· 

Talking Health with a Massage Therapist

by Robert Maxwell

When it comes to strength, fitness, and general health, there's a lot more to it then just lifting heavy weights. In fact, if that's all you do you'll likely have problems. Therapeutic massage might not be something you've thought much about. Up until recently, I was the same, but after having a conversation with my friend Melanie Blain, a retired massage therapist, I realize more than ever that there's more to optimal body function than imposing training stress. Read a transcript of our full conversation below.

 

Robert: First of all, thank you Mel for taking the time to talk with me. I think that you've got a lot of interesting and helpful knowledge that my readers will be able to benefit from, so I appreciate you taking the time. 

 

Melanie: Not a problem.

 

Robert: First question. You worked for, how long was it, as a registered massage therapist?

 

Melanie: Just about 10 years. 

 

Robert: Okay. What exactly is a registered massage therapist, and what sort of massage work did you specialize in? 

 

Melanie: Well, in order to be a massage therapist legally, a registered massage therapist, you have to go to schooling for a couple years. It's a two year program, and we go year round, not like regular college where you get summers off and March break. You have to meet certain criteria through the College of Massage Therapy, the CMTO, and then obviously your exams at the end to confirm not through the school that you went to, but to the CMTO, and you have to pass I believe with a 70% or 80% in order to obtain your license to be a registered massage therapist. Once you have that, then you have continuing education and everything, just like any other medical professional. 

What I did primarily was more of a therapeutic end and I really wasn't very good at the relaxation portion of the massage. I feel like everybody has your calling and you should go with it, so I did more therapeutic, help with injuries and rehabilitation and that type of stuff. 

 

Robert: It's interesting that you used the term, "Medical professional." I think that a lot of regular people who don't understand what's involved in becoming a registered massage therapist might not realize that it is, in fact, a medical profession in a way. 

 

Melanie: Yeah, we are legally considered medical professionals. That would be our title. 

 

Robert: Yeah, and with that, I'm sure, comes a lot of helpful knowledge, vital knowledge, really to do what you do in helping people recover. And that's something I don't think a lot of people realize. I think you think of massage professional being some muscly tanned guy on the beach where you walk into a grass hut for half an hour, but there's a whole lot more to it than that, isn't there?

 

Melanie: Oh, absolutely. People are usually very surprised, especially ones that have never had massage and finally decide for whatever reason to come in and get an issue dealt with. A lot of people are very surprised by what's actually involved in the recovery, the results they see from massages. Most people, like you said, think of relaxation, spa, whatever and not the therapeutic end of it as much. 

 

Robert: Speaking of that difference, the therapeutic versus the regular sort of relaxation massage that most people think of when they think of a massage, what are the main differences between those two? And how would that apply to a regular person looking for a relaxation massage, versus something more therapeutic that a serious athlete or weightlifter could benefit from? 

 

Melanie: Well, the big thing about being registered, is that most insurance companies cover your massages, if you have Green Shield, or whatever various insurance companies are out there. If you're registered, it's because you have the training and the knowledge to do a therapeutic massage, if you go through the schooling. That being said, not all people who go through schooling and have the registration really focus on the therapeutic end of the massage, but we're all trained the same way, or generally. I mean, from school to school there's slight variations, obviously. 

 

But the difference between relaxation massage is that you could probably fall asleep during it, it's nice and calm and relaxing. And you might feel good for the immediate after-effects of the massage, but long-term, if you have an ongoing back problem or a shoulder problem or a neck problem, you're probably not going to see any results as far as it getting any better from a relaxation massage. Therapeutic massage, on the other hand, has to be a little bit more uncomfortable. You're not going to be able to nap through it. You have to trust that you have a good therapist, find a good therapist. If you're not comfortable with the one you have, by all means, don't book another appointment, and try a couple ...

 

I do it myself, you know, I go see three or four different people until I find somebody that I find meeting the needs that I want. But the therapeutic point of the massage is that in the end, you might feel a little bit beaten up after, but in a few days or after a few treatments, you're going to start noticing improvements with your injuries, if it's a muscle-related injury. 

 

Robert: Okay, it sounds like it's a process, the therapeutic side of things is a process. 

 

Melanie: Yes, you don't get a massage ... It's like exercising. You don't do it once and expect to get results. Like exercise or trying to get fit, it's something that you have to continuously do to a certain point. I'm not saying that you need to be at massage three times a week, that's not recommended at all. But usually, depending on the injury and the age of the injury, the older the injury, the longer it takes to fix. But usually three to four treatments, but everybody responds different, so there's no set guideline as to what's required to fix a problem. 

It's kind of case by case, but I found that over my years, a lot of clients who had chronic issues found a point, and everybody was different, where, after we got them fixed, after the three or four weekly treatments or whatever it was to get them to a good point, then I would tell them, "Wait until you feel it creeping back in. And as soon as you feel that, 'Oh, I've got that kink in my neck again,' call right away and get in as quick as possible." 

