“Awareness is like the sun. When it shines on things, they are transformed.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh

Frequently Asked Questions

(General Massage Questions)

Why Do I Need Massage?

Ideally, if one has good life balance, then massage is not a necessity. However, obtaining balance has proven to be quite the challenge for many of us. Until such is achieved, massage has proven to be a powerful tool for dealing with the daily grind of responsibilities, mounting stress, and physical pains that we accrue. Massage can improve the quality of life even for those who have achieved balance, but especially for those still searching for it.

For many, regular massage is an invaluable tool for managing stress and chronic pains. Doing so helps to maintain mental clarity and patience on a daily basis by improving how one feels mentally and physically.

For others, massage is used as an intervention to relieve an uncommon pain, like a pulled muscle, in order to return to full activity, and to avoid compensation patterns that may cause more pain down the road if left unaddressed.

A large number of athletes, or other highly active individuals, receive regular massage in order to maintain physical performance and focus. Doing so will allow an athlete to train harder, and possibly improve at a faster pace, or it can simply allow one to maintain a higher level of activity throughout their life.

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What Do I Do While Receiving A Massage?

Please please PLEASE feel free to give us ongoing feedback throughout the session. It is normal for many clients to say nothing about their current comfort level or dislike for a particular technique being utilized because they are concerned the therapist’s feelings may be hurt. The truth is that many of us would much rather you boss us around if that is what is required to provide you the best service. What will hurt a therapist’s feelings are if a client leaves dissatisfied because of a simple unvoiced preference like turning off the table heat, using less pressure, or changing the music.

At IGH Massage, we prefer a client to completely relax and detach their mental control over their body as much as possible. What this means is that you are to remain a limp noodle as well as you are able unless the therapist requests assistance. We only schedule wrestling matches on Mondays, so If the therapist attempts to move your limb, try not to assist as this can cause you to incorrectly anticipate where the therapist wants the limb to be, inadvertently causing a struggle and pulling you out of a relaxed state of mind. Detaching from your control will also help to facilitate mental relaxation and contribute to stress reduction.

Take control of your breathing! Consciously taking deeper breathes from the outset will help the mind to relax much more quickly, in turn allowing the body to relax more quickly as well. This practice can help alleviate stress outside of a massage as well. Utilizing deep breathing can also help to minimize discomfort while receiving therapeutic massage.

Advanced massage recipients can actually learn to tune into the parts of the body a therapist is currently working and can consciously release the latent tension retained by those muscles unconsciously. This practice can greatly improve the quality of massage therapy, and your own self awareness.

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How Do I Dress For Massage? And What Is Draping?

  • Regular, (Table) massage styles: It is normal to undress at least partially for western style massage, but this doesn’t mean that one has to. It is possible to work through the clothing if this helps one to more readily relax mentally. However, this does limit the techniques that a therapist can use. For those who are comfortable with only their undergarments or nudity, a sheet and blanket will always be used to drape (cover) the areas of the body not being worked on. Also, any areas that are normally covered by a swimsuit, according to public decency, will remain covered at all times. You have full authority to further restrict what we undrape and work according to your personal sense of modesty as well. The therapist will step out of the room while the client undresses/dresses at the beginning and end of the massage.
  • Thai massage: Thai massage is done while fully dressed in loose comfortable clothing such as those one would work out or stretch in. If one forgets and comes in wearing jeans, or something similarly restrictive, we do have appropriate pants on hand to loan. Because draping is no longer an issue, it is possible to do many more stretches than can be done with western table massage.

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What Is The Difference Between Therapeutic, Relaxation, And Deep Tissue Massage?

There are fundamentally two types of massage when you strip out all the fancy names and special techniques. Many of the techniques utilized in each style can be the same, yet just as many are exclusive to a style. It is the intent, strategy, and the application of a technique that changes its purpose. It is important to clarify your goals for a massage with the therapist so that there is a clear understanding of the overall outcome desired.

  • Relaxation massage is mostly used for reducing stress. The goal is to feel good right now, or “in the moment”, and to detach the mind from the worries of daily life for a while. Finding a bit of “peace” is the goal, and it is helpful to have a reminder of what that feels like in our fast paced lives. This does not mean it cannot be therapeutic however. For those with psychological conditions such as anxiety, depression, or for those in addiction recovery, it can be very therapeutic. The techniques utilized are generally flowing and rhythmic, and of a lighter pressure. Also, techniques requiring client participation, such as stretching and active release techniques, are usually avoided.
  • Therapeutic massage is used primarily for addressing physical problems and pain. The techniques used can be uncomfortable, or even painful, depending upon the severity of the problem. The payoff however, is that one will possibly be feeling better for days, weeks, or until the next injury. This is not to say that treatment oriented work will be painful, but that it can be. Some treatment techniques are actually very gentle, but may require more time, such as myofascial release. Many times a client may need some therapeutic work before relaxation work can have any lasting impact. It is hard to relax if the shoulder is painful, thus there is a close relationship between the two. Therapeutic techniques can vary wildly from deep focused work, stretching and range of motion, or extremely gentle and slow myofascial release. Much attention is payed to the patterns of dysfunction within the structure, and many times the source of the problem is not the area that hurts.
  • Deep tissue massage is a widely used, but very subjective term, and its meaning can vary among therapists and clients. Some therapists think of deep tissue as just a heavy handed relaxation massage. In other words they do the same thing as a relaxation massage, but they use a lot more pressure without focusing on problem areas. Other therapists view deep tissue as treatment/therapeutic work, and will focus solely on the problems a client describes. Again, be sure to clarify your ultimate goal for any session so that there is no confusion, and to ensure that you and the therapist are on the same page.

