Customizing Massage: Questions to Ask to Improve Client Comfort

When dreaming of how to become a massage therapist, a person might think of all the incredible healing techniques they’ll learn at massage therapy school. However, a high-quality school of massage must also teach therapists how to communicate with clients before, during, and after the massage. Asking the right questions can help create a customized healing experience that clients won’t soon forget.

Here are a few questions students at our school of massage are trained to ask to optimize each client’s massage session:

1. Do you prefer lotion or oil?
Each emollient provides a different viscosity for delivering massage strokes. However, it is also very different from the client’s side—lotion makes some people feel slippery or cold, while others complain about the greasiness of oil. It never hurts to ask; you might be surprised how many people have a preference about receiving massage with lotion or oil. Even a seemingly small question about emollients can show clients how well attuned you are to their needs. And if you remember their preference for the next session, they’ll probably be impressed!

  1. Would you like a bolster under their knees/ankles?
    Again, it comes down to client comfort. In a supine position, Some people feel more relaxed with a bolster under their knees. Similarly, a bolster under the ankles in a prone position can help relieve pressure on the tops of the feet. However, not all clients enjoy bolsters, so a savvy massage therapist will ask.
  2. May I use warm and/or cold packs during the massage today?
    Hot packs can help warm up and prepare muscles, so they’re easier to massage. Cold packs can feel refreshing for tired muscles. Temperature is a very personal experience, so clients will appreciate your asking about which therapy tools to use.
  3. How’s the lighting? Is it too bright/dark?
    Some clients will be more light-sensitive than others. Those who experience migraines, for instance, may have a hard time relaxing under bright lights. To score beaucoup brownie points with light sensitive clients, consider offering an eye pillow. This small pillow filled with flax seeds or buckwheat will promote relaxation by encouraging stillness in the eyes, while also blocking out excess light.
  4. What about the temperature? Are you feeling chilly or too hot?
    Something as simple as an extra blanket can help chilly clients relax, while turning on a fan can help toasty clients feel more comfortable.
  5. Is this pressure okay? Would you like more or less?
    This final question is worth asking multiple times during a massage. Different areas of the body will have different sensitivity levels, so it’s smart to notice body language cues while also asking clients outright if the pressure feels right.

East West College students have the chance to practice asking clients these and other questions through the EWC massage clinic. While such considerations are included in every massage class, our on-site clinic provides an invaluable opportunity to test-drive these client experience boosts. To experience a customized massage for yourself, schedule a massage at our clinic through And if you’re dreaming about going to massage school yourself, get in touch with our school of massage Admissions Department.

Creating a Safe Place for Healing: Scar Tissue Massage

Following an accident or surgery, patients need a safe place to heal. A massage therapist can create an atmosphere of trust and safe touch, to allow for deep healing. Massage therapy can help heal scar tissue on physical as well as emotional levels. From minor cuts to surgery scars, massage therapy can benefit all types of scar tissue.

Scar Tissue Issues
There’s a common misconception that scar tissue is inevitable—that it’s impossible to change or heal. In truth, scar tissue is part of the living matrix. All tissues are made up of the same elements, such as collagen and elastin. Cells deliver nutrients and release waste from all tissues in the body, including scar tissue. As such, scar tissue can be revitalized through self-care, including receiving massage therapy.

So how is scar tissue different than regular tissue?

  • Scar tissues do not have melatonin, meaning they cannot tan but will rather burn. Always put sun block on your scars!
  • Collagen fibers in scar tissue to not grow in the same direction as the original tissue, leading to discoloration and uneven texture.

A massage therapist sees opportunity where others might shy away from scar tissue. Therapists can also speak with clients about daily stretching, self-massage, and lifestyle choices that will benefit all types of tissue, including scar tissue.

How Massage Helps Heal Scar Tissue

To understand how massage therapy can kindle scar tissue healing, let’s review how the body repairs wounds. This is done in four stages:

  1. Acute Stage. The body creates stability through clotting and chemotaxis. In other words, a temporary tissue matrix closes the wound, and immune cells are attracted to fend off infection.
  2. Inflammatory Stage. Immune cells remove dead cells and tissue, priming the area for restoration. The area appears red and inflamed. Typically, this stage lasts for a couple days.
  3. Repair Stage. The temporary clotting matrix is replaced with scar tissue, thereby restoring partial tissue structure and function. The area will look raised and scabbed, and may feel warm and/or numb. This period lasts for 2-10 days.
  4. Remodeling Stage. Cell density and metabolic intensity decrease, while nerves heal, restoring sensation. The scar may be itchy or sensitive, and appears purple, then white, and finally approaches your natural skin tone. This stage lasts from 10 days following the incision to up to two years later! Massage therapy will be most effective during this period.

