My friend who was going to have her first ever massage e-mailed me a few days before her appointment. “I guess if I just wear shorts and a t- shirt, that will work,” her message said, “or is there a recommended attire for a massage?”
I replied, “The recommended attire for a full body massage is a sheet, which I will supply.”
If you’ve never had a massage, you probably don’t know what to expect the first time you visit a massage therapist. When you arrive at my office, before we enter the massage room, I ask you to complete a brief intake form. This form gives me the highlights of your medical history and tells me if you want your massage to focus on a specific pain or general relaxation.
The medical history is important because massage may negatively affect some medical conditions – kidney stones, rashes and varicose veins are a few examples. You should avoid massage while you have a fever or a contagious condition. If you’re pregnant, lighter massage strokes benefit you.
Information on the form and a few follow-up questions about what hurts, how much it hurts, and what aggravates or relieves the pain enable me to customize your session to your needs. Massage is not a one size fits all service; if you tell me pain burns between your shoulder blades when you work on your computer or your legs ache from your increased running schedule, I spend more time working those areas of your body.
In the massage room, I step out of the room to allow you undress to your comfort level and lie down on the massage table under the sheet. Most clients undress completely so I have better access to the muscles in the hips and lower back, but some clients aren’t comfortable doing that, especially if they’re new to massage.
During the massage, dim lights and soothing music enhance your relaxation throughout the session. A sheet covers you from neck to toes to keep you warm and preserve your modesty. I fold the sheet back from each area of the body as I work on it, then replace the sheet so you never feel exposed.
I don’t care – and I won’t tell anyone – if you shaved your legs before you came or if you have an interesting tattoo on your thigh. My goal during your hour on my massage table is to make you feel better, not to embarrass you or develop conversational topics for later.Unlike most business people with whom you work, I don’t care if you doze off during your session. Stress relief and relaxation motivated you to come to my office, and light snores signal that you’re relaxed.
Although an hour sounds like a long time to lie still on a massage table with no television, cell phone or book to distract you, it flies by. When I tell you our time is up, your stress level has dropped from off the chart to zero, your tight, aching muscles have relaxed and, I hope, you consider this the best hour of your week.
Wouldn’t it be great if those extra pounds so many of us carry could simply be massaged off? People would be slender, and massage therapists’ wallets would be fat. Hey, it works for me.
While it isn’t that easy or that direct, you can use massage to help you lose weight in several ways:
Increasing physical activity to burn calories and increase metabolic rate is a key element in losing weight and keeping it off. If you’ve been a classic couch potato and enthusiastically begin a strenuous exercise program, however, you’re going to hurt from overworked muscles and even may injure yourself. You may be too uncomfortable to continue your ambitious exercise program and too discouraged to begin a less challenging workout.
Obese people with arthritis have an especially difficult time losing weight, according to the Centers for Disease Control, because arthritis limits their mobility, and pain prevents the physical activity necessary to work off extra pounds. The CDC reports that 41.3% of adults with arthritis in Missouri fall into the obese weight category (that figure is from 2009). But losing even 10 or 12 pounds can help the obese arthritis sufferer decrease pain and increase mobility.
Massage increases range of motion – how much movement you have in a joint – and alleviates muscle pain without the use of drugs, enabling both those with and without arthritis to increase their physical activity. In addition, it increases your circulation and reduces muscle injuries. Because massage helps the muscles in the body get rid of the lactic acid and wastes produced during exercise, it speeds recovery time between workouts so that you can continue your exercise program. And as noted above, increased activity means decreased weight.
Of course, lack of physical activity isn’t the only reason we’re overweight. We also eat too much and eat the wrong foods. Besides eating to fuel our bodies, we eat because we’re stressed or bored, or just because something tastes good.
Massage reduces stress and helps you relax. My clients sometimes are so relaxed they start to snore – and as a massage therapist, I am not insulted when you fall asleep while I’m working with you. Reducing stress through massage cuts down on stress-related eating. During massage your body produces endorphins, which promote a general feeling of well-being. If you already are walking around with a general feeling of well-being, you are less likely to grab a snack simply because it tastes good and provides momentary pleasure.
The end result of skipping those unhealthy snacks and increasing your physical activity will be to lose weight. It won’t happen as quickly as you want; it will happen only because you discipline yourself to change your bad eating habits and push yourself to increase your activity level. To keep motivated and stick to your plan, you may want to celebrate meeting interim goals with a non-fattening reward such as scheduling a massage for each five or 10 pounds you lose. That’s not pampering yourself, it’s taking good care of yourself.
Besides, you aren’t snacking during the hour or so you spend on the massage table. That has to count for something.