Alterra Wellness

Make the Most of Your Massage (get involved)

Friday, January 15th, 2010 at 9:06 pm | Massage & Wellness

dreamstime_1562869Have you ever noticed that several days (even hours) after a massage your body reverts right back to a state of pain or tightness which brought you to seek a massage in the first place?  You’re probably wondering, what’s that about? Clients seeking any of a variety of bodywork must be aware of one thing: their participation in their wellness (both physical and mental) is absolutely necessary for a successful outcome.

How involved should the therapist become in helping their client understand the concept of ‘participation’ during a massage session? The answer:  One hundred percent! Oh, I know, massage is supposed to be a relaxing event; a get-away for the senses.  If that is your client’s goal, then relaxation is what they should get.  All the therapeutic benefits of massage apply (increase in vascular and lymphatic circulation, decrease in blood pressure, etc.).  However, if your client’s goal is to decrease pain, decrease muscle tightness, or increase range of motion, those types of outcomes may not be as available to them without their participation and education.

(Massage Therapists) How can you optimize your massage?

1. If range of motion was increased during massage, educate your client about strengthening muscles in the new range they have gained. That angle of increased range is weak and needs isometrics to maintain the new open range. If isometrics are outside your certification, refer the client to a certified personal trainer or muscle activation techniques specialist. It is up to the client to follow through with strengthening.  If their goal is to increase flexibility or range of motion, you must be prepared to know how to do it safely and effectively.  You cannot stretch a shoulder into flexion and expect that the body will be strong within the new range to maintain this full range of motion. If the client returns with the decreased range, try some strengthening moves.

2. If pain is what brought them to you, be sure to take a thorough medical history.  Ask them questions about the time of day they experience pain, how long have they had their pain, what helps the pain, what exacerbates it. Do they know why they have pain? Maybe they sustained an injury.  This information gives you a better idea of how to plan the treatment, if you need to refer them to another specialist, or suspect a far more serious issue.

3. Don’t just start your basic routine.  Palpate around the spine, observe body position on the table, take note of any tissue changes in heat, color, and tightness.

4. OK, so you’re not a nutritionist.  This means you cannot prescribe a diet program but could you suggest they remove white sugar from their body because it weakens all body systems–including the muscular system?  Yes.  Can you suggest books or research on the subject?  Yes.  Your business is muscles.  Know about them, name them, what foods or pharmaceuticals weaken and or cramp them.  Education is just as important to your client as your hands are.

(Client) How to get the most out of your massage?

1.  Read 1-4 above.

2. Ask questions.

3. Use Google or other search engines to do your own research. Be involved in your wellness.  This is your body.  You have to live with it.

4.  Know all you can about YOU.  That means, be aware of what you eat and how it makes you feel.  Know what or who stresses you out.  Read up about a new medication before taking it.  Share all your medical history with your massage therapist.

5.  BE COMPLIANT.  If it is recommended by your massage therapist to come in every week for six weeks and you don’t know why–just ask.  When there is an acute injury or issue and you visit the chiropractor or physical therapist three times a week for six weeks, think about why you go.  Do you go because you were told it would help you achieve your goals?  If cost is your issue, ask your insurance carrier if they will accept massage for your problem.  If they will, ask how many sessions and how much of the cost per session they will cover.  Talk to your doctor and get a prescription for massage so you do not have to incur the extra cost of tax.  Finally, talk to your massage therapist and see if they offer package deals which would make each session less expensive for you.

I met with a new client this week that came in for a muscle activation techniques (MAT) session.  She was a young woman who suffered with upper back pain.  During our session, I observed she had limited range of motion and had very weak upper body strength. Her medical history indicated that she was a healthy and happy person who was not on any medication.  During our conversation I found out she had a close family and, in fact, currently works in a family owned business.  She stated she loved her job.  What was notable was she had not exercised in a very long time (months, if not a year) and was a hairdresser.  She also happened to mention that she was hyper-mobile, as diagnosed by her doctor. Knowing what I know about hyper-mobility, every joint in her body relies on muscular strength to stabilize the joints.  If she is doing overhead, sustained moves (like blow drying hair all day) how much endurance do her muscles require?  A LOT!  I took the opportunity to explain how important regular exercise was.  Luckily a family member (who happens to be a personal trainer) accompanied her to my office and was more than happy to assist her in all her strengthening goals.

The best news of all…the client agreed to personal exercise sessions with her family member and left her MAT session better educated and optimistic about recovery.

“Our sincere desire to educate our clients about wellness is crucial to their health. Your active participation in your path to wellness is the key to its actualization.”  That’s my goal.  What’s yours?

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13 Responses to “Make the Most of Your Massage (get involved)”

  1. Jess says:

    This makes sense. I run into some of these problems with my clients and you’ve given me a new approach to handling them. Thanks and good luck!

  2. Brilliant post thanks, all the best!

  3. Arrg, my mouse got jammed. What I was about to say, was that this is a terrific post. Very insightful and informative at the same time.

  4. barbara says:

    Thanks, I’m interested to read yours.

  5. amazing article! Relaxing is very important to the soul and body. You have to rest, it’s natural. There’s this relaxation drink, based on scientific studies and created by a scientist: it’s called Minichill. – it’s based on clinical studies. It’s made from scientifically proven relaxing ingredients such as Relarian. It is backed by a Ph.D who has many publishing- Dr. Benjamin Weeks. You should really check it out.

  6. barbara says:

    Thank you Carroll. I will look into the product.

  7. Progressive Minds says:

    Carroll, I recently looked up Relarian and it looks like a very promising composite of proven relaxation ingredients including GABA, valerian root, and theanine among others. Thank you for bringing this into the forum. A nice place for new ideas…

  8. barbara says:

    I agree–thanks Progressive Minds!

  9. Muscle Might says:

    Will this help to lift my metabolism as well?

  10. barbara says:

    You know it! Lifting weights combined with cardiovascular fitness increases lean muscle mass and reduces body fat. The better your lean muscle mass to body fat ratio is, the faster your metabolism will be. Exercising also builds immunity and lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. Exercise alone is OK, however, exercise with clean eating is amazing!!

    To get the machine (a.k.a., your body) working, feed it what it needs! I drink a cold glass of water in the AM, that kicks my metabolism UP and helps to start the peristalsis motion for healthy elimination (sorry for the visual). I ALWAYS have breakfast, this too helps to jump start the metabolism earlier in the day.

    There is so much information about increasing the metabolism and feeling and looking young. Exercise, good food and stress-free living are integralingredients in our Fountain of Youth!

    Massage aids in detoxing and helps body organs to better do their job (via, breaking up scar tissue, gentle massage of the liver and intestines, aiding the lymph system which does not have it’s own pump system like the cardiovascular system) and helps to flush fat and stretches muscle. Do you think massage helps to balance brain chemistry and aids in hormonal homeostasis? YES!

    Thanks for your question–awesome!

  11. Alonzo Gayle says:

    Gotta love the effort you put into this blog 🙂

  12. Thanks for the advice. Will put it to work. Tom

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