FAQ: Do you ever get massage?

This is one the questions I get asked most as a massage therapist. And the answer is “YES!” Of course, I get massage. I love massage and I get one every chance I get. But at the very least two sixty minute massages a month. Ninety minutes if I can fit it into my schedule and budget. Sixty minutes just goes by too fast!

I get massage for the same reasons you get massage.

To relax. To relieve my aches and pains. To take a break from this busy world we live in where it seems like someone or something is always demanding your attention.

I get massage because it makes me a better massage therapist.

Not only does massage keep me feeling great so I can perform my best, it’s also one of the ways I make sure your massage is top-notch. When I get massage, I’m reminded of all the little things that make for a great massage.

It’s why I keep an eye pillow handy and have a cozy heating pad on my massage table. It’s how I learned to keep eucalyptus or peppermint essential oil close by, in case your nose gets stuffy. It’s how I discovered that combining Ashiatsu and Hot Stone Massage is out-of-this-world amazing!

When was your last massage? If you can’t remember, it’s been too long! Schedule one here.

Ashiatsu: What to Expect

Before Your Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy Session:

  • Drink water to stay hydrated.
  • It’s a good idea to arrive a few minutes early to allow yourself time to relax a bit. Rushing is no way to start your relaxing massage!
  • Ashiatsu is typically performed directly on the skin. So I’ll leave the room while you disrobe and get cozy under the sheet on the massage table.
  • Nervous about taking your clothes off? No worries, I can adjust the massage, just wear comfortable clothing. And rest assured, if you do decide to take it all off, you will be under a sheet and only the part of your body being massaged will be uncovered.

During Your Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy Session:

  • Allow the full weight of your body to sink into the table and take full, deep breaths.
  • I will inquire about the pressure and your level of comfort. Remember: 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.
  • Ashiatsu has the potential to be a very deep massage, but it should not be painful. If the pressure is causing you to hold your breath or clench your jaw, it’s super important to speak up. 

After Your Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy Session:

  • I will leave and give you time to get dressed. Don’t get up too quickly.
  • Your muscles will be very supple, so take a few precautions for the next 48 hours.

You should not:

  • Sit for long periods of time in a hard chair to avoid compressing your back for 24 hours. (For example: flying, sitting in a theatre, playing cards for a extended amount of time.)
  • Lift heavy objects.
  • Engage in activities that involve forceful twisting (like golfing or playing baseball).
  • Drink heavy alcohol.

You should:

  • Drink water to stay hydrated.
  • Do gentle, easy passive stretching  (Sit on the edge of a chair and hang forward.)
  • Wear back or neck support if your work requires rough activity daily.
  • Treat yourself to a hot sauna, steam room, or hot tub.
  • Lie on the floor with your legs up on a chair.

 

What to Wear (or not) During Your Massage

Probably the most Frequently Unasked Question in massage: Do I need to get naked?

Short answer
No. Absolutely not.

Long answer
Many massage therapists say, “Undress to your level of comfort.” That’s a bit vague, though. And people new to massage have no idea what that means. Heck, I’m not even sure what that means. Here’s what you need to know about clothing during your massage session:

First, no matter what, you’ll always be covered (draped) with a sheet and a blanket. You’ll never be left feeling exposed or chilly. When I work on an arm, I fold the sheet back and tuck it under your arm so it’s secure (no drafts, my friends). Same for your legs.

When I work on your back, I fold the sheet down at the hips. If you’re wearing a bra, I’ll work around it. If you’re wearing a tank top or shorts or long johns, I’ll work through it. I know plenty of very effective massage techniques that can be administered over clothing.

Please know that I’m not judging you. Your massage is about you and it’s important you feel comfortable. For some people that means leaving some clothing on. For others, it means taking it all off. There is no right or wrong; this is your massage.

Enjoy your next massage! If you haven’t already scheduled it, you can do so here.

 

Should I cancel my massage if I’m sick?

should I cancel my massage?should I cancel my massage?

Short answer: Yes, please.

Long Answer: Yes, please.

Massage is great. You know this. But it’s not always a great idea.

As cold and flu season approaches again, it’s important that you know when it may be necessary to cancel your appointment.

Why? 

When you are sick, your body needs rest. It’s strange to think about it this way, but receiving massage is an active task, it is not entirely rest. Massage causes change in the body, and your body has to work to maintain stability. Getting a massage when you are sick takes attention away from infection-fighting. That’s no good.

