EPISODE 25 – Self-Care: Massage with Ian Smiley – February 15, 2023


One form of self-care is massage. Listen as Bart, the host of the Vista Points podcast named Choose Your Path, interviews Ian with Body in Balance and Darlene with Vista Points as they address this often-overlooked form of self-care, its benefits and examples of special needs trusts paying for massage.


Greetings from our Middle Tennessee studio…and welcome to today’s Vista Points podcast, “Choose Your Path”, where the Vista Points’ staff are committed to improving the quality of life for people of any age, who are living with a physical, mental or intellectual disability.

I’m Bart, your podcast host. My role is to walk with you on this journey of discovering and using special needs trusts. In previous episodes, we introduced special needs trusts, what they are, story of people how they use special needs trusts and how it impacted their lives.

For February, we are focusing on loving ourselves through self-care. Today’s episode is specifically on massage. Ah…. massage. You can probably picture yourself at a resort, sipping on a fruity drink with an umbrella stuck in it, ready for your massage. People might forget that they can receive a massage when they are at home too. It’s all about caring for yourself. So, let’s get started with today’s priority of self-care of taking care of yourself with a massage therapist, Ian Smiley, of Body in Balance Massage Therapy.

Bart: Hi, Ian. Welcome to the “Choose Your Path” podcast. 

Ian: Hi, Bart. I’m glad to be here.

Bart: I know a little bit about massage. Some massage therapists have only got their license to practice. However, I have been told, by Darlene Kemp – the Vista Points Executive Director – that you have advanced degrees. Please tell our listeners a little about you and your company.

Ian: Well, Bart, I got my Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science with a minor in Athletic Training at Belmont University, and I graduated that in 2017. And after I finished all of those things up, I went to Mind Body Institute for Massage Therapy so I could qualify to take the board licensure exam and become a licensed massage therapist in 2019. My company’s goal is to meld therapeutic grade massage with relaxation. I want to bring this type of massage to the general public, and at an affordable rate. My company’s goal is to educate our clients so that they can learn how to not hurt. We don’t want to have someone coming to us forever, but rather we want to help them get better so they can just come for general maintenance massages, as they please.

Bart: Ian, let me ask you, what’s the correct terminology when you’re referring to someone who performs massage – is it Massage Therapist or Masseuse?

Ian: So, masseuse is a French word in origin and used to be common tongue when referring to anyone that performed massage therapy. Now-a-days we prefer to stick with a licensed massage therapist, or LMT for short, to create a more formal and professional sounding environment in the world of massage. 

We try to do this with every aspect of our terminology and environment. So, for example, we refer to it as a massage table rather than a bed. We want to have a clear line of professionalism.   

Bart: Okay. This month, February, we are focusing on Self-Care as a way to love ourselves. How can people, who are living with a disability, use massage to focus on self-care?

Ian: Massage therapy can be an incredible form of self-care, both mentally and physically. Massage will get a lot of blood flow moving in the areas that are worked on. When we have tight spots or knots in these muscles, they limit the flexibility and overall circulation through those areas which can cause pain referral patterns. Working these tight spots and knots allows the body to regain blood flow and increase flexibility in the area so the body can then do its thing and recover. The stimulation of a full body massage is also enough in itself to improve mood just from the touch and blood flow alone.

Although, I will say, that everyone’s body is different. So, the therapist has to be very attentive in how the nervous system of that person responds to receiving their touch.

Bart: Let me ask you this, Ian – are all massages the same? I know that people can get different amounts of time for a massage. What would you recommend for a child compared to an adult who wants to get a massage? 

Ian: There are some LMT’s that follow routines and only do specific things, but for me personally I’ve never given the exact same massage twice. Not only are there over 500 different types of massage, but also every massage therapist is different which creates even more variation in techniques and flow of a massage. A child is growing a lot and as such is significantly more flexible than most adults. So when it comes to children it’s mainly just a relaxation massage along with some therapeutic massage for any areas that they spend a lot of time focusing on. So, for most students, that would be the neck muscles being in school leaning down on the books and computers, phones and things and such. Or, if there are any extracurricular activities, like in sports or so on, that could be causing any of these imbalances. It’s important to start the education about posture early on so we can avoid pain later in life for as long as we can and know how to correct it when it does come.

