And we have a Winner! – or Why I’m not telling you who it is.

Posted on October 13, 2017 By

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve initiated a Random Raffle —

The Referral Raffle

At the end of each month through the end of 2017, I will be running a little in house raffle.  Whoever wins the raffle will get a coupon for 17% off their next massage or bodywork session.  These coupons are valid for six weeks from the date of issue.  Every current client is already automatically entered into the raffle. However, if you refer someone else to me, and that person comes in, you’ll get an additional entry in the monthly raffle for each client who comes in and rebooks.  Of course, once those folks become clients, they too will be entered in the raffle.  If the person you referred after October 1, 2017 wins the raffle within two months of your referral, you will also get a discount on your next session.

I’m a tad delayed in announcing the winner, but that just means that the next winner will come sooner.

Our winner for September is ….

but WAIT!  Announcing winners would mean violating that winner’s confidentiality. And confidentiality is really important.

Why? you may ask.  I’ll tell you.

Massage Therapy, as you know, is more than just get someone rubbing your shoulders.  Receiving a massage involves trusting your therapist, with your body of course, but also with your health history, information about what stresses you, and over time, all sorts of personal things. A Massage Therapist/Client relationship is a very personal one – in many ways it is similar to a Doctor/Patient relationship.  And that is why I treat it as protected by HIPAA, even though Illinois law does not yet require it.


For some, it involves trusting that your therapist will not reveal even that you are a client.  That is a lot like the Lawyer/Client privilege; but since I was a lawyer in my former life, I’m quite used to that.  But, wait, you may ask, why is it important that no one knows that I have seen a given person as a client?  For most folks, it probably isn’t.  But for some

…. the religious beliefs of their families can include a prohibition on physical touch from a person of the opposite gender; since I am a woman, I could not massage a man who is of that faith – similarly, a woman of that faith would be prohibited from receiving a massage from a massage therapist who is a man.

…. the religious beliefs of their families can condemn massage therapy as hedonistic, or inherently sexual, or in some other way evil, regardless of who provides the massage.

…. they can be in abusive relationships or come from abusive homes, and receiving massage can mean revealing their injuries to their therapists.

In any of these situations, disclosing their status as a client could be putting them at risk for a number of negative experiences, ranging from shunning, to beating,  – or escalated abuse (which could lead to death).

Are these extreme examples?  Of course they are.  But all it takes is breaching the confidence of one person for whom this example is true to breach the first rule of all healthcare providers:  First, do NO harm.

That is also why the various governing bodies that oversee Massage Therapist’s certification and licensure have Codes of Ethics, all of which include something like this:

“Standard III: Confidentiality

The Certificant shall respect the confidentiality of client information and safeguard all records.  In his/her professional role, the Certificant shall:

Standard III(a): protect the confidentiality of the client’s identity and information in all conversations, advertisements, and any and all other matters unless disclosure of identifiable  information is requested by the client in writing, is medically necessary, or is required by law”.  (National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, (10/12/17).

And so… since identifying the winner of this raffle would involve violating a Standard of Ethics to which I adhere, and in which I believe, let us just say that one of our local realtors is about to receive a healthy discount for their next massage…

Broader Issues

Limited Time Discount offer for the Last Quarter!

Posted on September 16, 2017 By

About once a year, I gear up to offer a significant money saving package.  This year, I’ve decided to offer two ways to “earn” discounts on massage or bodywork.  The first way involves introducing others to massage and bodywork with me. The second way involves getting regular massages or bodywork yourself.

First: The Referral Raffle

At the end of each month through the end of 2017, I will be running a little in house raffle.  Whoever wins the raffle will get a coupon for 17% off their next massage or bodywork session.  These coupons are valid for six weeks from the date of issue.  Every current client is already automatically entered into the raffle. However, if you refer someone else to me, and that person comes in, you’ll get an additional entry in the monthly raffle for each client who comes in and rebooks.  Of course, once those folks become clients, they too will be entered in the raffle.  If the person you referred after October 1, 2017 wins the raffle within two months of your referral, you will also get a discount on your next session.

Second: The Reward for Self Care Discount Program.

While the Raffle can be entered at any time, this discount program is open to new entrants only until October 4, 2017.

So, what is this Reward for Self Care? The short answer is that by coming regularly for sessions of sixty minutes or longer, you can pay less for your massages and bodywork.  Regular massage is good for your health, both mental and physical.  If you come in before it starts to hurt, you should be able to avoid some kinds of pain altogether.  These packages help you take care of you!

Basic Package:  You commit to 6 massage or bodywork sessions over the next three months (that’s one every other week).  If you have enjoyed three of these sessions by November 1, 2017, your fourth session will be 25% off.  If you enjoy six session before December 15, 2017, the sixth will also be 25% off, and any future sessions in this calendar year will be $10.00 off! Either way, if you enjoy six sessions before December 31, your sixth massage will be 25% off.

Deluxe Package:  You commit to 12 massage or bodywork sessions over the next three months (that’s one every week).  If you have received four of these sessions by October 28, 2017, your fifth session will be 25% off.  If you come to eight sessions before December 2, 2017, the the ninth will also be 25% off, and if you come to all twelve sessions before December 31, 2017, any future massages in this calendar year will be $10.00 off!  Either way, if you receive 12 massages before December 31, your twelfth massage will be 25% off.

