The Team Player
By Gabby Griffiths
Massage therapists have a role to play in the holistic health of their clients but massage therapists don’t have to be all things to all people. We’re part of a team of practitioners.
Let me introduce you to Alex
Alex has been experiencing some tightness and aching through the shoulder blade region and some tingling in the arm and fingers. Sometimes Alex feels a “catch” when moving and a bit of pain that quickly disappears. Some mornings there is a bit of a rubber-band feeling to it, and it has lingered for a few weeks now.
Alex heads off to visit their GP.
The GP trained for years in a number of fields to become a GP. Rather than jump to conclusions or just rely on what they know, the GP tells Alex: “I want you to have a blood test and we’ll organise a stress test and I’d like you to see a massage therapist.”
There will be a number of actions the GP will set into motion, many of which are performed by others that bring their own skills, expertise and experiences onboard, and don’t provide instant solutions at the time of the initial appointment. It’s not all based on filling a prescription and saying take 2 tablets a day and see me in a week if it hasn’t gone away. Alex is familiar with this approach and doesn’t expect a magic wand will be waved to make everything instantly better again.
I appreciate that I have oversimplified this scenario but Alex doesn’t know whether they might be showing signs of a heart attack. Ask Dr Google about arm pain and chest pain and, oh, I’m having a heart attack, right? The GP will test to rule out things because medicine is so good these days. The GP knows what might be concerning from the symptoms and what’s not realistic, and much of the testing and referral today is to eliminate and prevent rather than to treat.
What is really positive to see is that healthcare providers recognise the value of massage therapy in holistic healthcare. If you are still to establish relationships with at least a few GPs in your area, then start paying attention to the names of the doctor your clients are putting on their intake forms, and ask your client whether they want information from their treatment shared with their doctor.
Being part of a global care plan puts the interests of the client first. The efforts of AMT to educate and inform the public and other health professionals about the value and availability of safe, ethical and evidence-informed massage therapy has contributed greatly to the role massage therapy fulfils in daily life activities. Massage assists with so much, from managing stress and pain to restoring normal state and function to compromised tissue.
What massage therapists do need to appreciate is that someone like Alex sees YOU as a professional when they walk into your treatment room. Alex doesn’t expect you to fix everything immediately (although they’d love it if you could!) and appreciates that other factors may need to be addressed by other parties. Alex knows they don’t have the knowledge of why they feel what they do but trusts you to provide what you can. And not what you can’t. Just contribute what you can at your best level.
Alex wants progress with their condition, even if it’s simply knowing the pain isn’t a developing heart attack but tightness through the erectors causing hypertension across the vertebral joints and sending referral pain throughout the body. Likewise, Alex doesn’t want to have factors overlooked. Alex wants information about what’s going on and why, and how to remedy it. Alex wants to be reassured that they’ll be okay.
Know Your Limitations
Your skills will enable you to address some issues but you aren’t going to fix things outside your scope, experience and expertise. (Much like a plumber isn’t going to paint your house if you ring him up and ask him to do it. He’s a plumber, not a painter!) As professionals, massage therapists don’t need to do everything. They don’t even need to do everything related to massage therapy. What a concept!
The pressure to be good at everything is real but remember:
Ask your client what they expect to achieve from their visit to see you today, and then tell them what you can do to achieve that goal. Be realistic about the timeframe and the effort.
I challenge you to find out what happens when you say to your client:
- Pre-treatment – “This is what I understand you’re hoping to achieve.” And “Today we are going to do (treatment plan).”
- Post-treatment – “I’d like you to (post-treatment recommendations, including drawing upon the healthcare wisdom of other professionals) and we’ll see you after that”.
Your clients will return!
As a healthcare professional, value the knowledge and skills you bring to your clients. Nurture and develop them and become really good at them. Appreciate the value of working with other healthcare professionals to incorporate their talents into the welfare of your clients. You will benefit in the holistic healthcare network from fulfilling your role in it, and from taking advantage of what others contribute. Don’t assume that other healthcare providers (GPs, physio, chiro, orthopaedic surgeons, podiatrists, neurologists) don’t value massage therapy, just assume they don’t know about you. Yet. It’s time to introduce yourself.
About the Author
After off-loading a husband, Gabby Griffiths reinvented herself as a remedial massage therapist and lymphatic drainage specialist all while having 3 active and sporty boys to raise. Somehow managing to have too much time on her hands during the Melbourne lockdown, Gabby is currently upskilling as a myotherapist. When looking for a way to avoid study and major assignments, Gabby likes to email article ideas to the AMT blog – she highly recommends you also give it a try (Blog editor also encourages this). Gabby loves her dog, her cat and her garden. Oh, and she loves her kids too.