Sports Massage Profile Gerry

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Sports Massage Profile Gerry

Get to know our sports massage therapist Gerry!

We asked our sportsports massage therapist nyc gerrys massage therapist, Gerry, a few questions so you can get to know him a little better. Here is what he had to say!

What is your background in sports, since you are working in sports massage currently?

Gerry: I used to race and I was a bike messenger, back when that was a thing in New York.  I also spent some time snow boarding.

If you could try any sport what would it be?

Gerry: Motorcycle racing!

How did you get into sports massage as a thing?

Gerry: I have a curiosity about the way people move and want to help them.

Are there any athletes your particularly admire? 

Gerry: Peter Sagan, he is a professional road bicycle racer.

Is there anything that sets your massage apart from anyone else?

Gerry: I hope it is my sensitivity

Do you have any specialized training that you are really drawn to?

Gerry: While I love working with athletes, I also work with geriatric paitents and that work is really inspiring. 

Is there any special skills or hobbies you want us to know about, something people would be surprised to know?

Gerry: I am really good at backgammon and swing dancing.

Last but not least, if you could have a super power, what would it be?

Gerry: I would want to fly of course!

 

If you want more information on Gerry you can find it on our therapist profile page.

To book an appointment see our prices page.

Body Mechanics Orthopedic Massage

1 W 34th St
#204,
New York, NY 10001
United States (US)
Phone: 212-600-4808
Email: info@bodymechanicsnyc.com

 

 

 

 

 

We Have Moved to a New Location!

We Have a Fantastic New Location

Hello all! We just wanted to keep you updated to a few of the changes that have happened this year. The biggest of which of course is WE HAVE MOVED TO A NEW LOCATION!! It was a long time coming but after 5 years at our former location, near Grand Central Station, we have moved to a stunning location just near the Empire States Building! We traded one monument for another! Our new location address is 1 w. 34th Street. NY, NY, 10017. We are right across the street from the Empire States Building and across from Heartland Brewery. Our phone number and web contact information remains the same. We stay devoted to the same kinds of treatment: Sports Massage, Medical Massage, TMJ Massage, Breast Cancer Massage and Runners Massage.

There are a few things you should know about our new location 

  • Space! We have a lot of it! We went from 3 rooms to 4 room…and we have a staff room now with an extra large lobby. No more crowds and being on top of one another.

 

  • We have central air that is HEPA filtered. So this is pretty awesome…especially since our old space ran really hot and the dirty old outside air used to come in…but it also means there is 1 temp for everyone. If you are running hot or cold please let us know, there are fans and table heaters in each room but we can’t control the room temperature any more.

 

  • It is MUCH nicer. I mean really, its is totally an upgrade. We look a little more medical, as we are in a medical building, but we have kept with the same lux and plush stylings. We are just a little more streamlined now. The old space was cute, but the building was old and ill cared for. This building is brand spanking new!

 

  • Speaking of new, we have a few new things that may surprise you. Now on weekends we have to buzz you in. It takes a few seconds, but hey we have a buzzer, because we are fancy now.

 

  • We also have changed our pricing. You can find that information here: Pricing at Body Mechanics . Minimum wage is changing in NYC and we needed to adapt to reflect that. On the upside, yay for sustainable living! You will also find little perks like a new hot and cold water cooler, a better bathroom (no more keys), wifi for you, and a new charging station.  We also have some new therapists. You can check them out here: Massage Therapists 

Here are some pictures of our new space to help you get an idea of what we are doing. Scroll through and take a look!!
Our Space
 

Body Mechanics Orthopedic Massage

1 w. 34th Street #204. NY, NY 10017

212-600-4808

info@bodymechanicsnyc.com

Do you want run like a Spartan? Try a run at the Spartan Sprint.

 

The Spartan Sprint run took place at Citi Field on Saturday April 16th 2016.

citi field stadium. New York, New YorkSoooo my friends and I signed up for the Spartan Sprint run at Citi Field. What is a Spartan Sprint you ask? Well…it can be a lot of things but this one is a fantastic 3 mile + obstacle course race through Citi Field stadium.  I am a runner by trade and have been running for years, but I am also scrappy. I spent my early childhood scrabbling up trees so I was totally up for this challenge. And who does not want to break up the running season with something a little different!

