How To Identify Someone In Pain and How To Treat Them

As a massage therapist, I see my fair share of folks in pain on a regular basis. I also hear the stories those folks tell. The state of their current pain, their past pain, their dreams of being pain free, what helps, what hurts more, etc.

And their woes of interacting with others while in pain.

Those are the hardest to hear sometimes because that is sometimes the most frustrating aspect of living with pain…others’ response to it. So I thought I’d take a moment to help everyone out with interacting with folks in pain.

First: How can you identify someone in pain?

Short answer: You can’t.

(Wait. What?)

You can’t.

Let me tell you a story.

Last May (2016), I woke up one morning with the mother of all pain on the lower left aspect of my back into my hip/glute. I assumed I had “thrown my back out” or aggravated my on-again-off-again sciatica/piriformis syndrome but I was mostly able to kinda sorta get around. I iced the heck out of it (as that has historically worked for me),  saw 4 clients that morning and begged my colleague, Mike to squeeze me in at the end of my day. He agreed with my thoughts having no other reason to think otherwise and we proceeded with a 60 minute session. When I got off his table, I was worse. So bad in fact, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get myself dressed to go home. I somehow managed to very slowly run some errands, get home and went to town with ice again.

Later that evening, I managed to catch a glimpse of my back in my mirror and noticed a red splotchy area where my pain originated. “Odd,” I thought since I had iced hours earlier. The next morning the red area was still there and I knew something else was up. Plus, the pain now? Unbearable. But it was Sunday so I waited until the next morning to call my general practitioner to see what was what.

Turns out I had shingles on my sciatic nerve. Ouch. Like, HOLY MOTHER OF ALL THINGS PAINFUL OUCH. This was no-joke-level ouch. But let’s make it more unpleasant just for fun. There was a slim chance it was actually a tick bite, soooo, I was prescribed an anti-viral for the shingles 5 times a day for 10 days and a heavy duty antibiotic 2 times a day for 10 days for the potential bite. Seven pills a day for 10 days where I was nauseous for an hour after taking each pill WHILE in the worst pain of my life.

I was…less than comfortable.

But here’s the thing…by looking at me, you couldn’t tell I was in pain. I might grimace from time to time or pause but unless I happened to tell you about my plight, you couldn’t tell by looking at me. I brought kiddo to school and picked him up, I grocery shopped, did laundry, ran errands and, once cleared of being contagious, I massaged. I went about my life because I needed to. I did it slower and actually broke into tears a few times, but no one saw those.

Fast forward a month and a half and I’m volunteering at my kiddo’s Spree Day volleyball station. Literally 5 minutes in, I trip and pile drive my right knee with all of my weight into the ground. I stand and there is already an ugly, bulbous egg forming just below and to the right of my patella. (EW!) Yes, ew. It looked nasty. The school nurse handed me the first ice pack of the event and I went about my day. It didn’t really hurt…just felt kinda odd and wobbly. That evening I asked my buddy, Mike (again) to practice his newly acquired kinesiology taping skills to it and, with some funky bright blue and green strips circling my knee I felt right as rain.

And you know what? It was June and warm and I was walking around in shorts and I noticed something I bet every person who has ever been in pain noticed: if you have a visual cue that implies pain, people treat you better.

I kid you not.

That month I had shingles? No visual cue outside that I was in agony. Yet if I walked slowly across the street – because I literally couldn’t walk any faster – I was beeped at, yelled at, even given the finger and told to “move my a**”. I remember pushing a grocery cart in the supermarket and stopping short because of a shooting, hot pain down my leg and the person behind me huffed and said, “Geez! Wanna get out of the way?” Even my family would forget from time to time that I was in constant pain and get impatient.

But those 2 weeks I wore bright LOOKIE HERE AT MY INJURY tape for a knee that I barely noticed? Cars – at that same intersection a month earlier – would screech to a halt, smile and wave me on. Folks gave up their seat on the bus. Shoppers let me go ahead of them in line and ask if I was okay.

So. Weird.

I mean, I understand, I guess. But even I wondered for the first time, “Man, is this what some of my clients experience all the time?”

