National Massage Day

Friday 16th May is National Massage Day. The day has been created by Gill Tree who is founder of the UK’s leading massage school Essentials for Health, and this year launched her Manifesto for a Pro-Touch Society. National Massage Day is aimed at helping our society understand the positive effects of touch and massage.

Touch is instinctive and natural. It is part of human nature and yet we as a society remain inhibited. We also perceive massage as a luxury rather than a necessary treatment for a healthy lifestyle.

On National Massage Day, Friday 16th May 2014 at 3pm Gill Tree is inviting you to form a conga line of people on Westminster Bridge from St Thomas’ Hospital to The Houses of Parliament to bring awareness that touch is not something to be feared, not a luxury but a necessary part of preventative health care.

 

April Daily Blog Challenge – Day 30 – I’ve completed my blog challenge

Today is 30th April and marks the final day of my April Daily Blog Challenge. I made my challenge public by announcing it on twitter at the start of the month. Because of my public declaration and also mentioning it on my monthly e-newsletter I had to see this challenge through to the end.

Including this final blog post the statistics are 30 blog posts, over 15,400 words and 47 photographs.  I didn’t keep track of how many hours I’ve spent but I know that it has been quite a few!  When each post was written and ready on my website I would post a link on twitter directing my followers to my website to read it.

Like most challenges things do not always go according to plan. There were a few occasions when I wasn’t able to post my blog in time. Due to technical issues, being too tired, or out so not near a computer. I would however make up for this by posting two blogs in one day to ensure that things were still on track.

The aim of the challenge was to inform, educate and entertain readers about the world of massage and my business related activities.  I also wanted to remind google of the existence of my website so that potential clients will find my business when searching for treatments in my local area.

I had a few comments on the blog pages but the majority were spam and advertising that had no relevance to the topic of the article. I have the facility to approve or delete comments but I have decided to disable the comments feature (once I work out how).

Finding topics to blog about was easy. I have been using a notebook to write down topic ideas and writing a basic outline for each one. Some topics came from conversations that I have had previously with other therapists and others were things I wanted to just share with the readers.

On twitter I’ve had some nice comments and encouragement from fellow therapists. Some even said that I was an inspiration to them.  The particular articles which resonated with some of my twitter followers included the ones about the charity work that I do, how not to advertise massage and offering discounts.

The main thing that I have learnt from this challenge is that when we put our minds to doing something it is the first step in making things actually happen. If I had not set myself the challenge then the month would have passed and nothing would have been written.
I tended to post my blogs quite late at night so even though technically it was still the same day it would have been better for me to do my posts during the day.  Having a few articles written in advance would have enabled me to post my articles a lot earlier. Even though I posted my blog posts on twitter, I should have also used the social media sharing tools on my website in order to give readers the chance to share them on other social media platforms.

Although my April Blog Challenge has come to an end, it is not the end of my blog posts. It has been fun and I plan on posting at least one blog per week.  I  have no excuse not to commit to this.

Now that I have completed my challenge I will be treating myself to Afternoon Tea at One Aldwych in a few weeks time – yummy.

Thank you to all of you who took the time to read my articles and for your comments. Keep taking a look at my website for my future blog articles. Maybe you have a challenge that you are now motivated to make a proper start on.

April Blog Challenge – Day 29 – Offering discounts

In the last few years there has been a growth in websites offering discounts prices at restaurants, spas and for massage treatments. In The UK the most popular websites are Groupon, Living Social and KGB deals. I have seen massages offered as low as £19 for a 1-hour session. In these times of austerity these heavily reduced prices may be great for the client. It can be a great promotional opportunity for a spa to advertise their services to subscribers to these websites and attract new clients.

The discount company takes a percentage fee from the spa or therapist. Depending on the size and facilities of a spa, they can add on additional non physical services such as a glass of champagne or use of a steam or sauna which makes the offer more attractive. I do not know if the spa or therapist is able to put a limit on how many discounted treatments can be sold.

However for a solo therapist like myself, I am not sure that taking this route is the best approach for my business and myself. There is a limit to how many massages or reflexology treatments I can do in one day. I am mindful of avoiding burnout, which is what happened when I previously worked full time at a spa. Recently I met therapist at an event who said she had run a Groupon offer at her clinic. She said that she had done 320 massages in the space of 3 months.

