What kind of massage do you do?
After about 10 years of practicing massage therapy, and after learning about a dozen different modalities of bodywork, I’ve honed my preferred style to what I can only best as: slow systemic lengthening of tension lines, in the context of a West Coast–style “flow.” It can feel intense but never hurts, and is calming to receive.
I practice three forms of therapeutic bodywork: (1) deep-tissue myofascial, which is done through gentle-but-deep pressure combined with moving the muscle, aka “Soft Tissue Release” and similar to Active Release Techniques (ART); (2) “structural integration”, a descendant of Rolf’s style of direct myofascial; and (3) indirect myofascial which is much slower, has minimal movement, and can feel more gentle. I also do (4) soothing relaxation massage, which has no goal other than feeling good, and is ideal for those with stress or anxiety or who just want to chill.
When people think massage, they almost always think of “Swedish” or Spa Massage, the traditional method of rubbing the skin for increased circulation, muscle tone, and relaxation. But this is just one of many different types of bodywork, many of which don’t look anything like massage. I’m certified in:
- Myofascial Release — stretching and “re-educating” the fascial network of tissue in and between the muscles which gives structure to the body, for reducing chronic pain and improving motion and posture. Also known as “Structural Integration” or “Rolfing” (after Ida Rolf); for that, see my other website structuralintegrationniagara.com.
- “Deep Flow” / Esalen — a truly relaxing experience. Swedish-style massage with influences from Hawaii, Central America, and of course California; read more.
- Deep tissue — focused work on specific groups of muscles for structural therapy and local tension; my style is most like “Soft Tissue Release.” Note: “deep tissue” can be synonymous with “myofascial”: see pp. 152-153 in this article on myofascial release, and also my section “What’s the difference between Deep-Tissue massage and myofascial?” See also a presentation I did for the runner’s clinic at the Running Room on this topic.
- Swedish Massage — a general, relaxing approach, the kind of massage most people have seen or experienced. My style is most like Deep Flow or Esalen, and includes the Trager style of rocking “joint release” which induces relaxation and de-stressing. Read about Esalen massage.
- Chair Massage — a shorter massage using acupressure techniques, done sitting in a chair wearing normal clothes (employers: free chair massage for you!)
- Hot Stone — I’m certified in the Ocean Stone Therapy routine, but usually I use stones with my Lomi Lomi style. The stones plus heat melt tight muscles like butter. See Hot Stone: a most pleasant and effective massage style.
- Lomi Lomi — this ancient shamanic Hawaiian tradition is the most intense form of swedish-style massage you’ll ever experience!
- Reflexology / foot therapy – while I am certified, there’s no-one better than Laura Canal, in The Falls. See Miles of Smiles Reflexology: Foot massage, Reiki, and Energy Healing in the Niagara Region, Canada. Read more about Reflexology.
What should I expect for my first visit?
Before your first treatment, I am required by law to ask for a health history form, which will take about 10 minutes to complete. Please come to your first appointment about 15 minutes early. You may also download the form, fill it out in advance, and bring it with you.
If you are coming for relaxation massage, we can then begin right away. But if you are seeking relief from an injury or pain, we may need to do a 10-minute assessment first in order to create a safe and effective treatment plan for your specific needs.
If you’re coming for chair massage or athletic rehab, this might be done clothed or using the upright massage chair. If you’re coming for relaxation massage, it is most effective when done with oil on bare skin. If this is the type of massage you want, I will give you privacy to get undressed to your comfort level and cover yourself with the sheets and blanket on the massage table. I will come in when you’re ready and make sure you’re fully covered and comfortable. I will only undrape the part of your body I’m working on, to ensure your modesty is respected.
I offer a quiet and relaxing environment during your massage. The massage table is padded and, if you like, can also be heated to your preference. There will be calming music playing, unless you prefer silence.
Once the massage is over, I will leave the room for you to redress. When you are ready, I will return to discuss your treatment and any recommended home care, and give you a receipt for reimbursement from your insurance company. Please follow your massage with a glass of water (while not usually necessary, it can’t hurt).
How many sessions do I need?