Repaired scar tissue strength improves from 25% to 80% during this process, as collagen changes occur. Scar appearance depends partially upon genetics, as some families have more obvious scars than others. Additionally, scars on taut tissue (such as the knee cap) are typically more visible than those on more fleshy areas (such as the buttocks).

Because tissue is still in repair early on, it is best to wait until 2 weeks after a surgery or accident to massage scarred areas.

Oftentimes, scar tissue has reduced lymph return and fewer capillaries (to deliver blood). While formal research in this area is limited, manual manipulation may spur the creation of blood vessels through local stimulation. Massage creates a temporary inflammation, followed by remodeling and increased waste removal. This could encourage the growth of new blood vessels (angiogenesis), further improving circulation and healing. Here are a few more physiological benefits of scar tissue massage:

  • Drainage of excess fluid.
  • Increased feeling in the area, and decreased tingling, numbness, or soreness.
  • Improved range of motion and flexibility, so the scar doesn’t feel as “tight.”
  • Decreased scar tissue buildup.
  • Promotion of collagen remodeling through application of pressure.

Improved scar appearance may also accompany manual manipulation. Patients can assist in scar-tissue healing through self-massage, as outlined in this handout from the Moffitt Cancer Center.

Emotional Benefits of Scar Tissue Massage
A massage therapist can help clients release long-held pain following major surgeries or accidents. As Peter Levine and others have pointed out, pain is not just experienced on the physical level. Our minds also write pain patterns into the body through our emotional experiences. A traumatic event is written into the nervous system’s long-term memory through muscular holding patterns, for instance. (For more on the fascinating intersection of psychology and physiology, we recommend reading Levine’s works, such as In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness.)

For instance, LMT Pete Whitridge writes about a client who experienced neck and shoulder pain, as well as difficulty breathing, following a surgery 8 years prior. Following an accident, this client had surgery to repair a collapsed lung. Her scar ran 18 inches parallel to her fifth and sixth ribs on her left side. While she was in good health and practiced yoga, this client couldn’t breathe comfortably. During massage, the client discovered that she had been imagining that she couldn’t move her left ribs because she thought it would hurt. Manual palpation revealed that the scar tissue was strong and pain-free. The client was able to experience her own healing, thereby releasing her limiting thoughts about recovery. Her breathing and range of motion improved following this massage therapy session.

Are you called to a healing profession? Do you feel a tingle of wonder when considering how a gentle touch can release trauma? If so, consider applying for our massage therapist school. Our in-depth, comprehensive program culminates in the opportunity to earn your massage therapy license according to Oregon’s requirements. (Each state has its own requirements for massage therapy certification or licensure.) East West College students have the opportunity to practice their craft through our on-campus clinic. With hands-on experience, and thorough classes taught by experienced LMTs, East West College graduates are well-prepared for successful careers in the healing art of massage therapy.

The Science of Human Touch: Haptics, Technology, and Healing

Can you imagine a virtual environment that relays touch through tech-smart fabric? Or a personalized massage therapy session delivered remotely, through wearable technology? If so, you might be ready for haptics, the field pushing the envelope on touch technology. Let’s examine haptics, what it says about the physiological benefits of receiving touch, and whether haptics can compare to the benefits of hands-on massage therapy.

What is Haptics?
Haptics, the technology of touch, examines how we can enhance technological interactions through touch. Haptics researchers study the two main aspects of touch–first, tactile components, including contact location, pressure, shear, slip, vibration, and temperature. Second, researchers look at position, orientation, and force, kinesthetic information the brain uses to complete our incredible sense of touch.3

Katherine Kuchenbecker is a mechanical engineer specializing in haptics at the University of Pennsylvania. She describes her field as “interactive touch technology.” In a 2012 TedEd Talk, she explained that haptics requires developers to first measure the motion of someone moving through world. Next, they relay this data into sensations that could be felt in the real world, via “virtual touch.” Dr. Kuchenbecker is developing haptics applications for remotely feeling surfaces, such as old fabric in a museum display that doesn’t allow human touch. She is also using haptics to rehabilitate stroke victims through virtual coaching. Finally, Dr. Kuchenbecker’s team is working with haptics to help dentistry students get a feel for what a diseased or healthy tooth might feel like. Here are a few other haptics inventions you could see in the market soon:
— Fully feeling prosthetic hands.4
–A GPS-enabled, handheld cube that could replace guide dogs by guiding the blind through space.
–A trigger game controller that allows players to feel the tension on a virtual bow, as well as the thunk of your in-game enemy as he falls to the ground.

