I had the opportunity last Friday to take a continuing education course for Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Manipulation/IASTM with focus on Rockblades. Rockblades, have four distinct edges so you can maneuver the tool around different boney surfaces depending on which area of the body you are treating. The tools have several techniques that can be used which is gliding over a muscle to assess the tissue (feeling for grainy texture or bumps), feathering (for painful areas), scraping, oscillation (vibration) and chopping. The techniques used focus on releasing fascia around adhesions/scar tissue, with a goal of pain relief and returning the body to functional movement. The course focused on proprioceptive neurological training of the muscles. Using sensory stimulation of internal force (Golgi receptors), Rapid Pressure (Pacinian receptors, much like fast movements that wake the muscle up and get ready for a sports activity), Ruffini receptors (long holds like releasing trigger points) and interceptors (light touch). Using a variation of receptors depending on the goal of the client, rockblades, help bring the body into functional movement faster than other therapeutic methods and in a non painful approach. Changing the angle of the tool and depth it allows for more intense or less intense treatment.
I am very excited to add this to my massage treatments. If you would like to try it out please mention it to me otherwise look forward to me suggesting it! We were also taught different assessments, utilizing a squat test, one legged balance and lunge test. The tests help discover what areas of the body to target and treat. The idea is to bring the body back into balance before fitness training to prevent injury. Treat the muscles and imbalances, then begin a fitness or exercise plan to strengthen the muscles.
I was able to take this class for free as a veteran benefit the PESI institute now provides for veterans working in the health and wellness field. I am so appreciative to have been able to take this training. Thank you PESI institute!
Regular massage is great, but it is also important to take care of your body with a variety of methods to get the best results you are looking for. Living a healthy lifestyle consisting of regular massage, chiropractic adjustments, yoga, swimming, drinking plenty of water, getting rest, taking care of your mental health, using hot or cold packs when needed, soaking in Epsom salt baths, indulging in a float tank session from time to time, eating a healthy diet, getting exercise in whichever sport best suits your body type and so on. I am going to describe some of the benefits of each of these and how they are different. Regular massage is excellent for your muscle health, balancing your muscles, relieving pain, releasing areas that are taut and pulling your body into unbalanced postures, creating flexibility in your joints and more. I recommend at least one massage per month as maintenance to check in and see where you are overusing muscles. Massage also feels quite amazing and is relaxing to the mind. Massage can make you feel like a new person with a new start to your month. In some cases more than once a month is beneficial especially for people who get frequent headaches, those recovering from car accidents or whiplash, scoliosis, athletes, people who tend to hold more stress than average and more. I make recommendations individually per what I am feeling and seeing in the client on my table. I don’t recommend the same frequency for each person.
Between sessions there are some things that really help make your massage treatment last longer or give you a new added benefit. Chiropractic helps create a flexibility between stuck discs and releases impinged nerves. I have personally gone to my chiropractor weekly for both me and my kids. I have benefitted by relief of headaches and whiplash coupled with my once a month massages.
Yoga helps stretch your muscles and creates a body awareness and sense of calm. Stress and lack of sleep can also have a big effect on your muscle tension. Yoga is a great practice for this. Yoga also creates flexibility in your muscles in a different way than massage through stretching whereas massage is a more detailed and focused approach to relieving precise muscles. I have also found swimming to be very beneficial not only for overall cardiovascular exercise, but the constant movement of shoulder joints and hip joints (kicking in the water) seems to loosen up adhesions held within the joints. Drink plenty of water especially after your massage session. This helps flush out anything that was freed up and circulating in your system. Water also hydrates your tissues and your body responds better to the treatment and you will have less soreness after your massage. Get plenty of rest, give your muscles time to relax from a hard day. Throw some essential oils in a diffuser, cozy up with a warm cup of tea. Take care of your mental health, start seeing a psychologist regularly for managing stress, maybe incorporate even a 5 minute daily meditation to your day. Epsom salt baths are beneficial because it is the one salt that contains the most magnesium. If you take a therapeutic bath (which consists of at least one hour) your body will detoxify and restore magnesium to your muscles. To create a therapeutic bath you need more Epsom salt than most would think. A full two cups of Epsom salt to one bath is not a bad thing, its great for you. You can also add baking soda to your bath (about half cup) to soften your skin. If you want to make your bath even more enjoyable you can mix essential oil (5-6 drops) in some milk or oil (recommending something like jojoba, grapeseed, or almond oil). It’s important to mix your essential oil into something before putting it into your bath because oil and water don’t mix and you don’t want the essential oils to just sit directly onto your skin. There are some essential oils you would want to avoid in a bath. Any essential oils that are warming, cooling, or possible skin irritants, or phototoxic you would want to avoid here. Lavender and Frankincense are great for skin and good simple and popular essential oils to add to a bath. Take it up a notch and book a float tank session. Float tanks contain enough salt to make you float effortlessly. Float sessions aid in recovery, help when you have the common cold, is great for stress relief and that magnesium exchange for muscles.
