As a massage therapist, self-care is crucial to your daily work.
When you take care of yourself, you feel better, and when you feel better, you can give a better massage and can give more of yourself to each client on your table.
But just like the clients you see who let the effects of stress, poor posture and lack of exercise build up and affect their bodies and minds, these same life happens factors can accumulate and have a negative effect on you. That can mean less job satisfaction—and can lead to aches, pains, tension, stress, and even increased susceptibility to illness and injury. Unfortunately, most massage therapists engage in inadequate self-care.
“Almost nowhere in the industry is enough attention being paid to self-care,” said Rick Boden, an injury prevention instructor and director of Employee Brand Engagement at Massage Envy.
A balanced, consistently practiced program of self-care can mean the difference between barely making it through your workday and finishing up your daily tasks in a good mood with energy to spare.
Have you thought about hitting the pause button in your life for just a few hours and taking some time out for a spa day? Whether you unwind at a full-service resort spa or take a trip to your local day spa, some extended time for extra pampering can go a long way toward easing your body’s physical issues, dissolving stress and negative thought patterns—and even inspiring you in this career that you love.
Issues in Tissues
Physical issues such as fatigue, pain and tension are the most outwardly obvious indicators that self-care is lacking. Boden, who helped develop Massage Envy’s Self-Care Commitment for employees of the spa franchise, said staying aware of how your body feels, and looking for what the company calls early signs—including fatigue beyond normal tiredness, minor aches and pains, or a breakdown of proper body mechanics while giving massage—is key to giving your body the care it needs to recover from the taxing work of providing massage therapy.
Taking a few hours for a massage, facial or other spa treatments can be just what your body craves when you’ve overdone your work or underdone your normal self-care routine, or a combination of both. If you are an employee, your employer may offer you discounted or free services, as many franchise locations do, or you may want to book some time at a local day spa or resort spa to get in some much-needed recovery time.
Jaime Dubreuil, an independent massage therapist and esthetician in Plymouth, New Hampshire, spent many years working for a large resort spa that often welcomed professional massage therapists as spa guests. Those guests appreciated the multiple amenities a big spa can have all in one place, she noted.
“They would seek out massage,” she said. “But the things that a larger spa, a resort spa, can offer, it’s kind of like a one-stop shop. You can get your yoga in; you can get your workout through the fitness center or the lap pool; [then use] the steam room, the sauna … and then relax after [your] service as well.”
Seeking out services that go beyond traditional massage can also help your body recover. Boden recommends Massage Envy’s new service, Total Body Stretch, for both the general public and professional massage therapists. The service, which can be done in 30- or 60-minute sessions either as a stand-alone offering or in conjunction with a massage session, involves a therapist assisting the client in performing and holding stretches of the entire body, from head to foot.
Of course, addressing your body’s purely physical needs is only one of the benefits you can get from taking a spa day.
Restore the body-mind connection
The spa in which Dubreuil worked also offered meditation areas; she is a huge proponent of meditation and also recommends making mindfulness an integral part of any spa experience for care of oneself.
“Self-care should be a time to reflect and listen to our bodies and then put into action the changes necessary for [career] longevity,” she said. “What are we feeling during our spa service? Are we pushing ourselves too much by performing more massages than we should? Are we following proper body mechanics? Are we maintaining healthy eating habits and stretching or performing strength training within boundaries to keep us going?
“Listening to our bodies as we are massaging as well as while we receive our massage for maintenance is so important,” Dubreuil added.
For Maggie Adams, a certified massage therapist, National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork-approved continuing education provider, and treatment and therapist manager at the spa at the Las Alcobas hotel in Napa Valley, California, meditation is a part of what her spa offers, as well as a part of what its employees do every day.
“We actively meditate,” Adams said. “We have meditation built into our schedule for our therapists and all employees … at the beginning of their shift and at the end of their shift.”
Adams agrees that mindful awareness is key to a therapist getting the most out of his or her own bodywork treatment. “There’s a lot of self-care that can be done within a service, just by being aware of self.”
Try Something New
One refreshing aspect of visiting a spa, for both your body and mind, can be trying something completely new. For example, Massage Envy’s Total Body Stretch; Elements Massage’s Himalayan Salt Stone Massage; or an add-on of one of Massage Heights’ proprietary aromatherapy blends. Individual spas also often provide signature treatments you can’t get anywhere else.
Adams’ spa offers Swedish, hot stone and sports massage, like most other massage providers, but its true specialty is Asian modalities, including ayurveda, tuina and Balinese massage, which may be a new experience for many professional massage therapists. Eastern techniques tend to focus more on the flow of chi, or life energy, and take a more integrated body-and-mind approach.
“A lot of Western techniques are more about compression and flattening of muscles,” Adams said. “In Asian techniques, it’s about lifting and separating, creating that space within the layers of muscle, bone and connective tissue to allow freer movement. So it’s more about creating space within the body.”
Dubreuil specializes in deep tissue massage, and also in dispelling many myths about deep tissue work; in fact, she refers to her signature technique as corrective care massage. For many people, “deep tissue just means elbow down to the table, no-pain-no-gain,” she said.
“In calling it corrective care I can then educate what deep tissue does for the body and how it can help relieve some muscular ailments, and correct postural issues, correct range of motion, and things of that nature,” Dubreuil added.
While trying a totally new technique can address your own body’s physical issues in new and different ways, it also has the power to inspire you. During a spa visit, you may discover something new and exciting you want to train in and incorporate into your own work, or pick up on a delivery style that can add a new dimension to the work you already do.
“Getting different types of massage regularly creates different levels of awareness of how we move during our massage,” said Adams, “and that’s one of the things that Asian techniques really stress, is the rhythm and the flow and the movement.”
In addition to easing physical issues and preventing burnout, spending time at the spa can also restore your spirit and refresh your motivation by giving you new appreciation for the healthy touch you bring to the world.
“You can definitely gain inspiration from taking a day and going to the spa,” Dubreuil said. “It reminds you of what we do every day, and the intention of what we give our clients on a daily basis we’re now experiencing firsthand.
“If we go too long without taking care of ourselves we can get lost in that [our work] can become monotony,” she added. “It shouldn’t ever get that way!”
About the Author
Allison Payne is a former online & associate editor for MASSAGE Magazine, and now a freelance writer and editor based in central Florida. She has written many articles for MASSAGE Magazine and massagemag.com, including “Your Video Toolbox: Take Online Marketing to the Next Level (June) and “No Way Would I Work at a Massage Franchise—Until I Learned This” (Aug. 23, 2017).
If you enjoyed reading this MASSAGE Magazine online article, subscribe to the monthly print magazine for more articles about massage news, techniques, self-care, research, business and more, delivered monthly. Subscribe to our e-newsletter for additional unique content, including product announcements and special offers.