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  • Blog, Kourtney, Wellness

    What Kind of Massage Should I Get?

    Which massage should you choose?  There are many types of people in the world and with that, many opinions and preferences for…everything! Massage therapy is not immune to the preference of the individual. That is one of the things that makes it such a beautiful experience.

    Massage is like pizza! There are lots of kinds and some are very simple, some are cheap; others are expensive or have many ingredients…but it all tastes good. Variety is the spice of life…but options, without firsthand experience, can be confusing. So, here is a little run down on the three most popular types of massage that I use.

    Swedish Massage

    This is the most well known massage modality for a reason! It is a massage that anyone can enjoy. It is made up of long flowing strokes with some light kneading and sometimes tapping (there are specific massage terms for these things, but for the sake of the reader I will avoid using them). This massage can lower your heart rate and cortisol levels, reducing feelings of stress. Because it is not deep muscle work, it can be used on pretty much everyone: from young children to athletes, and even some cancer patients. It is a very calming and relaxing massage.

    Deep Tissue Massage

    This modality is commonly misunderstood…even among MT’s.  Many therapists were not thoroughly trained on this modality, or it is difficult for them. It takes true knowledge of skeletal and muscular anatomy, as well as, perceptive touch and experience to apply deep tissue in the correct way. You should never have bruising or extended soreness (longer than a couple of days) after a deep tissue massage.

    When performed correctly, this is one of the most effective treatments for muscular tightness and soreness. I have found it to have longer lasting effects and bring more self-body awareness for postural correction than lighter pressured massage. It uses slow and methodical strokes that work to “loosen” muscle fibers by going along the length of a muscle or working across the muscle.

    Deep tissue, when performed correctly, will vary in pressure used from person to person; as each individual has varying muscle tone, tension, faschia, lymph and fat storage.

    Trigger Point Release

    Some people call this Sports Massage or Medical Massage, but both of those are separate modalities that often incorporate TPR. This modality is fantastic for people who have all the “knots” and want them gone! It is very focused work. The therapist holds direct pressure, (the amount of pressure used is dependent on the individual) on the top of, or at an angle to, the muscle adhesions in the area that is bothering the client.  It can be very intense, but focusing on breathing deeply can really help you to relax until the tension in the adhesion melts away.

    These are the top three massage modalities that I use in my practice. If my massage was a pizza, it would be supreme!

    I like to use a little bit of everything. I don’t like working within a box too much unless a client is very specific with their wants. I typically use all of these modalities (and others) in each massage that I do.

    A deeper knowledge of various massage modalities allows you to choose with more confidence.  Enjoy!

  • Blog, Chronic Pain, Kourtney, Wellness

    Massage Anxiety: Learning to Receive…

    massage anxiety learning to receiveMassage Anxiety is normal. Each of us have physical imperfections that make us self-conscious, even in the best of situations. But then, when asked to lie on a table naked for a stranger, well that will really cause the anxiety to come out!

    It wasn’t until I became a Massage Therapist that I learned the proper way to receive a massage, in order to get the full value. As I look back on my behavior on the table as a customer, I realize all of the mistakes I had made. It didn’t ruin the experience, but I had made things harder for my therapist to achieve the goal of the massage. My need to be in control of the moment kept me from reaching a deeply relaxed state.

    Here are my tips for getting the most out of your massage:

