As we head into the new year, I wanted to take a few moments to talk about body positivity. It’s a topic often misunderstood, or perhaps distorted is the more appropriate choice of wording because we so often look through such a myriad of lenses of ‘what is right’, ‘what is positive’, and ‘what makes someone happy’ that we lose our way.
The New Year often brings ‘Body Positive’ problems
At the beginning of the new year, massage therapists, personal trainers, yoga teachers, and other holistic providers often see a surge of new faces coming in to begin their new year’s resolutions of better health and fitness. All this is fine, but we must, as providers in this new year, remember being body-positive means being body neutral.
We may never know why someone picks the journey they are on, and we especially may never know the road they took to get there so choosing your words thoughtfully is important. All too often, people carry with them the weight of their past. If your client’s goal is to get in shape, it’s no one’s job to tell them how they
look on that path because that might define how they feel. Maybe the goal is to lose 10 lbs, and you hired me to help you, but that still does not give me permission to comment on your body, for any reason. Even if you hit your goal, that can be someone else’s job; commenting on your body is not mine.
It is easy to shame someone under the guise of body positivity. Culturally we often accept it. Common themes are ‘you should be thin because it is healthy’, ‘New Year, New You‘, (what may I ask, was wrong with the old you?), ‘that exercise is the key to health’ (well, what about people who can’t) Even if you Google body positivity, you might find pictures of a slightly plus sized woman looking effervescent, perhaps exercising, or drinking a pressed juice. That picture is nice, and I am glad it exists, but it leaves all the other kinds of bodies out there and all the other kinds of body/soul joy attached to them. In our effort to be body positive, we have chosen yet another kind of body to make our emblem.
Our words about Bodies matter
Practitioners need to mind their words as it is easy to do harm and cause damage that lasts years. I would be lying if I told you that I had not heard many people tell me that they have bad posture. When asked why they believe that, they will tell me “Oh, my (insert PT, Chiro, personal trainer) told me years ago”. 10 years later, they carry that faulty bit of information around with them, and, no, they do not have ‘bad’ posture.
Not all people struggle to be thin. Some people struggle with food in general. A comment about how healthy and ‘thin’ you look can trigger someone’s eating disorder. We say things such as, “She has a yoga body“, or “They have a runner’s body“, or perhaps, “You look good, did you lose weight?”, or “I can tell you have been working out“, These comments can sound positive, but they are harmful. A body is just a body, no matter what it is doing. Not all women want to look pretty, not all men want to look tough. Indeed, none of us needs to be told to smile or relax. While it might seem like a lot, and you might have to walk on eggs, you do not. A body is just a body, no matter what it is doing.
So I urge you as a practitioner to keep in mind being body-positive means staying body neutral. Commenting on the body when working with the body is not your place.
Why do people feel like they need more self care like massage in the winter?
As I sit here and write this post, we have about a month left of winter which seems far to long after 3 months of cold inside. I am eagerly awaiting spring, but I am also finding that my physical self seems to need a lot more self-care at this point. If my body had a voice it would be demanding a lot of things. It is not just my body either, my mind also seems like it requires a lot more maintenance than it did in September. I find myself often thinking about how amazing it would be to have a massage in these last days of winter. My body aches, I am tired and mentally I am just burnt out. More so than usual this year since we are 2 + years into a pandemic. So I put together this post on four reasons you might need a massage in the winter.
I do not want to sound an alarm about how winter is causing all kinds of problems for you. It is not. How you ‘feel’ is a pretty important part of wellness though, and predictably, I do not feel good. There is a good reason that you might be craving self-care like massage in the winter though
Many people need more rest in the winter, massage can help
Your body might be more sensitve to discomfort in the winter
When it is colder our circulatory system changes. The cold weather causes venous and arterial constriction. Ie, in laymen’s terms your blood flow constricts and pulls close to the body. In addition to the pulling close, the actual blood flow is also shunted to your organs and away from your limbs. While it is not an exact science, this contraction likely puts more pressure on your nervous system, making it a little more sensitive.
