Heather with Troy Brown


How do I choose which bodywork therapy is right for me?

Heather Piper, Lmt
I recently logged onto the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals website, and found numerous types of bodywork. Far too many to mention or to list in one short article, let’s just say the list had 26 choices one for every letter in the alphabet, plus a few more. I can totally understand why clients don’t choose to consider massage therapy or bodywork when it is far too overwhelming. How do we know what to choose? How do I know whether or not this type of bodywork is good for me? At this time I would like to define for you some common types of bodywork and the type of bodywork therapy that I use in my office.
Lets begin with Swedish massage. Swedish is one of the most common and well-known types of bodywork, designed to stimulate the circulation and energize the body. Swedish massage is based on five techniques, Effleurage-long flowing, or gliding strokes. Petrissage-kneading and squeezing of the muscles using hands fingers, and knuckles. Tapotement-rhythmic tapping that uses the sides of the hands, to loosen and relax the muscles. Friction-uses movements with the the hands to create heat, to bring about relaxation of the muscles. Vibration-uses the back and forth movement of the fingertips or the heel of the hand over the body to loosen the muscles.
I appreciate the Swedish massage more than anything; typically this is ignored as an excellent form of bodywork. Why do we stigmatize this work as many of the deep tissue techniques are based on this work? Don’t miss-interpret that Swedish is light work in any way. Some of the techniques listed above can be very deep. Petrissage is and can be very deep work. My conclusion is that what is written about Swedish in the features section of a spa menu leads us to believe that this work is more of a relaxation session than a massage. This is simply not true.
Deep Tissue is described by some as the only type of bodywork that makes a difference in the body or to affect change in the muscles. Therapists have a tendency to use this term to describe their work and to make it seem as if there aren’t any other types of bodywork. What I want to say here is that this work is very good for many people, we all are different and what might be deep to you might be light to someone else. These are techniques based on Swedish massage that affect the deeper layers of tissue in the muscles and usually require a good understanding of anatomy, and structure of the muscles. This work can be helpful with chronic pain or muscular injury rehabilitation. I think it is best to work using a combination of deep techniques with lighter strokes to allow the body to adjust to the work.
I find that it is important to keep the lines of communication open between the therapist and the client. Just telling the therapist that you want deep work and to “go as deep as you can, don’t worry I can take it”. Is not really what we are going for here. When I am working with clients I really want to know what is going on in the body while I am working. I use a pain scale of 0-10. Zero means is this person even touching me, all the way up to ten where this is killing me and I am out of here. I prefer to work around a seven or eight, and this is subjective for nearly everyone. Your eight maybe my five. Everyone is different and it really isn’t for the therapist to decide what is right for you, it is your decision, it is your massage after all and you are the one that is paying for the session.
Muscular Therapy is not listed in the glossary, so it will need its own definition here. It is a form of bodywork that includes a series of techniques and exercises designed to break down muscular tension and possibly prevent it from returning. This is different than deep tissue or Swedish. We have nearly 200 different techniques that we learn in our course work to apply in different parts of the body, we learn to use speeds and rhythms. Plus there are three other parts to our work and they are body care, tension release exercises, and postural alignment.
What does it feel like when you receive a Muscular Therapy session? Probably different than Swedish though there are some very close similarities, and it may also feel like a deep tissue massage. We use oil or lotion and we also do a nice warm up for the part of the body that is being massaged. The full benefits of the work come into play when we add the other segments.
Body care techniques are usually given as homework and sometimes clients don’t think they need to do this part of the work. My favorite one to use with everyone is a salt bath. Add two cups of salt to a warm, not hot, bath. The salt facilitates the tension reducing effect of the water. The act of taking a bath and taking time to do something for you is relaxation. I use this one to demonstrate that you don’t need to do a lot to change how you feel, or to help your body feel better.
Tension release exercises are given as homework for clients to use with specific muscles and parts of the body. They are simple and easy ways to reduce tension in your own body. I wish that I could describe some in further detail; these are taught to clients after they have had a full intake, assessment and a few massages, and are taught specifically for each client. I can say that when I was going through school, I used these techniques on myself and experienced some tension relief.
Postural Alignment may also be known as ergonomics. While reducing the tension in the body via Muscular Therapy, it is also important to improve your postural alignment so that treatments will allow you to return physical health. I don’t go to offices to help with ergonomics though I educate my clients about proper posture, how to sit at the desk, and to encourage breaks in the day to stretch, drink water and re-evaluate your posture. If you are in pain this can truly make the changes last as you are not undoing the work that your therapist did in your last session.
There aren’t very many Muscular Therapists around especially in Maine as this coursework was done in Cambridge Massachusetts at the Muscular Therapy Institute. At the time is was a stand-alone massage school that was 1200 hours of training, nearly unheard of in the fast paced world of today.
I am sure that I could go on for hours or pages about the types of bodywork that are out there, and I am sure that there are more being developed right now. It is not so much the type of bodywork that you receive but the fact that you are receiving the bodywork and that it feels good to you. It really is about communication between you and the therapist. Remember it is your session; don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or for a reduction or an increase in pressure. The therapist doesn’t get to decide what is good for you, you do.
How do you choose, you go with your heart or your referrals from friends or family or colleagues. Or maybe you read my article and decide to find someone in your area that does the type of work I have described and you reach out to him or her for massages. It really comes down to personal preference.
Originally published in Essential Living Maine May 2014


