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Experience Manual therapy Massage Posture Stress

Why I almost never put you face-down first for your massage treatment

There’s a conventional wisdom in massage therapy: “rub where it hurts.” This is wrong.

There’s conventional wisdom in massage therapy: “rub where it hurts.” This is wrong.

Think about it — if you’re spending your life sitting at a desk or computer, on your couch, or in a car, as most of us do for most of our waking hours, your arms are usually out in front of you, right?

Where are the short muscles, then…? And where are the long ones? On the front, or on the back?

The one and only correct answer is: short and tight on the front, long and tight on the back.

Wait, what? Tight on both sides?

Yup. The long muscles on the back of your shoulders are hanging on for dear life, holding back the more powerful muscles on the front. That is why they get tired and sore. From that position, they are at a mechanical disadvantage. That means when they are lengthened, it takes even more energy for them to resist the front muscles – because they have further to go in order to contract back to a position of strength.

For this reason, if you come in and sit down in front of me and say “I carry all my tension in my shoulders,” and point to your upper back, then I will NEVER start you off face-down on the massage table. You’ll begin laying face-up to begin with, and we’ll lengthen and release the short, tight, front muscles first.

Only then will I get you to turn face-down. I’ll put a couple of bolster cushions under your shoulders and upper arms to hold you in a more comfortable neutral position (shoulders back and down), and then massage those sore upper back, neck and shoulder muscles back into their normal resting position.

Often when I put people into this position they audibly sigh in relief as their muscles finally relax. And that’s before I’ve even touched those back and shoulder muscles.

Hello, face! 🙂

Plus, when you’re lying face-up, you can see me. Especially if this is your first appointment, I think it’s helpful that you’re not taking off most of your clothes and disappearing down a hole for 30+ minutes with someone you just met. This way, we can build better trust and rapport.

Being able to see someone’s face for a while when you first meet them is very beneficial.

Finally, I will always recommend that you do some therapeutic stretching for your chest muscles, and then strengthening exercises for the upper back muscles, to balance you out a bit. Even if this doesn’t “fix” your posture, it is pretty much guaranteed to make you feel better going forward.

As always whether you do these exercises is up to you; but if you do them, you’re likely to never have all that tension in your shoulders ever again. (Just sayin’.)

Stretch and release the front to relax and release the back.

That’s the way I do it.

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