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MASSAGE FAQS

1. When should I get a massage?
2. When should I not get a massage?
3. What does massage do - other than feel good?

4. How long will my massage last?
5. What types of massage are there?
6. What if I'm overweight or embarrassed about my body?
7. What does a massage therapist's license or certification mean?
8. What happens during a massage?
9. What parts of my body will be massaged?
10. Do I have to be completely undressed?
11. Will a massage hurt?
12. How often should I receive a massage?

Q: When should I get a massage?

A: Any time is a good time to get a massage. You don't need to wait until you're stressed or injured. Too often I see clients who wait until they reach this state to see me. Massage works wonders as preventive care for a person's body and mind. Instead of waiting until your back hurts from overwork or stress, or the headaches that start at the back of your skull begin to pound, or the stress of every day life makes you want to pop your cork, get a massage before these things happen. A regular massage is a wonderful way to cope with stress, both physical and emotional, and to keep if from causing discomfort or harm to your body.

If you've found yourself dealing with a nagging minor injury, sore muscles, or are completely stressed out, find a massage therapist and see what he or she can do for you. First, check out the next question in the FAQ.

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Q: When should I not get a massage?

A: There are several conditions and situations when massage may not be recommended. Contra-indications may be temporary or permanent and may require physician recommendation or approval. Of course, any of the following are obvious contra-indications:

GENERAL IMPORTANT VERY IMPORTANT
Are pregnant
Wear contact lenses
Have inflammation of any kind
Have any cysts
 
Are anemic
Have any tumors
Have a hernia condition
Have arthritis/bursitis
Have been diagnosed with varicose veins
Have a skin condition or rash
 
Have a hematoma
Have diverticulitis
Have had embolisms
Have ever had aneurysms
Have phlebitis
Have edema
Have fever
 
Have an open wound
Have ringworm
Have paralysis of any kind
 
Have any undiagnosed medical problems
Have numbness or tingling in any part of body
Are under physician care for hypertension
Have suffered a mental breakdown
Have had seizures of any type
 
Are under cardiologist care
Are being treated for cancer
Are a hemophiliac
Have arteriosclerosis
Have multiple sclerosis
Suffer from tuberculosis
Have uncontrollable diabetes
Have a gout condition
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Q: What does massage do - other than feel good?

A: Scientific study has now proven many of the healing aspects of massage, that some cultures have known for thousand of years.

Just a few of the benefits of Massage are listed here;

  • Helps rid the body of toxins
  • Stretches superficial tissue
  • Assists lymphatic and venous flow
  • Helps to break up and loosen subcutaneous scar tissue
  • Increases nutrition to the cells and skin
  • Increases the red and white blood cell count
  • Can help reduce certain types of edema
  • Increases respiration to the skin
  • Stimulates the sensory receptors (nerves) of the skin and deeper tissue
  • Relieves joint ache and pain
  • Promotes good posture and self esteem
  • Improves tone and texture of the skin
  • Assists digestion
  • Causes release of natural endorphins and promotes relaxation

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Q: How long will my massage last?

A: Massage therapy sessions vary from about 30 minutes to 2 hours. A 30 minute massage is great for working on one part of the body such as the back. The most typical amount of time for a full-body massage is 1 hour with 90 minutes being the next most common. A 2 hour massage is less common and is usually only given to those used to receiving massage frequently.

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Q: What types of massage are there?

A: There is a wide array of bodywork modalities. The most common, and probably the best known, is Swedish massage. If you see a movie or television show with someone getting a massage, this is usually what they show. The client is undressed, draped with a towel or sheet, oil is placed on the skin, and the muscles are kneaded, rubbed, vibrated, or tapped. Most of this FAQ will concern itself with Swedish massage.

Esalen massage is similar to Swedish, except that usually involves long, lengthening strokes, stretching, and rocking. Both Swedish and Esalen massage primary body focus is with the muscles.

There are many types of Oriental bodywork, Shiatsu and acupressure are the most common. These are often done with the client clothed, and concentrate on applying pressure to different points of the body. The primary body focus of these are energy meridians, and bringing them back into balance. Practitioners of these arts believe that an imbalance in these meridians affect the inner organs of the body and causes illness. Some bodyworkers may combine one of these therapies with a Swedish massage.

There are a host of other types of bodywork: cranialsacral, myofacial release, postural or structural therapy (Rolfing, Hellerwork, and others), Reiki, and many, many more. They all have one goal in mind, to bring the body's systems back into balance. The accumulation of stress, misuse and overuse of the muscular-skeleton system, illness, poor posture, and just the normal routines of daily life bring the body out of balance, and some degree of suffering ensues. All bodyworkers try to bring the client back towards the state of natural equilibrium in their bodies. Note that this doesn't usually happen in one session.

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Q: What if I'm overweight or embarrassed about my body?

A: Don't let this stop you. You're denying yourself quite a pleasurable experience.

Massage therapists have seen bodies in every imaginable shape and size, from young to old, and they're not there trying to judge your physique or ogle your body. They're professionals who have found massage to be a wonderful gift to give to men and women alike, regardless of age and weight, and are proud of what they can offer to people in need of help or just wanting to luxuriate in the sense of touch.

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Q: What does a massage therapist's license or certification mean?