Seasonal mood changes lead to craving comfort like massage
It is fairly well documented that some people’s moods are affected by summer and winter patterns. This is called seasonal affective disorder. It turns out that some people are actually biologically more sensitive to seasonal changes which can, in turn, change mood and behavior. Feeling down or sluggish in the winter months may lead you to choose activities such as self-care, or massage to bolster your mood. This is a real disorder, so if you find that you are struggling you should definitely reach out to a medical professional rather than solely seek massage. Massage can definitely be part of your care program in conjunction with the appropriate medical care though!
Physical behavior changes based on season
Many people actually DO less in the winter. While some of us love the winter and it is an excuse to strap on skis or go for a long hike, some of us just wait for the cold to pass! Poor weather often leads people into doing less physical activity and we naturally look to indoor activities as the weather gets cooler. You might skip the walk to work and instead take the bus to avoid the rain/cold. These sorts of behavior changes can lead us out of our ‘ideal’ mobility and add to our natural aches and pains:)
So if you are feeling like you need a little extra self-care, particularly in the form of massage, do not be alarmed! A lot of people do! Particularly now, in February and March, we see a lot of people coming in for a massage. Sometimes they are turning over a new leaf, training for a marathon, but sometimes they are experiencing some of the effects of the above.
Covid policies continue to change based on the local ordinance, science, and the current situation. You can check back here for more information or reach out to us at email@example.com
New: While mask guidance has been updated for the city and dropped in some cases, masking continues to be required in health centers like ours. For the safety of our staff in close contact, we ask that all guests are vaccinated as well. (updated 3/5/2022)
New: All guests must show proof of vaccination and be fully vaccinated as of 1/1/2022 (2 doses of the two-dose regimen or 1 of J and J)
New: Therapists will monitor symptoms and test when appropriate since caseloads are low.
Body Mechanics Orthopedic Massage continues to provide safe massage therapy throughout the pandemic by following all the CDC recommended guidelines and more. We are committed to your safety and that of our employees. Here are current COVID-19 policies
General COVID 19 policies
All staff are fully vaccinated. At this time, that means both shots of either a Moderna or Phiser vaccine. Many of our team are also boosted, but this is dependent on the time of their vaccination. ‘Fully Vaccinated’ may soon include the booster as policy.
Clients must show proof of vaccination on their first visit, and we will note this information on your client file. If you have a reason that you cannot be vaccinated, reasonable accommodation will be granted. Please reach out to us by email if this applies to you.
Face coverings must currently be worn in the office at all times. You may use the pillowcase as your face covering for the face-down massage portion.
Please wash your hands or sanitize them upon entering the office to help us reduce cross-contamination.
If you have recently been exposed or feel ill or off, please reschedule. We have a 24 hr cancelation policy, and we expect that you adhere to that, let us know as early as possible in case of emergency.
We ask as this time that you do not bring guests to wait for you in the lobby so that we can reduce the number of people in the office.
Please arrive 5 minutes early to your appointment to do an intake and escort you to an unoccupied room.
Our check-out can be contact-free if you prefer. We take apple pay and tap and pay.
Staff are required to be fully vaccinated
Staff are required to wear masks at all times during treatment, intake, and in public spaces. In the rare occasion, you see a staff member unmasked, please do not be alarmed this is not due to non-compliance. Our staff still has permission to eat and drink when appropriate.
All staff need to test negative for COVID 19 if they call out of work for any reason.
All staff must test if returning from travel.
Sick staff members may not attend work until symptoms fully resolve or have been cleared by the dept of health.
Staff members must wear clean scrubs and wash thoroughly for treatment.
TMD massages may be performed with goggles or glasses.
All rooms are cleaned daily and sanitized with CDC level cleaner between guests.
All linens including the top blanket are clean and used only for you —many places re-use blankets, this is not acceptable.
Each room has a HEPA filter, a window and a heater for you. The filter will always be on but if you would like the window open and it is cold out please ask. We can crack it and turn the heater on.
We have central air, but each vent in the room has a HEPA filter on it. The air in your room stays in your room.
