How to Choose a Therapist

You’ve just had the most stressful week of your life to date, or every muscle in your body aches from the workout at the gym, or you just want to relax and escape from reality (or the kids) for an hour. Wouldn’t a massage be an answer to all of the above? Of course it would, but where do you go? How do you choose a Massage Therapist?

With the ever growing popularity of massage, there are a number of salons and spas offering all types of massages and bodywork. There is also an increasing number of individuals advertising de-stressing, relaxing, “healing” treatments. The first thing you need to know is what the difference is between “hands-on” full body massages and energy work. Massage has been around since the beginning of time. Each culture has developed their own style, each with it’s own unique approach, but still based on the same principles and desired outcome. Overall health and balancing of the body and it’s many systems. The most common types of massage can be broken down into two categories: European/Swedish style and Oriental.

The European or Swedish style focuses on the manipulation of the body’s soft tissue including muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissues. It generally involves the use of oils or creams applied through gliding and squeezing strokes that affect the musculo-skeletal, circulatory, and lymphatic systems of the body. The therapeutic benefits are release of chronic tension and pain in muscles, improves circulation, increases flexibility in the joints and reduction of mental and physical fatigue. There are many different forms of therapy styles, Thai, Structural Integration, Trigger Point Therapy, Myofascial Release etc.  Please make sure you fully understand what the treatment entails before you get on the table.

There are numerous types of Oriental massages. The most common styles being the Japanese Shiatsu and the Chinese Amma. Both are ancient healing therapies which combine oriental medical principals and the understanding of the energy channels or meridians that run through the body, in order to restore, promote and maintain optimum health through treatment of the physical body. There are no oils involved, however there may be use of lineaments on specific areas. Gentle manipulations and the use of acupressure (not acupuncture, which requires the use of needles and an Oriental Medical Doctor’s Degree) points to restore, balance and facilitate the flow of energy through out the body. The benefits are numerous including relief from stress and tension and muscle ache, however these therapies are excellent for medical aliments such as respiratory infections, TMJ, digestive disorders, arthritis and many more.

Both types of massage are excellent and have many things in common including the fact that they must be given only by a qualified therapist. Some states require licensing others certification. Either one means that the therapist has gone to school and received the proper training to administer the treatment. You should never allow anyone to perform any type of physical manipulation on your body unless they have provided proper qualifications.

This brings me to the definition of energy work. Along with the new appreciation for massage and its benefits there has also been a rising interest in “energy healers”. Reiki and Chi Kung are currently two of the most popular forms of energy work. These types of therapies are wonderful and can be just as therapeutic as a full body massage, but they do not require hands-on manipulation of the body (sometimes hands are placed lightly on specific areas but no manipulations) and most importantly they are not regulated by the state. The practitioner concentrates on balancing the body through it’s energy fields. There are three levels to Reiki, the last resulting in Master ship, however the training for each level is only two days each. Now without regulation you can see how one can be taken in by a person claiming to be a healer. Unfortunately, the greedy ones ruin it for those who are true practitioners. So please make sure that you thoroughly check out the person before you go to them. No honest practitioner would be insulted if you asked for references.

I recommend that for your first massage you should try the European/Swedish style and then if you are comfortable with that and receptive to the idea of energy balancing you should then try the Oriental style. Be sure to try as many different styles as you never know which one will really “speak” to you.

Before you can consider which type of massage you would like you have to choose a therapist. The best way to pick a therapist is through referral. Your friends, family and your doctor can be a great source. As mentioned earlier, massage can be found at local spas, hair salons and chiropractor’s offices. There are therapists who have there own private practices with their own treatment rooms and/or will make out-calls to your home.  Here are a few things to remember when you are choosing a Massage Therapist:

• Make sure that the therapist is qualified and has presented proper certifications.
• You must be comfortable with the therapist. There is no point in getting a massage if you’re going to be on edge the whole time.
• Make sure that the therapist takes a complete medical history before starting the treatment. Certain conditions are considered contraindications for the European massage (i.e. high blood pressure).
• Understand that while you are usually required to disrobe, you may leave your underwear on and you should be properly draped (covered with towel or sheet) at all times. Only the area being worked on should be exposed.
• If you are uncomfortable with certain areas being touched or the therapist’s touch is too hard/soft for you, tell this to the therapist. Communication is essential, you need to work together.
• You may be a little sore after your first massage, however if you are in major pain then the therapist worked you too hard, so make sure to tell her the next time.
• If you did not like the massage or the therapist do not let that stop you from going to someone else. Finding the right therapist is like finding the right doctor. You need to feel secure with and have confidence in him or her.

The relationship between therapist and patient is one of confidentiality and trust. You work together to relieve the tension, aches and pains while balancing the body’s systems to maintain a healthy and happy life. Massage is one of the best ways to combat the daily stresses of our all to hectic lives. It is not asking a lot, even though you may feel like it is, to take time out for yourself. Your health and piece of mind are worth an hour of your time!

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