Welcome back readers! I am so excited about the next few weeks of blog posts! I have had the amazing opportunity to connect with some amazing women and perform some “social distanced” interviews to learn more about them and their careers! Here at the Daily Cake, we want to celebrate women of all kinds and support their work and promote their businesses. We have an amazing line up of hard working, incredible women and I’m so excited for you to “meet” them all!
In this week’s edition of interviews, we get to hear from Sarah Rain, a massage therapist in Bend, Oregon, and close personal friend of mine. I could not imagine a better career for this incredible woman, and I am so excited to share her massage journey and what being a LMT means to her. Sarah answers questions I think a lot of us have when actively looking for a massage therapist, and sheds some light on what the job requires, and gives some advice on the things you need to pursue a career in massage therapy. Her words are eloquently descriptive, and incredibly informative, and if you’ve been in my shoes and needed help managing chronic pain or just needed to relax, this blog entry is for you! So without further adieu, Sarah Rain everybody!
Q. Tell us what it is that you do and what drew you to this profession.
A. I am a licensed massage therapist, or LMT for short. Basically what I do is work on the soft tissues of the body, mainly muscles and tendons, to relieve tension and help people feel less pain and/or discomfort. I was drawn to this career for two reasons. One is that I’ve always been fascinated by how complex and amazing the human body is, and love learning more about it. It’s a lot of fun to learn things that you can directly apply to yourself! The second reason is that we have so much stress and pain in our lives, and I find it extremely gratifying and rewarding to help relieve some of that for people. Having a positive effect on others relieves stress and pain for me as well, so it’s really a two way street. I feel extremely lucky to be in the profession that I’m in.
I’m currently working at a chiropractic and physical therapy clinic in Bend, Oregon, where I offer massage as part of a treatment plan for people who are in chronic (long-term) pain, or have been through a traumatic experience, like a car crash or specific injury.
Q. What are your favorite and least favorite parts of your job and why?
A. My favorite part of my job is how moving it can be. Coming from a background of serving in restaurants, where everything is so fast-paced and superficial all the time, I love that my job now allows me to slow down and really get to know people. All kinds of things can come up when you’re one-on-one in a room for an hour. I’ve heard stories that have made me laugh, brought me to tears, and inspired me tremendously. I love that my job always reminds me that we’re all human and have so much to offer one another when we take the time to truly listen. I also love that on the days when I’m really in my zone, I basically walk into work, fall into this moving meditation mode, then walk out of work at the end of the day feeling more peaceful and at ease than I felt before I started. That’s something I can definitely say a job has never offered me before. It’s also pretty cool to know a bunch of massage therapists; I can always find somebody willing to trade when I start feeling aches and pains of my own!
My least favorite part is that it can be really tough when you’re going through personal hardships. There are some days when I just don’t have it in me to give my energy to others, those days when I’m convinced that the universe is realllllly testing how much I can handle (hello, 2020). These are the only times a part of me wishes I could go back to a work environment that I cared less about and could do somewhat mindlessly. (No offense intended to all you restaurant workers; I see you!) Sometimes having to be on my A-game every day feels like a blessing and a curse.
Overall though, I feel healthily challenged and on the bad days, you’ve just got to breeeaaaathe a little more deeply than usual. :) Shout-out to Kirstie’s previous blog post about meditation!
Q. When you started your journey to become a massage therapist, what were a few things that surprised you?
A. Hmmmm . . . That’s a great question! I was surprised by the process of coming to think of myself as a professional. What I mean by that is, I hadn’t predicted that I would have to go through such an internal process to convince myself that I knew what I was doing. Nobody walked up to me one day and said, “Congratulations!! You are no longer a beginner!” I think this is true for a lot of people who completely change career paths and feel like they’re not quite one of the big dogs for a while at first, and then gradually those feelings start to go away with experience (and a lot of pumping yourself up). I’ve only been an LMT for two years, and for the first year, I was nervous going into just about every massage session. Even working on my boyfriend, it took a while to get past the feeling that I was trying to prove how good I was! It’s been super interesting to witness my own progression through this, and extremely gratifying to look back on how far I’ve come, both in terms of confidence and skill.
I was also surprised by how NOT scary it was to massage someone. I know this kind of contradicts what I was just talking about, but despite all the anticipatory nervousness I would get, once I was in the room and working with someone, that all floated away. After all, I did know what I was doing. I knew the science, the techniques, and most importantly I knew how to be real with people. That can be more relaxing to a client than anything I do with my hands. I think we are all seeking genuine human connection because it can be hard to find in our busy day-to-day lives. So I was at first surprised to remember/realize how easily compassion can flow, and then came to rely on it as one of my very favorite things about being a massage therapist.