We have 30 minutes between each appointment for cleaning and airing. Most places have 15.
Each room has rubber gloves and extra masks for contamination control.
In the coming weeks the Marathon will be upon us and many hundreds of thousands of people are training for it as I type. This is always an exciting time, but today even more so since the NY Marathon was sadly cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic. If there is a bright side to that, it’s that many of the participants had an entire year to train for this year’s event. Hopefully that will mean we see less injuries, more record times, more participants and more new runners.
There is no way through this beast of an event other than training hard, consistently and, most importantly, training smart. I hate to say it but there is always the possibility of a runner getting injured due to overtraining, under training, inadequate nutrition, lack of information or being new to running. With these things in mind, we can make informed decisions in our workouts to minimize our chances of getting injured while accomplishing our ultimate goals. Whether that goal is finishing number one or finishing at all, we can get there without hurting ourselves. Below I will list 3 possible injuries that a runner might experience during training or the marathon. These injuries are usually caused byrepetitive use.
Common running injuries
Runner’s Knee (patellofemoral syndrome) – This injury is self explanatory. This is an injury to the knee mainly caused by over-usage. A runner may experience pain on the kneecap or around the knee.
IT Band Syndrome (iliotibial band syndrome) – The IT band is a fascial sheath that runs down the lateral aspect of your thigh that tends to pull in different directions by hypertonic or tight muscles that are connected to it, such as your lateral hamstring and/ or your lateral quadriceps and/ or your TFL (tensor fascia latae). A runner may experience hip or knee pain due to a repeated rubbing or friction to the IT band to the bone, especially around the later aspect of your knee. The pain becomes more pronounced when you bend the knee.
Achilles Tendinitis – Your Achilles tendon is what connects your calf muscle to your heel. We wouldn’t be able to walk without it, let alone run. There are many reasons why a runner may develop Achilles tendinitis but a common one is super tight calves and/ or weak calves that puts stress on the Achilles leading to inflammation of the tendon – hence the name! This can make it very painful to walk, especially if the tendon isn’t warmed up. Athletes who suffer from this injury will notice, upon taking the first few steps after being stationary for a period of time, that it will be extremely painful at first then the pain subsides.
Now I’m going to list prevention strategies a runner should consider before training and before the marathon.
Preventing injury while running
A proper warm up – There is nothing more valuable than a proper warm up. It’s one of the tenets of injury prevention across the board. Making sure that you get a proper full body warm up will get your body and mind ready for the activity.
Increasing your running volume slowly – This is very important if you want to increase your fitness level properly and safely without hitting a wall. Many inexperienced athletes will try to bite more than they can chew and end up either getting injured or becoming discouraged because they couldn’t handle the load. So, make sure you increase your volume slowly and methodically in order for you to develop your strength and endurance the right way.
Cross training – Many athletes are so dedicated to their craft that they won’t deviate from their primary sport. However, cross training can be very beneficial for improving your overall athleticism for your primary sport. For instance, consider weight lifting for running. Light weight training can strengthen the core, hips, balance and coordination: all things that a runner needs. An amazing tool for injury prevention.
The NYC Marathon is a big deal and historical event, but participating doesn’t mean you need to completely sacrifice your body. Take the precautions I’ve laid out here and find a healing sports massage to minimize your chances of a major injury. Good luck!
Low back pain is surprisingly common among all Americans and is one of the foremost reasons we miss work. Based on that it is not surprising that we are always looking for ways to solve, treat, or rid ourselves of nagging back pain. The truth is though, our medical system is not the best at treating it.
I am a massage therapist and I love massage therapy but I will be the first to tell you, the number one recommended treatment for back pain is not massage therapy; it is movement. Let’s first clarify what I mean by “recommended.” When I say that what I mean is supported by research and recommended by experts in back pain. Unfortunately that does not mean that recommendation is actually reaching the people in pain. Our medical system is so saturated with other noise that it’s hard for people navigating within the system to find what is best for them.