Economy Package:  You commit to 4 massage or bodywork sessions over the next three months (that’s one every three weeks).  If you have received two of these massages by November 1, 2017, your third massage will be 25% off.  If you receive four massages before December 15, 2017, the the fourth will also be 25% off, and any future massages in this calendar year will be $10.00 off!

Please note that if you decide on an Economy Package, but suddenly start coming every other week, your package will be converted to a Basic Package.  Similarly, if you have not selected the Deluxe Package, but start coming weekly, your package will be converted to a Deluxe Package.

Pre-Pay Package: You pre-pay for 6 or 12 bodywork sessions over the next three months, and pay only $60.00 per hour. The massages must be used within this calendar year.  For those not used by December 31, 2017, you will have a credit for the amount paid per remaining session which you can use to offset the price of massages in 2018.

Please note: These discounts are good for sessions that are a minimum of 60 minutes.  The discounts will not be earned for or applied to sessions that are shorter than 60 minutes.  These discounts are not transferable, nor may they be used for Gift Certificates.

60- Minute Discount Sessions may not be used for Hot Stone Massage unless you purchase a set of 6 Hot Stone Sessions.  If you want to convert a 60-Minute session into a Hot Stone Session, there will be an additional $25.00 charge.  90-Minute discount sessions may be used for 60-Minute Hot Stone Sessions.


Upper Back Stiff? here’s an answer

Posted on October 10, 2016 By

Many clients come in with stiff upper backs.  First, we look to the specific muscles that are hurting.  Then we look to the “antagonists” to those muscles.   And massage certainly helps.

BUT, as much as I’d like to be able to, I can’t actually work on your back every day.  There is, however, something you can do every day to help ease your upper back stiffness. This video is from Z-Health Education:

Broader IssuesExercises

How Does All of this Work – Part 9: What to Expect When You Get Home

Posted on July 23, 2016 By

What to expect in the coming days

When you get a massage or bodywork session, you and your therapist initiate a number of changes in your body.  These changes don’t stop happening when you get off the table.  Some may take days to finish processing!   And the process and its duration varies quite a bit between bodywork styles.

Here are some of the things you may notice in the days following your session:

Soreness.   Yes, lets get that out right away.  If you’ve received deep tissue work, or a massage with lots of pressure, or had even gentle work done on a very tight area, you may find that you feel a bit stiff or sore the next day. It might feel like you worked out hard, for example.  This is normal, and should not last more than a day or so.  Whether you are working the muscles via exercise, or we are working the muscles manually through massage, the muscles are being worked — and feel like it later.  The best thing to do if you feel this kind of soreness is to move!  Even stretch gently.  But holding it still will just make things worse in the long run.  Drinking water may also help if you’re at all dehydrated ( and in America, many of us are).

Feeling a little foggy.  When you first move back into the world after a massage or body work session, you may feel a little foggy.  As though you’ve drifted off somewhere and are not really back yet.  This is normal.  During bodywork sessions, we allow ourselves to stop thinking, stop focusing, and drift.  This is actually very good for you, as it helps your mind come back to all sorts of issues from a new perspective.  If you find it unnerving, you can stamp your feet – driving your heel into the ground (not too hard).  Moving, drinking water, and eating also help.  You should feel sharp again fairly quickly.

Dizziness.  Massage turns off your fight or flight responses.  As you relax deeply, your blood pressure drops.  When you first stand up, it make take a moment for your blood pressure to normalize.  Just take it slowly at first, and that should clear up fairly quickly.  Do ask your therapist for help if you feel unstable.  This should not last beyond a few moments.  If you feel dizzy the next day, contact your therapist and/or your physician.

A Sense of Tiredness.  Many of us push ourselves so hard all of the time, that the only time we allow ourselves to really relax is when we’re going to bed.  Then, when we actually just feel relaxed, it feels like tired because we don’t do that other times.  Enjoy the relaxation.

Bursting with energy.  As we release the places you hold tension in your body, it can be rather like releasing a tightly coiled spring.   There was all this potential energy being held (and that itself uses energy).  Once it’s released, it’s no longer costing the energy to hold it tight, and things are moving more freely.  This is what it’s supposed to feel like most of the time.  If you can resist the urge to go paint the ceiling, and instead take it easy for a day or so, you’ll find that your body sort of reacclimatizes to a state in which you just have a little more energy each day.

Feeling Rested.  Relaxing in a massage is like taking a nap.  Additionally, it helps your body use less energy to hold tight muscles tight.  But most of all, it facilitates good sleep. You may find that you fall asleep more easily, or stay asleep better, over the next several days.  This will let you wake feeling rested.

Better Sleep.  Many people notice that they sleep better in the days following a massage.  They find it easier to get to sleep, and easier to stay asleep.  This is even more evident in people who get massage regularly.

Clearer Thinking.  Allowing our minds to drift, and relax allows them to filter out some of the unnecessary clutter in our thinking.  This leaves us with clearer thinking.

Feeling Taller.  As we tense our bodies, we contract them, pulling ourselves in.  When we relax, and allow the muscles to lengthen, we allow ourselves to return to our full height.

Moving more easily.  When your muscles are no longer holding tightly, your joints are free to move more easily.  You may notice that your stride lengthens, and that your shoulders move more easily.

Best of all, these wonderful feelings are available to you after almost every massage — frequency does not diminish the benefits!