A: A license means that a massage therapist has met the requirements and paid the fee to legally practice massage in that area. In some places the massage is regulated by the state, others are regulated by the town or municipality. Many places have no licensing requirements. To get a license, a massage therapist will usually have to have a minimum hours of training at an accredited or accepted school or training center. This varies widely, from 100 hours in some places to over 1000 hours in others.

Certification means that the therapist has successfully passed a specific course or test and been granted a certificate to bear out that fact. This may range from courses in pregnancy and neo-natal massage, to different modalities like Rolfing or Hellerwork. There is also a written national certification test for massage therapists.

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Q: What happens during a massage?

A: When you first arrive at the massage therapist's studio or office, you'll be asked to fill out a client intake form. This will give the therapist the personal information about you that will guide them to give you the style of massage most appropriate for you. Don't hesitate to ask questions about anything which you're unsure, or any concerns you might have. If you're expecting something in particular from the massage, make sure this is told to the therapist. For example, if you've been having a lot of tightness in your right shoulder, and you'd like some extra attention given to it, tell the therapist. If you prefer a lighter or deeper massage, make that preference known. The massage therapist will discover your tight and sore areas during the massage, and will prioritize the time spent on these areas, and may do less work on areas that don't need as much attention. Letting the therapist know ahead of time about these problem areas, lets them prepare to spend some extra time there.

Once you've finished with the intake, the massage therapist will give you some privacy to get undressed and get on the massage table. The therapist should have advised you to start the massage lying on your stomach or on your back. If you're to start on your stomach, there will be a cushioned doughnut-shaped device at one end of the table. This is a face rest, and you should place your face in there to receive the best benefits of the massage.

Once you're undressed and under the drape, the therapist will come back into the room. For the most part, your work is done, and all you have to do is relax and enjoy. The therapist will undrape the section of the body that they will work on first, and apply oil to the skin. They will use a variety of strokes, some rubbing, kneading, vibration, percussion, whatever they think will work best for your muscles. Stretching, rocking, or pressure point work may all be added. If the therapist gives you directions for slow exhales, just follow along. If they stretch or rotate any joint, don't try to help. Just stay as relaxed and limp as you can and let the therapist move that part of your body.

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Q: What parts of my body will be massaged?

A: This will vary from therapist to therapist. The one area you can be assured that won't receive any stimulation will be the genitals. Different therapists may skip other areas of the body, Some work only on the back side of the body. Some won't work on the buttocks or inner thighs. Some skip the abdomen. Some won't work anywhere in the chest area of a woman. If one area of the body takes a lot longer than expected to massage, the therapist may skip other areas of the body to finish within the allotted time.

Some therapists would rather not work on areas of the body, either out of their own discomfort with those areas, or not wanting to provoke any discomfort in a client by working on those areas. You must respect the therapist's decision not to work on those areas. If you would prefer these areas to receive some massage, you can ask the therapist to do so, and they may agree.

Some therapists will ask you during the intake if you have any areas of your body that you would prefer not to be massaged. This may be verbal or you might have to check off areas of the body on a chart on the intake form. The therapist will respect your wishes.

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Q: Do I have to be completely undressed?

A: You should undress to your comfort level. The massage therapist will work around the clothes left on the best they can. You should realize that this may mean that certain areas of the body may not be massaged at all, or may only receive minimal work there. I suggest to my clients that they be completely undressed under the drape, but they should leave on whatever clothes are necessary for them to be relaxed during the massage. If removing all your clothes makes you too nervous and unable to relax, then receiving a massage that way won't allow you to obtain the optimal benefits from it.

Some therapists will insist that you leave on your panties or underwear. This will be for the therapist's own comfort level, and in some cases is required by law.

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Q: Will a massage hurt?

A: That depends on the type of massage and the depth of the strokes. A light massage that doesn't probe very deep into muscles shouldn't hurt. At the same time, the light massage won't be able to work out any stress that's deep within those muscles. A muscle that is relaxed will be supple and soft and won't hurt when rubbed. Muscles that are tight, and in many cases have been chronically tight for a long time, may have that "good hurt" feeling with a deeper massage. Think of that "good hurt" as the feeling you get when you stretch a sore muscle during exercise or a yawn. Muscles can be very sore from overuse or tightness, and that good hurt can become painful. A sharp pain may indicate a muscle that has been injured and has some sort of inflammation. In this case, you don't want the deep work to continue in this area. A deep massage with tight muscles may leave some residual soreness the next day.

Everybody has different thresholds of pain. The depth of a stroke may not be deep enough for one person's liking and may cause pain for another. Some people want the massage as deep as possible regardless of the soreness. Others want something much lighter, more sensual and pleasing, to help them relax rather than deeper work that might be sore. So make your preference known to the therapist, and give feedback at any time during a massage that the depth of the strokes is more than you'd like.

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Q: How often should I receive a massage?

A: The answer here depends on the reasons for receiving the massage. If a client comes for some injury relief, and to relieve chronic tightness that is interfering with their daily lives in some way, weekly sessions may be necessary for a while to build on each session's improvement in their relief and healing. For those who use massage as preventive care and managing the daily stress in their lives, once a month is about the norm. They may shorten the time between massages during stressful periods. Some come more often just because they enjoy it that much.

For most people, the frequency of the massages they receive is limited by their pocketbook. It's an unfortunate fact, but once many people realize the benefits it provides them, and the pleasure they receive from it, they find a way to incorporate a regular session into their budget.

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