When exercising, it is important to know your body. Get good running shoes, have them fitted by an expert (I recommend Performance Running Outfitters, they will record your gait and play it back in slow motion, then choose a shoe that works best for you) If you are a great runner, awesome! If you have painful joints stick with walking or elliptical. Be careful when weight training that you are using proper form. Maybe hire a personal trainer to show you proper form when lifting. If you play sports or exercise regularly make sure you stretch after! You would be amazed that we can feel this difference in massage. I will have a client who never stretches and all the muscles just feel like solid rock and layers stuck together. Then they will start stretching after and I can feel the flexibility between layers which then saves me time during massage on getting deeper into the good stuff.
Using a hot pack on sore muscles can soften and melt down some of the tension. I always say they are great when you go home after your massage to further relax the muscles or even after a hard day at work. Now when you have a painful joint or inflammation then a cold pack is nice. When you have both muscle and joint issues in the same area its nice to alternate. Do 10 minutes hot pack, 5 minutes cold pack, followed by another 10 minutes of heat.
If you just aren’t getting the results you were hoping for after several sessions it’s also a good idea to consult your family doctor. They may suggest an MRI, or physical therapy. My family doc has also sent me to a nutritionist.
All I n all there are many ways to take care of our bodies. If we continue to just work hard day in and out and not stop to take care of ourselves then pain shows up. Tension builds up and sometimes to a more severe state where it takes more frequent sessions to get back on track. Be in tune with how you are feeling, get to know some of these ideas and get a sense for how each make you feel. Learn when your body is needing any of these types of therapies. Be good to yourself. Live fully, feel younger longer, and get rid of those pains that ail your body.
There are many reasons people have not tried massage yet. I hear all sorts of things from people and I am going to answer all those questions right here. Do you feel massage is too expensive? Are you insecure about weight or a skin issue? Maybe you are unsure what massage can do for your body physically? Do you view massage as a luxury versus something you do to take care of your body?
The most common thing I hear a lot is “I can’t afford massage” However, when you think about how much pain killers, physical therapy, doctor co pays and deductibles cost… is massage really that expensive in comparison? No. If you could get pain relief from massage would you choose it over medications, shots and invasive therapies? I see people pay a lot for a personal trainer every month, expensive coffees, going out to dinner with your family, buying clothes, purses, shoes, etc. Is the excuse really about money or is it more about something else? I know when I take my family of four kids and myself out to a nice dinner I easily pay $50 plus a tip for our wonderful waitress. I love buying new clothes and tickets to do fun things. Cutting down on even one of these, deciding to put myself as a priority, can make me a more relaxed, pain free happy mommy and more functional for my kids. Instead of paying for expensive admission into events and museums we go to the playground more or the beach. There are so many free things you can do for entertainment where you save money and have that extra for your massages. Stay home one night and make a nice healthy dinner with your kids, get them involved in helping plan it, teach them how to create it… those moments will be more memorable in the long run, and valuable to your child than sitting in a restaurant. Do that a few times and you will have no problem affording massage. When you take care of yourself, you are less stressed, you become a better mom, dad, employee, friend, partner, etc. Evaluate what is most important to you. Why not try a different approach? What is the harm in giving something new a try? If you don’t like it, you don’t have to book a second massage. In some cases a medical doctor is necessary and in other cases, pain can be relieved through massage. Try the less invasive approach before committing to a lifetime of medications, surgeries, injections and the money pit of big pharma. If massage does not bring you relief you can at least say you gave everything a try before going that route.
Do you have body insecurities? Maybe you feel too vulnerable getting a massage and that keeps you away from trying it. As a therapist I will tell you that I get all shapes and sizes of people. I have never once looked at someone’s size (big or small) and thought a single negative thought. All I am looking at is their posture, their gait (form when they walk), I am listening to what they are saying hurts, listening to what type of work they do, or common daily activities. While I am giving massage I most often close my eyes, I am focused on feeling the muscles and that is all I care about. I am feeling the joints move, where do I feel pulling in which direction? I am thinking how can I help this person live a happier more pain free life? I am focused on giving my best. I want everyone to walk out of my office feeling better than when they came in. I am here to help, not judge anyone. I am not perfect and have my body insecurities myself. Also please know you are covered so, we can’t see that extra weight on your tummy after having kids (although I have had four kids, and had a tummy tuck surgery, so, I completely 100% understand that some things just destroy our bodies and that’s okay!!) I only uncover the area I am working on. You can choose to opt out of having certain areas massaged. Maybe for your first time you choose to just have your back, neck and shoulders massaged. Start in baby steps and as you become more comfortable with your therapist, then add legs and feet and all that other yummy stuff! Do you have a skin issue or cut you are insecure about? A lump? Just tell your therapist or even write that down on your intake form and we can just avoid that area, work around things. Be open and let your therapist know any of your worries or concerns and we are here for you and to help you and to give you a great experience!
