stretching properly. Prevention really is important and key. Schedule a massage today and continue them every 4 to 6 weeks even if you don’t feel pain. Because the body, in addition to active trigger points, also carries latent trigger points (pain that is not felt unless palpated or compressed), so you may not know you have them.
What is the difference between relaxation (stress reduction) and therapeutic massage? How do I know which one to schedule?
Why do you only offer pediatric massage treatments to children over the age of twelve?
Massage therapy is beneficial for all ages. In fact, touch is so important, even for infants and newborn babies. It has been researched that babies who are not touched and held often have many complications in their growth and development. Respectful touch is necessary for humans. However, the reason we only offer massage for ages 12 and above is simply because it is difficult for most young children to sit still and receive massage therapy. Children under 12 are often fidgety as well as full of energy, and are often more ticklish than anything. It is most likely more beneficial for parents to try other ways of helping to reduce stress and muscle tension during the younger years of a child’s life. Chiropractic adjustments on the other hand don’t require the child to sit still for a long period of time and therefore may be more effective than massage therapy. In addition, some chiropractors incorporate brief massage with their adjustments and therefore this may be a better option for your child.
Our United States Veterans & Active Military
I worked for Summa Hospice for 9 years providing massage therapy for pain management. It was surprising to me and sad to learn that most veterans have never received massage therapy treatments. I believe in the power of massage therapy and have witnessed how it has helped so many with pain and has improved their quality of life. I was honored that I was able to provide pain relief and care to our veterans; some for the first time in their lives. I decided to offer a rate reduction option to honor our veterans and all active military. When scheduling online, if you are a veteran or in active duty, select the veteran/military 1-hour option which allows you to receive massage therapy at a rate of $60 for 1-hour. Please also bring your veteran or military ID with you to your appointment for verification.
Thank you for your service and sacrifice to our country so I can have the freedom I enjoy as I write this. It does not go unnoticed and is very much appreciated. If you are experiencing chronic pain, or looking for stress reduction, consider massage therapy as an added option to your self-care.
Deep Tissue Massage
What clients consider as deep tissue is different for everyone. Deep tissue massage can in fact be hard on the client’s body and strenuous for therapists who have to maintain a long career for years to come. Therapists learn different techniques to effectively decrease your pain and help you relax and reduce stress without compromising their own bodies or the client’s body. Our therapists will adjust their pressure if you prefer a deeper massage; all you need to do is kindly ask. However, they will also use their best judgment to treat your body effectively to get the relief you desire. The true test of a good massage is if you feel better than when you came in for your visit, and having had multiple massage sessions, you feel your body has overall improved. Our therapists have a healing touch and know effective techniques that can effectively reduce your pain and reduce your tension.
MASSAGE PRICING VS QUALITY
I would like to take the time to discuss massage therapy rates versus quality. When you find an experienced, professional massage therapist, you may pay a little more than other massage therapy businesses. However, sometimes a service delivered with accuracy and consistency every time is worth the cost. Just like shopping in a grocery store or clothing store, sometimes it is worth buying the name brand because it tastes better, or the product lasts longer, which saves you money in the end. Being experienced and professional means that the service delivered is quality EVERY time. Let me explain in a little more detail. When I give a massage, if the client chooses, they can select a 100% pure essential oil of their choice to mix with their lotion for their massage session. If you are unsure, I can help you make a decision based on your needs for the day, as your needs may have changed since your last treatment. During your massage, a hot towel is applied to the back to help increase comfort and loosen tight muscles (clients’ favorite part!). Biofreeze is also offered at the end of the massage to address problem areas, reduce soreness and increase healing to the area. The Biofreeze I use is a professional grade and has a higher percentage of ingredients than the over-the-counter offered at local stores. Quality also means I try to find the trigger point(s) causing your pain and release it so that you are pain-free/your pain is reduced and you are not spending money going from massage therapist to massage therapist looking for relief. While some places have a lower rate, these options are often offered as add-ons (more cost to you) to your massage session and not included in your regular massage treatments. I include these as complimentary because I feel they are all needed to provide relief that lasts. As a massage therapist in a competitive field with many places for clients to choose from, you must be able to deliver a service EVERY time with accuracy, professionalism, and quality. It is important to remember this in any type or form of business. That is my goal and my passion as a massage therapist…giving you healing that lasts!
TOOLS FOR SELF-CARE
Massage therapy can be a tool in your care tool box to help relieve pain and take care of you. Sometimes we have pain that can be chronic, or comes and goes. It may be a result of repetitive work related activities or movements, emotional pain that has accumulated in the muscle tissue over the years, or stress. It is good to have a plan in place to care for yourself when you are stressed or having pain. Getting a massage, going for a brisk walk, utilizing chiropractic care and physical therapy or talking to a trusted friend/counselor are all effective ways to stay emotionally and physically healthy. They are tools in your tool box to self-care. Often, it is a combination of all these tools that keeps you functioning at your best. Call today to schedule a massage for relaxation/stress reduction or pain relief. Your body will thank you.
