Tell me where she is…I’ll go beat her up for ya! Part II

As mentioned in my previous post, people donning raised eyebrows when telling them you’re off to get a massage aren’t in-the-know as much as they think they are.  Yes, massage feels good.  And, yes, for some it is purely a way to indulge themselves every so often.  However, for a variety of reasons, some which may surprise you, massage is an absolute necessity for many.

For stress:

  • Decrease anxiety.
  • Enhance sleep quality.
  • Greater energy.
  • Improve concentration.
  • Increase circulation.
  • Reduce fatigue.

It’s a huge topic, and I’m only going to touch on it.  Let’s face it, everyone and every-body is stressed.  Work, family, places to go, people to see, deadlines, lack of sleep, divorce, illness, death, addictions, diet…you name it, it’s stressful.  And nowadays you can dismiss the old “but some of it is good stress.”  Good stress is the type of emotional challenge where a person feels in control and provides some sense of accomplishment…much easier to attain were we not a nation continually fighting an onslaught of unremitting pressures on a daily basis, brought on by others or ourselves.  Stress causes us to feel anxious, lose sleep, and lack focus…not to mention the perpetual knot we feel in our stomach when we ruminate, or can’t “shut it off”.   And while we definitely need stress and for our bodies to react when we’re jumping out of the way so as not to get hit by a car (fight or flight), our bodies do not differentiate emotional stress and physical stress.

For health issues:

  • Alleviate low-back pain and improve range of motion.
  • Assist with shorter, easier labor for expectant mothers and shorten maternity hospital stays.
  • Ease medication dependence.
  • Enhance immunity by stimulating lymph flow—the body’s natural defense system.
  • Exercise and stretch weak, tight, or atrophied muscles.
  • Help athletes of any level prepare for, and recover from, strenuous workouts.
  • Improve the condition of the body’s largest organ—the skin.
  • Increase joint flexibility.
  • Lessen depression and anxiety.
  • Promote tissue regeneration, reducing scar tissue and stretch marks.
  • Pump oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs, improving circulation.
  • Reduce postsurgery adhesions and swelling.
  • Reduce spasms and cramping.
  • Relax and soften injured, tired, and overused muscles.
  • Release endorphins—amino acids that work as the body’s natural painkiller.
  • Relieve migraine pain.

All of these….absolutely true!  Did you know about even half in this list?  Do you even know what some of these mean to your body or specifically HOW massage helps do these things??  Yeh….if I wasn’t an LMT I wouldn’t either.  And that’s the unfortunate dilemma with regard to educating the public or other health practitioners as to the validity of using massage as an alternate method of helping the body heal itself.  It’s getting there, but massage has a long way to go in being recognized as legitimate healthcare.  And because there are so many false beliefs and attitudes circulating already with regard to the massage industry, it’s just that much more difficult to find credibility…has anybody seen “The Client List”?

There are many other reasons massage is beneficial, however, there is one reason, in particular, I hold near and dear to my heart.  But to do it justice, I’ll save it for the next post.  It’s good…and if you don’t suffer from it yourself, you  probably know someone who does.  Till then…

Stay in touch.

Tell me where she is…I’ll go beat her up for ya! Part I

Without being obsessive about it, I have a client who takes very good care of herself…eats organic, does yoga, plays often, etc…and gets massage when her body tells her it’s time.  It’s just her way.  She possesses a high-stress job and her chief complaints usually take the form of neck/shoulder pain and headaches. So, when she contacted me last week with details of her issues and what may be contributing to them, I exhorted her for being so body-aware and for always implementing the advice I give her to expedite her progress.  You know what she says to me?

“People make fun of me for being so aware but, it helps me I know!”

I said, “What?  They make fun of you?”

She replies with, “Yeh…they say ‘oh, you’re going to get massage again??'”

Much to my surprise, I felt a little indignant after that conversation…like I wanted to go find that woman and beat her up for picking on my friend!  And then I realized that this is, of course, a common response by people who don’t receive massage on a regular basis and have preconceived notions that it’s all an indulgent, spa-type experience. So, in true Maria fashion…gloves off!

So let me tell you what I really think!

