November 28, 2012

Touch and the End of the World as We Know It

Stress comes in all forms, and I feel it on my massage table. Most likely it is a personal issue, a problem, a challenge in life or relationships. But a lot of people get their biggest stress from work, most specifically the feeling of being out of control, powerless, voiceless.

It is a tall order to unwind all that. I try. Massage therapy is not going to change the world, of course, just our reaction to it.

One of my regular fellows has been stressing for months about the national election. He has told me straight out on a number of times that if his candidate did not win, or more importantly if the other guy didn’t lose, that he would be out of business overnight.

Long hard years of work and dedication down the drain. Mentored employees adrift. An entire sophisticated market kaputz, with the eventuality the ruin of the quality medical care in the United States. Instead of working on the important stuff, he might just be trying to come up with the next Sham-Wow, while sitting in an old rv somewhere trying to stay one park ahead of his creditors.

Ok. That is pretty dreadful.

Well, the national election didn’t go too well for his guys. On top of that, Californians, apparently insane from overdoses of Twinkies and silicone, actually voted to raise their own taxes.

And you just don’t talk politics with clients. I can mumble a sympathetic “that’s terrible” here and there, but otherwise it is a game out of bounds for massage therapy.

I was thinking, though, that it has been my experience that if someone tries to frighten your vote, they are on thin ground. I don’t vote that way and never have. Well, that’s an opinion I kept to myself.

I felt somehow that the blow could be softened. I suggested that it would be best to let the political process play out. If the industry was on a precipice and ready to be demolished by new taxes and regulations, surely the major economic interests involved would make themselves heard. Those in government, ever mindful of the power of money, jobs and investments, will certainly listen. Give it time, I said.

          “I s’pose,” he said.

Solace? Perhaps I can offer just a little candlelight at the end of a long hard-fought campaign….

November 16, 2012

Boundaries and the Fine Print

Independent massage therapists (like myself) have a few extra duties to perform during the course of their careers. One of the least fun is leasing space.

My first office was a pretty simple deal. I rented two days in another therapist’s office and we had a handshake deal. I paid once a month and kept the place tidy while I was there. The biggest challenge was making sure we did not “borrow” each other’s supplies without at least a note and a replacement and or payment. Boundaries. Pretty easy stuff.

My next venture involved renting space in two local hotels. I had to come up with a contract that protected them, protected me and kept the business model viable. The first hotel signed the contract I wrote with the help of an attorney. No sweat. The second hotel wanted me to indemnify them from any negligence on their part with any of my clients and to pay court fees, etc. We went round and round for months. The hotel manager and I wanted the deal, the attorneys “got in the way.” We ended up changing the wording just enough to make it look like it was in compliance with corporate but did not really put me on the hook for anything beyond my massage room door. Whew.

A third facility was a negotiation nightmare. The corporate folks had in-house attorneys make up a “standard contract” for everyone that fit far better for a salon (and their toxic chemicals) than a massage center. The proposed contract ended up with about 20 paragraphs that were checked “does not apply.” Corporate would put the stuff back in. I ended up walking away from the deal rather than get hooked up with the “robo-lease.”

I learned to negotiate, a difficult skill for any businessperson, and I also waxed nostalgic for my handshake room-share lease. Keeping good boundaries, as in massage practice, is never easy.

By Sue Peterson

November 8, 2012

Travel Tips Redoux!

I love sharing travel tips with clients, as since they are classified top-secrets of the secret society Knights of the Massage Therapists, I want to share them with you.
Sciatica Roll: This can be a pillow, a rolled-up towel or jacket/coat. Use it for passive realignment in any airplane, car or train seat. Tuck it between your lateral quad and the armchair or seat console. It will reduce lateral rotation while sitting.
Instant Airplane Hot pack: I must credit one of my faithful clients for this one, and she learned it from an experienced flight attendant who deserves a medal. When you need a hot pack, fold over a dozen paper towels. Pour hot water from the tea dispenser over it. Put the folded towels in a barf bag, which is insulated from the inside. Warm moist heat for hours!
Headache Fixer Ice Pack: Even when traveling by yak, it is usually easy to find a cold soda can. Wrap in a paper towel or hanky or something, place at the back of the neck at the hairline. Try to keep it there for about two to five minutes. Also works on sore butts, smalls of the back, anywhere an icy pack is needed. Frozen bottled Guinness’s also work. Don’t ask about the story behind that. My memory is very fuzzy about that day.
Anywhere liniment: A tablespoon of Epsom salts in a couple of ounces of any clear cooking oil. Nuke for 10-second increments and stir until salts dissolve. I once made this in a 7-11. Can we be any more McGyver?

November 1, 2012

Fencing and Using Your Feet in Massage

For a while now, a good bit of my practice has been working on other massage therapists. I don’t say it to brag, it just is. Folks in the biz bring their aches to me, and I do massage therapy.
And, if they are interested, I do a little coaching, too.
It is just part of the business, especially for newbie therapists, to end up working in rooms that are too small and on tables that don’t adjust and all kinds of body-mechanic horrors.

The worst body-mechanic situation I have ever seen is a 5’7” therapist working nights at a casino doing table-side massages. No room for feet, no room for body and the result is long hours spent leaning on clients. Well, it is a job that pays the bills.

With most of my non-therapist clients, they have the options of changing their work-stations and tweaking with their smarty-phone mechanics to eliminate the return of trigger points.

All in all, some massage therapists can’t change up their situations – but they can change how they use their bodies in massages.

With tiny rooms, I recommend putting a foot on the wall to provide the fulcrum for effleurages. If the power of the stroke comes from a foot pressing against the floor or wall it does not come from your serratus, rotator muscles, T3 or worst, C-6.

Feet need to be lined up with the direction of the stroke. If the foot is at 90-degrees, chances are your psoas is the fulcrum and your massage career will be short.

For therapists doing back massages from the head of the table, I recommend inching close to the side of the headrest right up against the table. As a short-armed little wobble-toy myself, I can’t even entertain the thought of standing a foot behind the face-rest. Lucky me. I work the back in quadrants following lymph flow.

The casino? That’s a toughie. I recommended that it be a starter job – good experience and get out of there as soon as the right opportunity comes along. Think of it as just another way of working with your feet.