Massage Practice 101. Reflection on what matters.

Massage practice 101 : getting what you really want out of your practice.

A New year means new goals, the things we want for next year, for our personal growth, and the growth of our practice. And the things we want to achieve, to do and to get this year.

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To set yourself up for success this year spend time in reflection


There are lots of ways to set up for a successful year in your massage therapy practice, but to have your practice fit into your overall goals and to have a healthy start to the year, it is important to think about what you really want from your practice, your year and the rest of your life.

I set aside one day a week in January to work on how this looks for me, looking at 4 key elements of my life, how those have changed over the year and what adjustments I need to make in order to be successful.

Overall goals- week one

This includes how I want to feel this year, and my guiding emotions for the year, in my case this year it is Calm, Progressive, and Joyful.

Now when I am setting my goals I can measure them against these emotions, and if they line up they are good for me. Spend some time thinking about how you want to feel this year, at night when you go to bed, and this time next year when you look at where you came from and where you are going next.

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My Measure of a successful year will be different then yours, you need to determine what you want for yourself.

Success defined by you- Week Two

What do you want to do this year, make a complete list, and don’t edit. Go to Disneyland, to visit your family, have a baby, buy a vacation home reno your kitchen. Go for it make your list.

My list was huge, but when I sent back through it I realized, that I want a new car, to start to plan a kitchen renovation and set the budget, I want to grow my practice so my clinic sees 33 clients a day, and I want to lose 55 lbs before my brothers wedding in Sept.

Your list will be totally different.

Running a successful Massage therapy practice.

This is important for me and my family as it defines my finances, but it also is successful to me only if I have a team of people that I love to work with, who are reliable, who provide amazing service to our clients and who are also working on their own growth and goals.

We have initiated a program where we help therapists with the Running of a successful Massage therapy Practice 

And it is my goal to have 15 participants in this program this year, that is a goal unique to me.

Massage Practice 101 : Can your practice achieve the goals you have set. Week 3

Now is the humbling part of goal setting, you need to place a price tag next to all the things you want to accomplish. And determine if you can achieve these goals. If you want to work only 20 hours a week, and you want to take a month off to go to Mexico, and a week in DisneyLand, get a new car and a vacation property, your practice might not be aligned with your goals. This is just setting you up for failure. The most important part of Massage Practice 101 is that you are a success, you thrive and you life the life you want. Achieving that takes planning.

You might be able to do all these things of course, but what will that really mean for how many hours you work? Will you have to hire people, how will the numbers add up.

Massage Practice 101: week 4

Planning backwards is the trick to success! Look at where you need to be in 6 months, and then in 3 months in order to be successful today. Then start to assign yourself tasks, and tracking devises so that you stay on track.

Best of luck this year.


Massage Practice 101- 10 tips for 2019 : part one

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Watch your numbers!

1.  Massage Therapy is like any other business, your numbers tell the story of your success.

Unlike working for someone else, you define your success, so take some time to think about what you want to do this year.  Is your practice already where you want it to be?  Then great, you might think about raising your rates by a dollar or two, do you need more clients? How many?  When will you see them, or will you hire someone to help, now is a great time to play with these numbers and figure out what you want for the year.

When you know what you want, pick at least 3 and no more than 5 things to track.  

  1. Our total weekly appointments- for the whole team together
  2. Individual therapist appointments and the ones they decline( so if they miss their own targets, they can see how choices affect their goals.
  3. Declined appointments
  4. Website ranking for keywords
  5. Income and expenses weekly.

At Health Span we track those 5 things weekly yours might be different. 

Therapist Success is everything here

Because our company is founded on therapist success, our focus is tracking that.  When we have happy therapists, they provide better service, and develop better relationships with our clients, each other and us.  

2. Massage Practice 101 – Be Present and client focused

Massage therapy can be a lot like meditation, when outside thoughts enter your mind gently push them away.  Listen to the body of your client, focus on the muscle tone, and what is happening, and let everything else go.

By really focusing on your clients, you will enjoy your practice more, and will feel much more balanced at the end of the day.  But more importantly your clients will feel nurtured and restored.

