Friday, November 9, 2018

Giving the Gift of Massage


When you’re relaxing on a massage table, it’s easy to see massage as a gift. Whether you’re there to reduce pain, to ease anxiety, and/or to help you recover from the physical and mental stresses created from work, athletic training, parenting, or simply being alive -- massage is a moment of freedom in an occasionally crushing world. If you’re thinking of sharing the gift of massage with someone else for a special occasion or “just because,” you are almost certainly doing so from a place of love and generosity.

Obviously, I’m a big fan of giving massage as a gift! But just as with choosing to visit a massage therapist yourself, there are some considerations to keep in mind when offering this kind of gift.

How to (successfully!) give the gift of massage

Many people are thrilled by the idea of getting a professional massage as a gift, but there are a few steps to think about in advance.

Think about the best way to deliver your gift. Gift certificates are the easiest way to give a massage as a gift, as it allows the individual to schedule on their own. Scheduling on their behalf can sometimes work, too, although this can require additional strategic planning.

Look for genuine excitement. When you mention massage are they enthusiastic about the idea? “Oh my gosh, that sounds amazing!” is what you’re looking for, not a polite, “Yeah, sure, I guess I would go if it were free.” If you can imagine getting a better, more excited response by offering new socks, go with the socks.

Talk with your massage therapist. Are they accepting new clients right now? Do they allow people to purchase massages as a gift? Do they offer the kind of massage this person needs or wants? For example, I offer a light-to-medium massage pressure for relaxation and pain relief. If you’re looking to give massage as a gift to someone who loves super deep-pressure, this wouldn’t be the best fit.

Plan WELL in advance if you want to make the appointment for them. Massage openings fill quickly, especially around holidays! Don’t assume that spaces will be available on a particular day just because you’ve got a month to spare.

Consider and remove obstacles. Unlike a nice sweater or a juicy novel, there can be a few barriers to someone enjoying even a gifted massage:
  • Transportation and accessibility. Will you need to help them get to their massage?
  • Childcare and other caregiving responsibilities. Will they be more likely to accept the gift if it’s accompanied by an offer to babysit?
  • Tips, parking, and other expenses. It helps to cover the entire cost.  (Parking is free at my practice, and tips are never required.)
  • Anxiety. Receiving a massage for the first time can be intimidating. Going together or talking about what to expect can be useful.


Massage should never come as a surprise

Massages are great! (For many people.) Surprises are too! (For some.) If you’re cooking up a surprise outing for a loved one, consider something else. There are a few reasons for this:

  • They might not like massages at all. It’s hard to imagine if you’re a fan of massage, but some people are just not comfortable with it. Imagine being invited out for your birthday and finding out on arrival that your loved one has planned for the two of you to go get your teeth cleaned together. Not fun!
  • They might have a contraindication that you don’t know about. Taking your niece for a surprise afternoon of pampering might seem like a fun idea until she tells you she’s dealing with lice or a fresh tattoo.
  • They might want to prepare for a massage. Some people feel more comfortable getting a massage if they’ve dealt with their personal appearance first. Others might decide to forego a hair or makeup appointment if they knew they would be getting a massage that day. People should be given the opportunity to prepare however they see fit.
  • They might want to plan their day around the massage. Some people feel extra tired or a bit woozy after a massage. If they plan on delivering an important speech or competing in an important athletic event shortly after, they might be concerned about how the massage would affect their performance.
  • They might have a preferred massage therapist. Not all massages are the same! If they already have a relationship with a massage therapist that works best for them, they might not want a massage from someone who has a completely different style.

The solution to this? Talk about it in advance. It’s better to take some of the mystery out of a surprise and know that it’s welcome than to end up with the Worst Gift Ever trophy.


What if they love it?

This has been an awful lot of what-if-ing: What if they don’t want a massage? What if they can’t get to their massage? What if they’re just being polite, and get a massage but kind of hate it?

There’s another important possibility to consider: what if they love it?

For starters, you won’t hear anything about it from me. It doesn’t matter if the recipient is your spouse, sibling, parent, or anyone else super-close to you. If they really enjoy their massage, if it eases their pain, if it helps them to relax -- you can ask them all about it. The fact that it was your gift doesn’t make a difference. Once you give that gift, it belongs to them, and their experience is just as private as though it was all their own idea.

What if they decide to come back as my regular client? You still won’t hear it from me. If you happen to chat about it, great! (And if you’re comfortable doing so, I always appreciate it when clients share their positive experiences with others.) While I’m always happy to chat about the latest local gossip, my client list stays private.


Don’t forget the most important gift recipient: yourself.


You can’t pour from an empty cup. Rest matters. Peace matters. Sometimes, one of the best gifts you can offer others is to take a moment away from the chaotic world, so that you can be a better spouse, parent, colleague, neighbor, or friend. Sometimes self-care can feel like a strangely radical act, but it’s a vital one. When we have good examples of people who know to care for themselves before running themselves ragged, it’s a better environment for everyone.

To give the gift of massage, you can order gift certificates online via gift.ikneadserenity.com. Here's a quick walkthrough:



When ordering, remember that Standard Rate sessions are for folks ages 19-60; Senior & Student Rate sessions are for those born after 1958, ages 8-18, or current massage and undergraduate students.



After you select your option of choice and "Add to Cart," you can then choose whether the gift certificate should be Shipped by mail (a paper gift certificate) or delivered Electronically (typically a plain e-mail).



