Musicians' Health Collective

Musicians' Health Collective: Supporting the health of musicians (and normal people)

Filtering by Tag: bodywork

How do I find a good massage therapist?

Most stock images of massage feature tropical flowers, perfectly white towels, and beautiful young women with flawless makeup.  This in fact has never been my experience and I'm 100% ok with that. I'd love for massage establishments to STOP using gendered stereotypical images like this.

Most stock images of massage feature tropical flowers, perfectly white towels, and beautiful young women with flawless makeup.  This in fact has never been my experience and I'm 100% ok with that. I'd love for massage establishments to STOP using gendered stereotypical images like this.

Reader Question_.jpg

My friends and colleagues often ask me questions, (or just email one), and one of the most common is "how do I find a good massage therapist in my city/area?"  It's a great question, and not a simple answer.  

First of all, what makes a "good" massage for you, i.e. what conditions must be present for you to feel relaxed and supported?  What type of pressure do you like? (Soft tissue, energetic work, craniosacral, deep tissue, structural integration, etc.)  A "good" massage depends on your body, your issues, your likes and dislikes, and a host of other factors, so there is no one bodyworker that is perfect for everyone!  Just because you loved one particular practitioner or session does not mean that your friend will, and that's ok.

What's going on in your body that is spurring you to seek a massage?  Are you overly stressed, in pain, working with a chronic pain or muscle issue, recuperating from a surgery, pregnant, dealing with chemotherapy, etc?  Are you just looking for a maintenance session to keep your body functioning well?

This is a way more accurate image of my massage experiences- charts, props in the room, clothing on, etc.  I've never had a massage where tropical flowers seemed  an appropriate hair accessory.

This is a way more accurate image of my massage experiences- charts, props in the room, clothing on, etc.  I've never had a massage where tropical flowers seemed  an appropriate hair accessory.

What do you want to accomplish in your session- is this a one time session or are you hoping for multiple sessions?  This can help your bodyworker best serve you, but also help you choose a practitioner as well.  

One of the big questions I struggle with as a movement teacher is are you treating the symptom of a movement based problem, or are you treating the problem itself? So let's say that you have shoulder pain- you can get a massage that focuses on the shoulder and chest.  This can be beneficial, but what caused the pain to begin with?  Was it something else like your daily use of your neck or spine or hips? Was it just a one time weird way of sleeping? Do you want a session that will help clarify what the problem is, i.e. should you see someone who is a physical therapist, or a bodyworker who does muscle testing or movement assessment?  Many bodyworkers who are not physical therapists also teach movement, whether as personal trainers, pilates teachers, etc., and finding someone who does both can help you identify where you have deficiencies and how you can address them through movement.

Next suggestion is to look beyond chain massage facilities-there are some great therapists at chains, but many times, recent program graduates with less experience are working at such places.  When reading someone's biography, look at how many years of experience they have to begin with.  What sort of the training do they have?  Most states have a comprehensive 750-1000 hour massage certification, but beyond that, many people will seek extensive continuing education, other certifications, or specializations. What sort of populations does this person serve or aim to serve? (older clients, those with special issues, etc.)  Do they have anything in their biography that indicates a focus on your specific issues, pains, etc.? If they don't say "focus on performing artists or focus on athletes" in their biography, it doesn't mean that they can't be of help, but it's something to also consider.  Some of my favorite massages (and personal training sessions) have been from people who used to play the violin, viola, or cello, and who very much can visualize what my issues are just from playing the instrument.  

With all this begin said, I personally like deep tissue work sometimes, as someone who is not petite and with a lot of muscle mass.  This is not good for everyone, and not good for me all the time.  I also appreciate bodyworkers who understand human movement more in depth, and who maybe have training in movement assessment strategies, such as the work of Grey Cook and the SFMA/FMS.  I also have had some really interesting success with NKT and P-DTR practitioners.  If you're working with a chronic pain issue that is undiagnosed (and you're not being treated for), I'd highly recommend seeing a medical professional, and working with a good physical therapist who does both manual therapy, movement screening, and correctives.  At the end of the day, finding a good bodyworker involves a certain amount of trial and error, to see if they're a good fit for you.

What is Body Mapping?

Last month, we talked about  multiple intelligences,  including  kinesthetic intelligence. 

Last month, we talked about multiple intelligences, including kinesthetic intelligence. 

You may have heard the word "bodymapping" before, but perhaps have not known what exactly it's referring to.  Many different disciplines make use of the concept- body work, movement practices, medical professionals, etc.  So what is it?

One of my teachers, Jill Miller, defined what she calls an "embodymap"  as "defining the inner landscape of one's body through keen self-perception" (i.e., you are constantly feeling and embodying your bodily self-awareness).

It combines kinesthetic awareness with proprioception (your ability to sense your body in space).  Most musicians have very specialized kinesthetic awareness and heightened proprioceptive awareness in fingers, hands, arms, mouth, jaw, head, etc., but often lacking in other areas, perhaps postural muscles, spinal, hips, feet, etc. 

Steve Haines, a bodyworker in biodynamic craniosacral work (long name!), said in an interview this week:

"Our brain has many series and layers of body maps. You use different maps at different times- skiing vs. sitting on the couch...a body schema is a sort of default map that governs reflexes and actions." 

Imagine that your body has a series of different maps related to different activities- a map for how to run vs. a map for how to hold a violin vs. a map for how to stand.  It's an interesting thought! 

I've seen many books about body mapping for musicians- but what exactly is body mapping?

I've seen many books about body mapping for musicians- but what exactly is body mapping?

Our biggest enemy in enhancing our body mapping skills is pain- pain causes dissociation, and usually causes less feedback and awareness in tissues.  Think of places you've injured- you may have lost sensation in that area, and instead replaced it with a dull sense of perpetual pain or dissociation.  In my own body, I've certainly found that to be true.  In addition, a misinformed body map can cause us to move in ways that are not helpful, whether in music or in daily life. 

Lastly, how do we change or enhace our body maps? 

1.  Move in more varied ways in day to day life.  Sit less often.  Stand, walk, and notice sensations in the body.  Stand and sit in slightly different ways and notice how things feel.  (This can also make a particularly slow class/ensemble rehearsal infinitely more engaging...)

2.  Take classes in different disciplines.  Instead of running (or yoga-ing or spinning) always, mix it up.  Go to something totally different and see what you learn.  I remember going to a hip hop dance class, and being terrible at it, but also learning about weaknesses in my own body.

Body awareness also affects body image.  Many psychiatric programs use elements of body mapping to address image after illness, disease, trauma, etc.  If you've ever had a performance injury, you know that your sense of self takes a toll.

Body awareness also affects body image.  Many psychiatric programs use elements of body mapping to address image after illness, disease, trauma, etc.  If you've ever had a performance injury, you know that your sense of self takes a toll.

3.  Get bodywork when you can, and work with someone who will tell you specifics about your body.  If you find tender spots, ask them what the muscle group is and it's action.  How can you affect change in that area with movement change?

Bodymapping is an incredibly useful tool for musicians, not only in helping your students expand their own awareness, but changing your own relationship with your own instrument and body.  It's essential in injury recovery, and can be a useful tool in changing unhealthy movement patterns.

*Andover Educators is a system of teaching bodymapping specifically for musicians.  Many of its teachers are also in other disciplines of movement, whether AT, Feldenkrais, etc.  They have a very useful website with a terrific resource page of books and articles.  Just remember that you can explore bodymapping through many different channels, especially if you don't live near a teacher or practitioner.*


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