And then, as for adults, it really just depends on what their body and nervous system responds well to and the whole ton of different things that they have done and still do in their life that have affected their muscle balance and posture.

So for example, take two people – one is a truck driver and the other has a desk job. Both of them are sitting and have their arms in front of them and, for extended periods of times. Well, for the truck driver, they are having their foot on the gas pedal and the brakes so that’s making their hips be at a tilted side, and maybe they swap one arm onto the steering wheel over another, so they don’t have one up for too long. Well, what they’re doing is gripping the steering wheel so that’s gonna make the flexors in that forearm, the grip strength, those are gonna be tight from gripping the steering wheel as well as with the hips – with that one hip being higher so the leg can reach the gas pedal and the brake pedal – that’s gonna be an imbalance in itself, too.

As for someone who is at a desk job, they are still sitting with their arms in front of them. But, maybe they lean on arm rests because they have to have that mouse hand and they’re typing. So, they’re pressing and exerting all that energy to type because the body is a master of compensation, it will try to get good at anything we do. So, in doing so, unless we do enough stretching or corrective exercises and things, these posture habits will build up over time and create those differences in muscle imbalances.

It’s also important to note that massage isn’t right for everyone, but there isn’t anything out there that works for every single person. Some people’s bodies may respond really well to pressure that digs into the deeper layer of muscles and connective tissue, while others may just tense up because their nervous system is more sensitive and they don’t need that kind of deeper pressure to reach a deeper release from the massage.

Bart: That’s interesting, Ian. I never gave the types of massage much thought. You said over 500 kinds. Wow, that’s amazing. I know I like a lighter massage, but many other people like a deep tissue massage I’m told.

I’ve got another question for you. Many of our Vista Points clients have swelling due to their disability or their chronic illness. It makes their daily living uncomfortable and also affects their quality of life. Is there any type of massage that would benefit people with swelling? 

Ian: Well, the first step would be to talk to their doctor to see if they would be okay-ed for massage therapy. Some people can have health issues or even side effects from medicines that can make massage therapy very detrimental to their health. And, so, it’s very important to go ahead and converse with your physician to make sure that you don’t do anything that’s contra-indicated for your health. 

So, the first two types that come to mind of massage that would be helpful would be Lymphatic Drainage massage, and Medical massage therapy. Your doctor could have massage therapists at their hospital, in which case would be medical massage therapists on staff for you to be able to use. And, they might not even mention it unless you ask. There are also regular massage therapists that don’t work at hospitals who get extensive training in lymphatic drainage massage, as well.

Bart: Okay, let me change the topic for just a second and talk about group massage. Like, a massage party. Do people ever book a group massage service for special occasions or office events? I think that’d be fun. What types of events and massages are able to be booked?

Ian: Yeah, they do. It’s quite often for schools to book chair massage events for teacher appreciation week. And, oftentimes, some bigger businesses will have massage therapists come out, and they’ll pay for them to do a certain number of chair massages for their employees, or even just to come set up and then employees can come down on their breaks and to get, to pay for a chair massage for $1 a minute or something of that nature.

There are also people that book chair massage for bachelorette parties, baby showers, birthday parties, health fairs, etc. And, more often than not it is just chair massage because of the ease of set up and a small space is needed for that vs. a massage table – it could be more common at events like marathons where you can just hop on the table for a quick post-race treatment and stretch.

Bart: That’s cool, Ian. Thank you so much. I’m glad you are here today to inform each of us about your service and the benefits of massage. If our listeners want to reach your company, will you please give us your phone number and your website?

