“Parlor” or Practice: Is your massage therapist legitimate?

Camdine Cox, LMT, uses a hot compress on a client.

Massage Therapists have come under attack from all sides in Iowa in the last year. Early in the year, lawmakers proposed a bill to eliminate massage therapy licensing, which never made it to a vote. Criminals are increasingly and illegally using the phrase “massage therapy” as a front for illicit activities including human trafficking. Local lawmakers are targeting legitimate and licensed massage therapists including long-time small business owners with restrictions and additional fees instead of enforcing existing laws to go after the actual criminals.

At East Village Spa, our experienced licensed massage therapy team provides nearly 7,000 massage treatments per year. Some of our team members have over 10 years of experience, some have transitioned to massage from other health fields like nursing; some from other science fields like engineering. As a whole, massage therapists are skilled, trained, caring health care providers. To help consumers to know what to look for when seeking a massage therapist, we’d like to offer the following suggestions.

  1. Check the Iowa Department of Public Health licensing website to make sure your massage therapist is properly licensed and has not had disciplinary action taken against them. Ensure you have the proper spelling and legal name when searching. To obtain a license in Iowa, a massage therapist must have a MINIMUM of 600 hours of approved education, passed their national boards, adhere to the laws, and maintain continuing education requirements. Many therapists far exceed this minimum standard. It is illegal to practice massage therapy or call yourself a massage therapist without a license.
  2. It is a legal requirement that therapists display their license in their office or treatment space. If you don’t see a license posted, it is safe to assume they are not licensed and you should leave, or check online to verify that they are approved to practice.
  3. Value professionalism. Licensed massage therapists should ask their clients to complete a written health history or intake form and update their health information regularly. Massage may need modified for certain health concerns. Your therapist should also keep treatment notes to monitor client progress and record session data.

    Justin Behanish, LMT, helps a client with a gentle neck stretch.

  4. Look for red flags. Therapists must provide safe, clean work surroundings including clean linens and sanitized head rests and massage tools, proper hand washing and common infection control measures. Does the business provide a comprehensive website or written menu of services with rates clearly defined? Are their marketing materials and advertisements clear and professional? Are clinic hours reasonable for a health provider? If your gut tells you something is “off” then it probably is.
  5. A licensed massage therapist will ensure your modesty and comfort at all times. If your therapist does not step out of the room to allow you to disrobe and lay under covers, or if they work with immodest or no draping, this is a concern and a breach of their professional ethics. If your massage therapist needs to address sensitive areas like the gluteal, abdominal, or pectoralis muscles, they should discuss this with you prior to work in those areas and obtain your consent. You should still remain modestly draped during massage in these areas. If you feel uncomfortable at any time in a session, ask to end the session.
  6. Phrasing matters. Licensed massage therapists use professional terminology when referring to their treatments. A massage therapist will never refer to him or herself as “masseur or masseuse,” terms that have been co-opted by people providing illicit services under the guise of massage. Also, licensed massage therapists work out of practices, offices, clinics, spas, salons, hospitals, in-home, etc… but they do not refer to their work place as a “parlor” which is another phrase commonly used to insinuate illicit activities take place.
  7. Like you would when seeing a new doctor or counselor, seek out referrals for a massage therapist. Read reviews online, read therapist bios, look into education and specialties to find the best massage therapist for your needs and preferences.

Brandi Munch, BA, LMT massages a clients shoulder.

Licensed massage therapists play a vital role now that traditional healthcare expenses are ballooning, where people are realizing the importance of alternatives to opioid pain medications, and seeking to manage stress for their overall health. It is my hope that lawmakers and people in authority will use the existing state laws to go after the human traffickers and people who are hiding under our professional title without punishing ethical, legal, LICENSED massage therapists and making it more difficult for consumers to take advantage of a safe, healthy, massage.

Learn about our licensed massage therapy team here, or schedule your therapeutic massage session by clicking here!

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This post was written by Cassie Sampson, BA, LMT. Cassie has been an Iowa Licensed Massage Therapist since 2005, has served as massage therapy educator, and is proud to employ an incredible team of licensed massage therapists who make a difference in the lives of their clients every day.

European Spa Tour Part 5: Austrian “Kur,” Radon pools, and spa massage

Just tuning into my European spa adventure? Click here to start from the beginning!