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When you focus on your clients during massage, and gently push all other thoughts aside, it improves your feeling of balance, but also the clients sense of being nurtured

3. Be Rigorous about time

Massage Practice 101

If there was one thing that I wish was taught in school, it would be this.  Be on time, if for any reason you are late, communicate that to your clients.

Clients are busy too, and fitting in an hour or two for a massage appointment might be hard for them.  Respect their time! 

Then respect your own time, if a client is late, especially habitually then end the appointment on time, gently explain you have another commitment that can’t be moved.   That’s all.

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Reflexology foot massage

4. Provide value for your clients

Too often the advice we get on building our practice ignores the needs of our clients, or our fear of being taken for granted rears its ugly head, and instead of focusing on how great we should be making clients feel, we think about how much we can charge.

Start with giving clients all the time they paid for, upgrade your skills to suit the needs of your clientele, if you work mostly with younger families, take a Maternity Massage workshop or Pediatric Massage.  If a great client is diagnosed with an illness do some research.  Not only are you providing great value to your clients, you are opening your practice to a specialty, referrals, and more. 

5. Massage therapy that focuses on Client Comfort.

Massage Practice 101 – Client comfort is key and often overlooked. 

Put the headrest under their neck, use a table warmer, make sure your kit has both scented and unscented oils, are they warm enough?  Easy right?

In my 25 plus years of working with clients and therapists, I can tell you that only 1 in 25 therapists buts the padding from the face cradle under a clients neck, and 99% of the time a client loves that.

What can you do to make a client more comfortable?

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Make sure your clients are comfortable on your table

5. Know your competition

Massage practice 101– know your competition, which in our market is vast, you don’t have to know them all, but is anyone doing anything super cool?  who are the really big players in your market, are they doing anything that you really admire?  Or anything you want to avoid?

Find our who your friends work for and ask them what is really great about where they work.  

It is tempting to go looking for dirt, that is a bad idea, most of the trash people talk about a place they work or used to work is tainted, and you aren’t trying to be like your competition in the ways they fail but to learn from their success. 

This Week in Wellness – week before Christmas book family Massage Therapy!

Wellness is always relative, and it is important to keep it in perspective, leading into the holidays can be especially tricky.  Especially with young families.  Avoiding overload is extremely important to a happy holiday season and finding ways to add healthy activities and nutrition into the week before Christmas might just be one thing too many.  Massage therapy is the answer!  Specifically house calls with the therapist bringing everything they need to make an amazing experience for you and your family. 

One great and super easy way to schedule ia wellness day, is to go to the pool or the outdoor rink as a family in the morning, and then book in-home massage therapy for everyone in the evening.  Or just book a family Massage day for the evening, when everyone is home, and you and your kids need to recharge for the week ahead.  It is really easy, a therapist will arrive at your home, bringing everything they need, they will set up their table in an out of the way spot somewhere in your house, and proceed to take care of the aches, pains and stresses of your whole family.  (or just you)

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Children love massage therapy

Leading through example is great, we all want to give our kids a healthy start to their lives, but there are a couple other side benefits for you, the way too busy parent.

Benefits of Massage Therapy for you and your family

  1. Your kids will think you are super cool and their friends will be jealous.  
  2. Your kids will be totally silent and occupied for the hour of their massage, giving you time to wrap presents, cook super or tidy up.  Or sit and look aimlessly into space.
  3. You will have an hour (or 90 min) of relative peace during your Massage session.  This is especially effective if you book your sessions so that your kids are in bed while 
  4. Giving your kids a healthy start is a goal of all parents, and massage  both feels good and helps restore health and balance even to kids.
  5. You don’t have to drive your kids anywhere, and when you are done your session, instead of driving home in a cold car you can pour a glass of wine and luxuriate in the feelings of well-being.
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While your kids get their massage therapy session, you can get tings done the hour of quite while they enjoy their session can give you time to cook super, wrap presents, or just read a good book. 

In-home Massage is a great way to give your kids the Healthy Start they need.

In addition to making them feel good, massage can help children with growing pains, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and focus.  Not only does it feel good, but it is truly good for them.

Teaching your children healthy ways to handle the inevitable stresses of life is an important life lesson. 

This Week In Wellness! Ready to start?

this week in wellness reducing pain

Earlier this summer I decided the time was right to start taking control of my health.  Like many small business owners, I have been busy taking care of my team, my family and my clients, and have neglected myself.

