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!
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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 email@example.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!
I’ve been trying for like a month to put together a full newsletter for you, but then stuff keeps changing and mask mandates are confusing, the State’s rules are confusing, and life is generally confusing. So, I spent the last couple of days doing some research and here is where we’re at:
Town of Orono:
The Town of Orono’s emergency mask mandate is still *technically* in effect. They are meeting on June 3 to discuss repealing it
State of Maine:
The State of Maine has “retired” the page with the reopening checklist for massage facilities. It now refers you to a page on general guidance and say they will be following CDC recommendations.
The CDC has absolutely no massage industry-specific guidelines that I can find, though many pages hadn’t been updated in months. In an American Hospital Associate article, I read that the CDC still requires masks in healthcare settings.
A recently updated page, Key Things To Know, states that they are still working to understand how well the vaccine prevents you from spreading the virus, though early data show that vaccines help keep people with no symptoms from spreading COVID-19. They are still learning, including how effective the vaccines are against variants.
For right now, I’m going to go with please keep wearing masks for your massage appointment. At the moment, you technically still need to wear masks in the building, based on Orono’s rules. Once that is repealed, it is okay for vaccinated clients to come into the office without a mask. You will still need to wear one at least when laying face up on the table.
Plan to wear a mask for at least part of your massage appointment through June, even if you are vaccinated. I will reassess at the end of the month. This could change if we have a surge or a dramatic drop in COVID cases.
Ideally, you need to let them know well before your appointment date. You need time to connect to discuss how serious your case was. It may also be necessary for you to reach out to your healthcare team for feedback. The best plan is to talk to them before you make an appointment.
Why Worry About Massage After COVID-19?
The biggest concern is the risk of blood clots associated with COVID-19. While blood clots have primarily been seen in patients hospitalized with severe cases, there are still a lot of unknowns. Autopsies of patients who have died from COVID often show severe clotting, which contributed to multiple organ failure and death. You can read an interview about COVID-19 and clotting issues written by a massage pathology eductator here.
Massage Gets the Blood Moving
One of the benefits of massage is that it improves the flow of blood through your muscles and organs. A massage stroke presses down on your muscles, stretching and warming them. Those muscles have blood vessels supplying them, and that same motion pushes the blood in the direction of the stroke.
Maybe you noticed that these strokes are often deliberately pushing blood towards your heart. Once there, it travels to the lungs for fresh oxygen, and then back through your organs and muscles again. Because of this, it is possible to dislodge a clot and send it traveling through you body to create big problems.
What Does My Massage Therapist Need to Know?
You may have noticed they keep asking you about your ability to exercise and increase your heart rate/respiratory rate. They’ll want to know if you’ve had any new or unusual muscle aches or pain. It’s also important to know if you have seen any unexplained marks, rashes, bumps, or other lesions on your skin. These are all screening questions to help rule out blood clots.
So please, don’t be embarrassed, don’t brush it off. Let your massage therapist know and answer their questions honestly. They are trying to keep you safe!
This past week, I saw 15 massage clients. That may have been a few too many appointments during COVID times – because I was pretty much dead by the end of the week. Mostly because Thursday and Friday both had four appointments each. By the time you spend half an hour cleaning and resetting the room after each one, it makes for a very. long. day. Everyone was still awesome and helpful and I truly appreciate that! Most everyone remembered their masks and got their health information filled out ahead of time, which definitely makes life a little easier.
WHAT I LEARNED THIS WEEK
I learned that between “COVID Brain” and generally having to re-learn and change my routine, I’m still kind of scattered and forgetful. It’s equal parts hilarious and embarassing. I’ve messed up a couple of appointment lengths, ending a little too early, which of course I didn’t charge for the part I forgot. The people I messed up with were gracious and understanding.
Since I have to let the disinfectant air dry for 10 minutes, my most frequent thing is forgetting to go back in and put the sheets on the table. I *mostly* catch that before you arrive, but a couple of you had to watch me put the sheets on (insert facepalm here). I’ve started setting a reminder alarm so I’ll get them on BEFORE your appointment.
Did you know there is an art form to disinfecting a yoga ball? You do now! Hold it between your feet, spray and wipe one hemisphere. Rotate and repeat on the second hemisphere! Or chase it across the room, a less efficient option.
