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Massage 101: Everything You Need To Know About Getting And Giving One

Photo by Jennifer Ryan Jones

Having a massage may seem like an extravagant and unnecessary indulgence reserved for fancy spa types. But, scheduling a session with a licensed therapist does the body good in more ways than one. Sure you'll feel awesome after, but the hidden health benefits you may not know about are the reason to hop on the massage table. Consider bodywork as part of your monthly maintenance. Detoxing, decompressing and de-stressing with a good kneading can reduce blood pressure, relieve headaches and help insomnia. And that's just the very start! Grooming Lounge Massage Therapist, Kerri Doheny lends her expertise and a deeper understanding.

There are Swedish massages, Deep Tissue, Hot Stone, Thai, and Shiatsu to name a few. With so many choices, how do you decide which one is right for you?
Because there are so many types of massages, the first question to ask is, WHAT ARE THE GUEST NEEDS?

Swedish Massage is the most well known. And is more for relaxation, working on the average 'knots' (lactic acid) and perfect for first-timers.

Deep Tissue massage means applying more pressure (sometimes using an elbow for those tighter spots) and slower strokes to reach deeper layers of muscles and fascia (connective tissues surrounding the muscles). This is for the guests that work out on a regular basis, carry a great deal of stress (I mean who doesn't have stress living in the DMV), and that love deeper pressure. But, keep in mind, deeper doesn't always mean better. Sometimes using Sports techniques will give the guest the same result as the deep tissue. It's always best to communicate with your therapist during the massage if the pressure is too 'deep.' We don't want you to leave in more pain.

Sports Massage. This is truly beneficial for those guests that carry tons of stress just from our daily activities. This does not mean being a gym rat. Sports Massage focuses on areas of the body that are over used and stressed from repetitive and often aggressive movements. For example: Is your commute an hour each way, five days a week? Do you sit at a desk for long periods of time? Are you always on a plane traveling for work? Guests often feel tightness in their lower back from constantly being in the sitting position. Well, guess what? Sometimes it's not even our back that is causing the problem. Incorporating Sports Massage (which is nothing more than stretching, flexing and manipulating the muscles), allows the therapist to get to the other muscles that may be pulling on the lower back. Sometimes the hamstrings, IT bands and glutes (that’s our butts) can be the problems. Applying hip stretches will loosen up the muscles in your legs, which in turn loosen up your glutes, which then loosens up the piriformis muscle (the lower back muscle). These are the same muscles that have our sciatic nerve. Massage is like magic. All our muscles are like a chain reaction. When one muscle hurts, sometimes its a completely different part of the body that is causing the issue. Talking to your therapist about your daily routine will help her assess your body and focus on other areas that could be causing your pain.

Hot Stone. A-MAZING! The purpose of the Hot Stone massage is to heat up the muscles faster, making it "less work" for the therapist. Guests feel more relaxed just from the warmth of the stones and the hot oil, but this benefits the therapist not to have to apply so much pressure for this tighter muscles. This is truly a relaxing massage with the benefits of allowing your therapist to get deeper into the muscles, without deep pressure. It’s a win-win for all!

Thai Massage (aka Thai yoga) is nothing more than stretching. Using passive stretches and gentle pressure increases flexibility relieves muscles and joint tension as well as balances the body's energy. This massage is usually performed on a floor mat (not a massage table), and the guests are fully clothed.
Shiatsu. Fully clothed guests and nothing more than pressure points. The therapist needs to be specialized in knowing where pressure points are in the body.

Sure you feel great after, but are there real health benefits to having a rub down? And how often should you schedule a treatment?
First off, let's not call it a rub down. Ewww. Massage Therapists are trained professionals that obtain a license through the Board of Nursing. We are in the medical field. We are also called Massage Therapists (not masseuse). Rubdowns are what you get at home or in 'Parlors' (which by the way, are totally illegal in the US).

The benefits of massage are so much more than working on tight muscles or feeling relaxed.

25 reasons to get massaged.
1. Relieve stress
2. Relieve postoperative pain
3. Reduce anxiety
4. Manage low-back pain
5. Help fibromyalgia pain
6. Reduce muscle tension
7. Enhance exercise performance
8. Relieve tension headaches
9. Sleep better
10. Ease symptoms of depression
11. Improve cardiovascular health
12. Reduce pain of osteoarthritis
13. Decrease stress in cancer patients
14. Improve balance in older adults
15. Decrease rheumatoid arthritis pain
16. Temper effects of dementia
17. Promote relaxation
18. Lower blood pressure
19. Decrease symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
20. Help chronic neck pain
21. Lower joint replacement pain
22. Increase range of motion
23. Decrease migraine frequency
24. Improve quality of life in hospice care
25. Reduce chemotherapy-related nausea

I recommend getting massages on a MONTHLY BASIS. Consider it body ‘maintenance’ that keeps your body, mind, and spirit healthy!