Two Remaining Ways to Improve Your Sleep
Tip #3  Turn off the electronics.
Okay, so you’ve heard this one. But it’s the most important and the least followed piece of advice.
Get an old fashioned alarm clock so you don’t need to use your phone. Turn your phone, iPad, Kindle, or whatever you’ve got off, and put the devices in another room. Yes, a whole other room. You may think that a phone on silent, hanging out on your nightstand, won’t disturb your rest, but it will. Just knowing it’s there puts your body on alert. It’s far too tempting to reach over and ‘just check a few emails’ if you do wake up in the middle of the night. Save yourself. Break this habit.
Tip #4  Get a massage
Yes, Massage can help with sleep issues. There have been several studies demonstrating the efficacy of massage in people with sleep problems, especially when treating secondary issues that may impair sleep, like back pain, pregnancy and migraines.
Thanks for coming along to my blog to read the rest of the tips, while you're here take a look around and feel free to contact me for further information. Here is a link to my website for further details.


Good Morning-

I had an interesting time putting together my wordle for today. Funny how things happen when you need a word and you can't think of any about the topic that you want to discuss.
That is what happened when I needed all the words for Valentines Day. Then an idea popped into my head, do a google search. What ever would we do without a google search. So there landed many of the words that I was looking for. You can see the result on my page called Valentines Day. It was fun to put it together and well then the result is fun to look at too.
I hope that you have a great day enjoy your Valentine celebration if you have one. I will be enjoying the warmish weather in preparation for next weeks cold weather. 
In health,


Please see my new class.

Heather Piper


Here we are at day 4. Still have energy at the end of the day. Not really worried about going anywhere after work hours in the evening. I used to worry about having sustained energy and worry about being out later in the evening. Now not so much.

Oh yes this is the only thing that I have changed in my life. I still take a good compliment of my Usana Nutritionals as that is a very important part of my day. I have added oils via my massage practice that use there as well.

The only thing that I am having trouble with is getting over this silly little cold that I picked up from someone. It is this cold that won't let go. Coughing myself crazy and a runny nose at the worst times. Extra Vit C and my Thieves oil. I know it will go away soon, I just want it to go away now!

If you didn't know my massage business is having a sale on Gift Certificates this month. 20% off the face value of any GC purchased till Dec 28, 2013. Prices start as low as $10 all the way up to my most expensive in home therapy 90 massage. If you need a gift now is the time. These are the lowest prices of the year.

Have a great day today.


My energy

Good morning,

Yesterday was day two of my new oils from Young Living essential oils. I took a Compass Scan about one month ago at a great gathering of YLO people in Kennebunk and my oils came in on Wednesday. I have been using these oils for a long long time in my massage office and recently connected with a new group.