Our European Spa Tour started in Switzerland and progressed to Austria where we learned about the 3 week “kur” (pronounced “cure”) and got to experience a spa relaxation style massage at one of the sauna and thermal bath complexes in the most beautiful town surrounded by the Alps, Bad Hofgastein. Like our tour of the Reha Clinic in Switzerland, the rehabilitation clinic at Alpentherme in Bad Hofgastein offered therapeutic medical massage alongside physical therapy, exercises, prescribed “fresh air” walks, sauna and hydrotherapy.

The Kur

At Alpentherme, we learned about the Kur, or a 3 week wellness program that most Austrians qualify for about every 5 years under their government health insurance, depending on what conditions they have and their occupation (i.e. physically demanding jobs or injuries). During the kur, residents spend 3 weeks at the clinic receiving prescribed therapies, eating healthy foods (ideally) doing exercises, saunas, and hydrotherapy programs. Our tour guide stated that her taxes were roughly 50% of her income, which is how they fund such comprehensive wellness programs. Research has shown that for some conditions that are quite expensive to manage, an annual Kur helps to cut costs of medications and more costly interventions so some disabilities qualify for more frequent visits.

She also stated that recently, the government guidelines for treatments are requiring a bit less “passive” therapy like massage and more active therapy like physical and exercise therapy so their treatment providers must coordinate with each other to ensure they meet qualifications for reimbursement. Medical massage therapists seemed able to provide similar services to those at the clinic in Switzerland.

Anyone up for a radioactive dip?

One of my most memorable moments on the tour was when our guide explained that one particular soaking pool for pain and inflammation was available by physician prescription only and with close monitoring. At first we were positive we were missing something in translation. “This one is full of ‘rah-dohn'”

“What? Surely you are mis-translating ‘MAG-NES-IUM’, or something else, right?”

Oh what’s that? A radon pool? Okie Dokie!

“No, no, it is ‘rah-dohn….radon’ pool. See? Look at the brochure!” Our guide pointed to the description in the pamphlet and sure enough, we were looking at one of the radon therapy pools…and once we picked our jaws up off the floor, we had a few questions. “What about the therapists working in the pools?” (According to our guide it is too little radon to hurt the therapists but just enough to help patients) “Has anyone researched this?” (Oh yes! It is very good!) “Should we remove our radon mitigation systems and open health centers in our basements?” (No. Use is closely monitored by physicians.)

I did do a bit more research at home. Interesting.

Spa Massage Therapy

Like in Switzerland, the massage therapist qualified to provide the medical massages have several years of training. I’m unsure of the training required to provide massage therapy in the spa, but if I understood correctly, it sounded like it might be flexible, with some apprenticeship programs available. The spa at Alpentherme was very well-appointed, but there are some stark contrasts from what people expect from a spa massage in America. Amenities like warm herbal compresses and hot stones, hydrotherapy tubs with color changing lights, plus a table used for body scrubs and a warming table used for body wraps were among the options for therapists.

L-R Bright treatment room with paper coverings and towels for draping, hydrotherapy table for body scrubs, herbal compresses for massage

My massage therapist was very professional, but the service was quite different than what Americans expect from a spa service. The rooms were bright (as bright as in the above photos) and the tables were very firm like in a medical office with paper covers plus towels. The music was static from a local radio station, more like a background noise like in a doctor’s office in America than typical spa music designed to enhance the experience. When my massage started, it was so hard to keep from laughing as Despacito crackled through the speaker.

My husband and I had had the same therapist and he stayed in the room while we got on the table, but turned his back. He asked us both to keep our underwear on.  Others in our group who received different types of massage like hot stone were given a disposable thong. I laughed because they said they were watched by the therapists as they changed, not in a sexually inappropriate way, but in a matter-of-fact clinical way.

The massage I received was very light and rhythmic. It felt like a full body lymphatic drainage technique, lots of repetitive circles over and over. I know that in the countries we visited, they feel that lymphatic massage is very important. It was not a massage to reduce muscle tension or deep tissue by a long shot, but I know I did briefly doze off. My husband reported his treatment was the same.

Crystal healing

One interesting and unique feature of the spa we visited is that one of the spa directors takes much pride in creating herbal, aromatherapy, and crystal blends to enhance the services. While I’ve never personally subscribed to crystal healing, I can appreciate the love and care he imparts into his craft so much that I bought two blends to bring home. For months, crystals, essential oils, and herbs soak infuse a base oil. The spa even puts large crystals into their drinking water for guests. It was a nice touch and an interesting point-of-differentiation that I think fans of crystals and gemstones would enjoy.

