Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Massage questions answered - Part 2

Here is Part 2 of my massage guide, focussing on the questions that may come up during the massage. I hope these are helpful. If you still have burning questions I haven't addressed, let me know and I'll try to fill the gap.

Why is my therapist asking me so many questions?
Before carrying out a massage, a therapist will complete a consultation with you. This is usually more thorough on your first visit, and then follows up on any issues and changes for subsequent visits.
Lucinda Cracknell Massage Berkhamsted
Before your massage, you'll have a
consultation and a chance to ask questions
The consultation will usually cover medical history and your current health, lifestyle questions and your reasons for having massage. This allows the therapist to build up a picture of your needs and wishes, to determine what will be the best treatment for you. Some of this will be identifying contraindications, i.e. factors (usually medical) that mean massage is not appropriate, or needs to be modified or restricted in some way, to avoid injuring you, or making a condition worse. Other questions help us anticipate what issues you may have and how your body may respond to massage, for example, if you do a lot of sport, we expect you to have well toned muscles that will require more vigorous massage; a lot of time at a computer can cause a typical pattern of stiffness around the upper back. Tension from physical causes responds to massage in a different way from tension caused by stress or emotional factors. With this information we can therefore tailor the massage before we start, and so address issues more quickly. 
The consultation is also a chance to get to know your therapist a bit more, so you feel more comfortable, to slow down and relax from whatever you were doing before you came into the massage room, and an opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have about the massage.

What does my therapist need to know?
There is a lot of information the therapist needs to ensure they can carry out a safe and enjoyable treatment, and address your needs. The therapist will ask you about a number of things in the consultation (see “Why is my therapist asking me so many questions?” above).
However, if there is anything specific you think is relevant that they don’t cover, make sure you mention it – it is not feasible to ask every possible question. This might include for example, unusual medical conditions or history, side-effects from medication, a recent incident that has affected you, a prior experience with massage, or a specific reason for wanting massage today.

Why won’t my therapist massage me?
There are a number of situations when massage is not suitable, and may cause harm to the recipient. For example, inflammation or a recent injury can be made worse by massage. Certain medical conditions require medical consent, i.e. your therapist will ask you to consult with your doctor to ensure massage is safe before proceeding. This will include cancers, serious heart problems and some autoimmune conditions amongst others.
Most therapists will not massage women in the first trimester of pregnancy, due to the high risk of miscarriage in this stage. After this, they may massage pregnant women, or chose to refer to a therapist trained in pregnancy massage.
In these circumstances your therapist should be able to explain to you why they will not treat you, and discuss the options and alternatives. 
The therapist may also decide not to massage you if they feel that they are at risk, for example if you have been drinking. Massage can heighten the effects of alcohol consumption which can be dangerous for you and them.
A therapist may decide that they do not want to treat you, because they do not feel comfortable with you, or because they do not have the skills you require, and suggest that you find another practitioner. In this case, that person is probably not the best massage therapist for you. 
See also “What if I don’t like the therapist?” in Part 3.

Do I talk to the therapist during the massage?
In general, you will get more out of the massage if you are quiet and relax during your treatment. This will also allow your therapist to concentrate on the massage.
Lucinda Cracknell Massage Berkhamsted
Massage is your time, so make
sure you are comfortable
However, there are some exceptions – if something feels odd or painful, it’s important to let your therapist know; equally, it can be useful to say when something feels good, or “hits the spot”. Speak up if you need anything – a shift in position, a tissue, or a bathroom break – this is your time so make sure you are comfortable to get the most from it.

What if I get cold during the massage?
Tell your therapist – they can do something about it, whether it’s adjust the heating, add more towels/blankets, or massage you more vigorously.
The same applies for any source of discomfort during the massage – if you need to shift position, blow your nose, go to the bathroom, you find the music really irritating – this is your time, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to get the most out of it.

What if I fall asleep?
No problem! This is more likely with a relaxing treatment than with a more challenging remedial massage. The intention of a relaxing or de-stressing massage is to give you some time for yourself, and to listen to your body’s needs. That may be sleep. The therapist will gently wake you if you need to move, and at the end of the massage.
Some people prefer not to sleep, and want to consciously experience the full massage. If this is the case, ask your therapist to wake you if they notice you drifting off (although if you’re really sleepy and keep nodding off, they are likely to let you be after a few times).
Some massages, such as Thai Massage, make extensive use of the interaction between the therapist and recipient as partners, to gain the most from the experience. For this, the therapist may ask you to try to stay awake and attentive to the work of the massage.

What if I get aroused during a massage?
This is a question I get asked a lot by students, as well as friends, about male clients, although in practice it’s rarely, if ever, an issue. So my answer derives from conversations with teachers and other therapists more than experience.
Usually the problem goes away quickly as soon as you’re aware.  If you’re uncomfortable, you can ask for a moment’s break while it does; this also applies if you’re asked to turn onto your back and it’ll become obvious.
In this kind of situation, the massage will usually continue afterwards as normal, but if the arousal continues, either you or the therapist may choose to end the massage.

(It goes without saying that if this is the outcome you are looking for, you shouldn’t be at a massage therapist in the first place.)

What if the massage hurts?
Let the therapist know. Their response will depend in part on what type of massage you’re having, and what you agreed before the massage. A relaxing massage shouldn’t be painful, so the therapist will change their pressure and technique. It also depends on the type of pain. I use the term “grateful pain” for the feeling of achey muscles being worked – it hurts but also feels good, and you know they’ll feel better afterwards. So you may not want the therapist to stop, but it’s still helpful for us to know what you’re experiencing, to better understand how your body is reacting. 
Other types of pain are usually a signal to stop, or at least slow down or have a break. In particular nervy pain, or pain that continues when the pressure is released, are red flags. So tell your therapist; while we look for signs in your body language, we may not pick up a problem straight away.
Most importantly, remember the golden rule, that you are in charge. If it doesn’t feel right to you, then it isn’t right, so speak up. If you’re not sure, speak up, explain what you’re feeling, and the therapist can then discuss with you how to proceed.

See also “Will massage hurt?” in part 1.

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