Looking Back:

Part I: Booking an Appointment,
Part II: the Health History Form
Part III: Privacy, and What to Tell Your Therapist
Part IV: Getting on the Table
Part V: This is YOUR Massage
Part VI: On the Table
Part VII: Returning to the World
Part VIII: Leave-taking and Re-Booking

BenefitsBroader Issues

How Does All This Work, Part 8 – Until Next Time

Posted on July 20, 2016 By

We’ve discussed making your first appointment, what to expect, the whole process from arriving, filling out forms, and talking with your therapist, through your massage itself, and getting off the table.  What could be left? 

Leave taking.

Whether your therapist has a one room studio or a larger studio with a reception area, or works in a spa or other larger organization with a reception desk and staff, in the end, you’ll need to re-enter the world, pay for your session, and schedule your next one.

Paying Your Therapist

While many therapists do take credit cards, not all do.  You should have checked on this when you made the appointment (and if your therapist is savvy, you should have been warned if they don’t take credit cards at that time.)  Just in case, it’s good to have the cash or a check, and not just your credit card.

Therapists rarely allow you to receive your massage and then pay later.  Unless you’re using insurance (which most therapists can’t take), or receiving your massage in a medical facility, you’ll be expected to pay at the end of your session.


Sometimes, a therapist or spa or studio will offer discounts.  They’re lovely if you can get them, but do keep in mind that the therapists profit margin is pretty low.  It can be tempting to ask for a discount, but if you do so, you’re essentially telling your therapist that his or her work is not good enough. No one is getting rich working in this job. 

  • If your therapist is an independent owner, he or she has rent, power, heat, laundry, and oils as large recurring expenses. Since this is a physical job, few therapists can maintain a schedule giving eight hours of massage per day.  Their take home pay is less than you think.
  • If your therapist is an independent contractor working for someone else, he or she only gets a portion of the amount you pay.  Half is pretty common, and your therapist may still be doing the laundry and providing oils, etc.
  • If your therapist is working at a chain or spa, he or she is paid even less …. much much less than you pay the spa.

Keep in mind that while your therapist may say that he or she is doing this job “full time” that doesn’t mean 40 hours a week.  No one can continue that pace for long.  Massage is a unique combination of physical work, mental work, and emotional work.  Few therapists take more than 6 clients per day; many take fewer.  And no therapist can continue that pace 7 days each week.   When the massage day is over, there’s still the notes to write (so we know what we did last time when you return), the laundry to do, other paperwork and clean up.  

So, while it’s wholly appropriate to take advantage of discounts or special deals when they’re offered, please don’t try to haggle on the price of your bodywork session.


Tips are a source of much discussion in the world of massage therapists and body workers.  It seems that whether or not a therapist receives tips is tied in some way to where he or she works.  Franchise and chain employees really do rely on tips to make their living.  Independent contractors and independent owners generally welcome tips, as they too are limited in their income.  However, if your therapist is working in a doctor’s office, it may not be expected.

Generally, as with any service position, tips aren’t demanded, but they are very welcome.

You can give your tip in cash directly to the therapist, or add it to your check or charge if using that to pay.


If you found your massage or bodywork delightful, and why wouldn’t you, you should probably go ahead and schedule your next session.   With all of its benefits, it seems silly not to get a regular session. In addition to the therapeutic benefits for injury recovery and over worked muscles, regular massage or bodywork also helps you sleep, boosts your immune system, reduces anxiety and depression, and actually help people think more clearly and be more productive.   Massage is healthcare, it’s not a luxury. 

Once people find a good therapist, they generally don’t leave, and soon place themselves as regular clients with consistent appointments.  This can mean that eventually, the therapist won’t have short term appointments available when you want them.  Most good therapists are booked at least two weeks in advance; many are booked three to four weeks in advance; and some are fully booked two months in advance.   If you want to see your preferred therapist, get on his or her calendar and stay there!

Also be sure to book well ahead for appointments near the holidays.  Many people decide to give gift certificates for massage as Holiday Gifts.  This means that those new clients will be filling up the spots unclaimed by regulars.  Unless you’ve actually booked your session, the fact that you regularly come on the first and third Tuesday of every month doesn’t mean that your slot will be open if someone else requests it first.

If you are receiving your massage at a spa or franchise or chain establishment, be sure to ask for your specific therapist when you re-book.  If you just book a regular session, without requesting your therapist, you may wind up with someone else giving your massage.  Additionally, some establishments give their therapists a little bonus for each time that a client requests them specifically.

There are additional benefits to booking ahead.  Some therapists even offer discounts for booking ahead.  Some offer discounts for booking and paying ahead.  Some use loyalty cards, giving you a discount or even a free session after so many (ranging from 6 to 10 in most places).  

Thank your therapist, pay with a smile, tip generously if you can, and book your next appointment!

There are just two parts left!

Next time:  What to Expect When You Get Home

Looking Back:  Part I: Booking an Appointment,
Part II: the Health History Form
Part III: Privacy, and What to Tell Your Therapist
Part IV: Getting on the Table
Part V: This is YOUR Massage
Part VI: On the Table
Part VII: After the Massage

Broader Issues

How Does This All Work Part 7: After the Massage – Returning to the World

Posted on July 12, 2016 By

Things that might have happened during your massage.