L-R An oil infused with crystals, herbs, and essential oils sits for months until it is ready to use. A menu of their specially crafted oils for incorporation into services or purchase for home use, drinking water infused with crystals.

I was thankful for such a comprehensive tour and behind-the-scenes from our gracious tour guide. I love that so many of the pool and sauna complexes have spas or massage clinics attached because there is nothing like relaxing your muscles with heat and hydrotherapy before a massage and continuing the relaxation with a stunning walk in the gorgeous village.

The scenery was as therapeutic as the spa.

Stay tuned, my last two posts on the trip will be coming soon! My next post will be about my Traditional Thai spa experience in Munich, Germany and my last post will be a few highlights.

European Spa Tour Part 4: Rehabilitation in Switzerland

Just tuning into my European Spa Tour series? Click here to start from the beginning and catch up!

Of all the stops on our tour, I’m most appreciative of the opportunities to tour two rehabilitation centers and learn how massage therapy is integrated into the fabric of healthcare in some European countries. For our first stop, we toured the Reha Clinic in Bad Zurzach, Switzerland with our guides Thomas and Julia. Julia trained as a massage therapist in Florida 25 years ago, but that training did not qualify her to practice massage when she returned to Switzerland. In Switzerland, she practices the Trager method. In the United States, many massage therapists know this as one kind of approach to massage or techniques they integrate into their traditional settings. Some of the East Village Spa therapists integrate similar techniques into sessions. In Switzerland, it is a more widely-recognized therapy and according to Julia, it is 80% covered by insurance. (Click here for a brief explanation of the Trager approach).

American Massage Therapists and our Swiss Hosts Thomas and Julia at Reha Clinic

The rehabilitation clinic was in a complex with a large pool and sauna facility that was open to the public and used by patients. The clinic itself was for stays of 2 weeks to 4 months with some outpatient care. I would compare it to a place people would go in America after a joint replacement surgery or hip fracture when they needed intensive therapy but not long term care.  The facility employs 13 licensed massage therapists (Plus physical therapists, doctors, and nurses) and additional technicians to do wraps for patients being treated for lymphedema.

I was most excited to learn how massage therapy is covered by the national insurance plans in Europe. As far as I understood, medical massage is covered in treatments like the Reha clinic, but the massages are quite different than what my clients and the typical massage therapy client would expect and if I’m being honest, they are probably not what the majority of our clients would want for their routine massage therapy, but these sessions would be immensely helpful in a rehabilitation setting.

L-R: Thomas shows us how they make their saline towels for hot compress treatments, The massage treatment rooms in the new wing, and some of the treatment tables in the therapy center. Quite different than the atmosphere many Americans think of and prefer for massage.

Probably the coolest feature of the facility was their therapy garden. I initially assumed that this served as a place to practice physical and occupational therapy exercises or that the herbs grown were used in preparations, but I was absolutely delighted to learn that the primary purpose was chronic pain relief. According to our guide “Patients who are in pain forget the things that are not pain. They work in the garden to forget their pain and get new ideas.”

The following are the answers to my 3 most burning questions for our guides about what it is like to work as a massage therapist in a setting like their clinic.

Q: What kind of training is required for massage therapists in a facility like yours?

A: Typical is about 2 years of full-time (40 hours/week) study to become a licensed massage therapist. A relaxation or spa therapist can learn basic “feel-good” massage in about 2-3 weekends, but relaxation massage is not covered by insurance and isn’t licensed. Relaxation massages are out-of-pocket expenses. According to our tour guides, the licensed medical massage therapists respect the spa and relaxation massage therapists and see a need for their services as well.

Q: What type of services do the medical massage therapists offer and how do their services fit into the comprehensive medical treatment?

A: Medical massage therapists work as a treatment team with the physical therapists, doctors, and nurses to deliver rehabilitation treatments including aquatic therapy. They can offer hydrotherapy baths and exercises, and also perform treatments with tens units and lymphatic drainage machines. Therapists use saline (salt) wraps and hot packs. Our guide said “Massage therapists decide when a patient needs treatment like a tens unit. The massage therapist will call up the doctor and suggest it.”

