Massage Therapy School: Week 3

Ruminations of a Chiropractor Gone Rogue

It is week three, and we are half way through our first term.  Everyone in the class is still very reserved and little chatting occurs between students.  During breaks between classes everyone grabs their phones and begins texting.  I am something of a Luddite when it comes to texting.  I have a cell phone, flip style, the camera has never been used, and I text one friend and only when we are meeting for dinner.  Therefore it seems strange to me to watch my classmates rush for their phones and be so deeply engaged with them.  And of course I wonder things like “are they discussing a cure for cancer?” or “are they sharing stock trading secrets and making fortunes?” because those would be the types of things I would find text worthy.  However, it is far more likely that they are texting each other and wondering why I am just watching them text and not texting as well.

We are in seated massage this term, and my classmates have begged for a routine to follow.  The instructor has chosen not to give us a written routine based on the past experience that during a chair massage students would focus on the piece of paper containing the routine and not the client.  The instructor is teaching us a variety of techniques and transitions and encouraging us to create our own routine.  This makes perfect sense.  In a chair massage there is only have so much time available – usually about 15 to 20 minutes, and consequently there are only so many techniques and transitions you can employ during that time.  It basically amounts to a scalp massage, three techniques for the back, three techniques for the upper arm, three for the lower arm, a nice hand routine, a transition to the other arm, and your closing strokes.  When viewed this way, it becomes very simple.  My classmates don’t get this concept, and when I offer this mathematical approach to composing a massage routine the response is the classic deer-in-the-headlights stare.  Perhaps my encouragement would be better received during the break in the form of a text, but this would make it a written routine, and this means they would likely be focusing on their phones during the chair massage as well as on breaks.

At times it seems we have learned very little as far as techniques.  However, when I look at how I’m practicing as a chiropractor I realize we have in fact learned quite a bit, and many elements of massage are creeping into the soft tissue work I do in my office.  Since I opened my chiropractic practice over ten years ago I have routinely used Interferential Current Therapy (e-stim) with most patients to address myospasm.  Now, with many patients I find myself warming and working the tissues by hand, and in all cases the results are equal to if not better that those of using e-stim.  This experience has calmed the ever-present fear that I am only a one-trick chiropractic pony and won’t be a good massage therapist.  However, the evidence is there – what I am learning now is working on my current patients, and I’ve only just begun to learn.

As I watch my classmates stress over composing a chair massage routine, I wish there was something I could do to ease their angst.  However, I know this is part of the learning process, so I bide my time and try not to look like a smarty-pants.  I also wonder how they will resolve the false sense of connectedness that technology has introduced into their lives with the real connectedness of placing hands on a client.  This will be an exciting evolution to watch in the coming weeks.

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  • The MTSI Team

    Do you think this is a common reason why many chiropractors let you go through a 15 minute massage routine prior to them working on you? It makes perfect sense given your personal experience. Chiropractors and massage therapists are working more closely now than ever before. Our recent interviews with professionals is definitely showing an anecdotal evidence of this trend.

    • RebeccaOliverDCLMT

      Chiropractors know that it is far easier to adjust a patient when not having to wrestle through a host of taut muscle and fascia. I’ve always done some form of muscle work before adjustments for this reason. And in many cases it gives better results than an adjustment alone. There is also a component of customer service that many patients are
      seeking, and when there is a chiropractor on every block in your
      downtown, you need an edge that sets you apart. Massage can be that edge.

      Additionally, for many years, there were two schools of philosophy with chiropractic; the straight and the mixer. Those of the straight philosophy subscribed only to the adjustment as having therapeutic benefit and did not offer any form of muscle work to patients. The mixer philosophy recognizes the benefits of addressing the soft tissue component of a condition along with the effects of the adjustment. Many chiropractic schools are teaching soft tissue modalities, so the line seems to be getting blurred which may be another contributing factor toward the trend you’ve detected.