So, no, you can’t identify a person in pain. Not by just looking at them.

So, how do you treat them?

Short answer: Uh, don’t be an asshat.

Sorry. I know. That wasn’t very nice. So don’t do that. Be nice. Be kind. Be compassionate.

Ya know, just be human to other humans.

I know, we all have bad days and times we just want to be short and impatient and want to yell at that random person crossing the street at a snail’s pace because we are in a hurry HuRrY HURRY for something so very VeRy VERY important!

But maybe, just maybe don’t take it out on the human.

Maybe they are crossing the street as fast as they comfortably can.

This is just the first of many posts I plan on the subject of pain because it is simultaneously important and fascinating to me. And grossly misunderstood. But research is underway in a fast and furious way with progress each and every day. Stay tuned.

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Beyond XL Twin Sheets: Three Things To Help Your College Student Out This Year

Ah, yes…Back-To-School mode is in full swing. Out last week with my own wee one, I saw the Target carts filled to the brim with mini-fridges and desk lamps. Meal plans have been scrutinized and laundry cards loaded up with cash. Maybe your child is already on campus and classes begun or maybe you’re counting down the days – with a healthy mix of hesitation and anticipation – until move-in day. Either way, here are some non-traditional stress reducing, self-care “items” you can still get setup for your college bound kid.

Prescription and Over The Counter Medications

Maybe the colleges and universities put this on their suggested school supply lists and kudos to you if this was on your radar as this is a super item to take care of in advance along with a plan to keep them stocked.

Many, many years ago, I was the quintessential Poor College Student who also has cold-weather and allergy induced asthma, a chronic condition that requires regular preventive and emergency prescription medication to, um, breathe. I also have allergies that require over the counter medications during the fall months, otherwise my asthma kicks up and mucus and tears vacate my face at alarming and disturbing rates. (Ew.) But medication of all kinds is expensive, so it was something I tended to fret about. It’s not that I was irresponsible. Sure, I was technically an adult at 18, but honestly? I was a glorified child living on my own for the first time in a city, so keeping tabs on some very adult things like my own health was daunting at times. Especially as I was trying to navigate Latin and Organic Chemistry at the same time.

To have a supply of my regular over the counter medications like antihistamines and ibuprofen (and supplements/vitamins) already purchased and stashed until my next trip home or annual physical was a huge load off my mind. Who wants to worry about that during midterms and finals?

Prescription medications are a bit harder to keep stocked as many have rules for how frequently you can refill them, etc., but here are some bits to keep in mind:

  • If you haven’t done this already, make a list of all your child’s medications (name, dosage, frequency, food and other drug interactions) and keep it in a place easily accessible for both of you. On a card in a your wallets or listed on your smartphone, whatever works. (I just did a quick search and there are a number of apps available for just this type of thing.)
  • Become familiar with the refill rules of each medication. Some can’t be filled before 30 days has passed, some can’t be refilled without a valid ID presented with the prescription, etc. A call into your insurance company customer service department (the one that covers the medications) can tell you some of these. The customer service representative can also tell you if your plan allows for 90 day supply refills or for direct mailing of prescriptions on a schedule (VERY handy). Calls to the prescribing doctor and/or your pharmacist can answer the others.
  • Use your pharmacist! Pharmacists are medication experts. They can answer anything from refill rules and drug interactions and sometimes even get you drug manufacturer coupons to make medications more affordable. (I kid you not.) Talk to them about transferring the medications to a pharmacy local to your child’s school if you can’t have the medications auto-mailed.

Do these activities together, with your child so they can hear it all and learn a valuable self-care skill. At the end of the school year, at school vacations or at annual exam time, review the medications together to make any updates and refill adjustments as needed.


(Jenn. Seriously? Meditation? Did you just misspell “medication?”)

Nope. Meditation. I meant it.

(For my college student? For realz?)

Yes, for realz. With a “z”.

I’ve mentioned to some of you fine folks that I started up a regular meditation practice myself. Been going strong for about 3 months. (Pats self on back. Gently.)