Left: Warm water pools for aquatic rehabilitation. Right: Hydrotherapy tubs that massage therapists could use for treatments.

Our guides said that the types of treatments are generally prescribed by standard guidelines depending on the condition they’re being referred for (i.e. how many hours of massage, aquatic therapy, exercise, physical therapy, etc…). For example, before a patient comes to the clinic to recover from a hip replacement, he gets a plan of care. The treatment team meets weekly for an hour to discuss about 30 patients in their care and their schedule of therapies. Massage sessions are typically 25 minutes long except for lymphatic drainage therapy for lymphedema which usually consists of a 30 minute morning session and a 60 minute evening session.

Q: What kind of ambiance (lighting and music) do you provide for massages?

A: (Confused looks from our guides). “Why would we play music?” We laughed. The massage rooms are stark and brightly lit, patients bring the sheets from their rooms with them to the massage therapy room unless they are paying extra out-of-pocket for special care. I love the idea of “why would they need extra sheets? They have sheets on their bed!”

Q: What is a typical workday like?

A: Perhaps a team meeting to discuss patient care, a full day of back-to-back prescribed sessions with about 2 minutes in between to do notes and clean your table and supplies, a short lunch break. A typical day for a massage therapist in their clinic is far busier and more fast-paced than for most American massage therapists I know, especially because the sessions are so short and they see so many patients.

My takeaway:

I LOVE that massage therapy training in Switzerland is so comprehensive! I have always wished that we had tiered licensing in the United States for therapists who wish to progress into a more medical/treatment oriented setting v. therapists who wish to provide relaxation and stress-relief massage only. I was glad to return to our clients and report that “Yes, massage IS covered by their national healthcare, but not the kind of massage therapy that you are accustomed to and only when prescribed for a particular ailment.” I suppose a benefit of not having massage covered under American insurance is that we can completely customize treatments for our clients and make sessions relaxing, therapeutic, and exactly what our clients want on a given day.

Overall, because of the amount of training for therapists in the medical settings and the very low requirement of training in the spa and relaxation settings, it is hard to accurately compare Swiss and American massage therapists or make accurate professional comparisons, but this tour was probably the highlight of my trip and I’m glad our hosts were able to take time out of their busy therapy schedules to visit with us!

Click here to keep reading! Part 5: Austrian “Kur,” Radon Pools, and Spa Massage

 

 

European Spa Tour Part 1: “Midwestern massage therapists go to Europe”

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel with other Midwestern Massage Therapists to Switzerland, Austria, and Germany and visit spas and massage clinics in each country, speaking to therapists, spa managers, and citizens about their experiences receiving massage therapy. I was excited to learn the truth about a belief commonly held by American massage therapists and their clients: “In Europe, everyone gets massage and it is covered by their health insurance.” On our tours and visits I received tons of great information, but with language barriers and info overload, I think I returned with more questions than I had when I arrived in Europe. My research continues!

Clockwise from left: Matt (my husband who was more interested in HVAC systems and mountains than massage) Dale (LMT from Kansas, our fearless leader), Melissa (LMT from Iowa), Barb (LMT from Illinois), Julia (LMT from Illinois), Erin (LMT from Illinois, and Emily (Along for the ride!) and me (Cassie, LMT from Iowa)

For example, on our last night, I visited with a great German couple over dinner and asked if they had ever personally received massage therapy covered by their insurance. The husband stated that his physician prescribed 10 medical massages by a physiotherapist (I’m not sure if this is a physical therapist or medical massage therapist based on what he described) to recover from knee surgery. He has private insurance in addition to the government insurance, so his treatments were covered, but not all massage therapy and not all massage therapists are covered by health care.

I asked our new friend if he understood different licensing and training between the therapists who provide insurance-covered massages and relaxing massages. He stated “Spa therapists are like on Baywatch”  (Record scratching…”WHAT?”) His wife went on to explain “Yes, like, lifeguards. It is the same kind of training. In the spas the massage therapists are also the lifeguards.” (Pro tip: DO NOT Google “German Lifeguard Massage”) Honestly, I think that our new German friends just wanted to perpetuate a stereotype and found any reason to casually steer the conversation to David Hasselhoff.

NOT a massage therapist.

