Massage Therapy and Your Recovery Treatment Plan

The physical healing applications of massage and bodywork are well known. Less known are the ways in which massage therapy can facilitate emotional healing.

Mental health treatment and healing take time, and often the process incorporates many modalities, not all of which are directly in the field of psychotherapy. During National Recovery Month, recognized in September, we take the opportunity to shine a light on less mainstream treatment options for recovery from trauma, addiction, and other mental health issues.

Massage therapy and other forms of bodywork are becoming more widely known for their ability to address concerns like anxiety, depression, fatigue, and insomnia. But their use related to conditions that might call for extended treatment or rehabilitation has not been widely publicized. Further research supports incorporating bodywork into a mental health healing plan with a comprehensive psychotherapy program.

Before beginning any type of bodywork to address psychological concerns, it is best to meet with a mental health professional who will be overseeing the recovery process. Depending on the issue and the person’s history, bodywork may not be the most appropriate complementary therapy, or it may be advisable to wait until the individual is further into the recovery process to explore massage.

Massage Therapy and Addiction Recovery

Research shows bodywork helps reduce physical and emotional discomfort during the addiction recovery process in many ways. Some rehabilitation facilities and residential treatment centers employ massage therapists to aid clients on-site. Further, people who are trying to quit smoking can use self-massage to help reduce nicotine cravings. Co-occurring issues in the smoking cessation process, especially anxiety and mood issues, are also eased by touch therapy and massage.

Withdrawal can be an extremely painful experience, especially for people who have developed an opioid addiction after being prescribed the drugs for physical injury or pain. Massage can speed the detoxification process, lessen the risk of secondary health problems, and reduce the need for tranquilizers or other drugs to calm a client.

Bodywork also reduces the likelihood of relapse. The Mayo Clinic offers a program for pain management and reduction which takes a “biopsychosocial” approach to weaning opioid users off the medication and replacing it with holistic therapy options, including massage. The results have been very positive, significantly lessening clients’ needs for pain medication afterward.

Individuals currently using alcohol or other drugs, and those whose systems still contain them, are not advised to receive massage. In such instances it is likely the liver is already processing the substances and can become overwhelmed by toxins as bodywork begins to take effect.

Using Bodywork After Abuse or Trauma

A common effect of experiencing any type of physical trauma, including childhood abuse, domestic violence, or sexual assault, among others, is an aversion to touch. Studies support the use of many different types of bodywork and holistic treatments for people who are comfortable or can work up to it. Even no-contact modalities like reiki, aromatherapy, and some types of hydrotherapy can be beneficial additions to a comprehensive mental health healing plan after abuse or trauma.

Though bodywork does have a direct positive correlation with improved mood and emotional stability, researchers say the more immediate effect of massage is a deeper connection with the self. After trauma, someone might begin dissociating or develop thought patterns of self-loathing and rejection of the self. Massage and bodywork can help bring awareness back to the body and one’s connection with it in constructive, nonjudgmental ways.

By addressing the physiological impacts after trauma, professional bodywork can help remove some of the emotional barriers to healing, such as pain and discomfort related to touch or another person’s proximity. In this way the therapy makes it possible for more psychological and emotional healing to take place and for clients to restore self-acceptance.

Eating Disorder Recovery and Massage

Common eating issues like anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating can pose a number of health risks and may even be life-threatening. Treatment facilities and programs focus on helping someone ease back into a lifestyle that supports a healthy relationship between food and one’s body.

These changes may be minor at first but can still be extremely taxing on people whose systems are adjusting to eating in a different way. In some cases, eating issues lead to cardiovascular weakness or circulatory problems, and bodywork is not advisable if either condition is present. However, for anyone not experiencing these serious side effects, massage can be helpful in the early stages of recovery by improving digestion while the body heals.

A key part of moving past bulimia, bingeing, or anorexia is developing more positive body image and self-regard. Though much of this work is psychological, bodywork can be one factor that helps encourage better self-esteem. Studies show people are more able to accept themselves after receiving massage and experiencing the positive effects of increased serotonin and dopamine. In other words, when the body feels good, it’s easier to feel good about the body. With effective psychotherapy, bodywork can provide unexpected relief during the recovery process and offer hope for people in recovery and their families.


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Post-Massage Stretching Techniques To Enhance Your Treatment

Just as with physical activity, stretching is often recommended after massage. Learn how taking time to stretch can help preserve the effects of massage.

