A Guide to Gifting Massage

HEYYY! IT'S [INSERT SPECIAL OCCASION HERE]!

You have a great idea! Let’s give a massage gift certificate! Maybe your bestie has been super stressed out and you want to just schedule a massage for them, they obviously need it! 

I wholeheartedly support gifting massages, and here are a few guidelines to make sure it’s the best gift for your loved one:

DO THEY ACTUALLY LIKE MASSAGE?

I know, I know, it seems weird… You love massage, I love massage, obviously EVERYONE loves massage! But, believe it or not, not everyone does! Even when I was in massage school and friends could get FREE massages from me, not everyone took advantage. 

Sometimes it’s just a tactile thing. Sometimes it’s anxiety or trauma related. I know a few occasions where people have gifted massages and the recipient really just doesn’t want to use it. You might try to bring up massage in conversation and see what they say before purchasing the gift certificate.

DO THEY HAVE A FAVORITE MASSAGE THERAPIST?

I’ve had regular clients sheepishly confess that they went to another massage therapist because they got a gift certificate. I honestly don’t mind, but do you really want to give a friend a guilty conscience as a gift? 

You can probably find out pretty easily in casual conversation if they have a regular massage therapist. Maybe just ask them if they have a massage therapist they’d recommend. Most people who are regular clients of a massage therapist are happy to tell you all about them.

HOW SOON CAN THEY USE THE GIFT CERTIFICATE?

You found out for sure that they LOVE massages, but maybe they don’t have a regular one they go to. Excellent, so now you’re looking for the right place to get the certificate! Check out reviews online, ask friends for referrals, and reach out to the recommended massage therapists. Going with a really popular one is fabulous, but it’s a good idea to find out how far ahead they’re booking appointments. 

If your loved one is really in dire need of a massage, waiting a month or more to get in for their appointment isn’t ideal. I recommend having a few options and giving them a call before you pick up the gift certificate. In my area, we actually have a great network of local massage therapists, and many of us are happy to help you find one who is the best fit for your or your loved one.

NOW IT’S TIME TO SLEUTH!

Thank you for being an awesome person and wanting to take good care of those in your life, they’re lucky to have you. Now go on out there and do a little sleuthing! You’ve got this!

What to Expect During Your Massage Appointment

Maybe you’re thinking about scheduling a massage, but you have no idea what to expect. Here’s a bit of a review of what happens when you come into my office for a massage!

Before Your Appointment

Ideally, I like to know what is happening health-wise before you come in for your massage. The easiest way to accomplish this is for you to fill out the online health information form that gets emailed to you. Rest assured, the program is HIPAA compliant, and I do not share your information with any third party.

This information helps me get an idea of what you’re hoping massage can help you with. It also give me a heads up if there are any reasons you should maybe not get a massage, or if I need to be careful of any particular health issues. If you can’t fill it out ahead of time, we’ll take care of it in the office, just plan to come in a little early.

Appointment Day: Touching Base

Plan to arrive about 10 minutes before the start of your appointment. We’ll go over any health concerns and talk about what you’re looking for in your massage. It’s helpful to know if you have any mobility or range of motion restrictions, as well as what areas are particularly tight or painful. You can also let me know if you don’t want me to massage a specific area, such as feet, abdomen, or glutes. Feedback or changing your mind about something is also welcome at any time during the session.

Getting Ready for Your Massage

After we’ve talked about what we’re going to do, I’ll take you into the massage room. There’s a corner with a comfy chair that’s all yours to toss your clothes and other personal items on. I’ll show you how I’d like you to lay on the table.

I will leave the room and go wash my hands while you get ready. You can choose how many layers of clothing you prefer to keep on. Most people strip entirely, or down to their underpants. You’ll be covered with a sheet and blanket the entire time.

My table is electric, and raises and lowers with a foot pedal. This is nice because I can set the table at a level that’s easy to hop on and get comfy. I will raise and lower it as needed during your massage. It’s pretty quiet and actually rather hard to tell if it’s going up or down!

The Massage: First Half

I typically start you face down if you’re there for a full body, or full hour massage. Starting you face down helps if you tend to get a little stuffed up laying face down. Once you roll over, you get a chance to “un-stuff” before your massage is done. It also allows any creases from the face cradle to fade a bit before you head out in public!