A Spartan is an obstacle course race. This one happens to use Citi Field as its tromping ground. To be fair, I have no idea how many obstacles we actually did:), I will go more into that later, but the whole race takes you on a run all over the stadium, through the bleachers, up the stairs, through the parking lots, on the field and in the back tunnels. If you are a sports fan, it is kind of amazing. The views are fantastic and I can truly say, never have I ever seen more of a stadium.

One of the nice things about this race is the location, which is easily accessible by car or by train.  I took a train there and my racing buddy drove, neither one of us had any problems. We simply met up in the parking lot where we picked up our bibs and tags like any other race.Race entry packet, Spartan Sprint New York

This was easy and well organized. We had formed a team, so we were essentially running at the same time with a drawn go-time of 9:30 am. Being a team has it’s benefits and to be truthful this is one of the really nice things about the Spartan culture. While running is usually a solo project, the Spartan races allow you to form teams and do the race as a group which allows for your teammates to help you on challenges that might be just out-of-reach.  If you fail an obsticals, a teammate can help you or share in the penalty (30 burpee’s) to ease the burden.

This race had some great obstacle in it. A short list includes, rope climb, crawling under/over things, spear throwing, bucket carrying (with and without water), general lifting and hauling of things, a  plank skateboard thing, jumping rope and some other odds and ends. The set up is simple…run, then stop and perform a task (while the refs cheer you on). If you fail the task for some reason or cannot complete it due to physical reason then you can opt for 30 burpee’s. Sadly, we did not do a great job of documenting it because we were so busy running! But we managed to capture these shots from the obstacles.

IMG_5794 (1) Spartan Sprint run NY, NY

 

By the time we finished the race it was 10;30 or so…keep in mind we talked to other runners and wandered around snacking on the free goodies provided and comparing race stories. By that time there were a lot more families coming in to race too. They run a children’s Spartan race along side the adult one which is wonderful.

As an entry level, this sprint is a great time. It is challenging if you do all the obstacles and are in reasonable shape, but so long as you are fairly active I think any group that likes a challenge could participate in it. There were loads of people who walked the course rather than ran. The ability to share tasks makes the tasks achievable, but you can always opt out and take the burpee penalty. So as long as you know your skill level, you can keep yourself safe from injury. I say this with a grain of salt because any time you are doing complex activities while you are tired, you could easily hurt yourself…so be carful out there! And injury is relative. I would totally expect to come home with a few of these beauties! Since we were a little beat up we recovered by treating ourselves to Spa Castle for a sauna, which is just a short drive away.

IMG_5805 (1) FullSizeRender (16) (1)

But you will also get an amazing day, some great new skills and this….IMG_5809 (1)

Totally worth it. I really enjoyed the switch up from running, to some more skill oriented tasks. As a woman, I also have to say one of the nice things about races like this is it challenges you to build upper body strength in a really useful, practical way. I really do not know if I will ever have to bench a bunch of weights cold, but you never know; I totally might have to lift my body over a fence while running one day.

Finding Naturalism in Massage

naturalism and massage

Many of us in the massage industry spend a lot of time talking to other therapists about massage therapy. What is holding it back? Is it the non-science based nature that is the issue? Is it the lack of research? Is it the people it attracts? Is it the professionalism? What about the spiritual aspects that some seem to want to connect to?

As most of you know, I am firmly in the science-based camp. My background is  pain management with rehabilitative exercise. This is what I was taught in school and I was exposed to nothing else. Prior to my RMT training, I had taken pre-med courses in college, and before that all the AP science classes offered in high school so the Canadian program fit right in with my science-based ideals. It made sense to me.

The US massage industry frustrates me to no-end. I desperately want it to change because, after working in Canada as part of a heath care continuum, I know how good a massage program can be.

I know there are a lot of us pushing for a shift to a science-based program. However, given the condition of the US system and its irregularity, changing to science-based might be asking too much transitionally.

