You mention to your friend over coffee that you're off for your regular massage session... They reply with a sound of delight and envy as you take yourself off for "90 minutes of pampering" asking "what's the occasion?"
You tell your boss you need to leave work 10 minutes early to attend your next massage session... He refuses and scoffs saying he must be paying you too much!
Now have the same conversations about a physio appointment...you're faced with responses of understanding, with little question about the need or cost. After all, its not uncommon for people to need to see a physio...and when they do, its just that...a need.
But why are we faced with such different responses to these two forms of manual therapy? I see clients who refer to me as their "physio" or put in their work diary that they have a “back appointment” rather than admitting to others they are regularly receiving massage treatments for fear of being misunderstood by friends or colleagues.
In the UK, most people see massage as a treat, something to be gifted to you on a special occasion, something to enjoy with friends or loved ones as you celebrate a birthday, a hen party, an anniversary. Pictures are conjured up of a relaxing haven, filled with candles, flowers, expensive oils and the sounds of whales singing. A few hours where you can relax, turn off, let your therapist do whatever they do as you drift away to a better place, leaving your stresses behind you only to be awoken feeling light and rested, ready to enjoy the rest of the celebrations the treatment was part of.
Alternatively, it could be a "sports massage" where you are pummelled to an inch of your life, left bruised and battered, which of course is just what every athlete needs...right? (a topic I'll return to for another blog!). And of course you can only have a sports massage if you partake in sports...right?
But is this a true reflection of massage? Certainly, a massage can be enjoyed as a one off moment of pure bliss and relaxation, a time to relax with friends and escape the day-to-day tolls of life. Or as a sports specific treatment (not pummelling!!) for an elite or recreational athlete. However, massage should be considered far, far more than this. How many of us can say we experience aches and pains? Headaches, shoulder tension, back pain, hip pain. If you say you never do, I won't believe you!
Look around your office and see your colleagues rubbing the back of their neck, squeezing the tops of their shoulders, massaging their temples, pushing their lower backs forward with their hands for a moment of relief. As you walk around town, notice how many people are walking hunched over their mobile phones, texting on the go. The way we lead our lives, we are constantly putting strain on our bodies. Holding ourselves in positions we were not designed to be held in.
Massage, when received by a suitably qualified practicioner, can play a major role in the treatment and prevention of chronic pain. It can be hugely effective at managing back pain, headaches, migraines, repetitive strain injuries and much, much more. All of which can have a major impact on the quality of life, on your ability to work well, on your relationships, on your general sense of wellbeing and happiness. It is time we stop seeing massage as JUST a luxury, and start seeing it as a form of therapeutic bodywork, running in the same veins as physiotherapy, chiropractic and osteopathy, all of which can complement each other beautifully to manage the way we lead our hectic lives.
Anna Curtis is a fully qualified and insured Sports and Clinical Massage Therapist and owner of BodyResults