In terms of the type of clients that discount websites attract, I tend to feel that clients looking for cheap massages are unlikely to become regular full paying clients but will be on the lookout for the next cheap offer elsewhere. I want my business to grow with clients who are willing and able to have regular treatments. I value the work that I do and do not want to devalue it by offering massages at an extremely low price. I cannot afford to offer my treatments as cheaply as some of the discount websites.

I am not opposed to discounts or special offers, I do occasionally run them myself. I am in full control of the offer and how long it will run for. The reason I do them is to attract new clients, to entice lapsed clients to return and to give my regular clients a chance to save some money.

In the past I have run a 2 for 1 offer. The client could either have both treatments within a 2-week period or they could bring a friend on their first visit who would have their treatment straight after. This offer did bring me a few new clients but I realised I was giving too much away.

During December I ran an offer on a block of 3 x 60 minute massages for £99. The offer ran for about 3 weeks and all the massages had to be used within 3 months. The treatments could be used by one person or given as gift vouchers. Some people had weekly sessions and others had one treatment a month. I this offer encouraged clients to have regular sessions.

My most recent offer was a 90-minute massage or reflexology session for the price of a 60-minute session. Regular clients who would normally book just a 60-minute treatment were able to indulge in an extra 30 minutes for free.

Occasionally a new client will ask if I will reduce my treatment cost. If I am not running a special offer at the time then I won’t do it. Recently a potential new client asked if I would reduce the cost of my 60-minute massage from £45 to £35 because this is what his last therapist used to charge. I told him that I was unable to do this. He decided not to book a massage. I am not offended when someone asks for a discount and I hope they equally are not offended when I refuse their request. I believe that I charge a reasonable rate for my treatments. There will always be someone cheaper and I have no problem with that. I do wonder if people would ask for a discount when they visited a dentist, physiotherapist or an osteopath.

April Blog Challenge – Day 28 – Foot relaxation exercises

Ankle rotations

To stretch and loosen the muscles of the feet and improve circulation to the ankles;  first circle the foot clockwise several times, then repeat the circle in an anticlockwise direction several times. As you draw a full circle in the air with your big toe, move your foot through all four directional movements. Now repeat on the other foot.

 

Toe raises

To strengthen the muscle in the bottom of the feet and the calf;  while standing, grasp the back of a chair for balance. Rise onto the balls of the feet, pause for a few seconds, and then lower the whole foot down. Repeat several times.

Seated toe stretches

To stretch the toes; rest your foot on your knee, grasp your big toe, pulling it gently and slowly to stretch the muscles at the bottom of the foot. Repeat on all the toes of both feet.

April Daily Blog Challenge – Day 27 – My massage therapy room

Here are some photos to show you how my massage therapy room is set up.

I display some of my certificates on the wall. They are my ITEC massage, aromatherapy and refelxology certificates. Also my Hot Stone Massage and Advanced Clinical Massage Certificates from Jing Institute of Advanced Massage Training. Displaying my cerificates reassures clients that I am a qualified therapist. I don’t want to clutter the wall so my additional cerficates are in a folder and can be looked at by clients if they request it.

 

My massage table is an Earthlite Luna. For the comfort of clients during their massage or reflexology treatment, I have a heated blanket to keep clients warm. I also cover it with a printed African Kente fabric and a towelling couch cover.

 

 

 

 

This is the set up for my Hot Stone massage sessions. Basalt stones are heated in water and kept warm using a slow cooker. I use a lamp to shine into the slow cooker so I can see the stones as the room is dimly lit during a treatment. The stones are dried on a towel before being used on the client.

 

 

 

I keep my oils in this wooden cabinet. There is an oil burner on top for scenting the treatment room with essentail oils. The wooden stool beside it is for clients to put their clothes or behind the treatment room door.

 

 

 

 

 

This is a close up of the wooden stool which is from Ghana. The symbol between the base and the seat is an Adinkra symbol meaniing “Chain Link” and represents unity and human relations.

