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Therapeutic or Relaxation Massage?

For years in my practice, I focused on the science of massage therapy. I took continuing education in oncology massage, manual lymph drainage, myofascial release, trigger point therapy, scar release, and PTSD bodywork along with many other modalities firmly situated in the medical massage camp. Don't get me wrong, in the early days of my career I explored Reiki (and was a Level 2, but did not use it with clients/patients) and other forms of energy work; but I firmly set those aside to focus on evidence-based modalities that kept my feet firmly planted in the medical realm. I enjoyed all that I learned and applied them in my sessions. I saw great strides in the patients I saw in the doctor and chiropractic offices I worked.

Until I opened my own business I didn't hold much of an opinion about relaxation massage. No fluff and buff massages for me. I charted progress and followed outcomes. I wanted to do good and beneficial work with clients. For me, this meant working in a medical-related environment. When I began my study of oncology massage and became a part of S4OM (the Society for Oncology Massage) I learned about massage studies and supplied materials to clients/patients regarding the benefits of massage. Clinical research supports the use of massage in reducing pain and anxiety. Patient-reported massage benefits additionally included improved sleep, decreased sense of isolation, enhanced body image, and increased feelings of well-­being. Hmm, this isn't specifically medical massage these findings are for massage therapy in general.

What I discovered through the advanced training for oncology massage is that less is more - not to overtax an already overly stretched system. I learned to be cognitive of the organ systems and how taxing treatments can be so the massage sessions were beneficial on multiple levels for the patient. This got me thinking. If someone sick from chemotherapy and/or radiation can tolerate and benefit from massage which in most cases is lighter, gentler work than a standard Swedish massage and incorporates specific pressure levels to be followed. How can these slower-paced, less-pressure sessions apply to others not living with cancer?

We are all overtaxed in one way or another. We have more things coming at us continuously than ever before in history. Being so connected, while beneficial in many ways also adds to our levels of stress. Doesn't it make sense that the same benefits supported by clinical research and cancer patient-related outcomes can be applied to everyone? I think so. I had some serious aha moments during 2020 and began thinking of ways I could incorporate these insights into my private practice. I read books on sleep, stress, tapping, and lifestyle hacks. I took online classes and participated in challenges to give me more first-hand knowledge.

Now I incorporate many of these practices and techniques in my sessions. Additionally, I've studied courses in energy work, chakra balancing, breathwork techniques, and sound healing tuning forks. I became a Reiki Master in 2016 and studied with other Reiki practitioners since then. I also became a certified integrative health coach in 2017. I've opened my mind, expanded my understanding, and grown spiritually. I haven't left science behind; however, I have realized that in many ways science is only now catching up to ancient studies and belief systems.

Technology is developing more quickly than ever. With it is the discovery that the meridians are pathways smaller than capillaries throughout the body, that energy travels and can have positive effects from a distance or locally. These findings are quite amazing! Thanks to f-MRIs and functional ultrasounds and the study of quantum mechanics among other areas of science, we have discovered so many previously unknown things about our world and ourselves.

What we have forgotten or never fully learned, is how to be alone with and by ourselves, and to disconnect from our TVs, phones, laptops, smartwatches, and other devices. They remind us to move, how far we've walked, gauge our mood, and monitor our heart rate. While this is great information and can be life-saving at times, maybe it's time to return to the very first and most amazing technological advancement of all - our body with its supercomputer brain.

I know I've gotten a little (OK, a lot) off-topic, but I'm getting there. While therapeutic or medical massage is good and has many positive outcomes, relaxation massage also has valuable healing properties. Taking an hour to digitally detox from electronics and disconnecting from the responsibilities and distractions we experience daily, sometimes hourly, is such an important act of self-care. Fully expanding our breathing capacity by inhaling deeply and exhaling completely while melting into the massage table allows the body, mind, and spirit to rest and remember what healing feels like. Guided imagery or Reiki can add an additional layer of relaxation to the experience. Sound-healing tuning forks add an even deeper dimension.

It doesn't always have to be about "being fixed". I don't fix people - that's outside my scope of practice. With therapeutic massage, I manipulate soft tissues for probable and possible positive outcomes through my training and experience. Relaxation massage is your opportunity for an inner journey to wellness and healing by taking time to quiet the mind, enjoy the experience, and connect with yourself. Create your wellness journey, and book your relaxation massage today.

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