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Massage Today
November, 2008, Vol. 08, Issue 11

Economic Crisis: Be Aware, Get Prepared

By Ralph Stephens, BS, LMT, NCBTMB

Many businesses and industries have run aground because they had the wrong perception of their place and purpose in the market, especially during times of economic change and crisis. For example, at one time railroad companies thought they were in the railroad business.

They didn't realize until it was almost too late that they were really in the transportation business. Once they adapted to that larger paradigm, the ones that survived did much better.

The massage profession faces a similar situation. I think we, as a profession, believe we are in the massage business. This is a very narrow, focused, myopic view. We are really in the people business and the health business. We serve the public with alternative health care not available from any other source in a manner to bring about better health, wellness, movement and relief of pain. Massage is the primary tool we use to accomplish that, but we also use related techniques, education and products.

We are confused about who our customers really are. Our customers are not the allopathic medical community, not the AMA, not the insurance companies, not HMOs and not the government, but the public, people, individuals. We must reach out and promote to these individuals in such a way that they demand that our services, techniques and philosophy be accepted and included by health care on our terms, not on the allopathic system's terms. We can do this, but we have to change our focus, and we have to be ready to state what our terms are and stick to them.

We are going through a time of economic change, and the turmoil during that change looks a bit scary. Be assured, massage has survived thousands of years and many elections, disasters, economic crises, wars, global changes, etc., and it will continue to survive. Massage will continue to be in demand because there is nothing that can accomplish what massage can do as efficiently, effectively and pleasantly.

The current economic crisis  will present some challenges, but I assure you the answer is not to sell out to the failed traditional medical system. The answer is to provide a cost-effective alternative. People may not be able to afford insurance or traditional health care, but they will need pain relief and wellness care. It is cheaper to stay well than to get sick. It is cheaper to prevent/eliminate carpal tunnel syndrome with massage than to have surgery for it. Both people and businesses will be looking for cost-effective alternatives to unaffordable crisis medicine, and we are sitting pretty to provide it to them. Well, at least some of us are.

The small percentage of us who have invested in ourselves beyond entry-level and learned how to assess and treat specific conditions, relieve pain and, most importantly, prevent injuries and illness are very well-positioned. The general relaxation side of the profession will likely see a more serious downturn, except possibly chair massage, the most cost-effective version of relaxation. The good news about chair massage is that when given by a properly trained therapist, chair massage can also provide specific therapeutic treatment, especially for upper-body complaints affecting the shoulders, wrists (carpal tunnel syndrome), low back and neck.

Invest in yourself by acquiring the skills, knowledge, and techniques that enable you to help people in pain. Practice them until you are really good and you will most likely do very well in the coming years. You will be able to really help people, and people are really going to need help. Wouldn't you like to have people begging you to work on them instead of you begging for work?

Canada's Health Care Ship Sinking

Have you by chance heard of Claude Castonguay, the "Father of Quebec Medicare"? In the 1960s Castonguay chaired the committee whose recommendations became the glorious Canadian health care system of which we are told. He is now the chairman of a government committee reviewing Quebec health care. He has concluded that the Canadian system is in "crisis."

"We thought we could resolve the system's problems by rationing services or injecting massive amounts of new money into it," says Castonguay. This money would have to come from significantly higher taxes. But now he prescribes a radical overhaul: "We are proposing to give a greater role to the private sector so that people can exercise freedom of choice." Freedom? What a concept.

Castonguay advocates contracting out services to the private sector, even going so far as suggesting public hospitals rent space during off-hours to entrepreneurial doctors. He also supports co-pays for patients who want to see physicians. Castonguay, who once championed public health insurance in Canada, now urges for the legalization of private health insurance.

What would drive a man such as Castonguay to reconsider his long-held beliefs? Try a health care system so overburdened that hundreds of thousands in need of medical attention wait for care, any care. Try a system in which people in towns like Norwalk, Ontario, participate in lotteries just to win appointments with the local family doctor. Years ago, Canadians touted their health care system as the best in the world. Today, Canadian health care stands in ruinous shape, according to Canadian Dr. David Gratzer, MD.

If Castonguay is abandoning ship, why should Americans bother climbing on board a similar ship? Will we pass each other going in opposite directions? English economist Alexander Tyler documented that the downfall of democracy, usually within about 200 years, comes when voters realize they can vote themselves something for "nothing" from the public treasury. Once people become dependent on government, they are one step away from tyranny.

Someone gets the bill for free health care, and that someone is the average middle-class taxpayer. Sadly, no one is talking about getting government completely out of health care, which is too bad, since government is the problem.

Chew on This

Earlier this month in an unprecedented U-turn, the FDA dropped much of its reassuring language on amalgam (silver) fillings from its Web site, substituting: "Dental amalgams contain mercury, which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetuses." It adds that when amalgam fillings are "placed in teeth or removed they release mercury vapor," and that the same thing happens when chewing. Mercury is the sacred metal of allopathic medicine. By placing it in our bodies through vaccines and fillings, they make billions treating the resulting conditions that manifest from the damage it does to our nervous systems.

The FDA is now reviewing its rules and may end up restricting or banning the use of the poisonous heavy metal, at least in fillings. It's about time. Want to bet that the law passed by the new Democratic Congress and signed by President Bush, giving drug companies immunity from damages caused by drugs and vaccines, includes mercury? If the drug companies can get off free, the FDA can tell the truth. Who are they really protecting? Both parties and the bureaucracy of government agencies are completely controlled by the giant corporations. By definition, this is fascism. They justify human suffering in the name of profit. How does it feel?

Happy, Happy

As we are soon approaching the completion of another trip around the sun, I want to thank you, the loyal readers of this column, for your support throughout the past year. I wish a Happy Holidaze to all and remind you that this time of year is about something far bigger than shopping. See you back here in January. Bring hot (dark) chocolate. We'll talk more about a paradigm shift in health care only we can provide.

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


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