While some massage styles leaving feeling energized, most leave you feeling very relaxed. During your massage, you have likely allowed your mind to drift into a state of only semi-consciousness, and  you may have relaxed enough that you even fall asleep.  If so, there is nothing to be embarrassed about (even if you snore, or drool).  In fact, as you relax, your body may do a few other things you wish it hadn’t (people burp, drool, fart, sigh…), but you needn’t be embarrassed.  These are natural functions, and as your body relaxes, they happen. Often, for example, people find that their stomachs begin to gurgle.  I, for one, considered stomach gurgles to be a kind of applause. Massage is all about relaxation — and as you start to allow yourself to relax, your body slips out of its “fight or flight” responses, into the “rest, recover, and digest” mode.  And when that happens, your tummy gurgles.

If you happen to be a man, there are other natural body responses to escaping the “fight or flight” response systems.  Most massage therapists understand that these responses may well be involuntary.  However, what you do about those responses can make a big difference in how your therapist will respond.  As long as you can ignore your involuntary erections, so can the therapist.

The end of the Session

When your massage is over, your therapist will give you some verbal cue.  Some may say “thank you”; some may say “that’s our time for today”; some may say something else entirely.  If you’ve been seeing the same therapist for a while,  you’ll note that he or she probably also has a final sequence of a few moves to close the session.  In time, your body will know as the session is ending.

When your therapist is sure that you’re awake, and are unlikely to fall when getting off the table, he or she will step out of the room to let you get dressed.  Even though your therapist is likely to tell you to take your time, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to settle in for a nap.  Unless you are the last client for the day, there is likely another client coming fairly soon after your session ends.  This means that your therapist will need to get back into the room to change the sheets and face cradle covers and any pillow cases, and wipe down surfaces, and generally get the room ready.  So — don’t rush yourself; take the time you need to get dressed, but do get up and get dressed fairly promptly.

Reconnecting with Yourself

As you come back to the real world, you may even feel a little dizzy or floaty or woozy.  This is okay.  It just means that you will need to take it easy getting off the table, and move a little slowly.  As you begin to walk around, you’ll find yourself settling back into consciousness.  Take a little time here too.  Notice your body and how it feels.  Take a moment to become aware of your feet on the floor; the way your balance might have changed.  Move your shoulders, feel how they move differently from when you first lay down.  Doing this not only feels good, and lets you be aware of the benefits of your massage, it also helps your body reset it’s “sense” of how tight your muscles should be.

Your mind has also changed.  As you relaxed, and let go of the constant stream of thoughts, task-lists, problems, frustrations that run through your mind, you have allowed your mind to reset.  Try to be aware of habitual thought patterns – right after a massage is a great time to shift them from focusing on what’s wrong to focusing on what’s right and working.  And shifting your perspective can actually shift how the whole day goes.

Debriefing, sort of.

After your session, your therapist may talk to you about what happened during your session.  He or she will be checking to make sure that you got the relief you needed for problem areas, and whether there is anything you’d like to address in your next session.  Your therapist may also make some recommendations for things that can help you avoid future pain (not all therapists do).  This could include exercise, postural habit changes, suggestions on how to make your desk more ergonomic, or simple reminders that sitting in the same position all day long is hard on your body.  These conversations should happen somewhere private — either in the treatment room, or elsewhere that no one is likely to just wander into the conversation.

Many therapists offer their clients water after their sessions.  There are a variety of truths and myths surrounding why — but folks do tend to feel a little dehydrated after a session.  Your therapist may leave water in the room for you, or may wait outside the door with it, or may meet you at the front desk with some.  Hydration is generally a good idea. It can also help you feel more aware and awake, so if you are feeling light headed, drink the water!!.

Next time: Saying Goodbye for Now

Looking Back:  Part I: Booking an Appointment,
Part II: the Health History Form
Part III: Privacy, and What to Tell Your Therapist
Part IV: Getting on the Table
Part V: This is YOUR Massage
Part VI: On the Table

Broader Issues

How Does This All Work – Part 6: The Massage Itself

Posted on July 3, 2016 By

Can you believe there was this much to say before we got to the part where your therapist actually touches you?  Me either!  But then again, most folks don’t realize quite how much goes into becoming a massage therapist either. We’ll take that up another time. (If you’re new to the series, you can find the first entry here.)

Here we are.  You are lying under the sheet on the massage table.  Your face is nestled into the face cradle, and you have asked your therapist to adjust it so you are perfectly comfortable.  You’re warm enough, and well bolstered.  The music is playing in the background….

Finally, your therapist is ready to begin your massage!

No Two Massages are the Same

First off, let me tell you that no two therapists do exactly the same massage.  Even if they’re from the same school.  Even the same class.  Even if they actually choreographed the movements.

How can that be?  Part of it is because massage isn’t like a dance routine.  It’s an interactive art, in which both the therapist and the recipient play a role.  And that means that, since no two people are truly the same, the way any two massage therapists respond in a given movement will be slightly different.  Each therapist is an individual person with different sensibilities, awarenesses, motives, and abilities. We each have our own body structures, strengths, weaknesses, and our own personalities.  We will interpret massage differently.

Part of it is because no recipient is exactly the same.  People come in all shapes and sizes.  Even if they’re equipped with the same muscles, they’re not all the same length or strength and they hold their tension in different places.

You aren’t even the same person you were yesterday.  You have slightly different tensions today.  Your mood is different.  Your workload is different.  So, your body is different.  This, by the way, means that even if your massage therapist were able to provide a cookie cutter massage, doing exactly the same thing each time, it would feel slightly different to you.

So how can I possibly tell you exactly what will happen while you’re on the massage table??  I can’t.  But I can point out things that ought to be consistent.