I think the conversation I recently had with my 9 year old nicely captures why people pause a bit when I suggest this as a going-off-to-college item.

Me: (blah blah blah something something)…when I meditate…

My 9 Year Old Who Has Developed An Attitude: Wait. Mom. You meditate?!

Me: Uh, yeah. I meditate.

M9YOWHDAA: WHA..?! So. Wait. (dramatic pause) You go on top of a mountain and sit like this (plops down criss cross applesauce, closes eyes and hold hands palms up with thumbs touching index fingers) and chant “ommmmmmmmmmm…”?

Me: Uh, no. It’s not nearly as dramatic as all that. Go brush your teeth.

Mention “meditation” and many think of chanting and new age music while sitting in uncomfortable yoga positions trying to think of absolutely nothing.

I may or may not have been one of those people.

But I gotta say, it’s way more down to earth and doable than that. I personally use an app and have a paid subscription with Headspace. It’s an extensive library of meditations lasting anywhere from 1 to 10 minutes (or longer) and they cover a wide range of topics from restlessness, productivity, depression, change, athletic training, chronic pain and even those you can do walking or commuting.

Yes, I meditate while I walk.

That’s the cool bit. I’m sure I’ll talk about it more in a dedicated blog post but it’s become an activity that I actually look forward to most days and gladly fit it in because it makes me feel better. I have started to experience pockets of actual calm in my day, and not just while I am actually meditating…it stays with me and pops up here and there all day. Trust me, this was a novel feeling as my brain just doesn’t stop and stress had become a baseline feeling.

Know who else is stressed?


Well, yes, but that includes your college student. And learning how to accept the daily grind through meditation may help.

I mentioned one tool but there are loads. Other apps like Calm and Omvana have a different feel and other options. While paid subscriptions can offer more variety, don’t disregard the free resources. MIT has a great resource available online for meditation, mindfulness and stress reduction and you can see their entire catalogue of resources (including an article on how to choose a mindfulness app) here. I like many of these options because you can do them on your own, but many schools now have mindfulness programs or meditation groups if that’s your thing.

And Yes, You Guessed It: Massage

Once, and sometimes still, thought of as a luxury, massage can be a fantastic item to send your college bound student with. Is it a luxury to feel good in your own skin? I’d argue not. Massage is good for the muscles and mind, but you still may not have thought of it for the college bound. Let’s think of some of the benefits of massage but with the eye of the college student. I even put it in a handy, dandy table for you:

Benefits of Massage Good for College Students?
Heck Yes No
Can improve quality of sleep.
Can reduce feelings of anxiety.
Can reduce feelings of stress.
Can reduce feelings of depression.
Can assist (not “boost”) proper immune function.
Can reduce muscle pain and soreness.
Can enhance mood.
Compliments exercise and athletic training.
Raises body self-awareness.
Introduces healthy touch in a safe environment.
Just. Feels. Good.

Wow…it’s such a good fit I’m starting to wonder if massage was actually invented for the overwhelmed, sleep-deprived, coming-of-age populace known as “college students”.

But how do you pay for massage when you just used your combined life savings on text books and laptops? Some massage therapy practices may offer student rates (but ask) or have membership options that reduce the cost, rewarding regular visits. One of the most cost effective ways is to check out any local massage therapy schools/programs. Massage schools typically have senior student run clinics and offer reduced rates to the general public and other students. Here in Worcester, home to a whopping 9 colleges and universities, students can get an hour massage session at the Bancroft School of Massage Therapy for a mere $35. So your students can get some valuable R&R and it fulfills graduation requirements for the massage students. Win, win!

Some therapists (like me) also offer reduced costs if you buy a series of sessions. In my practice, a series of five 30 minute massage sessions saves you $25 for a total cost of $175. Those 5 sessions get your kiddo one 30 minute session for move-in day soreness, fall semester mid-terms, fall semester finals, spring semester mid-terms and spring semester finals. Yup, just 5 sessions can get your student through an entire school year. Boom.

