AMT Chairperson Winter Message

By Michelle McKerron

We are all Massage Therapists. But what makes you different? What captures your attention? What’s your specialty?

I recently renewed my AMT membership online and when I reviewed the details listed about myself in the AMT members section, this is what I have written over the years in my specialties section:

  • Back and Neck Pain
  • Deep Tissue Massage
  • Lower Back Pain
  • Migraine
  • Pregnancy Massage
  • Relaxation Massage
  • Remedial Massage
  • Sports Massage
  • Therapeutic Massage
  • Trigger Point Therapy.

I almost want to laugh out loud at this list. It seems to me that this is actually my life story, in alphabetical order if not an actual timeline. Has my work been affected by my life much? Clearly YES! And it worries me slightly. It doesn’t feel like the wholistic list that I wish I could describe – it looks a little too clinical. But that was how I approached work when I graduated and in many of the years after.

Rare photo from Michelle’s early massage career.

I absolutely loved deep work when I was a young, enthusiastic therapist and so did a lot of my clients. Everyone wanted their back and shoulders and necks done, so I became an ‘expert’ in these areas, as the charts in my clinic and my elbows would attest. Lower back pain was always a favourite thing to tackle, mostly because, after having sciatic issues as a teenager, I understood it ‘from the inside’. I suffered a couple of medication-induced migraines, so that then became my forte. The others are self-explanatory really. Pregnancy massage? Well, I know all about that. Relaxation massage/Remedial Massage – well, of course!

I must say I haven’t updated this list in quite a while, as I notice that hip syndromes, TMJ, anything to do with Teres, and issues like Plantar Fasciitis, aren’t on the list, which I am very fond of treating too.

It could have been stage-of-life, stage-of-work or, most likely, habit, but I found it easy to stay with what I knew from my time at college. A re-education had to, and did, take place for myself and my clientele. Don’t get me wrong, I have not excluded any of these processes from my tool kit, I am just always assessing the need for each a little more closely. Listening to the client to gain insight into how to relate to each individual – on their level – so they understand the why of a treatment session. I still have clients with me who first came to the clinic 20 years ago, who can attest to the gradual but obvious change in my treatments. Which is a testament to good practice because whose body is the same 20 years on?

I have a couple of clients that spring to my mind when I think ‘specialty’.

Determined* has been in training for the Hawaii Ironman over the last couple of years. With a bursitis issue, this is completely exciting to be involved with, as we meet together in the clinical setting and watch in awe as his body deals with added training, ongoing fatigue and occasional setbacks in health or timing. He specifically sees me because we communicate well and his training is complemented by the massage work I do.

Burdened* had a death in the family recently and an elderly relative who needs special care. This on top of an important job in educating our next Australian generation and some health issues of her own. We don’t talk much. The sessions are all about rest and recovery (which includes some beautiful scalp work). The therapist/client relationship is intrinsic to her appreciation of the treatment.

Tough Ol’ Guy* is dealing from muscular dystrophy. He came at his wife’s suggestion/insistence, as his hands were clawing and his calf muscles were disappearing rapidly. There was clearly some degree of ‘I’ve tried everything else, I might as well give this a go’. It took a very long time to build a sincere therapeutic relationship. We learnt the hard way that some skin hates being rubbed, that sometimes people don’t like discomfort in an already uncomfortable life, and that slow techniques are essential in building trust. I now see a client beating the odds, building muscle in places where it is needed for longevity because he is getting to understand his body. After a rocky start, this client would never miss an appointment, and I can confidently say is really content in himself.

Pearl* is 86. She has only had a few visits to see me so far. She is very busy as she visits her husband (who has dementia) twice a day at his residence for meals. During her first appointment, she made the comment, “It is like you are opening a door that has been closed for a very long time”. In each session since, she has spoken great words of encouragement in the same vein. She wishes she had known of the service a long time ago. And she laughs at me when I ask her if she would like to book another appointment, because she can’t imagine missing out on the invigoration she receives with the simple touch I provide her. We plan on tackling her sciatic symptoms next (finally something I am really good at, haha!).

Hang on, I haven’t mentioned a single technique! But actually that’s ok, because you know the techniques I use because you use them too.

It’s great to have a specialty. It focuses you, frees you up to concentrate on, and be, the best you can be in one particular area. And just think through the range of things we get to choose from!

It’s taken a long time for me to work it out but it turns out my specialty is human beings. And I am so excited about the possibilities that presents. My sincere thanks to everyone who has, or will, contribute to my further understanding of the amazingly intricate and wonderful world of the whole human.

*Names have been changed for privacy.

About the Author

Michelle is a wife, mum of four, massage therapist and Manager of a small clinic in Sydney’s south. She doesn’t get bored often. Michelle enjoys watching the AMT membership engage, become mobilised and empowered by the communication capabilities found in social media pages, like this blog.

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  1. Angela Marie Taylor
    22/06/2018 - 6:24 am

    I really really enjoyed reading this article! So truthful and practicle. I also liked that you touched on the ‘why’ component of a treatment.
    I always find myself taking a few moments to see what each body needs from me on a wholistic level and then the words start pouring out of my mouth in relation to why they are here in this moment of massage.

    Once again well done on putting this into words, it’s certainly got me thinking about how I can improve on communicating what makes me special

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