Q. What is a main misconception about massage, and how do you address this with your patients?
A. I think a big misconception about massage is that it’s going to single-handedly get rid of all your pain. I hear the words “fix me” so often in my profession, and I always try to make a point of clarifying that I can help you, but I’m not in the business of fixing people. First of all, you are not broken just because you are hurting. Second, the way you talk about yourself affects the way you feel, and if you’re communicating to your subconscious that you need to be fixed, you are sending a negative message that will hinder your ability to heal more than you think it will.
When you think that you need to be fixed, you’re also taking the responsibility completely away from yourself. I have helped a lot of people get out of some serious pain, but massage is only part of the equation. Sure, we can work out your tight areas and release some endorphins, which will give relief for a little while . . . but if the same aches and pains keep coming back, maybe consider incorporating some other aspects into your healing journey! Of course I don’t mean to push anyone away from massage; it’s an amazing thing that truly does help, but it’s even more amazing when combined with other things that are good for you! Think about this: if you have certain tight muscles because your posture could be improved, and you get a massage to work that tension out, then afterwards you keep holding your body in the same way as before, the same tight muscles are going to come back. I love ending my sessions with suggestions for stretches and/or light exercises that can help people hold onto the benefits of massage. Consider finding an exercise program or hiring a personal fitness coach (Casey, hollaaa!) who can help you address any postural issues you might have. Meet with a nutrition specialist and put some serious thought into your eating habits. Try taking up meditation to help you find your center. Just know that if you’re going to ask a massage therapist (or any health specialist for that matter) to put in the work to help you feel better, you have to be willing to put in some work too, because nobody can force you to heal. You have the power, sistas and brothas!!
Q. How often do you recommend getting a massage, even if you have no physical need for one? Are there long-term benefits?
A. I wish everyone in the world could get a massage once a week! Realistically, different people have such vastly different body compositions and lifestyles, so it’s hard to say. If you can afford to get one massage per month, I think that can do wonders for your mental state. It feels good to routinely do something good for yourself, to invest in yourself the way you invest in others, to remind yourself that you matter too. I personally aim for two massages per month, but know that in an ideal world I would be getting one per week because my job is so physical. Overall it’s really up to you how often you think you need one. If you aren’t sure, go get a massage and ask your LMT what they would suggest! It’s much easier to answer this question after the first session. The long-term benefits include but are not limited to a happier mental state and becoming more mindful of your body in general!
Q. What is the best thing to do before and after a massage?
A. The best thing to do before and after a massage is HYDRATE! Seriously, it’s that simple. A lot of people underestimate how amazing hydration makes you feel. When you’re taking in enough water, your cells literally work better. It helps with energy levels, complexion, skin moisturization, mood stabilization, digestion, the list goes on. It also helps your muscles respond better to massage, so you will physically be able to get more relaxed if you’re hydrated when you come in. Afterwards, water will help the effects of the massage last longer. (Especially if you’re someone who likes deeper pressure), it can help prevent soreness due to the breaking up of adhesions and tense spots, or as they’re commonly known, the “knots”.
So, how much water should you be drinking to stay hydrated, you may ask? The general guideline is half your body weight in ounces, and increasing that amount when you’re exercising or drinking alcohol or caffeine. So for example, that means that if you weigh 150 pounds, you want to make sure to drink a baseline of 75 ounces per day. Figure out how many ounces your favorite water bottle holds, and calculate out those refills, baby! Giving yourself enough water is the best way to tell your body that you’re grateful for it. ♡
Q. Do you typically interact with your clients, or do you feel like consistent interaction during the massage is counterproductive to the client’s physical healing?
A. “Interaction” during a massage could mean a few different things. In general, I always let the client decide how much they want to talk during a session. Some people relax better when there’s silence and they can get into that kind of meditative, half-sleep, zen mode, and to others, chatting feels more natural. I am a fan of whatever helps my client feel more grounded.