And don’t downplay the effect of these shorter half hour sessions. Even a mere 10 minutes of massage has shown to lower blood pressure and improve mental clarity. Consider shorter sessions times for cost but also if your student has never had massage before. Starting with a shorter 30 minute session gives a nice introduction to, say, neck and back massage with a chance to chill out, see if they even like massage and save some serious cost.

So Let Classes Begin…

…with some peace of mind. College can be daunting and stressful. But think about it: so is the “real world” that college is prepping your student for. These skills and techniques that can help carry your kiddo through college will be additional skills they now know how to navigate once out navigating life.

Nope, they won’t be taught in a class called “Navigate Your Stress Filled Life 101” but they are worth even more than the cost of tuition. (I promise.)

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Get Crazy Excited (Like A Kid Before Christmas) About Something

I’m a Star Wars Geek. Nerd, if you will. Yeah, I’m well aware the terms “geek” and “nerd” have technically different meanings but I’m honestly not picky about being called one versus the other and respond to both. I love the Star Wars series. LOVE. I may not dress up or debate canon but trust me when I say the love is strong with this one. I’m seeing the new film in 6 5 hours (got distracted watching trailers and such again) and I seriously can’t focus on anything. Tick tock tick tock.

(Uh, Jenn? You have a hard time focusing on a good day.)

Right? So you can see how this would be particularly troublesome for me. Remember the movie Up and the dog who got distracted over and over by “SQUIRREL!”?

(Yeah, Jenn.)

I’m like that with “STAR WARS!”.

(You need help, Jenn.)

You bet I do! I need help getting to the theater on time to avoid the lines!

(We’re shaking our heads at you, Jenn.)

Shake all you want. I’m excited! And it feels so much fun! Giddy giddy GIDDY!

When was the last time you got so excited about something you were almost embarrassed about it so you tempered your public displays of happiness and enthusiasm? Like Christmas morning excited?

I feel like we lose that unbridled giddy as we get older sometimes. But it’s good to feel elation and delight. Anticipation. Good old gosh golly happiness and joy!

Get excited about things! Little things! Big things!

I get excited about picking up my kiddo from school. Coffee. Burgers. Fried Chicken. Sushi. Bacon. Movie popcorn. (Yeah, lots of food joy goin’ on in my world.) Snow days. Fuzzy socks. New episodes of Star Wars Rebels. Rewatching Star Wars movies. Rewatching The Clone Wars. Massage appointments. (Every. Single. One.) Coloring my hair. (Oh come on. Of course I color my hair.) Decorating the Christmas tree. Stringing Christmas lights outside. Christmas morning. My birthday. French fries. (Yeah, more food.) Painting a room a new color. Finally laying down to sleep at the end of a long day.

Lots of things. Doesn’t matter that it might be silly or everyday stuff. Some days the joy and excitement might vary, but it’s so much fun when these bitty bits of life make me smile. Excite me. Bring me happy.

Get excited about and look forward to something today. It feels so good!

Four point five hours and counting…

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DIY Marble Massage Foot Bath

Goodness it’s been a long day and my feets is wicked tired! So I’m sitting here, almost midnight, eating Twinkies (don’t judge), and watching Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship.

But before I head to bed, I’m gonna treat my weary toes to a wee little treat: a marble massage foot bath.

It’s pretty simple, actually:

  • Find a plastic tub or such that your feet can fit into allowing a wee bit of movement. Don’t have one? I’ve been known to use a roasting pan…
  • Fill the bottom with marbles. (If you don’t have any, you can buy a tube of 320 marbles for $10 at Target.)
  • Fill with enough warm/hot water to cover your feet.
  • Sit in a comfy chair while you gently roll your feet over the marbles, pick up marbles with your toes, swish the water and marbles around, etc.

Now, marbles aren’t really quiet so if the noise is a bit too much, just throw a washcloth or hand towel in the bottom before you pour in the water and marbles. That will dull the sound a bit. Feel free to throw in some bath soap or mild essential oils if you know you don’t have a sensitivity. Me? I just like hot water in winter, cold/ice water in summer.

Now I just have to hide my collection of marbles from Kiddo who is suddenly enthralled…


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Sometimes You Just Need a Nap (So, Nap!)

