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) 352-7944.
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 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.
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 Number for Karyn Claflin: 227016354
Do you feel stretched in a hundred different directions?
Obligations, deadlines, appointments, meetings, work, housework, sports…..everything else! More often than not, it seems there aren’t enough hours in the day or days in the week for all that needs to be done. We’re on constant high alert. We’re always moving.
All this chaos can be hard on our bodies and minds. When this happens, we tend to be less mindful of our eating. Or chasing sleep like it’s a lively kitten. Or we get snippy with loved ones and coworkers.
The effects of this day to day stress are cumulative for most of us. Stiff joints get stiffer. Cranky shoulders get crankier, then one rogue golf swing or one heavy laundry basket makes it worse.
Massage is the mini-vacation you need. Without the sand in your shoes and having to pull your computer out of your backpack. Massage therapy is a reboot. It’s the control-alt-delete for your body and mind.
A massage resets your thoughts, slows your pulse, regulates your breathing, and recharges your mind.
Spend some time on one of our cozy massage tables, taking care of you. You can schedule online right here.
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.)
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.
Everyone wants a massage, but sometimes making it in to see your favorite massage therapist (hi there!) just isn’t feasible. It’s in those unexpected and inconvenient moments that knowing how to give your partner a pretty great massage yourself can make the difference between a rotten day and a better one. But of course, this hinges on one thing: do you know how to give a good massage? Giving an at-home massage is not that hard. Here are my favorite tips:
Use firm pressure, but not hard. People get confused about pressure in two opposite ways. If your partner is smaller than you, you may have a tendency to use very light pressure. This is okay to a point (you probably won’t hurt anyone), but can be a little frustrating if your partner is tense or sore or, even worse, ticklish. On the other side are the people who come from the “no pain, no gain” school of massage. Don’t buy into this myth! Massage should be pleasant. If your partner has to tense their muscles and clench their jaw in order to get through your ministrations, it’s not helping.
Slooooooow doooooown. There are absolutely occasions where someone might want a fast-paced, vigorous massage. But unless your partner is getting warmed up for a race or ballroom dancing competition, this is probably not one of them. You’re not going to miss some key muscle if you take your time. If you seem relaxed, your partner is going to relax too. So take a deep breath, put your hands out, and make each stroke last.
If you meet a bone, leave it alone. There is one exception to the firm pressure rule, and that is bones. You don’t need to be an anatomist to recognize the ones that stick out, like knees, elbows, ribs, and spines. With little padding between them and the skin, these areas can be quick to bruise or feel painful. If you find your hands arriving at one of these bony landmarks (yes, that’s actually what massage therapists call them, it’s like reading a topographical map), you have two options: turn around and go back the way you came, or skim over them using gentle pressure and keep going with your massage on the other side.
Practice good body mechanics. If massage shouldn’t be painful for your partner, it also shouldn’t be painful for you. If you are hunched over, if your wrists are bent at an awkward angle, if you are using your thumbs or fingers in ways they weren’t designed to work, you will end up regretting the day you ever offered to give a massage. Use bigger muscles in place of small ones whenever you can: use your back to provide pressure instead of your arms, and your arms instead of your fingers. Whenever possible, push instead of pulling. When you move to a new part of your partner’s body, adjust your entire position, not just your hand placement. It may feel strange at first, but imagine if you tried to shovel snow by standing in one place and using just your arms to move the shovel from one side of you to the other. If that image seems ridiculous, you already understand why proper body mechanics are so important.
Communicate, communicate, communicate.Really, you probably don’t need to talk to a massage therapist to learn that open communication between you and your partner is key to anything you undertake together. But it’s especially true in a situation like a massage, where one of you is more vulnerable than the other. As the massage giver, it’s important that you check in regularly: How does this feel? Would you like more or less pressure? Do you remember whether I turned the oven off? (Okay, maybe not that one.) The same goes for communicating your own needs. If you are getting tired, or thirsty, or really need to leave for work, say something. Don’t leave your partner feeling guilty about enjoying a massage because you made a unilateral decision to sacrifice your needs for theirs.
Learn from the pros. As with any skill, one of the best ways to learn to give a massage is by watching the people who are already great at it. Getting regular professional massage (hello again!) and taking a couples massage class are both helpful. Barring that, YouTube is a fantastic source of tutorials for beginners. You can search for a style you like—Swedish massage is a great place to start—or an area you’d like to focus on, like the neck and shoulders.
If you follow these guidelines, you’re going to be fine.
You may not be winning any championships, but massage isn’t a competition. If you can give a caring, relaxing massage without hurting your partner or yourself, you’re way ahead of the curve on this one. And if you feel like you need more than that … well, you know where to find me.
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.
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.