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Massage therapy — from arthritis to migraines, there’s a plan for relief

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Massage therapy — from arthritis to migraines, there’s a plan for relief

By Tribune Content Agency, CareerBuilder

By Erinn Hutkin

Jeff Muskovin’s job is most rewarding when a client has a “Eureka!” moment. The licensed massage therapist has watched a musician return to playing without pain, a marathon runner finish a race with a faster time and no injuries, and a couple with fertility challenges report they’re expecting.

Muskovin, 57, has a private practice in Evanston and also treats clients at Chicago’s Lakeview Athletic Club. He’s trained to understand and help correct pain, tension and circulation issues in the body’s soft tissues, including muscles and tendons.

He works six days a week, seeing 3-8 clients a day. Patients seek out Muskovin for everything from stress reduction and relaxation to relief from restricted movement. Many clients suffer from headaches and neck pain related to working on a computer. Muskovin sees many amateur athletes who need help with muscle injuries and overall conditioning.

“I get to meet interesting people every day, and I get to help make a difference in their lives,” said Muskovin, who trained at the Chicago School of Massage (now Cortiva Institute of Chicago). “Sometimes, it’s simply helping someone learn how to stretch properly after their long runs. Sometimes, it’s a more lengthy, complicated process of helping someone rehabilitate after a serious injury. I enjoy physical work, and I get plenty of that in this profession.”

In fact, said Felicia Tyler, owner of Universal Spa Training Academy, Downers Grove, because the job is so physically demanding, massage therapists can’t — and shouldn’t — work a 40-hour week. Most work 20-30 hours per week.

Some therapists work on contract for chiropractors, treating a certain number of clients per week. Those at day spas see clients for 60- to 90-minute sessions. Self-employed MTs treat clients in an office, at the client’s home, or in the therapist’s home. Universal Spa Training Academy grads have found jobs in health care facilities, hotels and spas, doctor’s offices, even aboard cruise ships, Tyler said.

“Massage therapy is a good career for people who like to work for themselves and have flexible hours,” she noted. “Also, all of your clients are happy to see you and so appreciative of your skills.”

Once licensed, therapists stay current on advancements in the field through continuing education. Reading trade journals and new massage textbooks is also important, as new discoveries are continually being made, Muskovin said.

“You can learn the basics in (about) a year. You’ll spend the rest of your career trying to master the details.”

Massage therapy isn’t just a luxury, Tyler said. It can reduce muscle stiffness and inflammation and improve circulation. It’s also good for people with sore muscles, arthritis, high blood pressure, stress and anxiety. Stress is at the root of many illnesses, Muskovin said.

Therapists can also learn specialized procedures to address fertility issues, digestive problems, breathing restrictions, headaches, tendinitis, joint dislocation and posture issues.

The job comes with challenges. Massage therapists must make clients feel safe and secure enough to be touched. Clients who have unanswered questions or don’t feel comfortable may not be satisfied with treatment, Muskovin said.

Because the work is physical, therapists must stay fit to avoid self-injury. They must also manage their time well to accomplish everything agreed upon within each session, and maintain relationship boundaries, with both parties respecting each other’s privacy.

Nicole Boeger, owner and founder of Radiant Life Massage Therapy, Naperville, said some male therapists have a difficult time starting out. Many men and women are more comfortable with a female therapist. However, some men question the strength of female therapists when it comes to providing effective deep tissue massage, Boeger said.

Massage therapy can be highly gratifying.

After a Swedish massage session, an 82-year-old woman once told Boeger she’d been to spas across the country, but that Boeger was by far the best therapist she’d ever had.

“Nothing can beat the feeling of accomplishment more than that. It’s at that point I know I’m doing something right,” Boeger said. “I live for those moments to help people feel radiant.”

Demand up as more people learn benefits

A massage therapist’s job involves using touch to treat clients’ injuries and enhance wellness. Treatment involves working the soft tissues of the body to relieve pain, help rehabilitate patients from injuries, improve circulation, ease stress and promote relaxation.