 

 

 

 

 

Below is the set up for a Chavutti Thirumal (massage by foot pressure) treatment. I use a rope suspended across the room from the ceiling to hold onto for support whilst using my feet to give the massage. When not in use the rope is tied up in the corner of the room. The Chavutti Thirumal Massage is done with the client laying on the floor. The client lies on a towel beneath a duvet. I use oil from a small dish to dip my toes into.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April Daily Blog Challenge – Day 26 – What I do when I’m not working

I do enjoy my work as a massage therapist but like everyone else I need some downtime. I wanted to share with you some of the things that I enjoy doing when I am not busy working.

I am a real music lover and still own a record player and vinyl records. I also have cds but I have not yet progressed to the new technology of owning an ipod! There is nothing like going through my collection and getting lost in music for hours. I still prefer vinyl because I can hear the different layers of music which is sometimes missing from modern music. The music I enjoy soul, funk and jazz.

 

 

As well as enjoying listening to music at home, I also love going to concerts. The photograph on the left is Nile Rodgers of the group Chic in full flow in concert a few years ago. The venues in London that I like to visit regularly include The Jazz Cafe(Camden), Hideaway (Streatham), Islington Assembly Halls (Islington) and Ronnie Scotts (Soho).

 

 

I like to watch dance both ballet and hip hop. The photograph on the left is from Breakin Convention which is annual Hip Hop dance event that takes place at Sadlers Wells every May. Dance crews from around the world come to perform. I find it fascinating seeing what the dancers can do with their bodies. Also as a massage therapist I do try to work out what injuries or repetitive strains they might get.

 

It’s always fun to try new things. This photo was a taken at a “Non office party” put on for people like myself who are self employed as we tend to miss out the social activites that happen when you work in an office. The party was held at a casino and we were taught how to play roulette.

 

 

 

I do like to treat myself to the occasional Afternoon Tea with friends. This particular Afternoon Tea was enjoyed last summer at One Aldwych in The Strand. There is no rush so we generally stay and talk for a few hours. I am definately due another visit very soon.

 

 

 

 

April Daily Blog Challenge – Day 25 – Chair Massage

Chair massage is a great way to take massage out of the treatment room into a more public arena. A specially adapted chair is used for the client to sit in to receive their massage. No oil is used and the client remains fully clothed. It can be done in the workplace, shopping centres, exhibitions and even at music festivals. The length of a session is between 10 to 30 minutes long.

Last year I gave chair massages on a monthly basis at two offices in central London. The treatments were for 30 minutes each and were very much enjoyed and appreciated by the staff. I have also given chair massages at Islington Council at their annual health day for staff.

 

Every year I work at The Mind, Body, and Spirit Show, The Yoga Show and The Back Pain Show in London on the Massage World Magazine stand. I enjoy working at these shows as it is a chance to meet the general public who are interested in their health and well-being. I work at these events with other therapists.

 

 

Chair massage is a great way to promote massage at events. In my local area of Thornton Heath there is an annual street festival that takes place in September. I offer 10 and 20 minute massages. Passers by are curious about the chair, wondering how it all works and what I will be doing . One year I gave a clown a chair massage at the festival. When I am doing a treatment people generally stop to watch. I am able to talk about my massage work and how I can help them with their muscular pain issues or help to reduce their stress and tension.

Whenever I do chair massage to promote my business I always charge for it. It is usually a nominal fee of £5 for 10 minutes and £10 for 20 minutes. This is to cover the cost of paying for the space which can be anything between £15 to £50. In order to get people’s contact details I give them the chance to win a prize if they sign up for my monthly newsletters. The prize is either some bath and body products or a massage gift voucher. Sending my e-newsletter means I can keep in touch with them on a regular basis and hopefully get them to book a full treatment.

The photograph on the left shows me giving a chair massage 2 years ago at Afridiziak Gifts & Occasions Xmas fair. It is not always quiet when giving treatments in these more public areas but clients are able to ignore the noise around them and enjoy their treatment.

I have not yet worked at any music festival yet partly because I am not keen on the thought of camping and portaloos!

April Daily Blog Challenge – Day 24 – Music for massage

The music played in the treatment room, spa or clinic can help to create the perfect soundtrack for a massage or reflexology session. The wrong music can be distracting and irritating for the client. In a large spa environment, the therapist may have no choice in the music played as it may be piped into every room. In a smaller spa or clinic there may be an ipod or cd player in the room for the therapist to select the music played.

