Sunday, March 26, 2017


How to get most out of your next massage at a Spa

Choosing the right Massage Therapy for you


I've worked in the massage industry now for almost 20 years. Admittedly mostly in resort spas and day spas. I've enjoyed working in this environment for several reasons. What I want to do for you, the consumer, is to guide you to knowing the best type of massage therapy for that will help you get a wonderful massage.

In the last twenty years or so it seems that there's a massage facility on every corner, and hundreds more on the web which could make deciding which one will fit your needs a daunting quest. And how do you know you'll even be happy with the massage you receive and the money you've spent. I agree it can be like a crap shoot. I've had guests report that they had less than desirable massages, which is really too bad. At least it hasn't discourages them from seeking a massage with someone else. So what makes a great massage for you? Why are seeking a massage? These may seem like obvious questions to answer but let's look a little deeper so that you can make the right choice and hopefully not be disappointed.

The history of massage has been used a remedial therapy for centuries. Massaging causes various physiological effects which comfort the body. Manually kneading or manipulating the soft tissue to relative pain, stress, discomfort and to promote overall health and wellness.

So let's examine the types of spas. There is the Day Spa, the Resort Spa, the Destination Spa, Salon Spa, and the Franchise Spa.
 I'll give you some questions to ask when you get ready to book the appointment.  

The Day Spa is smaller with one –three rooms.  It may or may not have a relaxation room. Most don't offer a robe or shower facilities so make sure you wear comfortable garments that may absorb some of the massage oil residue.

 If you're booking for a group of you & your friends make sure they can accommodate you all. Is it important to all get your treatment at the same time?  Also, are all the rooms private?
If these amenities are important to your relaxation time then ask them make sure you ask ahead of time so there won't be any disappointing surprises.

Salon/day spas are similar to the day spa and most will also provide a hair/nail salon. Here the noise and smells may be a deterrent for your relaxation.
 Personally I find that noise from all chatter and hair blowers a great distraction for me.

Resort Spa will have a relaxation room again if you're doing a party make sure there is enough seating for everyone and do they provide any beverages and snacks. They will have the robe/slippers and shower in the locker room and maybe even a sauna. Here you can spend as much time as you want relaxing before and after. And you can receive a variety of services for your day of pampering.

Destination Spa is very similar to the resort spa but it will feature many other amenities such as a week of cooking healthy meals, Yoga, Pilates you name it.
The next thing you want to examine is what type of massages services they provide.
 Within the massage/bodywork field there are hundreds of types of different massage therapy styles ranging from the many Eastern techniques to our western style Swedish. They all offer a different benefits, which is a story for another time, but the massage work will affect the body in different ways.
 The benefits depend on what it is you're looking for. What type of discomfort are you experiencing chronic pain, acute pain, or no pain at all, but just want to take the time to just relax and unwind?  Chronic pain is something that you've been dealing with for some time such a tight neck or tension between your shoulder blades from working on the computer.  Acute pain is more from being the weekend warrior on a ski trip or over doing it at the gym or sleeping in a different bed with a different pillow on your vacation.

Generally, the terms that are used are for relaxation are Swedish, wellness  massage will increase circulation, allowing the oxygen and the blood nutrition to be delivered to all parts of the body , also  reduces the tension in those over used muscles and decrease the stress hormones which allow you to relax and sleep better.  

Deep Tissue, Deep Massage, Sport Massage are the terms that denote a more direct, deep pressure to relieve pain and restore a more normal movement in the very deep muscle layers. This type of massage may not be very relaxing and yes there are tender points that will cause some discomfort or even pain when massaged.
 Deep tissue massage therapy stimulates circulation in areas of pain allowing muscles to relax and loosen and thus alleviate pain even in sever conditions.
This work usually focuses on a specific area or musculoskeletal problem. An efficient way to recover after injuries from falls, sport, and even whiplash

A holistic massage therapy combines a balance of Swedish massage therapy and deep tissue. This combination provides the relaxation that increases your well being and unwinds those pesky musculoskeletal problems. The therapist will also take the time to find the cause of your discomfort.
The goal for any type of massage is to provide a way for the person to find a homeostatic state or feel balanced.

Though massage is considered safe for most people, however there some groups of people that should avoid circulatory massage. Which they can't receive another type of bodywork which is just as relaxing such as Cranial-Sacra l work or a type of energy work. Folks that are experiencing bleeding disorders, low platelets counts or taking blood thinners. In addition massage should be avoided over areas of the body with blood clots, open wounds or people with weakened bones.

Make sure you let your therapist know if you have any medical or physical conditions that may affect the work they perform on various areas of your body without causing you any harm. Also, if the discomfort of their work is too intense for you be sure to voice that because their work should never be beyond your comfort level.

Lastly, there are 5 basic techniques are applied with either pressure or just strokes. Effleurage, Petrissage, Percussion, Vibration and Friction.

Effleurage strokes are long, gliding & soothing. These strokes are done to warm up the muscle tissue or to finish. They can be performed with either an open flat hand or the forearm with a little more pressure.

