Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT)
I have two main passions in life: travel and helping others.
Several years ago, while I was getting a massage, it occurred to me that being a massage therapist would be a skill that I could take anywhere in the world. I had been thinking for over a year about what job I could get that would allow me to live anywhere and help people at the same time.
An hour after I left my massage, I was enrolling in school to become a massage therapist. Finally, I had figured out a good portable career. Hey – and as a bonus, I could help people, too!
What I didn’t realize at the time was that being a massage therapist would become my passion because it engaged my interests in so many other ways beyond helping people. Almost by accident I had found a career that promised to keep me challenged every day – something that is essential to keep me interested in my work. I found that no matter how much I learned, that I still wanted to learn more so that I could be a better, more effective therapist.
My Path as a Massage Therapist
Granted, my initial motivation for getting into this line of work wasn’t entirely altruistic. (I wanted to be able to travel, remember?) However, as time went on and I began really sinking my teeth into increasingly more complex techniques, I found that there was far more to this profession than I had assumed.
What I discovered was that massage therapy challenged me to always learn new techniques, because every person I met had a different issue – chronic pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, frozen shoulder, low back pain, pulled quadricep tendon, lack of range of motion, and so on.
My studies in massage therapy have been wide and varied. I have studied trigger point therapy and athletic massage, as well as East Indian Head Massage, myofascial pain relief massage, fibromyalgia massage – and everything in between.
I also studied and became a reflexologist, specializing in assisted physical and emotional healing. My reflexology style incorporates aspects of Western Reflexology and Traditional Eastern Meridian Therapy.
My studies and practice initially focused purely on Western anatomy and physiology backed up with oodles of scientific data. While I still rely heavily on these tools, my experience and further education has shown me that other ways that are less well understood in the West also work. I’ve now incorporated aspects of Eastern schools of thought into my practice.
My theory is that if you find a tool that works, you should keep it in your toolbox. It is this open approach to other methods of getting results that makes my work not only unique, but also highly effective.
It is an understatement to say that I love to be challenged. Puzzle-solving is exciting for me. The more complex the puzzle, the more interested I become in solving it.
Anatomy, I learned, is a highly complex puzzle. Several people may complain of the same problem, like low back pain, but the cause of their pain might be very different.
The more people I worked on, the better I became at assessment (figuring out what was causing the pain and which muscles were involved). This is where knowing more techniques (tools) with which to help reverse what is causing the problem really has paid off.
Knowing Where to Look for Pain
Ferreting out the sources of pain on a mid-40’s corporate desk job employee is a difference in night and day when compared to a 67 year old retiree who has just taken up gardening.
Likewise, these scenarios are completely different from someone in a hospice who is at the end of their life journey or a person who is battling or has survived cancer.
Pain, I learned, could happen in one part of the body, like the neck, but may originate from somewhere completely different – like the hamstring muscles in the back of the leg.
How? Tight hamstrings can cause your pelvis to tilt, which in turn causes your spine to lean to compensate when carrying your weight. Your head is like a bowling ball balanced on top of your spine and your neck muscles now have to hold it upright on an unstable base. The extra strain can cause severe pain in the neck.
A second person could complain of the same neck pain in the same location, but an examination of the body combined with questioning of the client could tell me that this person carries a heavy backpack all day on one shoulder, so I need to work on different areas altogether.
A combination of knowing how the body functions along with asking the right set of questions was something that I gained through education and experience.
I believe that taking time to speak with the people who are asking for my help and learning what they do on a day-to-day basis makes a tremendous difference in the results they get from my massage. I not only focus on where pain is felt, but also on the likely causes of that pain.
Any massage therapist can work on what hurts. Being able to release what is causing that pain and provide long-term relief is another matter altogether.
I also let my clients know what postures and activities are likely aggravating their condition and make recommendations on what they can do in between massages to maintain a pain-free state.
A Range of Clients
Initially, I thought that I wanted to work exclusively with athletes because I am an avid cyclist. Naturally, helping to correct sports-related muscle issues appealed to me. To that end, I studied sports therapy massage techniques and over time I’ve helped a number of athletes with everything from muscle soreness to performance enhancement.
While I enjoyed this particular application of massage therapy, my interests grew as I continued to get clients with a wider range of problems. These problems made me ask more questions about what the best ways to help would be.
By treating people with a wide rage of ages, body types, professions, and medical conditions, I started to understand better the movement patterns and resulting pain issues.
Ultimately, I found the clientele that most interested me were the people who had very complex problems and for whom massage meant the difference between having a productive day versus not being able to move without pain. This is what eventually led me to pursuing the field of Medical Massage.
The new challenges that initially led me to Medical Massage happened partially out of frustration. (Learn about what Medical Massage is in depth.) As a student in massage school you are taught to avoid clients who have challenging medical conditions like high blood pressure, cancer, advanced diabetes, etc. – and that’s good advice to a new massage therapist. You simply don’t know enough to massage people who have these conditions safely because there are many adjustments that are necessary.
With specialized Medical Massage training, however, you learn the specific adaptations needed to work safely with any number of medical issues. My training in Medical Massage has given me a new appreciation for the subtleties of massage that are not evident to a therapist fresh out of school – or even a seasoned therapist who has turned away these clients time after time.
This specialized training allows me to serve people who may find it difficult to get massage for their specific needs. Many of them believe that they can’t even receive a massage, but they can if the therapist has the proper training.
My Medical Massage training has also taught me to work hand-in-hand with doctors who know the benefits of massage and recommend it to their patients. Together, we can treat a person, each addressing a problem from a different angle.
For example, a person with chronic pain who does not want to take so much pain medication can come to get a massage to calm their nervous system. Calm nerves transmit pain signals less than over-stimulated nerves.
Continuing Education &
The Search for Answers
Every day I am thankful that I chose this career. Each day is a new challenge that makes me strive to be a better therapist. When I see people get relief from a problem that has plagued them for years, it is a tremendous reward.
To this day I still take far more continuing education courses than what is required to maintain my licensure, simply because I want to keep learning and keep getting better at what I do. (View my training certifications.) When I encounter a problem I don’t know the answer to, I go in search of the answer – and I don’t stop until I find it.
Bring me your puzzle and let me help solve it for you.