Self Image and Massage Therapy

Author: Barbara Wilkinson, RMT

I was talking to a friend the other day and she mentioned that she had bought her mom a gift certificate for a massage three years ago and she has never used it because she was afraid the therapist would be grossed out by the moles on her back and not want to work on her.

I was shocked! Not by the moles, they’re perfectly normal, but surprised that someone would think a health care professional would look down on someone the way she had imagined. 

Sadly, this is not the first time I’ve heard of folks being ashamed about their body in some way that got in the way of them seeking treatment from an RMT. We all have body parts we’re not happy with, (knees are just plain weird looking for example) but we’re all human and have more in common than not. 

I’ve had clients apologize about their body hair, their weight, their aging skin, stretch marks, pimples, dimples and the way their broken bones healed as if I was holding them to some golden standard of human perfection. And these are the folks that mange to come in! But I don’t judge. I truly believe all bodies are unique and wonderful just as they are. 

When you’re in the treatment room, you’re in a non-judgemental zone. We’re focused on your body on your terms, with fully clothed massage being an option if that is what you’re comfortable with, you’ve got bodily autonomy.  

Did you know massage therapy has actually been found to help people improve their relationship with their body? It encourages bodily awareness and introduces the sensation of touch in a non-threatening way.

“Our experience of touch forms an important foundation for our sense of self,” writes Thomas Pruzinsky in Body Images: Development, Deviance, and Change.

(The Guilford Press, 1990)

Since touch is a powerful method of communication, “a change in one’s sense of self may be facilitated through therapeutic touch.”  If you want to see that in action, there’s a great case study by Linda Maxfield and Dr. Fiona Holland that you can check out. It outlines the changes in a young dancer’s thoughts about her body over the course of just four massage therapy treatments.  

RMTs are here to treat you with the reverence and respect we believe all people deserve. Creating a safe space for us to work through your treatment goals and supporting you in your journey to optimal living is our objective. So don’t let that gift certificate go to waste if you’ve got one laying around. Come on in and see how much better you can feel physically, and strengthen the relationship you have with your body at the same time!