Petrissage or kneading loosens the muscles. Skin and muscles tissue is rolled or squeezed gently and firmly by grasping between thumb and fingers. Helps to release the fascia from the skin and muscles.

Percussion or Tapotment is done with both hands, fingers and fists. This stroke stimulates the muscles by chopping, cupping, slapping, and hacking.

Vibrations strokes stimulates the nerves. Hands or fingers are moved back & forth rapidly on the soft tissue to shake them.

Friction strokes are used to break up adhesions & congestion. The hand or fingers are moving rapidly or slowly crosswise over the superficial tissues.

All these technique sin combination of each other  will provide the many benefits of well being , pain relieve that you are seeking.
Remember each therapist will apply their very much like artist working on a canvas and that no two massages are ever the same because you bring your body with different needs each time.

 Relax enjoy and stay as healthy as you can.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Does massage spread Cancer?

Massage Therapy for those living with cancer.

When I first graduated from massage school almost two decades ago we were taught that massage was contraindicated for anyone that has been diagnosed with the big "C".

 Fortunately, there are a number of people that questioned the theory that massage spread cancer.So they went about doing the intensive research.

 I was not one of them but, now I am appreciating the research they did. The work that these pioneers in the relatively new professional discipline of Oncology Massage is revealing that it is safe and beneficial for those that have been  diagnosed with cancer at some in their life.
Massage does not cure cancer but it can make it easier to tolerate the effects during and after of the treatments.
The practice of Oncology Massage has only been around since 2008 as a specialty.
After my own learning experience I believe that therapist working with a cancer patient should be trained and anyone affected by and living with cancer seeking a massage should question the therapist 
first if they have been trained to work with people with cancer.

 Working with folks affected by cancer is almost unavoidable today with the rate of cancer survivors.
 However, working with clients with a history of cancer is very complex with the need of many adjustments. 

That being said the next question that comes to mind is what exactly is Oncology massage and how does it differ from traditional massage?
By definition Oncology massage is adaptation of massage techniques to safely nurture the body of someone affected by cancer or its treatments.
Furthermore, massage can be safe and therapeutic during and after cancer treatment(s).
Oncology massage can make your cancer journey easier.
This therapy is increasingly used in many hospitals and care centers to improve the quality of life of people affected by cancer to help manage cancer treatment and related side effects.

So before going to a spa here are thoughts what a cancer patients and survivors need to know.

  • The techniques that are used is deeply relaxing using gentle and slow strokes to promote relaxation.
  • Adaptations are made for site, pressure and position.
  • It is tailored to how someone is feeling on that day.
  • Its aim is not to work out muscle kinks.
  • Skilled touch is beneficial at nearly every stage of the cancer experience.

Many cancer treatments require long-term massage modifications
Massage adaptations are required for:

  •      Low blood cell counts 
  •      Blood clots
  •      Bone metastases
  •      Radiation or surgery
  •      Lymphedema
  •      Peripheral neuropathy
  •      Medication
  •      Medical devices
  •      Late effects of treatment.

What are some of the benefits that can be anticipated would be another question to consider?
Massage and Cancer Clinical Research shows that massage can improve some cancer treatment side effects.
It can:

  •  Reduce pain and fatigue,
  •  Decrease anxiety, 
  •  Improve sleep, 
  •  Greater sense of well-being,
  •  Feeling less nausea.
  •  Enhance body image

 How is oncology massage different from traditional massage therapy?
Skilled touch is beneficial at nearly every stage of the cancer experience.
Many cancer treatments require long term massage adaptations.
Massage adaptations are required for:

  • Low blood  cell count
  • Blood clots
  • Bone Mets
  • Radiation or surgery
  • Fatigue
  • Removal of lymph nodes 
  • Lymphedema
  • Medications
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Medical devices
  • Late effects treatments.

Why should I request an oncology trained therapist?

  • If you're in or have a history of cancer, request an oncology trained therapist.
  • An oncology trained therapist has completed comprehensive, specializes training that address the side effects of cancer or its various treatments.
  • Most therapists don't receive training to help them understand the complexity of people who have had treatment for cancer.
  • Even after people are out of treatment receiving bodywork from an oncology therapist is important due to the potential late effects of treatment.
  • Are you a member of the Society for Oncology Massage

 A trained therapist should easily be able to answer the following questions.

  • Have you received training in how to work safely with people diagnosed with cancer?
  • What kind of modifications would you make based on my current status?
  • What do you know about massage for people at risk of lymphedema?

What are other saying who have received massages?

  • "Being so far out of treatment I didn't anticipate being able to feel that much better, but after the massage I did."
  • "This is not about pampering, it's about keeping myself in one piece until I'm done with treatments." 
  •  "I slept well and felt so relaxed."
  • "I'm so grateful and have this beautiful calmness about me." 

Finally Gayle MacDonald, author of "Medicine Hands: Massage for People Living with Cancer says this: 
"Skilled touch is beneficial at nearly every stage of cancer experience, during, pro& post-operative period, outpatient clinic, during chemotherapy and radiation, recovery at home, remission, or cure and in the end stages of life"

 Massage is recommend by:
American Cancer Society
Society for Integrative Oncology Live Strong