If you regularly engage in physical activity or exercise of any duration or intensity, you’ve probably been advised to stretch before and after. Incorporating stretching into a regular warm-up routine prior to exercising helps reduce the risk of tearing, straining, or otherwise injuring muscles and joints. It also helps muscles cool down after physical activity, which can guard against stiffness and soreness later.

Stretching after exercise, in a way, helps preserve the effects of exercise by preventing muscles from seizing up and losing their strength and elasticity. Similarly, stretching helps preserve the effects of massage–including relaxation and flexibility. Though athletes and others who lead highly active lives may stand to benefit most from stretching after bodywork, anyone can enhance the effects of a treatment by stretching. Consult with your massage therapist first to see whether they recommend specific stretches after considering your personal health profile.

Why Stretch after Your Massage?

Deep massage and exercise can affect the muscles in similar ways. Massage increases blood flow and circulation and can create friction in the tissues like vigorous movement does. During massage tissues and muscles are pulled away from one another, which creates the “loose” feeling you might have after a treatment. You might also feel taller, because massage helps counteract the daily compression and gravitational pull we experience.

Stretching after a treatment can keep joints mobile, maintain the looseness in muscles and tissues, and improve flexibility. It will also increase your tolerance for stretching–the more you do any stretch, the easier it becomes over time. Wise massage therapists also stretch before and after giving a massage to optimize body mechanics during the treatment and reduce their own risk of injury, strain, and soreness.

Simple Post-Massage Stretching at Home

Your routine will vary depending on your body’s limitations, your massage therapist’s guidelines, and your own goals. Keep movements slow, maintain a steady breathing pattern, and do not hesitate to modify any stretch for greater comfort. Most stretches are designed to be performed alone, though you can also call upon a friend or partner to assist if you would like help balancing, deepening the stretch, or creating resistance to build strength.

  • Standing arm pull + bend: Stand with good spine alignment (hips over ankles with relaxed knees, tailbone relaxed, shoulders over hips, and ears over shoulders). Stretch your arms overhead and alternate reaching the fingertips of each hand up even higher. Keeping your arms stretched above your head, lean side to side. You should feel the stretch in your ribs and oblique muscles. To deepen this stretch, grasp and pull your right wrist as you bend to the left, and pull on your left arm as you bend to the right.
  • Forward fold: Slowly bend at the waist, keeping your shoulders and arms relaxed. Rather than exerting pressure to touch your toes or the floor, simply let your upper body dangle in place and let gravity work to decompress your spine. You can sway slowly from side to side to help release tension. Your chin should drop to your chest so your neck isn’t working to hold your head. When you return to standing, do so very slowly and keep your knees bent. Lead this movement with your hips, so that your shoulders and head are the last thing to raise and stack on top of your spine.
  • Knee hold: While lying on your back, bring one knee to your chest and hold it in place with clasped hands. Switch knees after 30-60 seconds. This alone is a significant stretch for many people; to deepen it you might press your knee into your palms to create resistance. For other variations, take your knee out to the side, away from your body (hip opener), or cross it over your other leg (twist).
  • Cat – cow: On all fours, make sure your back is parallel to the floor as if you’re forming a table. As you inhale, sink your back toward the floor, stretching your tailbone and forehead up toward the sky. Exhale and curve your spine, folding your nose toward your knees. Keep your palms and knees on the floor the entire time, and repeat using your breath as a guide.

Check out the included YouTube videos for more pointers on stretching. If you would like to continue searching for or creating a different custom stretching routine, focus on low-impact movements that are not limited by clothing, space, or time. Tailor your routine to your needs and preferences, taking into account any recommendations from your massage therapist, current pain or injury you’re experiencing, and where you will be doing your stretching.

Precautions for Stretching Exercises

Never push yourself to a greater level of movement than is comfortable. Your range of motion will increase naturally over time, and you won’t do your body any favors by rushing that process. If something causes pain, it’s best to stop attempting that particular stretch and ask your massage therapist for further pointers.

These stretches are best used with massage therapy. While any stretch is likely to prove beneficial for you in some way, pair these with bodywork treatment to get the best of all worlds and start feeling better all around.


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5 Tips for Reducing Burnout in Massage Therapy

Caregiver burnout can result from job stress and can impact both physical and mental health and potentially your massage practice. These tips can help!