A year and a 1/2 ago, my high blood pressure but me in the hospital, with what we thought then was a heart attack but turned out to be a benign tumor on my adrenal gland.  

The consequence of that is very high blood pressure that does not respond to medication, and makes me extremely tired, and has contributed to a huge weight gain.

As I waded through the process over the summer, I once again partially abdicated my responsibility for my health.  Although I have honoured the symptoms of my current diagnosis, mostly by giving in to the extreme exhaustion when I used to fight through it, and sleeping more, I had to give up the exercise program I was registered in, as my blood pressure is dangerously high. 

However, owning a Massage Therapy and wellness company, I know I can do more.

This Week in Wellness has begun

I am starting with two challenges this week and I hope you will join me.  

Healthy Start to the day!

Today is the start of a 30 day yoga challenge for me.  It is a start so I choose 10 Min Morning Yoga for Beginners from SarahBeth Yoga.  It is easy, and in 10 min you can feel the kinks work out. 

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Starting the day with a quick and easy yoga routine works out the kinks, and gets blood flowing to your brain, helping clear your thinking so you can prioritize your daty. 
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Plan some time with a friend this week, going for a walk, or attending some live music

Massage Therapy and Gratitude for the good it brings.

Feel completely restored with massage therapy

There is a lot to be grateful for this year, I live in a great place, love the people I work for and with.  And I have the luxury of creating the life I want everyday.  

Massage therapy, and my mobile massage practice is responsible for a lot of my gratitude.  Although I really don’t see many clients anymore, I do get to talk to people everyday, and work with them to solve problems; of pain, of stress, of the time crunch we all face, and how hard it can be to take care of yourself, while also taking care of a family.

Mostly as this year ends though I am grateful for the team of therapists that I work with, and for how this industry has evolved.  

First Massage therapists, and especially the ones we work with.  If you have had a massage from one of our therapists, you have likely noticed that many of them speak English as a second language.  The backbone of our incredible team are the incredibly brave, compassionate and nurturing women who left behind the comfort of the country they grew up in, and think of as home, in order to travel to a country that is cold in winter, has a different language, and where the education that they already worked hard for was not recognized. 

They moved out of love, bravery and hope for a better life, for them and their children.  

I feel really blessed to have them in my life, and as part of my business.  That love that drove them to make a better life, also gives them amazing empathy, and gives their touch, their massage skills, an extra depth of nurturing that makes what we do a little bit special.

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Massage therapy, not just to relieve muscle aches and pains, but to completely restore your spirit, energy and focus.

Massage therapy as a professional has also evolved in a way for which I have gratitude.  

Leaving behind some of its flightiness and  taking on a serious mature position in the world of Health and Wellness. 

Students leaving school now have a much more comprehensive knowledge base and skills for Massage and other types of treatments than we had 25 years ago.

As a result of this training, and the hard work of our professional associations, in Alberta, in Canada and beyond, we also have far less confusion about the services that we offer, and the benefits we provide.

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Massage therapists and the profession has come so far, we all deserve to be proud of this!

 Gratitude has been the focus of my personal wellness practice this year, and I have started each day by listing three things I am grateful for.  And having a business I love, working with people I love and serving such amazing clients is often on this list.

We Look forward to serving you and your family in the New Year and the years to come, whether as a client with Massage therapy or other services, a therapist or just a member of our larger community. 

Canazen-Marijuana Massage Therapy Calgary

Cannabis and Massage Combined

Marijuana Massage Therapy Calgary is being used by clients to even more effective pain relief, to reduce inflammation and stress.

And it works, our client Helga says “It was the first good night sleep I have had in months, and my leg not only felt great after the massage, it didn’t cramp in the night and wake me up, and I was walking and moving better for days after”

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Marijuana Massage Therapy Calgary

How do CBD and THC work for Pain Relief?

Both CBD and THC both talk to the receptors in our central nervous system, our brain is involved in how our bodies both feel and produce pain and inflammation.  This keeps us safe in moments of danger and gives our body the information that it needs to promote healing from injuries.  However, sometimes the message of pain goes into overdrive, and the inflammation meant to protect us, lingers and causes further problems.

