Massage, music & chat or massage in silence?

Do you prefer massage with music and chat or massage in silence? The reason I ask is I’ve had a few treatments over the years with a mixture of music, no music, a bit of chat and too much chat. Personally, I like a bit of background, relaxing music and a bit of a chat with my therapist. Massage is a personal experience and I like to know a bit about who’s treating me. That’s just my preference not necessarily what is right. For my clients I usually have relaxing music on in the background at a level that isn’t too intrusive but with new clients I always ask if they mind the music – I don’t think I’ve ever had one person say ‘no, turn it off’. I only talk to them if they initiate the conversation as I feel it’s important to give people their head space to unwind. Usually clients I know well start off chatty and then slowly become silent as they relax into the treatment. For those having deep tissue or remedial massage it’s less likely they’ll fall asleep as I am having to move them around the couch and ask for feedback about pressure etc.

But is it wrong for the therapist to talk throughout a treatment? Well I suppose it depends on the individual client but in my experience as the client, I do need time to switch off and relax even in a sports / remedial type massage. I like the music in the background as it stops me focusing on noises outside the room such as traffic noise or other people coming in and out of the clinic. But there are those clients who like to get things off their chests and is an essential part of their ‘healing process’ so I will discuss their issues to a degree.

But what sort of music should one play in a therapy room? Friends always laugh about the use of ‘whale song’ in spas but what’s wrong with whale song? I suppose it is a bit stereotypical but if it helps people relax then so what? There’s also the Cafe Del Mar and Buddha Bar collective which I favour – again, could be seen as typical chill out music or even better, there are CDs composed purely for relaxation and meditation. I like these because the music is calming and gentle and perfect for zoning-out.

I suppose in the end, us therapists need to treat each client as an individual –  ask what the client would prefer – back ground music or not; we need to sense whether our clients want to talk or not and be mindful of their emotional state. In the end, isn’t that what makes a great therapist, not just your hands-on skills?


Looking at Osteoarthritis and massage

Osteoarthritis has made an appearance in my life over the last few weeks through treating those that suffer from it and also attending a very informative seminar on musculoskeletal health run by the supplement company ‘Lamberts’. I’ve not blogged for a while so when thinking about what to talk about, this seemed important to me as I have come across a worrying number of sufferers of osteoarthritis who seek massage to help the pain generated by this condition. According to, there are 200 types of arthritis affecting the musculoskeletal systems which can be divided into three types:

  • Inflammatory arthritis – rheumatoid, ankylosing spondylitis, gout
  • Non- inflammatory arthritis – osteoarthritis
  • Connective tissue disease – lupus, Sjoren’s syndrome

First of all, what is arthritis? The term ‘arthritis’ is an umbrella term which means inflammation of the joints. Many people suffer from it at some point in their lives but  often do not know or get confused about which type they have once it’s been diagnosed. I’m focusing this article on osteoarthritis because it’s probably the most common type.

What causes it? Can be caused by the degeneration of the hyaline cartilage covering the ends of bones in our joints. This cartilage is important for shock absorption, allowing the joint to move freely and lubricate the joint. When this cartilage gets worn away, the joint becomes inflamed, stiff and painful.  It can also be caused by a trauma to a joint. It’s associated with increase of age but not age related. Osteoarthritis has even been found in fossilised dinosaur bones showing arthritic changes proving it to be an ancient condition affecting all animals.

Who suffers from osteoarthritis? – According to, in the UK, 8.75 million people have sought treatment for osteoarthritis. These statistics break down as follows:

  • 33% of people aged 45 years and over sought treatment for osteoarthritis
  • 49% of women and 42% of men of those aged 75 years and over suffer with this condition.

Women are more likely than men to have sought treatment. The knee is the most common site in the body for osteoarthritis, followed by the hip. It’s common to have it in more than one joint. Other joints it’s commonly found are knuckles of the hand and intervertebral discs and facet joints of the spine.

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis? – the early stages of this condition is cartilage degeneration is usually painless. Eventually pain follows extensive joint use which is relieved by rest and the pain is local to the affected joint. Usually in the morning, stiffness in the joint is felt until movement frees up the affected joint. In the later stages of this condition, the cartilage may have worn away and bone is rubbing on bone within the joint causing severe pain, restricted movement and increased pain on moderate movement. Acute inflammation and muscle spasms may also occur.

How can massage help? – the goal would be to reduce stiffness, pain, muscle spasms and increase range of movement. You can be positioned into any position that feels comfortable for you on the couch and I would possibly move my client around so as not to get too stiff in one position. I would use different techniques to relax muscles, use gentle stretches and movement into the joints if not too painful. I find the use of myofascial release techniques working on the connective tissue surrounding muscles quite effective because it’s slow and controlled and gently ‘stretches’ the tissues freeing up the surrounding muscles of the affected joints.

Self-care – heat can help chronic osteoarthritic  joints and cold can help with acute flare ups. During flare ups, rest from activities that aggravate the joint but maintaining gentle movement during relaxation would be helpful. Pain free gentle stretching can help affected joints as well as non-weight bearing activities such as swimming help with cardiovascular health. Once diagnosed with osteoarthritis it would be good to speak to your GP to get advice as to what exercise is acceptable that won’t aggravate your condition. It might help to see a nutritionist as there are certain food groups such as the nightshade family (white potatoes, peppers, aubergine and tomatoes) that have been found to be inflammatory and avoiding these foods can help reduce flare ups of the condition. There are food supplements known to help reduce inflammation and repair cartilage and bone but these are best taken under the guidance of a nutritionist.

