Massage Therapy FAQs

Do I need a prescription to receive a massage?

No, but sometimes a doctor will prescribe a certain type of massage to address specific ailments, like sports injuries, gastrointestinal disorders, asthma or chronic or acute pain, circulatory problems and 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?

First, work is done together to assemble a massage plan based on medical history, ailments, and desired goals. Implementation of the plan is started during the first session. Future sessions are continued until the desired goal/s are achieved. Monitoring progress and adjusting the course of modalities is ongoing throughout the relationship, until the client is satisfied, or wishes to end treatments.

Are there different kinds of massage?

Yes. Karen uses the following therapeutic modalities: trigger point, shiatsu, reflexology, and assisted stretching, including 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 helps 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. They 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.

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 life. 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. For those suffering from anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, depression, or those making life-changes, or individuals doing repetitive activities, like musicians and athletes, for example, are especially suited to highly benefit from long-term and regular visits.

What if my problems stem from poor body mechanics?

Along with a massage plan, body mechanics can be addressed, as well. This may be achieved through Neuromuscular movement and/or yoga asana to help correct posture or inform clients of ways to assess and change body mechanics.

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

Shutting off cell phones or doing things that quiet the mind and calm the body are a large part of the healing process. After the massage session, it is also very useful to hold the more easeful state for as long as possible. This can be done by keeping phones off for a bit longer or by pacing back into daily life. Sometimes simply enjoy the renewed pace set by having a massage. It is also recommended that we abstain from large meals, coffee, alcohol and tobacco, before and after a massage. Also, avoid alcohol, coffee and tobacco on the day of the massage if at all possible. Hydrate optimally (6-8 glasses/day) to help flush the body.

When can’t I have a massage?

When suffering from infectious diseases, or are running a fever or have certain circulatory conditions, it is not a time to have a massage. 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.

How does each modality differ?

Each offers a distinct technique to achieve a specific outcome.

Tell me a little bit about the different approaches…

What is a medical massage?

Medical massage is designed to restore damaged tissue. It addresses a range of specific medical problems including sciatica, carpal tunnel, TMJ, tendonitis, tennis elbow, migraine headaches, bone healing, stiff neck, hypertension, scar tissue etc…. The protocol usually involves a variety of techniques, as well as 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. 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?

Massage is administered 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 is applied. Reliance on the medical doctor’s supervision is part of the decisions on how to address the injured part with massage therapy.

What is a Swedish massage?

Swedish massage 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 shiatsu?

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

How is shiatsu done?

Pressure is applied 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 done with the client dressed in loose clothing, on a mat on the floor, but it can also be done on a table, especially when combining it with other massage techniques.

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

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?

Shiatsu is deeply relaxing. It helps rejuvenate muscles, nervous and visceral systems. It also facilitates balance within these systems. And can enhance the body-mind connection.

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.

Is deep tissue massage painful?

It 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 client sensitivity to increased pressure. In some cases, ice may be recommended after a treatment to help facilitate healing and prevent swelling.
What is a trigger point massage? 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 or exercising the muscle group affected. This procedure 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. According to Bonnie Prudden, anything that insults the tissue can cause trigger points in the body.

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?

It applies a combination of general massage and “finger-walking” techniques to the feet, or hands, or ears.

Why is reflexology done primarily on the feet?

Not only are they more accessible being a larger surface area than the ears, for example, they are very sensitive to touch, which makes the treatment more effective, (there are 7200 nerves in each foot) The feet and legs are wired such with our nervous system to be in a constant state of readiness receiving information from the body, gravity and movement. Feet and legs work closely with the fight or flight, rest and digest mechanism of our nervous system, and 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.

What is a pregnancy massage?

It 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 will include suggestions on stretching to relieve muscle cramping, heartburn and constipation. Pregnancy massage can also increase awareness of body mechanics to prevent body strain. Being an experienced mother herself, Karen can also offer a wealth of information and support to the expectant mother.

How might my pregnancy massage affect my 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, I recommend,” 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. Massage after delivery will ease lactation and iron out any left-over soreness. It may also help remedy new mom anxiety.

What is therapeutic massage?

Therapeutic massage uses an array of techniques- like, trigger point, reflexology and CranioSacral- in a full-body massage that fits the client to support their natural healing mechanism, addressing general and specific complaints or ailments as needed.

How many sessions will I need to relieve my pain?

Every case is different, but 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?

It helps if clients are focused on each area as it is being worked on. 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.