The reality is that many clients want something somewhere in between relaxation and therapeutic. Using a description of what you want such as “effective, but not painful” can be helpful for the therapist to dial into just what you want.

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How Much Time Should I Schedule For Massage?

If all one needs is a purely relaxing massage, 60 minutes is usually enough time for most people. If there are a number of problems that need to be worked out, 90 minutes or more will likely be appropriate in order to ensure enough time to be thorough. Also, body size plays a big role as well. It is possible to massage a child thoroughly in 30 minutes, but a 6’ 5” 220lb man will likely need at least 90 minutes to be thorough.

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How Often Should I Get Massage?

Once per month is the generally accepted frequency one should receive massage as maintenance. However, we find that the reality is largely dependent on lifestyle balance. Ideally, if one has a good work/life balance, they may only need massage a couple of times per year, or “as needed”. For the rest of us, being on a set schedule provides optimal results in stress and tension management.

It may take some time to figure out your optimal schedule. A good way to determine it is to see how long it takes to get to the point where you realize that you “need” a massage again, then schedule appointments within that time frame, ideally before your body/mind “locks down” again.

Some people end up on a weekly schedule, others may go every 6-8 weeks. We usually let the client determine their optimal frequency and will only suggest greater frequency if the tension seems severe.

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My First Massage Was Amazing! Why Aren’t The Following Treatments As Awesome?

“Hunger is the best sauce!” Otherwise stated, if you are hungry enough, even a hospital meal can taste amazing. The same can be said of bodywork as well. If your body/mind is in desperate need when you receive a massage, the improvement seems amazing, or miraculous even. Contrast that with having received massage regularly for years. Comparatively the improvements are smaller and of a preventative nature, but still nourishing like a regular meal.

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(Therapeutic Massage Questions)

Will Therapeutic Massage Hurt?

How therapeutic massage feels will depend largely on the condition of the tissue being worked, and the clients own pain tolerance. Extremely tight/strained tissue is very sensitive, and it is possible that even a very light touch can be painful. The flip-side is that for many healthy athletes, we can use our elbow with every ounce of weight we can put behind it, and the athlete will drool with pleasure. Everyone has a different sense of pain. We try to avoid making clients cry at all costs, unless they like to, but it can be difficult to avoid additional discomfort where an injury is involved.

On a scale of 1-10, where 10 is unbearable pain, we try not to exceed 6-8 at most. Again, this a subjective number given by the client, so communication is key. Another thing to pay attention to while receiving treatment work is what we call “guarding”. Guarding is when a client tenses up the region being worked in order to bear the discomfort. We try to avoid this situation since this only increases the tension in the area, and the purpose of massage is to reduce tension. If you notice this happening, let the therapist know and we will adjust accordingly.

At the end of the day, we at IGH believe it is better to be gentle when possible, and that scaring people away from massage altogether because the session was “too intense” does no one good.

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Is Massage My Best Option For Basic Health? Massage Vs Exercise:

If one has to choose between massage and exercise, choose exercise! Regular exercise can help prevent many structural problems that massage alleviates, if it is done correctly. If exercise is done incorrectly, one may eventually need massage or physical therapy anyway. Regular massage will improve the standard of living for nearly everyone, regardless of their condition, and is a great way to keep our stress levels manageable. However, if you require regular treatment work that is not related to an acute injury or excessive activity, you may need to see a PT, or have your workout routines evaluated by a professional.

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Why Do I Keep Having Random Pain? Tension Vs Weakness, And Postural Pains

There are generally two things that contribute to structural pains, assuming there is no identifiable injury involved. These are having an area with too much tension, or having an area that is too weak. Usually it ends up being a combination of these two things to some degree.

Massage can relieve the tension, but it cannot return strength to a weak area. Many times it is the combination of the tight region causing pain in the weakened area, and while massage can alleviate the pain temporarily, the pain will continue to return until strength is returned, and maintained, to the weakened area.

A typical pattern that we see in desk workers is that they get pain in between their shoulder blades and up the back of their neck. This is usually caused by the strong/tight muscles in the front of the shoulders like the pecs, deltoids, and biceps. These muscles are used regularly to hold the arms out in front to do work, yet the muscles between the shoulder blades are barely used, and end up being weaker in comparison to the front. This imbalance is usually the source of that nagging pain between the shoulder blades after long hours at a desk. Stretching the chest area will help to alleviate the pain, but if the imbalance is great enough, one may also need to strengthen the rhomboids and mid-traps with activities like rowing to solve the issue more permanently.

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Why Did The Pain Return So Soon After Massage?

This question is often related to the last one. One may feel that the pain returns too quickly after a massage, such as within a few days. If this is the case it is likely a reflection of the severity of the tension/weakness imbalance. If the pain returns within minutes after the massage it may be nerve related, such as a pinched nerve at the spine.

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