What Do We Really Know About Pain?

man sitting hunched over in ocean
Photo via Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Pain is one of those “you know it when you feel it” kind of sensations. But it’s also a strange phenomenon, when you think about it. A snowball is cold, and so it feels cold when you touch it. A block of concrete is rough, so it feels rough when you touch it. But a knife isn’t painful on its own. Neither is a pot of boiling water or the leg of a table. We handle these things safely all the time, and experience their mass and temperature and texture.

But pain exists only in the body, and even more specifically (as people who’ve experienced anesthesia know firsthand) in our minds.

But that doesn’t make it less real!

So what exactly is happening when we feel pain, and how do we stop it from negatively impacting our lives?

How does pain work?

There are three primary types of pain, and each of them works in a slightly different way.

Nociceptive pain (tissue pain).

There are many different kinds of sense receptors in the body. Some are sensitive to heat or cold, some to touch or pressure. Others, called free nerve endings, aren’t specialized for any one type of stimulus. When a significant stimulus triggers these nerve endings, they send a message through the spinal cord and up to the brain indicating that something potentially dangerous has happened. The brain then decides (without consulting the part involved in conscious thought, alas) whether this is something to ignore or brush off, or if it seems likely that damage has occurred. This then sends this message back down to the affected part of the body.

If the message is “No biggie, ‘tis but a scratch,” then you’ll most likely shake yourself off and forget the incident even happened. If it’s “WHOA, THIS SEEMS LIKE A PROBLEM,” then you experience this as pain.

This is useful! Just ask someone with CIPA, or congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis, a disease that leaves people insensitive to pain. Imagine not noticing a bit of grit in your eye until it damages your cornea, developing stress fractures in your feet because nothing is telling you it’s time to sit down, or ending up with burns in your mouth and throat because you don’t realize your coffee is scalding hot. Pain stops us from trying to walk on a sprained ankle or go for a run when we have a fever. Tissue damage, high temperatures, low pH, and capsaicin (the active ingredient in hot peppers) are all common triggers for this process.

But brains aren’t always correct when it comes to assessing danger. Lorimer Moseley gives a brilliant example of this in his TEDx talk. What’s the difference between the pain from a scratch on the leg and the pain from a nearly-fatal snake bite? Spoiler: it’s whatever your brain is expecting. That’s why you might feel little pain after a bicycle accident, but be in agony when getting the wound stitched up two hours later. Pain is weird.

Neuropathic pain (nerve pain).

This is pain that results from an issue with the nervous system itself, rather than surrounding tissues. If you’ve ever banged your funny bone, you know this feeling well. Common forms of neuropathic pain include:

  • Sciatica: pain in the sciatic nerve running through the hip and down into the leg and foot
  • Diabetic neuropathy: nerve damage resulting from fluctuating blood sugar levels
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: pain resulting from the compression of the nerves that run through the wrist into the hand

Less common forms include phantom limb pain (pain that feels like it originates in an amputated limb) and postherpetic neuralgia, which occurs as a result of getting shingles.

Neuropathic pain can be especially frustrating because the normal things we do to reduce pain are often useless when it comes to pain originating in the nervous system. Moving or not moving our muscles, applying heat or ice, these can have relatively little impact on nerve pain.

What’s more, nerves don’t heal as well as things like muscles and skin do, which makes nerve pain more likely to become chronic pain.

Other pain. (Yeah, that’s a terrible fake category name.)

Pain is messy, and a lot of it doesn’t fall into either of the two categories above. Fibromyalgia is a great example of this. Is it pain resulting from tissue damage? Nope. What about nerve damage? Not as far as we can tell. It’s caused by the nervous system malfunctioning, sometimes in horrible ways, but that don’t result from actual nerve damage. Often a lot of it. And the world of medicine is still trying to figure out why.

So how do we alleviate pain?

There are several different options.

