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When Massage is not Perfect

Most massage devotees know the benefits that massage brings to them in their life which may be physical, emotional or spiritual (or a combination thereof). Once people find a therapist that they are happy with then they will generally stick with that therapist so that they know that they will get a great bodywork experience each time. They have a good dialogue with their therapist who knows what they do and do not like for their massage session.

However, there are times when circumstances dictate that you may need to see a different masseur such as you are in a different town or your normal therapist is not able to fit you in.

when massage goes wrongNow you are probably comfortable to accept that the massage will probably not be as good as the one you are used to but there are a number of reasons why it may not be the experience you are looking for. For me, these include:

(1) The therapist performs a “cookie-cutter” massage. They just do the massage they normal do and there is no attempt to customise the massage to any requirements you may have let the therapist know. This approach may be ok if you are just having a relaxation massage in a day spa but if you are after any type of remedial massage then there is nothing more annoying than the therapist spending minimal time on parts of the body that you really want to be massaged.

(2) When an hour’s massage includes the time to discuss your requirements and your undressing/dressing time. If you are paying for a massage but end up only getting 45 minutes of hands-on time then you will feel cheated and any relaxation that the massage achieves can dissipate instantly.

(3) Being basted with oil. I really do not like excessive oil and it’s a turn off if the therapist is constantly reaching for the bottle of lubricant to apply more and more oil or lotion. Less is more when it comes to massage, in my view. How can a massage therapist feel the soft tissues and muscles when their hands are skidding over the skin like a skater on ice?

(4) The therapist being a poor time keeper. If you are having (and even enjoying) a “cookie-cutter” massage you realise that the routine the therapist is performing is being curtailed and rushed on one side of the body compared with the other. It may be that your right leg gets 10 minutes of care and attention but, as the clock ticks on, the left side only ends up with a cursory couple of strokes.

(5) A distracted therapist. Answering the phone or door or talking to any other therapist is a no-no for me. I’m paying for you to massage me not plan later appointments (or even worse your social life). Also just going through the motions with the massage and not using your hands to listen to what my body is telling you.

(6) Bad breath.

(7) Incidental contact with other parts of your body other than the massage tools you intend to use. Your stomach bracing against my head as you stroke down my back or your boobs in my face whilst you are working on my chest or stomach is not professional.

(8) Lack of thought with music. I don’t like the radio on during a massage and I don’t like Adele.

  
This is not meant as a critique of the massage profession in general but more a whimsical depiction of some of the more negative experiences I have had during massages and some of the things I specifically do not like. It is not to decry the positive energy I normally get from massage.

However, feel free to add any others you may have in the comments section below…..

By Richard Lane

Why I Enjoy Doing Mobile Massage

Being a mobile massage therapist is not for everyone. It is relatively easy to come up with a list of the disadvantages and problems associated with mobile massage therapy. These include:
– Having to work out of business hours, often late into the night
– Trying to find a carparking space close enough to the house or unit where you will be working
– Carrying heavy massage table/towels/equipment around often up multiple flights of stairs
– Working in isolation from other therapists/professionals
– Never quite knowing what type of premises you will be massaging in and how easy it will be to set up your table. Will there be enough room? Will it be cold or hot? Will it be noisy? Will there be other people around?
– Are there are personal security risks (particularly relevant for female massage therapists)

Yet despite these negative factors, I have been a mobile massage therapist in Sydney for over 7 years and still enjoy and prefer plying my trade in this way compared with being in a clinic.

So what are the advantages that outweigh the negative?

Advantages of Mobile MassageThere are a number of reasons why I prefer providing a mobile massage service in Sydney compared with working in a clinic. Some of these relate to advantages to the client; some relate to advantages to me.

For many people who are working full time or are constrained as to when they can get to see a massage therapist then there are significant advantages of having a home massage in Sydney. These benefits are covered at http://www.innerwestmassage.com.au/benefits.php.

Whilst there is a great deal of job satisfaction with being able to provide such a service, an additional benefit that I often feel is that there is more synergy with a home massage. The fact that someone is prepared to let a stranger into their home, then take off their clothes and permit this stranger to rub oil into their body provides a powerful message from the client to the therapist that there is trust. This element of trust is greater than in a clinic which can be, well, clinical.

