Massage therapists suggest self-care strategies to their clients — yet, so many massage therapists don’t take their own advice.
That trouble can look like repetitive stress injury, strains, fatigue and burnout. Giving yourself regularly scheduled blocks of time dedicated to self-connection, relaxation and pain relief — the same things your massage offers to clients — is a key to longevity in this field.
“I’m a firm believer in you cannot pour from an empty cup,” said Lisa Martinez, LMT, a Houston, Texas-based massage therapist. “As massage therapists, we expend a lot of energy both physically and emotionally. I think that if we continue to take care of others but do not take care of ourselves, we’re headed for trouble.”
We spoke with several massage therapists who create a sense of spa at home to feel good in body and mind.
Hot stones are not just for use on clients; you can use them as a home spa treatment, on yourself. Prepare yourself that it might not be an easy thing to do, though, said Martinez. She’s put her hot stones on the floor and laid on top of them, or propped them using furniture.
“When you’re trying to take care of yourself, it’s challenging,” she said, “so you find whatever ways you can to make it work.”
Martinez also will dampen a towel, heat it up in the microwave, and then wrap the warmed towel around her neck and shoulders. Microwavable rice or herb packs are additional do-it-yourself heatable products that will relax tight muscles.
Jeannine Saylor, LMT, of Mason, Michigan, swears by massage cups made from medical-grade silicone as a home-spa staple. Such cups are effective for self-myofascial work, she said, and she can apply each of them with one hand.
“All you have to do is put them in place and push the plunger down,” Saylor said.
Then you move your body rather than moving the cups as you would when cupping a client’s body, she added. As you move your body, the cups hold the skin in place, allowing the muscles to flow underneath the fascia. Saylor uses silicone cups to loosen restrictions in her arms, shoulders, calves and knees.
Jillian Breneman, LMT, has long used essential oils to help with her own skin care as well as sleep and relaxation. New to her is CBD cream.
When this massage therapist with a mobile massage business in south-central Pennsylvania began combining essential oils and CBD cream, it wasn’t with the intention of using these products for her own self-care — but rather so she could inform herself about them before using them on, or recommending them to, her clients.
Her product research led her to regularly use them on herself. She recently started using a CBD lubricant to ease her thumb pain.
“You don’t even feel it working,” she said. “I realize the next day or a few hours later, ‘Oh, yeah. The pain isn’t there.’”
Theresa Freeman, PT, LMT, a massage therapist and physical therapist in Yarmouth, Maine, is a stickler about body posture, so to that end, she is a big fan of using pillows to maintain good body alignment.
She uses extra pillows when she’s sleeping, she said, for symmetry, “so everything can reset and adjust,” and uses a pillow she bought on Etsy called a dog-bone pillow, which she likes to use when she’s resting or watching TV. Freeman says this pillow supports her neck when the pillow is behind her; and supports her back and knees when placed between them.
Infrared technology mimics the far infrared wavelengths of light emitted by the sun to warm the body and relax tense muscles. Freeman likes to use an FDA-approved infrared table mat as part of her home spa treatments. Saylor likes to use an infrared sauna because she finds it warms up her body so she feels more flexible.
Freeman believes it’s important that therapists take care of their mental health as much as their physical health. She uses the Calm app, listening sometimes for a short time just to give herself a reset in the middle of her day.
Available in both the App Store and Google Play, the Calm app uses audio in the form of nature sounds, meditation lessons, bedtime stories, sleep music and guided meditations of varying lengths to help listeners manage stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia. It’s one of many mindfulness, meditation and sleep-supporting and relaxation apps available.
Balls and Rollers
Depending on what area she is targeting, Freeman uses foam rollers or balls.
Foam rollers, she said, are great for opening the chest and stretching and aligning. She uses plain ones rather than the ones with knobs and ridges. She uses medium-density balls that are similar to lacrosse balls to work deeply on such areas as her glutes.
Relax with Home Spa Tools
Home spa tools and techniques are one practice that can provide relaxation and pain relief. You know about the effective, specialized tools available in the massage and spa market, so why not take advantage of them for your own self-care?
About the Author
Stephanie Bouchard is a freelance writer and editor based on the coast of Maine. She frequently reports news and features for MASSAGE Magazine, and her articles include “Corporate Massage of the Future: Wellness Programs are Revolutionizing On-Site Services” and “Become a Sleep Warrior and Reap the Benefits of Deep Rest.”