  • If the pain is caused by some kind of physical injury or stimulus, you can work on fixing that. If your hand is being burned on a lightbulb, you can remove your hand, which will make most of that pain go away. If you’re experiencing a muscle cramp in your foot, you can flex the foot (manually, if necessary). If you’re experiencing pain from sitting in the same position for too long, you can move around and shake out your legs. If the cause of the pain is inflammation, anti-inflammatories and ice can reduce that. This is perhaps the ideal form of pain relief, although it’s not always in the realm of the possible.
  • You can block the messages that tell your brain you’re in pain. This is how many painkillers work. Ice can also numb nerve endings.
  • You can convince your brain that you’re not in any real danger. This is a tough one, because the brain doesn’t just listen when you tell it things. But it’s well documented that fear, stress, and anxiety lead to increased pain perception. And of course, pain leads to stress, which leads to pain … General relaxation techniques—from meditation to light exercise to getting a massage—can all be helpful in turning the brain’s pain alarms down a notch. Physical therapy (practicing certain motions in a way that isn’t painful) and talk therapy can also be useful here too.

How can massage help with pain?

Sometimes the issue is one that massage can help manage on a physical level. But even more often, massage gives the brain a chance to let down its guard and experience something non-painful and even pleasant in the body. And while there’s no silver bullet for pain, that can mean a lot for people whose pain has defied more straightforward treatments and whose injuries or illnesses are already healed.

Feeling the hurt yourself? There’s a massage with your name on it. Book your next one today.

Which Massage Therapist Should I See?

Way back when I wrote Choosing a Massage Therapist, I was the only one working here. We now have several amazing Massage Therapists at the office, so I thought an update was in order. If you haven’t read that post, this sums it up:

What really separates one Massage Therapist from another is what they are good at. No Massage Therapist is good at everything. Be wary if they say they are. As they say: “jack of all trades, master of none.” For this reason, I think one of the most important things to think about when choosing a Massage Therapist is the reason you are getting a massage. So think about your needs before you start your search. People seek massage for all sorts of reasons, from needing help with a specific injury to wanting to feel pampered.

So which Massage Therapist at Restoring Balance Massage Therapy should you see? Here’s a few guidelines on choosing the right massage therapist for you.

By Schedule

We are all really great at stress relief and relaxation massage. So if that’s what you’re looking for, maybe choose based on your availability. We work by appointment only and each therapist has different times they accept appointments. Here’s our current availability:

  • Nikki Marini, DPT, LMT is available for appointments on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and evenings.
  • Lucas Crawford, LMT is available for appointments Tuesday- Friday morning and early afternoon, Tuesday evenings, and Saturday afternoon/evening.
  • Lola McQueen, LMT is available Monday through Saturday by appointment.
  • Karyn Claflin, LMT, CYT is available for appointments Monday- Friday early morning and afternoon.

You can see all open times and book your massage here.

By the Reason You’re Seeking Massage

We recommend booking an appointment with Nikki if you:

  • have aches and pains associated with pregnancy. 
  •  are looking to improve sports performance.
  •  are recovering from injuries or dealing with chronic pain.

We recommend booking an appointment with Lucas if you:

  • have general aches and pains that are keeping you from doing the things you enjoy
  • have neck pain from working at a computer all day.
  • Have nagging low back pain.

We recommend booking an appointment with Lola if you:

  •  are recovering from sports injuries.
  •  are dealing with chronic pain.

We recommend booking an appointment with Karyn if you:

  • want complementary care to help with the side effects of your cancer treatment.

And no matter which therapist you choose, always tell the massage therapist what you want from your massage. We want you to enjoy your massage, so tell us if you want less or more pressure, if you’re too hot, or the music is getting on your nerves.

You can schedule an appointment here, or contact us with any questions you may have.

Enjoy your next massage!

Zentangle: An Alternative to Meditation? Ask the Expert.

Zentangle

You’ve probably heard a meditation practice can help you manage stress. But it can feel like a Herculean task to sit in silence and focus on your breath. All those thoughts buzzing around! Enter Zentangle. It’s basically a method of drawing that can promote a meditative state. I recently took a beginner’s class and I’m in love! I’ve been tangling every day and I feel more focused, relaxed, and creative. Plus I have some cool art! I interviewed local artist Leslie Barr to tell us a bit more about Zentangle.  She’s a Certified Zentangle Teacher and teaches classes here in Champaign. 

What is the most common reason folks come to your classes?

Zentangle is increasing in popularity, but I’m still trying to get the word out. Zentangle is a meditative drawing method. The designs created might look complicated or like they require a lot of artistic talent, but it really is surprisingly easy to do, once you know the steps. And while the art you create is beautiful, you also get the wonderful benefit of relaxation and mindfulness.