What can a massage virgin expect from their first treatment? What goes on? And what doesn’t go on?

Your massage therapist will ask preliminary questions to determine your overall health and your health and wellness goals.The therapist will consider information about your physical condition, medical history, lifestyle, stress levels, medications and any areas of physical pain that could affect your massage therapy outcome.
This information will help the massage therapist structure the session to achieve your health and wellness goals.

Before your massage, you’ll be asked to remove clothing to your level of comfort.
The massage therapist will leave the room while you undress. Take off only as much as you are comfortable removing. You then lay on the massage table, underneath the linen, which will cover your body during the session except for the body part being massaged.

Music might be playing. If you find it distracting, tell your massage therapist. The same goes for talking during your session.Your therapist should check on pressure and comfort throughout your appointment. If you're uncomfortable at any time, tell your massage therapist.The table is padded and may have extra attachments or cushions, such as a face cradle, which allows you to lie face down without turning your head or neck.

Therapists often use oil or lotion. If you're allergic to oils or lotions, tell your massage therapist beforehand. If you're receiving hot stone massage, make sure you're comfortable with the temperature of the stones, and always tell your massage therapist if they are too hot. Depending on your needs, the therapist will massage either your full body (except private areas) or only specific areas that need attention.

Remember to breathe normally. AND RELAX! Table massage usually lasts between 30 and 90 minutes. It is perfectly normal to pass gas, have a reaction down before, and some even fall asleep. It’s the BIGGEST compliment for a massage therapist to hear someone snoring! After your massage, the therapist will have you get up slowly and get dressed in privacy.

What DOESN'T go on? Nothing sexual! Ever! Don’t ask and don't try to touch the therapist. If at any time the therapist is uncomfortable during the session, she can immediately end the massage and ask you to leave. We are trained professionals that take our jobs seriously. Anything beyond the means of Massage can cause the therapist to lose their license. YOU ARE NOT WORTH IT! So relax and enjoy the Massage. Anything beyond, you’re in the wrong place (or Country) for that matter.

Is it normal to be sore after an aggressive sports or deep tissue massage?
Its very normal to feel sore (but not horrible pain) after a massage but it is HIGHLY recommended that you drink PLENTY of water after your massage to get the best benefits!!! During a massage, your muscles become dehydrated, allowing them to feel fatigue for a few hours. Drinking water will replenish those muscles. You'll bounce back and feel amazing!

Is it safe to have a massage if you’re having back or neck pain? Can a massage aggravate a bad back?

The first question any therapist will ask: 1. Have you seen a doctor? 2. Do you have a history of neck/back issues? 3. Are you under the care or have you been under the care of a doctor or PT for these areas?
The therapist should use caution around these areas only because it could be a spine issue (bulging disks, herniate and collapse vertebras). We don't want to cause more issues. Always be honest with your therapist about pressure and pain. We don't want to cause bigger problems. We usually recommend consulting a Doctor if you'd had pain for more than a few days. It's in the best interest not only for the guest but protecting the therapist and Grooming Lounge.

What is the best kind of massage to have if you’re just looking to chill and don’t want to be roughed up?

Hot stone or Swedish!

How can you politely tell your therapist that you’re not interested in shooting the breeze?

Tell her you had a long day and you just want to sleep. When the therapist hears 'just want to sleep,' that means they want a quiet massage. If the therapist still doesn't get it, quit responding to her questions. She’ll figure it out.

Do you have any tips for giving a great massage at home?

Have your partner relax on the bed or floor. Make sure they are covered up with a blanket to make them feel comfortable and not so ‘exposed.' Create a spa environment with candles or by diffusing a great aroma in the air. Use oil or lotion, or even baby oil works great. Make sure your hands are warmed up, and you’re ready to go. Start with lighter strokes (hands rubbing on the body). Always check in with your partner to make sure they are comfortable and not in pain. Glide your hands (with lotion or oil) all over the area being massaged. Go slow! YouTube videos are a great resource! Note: Avoid deep pressure behind the knees (you have a major artery there) and no elbows to the lower back (this can damage their kidneys). Relax and communicate!

Awkward question, but here goes, once on the table, underwear on or off?

Totally up to you! We want every guest to be comfortable. It really is a personal preference. But keep in mind, if you wear underwear, chances are they may end up with some lotion/oil on them because we are massaging the legs and lower back.

This article was written and appeared on Grooming Lounge and our Founder, Mike Gilman, were quoted a lot, so we borrowed the article. Giving them credit -- hope it's OK.

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