Ian:  Sure thing, Bart. Our company is Body in Balance Massage Therapy. And, we are located in Old HIckory, TN, close to Mount Juliet. Our phone number is 615-521-8568. And, our website is www.bodyinbalancemj.com.

Bart: Thanks so much. And now we’re gonna move to our new segment, Ask the Expert. Miss Darlene Kemp, is a Tennessee expert on special needs trusts. She’s here to answer a couple of questions which were provided by listeners. Oftentimes these questions are the reason for the day’s topic.

Bart: Hello, Darlene. Thanks for joining us today. 

Darlene: Hi, Bart. I hope you’re doing well.

Bart: Ian brought up a couple of key issues which were sent into Vista Points via its Facebook Messenger. And, I’m thinking these questions are what led to Ian’s being interviewed today!

Darlene: Ah, yes, the questions from our listeners do provide us with topics for our podcast.

Bart: Okay. One listener sent in this question. “I have severe arthritis and cannot move around very well.  Will massage help me move more flexibly?”

Darlene: Before I answer that question, let me tell you, from the trustee’s standpoint for special needs trusts, that arthritis – if it causes a disability – can be a covered disability, and a person can establish a special needs trust related to that.

So, from what the listener wrote in about arthritis, I also have arthritis. So, speaking from my personal experience, massage therapy can be quite beneficial. However, as Ian stated, some people should not have massage due to the medications they are taking or the illnesses that they have. My advice is when in doubt, talk to your physician for guidance before seeing a massage therapist. The therapist can be quite skilled, like Ian, and be able to help you, but just to be on the safe side, confer with your physician. 

Bart: That makes a lot of sense, Darlene. Another listener wrote to us with this question. “I am a young mother of two toddlers. I have MS,” that being multiple sclerosis. “I just found out I am pregnant. I’d like to incorporate regular massages into my routine throughout my pregnancy. With me having MS and being pregnant, can I still have a massage?”

Darlene: Well, to the person who wrote that question, congratulations on your pregnancy! And, you DO have your hands full! Regarding MS, multiple sclerosis, many young women that have MS establish special needs trusts at the beginning when they are newly diagnosed. Maybe they don’t have a lot of conditions right now that are affecting them, but MS is a progressive illness, and their health will get worse. So, they establish a special needs trust to use later when they need to qualify for government benefits. 

So regarding the woman’s question about massage, being pregnant, she should visit the Body in Balance website at www.bodyinbalancemj.com. There’s a little plug for Ian. Ian has listed several types of massages with one being prenatal massage. I would suggest talking to Ian, or another massage therapist, for a detailed and personalized answer. Massage is usually great for pregnant women.  

Bart:  Thank you, Darlene. Thank you so much to the podcast listeners for tuning in to today’s episode of Choose Your Path, a Vista Points podcast. Did you notice listeners’ questions were part of today’s episode? So, ask your questions! If you haven’t asked yet, I encourage you to do so. 

You can ask your questions over the phone by calling the Vista Points office at 888-422-4076. That number is 888-422-4076. 

Each of the Vista Points team’s happy to answer your questions and assist you in whatever way they can. And who knows? Your question may end up on one of our podcasts. You can also ask your question through the Facebook page, VistaPointsInc, that’s Vista-Points-I-N-C, where you can send a direct message, otherwise known as a D-M.

I’m happy to say our podcasts have proven to be a smart resource for many people. You can subscribe to your YouTube channel and be notified as the latest episodes go live, which is on the 1st and 15th of every month. The YouTube channel is named Vista Points SNT, that’s S-N-T as in special needs trust.

You can also find past episodes and their transcriptions on the Vista Points website at vistapoints.org. That’s vistapoints-dot-O-R-G. You can also reference past episodes on the YouTube site or on our website, for your own listening enjoyment.

Enjoy your day with your loved one. Come back for more or look into past episodes of Choose Your Path. Regardless of where or when you find us, we walk beside you on your path. And, I look forward to sharing more information with you on how special needs trusts can be of benefit to anyone living with a disability – physical, mental or intellectual.