October 28, 2009

Another Kind of Business, Not Massage

Well, California can once again be accused of being different and difficult. It’s a land of fruits and nuts, yurts and yogurt, movie stars and serial killers. And one of the oddest hybrid massage licensing laws ever.

First, after a long-fought battle mostly amongst ourselves, the California licensing law isn’t a license, it’s a voluntary certification designation. And required education hours are set quite low, at 250 and 500, in deference to our economy and our quaint three-states-in-one political climate.

In Southern California where I practice many cities require close to 1,000 hours for licensing, and some require the higher hours plus national examinations. Further still, some require all that and add on their own exam and a long, expensive application process. Once obtained, the licenses have all kinds of interesting practice restrictions from “no glutes” (try skipping those on people with low back pain) to specifying the wattage of room lighting (Sixty watts can feel like a night baseball game to someone with a migraine.)

As you may suspect, the Southern California cities are trying to regulate another kind of business, not massage, that involves touching clients.

Up north in the other California, education minimums are less arduous, and in some cases not required. Our northern folks, much more civilized that they are, feel quite happy with 100 hours or two for good if basic rub. The great in-between, the valley where the fruits and nuts are grown alongside with the politicians, is a hop-scotch of regulations.

When I went to the Long Beach police station get a license in 1996, I had to hold up a chalkboard sign in front of me with my name and application number while a policeman took my pictures, front and side. I love the idea that we are finally getting away from city-by-city funhouse of regulations.Yip Yip Hooray.

But at the same time I must say that the California certification agency, which began taking applications in August, is a little too easy on education. Figure a good massage therapist needs to know more than Swedish and basic contraindications. And long haul in mind, shouldn’t it take a few months of teachers yelling in your ear to learn proper body mechanics? (OK. It did me. My mechanics are not perfect, but I’ve been massaging for almost 15 years, thanks to a deafening stream of Portuguese exclamations.)

Increasing hours, of course, would put a crimp in the big spas and resorts, who try to juggle big overheads by keeping labor costs low. Keeping required hours down helps ensure a good labor pool of recent graduates for the big players. Unfortunately, requiring less education also makes it easier for those in another kind of business, not massage, to operate.

I would like to think of massage as more of a therapeutic profession-in-the-making, heading say, for the education level of a vocational nurse as opposed to a certified nursing assistant. I say that, of course, knowing I have the hours already and such a requirement would force a lot of experienced therapists who haven’t taken certified hours back to the classroom.

As the California Massage Therapy Council bravely tries to herd all of us cats, I can say that as diverse as Californians are, at least we are on the brink of a high hill. Soon I can work wearing a V-neck scrub shirt without being in violation of my city’s cleavage regulation.

October 22, 2009

Pandora: Musical Godsend

It seems you never realize how important music is in your massage life until it stops playing. At my first job, a large massage business, we had the typical piped-in stereotypical massage music, which we often made fun of. I personally referred to it as New-Age-Neil-Diamond-Meets-Elevator music. It was somewhat relaxing, yet often repetitive. At least once a day, we had to listen to a track one therapist called the #$%^@#! song. “I’m sure whatever that woman is saying is wonderful and peaceful and loving in whatever language that is,” she said, “but it still sounds like she’s saying #$%^@#! over and over.” And truly, it did, and after that, I could never hear it again during a session without fighting back a snort of laughter.

Finally the therapists got together with personal contributions to try and improve the quality of the music, but we ran into some problems there as well. For one thing, some of my favorites, like the soundtracks to Snow Falling on Cedars and Pan’s Labyrinth made one of our younger therapists “feel like [she] was having nightmares,” and following up those pieces with some of the hula music another therapist brought in made ME feel like I was having nightmares.

But, I found out when I switched jobs, that poor music is better than none. In the chiropractic clinic where I worked, I was provided with a broken-down old boom-box that only worked, say, one-third of the time, and if anything will give you nightmares, it’s a CD-skipping version of O Mio Babbino Caro. Yuck.