The US massage industry faces a number of problems. With such a large number of workers currently in the industry, the change would surely need to be gradual. One of the things I constantly think about is, with the current requirement of 500-1000 hours and no competency requirement, are we barking up the wrong tree demanding science? Is science even doable? Of course I learned some science in my education, but I didn’t necessarily learn the act of science in massage school. Often times what we receive is the outline of science, the puppetry of science, the mimicry of science…not actual science, even from the best and brightest who teach and share knowledge.  I am not saying don’t teach the science aspects, I am saying expecting meta data analysis from someone still trying to figure out where the elbow is, is probably unrealistic.  The results may be as poor and dangerous as pseudoscience.  Maybe what we should be asking for is naturalism…and leave the science to the experts.

Naturalism is defined as: A philosophical viewpoint according to which everything arises from natural properties and causes, and supernatural or spiritual explanations are excluded or discounted. 

Massage therapy lends itself  very well to naturalism. At its base even the most complex thing that I have done with a patient through a rehabilitation is simply mimicking how the body would normally behave in a controlled, suggestive state in the hopes that the body realizes it can keep moving and that it does not need whatever protection or feeling it has produced.  I try to remind the body of its normal function by setting the stage with relaxing/safe elements, and then lead it through passive, active and resisted activities.   And follow up by assigning exercises that will re-enforce that. There are only so many things the body can do. We take the body through these activities in order to start a dialogue. A dialogue with words like – rest, slack, stretch,  move, stimulate, sense, resist and strengthen.  I try to build windows of time where there is an altered signal or decreased signal, so the body can get back to doing what it loves to do…homeostasis. I monitor all of it through range of motion and pain scales. It is not rocket science;) Of course it can get more complex when you start building in limitations and conditions, but at its base its fairly simple.

Science can be a complicated system of testable questions and answers. There are entire systems in place to understand how to correctly ask the questions, let alone address  the answers. Rarely is it simple. It takes years to study, explore and even begin to understand even small parts of it. Naturalism however is beautiful in it’s simplicity. With 500-1000 hours of training and little time to test the application let alone question it, perhaps some of the answers lie there.

Starting with a few simple observations, perhaps we could make a safer, simpler, more ethical massage world. Here are some of the simple statements I keep in mind when practice daily.

  • Relaxation has value and potential.
  • The body is fine the way it is. Homeostasis works. For the most part the body will correct itself naturally, unless disease is present.
  • In the end, all change comes from internal function, not external force *other than trauma
  • Setting the stage for rest and digest may help remind the body that things are ok, which may let the person move more or differently, so they can get back to their normal.
  • Form is not necessarily representative of function.

What are the statement you practice under? More and more I see statements like “the science of massage”. Yet that statement is pretty misleading, when I think about what I do, as I am not really doing anything. I am simply setting the stage for what the body does for itself…naturally. Absolutely there is room for more advanced practitioners in advanced practice settings,  but at the core we need to get comfortable with who we are.

*I want to make a small disclosure here, as to the above statements of rehab. Rehab or rehabilitative exercise falls within the scope of an RMT (Canada). In no way do I advertise the practice of that here in NY, the example is based on my past experiences where it would be very normal for me to work with stroke patients, whiplash patients, etc combining manual therapy, movement and rehab exercise on my own. Your scope will depend on where you practice, and you should follow the local law to that effect.

 

Does your Massage Consent Pass the Peanut Butter and Jelly Test?

Consent, Massage &Peanut Butter & Jelly

*Full disclosure, I believe I learned this exercise in grade school creative writing.

Frequently when talking to clients you may think that you are communicating effectively and giving a great consent when you actually are not. This failing actually massage consenthappens with everyone at some time. People are full of funny little quirks. If you ask them if they understand, they may say yes when they mean no, or you yourself may unintentionally overcomplicate the matter in order to show you understand when you don’t understand. To make things even murkier, lurking below our psychology, the actual words we choose may have a totally different meaning to another person based on the context, their past experience, and the desired outcome.So how do you know if you’re really making sense and connecting on any legitimate level?

I would always advocate for clarity and simplicity of speech, but sometimes even when you think you are being clear you are not.

This recently happened between a staff member and a client. As the mediator, I listened to both sides of the event, and both thought they had clearly communicated their thoughts but both walked away completely at odds with the outcome. So what happened?


 

-The client had expressed that her shoulders were tight and her neck needed work

-After a full intake, the therapist confirmed that she agreed and that she also wanted to work on those areas and described “We have 30 minutes. I would like to spend about 15 min on each area. How does that sound?”