As many as feel good! Some people feel “fixed” after just one massage. Others like to come regularly for a “monthly tune-up,” especially if we’re not trying to fix anything but you just want a nice relaxing experience.
If we are treating a specific condition, if you haven’t felt significant improvement within 3 sessions, then I probably can’t help.
While no RMT can guarantee any results, in my experience almost all clients experience lasting, positive change within 3 appointments. Why 3? Three reasons:
Firstly and most simply, it can take more than one visit before I understand what style of bodywork feels best for you, and before you can know the range of what I have to offer. Session #1 is “meet-and-greet” for the therapeutic relationship, and sometimes a bit of trial-and-error. By Session #2 you know how you felt after the 1st, and what to ask me for, and can more readily relax into receiving the process. By #3 we’re old friends and will have begun to establish a routine. Secondly, 3 sessions allows me to approach your body in a graduated multi-level fashion, often starting with indirect myofascial, then diving into deep-tissue massage, and finally arriving at the depth of Rolf’s direct myofascial. Thirdly, if you’ve requested the standard Structural Integration protocol, then 3 sessions is necessary to treat the whole body’s “superficial” fascia, following which we begin addressing the “core” layers. (See structuralintegrationniagara.com.)
Where do you work?
I can meet you at The Spiritual Spa in Niagara Falls or invite you to my home studio in St Catharines. I no longer do out-calls, save for special occasions or special-needs. For chair massage and corporate clients, I will come to your office.
What do I wear?
Wear whatever you’re comfortable with. There are many forms of “massage”; some are done on bare skin, some through clothing or over a sheet. Plus, any style can be modified to fit each person’s clothing preferences.
For myofascial, joint work, or stretching, please wear a comfortable T-shirt and boxers or thin shorts/swimsuit, anything without thick seams or folds.
For Swedish massage, where work is done on bare skin, all parts of the body not being touched are “draped”. People who receive regular massages usually wear no clothing; this allows the practitioner to more fully work on the muscles, follow the lines of tension, and not get oil on underwear.
About evidence-based massage
The following is just regarding therapeutic massage. Relaxation massage doesn’t need any justification. It feels great, it helps make us happy, and that is its own reward!
- We know massage works; we’re just not entirely sure how! (And some styles work better than others, with “Rolfing,” the most scientific, also being the most effective for most clients.)
- I only use techniques which I understand and can explain. Ask me about anything I’m doing during the massage, and I’ll be happy to tell you exactly what I’m doing, why, and how it works. If a specific technique has not been shown to work, I won’t use it.
- To determine the efficacy of a therapy, one must watch out for “Post hoc ergo propter hoc,” or a mis-attribution of cause-and-effect. For example, many cases of low back pain get better on their own in 2-3 weeks. If you try any kind of therapy in the first week and then get better, that doesn’t necessarily mean the therapy caused the healing. A Chinese doctor told me this joke: if you have a cold and don’t take medicine, it’ll be over in a week. But if you use these traditional Chinese herbs, you’ll get better in just 7 days!
- Some therapies have not been demonstrated through clinical research. For example, while many patients and doctors (especially in India) will swear by homeopathy, it has not performed better than placebo when subjected to double-blind studies. Of course, contemporary homeopathy — buying a pill at your local drugstore — is a shadow of the rigorous (for its time) medical approach Hahnemann himself practiced, and in a way he predicted the later theory of vaccines.
- Much of what used to be taught in massage therapy schools is still being studied or is being studied for the first time using new medical devices (e.g. the relatively recent invention of magnetic resonance imaging), and curricula evolve every couple decades. For example, all massage therapists are taught about Trigger Points and how to treat them, but their very existence remains in dispute. The treatment can work, but does the explanation? We are also taught to do “friction massage,” which can be effective for certain conditions, but the reasoning behind it may be erroneous: are we really breaking up adhesions and re-aligning collagen, or are we mostly stimulating inflammation and promoting fluid movement? Or perhaps we are doing nothing more than activating a CNS response by stretching cutaneous nerves via the skin! I highly recommend Walt Fritz’ deconstruction of traditional massage explanations: see his essay Changing Your Story.