 

And that's usually that person's point. So it could be two weeks, it could be two months, anywhere in between, or longer, even. And then we just set regular appointments after that to maintain. Again, depending if it's a new injury, it might be a fix and done issue. Everybody's different. There's really no textbook way of saying how often people needed to come in. 

 

Robert: Sure, that makes a lot of sense. I mean, it's the same with a lot of things in life, isn't it? That you can't expect immediate and gratifying results from one treatment. It's unreasonable to expect that, it's got to be sort of an ongoing process to recover and benefit fully. 

 

Melanie: Yes. 

 

Robert: Many of my readers here at the Man Factory website are middle-aged guys who want to get in shape for the first time, or maybe they've exercised in the past but kind of let themselves go over the years, and want to get back to it. A big problem from a resistance-training point of view for many of these folks is mobility. For proper technique in weight training to do it safely and effectively, you've got to have good mobility. Can massages of the sort that you did help with that? 

 

Melanie: Well, absolutely. I would compare getting massages to a really good stretching session. It helps loosen up the muscles, it helps loosen up the fascia, which is your range of motion. It would also get the blood flowing through the muscles more, it kind of wakes everything up, I guess, if that's the proper way of saying it. Yeah, I think massage is very ... And it's helpful, post-workouts, as well. It helps flush the lactic acid out of the muscles and get everything moving really well. It also helps break down scar tissue from past injuries or even just ... 

 

People don't realize that you develop scar tissues within your muscles just from day to day activities, as well. People are always concerned by that when you tell them. But by massaging and working out through those issues, you can break down the scar tissue and really help with range of motion, which in turn helps with proper form and function when working out. And post-workouts, as well, to get the aches and pains out, as well. 

 

Robert: That sounds great from the point of view of guys and girls who lift weights regularly, heavy weights. Improving and speeding recovery, that's kind of the holy grail of training, and we as natural athletes want to do everything we can shy of taking some sort of enhancement to make that happen. It sounds like a deep therapeutic massage, rather, a series of those massages, could be just the thing for folks who find that their recovery isn't what they'd like it to be. 

 

Melanie: Yeah. And it helps with any injuries that occur during the process, because it does happen. 

 

Robert: Yeah, even for people who are familiar with proper technique and do their best to train in that way and not to overtrain, injuries do happen. It's just part of the course and every serious trainee in the gym is going to experience that at some point. I was going to ask how exactly massages can help with injury recovery, because I think some trainees might be skeptical, not knowing what's involved in these deep tissue therapeutic massages. They might not realize just how much massages of the sort you do can help with that recovery. You've already touched on this from different angles, but what would you say to those people who just aren't sure and probably need some education on how helpful these massages can be for recovering from even serious injuries?

 

Melanie: Well, one, case in point, all sports teams have a massage therapist on their team to work on them post, pre-game workouts. Obviously it's been proven to work, otherwise they wouldn't have them on big sports teams. But that being said, again, you help break down the scar tissue, you help release the fascia you help increase the blood flow. There's just so many things, like for a sprain, for example. 

 

I'm not really one to get into technical terms so much, but a sprain, for example, that's in your ligament. Your ligament doesn't have a natural blood flow through it. If you start working on that, it increases the blood flow around the area, and it helps speed up the recovery. Because otherwise, it would just be on its own.And eventually it will heal, but also, while it's healing, you're breaking down the scar tissue that's going to form just because there's so much inflammation in the area. You'll align the scar tissue with the muscle fibers, which will allow range of motion better, and can help with the inflammation, bring down the inflammation. 

 

There's a lot of areas that you can touch on to help the healing process, speed it up and help it feel better than it would if you just left it alone. People don't realize that. I've had, over the 10 years, many people very surprised over the recovery from this sprained ankle, or this sprained ankle they had five years ago that still bothers them because they didn't receive treatment. Again, with muscle strains and pulls, it's the same idea, the increase of blood flow, you flush out the inflammation, you break down the scar tissue. It's all important practice in healing to heal the best way it can, and maintain your range of motion with no restrictions. 

 

Robert: It's making a lot of sense, and again, this is something that I think a lot of guys passionate about lifting don't really realize. Just how helpful deep tissue therapeutic massage can be, both in terms of staying loose and maintaining range of motion, and of course, recovering from that inevitable time when an injury does, unfortunately, occur.

 

Melanie: Actually, I used to work on a competition body builder. And he wasn’t sure about massage, he'd been to a few shows and after I started teaching him about massage and giving him regular massages, he kind of changed his outlook on how to deal with everything in general, and he started stretching more and doing more things. And he admittedly said that he felt better and things were easier to do, like it made a big difference in what he was doing. And he actually sent more people my way because of that specific ... They just don't realize, people don't realize the benefits of that. And range of motion, range of motion is very, very important. 