Burnout, an issue generally stemming from job-related stress, especially affects massage therapists and people in other health care professions. It is not something to ignore or let pass, as it can be accompanied by serious mental health issues like depression, isolation, and trauma. There’s no need to make drastic changes, but by shifting your focus at times and listening to your emotional and mental state, you can achieve more life balance and reduce the daily burnout you feel.

Aim for More Balance

Work-life balance means different things to different people–some might balance out their business by spending more time with a partner and children, while others might introduce a new hobby or learn a new skill to feel more balanced. One 2003 study, for example, demonstrated positive improvement in caregivers who began making music recreationally.

If you’ve been working nonstop, even a short vacation could create more harmony between your career and your personal life. When a vacation simply isn’t feasible, reconsider the hours you’re putting in at work. Evaluate whether they’re serving you well as a practitioner but also as a human who needs time to rest and recharge. If more and more evenings or weekends have become occupied with work, it might be time to reprioritize.

Boost Your Self-Care

Studies show health care workers are notorious for neglecting self-care. If your practice feels particularly rushed or hectic, you might benefit from allocating more time for your own care and well-being. Treating yourself to a spa day might not always be realistic, but simple activities like staying hydrated, stretching, taking short walks, or journaling, however briefly, can effectively help ease burnout.

Mindfulness activities have particularly positive effects on burnout and are a sustainable way of preventing burnout and incorporating a self-care routine. Meditation, mindful movement, and walking meditation do not require any props or extra preparation. What’s more, they can be done anywhere. If you’re new to meditation, try downloading a free app to facilitate the process.

Try New Things

An immense field, bodywork offers numerous professional opportunities that only require a few continuing education hours or workshops. If your practice starts to feel less fulfilling, consider looking into an adjunct endeavor.

After years of practicing Swedish massage, for example, you might be interested in incorporating a therapeutic rock treatment. Or perhaps circumstances in your personal life are drawing you toward mindfulness-based approaches or energy work, such as Jin Shin Do and reiki. If your office setting allows for it, you might consider purchasing a spa tub and offering some types of hydrotherapy.

Acquiring new skills can breathe new life into your massage therapy practice, attract and help you retain clients, and introduce you to different bodywork modalities. Your new approach might allow you to be more creative and attentive to your own needs, and you can feel good about having taken the time for discovery and self-improvement.

Switch Up Your Marketing Strategy

By marketing differently you can reach new audiences, learn new skills, and boost your practice in a way that fits you better. Advertise your services in a local gym, for instance, and brush up on what you know about sports massage to attract a new type of clientele. Alternatively, connect with your local hospice organization to offer your services. Even if your involvement is strictly voluntary, you might make connections that result in more clients.

You might also consider branching out in marketing through new types of social media. While unlikely to become your go-to strategy, image-based platforms like Instagram and Pinterest create a unique branding opportunity. Invest a bit of time into researching these avenues, following bodywork and health accounts, and posting some images of your office space, for starters.

Seek Your Own Therapy

Massage therapists are always advised to receive massage regularly, both to experience others’ techniques and for the same benefits their clients receive: lowered stress and anxiety, reduced muscle tension and fatigue, and increased serotonin and dopamine levels (to help counteract depression). Of all people, massage therapists know the many ways bodywork can improve multiple aspects of life, and they are uniquely positioned to receive various types of bodywork because of professional connections.

If you’re experiencing burnout in your business, emotional state, physical well-being, or mental health, you can begin addressing these areas by receiving massage treatment. In many cases, caregiver burnout or compassion fatigue should also be regarded as a serious issue worth addressing with a mental health professional.

Avoid the temptation to immediately dismiss burnout as a phase you will naturally work through. Though this may be the case, feelings associated with burnout may also be deeply seated in grief, trauma, or depression. Either way, consulting with a psychotherapist can help you identify the roots of those emotions and a path for moving forward.

Health care providers are particularly susceptible to caregiver burnout because of the extraordinary amount of time and attention they put into meeting others’ needs and a tendency to neglect their own. But burnout is not a death sentence for your career or livelihood. Once you pay attention to the exhaustion you are feeling, you can address it and begin moving past it.

What To Do if You’re Nervous About Receiving Massage

Are you nervous about seeking out massage? These tips may help you get used to the idea if you want to try massage but aren’t sure how you feel about it.

If you’re new to receiving massage therapy or other types of bodywork, it may feel uncomfortable to reach out for what seems like an intimate service. Perhaps you cringe remembering “massage train” icebreakers or team building events you’ve participated in.