- Massage therapists often lack a background in scientific methodologies and, in their sincere desire to help their clients heal, will use — and believe in the efficacy of — treatments that don’t have a known cause-and-effect relationship or lack a sufficient explanation. For example, you will often hear RMTs talk about massage flushing “toxins” out of the body, but they neglect to define which substances or chemicals are being flushed, or the mechanism by which massage can remove them.
- So, with all of the above caveats, can massage actually work? Emphatically, yes. Not for everyone, and not for every painful condition, but it has a better track record and medical foundation than most “alternative” modalities. Part of the reason I am passionate about the types of massage therapy I practice is that they have been proven to work, and by known mechanisms. When I myself have certain types of muscle pain or structural imbalances (e.g. the head-forward turtle posture people develop after years of desk work), myofascial massage is the only approach that works, and I can literally feel its effectiveness during and after — even months after — the treatment. Similarly, I’ve had hundreds of clients report that these treatments were the only thing they tried which “fixed” them.
- Read more: Wikipedia: Evidence-Based Medicine and Massage Therapy: Riddled with Quackery
- And to repeat: the above is just regarding therapeutic massage. Relaxation massage doesn’t need any proof. It feels great, it makes us happy, and that’s its own reward!
Do you work with infants, kids, or the elderly?
I do regular work at local retirement homes and for people with “low disabilities,” and find that seniors love the massage more than any other age group. Working with the elderly usually presents no new issues, other than those issues that might face clients of any age. Some older people like a firmer touch than some 20 year-olds!
I’m happy to work with kids of any age, and have taught workshops in pediatric massage and stress relief. (A parent must be present, at least for the first appointment.) Massage can be especially therapeutic to children with autism or ADHD. This kind of appointment serves both to massage the child and to educate the parent how to provide her own massages to her child. My own kids love it, and the techniques used are quite simple; for example, we would probably not do any “deep tissue” work. Child massage usually lasts around 30 minutes.
Qualifications/resume: bodywork and academic training
- Foundations in Myofascial Release, with Walt Fritz
- Rolfing mentoring, with Dr. Edward Maupin
- Soft Tissue Release, with Jim Bilotta
- Feldenkrais movement therapy, with Fariya Doctor (classes & workshop)
- Myofascial Integration Posture Alignment (MIPA) Level 1, with Craig Mollins
- MIPA Level 2 (structural integration sessions 4-7)
- MIPA Level 3 (Rolfing-style sessions 8-10)
- Usui Reiki Level 2
- Ontario Disability Act compliance training
- Introductory myofascial release, with Barry Jenings
- Two-year Massage Therapy diploma (OCHT)
- Deep Tissue Massage and Myofascial Release video/book course, with Art Riggs
- Advanced Joint Release, with Amaro Hogräfer
- Myofascial and Rolfing intro (see What is Myofascial Massage?)
- One-year Spa Therapy diploma (VSBM)
- Advanced Neck and Shoulder myofascial
- Intensive Lomi Lomi
- Zen Shiatsu
- Sports Massage
- Hot Stone
- Thai introductory training
- Swedish introductory
- M.A. Islamic Studies, University of Toronto, 1997
- B.A. Indian Philosophy with a minor in Music, Reed College, 1994 (also attended Brock and McGill)
- One-year Internet Technologies certificate, Bodwell Internet School, 2003
- Volunteer member, RMTAO Publications Review Panel (2014-present)
- Member, 2013-present, College of Massage Therapists of Ontario
- Member, 2010-present, Registered Massage Therapists Association of Ontario
- Insured, 2013-present, via RMTAO
- Insured, 2008-2010 by Preventative Health Services
- Trained, 2014, in Accessible Customer Service for compliance with Ontarians with Disabilities Act
- Member, 2007-08, Natural Health Practitioners of Canada
- CPR and Standard First Aid, Red Cross Level C, 2012-present
- Licensed “Therapeutic Touch Technique” mobile practitioner by the City of Vancouver, 2007-2010
Do you know squirrel or possum massage?
Well, of course! All creatures need balance in their chi.
But I let my staff handle the more challenging jobs: