How Much Should My Massage Hurt?

low back massage, massage therapist using elbowFolks seek out massage for many different reasons, including relaxation, stress relief, and pain relief. Right off the top, if you’re looking to relax or de-stress, a painful or uncomfortable massage is not the way to go.

Many of of our customers come in for massage looking for relief from muscle aches and pains. Often folks think that, to achieve this, the massage has gotta hurt. A lot. No pain, no gain! Right? We’ve all heard it, but is more pain the way to relieve pain? And if so, how much pain?

What do we mean by “hurt”?

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. So pain isn’t maybe the right word to use to describe this sensation.

But sometimes, pain is just pain. And if you tune into your body, you may find yourself holding your breath, or clenching your jaw, tensing your muscles in an effort to avoid the pain.

Is pain helpful for relieving pain?

There is a difference between an intense or vigorous massage and a painful one. An intense feeling of “good pain” can be therapeutic. But a painful massage that causes you to tense your muscles in an effort to avoid the pain? Not so much.

So, how much should your massage hurt?

Not at all.

You may feel an intense sensation that many describe as “good pain” for lack of a better phrase. And that is perfectly normal and helpful.

But if you’re just feeling plain ol’ pain, if you’re holding your breath or clenching your fists, that’s no good. Tell your massage therapist if it hurts, or if you need less pressure in that area (or for the whole massage), or even if an area is too painful to be touched at all. We’re here to help you feel better, not worse.

Ready to schedule your massage? Book here.

 

Should I Surprise My Partner With a Couples Massage?

Photo by Rachel Walker on Unsplash

Sure, this seems like a no brainer! Massage is awesome! Why wouldn’t I surprise my favorite person with one? Here are few questions to ask yourself before you schedule that couples massage.

Has your partner ever expressed interest in massage?

Maybe your partner was rubbing their shoulders and saying how nice a massage would be. Or you were watching a movie and the character is getting a massage and they say “wow, that looks amazing!” If not, a massage is probably not a great gift, especially a surprise one. Not everyone likes massage, and that’s okay. Maybe a surprise evening out at one of the many great restaurants in downtown Champaign would be a better idea?

Has your partner ever had a massage? 

If yes, a gift certificate for their favorite massage therapist would make a great gift. But what about a surprise massage appointment? This gets a little tricky. We have to know  a little about your partner. Luckily, you do!

If they’re adventurous, then they would probably LOVE a surprise couples massage! Schedule your couples massage here.

But there are plenty of reasons that folks, while they might love massage, may not liked to be surprised with one. Maybe they ate a really big meal and don’t want to lie on their stomach, or maybe they had too much coffee that day.

There may be other reasons, too:

Massage is weird. There. I said it.

Women often worry that their massage therapist will be offended they haven’t shaved their legs, or folks worry that they might be, you know, gassy.

(To be clear, we won’t be offended by these things. Never feel the need to apologize for your body.)

But the fact is, we humans do worry about all kinds of things. And your partner might be worrying about these things when you show up at the massage office for your surprise. And that’s not relaxing. So maybe surprise them with a massage gift certificate instead. Or schedule a couples massage minus the surprise bit.

So there you have it. A few questions to help you decide if you should surprise your partner with a relaxing couples massage. Bottom line, in most instances, probably not. (I bet you didn’t think you’d have a massage therapist telling you not to get a massage, huh?)

New Year, New You!

healthy cooking
Photo by Katie Smith on Unsplash

Is there any time of year when people are more obsessed with health habits than the New Year?

Even the “beach body” craze of late May doesn’t reach the same level of hype.

Every time you turn a corner, somebody else is trying to get you to try a class, a supplement, a shake, a piece of equipment, a diet, a lifestyle … and it can be exhausting trying to figure out what’s bona fide and what’s bogus. It’s perfectly normal to look forward to a fresh start in January (or not!), but here’s a little guidance on whether to put money down on that hot new habit after the holidays.

Does it promise quick fixes?