When you’re ready to a seek medical Massage Therapy Treatment
I gave a short list of questions to go through in a previous post so here’s a condensed version. If you are coming into Body Mechanics for back pain the first thing you need to know is; it is best to come in 3-5 days after an initial injury. You need to be able to lie comfortably on the table during treatment. Please come in unmedicated as well. It is very important that you can accurately feel what is happening to your body while receiving your massage. If you are coming in for more chronic kinds of back pain, the kind that rears its ugly head every once in a while but that you are very familiar with, you can come anytime – but you may want to time your visit based on the cycle of this chronic pain.
Low back pain can be nonspecific but even without a diagnosis, we can divide it up into a few subcategories:
Back pain that is more related to the hip
Back pain that is more sacral
Back pain that is more located around the spine
Pain that is more muscle spasm related to the area between the hip and the last ribs.
We can get into the individual diagnosis, but it may not matter so much in terms of massage therapy because we are treating symptoms. For example, you may hear that massage therapy is treating any of the following: sacroiliac joint pain, labral tears, bursitis, tendinopathy, disc degeneration, disc herniation, nerve impingement or stenosis.
Saying we are treating a spesific pathogy is slightly off base. We are more managing your body’s response to its pathology.
Massage Therapy for Back Pain that is hip-dominant or is stemming from labral tear, cam impingement or other hip dysfunction
It is important to note that even though the issue may be in the hip, the pain might be felt in other areas, this is called referred pain.
We treat back pain that stems from the hip will in a slightly different way than a back injury. Functionally, this type of pain often appears to create spasm in the glutes, the rotators of the hip and the piriformis. It is essential that a massage address these areas fully. Ideally, and with sufficient time, the hamstrings and the back would also need to be treated.
The area should be thoroughly warmed with massage and/or a heating pad first. Restoring internal and external rotation to the hip through range of motion, active release and mobilizations often significantly helps relieve symptoms. Additionally, as the muscles have a lot of bulk, the glutes need to be treated. I frequently work by creating a lot of slack by putting clients into what I call the “froggy position.” I find it helps to relive the trigger points without causing the patient a lot of undue pain. Depending on the type of injury, relief might be temporary or longer-lasting.
Using Massage Therapy Treatment to treat Back Pain that is from Acute injury
If you are coming in for an acute injury treatment is far different. Ideally you would be coming in after you have a diagnosis, and you are out of the initial stages of healing (again, we recommend 3-5 days after injury.) There must be no open wounds, active infection or swelling. That being said, if you are too uncomfortable for massage in the area that is directly affected, there is a fair bit of research that indicates that working with one area of the body can affect another. Check out this research on stretching the hamstrings affecting neck’s range of motion.
Essentially, a massage therapist who is skilled is going to be able to get you more comfortable while you heal. They’ll do this by working on another body part and by just generally relaxing the nervous system.
Massage for acute areas of pain must be gentle, and focus on relieving discomfort rather than gaining function. Heat or ice may be applied to the back depending on what feels better. Soft strokes such as effleurage, scooping, and techniques that lift the surface of the skin like cupping, might all be utilized. As the massage expands towards the periphery, the strokes can become deeper. If movement is in the therapist’s scope of practice, breathing and tense and relax exercises can all help to signal to the body that it is time for the area that is affected to relax and un-brace.
Addressing chronic back pain with Massage Therapy Treatment
Massage for back pain that is from a chronic injury is where massage therapy really excels. It is generally safe to use a wide variety of depth, massage strokes and movement. The hips, low back, glutes, and mid-back can all be treated safely and effectively. Ideally, due to their size and potential to create tension in the back, the glutes and rotators are treated first with both movement and massage. Then the therapist would move on to treat the erector muscles along the spine and quadratus lumborum (the deepest abdominal muscle) with stripping and trigger point therapy.
Since therapists have the option to choose from many massage therapy modalities, the best techniques to use are the ones that 1) The patient enjoys, and 2) Are most effective for the situation. Some people naturally respond better to movement, tense and relax, stroking, trigger point or fascia work. Here good listening skills both with the hands and the ears are very useful in deciding how to proceed.