As they work, haptics researchers have been able to confirm the benefits of receiving touch. For instance, the neuroscientist Edmund Rolls has found that touch activates the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex, leading to increased feelings of reward and compassion. 2 Haptics Dacher Kelter researched “celebratory touches” among basketball players (fist bumps, high fives, etc.) and found teams that touched each other more frequently won more often. As New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik puts it, “Touch lowers stress, builds morale, and produces triumphs—a chest bump instructs us in coöperation, a half-hug in compassion.” Haptics researchers are also verifying what massage therapists experience every day—positive touch can heal.

On the flip side, haptics researchers have also confirmed what happens when people don’t receive positive touch—namely, higher levels of stress hormones. Touch-deprived lab animals have more stress hormones, such as cortisol, racing through their systems.1

Haptics-Inspired Technology Massage Applications
If you’re just starting your career in massage, watch for haptics applications to become more common as you practice. While these applications are far from ready for market, they are likely to become available within the next five to ten years.

Long-distance Swedish massage. Imagine a massage therapist moving her hands over a motion sensor. Her or his movements are relayed to the client through an extremely sensitive motion-sensor pad.

A Textile Armband that conveys touch to soothe anxious, lonely individuals. Heather Culbertson’s team at the University of Southern California are developing this wearable haptic technology that uses magnets to mimic human touch.5

No one can say which of these haptic technologies will be incorporated into future massage practices, but what we know for sure is that there’s something irreplaceable about human contact. As haptics researchers have confirmed, human touch lowers stress, builds morale, speeds health, and increases compassion. Massage therapists already have all the healing technology they need; namely, their hands, their ability to engage in critical thinking, their expertise, and their compassionate kindness.

Enjoy the multifold benefits of touch at massage schools in Portland, such as the East West College massage clinic. Visit today to schedule a 45-minute student massage ($30). And if the idea of healing through touch fascinates you, as it does many haptics researchers, get in touch with the admissions department of our Oregon massage school. They can help you decide if a career in massage therapy is right for you.

1 Brownlee CL. The Magic (and Science) of Massage. Today’s Chemist at Work. June 2002. Accessed August 8, 2018.

2 Keltner D. Hands on Research: The Science of Touch. Accessed August 8, 2018.

3 Kuchenbecker K. The Technology of Touch. November 2012. Accessed August 9, 2018.

4 Gopnik A. Feel Me. The New Yorker. 2016; (May issue). Available at Accessed September 6, 2018.

5 Dawson C. Armband Developed at USC Mimics a Person’s Touch. USC News. July 6, 2018. Available at Accessed September 6, 2018.

Senior Massage: Why and How

senior getting a massageMassage careers come many shapes and sizes, but all massage therapists have one thing in common: compassion. Therapists are healers first and foremost, and an empathetic heart is a prerequisite for this kind of work. In our youth-centric culture it is easy to overlook seniors, a population that definitely needs massage. After a lifetime of work, many seniors are better able to afford massage. Portland therapists who choose to work with seniors will find this work to be enriching personally and professionally. Let’s take a look at the many benefits of massage for seniors. Later, we’ll look at a couple things you can do to cater your massage practice to a more mature population.

Benefits of Massage for Seniors
Improved circulation and flexibility through massage are major benefits for seniors who receive massage. Moreover, massage can help soothe the symptoms of many geriatric chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, and COPD, according to Ann Caitlin, OTR, LMT, occupational and massage therapist in eldercare. Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways that massage therapy can benefit seniors.

Chronic Pain. As the American Massage Therapy Association highlights, massage therapy has been shown to successfully treat chronic pain, particularly in the joints.

Suffer Fewer Falls.
Massage therapy can improve balance and posture, as Jo Ellen Sefton, Director of the Neuromechanics Research Laboratory at Auburn University, points out. According to Sefton, research “suggests that regular massage may produce physiological changes that contribute to improved balance and postural control. This may be a way to decrease falls in older adults.”