Because compounds found in Cannabis can effect pain, (they are 20x more powerful then aspirin  according to this article. and are also effective at reducing inflammation a Massage Therapy session using Canazen oil, which is made by distilling the Flower of the Marijuana plant, might be the best massage you have ever had.



Mobile Massage

Your Health Span is a Mobile Massage company coming right to your door, so that after your Canazen massage therapy session, when you are as relaxed as you have ever been you do not have to worry about the drive home.  Just get into your robe and slippers and enjoy the rest of your day.

ALS Disease and Massage Therapy for Pain Relief

ALS Disease and Massage Therapy for Pain Relief

A Massage therapist working with clients diagnosed with ALS needs to be aware of the many problems associated with the disease and how massage therapy can have a positive effect for those clients. ALS is a motor dysfunction so movement, muscle tone and function all decline as the disease progresses.  Massage therapy or any other alternative therapy will not slow down or change how the disease progresses, but will have a positive impact on the comfort and mobility of the clients.

Sensations though stay intact, so your clients can feel the body massage and the pain relief that you offer, so while the muscle tone of the client will change, the ability to enjoy touch, and to experience relief from pain, cramps and discomfort will not change.

With the lose of muscle function will come loss of muscle tissue, and speech will also eventually be difficult and then impossible.  By providing home visit massage therapy, clients can continue to get treatments that provide relief from pain, cramping and swelling,  as well giving our clients nurturing touch, with all the mental and emotional benefits that provides.

10 things you need to remember when providing body massage for a client with ALS.

  1. Be committed– most of the time this is a long term relationship.  Lasting from your first session to when the client is no longer able to get massage, for me this has nearly always happened with end of life.  As the disease progresses communication becomes more and more difficult, and having continuity means you know what your client wants and likes.  As talking becomes more difficult, having a massage from a therapist that knows what you want is an incredible gift to a client.  As well as the people that love them. Clients with ALS disease and Massage therapy have relationships that can last from 3-5 years or even longer.
  2. Communicate Clearly– Ask lots of questions, and keep track of the answers.  Watch for non verbal clues.  This may not seem important when your client is moving, talking and mobile, but as your relationship continues this is the foundation of service.  Arrange for hand signals, even when the client can speak clearly, getting used to using these signals early in your relationship gets both the massage therapist and the client in the habit of communicating in this way, making it easier to adjust to the progression of the disease.
  3. Sensation is not affected– Although the use of muscles fades away, the sensation in the tissue is still intact.  This is part of the reason that ALS disease and Massage therapy are such a good fit, as mobility decreases, having treatments that just feel amazing becomes more and more important.

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    Pain relief is provided by a Massage therapy, using passive range of motion, the massage therapist is providing service in home for the safety and comfort of her client.
  4. Passive Range of motion– Move the limbs through well supported range of motion, this will help with pain relief, as well as circulation
  5. Pain relief – Both immobility and spasticity can cause deep muscle pain, and that can be relieved by massage therapy.  Work firmly, and slowly and get feedback from your client as to what felt great, not just during the treatment but for the days following.
  6. Relieves Swelling– With the lack of muscle movement, comes swelling in the legs and feet as lymphatic fluid pools in the legs, this cannot be treated with a water pill, but can very effectively be treated with massage.  Work gently towards the heart, much like moving toothpaste through the tube, and massage therapy can relieve this swelling.  If the client has a family member that would like to provide therapeutic touch between visits, this is a great technique to show them, as it is a gentle touch and provides amazing pain relief.

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    By providing gentle nurturing touch, a massage therapist can also provide some relief from the anxiety that goes with ALS
  7. Decreases AnxietyALS Disease and Massage Therapy are a beneficial match when it comes to anxiety.  Massage therapy releases hormones such as endorphins, serotonin, and others that produce feelings of well being, while also suppressing cortisol which is a stress hormone.  This can result in a decrease in the overall feelings of anxiety as well as help with sleep and recovery.
  8. Relieves Cramping– As ALS progresses many patients report sudden painful and involuntary contractions of the muscles.  As a Massage Therapist when you stretch out those muscles in a supported, slow and steady way, you can relieve those cramps both during treatment, but also decreasing the frequency of those cramps after treatment.  Providing pain relief that can last several days.
  9. Improves Mobility– Many clients report much improved mobility after massage therapy sessions.  Especially in hands and feet, allowing them more freedom of movement and greater control.  This can last several days and has huge physical and emotional benefits.
  10. Improves Circulation–  Without normal muscle function circulation is obviously effected, this makes clients vulnerable to colds, and other illnesses and makes recovery take much longer.  By providing massage therapy you greatly increase immune function as well as the bodies ability to recuperate.

