Massage Me

massageThree weeks ago, my upper back got really tight. Painfully tight. I couldn’t roll over at night without waking up from the pain, and I physically couldn’t turn right. I called it the Zoolander Syndrome.

In the midst of my troubles, a physical therapist friend recommended that I get a therapeutic massage. She recommended someone, and I set up an appointment. Unfortunately, the closest appointment I could get was two and a half weeks later.

During that time, my back got better. Until, that is, a week ago when I sprained my lower back (which had been compensating for my upper back)…with a sneeze. Yep, a sneeze. I am officially ancient.

So I had plenty of muscles for the masseuse to work on last Friday. She did a great job targeting the tension by probing pressure points between my joints and muscles, deep tissue rubbing, and some new thing with hot, smooth stones lathered in massage oil. For the rest of the day I felt like a walking s’more thanks to all the cocoa butter on my skin, and my back soon felt much better.

What’s interesting to me–and why I’m bringing this topic up here–is that the massage was by no means enjoyable. It was downright painful. She really dug into my back, shoulder, and arms. I trusted that she knew what she was doing in terms of therapeutic massage, and I was right–like I said, I feel much better.

But it wasn’t a relaxing massage. Not at all.

So I’m curious–have you ever gotten a massage? Some people even get them regularly. When you get them, what do you ask for? Are you there to relax or to have a specific problem solved like I did? Do you communicate with the masseuse or just let them do their thing?  Do you prefer a masseuse of your gender, or do you not care? (Mine was female, and I can’t say I would be particularly comfortable with a male masseuse, even though I know that it’s in no way sexual.) Do you keep your underwear on or take everything off? (Obviously I was naked.)

33 Responses to “Massage Me”

  1. Emma says:

    I love getting massages and go about once a month. I am specifically always wanting to get knots in my upper back and shoulders worked out (they seem never-ending due to bike riding and sitting at a computer all day). I also find it relaxing though, even when painful. I keep the conversational minimal, which helps me relax. I also think it’s a good practice in pain management (breathing through it, mentally reminding yourself it’s good and productive pain, etc). I have had masseuses of both genders and I don’t really care which, as long as they do a good job. I keep underwear on. These are my thoughts.

    Do you want to go back? Are you looking for any recommendations?

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Thanks for sharing, Emma. I like the tip on breathing–I did something similar, but it was more like, “You can do this, Jamey. You can do this!” 🙂

      I would go back for a specific issue. But to relax, I would seek another masseuse. That said, the woman I went to was very cost-effective. Only $40 for an hour! Do you have a recommendation?

      • Emma says:

        Ooh where is that? That’s a great price. I go to Morganford Massage in Tower Grove South and enjoy supporting a local business.

        • Jamey Stegmaier says:

          Aren’t all massage places local? Or are some chains? The one I went to was called Baer Essentials at 44 and Elm.

          • Emma says:

            There are chains, I went to Massage Envy for a while and had no complaints, but I like supporting local. 44 and Elm is tricky for me since I am carless but I bet I could Metro/bike it, thanks for the heads up!

  2. Katie says:

    I used to get regular massages. I keep a ton of stress in my shoulders and upper back, so much so that I’ve stopped massage therapists dead in their tracks from the number of knots they discover. I cut back because I felt guilty about the cost, even though it did make me feel a lot better.

    Once you get the major problems worked out, they become much more enjoyable and relaxing!

    I’ve had massage therapists of both gender. I usually feel more comfortable with women, but most of the men have been fine too. I used to wear a loincloth, but now I just take it all off. It does make for a better massage.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      It’s almost a little weird that it’s such a socially acceptable thing, isn’t it? Imagine telling your significant other, “Hey, I’m going to go get naked in front of someone else, and they’re going to touch me for an hour.” And yet it’s perfectly normal.

      How long did the knots say out of your back after getting a massage?

      • Katie says:

        It depends on my stress level, but I’d say 6 weeks once I got a handle on them. I was having so much pain, so I simultaneously saw a (hot!) chiropractor for a few months at the beginning. That combined with the massages made a world of difference.

