What clients say about integrative massage

One recipient of an integrative massage (which combines Swedish massage, Lauterstein deep massage, acupressure points, foot reflexology, body mobilization techniques, muscle testing, stretching, trigger point therapy, and craniosacral work, as needed and desired) wrote afterwards:

Just a note to say I really enjoyed our conversation and my massage. The massage you gave me has allowed me to sleep soundly two nights in a row. My stress level also feels much lower than usual. Thank you for enhancing my life with your friendship and magical/healing massages! Sending happiness & blessings & love your way.

Here’s a testimonial for an integrative massage I gave to a dear friend suffering from insomnia.

I sit here at my computer after the best night’s sleep I’ve had in weeks. I am so deeply grateful for your loving energy yesterday. Your integrity, touch, and presence were exactly what I needed to break open the clogged dam of emotions that’s been keeping me from sleep.

All throughout the massage, I could feel and take in your love and healing energy which is abundantly transferred through your hands. When you said ‘How you feel matters,’ my soul got the message that you cared enough to hear, see, and touch me.

When you did the cranial-sacral hold, I felt like I was being cradled by my mother.

You had asked the question, “What happened three weeks ago?” … My insomnia has been “waking me up” to the fact of unfinished business….

Your work allowed me to dive through the opening and swim the turbulent waters on top of a still well. I’m not quite at the still well yet, but I have faith that I’ll get there.

Another client wrote to say:

MaryAnn has a special gift to connect with you and gently nurture your entire being. She is unique in that she offers unconditional love so freely. I highly recommend her massage therapy. ❤

For more about The Well Ashiatsu Barefoot Massage Austin, see my home page.

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Self-care for massage therapists, part 2 (what works for me)

In part 1, I listed various self-care methods that massage therapists use for their own aches and pains from giving massage. In part 2, I want to share what I’ve tried (so far) that works.

First, I want to say that my strength and endurance have increased with practice. I used to be in pain after giving 3 hour-long massages in a row several days in a row. Now I can do 4 hours 5 days a week with just a few twinges and aches afterwards. For several weeks, though, I was hurting and feeling some despair about having upended my life to get trained and start working in this new profession and the possibility of not being physically able to do it.

Key learnings from a newbie:

  • I no longer attempt deep tissue work, sticking to Swedish and reflexology. My Swedish massages are good and getting better. I incorporate some of David Lauterstein’s deep massage strokes into every Swedish massage, and I use pressure points, stretching, techniques from sports massage, body mobilization techniques, and reflexology, depending on the client’s issues and the amount of time I have. I cannot deliver the pressure that some clients (well-informed or not about what “deep tissue” means) seem to want. If I work within my limitations, it’s win-win for everyone.
  • I trained in Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy so that I can deliver deeper pressure using my feet and body weight, controlled by holding onto overhead bars. It’s so much easier on my body and a lot of fun, too.
  • I rock with my feet and leverage my body weight strategically as I deliver Swedish massage so my arms and shoulders do less work.
  • Hydrotherapy totally rocks after a long shift. I fill my double kitchen sinks with hot water (my water heater is set to 130 degrees F. for sanitizing laundry) and cold water that I dump a quart or two of ice into. I immerse my aching forearms and hands in the water, alternating cold-hot-cold-hot-cold, for one minute each. I can barely stand it, and yet it makes a huge difference in just 5 minutes. Seems to flush toxins and swelling and pain right out.
  • I stretch my fingers and wrists, holding each stretch for 15 seconds. Good to do when driving, at red lights.
  • I press into the trigger points for the elbow and wrist (see part 1 for links).
  • I apply magnesium gel with seaweed extract topically. According to Wikipedia, symptoms of magnesium deficiency include muscle cramps, weakness, and fatigue, and fifty-seven percent of the US population does not get enough magnesium from food.
  • I love epsom salts in a bath. (Guess what? They contain magnesium!) When I was feeling a lot of pain all over, I would dump a cup or two of epsom salts into a fairly hot bath and add a few drops of lavender oil, then soak for 15-20 minutes. I felt like a new woman when I came out! I learned this years ago from dancers.
  • I use Young Living’s OrthoEase oil on clients’ painful muscles, and I use it on mine as well. Contains wintergreen, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemongrass, and more that are analgesic and anti-inflammatory.
  • I keep hydrated and have been avoiding nightshades lately. I’m already gluten-free and eat fairly healthily. I’m interested in following an anti-inflammatory diet but haven’t done the research yet.
  • I take at least a couple of days off per week, not always together, though. I’m still finding my ideal schedule.
  • I do 10-15 minutes of yoga every morning. Sun salutations stretch and strengthen my body. Plus, it’s a great check-in to do something that starts the same every day. I start slowly and really let my hamstrings lengthen in forward bend before I move on to the next pose. I add standing poses, balance poses, and pigeon as I feel the need and to keep it interesting.
  • I get at least a chair massage every week. I’m interested in setting up a weekly trade for a full-body massage with someone, too.
  • I use a foam roller on back when needed, and a tennis ball to my gluteus.
  • I have two tennis balls tied into a sock that I use when driving to massage my back. I’ve also learned to “pop” my own back while giving massage!