You’re not going to be cozy on the massage table.  Sure, it sounds like a warm squishy massage table would be great. But the moment you put your already-stuffy head into that face cradle, you’ll realize the error of your ways. Gravity and pressure are not your friend here. Even if I do a great face massage to drain your sinuses, you’ll likely feel worse when you get off the table.

You could get me sick. Since most of the common winter viruses are contagious even before symptoms show up, I could pass it along to more clients before I even know it’s happening.

Further, when I get sick, I have to cancel clients and take a few days off work. I understand when my massage therapist has to cancel my massage because she is sick, but it’s still a bummer. Also, I work for myself, with no paid sick days to compensate for lost wages. So I’m gonna try to stay germ-free this winter.

So it’s a deal. You’ll cancel so as not to infect me and my massage room, and I’ll do the same for you. We’ll keep each other safe.

When to cancel

  • If you have nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea in the past 24 hours, or are still feeling icky from a recent bout of such things.
  • If you’ve had a fever in the past 24 hours, or fever-related symptoms. This includes chills, aches, and fatigue. Even if you’re keeping the fever down with medicine, you’re still sick. The fever counts.
  • If you are itchy, runny, and/or sneezy, and you’re not 100% certain it’s seasonal allergies. And even then, allergies may leave you so miserable that the hour on my table would be wasted time and money for you.
  • If you are coughing constantly, or just a lot.
  • If someone in your household is ill and you are feeling at all funky, please cancel.

There is often some gray area here, especially if you are in the recovery phase of a virus or bacterial infection.  If you’re unsure about your situation, please call me before your appointment and we can make a decision together.

I appreciate as much notice as possible, but as long as you call to cancel, I’ll waive the cancellation fee for a last minute cancellation due to illness.

Not sick? Why not schedule a massage now?

Should I Talk During My Massage?

Should I talk during my massage-

Did you ever see this episode of Seinfeld:

Jerry: So she’s giving me the massage and I’m just making conversation.

Elaine: I don’t like to talk during a massage.

Jerry: Neither do I, but I do it for them. I figure they’re bored.

George: Yeah, I do that too. I feel guilty about getting the pleasure. I feel
like I don’t deserve it so I talk. It stops me from enjoying it.

Your massage therapist is not bored. And you do deserve to enjoy your massage. As a client I find it more relaxing to completely zone out. I don’t want to chit-chat during my massage. But maybe you do, and that’s okay too. It’s your massage. We all have different ways of relaxing. If talking is your way of relaxing, then talk. But don’t feel like you have to. I’ll follow your lead.

One caveat: I want your massage to be perfect for you. So if I need to make any changes, let me know. Too cold? Too warm? Hate the music? Too much pressure? Too little? I’ll check in with you one or twice to be sure the pressure is good, but you can speak up at any time if you need more or less.

“Do You Accept Health Insurance?”

Sure, a massage can feel luxurious, but it may also improve you health. Massage therapy can ease the side effects of cancer treatment and  help many conditions: depression, anxiety, stress, and low back pain to name a few. Will your health insurance help pay for it?

At this time, I do not bill health insurance. However, I do accept FSA (flexible spending account) cards. Check with the administrator of your FSA to see if massage therapy is an eligible expense. Most likely, you will need a prescription from your doctor containing the reason you need massage therapy, the number of sessions per month, and the duration of treatment. A random example: massage therapy may be prescribed for low back pain, once a week, for 6 months.

I would also be happy to provide you an invoice for services if you would like to try and seek reimbursement from your health insurance company. You will want to call them directly to ask about your coverage and how you can seek reimbursement. Some questions to ask them about your insurance plan:

  • Do I have coverage for Massage Therapy?
  • If yes, is there a limit to the number of visits or the amount my plan will pay?
  • Do I need a referral from my doctor?
  • Do I need a prescription from my doctor?
  • Do I have to see an in-network therapist and how do I find one?
  • What do I need to do to get reimbursed for Massage Therapy that I receive?

Massage Therapy  can be an affordable way to help improve your health. But since you already pay for health insurance, it may be worthwhile to check to see if your health insurance will pay for it. And if you have an FSA, you can use pre-tax money to pay for your massage.

Choosing a Massage Therapist

You could just Google “massage near me” and take the first name that pops up. This is certainly the quickest way, but it’s a bit risky. Do you want to drop your hard-earned cash on some random massage therapist just hoping that they are the best fit for you?