What you’re feeling is perfectly normal. There are many reasons someone might be hesitant about receiving massage. Your fears or concerns need not be barriers to treatment, however. If you’re considering massage or if it has been recommended to you, identifying the feelings holding you back is the first step to finding a practitioner who is right for you.

Start Gathering Information about Bodywork

Some people question the legitimacy of massage for healing purposes, since for many years massage therapy and other forms of bodywork were considered taboo, especially in the western world. Some unfortunate misconceptions still linger about massage therapy’s place in contemporary medicine, though research and extensive studies have helped dissolve that reputation and massage is now widely understood to reduce pain and improve health. The more you read about bodywork practices, the more you can understand why so many people, including medical professionals, endorse massage.

If massage has been recommended to you to treat a specific health issue, do some research to learn more about the condition and how bodywork can help. Massage is contraindicated (or discouraged) for very few, if any, health issues. In some form or another, bodywork can either work around or address any complication you might be experiencing. Heart disease, for example, makes some types of bodywork more dangerous than others, but low-impact treatments such as reiki could be ideal for someone with a heart condition.

Consider also talking to colleagues and friends who have experienced massage to hear about the treatment they received and how they went about finding a practitioner. Learning more about how massage is used today, and the many different bodywork options, can open your mind to its hundreds of applications for physical and mental well-being.

Practice Massage on Yourself

Physical touch, even when it’s consensual, restorative, and professional, can be difficult to accept. The best way to start moving past an aversion to the aspect of physical contact in massage is to explore massage tactics on your own body. Begin by being more deliberate with the time you already spend on yourself–applying lotion after a shower, stretching in the morning, or even washing your hands. Work up to giving yourself a massage, perhaps starting with a foot rub and gradually adding legs, arms, and your neck or scalp.

Use slow motions and gentle pressure, avoiding joints and tender areas such as the backs of knees or insides of elbows. Take a few extra moments to notice how your movements feel under the surface of your skin. Can you notice when a part of you isn’t completely relaxed? Do you feel differences in your muscles after massaging them? Are you aware of tension, soreness, or pain?

Using massage on yourself can help you identify which sensations are enjoyable and which might evoke more negative reactions. Allow yourself to continue performing self-massage in a way you find relaxing and comfortable, noticing your reactions to each sensation without judgment.

When you’re more comfortable with self-massage, try receiving a gentle massage from a partner, family member, or friend. It’s often convenient to exchange foot massages with someone, and while shoulder and neck areas may be more delicate, it’s relatively difficult to do any level of harm by performing a foot massage.

Ease Into It

Take your time familiarizing yourself with the concept and practical application of massage. It’s OK to still feel apprehensive about professional massage even after mental and physical preparation. Don’t force yourself–the resulting tension could compromise both healing effects and your overall enjoyment, ruining the treatment as a whole. But if you are determined to experience bodywork after learning about its numerous benefits, or if a medical professional is urging you to seek massage for a health issue, there are many ways of experiencing bodywork.

Low-impact forms of bodywork may be more appropriate, depending on your concerns. Chair massage, reflexology, acupressure, some types of Thai massage, and others are performed while the client is clothed. Dozens of bodywork modalities, such as reiki and craniosacral therapy, focus on energy work and involve little to no physical contact. All can be used to address both physical and psychological or emotional concerns.

A good bodywork professional, regardless of the specialty they practice, will be open to hearing your concerns and will respect the boundaries you state. Having a positive first experience with massage depends heavily on the communication you have with your practitioner. When you make an appointment with a therapist, don’t be afraid to mention your preferences or even the reason(s) you have been hesitant to seek massage. Your treatment will likely be better for it.

How to Keep Good Habits as a Massage Practitioner

Developing good habits may not be something you often take time to consider, but maintaining a routine can help you achieve greater success–and well-being

There are numerous elements to your life and career as a massage therapist, and surprisingly few of them have to do with giving a bodywork treatment. You’re likely juggling all the elements of running a business—paying bills, organizing client files, ordering supplies, and keeping a clean office—not to mention marketing your practice to receive more client referrals. You’re likely also trying to take care of yourself and maintain some work-life balance so you continue to enjoy the work you do.

Developing good habits in your practice can help you stay accountable not only to your clients, but also to yourself. There’s no need to make dramatic changes, since habits are no more than repeated behaviors. Start by doing an activity just once and continue for a few days. Before you know it, your consistency will turn into habit. What works for others may not work for you, so take care to tailor your approach to your own lifestyle and abilities.