If whatever you’re thinking of trying swears you’ll get the desired result in no time at all, you can be pretty sure you’re entering into scam territory. The human body is based on homeostasis. It can change, and it does, but most of those changes occur over time. There’s a reason why most things that cause fast changes in the body (like surgery and drugs) require a physician to administer them; they can be dangerous if not used carefully. If you’ve been out of shape for five years, don’t expect to get back in shape in five weeks. That’s just not how the body works.

Does it promise a panacea?

There are diets that can help you lose weight. There are exercise routines that can help you gain muscle and strength. There are massages that can help you relax and manage your stress levels (you might want to get on that one soon). But if someone is selling One Amazing Thing that will evaporate your fat, increase your happiness, straighten your posture, whiten your teeth, cure your cancer, and send your sex drive through the roof? You can be pretty sure it’s not worth your money. No, that essential oil will not prevent ebola, but it does smell nice and could help improve your mood if you like it. Don’t pay a Magical Thinking Tax for exaggerated claims.

Does it rely on conspiracy theories for marketing?

Conspiracies can be fun to read about, but if the main selling point is that “doctors hate it” or “Big Pharma doesn’t want you to know about this,” it’s probably not the best addition to your life. Why? Because you and your physician (and your dentist, your massage therapist, your counselor, your personal trainer, your nutritionist …) are part of your health and wellness team. If any one of them refuses to be a team player, they’re not doing what’s best for you. Casting aspersions on some of your VIPs? Not cool. If you haven’t heard much about a particular tool, it’s probably not because your health team is trying desperately to get you to stick to being sick. It’s much more likely that the thing just doesn’t work at all.

Does it fit your life, your budget, your goals, and your understanding of reality?

If yes, then this is something worth looking into, whether it’s a gym membership, a cookbook of heart-healthy meals, or a habit tracking app. Ultimately, we try things out and see how they work for us over the long haul. Not everything will be a perfect fit, but at least we can weed out some of the resolutionist marketing malarkey and move forward with our best efforts into the new year.

Here’s hoping you have a happy, healthy, and stress-free New Year!

5 Tips for Surviving the Holidays

The holidays are kinda weird. For all the ‘Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ jingles, it’s also the toughest for many people. Some people over-commit to family, friends, or volunteer tasks and find themselves over-scheduled and unable to actually enjoy the season. Some of us dread the inevitable, obligatory socializing and the pressure of being ‘on’. Some of us are grieving.

So here are a few less-typical Holiday Survival Tips. Some of them are brilliant. Some of them are not. But maybe you’ll find a nugget in here.

Ditch obligations

Just because you’ve always gone to Aunt Sue’s for Christmas Eve doesn’t mean you always have to. You can stop going.

Say, “I’m starting a new tradition this year, I’m really looking forward to cooking with my kids and having a quiet family night.” Then set up another time to visit Aunt Sue when you’ll actually be able to visit her, instead of just a hug between appetizers while stuffed into a small house with 30 loud relatives.

Reframe obligations

When I hear people complain about all the ‘stuff’ they have to do, I usually say, “Dude. Stop doing it.” The typical reply is, “Oh, but I really like having 37 different types of cookies and seeing all my 3rd cousins!” Cool. I can respect that. But stop looking at (and speaking of) the tasks and events like chores.

This isn’t a martyr contest. Nobody gives a darn that Betty SUV Soccer Mom makes her bundt cake from scratch and you use a mix. Except maybe Betty, and that’s her issue. Do stuff because you want to, because it brings you joy. And quit doing the stuff you don’t want to do.

Stick with the people who warm your soul

Some of us are not close with our families. For many, many people, family relationships are rarely nourishing and often painful. We’ve built friendships that stand in for the sibling and parental relationships that will simply never be fulfilling.

So why feel obligated to spend a holiday with anyone other than those who bring us joy and unconditional love? Create a holiday plan with the people you most enjoy and cherish. Or at the very least, make an escape plan to unwind with the people who will let you vent after a stressful family interaction.

Step back from the gift-giving (and receiving) or just change it dramatically

Do you really want another gift set of perfumey bath gel and body lotion? Do you really want to be giving that to someone else? Blech. Maybe it’s time to reexamine your gift-giving habits. Instead of exchanging gifts with your adult friends and family, can you decide to spend that money on having a great dinner together in January?

