by Pallas Hutchison
As I have said for years, my sister Marina got all of the grace. The gawky, loose-limbed adolescent gait that most people outgrow has stuck with me. As a result, I'm a bit of a klutz. After years of ridiculous injuries, I found a positive aspect to being accident prone. It makes me a better massage therapist.
How does that work?
Many of the injuries my clients come in with are things that I have actually experienced, which means I can empathize better. It also means that I have a better idea which muscles were involved and where the pain is located. My clients often comment on how quickly I find their problem areas. This is not intuition; this is experience.
From top to bottom, here a list of injuries/conditions that I have personal experience with:
My personal experience does not make massage an acceptable substitute for emergency medical care. It actually makes me more likely to refer clients to their physician for an x-ray or MRI before working on an injury. Liability is not the only reason for referring clients out before giving massage. The more a massage therapist knows about what is going on, the better they can help the client. Sometimes that means not giving them a massage right away.
by Pallas Hutchison
First time massage clients are often nervous. They don't know what to expect and most websites give ambiguous information or use jargon that the client may not be familiar with. The language of massage can be intimidating if the terms aren't explained.
by Pallas Hutchison
With Valentine's Day coming up this weekend, sharing a post about couples and love seemed appropriate. I designed this service a few years ago after talking to several local couples' counselors. While not the most popular of our services, this is probably the most fun and the most interactive. I have enjoyed working with each of my couples. Through this service, each couple has taught me how to teach and that I love teaching.
Please note that I am not a counselor, a psychotherapist or a psychiatrist. I am not qualified to say what this service does from a psychological standpoint. I do not want to misrepresent myself in any way. I know massage. and, by sharing what I know, I have seen a difference in how couples interact before and after this session.
What is the purpose of an instructional massage?
The goal of this service is to teach the couple a new way to touch each other and develop communication, which ultimately deepens intimacy. People know if their partner has sore shoulders, a stiff back or tired feet; they don't always know how to help effectively. For example, fingertips angled wrong result in sharp nails stabbing into sore muscles. Learning massage techniques and body mechanics help with this problem. Bigger &/or stronger people are often afraid that their strength will hurt their loved one, especially if they appear fragile. This is where communication skills comes in.
What happens during an instructional massage?
A couple comes in and I teach them how to give each other a massage using basic Swedish techniques. Each person receives a four-handed 30-minute massage from their partner and myself. The lesson includes basic safety as relates specifically to their partner (based off of their intake form), a demonstration of what parts of the hand and arm to use for beginner strokes and a general explanation of body mechanics so they won't hurt themselves trying to use these skills.
The session is deliberately focused on the top problem area, the one spot they each would like worked on the most. As I teach, I check in with the client to find out how they are doing. I encourage the partner to ask the questions also. Do they like that technique? Is the pressure too much or too little? Is that the area you want focused on? Depending on how much massage experience the couple has, the session starts out awkwardly. Initial feedback is vague or generic. Touch is tentative. Diffusing the awkwardness with humor allows me to put the couple at ease and tease out more specific, constructive feedback.
By the end of the session, the couple has basic massage skills they can use at home. They also talk to each other differently. Their body language shifts; casual touches that may not have been there before. Without meaning to or even realizing, they show me their love for each other. It is amazing and humbling to see.
by Pallas Hutchison
Some clients get embarrassed if they fall asleep and snore during a massage or if they relax completely and a fart escapes. I'd like to reassure you that, if and when those things happen, there is no need to get embarrassed. To help set you at ease, I thought I would share a few of funny moments where I have been embarrassed, as the massage therapist.
The Hairpiece Incident
When in massage school, students are required to work in the clinic on the general public for practice to learn the techniques. During one of these supposedly routine Swedish massages, I had this little old Italian woman as a client. She could have been straight out of a mafia movie from the funeral scene: shroud-like black dress, black hat with the little veil attached. The massage proceeded like normal until I got to the end. I was finishing up by massaging her scalp. All of the sudden, I was holding her hair in my hands.
It had never occurred to me to ask a woman if she was wearing a hairpiece before. In truth, all of the hairpieces I had ever seen were on men and sadly obvious attempts to cover balding. (Keep in mind that I was 19-20 at the time.) I was horrified! Ever since, I have made sure there is a hairpiece question on my intake form.
The Full Frontal
When I first graduated massage school, I worked at the Penny House Inn in Eastham. The owner had converted one of the guest rooms into a spa treatment room. The set up was beautiful; plenty of room for the massage therapist to get around the table plus a private bathroom. One client decided halfway through her massage that she needed to use the bathroom. Without any warning, she flung the sheets off of her, pops up from the table and goes to use the facilities. All this is done very nonchalantly despite the fact that she is completely nude.
I had only graduated a few months before. Full frontal nudity is not something I expected when I went to work that day. Blushing furiously, I kept my back turned so that she would have some privacy when she returned to the table to finish her massage. Now, I always ask clients to use the bathroom before the massage starts.
The Ninja Grandma
For some reason, little old lady stories are inherently funny. In this particular incident, an elderly woman came in for a relaxation massage. We went through the intake form and I show her to the massage room. She's moving slow, using a cane to walk. I start to explain that I would like her to get undressed and onto the table, that I would knock before coming back in...
The next thing I know, clothes fly everywhere. This seemingly frail woman is naked and catapulting herself onto the table before I have a chance to finish my sentence, let alone leave the room! Never in my life would I have expected this woman to move so quickly! Privacy to undress and proper draping are as a much for the massage therapist's modesty as for the client's. If you aren't shy, please remember that I am!
I hope you enjoyed these stories. Did you have a funny massage experience, as a massage therapist or as a client? Share it below!
By Pallas Hutchison
We have a disclaimer on our website and intake form stating that we reserve "the right to refuse service to any client who has acted in an inappropriate manner." A surprising number of people have asked for clarification about this. Here are a few of the things I look for:
What happens if you do any of the above? First, the massage stops immediately. You will be re-draped and the massage therapist will step out of arm's reach. Second, the massage therapist will explain what you did/said that was inappropriate. Third, you will be given the choice of stopping that behavior and continuing with your massage or ending the massage and not being welcome to return. Consider it a one-time get-out-of-jail-free card. Most people get the hint. Throughout my ten years as a professional, eight clients have been fired for inappropriate behavior. Please don't give anyone a reason to add your name to a "Do Not Book" list. My previous post talked about how we, as massage therapists, respect our clients. We ask for that same respect in return.