June 29, 2013

Look! No Hands!

It being the crack of summer and my massage practice being filled to the seams, I decided to take 10 days off. Daring, I know, for anyone in private practice, but it was great.

For 10 days, no massages, no excess use of my hands and now, heading back to the office for another full slate, I am doing my back exercises in hopes I can keep it all working just right when I head back in.

Taking time for a vacation can be a big guilt trip for therapists. It can take years to build a decent practice, and sometimes it entails working through your weekends – a massage here and there on Sunday or Mondays off to keep the books full.

In my first five years of practice, I worked four days a week at a spa and spent my “off” days serving private clients. Trouble was, if the spa called me and I could fit it in, I would also work extra shifts. I was being a team player, of course, helping the manager avoid canceling massage appointments because of someone calling in sick on a weekend.

After 30 days with no days off, I took the daring step of saying no to some extra shifts. They managed to live without me, and I saw the error of my ways.

Then I took vacations fairly regularly, a week here and there, and used my time off to do massage related things such as attend conventions. I loved the classes, and I came back recharged.

As time passed, however, I felt less like immersing myself in c.e.u. classes on my time off. The true massage-less vacations began and I enjoy them.

A good friend in practice for more years than I explained the math to me: If you do too many massages in a week or a month, maybe that is fine. But let’s say you do too many massages in a quarter or half-year or a year?

My friend was seeing 35 clients a week. After a few months, he woke up one morning with no energy for anything. He dropped two of his side jobs and went with his own practice clients exclusively. It took him a year to recover.

Frying out is a danger to all massage therapists. Every person has their own personal limits, and before you reach them you may have no clue as to what those limits are.

As I teetered along the edge of burnout for a few years, I began to see no-work vacations as a blessing. Yes, leave a message that you are gone. It will be OK.

When clients come in, they notice you are fresh. And it is a great compliment when they admit two-timing you while you were off, and coming back because the massage elsewhere wasn’t that good.

June 20, 2013

Covering the Cradle

Some things about being a massage therapist are all about the details – the atmosphere, noise level, lighting, and yes the table linens.
Face cradle covers have always been problematic for massage therapists. The disposable covers are scratchy – and although no client has ever complained about them I have heard clients complain about other therapists who use them.
One fellow observed that he stopped using a therapist because of the scratchy covers. A comment I took note of.
Spas that have to worry about mounds of laundry at the end of the day – and costs – often use cotton hand towels. I have always found that kind of scratchy, too. I used pillowcases at first, and moved to soft paper/cotton towels for a time.
The fitted covers that come with sheet sets seem to be ill fitting for the larger, softer face cushions. After wrestling with the underwear-like elastic gathers on those cradle covers I finally threw in the towel.
Now I use a compromise on all fronts – soft, cotton flannel, flat cradle covers. These can slip around a bit but they do not have any seams to leave lines on the face and they are easier to fit over a face cushion. Less wrangling.
The cotton flats avoid the too-snug fit of elastic-edged covers and overcome the scratchy thing of disposables. At $5.99 apiece, the thought of stocking all flats has made me queasy, especially so because I suspect they will not be as durable as the undie-fit covers.
I found a site that would give me a wholesale discount and got 25 covers for about half. We will see if they measure up. So far, so good. The flats stack a lot neater and smaller. No more grappling in the linen closet for a good one.

June 8, 2013

Massage Me, Massage My Dog

 Dogs love me, and I love dogs. Cats love me, and I love them too. When this massage therapist does house calls, I suddenly find myself surrounded by four-legged fans.
I didn’t mean to, but I have managed to train all of my house clients’ domesticated beasties to expect a mini-massage when I get in the door.
It started with golden retrievers, irresistible big dogs with soulful eyes. Now the list includes Siamese, calicoes, mutts and Cairns. I really don’t mind, sort of, because they are such good animals and love to lean on me and get all glossy-eyed.
Animals instinctively love massage, which shows their superior tastes and energies as far as I am concerned. Nothing in the world beats a good belly rub, be it a dog or feline. People who don’t like tummy massage should learn from their pets.
It struck me by surprise, but I recently learned from a client that she knew I was the one massage therapist for her family when the dog liked me. Apparently dogs and cats are a screening method for more than just boyfriends and future in-laws.
Once I have passed the pet-TSA, I get invited to pet-pat, pet-sit and pet-feed. My book is a little too full to take on many of these offers, but I do appreciate them as a sort of badge of acceptance.
I have made the occasional exception. A married couple brought in their new foundling, a micro-chihuahua who barely weighs one pound. They hadn’t been able to get to the movies for a few weeks, as the little guy is being dropper-fed and is way too little to leave near their big dogs.
They went to the flicks and I got the little carry-bag with the pee pads, special vitamins and puppy-food mix. I put his nibs on my shoulder and the little guy immediately snuggled into my shirt and stayed there. My little implant. 

Last week I asked a client if I could take his cutie-pie terrier home. He looked at me in surprise. 

“Take me instead,” he said. I replied: “Do you roll over and put your hands and feet in the air?”

“I can learn,” he said.
Another lesson gleaned from our companions.