All Massage Therapists have a few things in common. In Illinois, all Massage Therapists should have a license from the state. You can check to see if your Massage Therapist is licensed here. All Massage Therapists should have professional liability insurance. They should have you complete a health history, or at least ask about your health history. If the Massage Therapist you’ve found doesn’t meet these criteria, keep looking.

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.

Am I the Right Massage Therapist for You?

Do you:

  • have general aches and pains due to working at a desk all day?
  • have stress that has gotten out of control?
  • want complementary care to help with the side effects of your cancer treatment?
  • have a history of cancer treatment?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, then I might be the right Massage Therapist for you. You can schedule an appointment here, or contact me with any questions you may have.

But if you are:

  • looking to improve sports performance
  • pregnant (In this case, I highly recommend my colleagues Cheryl Louviere or Marcy Todd for pregnancy massage.)
  • looking for energy work, like Reiki

If these apply to you, then I’m probably not the right Massage Therapist for you. But that’s okay. My professional association, Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals, maintains a directory where you can search by location or type of massage. Or ask for referrals from friends, family, or your healthcare provider. Read online reviews and testimonials, browse websites, and feel free to call your massage therapist and ask questions.

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.

Enjoy your next massage!

Cancer and Massage: Information for Healthcare Providers

Massage Therapy is increasingly being used as complementary care during and after cancer treatment. The following information is intended to help you determine if massage therapy may help your patients.

Does massage have anything to offer my patients?

Yes, research supports (1) the use of massage therapy as a complement to pain medications and in the reduction of anxiety. Patients report many other benefits including decreased nausea and fatigue, and improved sleep and overall sense of well being.

A trained oncology massage therapist will also be able to show your patient some massage techniques to use at home.

Is massage safe for my patients?

Yes, a massage therapist with training in oncology massage can adapt massage to be safe and effective no matter where your patient is in their cancer treatment or recovery.

How will massage be adapted to my patients needs?

Oncology massage therapists have their clients complete a thorough health history and welcome the input of the patient’s healthcare team. This information is used to specially adapt the massage session to the needs of each client. Common adaptations oncology massage therapists make to a client’s cancer and treatment include shorter session length, care with pressure of massage strokes, and alternate positioning. For example, for areas at risk for lymphedema, “lotioning” pressure (like the pressure you use to apply lotion to your skin) is used on the extremity and on the associated quadrant. If needed, the limb is elevated during massage.

How do I help my patient find an oncology massage therapist?

While there are no government-regulated standards of what a qualified oncology massage therapist is, the Society for Oncology Massage (S4OM) has set forth minimum competency standards for massage therapists to work safely and effectively with people with cancer and cancer histories.  Therapists must have at least 500 hours of massage training, they must hold the appropriate credential to practice in their jurisdiction (in Illinois, this would be a massage therapy license), and they must have completed a foundational course in oncology massage.

If you are in or near Champaign, I am a Preferred Provider for the Society for Oncology Massage. You can contact me here . Otherwise, S4OM has a locator tool to help you find a provider in your area.

-Karyn Claflin, LMT

(1) MacDonald, Gayle. (2014). Touch- Rx for Body, Mind, and Heart: A Review of the Research in Medicine Hands: Massage Therapy for People with Cancer: p 26-54. Scotland, UK: Findhorn Press

Cancer, Caregiving, and Massage Therapy

While massage therapy can play a supportive role in cancer care, it can also support caregivers. Here’s a few things to know about massage for people in cancer treatment and how it can support you as well.

Is massage safe for people with cancer?

Yes, a massage therapist with training in oncology massage can provide a safe and effective massage no matter where a person is in cancer treatment or recovery.

Does massage have anything to offer people with cancer?

Yes, possible benefits of oncology massage include decreased levels of pain, anxiety, nausea, and fatigue. Massage may also help improve sleep and overall sense of well being.

What is oncology massage?

A massage therapy session is not one-size-fits-all. Oncology massage is a massage adapted to the specific ways cancer or cancer treatments have affected your loved one provided by a massage therapist with specific training in massage and cancer.

Great! Where can I get my loved one a spa gift certificate?

Awesome! You want to make sure that the location has a massage therapist with training in oncology massage. Be wary if the spa manager or massage therapist says they have not had training, but they will “just work lightly.”  Remember, massage is not one-size-fits-all; you want your loved one to receive a safe, effective massage. Here are some questions to ask to find out if the massage therapist at the spa is trained in oncology massage.

