“Aye, there’s the rub!”

Posted: March 2, 2011 in Injuries and Owies, Lifestyle
Tags: ,

Yesterday was quite a momentous occasion for me.  Up until this point, I have avoided going for massages.  I originally thought that massages were for either rich people or swingers and there was bound to be oodles of incense, mood lighting, long, flowing see-through robes and perhaps a lava lamp or two.  Going for a massage was something that James Bond went for, not chubby Ironmen wannabe’s.

As it turns out, however, I was way off base (as per usual) and there was nothing awkward or embarrassing about the experience at all.  No scantily-clad vixens came in and proceeded to judo-chop me into sweaty oblivion and there was no subtle offers for ‘happy endings’ under bated breath.  So what was I so scared of?  I don’t know exactly.  Massage is the oil change for the body and one key component in a much bigger equation.  It promotes relaxation, decreases blood pressure, aids the digestive system, encourages fluid turnover from the interstitial spaces, and removes metabolic waste by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system.  In addition, massage loosens muscle fibers, decompresses joint spaces, and rids the body of emotional or physical stresses.  Sounds pretty sweet, right?  But, still, I had all these negative pent-up misconceptions in my mind associated with what a massage was and that totally prevented me from going – until now that is.  What an idiot I am.

The deal is that I have a good friend who is currently going for her certification as a massage therapist (not to be confused with a ‘masseuse’, which is something entirely different I have been informed).  As part of her professional certification, she is required to complete a certain number of hours on individuals for practical learning purposes.  Fair enough, right?  So it seemed to be a good fit for a mutually beneficial arrangement: she uses me as a canvas with which to practice on and I get an opportunity to have much needed work done on my broken and fatigued body.  Hopefully, in the future I will have a reliable and personable massage therapist as part of my Team Tigerrabbit, who also has the benefit of knowing my body and can assist me in ultimately achieving my performance goals.  Ideally, she will be the pit mechanic that keeps my racing engine in perfect running order.  How totally ‘Days of Thunder’ is that?  Fuckin’ awesome!

Personally, I can’t believe I even waited this long and I feel rather silly about having denied myself this amazing experience all these years.  So for anyone who may be having similar comfort issues in going for their first massage session, allow me to dispense with the usual suspects as they pertain to the more common massage misconceptions.

Isn’t Massage Therapy associated with Escort Services and/or Prostitution? Where there are definitely examples out there for ‘Massage Parlors’ fronting for seedy prostitution rings, this is most certainly not always the case.  It is a shock actually that massage therapists are not associated with physical therapists that work directly with medical physicians. Every year massage therapist organizations struggle to push the law through that will allow them to bill under insurance and be ranked with the medical profession.  Think of it as an alternative healing method that some individuals may not have found relief with since they are unable to get healthy responses through western medicine.  Having said that, if you see red tassels hanging from the lamp shade in the corner and your massage therapists name happens to be Brandi, Crystal, Star, or something like that, you may wish to bid a hasty retreat rather than risk being the feature story on the 11 o’clock news.

What do I wear for a massage? …and more importantly, do I have to get naked?  Lord knows I’m still not very outgoing when it comes to sharing my nakedness in all its fleshy grandeur.  Shit, I still feel awkward getting changed in front of my cat.  The easy answer to this one is that it’s your choice really, and that choice for me happened to be a resounding “hells no!” Instead, most people prefer to keep their underwear on to provide that extra layer of comfort between their bare ass and the rest of the world.  In my case, I wore my bathing suit.  I was left alone quite comfortably and privately (well, as much as perforated curtain held together with laundry clips could provide) to change undisturbed and at no point did I ever feel like my curtain was going to be suddenly pulled away thereby exposing my gelatinous frame to everybody present.  The massage therapist will more than likely ask for permission before entering the room again to give you a chance to get on the table and under the sheet comfortably.

Will there be lots of oils and lotions involved? This is always a bit of a concern for me as I have this “thing” about stuff getting in my skin and clogging my pours.  I don’t even like to use deodorant, bug spray, sun tan lotion, sun block, hair spray, gel, you name it, if it can into my skin I don’t want it unless I absolutely have to.  There was oil used during my massage but it wasn’t like I was dipped in it or anything.  It was no Roman bathhouse, that’s for sure.  Had I not seen the bottle of ‘Grape Seed, Apricot and Meadowfoam’ oil on the table afterwards, I might not have even known about it.  By the way, what the hell is ‘Meadowfoam’ anyway?  The real fact of the matter is that oil enhances not only the relaxing nature of the massage therapy session itself, but also adds to the healing benefits of the massage.  It also reduces friction and allows for a much more enjoyable experience.

