It is hard to imagine the practice of massage therapy going through radical changes, given the many thousands of years humans have helped each other with simple manipulation of muscle and bone. How could something so ancient go through a dramatic turn all of a sudden? After all, massage has been evolving for many years. How could it change quickly – and why? And why would massage bother to change at all.
Suffice it to say, it is not the practice of massage that is changing nearly so much as the culture of the massage marketplace. There are revolving massage techniques that come and go, returning with a new name each time. And there is some nominal advancement of old techniques, given the advancements in science that now underscores the profession. The practice of licensing massage therapists is symbolic of the effort to put massage on the table, so to speak, as a healthcare practice. At the same time, the popularity of the so-called esoteric massage therapies continue to confuse the mainstream market, just as licensing has increased the respectability of the profession.
Marketplace forces are seismic, however. Just as massage looked to turn a corner and establish itself as a eco-sensible, holistic trend, the Great Recession came along. It doesn’t matter how respectable you are if your client base is broke and you happen to be an also-ran on their list of healthcare priorities, well behind doctors, drugs and nutrition. Business suffers. And you look less legitimate when you are, in the customer’s eyes, overpriced.
But changes are certainly afoot. The profession has made big strides in validity, so much so that some experts fear that massage has peaked for the short term. Put in simpler terms, now that it is well accepted, reality has set in. A massage is a massage. It doesn’t cure cancer. But in a culture that feels they deserve to be treated well, there are few options that rival the within-reach delirium of a massage.
The marketplace is also catching up with the massage mindset that anticipated the greening of the culture. With much credit going to the Barack Obama administration, healthcare is consider ever more the right of everyone, not just those who can afford it, and you can’t turn around with running into a planet-friendly initiative of one kind or another, be it a solar panel, a wind farm or a farmer’s market in a big city. Obama’s electric car future is not here, yet, but he has put the country on notice. We take global warming seriously or we will not be taken seriously on the world’s stage in terms of commerce or commitment to mankind.
So, where is massage going? In many directions, of course. The eco-friendly or green massage initiative – in massage’s case this is green within green – includes he esoteric, light touch therapies that focus on the body’s energy, which is channeled through the hands. Along with that, green massages can include aroma therapy from candles, incense or tossing herbs on coals.
The marketplace is also growing in other exciting directions. Massage therapists may not enjoy competition from a vastly improved selection of electric tables and chairs, but for many customers, the option is viable.
Like it or not, many nursing homes cannot afford to have a massage therapist on staff around the clock, so they are opting for inexpensive electric massage tables that can service their clients 24/7 and give elderly patients two things they often require: privacy and consistency.
The elderly, once proud of their bodies, go in two directions as they age. Some simply give up on vanity – who needs it, anyway?– and resign themselves to changes in muscle and skin tone. Others become embarrassed by the wrinkles.
Therapists, it should be said, cannot turn back the clock. They cannot UN-invent the advances in electric massage equipment and should learn how to embrace it. After all, the electric coffee maker did not diminish the consumers’ appetite for coffee; it increased it.
One way or another, massage therapy for the elderly is a specialty that has also, pun intended, come of age. As Baby Boomers morph into Burgeoning Geriatrics, there will be a lot of old muscles in need of help in the coming years. That’s also a market that will redefine the profession.
With the economy recovering, health spas will grow in popularity, as well, especially those catering to wealthy clients. Spas, however, are also finding ways to cut back on staff by using group therapy sessions in which clients pair up and give each other massages with an instructor guiding the session. That’s one massage therapist training amateurs, cutting down on the need for licensed professionals. But amateurs, like electric tables, don’t go away of their own accord. They have to be embraced in one form or another.
The best news is that the healthcare profession is growing steadily. It grew consistently through the recession is continuing to do so now. As it does, an entire plethora of cost-effective options is becoming a sub-culture of the medical community. Just as a nutritionist or a dietitian is cheaper than a doctor, so, too, is a masseuse.
Actively, get yourself in the good graces of a healthcare clinic and the referrals could come pouring in. Take a doctor to lunch and discuss referrals. If the marketplace is changing, the profession, like it or not, will have to adapt.