Enter Pandora Radio. I have fallen in love with it. I access Pandora through my I-Phone and set up all sorts of cool channels for free. I have Eccodek Radio, Romantic Opera Radio, the guy-who-wrote-the-soundtrack-for-Snow Falling on Cedars Radio, George Winston Radio, etc. I select one of my stations, plug my I-Phone into a small set of portable speakers, and presto! I can listen to people singing odd songs I actually like, none of which sound like #$%^@#! If you haven’t tried Pandora, you should. And you’ll enjoy it outside massage as well: I like my Stayin’ Alive Radio for cooking. If you haven’t stirred, chopped, and sautéed to the Bee Gees, well you just haven’t lived.

October 18, 2009

Views on Flu

My blogging this week was thrown for a loop when I unexpectedly came down with a bug. No, not a cold or the flu. A computer bug. A Trojan virus to be exact. I was thrilled beyond imagination (which is to say the exact opposite).

As we roll on toward November, no one is exactly thrilled about those cold and flu bugs either. I have a client I see regularly who almost two months ago was already entering a state of high anxiety about flu season. After asking me an unusual amount of questions about the flu, flu shots, and how I felt about flu shots, I asked her if she was concerned about coming to me for massage if I did not have a flu shot. She said yes, a little embarrassed, and I told her that I would be happy to wear a mask during our massages, but I was not going to get a flu shot, simply because the few times that I have, I've developed full-blown flu.

I'm a bit of a short-term pragmatist, then, when it comes to my stance on flu shots. My father, who was a doctor, held the same view, for the same reasons. Like him, my decision is based on this reasoning: "I'm not on salary, I don't have vacation or sick days, and if I get the flu, I will not only be miserable and bored, I will lose income, I will not be available to help my patients, and I simply don't have time for that." I realize from talking to other people though, especially in this area, that there are people who boycott flu shots and other types of immunizations, because they believe that the shots do more damage to the body than even the expected exposure to certain parts of the flu virus.

But no matter what my choices and why I make them, I am glad my client talked to me instead of just avoiding the massage clinic during flu season in an effort to avoid any potential flu exposure. She definitely planned on getting a flu shot, and I definitely planned on not getting a flu shot, but there was a solution we could both live with that still allows her to get the therapeutic massage work she needs. I wish my computer bug had such a painless cure!

October 16, 2009

Tough Sheets Update

Well, the experiment with Bamboo and cotton yarn sheets, I am happy to report, is going quite well.

Earlier I wrote about how much I loved the light, silky yet warm feel of 100-percent bamboo yarn sheets, and how my clients appreciated them as well. Then, alas, after a few washings the yarn developed little pinholes and I had to retire them. Also, the bottom sheets were too tight for my double-stuff massage table. Luckily, I had only bought four sets, all on sale.

Now, several weeks after purchasing one set of 50/50 bamboo and cotton yarn sheets, I am pleased to report they are surviving the washing machine. The blend sheets have an advantage over all-cottons because they are more naturally anti-microbial. They also fit a regular or double-stuff table much better than my original selection.

They don’t have as much of the silky feeling of 100 percent bamboo, but they do hold up tons better than the all-bamboo sheets.

Blended sheets also have a hidden benefit for us therapists in private practice. You can fit twice as many sheet sets in a washer than with regular flannel massage sheets. Compared to twin sheet flannels I occasionally use, they take up a LOT LESS room in the wash. Anytime I can reduce the number of laundry loads and time spent folding is great news!

The clients, well, they aren’t as impressed with the blend. The effervescent endorsements I got for the all-bamboo sheets have yielded to simple “yeah, they are OK” type comments. I am waiting for the industry to catch up with us in the massage business and come out with a different weave or higher thread count so I can use 100-percent bamboo once again….

October 14, 2009

Find Touch Service Update Streamlines Communications, introduces Massage Supplies Store!

Yesterday we updated the Find Touch website, introducing some new features that make using the Find Touch service even more convenient! Here's what's new..

New Convenient Messaging and Mailbox
When applying for work opportunities, therapists now have the ability to include a cover letter and attachments directly with their job application, eliminating the need to send a separate email. Find Touch has also introduced archived messaging. When you send email from within Find Touch, your communications are now stored in your Mailbox for easy reference in the future. Employers and Therapists can now easily review any communications they have sent or received and track whole message threads.

New Find Touch Store
We are focused on serving the Massage Therapy community and many of you have written to thank us for the friendly and easy-to-use service. In order to bring additional value and convenience to members of our community, Find Touch has partnered with Amazon.com to launch the new Find Touch store where you can find many of the most popular massage essentials - supplies, accessories and equipment - in one place, at a great price. If there is something you do not see in our store that you think should be included, please let us know!

