Category Archives: Massage Communication

Fibromyalgia and Massage: How to Help without Hurting

What is fibromyalgia, and how should we deal with it as massage therapists? Should we press directly on tender points, or avoid them? Should we use deeper pressure, or only lighter work?

If you’re completely unfamiliar with this condition, it means widespread pain that isn’t related to injury or overuse. If you’ve got fibromyalgia, a lot of your body hurts, and no one can quite tell you why. There are no lesions on MRI or CT scans, there are no strains or sprains; you just hurt. On top of that, there are other common symptoms: Poor sleep quality, fatigue, memory problems (often described as “brain fog”), and depression. You can read more at this Mayo Clinic article.

Fibromyalgia tends to be cyclical, with many sufferers noticing periods of flare-up and remission. Your clients will have bad weeks and good weeks, and finding out where they are in that cycle can help you determine how to proceed. More on that in a second. ... continue reading.

So Your Massage Client Has an Anxiety Disorder

Clients have many different goals when it comes to bodywork, and a perfectly valid one is the management of their stress/anxiety. What are the different types of psychological disorders you might encounter? What do you need to know about anxiety as a massage therapist?

Credit: Jon Rawlinson, CC BY 2.0
Credit: Jon Rawlinson, CC BY 2.0

This article, “Worrying About Worrying” by Ruth Werner, is a good primer on anxiety disorders and how they affect clients. (If you’re an ABMP member, you can see the full magazine version here).

It addresses what you can do as a massage therapist. You’re not a psychologist, but you can create a supportive, nonjudgmental space for your client to finally just unwind. Massage has pretty robust support in the scientific literature for reducing anxiety in the short- and long-term!

Anxiety vs. Stress

Something interesting about anxiety is that it’s very difficult to disentangle from a concept that we’re all familiar with: stress. “I’m so stressed out from work/school. I’m so stressed I can’t sleep. I’m so stressed that it seems like I can’t ever relax.” “Stress” is just a word that we use as a proxy for that fluttery, clenching feeling in our chest that pops up whenever we expect something to require a lot of mental or emotional resources. ... continue reading.

Reading Your Client’s Mind: The Art of the Follow-up Question

When I’m interviewing new massage clients, there’s a trick that I do that makes me seem psychic. It goes a little something like this: They’ll mention that they have headaches, and I’ll ask where. They’ll point to their temples, and I’ll ask if they also have jaw pain/dysfunction. “Yeah, I do! How did you know?”

I’ll give them an enigmatic smile and say, “a magician never reveals his tricks.”

Via Alan Levine, CC BY 2.0
Via Alan Levine, CC BY 2.0

… Not really 🙂 I’ll take the opportunity to let them know about their temporalis muscle, and how jaw problems can refer up into the temples, and vice versa. I’ll emphasize the reciprocal relationship between the two areas, and let them know that I’d like to work with areas related to their pain rather than just concentrating on any one spot. They’re usually pretty enthusiastic about this approach. ... continue reading.