Mobile massage clients are nice people to work with.

This is not to say that clients in clinics are not nice to work with but, for me, seeing people in their home provides that greater level of personal trust and permission to provide bodywork.

From my point of view as a mobile therapist the advantages include:
– no overheads. If you are paying rent at a clinic then there is a requirement to make sure that there is someone on your table as much as possible. No client means no money coming in to cover the money coming out. Whilst it is true that no body on the table for a mobile therapist means no money coming in, at least there is no money going out.
– I choose my hours. Yes I work what some may consider to be anti-social hours, late into the evening and weekends. But this suits me and my lifestyle at the moment. Being in a clinic and needing to be available at specific times is a constraint.
– physical demands are less. Although I have to lug my gear around, the physical demands on the body are less than if I was doing back to back to back… massages in a clinic. When I am providing mobile massage service then I am able to get a break when I am travelling between locations.
– you get to work in different and interesting locations. Not all massages are in homes. I’ve massaged in garages, outside, in theatres, on film-sets, hotels rooms of varying standards, etc.
– providing couples massage with another therapist is a pleasant experience.

  
I can’t say that I will be a mobile therapist indefinitely but I have been for the past years and have no yearning to go back into a clinic. I enjoy massage and I enjoy massaging clients in their homes.

By Richard Lane

Sports Massage Does Work!

In recent years there seems to be have a move towards more evidence based practise for a range of practitioners. This is not a bad thing for the massage industry as many of the more spurious claims that are made can be challenged and dismissed. However, one of the problems that massage faces is that there is a dearth of quality research available.

There are a number of reasons why this is the case which include a lack of money when compared with the amount of funds available for pharmaceutical trials and also a fundamental problem with much of the research in the natural therapies domain in that designing standard treatment protocols is extremely difficult when most therapists’ practice is based on tailoring a treatment to an individual client’s needs at the time.

A 2012 study into the benefits of sports massage has attempted to redress the issue of quality massage research with findings that are encouraging for the industry.

Sports massage SydneyAfter a water skiing injury a researcher at McMaster University, Canada, Mark Tarnopolsky, found that massage therapy provided a significant amount of pain relief and he decided that he wanted to understand the underlying mechanism whereby massage aided his recovery.

Along with some colleagues, Tarnolpolsky decided to investigate why massage can reduce pain and the results (for massage therapists and for sports people) were encouraging (1).

For the study, 11 males were exercised to such an extent that they were affected by exercise-induced muscle damage after working out on an upright bicycle. One of their legs was then massaged for 10 minutes. The researchers took muscle biopsy samples from the participants’ vastus lateralis muscles at various times:
– at baseline
– immediately after the massage
– after 2.5 hours of recovery.

The results were extremely encouraging. There is strong support for the hypothesis that exercise can activate the genes which are associated with repair and inflammation and it was no surprise that the researchers observed there was significantly more indicators of cell repair and also inflammation in the biopsy samples post-exercise when compared with the pre-exercise measurements.

However, there was a clear distinction between the study participants’ legs that had been massaged and had not been.

They found that the legs which had received the 10 minutes of sports massage had:
– reduced the amount of exercise induced muscle inflammation by diminishing the activity of a protein, NF-kB
– increased by about 30% a gene that helps muscle cells build mitochondria, PGC-1
– modified levels of other proteins with similar roles in the body.

  
Although this is only one study and the massage protocol may not be relevant for all sports people, it does provide evidence supporting the use of massage therapy to reduce pain and encourage muscle repair. Further work would need to be carried out to assess the optimum pressure, length of massage and the commencement time after exercise.

But there are few who would argue that getting a massage to reduce pain from sport is a preferable alternative to anti-inflammatory medications.

(1) J. D. Crane, D. I Ogborn et al “Massage Therapy Attenuates Inflammatory Signalling After Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage”. Science Translational Medicine 4, 119ra13 (2012).

By Richard Lane

Carpal tunnel, pregnancy and massage

Carpal tunnel can be an extremely painful and uncomfortable condition that can affect anyone. However, during pregnancy the chances of suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome are greatly increased, particularly in the latter stages of pregnancy. The reason for the greater incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy is that there is greater retention of fluid (due to varying hormones during pregnancy) and that relaxin can soften the ligaments that form part of the carpal tunnel.