If you feel really attached to giving a tangible object, can you simplify the process? Find one universal gift, and give it to all your people. Like a jar of local honey from you favorite apiary, or a holiday ornament purchased from a local charity.

Rethink your assumptions

Just because you’ve always done the holidays a certain way, doesn’t mean you have to keep doing that. It’s all a choice. Sometimes you don’t even need to change the pattern, just recognizing that it’s a choice is enough.

Wishing you a happy, merry, joyous whatever-you-celebrate. I hope you get exactly the holiday you want (and deserve).

Massage Safety

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

We need to talk about massage and safety.

If you haven’t already heard, Buzzfeed recently broke a story about abuse occurring in Massage Envy franchise locations. There has been a lot of conversation about the story online and in the news, which you may have seen. What you probably haven’t seen (unless you’re a part of our profession) is the uproar it has caused in the massage therapy community. Horror is a common emotion: who would do such a thing? Sadness: for the people who will be too fearful to receive the bodywork they need out of fear for their safety. And anger. Plenty of anger.

To be clear, this anger isn’t for the thousands of ethical massage therapists, managers, and support staff at Massage Envy. Whether you care for their business model or not, the vast majority of Massage Envy employees are out there doing their jobs, caring for clients, and earning a living, and they deserve our support. The anger is for perpetrators who violated the faith placed in them by trusting clients; the franchise owners, managers, and employees who allowed it to happen; and the organization that provided neither sufficient guidance nor real consequences for the people they allow to work in their name.

We want  you to know that we as a community of massage therapists are trying to do our best to hold ourselves and our organizations accountable, and work for changes at Massage Envy and elsewhere to make sure this never happens again.

But we also want you to know that we care about you. As a client and as an individual. Because you have a right to feel safe while getting a massage. And this goes whether you’re receiving a massage here or anywhere else.

So here are some promises to you:

Our promise

We will remain vigilant in our hiring. This includes extensive reference checks as well as basics such as double checking claims regarding certifications and licensure.

We re-commit to adhere to all state laws and abide by the the massage profession’s code of ethics.

We will give you access. You can check the status of the license of any massage therapist in the state here.1 If you need help finding information on out-of-state therapists as well, you can ask and we will direct you to the appropriate resources.

We will be proactive and regularly solicit feedback from clients about their experience. Big or small, positive or negative, we want to know your experience so that we can do our best and stop major issues before they start.

We will investigate ANY complaint of therapist misconduct, and share this process openly with you.

And as part of this, you have our word that:

  • We encourage you to report any misconduct to your massage therapist’s supervisor2, to their licensing agency, to law enforcement3, or to all three.    
  • We will investigate any report of misconduct.
  • We will not permit a massage therapist under investigation to work with clients until the investigation has concluded.
  • We will maintain written records of every report and investigation.
  • We will report the incident to the licensing board, law enforcement, and other agencies as appropriate.
  • We will support clients in whatever course of action they choose to take.

The power is yours

There is a natural power differential when a person decides to get a massage. When one person is trained, familiar with the environment, standing up, and fully dressed, and the other has none of those advantages, it can be easy to feel like someone receiving a massage has no power at all. But it’s important to know that, no matter how much of an expert a person may be in massage, you are the expert on your experience. And as the expert on you:

  • You have the right to tell your massage therapist to change or stop what they are doing for any reason.
  • You have the right to end your massage session at any time for any reason.
  • You have the right to stop seeing your massage therapist, or to choose a new massage therapist, for any reason.
  • You have the right to report any misconduct to to your massage therapist’s supervisor2, to their licensing agency, to law enforcement3, or to all three.

Again, you have a right to feel safe while getting a massage.

And since we’re having an open conversation about safety, we also need to be clear about one more thing: massage therapists also have a right to feel safe while giving a massage.

Ensuring the safety of massage therapists from clients who would harass, assault, or otherwise harm them is another conversation that you might not always be privy to as a client, but is a major point of discourse in the massage therapy community. For whatever reason, there are still people out there who confuse (or choose to conflate) massage therapy with sex work, and feel free to act on that impulse regardless of the wishes of the therapist in question.

