By Sonja A., South St. Paul, MN
I’ve had a plethora of physical ailments since birth.
As an infant, my neck was so weak I couldn’t hold up my head. You should see the pictures. Not cute. My parents, in their infinite wisdom, immediately started taking me to a chiropractor for adjustments and massage therapy. It was the late 1970s so they were pretty cutting edge. I continued regular treatments until I was about 5 years old.
Over the years, I’ve periodically pulled muscles in my neck and back warranting trips back to the chiropractor. During the summer of 2014, I threw out my shoulder during a sneeze. Yes, a sneeze. I’m a mess, remember? It took several months of rehab to get me back to normal. Since then I’ve gone fairly regularly to prevent such a thing from happening again.
A major piece of my recovery from that 2014 injury involved massage. My chiropractic clinic employed three massage therapists. I had my favorite and was always happy when she was working because I knew I would leave relaxed and feeling better. My #2 wasn’t bad either so getting her wasn’t terrible. Then, the unthinkable happened, my #1 was hired away. I was slightly devastated, but if #2 was decent I figured #3 would also be fine. They all had the same training, right?
After making spectacular strides in my recovery over my first two months, Therapist #3 was assigned for my massage. At this point, I was moving well, the pain in my neck and shoulder was fairly nonexistent, and I was so looking forward to getting back to normal. Therapist #3 ruined my progress.
While Therapists #1 and #2 treated not only the problem muscles, but those surrounding them, Therapist #3 dug directly into my problem spot and did nothing else. During my first and only session with her, she dug her elbow so far into my shoulder that I nearly jumped off the table. I had to scream for her to stop. All of my previous progress was ruined and it took me three months to get back to where I’d been before seeing her. I complained to my chiropractor to which he responded that he’d “never gotten complaints about her.” When I asked if she was properly trained, he shrugged and replied, “I assume so.” Not long after this I had to switch clinics because of the daggers Therapist #3 threw at me every time she saw me.
Until that experience, it never occurred to me that a massage therapist wouldn’t know a basic massage technique. I, like many, assumed that each therapist has been vetted before being hired. That one experience has made me very leery of going to just any massage therapist. At my new clinic, I actually asked if their therapists were certified in some way. They are all certified by a national board.
Knowing what I know now as patient, registration for massage therapists is absolutely necessary. As a patient, it gives the peace of mind that your medical professional knows what they’re doing. And, let’s not forget, the bill currently on the table with the Minnesota Legislature is for voluntary registration. This is for the pros who want to elevate their careers and to make the profession more uniform across the state. That makes sense to me.