As I stated in a previous post, about 98% of my clients come to see me for very specific issues…painful ones.  Sadly, with new clients, I am typically their last “resort” and nowhere near their first option.  Most medical staff lack in-depth knowledge regarding soft tissues restrictions and how they cause pain and imbalance…that’s not an assumption – many clients tell me about their conversations with their doctors.  With the lack of doctors on board with massage therapy (and gunning for an MRI, a pill or a knife), it’s no wonder people have a distorted view of what massage really is and can do, not to mention that massage may be an alternative, less invasive therapy.

My next post will be written specifically for the “…massage again??” crowd.  It could take a novel to explain all that massage can do, but I’ll try to keep it brief and to the point.  Actually, don’t take my word for it…just look at what my clients have to say …  http://www.syracusemassagestudio.com/#!testimonials

What makes me a better therapist?

No, I’m not referring to how I rank amongst the fourteen other therapists down the road.  What I mean is… what factors will contribute to my being a better therapist each day for my clients?  Well…there are three I can think of right now.

1.  Never stop learning.  When LMTs fulfill their state-mandated number of course hours, they have learned only the basics…the minimum requirement for passing the state boards.  Granted, we learn a LOT, but it’s really only scratching the surface (no pun intended…ok, well, maybe a little).  And we learn this very quickly when we begin our new practice – whether we contract with a local business, or we create our own.  As excited as we are to “change the world”, we quickly realize the world has some major problems in which a feel-good, fluff-n-buff isn’t going to solve.  Only through continuing education courses, keeping up on the latest techniques, reading various industry journals, and a willingness to stretch herself, will a therapist find success with her clients and thrive in her business.

2.  Constant communication.  I would have to say that only 2% of my clientele come to see me purely for relaxation purposes.  The other 98%??  Chronic pain.  And when seeing those people for the first time, we have a long, leisurely talk about whatever they want to talk about.  Granted, most therapists won’t go quite that far or can afford the time to do this…at least to the degree I do.  If time allows, I’ve spent upwards of 45 minutes gabbing with a client and when they talk, I listen.  They usually tell me most of what I need to know about their issues.  Sleep patterns, work habits, how they drive, how stressful their job is, when their divorce will go through, what they ate for lunch, which ankle they broke four years ago, etc.  Believe it or not, all of these can factor into their painful issues and I let them know why and how.  We have a lengthy conversation about all of it, and then we talk about the work itself before we get started.  Why?  Primarily to alleviate fear of the unknown.  When a client knows what’s coming in the next hour, their whole countenance changes.  They’re no longer frustrated that “no one can help them” but are encouraged and optimistic that their therapist knows what she’s talking about and, well, “hey, this just might work”.  I’ve had many, many clients tell me this was their first glimmer of hope of finding a solution to their chronic pain, or that what we’ve been working on in their sessions is actually producing results.  Communication doesn’t stop there, though.  After each session, we talk about how they feel…do they notice any changes?  Feel less restricted?  In most instances, clients become more body-aware…something they take home with them, which fosters better habits, postural or otherwise.  I also send them home with several things: 1) instructions regarding the application of heat/cold therapy, as well as upping their intake of H2O; 2) mild stretching techniques which I’ve demonstrated before they leave the studio; and 3) sometimes, if the work was particularly intense, I’ll give them a sample of a topical analgesic to apply over the next day or two, or, if they’ve been having trouble sleeping, I’ll mix some massage creme with a relaxation blend of essential oils to apply before bedtime.  I follow up with new clients in the next day or two with a phone call to see how they’re feeling, answer any questions they may have, etc.  When they come back, we start the conversation again…this time it’s more about the changes they’ve experienced and how best to proceed with treatment.

3.  Last, but certainly not least….feeling your pain.  I’ll admit, I hate this part but, honestly, it’s the most beneficial thing that makes me a better therapist.  I frequently suffer from (non-work related) migraines, neck and shoulder pain, and low back/buttocks/right thigh pain due to a hip imbalance (my right leg is about an inch shorter than my left).  But because I know what these feel like, I can pinpoint areas intuitively on my clients and quite successfully alleviate their pain in most cases.  There have been one or two times when I believe I’ve incurred pain in other, atypical areas by divine intervention….yes, I said that.  Because three days after said pain, I’d get a client with the exact same ailment…one I’d have a difficult time treating specifically if I had not gone through it myself.

