Customized massage for mental health care

Years ago, I was seeing a spa guest for frozen shoulder pain. She’d been in a few times previously. This visit was different. I tapped at the door to see if she was ready, and she was wrapped in the sheet, standing and sobbing. I offered her some water and sat with her on the massage table. When she was able to slow her breathing, she explained that she was having a panic attack. She had just had an MRI for her shoulder a few days prior and had a panic attack in the machine. She said it was terrifying. When she put her face in the face cradle of my massage table, the same feeling washed over her and triggered a panic attack.

We decided we’d continue with the treatment, but we modified it to the sidelying position (think sleeping on your side) on the table with the sheet covering her, but draped lightly with her arms and feet out so she felt free to move. This position made all the difference and we did sidelying massage for the next few visits.

The sidelying massage position is helpful for people who experience claustrophobia

Guests prone to anxiety or panic attacks may also benefit from shorter sessions and slower techniques until they get used to the idea of massage. Sometimes faster massage techniques can be too stimulating for someone who is already on alert. Taking slow, deep breaths before and during the session can help as well. It is also helpful to ask your therapist what you can expect during the session (I call this a “road map”) so you can relax your mind instead of wondering what is coming next. Know that you have the right to ask your therapist to stop or take a break.

Slower massage techniques are sometimes helpful for people who are anxious.

Some guests, especially those who have a history of abuse, no longer feel comfortable in their own bodies. Massage can be a safe way to experience touch and massage therapists can even share self-massage techniques to help with stress management and to reconnect an individual with his or her body (American Massage Therapy Association.)

Some clients who have experienced abuse feel more comfortable receiving services where they can be fully clothed. Treatments we offer that can be done without disrobing include foot massage, assisted stretching, Craniosacral therapy, acupressure, Shiatsu, and even facials or nail services. All of these include safe touch and allow guests to control the session. They can stop or modify the service at any time. It is important for guests to share their needs with their provider so their provider can check in more frequently to ensure comfort or see if adjustments can be made, allowing their clients more control of the session.

Many massage and spa services can be performed fully clothed. Talk to your provider about your comfort level disrobing. He or she should be able to modify the service.

Guests who experience PTSD also benefit from massage therapy. A 2012 study found that veterans who received massage therapy reported significant reductions in physical pain, tension, irritability, anxiety, and depression (Collinge et al, 2012). Again, it is important for massage therapists to ensure guests are in complete control of the session. Therapists should ensure adequate time to address questions before and during the session. Guests should feel comfortable speaking up, whether they need more or less pressure, a change in position or technique, or to take a break or stop a session entirely. At East Village Spa, we understand the need for massage therapy to address PTSD for our military personnel. We offer a specially priced “Military Massage” to make massage therapy more accessible.

Whether you are living with a mental illness or are anxious about trying massage therapy, know that modifications can be made to ensure your comfort. Your massage therapist is not a mental health counselor, but he or she should be a good listener, able to suggest or accommodate changes to your session so you feel entirely in control. If a therapist is unable or unwilling to honor your needs, or if you have had an uncomfortable experience in the past with massage therapy, consider trying it again with a different therapist. Communicating your needs and preferences before the session is essential to ensuring you will get the massage you deserve.

Learn about the our massage therapists here. If you’d like to discuss the options that would be best for you, feel free to call us at (515) 309-2904! We would be happy to help you find the best service and providers for your unique needs.

Resource: Collinge W, Kahn J, Soltysik R. Promoting reintegration of National Guard veterans and their partners using a self-directed program of integrative therapies: a pilot study. Mil Med. 2012;177(12):1477–1485. doi:10.7205/milmed-d-12-00121

Ending the Stigma: Cassie’s Mental Health and Massage School Story

I’ve never shied away from talking about my own mental health challenges. Starting from my early teen years (did you know half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14?*), I visited many doctors and GI specialists for digestive disorders that had become life limiting, to the point of agoraphobia (fear of leaving my home or comfortable spaces). I had to take uncomfortable tests that showed everything was fine. This caused more frustration because everything was not fine. Sorry if this is TMI, but I was eating Immodium like candy to survive high school.

The issues worsened in college, to the point that one year, I developed such an extreme fear and anxiety of being in the claustrophobic dining hall because of my digestive issues, that I ate only what I could make in my dorm room. It wasn’t until after college that I realized that all of the abdominal problems that triggered such panic were actually caused by anxiety in the first place. Once I managed the anxiety, I managed my digestive issues and got my life back.