    1. Wear what makes YOU comfortable! In most massage practices in the U.S., you will be covered by a sheet or a large towel. The less clothing you’re wearing, the easier it is for the therapist to work; as they will have more options for techniques to use. But, a good therapist can give a quality massage to a fully clothed person. Most people wear their underwear or nothing. For your first massage you should be focusing on learning how to let yourself relax to the therapist’s touch. So, with that in mind, wear what will make you feel the most at ease.
    2. Relax!!!! It’s harder said than done, at first. Focus on your breathing and try to “let go”. The optimal state of your body during a massage is what I call “rag doll”. You’re not a person that can move around and be “helpful”. You’re a rag doll! You’re floppy. If I pick your arm up, I want it to be heavy and loose. If I shake your leg, I want to see it jiggle. If I am holding your wrist, I want your fingers to have a natural relaxed curl. This can be a hard physical state for your mind to let you get to, as most people are concerned with being polite and helpful. But it is totally unnecessary, and even gets in the way of your therapist, if you try to “help”.
    3. Let go of your body anxieties. Your therapist is a trained professional and has seen ALL types of bodies. A couple of basic courtesies: shower the day of the massage, and if you have an active skin infection, rash, or fungal infection, wait until it has been cleared by a doctor to receive massage. That’s really it!
    4. Protecting your “Privates”!   Your private parts are just that, Private. Your therapist will not expose or touch your genitals or breasts. Now, let’s clarify a bit. Your glutes (butt/hip muscles) are a very typical area of tension that is worked during your massage. A trained therapist will work this area by draping the upper leg and tucking the sheet so that only the muscle groups being worked on are exposed, without exposing your genitalia/gluteal crease. However, if there is any part of your body you are uncomfortable with someone touching, just tell your therapist.
    5. Injuries/sensitivities/medications.  Before you begin your massage, let your therapist know if you have had any surgeries, injuries, medications or sensitivities like allergies, or even ticklishness! For instance, knowing that my client has had spinal surgery affects the amount of pressure that I will give to them in that area. If my client has a nut allergy, then I need to use a special lotion for their massage. If my client has an injured shoulder, I will not be stretching that shoulder as far. And if my client has very ticklish feet, then I probably won’t even touch their feet so that they can remain relaxed.
    6. Communication. This is your massage! If you are not enjoying a technique or the pressure that is used, then it is your job as the client to let your therapist know. Mind-reading is a skill that most of us don’t have, so please use your voice and let your therapist know if something doesn’t feel right. There are modalities of massage that are more intense and use a deeper pressure, but your massage should never be painful.

    To sum it all up: undress to your comfort level, breathe deeply and let go, don’t worry about how you look and don’t worry that your therapist will see anything they shouldn’t. Let your therapist in on your medical history and remember to communicate.

    Now get out there and get a massage!

  • Blog, Chronic Pain, Kourtney, Wellness

    Massage Anxiety? Take the first step…

    Massage Anxiety?  Afraid to even try a Professional Massage? When I received my first massage, I was very nervous. Yet, I quickly learned the benefits of a professional massage are so incredible, it’s worth it to let go of the anxiety.

    First, know your fears are common. I remember a flood of questions in my mind. Am I supposed to lay naked on the table? Where exactly are they going to touch me? Are they going to see my butt? What if I can’t relax? What if my armpits stink? Are they going to see my mole?…The big one?!

    Really! These were just a few of the concerns I had before the massage started.
    But once it began, it felt so nice!  I wondered what I had been so anxious about.  Amazing!

    Then my anxiety began to rise again. The therapist tried to move my arms–I moved them for her.  Just trying to be extra helpful, I told myself.  But, I held them so tight, because I wasn’t sure if my armpits were smelly. I held up each finger during the hand massage. I lifted and turned my head for her as she did my neck massage. I held my legs as still as possible so they wouldn’t be wobbling around. And I tried very hard to not be ticklish when she got to my feet, which ended with me almost kicking her in the face!  All of which defeated the purpose of relaxing and receiving the benefits of a massage.

    Yet, it was still great. After my massage, I felt energized! Having someone focus on making my body feel relaxed was a very unique and enjoyable experience. It was no longer scary, and I felt that I had done my part to be helpful.

    With all that said, try not to be nervous! Everyone has had body anxiety at some point. If you think about it, your massage therapist would not have chosen this profession if they were uncomfortable with the differences in people’s bodies.

    So, I kept going.  Over time, I realized how therapeutic a massage is — both mentally and physically. But, it wasn’t until I GAVE my first massage that I realized the proper way to receive a massage…