Can I eat before a massage? Is there some kind of etiquette similar to that in yoga or some other medical rational as there is with eating and swimming?  Do I need to wait 30 minutes after eating before trying to enter a massage clinic?  I did learn that since massages can lower your blood sugar, it may not be a bad idea to have a small snack or meal a half hour beforehand.  I decided to play it safe anyway and pass on the sausage and onions for dinner anyway.  I was informed however that it is a good idea to drink water both before (providing you don’t have the bladder of a squirrel like I do) as well as after the massage.  Besides flushing your body and muscle fibers of the various substances that move through your body on a regular basis, it will make it easier for the massage therapist to perform deep work by hydrating your muscles so that they are easier to manipulate.  Huh!

Is it going to hurt? In a word…yes, no, sort of, maybe.  In a nutshell, it all depends on the type of massage and the depth of the ‘strokes’. A light, relaxing massage that doesn’t probe very deep into the muscles, shouldn’t hurt. With that being said, there is a ‘feels good’ hurt and an ‘ouch, good God make it stop’ kind of hurt. A good massage, even a really deep tissue massage, should stay in the ‘feels good’ hurt range.  Pain can be an indication that the muscle is possibly injured or inflamed and pressure should be adjusted.  Apparently, it is also entirely possible to bruise the muscle itself.  Also, pain can cause you to tighten up and negate the relaxing effects of the massage. The most effective and deepest massage always works with your body’s natural response, not against it.  For this reason, providing consistent feedback to your massage therapist about what is comfortable, feels good, or what might be starting to push the pain level into the ‘cry like a sissy girl’ zone, and nobody wants that, tough guy.  Do not hesitate to ask questions or mention if you feel any discomfort so that the massage therapist can use another approach or technique. Having said all this, by the way that my therapist viciously ground her fists and elbow into my glutes, you’d think she was trying to push a tank out of a snow bank.  But did it feel good?  Abso-fucking-lutely!

Do I have to shave? I have been told that rubdowns and/or massages are more affective when performed on a silky smooth leg.  Furthermore, massage therapists actually prefer to administer their healing touch on hairless legs.  If I ever get to the point where I’m getting them regularly, I might consider shaving.  For the time being though, this Massage Newbie isn’t about to completely alter his lifestyle and risk ridicule and humiliation at being discovered in the ladies aisle shopping for hair removal products just so my massage therapist can enjoy herself a bit more.  And as far as being more affective is concerned, I call ‘bullshit’.  A little bodily hair isn’t going to hinder anything.  It’s not like I’m some Sasquatch or anything.

What if I get a boner? Oh yeah – the granddaddy of all fears.  I think I speak for all men when I say that none of us would ever want to relive that moment back in grade school when we were called to the front of the classroom with ‘Happy Jack’ at full mast tucked underneath the waistband of our sweat pants. But, shit, what if this massage thing feels really good, ya know?  What?  It could happen.  After all, any touch administered to any part of the body can activate that parasympa-nervous-whatsit thing again, which can result in a partial or complete erection.  Apparently, sometimes men get wood during a non-sexual, therapeutic, full body massage.  I mean, if it’s as good as some people say, who would blame them?  However, I don’t wish to be one of those poor unfortunate bastards.  Luckily, I was way too relaxed and semi-unconscious to ever respond to any such deeper impulse; I would be lying though if I said that I wasn’t also picturing Bea Arthur in a string bikini every so often…just in case.

Will I have to listen to the Dixie Chicks? Possibly.  Other likely candidates on the ‘ol massage hit parade would include Fleetwood Mac, Sarah McLaughlin, Loreena McKennitt, Sinaed O’Conner, and Sade.  So suck it up, buttercup.

  1. Jan says:

    You truly are a treasure Terry!
    Funny, knowledgeable and fearful but honest. Love your writing!

  2. Get ready… massages are addictive. I seriously LOVE them, and I’m jealous you have a friend who needs to practice. Hell, I even let my 70 year old second cousin – by marriage who likes to dance around the house singing Katy Perry’s Firecracker massage my feet. Awkward. But whatever, I’ll take a massage from the bum on the street.

  3. Jen says:

    Oh Terry… I laughed so hard I almost fell out of my chair. I love your writing style, and you definitely did your research before you wrote this. Thanks for sharing your experience. 🙂

  4. Thank you for being so awesome and accommodating. 🙂

  5. […] was skeptical and hesitant at first, being on the receiving end of (now) two amazing massages from Jen, the newest addition to my Team Tigerrabbit (official announcement to come), I have now become a […]

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