Or, you can find an oncology massage therapist using this locator tool.  And, if you are in or near Champaign, Karyn is a Preferred Provider for the Society for Oncology Massage. You can contact her here or schedule a massage here.

A trained oncology massage therapist will also be able to show you some massage techniques to use at home. You can provide more frequent massage. Even five minutes of massage can provide comfort to your loved one.

Does massage have anything to offer me?

Yes! You are amazing for helping your loved one through this difficult time. Caregiving can be a tough job. No doubt you are experiencing some stress, maybe even some pain. Massage therapy can help with this. Taking care of yourself is super important. If you get run down, who will care for your loved ones? Remember, self-care is not a luxury. So take some time for yourself. Get a massage. Meditate. Read your favorite book.

Take care of yourself.

What Every Person With Cancer Should Know About Massage Therapy

Massage therapy can play a supportive role in your cancer care. Here are some things you should know before you get a massage.

Is massage safe for me?

Yes, a massage therapist with training in oncology massage can provide a safe and effective massage no matter where you are in your cancer treatment or recovery.

Does massage have anything to offer me?

Yes, possible benefits of oncology massage include decreased levels of pain, anxiety, nausea, and fatigue. Massage may also help improve sleep and overall sense of well being.

What is oncology massage?

In short, it’s a massage customized to you. Oncology massage is a massage adapted to the specific ways cancer or cancer treatments have affected you and your body provided by a massage therapist with specific training in massage and cancer. Adjustments may include session length, pressure of massage strokes, and alternate positioning (i.e. maybe you are uncomfortable lying on your stomach or back).

What is an “oncology massage therapist” and why should I see one?

Why all this talk of an oncology massage therapist?

Another oncology massage therapist sums it up best here:

Maybe you’re in pain.  Maybe your hair has fallen out or you have neuropathy or shortness of breath or you’re inescapably nauseated.  You decide you need support in the form of massage therapy.

You find yourself standing in front of two doors.  One door says, “Massage, All Are Welcome…We’ll Figure it Out.”  On the other door, the sign reads, “Oncology Massage: Come As You Are. I am Skilled, Present and At Your Service. Which door would you choose?”.

Lauren Cates

There is no one-size-fits-all massage. In Illinois, as in many other states, the state regulates massage licensing. They have a baseline standard for entry-level massage therapists to protect the public. States require a certain amount of education covering various topics, as well as passing a licensing exam and a background check. In addition to many other things, they want massage therapists to know when it is safe for someone to receive a massage and when it is not. In school, we were taught to refer someone to their doctor or a more qualified massage therapist if we felt we lacked the knowledge to provide safe massage.

Cancer and cancer treatments have many effects on the body for which massage adjustments must be made.  There is no one-size-fits-all massage. Initial massage education in the United States does not typically prepare massage therapists for this. In massage school, over the course of a semester we discussed various illnesses and injuries and whether or not massage was safe or needed to be adapted. We even spent a whole week on massage and cancer. For many of the scenarios, I felt prepared to provide safe massage right out of school. But with cancer I felt I needed more information. I knew that there were lots of things to look out for, like lymphedema risk and bone metastasis, but didn’t really know how to adapt for them, and I certainly didn’t want to make someone feel worse after their massage.  I read everything I could find on the subject, including a textbook written by a leader in the field of oncology massage. Still, I did not feel “qualified” until completing a 4 day intensive hands-on training.

While there are no government-regulated standards of what a qualified oncology massage therapist is, the Society for Oncology Massage (S4OM) has set forth minimum competency standards for massage therapists to work safely and effectively with people with cancer and cancer histories*:  at least 500 hours of massage training, holds the appropriate credential to practice in their jurisdiction (in Illinois, this would be a massage therapy license), and has completed a foundational course in oncology massage.

* If you are in cancer recovery, a massage therapist with training in oncology massage will still be a great choice for you. Cancer and its treatments have many effects, some short-term, some lifelong.

How do I find an oncology massage therapist?

If you are in or near Champaign, I am a Preferred Provider for the Society for Oncology Massage. You can contact me here or schedule a massage here. Otherwise, check S4OM’s locator tool to connect with one of my wonderful colleagues.

-Karyn Claflin, LMT

UPDATED 1/22/2015: Added quote from Lauren Cates.