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Massage Today
May, 2011, Vol. 11, Issue 05

Massage in Decline

By Ralph Stephens, BS, LMT, NCTMB

The universe being in a constant state of change drags the massage therapy profession along with it. As much as we love to hang onto the past, we have to accept the reality of now, or go neurotic. Too many people chose the later. I do not mind change, but I prefer it to be for the better. Change in and of itself is not always a positive.

My previous column struck an emotional chord with many of you. Thanks for taking the tine to write in and share your experiences and feelings. Your feedback is always appreciated.

By the way - I am not retired yet, but thanks for the happy retirement wishes. I am working a very full schedule this year. Next year I will become scarce and 2013 seldom seen. So come out and share the fun, excitement and education while it lasts.

One theme that stood out in your responses was the disappointment of experienced therapists (over 10 years in practice) with our declining levels of professionalism. This is not a positive trend and is no a way to build a healthcare profession that is based on customer satisfaction. Most massage is still paid for out-of-pocket. That means our profession is competing for ever dwindling discretionary dollars. Consumers are being more selective with their purchases. Massage can be one of the most cost effective forms of healthcare available and can help prevent or manage many conditions. However, it has to be preformed professionally and competently to do so. My personal experience and the reports from reader responses indicate it is becoming less common to find massage therapists who are as good as the quality of the office decor.

Some interesting trends are forming in our profession. As I have been predicting for some time, the public is finally backing away from massage. The latest AMTA survey (2010) indicated that the usage of massage has dropped off for both men (-5%) and women (-1%). One can blame the economy - it is the scapegoat for everything these days - but is that really the cause or just a catalyst? Is the public backing away from massage because they are tired of paying outrageous fees for a rubdown that is little, if any, better than what they could receive from their unskilled but caring mate? Suppose people are giving up on getting massages in four and five star spas for $125 or more that do not include the abdomen and buttocks? Do you think maybe people are tired of having the therapist show up at the office after they, the patient, is already there, then set-up the room and short the patient time? A colleague who travels regularly and gets massage wherever possible confided that she now considers a good massage one where she did not get injured. Think the public that hears about all the wonderful thing massage can do, but when they bring their complaint to a massage therapist they get the same routine done on them as every other person the therapist sees is going to continue with massage? Who can afford that, or will even if they can?

As consumer dollars become scarce, our profession must deliver better value and higher quality. Are we achieving that? Are we even trying? Do you believe the competency of the average entry level therapist today is as good, better or worse than the average graduate of 20 years ago? How about 10 years ago? Is our level of professionalism rising or falling? I would love to have your opinion and your experience on this.

It seems to me that the emphasis of our professional associations has been on gaining acceptance for massage from the medical and scientific communities. Actually, the biggest push is probably to gain acceptance from the insurance industry. I have always felt this was totally mis-guided. Who do we serve? We serve the public. I have always felt massage was an alternative to the existing medical-insurance cartel. I believe our profession should be directing its outreach to the public. If we gain the public's acceptance, their demand will force insurance and medical acceptance.

How can we earn the public's acceptance? Do you really think the way to promote our profession is to recruit new therapists with unrealistic promises of easy work and high pay? Do unskilled teachers, who may be good therapists but are unskilled as teachers train better and better practitioners? Do instructors who cannot make a living in the profession doing the work as therapists so they teach, turn out improved therapists? You know these things, while not universal, are quite common. As we try to reach the public and the medical community, an effort that should require ever increasing competence and professionalism, we seem to be going backwards. Our entry-level screening instruments are lowest common denominator devices that only test recognition of intellectual knowledge, not recall or hands-on skills. As our entry-level gene pool has become less literate and experienced in life, have we compensated for this in our educational programs?

Do you really believe the economy is going to get better any time soon? Let me know how that hope works out for you. Everything points to a worsening economy for some time. Historically, there is a blip up for presidential elections. What a coincidence. Let's hope that pattern continues. In the meantime, as the competition for healthcare dollars intensifies, what is the profession of massage/bodywork doing to become more competitive? It is something we had better start considering. 5% down a year doesn't leave much after 5 - 10 years, a relatively short time.

Round-Up's Times Up

A top soil and plant researcher is pleading with the Obama administration to stop the approval of any more Genetically Modified Organisms, specifically GMO plants that are Round-Up Resistant as it appears Round-Up is associated with a new micro-fungus that has the potential to destroy U.S. agriculture and possibly humanity. It causes diseases in plants and abortions and sterility in mammals. (People are mammals - YOU are a mammal!) Do you realize what this means? A potential end of humanity.

Environmentalist are probably delighted as getting rid of man - the scourge of the planet - could bring back the garden of Eden; Once Wall-E cleans up man's mess. (Of course man's, women don't make messes, do they?) Oh lighten up. This is so serious it needs a bit of levity. If you care, and you should, check this out and get involved. Help stop GMOs before they kill us. See my blog for more on this. This link has the complete letter to Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_22625.cfm


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

 

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