The Missing Pieces: Less and less body is being included in "full body" massage - It doesn't have to be.
This article came across my desk and caught my attention. The discussion is about how and why more and more, therapists and schools in the US are backing away from a true full body experience. It does not have to be. with proper training, good client communication and informed consent there is no reason why in 2019 this should be. I have interjected my thoughts in italics, but otherwise this is re presented in abridged form from Massage Magazine. published from
The anterior (front) torso, including the chest and abdomen; hips; buttocks; and medial thigh are often avoided or only given cursory attention during many massage sessions.My awareness about this developed after reading many posts on social media about “full-body massage.” Discussions with massage colleagues, educators and therapists indicate this problem is real. I Have seen many posts about the chains not allowing massage 1" below the collar bone, or glutes at all.
“There is a significant decline in the number of massage therapists that are willing to perform massage therapy on gluteal, pectoral and abdominal areas,” said Brent F. Jackson, academic program manager, massage therapy, at Central Carolina Technical College, headquartered in Sumter, South Carolina. He said he believes there are three factors contributing to this situation.
First, he said, massage therapy businesses and schools alike are wary of being involved in litigious situations, because of criminal acts by some massage therapists have made the news and are therefore overly conservative when it comes to creating curriculum.
Second, he said, “In academia, we are also encountering a broad spectrum of skill, and therefore a possible lack of qualified and confident massage therapy educators. That lack of training may be inhibiting the student’s professional growth.”
Third, said Jackson, there is simply a growing trend of the therapist not wanting to put in the effort required of a true full-body massage. Instead, he said, therapists are cutting corners.
“As a profession,” Jackson said, “it is necessary to be open to treating these areas when warranted, as would any other health care professional.”
Educator Nancy Dail, of Downeast School of Massage in Waldoboro, Maine, has also witnessed this trend. “I have long been aware that massage therapists have been cutting corners around the human body, basing massage on a rote recipe and repetitive sequence versus a treatment based on the individual’s medical history, posture, repetitive actions or injuries,” she said.
“Since society has a vulnerable perception of the abdomen, it has been the most logical area to skip,” Dail continued. As to other areas, she said, state regulations on breast massage, draping and professional conduct have led to restrictions on how the client’s body is addressed.”
However, student ignorance and state regulations cannot fully explain the diminishment of the full-body session. In my research and conversations, I have come to realize there are three pieces to this situation: incomplete massage education; apprehension on the part of clients; and insufficient informed consent across the profession.
Massage Education“Attempting to avoid excessive intimacy, my students’ hands often tense up around buttocks, chest, belly and inner thighs. I teach them instead to deliberately connect with these tissues using safe touch,” said Barbara Helynn Heard, a continuing education provider and practicing massage therapist in Seattle, Washington.
Although many massage schools provide a comprehensive education that prepares students to offer complete, full-body massage sessions, Heard’s approach isn’t how all massage students are being taught to touch clients’ bodies.
I, and many other massage educators, believe some schools’ entry-level education falls short in developing skills in positioning, draping, time management, communication and consent about the process of massage. Massage education sometimes creates fear related to boundaries and sexual misconduct litigation instead of developing professionalism. Instead of assessment and critical thinking skills imbedded into the massage session, a massage sequence is sometimes drilled into students.
For example, the common statement, “Disrobe to your level of comfort,” only creates confusion. Instead, direct instruction needs to be given. Such an instruction might sound like one of these two examples:
“I regard the anterior torso as crucial, yet it is avoided in 90 percent of the massages I receive,” said Eric Stephenson, who was interviewed for this article when he was director of education at imassage continuing education and consulting company and who is now chief wellness officer for Elements Massage. “This is one of the great paradoxes of massage therapy.”
Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that the two national massage organizations do not accurately educate the public. One association’s website states, “A typical full body session will include work on your back, arms, legs, feet, hands, head, neck, and shoulders. You will not be touched on or near your genitals (male or female) or breasts (female).” This statement essentially omits the chest, abdomen, hips, buttocks, thighs and face. With these areas unmentioned, what type of expectation does this create in the consumer and employer?
Another association’s website states, “Depending on your needs, the massage therapist will massage either the full body (except private areas) or only specific areas that need attention, such as especially tight muscles.” This statement is so ambiguous that the information is confusing. What are private areas?
Despite professional strides in the massage industry, confusion between massage therapy and illegal sexual solicitation continues to occur. Something must be done so that the massage therapy profession as a whole can move beyond this degrading situation. I challenge our professional organizations and major employers of massage therapists to collaborate and directly address this issue.
Additionally, there is gender bias pertaining to male massage therapists.
“As a male therapist, I have to maintain trusted professional relationships with clients, [which includes] education about various body areas included in the massage session, to achieve client goals,” said massage therapist (and my son) Luke Fritz, an instructor at my school, Health Enrichment Center in Lapeer, Michigan.