If this is obviously problematic to you, like it is to 99% of the people in the world, then you don’t really need the following reminder.

But if you’re in that 1% and believe you’re owed sexual favors by virtue of existing and rely on that sense of personal entitlement while preying on massage therapists, especially those who are inexperienced or economically disadvantaged, here’s a wake-up call for you:

Your massage therapist also has rights

  • Massage therapists have the right to refuse to provide any service they feel would be inappropriate, out of their scope of practice, uncomfortable, or unsafe.
  • Massage therapists have the right to end a session at any time if they feel unsafe with a client.
  • Massage therapists have the right to no longer see a client they feel unsafe with or unqualified to treat.
  • Massage therapists have the right to report a client’s inappropriate behavior to their supervisor and to law enforcement.
  • Massage therapy business owners have the right to stop scheduling a client for inappropriate behavior, to ban them from the premises, and to warn other local therapists about them. (And massage therapists do talk to one another. It’s a small profession.)

In the end, everything is better off in the light.

It’s better to have a major exposé in the news than for abuse to go on unaccounted-for. It’s better to ask hard questions before choosing a new massage therapist than to go into a session anxious or afraid. And it’s definitely better for massage therapists to address the issue of safety head-on, rather than pretending the concern doesn’t exist.

We all have a right to feel safe.

Hopefully, if we continue to work together to shine light into the dark corners of the world, all of us will. 


(1) State of Illinois Massage Therapy License Numbers for current staff:

  • Laura “Lola” McQueen 227018703
  • Karyn Claflin 227016354
  • Lucas Crawford 227018421

(2) Karyn Claflin, Owner, Restoring Balance Massage Therapy and Yoga
karyn@balancechampaign.com
cell (217) 352-7944

(3)Champaign Police Department
Emergency Calls: 9-1-1
Non-emergency: 217-333-8911
82 E. University Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820
217-351-4545

Shop Local for Holiday Gifts: Champaign

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Restoring Balance Massage Therapy is locally owned and operated. We love being a tiny business located  in Downtown Champaign. And while we think Massage makes a great gift, we know it’s not perfect for everyone.

Shop Small this Holiday

You’ve likely noticed it’s become trendy to “shop small” or “shop local.” When you shop small, local businesses, you are supporting our beautiful Champaign community.

Here’s a list of some small Champaign businesses we love. Check them out for unique holiday gifts.

Walnut Street Tea Company

You’ll find a wide variety of teas, coffees, and chocolates. Toss your selection in a basket, add a massage therapy gift card, and you’ll have an amazing gift for everyone on your list! You could also sub in a gift certificate for yoga or a local restaurant.

So. Many. Local Restaurants

There are so many great restaurants within walking distance of the massage office. Some of our lunch faves includes Black Dog, Pekara Bakery & Bistro, and Pizza Antica. Grab a friend, get a massage, and head to lunch.  Or pick up some gift cards for your coworkers.

Champaign Yoga

Pair a massage therapy gift card with a gift certificate for yoga for the ultimate destressing gift.

  • Living Yoga Center located on First Street in Champaign offers a wide variety of classes from more vigorous flow classes to super chill restorative classes. You can get a class card online that your pal can use for any of their yoga classes.
  • Daily Bread Yoga offers classes around town and retreats in Philo every other month or so. You can purchase gift cards in her online store. Be sure to mark your calendar for the next retreat!

Champaign Art

The Lincoln Building, which houses our massage office, is home to many local artists including our next door neighbor, Suzanne Loechl. You’ll also find beautiful weavings from Laura Lynn Reiss and metal prints from Jodi Adams photography right in the office.

So there you have it, our favorite Champaign small businesses. I hope you have a great holiday and enjoy visiting small businesses as much as I do!

Decrease Stress with Breath

Breath
Photo by Nine Köpfer on Unsplash

Breath.

Such a simple thing.

It’s essential to life, but yet how often do we think about it?

It ebbs and flows throughout our days and we barely give it a second thought. 

Are you holding your breath right now?