Is there a common misconception about Zentangle that you would like to clear up?

Probably that it looks complicated or difficult to do. Actually, the patterns can all be broken down into easy to learn steps.

What are the benefits of practicing Zentangle?

Zentangle is a great way to meditate. By focusing completely on drawing the repetitive lines, your mind tunes out all stress and distraction. It can help reduce anxiety, grief, and depression. It can increase ones ability to focus and help with problem solving and team building.

How long have to been teaching here in Champaign, IL?

I have been practicing Zentangle since the end of 2012. I became a Certified Zentangle Teacher in November 2013 and began teaching then.

Where do you teach Zentangle classes?

I have taught classes in coffee shops, in people’s homes, and at churches. Lately, I have been teaching at a the Marm Studio Gallery. This lovely art gallery is in the home of a terrific local artist, Mary Ciaccio. She has her own working studio as well as a teaching studio in her lower level.

Who can learn Zentangle?

If you can write or print your name, you can create Zentangle artwork. I am hoping to schedule a parent-child class soon.

What do you love about the community here?

I have lived in Champaign since coming to the University in 1980. I love Champaign. The people here are friendly and support one another. There is such a great variety of things to do here. Whether you love sports (you name it, we’ve got it!), performing arts, visual arts, community service, places of worship, there is something for everyone!

What’s your favorite local lunch place?

These days I’m enjoying Sun Singer. Currently they are showing the beautiful artwork of local artist, Mary Ciaccio

About Leslie

“Creativity rescued me from dark places and has brought me a great sense of peace and serenity. It brought me closer to God and helped me find new ways to meditate and pray. I have loved teaching and sharing this passion. So, here I am, searching for more ways to share art and how it can bring peace and love into the lives of others.”

LeslieLeslie has always loved arts and crafts. Throughout her childhood years and into adulthood, she always enjoyed ceramics, photography, creating her own Christmas cards and gifts for family and friends, etc. Yet it wasn’t until she was 50, art became something even more profound for her. When her sister died suddenly on her 53rd birthday, grief hit Leslie hard. Less than a month later, while attempting to do some Christmas shopping, she stumbled upon One Zentangle a Day – a book by Beckah Krahula. She bought the book, planning to give it as a gift, but once she got it home and began reading it, she decided it was something she needed to try. It turned out to be truly a godsend.

She absorbed as much information as she could about Zentangle over the next few months and then decided to take the leap and become a CZT (Certified Zentangle Teacher). You can learn more about Leslie and her classes on her website, A Line at a Time. She tangles daily and posts her work on Facebook and Instagram.

How Flexible Do I Have To Be Before I Can Start Yoga?

We’ve all seen photos of super-bendy folks contorting their body into the shape of a pretzel. Pretty intimidating if you can’t touch your toes or have trouble turning your head to the right.

What is yoga?

Yoga originated as a practice to prepare the body for meditation. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, yoga is defined as the quieting of the mind. Yoga practice is composed of many things.  Breathwork, meditation, chanting. Your flexibility will not limit your practice of these aspects of yoga.

But mostly we associate yoga with the physical (asana) practice. When we’re talking about how flexible you need to be to start yoga, we mean asana.

The Physical Practice of Yoga or Asana

Let’s be honest.

When I say “yoga,” you picture this:

Women practicing arm balance yoga pose

Or this.

Am I right?

How am I supposed to walk into a yoga class when the folks are doing THAT and I can’t even touch my toes?!

Some folks are naturally flexible and super twisty poses come naturally for them.  But some of us can’t touch our toes. And that’s okay.

I’ve been practicing yoga for years, and a lot of the time, I can’t touch my toes in a forward fold. And that’s okay. Yoga’s not about twisting your body into the perfect pose. Yoga is breathing better, calming the mind, and yes, increasing your flexibility. Even if that means just coming a millimeter closer to touching your toes.

How flexible do I have to be before I can start yoga?

Not. at. all.

You can start breathwork to deepen your breathing at any time.

You can start meditation to calm your mind at any time.

And yes, you can start the physical practice of yoga at any time, even if you can’t come close to touching your toes. Maybe you will be able to one day. Or not. Either way is perfectly okay.

Wanted to get started? Book a 1:1 session today.

