Burnout is Real

Hello trusty massage blog readers! You may have noticed that I cancelled your massage appointment in July, or that you can’t currently buy gift certificates on my website. After 18 years of practice, I’m taking a little time and space to handle some serious burnout that just showed up. Burnout is super inconvenient but it will not be denied. I will slowly be bringing my practice back online as I recover and feel ready to return to doing high-quality work. I may also find that in order to have my practice be sustainable going forward there may be small changes in my focus and in the way that I run my schedule, but I don’t know what those will be yet! I value the work I do and the quality level at which I’ve been able to do it for years, and I’m going to work hard to be able to continue to do the best work I can imagine. More information will show up here and also in emails that I send to my email list as I have it.

Currently I have set my schedule so that no massage appointments are available in July and Zero Balancing appointments will be available to book in August. I may also open up other specific types of appointments soon (my best guess is that massage for TMJ will come next).

Tiffany Sankari is offering something amazing!

First of all, I want to say here that I have one appointment available tomorrow afternoon that someone should book. But more exciting than that, Tiffany Sankari is offering something amazing: It’s her entire Feldenkrais movement lessons online library for free for 10 days in April! A lot of clients and friends talk to me about how they want to learn how to move easier or have less painful posture. These are exercises that will help you find your way there: https://pages.convertkit.com/f9e38516d0/f199af6110?fbclid=IwAR3x0mQ278x3nOuLHb_DagShNkAzTwFXiFb33LQwrquisKRjhMWa5Ioa7jM If you try this out, let me know what you get from it! Feldenkrais is a really cool way to explore movements and unlearn the patterns that give us those little straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back injuries over and over, and help us move easier and be more comfortable in our bodies.

Rate Increase

Those of you who have been with my practice for a while may have noticed that some things stay remarkably consistent: my blue walls, my tiny cups of water, and my hourly rate, which has stayed the same for five years now. Due to inflation, my rent and business expenses have gone up significantly, and I need to change my pricing to reflect this.

The short version:

NEW Massage Rates:
1 Hour: $120*
90 Minutes: $180
75 Minutes: $150
45 Minutes: $90
30 Minutes: $65

These prices will take effect on May 8th, 2019. Any appointment you have already booked and prepaid for will be at the existing rate. You can book any massages you want here

*I will continue offering a discount on 1-hour and 75 minute massages to full-time students and folks who work full-time food service jobs. The way to book with this pricing is to type in the discount code FULLTIME.

Thank you for all your support and for making my massage practice a success. I couldn't do it without you!

Oncology Massage: I am trained now!

I completed my Oncology Massage class months ago, I don’t know why I have taken so long to say anything about it on my website, but here we are!

Oncology Massage sounds scary and technical, but what it means is that I am now trained to work safely with clients who are in treatment for cancer, who have survived cancer and may have some needs or limitations around what kind of massage they can receive. Also it means that if you need massage because you are stressed out caring for someone who has cancer, I know more of the things your life might be full of. There will be a bigger section of my website devoted to this in the future but for now, I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about if oncology massage is right for you via email, phone, or the comment section here!

One Armoring Strategy: somatic play that some people find helpful

Armoring is at the root of what most of my clients come in for help with. They don’t understand why their shoulders are so tight and say things like “Why is my body so stupid?” I don’t say it in the moment to clients who are expressing legit frustration, but your body is a genius, and it is trying to prevent you from experiencing pain. This is especially genius because it works for physical pain (for example: if you damage your knee, your quads will tense up to protect the knee from getting too painful with normal jostling around) as well as emotional pain (example: when somebody is yelling at me I tense my jaw up).

Sometimes I see clients who need to armor all day when they’re at work, they know about it and hate it, and they find that it means that they never get to step out of their armor. When you know in advance that you’re stepping into an armor-appropriate situation, an exercise you can try to feel less stuck and out-of-control is Put On Your Own Armor. This can be just a quiet moment where you close your eyes and imagine putting it on, or you can put on some music (depending on your age, may I suggest the transformation sequence music from your favorite Voltron/Power Rangers/She-Ra/He-Man/Jem/Transformers cartoon?) and do a little dance. You don’t need to tense up your body while you do this, just imagine the armor. How thick is it? Is it a stretchy Super Suit or is it clanking and metal? How big does it make you? What colors is it? Does it have any embellishment? How big and protective do you need it to be? 

The reason to take a moment to actively put it on is that you can then actively remove your armor! See how that works? When you are going leaving whatever space or people are your own personal Thunderdome, you can take a similar moment and imagine taking it off, cleaning it (if necessary) and putting it away. Where do you store it when you don’t need it? 

Some notes about pain theory: owies

How do we understand pain? For me it is a little different each day, but today I want to go back to my oldest understanding that I'm aware of. I know about Owie Theory from my mom. I've heard her use it recently to talk about her arthritis in her hands or the bruises she gets sailing, but when I was a kid, I was the owie haver. Owie is a noun, it's whatever it is that occupies painful spaces. It can be chased out with love or by using a bandaid as a physical manifestation of love. Man, those Johnson + Johnson ad execs get the job done! The more I learn about pain in the nervous system, the more I go back to the owie. Today I was receiving some work from a colleague and she was focusing on the pain I still get in my hips 2.5 years after a bad injury. As she found the deep places to work I had this feeling of owies swarming. They were like a nest of little ants or something. As my attention was drawn by her work, I thought of an ant farm. A super-deluxe one I never saw in person. An owie farm all through my hips and low back. They were made of my fear that I would never feel any other way. She changed the angle she was working through and I felt the owies start to walk out. An owie exodus. They marched off my screen. They pushed wheelbarrows and had their gold sewn into the linings of their little coats to avoid theft on the road. As my muscles relaxed, as my joints aligned themselves better with a sigh,  I could feel my body become less hospitable to owies. After she was done, I got up and marched around. I stretched and did funny looking movements that felt really good. I will surely have many more owies in my life but maybe not this weekend.