Do let me know if you have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis and have found a way of keeping your pain and stiffness at a manageable level. I have it in my knees and toes and I find that exercising regularly and supplementing my diet with omega 3 krill oil as well as doing a weekly pilates class has meant I can maintain an active and relatively pain free life.

Sources – Rattray. F, Ludwig. L Clinical Massage Therapy, Published 2000


The benefits of massage

This beautiful graphic supplied by illustrates simply the benefits of massage, the different kinds of massage etc. Click here to see it.

6 questions I get asked about being a massage therapist

massage therapy, deep tissue massage, sports massage, muscle knots, foot massageI read a funny blog from a group of US massage therapists recently about the funny things people say to them that I suppose is unique to our profession. It made me think about some of the things that people say or ask me all the time – some of them funny but mostly people say these things out of interest or concern for me. These are things I talk about with my clients or friends a lot:

1. ‘Don’t your hands hurt?’ – short answer is no! I’ve been taught great body dynamics when I’m working so I don’t overly rely on my hands – I use my forearms a lot too.

2. ‘I don’t know how you can touch someone else’s feet!’ – well if they smell I just give them a clean with a baby wipe! Most people say they hate their feet but in my experience most feet are fine. The ones with the really bad feet usually don’t get them out for you – thankfully. A foot massage can make your whole body feel great. A foot massage can be extremely relaxing.  It’s a great way to experience relaxation without even having to get undressed.

3. ‘Have you had any weirdos yet?’ – er, no I haven’t but I’ve had a few dodgy text messages. Those don’t bother me. I take every care to speak to my clients where possible so I don’t get myself into difficult situations.

4. ‘Is that crunching noise a knot in my shoulder?’ – yes! Most people are fairly disgusted at their body crunching at my touch but most people have tight, knotted shoulders. Get a massage to reduce it!

5. ‘Do you do deep tissue massage?’ –  I met someone recently who explained his experience of deep tissue massage as ‘being flipped over in a frying pan like a piece of bacon’ – I hasten to add, this was with another therapist, not me! I loved this image as it describes the stereotypical brutal, elbow frenzy known as deep tissue massage. It doesn’t have to be like this….we can achieve in some cases better results with remedial techniques, some of which are deep but working within your pain threshold. It’s all in the technique….

6. ‘Wow, you must have to know a lot of muscles’ – I know more than the average person probably but it’s my job to have good anatomy knowledge. Knowing where a particular muscle is and what it does, is essential to treating certain musculoskeletal conditions.

I’d be interested to hear from you if you have any questions about massage so please do comment on this post or send me an email.


How to deal with muscular pain with 5 simple solutions

muscular pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, deep tissue massage, sports massage, swedish massage

Do you wake up in the morning with sore and stiff muscles? Does regular back / hip / shoulder pain stop you from going about your daily routine sometimes? A staggering number of us suffer from back and ‘sciatic’ pain which results in us popping pain killers too regularly. Have you made a pledge to be more active in 2014 but feel you’re being held back by niggling pains? Well these 5 simple solutions to muscular pain could put you on the right track to a more active lifestyle:

1. Get a sensible exercise regime – the January gym rush is usually over by February but keep it going by taking it easy in the first four weeks of your exercise sessions. Some people have a tendency to try make up for the last 12 months of inactivity in the first week of their new fitness regime. The severe muscular stiffness, pain and injury experienced from this kind of burst of sudden activity is enough to put anyone off going again. Instead, exercise in regular 30 minute sessions and build your fitness gradually. You’ll be surprised how quickly your fitness levels will improve.

2. Check your posture – sounds like a daft question but have you actually studied how you sit at your desk / stand on the train / pick up your shopping bags? Most of us would admit to having poor posture but why not do something about it? Go back to work and assess your work station – is your chair supportive enough? Is your PC in the correct position? Next time you do the shopping, think about how you lift your bags out of the car. Are you nearly pulling your arms out of their sockets with the 5 bags in each hand?Bringing your awareness to how you carry yourself and making minor adjustments to your posture will go a long way to avoiding muscle overuse injuries.

3. Find a weekly Pilates or Yoga class – I suggest Pilates to most of my clients with weak core muscles as a strong core means a strong body. Our core muscles are made up of abdominals (stomach) and back muscles – both need to be strong to work efficiently. Yoga is a fantastic class for stretching and lengthening muscles and can help with relaxation. Both Pilates and Yoga have specific breathing techniques which helps stretch the muscles that help us breathe – these get tight when we’re stressed as we tend to breathe faster and more shallow.

4. Try changing your pillows– I heard on the radio a few months ago that we should change our pillows every 6 months! Most people probably don’t change their pillows every 6 years…but seriously, your sleeping posture is very important. Ideally your spine and head should be as straight as possible in its natural alignment. Neck pain leading to shoulder pain can be caused by too many / too few / the wrong kind of pillows. I invested in a memory foam pillow from John Lewis and although it was expensive (£45) I get far less neck stiffness and pain because of it.

5. Get a regular massage – of course I’m going to say that – I’m a massage therapist! However, if you do develop muscular pain or problems with movement in your joints, it is hard to exercise or even get on with everyday life with underlying problems. By getting even a monthly massage as part of your healthier lifestyle will help your flexibility and recovery time from exercise. If you’re intending to take part in events like a 10k run / cycling / football etc then massage is essential to prevent injury. Check out this link to find out the further benefits of massage.