Learn About Yourself

Are you a person who thrives on getting up with the sun? Waking at the last possible minute and drinking no less than three cups of coffee? Maybe things have been so erratic you’re not even sure whether you’re a night owl or early bird.

Some people find it helpful to use a personality test or lifestyle philosophy to learn more about how to live their best lives. Examples include the Myers-Briggs personality types, Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, astrology, the Human Design system, and more. If it’s valuable to begin developing habits based on what you find to be your type or classification within one of these systems, numerous internet resources can help you determine where you fit in the philosophy and provide tips for living your best life accordingly.

If you’d rather forge your own path, try simply paying attention to what makes you feel good. If your mind is sharper in the mid-afternoon, save your billing, paperwork, or personal study until later in the day when you have finished your appointments. Avoid scheduling clients just after noon if, like many people, you tend to “crash” after lunch. Instead, try recharging before you greet your next client with a 20-minute nap.

Tuning in to what your body and mind crave in terms of rest, exertion, stimulation, and relaxation will help you prioritize self-care, an essential part of any routine.

Set Your Intentions

Writing can be a powerful tool for enforcing what we know and holding ourselves accountable. Research supports the practice of self-reflection through journaling every day, and some of the personality philosophies listed above recommend it as a daily activity. But unless you would like to make a habit of it, there’s no need to commit to long entries every day.

Start with a few very simple lists: things you would like to incorporate into a morning routine, habits you’d like in an evening routine, and a few practices you’d like to accomplish throughout the day. Some examples might include:

  • File intake forms for each client right after their appointment.
  • Update office inventory list at the end of every day.
  • 15-minute power nap after lunch
  • Walk outside for 30 minutes before work.
  • Do one thing each day to market my practice/reach more clients.

You might also include some notes about what you notice is working for you as you pay more attention to your existing habits or the things you want to change. Even if you just do this once, it can be extremely valuable to revisit your findings later and measure progress.

Tailor Your Practice to Your Habits

Creating good habits might be all about experimentation at first, unless you have previously done the work to learn what habits best serve you and your practice. When something doesn’t work, modify it. For instance, if you find it’s impossible to nap for 15 minutes after lunch, try a seated meditation for five minutes instead.

To the best of your ability, build your schedule and practice around your habits as much as you build your habits around your practice. The monetary bottom line of your business may take precedence on paper, but meeting your own needs ultimately determines how you are serving your clients, working efficiently, and maintaining your own health and wellness.

Stay Flexible

One day is rarely like the next when you run your own practice, and often you may need to compromise some consistency to be productive, keep appointments, or stay available to clients. Try not to feel like you failed if you experience a day—or week—of broken habits. When you know what works for you and what habits help you be successful, it will be easier to revert to good habits.

The body thrives on consistency. As any massage therapist knows, every system within the body has its own routine—the jobs it carries out when it’s functioning properly. Your digestion, sleep cycle, and circulation are more likely to work predictably and efficiently when supported by good habits.


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7 Reasons Executives Should Schedule a Massage

Executives are often likely to experience more stress and stress-related issues. Schedule a massage today to improve your health and overall well-being!

Overworked, overtired, overburdened… If you work in an executive position, chances are you just feel over it some days. Depending on the business environment, executives may be more likely to experience physical exhaustion, lack of sleep, mental health issues, and other problems that have the potential to compromise their overall health and life balance. If these issues persist, they can have long-term consequences for heart health, organ function, or physical ability. Massage and other forms of bodywork can address the concerns—physical or mental—executives are likely to face

You probably need it, whether you know it or not.

Some executives are so busy they find it difficult to even slow down long enough to take inventory of their health. It can be difficult to realize the toll a high-stress position takes on the body. A massage treatment can provide a respite from the daily grind, even for those who don’t frequently experience back pain, headaches, or insomnia. Take the opportunity to check in with yourself and notice any job-related changes or impacts to your body.

It’s an incentive to make good health decisions.

Many people who receive massage say it helps jump-start better health habits in other areas of their lives. If your body feels like it’s working better, chances are you will find ways to support it. That might mean you engage in more physical activity each week, make a change to your morning routine that helps set you up for success, or even just start flossing more. You might feel more motivated to unplug from electronics well before bedtime if your massage treatments are helping you feel more grounded. Whatever changes you make, regular massage can serve as a reminder to keep taking care of your body between sessions.