-At the end of the massage the client was unhappy and stated, “Although I thought the massage was quite good, I asked for my neck to be done”

-In talking to the therapist, I learned she had performed a 30 minute massage, with 15 minutes on the shoulders and 15 minutes on the neck, but she had performed the majority of the cervical massage prone, rather than supine because she felt the client was very relaxed and did not wish to ruin that therapeutically. As the client was use to the neck treatment having been performed face up, she assumed it had not been done and left unhappy. 


 

Even though both parties sat down to communicate formally, because of the personal histories they brought to the table, they failed to reach clarity. For reasons like this, and many others, I really recommend putting your consent through the peanut butter and jelly test. It goes like this:

Write instructions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to an alien, who does not know anything about this planet. 

While the task seems simple enough, you will soon find you are going to run into problems when you start critically thinking about things such as:

 

  • What is jelly?
  • What is a plate? What does that look like?
  • What is a knife?
  • How do you determine amounts?
  • What are descriptive terms? What do they mean?

Through this practice, you begin to understand there is a LOT we take for granted in our communication, even when relating to other professionals. Words like ‘massage, trigger point, therapeutic, deep, strong, sports, etc’ may have lots of meaning, some meaning, no meaning, or a different meaning, depending on who you are talking to. So if you think you are communicating clearly or if you suspect that you’re not, try running through the peanut butter and jelly test and see what you are taking for granted.

 

 

What I did not learn about fascia work and massage

UNLEARNING

This blog was inspired by the fact that we spend a lot of time trending hard and obsessing over modalities. We debate whether they are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ and what we as therapists should be doing now.

Recently I talked with a very aggressive young therapist who was willing to alienate many of his current peers and deprive himself from the benefit of their experiences by defending a modality he in fact had no training in, simply because some of his previous peers had deemed it ‘right’. And shortly before that, while training another young man, I told him he might want to do some more research on some of the modalities he was using simply to ensure that they actually did what they said they did. At that point, he became completely confused, afraid to treat, thinking he might be doing something wrong.

It leaves me wondering if, as experienced therapists in the age of easy communication, we are really doing our parts by telling younger therapists what to value and what not to, without letting them see how we got there – because the process is just as important as the result.

With that I give you  ‘What I did not learn about Fascia work 2005’


I did not learn about Rolfing or Tom Myers

I did not learn that it was tearing, stretching or re-modeling

I did not learn to use heavy pressure

I did not learn to go in any one direction or follow a track

I did not learn it as a passive activity

I was not told that it would solve any one problem or kind of pain

I did not learn that it would hurt

 

In fact, what I learned did not have much theory behind it. What we had learned about fascia was imparted to us in anatomy and dissection, where it was labeled ‘the packaging’.

Our instructions and week of practice were demos of our teacher accessing different areas of the body, with different holds, based on the shape of the body, the clients’ complaints, and instructions that our work did not have to look like hers. We were just to find a comfortable way to hold, to move in the direction of ease with the biology, to move slowly and gently, and to ask for feed back.

When the demos were over, we were set free to work on our own. Our instructor went around and helped us with body mechanics for staying in one place for a long time, and showed us how to keep our fingers from digging in and pinching skin.

Some of the work was feather light, as it was around the face. Some of the work was broader, as it was on the leg or arm. None of the work was particularly deep. The methodology she gave us was “see what works for your client, given their comfort, and the shape of the structure or how you can access it.” It was simply another way to ‘get in’ based on the needs of the client.

At the end of the class, when we had worked every part, she added to the list, “Next time you practice, experiment with having the person tense a little under your hand, and then relax. And see what that does….see if that changes things.”

I think that was probably the most important part of the class.

I have been working this way since 2005. I also imagine everyone who was in my graduating class is working that way, and that our instructor learned to work that way from someone before her, and that she had a community of peers that supported her in that work.

It is fantastic that we now know the tensile strength of fascia, but modalities have never been what drives good treatment, they are ONLY an extension of a communication process. I do not know that we are doing young therapists any favors by debating what is right and wrong as far as modalities. In fact it gives the impression that things are black and white, which they are not. There is ONLY what works given the circumstance, and it requires a lot of thinking outside the box often. Young therapists need to be taught to think for themselves about what is plausible, and to listen. I am not so sure that is the impression we are leaving.