Your Health Span provides Home Visit Massage and wellness services to clients, customizing our sessions to the needs of a client and making excellent customer service our highest priority.  Massage Therapy Calgary services are all provided by a registered massage therapist.

We always provide the best service to our clients with ALS disease looking for pain relief through Massage therapy.

Maternity massage, is it safe to have massage in first trimester?

Maternity Massage

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Maternity Massage, Best pregnancy massage Calgary, right in your home. Try an in-home couples massage as a great date that restores energy and balance during pregnancy.

Prenatal Massage has been around since the beginning of time, and in many cultures, a pregnant woman would get a regular touch to soothe sore tired muscles and relieve swelling and stress from her mother, mother in law, and other women in the household.

Lately, there has been a lot of discussions around when these type of touch therapies should start, and in particular around massage first trimester, and whether it is safe and helpful.  With some schools going so far as to teach that it needs to be avoided.

Massage first trimester

Massage during pregnancy is very effective for keeping anxiety, swelling, soreness and muscle aches and pains under control without the use of medications that can be absorbed by your baby, but is it always safe?

According to the American Pregnancy Association maternity massage is safe in every phase of pregnancy, however, if you experience one of the following, you will need to consult your Dr. before you have any type of alternative wellness treatment.

  1. Hypertension
  2. Previous preterm labour
  3. preeclampsia
  4. severe swelling
  5. sudden bad headaches

However, the benefits of prenatal massage include relief from minor swelling, sciatica, back pain, depression and more so it is well worth seriously considering as part of your approach to impending motherhood.

There are even studies that show increased birth outcomes, as well as improved sleep, better mood, hormone balance, and decreased anxiety.


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Prenatal Massage Calgary, is an excellent way to improve mood, sleep and decrease the discomfort of pregnancy

Maternity Massage At Home

Your Health Span offers all of our services in the comfort of your home because having a massage at the end of the day in your home can be a very effective way to improve sleep.

Prenatal Massage Calgary and Couples Massage

Are you looking for a great date, but too tired to go out?  Why not schedule an in-home couples massage?  And you can save the money for the nursery as we will direct bill your insurance company for you.




Massage for stroke recovery

Massage to Treat Symptoms of stroke and make recovery more complete.

Updated on May 21, 2018
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Jill Burk 


About Jill – Jill Burk has been working in the field of Massage therapy for over 25 years, owning a mobile therapeutic wellness company since 2007.

Massage can increase independence post stroke.

Strokes are very scary and they can completely change your quality of life, and the lives of the people closest to you. But until you have been affected, and even in the days and weeks just after a stroke, how each stroke will affect the patient and how recovery will go are a mystery. It is important at those moments to not panic, but to plan for the fullest possible recovery. Massage can be an important part of that plan. Massage and other touch therapies help in treating pain, anxiety, and stress but also in the treatment of the muscle contractions that can contribute to the disability.

If you or someone you love has had a stroke and has lost mobility due to pain and contractions in the muscles of the arms or legs, you are not alone. 62,000 Canadians will have a stroke this year, it is the leading cause of disability in adults and although 80% of those patients will survive and 2 out of every three stroke patients will return home – only 16% of patients will get into rehab right away. And although many symptoms get better as time goes on, some get worse, and other symptoms will appear even after release from the hospital.

The impact of spasticity on poststroke recovery may not be obvious at first, and should not be underestimated but it may be overlooked as part of initial recovery plans. It is often very painful which also can affect stress levels, sleep, anxiety and overall quality of life.

Upper limb spasticity causes reduced arm function and lower levels of independence, as well as with an astounding 400% increase in direct care costs during the first-year poststroke, and spasticity can also effect legs as well or even both, drastically decreasing independence. Making tasks like feeding yourself, putting on your socks or even going to the bathroom impossible to do without help.

