A Hands-on Guide to a Visit to the Massage Therapist…

Imagine you are dealing with an arm/shoulder pain that doesn’t let you move your arm all the way up… a lower back ache you know isn’t a disc compression… a neck you slept on wrong… a wrist hurting from repetitive use… Your PA, chiropractor, physical therapist, or doctor just recommended you see a local massage therapist for orthopedic massage work.  She has 10 years of experience… but you haven’t had a massage.  What would you expect?

Having called to make the appointment, you arrive at the therapist’s office.  It’s a small mint-green house, easily mistaken for a residence.  You enter a warm, oak-floored light-filled room with curved ceilings. Your therapist greets you with a warm smile and handshake, and invites you to sit across from her at the front table and explain what the purpose of your visit is.  You hear soothing music drifting from the back room and feel your shoulders begin to relax.

After you explain what’s not feeling ‘right’ and discuss your health history, the therapist invites you to enter the treatment room… There you see a heated massage table with sheets to slide between and a warm blanket on top.  The therapist explains that you remove clothing items you are comfortable removing, but that the sheets will cover everything private. She steps out of the room to wait until you are snug between the sheets.

After you call the therapist back in, she goes to your feet… after a gentle, grounding hold, she begins to massage the feet, moving up the legs, uncovering them to work with sore or achy muscles.  At a sore spot or trigger point, she spends a moment holding or rubbing out the point or following the path of the tight muscles… She finds places you didn’t think were sore – but were held tight by other muscles that were ‘protecting’ areas that your body considered ‘injured’.  After you comment that you didn’t know ‘that’ calf, arm, or back muscle was sore, she gently chuckles and reminds you that the nervous system isn’t set up to register everything that might be sore in your body.

The therapist works into your back and shoulders, opening the shoulderblades to firmly release the muscles holding shoulders and neck tight… As the sore spots are worked out, the muscles relax and ease… Your mind drifts with the music, going into near dream states as she works up the neck and gently rubs around the head to loosen tension.

The therapist calls you back, inviting you to turn over as she holds the sheets protecting your privacy…  And the process begins again, strong hands working the neck muscles and using smart stretches and holds to remind the muscles to let go.  As she asks you to move your head side to side, you are surprised and happy to feel much more range of motion!  Then, as your head and face muscles feel the pressure of hands reminding the muscles to let go, you feel the blood rush in and open, relaxing all the way into the neck and feeling the shoulders sink deeply onto the table.

As the therapist manipulates, massages, and works down your arms, you again sense blood rushing into the muscles strained by repeated use… The tension is disappearing.  Then, as the therapist continues to work over the sheet, between your ribs, and around the abdomen, your breath deepens and provides even more nourishing oxygen to your once-stressed cells throughout the body.  Again, you sink into the dream-like brainwave state that allows your nervous system to truly relax and replenish your being.

The therapist uncovers one leg at a time, keeping a respectful cover for your personal space…  She notes areas in the legs, lower abdomen, or back that are holding, pulling on the pelvis or lower back, using stretches or massage to unlock areas that pulled other areas painfully out of place.  She explains why and how this connects to that.

As she ends with some work at the feet – again for grounding – you drowsily hear a quiet ‘thank you; come out when your are ready’ as the therapist ends your treatment session.

When you come out of the room to check in, the therapist often will provide some ideas on how you can help ‘hold’ the improved pattern of movement… You may need to return several times to remind your body to change old patterns that contribute to pain and discomfort in the body… Or you may even need to see a different practitioner.  Each person of course is different…

But after you have paid the bill and walk down the front steps, you feel a lightness, a weight off your shoulders, and an openness of movement – and the knowledge that you are more than capable of changing and healing.