It took awhile to Google the correct phrases, but I eventually realized that, at least in Germany, a 2+ year training program is required to become an accredited massage therapist and “medical pool attendant,” which makes sense because the medical massage therapists we met could do really great therapies in the many warm water pools and could prescribe hydrotherapy. If they continue a year to a year and a half in their training, it appears they would be working toward their physiotherapist qualifications. It seemed like that was similar to the case in other countries we visited. The medical massage therapists typically had a higher level of training than in the U.S. but physical therapists seemed to have a slightly lower amount of training than in the U.S. so the occupations didn’t have quite such a qualification gap.

In this blog series you’ll learn about my spa, massage clinic, and pool/sauna complex visits and experiences our group of midwestern licensed massage therapists enjoyed on our European spa tour!

Click here to read part 2: Avert your eyes!

 

Massage acceptance, a step backward?

I try to keep politics out of the spa (politics is about the least relaxing topic ever). However, our guests value massage therapy and right now massage therapists are caught in a precarious battle to maintain their professional credibility and guarantee clients safe, convenient access to massage as healthcare.

I’ve been on an amazing tour of European massage therapy clinics, spas, and wellness centers with licensed massage therapy colleagues from Iowa, Illinois, and Kansas this week. It has been fascinating to learn the long history of therapeutic and medical massage and how it is an integral and accepted part of European healthcare.

In stark contrast, I woke up two days ago to some distressing news. A city ordinance proposed in Clive, IA would impose additional regulations on legitimate massage therapy businesses in that city. This is a trend in Central Iowa in response to the alarming number of illigitimate businesses, however there are already laws in place regulating licensed massage therapists AND laws against human trafficking and prostitution.

In my visits to the wellness clinics in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany, I’m learning how public visitors can enjoy relaxing massage therapy for stress relief and overall wellness, and patients recovering from surgery, injury, workplace strain, and living with disabilities receive prescribed medical massage alongside physical therapy, exercises, hydrotherapy (soaks in pools and theramal water) and more. These facilities are very accessible and are frequented by senior citizens, families with children, and the population in general.

Meanwhile, back in Central Iowa my colleagues received letters from the police department informing them of proposed restrictions on their business hours (this could especially impact therapists serving shift workers and athletes who like early morning massages before work or in conjunction with gym schedules), additional background checks, fees and more. Seeing the acceptance of massage therapy in Europe compared with our regression in central Iowa was particularly painful.

I agree that human trafficking is a huge problem in the United States and there are an alarming number of illicit human trafficking operations in Central Iowa, but Licensed Massage Therapists are educated, trained healthcare providers that benefit the lives of many of their clients. The State of Iowa licenses massage therapists and has laws regulating the professional, ethical, competent practice of massage. The illicit businesses are easy to spot already, bars on the windows, inappropriate advertisements online, and not following licensing laws. One such business has a handwritten sign instructing cars to park behind the building (out of view of the street, presumably).

I’m hopeful that we can come to a compromise that doesn’t restrict ethical practitioners and the public will continue to receive massage therapy that is convenient, as an effective means of reducing stress and pain. I hope that the municipalities proposing (and passing) additional restrictions on legitimate massage therapy businesses don’t discourage therapists from opening in their areas, making it less convenient for residents to use their services to enhance their quality of life.

If nothing else, I’m thankful to start the conversation. The public needs to be aware of the benefits of massage therapy and learn to speak out against unethical human trafficking operations without damaging the licensed professionals who have the primary goal of making life easier, less stressful, and healthier for the citizens of their communities. I applaud municipalities for making the fight against human trafficking a priority, but please recognize that license massage therapists are heartbroken that these illegal and unethical businesses are masquerading as a profession we love. It adds insult to injury for these legitimate therapists to feel as though they are being punished and lumped in with the people perpetuating these crimes against the victims of human trafficking.

Traditional Cupping Therapy

Our Licensed Massage Therapist Jamee (Left) recently advanced her Shiatsu and cupping education in Hawaii with esteemed instructor Shinzo Fujimaki (right). Jamee has been incorporating cupping and Shiatsu into her sessions with her regulars and many of her co-workers have become hooked on the traditional Eastern cupping therapy. I asked Jamee to share a bit about this therapy, how it benefits clients, and answer some FAQs.

What is Cupping?

Cupping can be a stand alone treatment of used in conjunction with acupressure or Shiatsu therapies to monitor progress. It involves using a suction cup instead of direct pressure. There are several types of cups, I use both silicone and traditional Chinese Medicine Cups depending on the type of service.

