Massage Malady #1: Invisible Jean Shorts Syndrome

Let’s talk about some common massage problems. First up: Invisible Jean Shorts Syndrome. This is where a massage therapist conspicuously stops massage techniques far before their logical conclusion, as if the client were wearing a pair of jean shorts from the 1990s.

Massage Malady #1

Your massage therapist starts a lovely stroke down your back, your spine starts to decompress, the pressure is perfect and… they stop at L2, thwarted as if by a force field. They’re traveling up the hamstrings, really ironing them out, the world is wonderful, and… they stop 6 inches from your ischial tuberosity.

Now, I don’t mean to make you feel bad if you’ve got issues about the gluteal region. That’s fine, that’s not unusual, and it’s something that we’ll talk about in the future. If, however, you’ve got no issues with the glutes: There’s something uniquely frustrating, as a client, about a technique half-delivered!

When you’re thinking myofascial work, consider the origin and insertion sites, then go PAST them. Work broadly, integrating the body even as you target specific parts. Becoming too single-minded and focused can result in a disjointed “story of the body,” something that can reinforce people’s disconnection from their “bad shoulder,” “bad ankle,” etc.

It’s easy to get worried about intruding on people’s personal space, but that’s a matter of communication. You can ask your client specifically about the hip region, and ask them to let you know if they’re ever uncomfortable. I’ll repeat this on the table, saying, “Let me know if I’m too far into your personal space.” This seems to set a lot of minds at ease, including my own.

Let me know what you think. Are you hesitant about working toward the pelvis? Let’s talk about it.

And yes, I spent about 20 minutes lovingly applying jean shorts to da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. You’re welcome.

6 thoughts on “Massage Malady #1: Invisible Jean Shorts Syndrome

  1. My personal pet peeve are the jockey mid thigh underwear men wear that you feel like you’re herniating them if you try to pull them up a bit to access anything around the hip zone. And these men always have issues where you need more exposure! Too funny! Love your site and your insights!!

  2. BTW… I know the underwear are an actual physical as opposed to psychological barrier, but your drawing just reminded me. I feel if your approach is professional, most people are perfectly ok with working more towards the pelvis. And as you say, when you stop short, not only does it feel disconnected for them, but I find it does for me as well.

  3. i gave up feeling uncomfortable long ago. i truly like to have a first timer. i had a young girl last week. never had a massage. she had low back, it band, gluts etc. i told her in order for me to help the problem it would be best if i could get at the areas without barriers. i then said for her to undress to comfort level. i went to work on her and was pleased she hadn’t a problem and was undressed. so from there my job was easy and task completed. Amen

  4. I love your Jean-shorts picture. I have encountered these gentlemen. However, I prefer them to the show-offs who want to remove underwear completely “Just in case I get oil on them”, yeah right!

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