Massage therapy can bring up all kinds of anxiety and self-conscious thought 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 sixth article is on the feet.
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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.
The feet: the hardworking, intricate, amazing structures that carry us throughout this life.
Massage therapy can provide so much value to clients by working on this area with skillfully applied pressure, range of motion and mobility movements, and general self-care education.
But, it can be a sensitive area - both physically and mentally. And we may understandably feel apprehensive to have someone place their hands on ours, let alone request therapy for that area.
So here's some common questions we may not want to ask aloud:
What if I have a wart? This is one we tend to get all worked up about in our mind, but has a very simple straightforward solution: 1) let your massage therapist know 2) they'll avoid it, and 3) add a barrier, if you can. We tend to get self-conscious about warts because we think they are "gross," or are an indicator of poor hygiene. They're not. They happen to many people for many reasons and are usually no big deal.
But, they may be contagious. And so massage therapists need to avoid touching them directly. This may mean simply avoiding the area of the foot they are present, or choosing to avoid that foot until the wart has been treated and recedes. An additional consideration would be to add a barrier - like a band-aid or wart strip. This acts as a reminder to the massage therapist, as well as an additional safety measure.
Nance had a reoccurring plantar wart right on the pad of her big toe. It would come and go, and often over-the-counter treatments worked well. But for her massages, she always remembered to put a band-aid over the area. In case she or I forgot. Over time she became less self-conscious, as I reassured it how common they really are. And she grew to enjoy picking out various band-aids from her grandkids' first aid kits to give me a laugh. Pretty princess or Spongebob or Paw Patrol - I never knew what would be next.
What if I have a fungal infection? This shares a lot in common with the wart information. As it could be contagious, massage therapists need to avoid active infection areas.
And again, if you have an infection, it's not a reflection of your personal hygiene or anything you did "wrong" - fungal spores are everywhere. Just waiting, trying to find an opportunity to gain a stronghold. Luckily, there are many treatments available, and when I see a possibly infection, I advice clients to consult their health care provider about it. It's one of those things that when caught early, is much easier.
What if I'm ticklish? Super common especially in the feet. But if you would benefit from a foot massage, there's a few options to try. First, you can keep your socks on and the massage techniques can shift to more compression focused, instead of gliding. If the compression is still activating a tickle response, you can ask the massage therapist to stick to more firm range-of-motion stretches and movements, instead of friction massage. If you're very ticklish, sometimes it just takes time for your nervous system to get accustom to massage. It's okay if you don't immediately see a change. Give it a few attempts, and see if the sensation improves over time.
Or maybe your concerns are more with your foot's topography - bumps, lumps, and nails? The feet have all different kinds of hills and valleys: bones, cysts, tendons, bunions, fat deposits, nails, and knuckles.
Most folks probably have something they don't like about their body. I have heard clients express negative self-talk or apologize for their body from "too boney" to "too fat" and everything in between.
Too lanky or too stout.
Too dry or too oily texture. Too much body hair or too little. Faded tattoos. Surgical scars. Stretch marks. Birth marks. You name it, I've seen it, and someone on my table has felt bad about it.
It can be a challenge when we're on the table to turn off that part of our mind that wonders what the massage therapist is thinking about our body. The truth is, we'll probably never know. Maybe they are being judgemental. Or maybe they're thinking about what to have for lunch.
For me, I'm usually thinking about all the tissues and structures that lay beneath my hands. I'm thinking about what I might suggest for your at-home care. I'm actively trying to apply all my knowledge and experience to bring you relief from pain and stress. And maybe also lunch.
The point being, we can't control what our massage therapist is thinking about. But we can work on letting go of that concern. If you're feeling those intrusive thoughts creep in, try this:
Focus on the music. Listen intently to the music in the room. Get lost in the melody. Better yet, ask if you can suggest the music. Or bring in your own - something that really takes your mind off everything but being in that moment can keep unhelpful thoughts at bay.
Focus on your breath. In and out. Simple and accessible anytime.
Focus on the sensation. Follow the flow of your massage therapist's hands. Really sink into how the pressure and movement makes you feel. Is there tenderness? Is there relief? If the self-conscious thoughts are too distracting, it's okay to ask your massage therapist to move onto another part of your body that you're more comfortable with. * * * Do you have any additional questions or concerns about the feet? 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
I Want a Massage BUT I'm Worried About ... My Feet