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In to Out: Massage Therapy

September 7, 2011

Massage Therapist – Renel Lewis Jenkins

Everyone should get a massage at least once in their life. But be warned, you can’t stop at just one. An ancient therapy deeply rooted in Egyptian, Roman, and Chinese cultures, massage has been used to treat many conditions to include stress management, upset stomach, and even epileptic seizures. Here in the States, massage therapy was introduced around the 19th century by Drs. Charles and George Taylor. And we’re so glad they had the foresight to study abroad-Sweden to be exact. The benefits of a therapeutic massage are varied and worth the investment. As a matter of fact, you’re worth the investment.

I met Renel Lewis Jenkins a couple of years ago in a huge knot of pain, and she has been my friend ever since. Not only was she able to work out tightly wound kinks in my back, she also cared enough to discuss with me maintenance techniques so that the benefits of my massage lasted beyond a day. In this interview she sheds light on what massage is what it is not, and how to tell the difference.

How long have you been a massage therapist?
I’ve been a massage therapist since 1998. I went to school in Houston in 1997 at MRC School of Massage. There, Robert Garza taught us the importance of neuromuscular therapy. I also went to the Academy of Somatic Healing Arts in the Atlanta area from 2002-2003. And I’ve been at
Village Health Wellness Spa (massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, and aesthetics) since May of this year.

What does neuromuscular mean?
Working with the neurological and muscular systems together, applying certain techniques to balance the muscles and the nerve impulses or reflexes going to the muscles so that any pain will subside. It’s a major technique that most trained massage therapists have learned.

What massage is this technique used in?
That would be considered ‘deep tissue’. And really keep in my mind, deep tissue is just a catch-phrase for work that’s deeper than just a relaxing massage, which is the Swedish massage. Most people learn Swedish and some type of deep tissue technique during their initial training.

So there are different types of deep tissue massage?
Yes, it can be misleading if you’re not sure of what you’re asking. There is no reason to do deep tissue if there is no imbalance in the muscle.

I think I hear you saying that as a customer of massage therapy, there needs to be a conversation with the therapist if there is an issue. Definitely.
Because if you just want to relax, that’s not complicated.  Right?
No, it’s simple. I mean there is always some kind of quick interview or intake before a therapist gets started. Even if they’ve seen a client repeatedly over a long period of time, they should always say ‘what’s going on with you?’ Because there may be some issues, you want to find out because it’s really all about the client. Now while you’re doing a massage, you may find some things that need to be worked out. Everything has to be balanced in order to really feel like you’ve had a good massage. Especially if a client is new to massage, it’s good to educate them on what each technique will accomplish.

Do you find that a lot of first-timers are nervous?
Actually, I’ve had both. Clients will say it’s their first time, but get on the table and are very comfortable.  There are also people who have been getting massages forever that seem like they have never had one.

My personal view is that they aren’t breathing. Breathing is important so that you can relax, so the muscles can relax. But everyone is different.

As a client who is new to the therapist, what are some things that customers should look for or be aware of?
1) Well from the beginning, when making an appointment, be aware of how the phone is answered or if you’re walking in, how you’re greeted when you walk in. If you are not treated with respect or not catered to, I would not suggest going through with the massage. Whatever is in the front will carry over to the back.
2) Cleanliness- if the facility is not clean, they are not looking out for the client’s best interest.
3) Once you get back to the room, make sure the therapist asks you about your concerns or any other health issues.
4) Once you start getting the massage, if you’re new, you may not know what a good massage is. If you’re supposed to be getting a relaxing massage, you should be aware of the flow. Is the therapist fluid in their movement or kind of choppy? If you’re getting deep tissue work, can the therapist balance the pressure of their work against what you can stand? But you also have to communicate. Some therapists may talk through the whole massage, that’s a bad sign. You can’t free your mind so that you can relax. Silence is needed to process through what the client has going on personally.

That’s good, good information. Everyone says they want to relax, but is it deeper than that?
Well, to summarize it – it’s a holistic form of body work that ultimately helps to balance the muscular-skeletal system so that you feel better physically, and you have a better state of mind. It could have a spiritual effect also depending on the client AND the therapist. If the client is able to completely let go they could feel some type of spiritual uplift or connection. So it really depends on the client and what their intentions are going into the session. The overall question is what does the client want to get out of it? If that is clearly conveyed to the therapist and the therapist interprets it properly, then that’s what the client will receive. So the experience is only limited by what the client can envision for themselves.

There are times when there can be a strong connection between client and therapist, and both parties can feel that. As a therapist some sessions for me are so refreshing or uplifting, and I can say that was a good session. Other sessions I don’t make a connection. I don’t really know why, maybe the client does not want that or they don’t connect with me and would prefer someone else. Which is fine, you can’t get egotistical about it.

That’s important. I never thought about it from the therapist’s side. So if you’ve made a connection, do you feel as though you’ve done your job? Yes, if I don’t connect with a client, some good probably came from the experience but I don’t feel the ultimate good. I just feel like they didn’t receive what they came for. It’s kind of a bad feeling.

Is there a type of person that is not a good candidate for massage therapy? Whether it is physical or mental limitations.
As a therapist you have to be willing to work on everyone, all kinds of people with all kinds of characteristics. There are certain contraindications to massage though. At one time cancer was considered one, but many studies have been conducted that show that massage is good and ok for cancer patients. But it has to be a certain type of massage, and after a certain time during treatment. If a client has HIV, massage is good – but again it has to be a certain type of massage. In Georgia, all therapists must take a communicable disease class to understand how to use massage. In my opinion, I don’t think there is any bodywork that is contraindicated. And I say bodywork because there is energy work that deals with your energy.  We are all energy moving at a slow rate. We can affect energy; you can affect someone’s energy by walking into a room. So there are techniques that help you to bring balance to another person that is non-invasive, so you’re not digging into the muscle. When the body is in a relaxed state, it can do what it needs to do – heal itself. We have everything we need in our bodies to heal. So if we can get our bodies in a state that is relaxed then the body can do that. And that’s what massage does. I don’t know that massage heals, but it gets the body to a point where it can do the work it needs to do. Massage therapists are facilitators for health.

There is a strong connection between chiropractic and massage therapy. Because even if a chiropractic office does not have a massage therapist in the office, chiropractors perform soft tissue manipulation. If they want to perform an effective adjustment, they are going to manipulate the muscles and try to loosen them up.  In addition, every organ, muscle, and bone, is connected to a neuron. Those neurons go back into the spine which goes to the brain – all connected. So how does the mind work? The mind controls the body. If you can get the body ok, then the mind can work better. Powerful stuff.

So what are the main benefits of massage therapy? Or what are some of the effects of massage therapy?
Better sleep, better movement, better posture.

Anyone, people of all ages, can benefit from massage therapy. There is a large geriatric community that especially needs massage therapy. Massage helps to bring the blood through the body; it helps your mind – possibly helping with Alzheimer’s. Range of motion is also helped.

If the intention of a person’s touch is love, even if it’s just love of massage therapy, it comes through.  People are trying new things now in terms of their health. Prescription drugs are not the only resort any more for treatment of certain ailments.

Masseuse vs. Massage Therapist
Sometimes the term masseuse kind of gives the impression of other things. As a clinically trained therapist, the term massage therapist is better appreciated. Early in my career I took offense to the term ‘masseuse’, for I was a SERIOUS clinical therapist 🙂 but I have since grown and realize that the title is irrelevant to the job at hand. I have become successful as a massage therapist because of the client. I learn from my clients – that’s what it’s about.


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