 

Plain Jane Consent for Massage

Being Simple For Your Consent For Massage Is A Best Practice That Will Take You Far…

One of the things I believe is really important in health care, for a number of reasons, is that consent not only must be given, but given in a way that clients understand what they are agreeing to. All too often in health care, especially in manual therapy, there is the tendency towards a professional chatter that is trendy , but to the patient really has no meaning. This is one of the places where a patient/client differential might lurk unseen even by someone with the best of intentions.

Frequently in my space we will hear from reception that a client is looking for “fascia work, trigger point or ART”. We have an extensive intake at our location where we actually sit down with patients beforehand, and generally what we find is that MOST people do not actually know what those things are, they are seeking those things based on research, advice, trend or referral.   Typically people do not feel comfortable admitting what they do not know to another person such as in an intake.  Therefore, health care workers must try to provide a safe environment to guide people through letting go of choices that may not fit and making choices that make sense for them.

I always advocate for using medical terms whenever possible when referring to anatomy and professional conduct. However in talking to clients, we have to let go of that vernacular.  Patients are not just there for a massage–they want to understand what is happening to them.   Consent is not consent unless the patient fully understands what they are agreeing to.  When proposing a verbal contract to a client on a path of treatment, we need to speak in plain descriptive language that the person can understand.

With that in mind, I have put together a list of common “modalities and terms” that we use frequently which have virtually no meaning to a client (and sometimes not even to us) along with some suggested substitutions. Remember, I am not trying to describe what is  happening in the body during the modality (some of that is up for grabs anyway), but what the client would anticipate or feel.

Here is a quick example of what I am suggesting.

Rather than saying: ‘So for this treatment, after warm up,  I think we should do about 30 minutes of fascia work and trigger point to the hamstrings’

The practitioner could instead say ‘ What I am suggesting for this treatment is about 10 minutes of warming the tissue, using stroking motions with lotion.   Then what I would like to do is start working the skin by pulling it gently, moving it around and torquing it.  Finally we will progress to some deeper longer holds using firm finger or elbow contact where I am going to focus on the area just above the knee and below the hip

Here are my suggested possible substitutions for industry fluff

Fascia work I am going to preform skin stretching, pulling or traction of surface tissue, torquing of the skin

ART / Pin and Stretch I am going to be holding the muscle and resisting slightly (or pinning it down) while moving it through a range of motion.  Alternatively:  Holding a muscle and pinning it down while you move it thorough a range of motion.

Stretching  I will extend the muscle until you feel tension and hold

PNF stretching / contract relax etc Take you into a position of stretch for the (effected) muscle and then ask you to contract, resist, or pull against me possibly in a sequence

Trigger point I will use sustained pressure into the muscle using fingers, thumbs or elbows.

Lymphatic Drainage Using very gentle pressure, I am going to try to simulate the natural movement of the tissue that would occur with muscle pumping when the body is relaxed.

Deep tissue We can work deep specific. I will listen to your verbal feedback and from what I feel physically, and make adjustments to my pressure as needed.  If there is an area where you feel that you need more pressure, we can specifically target that area.

Distraction- I will gently hold the joint or tissue to create space between the surfaces inside the joint that we cannot see.

And so on, and so forth. If you are a science based practitioner, this  jargon that we use daily  helps keep the waters murky as to what we are actually doing. It’s a best practice to be simple and clear. Plain Jane never had it so good.

 

What if what you thought you knew about Massage was wrong?

FullSizeRender (11)

How do you know you know what you know?

Massage Mythology

 

As therapists, every time we perform our techniques we also engage in a variety of other ritualistic and protocol-oriented tasks. For example; the client comes into the space, they lay down on the table, you dim the lights, you play soft music, you engage in assessment. The client prepares mentally, they expect to be treated, they look forward to the event, they undress carefully because it’s not their room, they are touched in a way they normally not, they become passive and let you move them around. Each one of these actions has a cognitive, proprioceptive, or experiential value. So how do we know which of these actions, in isolation, is responsible for the outcome? Are any of them? Are some of them? Is it you? Is it them? Is it just a perceived outcome?[divider_flat]

