Massage or Massage Therapy – What’s the difference?
Is there a difference within the massage profession of what type of massage you will get? Most definitely!
A fully trained therapist, approaches your massage with a completely different outlook, compared to say a mall or spa massage.
Massage has been typically defined as a movement which follows a pattern and manipulates your muscles, fascia and ligaments using fingers, hands, forearms, elbows and in some massage sessions knees and or feet. Massage uses oil, heat or cold and sometimes tools. All these factors create therapeutic change.
All our therapists at Top Notch perform ‘massage therapy’. This is where we take the above and combine it with discussing how we can help you to obtain better health. We also explain what is may be going on for you and together we will discuss any self-care such as stretches or activities.
So, you can see as your massage therapist, I’m taking a lot more into consideration than manipulation of soft tissues. Rather than walking in and plonking yourself down on a chair, we are considering your needs for massage therapy from:
Massage therapy, has a deliberate pattern, a purpose and therapeutic intention to manipulating your tissues. Essentially the ingredients that go into what we deliver as part of our massage therapy is both hands on and hands off.
Importance placed on health and wellness
In addition to your massage, our top priority is your health and wellness. After your session, we discuss ways in which to improve your own self-care outside of the massage session; this can range from postural awareness, breathing patterns, messages about mindfulness, and helpful stretches (if required). I think by not discussing this, it would not serve you well. Becoming an active part of your health is essential to getting better.
In contrast to a walk in ‘massage’, these aspects of your treatment are likely to be missed - you end up receiving a massage that doesn’t address the root cause of your symptoms. It will definitely make you feel better, but for how long?
Environment of Massage Therapy
In order for massage therapy treatment to be effective, the environment requires you to feel safe and relaxed in order to be in the right state of mind emotionally or psychologically, otherwise this limits your ability to receive the outcome you desire. The lighting, the sound and the temperature of the room all play a pivotal role with the therapeutic touch that you receive. Placing phones on silent really ensures you can get the full benefit, so you can switch the mind off from the outside world for the duration of your session.
Safety in Massage Therapy
Safety is a central component in massage therapy. Most harm is caused by therapists who are unqualified. This is because they lack the appropriate training and anatomy knowledge, so they are not aware of particular areas to avoid with deep pressure, for example. This can become extremely unsafe to you as the client. Professionally trained massage therapists have this knowledge and experience. You may not realise this, but every tertiary trained massage therapist are trained in personal safety where we are taught boundaries and adopt a high standard of ethics. At Top Notch we pride ourselves on the fact that all our therapists have tertiary qualifications in Massage Therapy - if you haven’t been to us before book an appointment to experience the difference!
The answer is absolutely 100%.
Booking in for a pregnancy massage is a very sensible option for pain relief and relaxation throughout the whole journey of your pregnancy.
Now you may have seen or been told that the first trimester is not a good time to get one however that myth has slowly drifted off into the sunset (thank goodness). But it still lingers among the profession with some massage therapists still urging caution.
Let's look at what you, as a pregnant women, might do in a day - you might go for a walk, run, or do yoga; lift numerous things (heavy toddler alert), bend and twist, do school runs, oh yeah and you'll clamber up the bench to clean the top cupboard in the kitchen with no ladder – the list goes on. Now compare this to a massage, where you lie still.
Which one do you think is going to be the least strenuous? You got it...massage because a typical pregnancy massage will require you lie in a position which is relaxing - psssst it's similar to sleeping. So there should be no cause for concern unless you are under the care of a specialist, or your condition is not suitable for massage regardless if you are pregnant or not, as we will touch on below.
Why should I get a pregnancy massage?
Massage is beneficial for everyone and pregnancy is no exception. For exactly the same reasons you would choose to relieve aches and pains, or any emotional stress. Massage is a natural, safe and drug free alternative for pain relief.
The common discomforts experienced during pregnancy are
Our massage therapy sessions will focus on your needs, because your experience of pregnancy is very different from the next. We start with your pelvis, hips, lower back and we then move up between the shoulder blades and around the upper shoulders and neck. We can also do a full body session where your arms, legs and feet also get attention.
What is the safest position to be massaged in?
All positions used in massage therapy are safe, however, the position we advocate for and use at Top Notch Massage is side lying. For some of you, this position is how you sleep at night and we often hear our mum's breathe a sigh of comfort as they snuggle under the blankets. Side lying is very beneficial for accessing all of the areas you may be experiencing issues with.