According to Katharina Stibrant Sunnerhagen from Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden the early recognition of spasticity, and immediate treatment is very important, treatments that begin early after stroke have a higher level of success, and have shown to decrease the likelihood of debilitating and lingering symptoms.

Several studies are showing the positive effects of touch therapies on stroke recovery, and relieving both the pain and the disability caused by spasticity. Making a better quality of life achievable both through the reduced pain and discomfort and also through increased mobility, flexibility, and balance.

The therapist using long slow and deep strokes, will work the muscle with compression, stretching and long slow strokes and about 80% of stroke patients will find their pain decreases by at least one level, and about 67% fewer patients suffered debilitating pain and contractions in the months and years after the stroke versus stroke patients that did not receive touch therapy directly following their stroke.

Getting a massage or other touch therapy by a qualified therapist as soon as the Dr. gives the ok, could be vital in retaining and regaining the ability to do simple tasks of daily living, thereby keeping independence.

In a study of Improvement of sensorimotor functions in old age by passive sensory stimulation.Kalisch T, Tegenthoff M, Dinse HRClin Interv Aging. 2008; massage was shown to increase the fine motor skills of patients further indicating that a greater recovery and quality of life can be achieved by integrating massage into the treatment of post-stroke patients. These fine motor skills can contribute to being able to cook, dress, and do other daily tasks without help from another person. That is certainly an improvement in the quality of life.

Hand with debilitating contractions

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Contracted hand due to Spasticity 

Are you looking for better quality of life after Stroke?

A massage is a valuable tool in treating contractions, pain, anxiety, and stress after a stroke, helping you achieve a higher quality of life. And it feels great too! A real win/win.

Giving you the best possible quality of life.

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Massage also relieves neck and shoulder pain

Many patients wake up in hospital complaining of high levels of neck and should pain. This pain and discomfort can make it hard to sleep, recover, move around, and can be a factor in increased levels of stress and even panic.

It is easy to think that this is the least of your problems, but with massage therapy can be a relatively easy symptom to make a little or a lot better, a study was done in Hong Kong Polytechnic University Department of Nursing and Wong Chuk Hang Hospital, in Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Authors: Esther Mok and Chin Pang Woo, with 672 patients indicated that long slow gentle back strokes decreased back pain in nearly every patient. And in some cases was a substitute for pharmaceutical intervention

By decreasing and eliminating neck and back pain clients can be more mobile leading to less loss of muscle mass during the period of recovery, leading to more independence when they return home.


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7 Tips on getting a massage after a stroke

  1. Check with your Dr. it shouldn’t be a problem but check anyway
  2. Ask if your therapist is licensed, you want someone that knows what they are doing
  3. Let the therapist know on the phone about the stroke and any lingering symptoms.
  4. Don’t feel like you will have to climb onto a massage table if that makes you uneasy, most therapists can and will adapt to an easy chair or a hospital bed
  5. Get into a program as quickly as possible, getting problems under control and keeping them that way.
  6. Go on a regular schedule, depending on levels of symptoms you might want to schedule 2 sessions a week for 1/2 an hour, or one session every couple of weeks might be just fine for you. Talk to your therapist and ask for recommendations.
  7. Find a therapist that makes you feel good. Massage also has positive effects on hormones that control sleep and mood, in order to get the full benefits of the treatment, feeling good is important.

Massage relieves Anxiety and stress.

Stress and anxiety can make it difficult for the body to heal and reset after suffering from a Stroke, and can also make it harder to make any decisions that need to be made as a result of a change in independence, as well as making it much more difficult for friends and family.

9 different studies on Stroke patients and show an immediate drop both the diastolic and systolic blood pressure levels; as well as decreasing salivary and urinary cortisol stress-hormone levels. Cortisol is produced by our bodies in times of stress and can affect mood, sleep, hostility and the bodies ability to recover.

By decreasing stress levels massage also decreases the risks of another health event, as well as limiting the dependence on pharmaceutical interventions.