Osteoarthritis. A massage study conducted in Washington found that 57% of those diagnosed with Osteoarthritis have used massage therapy in the last five months, surpassing those who turned to chiropractic care (21%) and supplements and over-the-counter medications (17%). Another study conducted by Perlman et al. found that Osteoarthritis sufferers who received massage enjoyed a 23 point improvement in pain, 21 point improvement for stiffness, and 20.5 point improvement in physical function.

Offset Dementia. As in many areas of study, research on massage for dementia is limited to small sample sizes and too few control groups. Still, the studies that have been conducted on massage for dementia suggest that massage can help reduce verbal aggression as well as agitated behaviors.

Overall, massage therapy can improve quality of life for seniors. It’s no wonder, then, that 74% of hospices employ massage therapists.

Tips for Massage Therapists who Want to Cater to Seniors
First off, if you’re thinking of tailoring your massage therapy practice for senior clients, we must congratulate you on your savvy business sense. As the elderly comprise a large portion of the population, you will likely find plenty of demand for your senior-centric massage services. From a sheer numbers perspective, the Baby Boomers are impressive. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that the number of US residents over 65 years of age will double, from 35 million to 71 million, by the year 2030. That means a steady stream of potential massage clients for the next decade.

Selena Belisle, instructor and senior massage educator at the CE Institute, recommends the following adjustments for providing massage therapy for seniors:

  • Choose Top-Shelf Moisturizers. As skin ages it can become thin, itchy, and wrinkled. Your senior clients will appreciate high-quality moisturizers, such as those that include shea butter and organic ingredients. Your work will moisturize the areas where seniors cannot reach, such as their backs.
  • Offer Multiple Massage Positions. Getting onto the massage table may not be easy for some seniors. What’s more, staying on the table for more than 30 minutes may not be comfortable. Therefore, communicate with your senior clients about what is working during the session, and slow down the process of preparing for the massage. You may offer seated massage instead, for instance. It is wise to offer assistance in getting on the table. Gather clients’ eyewear before ending the session, and ensure that your massage room is well lit and easy to navigate.
  • Individualize Treatment. This should go without saying, but it is especially applicable to seniors. This population may see massage as a lower-cost option for non-emergency health concerns, such as loss of range of motion. Belisle explains, “My geriatric clients understand the value of having the same therapist work on them repeatedly. We can see when a joint has lost range of motion and work on that loss.” Remember that each senior client will have his or her own concerns, and that you can earn more consistent bookings by carefully tuning into the needs and concerns of the person in front of you.
  • Stay Sharp with Ongoing Education. Senior-focused massage therapy education zooms in on marketing to nursing homes and extended care facilities; medication/massage interactions; massaging wheelchair- and bed-bound patients; and medical conditions common among seniors, such as Parkinson’s disease and stroke. Recognize that the more time you invest in educating yourself on senior massage, the more senior clients will respond to your treatments.

For more tips on working with elderly clients, check out our post “Client Populations: Working with Elderly Patients.” We also recommend that you stay in-the-know about East West College’s continuing education offerings.

An ever-rotating cornucopia of learning opportunities await for you at our Portland continuing massage education site. Currently, our “Introduction to Bowenwork” class would be ideal for anyone looking to enrich their massage practice for all ages, including seniors. Our Portland massage therapy school also offers in-depth ongoing education on specific anatomical areas, such as the hips or the ribs; this sort of knowledge will benefit your work with clients of all ages.

Top 5 Benefits of Regular Massage & How to Make Massages Happen

Many people schedule a massage only when something is wrong—they’ve tweaked a muscle, a certain massagebody part won’t relax, or they’re feeling especially stressed. However, science is discovering more and more benefits to regularly receiving massage—even when nothing’s really “wrong.”

According to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), 87% of people see massage as beneficial for overall health and wellness. Research supports this belief. Let’s examine health benefits of regularly receiving massages.

Top 5 Benefits of Regular Massage

1. Massage Boosts Immunity. By stimulating the lymphatic system, a good massage can increase the presence of white blood cells throughout the body.

2. Massage Improves Detox. The lymphatic system also assists with detoxification. Unlike the heart, the lymphatic system has no pump; only muscular movements can allow it to flush out waste. Massage also increases lymphatic detoxification.