If you would like me to fill out and mail the gift certificate to a different name and address than what's in the Order Information, please include your desired recipient's name(s) and addresses in the "Additional Note to Merchant" prior to clicking "Place Order."

As always, if you have any questions about the process, please shoot me an e-mail! Happy Giving!



Monday, November 5, 2018

What Do We Really Know About Pain?

Photo by Asdrubal luna on Unsplash

Pain is one of those “you know it when you feel it” kind of sensations. But it’s also a strange phenomenon, when you think about it. A snowball is cold, and so it feels cold when you touch it. A block of concrete is rough, so it feels rough when you touch it. But a knife isn’t painful on its own. Neither is a pot of boiling water or the leg of a table. We handle these things safely all the time, and experience their mass and temperature and texture. But pain exists only in the body, and even more specifically (as people who’ve experienced anesthesia know firsthand) in our minds. But that doesn’t make it less real! So what exactly is happening when we feel pain, and how do we stop it from negatively impacting our lives?

How does pain work?

There are three primary types of pain, and each of them works a slightly different way.

Nociceptive pain (tissue pain)


There are many different kinds of sense receptors in the body. Some are sensitive to heat or cold, some to touch or pressure. Others, called free nerve endings, aren’t specialized for any one type of stimulus. When a significant stimulus triggers these nerve endings, they send a message through the spinal cord and up to the brain indicating that something potentially dangerous has happened. The brain then decides (without consulting the part involved in conscious thought, alas) whether this is something to ignore or brush off or if it seems likely that damage has occurred. A message is sent back down to the affected part of the body.

If the message is, “No big deal -- ‘tis but a scratch,” then you’ll most likely shake yourself off and forget the incident even happened. If it’s, “WHOA, THIS SEEMS LIKE A PROBLEM,” then you experience this as pain.

This is useful! Just ask someone with CIPA, or congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis, a disease that leaves people insensitive to pain. Imagine not noticing a bit of grit in your eye until it damages your cornea, developing stress fractures in your feet because nothing is telling you it’s time to sit down, or ending up with burns in your mouth and throat because you don’t realize your coffee is scalding hot. Pain stops us from trying to walk on a sprained ankle or to go for a run when we have a fever. Tissue damage, high temperatures, low pH, and capsaicin (the active ingredient in hot peppers) are all common triggers for this process.

But brains aren’t always correct when it comes to assessing danger. Lorimer Moseley gives a brilliant example of this in his TEDx talk. What’s the difference between the pain from a scratch on the leg and the pain from a nearly-fatal snake bite? Spoiler: it’s whatever your brain is expecting. That’s why you might feel little pain after a bicycle accident, but be in agony when getting the wound stitched up two hours later. Pain is weird.

Neuropathic pain (nerve pain)


This is pain that results from an issue with the nervous system itself, rather than surrounding tissues. If you’ve ever banged your funny bone, you know this feeling well. Common forms of neuropathic pain include:

  • Sciatica: pain in the sciatic nerve running through the hip and down into the leg and foot.
  • Diabetic neuropathy: nerve damage resulting from fluctuating blood sugar levels.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: pain resulting from the compression of the nerves that run through the wrist into the hand.

Less common forms include phantom limb pain (pain that feels like it originates in an amputated limb) and postherpetic neuralgia, which occurs as a result of getting shingles.

Neuropathic pain can be especially frustrating because the normal things we do to reduce pain are often useless when it comes to pain originating in the nervous system. Moving or not moving our muscles, applying heat or ice -- these can have a relatively small impact on nerve pain.

What’s more, nerves don’t heal as well as muscles and skin do, which makes nerve pain more likely to become chronic pain.

Other pain (A terrible, fake category name)


Pain is messy, and a lot of it doesn’t fall into either of the two categories above. Fibromyalgia is a great example of this. Is it pain resulting from tissue damage? Nope. What about nerve damage? Not as far as we can tell. It’s caused by the nervous system malfunctioning, sometimes in horrible ways, but doesn't result from actual nerve damage. The world of medicine is still trying to figure out why.

So, how do we alleviate pain?

There are several different options.

  • If the pain is caused by some kind of physical injury or stimulus, you can work on fixing that. If your hand is being burned on a lightbulb, you can remove your hand, which will make most of that pain go away. If you’re experiencing a muscle cramp in your foot, you can flex the foot (manually, if necessary). If you’re experiencing pain from sitting in the same position for too long, you can move around and shake out your legs. If the cause of the pain is inflammation, anti-inflammatories and ice can reduce that. This is perhaps the ideal form of pain relief, although it’s not always in the realm of the possible.
  • You can block the messages that tell your brain you’re in pain. This is how many painkillers work. Ice can also numb nerve endings.
  • You can convince your brain that you’re not in any real danger. This is a tough one, because the brain doesn’t just listen when you tell it things. But it’s well documented that fear, stress, and anxiety lead to increased pain perception. And of course, pain leads to stress, which leads to pain … General relaxation techniques—from meditation, to light exercise, to getting a massage—can all be helpful in turning the brain’s pain-alarms down a notch. Physical therapy (practicing certain motions in a way that isn’t painful) and talk therapy can also be useful here.

How can massage help with pain?

Sometimes the issue is one that massage can help manage on a physical level. More often, massage gives the brain a chance to let down its guard and experience something non-painful and even pleasant in the body. While there’s no silver bullet for pain, it can mean a lot for people whose pain has defied more straightforward treatments and whose injuries or illnesses are already healed.

Feeling the hurt yourself? There’s a massage with your name on it. Book your next one today.