Massages for Health Help People of All Ages and Pregnant Women
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What types of problems can you, as a massage therapist, help our clients with? I am most often visited by people suffering from pain in their back and other parts of the musculoskeletal system and individuals after surgery or injury who have undergone physiotherapy, but their condition and mobility is not yet fully optimal and they need to support rehabilitation and start regeneration. Massages help to stretch and oxygenate the muscles and improve blood circulation, in addition to having other positive effects, so they are an excellent complement to complex treatment of the musculoskeletal system, but also a great means of preventing problems related to the muscular system. A significant number of my clients are office workers who have musculoskeletal problems in connection with their employment, but their difficulties are not yet so advanced that they need to see a rehabilitation doctor, physiotherapist or neurologist. Professional and amateur athletes also come to me to help them solve painful problems arising during their sporting activities. In the vast majority of cases, massage has very successful results, benefiting, for example, various types of back pain, blocked or misaligned ribs and vertebrae, overworked muscles or shortened tendons in a painful condition, as well as other specific problems.
What are the most common causes of musculoskeletal pain? The basis of most problems today is that people have very little active movement, or rather natural movement. For example, in office work, but also in other professions, people spend most of the day engaged in one of only a few activities that are not adequately compensated for in their free time. When a person sits in front of a computer for 8 to 10 hours every day, his body evaluates that this is the most optimal position for him and starts to adjust everything to accommodate this as the most frequent activity. Muscles that a person does not use when sitting for long periods of time, such as the large trapezius, are energetically challenging for the body to maintain because it doesn't actually need them. So, these muscles begin to shorten into a position for the person to endure long hours of sitting. And then, when just reaching for a binder or something on a shelf, people can easily pull that unused trapezius...
Can you name other groups of people with typical problems that massage can help? Definitely. Often just asking what kind of work a person does is enough to find out very precisely what their problems are. For example, violinists, waiters, graphic designers, painters or bricklayers, they all have the same problems – hand pain, shoulder pain, tennis elbow... It's caused by an asymmetrical load on one limb. The same group includes hairdressers, beauticians or professional drivers, but also people who play a lot of golf or tennis. Other professional and amateur athletes who overload their musculoskeletal system unequally or inappropriately, such as cyclists or people who run a lot, can also have problems. The biggest problem is really unequal or excessive loading that is not properly compensated for. When people overload their bodies in some way, that's when all sorts of problems arise...
How can clients book a massage with you? Do they have to get a referral from a physiotherapist or rehabilitation doctor, or can they book themselves in? Usually, clients are referred to me by the doctors at Health+, whether they are personal physicians, neurologists, rehabilitation physicians or physiotherapists. But people can also make an appointment on their own without any referral. Clients in our Diamond and Sapphire programs can receive massages for free, while clients in the Garnet program can receive massages for a fee. We also offer services to "walk-in" clients who are not members of any of our programs, but can come for massages as self-payers. In this respect, however, clients of the clinic always have priority in making appointments.
What types of massages do you offer to clients? First of all, a classic reconditioning massage, which is based on the principles of the traditional Swedish master method of Pier Henrik Ling. This is a system of massage techniques and movements that include stroking, kneading, chopping and pressing the soft tissues of the body to induce a state of total relaxation. This massage is used to improve and strengthen the body overall, promoting the return of venous blood and lymph from the periphery back to the circulatory center, resulting in enhanced muscle relaxation, blood circulation and skin regeneration. It has a very beneficial effect on muscles overloaded from overuse and stimulates the outflow of lymph, helping the body to get rid of harmful substances. It promotes the overall regeneration of the body, relieves headaches, and also positively affects the physical and mental state. The pressure of the massage is adapted to the client's requirements. I also perform lava stone massage, Chinese cupping massage, Zen Touch Shiatsu, lymphatic massage and massage for pregnant women.
Can you tell us more about these three massages with exotic origins? The Hawaiian origin of lava stone massage is the use of special manual techniques that, in combination with the action of hot lava stones, have a highly therapeutic and relaxing effect. The stones are heated to a therapeutic temperature of 45 to 55°C and the basic effect of the massage is to warm the entire body. However, in addition to the thermal energy, the energetic vibration of the stones placed in special configurations on the affected part of the body is also used to target individual pain and trigger points. The massage has a deep effect and is used to release blocked areas, muscle stiffness and spasms, i.e. cramps. It improves blood circulation at the level of large vessels and capillaries, stimulates blood circulation and the lymphatic system, and speeds up metabolism, which helps with weight loss. In addition, it promotes detoxification of the body and the function of the immune system. Massage with lava stones helps to heal joint inflammations, is beneficial in healing strained or pulled muscles, has a very good effect on spinal disorders, back and neck pain and cases of unequal or excessive strain. In addition, it has a positive effect on the autonomic nervous system and psyche, relieving stress, improving the ability to concentrate and helping with sleep disorders.