I believe the massage field should launch a public awareness campaign that clearly discusses sexual inappropriateness by both the client and the massage therapist, and that describes body areas included in general massage coupled with an example of informed consent. There should be ethical guidance by our professional associations and employers that frames clear statements to the public and massage therapists about appropriate behavior.
Such a statement might read: “Massage therapy is a nonsexual health service. Sexual behavior by the therapist toward the client or by the client toward the therapist is always unethical, inappropriate and illegal. It is always the responsibility of the massage therapist and business management to ensure that sexual misconduct does not occur and to report sexual solicitation by clients to law enforcement. Clients who feel that the massage therapist engaged in sexual misconduct should immediately report to the business management and to law enforcement.”
The problem is that major employers are accepting substandard massage as the norm.
One reason for this may be that the confusion between massage and sexual interaction will just not go away, so employers might limit massage application to particular body areas because of the fear of sexual misconduct lawsuits.
It is very concerning if we have come to believe that the major body areas cannot be massaged in the typical 50- to 60- minute session. Massage employers and clients need to be assured that all massage therapists are providing quality massage services and can provide massage to all appropriate areas of the body.
I welcome comments on all my posts but especially would welcome comments on this one. What has your experience been? What is your preference?
Ok I will just come out and lead with it - Send him or her this link to a Massage Gift Certificate ! Seriously, its not that massage is the only gift, but if you are reading this blog, there is a very good chance it is something you would love, and therefore sometimes it is helpful to give guidance.
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. And expectations sometimes run high. Whether it is the gift, or the card, or the flowers or the dinner - Valentines is sort of like New Years for some - there is pressure to succeed.
Some of you reading this may already be dreaming about roses and Godiva, others a romantic candlelit dinner and a stunning pair of diamond studs.
Still others may just be hoping for a morning to sleep in and maybe a cup of coffee handed to you before you even get out of bed. Maybe more help with the kids, if you have them.
Tips for Making Your Spouse or Significant Other a Better Gift Giver
Don’t make it a guessing game.
Gift-giving shouldn’t be some kind of test—especially not a pass or fail one. For those who are literally happy with anything, I guess this post is not aimed at you. For others, they wish their spouse was more thoughtful, but maybe he just needs guidance and does not excel at reading minds.
There’s no reason to be sly or secretive about what you want for a special occasion. Just be open about it.
For men (and I am assuming most reading this blog are women) I think most would love to make you happy and give you what you would love, so spell it out. Send an amazon link,
But if you have something in mind—even if it’s just the type of present you’d like —don’t just cross your fingers and hope they can read your mind.
Let Him Know When He Gets It Right
When your spouse or SO hits the nail on the head gift-wise, feel free to gush over it—and then demonstrate how much you love it by making a point of using/wearing it in his presence.
Not only will he feel proud of his present of choice, he’ll also be more likely to give a repeat performance!
Tell Him to Consider This - What does he love about you, and then give a gift reflecting that.”
So if your mate is totally stumped, suggest he consider what exactly it is he loves about you. If he loves how organized you keep the whole family, maybe you’ll end up with a beautiful, classy day planner. If he’s grateful for your cooking skills, you might get to enjoy a brand new cast iron skillet. If nothing else, asking that question is a helpful starting point.
Encourage Him to Think Beyond Stuff the Store
A house full of stuff does not a happy person make.
Life is about experiences. And this goes for you too in the giving department, Maybe it is a helicopter flying lesson, or grown up go carts.
A study from researchers at San Francisco State University found that when we spend our money on experiences rather than things, it can actually lead to increased satisfaction and well being. This again is a perfect reason for getting and giving massage.
So help your spouse out and make yourself happier in the process by suggesting he focus on experiential purchases. A gift certificate for a manicure, a pair of tickets to the theater, or a coupon for a skydiving trip (for the thrill-seeking readers out there!) might be in your future.
Remember: It Really Is the Thought That Counts
It is cliché, but it is true. As long as there is thought that goes into it. A thoughtless gift picked up on the way home can hurt, better no gift. But a thoughtful mate might be struggling and one gift you can give him in return is direction.
Note: Because most of my readers/clients are heterosexual females, and because it it too cumbersome to do otherwise, this post is written that way, but it of course applies to all genders and couples. Anyone who knows me knows that no offense is intended. If you are unattached this Valentines day than of course gift yourself....what a wonderful thing to do!
October 22-28, 2017 is National Massage Therapy Awareness Week !
What to expect during your Lomi Massage (updated May 2017)
This is a minor update of a prior post re posted here due to the number of inquiries about Lomi massage and what to expect. The original posts may be found here , here , and here
What is Lomi Lomi Massage ?