 

Robert: Yeah, it's vital, in fact. And something that I try to advocate to my audience on the Man Factory website. It's kind of stereotypical of big, strong guys who lift to think of them as muscle-bound and really poor on the range of motion side of things, even if they are strong in a few movements. And that's unfortunately a stereotype that has some basis in fact, in a lot of cases, but some things that we try to turn the tide on here at the Man Factory, and it's good to hear that for guys as serious about resistance training, that this sort of thing can help them. And that it does make a very noticeable, positive difference. 

Moving back to the injury side of things for a moment, when it comes to serious weight lifters, lower back injury is probably, in my experience coaching and training, one of the most common kind of injuries that happen. The lower back, of course, comes into a lot of different compound movements involving the barbell. So it's vulnerable if proper technique isn't observed, or if too much weight is used or not enough time is taken to recover. Do you have any advice on preventing and treating pain in the lower back area specifically?

 

Melanie: Preventing. Like you said, proper form is key and proper weight amounts. I find ... nothing personal to guys ... but they tend to want to show off, and they always try to lift more than they should. But when you're adding weight to a range of motion, movement, and especially in your back, it's very susceptible to injury that way. You're putting pressure on something while it's moving. Even if you're not in the proper form, just a little bit off, you can really cause a lot of damage to your lower back. 

 

In order to prevent stuff like that, really, really pay attention to what you're doing, really watch your weight levels. As far as recovering goes, take your time. Take your time, don't rush back into it. I'll say it 1,000 times over, and I have. Your best recovery exercise is going back to your basic plank. Everybody doesn't think about something so simple, because there's no weight, there's no movement, but it's one of the best strengthening exercises for your core, which in turn will help support your low back. You need to have that core strength to support. 

If those muscles are weak, any of them, then you're not going to get the proper support you need for your lower back. Think of it as like a girdle, those muscles, and you really have to focus on all of the core muscles, and not just particular ones if you want to have a strong, healthy back, and if you want to recover from an injury, as well. The only exercise recovery-wise I have ever given was the plank, because it engages all those muscles without range of motion, and without the range of motion, you reduce the risk or eliminate the risk of hurting your back because it's not moving. Everything just tenses up and it's the best by far exercise to do for recovery, and it strengthens those core muscles. 

 

Robert: Yeah. The plank is a fantastic exercise, and it's actually quite difficult to do, for anyone who hasn't tried it. The plank being defined as keeping your body stiff and straight as a board, resting on your forearms and your toes as your two balance points. Of course, there's easier versions involving going on the knees if you're just starting out and don't have the core strength involved, but I don't think there's a better overall core exercise than the plank. From a weight training perspective, it really is terrific for strengthening that core for just about every exercise, from deadlift to squats to overhead press. All of it requires a strong core, especially if you go heavy with the weights. So beyond recovery, just being able to do things well is very dependent on a strong core. So beyond just a series of deep tissue massages, which do a lot of good, it's clear. But beyond that, between massage sessions, do you have any tips that people can do at home to stay loose, stay limber and mobile, and to improve that mobility while relieving tension? 

 

Melanie: Stretch, stretch, and stretch some more. I've always been a big advocate of stretching, as well. Obviously if you have an injury, seek professional advice as to proper stretching and technique. I have been known to get on the floor and show people how to properly do things in order for them to get the best recovery. 

 

But you want to stretch, you want to hold your stretches for about 30 seconds, give yourself a break in between, and do that like ... The more you do it, the better the end results are, obviously. I don't think you can do too many stretches. That being said, you don't want to push yourself into a stretch that hurts. If it hurts, you're not doing it properly, or you're pushing yourself too far. You want to back off a little bit and you just want to feel a nice stretch. 

 

But yeah, stretching is, I think, very important. It brings you back to your range of motion, your mobility. If those muscles are tight and restricted, you're not going to get the range of motion you need. And then that's where you're going to start getting your injuries when you try to do something outside of that range of motion, especially when you lack stretching. 

 

Robert: Yes. It's something that, for people gung-ho to get to the gym and start lifting heavy weights, can often be overlooked. Or for people who aren't necessarily into the gym lifestyle, maybe time becomes an issue, or at least they convince themselves that it is, and they don't have time to stretch or the motivation to do so. But it just makes such a difference, it's such a helpful thing for improving life in general beyond the ability to exercise, isn't it? 

 

Melanie: Yes, it makes a huge difference. I personally enjoy yoga, it kind of includes stretching as well as some strength training all in one half hour workout or whatever. Another thing people can do for stretching, which I have always pushed, depending on what the stretches that you need to do. Mine is always more injury-related issues, but if it's a neck injury, I would show them proper stretches that they should be doing for whatever the injury they had. 