What does Chinese cupping therapy help with? Chinese cupping therapy consists of placing spherical glass containers of heated air in which a vacuum is created by cooling them and then pressing them against the skin. This increases blood circulation and oxygenates the painful areas. In addition, harmful substances are flushed out of the body, the metabolism around the massaged area is improved and the immune system is stimulated. Massage with Chinese flasks helps to relieve or completely eliminate pain in the spine, muscles or ligaments as well as rheumatic pain. It promotes blood circulation and activates the lymphatic system, is beneficial in degenerative joint diseases, headaches and fatigue. And it is one of the ways in which the symptoms of cellulite can be alleviated.
What are the effects of Zen Touch Shiatsu? It is one of the most comprehensive and sophisticated massage systems and leads to overall healing of the body. Zen Touch Shiatsu massage, called "finger pressure", originated in Japan in the early 20th century and combines the principles of traditional Chinese medicine with modern scientific knowledge. It uses the body's energy pathways, the meridians on which acupressure points lie. During the massage, gradual pressure of the fingers, hands, elbows, knees, feet and joint rotation is used to massage the entire meridians and balance the so-called full and empty spots on the body. The aim is to get the body flowing with energy that will start healing processes, detoxification and overall improvement of physical and mental state. The result is powerful vitalising, preventive and healing effects. Zen Touch Shiatsu helps prevent disease and is used as a complementary treatment for chronic illnesses, fine-tunes internal energies and is excellent for relaxation. It has a great effect on back, joint, head or internal organ pain, various blockages or mobility problems, physical and mental exhaustion and neurotic problems. After the massage, the person experiences an intense influx of new energy, mental well-being and general relaxation.
What about lymphatic massage? It is a very gentle massage technique that improves lymphatic circulation and accelerates the flow of lymph, a sort of body sap, from the subcutaneous tissue back into the bloodstream. Stimulating the flow of lymph improves metabolism, promotes detoxification and improves immunity, contributes to the regeneration of the body, has very beneficial effects on swelling, migraines and cellulite and also helps in other areas.
Taking a few of the most common problems people see you for as an example, which of these massages helps the most? I use a common reconditioning massage for most problems, because people most often come in with back and muscle pain, a blocked or stiff neck, shortened trapezius muscles and so on, so in about 80% of the cases I do a classic massage, Swedish sports massage. Generally it's one of the most effective things to use today.
Who chooses what kind of massage you apply? You or the clients themselves? Many clients come to me with a very specific wish as to what treatment they would like. I ask them what hurts, how it happened to them, and then I recommend the massage method that I think is optimal. Which is usually something different than what they originally wanted, but they get the result their body needs.
You also offer massage for pregnant women. How do they work and what are the benefits? 99 out of 100 massage therapists are afraid to give a massage to pregnant women. Yet there is no reason. There is only one place, between the ribs and the hip, where the tummy is not protected by any solid part of the bone, where I apply the least pressure during the massage, in fact almost none at all. Otherwise, pregnant women can be massaged almost normally. The massage is focused on the most stressed parts, especially the back, shoulders and lower limbs. It is adapted to the current stage of pregnancy and has a very positive effect on stimulating blood circulation, adjusting blood pressure and heart rate, and calming both mother and baby. It is done with the woman lying on her side in a stabilized position, first one side of the body is massaged, then she turns and the other side is massaged, finally the cervical spine is massaged while sitting. Around the 3rd month, when the woman's tummy starts to grow, the center of gravity of the body shifts and all the muscles in the legs and hips tighten in a different order than they should, hence the back pain. This is completely unnecessary, because it can be relieved by massage. And then around the 5th month, when the pelvis starts to prepare and open up, all the tendons and ligaments pull, but that can also be released. So pregnant women can often suffer for no reason at all. Many of the pains that accompany pregnancy are completely unnecessary. But if you tell 99% of massage therapists you're pregnant, they'll take their hands off you. And there's no reason at all.
Are massages for pregnant women limited by the stage of pregnancy? Basically, no. I massaged my wife for a quarter of an hour before she gave birth. It is often said that massages for pregnant women should not be done until after the third month of pregnancy. But at that stage, many women don't even know they're pregnant. For myself, I can say that I have never encountered a case where massages have harmed pregnant women. Massage alone cannot harm, if it is done with knowledge and reason.
Apart from back pain, which is typical of pregnancy, is there any other area in which massage can make life easier for pregnant women? Especially with leg pain. By shifting their center of gravity as their body changes, pregnant women find themselves walking differently than their bodies were originally accustomed to. The body stands differently and the muscles adapted for walking do not contract as they should. This is why women's feet, ankles and calves hurt most during pregnancy.
How often do you recommend that pregnant women get a massage? It's individual. I used to massage my wife every third or fourth day. Pregnant clients usually come to me for a massage once a fortnight. At first they come once or twice and when they see the benefits, they start coming regularly.
Do you only massage adults or do you massage children as well? Children too, I've massaged little toddlers. Mostly it's related to the fact that children grow very fast but their muscles don't grow as fast and they hurt. So even children from about one year old can go for massages. It may not be very common with most massage therapists, but it is possible and can help children a lot.
