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Massage Today
September, 2006, Vol. 06, Issue 09

Interesting Times

By Ralph Stephens, BS, LMT, NCBTMB

We live in interesting times. It seems the good is better than ever, but the bad is worse than ever. Chaos Theory says this is an ongoing evolutionary process, so expect it to continue to even greater extremes.

Maybe some global polarity therapy could help.

The "corporatization" of America continues to accelerate and thus the corporatization of the massage profession continues along with it. I have nothing against corporations by the way. The tax laws are written to favor corporations. If your business is not structured as one of the several corporate entity forms, you probably are missing out on a lot of advantages. There is one limitation, a huge one, for individual massage therapist's setting up a corporation, so incorporate only with good professional advice. But, I digress.

Some of the corporate mergers and buy-outs will be good for the profession overall. However, when it comes to the delivery of massage therapy to the public, for the most part, this corporatization means guaranteed mediocrity. For example, I spoke recently with a therapist who works for one of the up-and-coming massage franchises. She must do the massage routine exactly as choreographed, asking the same questions, the same way, at precise times during the massage. The "Cosmic Mother Company" sends in "mystery shoppers" who check her out for compliance. If the customers request a particular therapist for return appointments, that therapist is grilled as to what she/he is doing different or special and "mystery shopper" visits increase. I am sure such franchises are impatiently waiting for the day when they can install mechanical massage robots. The McDonald's- and Wal-Mart-conscious faction of the public probably is just as anxiously awaiting that day and will stand in line to receive it.

A colleague reported he went to a very large, exclusive day spa on the "Gold Coast" of Florida where he paid $145 for an hour massage. The therapists were not allowed to touch, let alone massage, the abdomen or the hips. Yes, forbidden to touch the abdomen or hips - some of the hardest working and most important musculature of the body, and not even if the customer requests massage in those areas. Pitiful.

This is what the public is experiencing as "massage." This certainly is not health care, nor is it compassionate touch therapy. For many years, I have argued that we should use the term "patient." I never even considered the term "customer," but that is the appropriate term for the recipients of massage in venues like these.

Research Alert

On a much more positive note, Dr. Tiffany Field and the Touch Research Institute have just released a study, funded by Biotone, showing that a 30-minute massage twice a week can significantly reduce lower back pain, increase range of motion, decrease pain-induced sleep disturbance and improve overall mood. Cool! This is huge. Now, where can the public get this massage?

Quilting Bee Continues

I see the great state of Massachusetts just got a massage law passed, and over the veto of the governor no less. I think that is a first. Congratulations! The bad news is that the patchwork quilt of dissimilar state laws grows. This new law has some very interesting language in it. Massage therapists cannot stretch a specific muscle, but can do a "non-specific stretch" and many standard terms now used in our profession appear to be forbidden in advertising, like "medical massage," "orthopedic massage," "neuromuscular therapy," etc. My favorite clause forbids a massage therapist from doing exercise. No, it doesn't say anything about on a patient, it says, "No person licensed to practice massage or massage therapy shall perform any of the following: exercise. It's very clear. So, there will be lots of out-of-shape massage therapists in Massachusetts, I guess.

Speaking of licensing laws, my next few columns will focus on professional regulation. You need to know this stuff. I will keep it interesting and entertaining. Professional regulation is a classic example of the political double-speak we are faced with everyday. Like The Medical Privacy Act, HIPPA, which sounds like a great idea until you realize the only privacy it provides is to the government, insurance companies and medical researchers to go through your personal health care records without you ever knowing about it or being able to prevent it. You now have no privacy; in fact, you barely can get access to your own records or the records of your family. Who passed the act? The government. Who gets the privacy? The government and its health care cartel do. All true cartels are linked to government. Your government and mine got the public to fall for the privacy act because the public believes their privacy is at risk and the government is there to protect and help them. The first part is true, but the second part is no longer the case. The government is now there to protect itself and help itself to more and more control over you, as well as to an ever-increasing share of the fruits of your labor.

Professional regulation (licensure of some sort) is another form of double-speak, only more subtle. We are told licensure is to protect the public, right? That's the mantra from the departments of health and/or professional regulation, "protect the public." Think about what you have observed about licensure. Do you ever remember the public going to the legislature demanding the licensure of a profession? I am not aware of it ever happening, certainly not in the last 25 years. It's always the profession that goes to the legislature begging to be granted a monopoly in the form of a license to practice. The dirty little secret is that professional regulation was originally created specifically to protect the profession being regulated from the public.

Think about that, and I will explain more of the licensing scam in November.

Don't Try This

Pesticides (insecticides), which are derivatives of WWII nerve gas weapons, kill by attacking the nervous system of insects (or humans). A new Harvard study, the largest ever done, has linked pesticide exposure to a 70 percent increased risk of Parkinson's disease. Learn more at

Click here for more information about Ralph Stephens, BS, LMT, NCBTMB.


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