First things first. The last thing a client should be doing during a massage session is worrying. Worry is a stressor that causes the same physical symptoms that massage therapists are attempting to relieve. Clients often worry about, and even become downright embarrassed by, natural physiological processes that don’t make one iota of difference to the massage therapist. If anything, the physiological occurrences show us that your body is responding well to the work being done. If you have found yourself having embarrassing body responses during a massage and have worried about what your massage therapist is thinking, please read on and allow me to put your mind at ease.
Oops, I Tooted
Let’s get right to the point … farting, burping, and drooling, which might normally be embarrassing occurrences, are all acceptable and even sometimes expected during a massage therapy session. Here’s why.
The pace of modern life causes people to regularly be in a state of doing. Running errands, taking kids to and from school and activities, making dinner, cleaning house, doing laundry, going to work, meeting friends, taking care of parents, responding to emails and texts—the list goes on and on. Put very simply, the stress of constant action causes the sympathetic side of the nervous system, the side that drives the body in motion, to dominate over the parasympathetic side, the side that places the body at rest. Massage therapy reverses that.
What does this have to do with farting, burping, and drooling? When your body is in sympathetic mode, functions such as digestion are deactivated because they aren’t necessary to “taking action” and “being in motion.” Muscle contraction is necessary for that. Therefore, when your body goes into parasympathetic mode during massage, digestion reactivates, and contraction of your skeletal muscles ceases. The result is an active gut and softening of muscles. And, before you know it, oops, a fart or burp comes out and drool finds its way out of your softened mouth. You might even notice your belly making gurgling sounds. Trust me, it’s a good thing, so please allow it without embarrassment.
I Really Have to Pee!
Another side effect of the body being in parasympathic mode is increased formation of urine. Again, many of the body’s functions that aren’t necessary for taking action and being mobile increase while at rest (it’s the body’s way of being efficient). Therefore, during a massage, which is a time of rest, these functions take their turn.
If you feel like you need to pee during a massage, just tell your massage therapist. We are trained to be equipped with a robe so you can get up, go to the bathroom, and come right back to the table to resume the massage. It doesn’t support your relaxation to have the urge to pee and not do anything about it. Make the most of your time of restoration by simply informing your therapist and taking those extra couple of minutes to relieve yourself. We don’t mind at all.
Zzzz … Zzzz … Zzzz
Yep, clients snore. ALL the time! Sometimes really loudly. It actually makes us massage therapists smile. Given that sleep disturbance is one of the most common side effects of anxiety, and anxiety is rampant in this fast-paced modern life, catching some Zs on the massage table can be a really good thing.
Massage can positively affect your ability to sleep even beyond the one-hour massage session. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter (chemical) that is released during nerve impulses, is directly related to mood, sleep, appetite, and other body functions. During massage, serotonin has been shown to increase and/or balance out in the body. This indicates that massage, especially when part of a regular maintenance routine, has positive effects on anxiety, sleep, and many other physiological processes that are often thrown off-balance by a stress-filled, busy lifestyle.
Hey, Thanks for the Compliment!
These are just a few of the ways the body can respond to massage and bodywork (I just chose the most embarrassing ones!). So, the next time you find yourself worrying about that gurgle, take a deep breath and just let go. These body functions don’t mean a thing except that we are doing our job, so we take these occurrences as a compliment. Massage therapists know the many great benefits and effects that massage and bodywork have on the body, as well as the mind and spirit. We love knowing that we have supported you, our cherished client, into a state of rest.
For more client-focused articles on massage and bodywork, read Body Sense magazine at www.bodysensemagazine.com.
Cindy Williams has served the massage profession as a practitioner, school administrator, instructor, curriculum developer, and mentor since 2000. She enjoys the challenge of blending structure with creative flow to provide balance in her classroom, bodywork practice, and life.