Massage for Veterans

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massage for Veterans can relieve pain, stress and even ptsd

Massage for Veterans

When I was young and beautiful, I spent a lot of time hanging out at the air force base in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan. I am sure you can guess there was a boy (manboy) involved. He was handsome, fit and ready to take on the world. It was a glorious time in my life, I loved hanging out on the base, I loved the bittersweet long distance phone calls when he was deployed across the world in places that seemed so glamorous to me, I loved his friends and how different they were from my friends.

They all seemed so confident, strong, and handsome of course.

In the years since we have drifted into separate worlds, as you do, and mostly lost touch. But the stories of the men and women in service to the Canadian people, how hard they train physically to get ready to serve, their training while deployed, their daily work environment, what they see and do on a daily basis, and especially in whatever manner they serve leave injuries in the widest range possible. Physical injuries and mental injuries are all too common, and too often they are complicated and hard to understand.

In my career as a massage therapist and a business owner I am drawn to vets of all ages and it seems they are also drawn to me and my company as we have been blessed to have an opportunity to use our gifts and skills to make life better for the people that were willing to give way more than that to make our lives better.
Soft skills like massage and acupuncture are often overlooked as a tool to help Veterans recover both physically and mentally from the stress of their military career but they can be an incredibly valuable tool both adjustment to life after the military and recovery from injury.

I have worked with clients with severe PTSD that have found massage to have a soothing affect on their nerves and whose families later told me that the start of massage treatments corresponded with the first small steps of a turnaround in the way their loved one coped with life and their families. And clients who years after injury found massage soothed muscle pain that they thought they would live with the rest of their lives.

And clients with more severe physical injuries where we have been part of a team of experts that help healing process.

For clients who also happen to be vets, therapeutic massage and other touch therapies can help in lots of ways.

Massage is proven to reduce depression, anxiety and pain, and there are many contributing factors, one of them being the reduction of cortisol, which is a stress hormone. It is all well and good to relax, but massage has real physiological effects. And this reduction in cortisol levels actually lasts for hours and sometimes days after the massage is done. Massage is shown to decrease Cortisol levels by 31%

Massage also works to decrease the levels of other stimulating hormones including norepinephrine and epinephrine. If you have too much norepinephrine or epinephrine it can lead to feelings of anxiety, panic and trouble sleeping. Massage therapy using long slow, gentle strokes reduces these hormones in the human body, giving it much better hormonal balance, and leading to a feeling of calm and control.

Massage therapy also releases feel good hormones. Like serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine.
Like falling in love or having a great workout, hormones are released that make you feel good, this may not cure all your ills but it is a great place to start.
Dopamine is a hormone that helps oversee thoughts, increasing clarity and decisiveness as well as influencing fine motor skills like painting and mechanical work, but it also contributes to motivation and the sensation of pleasure. Dopamine can also help to lower blood pressure. Massage increases dopamine in the blood by an average of 28%
Seratonin is linked to depression when levels are low, as well as antisocial behavior, suppressed appetite and digestion problems. Massage increases the level of Serotonin in the blood by an average of 33%

Massage promotes a healthy immune system. Another side effect of decreasing cortisol levels is an increase in the activity of our white blood cells or lymphocytes, which help fight viruses, as well as fighting abnormal cell growth and function, rapidly attacking and killing viral infected cells one of the effects of regular massage therapy is less colds and flu and faster recovery from other forms of illness.

Increased Endorphin production- Which in addition to helping to regulate pain also produces feeling s of euphoria and helps manage appetite.

Improved sleep quality- almost too many studies to count show a direct improvement in sleep this is likely a combination of all the hormonal changes that massage produces in the body. But for people with prolonged sleep problems regular slow deep massage can have a very curative effect.

If you are a massage or other touch therapist interested in working with Veterans there are some things that will you should know. Not every Veteran you work with will have any sort of trauma of course, but if you are going to make it part of your ongoing practice here are some things that will help you better serve your clients.
Massage and trauma
Lots has been written about this in the last several years, as massage therapists have volunteered countless hours after all sorts of disasters, both manmade and natural, and both therapists and clients have documented the results. Pulling together the best of that information with my own experience here are 5 ways to give a better treatment to someone with Trauma even with no extra training
Show up 5 min early,
Not only is this good practice professionally, but for clients used to a regimented life, sticking very closely to their schedule is important to who they are as a person. If you are late, they may see that as a sign that they are not a priority to you, and it might also mean they have to cancel with you due to their own commitment which is stressful for the client that is looking forward to a massage.

