By Sharon Puszko, PhD, LMT. Published (slightly adapted) by:

As a massage practitioner – when was the last time you received a massage? This is not a rhetorical question; I really want you to answer this question for yourself. If you have to pause to think about the answer, then chances are you have gone too long without one. I know our lives are rather full between tending to clients and family, running errands, paying bills, and everything that comes with managing a household. But, as the saying goes, one cannot heal others unless they first heal themselves. Taking care of yourself is just as important to a massage therapist as taking care of your clients.

Remember all the reasons massage is valuable for your clients? You share with them how massage can help to alleviate joint and back pain, manage fibromyalgia and migraines, speed recovery from injury, increase blood circulation and manage stress, etc. Well, all of these reasons apply to you as well. While we all enjoy the laying on of hands, we can’t experience all the benefits of a massage vicariously through our clients: we must lay our hands down once in a while and let someone else do the work so we can practice what we advocate.

In order to best serve your clients, it is important to keep in touch with how receiving massage feels to you. Without regular massages, we can easily lose perspective on how issues of touch affect a client in terms of pressure, temperature, and the frequency of repetitive strokes. Weekly or monthly massages allow us to experience new techniques or ways to modify existing ones for a certain group of clients. For example, as a specialist in geriatric massage, I find it helpful to trade massages with colleagues who work with other modalities.

Getting a massage is also important for us as practitioners because it helps prevent injuries common to the profession, such as repetitive stress injuries, muscle strains and carpal tunnel. This advice sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I am sure you have mentioned this to more than one of your clients in the past several months. Now it is time to listen to your own advice! Just like athletes, our body is our tool and our work depends on it functioning well. It is for this reason that we must care for our bodies/tool with the same degree of intensity that dancers, swimmers, and runners do.

I have not found a practitioner with whom I want to trade/pay. The Internet is a wonderful tool for finding people with similar interests. Visiting local massage schools is a great way to connect with fellow practitioners. Check the free daily papers for events related to massage, or postings from local massage therapists. Word-of-mouth also goes a long way, so the more people you talk to, the better chance you have to meet other therapists. Once you start finding people, it is simply a matter of trial and error until you find a practitioner whose work you enjoy, and with whom you can arrange a form of payment.

I do not have the time. Really? I believe we all have time for what is a priority to us. Yes, we are all busy, especially those of us who are caretakers of young children, aging parents, or other family members. What rings more true is to say “I do not believe receiving a massage is a priority in my busy life right now.” I urge you to reconsider, for all the reasons mentioned. Every massage therapist can find one hour (one and a half, including travel time) each week, or every other week, for something that is a priority. Your challenge, therefore, is to re-categorize massage as a priority in your life.

The bottom line is this: We cannot be an effective massage therapist if we do not take good care of ourselves. It is imperative that we listen to our bodies and respond accordingly to its needs. So please, try turning off your phone, take a deep breath, lay yourself down on the massage table instead of standing by it, and let someone take care of you for a wonderful change of pace towards self-care and being the best therapist you can be.


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