Body Sense

Summer 2011

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is ultimately terminal. She asked me if the massage therapist at the local hair salon would have the skills to help her mother maintain muscle function and stay off a respirator. I have dozens of stories like this, mostly about clients keeping something from their therapist that needs to be shared, or clients wanting a level of medical expertise that is beyond the reach of their massage therapist. Have you been diagnosed with a blood clot in your leg? Maybe the student clinic at the local massage school is not the place to go for your leg pain. Are you on your way to the hospital to be tested for a blocked artery in your neck? It might be good to share that information before you get on the massage table. Massage is consistently among the most popular and sought-after complementary health- care interventions, perhaps because it has such great potential for providing a soothing oasis in our jangled, tangled lives. People are increasingly interested in taking good care of themselves without invasive procedures. Massage offers a multitude of benefi ts without using knives, needles, or drugs, but that doesn’t mean a massage therapist can “fi x” or even successfully “treat” everything. SHAre your informATion A good massage therapist working in a responsible facility will invite you to share important information before you work together. Your fi rst appointment probably involved an intake form, but just because you’ve done that once doesn’t mean your therapist has all the information she or he needs to give you the best possible experience today. Be sure to let your therapist know if your health status changes: a new prescription, a change in your workout routine, even when you notice Tell Me Here is a short list of information that will especially help your massage therapist: • Do you have any chronic health conditions? • Do you have any acute health conditions? • Do you have any pain today? • Any pain in general? • Any itching or new skin symptoms? • Are you taking any medication? What for? • Any recent changes in your meds? • How much, and what kind of exercise do you typically get? • What are your goals for today? a new lump or bump—all this can help your therapist provide you with the best care. boDyWorkerS Aren’T DocTorS In all this discussion of massage and health, it is important to understand that your massage therapist is not a doctor. We cannot diagnose your rash, or prescribe which antibiotic to take for your sinus infection. In some states, licensing laws dictate that we cannot even recommend what stretches or exercises might serve you best as you deal with muscular issues. What your massage therapist can do is offer you excellent advice for your own care. If your therapist says you need to see a doctor about that funny-looking mark on your skin, it’s a good idea to go. If your therapist says your rash is probably nothing, but it might be contagious, please listen, and have it checked out. If your therapist suggests that because of whatever health challenges you have today, Swedish or deep-tissue massage might not be in your best interest, I encourage you to trust her or his judgment—it comes from a place of caring. This is a hectic world. None of us has time or money to throw away—we want to derive the best value we can with whatever we do. So, while you’re getting ready for your massage, do yourself and your therapist the favor of sharing the information that will allow you to get absolutely the very best massage she or he is able to give. Then relax and know that this is a treat, but it is also an investment in your well-being that will benefi t you to your core. B S Ruth Werner, LMP, is a massage therapist, educator, and writer, with a special interest in the role of massage therapy in the context of imperfect health. Her book, A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2009) is used in massage schools all over the world. For more information, visit Body Sense 5

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