August 31, 2011

Full-Body Massage or Focus?

A good massage is a full-body massage, so I often heard in school, but what do you do when clients come in and ask for an hour on their neck and back only? How do you guide the client to the full-body effect?

Well, I let them drive. A full massage is better for the body, I say, but you are in charge. I can still focus on the neck and back, and you can still get the full-body effect of relaxation.

But really, do massage therapists really do full body massages? I admit I skip tummies unless the client has a complaint or request for tummy. It’s a holdover from my spa days, when the director declared tummies off limits because someone massaged a tummy without asking first and caused a calamity at the check-out desk.

And how many of us therapists skip glutes? Or faces? Anterior throat work? When is a full-body not a full-body? If a male client asks for a full-body could it be a code for something else?

I feel less than perfect in this area. I used to always ask if people wanted tummy massage, but I got “No!” so often I stopped asking. For a while I told clients that no one likes the way their tummy looks, but it does help the digestion, the lower back and it feels good. And they can just let me know if they want their tummy done.

Once a client told me that she had decided I was good because I did tummy, because bad massage people don’t do tummy. I have to admit that I never heard that from a client again.

Then there are the folks who you know would direly benefit from tummy massage, but it is their first massage, or they are shy, or they have scars, and they may not believe me when I say it will help their back pain.

To tummy or not to tummy? What do you think?

August 22, 2011

Fun at The Relax Shop

I must report that Lynna Dunn's flooded-office story gave me flashbacks.

Consider this a bouquet or fruit basket, of sorts.

One Monday morning I arrived at my hotel day spa's massage room and saw the door to the gym next door wide open and giant hair dryers going full blast.

"We had a pipe break last night," one of the maintenance men told me.

"What about my room," I asked. They looked at each other and then back at me.

"We haven't looked."

I opened the door slowly, just as my Monday morning regular client appeared for his appointment.

The room looked OK. I stepped onto the carpet and heard a wet sqwooch. The room had two inches of water.

"I can reschedule your appointment," I said.

"I have a migraine. I don't care if the floor is wet," Mr. Monday said. "I need a massage."

While I waited in the hall for the client to get on the table, the two maintenance guys stared at me.

I fought the urge to say something and then gave up. "Ever have a migraine? Trust me, they suck!" I said. "Can you guys come back in an hour?"

Just another Monday in the spa biz...Sqwooch!

August 20, 2011

I Want My Fruit Basket

Sorry to be a little late with my blog this week. The ceiling outside my office collapsed. Among other things. No, seriously, the ceiling outside my office collapsed. My grandmother didn't die, the dogs didn't lap up all my special massage olive butter. I was late because the ceiling collapsed. Well, actually, it collapsed after it sort of melted and fell apart because it was made of those thick cardboard panels. Which happened because the panels were saturated with water. Which happened because the upstairs-across-the-hall doctor installed a water purifier under his sink that decided to... flood the entire floor, the floor below, and also the basement below that.

Now, the business about the water purifier is murky. According to one side, it might have been improperly installed. According to another, it might have malfunctioned and split in two. For all I know, it was an AI and decided it hated the doctor and wanted to kill all humans with rapidly growing mold and mildew. What I know for sure is that it happened just before (1) a full week of massage, (2) a three-day, ten-hour-a-day chair massage event, and (3) just before another full week of massage. Oh, and wedge in spending my one day off with my associate and our husbands after the chair event lugging our entire office to an empty suite so we didn't have to stop business. Also wedge in stripping, hammering, insurance adjustors, and huge drying fans that made our suite feel like one of the sauna rooms at Olympus Spa. Nothing like sweating to the music of hammers to really get you in the mood for a good massage.

But it was when I tripped over a drying fan (in the basement, in the dark, where they turned the power out after we had to move our storage to a different compartment), that I just lay there on the concrete for a minute resting, and said, "Dammit, I want a fruit basket." "Why a fruit basket?" asked my associate. "You know, an apology. Given with fruit. To sweeten it up." Sarah is younger than me by 16 years, and did not grow up in the Land of Thank-You Notes, as I did. But back in my day (boy, do I sound old), when somebody ruins your freaking day in such a gigantic way, you get a fruit basket. With flowers, maybe. Or some cheeses, nuts, and hard candies. Possibly even a bottle of revoltingly cheap champagne. "They might want to apologize, but they can't," she said. "Y'know, liability issues. Can't admit fault." "A box of chocolates?" I suggested. "A plate of homemade brownies? A nice note with a Starbuck's GC? No? Geez."