You’ll see a padded, U-shaped cushion (face cradle) at the end of the table for you to rest your face in. This is designed to help prevent strain on your neck, it’s also very comfortable! Additionally, I place a small bolster under your ankles for support.

For a full body massage, I usually start with the backs of your legs and work my way up. Part of the reason for this is encouraging blood flow towards your heart. I also tend to save more time for your back, unless your legs are of specific focus, since that tends to be people’s favorite part. I’ll check in with you periodically to see if the amount of pressure I’m using is good, or if you want more or less. If at any time you do not like something I’m doing, you can ask me to stop.

Uncovering one leg at a time, I pull a corner of the sheet under your leg and then up to your hip, with provides a secure, kind of “half a diaper” type of draping. This protects your modesty and allows me to work on your hard working thigh muscles. It also makes it easier to stretch your hips if needed.

The Massage: Second Half

Halfway through the massage, I’ll remove the ankle bolster and lift the blanket slightly so you can change positions. You’ll need to slide down towards the foot of the table so that you’re not in the face cradle, and then roll onto your back. (Sometimes easier said than done, when you’re all relaxed!) I’ll put a bolster under your knees to help prevent low back discomfort.

photograph of a person receiving a scalp/neck massageFor the second half of a full body massage, I’ll usually start at your head and work towards your feet. I like to give my hands a quick clean/sanitize so that I don’t get oil or lotion in your hair, and I’m touching your face with clean hands. Unless you don’t like it, or don’t want your hair messed up, I’ll start with a scalp massage.

I may also do some neck and shoulder stretches unless you’ve told me about disc issues or range of motion restrictions. When I stretch your arms/shoulders, I will pull your arm out from under the blankets, then tuck the blanket under your armpit so that it doesn’t slip.

Once I’ve massaged and stretch your hands, arms, shoulders, and neck, I’ll tuck you back in under the blankets and move down to your legs. I’ll do that same “half a diaper” draping so that I can work on the entire front of your legs. Then, I’ll tuck you back in again and move on to finish with your feet (unless you do not want a foot massage).

The Massage: Winding Up

When I’ve finished the last part of your massage, I’ll tuck you back under the blankets. Then, I’ll do a little bit of compression and some light “feather” or “nerve” strokes that soothe the nervous system. This also serves as a kind of “goodbye” and is a gentle cue that the massage is finished. I’ll remove the bolster from under your knees and lower the massage table to a height that is easy to get down from.

I will leave the room to wash my hands and allow you to get off the table at your own pace. Massage helps to lower your blood pressure, which can make some people a little dizzy if you sit up too fast. So, take your time and sit up slowly before hopping off the table. Once you’re up and dressed, you can come on out into the office!

Before You Go

When you come out of the room, I’ll check in to see how you feel, and if any problem areas are feeling better. Some people need to sit for a few minutes and kind of get back into their body before they leave. (“Massage drunk” is a thing!) You can help yourself to a cup of water and a dark chocolate or two (or three).

If you haven’t prepaid for your massage, we’ll get you checked out, and you can schedule your next appointment before you go, so you don’t forget. I accept most forms of payment, including check, cash, credit card, and Apple Pay. I have turned off the “tips” option on the credit card reader because I don’t want people to feel obligated to tip. If you’re someone who absolutely HAS to tip, just plan to bring a little cash! I won’t throw it back at you. :)

Final Notes

Massage therapists are required to be licensed in the state of Maine. You can verify a massage therapist’s license status on the state’s website HERE. Choose “Massage Therapy” under the Regulator section and type in the name of the therapist to verify.

DO NOT ask for a happy ending. Don’t even joke about it. This is soliciting prostitution, and any “massage parlor” or “masseuse” that offers that service is likely not licensed and probably a front for sex trafficking. Stay tuned for more on that in another blog post.

Massage therapy is a legitimate form of wellness and health care, and as a massage therapist, I am here to do what I can to help you live a more comfortable, healthy, pain-free life. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about your future massage appointment. I look forward to meeting you!

What is Tricia’s Massage Style?

Photograph of Tricia Griffith

Tricia, Licensed Massage Therapist

If you haven’t been in to Birch Tree Wellness for a massage yet, maybe you’re wondering if my massage style is right for you. Here’s a little bit of information about how I approach each massage.

What Do You Need in a Massage?

The first thing I want to know is, what are you looking for? Are you in pain, and don’t care so much about relaxing as long as the pain stops? Are you feeling physically fine but mentally drained? I can adjust each session as needed to address what you need that day.

