Please Don’t Touch My Feet or Butt

Greanada hammock EvaI’ve had at least ten massages in my life. I’d like to think that I can distinguish a good massage from a bad one.

However, I have never had such a peculiar massage like the one performed in one of the massage chains, let’s just call it M.E.

I arrived 15 minutes early (as requested) for my introductory (and discounted) one hour long massage. The girl behind the counter ushered me on a white plastic cushioned couch and handed me a clipboard with several forms.

After I filled in my name and address three times in various sections of the paperwork, I was asked to indicate whether or not I would like a massage in the following regions: abdomen, pectoral muscles and gluteals. So in my head, I translated it to stomach, boobs and butt.

I checked “no” on all of them because I couldn’t fathom an intestinal organ massage neither could I consent to a massage of my reconstructed post mastectomy silicone breasts. As far as the butt, well, I could see a potential benefit but felt uncomfortable with “Ms Helen” kneading my exercise needing gluteals.

I sprung up from the couch to give my paperwork to the desk girl. She glanced at it and with an apologetic smile produced two more papers.

My admission to having been diagnosed with two cancers earned me extra questionnaires. I trailed back to the plastic couch and skimmed the pages. It asked for all the surgeries, all the medications I have been on and still am on, dates of treatments, chemotherapy, everything.

I felt instantly heavy. This was supposed to be a relaxing hour. Not a misery rehashing journal entry. I sighed. I put the pen to the paper and went into autopilot, filling everything in as quickly as I could.

The girl behind the desk must have been watching me because as soon as I finished the last page signature, she walked over and sat down next to me, gently taking the clipboard out of my hands.

“So, I am now going to take you in the back where you can relax and Ms Helen will come get you and discuss your massage with you. Then you will have your 50 minute massage.”

Whooa! What? What did she mean by 50 minutes? I signed up for one hour. Isn’t that why I arrived 15-20 minutes early? So we take care of all the bureaucracy and explanations? I frowned and felt annoyance rise up from my stomach to my face.

After I froze in the back waiting room for a few minutes, Ms. Helen, who turned out to be an older Asian lady, came to get me.

In the massage room, she looked at my paperwork for about 10 seconds and I knew she couldn’t have read my meticulously filled out cancer saga.

“So, here, it say…” She struggled with English. “No gluteal? Yes?’

“Right.” I said. “No gluteals, no pecs, no abdomen.”

She studied the sheet a little more.

“And feet?” She looked up hopefully.

“No, thanks, I don’t like my feet massaged. It’s OK.”

Her eyes widened and her mouth dropped open a little bit. She stared at me. I stared back at her.

“So…feet…?” Her voice fluttered and her head nodded.

“NO.” I said sternly. “No feet. No feet.” And I made a sweeping sideways motion with my hands and shook my head side to side. “No feet.”

Her face brightened and she nodded in apparent understanding.

She left the room and I got undressed and lay on the not so comfy and cheap looking massage bed. I put my head into the head rest.

Immediately, blood rushed in my brain and hummed in my ears. I lifted my head and noticed the head rest screws were lose and wouldn’t hold the doughnut in place.

I scooted down a little and just rested my head on the massage bed itself. Ms. Helen came back in and after another broken conversation I conveyed my problem to her. To my surprise, she magically fixed the head rest so that it held my head at an acceptable level.

I wondered about my silicone breasts. This was a first massage since my reconstruction. Since I lay on my stomach, they felt very flattened and I imagined little ripples spreading through the implant, the silicone coming loose and reacting with surrounding tissue until I would be in a toxic shock and die right there with Ms. Helen mistakenly massaging my feet.

None of that happened and the massage began after Ms. Helen’s repeated inquiry if I really did not want my butt massaged.

She swept her hands over the sheet on my back for about a minute.

Then she (and I can only imagine that’s what she did) laid her forearm on one side of my back and leaned in. Full force. She leaned in so much I couldn’t take a breath.

My eyes sprung open. What was she doing? Before I ran out of oxygen, she switched sides and lay on the other half of my back. I blinked a few times, confused.

I felt the vein on the side of my head pulsing. I marked on one of the many papers I filled out earlier that I wanted a light massage. Ms. Helen either didn’t read it or didn’t understand the word “light” in English.

Then she proceeded to spread some lotion on my back. She did it very quickly and I felt like a child on the beach getting hurriedly slathered with sunscreen.

She started kneading my back with gusto. Every time she got to the kidney area, I tensed, but thankfully she let go of some of her steam and lightened the pressure a little.

She repeated the laying-on-me move again. This time she pushed even more with her elbow.

Suddenly, her arm slipped and I felt my muscle stumble over another muscle or a bone or whatever was in my back. All I know is that it hurt.

“Oh…sorry.” She said but repeated the same move on the other side of my back.