Sacroiliac joint issues and Massage Therapy Treatments
Massage therapy for SI joint issues has a very different plan than other massage therapy plans. The SI joints are small joints to the left and right sides of the sacrum. They have very little movement, and in fact over time, the movement reduces, but they cause a great deal of pain for many people. Since the pain is radiating from a bony area that often feels inflamed and pinched, many people feel relief through ice application to the joint.
Additionally, since it is a joint, we can relieve the tension on it by making sure the muscles around it are relaxed. Treating the quadratus lumborum and the glutes (specifically the cute medius) seem to provide the most relief. Massage and stretching can be applied to these areas to provide the sensation of even pressure across the joint, which helps to relieve the pain.
There are many different kinds of low back pain and they can present in different ways. While movement is the best way to address it, I think I’ve pointed out some specific and effective ways Massage Therapy can be used to help people in pain. Provided the therapist pays close attention to what kind of massage techniques are safe. Based on where the issues are stemming from and listening closely to the patient’s body and preferences, massage therapy can be a helpful treatment. If you would like to talk to us about what treatment options are right for you, you can reach out to us, send an email at info@BodymechanicsNYC.com!
2020 was likely the first time many people heard so much news directly from the World Health Organization so it wouldn’t be surprising if this is the first time you’re hearing of World Health Day. It isn’t not marked on many calendars but April 7th 1948 was the day the WHO was established and is now the day they create many campaigns to raise awareness of serious, imminent global health issues. Last year’s theme spurred by the surging number of COVID-19 cases, was to foster an appreciation of nurses and midwives, the people at the forefront of the most precarious and daunting medical situations during the pandemic.
This year’s World Health Day theme is Creating a Healthier World. WHO’s goal is to have international agenies address inequalities in the perception and treatment of different social groups. This directive can be seen as a lesson learned from COVID-19 and the fallout surrounding the pandemic . One inequality that we see more and more each day (especially as New Yorkers) is a rise in racism and violence toward people of Aisan descent. We here at Body Mechanics emphatically denounce these heinous acts and stand in support of the Asian people and communities who have been affected by this senseless and unjust hatred.
Massage in Media
The world of massage can sometimes contribute to the negative light that paints how society views Asian people, and it is up to us as part of the massage community to push back against these ideas. Racist and sexist ideas often develop because a certain group of people have been dehumanized by another. When we don’t have to look at someone as a fellow human, we don’t have to offer them respect, understanding, or empathy. Without those things, abuse, intolerance, and hate can grow. The media and general culture of American society dehumanizes massage in three major ways: attaching mystic orientalism to massage practice, conflating massage with sexual favors, and minimizing female massage workers as only sexual objects.
Movies, shows, or books that refer to Asian-run massage establishments as “rub and tug joints” or making jokes about getting a happy ending whenever someone mentions massage gives a bad connotation to both sex work and massage. Believing that there’s a secret, dirty code you can give any massage therapist to receive a sexual favor reduces the person and the work they do to being a dirty secret. The people working with our bodies deserve the same respect we’d give any professional.
Respect must also be given to the cultures from which we in the West have taken and commodified certain massage practices. From “namaste” tattoos, to Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, to any stereotypical; Dragon Lady character, the history of stereotyping and other-ing Asian culture runs deep. The same applies for massage techniques of Asian origin.
Discussing Orientalism in Medicine with Nick Ng
Body Mechanics sat down with Nick Ng, founder and editor at Massage and Fitness Magazine and spoke about his personal experience traversing the world of massage education as an Asian American.
Body Mechanics: Why do you think Asian women tend to be sexualized in massage settings?
“Orientalism began in the 13th century, but the fantasies and misrepresentations it provoked stretch through media and text all the way to the present. The fetishization of Asian women in a massage setting has its roots in Orientalism.”
Body Mechanics: In the past, you’ve spoken about how Orientalism is common in health and wellness. Can you explain some of the ways the misrepresentations of Orientalism manifest in massage therapy?
