Background about massage therapy

Massage in Frankfurt, Germany

Massage Therapy is a gratifying profession. Clients are happy after receiving a massage. They feel better than when they came in the door; they are more relaxed, looser, and, very often, in much less pain. Massage is generally safe (sure, there are times when it isn’t, but that is why we go to school). It stimulates the immune system, improves lymph circulation, releases tight muscles, and helps get rid of those pesky knots. It speeds recovery from injuries. Unlike a lot of other careers, in one hour, more or less, a massage therapist can do a lot of good. People thank you and smile on their way out the door, glad they saw you. Compare this to, say, working as a tax accountant.

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There are other great aspects that I like about doing massage for a living. For one thing, I don’t have to sit at a desk all day long. I’m a restless soul, so moving around getting  a little exercise makes me a lot happier than being stuck in a chair for hours. Another lovely thing is the seemingly endless array of modalities to learn about. There’s Swedish massage, sports massage, craniosacral therapy, shiatsu, thai massage….. You get the picture. I also think it’s lovely and important to learn about the human body and then educate my clients. Somehow we get finished with high school and we still have no conception of how we are put together. They don’t make us read our manual. Actually, we don’t come with a manual. How many people reading this know that they have a sacrum ?

Finally, I have to mention the pleasure of getting to know people, one by one. They lie on my table, week after week, and I learn about their lives and their bodies. I learn where they have chronic pain, how many miles they ran last week, and, sometimes, they treat me like their hairdresser and tell me about their kids and their grandkids.

However, as Tiffany discovers in the novel, not everyone is suited to giving massages for years on end. While there are therapists who have made a life-long career out of massage, the average time massage therapists last is around five years. We get injuries at a fairly high rate, things such as arthritis in the small hand joints, elbow tendonitis, shoulder problems and low back pain. We realize we aren’t making enough money and decide to do something more lucrative. I’ve known a lot of MTs who always planned to become nurses, physical therapists, naturopaths, and the like, and massage was a way to find out how they liked being health care practitioners, so they went back to school.

Like Tiffany, a lot of MTs start to find the career unsatisfying after a few years. This may be more common in spas than in other arenas, although I know plenty of MTs who adore the whole spa culture. They love the wonderful aromas, and they love pampering people and melting away their stress and tension. However, as I found, spa work becomes repetitious. Sure, every person is unique, and all that, but relaxation massage is the most requested service and that can become old for some of us: it does for Tiffany and it did for me. Also, the rooms are necessarily warm, the music is soft and nondescript, and sometimes it is really hard to stay awake (after lunch!).

Most of us, in modern society, will go through a number of careers in our lifetime, anyway. Even with the recession, we still have possibilities. Thus, Tiffany, who started out majoring in fine arts in college, and then became an art teacher, longs to do something new, something that will nurture her inner artist.

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