 

 

 

 

 

Caring for the Skin You’re in: Staying Sun Safe

woman standing in the sun
Photo by Julia Caesar on Unsplash

Massage therapists see a lot of skin. All colors, all textures. Freckles, scars, stretch marks, moles. Skin with lots of hair and skin with none. Skin doesn’t surprise us.

Except when it does. That brown spot on your shoulder blade? It wasn’t quite that big when you came in a month ago. And it looks less like an oval and a little more like a blob. Maybe you should have that checked out?

Skin we love. Skin cancer? Not so much. Which is why you’re here on your massage therapist’s website, reading about sun exposure. Because even though I’m not a dermatologist and you’re not going to burn while getting a massage, your skin is a friend I see regularly. And I want to be able to keep working with it for many healthy years to come.

What happens when you get a sunburn?

You’re exposed to the sun and then your skin turns red and itchy, right? Well, yes. But there’s more to it as well.

When you step out into the sunlight, you’re immediately bombarded by UV radiation. This radiation causes mismatches in the curlicue of your DNA in the nucleus of your skin cells, which is dangerous and can lead to cancer. As soon as this starts to occur, your skin jumps into protective action redistributing melanin, the pigment that causes suntans, and which helps to protect your DNA from further damage.

But if you’re still outside and the damage doesn’t stop (especially if you’re fair skinned and don’t have much melanin to go around), you start to see an inflammatory response. This is the same kind of inflammation that you see when you sprain your ankle, only spread out across your damaged skin. Your blood vessels dilate to get more nutrients and infection-fighting cells to your skin, making the it red and warm to the touch. Itching and pain result, a warning signal from your body that something is wrong. You may feel thirsty and tired as your body works to repair itself.

If the burn is bad enough, you’ll start to see blisters as the plasma leaks from inside cells into the space between the dermis (the bottom layer of skin) and the epidermis (the top layer). These blisters form a cushion of fluid over your damaged tissue (at this point, your body has already written that top layer of skin off).

Eventually, even if you didn’t have any blisters, you will get flaking and peeling of the top layer of your skin. Interestingly enough, these skin cells weren’t killed by UV radiation. When skin cells recognize that their DNA has been severely damaged, they deliberately die off rather than risk becoming cancerous. This planned cell death is called apoptosis, and it’s the reason you see massive numbers of skin cells coming loose at once.

So to be clear: all sunburns, no matter how mild, contain the beginning stages of skin cancer. It’s only because our skin kills itself off before these cells go haywire that we see as little skin cancer as we do. Even so, more than 5.4 million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer are diagnosed in the US each year, and 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70. UV radiation will play a role in many of these cases.

How can you protect your skin?

The short answer: Stay away from UV radiation. This means avoiding tanning beds as well as sunlight.

The longer answer: Unless you plan to become a vampire, you will probably be exposed to sunlight at least some of the time. The trick is to reduce that exposure to a safe level by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and using sunscreen.

How much sun is safe?

This depends on two main variables: the UV Index and your skin type.

UV Index

The UV Index is a measure of the level of UV radiation in your location at any given point in time. It’s something you can easily look up on your computer or phone before heading out the door. In general, global UV Index recommendations look something like this:

  • 1-2: Low. Enjoy being outside!
  • 3-7: Medium. Seek shade at midday, put on a shirt and hat, wear sunscreen.
  • 8+: High. Stay indoors at midday, seek shade as much as possible, sunscreen is an absolute must.

Skin type

With the exception of people with albinism, everyone has some melanin in their skin. Those with more of the protective pigmentation are less susceptible to DNA damage in their skin cells from UV radiation than those with less.

  • Type I: Very pale, burns quickly, never tans.
  • Type II: Pale, burns easily, rarely tans
  • Type III: Burns moderately, tans over time to light brown
  • Type IV: Burns minimally, tans to medium brown
  • Type V: Rarely burns, tans to dark brown.
  • Type VI: Never burns, rarely tans, deeply pigmented skin.

People with Type I skin can burn after as little as five or ten minutes, while those with Type VI skin can sometimes be outside for an hour without damage.

Note: You might have seen a skin type scale that goes from I-IV, especially if you are looking in an older medical textbook. That’s because the original Fitzpatrick scale was made in the 1970s for white people. This is the same scale, but expanded to include everybody.

