massage for tension headaches

How Massage Therapy Can Help Solve Tension Headaches 

For many people, a tension headache acts something like a “check engine” light: it’s your body telling you that something is off balance, and you should stop and pay attention.  

Anything that puts extra strain on the muscles of the neck, back, shoulders, and face can be the culprit. Not enough sleep, too much caffeine, grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw, dehydration; all these things can cause stress in your body and contribute to a tension headache.  

Massage on its own can be effective treatment for relieving the cause and symptoms of tension headaches. By both addressing the stressors and emotional issues causing the headaches and by targeting tense muscles and joints, massage by a great Registered Massage Therapist may help you kick your tension headaches to the curb for good. 

I get headaches all the time. Are they tension headaches?  

While only your physician can officially diagnose the type of headache that’s plaguing you, a good look at your activities and habits and the symptoms of your headache can narrow it down. A tension headache usually presents the following symptoms: 

  •       The sensation of tightness around your head 
  •       Mild to moderate pain 
  •       Pressure in the forehead, sides of the head, or back of the head 
  •       Tender shoulder and neck muscles 
  •       Tender scalp 

Tension headaches are a very common type of headache. They fall into two categories: chronic or episodic. If you suffer from tension headaches for 15 or more days each month for at least three months, you are likely to be suffering from chronic tension headaches. Episodic tension headaches are less frequent and tend to last for a shorter time (anywhere from half an hour to a full week). Regardless of the length of time, tension headaches are no fun!  

There are some symptoms that could indicate a more severe condition. If you experience any of these, contact your doctor right away: 

  • The headache comes on quickly and is severe 
  • The headache is paired with a stiff neck, mental fogginess or confusion, double vision, fever, seizures, weakness or numbness or slurred speech. 
  • The headache starts after a head injury and gets worse rather than better over time 

Why do we get tension headaches? 

There’s no single cause of tension headaches, and what triggers this kind of pain varies from person to person. However, the most common causes include physical and emotional stress and postural dysfunction. 

Can massage therapy help? 

By increasing blood flow and soothing inflamed tissue, massage therapy can be just as effective as pain-relieving drugs to reduce and eliminate muscle tension, neck pain, headache pain and of course, the symptoms of a tension headache. Unlike popping a pill, which only temporarily stops the discomfort, massage therapy can address the root physiological cause. An RMT will be able to offer a few different options for your massage treatments. 

A qualified RMT has been trained in an accredited program that has covered massage therapy in depth. This includes identification of muscle groups, fascia, pressure points, joints and more. They know how to create a personalized treatment for you, based on your symptoms, sensitivities, and health history. They can also teach you ways to prevent or treat your headache symptoms at home, such as stretches and self-massage techniques. 

How does an RMT treat tension headaches? 

Relaxation massage 

Relaxation massage doesn’t get the respect it deserves. A good relaxation massage is a treat; it feels so good, it’s easy to forget that it is also therapeutic. In fact, nothing beats a tension headache like a relaxation massage!  

Relaxation massage, sometimes called Swedish massage, is very effective for reducing tension headache symptoms because of the way it affects the parasympathetic nervous system and balances the levels of key hormones. Massage therapy boosts your levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin (one of the reasons why you feel relaxed and sleepy during and after a massage!). Massage also reduces the level of cortisol in your body. Since cortisol (a stress hormone) is a major contributor to tension headaches, this can make a huge difference for your symptoms.  

Deep tissue massage 

Your RMT can use specialized deep tissue massage techniques to treat the muscles of your upper back, neck, head, and face—the trapezius and suboccipital muscles in particular. For many people, these two muscle groups are the ones that hold onto the brunt of the tension in their body. The suboccipitals are the muscles that create that feeling of having a tight band around your head during a tension headache. Reducing tension and adhesions in these muscles can go a long way towards solving your headache woes. 

Facial Massage 

Most RMTs will incorporate a facial massage into a tension headache treatment. Their main target will be the masseter muscle on either side of your jaw. The masseters connect your jaw to your cheekbones—they are the ones you flex when you clench your jaw. They’re powerful; in fact, by weight, the masseters are the strongest muscles in the body.  

These are often the first muscles to tighten up and trigger a headache. Masseters become (and remain) tense because of teeth grinding (bruxism), conscious tensing of the jaw, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD), or during periods of sleep apnea. For some sufferers, releasing the tension in these muscles will be enough to chase a tension headache away.  

When massaging your face, your RMT will apply very gentle pressure and use small, precise strokes. The muscles of the face are small and close to the surface, so it doesn’t take much to have a huge impact. 

