Our hands and feet take a beating every day—and massage therapists have the power to soothe these aching extremities while earning extra fees for add-on services.
From cell phones and PDAs to computers and video games, high-tech gadgets give our hands a strenuous daily workout. All this text messaging, data entry, typing and surfing produces problems that range from simple strains to injuries requiring surgery. Add cold weather and aging to the picture and you have hands in desperate need of pampering.
Feet endure similar trauma. From wearing fashionable high heels for a night out to jobs that require long periods of standing, feet suffer minor ailments, such as dry skin, bunions, corns, calluses and fatigue, to more serious conditions, such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, heel spurs and hammertoes.
Consumers are increasingly aware massage can help with computer-assisted injuries. In response, spas around the country offer treatments, such as BlackBerry Massage, drawing on the name of the popular PDA, and hand massage for “computer mouse fatigue,” as one spa notes.
At Graceful Services day spa in New York City, a Tech Massage is offered in response to client complaints of wrist, shoulder and arm pain due to long sessions at the computer.
“We work the shoulders, elbows and wrist, working down into the hands,” the spa’s Clinician Supervisor Clarence Gibbons says. “This helps to open the energy gates.
“But because we’re a high-tech society, some clients get off the table and go right back on the computer,” he adds. Gibbons suggests spacing sessions, so the body has time to process the work. “Coming back too soon might undo the benefits,” he notes.
At this spa, a 50-minute Tech Massage costs $80. Massage therapists can market this type of session to office workers and others involved in heavy computer use. A postcard sent to local website designers and computer programmers, for example, could generate new clientele.
Turn back time
Not only do hands suffer from using electronic devices, they also tend to age faster than skin elsewhere on the body. Jean Shea, CEO and founder of BIOTONE massage lubricant and body-care company based in San Diego, California, explains hand massage can reduce the signs of aging. A process that begins with light exfoliation, followed by a hydrating balm or wrap containing glycerides, shea butter and other ingredients, plus a 15- to 30-minute hand massage, can work wonders, she adds.
“The protocol is similar to a mud wrap,” Shea says. “With a few treatments, arms and hands will start looking smoother, more supple, more hydrated.”
Foot treatments typically use products formulated specifically for the feet, according to Shea. Following a process similar to that used for hand treatments, the therapist begins by exfoliating the skin on the feet and legs. “The salts used on the feet are coarser than the exfoliator used for the back of the hands,” she explains.
Following up with a moisturizer that contains both stimulating and cooling ingredients heightens the experience for the client, Shea adds. Once the hydrating lotion has been applied, the therapist places warm socks on the client for 10 to 15 minutes.
The cost for this type of treatment is very low in comparison to the add-on fee for the treatment, according to Shea, and, “This type of special treatment encourages the client to come back again and adds more revenue.” She suggests charging between $25 to $35 for an add-on hand or foot treatment and recommends massage therapists base the extra fee on client base and geographic location. Massage therapists can market this type of service to current and new clients.
Both hand and foot massage treatments are inherently calming, according to Dianna Dapkins, president of Pure Pro, Inc. in Greenfield, Massachusetts, and if a therapist begins with the feet or hands, she helps to slow people down.
“There is too much going on in the client’s head,” Dapkins explains. “You need to pull the focus and energy down the body.”
She also offers some advice on products. For therapists who prefer oils, Dapkins recommends coconut and jojoba, which are rich in emollients. “They integrate well with the skin’s natural sebaceous waxes to nourish the skin,” she says.
For feet, Dapkins suggests using thick, scented cream to reach deep into the muscles and release tightness. “A heavier, richer product will soften calluses and cracked heels. A nice option is something with peppermint, lemongrass or arnica,” she says. “Natural menthol is cooling but doesn’t freeze. Lemongrass has antifungal properties and changes the energy in the room. And arnica can boost the body’s self-healing mechanism.”
Whether a therapist uses cream, lotion or oil, the product should be warm. “Even at room temperature, the product is colder than body temperature,” says Dapkins. “Warming makes such a difference.”
She also recommends using an unscented product on hands. “Many clients will rub their eyes,” she explains. “A lot of scents could irritate.”
Less is more when it comes to products, she adds. “Too much product on the surface is like ice skating on a pond covered with water. It puts stress on the pecs and forces the therapist to clamp down to stay on an overly slippery surface. You need just enough to cut the friction minimally. You’ll work deeper with less effort.”
Hot and cold stones
Both hot and cold stones may be used for special hand and foot treatments. Pat Mayrhofer, president and founder of Nature’s Stones Inc. in Churchville, Pennsylvania, cites increased relaxation and energy flow as two benefits of this type of session. Basalt stones, which contain significant amounts of iron, magnesium and other minerals, are ideal for these special treatments, as they hold heat for a long period of time. Mayrhofer explains stones in a variety of shapes and sizes allow the therapist to address different areas of the extremities more effectively.