Another common misconception is that massage is a luxury, a girls spa day or just relaxing. Although it can be those great things, there is also massage as therapy. What can massage do for your body when you dedicate to a regular therapy routine? I always say to book at least once a month for maintenance, but I see the best results for people who are not afraid to listen to what their body needs, maybe you are someone who needs weekly (maybe you have daily migraines and weekly massage is something that keeps those away for you), if you were in a recent car accident you may want more frequent massage until you get ahead of your pain then move to coming monthly. Depending on your daily activity could be a difference in how often you should come in order to benefit. There is a big difference from being a construction worker and being a fitness instructor to hair stylist to dental hygienist to being a desk worker. Everyone’s body is different. The activities we do most commonly throughout our day causes an overuse of certain muscles in a repetitive manner. Our job as a massage therapist is to target those overused muscles and use different techniques to get the muscles to relax, balance the body back to it equilibrium which can bring great relief for the client. Sitting in a desk all day with your right arm slightly forward, hand cupping a computer mouse… massage can target creating mobility in that right shoulder, opening up the muscles of your hand, giving you flexibility back in those joints. How do we do that? We have several techniques. Some of my most favorite are trigger point release, myofascial release, joint mobilization with active release techniques. Trigger point release happens when a muscle becomes very taut like a rubber band. There is a point within that taut muscle where everything stems from and when holding pressure on that point, it brings blood to that muscle, unwinds those bands as it slowly melts and relaxes. It is an amazing relieving feeling. Myofascial is a slow dragging movement that helps release layers of muscle away from each other and superficial tissue and skin away from the muscle creating flexibility. Pinning a muscle with my hand and moving a joint in its action stretches muscle, warms it up and slowly allows it to release creating less pulling in one direction or the other on that joint. I listen to the joint and tune into where its pulling, what muscle is causing a chain reaction to create pain in this area? We can also use heat like hot stones or bamboo which help bring blood to the muscle and melt away tension. Massage can be a very therapeutic way to rejuvenate your body after it is overused and beaten down in your daily activities, bring your body back into balance.
Find a few creative ways to save some extra money every month, give massage a try. If it is not for you, you can say you at least gave it a try. Don’t be nervous about body issues, no one is judging you, and you will be covered and comfortable during your massage. Do book your luxury massage days with your girlfriends now and then, if you like that, but also know massage is a tool to take care of your body, just like you would eat healthy and exercise, it is important to take of the overused muscles we use day in and out at our jobs, carrying our kids, or whatever we are doing on a regular basis. Take time for yourself, stop making excuses and give it a go. If you have questions to add and like me to answer, drop a comment below and I will get an answer for you as soon as I can. Thank you for taking the time to read this post and enjoy the rest of your day!!
Everyone has been there, their first massage! You may have questions or insecurities or are nervous. One thing to know is that everyone is slightly nervous on their first time, yes, everyone! Some may pretend they are not, but we therapists can tell when someone is new. Everyone has questions, and some people are uncomfortable or shy about asking these things so I am going to lay it all out right here. If you would like me to cover more in this post, please leave me a comment of a question you would like me to answer, and I will be super happy to answer it. What do you wear during your massage? What areas will my therapist touch? What do you want out of your massage? What if I said I want firm pressure and change my mind during?
What do you mean “undress to your comfort level”? It goes about 50/50, some people leave their underwear on, and some people don’t. It is perfectly okay to wear nothing during your massage, it is actually much easier for the therapist to access all your muscles. I look at any clothing as a personal barrier the client does not want me to cross. If you leave your socks on, I will not massage your feet, if you leave your underwear on I will not massage your glutes (unless I do some kneading over the sheet, but will not go under them). Very rarely, but sometimes women will wear their bra during a massage. In that case I just work around it, but it is much easier for me to glide down your full back without the straps in the way. If you really are uncomfortable and want to wear one, I recommend a strapless or sports bra. With a strapless it enables me to get more into the shoulder and neck muscles while still feeling covered and a sports bra has more flexible material. It is perfectly okay though if you are comfortable without it, to go completely naked. So, the other confusion clients may have is, will you be covered? YES! You go under a sheet and blanket. So the therapist will step outside of the room while you are undressing, then you lay on the table either face up or face down (the therapist will tell you which one) and you go under the sheet and blanket. During your massage the therapist will uncover only the area they are working on. So one leg will be uncovered and when they are done working on that one, you will be covered back up with the blanket and the next leg will be uncovered and recovered and so forth around.
