There are soooo many tools that you can use in between sessions to help yourself feel better. Just walk into any sports shop and you will find rollers and balls, canes and gadgets galore. If you jump on youtube or google there are thousands of videos and tutorials on how to use common househo;d items as massage tools.
These can be great solutions to have around, they can ease your pain when you can’t get in for a massage or help reduce some muscle tension. I don't know about you but with my schedule it's not always easy to get in for a massage. Life events pop up, kids, work, cleaning, cooking, family commitments, even the fun stuff like hanging with your friends can make it difficult to squeeze a massage into your schedule at times.
Massage is a great way to exercise some self care, but of course it can’t be the only thing. It makes sense to have other activities and some tools to keep you feeling good regularly. For example rolling your sore and tired feet on a golf ball for a few minutes feels wonderful – and it helps get you up off the couch and moving again.
Before you ditch your massage therapist completely for these kinds of tools there are some things to consider.
Your tool does only one thing
Most (like massage balls) just compress your muscles. That’s not all your muscles need to feel better though. During a massage your muscles are pulled, squeezed, kneaded, and stretched as well as being compressed. One tool isn’t the solution to everything. Hammers are good – for hammering but are less good at painting, drilling a hole, or tightening a nut.
Tools are not are educated in how your body works
Your tool won’t know when to stop and your muscles may get overworked. Working in some areas of your body can be dangerous and may cause serious problems. Some tools may require you to get on the floor or turn your body into a pretzel to get the relief you need which can be challenging to those of us that aren't yogis. Obviously the goal here is to feel better, not worse!
As a massage therapist I also learned about how much pressure to use and how best to work on a muscle. I can evaluate the progress and change the pressure or try a different technique. I may move you into different positions to change the angle to reach a muscle more effectively.
Pain works in mysterious ways
You may feel the pain in one area but the real source might be somewhere else (did you know your shoulder muscles can give you a headaches?). If you only address the symptom the pain will return.
Together we can often track down the source and help address the real problem.
There’s more to a massage than just working on your soft tissues. You get personal attention, listened to, and cared for. Your body and mind can both relax as you let go of your responsibilities for a while. Tools for use at home can provide some nice benefits in between massages. Most of us enjoy saving money but when we need something important done correctly we pay a professional. Your body is the only place you have to live so take care of it right.
I was chatting with a client recently about how they were before their session. I had reviewed my notes from their previous sessions and had a pretty good idea of what they need to address their ongoing pain, but I always check if there are changes or something different is needed this time.
This lovely client gave me an update on how they were feeling and how effective their massage has been for them (which I’m happy to say is very effective). Then they paused and asked “Well, enough about me; how are you?”.
My response was “This is your session, it’s all about you”.
Your massage session is your time. A time for you. A time to relax and to take care of your body, to put yourself in my hands. Life can be demanding.
This client was simply being courteous and polite. They are a regular and I’ve seen them a few times and gotten to know them a little. I don’t mind sharing some of what’s going on in my life – there’s usually something funny or slightly odd going on - especially if it may be relevant to your situation. Although I’m more quiet than outgoing, I like to talk to people.
But my point is that as a client, your appointment is all about you. It’s why both of us are here. You came in with a problem, whether it’s stress or pain, and we both want it to be better.
This is your time to let somebody else take care of you. Your assignment during this time will be:
- Lay on the table
- Let me know how things are feeling
- Turn over at some point
That’s about it. I know you can handle that. Even more importantly, I believe you will benefit from that. I appreciate your interest in me, even if it’s just to laugh at my misadventures, but it really is all about you.
Have you ever considered that massage might be able to save you some money?
Lots of clients put off getting a massage until they are in pain or can't move properly. Yes, a family member or friend can give you a neck or back rub to try to help you feel better but I’ll hazard a guess that is not terribly effective, and even though it’s free, there is some kind of price involved.
If your roof is leaking and needs to be repaired you probably wouldn't ask your mum to jump on the roof and have a go at sorting it out. Like most people, when you need some important work or repair done you are willing to pay a qualified professional to do it. A lot of people could work on your plumbing or give you financial or legal advice, but what do you do when there is a significant issue?
So... how can massage save you money?