        He explained that because my muscles get so tight, it has a tendency to pull everything out of alignment. A lot of chiropractors can be weird or demand that you come in twice a week for the rest of your life, but mine is fantastic.

  3. Sara says:

    I get therapeutic massage every chance I get. I usually go every 2 weeks or more often if I am having a particularly stressful time. I’ve found it very difficult to find someone who’s actually any good at it. I feel that most folks just go through the motions with every single person. I like someone who knows anatomy very well and can do trigger points. I had a guy masseuse (took me 6 months to get the guts to go to him) and he was the first most fantastic “find it & kill it” kind of guy. Then he left. To his credit, before he left he found (after many, many interviews) someone to take over his business. The woman he found is even better than he is. She knows reflexology too! I always thought it was a bunch of hokum until I experienced it for myself. Yes, it’s painful, but it’s for a greater good, which I find relaxing in and of itself. I always leave there in absolute mush.

    I’d love to know where to get a $40 an hour massage from someone who’s actually doing something other than rubbing oil on me for an hour. I get 80 minute massages for $115. Worth every penny.

  4. Sara says:

    Sorry – I forgot to address some of your questions:

    The knots stay gone for several days as long as I don’t go straight back to some horrifically stressful situation. Sometimes I’m (a good kind of) sore for a day or two after. Drinking lots of water helps with that.

    Naked for the massage for sure – it’s under a sheet after all.

    Sometimes we’re chatty, sometimes not. I do generally like silence though. I even have her turn off her earth sounds background music.

    FYI the more often you go, the less painful it is even with more pressure. I can’t recommend it enough!

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Sara–Thanks for sharing. I’m glad you found someone good for your needs. Do you foresee long-term benefits as a result of the massages?

      I don’t know for sure, but I would suspect that my masseuse really knew what she was doing in terms of therapeutic massage, especially since she was recommended by a physical therapist. You can check her out here:

      • Sara says:

        Oh there are absolutely long-term benefits! I have been going for years. During the few times that I’ve taken a break (usually for financial reasons), I find myself to be moodier, get sick more often and be more likely to be snappish over little stuff. It keeps my blood pressure down, my attitude better, I get zero headaches and am able to resist everybody else’s colds. Some of my coworkers get sick 2 & 3 times in a row in the same cycle where I don’t catch it at all.

        Your muscles work better when they’re not all knotted up. Toxins are more easily released, your metabolism, circulation, immunity and movement all benefit from having the muscles working correctly. I find I don’t have to go to the chiropractor nearly as often.

        As for where to find one – it’s trial and error from my experience. What you consider “good” may be based on the best of bad massages. Or if you’re like my husband you don’t want any pressure harder than fingertips (which I wouldn’t consider to be a “good” massage for me).

        I will say there’s a difference between the normal pain of someone who knows what they’re doing and someone who’s going to hurt you. If the place has special names for the techniques they do (i.e. “meltdown” or “waterfall”), I would stay far away. Same goes for elbows and pinching. A deep tissue massage does involve some discomfort, but it shouldn’t be bringing tears to your eyes or have you writhing on the table. A good massage therapist will also include your glutes (butt) in the massage. That will be through the sheet, as mentioned.

        If you’re interested, keep trying people until you find one that suits you. Generally, someone who’s more ‘sports medicine’ based is going to be your pro-leaning deep tissue person.

        • Jamey Stegmaier says:

          Sara–Very interesting that you’ve seen such great benefits from the massages. I think I might experience similar results with a relaxing massage.

  5. Arianne says:

    I have a wonderful massage therapist. She is also a physical therapist. She knows a lot about anatomy (she actually teaches anatomy labs at SLU). She has multiple methods at her disposal to address whatever issue is going on. I generally go when I need something fixed. She does whole body massage, and then works on the specific problem area(s). It’s not specifically relaxing, usually not outright painful (though occasionally it is–breathing is good). And I feel fantastic afterward. She works through clothes, i.e. you stay completely dressed, and usually does not use oil. She’s in Shrewsbury.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Arianne–Very interesting. I honestly can’t imagine getting a massage while fully dressed. I would that that would be too limiting for what they can do.

