Massage Therapy FAQs

Do I need a prescription to receive a massage?

No, you do not need a prescription to receive a massage. However, sometimes a doctor will prescribe a certain type of massage to address specific ailments, like for sports injuries, gastrointestinal disorders, asthma or chronic, or acute pain, circulatory problems, or even stress. If that happens, the massage therapist often becomes part of a therapeutic team that could include a physical therapist, chiropractor, or even a psychotherapist, working with the client to achieve a specific goal.

What can I expect from my first massage session?

During your first massage session you can expect to make a plan with the massage therapist to work according to your medical history, ailments, and desired goals. Future sessions are continued until the desired goal/s are achieved. Monitoring progress and adjusting the course of modalities is ongoing throughout the relationship, as well, or until the client is satisfied, or wishes to end treatments.

Are there different kinds of massage?

Yes, there are different kinds of massage. Karen uses the following therapeutic modalities: medical massage, trigger point massage with assisted stretching, shiatsu, and reflexology. She also includes another type of manual therapy that is not classified as massage. It is called craniosacral therapy. Please see the page on craniosacral therapy.

How does massage therapy relieve pain and stress?

Massage relieves pain and stress by helping to increase the local circulation within muscles, which is a key to maintaining healthy tissues. Good circulation supplies cells with nutrition, antibodies, hormones and enzymes, along with oxygen for energy production. It also aids the process of elimination of wastes that irritate the tissue. Healthy tissues are pliable, free from pain, spasms, adhesion, swelling, and have adequate self-healing capabilities intact. Massage also triggers the release of endorphins and reduces the level of stress hormones. It can also slow the heart and breathing rate, aiding organ recuperation and better immune function. Regular massage therapy can establish a balance within the nervous system, helping to alleviate nervous conditions like insomnia, irritability and anxiety.

What can cause muscle pain?

Some scenarios can disturb the health and balance of tissue metabolism causing pain, stiffness and decreased mobility in the muscles. Some examples are stress, over activity, under-activity, diabetes, incorrect body mechanics, or injury. Massage therapy can help muscles recover. Massage imitates the wringing effect of normal muscle action. When the muscle is bogged down or in spasm, massage can hasten the elimination of irritating by-products, break-down adhesions, and speed up the inflow of nutritive substances. This restores integrity and balance to the muscles. It also soothes nerve endings, and enhances flexibility. There are certain massage strokes and ways to apply them that can aid in relieving specific types of ailments that can cause pain and muscle discomfort; such as for scoliosis. See medical massage and trigger point massage for more insight.

What can I expect from routine visits?

Receiving regular massage can be a way of life. It decreases stress, strain and pain and increases relaxation and body awareness, creativity, and productivity. It is also a preventative therapy, so experiencing pain or being overly stressed aren’t the only qualifiers for receiving benefit. Each mindful massage builds onto the last one on its way to increasing a better quality of function. A rhythm of either 1-2 times per week, or twice a month or monthly may be most beneficial. But it’s really up to the client to set his or her own destination, including any self-care activities between massage sessions that support or enhance their goals. Examples of individuals who are especially suited to highly benefit from regular massage therapy are those suffering from anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, depression, and those making life-changes, or individuals doing repetitive activities, like musicians, laborers, healthcare workers, athletes, etc….even people strapped, so to speak, to their desks all day.

What if my problems stem from poor body mechanics?

If your problem stems from poor body mechanics a massage plan can be created, as well. Massage helps facilitate ease of the muscle, while also learning new ways of moving as part of the plan can be healing and preventative. Karen can help you achieve this through neuromuscular movement therapy and/or yoga asana. Proper movement patterns support your joints in the function they were designed for, relieving a lot of pain, which can be a game changer for quality of life!

What can I do before and after a massage to gain the most from a session?

There are a few things to keep in mind before and after a massage to gain the most from the session. First, shutting off cell phones or doing things that quiet the mind and calm the body are a large part of the healing process before and after the massage. After the massage session, it is also very useful to hold that more easeful state for as long as possible. This can be done by keeping phones off for a bit longer, or by mindfully pacing back into daily life. Sometimes simply enjoying the renewed stride set by having a massage for the rest of the day is a great way to integrate more relaxation into your awareness. It is also recommended that we abstain from large meals, coffee, alcohol and tobacco, before and after a massage, if at all possible. Hydrate optimally (6-8 glasses/day) to help flush the body is also important.

When can’t I have a massage?

Times you cannot have a massage are when suffering from infectious diseases, or if you are running a fever or have certain circulatory conditions. Consult with your doctor if you have any circulatory conditions like heart disease of any kind. In addition, areas affected with phlebitis, rashes, warts, inflammation, infected injuries or unhealed wounds, cannot be massaged. Although the areas not affected can be addressed with massage. As far as those suffering from cancer, there are really wonderful benefits to having massage therapy, as long as the doctor is consulted during each phase of treatment, regardless of prognosis. This is also the general rule for anyone with chronic illness under a physician’s care. Sometimes massage on cancer patients doesn’t always feel good, however.