Massage is an investment in long-term good health.

Improving your physical and mental health means you are less likely to use sick days (or work while ill). You’re also more likely to be more efficient while on the job since you may be less distracted by pain, sleepiness, or general worries. As your health and productivity improves, you can expect to see changes across the board at your business. When executives experience health problems, businesses may face significant risk of financial and organizational instability. So investing in your health by getting a massage doesn’t just benefit you, it can reflect positively on your entire company.

You’ll feel less stressed and anxious.

With more authority and more responsibility comes more stress and more subjects you might worry over. Left untreated, stress and anxiety can lead to hypertension, or chronic high blood pressure, which in turn may affect blood flow to the kidneys, brain, and heart. Massage can melt away some of the day-to-day concerns and help restore calm, as well as address some of the physiological effects of ongoing stress and anxiety.

It may help address an addiction.

Addiction often co-occurs with other mental health issues. This means if executives are prone to one, they may be prone to another. Massage can be a passive way of addressing substance abuse problems and aiding the process of quitting an addiction.

It works by reintroducing the feel-good chemicals keeping a person hooked on alcohol, sex, narcotics, or another substance. During the withdrawal process, when dopamine levels are lower than ever, massage can provide a boost that helps retrain individuals not to look for that feeling from the harmful or addictive substance. It should be noted that while massage can be effective for addressing some of the facets of addiction recovery, it cannot replace psychotherapy as a way of healing from addiction.

You can afford it.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that executives in the United States make, on average, anywhere from $100,000 a year to well over $200,000. Though the value of this sum varies greatly around the U.S., and some executives may also experience greater expenses, the low end of this spectrum is still higher than the average yearly salary for working individuals in the U.S. Thus, executives may be better positioned to spend money on bodywork and other measures to protect health, when these measures are not covered by insurance.

If your company sponsors or supports health initiatives like gym memberships or regular massage appointments, you have all the more reason to take advantage of these services. Organizations that support employee health, especially at the executive level, are more likely to earn employee loyalty.

You don’t have to get a massage.

If touch therapy isn’t for you, many other types of bodywork may be more suited to your needs and comfort level. Reiki, for example, is a type of energy work that does not involve physical contact but offers benefits similar to those of massage: reduced stress, emotional balance, and relaxation.

Other bodywork modalities that have been shown to reduce stress include acupuncture, music therapy, and hypnosis. Aromatherapy has also been shown to have a positive effect on health and, specifically, job-related stress.

If you’re an executive or someone who works in management, consider reaching out to a bodywork professional to schedule an appointment. It’s never too late or too soon to take more control of your health and invest in your future wellness.


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Finding Work-Life Balance While Running a Massage Practice

In 2010, Investopedia ranked massage therapy as one of the top five high-paying, low-stress jobs available. Whether you agree or not, any job can have its ups and downs, and any professional is bound to need some reminders about caring for the self under pressure and maintaining a balance between their career and home life. A job like massage can be both physically and psychologically stressful, so keep these tips handy to help ensure well-being and the best experience for your clients.

Set hours that maximize your efficiency and abilities.

If you know you are sharper with paperwork and billing matters in the morning, for example, try not to schedule clients before 10 a.m. If you find you can put more physical energy into a massage in the afternoon, reserve those appointments for more vigorous treatments when possible.

Build in time to recharge between clients.

Rushing from one appointment to the next creates stress for you and does a disservice to your clients, who are anticipating a calm, relaxed atmosphere for their bodywork session. In addition to building a cushion for things like changing sheets, cleansing your workspace, and switching the music, create time and space for yourself to meditate, call your family, or do whatever helps you recharge.


When your hands are occupied (and covered in oil or lotion) for at least 60 minutes at a time, you’re not necessarily thinking about reaching for your water bottle. But massage, even when performed well, is physically taxing on the therapist. Be sure you’re drinking enough water between sessions to balance the exertion of your practice.

Trade with a colleague.

Massage therapists may tend to neglect self-care even while promoting it to clients and studying health and wellness. If you are someone who says, “You always have time for a massage!” take your own advice and make time to get a massage. You might even swap bodywork treatments with a colleague—maybe you offer hot rock massage and know someone who gives an excellent exfoliation treatment. You can both ease some stress by taking a few hours to experience one another’s specialty.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Your time is valuable! You have worked hard to be able to offer the services you do. Though you might find some people who think bodywork is frivolous or nonessential or believe massage is something “anyone could do,” your education and experience say otherwise. Select rates that are in accordance with the industry standard in your area, and no less. This will also help ensure you’re not overworking yourself to make ends meet.