Carpal tunnel and pregnancy massageCarpal tunnel syndrome will normally manifest in the form of pain, numbness and/or tingling in the outside three fingers of either hand. In more extreme cases, the compression on the nerve through the carpal tunnel can lead to the forearm feeling numb. The fingers and the hands will feel weak and have poor grip strength and pain may radiate up the arm as far as the shoulder.

For pregnancy induced carpal tunnel syndrome the symptoms will be worse either during the night or first thing in the morning due to greater fluid retention as the arm is relatively inactive.

There are a number of steps to you can take to reduce the impact of the condition. These include:

  • Avoiding any task or action that causes pain
  • Elevate the affected arm to attempt to reduce the amount of oedema and swelling
  • Be aware of your posture. There is a tendency amongst pregnant women (+ office workers + people who drive a lot etc) to have their neck protracted ie their chin juts out. Even a little can add compression to the lower cervical vertertae so try to keep your chin back in a more neutral position.
  • Try to keep your wrist in as neutral a position as possible (some physiotherapists recommend the use of splints to maintain a neutral wrist while you sleep. If you are suffering from carpal tunnel from breast feeding then remember to bring the baby to the breast rather than move the breast to the baby and again be aware of your wrist position.
  • Some professionals may suggest modifying your diet (and/or lifestyle) to reduce your body’s general propensity for swelling

Massage for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome During Pregnancy
An effective massage for carpal tunnel syndrome is primarily aimed at reducing the amount of swelling in the arm through lymphatic drainage techniques and, when performed by a therapist who has a good understanding of the condition, it can be a highly effective treatment.

Routine for Carpal Tunnel Pregnancy Massage
This routine can be considered as being relevant for during pregnancy and also post-partum when the new mum can have wrist problems when breast feeding.

Start at neck with little or no lubrication and work very and gently. The movement of lymph at the level of the skin is the objective for the routine. Always proximal to distal with the order of the strokes but work each individual stroke in a distal to proximal direction. Stretch the skin and work down the arm all the way down to the hand. Again need to reiterate that the pressure should be very light as working deeply can be ineffective.
Repeat this series of strokes a few times.

  
Perform a lymphatic compression on the arm – scooping up and then hold each compression for a count of about 10. Pressure is still very light.

Compressive tissue release – keep wrists neutral and stroke down the forearm (both top and botton of the forearm) using thumb and fingers whilst applying traction to the wrist. This stroke can free up the nerve sheaves through the carpal tunnel.

If you feel that you need to stretch the fascia of the palm make sure that you keep the wrist in neutral. Work the joints of adjacent fingers in opposite directions.

By Richard Lane

Getting the Rancid Smell
from Massage Towels

Anyone who has been a professional massage therapist for any length of time knows that after a while their massage towels will begin to smell a little rancid. This is regardless of how fastidious and diligent they are with respect to washing their towels. They will try to wash them hot, try to wash them cold and use various proprietary products in an attempt to rid them of the all pervasive smell.

Getting rid of rancid smell from massage towelsAny time they go for a massage with another therapist then they will be highly attuned to how their towels smell and will be immediately aware of any rancid smell.

If you go visit any massage forum and search for questions regarding the rancid smell in massage towels then there will be a plethora of potential solutions that you may be willing to try. Some of these may work; some may not be as effective.

Some of the solutions are based on changing the carrier oil you use for your massage and coconut oils are frequently suggested.

However, a simple method that I have found effective for my towels is to add some normal washing up liquid to hot water in the bath and soak the towels for an hour or so. Adding a few drops of tea-tree oil has been suggested to me. When the water has cooled a little then, with bare feet, stomp on the towels for a few minutes as though you are crushing grapes (can be quite therapeutic by itself or a job for the children).

  
Then just wash the towels normally (I would normally give them an extra rinse just to make sure that you maximised the chances of eliminating all the washing up liquid).

There is no need to do this again until such time as the towels show the first signs of starting to smell.

By Richard Lane


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