By taking care of yourself, you may be able to avoid a visit to the doctor, or specialist or the chiro, the physio, osteo, follow up appointments, medication or tests. Not to mention the time spent setting up appointments and waiting.
Don't get me wrong, I’m not against doctors, and massage certainly can’t fix everything, so see your doctor when needed. I’m discussing situations that can be prevented by taking care of yourself. People also spend money on pain relievers, sleep aids, and various supplies, equipment and devices to help them manage their pain or stress. These things often address the symptoms, and not the problem itself.
All of this has been about financial implications. This leads to some other, better questions:
How much is it worth to feel really good?
How much is it worth to get a great night’s sleep?
To sum it up, massage can help you relieve pain and feel wonderful, could save you money and time, and won’t involve taking any pills or getting shots.
If you haven’t tried it, or it’s been a while, get started now.
Some things in life are necessities like food, clothing, and shelter which you need in order to survive. Once those are secure, we have wants that can make our life easier, better, or more enjoyable.
Then there are luxuries. Many people think of things that are expensive, hard to obtain, indulging, something not essential but enjoyable. We think of luxury cruises, vehicles, hotels, homes, yachts, and jewelry. When money is short, luxuries are the first thing that are reduced from spending. We associate it with other words like extravagant, decadent and opulent.
The definition of luxury depends on your point of view. Many people will say they need a car, but can they survive without one? Some people don’t own a car and manage just fine. They bike, use public transportation, or *gasp* walk. They can get where they want to go and do what they want to do. Or, how about mobile phones? Some people need to be reachable at all times, but most of us don't.
The point is that some things that are not needs can be considered a luxury.
Massage is not a luxury for those living with pain. Pain that doesn’t let them sleep through the night and find rest. Pain that hinders daily activities. It’s not a luxury for those in a very stressful situation, who need some peace and to be able to think a little clearer again. It’s not a luxury for those trying to get and stay healthy. Health should not be a luxury. Massage is not more of a luxury than cars, cell phones, and the numerous entertainment devices and gadgets society tells we need.
If massage is a luxury, it is an affordable one. Just about everybody could afford to get a 60 minute massage a month, or at least get a 10 or 15 minute chair massage. It is one that is good for you and benefits you. It’s one you can enjoy and not worry about. You don’t have to be concerned with the security of it, like locking jewelry in a safe or home security, which causes more stress.
Most massage is not pampering. It doesn’t have to be done at Le Spa de Fancy Pants. All it takes is a quiet space, a table, clean sheets, and some temperature control for your comfort. Massage is taking care of you. It makes your muscles feel and perform better by working on them and makes your mind and body better by reducing stress.
If massage is a luxury, then so are pain relievers and stress relief. Come in and get the massage you need.
One of the great benefits of massage is that it makes you more aware of how you feel.
Massage makes your body feel better. Your muscles less tight which allows you to feel looser and more limber. You feel that you can move easier. Some or all of the pain you came in with is gone or at least greatly reduced. You remember that once upon a time you used to feel this way – and you like it. Your muscles haven’t always been so tight and painful. They usually get that way gradually over time by the way you do everyday activities.
After your massage you feel good so you begin to notice when an area starts to hurt. Since you know that it didn’t hurt before and now it does, you can review what you have been doing since your massage.
Often people can make a small adjustment that has a big impact on how they feel. It could be how much you carry around every day, your workplace set up, getting a new pillow, paying more attention to your posture, increasing your activity or many other things. A minor change to a daily repetitive task can have a big payoff in less pain.
Your mind also feels better after a massage. Your stress has been scaled down a few notches. Problems that seemed so big before now look much smaller and more manageable. With better clarity you wonder why you thought some things appeared to be a big deal. You may find a creative solution to an issue that you couldn’t quite find before.
You want this more relaxed feeling instead to continue. Pay attention to the things that cause your stress to go up, and then look for small changes you can make to keep your stress low. Take a minute for a few deep breaths. You can do this anywhere and nobody else even needs to know what you are doing.
When you take a quick break from work to get some water or find the bathroom take a minute to be calm. Push your shoulders down away from your ears. Remember how relaxed and calm you felt at a nice vacation or at your last massage.