 

It would be like, "Okay, you drive an hour to work every day? Every time you stop at a stop light or a stop sign, take 30 seconds and stretch your neck. If you're out working, you have low back, glute, sciatica issues, it's more piriformis, but stretch your piriformis muscles, I'd show them the stretches they could do at their desk at work. It's not all about getting out the yoga mat and dedicating X amount of time, getting in your workout clothes to stretch. It could be one stretch where you're standing in front of the stove cooking, it could be whatever. Pick a time of day or random times throughout the day. It doesn't have to be a set workout time. So when people say they don't have time, everybody has time. They're not going to get all sweaty and gross doing stretches randomly throughout the day, so it's not like you need to change out of clothes or set up a yoga mat or whatever. 

 

Robert: To be a good massage therapist, of course, is very dependent on having strong hands. From a strength training perspective, grip strength is something we really understand the importance of when we head to the weight room and need to do a heavy deadlift. Of course, that depends very much on not just a strong posterior chain and strong legs, but strong grip, as well. And of course, you'd need that same trait as a good massage therapist. Out of curiosity, did you do anything to improve and strengthen your grip beyond just giving a lot of massages?

 

Melanie: Everybody assumes, and I do have strong hands, and arms as well, after years of massaging. But a lot of my massaging, wasn't just hands. It's a lot of technique, it's a lot of elbows, it's forearms. Everybody assumes it's strictly hands, and it really isn't. So no, I didn't do any extra strength training to strengthen my hands. I think it just happened over time. But a lot of the massage, like I said, it's not based strictly on hand movement, it's how you stand, where your feet are placed, it's the whole body, and not just hands. If you give your wife a neck massage, you probably start thinking, "Oh, my hands hurt." Where if I did it, it wouldn't. Because you would be focusing on your hands, but I was trained how to do it in a different manner. Does that make sense? 

 

Robert: Oh, it totally does. And I can see now that I, too, have that common misconception that it is just a hand thing. 

 

Melanie: It's not just the hands. If I go to a friend's house or whatever, they're like, "Oh, I've got a kink in my neck," I try not to do massages randomly. I like to use my table, because then I can get my proper position, I'm less likely to tire and wear myself out quickly, or hurt myself in the bigger picture. Obviously, yeah here and there, I obviously don't do it anymore, but without the table I'm not in the proper position, and then I run the risk of injuring myself or wearing myself out faster than I should technically. So it's not all hands. It is hands, but it's not, if that makes sense. And my hand strength that I have is strictly just developed over the years of massaging. 

 

Robert: Sure. It makes perfect sense. That's like a long series of strength training sessions for your hands and for other parts, too. You have made an interesting point, that you prefer to do massages on your table, it makes perfect sense, as well. Thinking about any other type of specialist that does something physical, whether they're a medical professional or someone who does something in terms of construction or an elite athlete, all of these people need to have the tools of their speciality to do what they do properly, don't they?

 

Melanie: Yes. Exactly. Like I said, everybody assumes that it's strictly your hands, but it's the whole body, it's the equipment you have. Just like any other job, right? 

 

Robert: Yeah. This has been very educational. I have just one more question. Is there anything that you'd like to share other than what you have already for people visiting the website who want to improve their overall health, strength, and fitness? 

Melanie: I think people just have good old fashioned home-grown foods. Everybody is always looking for a quick fix for everything, whether it be weight loss or meals or getting better. I think people need to slow down a little bit in their life, I think they need to focus on whole foods, get those chemicals out of their system. It makes a big difference in you overall feeling and inflammation in your system. Inflammation is a big problem that a lot of people have, and it, again, restricts what they can do physically, mentally. And just take the time for themselves, people don't take time for themselves. Like you said, people always say, "Oh, I'm too busy to do this, I'm too busy to do that." 

 

They never seem to have time, but if you really want to get healthy again and have strength, you need to look at all modalities, you need to look at your health, food-wise, exercise, and even just down time. With everybody's fast-paced life now, how else can you see people sitting down with their phone or their tablet, in front of the computer or the TV? People need to slow down. It's not all about fast and quick. I don't know. I guess that's not a very good answer, but ...

 

Robert: No, it's actually a great answer. You are absolutely right in that people are all about the fast and easy results, but ... I have preached time and time again in articles and videos and on the website, and in person, to people who come to me for strength training advice and things, there are no quick and easy, magical results. If you don't have patience, then you won't have success, either. And that's just the way things work. People could do with a little more patience, I think, in many areas of life. And I think that you've reached the same conclusion. 

 

Melanie: Yes. Absolutely. 10 years of people rush in my office for this and that and want quick results for this and that, and a lot of people who think they're being healthy, but they're buying the boxed foods. You know, take the time and cook a meal from scratch. It's not that hard. And you know, your end results will be so much better. Like I said, there's a huge inflammation factor in everybody's system, and a lot of it's created by the food we eat and the impurities in our food, and the fact that nobody slows down and stops and breathes anymore. Everybody just needs to settle down, slow down a little bit, enjoy life. And if it takes you a year to get in shape, then it takes you a year. At least you're doing it the right way and you're healthy, and you're not stressing yourself out over one more problem, right? 

