Therapeutic Massage: Bastards, Benefits, and Bike Helmets

Marcus is our lead tutor and clinic supervisor at the New Zealand College of Massage Wellington Campus and coordinates massage services for the Wellington Phoenix FC and Wellington Saints basketball team. He recently wrote this article for the NZ Fitness Magazine.

Therapeutic Massage: Bastards, Benefits, and Bike Helmets

Kia ora. As I set out to write this article, I asked several people “What would you want to know about therapeutic massage?” Often the responses related to what the benefits of massage were, how much it cost, and where to find a good massage therapist. Well, the answer to the last one was easy, because they were already talking to one! However, the other two warranted some further inspection and I will share some insight as to why you should consider booking that long overdue massage appointment.

Look folks, we’re all busy. Finding the right work/life balance is difficult. Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s) like waking up early to beat traffic; driving long hours just to sit some more at desk and then work late to meet that impending deadline take their toll on our bodies.  If this situation sounds familiar, you are far from alone. We have a steady stream of clients come into our clinic complaining of lack of sleep, low energy levels, headaches, and high stress levels amongst many other ailments.

Kiwis are seeking ways to deal A visit to any health care provider, including massage therapists, should involve a thorough review of your medical history. We need to know if are on medication and if you have suffered any prior injuries or surgeries that may require altering or modifying aspects of your treatment session. There also may be other contributing factors present that you may not be aware are affecting your body in an adverse manner. Things like outdated eye wear or ill-fitting headgear such as bike helmets can contribute to headaches for instance.

I just recently had a friend come to me complaining of excruciating jaw pain and pain directly behind his ear. He had been to the doctor and dentist and given the obligatory dose of pain meds. Not surprisingly, they didn’t work. The world was crashing down. He couldn’t sleep. He could hardly eat. The poor bastard’s wife did everything she could to console him. He thought the only solution was surgery. Surgery on what? He wasn’t even sure.

After several long-winded texts (he could hardly talk at the time) he came in and I proceeded to ask him some questions about his pain. When do you notice it? What makes it better? What makes it worse? Any particular movements or activities affected by this pain? Bingo! He notices it when he puts his helmet on. The helmet was pressing on his mastoid process, which is a bony protrusion located directly behind the ear. Compression or restriction in this area can lead to referred pain in the head, including jaw pain and headaches. After a fulI physical assessment, I completed a brief treatment on his neck and jaw, followed by some stretches to do at home and work. So then what? I sent him off to get a bigger/better fitting helmet! He’s had only one minor episode of pain since changing that helmet.

The key to an effective massage that meets your goals includes a thorough physical assessment to see how your body moves in space because, after all the body was made to move! There are times when clients get impatient and are in a hurry to jump on the massage table. But, therapeutic massage is really goal oriented and it’s hard to effectively treat someone if we we don’t have a goal post to kick to!

Depending on your goals and the findings from your assessment, you and the therapist should agree on a treatment plan to ensure your receive the most benefit. Informed consent should always be given prior to any massage session. Benefits of therapeutic massage include:

  • Increased circulation of blood and lymph systems improves the condition of the skin – the body’s largest and most likely organ to get your ugly mug a date.
  • Relaxes and softens injured and overused muscles, which can reduce recovery time so you don’t miss time off of work on Monday recovering from being a weekend warrior!
  • Helps reduce muscle spasms and cramping after that marathon you just smashed. It can also reduce the impact of post-race Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).
  • It improves your range of motion and joint flexibility so you look flash while bowling on the cricket pitch (I hope I said that right!).
  • Reduces the occurrence of post-surgery adhesions and oedema, so you get back into training sooner or that one pair of heels you love so much.

All these benefits obtained via therapeutic massage will be short lived if not followed up by an adequate homecare regiment and client education. Appropriate strengthening, stretches, or even mindfulness techniques can keep your symptoms at bay. A more educated client is a more empowered client; more involved and motivated to take control of your own health on your own terms.

As with all things, everything comes at a price. With massage, it can vary greatly depending on location and level of experience. Student massage clinics like the one I supervise can offer quality massage for a little as $30 an hour. Some therapists charge upwards of $100 or more for an hour of their time. Make an appointment easily via online booking, but you may want to call and chat with your potential therapist first.

Ask questions. Be informed. Get amongst it. Get a massage!



Marcus Tidwell

Massage Therapist & Educator