Talking openly about mental health was a key to managing day-to-day life. In the late 90s and early 2000s, this was not the norm at school or work, even though anxiety disorders affect over 40 million adults (Anxiety and Depression Association of America). It wasn’t until I started massage therapy school in 2005 that I found a place where this was encouraged. In fact, we regularly checked in as a group on how we were feeling, how different types of massage techniques impacted our bodies and minds. It was normal and expected to share the changes and emotions we experienced. Some techniques alleviated anxiety, some techniques exacerbated anxiety.

Cassie teaching at Body Wisdom Massage School with colleagues.

Sharing this information helped all of us gain a broader body of knowledge so when we saw clients in the real world, we’d have a basis for understanding their experience with massage massage therapy and we learned helpful modifications to sessions. By working on students with diverse health needs, we’d see things like a class partner having a panic attack and stopping a session in class, we’d learn other ways to position a client who feels claustrophobic with the head rest, or even how to fine tune our massage speed to help calm a classmate with a racing mind. When we encountered these sessions in our practices, they weren’t new or scary, and we were able to help provide our clients with whatever the needed to feel comfortable, whether that meant ending a session, changing a technique or position, or taking a break to just breathe.

Many of our massage clients live with mental illnesses or go through challenging mental health periods. We understand because these are issues that our providers or their loved ones experience too! In my next post, I’ll share some of the ways massage therapy can be beneficial for people struggling with mental health challenges, and how we can modify services to meet your individualized needs.

Massage techniques for anxiety and stress management at East Village Spa

Book your East Village Spa massage at www.EVDaySpa.com. Curious about massage therapy as a profession? E-mail us! EVSpaDesk@gmail.com. I’m happy to share about my own experiences and help you find a good school.

What’s the deal with dip nails?

Dip nails aren’t new, it is an old acrylic nail application system that has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years. At our spa, we’ve seen a big uptick in clients coming in with dip nails, thinking they are the same as a gel polish manicure (think CND Shellac) or can remove like a regular polish. Unfortunately, not all salons that offer dip nails full explain that these are acrylic nail enhancements and don’t remove the same as a CND Shellac gel manicure. We don’t offer dip nails or dip nail removal, so we hope to clear up the confusion! Don’t get us wrong, we’re not opposed to dip nails (and some of our employees occasionally get dip nails), they just don’t align with our mission of providing safe, natural nail care.

Why do people want dip nails?

Dip nails are popular for people wanting more of an enhancement look. They tend to look more “built up” on the nail. They’re also billed by many salons as lasting 3-4 weeks. While the product does adhere very securely to the nail (more on that in the next section), you will still see nail outgrowth at the base after a couple of weeks like you would with any gel polish like Shellac. Some people who use Shellac can extend their wear past 2 weeks, but most choose not to because of the look of the outgrowth.

For people who want an acrylic nail, dip nails are a less fussy application system. Just be aware that there are more sanitary forms of application than double dipping into a shared jar of product, as so often seen in images of the dip technique. If your salon doesn’t use individual powder applications, that’s a red flag.

Why can’t you remove my dip nails?

Some brands of dip nail products claim they can be soaked off with acetone, but we’ve found this is usually not the case, even after manual filing of the top layer. There are many brands. Often, the product is layered. To get the effects of nail art, additional gel polish coats may also be applied and layered on top. We have no idea what products were used and what the manufacturer’s recommended removal is.

Many salons use e-files (the drill) to speed up the process. We won’t use this because of the risk of damaging your nail and also because we don’t want our guests, employees, and massage clients in the next room breathing in the acrylic dust. More than one client has told us to just rip the dip acrylic nails off because that’s what their usual salon does. We definitely will NOT do that, and recommend that you don’t either!

Will you ever offer dip nails?

No, acrylic nails and nail enhancements fall outside of East Village Spa’s mission to provide safe, natural nail care. That said, we will not be offended if you’ve been a CND Shellac devotee but are dying to jump on the dip trend. This is a great story from the Today Show about a gel polish enthusiast who tried dip nails, and how the two services compared to each other.

If you want to try dip nails, we can refer you to another salon and I promise we won’t be mad. Like I said, some of our employees have even tried dip nails so we get it, it can be fun to see what the fuss is about. We just ask that when it comes time to remove your dip nails, you visit a salon that offers this service so they can do so according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Licensed Nail Technician Cyerra giving me a CND Shellac maniure. Full disclosure: I’m a Shellac enthusiast who has never tried dip nails. I have seen the frustrtaion of my team members and their guests in trying to remove them, which has served as a powerful deterrent!

Cassie Sampson owns East Village Spa, offering skilled massage therapy, Rhonda Allison facials, Hydrafacial, and safe, natural nail care with CND Shellac, Vinylux, and Zoya polishes. Click here to learn more or schedule!