“There’s a gap in the understanding of the language between the Japanese and Chinese language to the Indo-European language. Other than my [ethnically] Japanese teacher, everyone else [in massage therapy school] misinterpreted a lot of the meanings of the Chinese narratives and even the language and the characters themselves when they mention about Traditional Chinese Medicine. And I’m just rolling my eyes in class and I try not to voice out, but nobody challenged it. And it gets passed on to clients, it gets passed onto media, it gets passed on to each generation of massage therapists.
A lot of therapists who study these Asian massage therapies or other Indigenous types of bodyworks, they do not understand the culture and the history and the language of the people who first practiced it. And it’s a sign of colonialization. …what [American therapists and educators] don’t realize is that a lot of these techniques and narratives also have their own identity. Like Lomi Lomi has its own Hawaiian narrative, Shiatsu has its own Japanese narrative, Thai massage has its own narrative. And there is an issue with cultural appropriation where they leverage these cultures. They use these techniques to leverage for their own thing.”
Body Mechanics: Is there a way for someone who is not from these cultures to teach or practice in a way that still honors and respects these cultures?
“Really spend the time and energy to try to fully understand the history of the cultures from where the techniques come from rather than just using the techniques for personal gain.“
We here at Body Mechanics hope that on this World Health Day, this post shows the proper respect to the people and cultures from which many massage therapists derive the skills and knowledge they use to help their clients and patients. A healthier world doesn’t just mean getting medical representation of at risk groups but creating a safer world for the people currently at a higher risk of being attacked, mistreated, stereotyped and taken advantage of.
We chatted with Meagen to learn about what makes her personal approach to medical massage stand out and while being effective!
What is your back ground and what drew you to science?
Meagen – I have a degree in Occupational Studies of Massage Therapy and outside of that, did some coursework in psychology. I am endlessly fascinated by the human body and physiology, so massage therapy was a natural career choice.
Can you share one experience treating someone that really impacted your view of treatment?
Meagen – I once had a 3-hour session with a pro-lacrosse player with adhesive capsulitis — a frozen shoulder. The treatment was unlike any spa session I’ve done. It included a visual assessment, friction, passive range of motion, and Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation. The amount of mobility he regained afterward was incredible and it really highlighted just how much bodywork can be implemented in a medical way to achieve quantitative AND qualitative results!
What is your best “Uh-oh!” story? A time you really F-d up doing something with your body that helped inform your medical massage technique.
Meagen – At one point I got mild ulnar neuropathy* from excessive forearm usage at some clients’ request. It made me realize that a conversation must be had with certain clients for them to understand that deep is not always ‘more effective’ when treating the body with massage. I changed my habits and no longer have the condition.
*Neuropathy is numbness or pain caused by compression or damage to the nerves.
Do you have a bad science joke you like?
Meagen – Why don’t ants get sick? Because they have little anty bodies! That one has been gotten more laughs now that we hear about antibodies every day.
If you could try any sport/or amazing physical activity what would it be?
Meagen – Diving.
Or What was your favorite class in high school?
Meagen – College Writing.
What are your favorite kinds of people to work with/what kind of injuries do you like to work with?
Meagen – I love to work on people with myofascial restrictions because they get so much relief from each myofascial session! Their joy is contagious!
What sets your medical massage apart from anyone else?
Meagen – It is detail oriented and galvanizing. I don’t just absent massage a body; I can pinpoint the issues clients came in to address and the ones they didn’t know where causing the issues in the first place. Then I teach them how to recognize these matters before they become more significant.
Is there anything we do not know about you we should? (Odd ball facts?)
Meagen – Although I call New York my home I’m a world traveler, and the one thing I might enjoy more than myofascial release is hula hooping. In fact, I’m a hula hoop champion!
Missed our earlier profiles? Check out our other blogs.
If you have any questions please reach out to reception and they can answer additional questions! Want to know more about our programs? You can read up on our Sports Massage and Sports Injury programs or check out some of our other offerings such as prenatal massage or our tmd program.
