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.
Welcome to myth #2 on our reasons-you-can’t-get-a-massage-myth series. Be sure to check out Myth #1.
Myth #2: You can’t get a massage while taking painkillers.
You’re hurting, so you schedule a massage. But then you’re still hurting, so you take some ibuprofen … should that stop you from getting the massage you’ve scheduled?
This myth states that taking a painkiller leaves you unable to tell whether your massage is too deep, which can lead to a massage therapist injuring you accidentally. And this can be a realistic concern, especially if you’re taking strong narcotics for pain. Drug side effects like dizziness, easy bruising, and low blood pressure can also impact your massage session.
In most cases, though, this can be dealt with through open communication, rather than avoidance, especially if it’s a simple NSAID or other over-the-counter medication. When you let your massage therapist know what kinds of painkillers you’re taking, things like pressure, positioning, and duration can all be adjusted to make sure that your session is both satisfying and safe. There is no reason that painkillers and appropriate bodywork have to be mutually exclusive.
They’re so common that the term has become synonymous with an annoyance, but what are headaches, really? And can massage therapy really help?
Different types, different causes.
Headaches are pretty easily defined, and we all know one when we feel it: it’s a pain in the head. But not all headaches are created equal:
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, with pain occurring on both sides of the head without other symptoms. The pain can range from very mild to severe.
Migraine headaches are often pulsing, and can be accompanied by nausea, dizziness, sensitivity to light and sound, and hallucinations. Some people experience migraines only rarely, while other people experience them on an almost daily basis.
Cluster headaches are less common, and are generally experienced as severe pain around one eye. “Cluster periods,” during which many headaches occur during a period of time, are interspersed with longer periods without any symptoms.
Secondary headaches are not conditions themselves, but are symptoms of other conditions. These conditions can be as everyday as a sinus infection or conjunctivitis (pink-eye), or more serious, like traumatic brain injury, or meningitis. While the pain from secondary headaches can be managed, it’s important to focus on getting the appropriate medical treatment for the underlying condition.
Headaches and Massage
Tension headaches, the type of headaches people are most likely to experience, seem to respond well to massage therapy. Not only does massage seem to reduce pain in the moment, but regular massage therapy also appears to increase the amount of time between headaches for those who experience them on a chronic basis. This could be a result of helping to manage stress or underlying mechanical issues that can result in headaches, but there’s no solid science yet on precisely why massage helps, only that it does.
More good news!
It probably doesn’t surprise anyone that folks who experience regular headaches are also more likely to experience high levels of stress, depression, and anxiety. Studies have found that massage can help with these issues, not just in the general population, but also specifically in people who live with chronic headaches.
Some people with secondary headaches can also benefit from massage. People with fibromyalgia, for example, who often experience headaches as part of their condition, can experience both pain and stress relief with regular massage therapy. While massage during a flare-up of symptoms may need to be modified to be more gentle, some people find that it can provide relief both for headache as well as for pain throughout the body.
Massage therapy is wonderful and often helpful, but it’s not a cure for headaches. While some people just need a bit of rest or a drink of water (dehydration is a surprisingly common headache cause), other people continue to experience headaches all their lives. While people who experience headaches caused by stress or muscular tension can absolutely benefit from massage, migraines triggered by things like foods or hormonal changes probably won’t see an impact.
There are some times when getting a massage for headaches isn’t just unhelpful, it’s actually dangerous. Most often, this is related to secondary headaches. Fevers, as an example, often cause headaches as well as achy joints that could lead someone to want to receive massage, but this not only risks overly stressing a body that’s already fighting off an infection, it also has the possibility of spreading the illness to the massage therapist and anyone else they come into contact with. Headaches resulting from a recent head, neck, or back injury could also be made worse by a well-meaning massage therapist.
When there is the possibility of pain being caused by an illness or injury, it’s always best to seek out a physician’s opinion first. They can provide or recommend appropriate care for the issue causing the headache in the first place, and at that point you can ask them about whether it would be a good idea to receive a massage. Safe is always better than sorry!
Headaches can be a real, well, headache. But there’s help.
Sometimes a little change of environment is all that’s needed. If you have a headache and have been hunched over a computer for hours, try a stretch. A quick walk outside or a brief nap can help with a headache caused by eye strain. If you haven’t eaten or drunk anything all day, do that. It’s easy to get caught up in the business of our lives and forget to take care of our own basic needs.
For those who can take them, over the counter painkillers like ibuprofen or aspirin can be helpful in treating a headache. Sometimes caffeine is recommended as well. For stronger headaches, medications prescribed by a physician can be a lifesaver to many people, enabling them to function at work and with their families when they might otherwise have been left incapacitated.
Contraindication is a long word with a simple meaning: a reason you shouldn’t receive a particular treatment, such as a massage. There are local contraindications—things like a small wound—that shouldn’t be massaged directly, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still get a perfectly good massage on other parts of your body. Then there are general contraindications, or situations in which you shouldn’t get a massage at all. Contraindications can be an illness like the flu, a treatment or medication like a strong blood thinner, or even something environmental, like a bedbug infestation at home.
But there’s another kind of contraindication that also seems to make the rounds on a regular basis: the mythological kind. Despite all the scientific advancements we’ve made in studying massage therapy over the years, there are a few persistent misunderstandings that just won’t seem to die. And while tales of mermaids and unicorns can brighten an otherwise dull day, these massage myths unfortunately prevent too many people from getting the professional bodywork they deserve.
Myth #1: You can’t get a massage during the first trimester of pregnancy.
This myth is based around the idea that there is an acupressure point around the ankles that can induce premature labor. Since the first three months of pregnancy are also the time of the highest risk of miscarriage, the wisdom says that it’s best not to get a massage at all during this time.
Of course, this doesn’t take into account the fact that pregnant women regularly do all sorts of things that put pressure on the ankles.
Like wear shoes.
And given that most people go at least a few weeks before they’re even aware that they’ve conceived, this is basically saying that anyone with the sort of working parts that could lead to pregnancy should stay away from the massage table… just in case.
Luckily, there’s no evidence for any of this. Still, it’s a good practice to give your massage therapist a heads up if you know that you’re pregnant so that they can be prepared to make adjustments for things like loosening ligaments or a sudden sensitivity to smells.
One caveat, if you are having complications with your pregnancy, talk to your doctor or call us before scheduling: (217) 552-1670.
Folks 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.
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?
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.
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?)
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!
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).
If you haven’t already heard, Buzzfeedrecently 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:
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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.