I once got stung by a bee on the way to an appointment with an Retired army colonel, and I had to pull over to the side of the road for a couple minutes, making me 5 min late. He was less than impressed by my tardiness, and I have to say not at all sympathetic to my paltry bite.

My being late also made him late for happy hour, an important part of his social connections and he was not at all happy, in the end we got along great, but I was always 15 min early for every appointment after that.

Listen intently while they tell you about their concerns.
I once had a client that had lost his sight in when a landmine exploded and although I asked him about his medical conditions, and reviewed everything with him, when he mentioned he was sensitive about anyone touching his face, I didn’t clarify that, nor did I hear the applied caution. At the end of the massage when I was working on his head, I briefly covered his ears, which caused a very sudden and nearly violent panic attack.
His loss of sight had been very sudden, and covering his ears diminished his hearing which was very stressful for him.
We worked through it and I saw him for years, but that first visit would have been so much better for him if I had listened intently to his story and checked in as I got closer to his face.
Be quiet
For any person searching for peace, finding space between sound, and words in a safe and supported way is an incredible relief. Even if the client is chatty, leave longer and longer space between words and allow them to drive the dialogue. Even asking a client to relax and not talk can be very restorative.
A chatty therapist is not restorative. Also, no matter how smart and empathetic you are, that is not your job. You are there to support the client to a more peaceful place. That is found through silence. When suffering through or recovering from trauma, finding moments where you are safe and supported and can decompress can give your spirit a chance to revive and heal.
Don’t ruin that for your client by talking about your day, of course if the client needs to talk to be at ease, listen, but you are likely not trained to consul, you are trained to work out muscle stress, relieve tension and relax your clients. Use your skills.
Be aware
When working with any client “listening” to the body is important, sudden tensing of muscles, twitching, failure to relax, chattiness can all be signs of anxiety. This is when it is good to check in with your client. Some things that might be triggers to be aware of is contact close to an old injury, wrapping a client too tightly when draping, sometimes being face down in the face cradle feels unsafe. Without making a big deal about these non verbal clues ask your client if they would be more comfortable in a different position.
You likely don’t understand
This is a common communication error everyone makes when talking to someone going through a tough time; or recovering from one. You don’t know, and even if you do by talking over a client or trying to show your understanding, without fail you are diminishing their experience, not sharing in it, not making it better, you are making your clients experience less valid.

When we hear stories, especially powerful ones, they invoke emotions and memories in us, and part of the human experience is to want to share those emotions with the people we are talking to.

I can’t say too strongly to resist this urge, let your clients talk, emote, and tell their stories, it is super rare to come across a good listener, and if you can be that person for your clients you will do more to help them release these emotions and memories than by inserting yourself in their stories.

This does take practice and discipline, and to be honest is not nearly as interesting for me as participating in the story, but through years of experience and tonnes of my own moments of stress I know it is way better for our clients for us to listen to them with empathy and attention, then it is to diminish them and their stories by comparing it to something that happened to our second cousin, our best friends’ husband or even ourselves. Every story is different, no matter how much the same, because we all look at the world through a different lense. Take this as a chance to learn about someone else’s experience of the world, and maybe to count your blessings.

I believe very strongly that both massage and acupuncture are super effective tools for anyone with injury and or trauma, it is always amazing to have a treatment such as Massage therapy that also feels so good, and with absolutely no side effects, no drug interactions and no damage to other bodily functions as part of a treatment.
Even acupuncture can be deeply relaxing and an important part of a treatment plan, helping with all sorts of organ function, stimulating healing in a deep and permanent way.
The Canadian government and veterans affairs has provided some benefits for veterans in regards to massage therapy and other paramedical expenses, so if you or someone you know might benefit from massage therapy or acupuncture you can call us and we will check and see if they qualify at no cost or obligation to you.
Or you can call veterans affairs yourself and check.
If you do decide to look further into Acupuncture or Massage you will also need a Doctor’s note for your benefits to cover the appointment, but from there it should be super easy. We have a great relationship with Medavie Blue cross and so we can bill them directly for your treatments so you don’t even have to pay us out of your pocket.