What is your background in sports? (do you train in, participate in, or watch…. give us the 411)
Alex– I grew up as a big skier, tennis player, and dancer. Now I love being active in various ways to keep it interesting. I love weightlifting, hiking, and yoga.
How long have you been training or working at it?
Alex– I started teaching yoga about 8 years ago and got big into strength training about 6 years ago.
Can you share one experience as someone who uses their body that has greatly impacted your massage?
Alex – My first “real” massage. I had an aching pain in my hip that prevented me from squatting. I went to a professional LMT and she had me feeling great after one session. That’s when I realized massage is not just to feel good and relax (although that is a bonus), it actually has amazing effects on your mobility and can be used to aid in your training.
What is your best uh oh story? (time you really F-d it doing something with your body)
Alex– After many years of dancing and having TOO much flexibility, my hips were super wonky. I tore my labrum many years ago, but I still notice it every once a while during certain movements. I focus on diligent strengthening and consistent sports massage to keep myself feeling my best.
If you could try any sport/or amazing physical activity what would it be?
Alex – I would love to do more climbing and hiking. South America is on my list and Teton!
How did you get into sports massage?
Alex – I needed it myself! I realized how much massage is an important piece of the puzzle to keep both your mind and body healthy. I have also surrounded myself with so many athletes and clients who use their body so much and needed a massage, I decided “Hey, who understands what you’re feeling more than me? Let me help fix you!” From there I decided to get my massage license.
What are your favorite kinds of people to work on?
Alex – Athletes and active people. I can speak their language.
Are there any athletes you particularly admire? Who?
Alex – Any professional athlete because I understand how it really needs to become your entire life. Fitness, diet, rehabbing, injuries, there is so much more to it than just playing the sport. It takes so much determination and diligence to do it all. You make sacrifices that I would struggle making (especially when it comes to diet) and I admire their focus and hard work.
What sets your sports massage apart from anyone else?
Alex – I feel like I can really understand my clients because Ive been there. I’ve seen it all, whether it was me personally, a client or a friend.
Is there anything we do not know about you we should? (odd ball facts) If you had a superpower what would it be?
Alex -I spent New Years a few years ago climbing Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania
When the pandemic hit New York City last year, I started wearing a mask when practicing massage in the last days before we closed. In my reasoning, even though the government said masks were not necessary, from a health care perspective it made sense to me. As a medical massage therapist, I specialize in a number of things many other massage therapists do not. One of the treatments I specialize in is intra-oral massage for TMD. These treatments require me to put my gloved hand inside a client’s mouth to massage the muscles there. It means I spend a large part of my day focused around people’s heads, neck, and faces. I remember saying to one of my last clients, “I am going to wear this mask today, it’s just going to help my air stays in my space”. It is not exactly a scientific explanation of germ transmission but I was trying to keep things simple and not scary.
As a New York Massage Therapist, I very rarely wore a mask. Wearing a mask in New York signified illness and was a scary addition to the massage. The thinking being, ‘If you are sick enough to wear a mask, you should stay home’. That is totally true by the way, you SHOULD stay home while sick. Unfortunately, there is a lot of time between beginning to feel off, and being sick. When I worked in Ontario, Canada, where massage therapy is a full health care position, I saw a much broader patient population. The public perception of the job is different, so I frequently wore a mask. I wore them if my client had a sniffle, or if I felt off, or if the client was compromised. No one really batted an eye at my mask-wearing as they reasoned it was for a good medical reason.
When Massage Therapists are Sick
I hate being sick. I mean, hate it. I always feel as if I am sick more than the average person. I get sick at least 4 times a year. The CDC notes that “Each year in the United States, there are millions of cases of the common cold. Adults have an average of 2-3 colds per year, and children have even more“. I am sick slightly more than the average person, but given my close contact with people that is not unusual. For me, as a Massage Therapist, being sick is very stressful. My income is tied to my ability to not be sick. I cannot work from home and sniff my way through the day. Patients are often very upset when I cancel as well. We have had demands for free service, threats, and general poor behavior over having to cancel due to illness as well. Since my income is directly tied to my ability to massage, you can be assured I NEVER want to cancel unless I have to.