 

Robert: That's very wise advice. This has been a conversation with Melanie Blane, a retired massage therapist. Thank you very much, Mel, for taking the time to talk with me and to share your knowledge. 

 

 

Melanie: You're welcome. I enjoyed it.

Robert: First of all, thank you Mel for taking the time to talk with me. I think that you've got a lot of interesting and helpful knowledge that my readers will be able to benefit from, so I appreciate you taking the time. 

 

Melanie: Not a problem.

 

Robert: First question. You worked for, how long was it, as a registered massage therapist?

 

Melanie: Just about 10 years. 

 

Robert: Okay. What exactly is a registered massage therapist, and what sort of massage work did you specialize in? 

 

Melanie: Well, in order to be a massage therapist legally, a registered massage therapist, you have to go to schooling for a couple years. It's a two year program, and we go year round, not like regular college where you get summers off and March break. You have to meet certain criteria through the College of Massage Therapy, the CMTO, and then obviously your exams at the end to confirm not through the school that you went to, but to the CMTO, and you have to pass I believe with a 70% or 80% in order to obtain your license to be a registered massage therapist. Once you have that, then you have continuing education and everything, just like any other medical professional. 

What I did primarily was more of a therapeutic end and I really wasn't very good at the relaxation portion of the massage. I feel like everybody has your calling and you should go with it, so I did more therapeutic, help with injuries and rehabilitation and that type of stuff. 

 

Robert: It's interesting that you used the term, "Medical professional." I think that a lot of regular people who don't understand what's involved in becoming a registered massage therapist might not realize that it is, in fact, a medical profession in a way. 

 

Melanie: Yeah, we are legally considered medical professionals. That would be our title. 

 

Robert: Yeah, and with that, I'm sure, comes a lot of helpful knowledge, vital knowledge, really to do what you do in helping people recover. And that's something I don't think a lot of people realize. I think you think of massage professional being some muscly tanned guy on the beach where you walk into a grass hut for half an hour, but there's a whole lot more to it than that, isn't there?

 

Melanie: Oh, absolutely. People are usually very surprised, especially ones that have never had massage and finally decide for whatever reason to come in and get an issue dealt with. A lot of people are very surprised by what's actually involved in the recovery, the results they see from massages. Most people, like you said, think of relaxation, spa, whatever and not the therapeutic end of it as much. 

 

Robert: Speaking of that difference, the therapeutic versus the regular sort of relaxation massage that most people think of when they think of a massage, what are the main differences between those two? And how would that apply to a regular person looking for a relaxation massage, versus something more therapeutic that a serious athlete or weightlifter could benefit from? 

 

Melanie: Well, the big thing about being registered, is that most insurance companies cover your massages, if you have Green Shield, or whatever various insurance companies are out there. If you're registered, it's because you have the training and the knowledge to do a therapeutic massage, if you go through the schooling. That being said, not all people who go through schooling and have the registration really focus on the therapeutic end of the massage, but we're all trained the same way, or generally. I mean, from school to school there's slight variations, obviously. 

 

But the difference between relaxation massage is that you could probably fall asleep during it, it's nice and calm and relaxing. And you might feel good for the immediate after-effects of the massage, but long-term, if you have an ongoing back problem or a shoulder problem or a neck problem, you're probably not going to see any results as far as it getting any better from a relaxation massage. Therapeutic massage, on the other hand, has to be a little bit more uncomfortable. You're not going to be able to nap through it. You have to trust that you have a good therapist, find a good therapist. If you're not comfortable with the one you have, by all means, don't book another appointment, and try a couple ...

 

I do it myself, you know, I go see three or four different people until I find somebody that I find meeting the needs that I want. But the therapeutic point of the massage is that in the end, you might feel a little bit beaten up after, but in a few days or after a few treatments, you're going to start noticing improvements with your injuries, if it's a muscle-related injury. 

 

Robert: Okay, it sounds like it's a process, the therapeutic side of things is a process. 

 

Melanie: Yes, you don't get a massage ... It's like exercising. You don't do it once and expect to get results. Like exercise or trying to get fit, it's something that you have to continuously do to a certain point. I'm not saying that you need to be at massage three times a week, that's not recommended at all. But usually, depending on the injury and the age of the injury, the older the injury, the longer it takes to fix. But usually three to four treatments, but everybody responds different, so there's no set guideline as to what's required to fix a problem. 

It's kind of case by case, but I found that over my years, a lot of clients who had chronic issues found a point, and everybody was different, where, after we got them fixed, after the three or four weekly treatments or whatever it was to get them to a good point, then I would tell them, "Wait until you feel it creeping back in. And as soon as you feel that, 'Oh, I've got that kink in my neck again,' call right away and get in as quick as possible." 

 

And that's usually that person's point. So it could be two weeks, it could be two months, anywhere in between, or longer, even. And then we just set regular appointments after that to maintain. Again, depending if it's a new injury, it might be a fix and done issue. Everybody's different. There's really no textbook way of saying how often people needed to come in. 