See, I'm not sure where saying "I'm sorry" and "admitting fault" are precisely the same thing. I ran into this whole never-say-you're-sorry thing when I first started massaging. "You should never say 'I'm sorry' in a massage," an older therapist told me. "The client might think you're saying her pain is your fault." What? That makes my eyes cross. If a client comes in and is in pain, and I say "I'm sorry you're in pain," that is not admitting fault. How could the pain possibly be my fault as it preceded me? That is simply me being--I don't know--caring? Sympathetic? Empathetic? I am who I am and what I am, and what I am is sorry that the client--or anyone else in the Vale of Tears we call life--is suffering. Geez.

I was good and I was kind and I never missed a beat after the ceiling fell in. I faked it 'til I made it, but sustained faking it takes energy, which I am low on at present. What would help, would be a nice apple. In a fruit basket. Which could even appear anonymously, wiped of all fingerprints. No one would ever "admit fault," and yet I'd know exactly where it came from, and get that comforting feeling that come from knowing an involved human regrets the unavoidable extra efforts this entire ludicrous incident has involved.

August 16, 2011

Rebar and the Concrete Floor

This massage client had survived a long list of honey-dos last weekend and he came in Monday night with a particularly nasty knot in his scapula area.

I thought I would be dealing with a knot in the rhomboid or serratus but this seemed to be less of a problem than the very defined set of longissimus “rods” either side of his thoracic and lumbar spine. Tough, adhesed, stuck in their fascial sheaths these muscles were screaming for massage.

“What did you do this weekend?” I asked, impressed with these muscles.

“You name it,” he said. “Landscaping. I moved the couch five times. Lots of lifting.”

Hmmmn, I thought. These erectors felt like they had done more than that. They felt like they had been hard-marched across the longest concrete floor in the world. Tough, stuck and over-used in their fascia, these muscles felt like rebar.

“What are you doing all day at work? Are you walking around on concrete a lot?”

“You could say that. I’m a commercial broker. Selling leases on empty offices and warehouse space. And it has been brutal.”

“I can feel it,” I said. “Let me guess, You are gussied up in a suit and dress shoes and walking on concrete all day.”

At this point I felt more like Psychic Sue than Fascia Girl. Have other therapists ever had the experience where it seems like the muscles themselves have told you what they have been doing? I know it sounds weird, but it was like these guys were telling me they had enough of tough, long days and bare concrete.

With a lot of myofascial release and stretching, I sent this client home with directions to get some supportive inserts or better dress shoes. Perhaps I should buy a lottery ticket this week.

August 8, 2011

Point Well Taken and Massaged

Holistic is the massage therapist’s mantra. Treat the person as a whole, all connected parts and a complete person. The entire massage helps.

This is the kind of thinking that goes into most of my massages. But then I get the occasional clients who want just one body part massaged.

“Just do my feet.” “Just do my scalp.” “Massage my hands only.” “I just want massage on my back. It makes my whole body relax.”

Well, I’m the expert on massage but clients are the expert on their bodies. I dutifully will do hands, feet, back, whatever for an hour or so. But I pitch before I putt.

“I love to have just my hands rubbed,” I’ll say. “But you know, the massage tends to last longer and work better when it is a full-body massage. Let me know if you ever want to try it.”

That last bit is key, I find. Often clients asking for a focused massage have issues with another person touching them. They will get a massage because they know it makes them relax, but they are not comfortable with the loss of control that lying on the table brings. Give them that control, and they may just come along after a while.

August 2, 2011

The Purpose-Driven Massage

In the action of performing massages daily, I've often had to step back before starting a session, take a Zen breath and get grounded. Why? Because I operate on the belief, as I suspect many therapists do, that my intent affects how well the massage will proceed.

My thoughts need to be in a calm, subdued and peaceful state when doing the massage. Not thinking about bills, problems or arguments, but thinking of the client’s areas of tension and envisioning those areas as clear and calm as the summer sea.
Managing my moods and thoughts translates directly into my intent, and my intent should reflect my desire that the person on the table feel better. As an operating belief, I think it works for me. But it does raise the question: If my intent is clouded with other unrelated or stressful thoughts, does that negatively affect the outcome of the massage?

I suppose I can speculate all day, but the truth is in the result. I think people know when they have had a good massage, so they probably know when they have had a bad one. But if the massage is technically good, can simple thoughts interfere with those results?

I can relate, but only through experience. I’ve had massages that seemed perfectly normal, but they didn’t turn out well. One was too fast and the therapist seemed to be on automatic. It left me feeling nervous. Another time I felt the therapist would much rather be doing something else other than massage. I can’t say I didn't feel well after the massages, but I did not get that feel-good-for-a-few-days bump I associate with a good massage.

Is there a bottom line to intent? I think so. But don’t ask me to quantify that. I wonder how massage therapists rate their intent versus technique. Is intent the most important thing? Is intent the only thing? Or just an operating belief that keeps the therapist in the Zen zone?