Q & A: Therapeutic Massage with Lauren Piro, LMT, BCTMB, CIMI
Each month, I will interview practitioners in and around the Washington, DC metro area that are doing amazing work in the health and wellness field.
Meet Lauren Piro, a Licensed and Board Certified Massage Therapist and Personal Trainer, and the owner of Therapeutic Massage by Lauren Piro. Lauren has played a significant role in my own health and wellness in dealing with cumulative stress and tension through therapeutic massage. Read the interview below to learn more about how massage can have a significant impact on your physical and emotional health.
What are the benefits of massage?
I think when most people think of massage, they think of relaxation. But therapeutic massage can address physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels far beyond just that. Specific techniques, when utilized by an educated, skilled, and experienced professional can also:
- Relieve muscle tension, spasm, stiffness, and soreness;
- Release endorphins, which reduce pain, anxiety, & depression;
- Improve circulation of blood, nutrients, and oxygen to speed healing;
- Reduce mental stress and fatigue;
- Reduce strain and dysfunction in joints;
- Reduce and realign scar tissue fibers;
- Improve flexibility, mobility, and range of motion;
- Relieve headaches;
- Improve recovery time from intense workouts;
- Improve sleep;
- Improve posture;
- Increase energy;
- Promote body awareness; and connect and ground the body, mind, and spirit
What do most of your clients seek massage for?
While my clients come to me for a wide variety of concerns, as both a licensed and board certified massage therapist and a certified personal trainer, my practice is largely based around people who have chronic pain or who are rehabbing from injuries and/or surgeries. With a background in psychiatric music therapy with inpatient, outpatient, and residential populations, I particularly enjoy working with people who are dealing with mental and emotional issues as well.
How would you describe your style of massage?
I wouldn’t say I have one particular style of massage. With over a decade of experience in the field, and having taken many continuing education courses, I’ve developed a wide skill set to address many different kinds of issues. In most treatments, I combine nurturing, relaxation work with a detailed clinical approach to relax the body, mind, and spirit; work out those stubborn knots; and address any compensations that may be occurring as a result.
I use a holistic approach to address all the layers of my clients’ individual needs in the moment. And those needs may change over time. For example, a client may initially see me for pain relief but it may turn out that anxiety and panic attacks are a more present issue as we begin to work, so it may take time to work through that before we can begin to address the pain in more detail. Or a client may sprain her ankle or get in a car accident, in which case deep tissue would be contraindicated, so we utilize a much more gentle approach to release constrictions to help them recover more quickly.
A new medication may cause side effects that need to be addressed and/or avoided, or a life transition such as pregnancy, a new job/desk set up, or a move may bring up new stresses and/or emotional or physical issues. This is why it’s so important to develop a relationship with one therapist you see over time who knows your body rather than hopping around to whoever is offering the best deal at the time.
Why do you think more people don’t get massages?
I think budget and lack of awareness of the therapeutic value of massage are two of the main reasons people who don’t get massage aren’t seeking out treatments. Discomfort with touch or body issues, perhaps due to trauma, may be another reason. A good massage therapist, while we don’t do talk therapy, is trained to help you handle these issues. And developing a positive relationship to touch and/or your body in the context of an ongoing therapeutic relationship is a great way to work through these issues in conjunction with your talk therapist.
If paying for a massage is out of someone’s price range, what do you suggest?
There are a lot of options to make massage more affordable! Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more health insurance companies are starting to provide coverage for therapeutic massage, and most massage therapists will provide a receipt or even a superbill to submit for reimbursement. I have clients whose insurance companies will cover up to 80% of the cost of the massage. Every company has different requirements, so it’s important to call yours to find out details about your coverage. You may need preauthorization, a script from your doctor, a superbill, or simply a receipt showing the amount paid. Many massage therapists also accept HSA or FSA cards as payment for services, which allows you to use pretax dollars toward therapeutic massage.
Another alternative for those on a tight budget is getting shorter massages. Many massage businesses offer 30 or 45 minute table massages and some even offer 10-20 minute chair massages. Additionally, the local massage school, Potomac Massage Training Institute, offers therapeutic massage at reduced rates ranging from $39-$80 in their student, graduate, and professional clinics. They also offer classes for the community to learn massage basics, including Couples Massage, Touch of Massage (a one day introductory class), and Heart of Touch (a six week course). Take a course with a friend and learn to massage each other!
And if that’s still outside your budget, with a one time investment of about $20 for a foam roller and some free YouTube videos, you can learn to do self massage. That, along with a regular stretching or yoga routine can make a world of difference in relieving aches and pains!
How do you pick a good massage therapist?
This one is tough, and something even I still struggle with at times when I leave my DC network of therapists. While technical skills and anatomical knowledge are really important, so much of what makes massage great can’t be taught: quality of touch, intuition, compassion, people skills, etc. I think the best way to find a great massage therapist is through word of mouth, as you’ll get direct feedback from someone who has experienced the work. I recommend reading online reviews, asking your health care professionals for referrals, or asking your friends, family, or colleagues who they see!
What are your thoughts on receiving massage therapy to help bolster one’s emotional/mental health?
I think massage therapy is a great way to help bolster mental and emotional health, especially in tandem with talk therapy. As I mentioned previously, massage helps to release endorphins, which helps to relieve anxiety and depression on a purely physiological level. Massage also helps to facilitate the connection between the brain and the body, thereby allowing access to repressed emotions and/or memories. That mind- body connection combined with the healing touch of a compassionate therapist can also help people with eating disorders, sexual traumas, or other body issues develop a more healthy connection to their bodies. I find that massage therapy is especially powerful for people who have anxiety. Reconnecting to their bodies can help reduce spinning thoughts and promote deeper breathing, which helps turn off the ‘fight or flight’ response and allows the parasympathetic nervous system, or the relaxation effect, to take over.