 

Robert: Sure, that makes a lot of sense. I mean, it's the same with a lot of things in life, isn't it? That you can't expect immediate and gratifying results from one treatment. It's unreasonable to expect that, it's got to be sort of an ongoing process to recover and benefit fully. 

 

Melanie: Yes. 

 

Robert: Many of my readers here at the Man Factory website are middle-aged guys who want to get in shape for the first time, or maybe they've exercised in the past but kind of let themselves go over the years, and want to get back to it. A big problem from a resistance-training point of view for many of these folks is mobility. For proper technique in weight training to do it safely and effectively, you've got to have good mobility. Can massages of the sort that you did help with that? 

 

Melanie: Well, absolutely. I would compare getting massages to a really good stretching session. It helps loosen up the muscles, it helps loosen up the fascia, which is your range of motion. It would also get the blood flowing through the muscles more, it kind of wakes everything up, I guess, if that's the proper way of saying it. Yeah, I think massage is very ... And it's helpful, post-workouts, as well. It helps flush the lactic acid out of the muscles and get everything moving really well. It also helps break down scar tissue from past injuries or even just ... 

 

People don't realize that you develop scar tissues within your muscles just from day to day activities, as well. People are always concerned by that when you tell them. But by massaging and working out through those issues, you can break down the scar tissue and really help with range of motion, which in turn helps with proper form and function when working out. And post-workouts, as well, to get the aches and pains out, as well. 

 

Robert: That sounds great from the point of view of guys and girls who lift weights regularly, heavy weights. Improving and speeding recovery, that's kind of the holy grail of training, and we as natural athletes want to do everything we can shy of taking some sort of enhancement to make that happen. It sounds like a deep therapeutic massage, rather, a series of those massages, could be just the thing for folks who find that their recovery isn't what they'd like it to be. 

 

Melanie: Yeah. And it helps with any injuries that occur during the process, because it does happen. 

 

Robert: Yeah, even for people who are familiar with proper technique and do their best to train in that way and not to overtrain, injuries do happen. It's just part of the course and every serious trainee in the gym is going to experience that at some point. I was going to ask how exactly massages can help with injury recovery, because I think some trainees might be skeptical, not knowing what's involved in these deep tissue therapeutic massages. They might not realize just how much massages of the sort you do can help with that recovery. You've already touched on this from different angles, but what would you say to those people who just aren't sure and probably need some education on how helpful these massages can be for recovering from even serious injuries?

 

Melanie: Well, one, case in point, all sports teams have a massage therapist on their team to work on them post, pre-game workouts. Obviously it's been proven to work, otherwise they wouldn't have them on big sports teams. But that being said, again, you help break down the scar tissue, you help release the fascia you help increase the blood flow. There's just so many things, like for a sprain, for example. 

 

I'm not really one to get into technical terms so much, but a sprain, for example, that's in your ligament. Your ligament doesn't have a natural blood flow through it. If you start working on that, it increases the blood flow around the area, and it helps speed up the recovery. Because otherwise, it would just be on its own.And eventually it will heal, but also, while it's healing, you're breaking down the scar tissue that's going to form just because there's so much inflammation in the area. You'll align the scar tissue with the muscle fibers, which will allow range of motion better, and can help with the inflammation, bring down the inflammation. 

 

There's a lot of areas that you can touch on to help the healing process, speed it up and help it feel better than it would if you just left it alone. People don't realize that. I've had, over the 10 years, many people very surprised over the recovery from this sprained ankle, or this sprained ankle they had five years ago that still bothers them because they didn't receive treatment. Again, with muscle strains and pulls, it's the same idea, the increase of blood flow, you flush out the inflammation, you break down the scar tissue. It's all important practice in healing to heal the best way it can, and maintain your range of motion with no restrictions. 

 

Robert: It's making a lot of sense, and again, this is something that I think a lot of guys passionate about lifting don't really realize. Just how helpful deep tissue therapeutic massage can be, both in terms of staying loose and maintaining range of motion, and of course, recovering from that inevitable time when an injury does, unfortunately, occur.

 

Melanie: Actually, I used to work on a competition body builder. And he wasn’t sure about massage, he'd been to a few shows and after I started teaching him about massage and giving him regular massages, he kind of changed his outlook on how to deal with everything in general, and he started stretching more and doing more things. And he admittedly said that he felt better and things were easier to do, like it made a big difference in what he was doing. And he actually sent more people my way because of that specific ... They just don't realize, people don't realize the benefits of that. And range of motion, range of motion is very, very important. 

 

Robert: Yeah, it's vital, in fact. And something that I try to advocate to my audience on the Man Factory website. It's kind of stereotypical of big, strong guys who lift to think of them as muscle-bound and really poor on the range of motion side of things, even if they are strong in a few movements. And that's unfortunately a stereotype that has some basis in fact, in a lot of cases, but some things that we try to turn the tide on here at the Man Factory, and it's good to hear that for guys as serious about resistance training, that this sort of thing can help them. And that it does make a very noticeable, positive difference. 