The Table

As you got onto the table, you should have found that it is at least slightly cushiony, and has been dressed with clean sheets – top and bottom.  You may find that it also has a blanket over the sheet.  The face cradle should also be covered with a pillow case or specialized cover.  Some tables have table warmers.  This makes the table itself warm.  If it’s too warm, your therapist should turn it down or off for you.  When you’ve settled in under the covers, you should not feel hot or chilly.

The Ambience

While every therapist’s room is likely to be a little bit different, you are likely to find that most have music playing.  Typically, it’s relaxing music, often without discernible beats.  However, many therapists will play whatever you like if you have requests for the next session.  Some people enjoy listening to rock and roll, others prefer classical.  And some prefer silence.

Unless you’re in a physical therapist’s office, the lighting is likely to be fairly low in the treatment room.  It should be relaxing, not dark.

The Temperature

Clearly, the room temperature should be such that you are not chilled while receiving your massage.  However, the temperature should also be such that your therapist doesn’t over-heat while giving the massage.  There is a fine interplay, and sometimes that means that your therapist will have a small fan on to keep the air moving, or blowing on his or her feet to help keep cool without chilling you.  Sometimes, there will be a small heater in the room as well, so that the room can be warmed up for you when you arrive.

If you find the room too cold or too hot, please tell your therapist.  Adjustments can often be made, either to the room temperature, or to the table temperature.


In Illinois, and in most other states, there are actually laws about the ways in which your body must be covered during a massage.  Typically, if you are receiving a Swedish Massage, or any other type of massage in which you’re asked to disrobe, you will be covered by a sheet.  In some instances, you may be covered by a large towel.  Either way, your body will be covered.

draping1During the course of your massage, your therapist will remove the drape from whatever area he or she is working on, and recover that part of your body when he or she has finished working there.*

If you have abdominal work done, your therapist will add another drape to cover your chest, and then pull the regular drape down to expose your abdomen.

While your therapist may leave your back undraped while working on your arms, or drape you so that much of your back and one leg is exposed, typically, your back will be covered once your therapist is finished working on it.  If at any time you find that you are cold, you can ask to be covered more.

There really are laws about draping.  That means that if you find that you are too warm, there is only so much we can allow to be uncovered.

Pillows and Bolsters

While there are indeed some modalities in which you will lie on a table with no pillows or bolsters, your typical massage will include their use.  Since many massage therapists start their basic massages with the client lying on their stomachs, I’ll start with the face cradle.

prone using face cradleAs you can see, the person receiving the massage has her face in/on a special pillow with a hole in the center where your face should fit comfortably.  We use these so that your neck isn’t twisted during the massage, and so that we can work on your upper back and neck while they are in alignment without smashing your nose into the table.  If you see one on the table when you come in, you’re likely to start the massage face down, with your face in the cradle.

We also use a number of other bolsters to help make you more comfortable on the table.  ankle bolsterAmong these are bolsters that we slide under your ankles when you’re lying prone (face down) or under your knees when you’re lying supine (face up).*-  In both cases, they ease strain on your back, and generally make it more comfortable to be lying flat for a long time.

Sometimes, you may be asked to lie on your side.  In those cases, we use a number of pillows and bolsters to cradle and support you so that you can fully relax while we work.*4

sidelying bolsters (1)

The side lying position is commonly used for pre-natal massage, but can also be wonderful for helping to resolve a number of restrictions to movement.

Sometimes, we’ll use a pillow under you to make you more comfortable.

Oils and Lotions

Generally, if you are receiving a massage that involved you getting undressed, your therapist will be using an oil, gel or lotion to allow his or her hands to move smoothly over your skin. **

massage oilDepending on your therapist, you oils may be scrupulously scent free, or they may have essential oils blended in to enhance your session.  Some oils are thicker than others. Most absorb into your skin during the course of the massage, so unless your therapist is using a very thick oil, you should not feel slimy after your session.

If you have any allergies or aversions to scents, please be sure to tell your therapist.  You shouldn’t have to tell your therapist more than once or twice.

I, for example, have a client who really hates lavender.  I don’t recall without checking whether she is actually allergic to it, but that doesn’t really matter — she hates it.  Therefore, even if I’ve used lavender in other sessions that day, I make sure that the room doesn’t smell of lavender when she arrives, and I never use an oil that has lavender in it on her body.

What does “Full Body” mean?

Unless you’re going in for a therapeutic massage to address a specific issue, in which case your therapist may spend your entire session working just on muscles that address that issue, you’re likely to be receiving a full body massage.  Yes, that really does mean that your therapist will massage almost all of your body.  There are about 640 muscles in your body. I won’t be listing them all, but you’ll have a large fraction of them worked on during a full body massage.  In future issues, I’ll address why we work on certain areas of your body, and the benefits that doing so can have on the rest of your body.  For now, I’ll just address what we will and won’t touch during a typical session.

First off, if its is typically covered by a thong bikini (on men or women), we won’t be touching it.

You can expect to have your neck, shoulders, back, glutes (buttock muscles), thighs, calves, shins, ankles, feet, arms, hands and upper chest and often outer ears massaged.  You may also have your scalp, face, and/or abdomen massaged.

If you are uncomfortable with any of these, please speak up and ask your therapist not to work in those areas.  However, as you’ll see in future posts, each of those area is worked for a reason.  Ignoring your glutes when you have back pain can mean that your therapist can’t fully resolve the issues.

