Massage: the new torture

Massage in Frankfurt, Germany

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Yes, here I am, lying on a heated massage table. Now before you get too jealous and think “Huffygirl, you lucky dog” you need to know: this is not yo’ mama’s massage. There’s no soft music, no candles, no aromatherapy. Just Mark, the incredibly muscular massage guy, and the heated table (really the only perk of the whole deal) in a drab room in an even dingier building of post World War II brick. 

So no candles, no aromatherapy, no soft music – what kind of massage is this? A Nazi torture massage? The Gitmo special? No,  I’m having a deep tissue massage. Mark, who is about 5′ 5″, 130#  and one-hundred-percent muscle, is working his strong fingers into my tight muscles and tendons, aka myofascia, and looking for “the burn.” The principle of this massage is to find the tight, restricted areas, and apply deep pressure to the point that it’s burning more than painful, until the myofascial fibers relax or release. But it’s not always easy to find that point. “Is this pain or burn?” asks Mark, as he grinds his fingers into my upper trapezii (shoulder muscles). It seems like the grimacing I’m doing and my answer through gritted teeth might give him a hint. “No, pain, keep looking.” Mark probes the same spot from different angles and with different pressure, until he finally finds “the burn.” Or maybe I’ve just become inured to the pain and have given up, hoping he’ll leave me alone. But, it’s working. The pain/burn fades after a couple of minutes of intense pressure, the myofascia releases, and Mark is on to the next torture, er trouble spot. The funny part is, that despite the probing and pain, the whole process is strangely soothing. By the time my hour is up (finally!) I’m almost asleep and feel  relaxed and renewed. And sore. I feel beat up and sore the next day, and the day after that too. Good thing I don’t do this every week.

So why am I subjecting myself to this torture? There are all kinds of massage and different massage therapists specialize in different areas. Probably the most relaxing kind of massage, the one that comes with candles, aromatherapy and soft music is Swedish massage. This massage is the spa treatment kind of massage that relaxes, relieves stress, and feels good, but in the long-term does not have much benefit for tight, sore overworked tissues, according to Mark. I picked Mark (yes I actually LOOKED for this) for his expertise in deep tissue massage, which uses a variety of deep, probing methods to release tight, overwrought myofascial fibers, because I tend to be chronically tight and inflamed and wanted to see if deep tissue massage would help. This type of massage may be great for athletes, persons with chronic pain, and people with tight musculature like me.

There are so many different kinds of massage that to describe them all would be beyond the scope of this post. If you think you might benefit from massage for whatever problem areas you might have, try this:

  • Discover your goals for massage therapy. Do you want stress relief, pain relief, relaxation, Chakra alignment, or something else?
  • Research the massage therapists in your area. Call several different therapists, tell them what you’re looking for, and ask if they think they fit the bill.
  • Get recommendations from friends, athletic trainers and health care providers.
  • Consider your budget. An experienced massage therapist may charge more than others, but if you get exactly what you need, it’s worth it. Beware the $20 chair massage – it’s usually 15 minutes, focuses on upper back and shoulders,  feels good at the time, then bam, it’s gone. For $40-$70, depending upon costs in your area, you could get a full hour of whatever kind of massage you want for your entire body. Part of what brought me to Mark is his 20 years of experience, but his fees are at the higher end of the local price range. Just like anything, you get what you pay for.
  • Check out your local massage therapy training school. It might take longer, but a massage from a student, under the tutelage of the instructor, might save you some money.

I intend to keep going back to Mark, because I think this kind of massage is just what I need. And how many people can say they have an extremely fit, muscular  guy to do their bidding? 🙂 (at least on the massage table that is.)

Disclaimer: The information provided here is not intended to replace advice from your own health care provider. Seek your health care provider’s advice before beginning massage treatment, especially if you have prior injuries, surgery, chronic pain, heart conditions or other health conditions that might make massage dangerous for you.

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