We use approved bolsters such as the Mumanu™ pregnancy pillow (see video below) which helps to keep your posture correct and relaxed to avoid placing stress on the lower back and pelvis, ensuring maximum comfort. Designed by a Pregnancy Massage Specialist and the only pillow endorsed by the Osteopathic Society of New Zealand and BirthWorks International, the Mumanu is the best pregnancy pillow / low back pain pillow on the market.
[And yes! We are as gutted as you are that Mumanu pillows are no longer in stock!]
Why are my ankles are swollen?
It is normal to have swelling in the ankles and feet, especially in the third trimester because you are retaining more water. Sometimes it is just pure genetics that you will have it. What you need to be aware of is ‘sudden swelling’ which can be a sign of deep vein thrombosis, preeclampsia or cellulitis. Massage therapy can sometimes assist with fluid retention, however, outside of your massage session it is more beneficial to go for walks and keep active. The muscles in your legs (and around your chest) will act as a natural pump mechanism which assists with drainage of the fluid in your tissues, and also helps to return the blood in your veins back to your heart.
I’ve heard that I should not get massaged around certain points like my 'ankles' or up near my shoulders?
There is much misinformation out about pregnancy and prenatal massage. It’s really distressing to me as a therapist to hear these ‘myths’, because some of it is downright harmful and incorrect. In some countries, pregnancy women traverse sweltering, endless deserts; rugged, arid mountains; and frigid, unforgiving tundras and nothing happens.……but if we rub a specific area this is bad? Hmmmm, so OK let’s talk about these areas.
Here is an example - Your ten weeks pregnant and in a session, your therapist has told you they will avoid massaging your ankles because you are still in your first trimester and this may cause you to have a miscarriage. Ok, so then a couple of weeks later you experience the misfortune of a miscarriage but then you later remember when you had an itch and scratched around your ankle, or your ankles were aching, so you got your partner to rub them, or you you rubbed them. This gets you thinking, by touching those areas based on what that therapist told me, did I cause the miscarriage. Which is utterly rubbish and a horrible thing to even fathom.
If this was true then you should also avoid wearing socks and shoes for the fear of triggering these pressure points. There is no physiological reason to think any such reflex points cause miscarriage - it is just unfortunately around the time when a miscarriage may occur, due to many unidentified reasons such as genetic, uterine or hormonal abnormalities; tissue rejection; reproductive tract infections; but not because of massage therapy.
Yes, there are supposed to be reflex points in the body and they are everywhere - in the ankles, feet, hands, back (both upper and lower), tongue and ears. But if massaging these areas caused miscarriages (or induced labor), then we would not be able to massage pregnant women at all and the human species would not have thrived as it has. And if I could be so bold as to say there would be absolutely no requirements for anyone to use Family Planning clinics or need to be medically induced.
Why do I need to get clearance if my pregnancy is considered high risk?
There are of course a few things we like to keep an eye on. In New Zealand, pregnancies are usually managed between you and your leading maternity carer, or you will be referred to and managed by a specialist. At Top Notch, we like to know about who is managing your pregnancy and whether you are under specialist care, especially if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure, any organ dysfunction (kidney or cardiac etc) or pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, syndromes, or neurological signs and symptoms’. This is so we can accurately assess whether massage is right for you, or that we have you booked in with the right therapist who has had the right training and expertise to understand your condition.
Take some time out for you
As a mum or 'mum to be' you tend to give so much and sometimes your needs get put on a back burner, so we feel that it’s such a gift to be able to give you the emotional support and a nurturing touch during this amazing time of your life!
If you know of anyone who is having difficulty managing their pregnancy and you want to send them to someone you can trust, let them know about us or share this link with them.
If your loved one really needs some TLC then book them in, or perhaps get them a voucher. Whatever your choice, we will be excited for their arrival.
Anj Young - BHSc, RMT
Video demonstrating how we use the Mumanu pregnancy pillow in our sessions. Please note, we also use the Memory Foam Contour Pregnancy Pillow Wedge to provide a neutral position for your belly (baby) to rest on.
It used to be said that getting a sports massage will help to flush out your 'lactic acid build up' in your muscles”.
Well, I am here to tell you that, this statement should have left our mouths years ago and in fact, everyone should all think of lactic acid as our ‘back up’ fuel source.
If we look at basic physiology, massage is unable to squeeze out the lactic acid from our muscles because lactic acid is recycled within our bodies as part of an important energy process called glycolysis.
Let’s look at an example. Say you raced your friend to the car.
Due to the speed you run, your muscles would be screaming out for oxygen to help keep up with the energy demand, but because your body could not get enough oxygen in – lactic acid was produced.
Where does lactic acid come from?
