Massage Therapy: The Dirty Little Secret

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massage-therapy-the-dirty-little-secret - deep-tissueMassage Therapy: The Dirty Little Secret.

Massage Therapy: has it changed after 20 years? Yes and No. Yep, it’ been that long since I graduated massage school in 1997. As a student in school, I remember being told we could rake in $50k a year with only 20 clients a week. They failed to mention the overhead into that calculation. I’d make a bet the schools are still using the $50K model. Okay, so let’s dig into the facts. Massage therapy is more popular and accepted, than ever before, so in that respect, it has changed. Massage is not just a luxury for the pampered, but a medicinal necessity to combat pain and stress. With Massage Envy and others like it popping up all over the country, massage has become more available for all levels of income.

Now for the Dirty Little SecretMassage therapy facts and deep tissue massage

Consider this article written in 2000 by Olivia Crosby, “You’re A What? Massage Therapist“. According to the AMTA in 2000 , almost half massage therapists worked at least 6 hours a week with a median annual earning between $20K and $29K. Okay, that was fifteen years ago. Now fast forward to the AMTA Industry 2015 Fact Sheet: Massage therapists average 20 hours of massage a week to median income of 25K a year.” U S Bureau of Vital Statistics, says, in 2015 the median was $38K. So we will split the difference at $31K. After 15 years we work more hours and only average a whopping $1k more than we did back in 2000. Say, it’s not true! However, to add to these sobering facts, 48% of massage therapists want to work more hours.  So what’s stopping them? I’d venture to guess, their hands. Deep tissue massage will eventually take it’s toll.  Learning to save our hands from deep tissue massage will keep us from being part of these humbling statistics.

My massage therapy career began at the age of 36, and it only took me a few years to figure out, my hands were not going to hold up under that workload. At that time, I was averaging 30 massages or more a week and climbing. Mind you this was only through our season, which started in January and ended by Easter. It was feast or famine, so you never said, no. Over a years time, it averaged out to 20 massages a week. Sadly, this workload would require me to take 3-4 months off over the summer for my hands and body to recover.

Most of the continuing education classes I took in the early years, contributed to my massage therapy success. But it was also responsible for the pain in my hands, neck, and shoulders. My clients loved deep tissue massage, but every season the soreness was intensifying, as I pushed the envelope to 40 or more massages a week. It was crystal clear that the type of continuing education hours I needed for massage needed a fresh coat of paint and new rules. So, a plan developed in my head. From now all continuing education required to meet the criteria that were set forth as follows:

  • Save my Hands from Deep Tissue Massage
  • Pay for It Self.
  • Improve my skills as a massage therapist
  • Include Business courses (this I added later)

This task was not an easy one. There were not many continuing education providers for massage that offered classes that saved your hands, let alone make a return on the investment. Training classes of high quality were around $500. or more for two days of training. Add in $400. for hotel and food, another $500. for flight and car rental plus 4 days off work. The total was about $1500., when all was said and one.

But if there were classes out, I found them and traveled to where ever I needed to. It was expensive for sure, but in the end, the return on my investment more than paid off. Sure every once in a while, I’d fall off the wagon and take a continuing education class that one my therapist friends would talk me into taking. The provider would reiterate the same mantra if I just used proper technique and ate my Wheaties all would be well. It wasn’t. Either it would put more stress on my joints, or it simply didn’t sell. Again, this would increase my resolve to stick to the plan. Eventually, I added business courses to my continuing education massage criteria. No CE’s but invaluable. Here again, there were few business courses offered at that time to massage therapists.

Massage therapy Day Spa Association

Then, I attended the Day Spa Association Conference in Orlando Florida. Not only were business workshops offered, but most were free. In any case, I audited a few of them. Nothing would be lost, except my time. The information I received in those workshops made a huge impact on my business. I was so excited that I called a few of my instructors and we all attended the Day Spa’s major conference in Las Vegas, NV. OMG…we could not get enough. Nothing at the massage conferences we had gone to in previous years offered anything like this. These courses were now quickly added to my list. And after 20 years, they have more than served me well.


Isn’t it time to save your hands? And maybe your massage career? Some things still need to change, as the statistics are sobering. However, it’s not too late to become an exception to the rule. I made the switch early and saved my career. Later, Barefoot Masters® was founded to fill a much-needed niche in the industry. We are still one of just a handful of continuing education developers solely dedicated to the preservation of the hands and body of massage therapists. At first, we concentrated solely on barefoot massage technique but decided not to be single-minded. And this is what sets Barefoot Masters® apart from other providers. Our goal is to offer massage therapists an array of hand-saving modalities. So we expanded our development from Ashiatsu and Fijian massage to include Warm Bamboo Massage, Facial Massage, Stones, Ethics and more to come.

“You can have every you want in live, if you just help other people get what they want.” Zig Ziglar

Interested in saving your hands from deep tissue burn out? Check out our diverse options of massage courses for live, Home Studies or Online. Michelle D. Mace has been a massage therapists for 20 years and is the CEO of Barefoot Masters®. Thanks for your readership.





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