By now, I was in full alert. I kept readjusting my head in the headrest and hoped that Ms. Helen changed the towel the headrest was wrapped in after every customer.

I was asked to turn around and face up. I complied happily. I thought she couldn’t possibly lie on my stomach or squeeze me that hard now.

My mistake.

Ms. Helen proceeded to clamp her hands on the sides of my neck. I imagined my chemo port being ripped out of the vein by this pressure and blood from my jugular spraying the not so cozy massage room.

When I was about to say something, she unclamped her fingers and went on to press on various points of my head with her thumbs. It felt like she wanted to burrow holes from one side of my brain to another.

Then, out of the blue, she stuck her point fingers in my ears.

My eyes flew open. I felt like a skewered pig on the roast. I didn’t dare move. What kind of a massage move was this?

I was relieved when she moved on to my legs. She again hastily slathered less then optimal amount of lotion on them. Then she touched my feet.

NO! Let go! NO FEET! I squirmed a little.

“It’s OK, no feet.” I mumbled and pulled my foot out of her hand.

She stared at me with her mouth open and with a completely confused look.

Soon afterwards the massage concluded. I suddenly had a stuffed nose and was cold again.

Ms Helen handed me a cup of water when I exited the room. No cucumber flavor, just plain old water I noticed with disappointment. I felt bad for her and tipped her anyway.

The girl at the front desk intercepted me and made me sit on the plastic couch again.

What now? I was annoyed.

She went on to pitch me a monthly membership deal for a ridiculously high price. I declined all of it and paid my intro rate for the massage I just had.

I walked outside into the sunshine and moved my shoulders around. There was a strange new kink on the left side of my back. I turned around to look at the purple massage place logo and frowned. No, I didn’t think I was going to come back. Ever. Again.

8 Comments

  1. I am so sorry you had such a bad experience with massage. I am not a fan of massage chains…a massage is not Fast Food, and shouldn’t be treated as such. In my humble opinion they are staffed with massage therapists who probably couldn’t get a job working elsewhere. The pay is low and they are treated like chain workers.

    Massage is actually very very beneficial, the list is long on benefits when done correctly. It is always a good idea when looking for a massage therapist to get recommendations. Find a therapist locally who works for herself maybe with a partner who will sit down with you and communicate before and during the massage. Make a working relationship with her, in no time she will know exactly what you want and the paperwork will no longer be necessary.

    ***Pectorals massage for a woman would never include breast tissue, only the portion of muscle directly under your clavicle. Abdominal massage is good….no GREAT for constipation. Gluteal (These muscle are surrounding crucial nerves and joints in the body that can be a main cause for back & leg pain) and foot massage are very beneficial as well but so many people may feel uncomfortable with them. This is why finding a MT that you trust is crucial. However keep in mind your gluteal cleft (butt crack) as well as any genital areas should always be avoided. You can always wear your panties, This sets a boundary no LMT should ever cross

    As a Licensed Massage Therapist I can tell you I went to school for almost 2 years with hundreds of girls/women and a handful of men. Only a few where any good, that I would ever recommend. I say girls/ women because I was older in my 30’s when going through school. Some of the girls were just out of high school. On daddy’s dime and didn’t really care about there education.

    Once you find a LMT that works, stick with her. ❤

    • Thank you for your great reply! I do need to find someone better. A while ago, I did have a massage as part of an initiative/party in an Elizabeth Arden spa and that one was great. It’s just far away. It is also expensive to search for a good LMT. I’ll just keep looking. I understand the perils of a good LMT. I know there are a lot of people who just do it because they don’t know what else to do. Very few people are actually into it. Those are the ones who give great massages. 🙂

  2. Melanie

    Strange. I would have acted like you and waited for it to be over. I also would have tipped her. Why? I had a strict mother…Be polite! Push through! Because I say so… You know what? Next time let’s walk away as soon as someone hurts us. Let’s not wait until the pain is unbarable or until the person decides to stop doing what they are doing. Life is too short to waste a single minute.

    • Sounds like a great plan actually. It’s a pact! 🙂

  3. What an uncomfortable situation. You went there to relax just to come out more stressed than before!
    I had one just recently in Vegas. I know how this feels.
    My boyfriend gifted me a day at the Hotel’s spa and everything was going fine until the massage moment. The lady asked me what kind of areas she should work on. So I went like this: “please be careful with my kidneys, no stomach, please be careful with my cervical spine, and please no rough massage for me today”. She gave me a strange smile.
    Then the massage started and I was “ouch” and “oh that hurts” all the time. She continued ignoring me so, I stood up, got dressed and left. No tip, no coming back EVER.
    I don’t know if I behaved like an a-hole but it did hurt so much! 😦

    • OMG…that’s awful too! I commend you for having the guts to get up and leave! I should have done the same. And in Vegas! You would think they would have their stuff together! 🙂

  4. MassageTherapist00

    Im terribly sorry for your horrible experience with massage. Its something I take personally though I shouldn’t. I went to school and started my career in hopes of helping people. And the scary truth, so did people like Ms Helen. However, lost in translation moments aside, you’d think she’d understand ‘no feet’.