Massage for Pain Relief

Before we start the appointment, we’ll chat about where your pain is and how it is affecting you. I want to try to get a feel for the source of your pain before we even start the massage. I’ll find out if you want full body work, or just a focus on the pain area, as well as if you prefer deeper or lighter pressure.

Occasionally, massage is not a good idea, and I want to make sure I’m not going to hurt you more. It’s important to know if you have any disc/spinal injuries, recent acute injuries such as fractures, or surgery. I may ask you about how the pain affects your range of motion and general movement. Are there times where it’s worse or better? Do you remember any specific incident that led to the pain?

Pain Relief is Relaxing

photo of a shoulder massage

Each massage begins with gentle Swedish massage. These are the long, slow strokes that help calm the nervous system and relax your muscles. Starting out with lighter pressure warms your muscles up. If I just dove right in to deep pressure, you’d leave your massage hurting more than when you arrived.

I believe that even a therapeutic massage can be relaxing. This is why as I start working on your problem areas, I incorporate relaxing strokes and gentle, but firm pressure. Occasionally, a hot stone may help loosen up a tight muscle. I may stretch your arms/shoulders, neck or legs/hips. Stretches or heat can help reduce how much deep work is needed to get cranky muscles to let go.

I’m a big believer that massage doesn’t have to hurt to work. I know there’s some amount of “good hurt”, but if you’re holding your breath, it’s probably too much. Don’t hesitate to let me know if it hurts too much. For the most part, I employ gentle techniques to get your muscles to release.

Science!

photograph of a person receiving a scalp/neck massage

Among my favorites is a “positional release” technique. This gets all “science-y.” If you have a sore neck, I target a specific tight neck muscle, and slightly move your head in the direction that muscle is trying to pull it. Then, I’ll hold it there for around 30 seconds. This sends signals to the muscle telling it that it’s done it’s job and successfully moved your head… good muscle! The muscle then lets go (and stops hurting). Science! (Magic!)

In other science news, you may also notice I don’t necessarily start right where it hurts. This is because many times a muscle hurts because it’s over-stretched, meaning the muscle that does the opposite action is tight and has been pulling it out of whack (a technical term). For example, if your upper back and shoulders hurt, it’s often because your shoulders are curled forward and your pecs are tight, over stretching those back muscles and making them sad and painful.

Checking In

If we’re working on a specific problem during your massage, I may check in with you periodically. It helps to know if what I’m doing is making a difference. I may also ask you to do something, such as resist against my push, or test your range of motion.

My “default setting” for massage is generally a medium to deep pressure without beating you up. I find this to be an effective amount of pressure, and most people find it comfortable. I can always back off or press harder as needed, don’t be afraid to let me know. That being said, the type of massage where it’s all elbows and painful deep pressure is really not my style. If you want to be beat up during your massage, I’ll help you find someone who likes to work that hard on you.

Just Shut Off My Brain

photo of a woman with hands on her head

If pain is less of an issue, but mentally you’ve just had it, I can still help. Massage is an excellent way to help manage chronic stress, anxiety or depression. For those of you who just need a mental break, we’ll slow down the massage and go back to those nice, relaxing Swedish massage roots. I often incorporate Reiki or just a gentle, soothing intent into the massage.

Massage decreases stress hormones and increases positive hormones like dopamine and serotonin. By keeping the pressure around a medium to light level, and not doing anything too painful, we can give your brain a break. Sometimes, that’s all we need to reset and get going forward again.

Quiet, Please

Lastly, in generally I try to follow a “Don’t speak unless spoken to” rule during your appointment. I believe that not having to worry about carrying on a conversation improves your massage experience. Several chatty clients have tried out being quiet during their massage and commented that it seemed like the massage lasted longer. That being said, if you just need to vent for a while, that’s okay, too!

Don’t Hesitate to Ask

Feel free to email me at tricia@birchtreewellnessmassage.com or message on Facebook if you want to talk about your massage needs, or have questions about my massage style. I look forward to meeting you!

Taking a Time Out

Not Accepting New Clients at This Time

photo of a child in time out

With the schedule being filled several months ahead, I've stopped accepting new clients for the time being.

If you have a gift certificate, I will do my best to accommodate you. If you've signed up on my waiting list, I am still keeping you in mind for potential openings. Just know that while I am trying to get you on the schedule sooner, it could still be a few months.

