As mentioned in a my previous post about my John Muir Trail adventure, I have had the good fortune of receiving a massage a week for almost two months since my return in September. I have never before prioritized massage to this degree, despite the fact that I am (obviously) a strong advocate of regular massage as part of a healthy lifestyle. My reasons for currently receiving massage are numerous: the transition into a slightly slower, cooler season means life is a bit less hectic; I returned from my three-week trip committed to actively pursuing regular self-care strategies; and I have met my out of pocket expenses for the year with my insurance, which means I have benefits for massage without even a co-pay to pay! So it’s been a great two months of receiving massage, and my body and mind have loved and appreciated it immensely.
Having said this, I have also been thinking about WHY people sometimes don’t get massage. This blog post will discuss four common reasons people don’t get massage — COST, TIME, FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN, and DISCOMFORT WITH TOUCH –and some thoughts I have on these issues.
1) COST. This is a big one for many people, and I can relate. As mentioned, part of my recent commitment to receiving regular massage has to do with NOT having to pay for it. It seems silly to NOT take advantage of having benefits and having met my out of pocket for the year. I am thrilled to have cost-free massage, but still I find myself paying extra for the 90 minute massage (as insurance only covers 60), because I find more VALUE in a 90 minute than a 60 minute massage. What it comes down to for me and for all of us, then, is this: we are willing to spend money on what we consider to be valuable. This isn’t rocket science. Yet some may question, where is the value in massage? Is it just a self-indulgent, guilty pleasure? Or are the health benefits, and even possible cost-savings of receiving massage, worth the expense?
Consider the value you place on your overall health and well-being. Potentially, regular massage can help to save money, on such expenses as pain relievers and even doctor’s visits, and can definitely add value to your life with the benefits of decreased pain and a good night’s sleep, among others. The benefits of massage are well-documented, and I would encourage you to try it for yourself. Give a go of committing to a time frame for regular massage, and see if it makes a difference for you. Knowing that many people don’t have or choose to use insurance benefits for massage, my solution to the cost dilemma as a massage therapist is to offer value packages. I strive to keep massage affordable and accessible by offering three 90 minute massages for $200 ongoingly….that’s just $67 for 90 minutes of relaxation and escape!
2) TIME. Similar to how we decide where to spend our money, we also make decisions on how we each spend our 24 hours of any given day. We spend time, like money, on what is important to us and what we find valuable and meaningful in our lives. Many people say that they “just don’t have time for a massage”…which is always true if you don’t make time for it! How we spend our time unquestionably tells us what are priorities are. We can prioritize regular exercise, time with our families and for work, and hopefully time for play and rest. Planning for and scheduling regular massage not only feels good, and it is also unquestionably a positive self-care activity. As mentioned, with the summer being over, I have chosen to prioritize receiving massage over some other activities that often occupy my time and energy in the warmer weather. It has taken a bit of planning to fit it in each week, and I have sometimes found myself canceling and rescheduling to fit it into my “busy” life. Yet I realize that life is always busy, and there isn’t ever going to be a time that it isn’t. And since I have committed to the self-care project, I am finding the time and reaping the benefits.
As a practitioner, I work hard to accommodate the needs of my clients busy lives. I offer evening and weekend appointments, as well as travel to people’s homes to offer massage in the comfort and convenience of their own space. I offer sessions in length from 30 minutes to 120 minutes. Some clients, I have found, benefit from regular weekly massage of shorter duration. Others choose to come in every month or two for a longer, more complete session. The important thing, again, is to try massage and see if it makes a difference in your life.
3) FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN. This is a big category. There are many reasons why possible beneficiaries of massage don’t ever try it. Some interested parties simply don’t know what to expect and are fearful to jump in and sign up for the unknown. Some people think the idea of a massage is weird…after all, in what other circumstances does one go into an office, lie on a table nearly naked (although draped, of course), and let a stranger touch you? It can take a leap of faith, or be an issue of trust, to let yourself go to that vulnerable of a place if you haven’t gone there before. Getting a massage for the first time, like doing anything else new, can be scary for some. Let’s face it, we are all wary of new things. My goal as a massage therapist is to make the process as comfortable as possible for all clients and potential clients. I do my best to set clients at ease, answer any questions they may have, explain the process of how I operate, and let them know what to expect. I am not sure if this fear can be assuaged completely without both good client/practitioner communication and a good massage experience or two under the belt. My philosophy about this is, if we let fear stop us from trying new things, especially those that have as many known benefits as regular massage, we are limiting ourselves experientially. I realize not everyone will become a massage advocate, but I will always strive to make the experience of your massage, whether it’s your first or one hundredth, as comfortable, therapeutic, and relaxing as possible.
4) DISCOMFORT WITH TOUCH. Let’s face it, we live in a society where touch has multiple meanings, expectations, and outcomes. For many, a warm and caring touch is sought out and welcome and massage is a natural extension of this. For others, it can signify an invasion of personal space, trigger memories of abuse or neglect, or bring up a whole host of body image issues that leave one questioning if their body is even worthy of touch. Again, it’s a complex topic, and one that can prevent potential clients from seeking massage. This is sad and unfortunate, as touch has been demonstrated time and again to be beneficial, soothing, and healing time and again. But it is also complicated for some, and that can’t be ignored or downplayed. There isn’t a one-answer-fits-all for these very real fears and issues. Each client and potential client brings different things to the table, and some will never come because their discomforts are too strong. However, there are some things I can offer as a massage therapist that I have learned over the years that may serve to put some discomforts to rest.
First, I honestly don’t care what your body looks like. ALL bodies are fundamentally the same, and they all have the same basic parts and functions. Every body deserves touch and massage and to feel good! I know that it can be uncomfortable and feel vulnerable to uncover those parts of us that we feel should be covered and kept hidden. I also know that it can be incredibly freeing to just go there…to trust that your massage therapist genuinely wants you to feel as good as you can feel, and that it really doesn’t matter how your body presents on the table. It’s a risk for some, but one well worth taking.
Second, I get that your experience with touch may not be a good one. This can range from a previous “bad” massage, to a situation of abuse, or simply a fear of being touched by a stranger. All of these things can be worked with through good communication with your massage therapist, should you so choose. Nobody says you have to get massage to overcome your negative experiences or dislike of touch. But if you want to TRY massage, and have ANY issues of ambivalence about touch, or uncertainty of what touch in a professional massage looks and feels like, just ask. I would encourage you to bring up the topic for discussion, see if you feel comfortable with giving massage a try, and trust that nothing bad will happen. You may be surprised at how a healing touch can help to positively alter a long-standing discomfort with touch.
I hope this column has been helpful. If you are considering massage and have questions, just ask. If you already receive massage but know someone who may benefit from the same, yet has one or more of the above objections, encourage them to talk to a massage therapist and see if a desirable resolution can take place.
Wouldn’t the world be a better place if more people got regular massage? I’d like to think so!