The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a luxury as “something that is expensive and not necessary” and “an indulgence in something that provides pleasure, satisfaction, or ease”. The word indulgence is defined as “the act of doing something that you enjoy but that is usually thought of as wrong”.
These definitions carry connotations of guilt, negativity, judgment and stigma. Yet these are two words repeatedly associated with and used to describe massage therapy. How many times have you said or heard someone say these phrases?
“It’s just a luxury.”
“It’s my birthday, so I thought I’d splurge.”
“I got a promotion, so I wanted to treat myself.”
“I need to do A, B, and C. If I get those done, THEN I can…”
I am here to break it to you; receiving a massage is not equal to giving a puppy a treat when he sits.
It is much greater than that. Can it be purely a relaxing experience? Absolutely. Can we book a massage with the intention of rewarding ourselves after achieving a milestone? Of course. However, assigning such words as those listed above set a certain tone and creates a certain stigma devalues the importance of self-care and your self as a receiver. Let’s examine a few points as to why this stigma exists.
Pretend for a moment that I am not a massage therapist, and I am just playing the role of a regular client. How am I to know that my complaint areas have room for improvement? How am I to know when to return, and how often? I left without booking another appointment. Why would I re-book when even my massage therapist isn’t concerned with improving/maintaining my physical well-being? She had the opportunity to assign power to the idea of regular self-care practice and to an improved quality of life that had potential to be highly beneficial to me, and she totally missed it. Instead, the absence of this conversation further reinforces massage as an indulgence.
I have had several clients see me once a week for 3-5 weeks, taper to bi-weekly visits, then once every three weeks, and finally down to once a month. Yes, it was a larger investment in the beginning but they almost always have a dramatic decrease in symptoms (sometimes symptoms even go away completely) and a much better quality of life. Some had issues that, if worsened, could have led to time off work, physical therapy or surgery.
Investing a little bit more in the beginning is a fair trade for avoiding more invasive/expensive therapy in the long run. Whether it’s massage or other forms of natural health, it’s most important to find practitioners that have your best interests at heart and are interested in working WITH you on the best treatment plan for you.
Author: Jenny Bork is a licensed massage therapist who specializes in stress management, chronic pain and movement education. She is currently accepting new clients.
Photo by Samantha Sekula