Many of you know that in addition to running my solo massage practice, I also teach at the Bancroft School of Massage Therapy. It’s a fun compliment to my practice. Scheduling isn’t too bad. I teach Wednesday nights until 10:15 pm and on Saturdays.

(Wait. Jenn? Did you say you teach until 10:15 pm? Like, at night?)

Yup, that’s right.

(Uh, haven’t you also told us that you’re a morning person? Like, you get up at 4:00 am seven days a week?)

Yup, also correct.

(You’re a nutcase, Jenn. We mean that in the kindest way possible, by the way.)

Ha! Yes, I’m a bit wacky. Did I also mention that I’m a mom and that children can be unpredictable and that today – which happens to be Wednesday – my kiddo woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed at 2:43 am? For. The. Day.

(O.M.G. How will you make through such a long day?!)

Yeah. It’s gonna be a tough one. But, here’s what I’m gonna do about it: I just scheduled in a nap for this afternoon.

That’s right: a NAP.

See, I know me. My spazzy brain has a hard time functioning after 9:00 pm on a good day. Plus? It’s only 8:27 am and I already have a raging headache.

Napping gets a bad rap in the US but research has shown that naps (20, 30, 40 minutes) can improve alertness, performance and mood without making you feel groggy or compromising sleep later. There are ways to improve the effectiveness of naps, too by keeping them short, not taking them too late in the day and avoiding taking naps in noisy areas. (You can read more about napping here at the National Sleep Foundation’s website.)

Now, while I take a nap sometimes to make my irregular schedule more manageable, napping to get through a more regular 9-5 day can also have benefits so one isn’t a completely weary mess at the end of the day. I personally like the idea of being alert and in a better mood when I might be spending time with my family after a long day. So even just putting my head down on my office desk for a short respite midday is refreshing. I think some view it as an irresponsible act, but I would actually argue that well planned naps that enhance one’s ability to fulfill responsibilities (versus replace them), are a smart, responsible option.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a nap scheduled. Nightie night!

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Preventative Care is Self-Care

Folks tend to schedule their massage sessions for when they already really, really hurt. (We’ll chat more about this real soon.) Similarly, folks tend to make doctors’ appointments once they are already ill or not feeling well. But preventative care can be huge in one’s self-care regimen.

What is “preventative care”?

Preventative care services are those health care visits/services you make with health care professionals to help ensure or maintain your health. Annual physicals, OB visits, vaccines and health screenings are some traditional examples of these services.

Why is it important?

If you only see your health care team when you are ill, they can’t get a complete or accurate picture of your health as a whole; they have no comparison to when you are “well”. It also makes it very difficult (or impossible) to identify as health problems do arise.

Is my yearly physical enough?

Actually, what kind of preventative or maintenance care one has can very quite a bit.  I’m a middle aged female with no chronic conditions that call for monitoring. I have also decided upon what is probably considered a more tradition/conventional course of health care so my plan typically consists of an annual physical with my general practitioner (with standard blood work, vaccines and mammograms as recommended), OB/GYN visit, annual vision check, dental cleanings and dental check-up. But folks with chronic conditions will have other considerations. For example, those with diabetes may include endocrinology, podiatry and additional vision  services every year as part of their recommended maintenance care.

But perhaps you also have mental health professionals as part of your regular health team. Or chiropractic services to keep you in tip top health. Acupuncture? Medication management? Naturopath? Dietitian? Other specialists? Give a good thorough look at who you consider as part of your individualized health care team.

Take a full inventory and schedule well in advance

If I don’t list out all the health visits I need to consider, I’ll lose track and forget to make the time. Or my practitioners will be booked up and not be able to make the time for me when I am available. So, year end is a great time for me to take care of this for the following year if I haven’t already. Sure it means I am scheduling it way in advance, but if I want this to be a priority, it works well for me to block these visits out before life can crowd them out of my schedule. Maybe I can even cluster them together to have the least impact on my busy schedule.

So go ahead and have that apple a day, and consider seeing your doc anyway!