Trigger Point Release 

Trigger points are tight, painful adhesions within your muscles and fascia. They are very tender to the touch, and often create what’s called “referred pain”—pain that shows up elsewhere along the muscle. Activating a trigger point can cause tingling, prickling, burning, numbness, and even cause the muscle to twitch.  

If you’re suffering from headaches caused by tension in your shoulders, neck, head, and face, there’s a good chance you’ve got trigger points in at least a few of those muscles and would benefit from a trigger point treatment. 

Trigger point therapy is a technique that your RMT will incorporate into your therapeutic massage treatment as they go. When they locate a trigger point, they will apply a combination of techniques and massage strokes to deactivate it. If you’ve never had trigger point work done, you’ll be amazed by the immediate relief it can offer. But be warned: trigger point therapy can be uncomfortable and even painful while it’s happening, and may cause some short-term soreness.  

If you’re suffering from tension headaches, why don’t you give massage therapy a try by visiting one of our student clinics in Edmonton and Calgary? Each appointment includes an assessment, a 60-minute massage from one of our talented and qualified students, and a short homecare consultation—all for only $35. Book online today! 

Preliminary Accreditation Granted Seal of the CMTCA

Preliminary Accreditation Granted Seal of the CMTCA

MH Vicars School of Massage Therapy is proud to announce that we have been granted Preliminary Accreditation status from the Canadian Massage Therapy Council for Accreditation. 

This status is an important milestone for our school, our students, and the massage therapy profession in Alberta.  

“I’m so proud of our faculty and staff,” says Maryhelen Vicars, the school’s founder and president. “We have been working towards this goal for several years, and the high score we achieved at this stage is a welcome confirmation of the quality of our program.”  

What is CMTCA accreditation? What is preliminary accreditation?  

The Canadian Massage Therapy Council for Accreditation (CMTCA) is an independent agency that evaluates massage programs across the country to determine whether they meet rigorous curriculum and delivery standards. 

The CMTCA evaluation rates a school’s performance in seven important categories: curriculum content; faculty and learning; student support; leadership and administration; human resources; resources and infrastructure; and quality improvement. Each category is broken down further into multiple criteria—95 in total.  

Schools start by applying for preliminary accreditation. This is a rigorous process that involves gathering documentation and evidence for all the criteria. The school’s written submission is then independently reviewed by three trained CMTCA surveyors.  

Now that we have preliminary accreditation status, the next step is full accreditation, which involves a scheduled site visit from CMTCA surveyors. We are one of only two private massage therapy colleges in Alberta to have earned preliminary accreditation status. The massage therapy program at Lethbridge College, a publicly funded college, is the only massage program in Alberta with full accreditation. 

Preparing the application was a team effort led by Executive Director Sarah Ward-Bakken and Curriculum Coordinator Linda McGeachy. The whole team spent many hundreds of hours on the project, reviewing each standard and gathering detailed evidence of how our program meets the criteria. 

“Applying for accreditation gave us the opportunity to examine each aspect of the program in great depth and detail,” says Linda. “Receiving preliminary accreditation has made me more confident than ever that the school is offering comprehensive, well-rounded training that is second-to-none in Canada. 

“Accreditation is about making sure that best practices in massage therapy education are upheld, and that schools continue to invest in quality improvement,” Sarah added. “It ensures that graduates are knowledgeable, competent, safe, and ethical.” 

Why does CMTCA accreditation matter?

Program accreditation through the CMTCA is a way for massage therapy programs to demonstrate that they meet Canada’s national program standards. In provinces where massage therapy is a regulated health care profession, standards are mandatory and so accreditation is essential.  

Massage therapy is not regulated in Alberta and there’s no universal education standard. But in our eyes, that makes independent approval processes like CMTCA accreditation and the MTAA school approval program list more important, not less. 

“We have never been about meeting minimum requirements,” says Maryhelen. “It’s unfortunate for the profession, and for Alberta massage students, that this kind of consistent, evidence-based education isn’t already mandatory for Alberta massage schools. But I’m proud to be able to offer it for our students. 

“From the very beginning, our school has been committed to meeting the highest standards of massage therapy education,” she says. “Back in 2012 when the regulated provinces first agreed on a standard for what all students should learn before they are ready to practice, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. In many areas, we were already compliant. Where the expectations were higher, we spent the time and money needed to make sure we met them. 

“We had the same attitude when the CMTCA started accepting applications from Alberta schools. We jumped at the chance to prove ourselves.” 