Moving back to the injury side of things for a moment, when it comes to serious weight lifters, lower back injury is probably, in my experience coaching and training, one of the most common kind of injuries that happen. The lower back, of course, comes into a lot of different compound movements involving the barbell. So it's vulnerable if proper technique isn't observed, or if too much weight is used or not enough time is taken to recover. Do you have any advice on preventing and treating pain in the lower back area specifically?

 

Melanie: Preventing. Like you said, proper form is key and proper weight amounts. I find ... nothing personal to guys ... but they tend to want to show off, and they always try to lift more than they should. But when you're adding weight to a range of motion, movement, and especially in your back, it's very susceptible to injury that way. You're putting pressure on something while it's moving. Even if you're not in the proper form, just a little bit off, you can really cause a lot of damage to your lower back. 

 

In order to prevent stuff like that, really, really pay attention to what you're doing, really watch your weight levels. As far as recovering goes, take your time. Take your time, don't rush back into it. I'll say it 1,000 times over, and I have. Your best recovery exercise is going back to your basic plank. Everybody doesn't think about something so simple, because there's no weight, there's no movement, but it's one of the best strengthening exercises for your core, which in turn will help support your low back. You need to have that core strength to support. 

If those muscles are weak, any of them, then you're not going to get the proper support you need for your lower back. Think of it as like a girdle, those muscles, and you really have to focus on all of the core muscles, and not just particular ones if you want to have a strong, healthy back, and if you want to recover from an injury, as well. The only exercise recovery-wise I have ever given was the plank, because it engages all those muscles without range of motion, and without the range of motion, you reduce the risk or eliminate the risk of hurting your back because it's not moving. Everything just tenses up and it's the best by far exercise to do for recovery, and it strengthens those core muscles. 

 

Robert: Yeah. The plank is a fantastic exercise, and it's actually quite difficult to do, for anyone who hasn't tried it. The plank being defined as keeping your body stiff and straight as a board, resting on your forearms and your toes as your two balance points. Of course, there's easier versions involving going on the knees if you're just starting out and don't have the core strength involved, but I don't think there's a better overall core exercise than the plank. From a weight training perspective, it really is terrific for strengthening that core for just about every exercise, from deadlift to squats to overhead press. All of it requires a strong core, especially if you go heavy with the weights. So beyond recovery, just being able to do things well is very dependent on a strong core. So beyond just a series of deep tissue massages, which do a lot of good, it's clear. But beyond that, between massage sessions, do you have any tips that people can do at home to stay loose, stay limber and mobile, and to improve that mobility while relieving tension? 

 

Melanie: Stretch, stretch, and stretch some more. I've always been a big advocate of stretching, as well. Obviously if you have an injury, seek professional advice as to proper stretching and technique. I have been known to get on the floor and show people how to properly do things in order for them to get the best recovery. 

 

But you want to stretch, you want to hold your stretches for about 30 seconds, give yourself a break in between, and do that like ... The more you do it, the better the end results are, obviously. I don't think you can do too many stretches. That being said, you don't want to push yourself into a stretch that hurts. If it hurts, you're not doing it properly, or you're pushing yourself too far. You want to back off a little bit and you just want to feel a nice stretch. 

 

But yeah, stretching is, I think, very important. It brings you back to your range of motion, your mobility. If those muscles are tight and restricted, you're not going to get the range of motion you need. And then that's where you're going to start getting your injuries when you try to do something outside of that range of motion, especially when you lack stretching. 

 

Robert: Yes. It's something that, for people gung-ho to get to the gym and start lifting heavy weights, can often be overlooked. Or for people who aren't necessarily into the gym lifestyle, maybe time becomes an issue, or at least they convince themselves that it is, and they don't have time to stretch or the motivation to do so. But it just makes such a difference, it's such a helpful thing for improving life in general beyond the ability to exercise, isn't it? 

 

Melanie: Yes, it makes a huge difference. I personally enjoy yoga, it kind of includes stretching as well as some strength training all in one half hour workout or whatever. Another thing people can do for stretching, which I have always pushed, depending on what the stretches that you need to do. Mine is always more injury-related issues, but if it's a neck injury, I would show them proper stretches that they should be doing for whatever the injury they had. 

 

It would be like, "Okay, you drive an hour to work every day? Every time you stop at a stop light or a stop sign, take 30 seconds and stretch your neck. If you're out working, you have low back, glute, sciatica issues, it's more piriformis, but stretch your piriformis muscles, I'd show them the stretches they could do at their desk at work. It's not all about getting out the yoga mat and dedicating X amount of time, getting in your workout clothes to stretch. It could be one stretch where you're standing in front of the stove cooking, it could be whatever. Pick a time of day or random times throughout the day. It doesn't have to be a set workout time. So when people say they don't have time, everybody has time. They're not going to get all sweaty and gross doing stretches randomly throughout the day, so it's not like you need to change out of clothes or set up a yoga mat or whatever. 