PAIN ISN’T ALWAYS GAIN
No pain no gain as the saying goes, but this isn’t necessarily true with massage therapy. Massage therapy helps relieve tension and pain by loosening bound muscle tissue and fascia (the tissue surrounding the muscles). Some individuals feel that they need a “deep tissue” massage to relieve their pain and tension, when they really just desire an overall firmer pressure. There is a difference. While it may feel like deep work is better, most likely that is not the case. I have found the body usually responds better without causing more trauma to the tissues and flaring up the nervous system, especially for those with fibromyalgia or other auto-immune disorders. Let’s first calm the nervous system and then the body will more than likely accept deeper pressure to release trigger points (hypersensitive muscle knots that can cause referred pain). Together, we can find an effective way to help reduce your pain. You will find as your stress levels decrease, it will also help your body in other areas such as weight loss goals.
MASSAGE THERAPY AND HEALTH INSURANCE
Although massage therapists are regulated and licensed by the Ohio State Medical Board, the majority of health insurance plans do not cover massage therapy treatments. This has been an ongoing frustration for therapists and clients as well because massage is so beneficial and a popular choice for managing stress and pain.
It is best to call your insurance company to ask if reimbursement would be given towards massage therapy. I have found some flex savings accounts, health savings accounts, or Care Credit accounts will approve credit transactions or reimburse. I hear occasionally that regular massage appointments are a financial struggle for clients. Please always let your therapist know. Some therapists offer a package for a discounted rate, or I have found 30 minute massage sessions can be useful and financially friendly to address only the specific area of concern. A massage therapist can also give you ways to self-treat at home which can help in between appointments.
WAITING TOO LONG TO ADDRESS PAIN
Pain is the body’s way of saying “something is wrong”. It is the check engine light for our bodies. Many individuals reach out only after their quality of life has decreased significantly; after months or even years of having pain, tension and sleepless nights. Sometimes, once the pain is out of control or chronic, it takes longer to heal and more sessions to get the desired relief. This is because the body can develop layers of physical pain. Each treatment may be only addressing some layers of dysfunctional or ischemic muscle tissue. Massage will naturally prompt the body to heal by increasing the circulation/blood flow, which will then start the healing process. Then, the body is ready to heal other layers in upcoming treatments.
Healing takes time, consistency and patience, so please be patient and kind to yourself; progress over perfection. Remember, massage works best cumulatively when addressing a problem. Therefore, a few appointments scheduled closer together (every week or 2 weeks) may be necessary at first to accomplish relief. Then, when you are feeling better, a routine of every 4 to 6 weeks will keep you at your best; addressing the tension as it presents, before the pain returns.
FIND THE RIGHT FIT
Similar to other professions, it is important to find the right massage therapist for you. Therapists use different techniques and styles of massage to alleviate pain, and reduce stress/tension. If you received a massage treatment in the past but did not find it helpful, the therapist talked through the whole massage (but you wanted to relax), or the pressure was too much/too little; please consider a different therapist. There are many good, qualified and professional massage therapists in the local area. Find one who has the following qualities: takes the time to listen/asks questions about the pain or tension you are having, checks in with you during the massage to make sure 1) you aren’t cold/too warm 2) the pressure is comfortable for you. If the therapist does not ask, you must assert yourself. Communication is so important so that you receive the care you need. This will give the therapist a chance to make the adjustments to help you. The therapist does not know unless you inform him/her. And lastly, make sure the therapist is licensed and professional.
MASSEUSE, MASSAGE THERAPIST OR MASSOTHERAPIST?
All of these titles/terms have been used interchangeably throughout the years. What some of the general population do not know is, in Ohio, a medical massage therapist must complete a minimum of 600 hours (previously 750 until this year) of education. This includes anatomy, physiology, business ethics, massage theory and practical. They must learn the muscles and bones, along with nerves, as well as successfully pass the state board test to gain licensure to practice massage. To help “honor and respect” the massage therapy profession, I always use the terms Massotherapist or Massage Therapist. It also keeps everyone feeling comfortable, professional, and medically knowledgeable. Masseuse/Masseur is an out-dated term that should be archived as it can also have a negative connotation. Massage therapists are licensed by the Ohio State Medical Board which requires strict adherence to licensure rules. Those who want to verify an Ohio massage therapist can do so online at the Ohio State Medical Board e-license lookup.
MASSAGE IS PART OF INTEGRATIVE HEALTHCARE
It is good to remember the human body includes mind, body, soul and spirit and therefore there are many complexities to addressing pain and tension. For example, if a client were to come for treatment and complain of muscular pain that has been chronic, she says massage treatments have been helpful, but the pain never really goes away. While conversing, the client says she has felt this pain since a loved one passed away. In this case, she may be feeling emotional pain that has presented and manifested as physical pain. I would then also gently suggest she reach out and obtain the help of another healthcare provider such as a counselor or chaplain to help her body heal. When someone expresses their emotional hurt/grief, and works through the grief, it also reduces physical/muscular pain and tension, and the individual can begin to fully heal. Conversely, a person can release emotion by becoming tearful while receiving massage treatments as well or shortly after receiving a massage. This is normal and necessary for healing. This is because our physical bodies are so closely connected to our emotions, and why utilizing an integrative approach is helpful in addressing the whole person and good for the mind, body, soul and spirit.