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Easy Peasy Salt and Sugar Scrub for Hands and Feet


Long week? Yeah, me, too. Don’t get me wrong…it was fun and all. I had a week of awesome clients and a number of days teaching, too. I love doing both, but it still takes it’s toll on my hands and feet.

Both massaging and teaching have me on my feet for hours. Plus, I am a serial pedestrian so my feet literally take a beating as it is not uncommon for me to be walking 11,000+ steps on a typical day. (And some days that’s higher if kiddo and I are on a Pokemon Go adventure!)

And sure, my hands are in oils, creams and lotions much of the day but they are also washed in hot water and soap over and over. And over. And over. And when I’m not washing them, I’m throwing antibacterial gel on them. Or sitting out in the cold at the playground with Kiddo who has decided he much prefers my gloves to his own when the New England air has taken on a winter chill.

My weary feet. My chapped hands. What’s a girl to do?

Whip up a super duper quick, no measure, kitchen only ingredient exfoliant to revive my worse for wear distal extremities! (Also known as an easy peasy salt or sugar scrub.)

Here’s what you need:

  • salt or sugar (any kind so long as they are granulated, not super fine or powdered)
  • oil (olive or coconut are my favorite and always on hand)

Here’s the drill:

  1. Pour some salt or sugar in a bowl.
  2. Add some oil.
  3. Mix.
  4. Massage all over hands and/or feet for a few minutes.
  5. Gently wash off with warm water and gentle soap.

Voila! Soft and cozy hands and feet! And seriously simple. I never measure; I just throw some together at the spur of the moment when I feel like a tired hand/weary feet pick me up. Sometimes, I’ll throw some chopped up fresh lavender or rosemary from plants I have on hand if I’m feeling oh-so-fancy, but usually I just go with the plain and simple 2 ingredient combo.

How do you decide if you want sugar or salt? If you’ve never used a salt or sugar scrub, start with sugar as it is gentler. I learned the hard way that salt is highly irritating for me. (Picture, if you will, me screaming in the shower roughly 16 years ago as I try desperately to wash off a salt and oil scrub – Christmas gift from my now husband – off my burning skin. You’re welcome for the visual.)

Only other note? Try not to use a scrub like this more than twice a week as it can actually toughen the skin if used too much. But once a week or so is a super nice quick treat…for men and women alike! (Dry, weary skin knows no gender, my friends).

Off to the kitchen for some mini spa self-care!

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Let It Go And Move Forward

Today was supposed to be a different blog post. I wanted to talk about ways to get better sleep and how sleep is important to self-care.

But plans changed. A quick meet up turned into an evening with friends. I don’t regret it and, just like yesterday’s post suggested, I’m celebrating the fun times had.

Just like it’s important to celebrate what was accomplished in a day, sometimes one must actively move on from what wasn’t. So one isn’t weighed down by dwelling on what could have been. There’s a quote I’m quite fond of that I had hanging in my office for some time when I worked in Information Technology:

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

I so like the down to earth, practical nature this puts forth. As if it’s giving me permission to be human, to have not been perfect today.

That there is always tomorrow  to try again…

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Celebrate Today’s Victories (Whether Big or Small)

With holidays around the corner and To Do lists reaching epic ginormous insurmountable proportions, it can be hard at the end of the day to think about anything except all the things I didn’t get done. All the items that will be carried over to another day. The failures of today lingering as my day comes to a close.

But what if instead of focusing on all I didn’t do, all that I wasn’t, why not turn that around? Why not celebrate and pat myself on the back for all that I was, all that I did do?

So here goes. Here are my victories for today:

  • Rocked a comfy new dress.
  • Prepped some (awesome) gift bags for a local open house event.
  • Washed most of the dishes.
  • Surprised myself by finding clean clothes in the dryer. (Yay!)
  • Made my son a lunch he actually ate.
  • Remembered to attend a parent teacher conference.
  • Enjoyed an impromptu lunch date with my husband after said conference.
  • Displayed my son’s Elf on a Shelf before he got home from school. (Since I forgot last night and our Elf starts his visits on December 1st.)
  • Kept some snarky comments to myself. (Hear! Hear! Let’s celebrate the strength required for inner dialogue!)
  • Wrote this first of a series of 25 blogs posts that I decided (late) yesterday to embark upon.
  • Kept my son alive and well.