Is sunscreen safe?

A 2001 study raised concerns that oxybenzone (the chemical that makes most sunscreens so effective) might impact hormones. In this study, rats fed large doses of oxybenzone developed enlarged uteruses. Studies in humans haven’t been conclusive. What we know for sure is that if you’re a rat, you shouldn’t drink sunscreen.

Some pediatricians recommend sticking to mineral-based sunscreens for infants and very young children just in case, until long-term studies are concluded over the next twenty or so years. But these are thick and need to be reapplied regularly. If your children are experiencing sunburns with mineral-based sunscreens, they are being put in significantly more danger than any potential hazard from oxybenzone.

What about vitamin D?

Yup, you need vitamin D in your body to stay health. And yes, your skin manufactures vitamin D in response to UV radiation (people with lighter skin types make more vitamin D with less sun exposure than people with darker skin types). So shouldn’t you go without sun protection sometimes for the nutritional benefits?

Luckily, there are a number of sources of vitamin D that don’t also cause skin cancer. Fish, mushrooms, eggs, and fortified dairy products are all excellent sources. And if you’re a tremendously picky eater, there are also vitamin D supplements you can take. For the severely deficient (diagnosed with a simple blood test), there are high-dose supplements or injections your physician can prescribe.

Caring about your skin isn’t about vanity.

It’s a critical organ, like any other. If you exercise for your heart and quit smoking for your lungs, then preventing sunburns is just another healthy habit.

Massage therapists love skin. We work with it on a daily basis and appreciate all it does to keep your insides in and your outsides out. It keeps you cool, it tells you what’s around you, it prevents infections, and it repairs itself at a remarkable rate. So take care of it!

And maybe bring it in for a massage.

Stress, Anxiety, and Massage

Why get a massage? According to a survey conducted by the American Massage Therapy Association, 28% of Americans who get a massage do so for relaxation and stress reduction. That’s a lot of people in the US who feel strongly enough about their own experiences with massage for stress reduction to put their money on it. But aside from individual feelings, what exactly do we know about massage and how it relates to stress and anxiety? And what does the research have to say about that?

What is stress? What is anxiety?

Stress is your body’s response to demanding circumstances. Working late hours? You’ll experience stress. Prepping for a big competition? Definitely stressful. Toddler throwing a tantrum? That’s no doubt stressful for both of you. When you’re stressed, your blood pressure goes up, your breathing and heart rate quicken, and you feel jittery and distracted. All this is useful if your stress is a result of the big race you’re running, when you can put that energy to good use. It’s less helpful if your stressor is a friend in need of patience and comfort.

People who regularly put themselves into stressful circumstances on purpose (public speakers, for example) often learn how to channel that stress response for their own benefit, but it takes practice. When stress goes from being an occasional experience to a chronic condition, health problems result.

Anxiety (not to be confused with anxiety disorders, see below), on the other hand, isn’t necessarily a reaction to circumstances. Most often, it’s related to anticipated future or potential stress. As with stress, anxiety isn’t necessarily an immediate health problem, although it’s unpleasant. Feeling a bit anxious about an upcoming exam, the imminent birth of a baby, or the quality of a presentation can give you a push to prepare as best you can. But anxiety becomes unhelpful when it is overwhelming, requiring you to focus all your energy on surviving your immediate feelings rather than addressing their roots. Pacing, nail biting, trembling, and vomiting are signs that anxiety is veering into unhelpful territory. Test anxiety, social anxiety, and decision anxiety are all common forms of anxiety.

Anxiety disorder is the general name given to chronic, excessive anxiety in response to everyday situations. Anxiety disorders include

  • Generalized anxiety disorder: excessive anxiety in general.
  • Social anxiety disorder: anxiety disorder related to interacting with others.
  • Separation anxiety disorder: anxiety disorder related to separation from specific people, often parents or caregivers.
  • Phobias: subset of anxiety disorders characterized by persistent fear of a specific thing.
  • Panic disorder: anxiety disorder characterized by reoccurring panic attacks.

Many people discover that they have more than one type of anxiety disorder, or deal with anxiety combined with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, alcoholism, or substance abuse. While stress and anxiety are more general terms that you can probably identify in yourself, anxiety disorders can only be diagnosed by a physician.