On the job, MTs typically talk with clients about their symptoms, medical history and desired results. They evaluate each patient to find painful, tense areas of the body; manipulate muscles or other soft tissues; provide guidance on stretching, strengthening and improving posture; and document clients’ condition and progress.

MTs can specialize in several different types of massage. Swedish massage — the most commonly thought of massage — uses five stroking styles. Deep-tissue massage is more vigorous and often helpful for those with injuries. Sports massage promotes flexibility, reduces fatigue, improves endurance, helps prevent injuries and prepares the body and mind for optimal performance. The type of massage used depends on a client’s needs and physical condition.

Educational requirements vary from state to state. Training is available in private or public postsecondary schools. In Illinois, a massage therapist must complete at least 600 hours of training at an approved school. At Tyler’s academy, students can complete the program in about nine months.

“Most states regulate massage therapy and require massage therapist to have a license or certification,” the BLS notes. Candidates must also undergo a background check, be fingerprinted and pass a national board test.

Many local schools offer massage training, including Universal Spa Training Academy, Downers Grove, and the Cortiva Institute, Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and the Soma Institute, all in Chicago. For a full list, visit http://www.massageschool.org/search/illinois/chicago.html.

A high school diploma or equivalent is usually required for admission. Massage therapy programs typically include both classroom training and hands-on practice, covering topics such as anatomy, physiology (the study of organs and tissues), kinesiology (the study of motion and body mechanics), pathology (the study of disease), business management and ethics.

Most massage therapy schools have a student clinic open to the public at a reduced rate so students can get experience.

According to the BLS, in 2012, 44 states and Washington, D.C., regulated massage therapy. Not all states license massage therapists, but there may be regulations at the local level. In states with massage therapy regulations, workers must be licensed or certified after completing an approved program.

In May 2012, the median annual wage for massage therapists was $35,970, the BLS said. Most earn a combination of wages and tips. Most work part-time (only about 1 in 3 worked full-time in 2012). Most work by appointment, so schedules and work hours vary widely.

Employment is projected to grow 23 percent by 2022, the BLS reports. As more states adopt licensing requirements for therapists, massage is likely to become more accepted as a legitimate therapy to treat pain and improve wellness. Also, as more health care providers understand the benefits of massage, demand likely will increase as massage becomes part of treatment.

 

 

Read more on the Chicago Tribune

 

 

To Be an Employee, a Contractor or Self Employed? That is the Question

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

To Be an Employee, a Contractor or Self Employed? That is the Question

By Angie Patrick

Our industry has a wide array of opportunity for the newly graduated therapist. It also presents a wealth of opportunity for seasoned therapists who may have been hit hard in the past years of economic uncertainty. Recently, I read a survey from the Day Spa Association sharing that 2013 and 2014 have shown some significant increases. It claims the Spa Industry is indeed in growth mode.

This news is indeed encouraging. Moreover, I have had a number of conversations with employers within the spa and wellness industry who claim they are on constant lookout for therapists, as the need of the wellness seeking public outnumbers the quantity of therapist applicants. In one case, I learned that the lack of available therapists caused locations to close rooms and turn away clients as a result of not having enough personnel to cover the demand.

I have spoken to therapists in private practice who also share they could expand their practice, if only there were two of them. They have more need for their services than they have time in the day to assist. This news also sounds encouraging. Could it be that the need for therapists has grown and people understand the importance of massage therapy in their lives, health and well being? It sure sounds like it!

So what does this mean to you? Well, that vastly depends on what your needs are and whether you want the responsibility of running a business, contracting for a company or being hired. These are three very different roles and each has their own perks. I want to share a bit of high level insight as to the potential benefits of each and provide a bit of information to help you decide if one of these options is for you.

Self-Employed

If your personality seems to show a penchant for understanding the ebb and flow of business, social and print marketing, and the importance of the principles of strong money management, then this venue may be for you. As a self-employed therapist, you need to have a solid understanding of what the reality of profitability looks like and a plan on how to make it happen. You will be your own marketer, buyer, scheduler, workforce, accountant and boss. Being your own boss sounds pretty good, but in order to be successful as a solo practitioner, you should really understand it involves far more than being a competent therapist. The responsibilities of the success or failure of your practice rest solely on your shoulders and the rewards are great if you are willing to do all of the jobs above with as much effort and energy as you put into the role of therapist.