Here’s something that just doesn’t fit into any of the categories I’ve seen so far about self-care for MTs. It’s about how you use your attention. I’ve learned to keep some of my attention on my body most of the time.

When I focused exclusively on the client’s body, delivering what I thought they wanted, I hurt and fatigued myself. I listen more to my body now and check in verbally with the client if I am not noticing nonverbal feedback.

If I notice that I feel rigid anywhere in my body, I say to myself, “Soften,” and my body softens.

Sometimes I put my attention on the soles of my feet and their connection to the floor/earth (I massage with bare feet always for Ashiatsu and as much as possible for Swedish), making the movements of giving massage into a soft, fluid dance.

Sometimes I attend to my breath, letting it become easy and relaxing (and audible to the client, as a nonverbal suggestion that they relax too).

All of these techniques activate the inner body, subtle body, energy body, whatever you want to call it. It feels better to give massage with this “soft present alive expanded body” than not. There is definitely an aspect of being “in the flow” that seems somehow related to doing Reiki, but I don’t know how to put it into words (yet).

Another bonus: the sensations of pain and fatigue become distant as peace and love fill my awareness.

I don’t know if clients perceive the difference, but I don’t think it could hurt. I do it for me because I “in-joy” it!

It’s been four months since I got licensed and began working. I look forward to learning even more new things about self-care and sharing them here.

Integrating massage, thoughts on pay-what-you-wish payment policy

This afternoon at massage school, we got to integrate all the styles and special techniques we’ve learned so far — Swedish massage, range-of-motion and stretching, body mobilization techniques, sports massage, and deep massage. (Later we’ll add some Shiatsu to that, and I plan to add a little cranio-sacral work as well.)

We asked our partners (fellow students) where their bodies were needing special attention. My partner had some tightness in his upper back (a 1 on a 1-10 scale), between his shoulder blades. I did the techniques that came to mind (raking the rhomboids, circular effleurage around the scapulae) and even made up some strokes.

Afterward, he said it felt good. That’s what counts.

I loved it. I am not a by-the-book person. This is where it gets really interesting to me. This is where we get to improvise, being in the moment and deciding how to proceed.

The basic skills are building blocks. There’s nothing wrong with pure Swedish. It’s pretty awesome — relaxing and therapeutic. It’s just that when someone has an issue, it’s great to have several resources to use to learn what works best on this person.

I want to learn a routine consisting solely of body mobilization techniques (BMTs), which are ways to jostle, swing, shake, rock, roll, and generally loosen up the body in a pleasant, rhythmic manner while the client is passively experiencing their body differently. BMTs can be done in 15, 20, or 30 minutes with the client fully clothed, so it can substitute for a chair massage. (It’s also great to integrate into longer massages.)

It will be nice to have something short and sweet to offer clients who don’t have the time for a full massage or who have never had a massage and would enjoy a fun little introduction.

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Today I heard about a massage therapist who operates on a donate-what-you-wish basis. It’s wonderful to hear about someone making a “good enough” living doing that. So many people have irregular incomes (artists and musicians, for example), and paying less when broke/more when flush works for them, and they really appreciate people who can work with the rhythm of their income.

Yoga studios have been successful operating this way (though usually with a $10 minimum). I know an acupuncturist who works successfully on that basis, and she is the free-est, happiest person I know and very good at what she does. She handpicks her clients.

I like that the massage therapist doesn’t have to think about how much to charge and wonder if the client can afford it. It removes some potential awkwardness and allows the focus to be on the bodywork and the relationship.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if all health care was like that? I imagine that in times past, when someone was a healer for their village or tribe, they never turned anyone away because they were poor. They took food, crafts, chickens, pay-it-forward, or whatever in barter. Healing was just what they did, in good times and bad. They rolled with their village.

What’s also attractive about pay-what-you-wish is that the massage therapists can hand-pick who they want to work with, and their clients become regular, long-term clients they can know well.

That sounds more fulfilling to me than “body in, body out” work with a lot of turnover in clients.