My Mask Has Kept Me Healthy
It has been about a year since I started wearing a mask full time. I have yet to be sick this year (knock on wood) I know there is still time…but it has nearly been a year and I am out and about riding trains, treating people up close, and generally going about my life…with a mask. I cannot say for sure it is the close contact with patients that is the number one reason I got sick so frequently in the past…but it probably is:). I always washed my hands far more than the average person but it is hard to say if, previous to Covid, my clients were. The fact that everyone is now washing their hands when they come into the office means I am not coming into contact with the usual yukies.
Masks Are Keeping a Lot of You Healthy
It is not just me either. Earlier this year conspiracy theorists pointed to a massive drop-off in flu reporting in an effort to classify Covid as a hoax. Almost no one got the flu this year….even with increased testing. The flu dropped off though, because people are doing what we know works for infection control. Washing hands frequently, staying home when sick, and wearing masks. Check out this article in the Science section of the Atlantic on ‘The Pandemic Broke the Flu’. Mask wearing and appropriate infection control works to keep a population healthy.
When we reopened I also expected we would have large problems with people canceling due to being ill, since we ask anyone who is sick to stay home….but it did not happen. Normally, people come in sick all the time. We do not want them to. This year, we have no one coming in sick, and no one calling out sick. NO one is sick! In 8 months we have had 2 cancellations due to being ill. That is far below average.
Massaging in a Mask Forever
I will probably be massaging in a mask forever. Even once the mandate is lifted for massage in New York City. I see no reason to endanger you with my common cold or a flu that has yet to be identified. I see no reason for me to ever be sick again if I can help it. I lose thousands of dollars a year in missed income being sick. That is money I can sock away for better things. My stress is increased exponentially by being sick, and quite frankly, being sick SUCKS. Thank you, but now that it has been accepted, I will be wearing a mask in my massages forever. I really do not mind it, and it is good for both of us.
Body Mechanics’ own Beret Loncar was recently featured in an article in Massage & Fitness Magazine, which highlighted some of the top educators in the field of massage therapy for those in the United States and Canada. One of the key points author Nick Ng makes is that reliable and current information can be difficult to come by for massage therapists. That’s not to say that many teachers and providers don’t have valuable things to say or techniques to teach, but many massage therapy educators are also teaching outdated or incomplete ideas as well.
All medical fields go through growing pains where tradition will sometimes clash with science. The physician Ignaz Semmelweis was derided by his peers when he proposed that washing his hands was the reason his patients had a drastically lower incidence of death during childbirth when compared to the patients of his colleagues. Semmelweis’s peers resisted hand washing because it was not something they (or the people who had come before them) had ever done, so they saw no reason to change. It was not until years after Semmelweis’s death that the rest of the medical community eventually accepted hand washing as a standard practice.
Within the past 10-15 years, much of the research in physical medicine and pain management began to point to the need for some major paradigm shifts in how we understand many things including the effects and implementation of massage therapy. We are keen to give credit and homage to those who have come before us for doing the best that they could with the information available at the time, but in order for our field to advance, massage therapists must be willing to embrace evidence over eminence.
Ultimately by growing with and adapting to new research, massage therapists are able to provide better massage treatments and improved outcomes for those who they serve. That’s why the environment at Body Mechanics cultivates continual growth and encourages therapists to challenge what they do and don’t know. Even if it’s uncomfortable to change, at the end of the day our primary focus is on getting the best results that we can with the knowledge that’s available.
One of our favorite resources for keeping up with current research and trends is Massage & Fitness Magazine. Most massage industry magazines usually include a few authors who appreciate the ever-changing nature of research in related fields, while the rest of the authors will mostly share opinions on ideas they’ve had passed down to them by others. In contrast, Massage & Fitness Magazine features articles that always include perspectives that are deeply informed by recent research and authors who will even go back to revise what has changed on certain topics based on newly available information. Check out some of our favorite recent articles below that take aim at keeping massage therapy on the science track.