Category Archives: Massage Tips and Tricks

Video: Myofascial Release for “That Damn Spot”

My goal with this session is for the client to stand up from the table feeling ease and freedom in their posture. If they say something like “I feel an inch taller,” I know I did it right.

Why not just “dig out the knot”? Because I don’t think that spot is to blame. This seems to be an area that becomes sensitized when the upper back muscles are in an untenable position: Being required to stay long and strong for hours a day, and generally being overpowered by the pecs. If we can get all the nearby muscles to give up some of their baseline tone (which I think myofascial release is a great choice for), then that gives the client’s nervous system a chance to reevaluate that tug-of-war.

And that brings me to something I’d like to address: Client buy-in. Are you giving the client an idea of your clinical reasoning before you proceed? Are the two of you determining the best course of action together? This has implications for a lot of things that we value as massage therapists: Pain outcomes, rapport building, informed consent, and client return rate. ... continue reading.

I Wrote a Book about Massage!

It’s called “Massage Is Weird,” and it’s about massage, communication, treating pain (and dealing with it yourself), and beating burnout. If that seems kind of broad… it is! This book is everything I know about being a massage therapist, with a special focus on living a life of quiet satisfaction. Click here to order (eBook and softcover versions available), or continue below to read some samples.

Text: "Beat burnout. Communicate effectively. Prevent pain and make more money."

Who is this book for? It’s for new massage therapists who are still trying to find their place in the massage world. Do you need to work for someone and give up 75% of your income for the first 5 years, or can you skip to the part where you’re paid what you’re worth? Is wrist pain and thumb pain a necessary part of the process, or can you skip that too? Why is pain so mysterious, and why aren’t you producing all those massage miracles that you see the gurus talk about? ... continue reading.

Video: How to Sit More During Massage

New massage video! This one is on how to sit more during your sessions (yes, I’m serious about the whole “massage lazy” thing):

The benefits of sitting more: Less time on your feet, which is also kinder to your low back than a full 6 hours of bending and lunging. More variety for you AND for your client — you’ll find that the same techniques feel much different when performed from this new angle. And most importantly, easier access to the lateral portions of the body!

I love seated massage for prolonged, deep dives into the lateral hip, the fibularis group (aka the peroneals), and the shoulder, both in supine and prone. In the video I demonstrate a brief routine for working with the entire rotator cuff group while the client is prone, but just realize that this can be extended considerably. You can sink doubled up thumbs toward the lateral scapula and target the teres, you can strip supraspinatus and infraspinatus and look for points of exquisite tenderness, and you can sink into that subscap for as much as a minute, inviting your client to breathe as you do so. ... continue reading.

How to (safely!) use your thumbs for massage

I know there’s been a movement to reduce thumb use in the massage world, but I think that there are a lot of effective ways to use them without risking injury.
The secret? Follow your natural ergonomics rather than trying to force your thumbs to do movements they don’t want to do:

Find positions of power and stability and let those guide your tool use and body mechanics. In the video, I demonstrate ways to strip, compress, and petrissage that should feel fairly easy and intuitive. Reduce or eliminate the effortful circular movements that seem to find their way into a lot of Swedish routines, and instead rely on stacked joints and body weight.

Something that I neglected to say in the video: Switch tools early and often. Don’t wait until you’re feeling fatigue in your thumbs or wrists before you switch. Instead, anticipate your limits and change things up frequently enough that your muscles never tire. By doing this, the only part of your body that should be tired at the end of the day are your feet 🙂 And that reminds me, I need to make a video on how to sit more during a session… ... continue reading.

Video: Abdominal self-massage (and self-acceptance)

This is ostensibly about abdominal self-massage (it even includes 5 different techniques!), but it’s really about getting back into the therapeutic headspace.

As you might imagine, I made this one for myself. I haven’t started back yet thanks to some resurgence here in the South, but every time I get back to the planning phase I think, “do I even know how to do massage any more? Where would I start?” In my head I try to play back a whole massage all at once, along with all the techniques and draping and communication that requires, and it feels overwhelming.

But then I remember this: It all starts with one touch. If I can do that, then the rest follows. Trying to game out every moment, or imagine everything that could go wrong, those are barriers that we put up to flow. The essence of massage is self-sustaining and self-guiding, with the interplay of hand and body showing you the way. If we simply make that first contact and then get out of the way, the rest can easily follow. ... continue reading.