All of that being said, I just realized that what will make me a better therapist is simply being aware of the fact that I want to be a better therapist and will continue to strive to be such.   My clients somehow know that…and so do all their friends they’ve sent my way.

Any thoughts?

~Maria

Let’s get it started…

Welcome!  This is the first entry, of which I hope there are many more, of an ongoing dialogue with the massage therapy client.  As a few of my current clients can attest, there is no lack of information for me to share when it comes to the restoration and well-being of someone who is experiencing discomfort on a daily basis.  Whether that discomfort is in the form of headaches, low back pain, stabbing sensations in the shoulders, or achy legs…in most cases, there is likely a solution, therefore, there is work to be done.

But before we get rolling, there are a few things you should know:

One…this is an informational blog about massage therapy to the client.  Not other practitioners, not students of massage, not social media gurus, etc.  No…topics discussed here will be, for the most part, written in plain English and easy for the client to understand.  Technical terms will be few, and only when I feel it’s important enough to be included in one’s everyday vernacular.

Two….the above statement is only half-true.  This is an informational blog about massage therapy, yes, but also about other health-related topics such as food (not diet), movement (not –cough- exercise), work, play, breathing, stress, sleep, and what goes through your head and heart on any given day.  All of these contribute to the condition of the body’s tissues and overall health.  (If diet and exercise are your thing, bonus points!  BUT, food and movement are an integral part of feeling your best and it is a completely individualized process.)

And three…

I am not a healer. 

According to Farlex Free Online Dictionary:

v. healed, heal·ing, heals
v.tr.

1. To restore to health or soundness; cure.
2. To set right; repair: healed the rift between us.
3. To restore (a person) to spiritual wholeness.
v.intr.  To become whole and sound; return to health.
More importantly, and more revealing:  Noun 1. healingthe natural process by which the body repairs itself.

Did you catch that?  …. “by which the body repairs itself.”  Any practitioner claiming to be a healer, needs to consult another definition: narcissism.  Narcissism: inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity.

Massage therapy, and the like, can assist the body in the repair process, but it cannot heal or cure a condition on its own.  It is very much a collaborative effort on the part of the client (which I’ll address in more detail at another time), a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT),  Chiropractor, Physical Therapist, osteopath, personal trainer, etc., depending on the issues to be addressed.  An LMT works with your body – we ask the tissues to consider giving up some of their anger and give way to the pressure and heat we offer so as to calm and soothe painful points in the neck, shoulders, etc.  (Every now and then a client will come along who has named their trigger points – what most people refer to as ‘knots’.  I had one client who named hers after her ex-husband and two teenagers.) .  We politely (and sometimes not so politely) manipulate tissues to soften their stance in some areas, thereby allowing the opportunity to strengthen tissues in others.  And, many times, it is simply a retraining of the soft tissues to go where we want them to go in order to alleviate pain and restore balance.  But by no means can I refer to myself by a term that denotes that I, and I alone, am responsible for the progress that takes place within a body responsive to change.  If you do happen to find someone claiming that distinction, better check and make sure they have Messiah on their resume, as well.

I’d much rather say that I “run interference” when referring to what my education and experience have afforded me.  When a client presents with pain, my primary goal is to alleviate it, yes, but there’s only so much I, as an LMT, can do.  The client has much homework after they leave until their next visit, such as mild stretching, increasing their water intake on a daily basis, making adjustments in their work environment and sleep habits…just to name a few.  Becoming “body-aware” is such an integral part of the healing process – thoughts precede action.  Action gets results.  Only the client can take complete control as to the progress of their healing.

There are, of course, some people in which, for a variety of reasons, there is no healing of a particular issue … that is when we call the work involved management.  Whether it be for pain, balance, or mobility, sometimes all we can do is explore ways to manage a problem that can never fully go away.  Another topic for another day.

‘Til then, feel free to write me with any comments, criticisms, or questions.  I’m happy to answer any and all within the scope of this practice.  I’m also happy to give you my opinion on a number of other things, too!