3. Massage Lowers Stress. Massage activates the parasympathetic nervous system, activating the body’s “Rest and Digest” state. This counteracts the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the “Fight, Flight, or Freeze” stress state. Lowered blood pressure, decreased anxiety, and lowered depression are additional stress-related benefits of massage.

4. Massage Alleviates Muscle Pain. According to the AMTA’s survey, 29% of respondents have used massage therapy for muscle pain relief. From headaches to back pain, massage can reduce pain for multiple conditions.

5. Massage Increases Circulation, leading to radiant skin, healthy cellular growth, and good organ function.

Regular massage can also improve mood and flexibility.

But how does one achieve regular massage? Here are five tricks to help you do just that.

5 Ways to Make Massage a Regular Feature in Your Life

1. Book appointments one month at a time. Once the appointments are in your planner, you’ll be less likely to shirk on self-care. You can book appointments at our Portland school of massage online at

2. Buy packages to take advantage of lower rates. You’ll feel more generous with yourself knowing that you saved a good deal. Our massage clinic currently offers a package discount; you save 20% when you prepay for five massage students.

3. Ask for massage for gifts. Massage gift certificates are easy to give and delightful to redeem.

4. Visit a massage school, like East West College, where you can enjoy affordable, excellent massage at the hands of students in the final term of their massage therapy training. To book an appointment at our clinic, visit or call 503-233-6500.

5. Give yourself massages. You can massage yourself into a happier state of mind. East West College offers ongoing education in massage, so you can learn how to better care for yourself and family members through healing touch.

With diligence, you can make massage a regular part of your life, and enjoy all the health benefits that come with massage. Call our massage therapist school to learn more about how our clinic and massage therapy classes can help you meet your healthcare and education goals.

Spring Allergies: How Massage Can Help

Springtime: It brings beautiful flowers, sunny days, and, for many, allergies. If you experience itchiness, stuffiness, and general brain-fogginess this time of year, consider adding massage to your allergy-fighting game plan. Read on to learn how regular massage helps offset allergic inflammation. We’ll also touch on how four types of massage (facial massage, craniosacral massage, acupressure, and reflexology) can help reduce allergy symptoms. Finally, we’ll list massage resources for fighting allergic reactions.

How Allergies Work: Overactive Inflammation

Whatever your allergy symptoms, one thing’s certain: They are all related to inflammation. Think of the immune system as the body’s defensive army. Some of its troops are tasked with detecting invaders, such as toxins. In the case of springtime allergies, pollen or grass clippings are inappropriately flagged as dangerous, so the immunity army kicks into gear to kick out these “invaders.” Step one: release histamines, blood-borne triggers that activate various immunity responses in the body. All allergy symptoms are ultimately the immune system’s misguided attempts to kick out invaders.

Medications called antihistamines attempt to quiet allergy symptoms by blocking the effects of histamines. Antihistamines block the receptors where histamines attach to cells, thus preventing histamines from carrying out their job of triggering inflammatory responses. As such, histamines only work if you take them regularly throughout spring allergy season, or 2-5 hours before you will be exposed to an allergen.

Massage can be another excellent tool for offsetting the inflammation of allergies.

How Massage Can Minimize Allergy Symptoms

* Massage—particularly lymphatic massage—can encourage the drainage of sinuses and lymph nodes, alleviating painful pressure and boosting the circulatory system’s ability to remove allergens, viruses, and bacteria.

* Stress causes the release of additional histamines, worsening allergy symptoms. Massage can help a person de-stress, minimizing cortisol and histamines.

* Massage can activate the body’s natural ability to heal. For instance, a pressure point on the balls of the feet may target the lungs, increasing their ability to clear out allergens.

Let’s take a closer look at how three different types of massage help allergy sufferers.

Four Types of Massage that Soothe Allergy Symptoms

1. Facial and Neck Massage can relieve pressure by stimulating lymphatic flow and releasing stuffy sinuses.

2. Craniosacral Massage is extremely relaxing; it is a wonderful way to release stress. As the body switches from the stress response to the relaxation response, it naturally allocates more resources to the immune system. Improved immune system performance allows for increased fluid drainage.

3. Acupressure uses the theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine to activate the body’s natural healing abilities. In Chinese medicine, allergies are caused by weakness in the lungs, spleen, and kidney. Weak lungs allow allergens to enter the body. Weak spleen energy blocks proper mucous drainage. And a weak kidney drains our overall energy, limiting the immune system’s efficacy. By applying finger pressure to various points on the body, an acupressure session stimulates your energy and removes blocks to healing.

