Thursday, May 29, 2014


Most that follow my blog are aware that I work with professional athletes.  One of the golfers I work with scheduled a massage yesterday after being on the road for a while playing in multiple tournaments.  He will often get a massage while on the road.  Since this was a long trip he had received multiple massage sessions from a variety of people. I always ask what type of massage he received while on the road so I can factor that into my treatment plan.  What follows is a summary of what he told me about his experiences with massage on this particular trip.

He received 6 sessions. The best massage was at a Massage Envy. The reason he felt it was the best is because it was the only massage where someone did not try and fix him.  He said it was basic and the pressure could have been better modulated.  Sometimes it was too deep and poking and others too light. The massage therapist spent too much time on his back and not enough time on his legs but overall he was relaxed and slept better that night.

The session he complained about the most was with a “sports massage specialist” with 15 years of experience who spent quite a bit of time telling my client just how good she was and how much she knew and how she was going to get him right. The client asked if she knew who I was and she said no. The concern he had is that I write one of the top selling books on massage for athletes.  If she was an expert it seemed to him she would be well versed on the various books and experts in the field.   This was the most expensive session at $150 for 90 min.  The whole time she was giving the session she talked and called out things she was doing like NMT, MAT, MET, trigger points, myofascial release and so on. He couldn’t remember the list but he had no idea what she was talking about.  The worst of it was when she started digging on some scar tissue from a couple of prior surgeries.  By this time I was angry. I told him it was absolutely wrong for a massage therapist who is only going to see a client once to attempt to reverse any specific condition and she could have hurt him.  He said he was sore the next day and felt sluggish.  He did not play well.

The next couple of sessions were not as bad but the massage personnel did not work on his goals and jumped right into the “deep tissue” stuff.  He said, “They just love to dig around the shoulder blade Sandy like it is the most important spot. Nothing was wrong with my shoulders and I told them so but they kept right on till I demanded they stop.  My legs were sore from walking up and down hills and one girl hardly touched them.” Grief. He said the massages were a waste of money.  In addition he said one of the girls was dressed so skimpy and revealing that he was embarrassed for her.

One session was from a male massage therapist that was set up at the tournament.  The massage was OK but the guy kept name dropping the whole time about other golfers he worked with.  My client wished he would have just shut up.

The finial massage was not very good. The massage therapist was new having just graduated from school.  She was nervous and that is understandable.  The massage was at the spa associated with one of the hotels. My client tried to assure her but she just would not settle down and the massage was choppy and ineffective. At least she disclosed to my client that she was new and nervous and she did not try and fix him and she did not hurt him. She used way to much lubricant that smelled weird and he was greasy after the session. That massage was $90.   

Fortunately he dosed off  and I got into my massage zone because after this conversation I was angry, embarrassed for my profession, frustrated, concerned and disappointed.  He had spent around $500 and he was hurt, could have been hurt worse, put in a position where he had to try and calm down a massage therapist and listen to others brag and name drop. Wasn’t worth it he said.  

What is unfortunate is that I have heard these types of stories way way too often.  I have had clients hurt by massage therapists, usually by trying to fix something that should have been left alone.  I often will tell clients to be cautious about what they let a massage therapist do to them.  The so called “sports massage therapists” are often the worst.  I have had clients so sore after a massage that their performance was affected. Clients have been over stretched, dug on, and been told wrong information and hype.   I am concerned about confidentiality and really hate name dropping.  I also find it appalling what some massage therapist wear while giving a massage. How are we going to claim to be professionals when we won’t even dress like professionals?  

So now that I think I have settled down, my concerns and questions are:

What is lacking in education and professional development that these issues occur much too often?

What public education is necessary so massage clients can recognize potentially harmful methods and what to expect for professional behavior?

What are the professional organizations, especially the AMTA and ABMP, doing to continue to reinforce safe and professional massage practice of their members?

Are there any improvements that could be made in textbooks and other educational materials that would prevent these things from happening?

Where are the mentors and teachers and employers who will confront and then will work one on one with individual massage therapist who are inappropriate?

I am concerned that these issues keep occurring over and over and over. The problems are not isolated and the data collection for the ELAP identified may of the same issues my client experienced.   I know that there will always be a few people that are truly bad massage therapists and these individuals should not be tolerated. I know that there will always be a few massage therapists who are so insecure that they have to brag and make unjustifiable claims. There are always some bad apples in all professions and occupations however----This should be the exception and not common occurrence.  

My client did tell the massage therapists who insisted on doing the deep tissue stuff to stop. He did tell the one who had all the so called experience to read my books.  He is good at feedback so he does his part.

 I wonder what would happen if the CLIENTS took a stand and would not accept poor performance by a massage therapist.   Maybe a promotional campaign and a grass roots effort with massage therapists educating clients about proper professional behavior and how to protect themselves from the “egocentric fixers” out there. 