Any of these earth shattering? Not really. One could argue that many of these are very typical, run of the mill things that I should be able to accomplish on any given day. Especially that last one. (But those of you who have witnessed my oh so active child on the climbing wall at the playground after school know that my ability to keep him alive any day is cause for celebration.)

So since so many of these are basic life things, are they really worth celebrating? Really worth patting myself on the back for?

Heck. Yes.

Some days are harder than others. Some days are easier. Some days, if my biggest accomplishment was that I was able to get out of bed before noon and function then so be it. That’s cause for celebration. Kudos to me!

What did you do today? What did you accomplish? Did you make one kick ass cup o’joe? Make someone smile? Show up to an appointment on time? Remember to take out the trash?

Let’s put off beating ourselves up for what we didn’t get to, what we weren’t for one day.

Pat yourself on the back, yo! Kudos to you for all you did today!

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Do I need to get naked for my massage session?


Short answer

Nope. Absolutely not.

Long answer

(You knew there was going to be a long answer.) For a while now, I’ve found many massage therapists and bodyworkers saying, “Undress to your level of comfort.” Even I had fallen into using this phrase, but have come to think it’s way too vague. People new to massage have no idea what that means. Heck, I’ve been receiving bodywork for 20 years and I’m not even sure what that means. (My “level of comfort” as far as clothing goes typically involves a fluffy polar fleece sweatshirt and baggy, softer than soft sweatpants.)

That being said, here’s some info that may help you decide what you want to wear (or not) during a session:

First, no matter what, you’ll always be covered (draped) with a sheet and a blanket. You’ll never be left feeling exposed or chilly. I will only undrape areas I am working on, respecting and protecting your privacy at all times. When I work on an arm, I fold the sheet back and tuck it under your arm so it’s secure. (Drafts are bad, yo.) I follow the same protocol for each leg.

Decided you’d like abdominal massage work today? (Yes, this is a thing and it’s wonderful.) For women, I use a soft cloth to cover your breasts and tuck it around you like a wide bandeau top so that your abdomen is exposed, but again, your privacy is still respected and protected. Don’t want to expose your belly for abdominal work? Not an issue. I can work over the draping.

When I work on the full back, I fold the drape down at the hips. If you’re wearing underwear, I may gently tuck the sheet around the waistband, to protect your clothes from massage oil. If you’re wearing a bra, I’ll work around it. If you’re wearing a tank top or shorts or long johns, I’ll work through it. Socks? I’ll work through those, too. I know plenty of very effective massage techniques that can be administered over clothing. Those of you who have seen or met me at sporting events or other public onsite massage gigs already know this.

If for whatever reason I feel I can’t effectively treat your issue through the clothing you’ve chosen to wear, I’ll tell you, and we’ll figure out another approach.

‘Bout the only garment I would ask you remove? Your shoes. Especially if the weather outside has made them muddy or wet.  This might seem obvious to some, but it may not to others. Honestly, though? I’ve had folks leave those on, too. I might just have you hang your feet off the edge of the table to protect my equipment or I’ll put an extra towel/blanket underneath.

And jewelry/fitness trackers/other accessories? Either way. If I will be working an area extensively like the neck or hand/forearm, you may want to take off any necklaces or bracelets because I don’t want to risk damaging your valuables with massage oil or by accidentally pulling on them. I also don’t want to risk hurting you if I accidentally press or pull the item into you. I understand that some pieces (wedding bands, lockets, gauges, etc.) may be difficult to remove or have strong sentimental value where you prefer not to remove them. Again, I can work around.

One more really important thing

Please know that regardless of your level of dress on the massage table, I don’t care and I’m not judging you. This massage is about you and it’s important you feel comfortable. For some people that means leaving some clothing on. For others, it means taking it all off. Your preferences may vary from session to session as well. There is no right or wrong as it’s your massage session.

Posted in Frequently Asked Questions, Let's Talk Massage | 5 Comments