Massage is one of the oldest and most powerful forms of healing. Lomi Lomi is one of the most profound forms of massage. So, what makes it so special, what is it, how does it differ from other massage, how does it "work"?
I"m often asked what Lomi Lomi means. The meaning of the words Lomi Lomi in some sense have been lost to time, and are so misquoted on the internet it is hard to keep track!
Because the Hawaiian language was a spoken one, and not written, there are few references to Lomi, prior to the arrival of western missionaries. However for purposes of simplicity, lets just assume that in today's understanding Lomi Lomi might best be translated as "loving touch". But loving not in the sense of romantic love, but in the sense of Aloha. I will write more on Aloha and the history of the word in another post, but suffice to say that Lomi was commonly practiced in families, children on parents, parents on children, and for royalty. It was a part of healing and was also a part or relaxation. Repeating a word in Hawaiian merely emphasizes the meaning. More on this if you are interested.
However, today, what Lomi Lomi is is a unique healing massage derived from the ancient Polynesians and more specifically the master healers of Hawaii. True Lomi Lomi has other components of healing, such as knowledge of herbs and natural remedies, but again, this being today, the focus of this post is really to describe the bodywork experience and environment.
However, Lomi, for me, is more than a technique. It is a life style and a journey to know one's self on a deeper level
To understand the depth of Lomi Lomi massage, it helps to have an understanding of the Hawaiian philosophy called Huna, and how the philosophies of Huna relate to bodywork and healing.
A fundamental assumption of Huna is that everything seeks harmony and everything seeks love. So how does this relate to massage? Perhaps this can best be understood by taking the concept of "Loving Touch". The reason for this is that it works gently yet deeply into the muscles with continuous, flowing strokes, totally nurturing the body and, enabling the recipient to relax, give in and simply be. So while technique is a part of the massage , much of the work is done by intuition, and feeling, with the focus of the practitioner on the client being deep and complete, using loving hands and a loving heart.
This flowing with total energy, using the long continuous fluid strokes, combined with the very loving touch, relaxes the entire being, assisting in a letting go of old beliefs, patterns and behaviors.
The Hawaiians look at things in terms of energy flow, following the idea that an idea or belief can block energy flow as much as muscle tension can. Lomi Lomi helps release the blockages, Thus Lomi Lomi is not just a physical experience; it also facilitates healing on the mental, emotional and spiritual levels as well. The Hawaiians view all aspects of the body as one and believe that the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual are all part of the "whole" self - when healing is effected on one level, all levels are affected. This is balance. True balance.
So, what happens during a Lomi Lomi massage? How is it performed?
Every Lomi session begins with pule (Prayer) and intention. For me, a simple intention would be "Lomi begins when I wake up in the morning and go to bed at night. I ask myself, how can I contribute?" Alternatively or as well, the client may be asked to set their intention for any healing they would like to receive.
There is a stillness between the practitioner and client - often with the practitioners hands gently resting on the clients back. In this stillness the practitioner will quietly say a chant or prayer asking for whatever healing is needed to take place during the massage.
The practitioner then works very intuitively with the client. In this respect there is no set format or sequence for the massage and no two massages will ever be identical.
The massage is given in fluid, rhythmic motion using the forearms as well as the hands. Some people have described this as feeling like gentle waves moving over the body. Another feature is that different parts of the body may be massaged at the same time, for example one arm or hand may be working on a shoulder and the other hand may be working on the opposite hip. This assists the recipient in totally relaxing as it is impossible or at least extremely difficult for the brain to focus on the two different areas at once. By not working on areas in isolation a deep sense of balance and harmony is achieved. The client on the table is not viewed as someone to be fixed, but a being to be returned to harmony and balance. It is important to remember that Lomi does not seek to "fix" any specific thing, but in working on the entire being, the idea is that any specific issue will have been addressed.
What to Expect -
Your Lomi experience will take place in a comforting, calm, clean well-heated space.
Hand blended aromatherapy oils, and a combination of music will allow you to be carried away by this wavelike massage.
It’s about being present and supportive and encouraging deep breath. There is generous use of warm oils. So dress and plan accordingly for when you leave.
A word about draping - Lomi draping is often shown on the internet as very minimal. It is true that for some of the strokes more of the body is exposed than in Swedish or Sports massage, however draping is always respectful, and in compliance with local rules. Traditionally, the chest is uncovered brieflly for both women and men, for some of the front of the body strokes. No part of the body is ever unnecessarily exposed and is not for titillating purposes but for access. For those who have questions or concerns about the draping, it can always be modified to satisfy the concerns of the client. Lomi can even be done fully clothed! It is a different experience to be sure but Lomi is about the touch, its about the connection, not the amount of exposure. You must have trust between the practitioner and the client to be able to fully "let go" and to allow for complete relaxation.
