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Please note that due to my full time commitment to Simply Stronger (Simplement plus fort) I no longer take appointments for massage therapy directly. I continue to use the same approach to chronic pain, and will use some of the same techniques, but in order to book a session with me you must go through the Simply Stronger website or call me to get more information: 514-585-8892 - www.simplementplusfort.ca - Thank you!
HOW I DO MASSAGE THERAPY
When you come to me for a massage, I want you to feel that you are in control. It's normal to feel a little nervous about this kind of therapy if you've never received a massage, so I want to make sure you understand what will happen and why.
All of the my sessions start with getting to know how you are feeling by listening to you tell me about it. Then, we decide together what we will do, in order to help you feel how you would like to be feeling.
Most people are a little nervous when they come to receive a massage, especially if it's their first time. I know this from what clients have told me over the years, as well as observing the breathing patterns, muscle tension and the difficulty they may have in letting go of say their arm or neck when I am working with them. I see these things change and get better as time goes by. With a little practice, those who couldn't relax or let go the first times, do so, and often realize that it was because something was making them feel unsure or unsafe. They may be concerned that I might yank their arm or let go of their head or use too much pressure! This is completely normal, especially if it's their first time receiving a massage. After all, it's a new experience, with a complete stranger, in a closed room, dimly lit, with most of their clothes off... seems to me it would be normal to be a little uneasy the first time.
The first question I ask when you come into my office is if you have ever received a massage before. If so, I'll ask you what kind of massage. Most of the time, people don't know, something that concerns me a bit. This could mean that the last time(s) they received a massage, there was little or no discussion between them and the therapist. To me it is extremely important, especially the first time. Your should know what is about to happen, and why. Relaxation cannot happen if you are not feeling relaxed!
A massage therapist should always greet you with "Hello, my name is (Randall in my case)” and shake your hand or make an obvious greeting gesture with their body, smile, and ask.”How are you feeling today?" After you have told them, they should listen to you and perhaps take a few notes if you are giving them detailed information. This is what I do. Then I say, "Make yourself comfortable. We are going to talk a little before we get started". This might seem a bit odd before receiving a massage. A lot of people expect there to be no talking--just “get installed and I'll be back.” Unfortunately more often than not, when I have done that, the client was not completely satisfied, and wished the massage had been done differently, something we could have discussed before. A lot can be said during the massage, questions can be asked, but when you haven't told the therapist beforehand what you want or what you like, it is sometimes difficult during the massage to do so. There is only so much I can do or say to get feedback from you, or guide you through the process of relaxing if we haven't set the boundaries and "rules" first.
NEVER RECEIVED A MASSAGE?
If you have never received massage, I will ask you if you have been to a physio, a chiro or an osteo or any other manual therapist. If yes, I will tell you something like " Oh, ok so then it's not the first time you've been touched in this context." I say this in order to make it clear, that there is something important about having been through the initial experience of being in this new and sometimes vulnerable situation I mentioned above. If you have never received massage, I go on to explain how things are going to be played out, as well as why. It important to satisfy the part your brain that likes to chatter during the massage, and if it's going on with "...why is he doing that?... that hurt... I wish he would work more on that area.... I'm not comfortable with my arms like this....why does my breathing seem so loud?..." and anything else you could imagine your mind going on about, this makes it very hard to "shut down" and relax throughout the massage.
It's hard to relax in a place where we don't feel secure or in control, and one of the goals of massage and pain management is to be able to control or let go of tension in the body. I know the human body pretty well--anatomy, physiology, neurology, as well as human behaviour and habits, but I will never BE you who are receiving the massage., It is your body, and you will always know it better than I will. So no matter how much I know, or how skilled I might be, if the massage isn't feeling comfortable, if YOU aren't feeling comfortable, then you won't relax.
HOW CAN I RELAX?
We can move on to the first "rule" of how TO feel in control and safe in a way that will help you relax. Yes, we will go over breathing techniques and exercises to learn how to control the contraction and decontraction of muscles in order to help in the process, but the first and most important step is to teach you how to feel in control.
So the first thing to understand is that a part of your nervous system is responsible for protecting you. It's the part that tells you to take your hand away from a hot stove or to put on a hat because it's cold. It's that part that sends you warning signals when it thinks you might be in danger, and can set in motion a series of chemical reactions in your body (like adrenaline release) that prepares you to fight or run away or protect yourself from this perceived danger. Another part of your nervous system (YOU basically, the thinking you that you call yourself), is able to some extent to control the other part. If you can rationalise the situation then you can sometimes control it, and often that can be helped when you have more information about a given situation. Oftentimes the fear or protective reflex is created because of the unknown. The same can be true when receiving a massage. If your brain is busy wondering and thinking that something might not be comfortable or safe about the experience there is a greater likelihood that you will stay on the alert, and usually that will mean... well, not relaxed. So it is vitally important that you understand that no matter how much I know about the body, and how much pressure to use or what technique to use, it's YOUR body and you will always know better than I what feels good to you. That is why it is very important that at any time, if there is something you need to tell me, or if the pressure is too much or too little, you tell me, and that will help me make sure you are receiving what feels best for you. If you like something I do, and you feel you want me to do more of it, you can tell me. If you are comfortable when you first lie down, but then become uncomfortable and need to move or wiggle a bit to get more comfortable, please do so. If you want to scratch an itch, blow your nose, cough, sneeze, anything! don't hold back.There is nothing like feeling like you can't move to make you feel like you are not in control. You also get to decide what you want me to massage. If it's the whole body and we have the time, then we can do that, but if you wanted me to just massage your shoulders, then I will do that. I could spend an hour on your left shoulder blade if you wanted me to. We can discuss things together and plan things together, but you will always know and feel what you want to work on.