Traditional Chinese Cupping Therapy at East Village Spa

How do the cups help?

Cupping creates a deep myofascial release by separating bound muscle fibers and fascia while increasing circulation to the targeted area. I use silicone cups in sports massage to move over the tissue to promote healing of injuries, reduction of scar tissue, and improved range of motion. When I use the traditional Chinese cups, I leave them stationary and to stimulate acupressure points to address a specific issue or get an overview of your general condition. I may also use magnets to achieve an effect closer to acupuncture…minus the puncture.

What are the marks left after cupping?

Marks left immediately after cupping session

There are not usually marks left behind with silicone cups used in motion in a sports massage. When the cups are left in one place (typically the traditional Chinese cups), they often leave circular marks that may last up to a week or more. These are not bruises. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), these marks are an indication of things happening in your system. The TCM belief is that a balanced point will simply be pinkish. Different colors or markings are believed to show stagnation, deficiency, congestion, and more.  The markings may vary from point to point and ideally, after multiple sessions, you will see fewer markings, indicating balance. The marks are rarely sore.

Marks a day after cupping, notice the difference in color and intensity. The client reports there is no pain when these marks are pressed.

Does cupping hurt?

Because cupping lifts with suction rather than pushes with direct pressure, the sensation is a little different than massage. You may feel a pulling, but if it is a pinching or throbbing, tell your therapist so she can decrease the suction. Generally you will feel deeply relaxed or euphoric. Afterward, you might want to take a nap. If there is any residual soreness, it would be related to a specific point needing work and would be short in duration. As with any meridian work, there may be emotional release, so be cognizant of the fact that short-term changes in mood could be related to treatment.

How do I book a traditional cupping session?

We don’t currently offer this as an “official” service, but Jamee can incorporate traditional Chinese cupping into a service for her regular clients. We recommend scheduling a 60 or 80 minute Athletic Edge Massage with Jamee first to get to know her and learn more about this treatment and allow her to develop a plan for incorporating cupping, acupressure, Shiatsu or other modalities into future sessions. In a 60 minute service, she can do cupping only. If you want cupping combined with other types of massage, book an 80 minute. To book with Jamee, call (515) 309-2904 and specifically request her, or book online (indicate “Specific Therapist” and select her name from the drop down menu or it will not show as a request for Jamee.)

 

How do massage therapists manage their own pain?

One of the most frequently asked questions I heard when I was practicing massage was “how often do YOU get a massage?” As massage therapists, we learn to get a good read on our bodies and learn what works well to prevent or manage our own pain.  Some of the LMTs on our team shared what works best for them, and their favorite referrals.

Camdine: I use a Lacrosse ball on my hips, back, and neck to massage painful spots. Camdine also uses locally produced Rapid Fire to reduce pain.

Julie: Daily stretches, epsom salt and Kneipp arnica bath soaks 3x week, a glass of warm Pure Inventions Tranquility tea (with magnesium) before bed, Rapid Fire to control small areas of pain, regular massages and chiropractic care as needed.

Julie’s favorite nighttime  drink is the Pure Inventions Tranquility which contains chamomile, passion flower, and magnesium.

Jamee: I use acupressure as a cure for everything but death, and I haven’t died yet. I see my personal massage therapist (co-worker Tiffany) regularly. I also purchased a Yoga trapeze that is a miracle for low back pain.

Heather: Massage 2-3x a month, regular visits with chiropractor Dr. Pulley (East Village Chiropractic)

Our employees massage each other and also see therapists outside the spa when their co-workers are booked. We all know the importance of “practicing what we preach!”

Hannah M: Staying active after a hard day reduces tension for me.

Jamee (cont’d): …On second thought, I should get a med alert bracelet made up that says in an emergency, call my massage therapist (Tiffany.)

Brandi: Yoga and using a foam roller, a 30 minute daily walk, get adjusted at Shine Chiropractic weekly, Fadeaway Flotation monthly.

Tisha: Rapid fire for aches, pains, and headaches, cupping therapy, foam roller, yoga, and a monthly massage (more often when needed!)

Most of our employees swear by Rapid Fire for muscle aches and tension headaches.

Conny: I’m not in pain often, but if it happens, I either overworked something or an emotional issue came up. For physical pain, I use rapid fire and a soak in a hot bath with epsom salts, receive massage twice a month. A good book, a glass of wine, and a friend for heartache.