On a cellular level, there is a process called glycolysis, which helps to convert glucose into energy. Glucose will turn into pyruvate acid. If no oxygen is available pyruvate acid ferments and converts to lactic acid - called anaerobic metabolism. This lactic acid is your ‘back up’ fuel system. When you first start to sprint within 6 seconds, any energy stored in the muscle depletes, a 10 seconds window where muscle will use any available creatine to make energy and then around 30-40 seconds glucose stored in the muscles will be broken down into pyruvate and due to the lack of oxygen, it will undergo fermentation and be converted into lactic acid which will provide you with a couple of minutes more of energy to get you there quicker than your friend.
When the sprint ended and you go to the car, you would have found your body trying to get as much oxygen in as possible - this is called EPOC - Excess Postexercise oxygen consumption - aka I NEED OXYGEN! Once the oxygen becomes replenished in your muscles, your breathing rate slows down and then repayment begins.
What happens to lactic acid?
Any lactic acid circulating in the blood which was not used for energy is readily then converted back to pyruvate acid in the muscles and enter the pay as you go system - the aerobic pathway, where tonnes of energy is produced for body function. Even typing this I am using this pathway.
You can now see that lactic acid does not linger in our muscles and that in fact it gets recycled back into pyruvate to enter the aerobic pathway where there is plenty of oxygen or the liver may convert it back to be stored as glycogen, only to be release if blood sugar levels are low.
How can relaxation massage help with anxiety and stress?
I’m sure we all know the flight or fight response – (technically it's a sympathetic nervous system that jumps into action). Your body provides a bit (or a lot) of adrenaline which gets your heart rate going a bit faster; sometimes we may sweat, and we become more alert and at the ready. This inbuilt protection mechanism is valid for reacting to dangerous situations such as getting out of the way of an oncoming bus quick smart. But we sometimes keep in this state - this dis-ease of being busy – is it becoming the 'norm’?
Continuous circles of stress to situations such as; I must have this in by this deadline; I have emails I have yet to respond to; whoops there goes the phone; arrghhh I am late for the school run/doctors/work; the baby keeps crying and I can’t do anything to help; or my mind can’t slow down and I am constantly onto the next thing. What if your doing too much training and your performance is beginning to decline?
I’m not 70, I’m 18 with 52 years of experience” – Anon
If you’re a person of this age, then you would have seen many things come and go through life, including changes within your body.
We have found our 18 year olds with 52 years’ experience to be our most endearing and well respected clients, and we always look forward to their interaction – especially the stories we are told.
You see touch and physical contact is still important to people, and it is something that can be lost quite quickly especially when living in isolation. We care about making sure you are doing OK and want to know what is going on for you and if we can assist with gentle massage.
It is well known that exercise can help with the management of chronic pain, but it is often met with uncertainty of what to do. Sometimes homework given in the form of physical activity just does not happen. So when the words, "you must do these exercises" come out of the mouth of health professionals, what goes through your mind?
Being prescribed exercises for your rehabilitation are given from Health professionals who have the best interests at heart - they want you to get better. But what happens if there is a mismatch?
As the weather gets warmer, so does the aim to get out and about and ENJOY the weather! If you have taken to hibernation this winter the best advice is ‘steady as she goes’ – gradually building your fitness up over time is the key to reducing injury. When you are starting out on an exercise regime it is a good idea to know how to appropriately load the body so that it can adapt to the increased forces you are now asking of it.
Load does not just mean the amount of weights you lift, it also can be the amount of activity you do a week, how long you do it for (duration), how fast or slow you do it (speed) and we also have to remember adequate rest – the most important part of load management where you make your biggest gains.
If you suffer from things such as cardiovascular issues or you are new to exercise? It is always a good idea to check in with the doctor and get a W.O.F before embarking on any exercise programme.
Your pain is real, 100%. When acute injuries occur we now understand danger messages are sent through to the spinal cord and up to your brain. It is here your brain evaluates “how dangerous is this really” and if the brain believes it is dangerous enough it will have the outcome of pain and will conclude you need to do
something about it – taking action to protect that area.
Becoming more sensitive
Some pain can be considered an ‘everyday’ experience. For example, let’s look at a netball player, they can have an overzealous contact with another player to contest the ball, which can send them spiraling onto the court straight onto their hip or, a weird catch of the ball could have really hurt a finger or thumb. Despite these ‘hurts’ they would have shrugged it off and continued to play on.
How we come to feel and experience pain
In Part 1 we touched on the necessity of pain and how it is essential to our survival – our own alarm system which lets us know we have been hurt somewhere on our body.
We all know when we experience pain it is an unpleasant experience but did you know it is also a sensory and emotional experience.