Once I've gotten to this point in the explanation of the "rules" people start to get a little tired of hearing me talk! This shows me that my point has gotten across. They act confidently and sort of brush me away as if to say, "Hey, I'm good, no problem. Let’s do this thing!" This makes me happy because they are already controlling the situation.
WHAT EXACTLY WILL HAPPEN DURING THE MASSAGE?
If it's your first time, here's what is going to happen exactly: I'm going to step out of the room to let you get installed. If for some reason you need to get installed in a specific way so that you are comfortable we will have discussed the ways you can lie down comfortably, for example towards the end of the pregnancy, women usually get installed on their side, with pillows placed in a way that is most comfortable for them. If not, you're going to lie down on your stomach under the sheets. I will give you a few minutes to get undressed and get installed. You take off as much clothing as you feel comfortable, most women take off their bra, and you can keep or take off your underwear if you feel comfortable doing so. I only massage what I uncover, so you will always be covered up over most of your body. I will step out to go wash my hands and I will knock before coming in. When I start, I will uncover your back ONLY and massage your whole back from your neck to the low back and top of the hips. When I am finished, I will cover you up, and move onto the legs. I will uncover one leg at a time, massaging the whole leg from glutes to the toes. Then I will cover you back up after doing each leg separately and you will turn over onto your back. You will be fully covered while you turn and again I will uncover one leg at a time massaging the front of your leg. Then I will do the arms, again uncovering one at a time and finish with the top of the shoulders, neck and head. Do you have any questions? Are there any parts of your body you'd rather I not massage? Ticklish feet, a bruise, anything? If the answer is no, then when I come into the room, you'll be able to ask me at any time during and after. I will go wash my hands, wait a bit, knock and wait to hear you say "Okay!" and we'll start the massage.
When I come in I will put bolsters (small round cushions) under your ankles when your on your stomach, and under your knees when you're on your back. Why? So that your toes and ankles are in a more neutral position and with the knees bent and supported, there is less pressure on structures in the hips and low back making it a more comfortable position to lie in. The head rest can be adjusted, but you can try it out and decide even later if you want me to adjust it or you can even slide down and rest your head directly on the table if that's more comfortable for you, you decide.
HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO BREATHE?
I often start with simple ways to observe and control your breathing. This often helps to focus your attention on areas that are more tense and "breathe into" them. We'll work together on this so that you fully understand how you can use your breathing to lower pain and tension in your body. Whenever you need to, you return to a natural normal breath pattern that is comfortable for you. The controlled breathing is like a "tool" you can use when you need it during the massage. Basically we want to make sure you have everything you need to relax as much as possible and really un-plug!
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
To me a huge benefit to receiving massage is feeling ok about just lying there and resting for an hour. Resting isn't something we do a whole lot of, and it's amazing how repairing a good rest and relaxation can be. I don't agree that massage is some kind of luxury or a treat that you allow yourself to have once or twice a year, but rather something that can help you repair your body so that you feel better throughout the year. This can lead to a better mood, feeling less tired, feeling stronger, feeling more alert, feeling more awake and more energized. A lot of these simple things that we say we would like to feel can be felt if we take a little more time to take care of our selves in this way. As well, there's always much to say about our ability to perform and work more efficiently if we are well rested.
It's a learning process to get to the point where you can fully relax during a massage and to a point where you can feel comfortable with the idea that it's not a treat, but as necessary as eating and sleeping. But, it's also not for everyone. It can be a good place to start exploring the idea of taking time for yourself. Some people could discover that they'd rather go for a walk to feel the effects of relaxation. Learning to relax during a massage with me might sound like a great idea, but if you'll relax more fully with another therapist, if you think you’ll relax more by doing something else like meditation, swimming, or even having a coffee or taking a nap, then go for it! It's important, and the bottom line is that you understand why you should rest, and relax every so often. It's a good thing for you to and you should do it in the way that makes YOU feel the most relaxed. It’s great if it's a massage, but if it's something else, find that something else and go for it!
HOW I TREAT CHRONIC PAIN
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While in Montreal on business, I was referred to Randall by a mutual friend for acute treatment. Randall’s initial effort made such a difference, that for months afterwards, I would book sessions with him on each trip. By the time I saw him for the last time, not only was I living pain-free, but I had learned so much about how to keep myself that way! Thank you, Randall!
Michael Reed - Component Secretary Treasurer Air Transat
Michael Reed - Component Secretary Treasurer Air Transat