Self-care moment #1: heat on your neck

I'm using heat on my neck right now while I write this, because my acupuncturist recommends it when you have cold/flu symptoms and I've found that it does help me feel more human, whether it helps me get better or not. Feeling better when you're still sick is great, so I don't care either way.  

Me using my heat pack on a work break. It's so good, people.

Me using my heat pack on a work break. It's so good, people.

But I'm a massage therapist, so I'm not going to tell you about excess wind and cold/flu stuff, because that's not my training even a little bit, but what I can tell you is that heat on your neck is really great for preventing neck and shoulder tension from getting worse. It won't dig through old tension and move it along the way massage can, but it's really great at preventing the new fresh tension from setting up home. This is my #1 self-care recommendation for clients who are getting ongoing massage for specific muscle tension, because it means that I'm not working through the same surface-level tension each time, we can progress to the deeper stuff in fewer sessions. But there's no reason to not try it before you come in, or preventatively, to keep your neck/shoulder tension down to a duller roar.

Heat feels cozy and can help interrupt some kinds of stressful moments. It also provides a pleasant sensation and so can give your nervous system some relief if you have chronic pain. 

The best tool to use is the one that fits easily into your life, and for me that's the microwave it's-full-of-rice kind. I bought the one I use at the office at good old Cambridge Naturals and I sewed the one I use at home, but you can also make your own by taking an old clean sock, filling it with dry rice and tying the open end shut. Add the contents of a couple of your favorite herbal tea bags and you can call it aromatherapy. You put it in the microwave to heat it up, mine takes about 2.5-3 minutes.

You shouldn't use heat if:

  • you have numbness
  • or an existing burn (including sunburn!)
  • have serious circulatory problems
  • or an active infection
  • If you try using it and it feels bad for any reason, just skip it, your body is smarter than advice from a stranger on the internet.

Chronic Pain and Isolation: Some things I want to say.

Pain cycles and healing processes can be super isolating. There's the practical part where logistics take over -- when I fell and bruised my tailbone a few years back, I couldn't really go out to meet my friend because I had a finite amount of activity I could handle in a day and things like "walk up to my second floor apartment" or "this place is a 7 minute walk from the nearest T station" or "transfer to the Red Line" weren't on the table if I also wanted to have groceries and clean clothes. People in disability and chronic illness communities talk about spoons as the unit of energy required to do various things through the day, and temporarily I was down to necessities-only spoon numbers.

This temporarily was longer than I wanted. It seemed reasonable (though frustrating) to miss the rest of cross-country ski season, but it made me want to scream going to the pool that summer and feeling how few laps I could do. The pool check-in guy would say things like "done already?" or "did you have time to get in the pool?". The pool was full of women more than twice my age swimming for 5 times longer than me. That summer, a formerly acquaintance-level friend became a best friend because she would spend 45 minutes in transit to get to my house and take me for a walk, slowly trudging 0.4 miles uphill with me for cuban fruit smoothies and maybe on a good day we'd take a victory lap 0.2 miles to the bookstore. For a full year, I worked my job at half volume, calculated my spoons precisely each day, went to PT twice a week and did tedious exercises twice a day. It felt like this routine was my new life, that I was now a person who did funny sideways leg lifts and that I was the only person who wasn't out going on fun bike rides or taking circus classes or whatever, and that this would always be true.

I was wrong and my information was terrible. During this period of extreme self-pity, one of my long-term friends was unable to visit me because she was recovering from an injury of her own, stuck in her own isolated bubble in a hard-to-T-to part of town. My physical therapist's office was full of people of all ages rehabbing their own problems and at work I was hearing about peoples' pain and limitations all day, and had been for a career longer than a decade. People tell their massage therapists way more about their limitations and pain than they tell their friends or co-workers and it's a shame because I have amazingly smart and resourceful clients who develop really awesome strategies for healing and working within their limitations. I have a number of clients who all work for the same large company in Kendall Square, and a group of them all had identical hand pain and didn't know it. They furtively fold stretch breaks into refill-their-water or bathroom breaks so that nobody perceives them to be weak or broken, and I sit in my office hearing them all, wishing they could share their strategies or have a stretch-and-share circle.

"I think it's conservative to assume that 20% of people you see on an average day are actively managing some health problems and you just don't know it," I found myself saying to a client a few weeks back and I've been thinking about it since then. Does this sound right to you? It sounds low to me, but I wanted to be a little conservative. Even if it is wrong, which I don't think it is, is anything harmed by behaving as though it is true? Recently there was a flutter on my Facebook wall with equal numbers of my friends scoffing at pre-peeled plastic-encased oranges as a ridiculous convenience food that was destroying the earth and friends saying "this is an accessibility thing, stop judging", and I thought of all my clients who have hand pain bad enough that they can't open moderately-heavy doors and develop creative strategies to get through, perfecting their casual loiter to just follow someone through when another person opens the door. What would it take to live in a world where we regularly easily offered to help each other, where we could find out how to help the people we interact with or care about without it being a big deal?

What should you look for in a massage therapist?

These are notes I made a while ago and never moved to my new website. They're still the standard that I use when I get a massage.

A good massage therapist:

  • is excited about their work
  • talks to you with respect and compassion
  • encourages you to trust your own body
  • works with, not in opposition to, your body
  • treats each client uniquely
  • varies technique and pressure as needed
  • maintains a high level of safety, hygiene, and professionalism
  • keeps a clean and welcoming office space
  • respects your limits and preferences
  • is reliable and punctual

There is no massage therapist who is right for everyone. Find a massage therapist who makes you feel comfortable, respected, and relaxed!