You can feel relaxed and don’t have to feel stressed. By being aware of what causes it and taking some action you can feel more in control and have less stress. Of course there are some stressful situations that you can’t completely control but you may be able to manage your reactions better.
You drive around safely when you are aware of the other traffic on the road and make adjustments to protect yourself. Be aware of what causes you pain and stress and you can feel better between massages.
Have you ever wondered why you didn’t notice your muscles getting so tight? You remember not being in this much pain. You used to be able to move better and had more range of motion in your joints. You used to feel good – or at least much better than this. What happened?
It’s mostly our brains. Brains are designed to notice when something is different. Once it does, it becomes the normal feeling and doesn’t alert your conscious mind of it. For example, when you put on a shirt in the morning to go to work your brain knows there is a change. You feel the fabric on your skin and how it fits. When you leave the shirt on for a while, your brain knows nothing has changed and you stop noticing it. You don’t notice throughout the day the sensation of your clothes on your skin.
Think about when you walk into a room and there is a strong scent. You are immediately aware of it, but when it hasn’t changed your brain stops paying attention to it within 30 seconds or so. When you walk into a bakery you find wonderful aromas but you quickly stop noticing them. Have you wondered how people can stay in a place with a foul stench? It’s because their brain stops paying attention since nothing has changed.
A stressful day or repetitive motions cause some of your muscles start to tighten. It’s not a big change so you aren’t very aware of it. When you don’t do anything to reverse it your brain interprets this as your new normal condition. More stress and repetitive motions cause more muscle tightening. Since it happens gradually you don’t become aware of how much it has changed and your brain is used to this condition as normal.
Eventually though your muscles let you know that something is not right and they demand relief. Massage of course is a great way to relieve your stress and to get your muscles the relief that they need.
The change is especially noticeable after a massage. Your pain is reduced or gone and you can move much easier and more freely.
Feeling this way is how you are supposed to feel. It’s a big reason why massage therapists suggest regular massage. By keeping your body feeling good your brain starts to notice when it doesn’t feel good anymore. That helps to keep small problems from developing into bigger ones.
If you don’t remember what it’s like to feel good, or you haven’t been getting massage regularly, make an appointment and get started. Your body and brain will be glad you did.
As Christmas passes (and we realize just how much pudding we ate) it's time to turn our focus to the new year. If your resolutions include getting fitter and more fabulous why not start with the the place we spend so much of our time... work! These simple healthy lifestyle tips can be done anywhere, including the office.
Take the stairs.
Pedometers, Fitbits, and various health tools track steps and daily mileage. One of the first things people do when they lean into a healthier lifestyle is to increase their movement. This can take the form of an actual organized fitness plan or by incorporating little acts of action that propel them forward toward their goals; such as taking the stairs and parking a little further from the building.
If you’re a desk jockey, one of the best things you can do is to get up and move. Do it every hour if you can. This action can increase blood flow as well as your productivity. A 5-10 minute break can prevent eye strain, cramped wrists and stretch a sore back.
Increase your water intake.
Hydrate. Do we really need to tell you why? Drinking water is good for you and will keep you hydrated. Benefits also include improving digestion and clearer skin. Keep a water bottle with you at all times and sip from it often. (Bonus tip: Coupling drinking water with a repetitive activity can be a good way to stay on task.)
Very busy people often forget to eat. We’re not talking sugary snacks that boost your energy (and then cause a crash) throughout the day. We’re talking about healthy, good-for-you snacks that keep you feeling full and satisfied without all the calories and carbs.
The workplace can be hectic at times. Finding a moment to take a deep breath can keep the most frazzled days focused and on point. By remembering to breathe will help you reduce stress and anxiety, slow your heart rate, and just feels good.
Get a massage.
Ok, so this one is kinda hard to do on the clock. We’ve managed to find ways around this though. Scheduling a half hour massage on your lunch break might be just the thing to keep you on task and relaxed. You could go for a full treatment off the clock OR maybe you can talk “the powers that be” into recruiting some massage therapists for some seated chair massage right there in the office.
There are so many other ways to practice healthy habits at work. From balancing poses at the copier to correcting your posture at your desk. Practicing healthy habits in the workplace is tricky. Find ways to work them in and before long you won’t even notice the extra tasks that are bringing you one step closer to a healthier you!