What lead you to a career as a massage therapist?
I first became interested in massage therapy when I was a kid. A friend of the family, who happens to be blind, was going to school to become a massage therapist. At the time there weren’t many massage books written in braille so my mom and I read her textbooks into a tape recorder so that she could study. As she learned more, she practiced new techniques with us, so I learned very young how good massage felt, especially after a soccer game or a long hike. Over the next few years I would massage family and friends and I found out I had a knack for finding muscle tension and helping release it. After I graduated college I was looking for a career where I could make a tangible difference in people’s lives and massage was a natural fit.
People think of massage as physically demanding; while that can be true it’s not the whole story. Massage therapy also requires compassion and intellect. The human neuromusculoskeletal system is immensely complex and dynamic. Our bodies respond as much to reciprocal internal changes as to external stresses and forces. One of the things I find most interesting about massage therapy is piecing through those reciprocal interactions to discover the causes underlying someone’s pain or other negative outcomes and working with them systematically to find a more comfortable and effective balance for their body. Of course, that’s only possible by empathizing deeply with each client: imagining myself in their shoes going through their day in order to have a sense of how they feel and why. Part of what draws me to this career is that massage therapy requires the therapist to bring their whole selves every day.
What is the most rewarding part of your career?
Maybe this is cliché, but like most massage therapists I find a deep satisfaction in helping to take away someone’s pain. To me, it’s all about the clients who walk in hurting and leave feeling great. I also love to see progress over time with clients who come in regularly as we address the causes underlying their pain, especially when it means that they can get back to doing what they love, whether it’s their career or their favorite sport.
What is your favorite type of massage to give? Why?
Most of my work revolves around Deep Tissue Massage and then draws on other modalities when they seems most likely to help my client. One misunderstanding people have about Deep Tissue massage is that it just uses more pressure. The reality is that Deep Tissue uses a set of tools to address the underlying muscles of the body. Sometimes that uses lots of pressure and sometimes very little. I don’t think it should ever be painful in part because the body’s natural response to pain is to increase muscle tension; the opposite of the effect we’re usually going for.
However, most of my sessions use a variety of modalities. I see them as sets of tools that I can draw from in order to facilitate positive change for my clients. My favorite sessions start with concrete and achievable goals: a client who wants their neck to stop hurting every day, who wants to play their instrument again or who wants to be able to sleep through the night. I enjoy the challenge of these sorts of goals.
What is something that no one knows about you?
I don’t talk about it much, but two weeks after I graduated highschool set out to hike the Appalachian Trail. I’m not the fastest hiker ever and I wasn’t trying to set any speed records. It was more about getting out on my own and living with only what I carried with me. I turned 18 on top of Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine, which had a ski lodge at the summit. My longest day was 26 miles, over two mountains with 40 lbs on my back and I did it to get to the trailhead in order to get to a concert in Knoxville.
What do you enjoy doing with your free time?
Usually I just hang out with friends or watch something to relax. I also have a personal yoga practice that keeps my body going. During the summer I like biking and over the winter I’m looking forward to snowboarding again.