Ideas welcome.  And if you recognize anything that you do that my client described STOP IT. Also take the risk for the massage community and tell others massage therapist who are harmful and otherwise unprofessional to STOP IT.   Stuff like this cannot continue if we are going to be respected as massage therapists.  It just has to STOP!




Friday, May 23, 2014



I meditate in my own way every day.  It might not be what is considered traditional meditation practice but it works for me.   The sequence more or less goes like this:

Wake up about 30 minutes before alarm and dose a bit with the cats purring in bed each it their own spot: Gary nuzzled in my neck, Poe at my side and Smokey by my feet sucking on the blanket with the associated slurpy sucking sound.  This lasts about 15 minutes and then the bladder becomes insistent enough that I have to get up.

As I sit up I wiggle and stretch a bit while also reflecting on what day it is since I don’t always remember.

Once up the real meditation begins.

Morning medication and put the tea kettle on.

Feed Cats-Ha the cats. I feed them and they sit on me (or sleep with me) and purr.  It is worth all the cat hair.

In spring, summer and fall go outside and wander around picking mint for tea

Make tea and let it steep.

Feed water and clean parakeets named Chirp and Tweet.  Play them YouTube of chirping parakeets to keep them entertained.

Clean kitty litter.

Sweep floor.

Drink tea while wandering around in garden (spring, summer, fall) or wandering around house (winter).

Feed and clean Bunny Rabbit who just hopped into my house about a year ago.  This includes wandering around the yard for greens for Bunny and collecting bunny poo for fertilizer.

Feed outdoor birds: orioles grape jelly, humming birds sugar syrup, suet for wood peckers, chickadees, finches and the rest.

Wander around the garden and collect greens and other veggies for breakfast omelet. Eat.

 Get ready for the day.  

This whole process takes about an hour.  It includes lots of feeding and cleaning of me and critters and lots of wandering around.  This morning as I was wandering I got to thinking about a concern I have for the massage profession. I am wondering about the future of massage practice.  A lot has happened in the past few years resulting in a consolidation of a pathway for professional development.  Because of the Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge (MTBOK) and Entry Level Analysis Project (ELAP) we now have a workable entry level education point for massage with curriculum recommendations that should begin the process of standardizing entry level skills and knowledge for massage therapy licensing. The Federation of State Massage Boards released the Model Practice Act for massage licensing and while it will take time for it to be implemented by individual states finally after over 20 years on my wish list we have it. Advanced practice and a gateway to specialty certification are in place with the Board Certification provided by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork.  Board Certification also can be used to obtain degrees both associates degrees and a Bachelor’s degree in Massage Therapy.

The organizations representing massage are working together finally.   We need all of them but they need to speak with one voice while each doing their individual role.  AMTA is the membership organization, ABMP, while a for profit organization, offers insurance alternatives and support for the massage therapists and educators.  I am pleading with both of these organizations to put all of the resources they currently allocate to massage education into backing the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE). I ask others to contact the AMTA and ABMP and encourage them to endorse the Alliance as the organization representing education and educators. COMTA  (Commission on Massage Training and Accreditation) service a necessary roll in the massage profession.  Unfortunately accreditation costs are often beyond what small independent schools can absorb. I wish for a process that can be used by small independent schools that do not want to participate in financial aid.  I know those at COMTA are trying to work out something but they are held to requirements by the Federal Government.   The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB)  is an organization that the profession must have for recognition of advanced and specialty training. It is necessary for a respected profession to have a certification process beyond entry level licensing.  

And we have the Massage Therapy Foundation which is the research arm of the massage profession.  Thank goodness.

So what does all this have to do with my morning meditation sequence?     This is the time when thoughts move randomly and this morning I realized that for the first time in my professional massage career of over 30 years all the pieces are in place for true professional development.  WOW.

There are some very important issues to deal with for sure:

A realistic but sustainable income for massage therapist based on level of education and experience.

The professional desperately needs an independent ergonomics study to determine the best way to do massage without hurting ourselves.

There are unethical practices at schools and by the leadership organization that continue to confuse what is charged for massage and how that actually translates into a hourly income.  This creates unrealistic expectations in massage therapists especially those just graduating.

The individual massage therapist does not make enough money to afford to go to tons of meetings so I suggest that conferences and convention be web cast somehow. I know it can be done.

The education for entry level and continuing education for massage is in desperate need to oversight and professional educator training and certification.

And there is more however I can see the potential.  As I do my morning meditation there is a lot of care and feeding of my critters and me. The massage profession needs a lot of care and feeding right now as well.  I also clean up lots of crap and the massage profession certainly has crap to deal with.  However my Bunny Poo is really good fertilizer for growth.  I can hope that the years of quagmire that the massage therapy organizations have been in have produced the fertilizer needed for growth now.   We need to acknowledge what day it is and the time is now for those of us who love the massage profession to commit to developing the next generation of leaders, educators and massage therapists.

I have to fold laundry and get ready to see massage clients.