Several types of strokes will reach into the muscles in and around the hand and foot. Sweeping and circular strokes as well as simultaneous massage on the top and bottom of the foot or hand and front and back of the calf and forearm release tight muscles and increase circulation, Mayrhofer says.
In addition to applying different strokes, the therapist can use the stones in multiple ways. For instance, downward strokes from the wrist to the palm with the edge of the stone can alleviate carpal tunnel symptoms.
Foot treatments with hot and cold stones follow a process similar to the hand massage. Mayrhofer cites plantar fasciitis as the most prevalent foot-related complaint. Since the problem originates in the hip, release should come down the leg and around the heel, she says.
“You can use the flat of the stone to work the back of the heel and the edge of the stone to work each side of the Achilles tendon,” she says. For overall relaxation, the therapist can trace the kneecap in a circular motion and work down the leg with the edge of the stone, gliding off the foot at the end of the stroke.
While hot stones offer warmth and relaxation, cold stones can also benefit tight, sore muscles, Mayrhofer says. “The therapeutic value of cold stones is increased circulation. Use both hot and cold stones at the same time, like a ‘chase,’” she suggests. This technique confuses the brain, which ultimately sends more blood to the area and increases circulation. Although the cold sensation lasts only about 15 seconds, she suggests covering the stones with a towel or a lightweight piece of fabric initially, particularly when working with elderly clients. She recommends marble for cold stones because this type of stone helps draw heat and inflammation from the body.
For general relaxation, small, heated stones may be placed between toes and larger, flat stones may be placed on each of the palms while massage of other areas is performed.
In most cases, hand and foot treatments pose no hazard to the client; however, Mayrhofer notes this type of massage should be avoided during pregnancy. “There are areas on the foot, the shin, the malleolus and near the ankle you have to avoid,” she says. “You could cause the uterus to contract and kick-start labor.”
Mayrhofer reminds massage therapists to be especially mindful of clients with diabetes. “They have loss of feeling in their extremities. When using hot stones on them, check in frequently. Ask about their comfort level, but also look at the skin. Look for redness,” she says.
A massage therapist may charge from $5 for a limited stone add-on service, such as hot stone between the toes, to $20 for a hot-and-cold-stone-combination 15-minute foot massage.
Paraffin is an effective way to hydrate, heal and relax both hands and feet, says Tammy Pollino, education manager for Amber Products in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania.
“It can be used to treat arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis and other joint or muscle ailments,” she says.
Before applying paraffin, Pollino suggests massaging moisturizer into the skin on the hands or feet. The paraffin acts as a barrier, which keeps moisture in the skin and allows the product to penetrate the epidermis more deeply.
Paraffin can be applied in several ways. For a hand treatment, a therapist would dip the client’s hands into a unit or bath for 10 to 20 minutes. Self-heating paraffin mittens and booties are also available, such as those offered by Spa Revolutions.
For feet, the therapist should first exfoliate and then massage with moisturizer. She can use paraffin strips rather than dipping feet into a unit, depending on what the client prefers. Or, Pollino suggests, “Dip a paper cup into the paraffin and pour it into a plastic liner, then put the foot into the liner and use your hand to manipulate the paraffin up the leg.” Alternatively, a massage therapist can brush paraffin on the feet.
The benefits of paraffin treatments include increased circulation and moisturizing and reduced joint discomfort and inflammation, according to Pollino. “Many will feel the relief for many days. Some may need to have a treatment more often to enjoy the benefits,” she says. She recommends weekly or monthly paraffin treatments to maintain the best effects.
Pollino advises charging $10 if paraffin is added to a full-body massage session and $50 if it is a stand-alone, 40-minute hand-and-foot treatment.
Sooth and pamper
In this high-tech, harried world, our hands and feet take a beating. All too often we take them for granted, but when problems arise, it’s best to address the issue as soon as possible. A massage therapist who offers specialized treatments for hands and feet can provide some welcomed relief.
Whether you opt to use stones, paraffin or create your own signature treatment for hands and feet, paying special attention to these trouble spots can set you apart from other massage practices and spas. Not only will this strategy result in happy, satisfied, repeat clients, but you’ll also enjoy increased financial rewards.
Also, read “How to Give a Client a Hand or Foot Scrub in a Dry Room,” by Ann Thariani.
Phyllis Hanlon freelances from her home in Massachusetts and often writes articles for college, family, religious and health magazines. She regularly delights in the joys of massage. She most recently wrote “Marine Therapy: Treasures from the Sea” for MASSAGE Magazine’s March issue.