Taking Care of Ourselves

Recently, Young Mom and Michelle wrote about the need to take a moment and take care of themselves.  As a woman who lives with a Massage Therapist, I hear weekly (sometimes daily) how I need to take care of myself.  The Man is always reminding me that I need to stretch before and after exercising, drink more water, and take time to recharge.  I realized I'm blessed to have The Man looking out for me, so I thought I'd ask him to look out for all of you too!  That's right, The Man agreed to guest post to share some tips for how to find a good massage therapist and how to make the most of your massage.  Please ask any questions you might have in the comments and The Man will come by and answer them :).  (And don't forget to enter my giveaway here.  It ends TONIGHT!)

Massage is a manual therapy that manipulates soft tissues and decreases muscle tension, pain, stress and depression.  Aside from the standard definition, massage is a very real way to dramatically increase your quality of life.  With the assistance of a skilled therapist, regular massage can increase your body awareness and empower you as an individual.  Through the tactile sensation and constant feedback, your attention is focused on where your pain and tension are located.  Then, reconnect with your body and discover how you can control it more effectively. Other benefits of massage include:  
  • Increases circulation
  • Enhances the immune system
  • Promotes nervous system functioning
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Relieves pain and muscle tension
  • Improves mood, intellectual reasoning and job performance
  • Positive effect on conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, diabetes and migraine headaches
Massage Therapists are not, however, all created equal.  I practice therapeutic massage.  Therapeutic massage is designed to treat a specific condition, and a licensed or certified professional is trained to assist with soft tissue injuries and dysfunctions, as well as support general recovery. Extensive training enables the therapist to take a thorough history, identify contraindications (reasons to not massage). A healthcare provider can write a prescription for massage therapy and the therapist or practitioners who fills the prescription may be able to bill insurance groups and workers' compensation for the therapy services. There are individuals that are not formally trained and do not have a license or certification. Those individuals can perform a "spa style" massage for relaxation purposes. The fees charged are comparable even though the knowledge base and skills differ. If you have no health issues, want a basic massage and do not anticipate needing any therapeutic work, obtaining the services of these practitioners is an option. However, if a therapeutic need crops up during a session, a referral should be made to a trained and sanctioned practitioner.

When you are looking for the best practitioner to meet your needs the first place I suggest inquiring is your primary care physician. Just as you would check the credentials of your traditional physician, dentist, or chiropractor so you can be confident in them, you should learn as much as you can about your massage therapist or practitioner. A few questions to ask include:
  • Are they formally trained?
  • How long have they been practicing? 
  • Have they obtained credentialing, certification or licensure from the State in which they practice?
  • Are they nationally certified?
Checking the credentials of your massage therapist may seem like a daunting task, but there are several easy steps to take. You can contact an association that represents the field of massage. The two main massage associations in the US are:
  • The Associated Bodywork and Massage Professional (ABMP)
  • The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA)
The AMTA can provide not only the educational and certification or licensure requirements of all the states in the US, but can assist you in finding a practitioner in your region with the qualifications and advanced training and certifications that you require.

Aside from the technical aspects, a good therapist should be helping create a safe, healthy environment in a number of ways:
  • Provide a private space
  • Provide proper draping materials and methods
  • Explain how the session will be conducted
  • Communicate during the session about pressure, pain, comfort
  • Educate about therapy, and methods at home for relief
If you aren't getting these ASK FOR THEM.

Things to remember:
  • Remove clothing to your comfort level (although more skin contact=better data feedback=more effective therapy)
  • Massage should not be painful. Maybe uncomfortable, but not painful
  • Conversation level is ultimately up to you
  • Think about your breathing; slowly and evenly
  • You won't hurt our feelings, if you dislike something, tell us. We want what's best for you
  • Trust your therapist. Don't help us when moving your limbs. While we appreciate your help, it's counterproductive
Thanks for reading. Take care of yourself so you can care for others.


  1. Ahh... THANK YOU for this! My back has been killing me big time (probably because I have to lug around) and I've been thinking about going to a massage therapist!

    Great post!

  2. I've had 1 massage in my life, and I LOVED it! Thank the Man for the tips!

  3. I just had my first massage ever, and while it was very nice, it felt gentle to me. I went with a massage therapist at a nearbye chiropractor, but I have a feeling that her massage was more the "spa style". I'm in Canada, so I'm not sure how to look for one up here, Would a Physiotherapy center be a better place to look?

  4. Great post! I strongly believe in the benefits of massage therapy. As a physical therapist, I am very fortunate to work with some wonderfully qualified massage therapists, and it can certainly help to make my job both easier and more effective when we are able to have someone see a massage therapist as well as myself.

    Very well organized points, as well.

  5. Young Mom,
    It depends on how extensive any center is staffed. Part of the advantage of seeing a massage therapist specifically, is for the necessary dedicated time soft tissue needs for effective work. Most physical therapists and/or physiotherapists find it difficult to give that time due to billing restrictions with insurance. Check www.massage.ca. The right hand column should have regions and then listings of qualified practitioners.