 

Robert: To be a good massage therapist, of course, is very dependent on having strong hands. From a strength training perspective, grip strength is something we really understand the importance of when we head to the weight room and need to do a heavy deadlift. Of course, that depends very much on not just a strong posterior chain and strong legs, but strong grip, as well. And of course, you'd need that same trait as a good massage therapist. Out of curiosity, did you do anything to improve and strengthen your grip beyond just giving a lot of massages?

 

Melanie: Everybody assumes, and I do have strong hands, and arms as well, after years of massaging. But a lot of my massaging, wasn't just hands. It's a lot of technique, it's a lot of elbows, it's forearms. Everybody assumes it's strictly hands, and it really isn't. So no, I didn't do any extra strength training to strengthen my hands. I think it just happened over time. But a lot of the massage, like I said, it's not based strictly on hand movement, it's how you stand, where your feet are placed, it's the whole body, and not just hands. If you give your wife a neck massage, you probably start thinking, "Oh, my hands hurt." Where if I did it, it wouldn't. Because you would be focusing on your hands, but I was trained how to do it in a different manner. Does that make sense? 

 

Robert: Oh, it totally does. And I can see now that I, too, have that common misconception that it is just a hand thing. 

 

Melanie: It's not just the hands. If I go to a friend's house or whatever, they're like, "Oh, I've got a kink in my neck," I try not to do massages randomly. I like to use my table, because then I can get my proper position, I'm less likely to tire and wear myself out quickly, or hurt myself in the bigger picture. Obviously, yeah here and there, I obviously don't do it anymore, but without the table I'm not in the proper position, and then I run the risk of injuring myself or wearing myself out faster than I should technically. So it's not all hands. It is hands, but it's not, if that makes sense. And my hand strength that I have is strictly just developed over the years of massaging. 

 

Robert: Sure. It makes perfect sense. That's like a long series of strength training sessions for your hands and for other parts, too. You have made an interesting point, that you prefer to do massages on your table, it makes perfect sense, as well. Thinking about any other type of specialist that does something physical, whether they're a medical professional or someone who does something in terms of construction or an elite athlete, all of these people need to have the tools of their speciality to do what they do properly, don't they?

 

Melanie: Yes. Exactly. Like I said, everybody assumes that it's strictly your hands, but it's the whole body, it's the equipment you have. Just like any other job, right? 

 

Robert: Yeah. This has been very educational. I have just one more question. Is there anything that you'd like to share other than what you have already for people visiting the website who want to improve their overall health, strength, and fitness? 

Melanie: I think people just have good old fashioned home-grown foods. Everybody is always looking for a quick fix for everything, whether it be weight loss or meals or getting better. I think people need to slow down a little bit in their life, I think they need to focus on whole foods, get those chemicals out of their system. It makes a big difference in you overall feeling and inflammation in your system. Inflammation is a big problem that a lot of people have, and it, again, restricts what they can do physically, mentally. And just take the time for themselves, people don't take time for themselves. Like you said, people always say, "Oh, I'm too busy to do this, I'm too busy to do that." 

 

They never seem to have time, but if you really want to get healthy again and have strength, you need to look at all modalities, you need to look at your health, food-wise, exercise, and even just down time. With everybody's fast-paced life now, how else can you see people sitting down with their phone or their tablet, in front of the computer or the TV? People need to slow down. It's not all about fast and quick. I don't know. I guess that's not a very good answer, but ...

 

Robert: No, it's actually a great answer. You are absolutely right in that people are all about the fast and easy results, but ... I have preached time and time again in articles and videos and on the website, and in person, to people who come to me for strength training advice and things, there are no quick and easy, magical results. If you don't have patience, then you won't have success, either. And that's just the way things work. People could do with a little more patience, I think, in many areas of life. And I think that you've reached the same conclusion. 

 

Melanie: Yes. Absolutely. 10 years of people rush in my office for this and that and want quick results for this and that, and a lot of people who think they're being healthy, but they're buying the boxed foods. You know, take the time and cook a meal from scratch. It's not that hard. And you know, your end results will be so much better. Like I said, there's a huge inflammation factor in everybody's system, and a lot of it's created by the food we eat and the impurities in our food, and the fact that nobody slows down and stops and breathes anymore. Everybody just needs to settle down, slow down a little bit, enjoy life. And if it takes you a year to get in shape, then it takes you a year. At least you're doing it the right way and you're healthy, and you're not stressing yourself out over one more problem, right? 

 

Robert: That's very wise advice. This has been a conversation with Melanie Blane, a retired massage therapist. Thank you very much, Mel, for taking the time to talk with me and to share your knowledge. 

 

 

Melanie: You're welcome. I enjoyed it.

Write a comment

Comments: 0