    And I have worked for a massage chain. There not that bad but they are definitely not for everyone and its sounds like your experience was crappy the moment you walked in. But heres the only insight I can offer to your crappy experience:

    1. The cancer paperwork. When we were in school we were told not to massage people with cancer. That you could spread or assist to metastasize through lymph vessels. Since then they’ve discovered its not true but old facts like that bring about questions of liability. Such a horrible word in the world of massage. Unfortunately for chains there is a higher risk. And people are sue happy. They paperwork is to ensure that you are giving full permission and that your medical doctor does not oppose massage (some will) The chemotherapy and radiation therapies questions come as way to protect the therapists. Again it comes down to liability. I know. Its terrible. But those things can actually be absorbed through skin after long contact and bring about mild flu like symptoms. I know its sucks to have to relive what must have been a terrible time in your life but massage is body manipulation and its the same question any doctor would ask. We have to go through the same types of forms.

    2. The 50 minute massage. Its not just chains, its how any clinic would run. We are booked back to back to back. One right after the other. We have 5 minutes to talk to you, 50 minutes to give the massage and 5 minutes to talk to you again, clean the room, change the table and start it over with our next client. Unfortunately it is just how clinics have to run. When I first started I was late constantly with clients because I, the therapist, couldnt grasp the 50 minutes idea. Unfortunately when you work for such a high volume of people eventually your 4th client is going to be pissed is a when you are running 20 minutes behind schedule. 50 minutes is not ideal so if in the future that is a concern always go to private practice.

    3. Pecs, glutes, and abdomen. There are actually structural benefit for why these places are worked.By all means if it makes you uncomfortable, you can always say no. It is your hour. But im hhe are to tell glute massage feels amazing. The structural benefits, particularly with a double mastectomy, can assist in breaking down scar tissue which can actually cause a lot of problems down the road. Let me make this clear, you are not having breast tissue massaged. The area most therapist will work is three to for fingers under the collar bone in the pectoral muscle. The breast tissue is a little farther south. If you are having pain in your upper back and shoulders, the pecs are one place all structural therapists mind will go to. As the pec tighten up they pull your shoulder forward which lengthens the muscles of the upper back. Those muscles are typically weaker where they should be stronger. At the same time those are the muscles need to pull you up straight to move through gravity. When they are being over exerted is when you notice the tension pain or discomfort. However this can be relieved by releasing the pec muscle so as to bring your shoulders back and shorten the muscles of the upper back. The glutes region is your hips. You use your hips to do everything. They are massive muscles that help you stand walk run sit down lay down get back up. They are some of the most over worked muscles of the body and can cause a number of structural issues up and down the body. Low back pain, quad pain, hamstring pain, hip pain (the list goes on) can all be related to tension in the hips. Remember in the future if you ever find yourself comfortable with it, your hips need attention too. And abdomen is a whole nother ball park. But before you completely dismiss any of it, look it up. Its not sexual by any means and assist in tremendous relief. As far as asking you about it a couple times, again its liability. Terrible word. Now feet hold there own values as well but just like pecs and hips, its to your discretion, not your therapists.

    4. The experience as a whole. First of all those table are far from cheap at least at any clinic ive worked at. However, you were having a bad experience before you even got to the room. And for that im terribly sorry. I also would like to apologize for Ms. Helen. She needed to be paying attention to your needs. And it is a great disservice to you. For therapists everywhere, im sorry.
    As far as the sales script goes, as a therapist we hate it. But they all have it and it is definitely not going anywhere despite complaints. I hope that the rest massage experience is better in the future! Woosah.

    • Wow, thank you for this great and complete reply! I want you to know that I do NOT bag all therapists in the same bag. I had some amazing massages in the past that helped me with pain and stress. It was just a mismatch for me and the chain. I agree with you about all the benefits of the massage of the different body parts, I just wasn’t ready for it, especially because I still have a chemo port in. It would be in the way. I think I got spoiled by massages from my neighbors who owned a salon where I not only got a full hour but once 15 minutes extra! I see now it was a personal favor. I did tip them accordingly! I understand the need for the paperwork, I just didn’t like it. It almost made me cry. I so wanted to forget about cancer and everything related to it. I think I will look for other massage therapists and when I find a good one, I will stick with him/her! A good massage makes me feel like I walk on clouds for the rest of the day. It is worth it to keep looking for one 🙂

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