THINGS I AM CHANGING A LITTLE
INTAKE PROCESS: I now have a second laminated form that I go over with you when you arrive. I’m asking the same COVID-19 symptoms & exposure questions plus a few that are screening you for potential clotting risks. The good news is, it seems like clots are potentially less of a risk for those who have had mild to moderate cases of COVID-19, so some of my anxiety around that is lessened a little.
HEALTH INTAKE FORM: Everyone will need to go in and review/update their intake form on MassageBook prior to each appointment. If you’re coming in weekly and we’ve been in contact, then we can do it bi-weekly. Other than that, I want to keep an ongoing track of any health changes and also make sure you’re looking at the COVID-19 policies each time.
30 MINUTE MASSAGES: I’ve decided to stop offering 30-minute massages for the time being. It takes at least a half an hour to clean, disinfect and reset the room between appointments, and I feel like a half-hour of massage followed by 30-40 minutes of cleaning and prep just doesn’t make sense at this time. If you have a gift certificate for a 30-minute massage or study break, you can apply it towards an hour massage. If you’re truly in pain and can’t afford an hour, contact me and we’ll talk.
SCHEDULE YOUR MASSAGE TODAY!
I have opened up online booking for all existing clients (this means if you have been in within the last year) through the end of August. I encourage you to book online. It’s still the fastest way to get your appointment. Playing text/email/message tag takes forever, more so now than before.
I’d like to start talking a little bit more about the risks of massage during COVID-19 so that you know what you’re getting into if you decide to come in for an appointment. To start with, let’s look at one of the biggest factors… close contact.
We all have heard from the start of the pandemic… keep at least six feet away from each other– whether it was with or without masks. Now, the popular scientific community opinion is to wear a mask, but still stay six feet apart. I don’t know if you’ve had a massage recently… but we’re not six feet apart.
Working Around Close Contact Rules
So, I’m asking everyone to wear a mask and stay as far from me as my office space will allow until you get on the table. At this point, you’re still keeping a mask on, or are face down with the pillowcase acting as a mask. However, even though I have on an apron, mask, and face shield, we are nowhere near six feet apart. Sorry, but my arms just aren’t that long.
I realized how fleeting the protection is from the face masks and shield when I feel a puff of breath from a client. That means that somehow “vapors” from that client are still reaching me, and mine are probably reaching them. Granted, since we’re both wearing masks, the risk is greatly decreased, but as I like to keep saying THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES.
Well Great, Now What?
To start with, make sure the mask you’re wearing to your massage appointment fits well. There shouldn’t be big gaps on either side of your nose, blowing breath upwards. Nor should there be gaps pooching out at the sides, blowing breath out to the sides. (You might have noticed, I’m kind of all over the place during a massage.)
I’m wearing a face shield, which helps, but I think I’m going to look into one that actually fits the opposite way of traditional face shields. I like to call it the “half a doggy cone of shame”. The traditional top-down shields still leave space below for your breath to float up and mine to flow down, which is the part that is really close to you, especially when I’m working on your neck (and I don’t think you want me to skip working on your neck).
Think Outside the Appointment
Consider these risks and ask yourself if you are healthy enough to risk the chance of exposure. But also, think about beyond just you and me. I’m doing my best to stay healthy and not become exposed to COVID-19.
What if I am? What if you get that call from me that says I had a client who tested positive for COVID-19? Do you feel like being in close contact with someone is worth the risk? Is there someone that you don’t want to bring that risk home to? It’s a lot to think about, I know. But it’s important to consider all the risks when deciding to schedule a massage during this pandemic.
As always, I appreciate your thoughtfulness and patience. Stay negative.
This past week, I saw 8 massage appointments. It was mostly friends and a couple of people who had something like a million appointments canceled over the duration of the shutdown. (I may be exaggerating a tad). I want to THANK BIG TIME everyone who came in!
It was inspiring! People filled out the requested health forms without complaint, arrived wearing a mask, and let me check their temp with my no-touch thermometer on arrival. Some of you were so intent on being helpful, you tried hard to touch as few things as possible while you were there. You hand sanitized and kept your mask on for your massage, and I am so, so, grateful. It really helped make a stressful, scary time much more manageable.
WHAT I LEARNED THIS WEEK
I learned that yeah, for the time being, I’m going to need to leave the one hour space between appointments. It takes me 20-30 minutes to wipe everything down, let it air dry, and then get set up for the next appointment.
I learned/realized that one of the disinfectants I bought is a cleaner AND disinfectant, so I can save a little time using that. At the end of the day, I may use the separate cleaner and disinfectant just to give everything a good scrub and then let it air out until the next day.