What kinds of studies have been done on massage for anxiety and stress?

Stress:

While stress levels are largely subjective, studies focused on pain, sleep, and other outcomes often find that patients report decreased stress levels as one of the major benefits they receive from massage therapy treatments. In one study on pain in acute care settings, more than half of the patients mentioned relaxation in their survey responses. One described the experience of receiving massage as “very helpful, soothing, comforting, and relaxing,” which is notable considering how stressful being hospitalized is. Improved emotional well-being and sleep were also mentioned by many patients and nurses, both of which are good indicators of stress reduction.

Anxiety:

Most studies done on massage and anxiety have focused on specific populations. One study found significant improvement in both state (long term) and trait (immediate) anxiety in children with cancer and blood diseases who received Swedish massage. Another measured the physiological responses to stress (blood pressure and pulse) in hospitalized children and found similar results. Cardiac care patients were the focus of another study. Again, massage was shown to be helpful at reducing anxiety. Still, larger and broader studies on the matter still need to be done.

Anxiety disorders:

There have been relatively few studies on massage therapy for anxiety disorders specifically, and those that have been done have been small and generally lacking good control groups. One randomized controlled trial found that massage therapy was significantly helpful for people with generalized anxiety disorder, but no more so than thermotherapy (relaxing with hot towels placed in different locations on the body) or being in a special relaxation room with no additional treatment. This study only measured improvement over multiple weeks, and not feelings of anxiety in the short term, before and after treatments. Because this study didn’t have a no-treatment control group, they weren’t able to state whether all three were equally effective or equally ineffective.

What does all this mean?

People regularly feel that massage helps reduce their stress and anxiety. There are also other techniques that seem to be helpful to varying degrees, depending on the situation and the person. This is helpful to know, because not everyone enjoys massage. For some, touch itself can be a source of stress and anxiety, so it’s helpful to know that there are other complementary therapies available that also create positive results.

Stress and anxiety are closely tied to pain, sleep, and other factors. Reducing pain reduces stress levels. Reducing stress levels can also reduce pain. Improving sleep can impact both pain and stress, and vice versa. Does massage therapy work primarily through either pain or stress reduction, or does it impact both equally? This is an area for further study.

Massage therapy is a fairly safe way to manage stress and anxiety. With relatively few drug interactions and a very low chance for injury, massage therapy can be helpful to a wide variety of people dealing with stress and anxiety in different situations. From infants to athletes to people in hospice, there are few who could not benefit from massage therapy.

There is a lot more to learn. While there is a lot of research on massage for pain, massage for anxiety (and especially massage for anxiety disorders) has less research to back it up. It will take time and money before a large body of knowledge has been built up.

If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, massage therapy is worth trying. The evidence is still rolling in, but what we have is promising. Are you ready to give it a try? Book your next massage today.

What Should I Do During My Massage?

Massage is kinda weird.

We aren’t a high-touch society.  We don’t touch strangers, and we may even feel weird touching our friends and family.  So it can be awkward to get massage.  We don’t know what we’re supposed to do.

Just telling us to “Relax!” doesn’t cut it.

To start, allow the full weight of your body to sink into the table and take full, deep breaths. This can be difficult. Don’t be hard on yourself. If you notice your mind racing, thinking about all the things left to do today, bring your attention back to your breath. If you’re clenching your jaw rethinking an argument with a friend, allow the muscle to soften.

Again, this can be difficult. Don’t be hard on yourself. But if you’re clenching your jaw or holding your breath because the massage hurts…

What if it hurts?

Sometimes, when getting a massage, folks describe feeling a “good pain” or a “good hurt.” It’s an intense sensation, but it feels right. Like sweet relief. This is totally fine.

But sometimes, pain is just pain. If you find yourself tensing your muscles in an effort to avoid the pain, tell your massage therapist.  We can adjust the massage so it doesn’t hurt. We’re here to help you feel better, not worse.

Should I talk?

Although some people prefer to talk throughout the massage, don’t feel like you have to make conversation with the massage therapist. Many people close their eyes and try to relax. Your massage therapist should take the cue from you.

But please be sure to speak up if you:

  • Feel too hot or cold
  • Are in pain
  • Have any questions about the massage
  • Forgot to mention a health issue during the consultation

What if I fall asleep?…or drool?!

