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Massage Today
April, 2001, Vol. 01, Issue 04

What's in a Name?

By Cliff Korn, BS, LMT, NCTMB

As I write this on a Saturday morning in March, I imagine most of you are enjoying the approach of spring. Here in New Hampshire, I gaze out the window and see snow flurries drifting through the light filtering through the gray skies.

The weather report is calling for the worst storm of the year with possibilities of up to three feet of snow before it's over. So much for spring! I guess I'll rejuvenate later!

So how is Massage Today doing so far? Most of the letters and e-mail I am receiving are positive. Due to volume, I am unable to respond individually to most of your communications, but I do want you to know that almost everything you send me is considered for inclusion in the publication's "We Get Letters and E-mail" section. Please don't stop communicating our thoughts and ideas if your initial communication wasn't acknowledged or published!

One complaint that I hear more often than I like is that you all aren't getting your monthly copy of Massage Today. I want every massage therapists to be able to get the benefits of this publication. If you know of colleagues who we seem to be missing, please send an e-mail to our circulation desk with name and mailing address (be sure to specify Massage Today!). The address of the circulation desk is: . Changes of address can also be handled this way!

I have also received some interesting mail about the differences between "massage" and "bodywork." Thus the title of this month's editorial, "What's in a Name?" I'm fascinated that so many of us have so many different definitions, and resent others who define terms differently than we ourselves do. I received one e-mail from a practitioner who resented being called a massage therapist because she was exclusively practicing energy work and preferred to be called a bodyworker. She said massage therapy assumed "fixing something" instead of just looking out for a person's well being as she did in her practice.

Another person wrote that he was surprised to see a column on pathologies in a massage therapy publication because massage therapy couldn't be used to treat medically necessary conditions. He stated that "Medical Massage" was just another term for bodywork, and that only bodyworkers should be included in discussions of pathologies. Could two people have more diverse definitions of bodywork? And these definitions don't even begin to address the Asian bodywork world. I'm going to suggest that most of us are very aware that there are differences in the techniques and methodologies of this field. structural integration, reiki and shiatsu are very different things, but depending on where you live, they might all be regulated as massage therapy. Massage Today strives to serve all of the practitioners of structured touch. To that end we will honor the definitions of all. When reading the thoughts of Massage Today contributors please keep in mind that someone might be defining a term differently that you do. In many cases we say the same things with different words.

We do however have a responsibility to be accurate when using service or trademarked terms such as Feldenkrais, Trager, etc. The associations and institutions that hold claim to legally protected terms have spent significant time and money in promotion of the terms for the benefit of their members and the public, and take protection of the terms seriously. We should, too. I recently spoke with an individual who said she was seeing a local Rolfer with whom I wasn't familiar. Upon checking I found that the "Rolfer" had attended four weekends of structural integration continuing education. Acquaintances of mine who are Rolfers get justifiably hot under the collar when they hear stories like this.

Even when not dealing with trademarked terms, one of the great difficulties in efforts to establish standards is defining our terms. If more than two of us are in the same room at the same time we can't agree on what "high standards" means, let alone turf threatening terms like massage and bodywork.

So let's lighten up on one another. When speaking let's say what we mean, remembering that others may draw different conclusions from our statements than we intended. Let's not stop sharing ideas because of these different definitions. I happen to personally feel that standards are desirable and important to our field. I see more growth in touch therapies from consumer, regulator and practitioner agreement on standards. I see more people with robust practices now than ever before, and I also see practitioners just entering the field building sustainable practices quicker than they used to. Honoring one another by enjoying our similarities as opposed to our differences can go a long way to keep increasing growth and acceptance in a slowing economy.

Massage Today encourages letters to the editor to discuss matters relating to the publication's content. Letters may be published in a future issue of Massage Today. Please send all correspondence by e-mail to , or by regular mail to the address listed below:

Massage Today
P.O. Box 4139
Huntington Beach, CA 92605-4139

Former editor of Massage Today, Cliff is owner of Windham Health Center Neuromuscular Therapy LLC. He is nationally certified in therapeutic massage & bodywork and is licensed as a massage therapist by the states of New Hampshire and Florida. Cliff is a member of the International Association of Healthcare Practitioners; a professional member and past president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association; a certified member of the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, Inc.; and a past chairman of the board of directors of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.


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