As a massage therapist there is so much I want my clients to know about their massage therapy sessions.
During the last decade, I’ve compiled a list of commonly asked questions and concerns expressed by my clients. Now that I am blogging, it seems fitting to share my answers with you here. What follows is the first part of a blog series where I empower you with information meant to help you experience the most from your massage and bodywork sessions. Knowledge is power and I’m sharing my expertise in massage therapy with you.
Your health history is very important –
Keep it updated!
Your massage therapist (MT) has most likely asked you to fill out some type of intake form. It may ask you several things like: What types of medication are you taking? And, asking you about any injuries, surgeries or illnesses you’ve had in your lifetime. Please disclose the information they are asking you to. They are not asking to for any reason other than that they want to provide you with the best massage experience possible. As you continue working with them overtime, it is essential that you update your therapist as your health history changes and keep them updated as long as you work with them. It is critical that you inform your MT of your health history as the work they will be doing with you can and does have an affect on your body and the systems that keep you alive.
For example: Massage therapy lowers blood pressure. If you are on a blood thinner, massage therapy’s blood pressure lowering quality can sometimes make you feel dizzy or light-headed as you rise from the table at the end of your session. This is an important thing for both you and your MT to know. It is absolutely safe in most cases to receive massage therapy when you take medications and have health conditions; however, it is critical that your MT knows what medications you take as well as what injuries and health conditions you are experiencing or have experienced.
If your MT asks you to get your doctor’s permission prior to the session, this is also critical. They are asking you because the health condition you have informed them about has variations and they want to be sure they work within their scope of practice. The first rule of care is: Do No Harm. Your MT is being sure to do just that.
It’s your body
and it’s okay…
You are probably aware that massage will help you relax and chill out. This occurs when the Parasympathetic Nervous System is activated by the work the massage therapist (MT) is doing. When this happens, your heart rate slows and your digestion is often improved. Your tummy might grumble and gurgle and you may even pass gas. This is all completely normal and absolutely okay. Rest assured that this is something MTs experience often and they are not judging you for it. In fact, it is a sign that the work you are doing together is doing what it is designed to do.
Sometimes you are so relaxed that you fall asleep. This is also okay. Remember how I just mentioned that massage can slow your heart rate. Your body does this naturally while you are sleeping and so it is with relaxing massage sessions. If you let out a snore or your body twitches – these are normal and good signs that the massage you are receiving is providing a much needed dose of relaxation and chill.
Hair on your body is no big deal
…really. It’s not.
Hair grows on the human body. It’s absolutely unnecessary to come to your massage sessions having just shaved. A massage therapist (MT) is not interested in the smoothness of your skin. They are interesting in softening the tension in your muscles. Be it stubble on your face or stubble on your legs, your MT does not care. If you have a hairy back, a hairy chest or hairy armpits, your MT does not care….really.
More lotion Equals More Glide
and deeper pressure does not happen with glide
Deeper pressure cannot be achieved with too much lotion. Lotions and oils create glide and this is usful for relaxing massage therapy techniques. If you’ve asked your massage therapist (MT) for deeper pressure, chances are they using minimal lotion to achieve this goal. This sometimes translates to a feeling of pull on your skin as they slowly sink into your muscles and soft tissues. This pulling feeling is what it feels like to have the MT work on your connective tissues and is sometimes necessary to create better range of motion and to achieve reduction in muscle tension. It should never feel like pain and you should always speak up if you are in pain so that the MT can adjust what they are doing.
How’s The Pressure
Deeper is not always better.
First of all, deeper pressure does not mean better. Deep pressure does serve a purpose in helping muscles release from stuck tension patterns. This does not mean that deep pressure is needed, or even best, for releasing muscular tension. If you’ve been on my table, I’ve certainly informed you that the deepest pressure I will provide is that where you’re own muscle tissue meets my pressure. If I go beyond that space, then we will be exciting your fight or flight response. If this happens, it is impossible for you to relax. Furthermore, there is potential to do more damage and create more pain. My first goal is to do no harm and I will not provide deeper pressure than what your body allows.
Secondly, rarely does one part of your body want the same pressure as another part. The amount of pressure a large muscle like your gluteus maximus (your bum) can take is different than that of the piriformis (a muscle deeper in your posterior hip). Massage therapists gain a great ability to listen to your tissues with their hands. We are able to feel the space of therapeutic pressure depth that is ideal. That being said, we are still not in your body experiencing the pressure. It is always okay to say to your therapist, I’d like less/more pressure.
Third, if deeper pressure is needed and used during the session then use this scale guideline. Use a scale from 1 - 10 where a pressure of 10 feels like the MT is going to rip your body in half and 1 feels like the therapist is doing nothing. The amount of pressure that is helpful to encourage muscle tissue and connective tissue to relax and change is in the range of 5-7, not higher.