If you want help finding someone to get into sooner, I know a bunch of great massage therapists and will be happy to help connect you. If you have your heart set on coming to Birch Tree Wellness, I can put you on the waiting list, but know that it'll be a while!

Current clients, if you haven't booked your next few appointments, you may want to click that "book now" button on my FB page or website and get yourself scheduled.

Thank you to all of you for being so awesome and for helping my business grow/thrive/explode. You're madly appreciated!

xoxo ~Tricia

30 Days of Self-Care Summary

Thank you so much for following #30daysofselfcare – I hope you found a handful of ideas that you’ve already tried or that you’re looking forward to trying out. Remember, you don’t have to do them all in one month. You don’t even have to do all of them. Just pick the ones that speak to you and maybe make a practice of doing them once or twice a month.

I’ve put them all together in this full 30-day compilation so you can bookmark it or save it somewhere to refer back to whenever you feel like you need a little pick-me-up.

Take care of yourselves!

graphic featuring 30 days of self-care suggestions

BONUS! Self-Care Day 31

Take Yourself on a Date

self-care graphic: take yourself on a date

Just when you thought #30daysofselfcare was over, POOF! Day 31! Here’s a little bonus self-care tip. Take yourself on a date. I learned about this tip from Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way” – as a tool for helping boost your creativity. She called them an Artist Date, but you can call it a Vet Tech Date or a Nurse Date or a Tired Mom Date, or whatever makes you happy.

Take a little me time. Find a way to get away for an hour or a whole afternoon. It doesn’t have to be an expensive date. Take yourself to a museum or art show. Go to your favorite cafe. Go for a walk in your favorite park. Treat yourself to lunch at your favorite restaurant.

The key is to do it by yourself. And don’t let it turn into a date with a bunch of errands. Try to do it on a day when you’re not in a rush to get back to work. Just take some time for yourself to do something that brings you a little peace, joy, or relaxation.

Where do you plan to take yourself for your date?

Self-Care Day 30

Clear Out Your Wardrobe

graphic self-care tip clear out your wardrobe

I am the least wardrobe-oriented person I know. I have clothing that is so old I don’t even remember where/when I bought it! When you wear a uniform for work, it certainly reduces the need for a lot of extra fancy work clothes.

That being said, I am actually TERRIBLE at getting rid of clothes I don’t wear. I have some stuff in my closet I never wear, but you know, I MIGHT need it!

There are a few ways you can get rid of old clothes. You can donate them, of course. Various thrift stores, shelters, and charities accept clothing.

Another neat thing I found is ThredUp. ThredUp is an online consignment and thrift store. Not only can you shop for quality used/upcycled clothing, but you can request a “clean out kit” and they’ll send you a bag you can fill with all your unwanted clothing. Once they receive the bag, they will process it and post it for sale on their site, and you get a portion of the proceeds added to your account that you can spend on the site!

There are possibly other sites that do this, this is just the one I’ve tried and liked. Maybe you can make a little extra space in your closet/dresser this week! Where is your favorite place to donate clothing?

Self-Care Day 29

Random Acts of Kindness

self-care tip random act of kindness

Doing something a little nice for someone else can be a boost to your own mood. It could be financial, like leaving an extra big tip or giving a friend a gift card. It could be making scarves and hats for the homeless.

Maybe brushing snow off your coworker’s car if you’re leaving before them, or mowing an elderly neighbor’s yard. Donate used towels or blankets, or pet toys to a shelter! Do a web search for “acts of kindness” for more ideas!

Self-Care Day 28

Look Through Old Photos or Happy Memories

self care look through old photos

It can be a nice little walk down memory lane to dig out old photo albums and look back at fond memories. Maybe you’ve got some old photos that need to be sorted into albums *coughcough*me*coughcough* – A perfect little task for a rainy weekend!

Self-Care Day 27

Start Learning a New Skill

self-care learn a new skill

I think most of us have something in the back of our minds we have always wanted to learn. Maybe it’s as complicated as a musical instrument or a new language. Maybe you want to learn to knit or sew. Whittle? Origami? Cake decorating? Tap dancing? (I know someone who can help you with that if you’re into it!)

Pick a new skill and give it a whirl! It’ll stimulate your brain, get you out of a rut, or give you a new way to make gifts, have fun, or create a little side hustle!