Okay friends. We’re getting serious now, and I need you to know some things. Massage in the age of COVID-19 is not going to be the same as it was before we closed, changes are afoot. Things are going to be pretty different, and probably a pain in everyone’s butt.
But here’s the thing… I’m adjusting my mindset to think about these changes as adding to the existing culture of care at Birch Tree Wellness. This is about taking care of you. It’s about doing what I can to help you with your pain and stress, PLUS having you arrive healthy and leave healthier.
In lieu of a cure, vaccine, or other intervention for COVID-19, there is no way right now to reopen a massage practice without changes & protocols to protect all of us. Until that changes, there is no guarantee that that we will come away from our interactions unscathed. As I write this, COVID-19 cases in Orono & Old Town are estimated at 1-5 probable/confirmed cases. In Bangor, 43 probable/confirmed cases. In Penobscot County, 101 confirmed, 2 deaths. We’ve been pretty lucky so far, but it’s far from over.
My previous newsletters/posts have been mostly about the supplies that I’ve been putting together in order to provide a safer massage experience. But let me tell you, that was just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve climbed out of my gardening cocoon and really started diving into all of the information out there.
I have taken two online continuing education courses outlining all that is entailed in creating a safer (note: not SAFE, just SAFER) massage practice. To give you an idea of what we’re working with here, here are some of the main sources I am referencing. I’ve also been reading numerous articles & books.
Information overload, right? Tell me about it! In a nutshell, this is what I’m doing to ensure your safety (and my own) while continuing to deliver the pain & stress relief you need. What I’m asking of all of you is to remember, I’m not doing it to be a pain in your ass.
We’re all in this together. I love you all, and I will be beyond heartbroken if any one of you contracts COVID-19 as a result of your visit to my office. So, please… brace yourselves for a new norm for a time. It’s not forever, it’s just for now. Here are a few of the protocols I’m working to put in place:
I’m pretty sure there’s more, but I think you get the idea! As the new policies are written, you’ll find them on my Policies Page. I know you’re probably freaking out about the face masks. There’s a way I can set up my face cradle so that you don’t have to wear the face mask when you’re face down. BUT you need to wear it the rest of the time. Also, yes, I will be using a touchless thermometer to check your temperature. Keep that in mind if you’re biking, walking, or running to the office.
I know this is a lot of stuff. That’s why I wanted to get it out now, while I work on my end to make it all happen. On your end, it’s mostly just being patient with me, being willing to jump through a few hoops, and being willing to keep that mask on. Be honest with me about your health and your risk of exposure to COVID-19.
I also need you to weigh the risks for yourself before you schedule. Watch the numbers of cases in our community. Think about your own health risk or the risks to those you are caring for. As I said in the beginning, there are no guarantees, we can just do the best we can to try to be safe, and maybe get a little massage in the process.
I still don’t have a firm date that I’ll begin scheduling appointments. I’ll be starting with many of you I had to cancel over the last several months. Stay tuned for more details, information, and to get an idea of what the appointment schedule will be like. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Stay safe. Wash your hands. Be good.
I’ve read quite a bit online about purchasing gift certificates to help a small business stay afloat. Many of you have generously done so already, or prepaid for your next series of appointments. This is all extremely thoughtful and wonderful.
That being said, there’s something of a catch-22 to this plan. For example, If I bring in enough money in gift certificates to pay my May rent, that solves that immediate problem. However, if I can open in June and everyone who’s prepaid comes in at once, I’ve already spent that money and now have no cash flow to pay June’s expenses.
This is why, as my business has grown, I’ve worked hard to put everyone’s gift certificate and prepaid appointment money into a separate account, and I don’t take it out until you actually come in for that appointment. So, you can see how I am basically putting off the inevitable by spending your money before you come in.
Additionally, there’s something of an ethical quandary. As I said, these are uncertain times. I feel pretty positive that I will eventually be able to open for business. But if I don’t? I need to be able to pay people back. Or, God forbid, my estate needs to pay you back.
So. I love you all, and if you really want to pre-pay for appointments or purchase gift certificates, I’m not going to stop you. Just keep in mind, I’m probably going to try my darnedest not to spend it until we can actually see each other again.
If you’d really like to help me stay afloat, there’s a couple of ways you can help. Schedule a Distance Reiki session! In addition, you can purchase my artwork! Watch my art website (triciagriffitharts.com) or art Facebook page (@triciagriffitharts) for artwork for sale. Stay tuned for the possibility of T-shirts and other Birch Tree Wellness items for sale.