Don’t fall in a rut.

If you’re doing the same type of practice day after day, year after year, you might experience burnout more quickly. With a massage license and a world of continuing education at your fingertips, you can shake things up fairly easily by learning new skills and disciplines. If you’ve been practicing shiatsu massage for a few years and it’s starting to feel like a grind, learn a new practice like cupping, reiki, or lomi lomi. You might also choose to vary your surroundings by offering house calls or visiting nursing homes. Altering the space you consider your office can make your practice feel new and help you feel re-energized.

Take a break.

Any job, even one you love, can feel draining when it gets too monotonous. So step away from scheduling for a week (or even a long weekend here and there) and take a much-needed vacation. Go camping for a night, visit a beach with family, or just relax at home—as long as your home isn’t also your office.

Care for your mental health.

Massage is considered a health care profession. As caregivers, massage practitioners are subject to compassion fatigue, or caregiver burnout. Spending hours a day meeting others’ wellness needs may mean yours are not being addressed. Pay attention to the times you may be feeling down, anxious, lethargic, or hopeless. If you experience depression or any symptoms of caregiver fatigue, consider making an appointment with a mental health professional to address mental wellness.

Walk the walk.

If you’re advising clients (within the bounds of your credentials) about nutrition choices, fitness, stretching, or self-massage, take your own advice when it applies to you. Lead by example and put your knowledge of health and wellness to work for yourself.

Stay positive.

Though it may seem trite, a good attitude can go a long way toward maintaining your positive image with clients and ensuring your personal momentum throughout the workday. Adopt a vision of success, serenity, and wellness, and chances are you will pass that along to your clients.


  1. Beck, M. F. (2011). Theory & practice of therapeutic massage (5th ed.). Clifton Park, NY: Milady.
  2. Bell, A. (2010). 5 high-paying, low-stress jobs. Investopedia. Retrieved from

Ways to Celebrate EveryBody Deserves a Massage Week

At Massagetique, we believe in the importance of sharing the benefits of massage with the community. EveryBody Deserves a Massage week encourages massage therapists and bodyworkers across the country to come together and do just that. This recognition week was founded by Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) in 1995 to help promote the importance of massage and bodywork within local communities.

Join the Massagetique team and others in recognizing EveryBody Deserves a Massage Week from July 16-22. We encourage you to share the benefits of massage with those around you during this week and take steps to make massage more accessible to everyone in your community.

You might do this by:

  • Teaching a class on massage
  • Giving a lecture about different types of massage
  • Hosting an event to demonstrate massage techniques that can be practiced at home as self-care
  • Volunteering your services or offering discounts
  • Creating a contest
  • Creating and sharing informational flyers. 

The Massagetique team has created images you can share on social media and elsewhere to help promote EveryBody Deserves a Massage Week. Feel free to save, download, and/or print the images below and use them in your marketing materials (click on an image to download the file).

Additionally, here are educational articles about massage you can share on your blog, social media platforms, or other outlets throughout the week:

Throughout the week, Massagetique will share massage resources on our website and social media platforms and highlight ways massage can promote wellness and help treat health conditions. Let us know how you intend to celebrate EveryBody Deserves a Massage Week in the comments below. Share with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using the hashtag #EveryBodyDeservesMassage.

Inside Out: What Emotional Trauma Does to the Body

The body can be impacted greatly by emotional trauma, and vice versa. Learn how the effects of PTSD can be counteracted for mind-body wellness.

A good bodywork practitioner knows that health issues and pain are not just physical and mental health issues are not just psychological. For optimal health, the body and brain work in tandem to function properly and keep each other running smoothly. When we come into contact with something that endangers either side of that process, all systems are affected and must be treated to re-establish total body and mind wellness. For effective treatment, it helps to understand what happens in both body and mind when a traumatic incident occurs.

Enduring the Fight-or-Flight Response

When we’re met with a stressor–anything we perceive as a threat–our brains must choose to fight or flight? Sometimes we make this decision and move on so instantaneously we’re hardly able to register something was a threat. Other times this conundrum, known as the alarm phase, is so sustained the body has to make adjustments to accommodate it.

In this survival mode, the brain signals the body to use all energy and resources to resist the threat. Heart rate increases, cells use more energy, and there are changes in circulation. If this process lasts longer than a few hours and the threat is still present, the body can begin to shut down all reserves in order to protect itself.

