Health: No Hands Massage an unusual but powerful technique

Kate Schaeffer pictured at THe Whole Works, which offers 'no hands massage'. Picture: Jane Barlow
Kate Schaeffer pictured at THe Whole Works, which offers 'no hands massage'. Picture: Jane Barlow
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I CAN’T figure out how I’ve missed it all these years. The Whole Works has been tucked away just off the Royal Mile for two decades, at a site not more than a ten-minute walk from my office.

The centre was established in a history-rich town house by Rob and Deborah Ritchie, who dreamed of creating a place where locals could experience the best complementary therapeutic approaches, provided by expertly trained practitioners. The range of therapies on offer includes massage, aromatherapy, and chiropractic treatment, as well as more unusual practices such as Bowen Technique and EMDR Trauma Therapy.

I went along for a session of No Hands Massage with Kate Schaeffer – though the waiting room was so homely that I nearly didn’t get out of my chair when summoned. Once inside the treatment room it was the usual drill: a look at my medical history to alert Kate to any potential problems, and then she asked: “How do you want to feel at the end of your session?” Floppy, definitely, and deflated (via lymphatic drainage, because my legs can puff up with fluid).

No Hands Massage is powerful enough to help alleviate a variety of conditions. The masseuse uses only her forearms, which enables her to leverage her body weight against each stroke. The strokes, while gentle, penetrate deeply, enhancing the effectiveness of the procedure.

Many massage therapists incorporate No Hands techniques into their work these days, but this was my first entirely hands-free session. It felt as though my muscles were being lengthened as well as soothed, and all my knots untangled. When she tackled the nape of my neck with both arms I felt a great wodge of tension come loose. It was like taking off a very heavy coat.

Even with my eyes shut I could tell that Kate was getting quite a workout as she made her way across my back and legs. It’s an energetic performance for her, and feels great for the person on the table.

My one complaint is really self-directed. I should have been more vocal about her ministrations to my face and head. A lot of oil was used, and my clean hair was properly wrecked.

I’d definitely recommend the treatment but suggest timing the session carefully to ensure that you can head straight from your massage into a hot shower.

• The Whole Works, Jackson’s Close, 209 High Street, Edinburgh (0131-225 8092,

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