In the meantime, stay negative, friends.
These are stressful, scary times. And, as I am wont to do, this didn’t occur to my empathic self until I suffered the effects a few times. If you HAVE to go out in public, be prepared energetically.
Empaths, or highly sensitive people, are those who are very attuned to the energies and emotions of the people around them. This often makes them very caring, loving people, but it also makes them vulnerable to the negative energies and emotions of people around them.
Dr. Judith Orloff, assistant clinical professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, wrote an article “Are You An Emotional Empath?” that helps people recognize the traits of an empath, and gives great suggestions for dealing with the effects. I created this list of 10 signs you’re an empath based on her article and my own experience. If three or more of these signs apply to you, you’re very likely empathic.
So, what tends to take me a few times to catch on to are the situations that really drain me as empath. I finally realized that going out on essential errands during this COVID-19 crisis is kicking my butt. Just stopping to buy milk & toilet paper made me want to take a nap when I got home.
I live in a fairly sparsely populated neighborhood, so I do get a break when I get home. Empathic people living in towns and cities may not get the opportunity to “socially distance” themselves from the stress and anxiety of those around them. So, while I plan to heed my own advice the next time I need to go out, here are some tips on how you can protect yourself whenever you’re around others who are stressed & anxious:
You can clear yourself of these negative energies and stressors with a little creative visualization. As you’re getting back into your car, or walking in your front door, take a moment and physically brush yourself off. Brush your hands from the top of your body down, and imagine flinging the energies into the earth to be absorbed and cleansed. If you’re really wiped out, consider taking a shower and visualizing the emotions and energies washing down the drain.
If you feel like you’re still being affected by the stress & anxiety around you, you can contact me for some suggestions. We can also schedule a guided meditation or Reiki session to help you center and manage stress.
Be well & stay well… ~Tricia
UPDATE 4/3/2020: The Governor has ordered all non-essential businesses closed, and issued a stay at home order for the month of April. As a result, my office will continue to remain closed until the end of April. I am working my way through my appointments, contacting each person individually. Staying closed in May is also a probability, but let’s keep hoping. Meanwhile, wash your hands, stay home, stay healthy, and stay tuned to my website/blog, Facebook, and Instagram for health and wellness tips and other updates.
ORIGINAL POST 3/19/2020: The decision about whether to continue seeing clients or have a suspension of appointments has been weighing heavily on me the last few days. The rapidly changing news, new information coming to light, and the changing of professional opinions — as well as my concern for the well-being of my clients — have all been taken into consideration. For everyone’s safety, I have decided to close my office until the end of March and see where the coronavirus heads in the next couple of weeks.
As of this afternoon, one case of coronavirus has been confirmed here in Penobscot County, likely right in Bangor. This reassures me that I’ve made the right decision. Here are a few other things that were red flags to me:
By now, I have emailed all of my clients who were scheduled through March 31st. You do not need to go in and cancel your appointment, I’ll do that for you, so I can track carefully who I’ve had to cancel.
Don’t get too excited and run to schedule a new appointment in April. I’ll be watching what the virus is doing, and in a perfect world we would be able to continue business as usual in April, but I’m feeling cautious about that. I’ve blocked any available appointments the first three weeks of April, and the people I’ve had to cancel this month will get first dibs on them in the order they were canceled. I’ll contact you to schedule.
If you’re hurting, feel free to email me, and I’ll see if I can help you with stretches, self massage techniques, or Reiki.
Some plans I’m formulating to keep us all busy, informed, or entertained:
Meanwhile, take care of yourselves and each other, and wash your hands!
Be Well, & Stay Well
I’ve been doing distance healing and Reiki work for many, many years, but hadn’t really considered adding it to the regular services of my practice until recently.
Since I’m not providing in-office services for the time being, I have set up a new scheduling program specifically for booking distance Reiki during this time of COVID-19 concerns.
Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction, relaxation and healing. This modality is based on the idea that an unseen life force energy flows through us and gives us life. If this energy is low, or blocked, then we are more likely to feel stressed or ill. When this energy flow is increased and blockages removed, we feel more positive and healthy.
Since this life force, in essence, flows through everything, it makes Reiki an ideal method of helping people long distance. A practitioner can focus on the person receiving Reiki using a photo or personal item and special techniques learned in advanced Reiki training.
With this service, you schedule a day and time, just as if you were going to come into my office. However, at the time of your appointment, you can just stay home. I recommend taking a nap or meditating, or otherwise finding some place quiet to sit. During that time, I will send you Reiki and other healing/calming vibes.