  6. Ansley says:

    I’ve been going to massage therapists since I was in high school. My sophomore year, I had a migraine that lasted about 9 months. Without stopping. I had all sorts of tests, MRIs, etc and nothing helped, not even horse tranquilizers. BUT, as soon as I started going to physical and massage therapy, it started getting better. It was amazing how I was able to get better in weeks for a migraine that had held on for so long.

    DEFINITELY drink at least a gallon of water after each massage, especially the ones where they are releasing a lot of tight muscles. When you get a massage, lactic acid is being released from your muscles into your body and you need to flush them out. I’ve gotten sick (like sinus infection type sick) after massages where I didn’t drink my water. Always, always drink!

    Consider asking them to use coconut oil instead of the thicker creams or oils. It absorbs better into your skin and you don’t feel as greasy. It’s also really good for the skin as well.

    Also, try Groupon. Do some research into the person who is offering it, but I’ve found a couple really good masseuses from Groupon and it’s usually at least half the cost. I actually found an amazing lady 5 miles from my house…..and I live in the middle of nowhere. I was practically in tears the whole time, which for me means she’s good 🙂 I like to come out feeling bruised, because my muscles get so knotted.

    Also, on the money side of things, if you find someone you like, buy a package. You can usually save some money and get on a schedule that will ensure the benefits are longer lasting. I would suggest at least one massage a month (deep tissue) if you’re having tight muscles or stress-related headaches.

    You can leave your boxer briefs (boxers? whitey tighties?) on if you want, but most massage therapists are very professional and will make sure nothing slips out.

    One more thing…..for back pain, consider having them work on your butt. Through the sheet, obvs. There are some muscles in there that get super tight and it really helps to release them, esp for lower back pain. My physical therapist used to work on my booty and my psoas muscles and it did wonders, although sometimes I felt like passing out from the pain.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Thanks for the tips, Ansley. You know your massages!

      I wish the masseuse would have worked on my butt. As a soccer player, my gluts get pretty tight. Plus I just like having my butt grabbed, which probably isn’t the right attitude for a massage. 🙂 When I was in Japan, old ladies would sometimes push me by the butt while I was getting onto the bus. I liked it!

  7. Katy says:

    I used to get massages about once a month, as I suffered from pretty severe back pain for about the last 11 years, and the monthly massages seemed to help some. The first couple of days after the massage were always great, but within a week, the pain would be back and seemed like it was worse than when I started..
    I eventually stopped going because I realized there was something more going on with my back than simple muscle pain or stress, and because the massages were never very relaxing for me. The entire time I was on the table I seemed to be on edge as having a stranger present while I was just in my underwear weirded me out a bunch– even though I knew it was in no way sexual. The other part of visiting the professional masseuses that I didn’t love was that no matter what, they managed to find the *one* spot on my back that when touched would shoot excruciating pain all the way to my toes. Whenever that spot was hit, my immediate reaction would to be tense up even more and/or scream out in pain, which only made me dread the rest of the hour session.
    I’m sure that for a lot of people visiting a masseuse regularly is beneficial. but for me, undergoing physical therapy to correct the spine issue causing my pain was a better solution. Now that I know the root of the pain, and have been able to “heal,” I’m sure a massage would be much more enjoyable than they were in the past.

    • Sara says:

      Katy, were you not under a sheet for the massages?

      They should have been able to figure out a way around your nervy spot. I’m sorry you had the experience of them tapdancing on your hot spot.

      • Katy says:

        Sara- They were under a sheet, but once they got started the sheet would always be lowered to where it seemed like it was barely covering the top of my underwear, which just left me feeling very exposed around a total stranger. I’ll probably never be able to overcome that slight fear of being exposed around a stranger, even though I know the masseuses are professionals and see hundreds (maybe thousands?) of naked backs a year.

        After visiting the same masseuse multiple times, he did make a note of my nervy spot and tried to avoid it as much as possible, but I never was able to really relax for fear that he might forget and accidentally apply pressure to the hot spot.

