What is my massage like?

Maria Gail MassageMy massage is firm and focused. My hands are gentle and soothing, but I also find the knots.

I believe massage should not be painful, and with your feedback I adjust my pressure to your comfort level.  Massaging problem areas can “hurt so good” and I believe that when done with care and accuracy, massage does not require crippling pressure to feel deep and effective.

I work with my hands (no elbows or knobbers) and a few hot smooth stones which impart heat directly to trouble spots.  The direct heat increases circulation and soothes and relaxes your muscles, preparing them for deeper work.

I hope and believe that I am approachable, levelheaded and responsible.  I want you to feel confident that you are in good hands, comfortable about speaking up, and comfortable enough to relax.

Your feedback helps us both.
Call for your appointment at 338-4628.

What can I expect on my first massage?

Maria Gail MassageA typical massage lasts one hour, and you get to choose how to spend that time. Let me know what you need from your massage. Choose a full-body massage, or or request an in-depth treatment of a particular area (for example, neck, back and shoulders).

While the actual hands-on part of the massage lasts an hour (or longer if you choose), you’ll need to figure extra time for getting undressed and dressed, and to relax and reorient yourself after the massage.

Let me know about any trouble spots, health concerns, areas to avoid, and what you hope to gain from your massage. Then I’ll leave the room while you undress in privacy and lie down under a flannel sheet on a comfortably padded massage table. For a full-body massage most people undress completely, but underwear is left on or off at your discretion. Therapeutic massage is safe and non-sexual, and you will always be professionally draped during your massage. [Your personal modesty is respected. Know that it is possible to receive massage through light clothing, such as leggings and a t-shirt.

Therapeutic massage is safe and non-sexual, and you will always be professionally draped during your massage.

(Your personal modesty is respected. Know that it is possible to receive massage through light clothing, such as leggings and a t-shirt. Although clothed-massage is very different and will lack hot stones and long soothing massage strokes, it is still very beneficial. Please request what feels right to you. Clothed-massage is suitable for people who are feeble and for whom undressing and dressing are such a production as to be discouraging. I do not currently offer chair massage or house calls. In some cases you may want to find a massage therapist who offers that.)

This is your time. You may want to close your eyes, focus inward, or just sink into relaxation. Do whatever feels most comfortable, but don’t hesitate to ask questions or report any discomfort. Please don’t make the assumption that the massage therapist knows best. Those nerve endings are yours! I welcome your feedback so I can adjust pressure accordingly.

My hands detect restriction, tightness or injury in the texture of the muscle and focus on areas needing more attention. Massage to treat a painful injury or tender area may at first cause some discomfort, which usually lessens noticeably in the first few minutes. Using your feedback and my techniques to minimize pain, I will adjust my work to feel right to you.

After the massage, I will again leave you in privacy to reenter this world and to dress. Give yourself a moment to reorient before slowly getting up from the massage table. You will probably rise with the rosy cheeks of a child getting up from a nap. I’ve usually managed to dishevel your hair as well!

Will the massage therapist see me naked?

Maria Gail MassageIn the United States today, massage is more mainstream than ever before. Still, some people hesitate to try massage. Although drawn by its reputation to heal, soothe and relax, newcomers often don’t know what to expect. Here I address the fear that one is expected to be naked in front of the massage therapist.

This misconception is understandable. Until massage licensure began in Maine in the late 1990s, illicit sexual services often advertised themselves as “massage parlors” and were even able to list in the yellow pages under “Massage.” In Maine, massage licensure now assures that therapists are trained in their legitimate profession.

Most massage therapists work with clients on a massage table. The massage table is made up with clean sheets and often a blanket. The massage therapist leaves the room while the client undresses and climbs between the sheets. Underwear is left on or off at the client’s discretion. Massage training includes “draping,” the art of tucking a sheet to expose only the limb or area being massaged. Although undressed, the massage recipient never lies naked and uncovered on top of the massage table, and the massage therapist is always fully clothed.

It’s important to recognize that massage in fact does cross societal conventions of touch and intimacy. Not only does that play into fear of nakedness, it also touches on issues of body image and emotional safety. Anyone might feel reticent to show crusty feet or ample belly, varicose veins or other perceived imperfections. Realize that it’s normal to need to feel comfortable with the person who massages you. Ask your friends which therapist they see. Interview your potential therapist. Massage therapists receive most of their referrals by word of mouth and they understand this need.

Massage is best done on bare skin with a lubricating oil or lotion, allowing massage to reach deeper tissue without abrading the skin. But a good therapist uses many techniques, some well adapted to working through light clothing. Above all, your therapist wants you to be comfortable and will respect your decision to leave your socks on, skip your abdomen, wear leggings or whatever you might want for your personal comfort. This is your massage. Don’t be timid about expressing your needs. The therapist wants your business and will want to know what you need to be comfortable.

If you feel timid, you might consider starting with bodywork that does not require undressing. Shiatsu and Thai massage are usually done on a floor mat with the client fully clothed. Some massage therapists offer on-site massage on a special chair, others offer facials or foot reflexology. One of these might be a comfortable way to introduce yourself or a loved one to body work.  Whether to address an injury or to soothe away stress and tension, massage brings us home to our bodies. Nervously scheduling that first appointment, we face our worries of imperfection only to find them melting into a feeling of wholeness during the massage. Try it, and see for yourself.

Pain and Mitochondria

Maria Gail MassageI get excited when I find articles on health research which educate without requiring one to wade through medical terminology and re-read to grasp their meaning. I’ve just discovered one such article about the body’s immune system, entitled “Why Does Pain Hurt So Much” by Paul Ingraham.

Every time our primary defense is breached, every time our skin is broken, infection-fighting white blood cells rush to the site by the millions to fight off invading microbes. These white blood cells also destroy some healthy tissue in the process, causing additional pain. But this is a normal part of inflammation, and makes good sense in the overall immune battle against bacterial invaders. We wouldn’t want it any other way.

But suppose we sustain an internal injury where the skin is not damaged (perhaps a sprained ankle or rotator cuff injury), posing no threat of bacterial infection? Yet our body responds with exactly the same reaction! White blood cells still rush to the scene, where they attack and kill any cells in the area — including ours. Inflammation. Pain. How did this happen?

A long time ago, multi-cellular organisms formed a symbiotic relationship with a bacteria. Those bacteria became permanent residents of every cell in our bodies. They became cellular organs called mitochondria. Mitochondria are the energy-producing organelles of our cells, welcome guests providing a critical service without which we would die. In spite of the long relationship, mitochondria have remained autonomous, even retaining their own DNA. Living within our cells, they are safe from roaming white blood cells. But when internal injury occurs and body cells are ruptured, white blood cells recognize them as foreign bacteria and attack. The result: inflammation and pain.

The article goes on to speculate about the possible role of this immune over-reaction in common pain problems such as trigger points, arthritis and muscle pulls. You can read the article on saveyourself.ca .