Massage therapy can bring up all kinds of anxiety and self-consciousness gremlins. And often they get in the way of receiving the pain and stress relief that massage can provide.
This series is a literal head to toe candid exploration of the many common body concerns that make us hesitant to schedule, or uneasy once on the table. If you've had some of these same worries, know you're not alone. And perhaps this info will give you new resolve to give it a go.
This second article is on the arms: from shoulder to hands.
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First and foremost, you can always request that your massage therapist skips whatever area of your body you don't want them to massage. It's your time, your session, your body.
Concerned about the condition of your arm's skin due to psoriasis or eczema?
Skin conditions on arms is pretty common. More than any other body part - our arms (especially hands) interact with our world the most - sunlight, wind, chemicals, irritants, allergens, doorknobs, keyboards, soaps, gloves, and other people.
Friction during a massage or ingredients within the oil/lotion may be an unwelcome irritant if the skin on your arms and hands are already inflamed.
If you're actively receiving treatment or managing a condition, check with your dermatologist or other health care provider if massage should be avoided or modified. Sometimes it may be useful to get some extra hydration and stimulation to that skin. But as with anywhere else, if there are open sores or broken skin, avoiding the area is going to be standard protocol.
Kasey's forearms and hands were frequently chapped and sore from handling drying agents at work. His doctor recommended wearing gloves and extra lotion when at home. The gloves helped a lot, and since we began using an extra thick lotion on hands during massage sessions, his hand's skin is healthier than ever.
Or maybe your concerns are more about your arm's topography - scars, fat, bumps, lumps, or excess skin?
Because our arms interact so much with our world, they tend to tell some of the story of our lives: Our injuries, surgeries, burns, or scars. Our weight gains and weight losses. The things we've carried. The tools we've wielded.
However, you may prefer to keep some of that story to yourself. It's perfectly okay to ask for the arms to be skipped. Just make sure to say so - especially if the area you'd like avoided is hidden or not visually apparent. And if your massage therapist forgets, kindly remind them.
Amy said she wanted me to skip her arms during the massage therapy session. No problem. Several sessions later, she felt safe enough to inform me that an abusive relationship had left her arms scarred and pitted. I reaffirmed that whatever I massage is her choice. She said she wasn't quite ready, but would let me know when she was.
Many of us aren't aware of tension and tenderness in our arms until receiving massage therapy. It can be therapeutic. But a fundamental aspect of massage therapy is you being relaxed. If your mind is a buzz with anxiety and worry, it's okay to start where you are comfortable. And either progress slowly forward, or stay where works best.
Nat always requested I massage her arms. As an active runner and grandmother of five, her biceps, triceps, and deltoids did a lot of work each week. But she was also very self-conscious about her so-called "bat wings" - skin on the backside of her arm that hung looser as a result of both weight loss and age. So she kept a long sleeve shirt on during her massage session. A few years later, she started a water aerobics class. Seeing the arms of fellow women in her community, in contrast to just seeing professional athletes and photoshopped women on magazine covers, helped her realize her arms looked absolutely normal. She began to appreciate just how much her arms could accomplish every day. Nat still wanted to keep her shirt on during massage, but as her perspective shifted, she was able to enjoy the massage session much more.
Concerned about specific areas of inflammation - due to arthritis or tendonitis?
The arms and hands are home to many potentially sensitive areas where joints or and tense tissue meet nerves. From the top of the shoulders to the tip of the fingers, there's ample opportunity for inflammatory conditions to create very tender spots: frozen shoulder or impingement golfer's, tennis, or baker's elbow ulnar nerve compression carpel tunnel syndrome swollen knuckles In those cases, massage therapy should always be applied slow and gradual. Intentional movement and pressure can provide relief. But when it's applied too much, too fast, it can be just the opposite.
Remember to provide feedback and guidance - let your massage therapist know when something is currently irritated. And if you choose to receive massage in that area, communicate when pressure or movement is too much, too little, or feels just right.
* * * Do you have any additional questions or concerns about the arms? Feel free to contact me. Also, check out the other articles in this series below!
I Want a Massage BUT I'm Worried About Series
I Want a Massage BUT I'm Worried About ... My Head I Want a Massage BUT I'm Worried About ... My Arms I Want a Massage BUT I'm Worried About ... My Chest I Want a Massage BUT I'm Worried About ... My Back I Want a Massage BUT I'm Worried About ... My Hips I Want a Massage BUT I'm Worried About ... My Legs