For those who feel only "deep" work is true massage, I simply offer that Lomi is less invasive but no less effective. Poetically described, "Lomi, in essence, is like floating on a raft in a peaceful lake. You are invited to deeply relax and release stress, to clear my mind and allow yourself to simply be in the moment."
For many who come and experience Lomi for the first time, they often describe it as "the best massage experience ever".
Lomi Lomi is a feast for the senses,
I invite you to try this unique experience for yourself and to make it a regular part of your life, not simply a one time luxury.
6 Myths about Massage
Its amazing to me when I read the offerings that are out there for a variety of different treatments ho many claims, and exaggerated claims exist about massage and massage therapy. As well, there are some urban myths about do's and dont's. I can tell you there are enough positive benefits to receiving regular bodywork that one needn't exaggerate the benefits. Merely ask any of my regular or repeat clients why they come back again and again. "It feels good" Even if that were the sole benefit, wouldn't that be enough? Who doesn't want too feel good? I know I do. It is a primary motivator for almost everything we do in life. Happiness, mind and body feeling good. What else is there?
I have written about the countless ways in which bodywork can be good, but I am also careful about making any exaggerated claims. They are not necessary.
For example one thing I often hear is that I did hear that it helps flush out toxins and remove lactic acid from the body if you need to recover from a work out.
Research shows that blood lactate levels return to normal ranges within 20-60 minutes regardless of any interventions. Lactic acid is not even a waste product, but rather metabolic fuel for the muscle.
Here are just a few myths that are worth dispelling - but of course if there is evidence to the contrary, I will be happy to correct myself here.
#1. Toxins can be flushed out of the body via Massage:
This is an interesting myth as it’s probably the most popular. The body processes excess waste (by-products of food, drink, air born pollutants etc.) in a variety of ways i.e. sweat, urine, feces, or if you’re ill by vomiting. Your liver, kidneys and skin do a remarkable job of getting rid of these ‘toxins’ on a daily basis. Massage does, however, increase blood supply to various parts of the body and can regenerate a lack-luster circulation as well as stimulating the lymphatic system. This may be what is actually being referred to. Drinking water is a good and pleasant thing to do after a massage, but not in any way a means of flushing out the toxins.
#2. Massage will get rid of cellulite:
If massage therapists could really banish cellulite, we would have a line a mile long and we’d never see a dimpled thigh ever again. However, cellulite is persistent subcutaneous fat and it’s appearance, mainly in women, is determined by hormonal factors, genetics, diet and lifestyle. Eating a healthy, low fat diet, rich in fruits, vegetables and fiber and taking regular exercise is the best option to prevent and reduce the appearance of cellulite.
#3. The sign of a really good massage is that you feel quite sore the day after . WRONG
How many people come to me and talk about their massage pain experiences. Maybe it stems from the "no pain no gain" mentality ? Everyone is different and some people are more sensitive than others but just because you don’t feel sore the next day doesn’t mean you had a bad massage. In fact quite the opposite. Significant pain in soft tissue areas can be an indication that something went wrong, not right.
The sign of a good massage is that you ‘feel better’ than you did before – it may take a while to feel the full benefits but you should experience some of the following:
This one drives me a bit crazy, maybe because my specialty is a very light touch but this goes hand in hand with the above. While there is certainly an express preference for "going deep" by some clients, it is by no means a measure of the quality of a bodywork how "deep" one goes. In fact a properly applied light tough will migrate into the deeper tissues. Everyone falls victim to this myth. Perhaps because pain is measurable it seems one way to quantify the experience? Or perhaps if you have a therapist that is "too light" with their touch, it may have more to do with the fact that you have the wrong therapist. Maybe he or she is just not good.
#5. You shouldn’t get a massage if you have cancer
Massage Therapists and cancer patients have often fallen prey to this myth. Until recently, it was thought that the action of massage could actively spread cancer cells throughout the body. However, cancer cells are caused by the body’s immune system malfunctioning and cells that turn cancerous will do so regardless of massage therapy stimulus. If massage did cause cancer cells to move through the body then the same could be said of any form of exercise. I believe this stems from an over exaggerated sense of the effect that massage can have on the body.
#6. You shouldn’t have a massage if you’re pregnant
Massage Therapy does not induce an early labor and is perfectly safe for both mother and baby during normal pregnancies. It can be extremely beneficial for the Mom-to-be and offer a way to relax and unwind during a physically and mentally tiring time. Massage is also a great way to keep the muscles ready for the big day. Post-natal massage can be equally beneficial too.
Hopefully if you are reading this you are already aware of some of the benefits of routine bodywork. I encourage you to read some of those articles here as well and share this information with friends.
I write about things that I myself need to be mindful of. ways in which I would like to improve. It is not from the perspective of preaching - but rather writing helps me work out what I myself need to do - we are all in this together.