Falling asleep during a massage is very common. I almost always fall asleep when I get a massage. It’s totally fine to snore or drool.

What if I have to pee?

Please tell us. We have a bathroom in our office. Holding it for the duration of the massage is not relaxing!

So there you have it. A few guidelines for what to do during your massage. Did I miss anything? Let me know.

And remember, your massage therapist will ask about the pressure and your level of comfort. This is your massage. If you are too cold or hot, if the pressure is too light, deep, or painful or if anything is interfering with you relaxing it is important to speak up.

Book my massage now

Massage Myth #4: You can’t get a massage if you weigh too little or too much.

Welcome to myth #4 on our reasons-you-can’t-get-a-massage-myth series.  Be sure to check out Myth #1, #2, and #3.

Myth #4: You can’t get a massage if you weigh too little or too much.

scale and measuring tape

There are so many variations of this one. Skinny people don’t have enough “meat on their bones” to get a massage, so they’ll just bruise. Overweight people can’t get a “real” massage because there’s too much fat between their skin and their muscles. People without perfect bodies shouldn’t show their skin to anyone. (And so on. Blah, blah, blah.)

Big people like massage. Small people like massage. In-between people like massage. And massage therapists love providing massage to all kinds of people. It’s a perfect combination! Are there different techniques better suited to bodies with specific needs? Of course. Is weight or size a prohibitive factor? Nope. Not by a long shot. The folks who make these kinds of arguments in the name of “health” are either misinformed or just being mean.

Massage myths aren’t usually malicious, but they can still hurt. Who knows how many people avoid getting a massage due to some myth they heard from a source they trusted? If you’re one of them, why wait? Since you now know truth from tale, get that bodywork you’ve been dreaming and schedule your appointment today.

Massage Myth #3: You can’t get a massage while breastfeeding.

Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

Welcome to myth #3 on our reasons-you-can’t-get-a-massage-myth series.  Be sure to check out Myth #1 here and Myth #2 here.

Myth #3: You can’t get a massage while breastfeeding.

This myth is so insidious, because nobody needs a massage more than postpartum parents. The idea behind this misunderstanding is the belief that massage somehow squeezes toxins out of a person’s tissues, which are then released into the bloodstream. Since the body is “toxic” after a massage, the story goes, any breast milk produced at this time is also toxic. The choice is between “pumping and dumping” after receiving bodywork, or avoiding massage therapy altogether until the child is weaned.

Fortunately, this isn’t even one of those half-true-but-it’s-complicated situations; it’s 100% false, no question. Normal cell byproducts are filtered by the body and are not a danger to breastmilk, and massage doesn’t release toxins anyway. And keep in mind that massage can improve depression, body image, and (perhaps most importantly to new parents) SLEEP.

Need a break? Schedule your appointment today.

Why is My Massage Therapist Always Telling Me to Drink So Much Water?

Mason jar filled with water
Photo by Ethan Sykes on Unsplash

If you’ve ever gotten a massage, chances are good your massage therapist has told you that you should drink a lot of water afterward. Many believe that deep tissue massage releases toxins from your muscles and that water is needed to flush it out. Let’s start there.

What toxins are we taking about here?

Toxins are a bit of buzzword. Seems every time you turn around someone’s trying to sell you something to “detoxify” your body, like a special diet or a fancy drink. They don’t really mention what “toxins” you need to ditch. So we’re not quite clear what toxins we’re talking about.

Is massage detoxifying?

Often massage textbooks teach budding massage therapists that massage breaks up knots, releasing toxins in your muscles and flushing them out by increasing circulation in your body. Water is supposed to help with the “flushing.”

This is based on old, but pervasive myth about how massage works. We want to understand how massage works, and the idea that it removes toxic substances that are causing pain is a simple, appealing explanation.

To be clear, toxins do actually exist. Any chemical in a high enough concentration can be toxic to the body. Some things like pesticides and lead are more toxic than others. But massage doesn’t help get rid of these things.  When these things do end up in our body, our body has ways of dealing with them, like processing in the liver or sweating.

So, should I drink water after my massage?

The reason many massage therapists recommend drinking water directly after massage isn’t supported by science. But our bodies are composed of quite a bit of water. It’s essential to life.

I’m usually thirsty after a massage. That’s why I offer you water.