(Fun Fact: when I was in Massage School, we had to put together a business plan complete with a business name. I was going to name my business “Just Breathe,” because I was pretty stressed at the time and was always catching myself holding my breath.)

Deep breathing can reduce anxiety

Implementing a deep breathing technique when anxiety strikes can make the difference between a full on attack and an unwelcome blip in your day. Deep breathing lowers your heart rate, improves circulation, and promotes clearer thinking.

You can use your breath to calm down

Let’s face it, when tempers flair it seems almost impossible to think about anything other than the current situation that set you off. Practicing simple breathing techniques can encourage calmness and help reverse the physical symptoms of anger.

TECHNIQUE for Anxiety and Calm

  • Isolate yourself from everyone for 15 minutes
  • Inhale slowly for the count of 4
  • Exhale slowly for the count of 8
  • Notice the space in between the inhalation and exhalation
  • Repeat until you begin to calm down

Take breathing even deeper with pranayama

Pranayama is the practice of regulating the breath. If practiced right, pranayama can bring harmony between mind, body, and spirit. It boosts your ability to be mentally and spiritually strong. There are very specific breathwork techniques that we’ll cover in future posts (or videos!), but here’s one to get you started. If you attend yoga classes regularly, you’ll probably find that many yoga teachers include pranayama. 

Use with meditation

Breathwork can be a fantastic addition to your mindfulness or meditation practice. 

TECHNIQUE for Meditation

  • Quiet your body and mind
  • Observe your breath as it is
  • Slow your breathing to a calm steady level
  • Concentrate on the air that moves in and out of your lungs
  • Focus on how your body feels and moves as you inhale and exhale

Much like massage, there is no doubt that breathing can encourage relaxation and healthy habits. It keeps the body/mind functioning and curbs stress. Your muscles naturally relax and you can go about your day a little easier.

Breathing may seem insignificant. It happens naturally, so we may not think about breathing all that much, but maybe it’s time we should.

 

Getting Started with Essential Oils

Field of lavender
Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

As the weather cools down and we break out our cozy scarves and everything smells of pumpkin spice, I’ve taken some time to clean out my essential oil collection, like tossing bottles that are past their prime (we only use quality essential oils for our aromatherapy massage) and giving some that I never use to a friend.

And I’ve also been trying out some new ones.

When I was in aromatherapy school, I amassed quite a collection of oils from the company that offered a discount to the students of the program I was in. They’re fantastic oils, and the company provides a ton of education on their website.  I’ll still use them, but there are so many different essential oil retailers out there, I decided to try something new.

If you’ve studied aromatherapy at all, you know it’s easy to go down the rabbit hole and get overwhelmed with the variety of essential oils and their uses. A friend recommended Simply Earth, so I gave it a try. I purchased of few of their blends, and I loved them! So I decided to subscribe to their essential oil box (more on that below).

About Simply Earth

  • Like Aromatics International, my other favorite essential oil supplier, Simply Earth is committed to high quality products.  
  • Did you know that there is more than one type of Lavender essential oil and each one has different therapeutic effects? That’s why it’s important to know the Latin name of the oil you are buying. Simply Earth’s single oils are labeled with the Latin name, but the blends are not. I’d like to see them add that in the future.
  • Ever had someone recommend you add essential oils to your drinking water? Don’t do it! Simply Earth promotes safe use of essential oils. Cautions are listed right on the bottle (also on the website if the print’s too small for you read).  They even have a Certified Aromatherapist on staff to answer questions.
  • What if you don’t like it? They have a ridiculously generous return policy. 

Simple Way to Start Using Natural Products at Home

This is where Simply Earth really shines. You know aromatherapy can help support your wellness. Or maybe you want to use natural products in your home, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the options out there.

Enter the Simply Earth subscription. Each box has a theme (ex. green cleaning, fall spa) and contains  four bottles of essential oil, 5-6 recipes, and a few extras to make the recipes (September’s had some Epsom salts, jojoba oil, and some roller bottles).

Since it’s only a few oils, you can take the time to learn about each one. The recipes give you options for use and different ways you can blend them together. This way, you’re actually using your oils instead of letting them gather dust (not that I would know anything about that!).