4. Reflexology uses pressure points on the feet or hands to target different areas of the body. For instance, a main sinus point is on the tip of the big toe. Some people experience rapid clearing of allergy symptoms after only a few minutes of pressure on these reflexology points.

Portland Massage Resources for Allergy Sufferers

If you struggle with seasonal allergies, should be in your bookmarks. This is the clinic site for our Portland, Oregon massage school. At, you can book appointments for massage students as well as licensed therapists. We are delighted to offer affordable massage to keep your allergies at bay.

At East West College, we also present ongoing educational opportunities for therapists who would like to develop skills in treating allergies through massage. Massage therapy training is also a great idea for those who would like to alleviate their own allergy symptoms through self-massage. Massage therapy schools may offer single-session classes on reflexology, for instance.

When allergies flame up, it’s good to have a range of tools to offset symptoms. Massage should be one of the main tools in your allergy-fighting tool belt.

Massage Modalities: Neuromuscular Therapy

Neuromuscular Therapy: A Basic Definition

NMT practitioners use deep tissue massage techniques such as digital pressure and friction to release muscular trigger points. Trigger points are pea-sized restrictions in muscular tissue. Repetitive motion, injury, stress, and poor posture are some causes of trigger points. In these areas, circulation is restricted, meaning that nutrient delivery and cellular waste are limited. Through Neuromuscular Therapy and other massage modalities, Portland massage therapists can often alleviate lingering pain, weakness, and fatigue.

Neuromuscular therapy doesn’t just consider issues in soft tissue, but rather examines multiple levels of the problem—not just where it manifests as a sensation, but also related body regions, overall posture, emotional health, allergies, neurochemical factors, and more. Part of the NMT process includes consideration of all muscles and structures that feed into the painful area. As such, NMT specialists can reduce referral pain, in which zones distant from the trigger point experience tingling, numbness or pain. Headaches and carpal tunnel syndromes are two examples of how trigger pain could present in a patient.

massageWho Can Benefit from Neuromuscular Therapy
If you experience physical pain, NMT can help! Trigger points are very common, and NMT can help relax them and alleviate irritating symptoms. Here are a few more benefits of NMT:
–Improved flexibility
–Increased range of motion and ease of movement
–Enhanced posture
–Augmented circulation (including reduction of body toxins)
–Balance between the nervous system and the musculoskeletal system
–Added strength

Common Ailments that NMT Can Treat
–Carpel-tunnel-like syndromes
–Hip pain
–Back pain
–Knee pain
–Jaw pain
–Sciatica-like syndromes
–Knee pain

This is only a small selection of issues that NMT can alleviate. This comprehensive therapy is well-equipped to treat soft-tissue and joint problems.

After reading about NMT, therapists and students may be interested in learning how they can gain training in this effective massage style. Our massage school in Portland, OR includes a short introduction to this style for all students. Massage- therapists-in-training can also select Neuromuscular Therapy for one of their 33-hour electives. We also offer NMT workshops for ongoing education credits. To learn more about our massage certification program, including NMT massage therapy classes, get in touch with one of our admission officers. For information on ongoing education courses, check out our continuing education event schedule.

Massage clients, would you like to experience NMT for yourself? Schedule a massage with an NMT-certified therapist through Several of our licensed massage therapists are skilled in NMT.

Improved Sleep & Massage: Portland Massage School on Catching more ZZZs

Getting more sleep is a perennially popular resolution—and one that scientists recommend, as getting more sleep can help you achieve your other resolutions. Regularly receiving massage is an excellent habit for those looking to increase their shut-eye. Read on to discover research on massage and sleep. We also offer a few general tips on how to improve your sleep in 2018 (including making an appointment at our Portland massage school’s clinic).

How Good Sleep Boosts Motivation

Did you know that self-care (including getting more sleep) is the 4th most popular resolution among women in 2018? Research suggests prioritizing sleep is a smart move, as getting enough of it makes it easier to stick to other resolutions. For instance, ample sleep helps people avoid unhealthy food cravings. Too little sleep decreases the hormone leptin, which triggers the sensation of being full. The appetite-increasing hormone ghrelin is also increased with insufficient sleep. Ghrelin also spurs cravings for carbohydrates and salty/sugary snacks. University of Michigan sleep physician Cathy Goldstein, M.D. emphasizes, “We definitely take sleep as a luxury; it’s not.” Her research team has shown how improved sleep boosts motivation for multiple life improvements, from exercising more to quitting smoking. Bottom line? Sleep more to achieve more in your life.

