It’s widely known that stress causes many issues within the body, from sleeplessness to indigestion to physical pain. But treating yourself to a regular, or even occasional, massage helps to lessen stress’s damaging effects. Massage lowers blood pressure, stimulates the digestive system, releases toxins in the body, speeds up your metabolism, and helps with circulation, just to highlight a few benefits.
In addition, massage is often used as a form of touch therapy, releasing endorphins to counteract depression during times of isolation. “Probably 60 percent of the clients I’ve had in the last two years are people who have been isolated and depressed, and they’ve just needed touch,” says therapeutic masseuse Sally Conley, who shared with Southern Woman some of the things we should know about massage as well as what to expect from a professional therapist.
First things first, talk to your doctor if you have any specific medical concerns, she says, especially with illnesses like cancer. “They need to ask what type of massage they can get. Medication can be intensified with massage, so it’s important to be careful. And I also tell my clients not while on painkillers because they won’t feel what they should be feeling.”
A therapist needs to know what’s going on with a client medically, physically, and emotionally, she adds. “For instance, if someone is going through something high stress, like a divorce, you cannot use the same pressure that you would normally because they are very sensitive.”
Sally’s recommendation for frequency is once per month, or weekly if someone is in a high stress position. “Listen to your body,” she emphasizes. “And be very open with your therapist about any contraindications. If you have any open wounds, sores or bruises, or if you have any questions about a rash, whether it might be contagious (poison ivy, for example), you should cancel, or cover it with a bandage.”
What if I forgot or didn’t have time to shave my legs? “It really doesn’t matter,” she assures. “If it’s a good therapist, they don’t care. Don’t miss your massage just because you didn’t have time to shave your legs.” (Just make sure you take a shower and come clean.)
Take your time getting up off the table. Sally says many clients become lightheaded from laying down so long and getting up too quickly.
Drink a lot of water to help flush out your system, she adds. “The water’s job is to flush out of the body any toxins (and lactic acid) that are being released from the muscles.”
Take a hot bath with epsom salts or a hot shower, or relax in the hot tub to help draw the soreness out of the muscles.
What to expect from your therapist
You should always be draped, or covered, where private parts are concerned.
You should be allowed to disrobe to your level of comfort. Leave undergarments on if you feel more comfortable that way.
The therapist’s fingers should never point toward any private areas, always away.
A fillable health form or interview should be conducted about health and personal issues, especially for a first-time massage.
Pregnancy massages should be done by a specialist and should not be deep tissue until the third trimester.
A therapist should have a thoroughly clean room, wiping down the table and room completely between clients.
If at any time you don’t feel comfortable with the therapist, the pressure being used, or anything else, you should say something. “The biggest thing is communication, and the therapist has to listen,” says Sally.
Since 1997, Sally Conley has worked as the on-tour therapeutic masseuse for Alanis Morissette, Journey, Tool, Toby Keith, and many more artists, earning the nickname Mustang Sally from her tourmates. She currently tours with Eric Church. When she’s not on the road, she performs professional massage for Georgia Power corporation, has private clients, and is also certified in canine massage.