I also learned that having people just request appointments was a big pain in the butt. So, you can schedule online like normal now!
THINGS I AM CHANGING A LITTLE
After my first day of trying to use the new Hands Heal EHR to take the appointment notes, I realized I hated it. So, literally the only thing it was doing for me was the fancy COVID-19 screening form. Nevermind that, then.
I’ve gone in and updated the intake form on MassageBook, it does have some symptoms screening questions, and I have added some information on the waiver page reminding you of policies and risks. I will be asking everyone to update that form before every appointment, even if you’re coming in more than once a month.
Today I’m working on a more thorough screening process for when you arrive for your appointment. I’ll be making a second laminated form to the one that I use for taking your notes that will be specific to COVID-19. There are some risk factors that are really hard to predict, particularly clotting risks. (Even if you don’t think you’ve had COVID) So, I’ll be asking you some specific questions to hopefully rule out those risks. I think I will probably also write a specific blog post about it if I can distill it down into bite-size morsels.
SCHEDULE YOUR MASSAGE TODAY!
I have opened up online booking for all existing clients. Right now the schedule is open through the first two weeks in August. I encourage you to book online. It’s honestly the fastest way to get your appointment. Playing text/email/message tag takes forever, more so now than before.
Here we go, folks. I have started reaching out to those of you whom I had to cancel so many times to get you scheduled. I’m giving those clients and other frequent flyers first shot at appointments as part of my phased massage reopening.
Online booking is set up so that you can request an appointment. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s available, but I will let you know. You may also email me or message me on Facebook to check on appointment times.
After a week or so, I will see if I need a whole hour between appointments and how the process is going. If all is well, I will turn on regular online booking. I’m not going to book appointments super far in advance until we see how things are going, because it was frankly pretty depressing to have to cancel all those appointments this spring.
Click the links in the bullets below to learn more about the policies I am implementing. The two most important things are High-Risk Client Policies and the mandatory face covering.
Keep in mind, appointments could be canceled at any time if the state requires us to shut down again, if cases spike in the area, or if I or a client have been exposed to COVID-19.
Highlights of Current Policies & Procedures in Place
I am working on other policies this weekend. All of these policies and procedures are subject to changes as the state of COVID-19 and related issues change. As always, I remind you that THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES. I am doing the best I can with the situation in order to keep us all as safe as possible.
COVID-19 Exposure Protocol
COVID-19/State Mandated Closure Protocol
If you have any questions about the policies or procedures I have set up in the office, feel free to contact me. Meanwhile, stay safe, stay healthy!
UPDATE 4/3/2020: This post was originally written on 3/12/2020, before COVID-19 had really even gotten a foothold in Maine. At a later date it’ll be updated to reflect general sanitation practices. At this time, my office is closed at least until the end of April, 2020.
I’ve been chatting with my massage clients in recent days about concerns around both the influenza virus and COVID-19. I’m always concerned and careful about sharing germs, particularly in flu season. I see clients of varying ages and health levels and I want to keep all of us healthy.
Hygiene and sanitation are of huge importance to a massage therapist regardless of what bugs are going around. Besides cold and flu season, there are plenty of reasons to make sure we’re not sharing germs or pathogens. Here are some of the preventive measures I take in my office:
Basic Sanitation Practices
Using a fresh set of sheets for each client, laundered in hot water.
Wiping down the table, face cradle, and other surfaces with disinfecting spray between each appointment.
Washing my hands before and after every massage, with hot water & soap, for at least one minute.
Using a hand towel or paper towel to open and close doors before and after washing.
Avoiding touching my face with my bare hands during your massage.
Sanitizing my hands halfway through your massage.
If I’m not feeling well, I will ALWAYS contact you and let you know.
This is how I operate even when there isn’t a pandemic concern. Given the concerns about COVID-19, I have begun instituting a few upgrades to wellness and prevention here in my office. These primarily involve things I’m doing here at the office, but I also need your help.
New Things Happening Here:
Avoiding face massage unless you have a particle issue you want to address (TMJD, headaches, etc).
Periodically disinfecting door knobs and other surfaces in the office with a food grade disinfectant.
Diffusing an essential oil blend that promotes immunity (I will turn it off if I know someone is coming in with asthma or other sensitivities).
Working on providing extra hand sanitizer for clients (thank you, panic buyers).
