“I sort of just feel like I paid someone to rub oil all over me.”
I hear this often and it triggers a spark of frustration inside of me when a client comes to me and tells me that this was their experience.
I like to say getting a massage is like pushing the reset button.
Massage therapy can be an extremely effective treatment for a multitude of injuries, ailments and emotional imbalances. But, for some reason, it remains mystical, hidden and hard to find for many people.
We need to be able to feel empowered to communicate what we want, we need to be able to ask for help when we need it and we need to be able to depend on the people we hire to educate, inspire and guide us.
A massage allows the body to relax, to breathe and to restore its natural capacity to heal and recuperate.
There isn’t one massage routine that every massage therapist performs, a massage is a cumulative gift of that person’s unique, individual human experience.
Sometimes we have serious problems in our hips and our shoulders and our necks and we need effective treatment.
There are a few things that I have compiled over my time in working with people that I feel are important, if not necessary, to having a progressive relationship with massage.
I want you to swim in Ecstasy during your massage because if you are, that means I am and no one has to leave feeling uncomfortable or dissatisfied.
Clients shouldn’t have to walk away feeling disappointed because the problem wasn’t addressed or because they didn’t get what they wanted.
Here are five ways to get the most out of your massage:
1. Ask Questions.
If you are unsure of what you’re feeling and you don’t know what you need, ask. Inquiry is the first step to exploration. If your therapist is experienced and has a passion for what they do, their life of massage extends beyond work and beyond the place that they are working. Educating clients on what we do is first and foremost.
A skilled therapist will be able to ask the right questions, help you articulate your needs and educate you on the process of what they will do for you. And if they are not, then don’t expect to have the problem fixed. If your therapist is not appropriately offering education about what it is that they are doing and what they perceive are problem areas, I might try a different therapist. Each massage therapist should be aware of their strengths and offer those to you. And if they are not, it might be a sign that they are burned out, or not interested in working with you. If you love what you are doing, you want to talk about it.
2. Feel and explore your pain.
Educate yourself about your own body. What movements trigger pain for you? If your lower back hurts, poke around, see where you feel the most sensation and tell your therapist. It might not be the source of your pain, but these problem areas are good for us to know about, as they give us a clue to your postural patterns and fascial lines we will be working with. But most importantly, develop a relationship with your own body.
And when I say explore, explore. Actively explore.
The more you move and explore, the more power you have over your pain. Just because a doctor once told you that your C7 and T12 is out, which is valuable information, labelling and seeking ownership of that ailment is not going to help you achieve pain-free shoulders.
Bodywork will only settle in as deep as you allow it to. When a therapist tells you to breathe and holds a point of pressure, explore where it is going. Do you feel it in your foot? Your hand? Your shoulder? Does it feel warm? Cool? Ticklish? Agitating? Does it make you feel sleepy? Or make your stomach growl? The body’s cellular intelligence is waiting to talk to you.
Working through, finding the root of the issue, and counterbalancing patterns of pain is what will relieve physical constraints.
3. Practice full surrender.
Be as open as possible. Don’t pretend you know everything. Practice getting away from your mind.
I have touched thousands of bodies, and while we might have read the same anatomy book and saw the same article online, practical application paired with passion, past experience and specialized skill is what you are paying someone to deliver. Practice being vulnerable, practice being humble. A good massage therapist will be able to see your body in a way that you might not be able to.
4. Know Your Limits.
Massage, even deep tissue massage, should feel euphoric. Some work on the body may feel uncomfortable and fierce, but discomfort is different than pain. Pain is an indicator that you have gone past your limits. Don’t let your mind be in competition with your own body.
We, as therapists, are not keeping track of your integrity by how much pressure you can take on the table. If you aren’t able to breathe fully and relax into the pressure, it is too much pressure and it is not effective for your body.
Deeper is not synonymous with better.
Be able to grant trust to your therapist. If you have any doubts about the person you are going to be working with, they might not be for you.
Your massage therapist should be professional, but you should also feel safe, as they are most likely going to have an elbow in your back and your head in their hands. You are paying for them for a service, but, we don’t want to pay someone we don’t feel we can trust. Touch and trust are intimately connected and if this brings up trauma for you, find a different therapist. Be able to positively respond and connect, and develop respect.
If your massage therapist is professional, it will not offend them if you say “I don’t think we are a good match.” In fact, I have said this to certain clients, because it isn’t efficient or effective to work on someone that I don’t have the appropriate communication with.
Hopefully, with a few of these things in mind, whether you are new to receiving massage therapy or curious about its effectiveness, these small ideas can help your next spa visit or help you determine the best massage therapist for you.
Author: Danielle Fink
Editor: Katarina Tavčar