The Dangers of Sleep Deficiency

massage classes, massage Portland, massage school

If you are more motivated by the dangers of not getting enough sleep, here are a few conditions and diseases that the Centers for Disease Control lists as related to inadequate sleep:

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Cardiovascular Disease

According to the CDC, the onset, management, and ultimate outcome of the above killers are related to lack of sleep. Moreover, the CDC highlights that many automobile and machinery-related deaths are caused by deficient sleep. Overall, according to the Institute of Medicine, an estimated 50 to 70 million Americans’ health is impacted by sleep issues.

Research on Massage and Sleep

As the AMTA has reported, there is a scientifically proven link between regular massage and improved sleep. Here’s a selection of the studies reviewed at the AMTA’s website on sleep and massage:

  • Massage decreases sleeplessness for those with low back pain. After receiving 30-minute massages twice a week for five weeks, participants reported better sleep compared to a progressive relaxation control group.
  • Massage improves sleep for migraine sufferers, while also decreasing migraine frequency. After receiving weekly massages for 13 weeks, participants who received massage experienced improved sleep quality and fewer migraines.
  • Massage increases sleep for those who experience hand pain. Adults with hand pain were assigned to a massage group or a standard treatment control group. Those in the massage group received weekly massage for four weeks, as well as instruction on self-massage to be done daily on the affected hand. The participants in the massage group reported improved scores on sleep disturbance scales.

The AMTA site includes sleep/massage studies for many other patient groups, including postmenopausal women, infants, and the elderly, as well as those with fibromyalgia, cerebral palsy, anxiety, cancer, breast disease, insomnia, and more. Research suggests massage improves sleep across all stages of life.

Sleep Happy: General Tips for Getting Your Zzz’s

Fight insomnia on multiple fronts: Receive regular massage while also practicing good sleep habits. Here are a few sleep-positive life hacks that can bring you blissful rest:

  1. Be Consistent.
    Go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Use alarms to remind yourself when to go to bed as well as when to get up.
  2. Have a bedtime ritual.
    Choose relaxing activities that will improve your quality of life. For instance, you could drink chamomile tea while journaling on what you are grateful for. If you do the same things at the same time in the same order each night, your body will soon develop a Pavlovian response to lead you into good sleep.
  3. Don’t look at screens before bed.
    Computer, laptop, and cell phone screens emit blue-range lights, which are the same light wavelengths we see in the morning. This signals the body to get ready to become active. To instead nudge the body toward sleep, avoid looking at screens of any kind two to three hours before bedtime.
  4. Exercise regularly so that your body is ready to sleep.
    Consistent exercise will make you more tired, so that you’re ready to sleep when it’s bedtime.

Overall, regular massage and good bedtime habits can deliver exceptional sleep. If you’re looking for affordable massage options in the Portland area, check out our offerings. Our Portland massage school provides therapeutic massage through our massage clinic. There, our students practice their craft while benefiting the community. For just $30 you can receive a 45-minute student massage. Students in our clinic are in their final term of massage classes; they are thoroughly prepared to cater to your therapeutic requests. We also offer 60-minute ($50), 90-minute ($75) and 120-minute ($100) massages from licensed massage therapists who have graduated from our rigorous massage program. Do yourself (and your sleep regimen!) a favor, and make a massage appointment today at


Massage as a Treatment Tool for Opioid Dependence

Last month we introduced how massage therapy can help individuals who are drug dependent stay present in their bodies, rather than disassociating to the negative body outcomes of their substance of choice. We also discussed how massage therapy can break the cycle of stress and sleeplessness so common among the substance dependent, by encouraging deep relaxation and releasing serotonin, dopamine, and other feel-good hormones throughout the body. Those who abuse substances often rely on drugs to experience pleasure; massage, in contrast, helps people experience their bodies’ natural pleasure pathways. Today we’re continuing the conversation by taking a special look at how massage therapy can help those suffering opioid use disorders.

massage therapy is an effective treatment for opioid dependence

First, just what is an opioid? The National Institute on Drug Abuse provides a simple definition: “Opioids are medications that relieve pain.” By minimizing the strength of pain signals reaching the brain, opioids mimic the body’s natural pain control system.