The ancient Egyptians believed that the sun was moved across the sky by the god Kephri, who was the great insect god. In their minds, they connected the movement of the sun to that of a dung beetle moving its ball of dung across the sand. So powerful was their belief that the gods moved the sun that they made scarabs (a totem-carved beetle figure to be worn) that were inscribed for both common people and royalty alike. They also believed that the male beetle fashioned his ball of dung as an egg from which he could spontaneously generate a new beetle. With no need for lady beetles, it gave the beetle the power of life. As a result of this strong belief the scarab became the symbol of life in Egypt. (here is some interesting reading about that). In actuality, what was really happening was the female beetle laying its fertilized eggs inside the dung ball. If you asked an ancient Egyptian how they knew these things to be true, they would likely tell you because they can see it. The sun indeed moves across the sky, and the beetle does roll its dung and new beetles spring from it.[divider_flat]

The modern day mythologies we tell ourselves about care are equally as strong. The attachments we have to fascia, triggerpoints, ‘it’s all connected’, and all the various other modalities all carry weight. Therefore we must be careful not to jump to conclusions just because we were taught it, can see it, or feel it. Seeing and feeling does not mean it is true. The problem arises when we seek to fill in the blanks while only holding part of the picture. So ask yourself daily; what is it I actually know about massage and science rather than what I have been taught. Does the sum of the total add up? Or am I creating more mythology to fill in the blanks.[divider_flat]
The body maintains itself reasonably well with contained self management due to some lovely features like homeostasis and feedback loops of various kinds. As therapists, we can work with those concepts, find ways to be a part of them and use treatments that aid them, but it’s unlikely that change is coming from an entirely external source unless that source is a surgeon or internal medicine. For the most part people get better, or they don’t. As manual therapists we could have a great benefit and place in health care as facilitators, but only if we attribute and analyze our outcomes correctly. The dung beetle has an important place in the ecosystem but it certainly does not move the sun or spontaneously create life. I guess my last note is…let’s not be the dung beetle.

Why Getting a Massage In New York Could be Dangerous-Part Two

Massage in New York: Doors open to a Dangerous Act

Getting a massage in New York might be one of the more dangerous things you do with your life. Coming out of the Ontario massage program where massage is firmly entrenched as a full health care position that requires 2200 hours of schooling, I was, and continue to be, horrified with massage in New York. I want to stress that this is not ALL massage in New York, but the problem is it is such a mixed bag that you can’t really trust any massage in New York. Before we enumerate why there are issues, I want to share some of my experiences working and hiring in New York City.

I have worked in some of New York City’s best spas and medical massage locations and now I own my own clinic. Along the way I have met and worked with many therapists in the city. While a good many of them are competent at what they do, a large majority of them do not know the muscles of the body, do not know general red flags, treat beyond scope, treat dangerously within scope, diagnose, pathologize, and in general have some really weird ideas about what massage does and does not do.  I have had therapist do high grade mobilizations in interviews, had them confess no one explained referral pain to them, that they did not know what muscle group the adductors was, that they are cleansing me, that they don’t know how to tell if something is acute or chronic, and a host of other nasties. In general, even those who are competent still have some strange thoughts on treatment, assessment, and scope of practice. Strange since New York has 1000 hrs of education. So where is it going? And what is happening?

First lets start of with what a scope of practice is:

The Scope of Practice describes the procedures, actions, and processes that a healthcare practitioner is permitted to undertake in keeping with the terms of their professional license.

New York State defines massage therapy as:

The practice of the profession of massage therapy is defined as engaging in applying a scientific system of activity to the muscular structure of the human body by means of stroking, kneading, tapping and vibrating with the hands or vibrators for the purpose of improving muscle tone and circulation.

A huge problem they have is their scope of practice. In looking at the above, it would be hard to stay in scope at all since the information provided makes no mention of movement, tendons, ligaments, and the nervous system, to which all of the muscles are connected. It makes no mention of stretching or movement, or home care. The scope also mentions that it is the ‘scientific’ application of massage, however a large portion of any of the New York schools curriculum might actually be made up of Eastern studies, energy work, and quackery. To further complicate things, while it outlines that massage might use stroking, kneading, tapping and vibrating (all well and good) it says that those techniques should be used to improve muscle tone and circulation, which is fairly impossible. I can no more improve muscle tone and circulation(with a few localized exceptions) with massage than I can levitate. If you want improved muscle tone and circulation you should get some exercise. This leaves New York massage in a state where massage therapists are being taught essentially whatever the person teaching them was taught…and that is one giant game of telephone and degraded science, or non-science as the case may be.