In almost all cases, the touch should be soothing, and relaxing, not painful.  And you should feel discomfort only when your therapist is working on a problem spot, and you’ve discussed how much discomfort is okay.

Talking During the Massage

Your therapist should let you take the lead in choosing whether or not to engage in conversation during your session.  Some people really like to talk during a massage.  Others really relish the silence, and the ease of not having to engage their minds with conversation.  While that’s true for everyone, in this situation, the therapist should accommodate your preferences.  You should feel no obligation to fill the empty space with conversation.

That being said, your therapist should ask you for feedback about pressure, intensity, and comfort from time to time.  If your back can take a lot of pressure, but your calves are tender, the only way to be sure your therapist knows is to tell them.

That’s more than enough for today.  Relax, sink into the table, and enjoy your massage.

Next time, we’ll be looking at what happens when you the massage is over.

Looking Back:  Part I: Booking an Appointment,
Part II: the Health History Form
Part III: Privacy, and What to Tell Your Therapist
Part IV: Getting on the Table
Part V: This is YOUR Massage


*  Image of draped leg from
**  Image of massage oil from
*-  image of feet on bolster from:
*4 image of sidelying person w/ bolsters from:

Broader Issues

How Does This All Work? Part 5 – On the Table

Posted on June 26, 2016 By


You’ve scheduled your appointment, arrived on time, completed your health history form (including all sorts of things you still don’t quite understand the relevance of), you’ve told your therapist the big things, and your goals for the session, and you’ve gotten undressed and slipped in between the sheets on the massage table.

And yes, there remain a few things to think about —

This is your massage.

This is your massage.  It’s not the therapist’s massage.  It’s not mine.  It’s yours.  You are paying for a service that ought to be tailored to you and your needs.  And the only way we can do that is if you speak up. It’s weird, but this can be hard — even for other massage therapists.  There’s a funny thing about putting yourself in a therapist’s hands that tells you not to complain — don’t listen to that inner voice.  Ask for what you need.

If you are not comfortable, in any way, tell your therapist.

If you are cold, ask for another blanket.

If you are hot, ask if the blanket can go, or the table warmer can be turned off or down, or if your therapist has a fan (the sheet cannot go).

If you need a bolster or pillow anywhere, ask for one.  Some places one might like a bolster include:

  • Under your knees or ankles.
  • Under your shoulders when you’re lying face down.
  • Under your neck when you’re lying face up.
  • Under your belly.
  • Under your arms.
  • Between your knees if you’re side lying.

If anything your therapist does hurts, say so.  And repeat that, if he or she doesn’t immediately change what he or she is doing.  Unless you have negotiated with your therapist that a certain therapeutic treatment will hurt, and you’ve explicitly agreed to an amount of pain, massage should not hurt.

If you feel even remotely uncomfortable with what your therapist is doing, say so.  If you hate having your feet touched, you don’t have to have your feet touched.  If you thought that glute work was a good idea, but once your therapist started doing it, you decided you don’t want or like it — tell your therapist to stop.

If your therapist is using too much pressure, don’t be stoic about it — complain!  Ask them to lighten up!

If your therapist isn’t using enough pressure, don’t lie there feeling like you’re just getting a nice moisturizing session, ask for more pressure.

If your therapist is chattering away trying to converse with you, and you really wanted quiet — say so. “I’d really like to have a quiet time during this massage”

If your therapist is completely silent and you prefer to have some conversation — ask a question.

There are Limits  …

There are some requests that we cannot accommodate.  Licensed Massage Therapists are governed by State Licensing Boards.  And those Boards do what government does best: write regulations.  The regulations in question are there, in this case, for your safety and that of your Massage Therapist.

  • In most states, we cannot allow you to be fully uncovered on the table.  There must be draping of some kind.  Please do not ask to completely remove the drape (sheet).
  • In all states, we cannot participate in any kind of sexual interaction with our clients.  Never in the course of a massage.  And … even when we’re off duty, we can lose our license if we develop a sexual relationship with a client.  So please, don’t ask.
  • We can’t diagnose your condition.  We can’t prescribe things.  Unless your therapist also carries a license to do those things, it’s illegal for him or her to try.  Please don’t ask us to do that.

And, there are some requests and behaviors we will not ever tolerate.  Furthermore, you shouldn’t tolerate them either!

  • Inappropriate touching.  Your therapist should never touch your genitals or your nipples.  You should never touch any part of you therapist that is ordinarily covered by a modest swim suit (two piece for women).  While accidental grazing can occur — intentional touching of this kind is absolutely prohibited.  If either party engages in intentional inappropriate touching, the massage should be ended immediately.  If the person doing the touching is you, the client, you’ll still owe for a complete massage.  If the person doing the intentional inappropriate touching is the therapist, you will not owe for the massage, and you should report the incident to the manager of the establishment, as well as the state massage licensing board.
  • Inappropriate and suggestive language.  Just as neither party should be touching, neither party should be discussing sexually related things.
  • Outright requests for sexual activities.  These will terminate your session, and likely get you banned from the establishment and reported to the police.  If your therapist does it, end the session, report the therapist to management, the licensing board, and the police.  Solicitation is never okay.

There you go!

Time for the massage to begin!  What to expect during the massage?  that’s next!