What about seniors? Their bodies are becoming more fragile as they get older, can massages help them too? Age is not a contraindication for massage. However, the masseur must be more careful during the massage because older people have looser skin, so no reflex strokes can be done on dry skin. In addition, their skin often shows changes in the form of warts or moles, and it is then no longer possible to massage over those. So not every elderly person can be massaged, but for a large number it is possible and it has very beneficial effects on their body.
How can it help seniors? In the overall blood circulation of the body. Even if the person is built well, if they aren’t active and mostly sit at home in front of the TV, their musculature deteriorates. Massage gets the circulation going and the more blood that gets to the muscles, the more oxygen and nutrients get there and the more the muscle recovers. It makes seniors feel clearer after a massage, especially if it's regular. So basically, we can say that massage can help everyone from children to seniors.
How important is regularity in massage? Regularity is essential. I have been giving massages for over 20 years and what I would definitely recommend is regularity. I always tell my clients: come three times and only after the third massage tell me how you feel. When you come for the first massage, I can't push as much as I would like to and as much as I need to, because the client would really feel it a lot the next day. And if I massage him so that he doesn't feel anything, I'd have to cheat. It's very difficult to find a middle ground between the two because every person is differently sensitive. Sometimes, for example, a fifty-pound lady comes to me, whom I can almost tread on, and says “push harder”. And then an athlete comes in, and I can barely lay my hands on him before he's warning me that he's in pain. Every person has a completely different sensitivity. So I always say, try at least three massages, see what the results are, and you'll want to come regularly.
So how often should a person get a massage to get the best results? The ideal is once every 14 days. Although I do have clients who go for an hour massage every week because it suits them and they feel the positive benefits. Because of my long experience, I also have clients who have been coming to me every 14 days for 20 years. Most of them are "IT people" and office people.
Massage helps to solve a variety of problems, but it also works as a prevention against the development of various difficulties. In what specific ways do they help besides the aforementioned blood circulation? Massages, for example, do not lead to muscle shortening. When I run my hand over a muscle during a massage, it stretches, relaxes, stretches, relaxes, and it's almost the same as in the gym. The difference is that in massage – unlike exercise – lactic acid is not produced in the muscle, but instead is flushed out of the muscle. Lactic acid acts as an indicator of muscle pain. The more lactic acid in the muscles, the sooner the brain receives the signal that the muscle is tired and may be damaged.
What should people prepare for when they first go for a massage? No preparation is necessary. Only when they go for Zen Touch Shiatsu, this is done on a mat, and comfortable clothing such as sweatpants or leggings, a t-shirt or sweatshirt is appropriate for this massage. This is the only treatment that one has to prepare for. And of course, it's better to be showered before the massage. Because if he comes to the massage sweaty, it is not the best, for the reason that in massages we use oils, which have a lot of healthy ingredients that sweat prevents from penetrating the skin.
Some massages have various contraindications that prevent the application of the massage. Can we summarize them briefly? What conditions are not suitable for particular types of massage treatments? In the case of lymphatic massage, any inflammatory condition is a contraindication, as lymph can spread inflammation throughout the body. Infectious or bacterial diseases and febrile conditions, oncological diseases, skin rashes, thyroid hyperfunction, cardiac arrhythmias, asthma, varicose veins and pregnancy also prevent the performance of this massage. Practically the same contraindications also apply to lava stone massage. The application of Chinese cupping therapy is excluded in case of acute thrombosis, varicose veins, open and festering wounds, aneurysms, gangrene and swelling of cardiac origin. Zen Touch Shiatsu cannot be performed on people with significant joint problems, osteoporosis and on people after surgery. Therefore, it is very important that clients consult their health condition with a massage therapist who will evaluate contraindications and then recommend the most appropriate massage method.
When a client comes to you for the first time, do you do any diagnostics so that you can recommend the ideal massage? What form does the diagnosis take? Diagnostics are absolutely essential at the beginning. I always ask the client everything I need to know on the first visit – what's wrong with them and what they've ever had – because it's a much quicker process than finding out by touch, and some things you can't tell by touch at all. I need to know if they have had kidney or liver problems, for example, or if they have had an operation or an accident, because the massage treatment often needs to be adjusted accordingly. After making this diagnosis, I can not only recommend and perform the type of massage that is optimal for the client, but it is also possible to incorporate beneficial procedures from other massages into the selected treatment, such as soft techniques, reflexology, releasing joint blockages, etc. It is not that I give the client a traditional massage on one visit and reflexology on the second visit, it is possible to combine different techniques appropriately. But I always tell the client during the massage what I am going to do so that they don’t worry that I'm going to jerk them around unexpectedly...
How long do the different massages last? I offer massages of 30, 60 or 90 minutes. The specific length depends on various factors – if a client wants a full body massage, an hour is needed, half an hour for the back and neck, and an hour for Zen Touch Shiatsu and lava stones. For a lymphatic facial massage, an hour is ideal, but half an hour is sufficient. It depends on the agreement with the client, as with the pressure used in the massage. The main thing is to make the massage as pleasant as possible for the client, to meet their needs and at the same time to give them the desired result.