immunity vs. resilience.


Owner’s note: WSW is currently temporarily closed for the greater good, to reduce community transmission of COVID-19.

As spring comes eerily early and we’re all doing our part to keep a pandemic at bay, it’s helpful to get outside, if you can. If you do, you’ll find a hundred small signs of life bounding back from winter’s interruption. As it does. As it will, after this pandemic subsides.

Meanwhile, what a good time for reflection, eh? Here’s mine.

We’re so used to saying things like “boost your immunity” –– I see it constantly on my social media feed: “10 Ways to Strengthen Your Immune System!” But, I have an autoimmune condition. I’ve learned that I actually don’t want to rev up my immune system, because it’ll just attack itself. And people with compromised immune systems don’t have the ability to “strengthen” their immune system. In this sense, the concept of boosting one’s immune system is kinda ableist. The best we immune outliers can hope for is not extra immunity, but resilience. The ability to get through a health challenge, and come out on the other side.

Resilience implies fluidity, flexibility, and resourcefulness. Perhaps a better reason for why someone would swallow vitamin C, zinc, garlic, or chicken broth right now is: to nourish health. To build reserves. To encourage balance. To increase resilience. That’s what we’re all going to need for the future that’s barrelling towards us. Resilience, and faith in regrowth.

See you on the flip side; we’ll be ready to help you process and recover. Till then, may health be with you.

Jen Raimondi, owner

Picture shows springtime buds.

our new tip policy.

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Owner’s note: I’m super proud of the team at WSW for the conscientious, intelligent conversation we’ve been having on this subject. The following has been contributed to by many of us.

After a thoughtful internal discussion, we’ve decided to change our tip policy. Since we opened in 2011, our no tip policy has been a defining aspect of WSW. We view massage as health care, and we strove to communicate that idea by declining tips. We also didn’t want people feeling obligated to tip if it was financially difficult.

A lot has changed since 2011, including the cost of living; the reality is that WSW massage therapists are contractors in the gig economy – everyone has multiple jobs, everything’s a hustle, and it’s all freelance or part time. Despite our continued conviction that bodywork is health care, we work in a service industry. Unlike other health care professionals, we don’t have benefit packages or sick days, and our income fluctuates throughout the year. Accepting tips from those who can afford to offer them is a way to buffer our income’s unpredictability.

So here’s our new policy: we graciously accept cash tips, but there is no obligation. You can also show your gratitude for our work by coming back as soon as you can, and telling everyone you know about us. In either case, we deeply appreciate your support. We do not expect tips from automobile (or other) insurance clients.

It’s important to us that you know we do our best work regardless of your ability or inclination to tip. We work in a service industry, but we view “service” in the highest sense of the word. It’s service in the same sense that doctoring, mentoring, teaching, nursing, volunteering, and guiding people through meditation are service: it is serving the greater good. When we perform a massage, we are serving the needs of another human being. This is an honor and a privilege. Thank you.

reflections on bodywork.


by guest blogger S.C., WSW client since 2013

I wanted to take a moment to share how much West Side Wellness has made a direct impact on my life.  In 2015, the Supreme Court granted me and my beloved the legal right to marry, and in June of 2016, in a beautiful meadow in Vermont, surrounded by friends and family, I married my person.

But it was a long journey, and it would never have happened without the absolutely amazing team of massage magicians at West Side Wellness who made it possible.

At first, we considered eloping.  My parents passed away years ago, and my person’s parents live in Puerto Rico.  We knew it would be difficult to afford a wedding on our own.  I have 8 siblings – and when our parents passed away, the two youngest were 9 and 10.  We ended up adopting them as siblings and raising them together.  We’re incredibly close, but they are scattered, with many on the West Coast – it’s incredibly rare for us all to be able to afford to travel to see each other.

We both decided it was worth the sacrifice to save for a wedding, so that we could see the faces of our beloved family and friends and spend precious time with them.

I ended up taking four jobs – one of which was driving for Uber on my off days.  Almost immediately, I started experiencing intense pain from 10-12 hour driving shifts.

Here is where the magicians came in – every week, I made an appointment or two and every week, they relieved the pain enough to continue driving for one more week.  More than once, my passenger changed the destination mid-ride, causing me to be late for my massage appointment, and every time the gloriously kind humans at West Side Wellness were flexible and thoughtful and just all around awesome human beings.

On the day of my wedding, it was such an incredibly beautiful moment to look out and see my siblings and chosen family and friends gazing back at me.  We had three glorious days to bask in the love of this enormous cuddle puddle.  One moment I will remember forever is the moment I saw one of my younger brothers – we hadn’t seen each other in 5 years; we simply ran towards each other crying, arms outstretched.

If it weren’t for the empathy and talent and incredible patience on the part of the team of massage therapists that worked on me, we wouldn’t have been able to afford the wedding, and I would have missed out on an experience I will cherish for the rest of my days on this planet.

THANK YOU so much for the gift you give to the community!

All the thanks in the world,


bodywork: it brings up your shit.


One thing seasoned bodyworkers know is that trauma gets stored in the tissues. Stress, toxins, emotional trauma, physical trauma: these accumulate in muscle and fascia as we move through life. We’ve all got little stockpiles of garbage hidden away here and there. It’s not unnatural; it’s part of living, but sometimes the dumpster overflows – and that’s when we start to feel pain and get sick.

Bodywork can help release stored tension or trauma. Sometimes this feels fantastic, but often, we have to experience the muck as it gets cleared from our system. A mentor once offered me a helpful metaphor: if you scoop up sludge from the bottom of a pond, you’re gonna kick up some mud. The water will be cloudy till it all settles back down again.