Looking Back:  Part I: Booking an Appointment,
Part II: the Health History Form
Part III: Privacy, and What to Tell Your Therapist
Part IV: Getting on the Table


Broader Issues

How Does This All Work – Part 4 – Getting on the Table

Posted on June 23, 2016 By

How Does This All Work – Part 4:
Getting on the Table

Quick Review:

  1. Schedule ahead of time – same day appointments are rare.
  2. Block off enough time in your own schedule for the whole event.
  3. KEEP your appointment – or give at least 24 hour notice of cancellation.
  4. Arrive on time (or a little bit early).
  5. Arrive clean (check those feet!)
  6. Complete your Health History form, answering all questions.
  7. We keep your information confidential and secure.
  8. Tell your therapist what you’re looking for today.
  9. Tell your therapist all of the things that are troubling your body (they might be related, they might not).
  10. Remind your therapist about hearing issues and allergies to things that might be in the oil.

It feels like a lot has gone on,and you’re not even on the table yet!  Don’t worry.  All of this stuff actually takes very little time.  Some of your therapists can email you the intake form before you even arrive.  And that interview we talked about in my last post?  Usually takes only a couple of minutes unless there is something serious going on.   But, finally, we get to the part where your therapist has brought you to the space in which you’ll get your massage or bodywork session!

You may have already arrived in this space to have your pre-session interview, or you may now be arriving.  Your therapist will first go over what specific areas you would like to have work done on.

Tell your therapist all that’s bothering you!

It’s so very easy to forget things.  But your therapist really does need to know that you bruised your shin before starting to work on you. Why?  Well, sometimes, we reach under your body to work.  If we don’t know there’s a bruise, we’ll not be able to moderate our touch to avoid hurting it!

Even if you have a primary complaint (your shoulders are trying to make love with your ears, and your neck is objecting), it’s probably true that something else has been twingey.  Unless you’re having a truly focused session, in which your therapist is working ONLY on that issue, your therapist is going to want to know which areas will need the most time so that he or she can allocate the time to be able to give your full massage.  If you don’t mention that your quads are tight too, there won’t really be enough time to address that before the session is over by the time your therapist gets to them!

Please wait to undress!

For many types of massage, we ask our clients to undress and get on the table between the sheets.  In many states, Illinois being one, we risk our licenses by being in the room with you when you’re getting undressed.  Even if you are completely comfortable with your body (and yay for that!!), and with it being seen in all its glory by your therapist, please, wait until your therapist steps out the door before disrobing.

If you need help getting undressed, we are limited to some degree in how much help we can give.  As long as there is a tee shirt or cami or bra under your shirt, I can certainly help you unbutton it if your hands won’t do that.  And I can unzip the back of your dress.  I cannot help with zippers on pants.  And except for outer sweaters, I can’t actually remove clothing for you.   If you do need that much help, you can have a caregiver or family member come to help you get undressed and on the table. (They will be able to wait outside the massage room during your session).

How far to undress?

If you’re going for a “standard” full body massage, we typically ask you to get undressed “to your comfort level”.  What on earth does that mean?  That means that while we generally prefer to find that you are completely naked under the sheet (no clothes, no underwear, no jewelry, no watches), we understand that you may not be comfortable with that.  If you feel more comfortable leaving your underwear on, that’s fine.  We can work around that.

gluteal musclesHOWEVER, there are some kinds of work that can’t be done as well or as effectively without skin to skin contact.   If, for example, you are having trouble with your hamstrings and low back, your therapist will likely want to work on your gluteal muscles.* Working through the sheet (and your underwear) is possible, but some work is more effective if your therapist can actually get to your skin.

Similarly, it’s hard to work on back muscles through a bra strap.

How exactly should I be on the table?

Typically, you will either lie down face up, or face down with your face in a face cradle.  Your therapist will generally tell you, but if you see a face cradle and your therapist hasn’t said anything one way or the other, lie face down, with your face in it. You will lie down on top of one sheet, with another sheet (and possibly a blanket) over you.**

prone using face cradle

Your therapist will give you time to get undressed and onto the table.  Generally, your therapist will knock, and ask if you’re ready.  If you aren’t yet, that’s perfectly fine!  Simply say “not yet” and your therapist will give you more time.  Some people are eager, and manage to get fully undressed, with jewelry off, and onto the table in about 20 seconds.  Most take longer, and if you are in pain, undressing alone can be a challenge.  We understand.

Be sure that you are comfortable

If you find that you are cold, please tell your therapist as soon as he or she steps back into the room.  Some therapists have table warmers that can be turned on or up, some have heaters, some have piles of blankets, some have all of these things.  Muscles respond better when they’re warm.

If you find that you are hot, please tell your therapist!  Table warmers can be turned off.  Blankets can be removed. (Sheets, however, cannot.  Most state laws require full draping). Many therapists also have fans in the room to stir and cool the air.

If the face cradle is too high or too low, please tell your therapist.  Most can be adjusted.

If you need a bolster or pillow under your shoulders, or under your belly, please tell your therapist.  Comfort is very important!   Most therapists offer a bolster under your ankles.  If you do not want one, please say so.  If you’d like a higher or lower one, it’s okay to ask (not all therapists will have a variety, but many do).

And, most importantly — you can and should make these issues known at any time during the session!

Next:  Things you and your therapist can do to make your session even better.  This is YOUR Massage

Looking Back:  Part I: Booking an Appointment,
Part II: the Health History Form
Part III: Privacy, and What to Tell Your Therapist

* Gluteal Muscle image from
** Client Prone, between sheets, with face in face cradle from

Broader Issues

How Does this All Work – Part 3

Posted on June 19, 2016 By

How Does This All Work -Part 3:
The Pre-Massage “interview” with your therapist.