Music choice is a matter of personal preference. I tend not like the sounds of nature, although it is fine outside when you are at one with nature. A cd with the sounds of running streams and tweeting birds is a no no for me. I am also not a fan of pan pipes or Enya. Classical music can work as long as it is a calm and even tempo. There are some classical songs which have varying highs and lows in volume and can sound quite dramatic so it is not the best choice when trying to create a relaxing environment.

In my treatment room I keep the volume of the music low so it can be heard but not too loudly to be a distraction during the session. I can generally tune the music out as I work and will only notice when it stops or gets stuck. I am quite happy to work without music if the client requests this.

I wanted to share with you some of the music that I play when giving a massage or reflexology treatment.

This cd was a freebie with a Rosemary Conley diet and fitness magazine that I bought about 8 years ago. It is called Relax and Enjoy; Relaxing music personally selected by Rosemary Conley. The majority of the songs are by Ben Parkinson who is a composer and keyboard player. He has written many tracks that Rosemary uses for her fitness dvds. The song titles on this cd include Unwind, Above The Clouds and Pictures. The music is instrumental piano compositions. It is calming and relaxing, creating the perfect musical backdrop for my treatments.

 

This is my most recent cd purchase. It is called Calm Reflection and is part of The Therapy Room Series. I listened to some of the other cds in the series but this was the one that resonated with me. It is instrumental piano music and each track blends nicely together. The tracks include Total Freedom, and Calm Reflection. Recently instead of putting the whole cd on repeat, I accidentally had only the first track on repeat. I didn’t realise my mistake until 50 minutes into a 60 minute massage. I don’t think that my client realised either.

 

For my Chavutti Thirumal massage treatments which is also called Indian Rope Massage or Massage by Foot Pressure, I use either of these two Indian music cds. One is called Cafe Bombay and the other Bombay Jazz Palace. Some of the tracks are instrumental and others have vocals. The instruments used include drums, guitars and sitar. I feel that using Indian music adds authenticity to the session.

 

 

If I was able to be totally self indulgent in terms of the music I played in my treatment room, these two cds would be at the top of my list. First is Gregory Porter’s “Be Good” cd from 2012 which is my favourite cd at the moment. Gregory Porter is an American jazz vocalist who has a deep, smooth and comforting voice. His storyteling in his songs creates a picture in your mind.

The second is Luther Vandross, “Radio City Music Hall 2003 Live” album. Luther Vandross is one of my all time favourite singers who sadly passed away in 2005. Listening to this album takes me back to the times when I was lucky enough to see him in concert.

 

 

 

 

April Daily Blog Challenge – Day 23 – Essentail oils for insect bites and stings

Summer is my favourite season, it’s nice meeting up with friends for a picnic or seating outside a cafe.  You may open the doors and windows in your house to help keep your rooms cool. A natural part of the summer months is the emergence of  insects such as bees, wasps and mosquitoes.  You may be unlucky and get bitten or stung by one of them. There are a number of essential oils that can be used if this should happen.

Of course prevention is better than cure. Lemongrass and Citronella can keep insects at bay using airborne methods such as putting a few drops with water in an oil burner. Also putting a few drops into a cup of hot water and strategically placing  them by windows where insects might enter the room.

If you have a plant spray bottle you can spray lemongrass or citronella diluted in water around the room, make sure you use the bottle for using essential oils only.

To prevent insects landing on your skin and biting you, lavender is a good oil to massage onto your body. You can add a few drops to a vegetable oil or to your normal body moisturiser. Making sure that you apply the oil to the exposed areas of your body including your face. Ankles are a prime target for mosquitoes so covering your feet with cotton socks is a simple and effective measure. You can also put a drop of neat lavender oil at the top of each sock. If you are wearing trousers you can also place a drop of lavender onto the bottom of your trouser leg.

Essential oils can come to the rescue if you are unfortunate enough to be bitten or stung by an insect. Below are some examples of how to deal with specific bites or stings.

