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August 17, 2009

Sunburns and Massage

It's summer time. Chances are you've encounter clients who have come back from their summer vacations sunburned. This puts a massage therapist in the position of making a decision about whether to work on them.

Obviously, an acute sunburn that is very painful will likely result in a client canceling their massage session. I was amazed when people would prostrate themselves across my table with flaming red skin and say that it didn't hurt. I'm very fair skinned and do my best to stay out of the sun. If I was that red, I'd be hitting the roof if anyone rubbed that skin.

One interesting concept I found on the internet was massage therapy session designed specifically for sunburn relief. They usually combine specific essential oils to heal burns, use cold stone massage, and aloe. In addition to this, I suggest that follow-up care should include application of Jojoba oil, if possible. Jojoba oil is a botanical oil that has amino acids and other characteristics (3 kinds of vitamin E) that mimic the natural oils in human skin.

But for the massage therapist, the bane of summer is massaging someone who is peeling from a sunburn. The massage feels good to the client because the peeling stage of the sunburn is itchy. Your oils help moisturize the dry skin layer and protect the newly exposed layer of emerging skin from drying out. However, this stage of sunburn poses some potential problems. If the client has the tendency to scratch, infection can be introduced to vulnerable new skin.

Frankly, a peeling back makes a mess. Add in another common side-effect of summertime, perspiration, and you can have pockets of fluid underneath peeling skin. It's really kind of disgusting. Luckily, while it looks bad and makes for a more difficult massage, unless your customer does not mind having loose skin pills smeared all over their body, it's relatively harmless. After the massage is over, simply shake out the massage sheets before you put them in the wash. This eliminates most of mess and makes the job of cleaning those sheets easier.

One last note. I cannot get away from this post without reminding massage therapists about their opportunity for health promotion. Sunburn damages the skin and puts people at a higher risk for the development of skin cancer. Counsel people on ways to prevent sunburn and warn about the hazards of using tanning beds.

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Posted by linda at August 17, 2009 4:55 PM

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