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Massage Today
February, 2013, Vol. 13, Issue 02

Encouraging a Call for Cure in the New Year

By Ralph Stephens, BS, LMT, NCBTMB

If you are reading this, the world did not come to an end or significantly awaken in December. Sorry about that, but there is still hope, so onward we go into 2013.

Change Continuing Ed

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a continuing education provider. I have been since 1988, way back in the last century when continuing education was not required by any organization. Only a few states had massage licensing laws and not all of them required continuing education for license renewal. In those ancient, more civilized times, therapists took continuing education courses because they knew full well their entry level massage school training was limited and inadequate and they desired to learn more to be able to better help their patients through the power of touch. That is still why therapists should invest in continuing education (CE) - to learn more than they currently know. This enables therapists to help more people and thus make more money. Good CE doesn't cost; it pays. It should be it's own incentive. Sadly, the reason way too many therapists take classes these days is to get CE hours, as quickly and cheaply as possible, because CE hours are required to renew a license. In so doing, many therapists then lack the resources to invest in courses that will truly advance their career. This is another example of the unintended consequence of over-regulation. It is time to end mandatory continuing education requirements for license renewal.

massage - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark There is nothing to indicate or prove that massage therapists are endangering the public, and if they are, nothing proves that random CE courses provide any protection. Let's get back to encouraging, but not requiring, therapists to take CE courses that they are actually interested in to enhance their practices through more skills to help more patients. CE Hours should only be a means to improve skills, increase income and to be accumulated toward voluntary advanced certification programs or membership in organizations that promote increased and continued learning.

I know all about the argument that our entry-level is so low we need to force therapists to learn more, but are they learning more or just meeting a requirement? If they want to learn, they will invest in courses that attract them. If they do not want to learn more, they just go through the motions, taking the cheapest, quickest or most convenient course available. Some wait until the last minute and then take whatever is being offered that weekend, not caring what it is and just being there. A therapist told me she took an online, 24 CE hour, hands-on modality course that took her four hours to complete and she did not learn a thing. Is this advancing the profession or protecting the public? I think not. What do you think? Let your state board know.

Clinical Talk: Stimulus-Response

Every active movement your body makes utilizes a neurological process called reciprocal inhibition. When you flex a joint, the nervous system "automagically" tells the extensors of that joint to relax and allow themselves to be elongated. This is recognized in one of Dr. Sherrington's laws, The Law of Reciprocal Inhibition. For a brief moment during a movement, the antagonist muscle(s) is "turned off." What if we could utilize this mechanism, but make it last? We can.

Massage as well as stretching, is much more a stimulus-response effect on the body than a mechanical one. We apply a stimulus to the body's nervous system through pressure and movement and hope to elicit a relaxation or parasympathetic response either locally, systemically or both. Each massage stroke provides a different stimulus to the nervous system. Do you know what stimulus is being applied by each stroke you do? If not, you are working blindly and your results will often be unpredictable. How can you expect to create a deep relaxation response if you are applying an invigorating stimulus? The stimulus – response of each massage stroke is seldom taught.

More and more we are learning that massage is affecting the mechanoreceptors of the nervous system. If we cause pain, we activate the nociceptors which, once triggered, fire for some time. This is not desirable if you are attempting to achieve relaxation. We should be trying to only activate mechanoreceptors that cause relaxation of muscles.

What if we could activate mechanoreceptors in such a way that we elicited reciprocal inhibition to a target muscle or muscle group that would last for more than moments and would, in fact, "reset" the target muscle's tonus, allowing it to elongate as well as reducing the painful sensations? That would be pretty slick wouldn't it? I am now learning a new way of applying the law of reciprocal inhibition, which does just that. Called Neural Reset Therapy (NRT) it has been developed by a very accomplished, insightful therapist. NRT is the most amazing, fastest, easiest way of reducing pain and increasing range of motion I have ever experienced. Even more amazingly, he has discovered how to get the same effect on the opposite side of the body you are working on, all done without manipulating the dysfunctional muscle. Six technique applications based on neurological laws and kinesiology are used to stimulate various mechanoreceptors resulting in the "re-set." This is treating cause (dysfunctional tonus) at the brain level, not just the symptom at the segment level. Seminars in NRT begin in 2013. If you are curious, visit the NRT Facebook Page or my website at

End Insanity or Ban It?

In 2013, we have experienced multiple events of ultra-violence, each one seemingly more horrific than the last. The allopathic mindset of the day reacts to address the symptoms. We say we abhor death and must eliminate its causes. Sadly, we are very selective in which causes of death and injury we are concerned about. We only address causes that are politically expedient and agenda advancing. Societal violence is a disease. Disease cannot be banned. Its symptoms can be suppressed or it can be cured. When symptoms of disease are suppressed, the condition arises somewhere else, usually with increased severity. We have to change the awareness of society and focus it on healing - treating causes, not symptoms. Awareness and self-love must be taught and nurtured. Compassionate touch is essential in this process. To commit acts of violence against humanity, individually or institutionally (much more horrific but not as noticeable or newsworthy) is committing violence against the Self, as we are all One.

If the massage profession could just elevate itself to its potential, instead of being content just pushing oil around, we could be the premier wellness modality on the planet. The world is waiting for us to get our act together. Will we, or will we sell out to the failed allopathic paradigm, it's brainwashing educational system model, and the myth that research on the treatment of symptoms will improve the care we provide thus gaining us "acceptance?"

If wellness were to break out it would be an economic disaster. Will we help the existing healthcare system prevent this outcome? Will we continue to help society justify human suffering in the name of profit? We have the power to change hearts and minds, to bring about wellness through the power of touch. Will we step up and use that power constructively or hide and suppress it out of our fear of being different? Different is desperately needed unless we want more of the same.

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


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