What You Can Do:
Health and sanitation are a two way street (maybe more like a busy intersection, but you get the idea). Here are some things you can do to help:
Use common sense and a little caution. If you’re not feeling well, I’m not going to charge you for rescheduling your appointment.
DO NOT come in for a massage if you have the flu, a cold, or God forbid, COVID-19.
If you come in actively sick, I’m going to ask you to go home, to protect both myself and your fellow clients.
Wash your hands before you come into the office. (Check out this article that explains the effectiveness of hand washing!)
Massage is Proactive, Too
A potential public health crisis is causing stress for us all. Remember, getting a massage is actually a proactive step you can take right now to boost your immune system, relieve stress, and help you sleep.
Wellness Starts at Home
Meanwhile, you know the drill: wash your hands, eat your vegetables, drink plenty of water and get enough sleep. Stay tuned for updates on how you can boost your immune system and stay healthy.
Tackling the “massage is like 8 hours of sleep” myth.
Does massage equal sleep? Sometimes, I see a lovely graphic someone made of the benefits of massage, and I think “Oh wow! I want to share this with my clients!” Then, I read the list of benefits… and inevitably I scrap the idea. There are a few massage myths that turn up on these lists, and I plan to talk about some of them. This is the big one that makes me the craziest. So, go ahead, ask it:
Is an Hour of Massage Really the Same as 8 Hours of Sleep?
What’s the Deal, Then?
Does massage equal sleep? Essentially, the answer to the question has become sort of over-simplified and exaggerated. Try skipping a couple of nights of sleep and replacing them with a massage. That makes me tired just thinking about it!
What I learned in massage school was that an hour of massage has similar benefits to the body as about 3 hours of restorative rest. That’s kind of like a nice long nap. But, let’s break it down a little bit.
What Happens When We Sleep?
There are stages to sleep that you’re just not going to get from a massage. While I love to have a client fall asleep on the table, you aren’t going to reach all – if any – of these stages during a massage. These stages include:
“Twilight State” – the stage between being awake and falling asleep. (This is probably most commonly what you feel during a massage.)
Light sleep – heart rate and breathing regulate, body temperature drops.
Third and fourth stages are deep sleep.
The cycle repeats itself four or five times through the night.
What Do Brainy People Say About Sleep?
The National Sleep Foundation has renamed these stages N1-3 and REM. During N3, or stages 3 and 4, blood pressure drops, breathing slows, muscles relax, and blood supply to muscles increase. Metabolically, tissue growth and repair occurs, energy is restored, and growth hormones are released. REM sleep supports daytime performance, dreams occur, and the body becomes immobile and released – the muscles are turned off!
According to the National Institutes for Health, “Sleep services all aspects of our body in one way or another: molecular, energy balance, as well as intellectual function, alertness and mood.” Sleep affects growth and stress hormones, appetite, breathing, blood pressure, and cardiovascular health.
In an article by Johns Hopkins Medicine, sleep expert and neurologist Mark Wu, M.D. says that a healthy amount of sleep is vital for “brain plasticity”, or the brain’s ability to adapt to input. Too little sleep can affect our ability process what we’ve learned during the day, as well as give us trouble remembering it in the future.
What Happens When We Get a Massage?
Some people are pretty quick to hit the light sleep stage (Stage 1-2 or N1-2) during a massage. However, most of the time you’re either just really relaxed, or you’ve reached that “Twilight State” where you’re kind of asleep, kind of awake. A massage becomes more like a nap than a full night’s sleep. This is all still good for you, though! During a massage:
Blood pressure lowers
Lymph flow increases
Serotonin and melatonin levels may increase
A lot of the effects of massage are similar to those of various stages of sleep, but one cycle of sleep stages typically lasts about 90 to 110 minutes. Even in a 90 or 120 minute massage, you usually have to wake up and roll over about halfway through. Sleep Review lists a variety of reports on the effectiveness of massage in improving sleep. But, while these have found that massage improves sleep, it does not replace sleep.
What Does That All Mean?
So. Does massage equal sleep? No, but it can help. Massage helps you break the cycle of pain, find relief, and improve your sense of well-being. It can relieve stress and anxiety. In turn, it can help you get a better night’s sleep. Together, this allows your body to set up the conditions needed to heal itself.
The frequency and type of massage needed vary from person to person. Health issues may mean massage is not right for you. I encourage you to work with all your healthcare team, including your massage therapist, to figure out what works best for you.