The alarm phase of stress response teaches the brain to recognize and overcome similar threats in the future. But during a particularly stressful event—one categorized as trauma in the brain that could lead to posttraumatic stress—the brain might get stuck, logging its extreme trauma response as a default rather than one to file away. Next time it is presented with a threat, even if the threat is relatively harmless, the brain might use the same response. This is one possible indication of posttraumatic stress (PTSD).

Survival mode is not meant to be the body’s standard response, however. Such a reaction takes a toll on the nervous system and can lead to subsequent health issues. There is also evidence the brain may be damaged during these periods of intense stress response.

When Stress Becomes Trauma

In extreme circumstances, when a stressor lingers, is physically harmful, or causes an intense emotional reaction, the brain and body are likely to register it as trauma. After such an incident, one may experience posttraumatic stress, which can manifest in many ways:

  • Sleeplessness or insomnia
  • Depression
  • Mood issues, irritability, or anger problems
  • Flashbacks or nightmares
  • Anxiety

Though these effects are considered largely psychological, each can have physical consequences. This means that while you may have addressed an issue like whiplash after a car accident by seeing a chiropractor and massage therapist, ensuing depression may disturb digestion and contribute to health problems.

The Physical Toll of Untreated Trauma

Some mental health aspects of PTSD affect the body in more abstract ways, while others have a more direct correlation with physical health. For example, when PTSD leads to altered eating habits, including binge eating or skipping meals, physical ailments can range from fatigue and malnutrition to cardiac issues.

Depression, which can occur on its own or as an aspect of posttraumatic stress, may manifest in feelings of loneliness or a tendency toward isolation. An individual with depression may find it difficult or impossible to leave the house or interact with strangers. As a result, they might not be motivated to seek health care, potentially prolonging illness.

Compromised mental health has been linked to general aches and malaise, acute pain, inflammatory issues, and more. When psychological issues are present, the immune system is more likely to fail, increasing the possibility of illness. If the source of trauma caused substantial physical injury, the body may be slow to heal or prone to infection if PTSD symptoms are complicating the recovery process.

Approaching the Treatment of PTSD

The far-reaching effects of mental health issues related to PTSD have helped psychotherapists and bodywork professionals alike understand more about the ways one can heal after trauma. More comprehensive treatment methods are being developed to help manage all aspects of PTSD.

The days of thinking about stress, anxiety, trauma, depression, and other mental health issues only as psychiatric diagnoses have passed. After all, we know the brain controls everything about how we function–whether it’s picking up a fork, catching a ball, or fleeing from a potential threat. When something happens to disrupt this healthy brain activity, the psychological damage has the potential to adversely affect not only thoughts and mental state, but also physical health.

The more we learn about the physical nature of PTSD and trauma symptoms, the sooner we can continue to promote whole-body, person-centered healing techniques that address issues beyond the psychological.

The more we learn about the physical nature of PTSD and trauma symptoms, the sooner we can continue to promote whole-body, person-centered healing techniques that address issues beyond the psychological. Massage therapy has been shown to decrease stress and release feel-good chemicals like serotonin and cortisol, counteracting the adverse effects of almost any mental health issue. Massage and bodywork are not meant to replace psychotherapy, but they can be effective complementary therapies. If you are experiencing PTSD or related mental health issues, consider seeking bodywork in addition to ongoing psychotherapeutic care.


  1. Bremner, J. D. (2002). Does stress damage the brain?: Understanding trauma-related disorders from a mind-body perspective. New York, NY: WW Norton & Company.
  2. Dryden, T., & Fitch, P. (2007). Recovering body and soul from post-traumatic stress disorder. Massage Therapy Journal, 133-19. Retrieved from
  3. Fehrs, L. (2013, August 1). Muscle memory, trauma and massage therapy. Institute for Integrative Health Care. Retrieved from
  4. Gatchel, R. J. (2004). Comorbidity of chronic pain and mental health disorders: the biopsychosocial perspective. American Psychologist, 59(8), 795. Retrieved from
  5. Meeks, J. A. and Byrami, S. (2016). A systematic review of complimentary therapies to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress: Disorder in the aftermath of domestic abuse. Senior Honors Projects. 243. Retrieved from
  6. Premkumar, K. (2012). Anatomy and physiology: The massage connection (3rd ed.), 328, 351-353. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.