Rachel Beider sitting in her studio
Rachel Beider sitting in her studio

A Passion and a Purpose

By Danielle Galian, Editor
May 3, 2021

A Passion and a Purpose

By Danielle Galian, Editor
May 3, 2021

How Rachel Beider, LMT, got her start in massage therapy will be familiar to many—she was inspired by personal experience. Beider grew up with scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine that resulted in chronic pain from an early age. When her mother, a professional ballerina, started occasionally bringing Beider to her physical therapy appointments, Beider began to understand how manual can help with pain management.

Beider felt that benefit even more when her mother learned some massage techniques to use on her back and shoulders at home when the pain from her scoliosis become too much. “Managing my scoliosis has been an ongoing lifelong work in progress,” Beider explains. “Massage therapy has made such a tremendous difference for me, especially when paired with consistent strengthening exercises and stretching.”

These early experiences are cornerstones of Beider’s decision to pursue massage therapy, starting in 2008 by getting certified in Thai massage at the WatPo School in Bangkok, Thailand, and then later that same year attending the Swedish Institute in New York City. From there, she started building a practice that allowed her to see clients she personally understood: People trying to manage pain.

The Beginning of Something Big

Beider worked as a massage therapist in a variety of environments before starting her own practice. “I was excited to start my career by working in a lot of different settings,” she says. “In the beginning, I worked for a yoga studio, a prenatal spa, a chiropractic office, and for a surgeon.”

But something didn’t feel right. While she enjoyed the clinical work the most, Beider realized that the rapid pace didn’t feel particularly relaxing. “I started to feel like a bystander in my own career, and that I didn’t have much impact, and that’s when I knew I wanted to take charge and start my own practice,” she remembers.

Beider was committed to the idea of taking in her own clients and building her own practice, but money was tight and she couldn’t afford New York City rent at the time. Not one to give up, she improvised and approached a physical therapy clinic and asked if they offered massage. “When they said they did not, I suggested that if I were to give their patients free treatments two mornings a week, they’d be more likely to come back for more physical therapy,” Beider remembers. “In exchange, I requested use of the space when they were out of office. They agreed, and that’s when my practice, PRESS Modern Massage, was born!” Beider describes PRESS as a combination of medical massage with the relaxing environment of healing space. “Many of the physical therapy patients I saw returned to see me for a full hour of massage,” she says.

Personal Experience, Professional Passion

Chronic pain sufferers typically try a variety of things to find the right pain management tools that fit their specific needs. For Beider, the right fit in managing her scoliosis was a wide variety of integrative therapies. “My scoliosis started to improve when I received weekly trigger point work, twice a month acupuncture, weekly chiropractic adjustments, and most importantly when I started doing targeted strengthening exercises and stretching, three to four times a week for 45 minutes at the gym,” she explains. Beider adds how practicing yoga on designated recovery days also provides extra relaxation and rest. 

When it comes to her clients at PRESS Modern Massage, Beider knows the telltale signs of chronic pain. “When I was working with chronic pain clients, I saw many physical therapy referrals who were recovering from whiplash, who had rods placed to manage their scoliosis, and who had chronic pain from other types of injuries, like biking or car accidents,” she explains. “I also treated a lot of patients who were dealing with ongoing anxiety that caused issues like temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) which led to trigger points, headaches, and jaw pain.”

Beider recommends always starting with a thorough intake process to observe a client’s gait, posture, or any obvious leaning to one side, and always keeping communication with the client the top priority. “I connected deeply with clients by asking questions about their condition like, ‘How does this affect you, if at all?’ and, ‘how does it feel today?’ knowing that sometimes with chronic pain, we get flair ups and bad days, and other times it’s well-managed. I also made sure to check in and ask, ‘What would you like to focus on during today’s session?’ knowing that sometimes clients have other things going on,” explains Beider. 

Another treatment method Beider has seen make a positive impact on clients is the use of trigger point therapy. When she works with her physical therapy referral clients for neck and back pain from whiplash injuries, office-related issues like wrist pain or nerve symptoms from carpal tunnel syndrome, tension and stiffness from too much screen time, and stress related tension headaches, Beider notes how effective trigger point is during a session. “The dentist near us also sent many TMJ patients, who’d been grinding and clenching their teeth in their sleep, causing the telltale trigger point pattern of issues in the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscles, pterygoid, masseter, and temporalis,” she explains. “In my work, after properly warming up a client, I use a lot of very slow and patient trigger point therapy, I find that it’s helpful in treating musculoskeletal pain.” 

Leading the Way for Other Massage Therapists

After a complicated pregnancy and COVID-19 temporarily sidelining her massage practice, Beider spends more time now managing her team of massage therapists and PRESS studio managers than practicing massage, though that doesn’t mean her roots aren’t still in creating meaningful connections with people who can benefit from massage therapy. 

“Over the years, I’ve found that I made many more genuine connections with people when I was forthcoming about my own challenges with scoliosis, anxiety, depression, my experience going through pregnancy loss, and my difficulties with chronic pain,” she explains. “We live in a time where people really seek out authenticity, and while it can be scary to put yourself out there, your ‘mess’ is your ‘message’ and your struggles will make you a lot more relatable to others.”

This same sentiment is clear in the business mission she shares with the massage therapists who work with her. “I want every interaction to exude warmth,” Beider says. “From the first time our clients call the studios, to when they are greeted for their appointment, to their massage session, post-session treatment plan, all the way through check-out, each interaction leaves them with the warm, cozy feeling of being held, seen, and respected.”

Giving back to her employees some of what she’s found so rewarding is part of Beider’s business model, too. “I decided years ago that supporting entrepreneurship in my own employees was also highly important,” she says. “I offer them the ability to do free trades with their peers at work, and to even rent our space by the hour to see their own private clients so that they can feel the pride of ownership of having their own practice, too.”

Beider’s passion for the massage therapy profession and education keeps growing, too, through her love of writing. She recently published her second book, Massage MBA: Run Your Practice, Love Your Life, detailing her experiences as a solo practitioner, giving advice to massage therapists who want to start a business on their own, and how to tackle life’s many challenges with grace and patience. “When life throws me a challenge, I often ask myself, ‘Why is this happening for me?’ as opposed to, ‘Why is this happening to me?’’’ explains Beider.  “I like to think of challenges as the universe on my side, calling me to grow.”    

For more information on PRESS Modern Massage, visit their website.

Check out these related articles:

Software Essentials for Massage Therapists

The Heroes We Care For