What areas will my therapist touch? I am comfortable massaging all of the following areas: face, scalp, neck, pecs/chest, shoulders, back, glutes/butt, legs, arms, hands, feet, abdomen. So basically almost everything. If there is an area you really do not want massaged please tell your therapist. Now on a typical session I do not add all of these things due to time, however, if you want everything massaged please say so. This is what some would call a “yummy massage” which can be very relaxing, but having to cover more areas takes more time so that just means each area will be massaged less time in order to fit everything into one hour. If you are looking for more of a therapeutic massage, I suggest having your therapist focus only on the areas contributing to your pain. The reason for that is more time for detailed massage on the area of pain which yields better results therapeutically. I do not massage abdomen every time for example. Generally I only do abdomen when the client has a specific pain issue or requests this. I also don’t always do face and that is because some people are not comfortable with that or they don’t want their make up messed with, or do not want oil on their face. For pecs/chest this just is the area by your collar bone, the nook of your shoulder, this is not breast, just to be clear, because some may not want pec massage by not knowing what that means. Pec massage is a very important muscle in relieving upper back, neck and shoulder issues. Are your feet ticklish? tell your therapist and they can maybe do deeper pressure on them or avoid them completely. Why would you want your glutes/butt massaged? It is not weird at all, it feels amazing! Your glutes have several muscles that can contribute to low back pain, hip pain or even knee pain. Of course if you are not comfortable with that, let your therapist know.
Pressure is another interesting topic because some clients will be vocal about what they want adjusted, and others will stay quiet with whatever is given. If you feel like your massage is too light, say something. If you feel like your massage is too deep or painful, say something. As a therapist I do try to cue in on what the client’s body is telling me, but I can’t know how they are feeling about what I am doing. So if someone winces I generally will lighten up, or if their is a stubborn muscle I may go deeper. I change my pressure throughout according to what I am feeling the muscle needs, but if there is something YOU want, tell me. This is YOUR massage, tailored to what feels good to YOU! We can’t read minds so please be vocal about your needs, likes, and dislikes. Feedback is always encouraged. Maybe the heat or coldness of the room is bothering you, tell me. Is the face cradle angled weird and you are not comfortable? tell me. Does the bolster feel not quite right, slightly crooked or uncomfortable? tell me. I want you to have the BEST massage, every client is different, feedback really helps me learn what you like.
What do you want out of your massage? What brought you in? What goals are you trying to achieve? Do you want to relax or do you have any area of pain or restriction that is bothering you? Do you have general soreness everywhere? If you want to relax I suggest a full body massage, maybe with some aromatherapy added. Hot stone can also feel quite relaxing if you like heat. So hot stone massage is when the therapist takes heated basalt rocks in their hands and runs them over your muscles throughout the massage. Hot stone can be used for just focused areas therapeutically or can be very yummy as a full body massage for relaxation. If you have a painful area, I suggest having your therapist focus only on that area and avoid the full body massage. You will get more out of your time this way to really dig deep within the layers and get the source of pain out. For pain relief I would probably do a lot of trigger point release, myofascial release, deep tissue, joint mobilization and active release techniques. What does that even mean? Trigger point release is when the therapist holds pressure on tiny millimeter points on a taut muscle. You may feel pain for 10-20 seconds while the pressure is being held and you will feel the muscle melt down and pain subside fairly quickly as it releases. Myofascial release is more of a slow dragging feeling which helps release the layers of muscle away from each other. Deep tissue does not necessarily mean deep pressure. Deep tissue just involves accessing deep layers of muscles, a more detailed approach to massage than your basic relaxation/Swedish strokes. Joint mobilization is when the joints, limbs, neck, etc are stretched and moved. A lot of times I am looking for the “end feel” or point in which the joint is showing me restriction. It is giving me clues into which muscles are pulling on that joint. Active release techniques are when I pin a muscle down and move that muscle in its action. An example would be pinning down the pec muscle with one hand and moving your arm with my other hand into it’s range of motion for that muscles action or extension. This really helps to release tight musculature. If you don’t have any area of specific pain and are just more sore everywhere I would recommend a full body deep tissue, intuitive style massage. Warm bamboo would pair nicely with this for an add on. Basically this is just allowing your therapist to seek out and feel what they notice is tense as they go along. The warm bamboo is nice because you have that added benefit or warmth, but also it can knead well (picture a rolling pin) and also getting deeper into broad muscles.
Please comment with anything you would like me to add! I am very curious what questions I have missed. I am sure there is plenty more to cover. No question is a stupid question . If you don’t want to post your question publicly, you can also email it to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I look forward to getting you all on my table so, you can experience your very first massage. You will not regret it, massage feels amazing, but warning: it can be very addicting to feel better!
“Most people have no idea how good their body is designed to feel” – Kevin Trudeau