Massage Safety

Photo by 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 Number for Karyn Claflin: 227016354

(2) Karyn Claflin, Owner, Restoring Balance Massage Therapy and Yoga
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

FAQ: Do You Do Deep Tissue Massage?

Deep Tissue Massage

This is a fairly common question, but let’s back up a minute. Massage menus can be overwhelming with a variety of styles like Swedish, Deep Tissue, Therapeutic, Thai, and Trigger Point. Swedish and Deep Tissue are the most common styles of massage, but what the heck are they?

What is the difference between Swedish and Deep Tissue Massage?

Swedish massage is what most people picture when they hear the word massage. In the US, it’s what most therapists learn first in massage school. It’s characterized by long gliding and kneading massage strokes using massage oil or creme.

Deep Tissue massage generally utilizes some of the same massage strokes as Swedish Massage. The difference is that the massage is slower and more focused on areas of tension or pain and the pressure may be firmer.

Deep Tissue Massage should hurt, right?

When folks request deep tissue they are usually looking for relief from muscle aches and pains. Folks either want firm pressure, or they want the massage to hurt. No pain, no gain, right? Not quite. Firm pressure can be therapeutic, but painful pressure? Not so much. There is a difference between an intense or vigorous massage and a painful one.

Painful massage that causes you to hold your breath or clench your jaw is counterproductive. The goal of massage is to relax you and your muscles, so the pressure shouldn’t be causing you to tense up.

Deep Tissue Massage at Restoring Balance

I find that firm, broad pressure works great for muscle aches and pains. The foot is the perfect tool for delivering this more comfortable pressure, as opposed to pointy thumbs and elbows. And the heel of the foot is great for when a more focused pressure is needed.

So, basically, yes, I do deep massage. If that’s what you are looking for, be sure to schedule a barefoot massage. Right now, I offer Ashiatsu, but will soon be adding Fijian Massage. Most styles of massage can be blended so you get the best massage for you. (I highly recommend adding hot stones.)

If you are looking for traditional deep massage, we offer that to! Schedule a Massage Therapy appointment with Lucas or Lola.

Still not sure, what style of massage to get? Contact us.



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 You Get With Your 60 Minute Massage


Massage Therapy ChampaignA Full Hour

A 60 minute massage is 60 minutes of massage. It feels weird to have to clarify that, but it’s not the case for every business. Massage Envy’s hour is only 50 minutes. Even some full service spas operate on a 50-minute hour. But in my office, treatments last exactly as long as indicated. (Unless you’re late, then I may have to adjust accordingly.)

That’s a whole hour, just for you.

Personalized for you

For a whole hour, you are the reason we’re in the room. No ringing phone, email alerts, or people demanding your attention.

You get your massage therapist’s full attention. We don’t have a set routine that we use for every client, every time. Each time you come in, we’ll ask what your needs are that day. We’ll check in a few times during the massage, and you should feel free to speak up if you need us to change what we’re doing. Need silence? An extra blanket? A full hour foot massage?  Done. It’s a massage your way.

Ease of Scheduling

I rarely think of scheduling massage at a time that is actually convenient to call.  Or I do, but I get voicemail and have to play phone tag. That’s why we have convenient online scheduling. You can schedule your massage online right here.  And if you don’t see a time that works for you, send us an email with some times you’re looking for and maybe we can make it work. If we can’t make it work, we can refer you to another therapist whose schedule works better for you. We get massage frequently, so we know a lot of great local massage therapists.

If you prefer, you can call us at  217-552-1670 to schedule. (We may need to play a bit of phone tag since we may need to call you back between clients.)

Commitment to High Quality Massage

We’re continually learning more to make your massage top notch. We’ve done hundreds of massages. They were all just prep for your massage.

Your comfort is a priority. We’ve got pillow/towel propping tricks to keep you cozy laying on your side if you can’t lay on your stomach or your back or if you can’t breathe with your face in the face cradle. We got this. We will get you cozy so you can fully relax and enjoy your massage.

Clinical Prudence

We won’t practice any techniques that are unsafe for you and your health condition. In general, people on blood thinners shouldn’t be getting massage with very firm pressure. Ditto for folks with osteoporosis. It’s also unwise to use hot stones on people who have had lymph nodes removed. These are called contraindications. And we won’t mess around with them.

Very rarely, massage in general may not be a good idea for you and we will be unable to give you a massage. But we can almost always adapt the massage so it’s safe and effective for you.

No Hassle Loyalty Program

If you get your next (hour or longer) massage within six weeks of your last one, you save $10. Save $5 for 30 minute massages.  We track it for you. No monthly subscription. No card to remember and keep track of.

High quality massage oil, cream, and lotion

Have you ever left a massage feeling slimy or greasy? Not here. Mostly, we use Hobacare Jojoba. It’s not actually an oil, it’s a wax ester, and it’s pretty close to your skin’s natural oil.

Have you ever had a reaction to a product you put on your skin? I have pretty sensitive skin so I’m careful about what I put on it. Pure jojoba is also non-allergenic. The rest of the lotions and spa products we use come from companies that value natural ingredients and skip skin irritating fillers.

You get to support a local business

Locally owned and operated. Just a tiny local business with awesome massage therapists making a living, and participating in the same communities they serve. When you pay $80 for a massage, you can be certain that money is staying in the local economy.

All that, plus all the amazing benefits of massage, for only $80. What are you waiting for? Schedule your massage here.


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.


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!