  8. Jasmin says:

    Sorry. I laughed at your pain. I seriously laughed out loud. Anyway, I had an hour massage once. It was okay. I didn’t think she knead me hard enough to get the knots and kinks out. Good thing it was a Groupon. Your hot stone session sounds awesome. I won’t mind leaving the place feeling like a toasty s’more with all muscles relaxed. The pain and numb feel from kneading on the knots are good. You should feel pain but not too much. I had Chinese foot massage before, that hurts like no other. But also feels good later. Drinking water, room temperature or warmer. Helps with continue blood circulation and wash away lactic acid like Ansley said.

    I wasn’t really comfortable being naked. If the masseuse comes to my place, I might be a little more comfortable. But once is enough for me, I might try the hot stone massage.

  9. Joe Babbitt says:

    I have not personally had a professional massage, and I am by no means an expert on the subject, but I have given a lot of massages, and the women all universally accepted (read: pushed) me to go harder. I was always afraid I was hurting them with my gigantic hands o’ doom, but they insisted that was how it was best. So it stands to reason that that whole unpleasant thing is consistent across other experiences.

    • Sara says:

      Absolutely, Joe! When generally mashing out the knots, more pressure is definitely better (for me anyway). But if you push too hard in the right (or wrong) place, you end up delivering the Vulcan death grip, which is what happens sometimes when certain spots get targeted.

      Plus there aren’t as many nerves in the general shoulder/upper back area as there are in other areas. Mash away with those hands o doom! 🙂

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Gigantic Hands ‘O Doom Massage Therapy

      I think you’d get some curious customers if that were the sign on your storefront.

    • Ansley says:

      Joe, I want a massage! I’ve tried to teach my husband how to do it, but he just doesn’t get it. So, you are always welcome here!

      Being naked doesn’t bother me. Maybe it’s a byproduct of living in Asia and going to the public baths….being in a huge series of rooms with about 500 other naked people for several hours just makes you not care.

      Katy – not that this will help you feel more comfortable, but once I got a massage from a lady boy in Malaysia and when I flipped over onto my back for him/her to do my head and shoulders, he/she pulled the sheet down to my waist and gave me a boobie massage! I had NO idea if that was normal in that culture, so I kinda went with it (it wasn’t sexual….if that makes sense), but afterwards, my mom and I got pedicures and I told her what happened. Her response? “Why didn’t my person do that?!”

  10. Darcy says:

    You might be the male me – I just wrote a blog about a massage, too! But you’re right, it HURT. My person said she thinks I have a disc out of whack in my back and I could barely stand the pain when she was working on that part of my back, it hurt so much. And yet, I want to go back.

  11. I’m behind on my blog reading! No need to reply, just wanted to share. Worst massage: in Shanghai China, bony Chinese girl bearing down on me with her elbow (no joke). Best massage: shoutout to Chadwick at the Vdara Spa in Vegas, Swedish massage, pretty much unclothed except for one strategically placed piece of clothing women sometimes wear. Anyway, you should get massages if you can afford it, find a masseuse you like and experiment with the different types. Maybe you should look fora masseuse that specializes in lumbar/ lower body massages.

  12. Sarah says:

    Most massage therapists won’t massage a mans leg any higher than the lower thigh and won’t go anywhere near the posterior region or stomach. Your taught that the area is too ‘sensitive’ on a gentleman. If your wanting that, then its best to go to a sports masseuse where they will do it and be able to work the muscle deeper. However they are more likely to be a man.
    If your after a relaxing massage I’d suggest an Indian head massage. They do (or should do) your back, neck and shoulders for some relief from knots but they massage your head too! And omg that feels good! For me the test of a good Indian head in the inability to form coherent thought for at least 5 minutes after the treatment.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Thanks for your insights, Sarah. That’s a good point about the sensitive areas on men.

      I totally agree about the head/scalp massage. The masseuse I went to before writing this blog entry did a short scalp massage, and it felt absolutely amazing.

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