December 30, 2013

Tidy Time

With each year end, I like to do two things: tidy up the loose ends of my massage therapy practice and set my sights on the coming year.

Tidy time is important in the visceral sense: make sure my tax stuff and books are at least all in one box, if not organized, all set for the tax man. I also like to get some statistics: How many massages have I done, daily and weekly averages, etc.

An important part of this look-back is to check and see when I have been feeling good or overworked. I can often see some times when I should have done a little less or spread my duties out more.

Gone are the days when I could work straight through an 8-hour spa shift and then see two private clients after hours. I don’t miss that a bit. But when I was foolish enough to have done those things, I learned, as I laid prostrate on my bed the next day, not to do so much in one day. Days off are no fun if they are spent flat out zombie-fied.

Days off for a massage therapist are for stretching, tai-chi, family, errands, the beach, all the things that days off are for. I learned not to work so much that I felt drained.

Another lesson is to not drown in paperwork. If, like my therapist friend, you use a bookkeeping program, you still have to plunk the numbers in. Amazing how many other things you can find to do before doing the books. To save myself some angst, I found a good bookkeeper.

Outsourcing is great for the things you do not want to do. For me, it is the bookkeeping. For others, it might be the laundry. The key is figuring out what you do not want to do, or what you are truly bad at doing, and if you are willing to pay for it.

In hindsight, “outsourcing” is what many of us do when we work for employers. We take a pay cut because we don’t want to book clients, make re-appointments, keep track of permits, negotiate leases. There is nothing wrong in that, by the way. Some therapists enjoy being able to leave work at their appointed time and not keep a to-do list. A lot of us have to pick up kids, make dinner and a host of other things for family.

When I’ve looked back at my year, I then look forward. More about that next blog.

December 21, 2013

Care and Greeting of Clients

What are you doing?

My therapist friend said that phrase in a tone of voice that implied I was sculpting a stone wheel from a boulder.

I’m writing holiday cards to my clients, I replied.

Ohh, no, no, no you will get carpal! she said. Let me show you my toys.

 Out whipped the tablet. With its apps. This one sends appointment reminders automatically, along with holiday greetings and birthday offers. Au-to-ma-tic, she said, as if it were a word I have never heard before.

Yup, that’s me sitting there with my stones knives and bear clubs, sending out cards to people whom I have been seeing for massages for so long they are like family. But no, I am modern. My stamps are self-sticking.

I swear it is not age. We are about the same age, my massage therapist friend and I, and we have come up through the ranks into developing our own independent practices.

And I still have an appointment book and pencil. And I send holiday cards. Handwritten.

As my software engineer client told me one day, those apps. are great. Until all your data gets stuck somewhere in the cloud.

Bah Humbug!

December 7, 2013

Massage with an Historic Difference

It is an old law school question: Would you be Hitler’s lawyer?

It is a tough one. All people regardless of their crimes are due a spirited defense, law students are taught. Yet what about the worst criminal in recent history? Would you be the one? Could you?

Here’s how the question could be posed to a massage therapist: Could you be Hitler’s massage therapist? Would you? Would it make Hitler more human? Or make him a more efficient Hitler?

Some thoughts to ponder. I have not found any evidence that Hitler ever got a massage, although the treatment was very popular in the late 19th and early 20th century for many ills.

But I did find some history about a “doctor” of massage in western Europe who was tapped to be the therapist for Heinrich Himmler, the head of the Nazi SS, the elite and brutal militia that perpetrated many atrocities against Jews and others on the hit list in the Nazi era.

Felix Kersten was a gifted therapist popular with the European elite who was “asked” to be Himmler’s personal masseur. He took the job, perhaps because it was an offer he could not refuse, and used his relationship with Himmler to spare some of the intended victims of the Third Reich.

The breadth of his exact contribution to saving lives is debatable. He got his client, who suffered from severe gastric problems relieved by massage, to sign documents sparing people from death. He also claimed to have softened the SS’s plans to kill subjugated civilians in Denmark and Finland.

Others disputed his claims to saving civilian populations, but his ability to entice Himmler spare some individuals is not in doubt.

If you would like to read more about Kersten and his times, I suggest:

The Kersten Memoirs, by Felix Kersten.

The Man with the Miraculous Hands, by Joseph Kessel.

Massages’Greatest Humanitarian, excerpt in Massage Magazine by Robert Noah Calvert, from The History of Massage.

The Devil’s Doctor, by John H. Waller.


December 2, 2013

Whys and What Knots

Knots have the element of surprise. Massage clients are often very perturbed that they have a knot, and then the inevitable question…why is that knot there?

I try to offer some explanations – to much time using a mouse, too many repeat micro-movements of muscles in a static hold, etc. Working under too much deadline pressure is a very common circumstance.

But why do knots occur and stick around for so long?

Massage therapists see thousands of knots over the years, and yes, I think they each have their own unique origins.

For reasons I cannot easily explain, I can feel when knots are old – from a long-gone by car accident for example – these older knots are more established and habituated to the body’s daily existence. They need some extra attention and therapeutic touch to loosen and return their host tissues to normal.

That said these older knots seem to be more than simply forgotten dysfunctional areas of muscle. Something has happened along with the formation of the knot to make it last. Perhaps, if knots form like memories, they become more robust when a person is excited or energized.

Having read and seen many interviews of people who remember what they were doing 50 years ago when they heard President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, I suspect the major knots also had a sudden, sharp focus of attention.

Perhaps the chemicals of surprise or fear also help muscles retain knots, as people retain memories of the JFK assassination in more vivid detail than any other days in 1964 or beyond.

Could some knots have a date-and-time stamp?

Sometimes I wonder. I know my massage clients do.