How does each modality differ?

Each modality differs by offering a distinct technique to achieve a specific outcome.

Tell me a little bit about the different approaches…

What is a deep tissue massage?

Deep tissue massage uses most of the techniques in Swedish massage, but it addresses constrictions and dysfunctions that lay deeper in the muscles. The practitioner uses elbows, fists, knuckles and finger pressure to seek out trigger points, break down adhesion, and help relieve the roots of the pain. This is similar to neuromuscular massage.

Is deep tissue massage painful?

Deep tissue massage might feel concentrated at times but overall, it should feel good. A treatment starts with gentle Swedish strokes to warm up and soften the muscles, preparing them for more, penetrating work. The technique is slower than Swedish massage and should encompass awareness of the client’s sensitivity to increased pressure. In some cases, ice may be recommended after a treatment to help facilitate healing and prevent swelling.

What is a medical massage?

Medical massage is designed to restore damaged tissue. It addresses a range of specific medical problems including sciatica, scoliosis, carpal tunnel, TMJ, tendonitis, tennis elbow, migraine headaches, bone healing, stiff neck, hypertension, scar tissue etc.…. The protocol usually involves a variety of techniques, and may include ice and /or heat treatments, vibration, exercises and stretching. Medical massage often requires more frequent sessions, but the sessions are shorter, lasting between 15-45 minutes.

Can massage help me even if I have a broken arm in a cast?

Yes, massage can help even if you have a broken arm in a cast. A program can be developed that works around the cast and provides relief.

If an injured area (like a muscle strain) is still healing, how does the practitioner avoid re-injuring the client?

A massage practitioner avoids re-injuring a client who has had a muscle or soft tissue injury first by the reliance of the medical doctor’s supervision or advice, which is always part of the decisions on how to address the injured part with massage therapy. Then, generally, the massage therapist knows how to apply massage cautiously, especially during the acute stage of inflammation, lightly massaging above and below the affliction. As the injury begins to heal, a gradual progression towards working directly on the injury may be applied.

What is a pregnancy massage?

Pregnancy massage is a therapeutic massage that focuses on both the expectant mother and baby. It can relieve insomnia, backaches, swollen ankles, aching muscles and feet, fatigue, breast soreness or headaches. A session may also include suggestions on stretching to relieve muscle cramping, heartburn and constipation. Pregnancy massage can also increase awareness of body mechanics to prevent body strain.

How might my pregnancy massage affect my baby?

Massage can affect your baby. The growing baby can feel and hear its inner world and the world outside mom. It can be felt through mom’s body chemistry, which affects the nervous system and hormones. Massage can help to reduce stress hormones bringing both mother and baby into balance. The mechanism that is present during gestation is marvelous and intricate. So much is changing relatively fast. To learn more about massage, acupuncture, reflexology and herbology during pregnancy, Karen recommends, “Mother Massage,” by Elaine Stillerman, L.M.T.

When should I start getting a massage while pregnant?

Massage therapy is beneficial before pregnancy, during, and after delivery. However, generally speaking, in the first trimester, it is important to get a doctor’s permission. Regular massage may increase chances of getting pregnant by reducing stress, however. Any fears about delivering can also be calmed with regular massage. Massage after delivery can also facilitate lactation and ease out any left-over soreness. It may also help remedy new mom anxiety.

What is Reflexology?

Reflexology is a treatment usually done on the feet. It relieves tired, sore feet and induces overall relaxation. The theory behind reflexology is that the foot represents the whole body, and each spot on the foot relates to something on the body. By applying pressure to the feet, the reflexologist can interrupt patterns of stress in the body.

How did the reflexology theory come about?

Reflexology is believed to be born from the ancients and developed over centuries. Reflexology as we know it today is based on zone therapy, that is, parts of the body correspond to other parts within their own zones. An alternative to working on the feet would be either the hands or ears. Eunice Ingham, a physiotherapist for Dr. Joseph Shelby Riley, a student and advocate of the theory, mapped the whole body onto the feet, also onto the hands and ears. In addition, she discovered the reflex technique used today.

How is reflexology applied?

Reflexology is applied by a combination of general massage and “finger-walking” techniques to the feet, hands, or ears.

Why is reflexology done primarily on the feet?

