Updated: Jan 5
My 1st Impression
When you think of the word massage, what comes to mind? I used to think that it was luxury. It involved going to the spa and being spoiled. Perhaps a special anniversary or birthday gift. It was for those that had money to “throw away”. On the flipside, maybe you envision the therapist digging their elbows to the bone, aiming to inflict pain at every opportunity. I believed massage therapy was for the rich. Not for the minimum wage earners, children, students, or seniors. It was a special treat – not a health service. As a young adult, I became an aesthetician; I learned relaxation massage for use in “spa packages”. This reinforced my idea of what I perceived as massage. I decided to pursue massage therapy as a career ten months later; this was when my perception of massage began to change.
My Eye Opener
Unlike my aesthetics training, once I obtained my massage therapy certificate it was mandatory to register with a massage association and obtain insurance in order to legally practice. I quickly realized that standards were much higher in this new field. With any association, there are rules, guidelines and professional ethics by which you must abide. I learned that it was my responsibility to keep up with any changes that the association would make, including the introduction of mandatory courses required to keep my licensure in good standing. These courses could be anything in which I had a professional interest under the realm of massage; however, they had to be accredited and approved by my association. It became required to obtain a minimum number of professional development credits every 2 years. Massage therapists could specialize their education through these additional courses. We were able to sharpen our skills and hone our unique abilities, allowing us to focus on different areas of the body or different treatment techniques. Just like a surgeon has his or her specialty, in many cases, so does your massage therapist.
Over the years, several other positive changes have been implemented to better regulate this important health industry. There is now a strict requirement that new graduates have at least 2200 hours of initial education in order to hold the credentials Registered Massage Therapist (RMT). We continue to upgrade our education and ethics courses every two years. In some cities, it is mandated to have a practicing city license along with an association membership.
The Importance of Touch
A good massage is so much more than the token “feel good” or, alternatively, “agonizing” experience. Massage therapy can help boost serotonin levels which in turn decrease stress hormones, reducing overall anxiety and depression symptoms as a result. Other potential benefits include a reduction in blood pressure, overall job stress and increased speed and accuracy in problem solving.1 A 2010 study with infants illustrates how imperative consistent touch is for not only emotional but physical development. When they were left alone and not held regularly, they did not thrive. Babies need to be cared for in order to grow and to develop proper neurological connections.1 As adults we are no different. We still need these things. In a society where mental illness is at an all time high, we need help reconnecting. Massage therapy can help to achieve this. We live in a world that can leave us craving human contact and interaction. Meaningful connection through touch is often avoided in the face of what is considered socially appropriate. In many ways, this is good; however, it has also cramped our spiritual style, so to speak. With the advancements in technology we have ironically observed a regression in spiritual connectivity. We have forgotten that in order to thrive, we need consistent, caring touch.
Building a Connection
As a massage therapist, I care deeply for every single one of my clients. I have a professional interest in my clients’ well-being which, in some ways, I also take very personally. When you are in a room with your massage therapist, you are his or her sole priority. Massage therapists want you to have better quality of life and they are honoured that you would trust them enough to help you along your wellness journey. It is a privilege for us to be there for you. In the last fifteen years of my practice, I have witnessed and experienced exactly how massage fits in with a person’s physical health. It is no longer just for those that have disposable income. It is a pivotal part of anyone’s health care.
The (Not So) Hidden Benefits
When a person receives regular massage treatment, their overall chance of injury is lowered because the muscles in the body are in balance and functioning correctly. When there is balance, little compensation from other muscle groups is required. Regular massage clients who do get injured tend to recover more quickly because their body has a more recent memory of correct movement patterns.Clients who receive regular massages often have strong immune systems as a result of more efficient circulation and lymph drainage. The lymphatic system is like a septic system for the entire body and it is vital that it flows freely. It helps flush out viruses and bacteria. Massage therapy can prevent it from getting stuck or sluggish. Massage clients have the potential to avoid dependency on many prescription medications. Studies have shown that they don’t take as many sick days, making them more valuable and more productive at work.Massage acts like a recharging station for the body. You take your car for regular tunes ups, tire rotations, and oil changes. If something sounds funny, typically you don’t wait until it is a serious problem, you nip it in the bud. You are invested in your car. If it doesn’t work, you have difficulty getting to work, buying groceries, driving your kids to all the places they need be – the list of responsibilities can be endless! How much more valuable is your body? We cannot trade our bodies in when they start failing or get hurt. Our bodies must last us a lifetime.
Pain is not normal. Pain is the very last signal our body gives us that something is wrong. You do not need to live in constant discomfort. You can have little or no pain with regular treatment from a massage therapist. It is our job to problem solve and find the root cause of your discomfort in order to help your body heal. Just like an x-ray technician knows how to read an x-ray, your massage therapist knows how to read your muscles.
Massage therapy has changed so much over the last fifteen years. As you can see, it has become more popular as people take a more active role in their health care to help prevent injury and disease. So, where do you stand in all this? The next steps are at your feet. Maybe this is the day to take control and improve your quality of life.
Author: Jodi Harty, RMT
Ardiel EL, Rankin CH. The importance of touch in development. Paediatr Child Health. 2010;15(3):153-6.