There’s a different type of “interaction” as well, which is talking about the session, like telling my client which muscles we’re working on and why this work will benefit them, or if I’m targeting a muscle that my client might not be familiar with I like to bring their attention to it because I think the more informed you are about the mechanics of your body, the more you’re going to get out of a session. Overall, healing is different for everyone and I take this on a case-by-case basis. The only thing I would say you shouldn’t do as a client is feel like you have to talk to your massage therapist throughout the massage to be polite, or aren’t allowed to talk at all. It’s your massage! There’s a certain type of person who goes into this profession, and we pretty much have to be adaptable and tuned-in to what you need. The last thing we would want is for you to feel pressured, when our whole job is to promote relaxation.
Q. What is your general philosophy about how healing and massage work together? Do you feel massage can help you obtain mental healing as well as physical?
A. I ABSOLUTELY think that massage can help you obtain mental healing! I love holding judgement-free space for people to process their emotions. Taking an hour or so to do nothing but breathe and be present in your body can do wonders for helping you unwind from a stressful day, or week, or even year (hello, I repeat, it’s 2020). Aside from the obvious benefits of relaxing, massage increases your serotonin and dopamine levels. Low serotonin has been linked to depression and sleep-cycle disturbances, and low dopamine can cause lack of focus and make you feel overall out of touch with yourself. Massage also decreases cortisol, which is a major stress hormone. So getting a massage (or even better, regular massages) can literally enable you to feel more joy and help you find clarity! I also think that reducing the physical pain that you feel can help alleviate your mental pain, and connecting with another person in a safe space is so good for your soul. I could go on and on about this, but to make a long answer short: yes. :)
Q. Is there ever an instance where massage could make things worse?
A. Yes, there are times when massage can either not help or make things worse. We call them “contraindications”, and they mostly have to do with medical conditions. Obviously, massage is not going to help with open wounds, burns, or recently broken bones. There are other, less obvious situations like you don’t want to massage an area with blood clots, or joints that are swollen with arthritis, and you should stay home if you have a fever because massage isn’t going to help with that type of illness. I’ve also heard that massage can make a hangover worse, which takes us back to the importance of hydration!
Massage can be beneficial during pregnancy and for those with cancer, but for both of those situations definitely talk to your doctor before deciding to book yourself a session. If you’re worried about a different reason you think massage may not be beneficial to you, talk to a doctor about it!
Also, side-note: A lot of health insurances do cover massage therapy, so I recommend looking into that if you currently have insurance!
Q. If someone is thinking about getting a massage for the first time, what have you not yet mentioned that they should know?
Q. If someone is interested in pursuing massage therapy as a career, what are a few things they should know or be prepared for?
A. I got my first massage when I was about twelve and went to a spa with my grandma. The second time was ten years later, as a requirement to get into massage school. At this one, I asked my massage therapist if she had any advice for someone entering the profession. She emphasized one thing: You have to learn how to protect your energy. At the time, I took this to heart as much as I could, but without experiencing what she was talking about my mind was kinda like yeah, okay, I’m sure that’s a cool thing to do and all but what else? But from where I am now, this is exactly what I would tell someone just starting out. I spend my days, one hour or so at a time, in different people’s worlds. As a highly empathetic person, it can be hard sometimes. It can be hard to hear about someone’s struggles and hardships, then switch gears and become a clear slate again for the next client. To do this multiple times in a day, then go home to my own life without feeling drained, is challenging. The key I’ve found is to take care of myself first, and to take stock of how much energy I have to give away each day, and how much I need to save for myself. This may sound like ooey gooey hippie soul stuff, but it is crazy how true it is!
But that is one of the beautiful things about this profession. It literally forces you to take better care of yourself, at least it has for me. Even when I’m not feeling it, I drag myself to my yoga mat in the morning, because I just can’t afford to listen to that lazy voice in my head. I quit smoking cigarettes because of this job. I used to love having a few “Sarah-sized” glasses of wine at the end of every night (AKA a bottle), but now I hate going to work hungover, so my bottles of wine tend to last quite a bit longer. It’s pretty cool that being a massage therapist can automatically make you a healthier person.
Massage therapy is a great field to be in. It’s made me respect myself and others more, and taught me so much about the human body and life itself. If you find joy in helping others, enjoy being challenged, and are up to the physical and mental demands, then I’d say give it a try! Thanks for reading, y’all, and sorry this ended up being like three times longer than I expected.
Sending all my love!
Can you say inspirational? Sending a huge shout-out to the amazing Sarah Rain for doing this and taking the time out of her busy schedule to do this interview with me! I think she answered all of our questions perfectly! However, if you still have questions about a career as an LMT or about getting a massage, feel free to reach out and we can connect you with her! Sending many thanks again, and stay tuned next week for another interview with another amazing woman! Cheers!