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Massage Today
January, 2016, Vol. 16, Issue 01

What's In It For Me? It's Not Just About the Client

By Ann Brown, LMT

We all know that massage therapy benefits the client, but what about the massage therapist? If you have ever been on the receiving end of an expert massage therapist's hands, then you know how soothing, relaxed and healed your body and mind feels.

However, massage therapy is not one-sided. There are many benefits of becoming a massage therapist - from helping others receive a feeling of well-being to receiving a few health benefits of your own. Believe it or not, depending on the type of massage and how it's applied, practitioners may notice a difference in how THEY feel after the application of a treatment.

I know many of us get into this profession to give back and to help clients with their health, rehabilitation and/or wellness goals, and many times we see them get better and improve and it quickly shows us mentally and emotionally that we are connecting with the client and achieving outcomes that positively affect them. But I think this profession has some modalities that can even benefit the LMT in ways that improve their physical well being, too.

Great Physical Therapy

A friend of mine who is a massage practitioner credits Thai massage for healing a knee injury. Six months after starting Thai massage classes, he tore cartilage in his left knee during Tae Kwon Do training. Giving Thai massage actually improved his range of motion. "Giving the massage was great physical therapy," he said.

Thai massage is what I like to call a "working massage." Therapists use traditional massage techniques to move the client into a set of stretches to help improve joints and muscles. It's usually performed on the floor. Sometimes called "lazy man's yoga." Thai massage will also help with circulation and release toxins from the body. Since the practitioners often use their feet, hands, legs and elbows to stretch the client they too are improving their range of motion in order to implement the movements.

Many people also report feeling more refreshed and energized after a Thai massage. That's because energy moves along the body through pathways. Through movement and massage, energy is allowed to flow freely along these pathways making it a win-win for everybody in the room.

himalayan salt - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Himalayan Salt

One of the best ways for a practitioner to benefit from performing a service is to access what's in their own environment. What chemicals are you using to clean the rooms and equipment? What changes can you make to improve the environment not only for your clients, but for you. After all, you will be spending hours a day inside these rooms so why not make the best of it? If you can avoid the use of hazardous materials and incorporate more eco-friendly and organic methods you will be limiting exposure to toxic materials for everyone.

The healing power of Himalayan salt is astounding. Many people have seen the Himalayan salt stone lamps which provide a warm glow and help purify the air. By releasing negative ions into the air these lamps help kill bacteria, mold, odor and other pollutants. These warmers can be found in many styles, shapes and sizes and can be implemented into services such as a manicure where a client will place their hands on the warm hand carved stone during treatment.

These days, there are many uses for Himalayan salt that have a positive impact on the environment, especially in the spa industry where we are seeing more demand for these types of services. We have been using handcrafted Himalayan salt stones to replace the traditional basalt stones used in our traditional stone massage. The 84 trace minerals found in the salt penetrates into the skin and body which in turn can have a multitude of benefits. Since the therapist is touching these stones, they are also getting exposure to these minerals, as well. The stones are anti-fungal and anti-bacterial and cleanup is easy. The stones are hand carved into round, oval and teardrop and many therapists love the unique shapes of the stones and the teardrop has a dull point to help with trigger point work and allowing the therapists to take some of the pressure off their thumbs.

A nontoxic hospital grade disinfectant is sprayed on the stones and dried with a cotton towel. This EPA-registered disinfectant is made primarily from thyme oil and has no toxicity at all in it. It is truly beneficial for client and therapist alike.

Aquatic Therapy

Everyone knows how healing it can be to sit in a hot tub or take a water aerobics class. Just being in water helps take pressure off of joints and warms the muscles. A type of aquatic therapy called Watsu (Shiatsu in the water) takes it one step further. Using a trained practitioner to help support the client, Watsu is said to help relax the muscles, decrease pain, improve lung capacity, and increase flexibility. This practice is being embraced by many hospitals and rehabilitation clinics and can be done anywhere there is a pool. Since the practitioner joins the client in the pool they are also taking advantage of the water's therapeutic benefits. The cradling of the client and stretching is felt by both client and therapist and the stretching benefits and hydrostatic pressure of the water benefit both.

Not Your Typical Massage

The head is often overlooked, but needs just as much attention as other parts of the body. CranioSacral Therapy is nothing new. By massaging the head, patients can overcome ailments such as migraine headaches not to mention neck and back pain. It helps release compression to the areas leaving clients more relaxed and pain-free. I spoke with a craniosacral provider who says in calming the client he also becomes more calm - evening out the energy in the treatment room. The CS therapist loves the fact that he can get such a positive response from the body of his client and that, in turn, really resonates that he has found a profession that his intention and hands on work is benefiting the client's wellness and health goals.

This also applies to TMJ therapy (temporal mandibular joint, aka. the jaw), often targeting clients who grind their teeth at night or experience jaw popping. While a practitioner may not benefit directly from the technique performed in this massage, I do know of one therapist who was paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident and is able to make a living off of TMJ work. Since practitioners only work on the jaw area he is able to perform the service without any limitations despite his disability.

Making a Career Out of It

Besides the residual benefits obtained by working on clients, there are many reasons to choose the career path to becoming a massage therapist and industry demand is on the rise. Massage therapy is a growing business and being a massage therapist can give you a sense of job stability, which should give you peace of mind in this volatile economy. For some, becoming a massage therapist can also mean financial stability. Therapists can charge anywhere from $40 to $100 per hour and make a comfortable living.

Working outside of a corporate environment can also mean more flexibility and setting your own schedule. And since you are working with so many other therapists you can also receive many free massages, too. I know I am speaking to an audience of mostly massage therapists, so I do hope we will all promote the benefits of massage therapy and encourage people we know to enter into schools for massage therapy. Looking at some recent studies done by the International Spa Association, it is trending that there is a real shortage of massage therapists entering school and even graduating from school and I hope we will all encourage folks to try this profession that gives back in so many ways.

As you can see, being a massage therapists has many benefits that goes a lot deeper than just helping our clients feel better. As important as that is, it's also important to be able to make decisions that will have a positive impact on your life. With a few simple adjustments in the way you do things and the types of services being offered, you can have a lasting impact on your own health and well-being and at the same time serve those clients who have come to depend on us to make them feel better.

Ann Brown, a licensed massage therapist, is a member of the International Spa Association's board of directors and serves as spa director at Spa Shiki at The Lodge of Four Seasons in Lake Ozark, Mo. She also provides management consulting services through Spa Insight Consulting.


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