In 2010, after sitting the board test here in New York and realizing how different the US and Canadian programs were I wrote this letter to New York State:

“I am not sure if you remember me but I contacted you some two years ago while trying to bring my Ontario, Canada, credentials to NY. …
The reason I am writing, however, is that after working here for some time, I have really had the ability to compare the two standards and see the difference. I wanted to know if there is not some way to get involved with decision making processes about where massage as an industry is going in New York. Healthcare, especially alternative health care, looks to be a booming future industry. After working here, though, I have some concerns about where things are headed. I have met new grads, at very prominent spas who don’t know their anatomy. It concerns me that a therapist can make a decision to work on the arm rather than the JT sprain (that the client complained about) that clearly needs ice or mobilization because it “feels” energetically right’. I find the whole thing dangerous.”

Since then I have become increasingly concerned that the situation is far worse than it seemed at the time.

Even if we ignore the glaring problems with the scope, the inclusion of the eastern education in the standard has opened the doors to a variety of very dangerous problems. For those of you who do not know how eastern or shiatsu massage works, the actual techniques themselves are simple, it’s a combination of touching and stretching. The way the massage is directed is through an assessment just as a science-based massage would have. The difference being that a shiatsu assessment uses the five element theory to figure out where you have an energy imbalance. The five elements are:METAL (lung, large intestine)  WATER (kidney, bladder) WOOD (liver, gallbladder)  FIRE (heart, small intestine, pericardium, small intestine) and  EARTH (spleen, stomach).

It would take into consideration things such as: when you woke from sleep at night , if your eyes are dry, and your emotional state, and then the practitioner would decide based on the element theory and intuition from that information where your imbalance is and treat the energy line that is associated with it. The problem is, however, that is essentially diagnosing someone.  It is completely out of the scope of a massage therapist to diagnose anything. Additionally, because the elements represent internal organs, it leads therapists into believing it’s within their scope to treat them. It is not. A therapist has no business commenting, suggesting or working with your kidney, bladder or heart. (unless it’s to say get thee to a doctor)

All of those elements also have emotional states. Wood is anger, Fire is joy, metal is grief and Earth is worry.  As a theory perhaps it is fine alone, but it opens therapists up to the idea that they should be asking you about your emotions. Massage therapists are not psychologists. They have no business talking to you about your emotional state in any way, shape or form as part of an assessment, or as part of a treatment, other than to refer you out or if a client offers it voluntarily.

It also encourages massage therapists to overlook red flags for treatment because in the context of an Eastern massage, red flags could easily be ignored as its part of the symptoms picture of a specific ‘energy line’ imbalance. As an example someone waking at night in pain (possible sign of cancer) might be looked over as a significant problem because the therapist is so interested to find out ‘what time’ they woke and diagnose it as an imbalance. Or a patient might express grief over a loss of a family member, but rather than get referred out, the therapist might treat it as an imbalance. 

To make matters worse, you, as a consumer really have no choice in the matter. While you, the patient, should have a choice in how you are treated, because this is part of the core education, for most therapists it’s hard for them to separate the science from the fiction. You may only want medical massage but in the context of New York State it would be just as valid for the therapist to work your meridians to treat your knee pain rather than treat, as requested, your knee where the pain is located. As a consumer do you really know what they are doing? Probably not…but it’s all connected, right? Technically you should be taken through a consent process so you know exactly what you’re getting. (but that is a matter for another day)

So whats it all mean? From my point of view its completely unsafe and permissive. New York State is producing healers, not medical professionals. A huge number of the massage population does not know their scope, and does not care, because it was part of their education to be outside of it, provided they were performing in a specific way.  I realize this blog is not going to win me any popularity contests, so in conclusion, I would like to add that there are therapists out there doing great work every day (in all kinds of modalities not just mine- and that includes energy, eastern and what every you offer ), but as a consumer, you can’t tell which ones are which….and that is a problem. The actual system has set the practitioners up to fail, not the educators or the practitioners themselves.