Chiropractic is dedicated to the non-surgical treatment of the nervous system and/or musculoskeletal system. When the bones of your spine or other areas of your body lose their normal position, this can cause pain and other problems to occur. Tight muscles can pull on the bones as well causing pain and misalignment. We do not offer chiropractic care, however our friends at Hudson Chiropractic (330) 650-0322 or our neighbors at Tallmadge Chiropractic (330) 633-1909 can help you with any chiropractic needs. It is good to be evaluated to see if your pain is caused by muscle tension and/or misalignment.
Reasoning For Therapeutic Techniques
During a massage session, some clients wonder why a therapist is working on a different part of the body when they specifically have pain in another part of the body. For example, you have shoulder pain, but they work more on your neck area. Yes, it could be true that your therapist isn’t experienced or is being careless; however, during my appointments, there is a rhyme and reason to this. The body is very complex and what may be causing your pain may not be completely from the area in which you are feeling the pain. Multiple muscles support a joint and also help move our bodies in many directions. Therefore, as a therapist, I work on and assess all the muscles that assist in joint movement or the area where you are feeling the pain. This is why knowledge of the muscular system is so important.
When I enter a massage session with a client, I think about what muscles the client is using while at work or at home. This is why our intake form has an occupation portion and how I connect on a deeper level with my clients. For instance, if I know someone works sorting small parts all day long while also standing on their feet for hours. I put myself in their shoes and I think of all the muscles associated with moving their hands, fingers, forearms, how their neck is in constant flexion by looking down, how their feet are sore from standing. This is how massage therapists can go from good to great at what they do, by aiming to reduce tension in all these muscle groups so that you can keep functioning at your best.
In addition, the body develops what we call trigger points that cause referred pain patterns in the body. Therefore, the pain you are feeling may be from a trigger point somewhere else in a nearby region. Once it is released your pain will subside or be reduced. So, please be patient and understanding, or ask questions in your sessions to better understand why a therapist is working on different areas of the body. Or, simply trust your therapist and relax. A good therapist always has your best interest in mind and will not be careless or wasteful with your session time.
To Tip or Not to Tip…That is the Question
(note: this is a long read, but informative and may help explain my decision to be a non-tipping center)
The tipping question is one that often comes up and can be controversial in the massage therapy profession. I address this issue in the “about the owner” section on our website. Most spas and franchises accept and expect tips. Massage therapy in the medical field is different. For instance, you wouldn’t tip your doctor or dentist. Although doctors and dentists have quite a bit more schooling and higher education, we both still hold a medical license and are regulated by the appropriate governing boards. Its water is further muddied by the fact that although we hold a medical license, we must charge sales tax in Ohio because it is considered a “service” unless there is a physician referral. I, however, believe ALL massage is beneficial to one’s health and not a service or luxury but rather an organic medical option to help a variety of issues.
Naturally in a service driven industry tips not only provide income for employees, but can be used as leverage to keep employees motivated to give good customer service if they want to receive a good tip. So, there are motivational benefits for employers to use tipping to “drive” employees in the service industry. Plus, it is income for employees that employers do not have to pay taxes on as it is the responsibility of the employee to report his/her tips on tax returns. Tipping originated from the desire to give “extra” for exceptionally good service, for those who go above and beyond. Unfortunately, now it has become “expected” just for one doing the job they were hired to do in the first place.
But that brings another question to mind…what about keeping massage affordable and not a luxury? In order to do this, I feel tipping should be eliminated for massage therapists, and franchises/spas should reach deeper into their pockets to pay the therapists a solid wage to counter the loss of income by removing tipping. A generous rate for therapists guarantees a consistent income rather than a fluctuating one based on low tips or no tips. In addition, I want to attract a whole new group of people that are sidelined because they can’t receive monthly massage appointments because it is too expensive. I want to bring balance to the population and reach people that can’t get ahead because of pain, those that are instead using medication to mask the pain, or the elderly on a fixed income. Some individuals may be able to pay $120 every 3 months for a massage at a spa, but not every 2 weeks, as needed or monthly. What if we make massage therapy reachable for everyone and on a regular basis? This is why I opened this business with a variety of options and rates, and as a non-tipping center. That way everyone is able to find relief in a dollar amount they can afford. It is amazing what a 30-minute massage can do for someone, and it is wallet-friendly.
By all means, please tip your therapist well (20%) if the business accepts tips, as you do not know if the therapist is relying on his/her tips for steady income. But in a medical field setting, massage therapists usually do not accept tips.