Enhanced Search Capabilities for Employers
As an Employer, you can now use the Find Pros page to search for candidates by name as well as other criteria that have been available in the past. This allows you to quickly locate someone you might have partial information about and are interested in contacting. We have also streamlined the search screen to help you find therapists that practice any of the modalities you pick.

We hope you enjoy the new enhancement in Find Touch and encourage you to continue sharing your questions and feature requests. Your feedback is what drives our continuous improvement!

October 11, 2009

States of Undress

A regular client of mine who knows I blog for Find Touch told me one time that she thought I should write about undressing for massage from the client's point of view. Like many clients, she was sometimes confused as to what was expected of her in terms of getting on the table, and she felt that some therapists were oblivious to this confusion.

Well, that's probably true in some respects. When massage is your life, and you do several a day, you sometimes forget that clients aren't as "in the know" as you are. In terms of getting undressed, I usually choose to err on the side of caution and say something like " . . . so clothes off, leave your underwear on if that's more comfortable for you, and lie face down in the cradle, covered up like you're in bed." Sometimes I say "panties" instead of "underwear" when speaking to women because I have had clients leave on bras and girdles, which I personally feel prevents me from giving them a real massage.

I try to be clear on states of undress so that hopefully all clients will be comfortable in the knowledge that they are doing "the right thing." When they are comfortable, they are more relaxed. And if they "do the right thing" the first time, I don't have to carefully rescue the situation in order to keep them relaxed. For example, even with good instructions, I have come into rooms to find clients naked and uncovered on the table; clients wearing so much underwear I can't reach tissue; clients wearing robes and laying on top of the blankets; etc. In these situations, I strive to avoid embarrassing the client by calmly saying things like, "I'm just going to put this sheet over you so you stay warm" or "I'll leave and let you get under the covers without the robe; that way I can get into more of your tissue."

Of course, after I've seen a client for several sessions, I don't have to be so vigilant. But for new clients I always am. I remember a couple's massage I was part of when the other therapist asked his client a few questions, then whisked out the room, leaving me alone with them. "What am I supposed to do?" his client asked me, panicky. She had never had a massage, and had told her therapist, but he had completely forgotten to address the subject of undressing. I explained it to her, not wanting her to lose any of the benefits of the session due to lying there thinking, "Should I have left this on? Is he thinking I'm strange because I left my underwear on? Or did I take off too much? " I certainly wouldn't want to be in that position myself; so I try to make the parameters of undressing for massage very clear for my clients (and try to be very calm and nonchalant when they misunderstand).

October 4, 2009

Oh, By the Way...

I once had a client - whom I’ll call Bob - who for several years had experienced a great deal of pain in the left upper torso. In the two weeks before his first massage, he had awakened during the night to such extreme left chest pain, that his wife took him to the emergency room because he was sure he was having a heart attack. The emergency room doctors found absolutely nothing wrong with his heart and sent him home largely frustrated with some painkillers/muscle relaxers.

When Bob came in to see me, I did an initial intake as per usual, but his paperwork didn’t reveal anything particularly. It was when I got him on the table and started examining the area with my hands that I immediately knew that a big key to his pain seemed to be adhesion and perhaps internal scar tissue in the left lateral abdominal area all the way up into both pec major and pec minor, etc. When I told him this, he told me he’d had a violent injury as a child that had resulted in a broken collarbone, etc., and that additionally, a large part of his colon had been removed on that side. “Forgot to mention it,” he said. “Think that could have something to do with it?” Hmmm. Probably.

Well, after several visits, we had Bob nearly pain-free. But I remember this as one of my favorite “Oh, by the way” moments. It wasn’t the first or last time I had someone on the table when some sort of late revelation provided a key to a issue or perhaps a cause for concern (Oh by the way, I fell directly on my head last month . . . think that could have something to do with my dizziness and neck pain?) And it seems as if I am not alone in this, as I’ve heard fellow therapists share quite a few unusual such moments. I just find myself hoping I never find myself halfway through a session when I client says something like, “Oh by the way, did I tell you I have ringworm?” :-)