 

Conny is especially partial to Kneipp bath salts because like her, they are from Germany.

Cassie: The older I get the more my joints act up, especially after running, biking, and swimming. In addition to regular massage, I see Dr. Pulley for chiropractic care when I overdo it or something feels “off.” I have done regular pilates at Gigi’s Pilates for about 6 years. Sometimes stretching isn’t the answer (or isn’t the only answer). The strengthening techniques in Pilates really help my low back and knees from screaming after longer runs.

If I miss to many pilates sessions, my body rebels and I get low back spasms that make it hard to run. I have learned the importance of strength training to keep everything working like it should!

Want to try massage therapy or one of our favorite pain relieving products for your own aches and pains? Stop into East Village Spa at 601 East Locust or book online!

Managing Workplace Stress

One of my best friends had been solidly in the “Massage is weird, I’ll never get a massage” camp for years. He finally confessed that this year he tried massage and has been getting them regularly ever since. I asked him what prompted him to try, when all of my prodding for years didn’t convince him. His reply “work was getting to be too much and I didn’t know what else to do to manage it.”

Even if you love your job, work can be stressful! In fact, 65% of Americans cited work as the #1 contributor to stress in their lives (2012 APA’s Annual Stress in America Study). The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has increased focus on stress as a workplace safety and health concern.

Even working in a spa, which would seem to be a low-stress job (to people who don’t work in a spa!) requires our team to carefully monitor their emotions and manage stress levels, both at home and at work. We see people at their most vulnerable and need to be sure we can be calm and present with them so we’ve become not only experts in relieving stress for others, but in practicing self care to keep our stress at bay and not absorb the stress from clients we’re working with.

At the spa, we hear anecdotal evidence from our guests that stressful issues at work (unclear demands, limited growth opportunities, time management concerns, supervisors, even workplace bullies) are a main reason they visit the spa. While our providers can’t change your work situation, we can offer coping mechanisms. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) studied the effects of massage therapy on ICU nurses and found statistically significant benefits to nurses who received massage therapy to manage stress over those who did not.

A Canadian pilot study of seated workplace massage showed short-term benefits of 20 minute weekly seated massage on employees in stressful work environments and suggested further research is needed to see long-term benefits of such a program. The Touch Research Institute of Miami showed that a 15 minute chair massage was more beneficial than a typical 15 minute break in reducing anxiety and also improved cognitive performance. Forbes recommends that executives regularly receive massage to reduce workplace stress, increase productivity, and increase sleep.

Work stress is serious! Don’t take it from us, take it from the American Psychological Association. This is a great article on tips to manage your work stress from the pros.

When it feels like too much, sometimes a visit to the spa can help you feel like yourself again, whether it is a stress relieving massage, facial, or both. Learn more about our services or schedule time to refresh and de-stress here.

 

FAQ: When should I come back?

A question we’re frequently asked is: How often should I get a (insert your favorite spa service here)? As far as how often you should get spa services, it depends on the service and why you are receiving it.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD I GET A FACIAL?

  • For general relaxation and routine skin wellness: typically a monthly facial will suffice, though we understand sometimes you have to stretch it out to every other month or quarterly. As long as you are using the products your esthetician recommends in between visits you should be fine. At a minimum, each season it is good to get checked out in case you need to change your routine due to changes in the weather and your activities.
  • For peels or Minus 10 protocols: you will need to visit in shorter intervals (perhaps 2-3 weeks) based on the treatment goal and where in your skin cell turnover cycle your esthetician wants you to repeat the service.
  • For acne facials like our “Clear Relief” facial: a monthly facial to assess skin, perform extractions, and do a deeper cleanse along with recommended home care between visits is necessary until the acne clears up.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD I GET A MASSAGE?

