Monday, December 4, 2006

Best massage therapy gift certificates people gave to others

Every year a number of my clients buy gift certificates for massages to give to family members, friends, and colleagues. One of the best one was when the parents of an entire class at a Newburyport grade school banded together to give my massage gift certificates to a favorite teacher who had just lost her close friend, another teacher at their school, to cancer.

In this case, the parents gave 90-minute certificates. However, you can also give a 60-minute certificate. I don't recommend a 30-minute certificate because that's not enough time for a full-body massage. (See my blog posting further down about the 30-60-90 debate.)

The best person to give a massage certificate to is someone who is stressed out or perhaps has had an injury or surgery who might not think to get a massage on their own. If you've never had a massage the whole thing can seem unfamiliar or you might feel like you may be too nervous, shy or self concious which can all be pretty common at first. But I always talk with my clients first to check in with their health picture, concerns and answer any questions; this is their time and I always make sure that it is comfortable for them as an individual. Everybody forgets their concerns when they start being worked on and many parctically fall asleep because they are so relaxed.
A gift certificate can help the curious-but-shy overcome their shyness and experience massage for the first time. For some it's a gift that leads to a long life of positive self care.

Pregnancy and massage therapy - How far along can you get massages

I have massaged a lot of pregnant women over the past decade, and now I massage some of their children too! During pregnancy your body is under unusual stress from the rapid changes in structure and carriage. So, for many women, massage therapy is recommended and safe to receive by an experienced and trained therapist.

You can be massaged almost up until the day you give birth and with the right pillows and bolsters, some nearly-full-term women can even lie on their bellies for a back massage. Others do better on their sides. It's very comfortable - sometimes even more comfortable than your bed. A pregnancy massage can help releave many typical aches such as low back pain, rib pain especially as the baby gets to full-term and is doing a lot of kicking, neck and shoulder stress and of course hips which take so much stress from all the changes they must endure. Many women sleep better after a massage which can be a rare pleasure during such an uncomfortable time.

However, you should be extremely careful about having your legs massaged. I'd recommend you talk to a doctor first and even then ask your therapist to consider avoiding that area. There's a risk of possible blod clots getting loose.

Some women worry that this means they can't get a foot rub. In my experience (again talk to your own doctor first) it's OK to get a foot rub, as long as it doesn't extend up into your calf. I know many pregnant women feel foot rubs keep them going!

How to pick out a new massage therapist - my best quick tip

Not all massage therapists are alike. Since you're reading this online, I assume you may not come from my area of the country in Newburyport Mass., so I'm not an option for you. In my experience, the key to finding a good therapist lies in asking them about their training.

Broadly speaking, I've found there tend to be two different types of schools for massage therapy in the US. The first group are like the Bancroft School of Massage Therapy which I graduated from ten years ago. They focus on turning out class after class of thoroughly professional therapists with a solid background in anatomy and physiology (A&P) as well as how to run a business. I found A&P so useful to my practice that I went on to take advanced studies later on which really expanded my understanding of the body and layers of tissue. I also gained even more respect for the human body!

Some other schools focus more on spirituality and intuition. I do believe that spirituality and intuition are all a part of good massage therapy. However, that's something you can bring into massage yourself or extend your training in as an adjunct. Whereas if you don't have a solid understanding of how the body functions via A&P, you're not going to be able to give a great massage or understnad the physical symptoms clients will be presenting you with.

So, when you interview a possible massage therapist, be sure to ask them about their A&P backround and what their focus or type of massage is, aka, sports, relaxation, trigger point therapy (many of these can be combined and often are to help resolve the physical ailment). If you don't understand the terms used by the therapist please, just ask them to explain so you can choose what feels right for you. Applied pressure is also a common concern; for some it's whether too little will be used or too much. A great therapist will always ask you to let them know what is right for you and ALWAYS respond in kind. This is your time and needs to be comfortable for you.

'Fluff and Buff' -- why many spa massages don't feel that great

"Fluff and buff" is a common term of derision that many experienced massage therapists use about the treatments given in some spas. It means a massage that's so light that's it's not terribly effective. The way I describe it is it's just like asking someone to scratch an itch on your back ... and they scratch a bit but they just don't get it. It can be very frustrating for a client.

This doesn't mean good massage should hurt or feel too harsh. Good massage should feel soothing. However, if you have any areas of specific stress, 'knots' or chronic pain a deeper massage will 'get to' those areas and begin to relieve the grip and drain they have had on you. That's what you're paying for and less can well, seem like just not enough.

Fluff and buff is fairly typical at larger spas and sometimes hotels. Often the massage therapists have less clinical training than a therapist with his or her own practice does. They also know they won't see you to work on problems repeatedly. Their goal is to get the session done OK and move on. A massage therapist who runs his or her own practice has to do meet their client's needs each time because repeat business is the only way to keep the doors open. A long term professional relationship with your massage therapist is a wondeful tool in creating and maintaining your health and well being goals. We're great allies with often a great deal of training and information to offer for many of the health challenges you will face over the years.

Why it's important to use organic oils for massage therapy

I only use organic oils for my massage therapy practice. What's the difference? Almost all oils used by professional massage therapists are to some degree petroleum-based. While petroleum may be good for your car, I'm not sure it's very good for the tissues of your body. Just like lotions and creams, massage oil penetrates beyond your skin into the tissues of your body. Anything that's not natural can become a real irritant in your cells. That's the sort of thing we're trying to purge from your body with massage -- not add into it!

So, be sure to ask your massage therapist if they use organic essential oils for your sessions. I personally use oils by Young Living for all my clients in Newburyport.

How long should a massage be? The 30-60-90 minute debate

The length of a massage depends on your goals. If you'd like a full body massage for relaxation and de-stressing, you'll need at least 60 minutes. If you have a number of specific problem areas - perhaps a sore neck, back ache, knotted shoulders -- that you'd also like addressed by your massage therapist, then you may want to get 90 minutes. I even know very stressed executives and high level athletes who even get two hour massages every month.

30 minute massages are a good length for working in a focused way on a sole specific injury point. For example you may have tendonitis in your knee or elbow or recently diagnosed with plantar fascitis. Or you may have had recent surgery or a sports injury. (Note: Ask your doctor when its safe to get massage after surgery. He or she will usually ask you to wait a few weeks.)

WebSite a Joy

Well, after 2 long weeks of spending 90% of my 'free' time to build a website that was advertsed as, "set up in 30 mins!" it's now completed. Please (oh, please) go to for a look and bring along that credit card because on my site you can buy Gift Certificates thru Pay Pal Services! And you know you've got a few folks and friends who are well loved but, yup, just darn picky and tough to buy for. So don't put it off and stress over it only to buy them some brite chotchki last minute you know they'll re-wrap and re-gift for next year's Yankee Swap at work. Just drop by the site, buy a certificate for a half hour, hour etc. and I can either send it right to them or to you, your pick, and know that you've gotten them a gift of best wishes for their health and well being that they can really use.

Now after all that tough mousing and clicking, maybe you need a massage too? Stay well and enjoy all the fun to be found around you during this holiday season.

Best wishes, Rachel