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Massage Today
November, 2004, Vol. 04, Issue 11

The Road is Still Long

By Cliff Korn, BS, LMT, NCTMB

The practice of massage has come a long way in our lifetime. I'm sure that those who have been practicing for 20 or more years see it much more than I do, but even a practitioner in the field for only five years can experience how far we have come in capability and public awareness.

The very first massage I received was in the health club of the Sheraton Hotel in Lisbon, Portugal in 1979.

I was in the Naval Reserve, and my journey home was delayed for a day after a period of active-duty training. To kill time I used the health club; when signing in, I was asked if I wanted a massage. I remember being taken aback and not having a clue what massage was about. I am pleased I answered in the affirmative because the experience was very positive and was, no doubt, part of my "destiny."

In the 80s I had several careers that necessitated travel. Long days, airplane seats, and hustling through airports with a garment bag on one shoulder and golf clubs on the other did nothing to alleviate nagging low back pain. But massage therapists did! In the 80s, determining whether massage was legitimate or a front for sexual services was difficult at best. More than once I was unpleasantly surprised before becoming a more informed consumer.

Since entering the field of massage therapy in the early 90s, the need to become an educated consumer has decreased significantly. At least in my part of the country, there is little if any massage advertising that fronts for prostitution. (The one establishment that did was shut down in the spring.) While tiny ads in urban newspapers may advertise, "Tokyo Rose Massage, body shampoos, open 24 hours, 12 masseuses, credit cards accepted," no one but the most naíve confuses these services for actual massage services. This improvement has been through the efforts of many to educate the public on the true benefits of what we do.

Since entering this profession I have witnessed public dissemination of research news on massage efficacy from the Touch Research Institute, the Massage Therapy Foundation and others, and peer reviewed journals, such as the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. I have seen the establishment of such positive public relations programs as ABMP's International Massage Week and AMTA's Massage Therapy Awareness Week. The NCBTMB developed a certification program, and advertises heavily to the public on the benefits of skilled, ethical massage therapists. We don't necessarily have to be members of ABMP or AMTA, or be nationally certified to benefit from their actions. The public is made more aware every day. It's working!

I wish we could now let our guard down, but unfortunately we can't. As far as we have come, there are still those whose lack of knowledge works to keep us from proceeding positively. My local newspaper reported recently* on a town whose board of selectmen was deliberating on whether to permit a nonprofit group to use a community center to conduct a poker tournament as a fundraiser.

One town selectman, who is also the chief of police, was quoted by the paper as saying, "Now they want to have gambling at the Community Center. We're turning into Sin City. Before you know it there will be massage tables on the side of the street." With all due respect to the chief, I can't think of anything much healthier for a community than to have massage tables on the side of its streets! It was obvious to me that he was making a reference to prostitution, not massage, but the ignorance of that remark by an individual in a position of authority is most disturbing.

As upsetting as the chief's remark was, the staff writer for the paper made the outcome even worse! In an apparent attempt to generate interest in the article, the chief's picture with the clip of his quote was side-barred, so that visually the article with headline and side bar read, "Selectman: Town becoming 'Sin City.' Before you know it there will be massage tables on the side of the street."

I have spent over a decade trying to exorcise that doubt about massage in the public's perception; coverage of a side comment as unapprised as this just plants it again in the minds of the unknowing. The road is indeed long.

Thanks for listening!

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

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

*Source: The Eagle Tribune, Sept. 28, 2004.

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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