Natural opioid peptides, such as enkephalins and endorphins suppress pain messages by binding to receptors in the spinal cord and brain. Opioid medications such as Vicodin, OxyContin, and Percocet use these same pathways to suppress pain signals. Some opioids, like Morphine, are used in surgery and other circumstances that require extreme pain relief. Other opioids, such as codeine, are commonly prescribed for mild pain.

Historically, poppy seed resin was the original opiate. Drugs derived from the poppy seed, such as opium and heroin, have been used for thousands of years for both pleasure and medicinal purposes.

Why are opioids so addictive? In essence, because they replace the body’s natural pleasure chemicals. Once the body detects a consistent flow of synthetic endorphins, it stops producing its own pleasure chemicals. Then, when the individual tries to stop opioids use, depression ensues until the body begins producing its own pleasure chemicals once again. In the meantime, withdrawal symptoms are often so severe as to send the individual running back to their opioid “quick fix” for feeling good.

Opioid Addiction: A Modern Epidemic

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least half of all drug overdose fatalities involve prescription opioids. In the past 17 years, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids has quadrupled. Every day, 78 Americans die of an opioid overdose.

The American Academy of Pain Medicine has determined that opioid addiction costs the U.S. $55.7 billion, in costs related to loss of workplace productivity, criminal justice prosecution, health care, and correctional facility operation.

Clearly, opioid misuse is taking a heavy toll in our country. Traditionally, opioid dependence has been treated with other drugs, such as methadone. The idea is that other medications are required to help assuage withdrawal symptoms. However, some patients feel replacing one drug with another is counterproductive. Others rely on a combination of traditional and alternative medicines to combat their opioid overuse. Twelve-step programs, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, and massage can be helpful tools in the opioid recovery toolbox.

How Massage Helps with Opiate Use Disorders

Portland massage therapists may choose to specialize in the treatment of substance addicted or dependent individuals. (For more details on how to steer careers in massage therapy toward helping this niche group, we recommend reading our introductory post from May.) Opioid-dependent patients who receive massage therapy may experience the following positive outcomes:

  • Increased Body Awareness. Opioid use is often rooted in chronic pain. The opioid user attempts to avoid pain through painkiller medications. Adept massage therapists can help patients feel what the pain is actually like in their bodies. While this may at first be very difficult, over time those with opioid use disorders find the pain isn’t their whole world. They eventually discover that they can live with their pain without requiring outside substances.
  • Effective Pain Treatment. A May 2016 study published in the journal Pain Medicine found that massage therapy can reduce pain, minimize anxiety, and improve health-related quality of life. All three outcomes are relevant for those with substance dependency issues. By providing a drug-free way to relieve pain, massage can help tremendously.
  • Manage Detox Symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can be intense— extremely painful, stressful, and uncomfortable. Massage can help by increasing the levels of natural feel-good chemicals in the brain. For instance, a good massage increases dopamine levels, the body’s reward chemicals. By increasing these pleasure chemicals, regular massage can help addicts withstand withdrawal symptoms.

If helping combat rampant opioid misuse appeals to you, we suggest keeping your eyes peeled for relevant massage therapy continuing education courses. In Portland, you can rely on East West College to offer a range of classes each quarter. This September and October, we are offering twenty-two different CE courses for LMTs, ranging from “Indian Head Massage” to “Ethics for Massage Therapists” to “Gua Sha and Cupping”. Massage therapists with an interest in substance abuse treatment may also seek volunteer work and employment in clinics that specialize in recovery. If you are an East West College grad, our Alumni Services team would be happy to help you with information on job openings and volunteer opportunities. To learn more, get in touch.

The Benefits of Pre-Race Massage

Picture this: you’re getting ready to run a 5k, you see a massage table set up, and next to it the massage therapist offering a, what you say, a “free massage!?” But wait. There are no lines? How could this be?

benefits of a pre-race massage to warm up the muscles

As a massage therapist, one of my main goals is to support optimum performance for athletes. Often, I set up my massage table at local runs. One thing I’ve consistently noticed is that far fewer people take advantage of massage prior to the run than after. I find this surprising, given that the feedback from runners who’ve had a warm-up massage is so positive. I have consistently heard statements from these runners, such as “it really helped” or “I didn’t flag at the final hill”, or “I usually cramp in my calf, but not this time.”
Continue reading “The Benefits of Pre-Race Massage”