Reflexology is done primarily on the feet because they are more accessible being a larger surface area than the ears and hands. They are also very sensitive to touch, because comparably they have an abundance of nerves, which also contributes to making the treatment more effective as well. To note, there are 7200 nerves in each foot. Further, the feet are intimately connected to the nervous system. Feet are in a constant state of readiness for receiving information from the body, gravity, and movement. Working closely with the fight or flight, rest and digest mechanism of the nervous system, they literally take us out of danger! When the legs and feet are massaged, and sore points are pressed, they release tension built up in the muscles, and nerves, which in turn reflect this relaxation response to the whole body from head to toe!  

What is shiatsu?

Shiatsu is an Asian massage method to balance the energy flowing through the body.

How is shiatsu done?

Shiatsu is done by applying pressure to meridians (the vessels of energy that flow through the body) and acupuncture points (the relay stations on the course of energy flow). There are 14 meridians and numerous acupuncture points to work on. Traditionally, Shiatsu is performed on the client who is dressed in loose clothing lying on a Shiatsu mat on the floor. It can also be accomplished on a massage table, especially when combining it with other massage techniques.

How does the practitioner come up with a treatment plan for a shiatsu session?

A treatment plan for a shiatsu session is based on the five-element theory like Chinese medicine, Feng Shui or Tai Chi.

What’s the main benefit of a shiatsu treatment?

The main benefit of Shiatsu is for one, it is deeply relaxing. It also helps rejuvenate muscles, nervous, and visceral (organ) systems. Finally, it facilitates balance within these organizations, while enhancing the body-mind connection.

What is a Swedish massage?

Swedish massage is a kind of massage that uses a complement of manual manipulations, including long strokes, gentle stretching, kneading, hacking, vibration and superficial friction to soften muscles. It’s great for increasing circulation, and range of motion, easing sore joints and releasing muscle tension and stress.

What is therapeutic massage?

Therapeutic massage draws from one kind of massage technique, or from an array of approaches, which can be used in an integrative way to address the client’s specific ailments, discomfort, or dis-ease on any level physically, mentally, or emotionally. For example, massage can ease stress from anxiety or from overstrain of muscles or both. Even in grief recovery one can benefit from a structure that aims to help in a beneficial or ameliorative way. Karen draws primarily from the following kinds of massage and bodywork: craniosacral therapy, medical massage, reflexology, shiatsu, trigger point massage, neuromuscular movement therapy, neuromuscular massage (similar to deep tissue massage), and yoga asana, in a therapeutic plan that fits the client to support their natural healing mechanism, addressing general and specific complaints or ailments as needed.

When Karen uses yoga in a massage session, for example, clients can receive massage or craniosacral therapy, while they are in a restorative yoga posture. She can also use guided meditation, or mindfulness practices while clients are on the massage table. Further, clients can opt to create a massage plan that includes yoga to help support their healing process for targeted areas, as well. Stretching and exercise is part of massage therapy, and especially part of medical massage type work.

What is Trigger Point Massage?

According to Bonnie Prudden, the creator of Pain Erasure, and this protocol trigger point massage that she refers to as “myotherapy,” anything that “insults” the tissue can cause trigger points in the body. Trigger point massage helps to alleviate those painful spots from the soft tissue of the body, which affects movement of the joints, and causes pain in related muscle tissue. In other words, this modality generally alleviates areas of pain, dysfunction, or constriction that is essentially connected to, and distal from the trigger point. One trigger point release can benefit a whole area or muscle group of pain.

How is trigger point massage applied?

Trigger point therapy applies about seven seconds of pressure to a tender point on the body. This is followed by lengthening the tissue through stretching, and exercising the muscle group that is affected.

What is the benefit of Trigger Point Massage and how do they happen?

Trigger point massage helps to alleviate pain and dysfunction stemming from these tender points, which are areas where muscles have been damaged. This disturbance in the tissue can come about through falls, disease, non-optimal posture, repetitive injuries, even from being born, and other life stressors. The kinds of ailments that can be relieved are backaches, headaches, menstrual cramps, bursitis, trick knees, tennis elbow, and even arthritis.

How many sessions will I need to relieve my pain?

Every case is different in determining how many sessions are needed to relieve pain. However, it commonly takes between 1-5 sessions, spread out over 1-5 weeks. In some cases, 2-3 short sessions a week for a few weeks will suffice. And sometimes the problem resolves after 1-2 treatments. Massage therapy may also be implemented to help manage certain chronic pain or dysfunction, which is a longer-term treatment plan and may be part of a more permanent way of life over a period of months to years.

Is there anything else I need to know about the procedures of receiving a massage?

More to know about receiving a massage is that it is most beneficial if clients are focused on each area as it is being worked on by simply being aware of what they are feeling. Clients have an important role in their healing process. Bringing consciousness to the areas being addressed creates a more profound experience. Music may be provided if the client wishes. It is best to keep talking to a minimum–except for feedback on the massage, or for conversation that can facilitate a therapeutic relationship.