Day one was my Small Business Saturday, not very many people arrived to take advantage of what I had to offer though I am not sad. I have work to do to get more people involved in my work. That silly time away at Seacoast did not help. I got to the office and finished set up. I used the following oils: Ener-gee, and Lemongrass. I was able to be at the office all day w/o any fatigue. I even emptied an entire storage bin and spent most of my day in front of the shredder. Four bags of shredding later, I am here to tell the tale. I was not tired, not sore, not dreading going out after my day. I was just up for anything. This is not usually the case. By 4 in the afternoon I am usually ready for the day to be over. I also booked three massages for the next day without any fear that I would be too tired or too anything to complete them.

Day two-Up in the morning at the usual time and getting ready to go to my office to pick up the supplies for the massages. Again I dropped Ener-gee and Lemongrass. I can't tell you that I felt better till I reflected back today about my day. I didn't dread bringing my table up to the car, I didn't dread carrying my linens and all the rest of the stuff up to the car. This is an ongoing battle for me. I plan my day around trips to do things. Like get to the office first and get all that done, get the heavy work done and then do the rest of the work. Yesterday, well the table was no trouble, the rest of the linens were no trouble and I was off to three massages. The three massages went really well. I was ready to go for all the massages and was not tired at the end of the sessions. Hungry but not tired. I got home and was ready for dinner prep and all the rest of the night. I was not dreading preparing dinner or wanting to crawl into bed and sleep all night till the next morning.

I am pretty excited to find this happening to me. I am happy to have more energy and not as much fatigue from my massage work. I am sure that I absorb a lot from my clients even though I have pretty good boundaries with my work.

Here is a good link to some oil testimonials if you are interested click here.

Have a great day today for the first week of December.



World AIDS Day December 1, 2013

Good evening, I meant for this post to go out earlier today though you know what happens when the phone rings. I went off to give a series of massages and this got put on the back burner. Considering that this is World AIDS day this post is timely. 

We’ve come such a long way since the early ‘80s, when AIDS crashed onto the scene, killing many and frightening more. There was so little known at that time. It was through the hard work and advocacy of many people that we discovered HIV, learned how to prevent its transmission, and how to hold it in check.

What is HIV?
Today, HIV is a chronic illness, but some of the fear still remains. There are still people working tirelessly to eliminate stigma just as there are those working to find a vaccine and a cure. Still more are working to make the lives of people living with HIV better in whatever ways they can.

Massage therapy is not a cure. It’s not even a treatment. But it can help HIV+ individuals live happier, healthier lives:

  • Massage can help alleviate peripheral neuropathy (tingling, numbness, and pain in the feet and legs), a side effect of antiretroviral therapy. Staying on a regular treatment regimen is paramount if you have HIV, so whatever makes that process easier is worthwhile.

  • Massage can help with anxiety and depression, both common in HIV+ folks. Mental illness is nothing to sneeze at, and is one of the more common reasons that people find it difficult to take care of themselves.

  • Massage can be a positive experience in your own body. When you have a chronic illness of any kind, it’s easy to feel at war with yourself. A massage is a time when you and your body get to be on the same team for a little while.

  • Massage is a time to connect through touch. For all the good information out there about HIV/AIDS, there are still plenty of myths about how it is transmitted. This often manifests itself as a lack of everyday touch, which is especially devastating to people who have lost their intimate partners.

So let me state this very clearly:

You will never be turned away from my massage table due to your HIV status. When you have secondary issues that mean that massage would be harmful to either you or me, I will let you know specifically what they are, so that you are not left in the dark. If you find yourself with a condition I am not trained to work with, I will do my best to find you another massage therapist who is.

Your HIV status is private. I will not tell your partner, your mother, your employer, your doctor, or your best friend, unless you specifically ask me to, in writing. If you would like copies of any records or notes I keep about our sessions together, you are welcome to them. But they are not for others’ eyes.

How you contracted HIV is none of my business. Unless it’s something that affects your health in other ways (like current drug use), it has no impact on your massage. But if you do decide to share, I will not judge you.

Here is a link to a brief article about the effects of therapeutic massage on HIV and AIDS patients.

Thank you for reading. Have a great week and I am glad to be back posting. It feels good.