Category Archives: Massage

How Do I Prepare for My First Massage?

Massage is scary. There, I said it. I should know: When I went into massage school, I was terrified of the touching, the vulnerability, the possible nudity, the drum circles, the… man, how did I make it? Anyway, I stuck with it for one reason: Massage is awesome.

Let me tell you about my first massage. I was 19, and I was sick and tired of my back betraying me for seemingly no reason (I now know the reasons, and they were legion). I had been to physical therapy (helped some), and now I was giving chiropractic a shot. It was… okay. Lots of back cracking, but I mostly liked the machine that loosened my back up beforehand. That’s what they call foreshadowing, people.

One day, the chiro asked me if I’d like to add on a massage. I said yes, and I was directed to a little room where a nice man greeted me. He asked me a few questions, and then… it hit me. I was about to let a stranger touch me, nay, massage me, while I lay there in my jean shorts. Wait, was I allowed to keep my shorts on? How was I supposed to lay? Was I supposed to let him know when I was ready, or would he knock? I suppose he could have explained things a little better, but it’s easy to assume that people know the drill when you work at a high-volume place like a chiropractor’s. I’m pretty sure I did something wrong (ignored the face cradle, maybe, or perhaps I was curled up under the table), but he quickly got me situated and then… ... continue reading.

Got Chronic Pain? It’s Time to Think Differently

I’m not here to say that your pain is all in your head… but it is literally, 100%, with no embellishment, all in your head. There’s no way around it. Everything is “just in your head.” That incredible three dimensional landscape in front of you? Constructed entirely in your head based upon the input of two tiny sheets of light-sensitive retina. All of those distinct objects that are so clear to you, like your computer monitor, or that oncoming car, or your dear mother’s face? All fabricated in post-processing by your team of faithful visual nuclei, all working together to make sense of the mishmash of light that smashes into our eyes (our ability to distinguish objects is an incredibly complex trick of the brain).

I’ve Got Some Upsetting News For You…

The rich green of the grass outside of your window, my friend, isn’t even fucking there. There is no “green.” We create color after we’ve processed the scene in front of us, giving different visual flavors to the wavelengths of light striking our eyes. Unable to distinguish between different wavelengths? Your brain fills in colors anyway, because your brain is incredible. I’m color deficient (“color blind”), but I never really notice it unless I pick the wrong crayon when coloring and people proceed to make fun of me. Hell, for all I know, my blue might be your chartreuse. ... continue reading.

Got Chronic Pain? It’s Time to Move Differently

If you’re in chronic pain, it’s easy to get frustrated with your own body. There are a lot of unanswered “whys,” like “why is this flaring up now? Why is this painful if there’s no new damage? Why is this ruining my life?” As weird as it may sound, the answer to most of these questions is that your body means well.

Imagine being a low back. Your purpose in life is to basically exist so that other, more important body parts can do their thing. You accept heavy loads for hours a day, you flex and extend for 30 minutes straight when your boss decides it wants to do “the thousand crunch challenge” (please tell me this doesn’t actually exist), and you generally just do your best.

The low back doesn’t have eyes or ears, and it doesn’t know much about the purpose behind your activities. It does, however, have a huge amount of nervous tissue (nerve endings and spinal cord sections devoted just to it). What does it do with all of that processing power? It listens. ... continue reading.

My Massage Therapist Hurt Me

It’s 4:00 in the morning. After tossing and turning all night, I’ve decided to just get up. My hips ache. My shoulder isn’t working right. My low back feels like someone took a brick to it. Hell, I even feel a little sick.

As some of you may know, I’m a massage therapist of 8 years. I’ve written rants about how massage shouldn’t hurt, and about how massage therapists who try to “fix” you are dumb. Yet there I lay, teeth gritted, as I got slowly tenderized. To be honest, I feel kind of embarrassed about letting it happen. I should have spoken up more. Hell, I should have stopped the massage. Sad thing is, this isn’t the first time I’ve been through this.

“I Guess It’s Supposed to Feel This Way”

Being a patient is a scary thing. You’re in a room with an expert, they’ve got years of practiced dialogue about how you should be treated and why, and all you’ve got is a vague sense of what’s wrong. When they say, with supreme confidence, that “you need this,” who are you to argue? ... continue reading.

Lies Massage Therapists Tell: “It has to hurt for it to work!”

This one is rarely said quite so bluntly. It’s usually delivered implicitly: “Breathe through the pain.” “This is going to hurt, but we need to work this knot out” (Don’t get me started on “knots”). “If it hurts, it needs work!”

Fine. You know what? I’ll give you that last one, straw-man massage therapist. If a muscle, joint, or tendon is tender to the touch, it could likely use some work. You know what it probably doesn’t need? Your thumbs sunk deep into its inflamed fibers, stimulating pain receptors and causing local release of pro-inflammatory chemicals. You know what the person doesn’t need? More pain in their lives.

[Source: Pierre Willemin, CC BY-ND 2.0, via flickr]

“No pain, no gain!”

“No pain, no gain.” Ugh. How tired I am of that toxic little idiom. While it has certainly been used by the timid to overcome fear, and by the sick to conquer disease, it’s usually used as justification for us to abuse ourselves and others. Think of how you’ve used it on yourself: Was it while you were training, pushing through signals that your body desperately wanted a break? Was it during a work week, where you were ignoring sleep/nutrition/family so that you could manage your workload? During school, when you were so stressed that faking a seizure started to look awfully attractive? ... continue reading.