Savings For You

Simply Earth‘s essential oils are very reasonably priced. But I also have a coupon code for you! You have 2 options:

  1. Sign up to receive a monthly or quarterly subscription and receive a $40 gift card (via email). It can be cancelled at any time (but I don’t think you’ll want to).
  2. Or get $10 off from purchases of any oils from the website.

Here’s how:  Click the button below and when you’re ready to checkout use coupon code: BALANCECHAMPAIGNFREE

Shop Simply Earth

*The links to Aromatics International and Simply Earth are affiliate links. When you order from Aromatics International, we’ll both earn $10 credit and if you purchase through Simply Earth, I will earn a small commission. Be assured, I only recommend products and services I actually use and value.

Is a poorly fitting bra causing you pain?

Upper back pain is one of the top reasons folks come to see us for massage. Lots of things, like staring at a computer for 8 hours a day or lugging a heavy backpack around, can contribute to back pain. But could the fit of your bra be causing pain as well? We checked in with the local experts at Confidentially Yours to find out.


Published in the journal Chiropractic & Osteopathy, a survey conducted in 2008 by bra manufacturer Triumph found that 80% of women were wearing the wrong size bra. There are numerous reasons why women are in the wrong bra size, from lack of information to embarrassment for asking for a fitting, but the effect is what everyone has in common—it’s bad for your body.

Back pain is one of the main conditions that physical therapists treat. What you choose to wear can have an impact on your posture, and thus, on your back pain. Experts warn that an ill-fitting and unsupportive bra can cause postural disorders and back pain as they cause the woman to slump forward in a slouched position and result in sharp or dull pain between the shoulder blades.

If your bra isn’t fitting correctly and the band is loose, it will ride up your back. It may not bother you, but it will cause you to roll your shoulders forward which can then strain your upper back muscles. Most of your bust’s weight is held by the bra’s band and when your band doesn’t fit correctly it can cause the weight of your breasts to shift to the shoulders which can lead to upper back pain. You want your band to be snug, but not uncomfortable. It should be level with the floor and not ride up on your back.

On a different note, if your bra is too tight, it can restrict the movement in your upper back, causing stiffness in the spine and restriction. This can cause a backache which can then develop into back pain. Suzanne Pentland, an expert bra fitter for the brand Freya, adds that “your bra should not move throughout the day. The band should be firm enough to sit in place but if it’s too big, your bra will move and this causes rubbing on the skin, which can cause irritation.” If your band is too snug or too loose and riding up, it may be time to get fitted.

Making sure you’re in the right size bra is also important if you live an active lifestyle. Any type of activity from walking to running to playing sports requires a good-fitting sports bra. Your breasts have ligaments called Coopers ligaments that support the tissue. Other than that, there’s not much going on in terms of support, which is why, if you’re doing any sort of physical activity, it’s important to wear a good fitting sports bra. The stretching of the ligaments can’t be reversed and can lead to sagging and back pain later on.

It’s also important to remember that your body goes through changes and this means your bra size might change as well. The staff at Confidentially Yours recommend getting a bra fitting every 3-6 months or when you have a lifestyle change, such as pregnancy or any type of weight gain or loss.


Got upper back pain? You may also like:

Simple Shoulder Exercise for Less Pain
Got Pain from Sitting at a Desk?
5 Tips for Neck and Shoulder Care Between Massage Appointments


Founded in 1982, by Jean Duden, Confidentially Yours has grown over the last 35 years to provide bras, breast forms, lingerie, shapewear, and swimwear for women of all shapes and sizes.

At Confidentially Yours, we promise to help you maintain a positive self-image by providing you with the best possible fit, great service and compassion. We want you to look and feel your best so you can be your best.   

Simple Shoulder Exercise for Less Pain

Got nagging pain in between your shoulder blades from working on the computer, texting, or doing yard work? Sure, massage can help, but we don’t always have a massage therapist handy when we need one!

I discovered this exercise this past week and I’m amazed by the pain relief after practicing just a few minutes:

You can read her article here: How to Get Great Shoulders!

So next time you have shoulder pain and your massage is too far away, try “The Quasimodo.” Don’t have a scheduled massage? Book one here.

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