I”ll contact you before your session to find out if you’re looking for any particular focus or just want me to send you the Reiki energy and let it go where it needs to go. Reiki is great for focusing on healing, immune boosting, and just overall stress and anxiety.
Since I don’t have to do laundry or sanitize after you, the fee for these sessions will be $20 for 30 minutes, $20 for 45 minutes, or $40 for 60 minutes. You will be required to pay for the session at the time of scheduling.
I am back to using my regular MassageBook schedule to manage all appointments. New clients may not be able to schedule their first Distance Reiki appointment online, please contact me and I will get you set up. After your first appointment, you can book online regularly. Thank you for your patience!
If you would like to know more about Reiki, you can check out my About Reiki page or visit Reiki.org. To schedule, click Book Now on my Facebook page or website and select Distance Reiki from the service menu.
Feel free to message me with any questions! Stay healthy! ~Tricia
I asked Tricia for a distance reiki session for a relative in another country. Did not tell my relative because I thought she might think I am nuts. A few days later I talked to her on the phone and she told me she had slept like a baby—the best night in a very long time. She was so surprised and pleased. ~Stefanie
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
Take care of yourself and be well. ~Tricia
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
For most people, three things factor into planning how often you get a massage: your life, your goals for massage, and your budget.
Your life schedule is a pretty big planning factor. How easy is it for you to take time out of your life to schedule an appointment? I try to provide a variety of times of day for appointment availability to help with that. This includes Sunday afternoons, and a bit later in the evening on Monday and Tuesday.
Many people find planning ahead helpful. If we know you want to try bi-weekly appointments, we can schedule several out ahead of time. This makes it easier to get the time slot you want. Then, you can put it into your planner and schedule the rest of your life around it!
On average, most people seem to find monthly sessions great for maintenance and stress relief. If you’re dealing with significant physical issues, it’s not a bad idea to try coming in more frequently. This helps get things settled into more of a maintenance level.
Weekly sessions are fantastic for really working at problem areas. With therapeutic massage, we’re trying get your body out of the holding pattern creating the muscle pain. Coming in weekly helps us catch that holding pattern before it starts to seize up again. Eventually, we remind your muscles of what it feels like to be neutral and relaxed.
Can’t decide how long of an appointment to schedule? See the post “How Long of a Massage Appointment Should I Schedule?” for some insight on the various appointment lengths.
Bi-weekly and monthly appointments for managing muscle pain and tension work fairly well, too. This is especially true if you’re willing to work on whatever is causing the problem at home between appointments. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Budget is probably the biggest factor in the frequency of massage appointments. Weekly sounds great, but I totally understand if buying gas for your car or feeding your kids takes precedence. Here are some ideas for budgeting for massage:
Feel free to contact me to discuss your massage needs, or talk to me at your next appointment. We can work out a plan that fits your life and your budget.
The secret to a great massage is pretty complicated… Are you ready?
Do absolutely nothing.
That’s right. Don’t. Move. A. Muscle.
Think limp dishrag. Wet noodle. Just… hang loose.
Okay. Granted, there are times when you have to do something. Like, roll over. Or, I might ask you to push against my hand for a particular type of muscle release. Otherwise, your job during your massage is to literally do nothing. Here’s the reasoning behind that:
If you “help” raise your head, or move your arm or leg, you’re likely using the very muscle that I’m trying to relax. For example, think about how your neck feels when you spend a day looking at your computer, or down at your phone. Now think about how you’re moving your head when you left it up off the massage table. Seem familiar? Instead of helping, just let your head be heavy and give those hard working neck muscles a break.
Here’s another thing. More often than you might think, a person moving their arm or leg as I’m covering or uncovering it gets tangled in the sheet. Or worse… *cringe* exposes a bit of skin not meant to be exposed. Also, you won’t kick me in the head. If you want to know more about what to wear (or not wear) for your massage, check out this post.
Yeah, yeah… this one is a bit self-serving. BUT. I am often using your body weight do get deeper into a muscle. Maybe I want your arm a bit floppy so I can work underneath that shoulder blade, or give it a good stretch. I may be testing the range of motion of your shoulder or hip. If you’re holding a limb tense, I have no idea if it’s restricted or if you’re restricting it!
Just give yourself a true break on the massage table. See if you can let go of your limbs. Just hang loose. One trick that works for me when I’m having a hard time letting go of my arm… I think about the other arm, maybe wiggle or count the fingers. It distracts me from trying to “help”. Give it a try. Just hang loose. I think you’ll notice a difference.