This happened to me the other day. I received a wonderful session that was so relaxing, I fell asleep in the middle of it. But almost immediately afterward, I felt nauseous. That was followed by a flare up of my pain condition which lasted two days. I understood what was happening, so I didn’t panic. I let myself take it easy while by body did its thing. I helped it along by doing a sauna. Then, almost like magic, the pain cleared and I felt physically more at ease.

There are things we can do to lessen this effect: be hydrated prior to receiving work, stay hydrated afterwards, do gentle movement like walking or stretching to get the fluids moving; sauna, epsom salt soaks, rest. In my case, I entered into the session a little sleep deprived, depleted, and sad (and then I requested work on the psoas, which can bring up really old stuff), so I shouldn’t have been surprised to feel cruddy afterwards.

The takeaway: sometimes healing isn’t pretty. It’s a “process,” as they say. Bodywork is potent medicine. It teaches us self-awareness, which ultimately leads to resilience.

Jen Raimondi, owner West Side Wellness

core values.

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Owner’s note: at WSW, we all belong to either the AMTA or the ABMP, professional massage associations which ask members to pledge to uphold ethical standards of care. But we wanted to take that a little further and develop our own statement of core values as a practice. Here’s what we’ve got:

We treat everyone with respect. We want everyone to feel comfortable and safe here.

We refrain from judgement. Our job is to bear witness and hold space. Our goal is to be sure clients know their needs have been heard, honored, and met.

Reminding clients of their power and self-efficacy is empowering. Empowerment is what helps people heal.

Our work is client-directed. It’s a cooperative effort between client and therapist. Healing happens when the client is ready.

Our own education is ongoing.

We strive to be present.

We strive to be professional.

We strive to model compassion.

We strive to keep our prices reasonable.

We claim no miracles.

We care for the Providence community we’re part of.

Massage is service, in the highest sense of the word. To perform bodywork is an honor and a privilege. Our work is humility.

deep thoughts.

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Owner’s note: at WSW, we get a lot of clients requesting “deep tissue.” We feel this is an inaccurate term, so we try to dig a little deeper (heh heh) to discover what you truly seek.

If you walk in our door requesting “deep tissue,” we like to start with a conversation about your needs, goals, and expectations. We talk about our techniques and limitations. Finally, we suggest an approach, and if it sounds good to you, off we go.

Many people think massage has to hurt to be effective. This is not true. A skilled therapist can access your deepest tissues or manipulate the fascial layer without causing pain. So if your goal is to free your psoas, or to loosen some adhesions, we can do that without too much discomfort.

That’s not to say that intensity, or “good pain,” is always a bad thing. Some of you are wired to receive intense sensations in a positive way. You find it relaxing; it helps you experience deep release. You might enjoy a little endorphin rush. If you know that about yourself, don’t feel embarrassed to tell us.

That said, it also helps to differentiate intensity from pressure. Sometimes compression itself can be super calming, like those ThunderShirts for dogs. It’s totally possible for us to provide pressure, or compression, without causing pain.

As you can see, the more we discuss your needs, and the more we differentiate techniques and intentions, the more we can fine-tune our work for you. Each therapist at WSW has different skill sets, too, so knowing what you’re looking for will help us match you with the right LMT.

Someone once shared this piece by Alok Vaid-Menon with me (you should read the whole thing):

“Susan tells me that her job as a masseuse is not necessarily to get rid of the pain, but rather to bear witness to it. To recognize it. To affirm it. She says that we live in a country — a world — that teaches us at every level that our hurt is a story we made up. And we internalize that to our core and write it into every muscle in our body. “I am wrong, I am wrong, I am wrong.” She says that sometimes acknowledgment can be its own sort of antidote. That sometimes people just need to hear that what happened to them was not their fault. That people tend to know what is best for themselves, they’ve just been told over and over again that they don’t.”

Though we’ll tell you when certain techniques are contra-indicated for certain health conditions, it’s not our job to judge you for what you seek. Most importantly, know that your consent, before and throughout your treatment, is paramount. Because if you feel that your needs are heard and met, you’ll feel safe, and our work will be more effective.


core values, work in progress.


Owner’s note: here at WSW, we’ve been having ongoing discussions about how we’d like to define our core values as a practice. The process is ongoing, but here are some thoughts I’ve had along the way.

Part of what makes WSW special is that we understand that different approaches work for different people. Touching another person is a privilege, and the simple act of laying on hands, with presence, is sacred. It heals. Any additional techniques (provided they’re done with mindfulness and skill) are icing on the cake. One reason we charge the same amount for different bodywork modalities is because we view all bodywork as equally healing and equally valuable.

It’s appropriate (and good) to educate you about the different options we can provide, and to say why we think you might want to try them. But for us to value one modality over another would be inappropriate. It’s your job to sample and decide what works for you. I believe it’s unethical to let a client make us their guru. The healthy client is the one who is shown that the healing work happens within them; as massage therapists, we are simply objective facilitators.

Listening to you, and letting you know you’ve been heard, is deeply therapeutic, regardless of the nature of the conversation. It’s important, and it’s planned for, at our practice. Our duty is to bear witness, and to affirm that you know what is best for you. Sometimes your time spent with us is the only time in your life when you can ask for, and receive, what you want. We’re here to treat, and to educate, but above all, to honor your right to make decisions about your body and your experiences, and to remind you that you have a right to have your needs met.