Quick Review:

  1. Schedule ahead of time – same day appointments are rare.
  2. Block off enough time in your own schedule for the whole event.
  3. KEEP your appointment – or give at least 24 hour notice of cancellation.
  4. Arrive on time (or a little bit early).
  5. Arrive clean (check those feet!)
  6. Complete your Health History form, answering all questions.

In our last “issue“, we discussed some of the many reasons why your massage therapist asks you to complete a health history form.  At the end of that, I acknowledged that some of you may be worried about the privacy of your confidential medical information.


As healthcare professional, we observe many of the same practices as any other healthcare professional.  We know that your information must stay secure for you to be able to feel safe providing the information we need to do our best work.

Therapists who adhere to the standards set by any of the Associations for massage therapists keep your records in confidential files.  We keep those files in secure file cabinets.  In order for us to share these records with anyone, including your doctor, we need written permission from you!


Confidentiality is a lot like privacy.  Most of us follow the same guidelines that your doctor, psychotherapist, or lawyer follow:  Whatever you tell us in the course of our sessions is held to be confidential.  We will not disclose that information to anyone without your express written permission.  In short, “What you say in here, stays in here.”

That means that if we are working with you in cooperation with your doctor or your physical therapist, or other medical professional, you will need to sign a form to allow us to discuss your sessions with them.  Even if you were referred to a massage therapist by a doctor, we’ll still need your express permission to tell him anything!

Many of us act as though we are already governed by HIPAA regulations.  Under HIPAA, we aren’t even allowed to acknowledge that you’re our client without your permission.

What to tell your therapist

Once you’ve filled out your forms, or when you arrive if this you’re coming back, you therapist will likely want to talk to you about what is going on with you, and what you’re looking for that day.  This conversation may happen in an ante-room, or in the treatment room itself.  (note, this is not the time to start undressing).  In either case, it will happen where you and the therapist cannot be overheard.

The more specific you can be, the better. But don’t hesitate to tell your therapist anything that might be relevant.  This is one of those places where extra information is unlikely to hurt anything, but not enough information could cause problems.

  1. If you have an allergy to anything that might be used in a massage oil, please remind your therapist at your first visit and at your second, even though it should also be on your intake form.  By your third visit, your therapist should know.
  2. Changes to your medical history.  If something has changed since the last time you filled out the huge ungainly form, say so.  If you’ve had an injury, illness, or changed medications, that will be important information for your therapist.
  3. How you experienced the work that you and the therapist did the last time you were there.  If your therapist did focus work on your shoulder, report on how that worked out, and how your shoulder is today.
  4. What’s troubling you today.
    • Physically:  if something hurts, or you are finding that you’re stiff, or don’t have full range of motion, tell your therapist.  Even if its not the main reason you’re there.  You’ll be amazed at how many parts of your body are connected in ways you didn’t know about. (Sometimes, shoulder pain starts at the opposite hip, for example).
    • Mentally: if you’re under a lot of stress at work, or having a hard time focusing, or finding your mind racing through a myriad of thoughts when you’re trying to sleep, your body also suffers. There are certain styles of massage that can help this.
    • Emotionally: again, if you’re under stress at home, with relationships, or any other reason, this affects your body.  There are types of bodywork that can help you.
    • Mental/Emotional Health:  if you’re suffering depression, or anxiety, let your therapist know.  It will change the way he or she structures your sessions — and will allow yourself another opportunity to heal
  5. If you have something right after your session, and time or appearance is an issue:
    • If you have an interview, or business meeting, you may want to alert your therapist not to mess up your hair more than necessary.  Or ask him or her not to work on your face.
    • If you really need to get somewhere quickly after your session, let your therapist know.  You can relax more easily knowing that someone else is watching the clock. Also, your therapist can adapt the ending of your session to help bring you back to full alertness more quickly.
  6. If you’re ticklish.  Sometimes, ticklishness is actually a sign of very tight muscles. Sometimes it’s a sign of sensitive skin.  If your therapist knows that you have a ticklish zone, it is possible to adapt the approach to that area to avoid the ticklish response.
  7. If you have areas you specifically do or don’t want to have worked on.
    • If you feel very uncomfortable with someone touching your abdomen, tell your therapist.  Many massage styles include abdominal work.  But one of a Licensed Massage Therapist’s first rules is that we touch only with permission.  Just because you choose to get a massage doesn’t mean you’ve given anyone carte blanche to touch you where you don’t want to be touched.
    • If you feel uncomfortable about having someone touch your glutes (your bum), say so.  It is likely that your therapist will want to work your glutes if you have leg or back issues, because those really are large muscles that have a lot of far reaching impact.  Even so, it’s your body, and you can say no.
    • If you have a particularly troublesome area, please tell your therapist and ask for extra attention there!
  8.  What you’re looking for out of this session.  I ask my clients “How do you want to feel when you leave today?”   Its surprising how hard that question really is.  But if you’ve reported reduced range of motion in your shoulder, but really just want to feel mellow and relaxed, your therapist may spend more time resolving the shoulder issue than you’d like.
  9. Finally, please!!! ask any questions you may have!  It may not be the time to have a discussion about who to vote for in the next city council election, but if you have questions about massage or bodywork, this is a great time to ask.

Looking forward:  Getting on the Massage Table

Looking back:  Part I: Booking an Appointment,  Part II: the Health History Form

Broader Issues