Contractor

If taking on the full responsibility of running a business isn’t something that speaks to you, then perhaps you should consider becoming a contractor. In this role, you are still working for yourself, but have contracted your services for a price to another business owner. This provides a bit of autonomy however, you will likely be asked to work a specific schedule which is conducive to the needs of the business owner and not necessarily your need. This may be a good tradeoff for you, as you can leave at any time and are often free to pursue other interests and opportunities at the same time. Additionally, you should be prepared to do the work in the manner the company requires and not necessarily how you would in your own business.

These parameters should be clearly explained and discussed before you enter into a contract agreement so there are no misunderstandings of the expectations. There are perks to being a contractor, such as tax deductions and other economic benefits. These are better explained to you by your accountant and the opportunities may vary by state. Some of the upside may include the ability to deduct business expenses on your own income tax return. These can include office space, mileage, per diem and more. To learn more about the benefits of being a contract employee, please see your local employment bureau.

Employee

If neither of these options seem suited to you or you really do not want the added responsibility of running a business or keeping records of every expense so as to itemize, then perhaps being an employee may be of greater interest to you. The benefits of being employed by a company as a practicing therapist are numerable. Not the least of which, you will be free to concentrate more of your efforts on client care. The marketing, money management and ordering may well have nothing to do with you. You should be prepared for the reality that you will be doing your job in the manner required by the company you work for and it may include retailing and rebooking of the client. This is generally accepted as being the case and many prefer this to the other methods of ownership or contracting.

Occasionally, these positions can offer benefits such as healthcare and 401K. Another perk may be a regular income you can rely upon week after week to better manage your personal expenses. There is a wealth of places looking to hire dependable and talented therapists and the growth of need shows no sign of slowing. The industry as a whole seems to be growing. It has seen its share of difficulty in recent years, as all industries have. The economy has had a great impact on discretionary spending. However, while massage was once considered a luxury or splurge by many, it is now becoming more mainstream and accessible to the public. Certainly now more than ever, preventative healthcare and stress management are more forefront and people are seeking alternatives to the high cost of healthcare.

They are doing this by working to take better care of their body, their mind and spirit in ways they have not done before. They are more inclined to work to stem the causes of long-term illness such as chronic stress, pain and inflammation in ways they would not have considered as little as ten years ago. In doing so, this has created an increased need for properly trained and licensed therapists across the nation. Many larger companies are adopting the philosophy of preventative care, and this too has opened some doors for massage therapists to walk through and build a lucrative career.

You already know you love caring for others. You have a service heart that wants only to provide a means toward greater wellness. You have learned your craft and continue to hone it to become the best therapist you can be. Now, the decision which lies before you is how to go about the business of using these talents to sustain your livelihood and prepare a home for you and your family. I hope the information here may have sparked your interest to investigate further into the various roles you can fill and helps you in finding the space that is right for you.View more of Angie Patrick’s articles at Massage Today.

Preparing your Massage Practice for Winter

Friday, October 25th, 2013

Preparing for Winter
With colder weather on the horizon, it’s time to get your practice and your clients ready for the harsh realities of Winter. Follow these tips to protect your clients from the cold both during their treatment as well as at home.

Preparing your Massage Table
· Invest in a massage table warmer to provide controlled warmth.
· Dress your table with thicker sheets such as NRG Deluxe Flannel Massage Sheets.
· Keep a massage blanket on hand to offer to your client for an additional layer of warmth.

Preparing your Massage Treatments
· Use thicker massage lubricants such as massage creams or body butters to provide a stronger barrier for your clients’ skin against cold weather.

· Offer gentle facial treatments to your clients to combat the dry, dull skin tone that comes with colder climates.
· Provide paraffin treatments for clients concerned about dry skin

Preparing your Clients
Encourage your clients to continue to protect their skin against harsh weather by retailing massage creams and body butters for at-home use. To nourish dry hands and feet, suggest applying a generous coat of cream at night and cover with gloves and socks while they sleep.

preparing-for-winter