Bee Stings:  If you are allergic to bee stings I would hope that you were carrying your adrenaline pen with you at all times. If you have an allergic reaction please seek medical attention immediately. When you’ve identified where the sting is, look for a small, dark object which resembles a splinter. You might even see a sac on the outer part of the stinger. If you do, then cut that part off first so that it cannot release any more poison before pulling the stinger out with tweezers if you have them to hand. Don’t attempt to pull the stinger out by the sac as this will just release more poison into the  bloodstream. When you’ve removed the sting, apply a cold compress of camomile to the area. Try to leave it for several hours or if in an awkward place hold the compress for as long as possible. Apply a drop of neat camomile to the area three times a day for two days.

Wasp stings:  Being alkaline, it helps if wasp stings are treated with cider or wine vinegar. Into 1 teaspoon of this put 2 drops each of lavender and camomile essential oil, mix well and dab on to the bitten area three times a day.

Mosquitoes:  Use neat lavender oil directly on the bite. If you’ve been bitten over a large area, then make up the following solution for a bath. To 1 cup of cider vinegar or the juice of 2 lemons add 10 drops of lavender and 5 drops of thyme. Add this mixture to a bath of water and lie in it. Rinse off and then apply neat lavender to all the bites.

It is a good idea to keep at least a bottle of lavender essential oil at home and even in your bag when out as this is the most versatile oil for insect bites and stings. When I travel abroad to hot countries I always take 10ml bottle of Lavender essential oil with me.   On the rare occasion that I have been bitten by a mosquito I find that it soothes the area, eases the itching and reduces the swelling.

Essential oils can be purchased from health food shops. The information on treating insect bites and stings is not a replacement for advice from a medical professional. Please seek medical advice if your symptoms get worse.

 

April Daily Blog Challenge – Day 22 – How not to advertise professional massage treatments

Last week I was walking past a Chinese therapy clinic on the High Street I noticed a picture advertising massage in the window. The photograph below is what I saw. It was the usual photograph of a back massage being given to a woman, but what really caught my eye were the ads below for the clinics other services. One said, “Herbal products for premature ejaculation” and the other “Sex drive”. I didn’t think that it was appropriate to have those ads to be below the photograph advertising their massage services. Maybe I am being overly sensitive but as a professional massage therapist I felt that the advert gave the wrong perception about our profession. The ads had nothing to do with massage but I felt that it had the potential to give clients the wrong idea about massage. Most therapists including myself at some point have received enquires or requests about let’s call them “non therapeutic services”. I have dealt with these situations swiftly and professionaly (this could be the topic for a future blog post).

I wondered if I was alone in thinking that this window display advert was not totally appropriate. I posted the photograph on Twitter with the words, “How not to advertise massage”. I immediately got a response from a fellow massage therapist Hernan who said, “That’s just made my blood boil! That’s just wrong!!!” and also “I want to throw eggs and flour at the window”. Another of my followers who is not a massage therapist said, “Oh dear!”.

Today I was in the area and decided to go to the Chinese therapy clinic. I spoke to a man inside the clinic and told him my concerns about the ads below the photograph. I said that although the ads directly below had nothing to do with the massage because they were relating to sexual disorders it might give the impression that “extra services” were being offered in addition to the massage treatment. I said it could cause their massage therapist problems in that she would get constant requests for sexual services rather than just therapeutic massages. Although I could force him to do it I asked if he would move the ads to another section of the window and replace it with non-sexual disorder ads. He said “no problem” but I was not sure that he was taking what I was saying seriously. I pressed him further and he eventually said that he would change the ads around. I told him that I would check again in a few days time. I should also have said, “If you don’t then my mate Hernan is going to throw eggs at your window” – lol.

I spoke to a non massage therapist friend about the window display, he believes that the man knew what he was doing as there are no accidents in business or war!

Following my discussion at the clinic I posted what I had done on twitter and got the following response from another massage therapist called Dothe saying, “Good, we need to all raise the profile wherever we see it badly presented”.

I have previously reported inappropriate adverts on Gumtree posted by “Massage Therapists” who from the photos and descriptions of their massages were clearly not offering therapeutic massages.

I do strongly believe that it is important to send the correct message about therapeutic massage. If you feel the same way then do not be silent when you see our profession being misrepresented.