You can typically get massage therapy as often as you’d like, but any of us who have spent a day getting massage in school or testing massage students or job applicants can attest that there IS such a thing as too much massage! Your body will let you know when you’ve had enough! A few good suggestions for spacing your services:

  • General stress management and relaxation massages: These are fine in whatever interval you can manage with your schedule. We have clients in weekly (sometimes twice weekly), lots of every other week and monthly massage clients, as well as some who are able to treat themselves on special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries.
  • Sports massage: If you’re training for an event, regular massage at weekly or every-other week intervals are helpful to prevent injury and keep you on your training schedule. The type of massage your therapist recommends during training, shortly before an event (1-2 days) and shortly after an event will have different session goals, techniques, and duration.
  • Injury or specific focus work massages: The frequency will vary for these services based on what you and your therapist are addressing. It is possible to overwork an area and for most kinds of massage, we don’t want to further inflame an area so your therapist will suggest rest periods between massage. Typically we’d ask a client to come more frequently at the beginning of treatment for a specific issue until it has subsided (2 sessions in a week is not uncommon at this stage), then maintenance massages. Your therapist will gauge frequency based on how long the benefits of the treatment seem to last.
  • If you are seeing multiple providers to treat the same condition: We often partner with chiropractors and physical therapists for greater treatment effectiveness. Do make sure your massage therapist knows all of the treatments you’re receiving for the injury or health concern (i.e. physical therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, etc…) and make sure your other providers know you’re receiving massage so you don’t over treat a condition and all providers are on the same page with scheduling service frequency.

HOW OFTEN DO I NEED TO WAX?

Wax intervals vary greatly depending on the person, hair texture, ethnicity, hormones, and heredity play a role in how often you’ll need to book your follow-up waxes. It is important to grow hair to at least 1/4 inch before waxing to make sure the hair catches in the wax.

  • Facial waxing:Typically 3-4 weeks is common between waxing for brows, upper lip, and chin.
  • Brazilian/bikini, back and chest waxing: 4-6 weeks is a typical interval for Brazilian, back, and chest waxing.
  • Leg waxing: Leg hair needs a bit more time to grow in enough to wax, most people need to go 6-8 weeks once their hair is on a good growth schedule.

Are you ready for a rebook or looking to schedule your first service? Learn more and book online. Don’t hesitate to give us a call with your questions at (515) 309-2904.

 

 

Talk to your doctor about massage

When I was 22 (in about 2002), I picked up a small item from the floor as someone called my name. When I turned my head to see who it was, my neck caught. For a month, I had a stiff neck. Growing up, we never used chiropractic or massage therapy so my first instinct was to go to a walk-in clinic doctor. The doctor briefly assessed me, then told me I had arthritis and needed long term pain medication to treat this condition he presumed would plague me for life. That was that. I was too inexperienced to question him, but the visit literally took 10 minutes and I left thinking I had serious arthritis at 22. I took the medication for months, even though the pain had subsided after just a few days. When the medication was pulled from the market after dangerous side-effects emerged, my pain never returned.

I haven’t had any other issues related to that little injury and I truly believe, knowing what I know now as a massage therapist, that a trip to a good chiropractor coupled with a massage would have managed the pain I experienced at 22 just as effectively as the medication. Fun fact: that experience is one of the reasons I became a massage therapist!

I believe that had I experienced the same kind of injury today, doctors would have responded differently. In fact, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2012 showed chiropractic care and specific exercise were more effective than NSAIDs or Narcotics for treating neck pain.

For acute or subacute low back pain, one of the most common reasons for physician visits, physicians are changing their tune as well. The American College of Physicians recommends in a 2017 report that physicians FIRST recommend treatment with heat, massage therapy, spinal manipulation, or acupuncture BEFORE resorting to pain medications. For chronic low back pain, physicians are instructed to recommend rehabilitation, spinal manipulation, stress management, exercises like yoga or Tai Chi, in addition to other non-pharmaceutical interventions.

Where does massage therapy fit into the mix? Many studies have shown massage therapy to be an effective treatment for pain, especially low back, neck, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and more. A summary of some of the research is available through the National Centers for Complementary and Integrative Health. The Touch Research Institute has many studies about massage therapy available online as well. Because more research is always beneficial and because the guidelines for physicians are evolving, you can make a difference.

If you have had positive experience with  massage therapy for pain management, be sure to let your physician know what you are doing. It is always important to let your physician know all of the wellness services you are receiving so they have the whole picture of your treatment. Because some are less familiar with the benefits of massage therapy or see it as “merely” a pampering service, hearing first hand from their patients about the relief they get from massage is helpful in shaping how they might approach others with similar conditions or how they might answer questions for patients who broach the subject of massage for pain relief.

Haven’t tried massage for pain? We’d love to visit with you! Visit our website to learn more about our service and providers, or Book a service with one of our experienced, licensed massage therapists to see if massage therapy could be part of the solution for your own wellness and pain management.