The more schools that choose to get accredited, the higher the quality of massage education in Alberta will be overall. This will improve outcomes for clients and help strengthen the reputation of massage as a valuable health care profession.  

What does this mean for current and future Vicars students?

The most important thing for current and future Vicars students to take away from today’s news is that their massage education meets the highest national standards, and that they can be confident that they are on their way to becoming skilled, effective, and successful health care professionals. The day-to-day experience of being a Vicars student hasn’t changed. This new status from the CMTCA is simply recognition from independent experts that what we’re doing works.  

There will be practical benefits, too, of course: many clients and employers already show preferences for therapists from specific schools, and this will set our graduates apart even more.  

We expect that the accreditation process will have the greatest impact on our students who plan to work in regulated provinces after they graduate. The details will depend on when we are able to schedule our site visit for full accreditation, and on the policies of the regulatory college in question. Overall, we expect that our current status, and eventual full accreditation status, will open many doors for our students in other jurisdictions.

Benefits of Geriatric Massage

From Reducing Pain to Improving Balance, Massage Has Big Benefits for Older Adults

To get older is a privilege. But it’s not always comfortable—years of adventure take their toll on the body and on the mind. As the decades add up,are so do the aches and pains. 

To care for a person as they get older is a privilege, too. Working with elderly clients is a rewarding and challenging opportunity for thoughtful, compassionate massage therapists. Massage therapy offers a wide range of benefits for geriatric patients. 

And because the Canadian population is aging, the demand for RMTs who have experience treating older clients is growing. As of 2020, almost 20% of all Canadians were 65 years old or older, and this percentage is expected to continue rising. Many of these people have been getting massages regularly for years, while some are new to massage but likely to seek it out as their needs change. 

What is geriatric massage and what is it good for? 

Older people visit their massage therapist for the same reason as everyone else does: to maintain or improve their physical and mental health so that they can enjoy a full life and do the things they love. 

Geriatric massage therapy is the modification of fundamental massage therapy principles, techniques, and treatments to meet the specialized needs of older clients. 

Most statistical research (like the census) defines elderly people or seniors as people who are 65 years old or older. But anyone who’s ever had an 80-year-old power walker breeze past them on the trail knows that age is just a number. Nobody experiences aging in the same way, and how many candles there are on your birthday cake doesn’t determine how healthy you are. 

A well-trained massage therapist will assess and treat their clients based on their individual needs and circumstances. As people age—particularly from the mid-60s on—their bodies change and so do their massage therapy needs. 

Even healthy older people experience changes like decreased bone density and loss of muscle mass. To accommodate these needs, the RMT can adapt many parts of the treatment, including types of strokes, body positioning, pressure, and length of treatment. 

As people age, they also become more prone to certain conditions and illnesses. Again, a good massage therapist has the knowledge and the skills to adapt their treatment accordingly. For example, they will be able to position someone with osteoporosis so that they’re comfortable, and know what areas require lighter pressure. 

And the RMT’s expertise goes beyond just knowing how to adapt a treatment for comfort and safety. The general benefits of massage therapy can make a huge difference in quality of life for older people, and massage can treat many of the conditions associated with aging. 

Massage therapy can: 

  • Increase range of motion and joint mobility 
  • Reduce anxiety and depression 
  • Improve vitality and reported quality of life 
  • Decrease pain and stiffness and improve joint function in osteoarthritis patients 
  • Reduce agitation, stress, and restlessness and improve communication skills in patients with dementia 
  • Improved sleep and improved activities of daily living in patients with Parkinson disease 
  • Decrease pain and improve recovery after surgery, including cardiac surgery and joint replacement surgery 

The mental health benefits of therapeutic touch are well-documented too, especially for seniors who live alone or in long-term care facilities. 

Why pursue a career in geriatric massage? 

There are as many reasons to become a massage therapist as there are massage therapists in the world. The students who pass through our doors at MH Vicars School share their inspirations and goals with us, and they’re as specific and individual as our students are. But there are common threads, too: many students have experienced the transformative effects of good massage therapy for themselves and want to be able to share those benefits with others; many want to a flexible career that will allow them to balance work and family, and they all want an active career working face-to-face with others. 

But the number one thing that every MH Vicars student and graduate has in common is a powerful desire to help others. Massage therapy is about healing. Every day and every client is an opportunity to make a difference. 

Practicing geriatric massage can be challenging, and it takes patience and compassion. But it’s also immensely rewarding. Because older people tend to have more complex medical needs than younger clients, the benefits they get from massage can be especially important. By helping your client sleep better, regain their range of motion, or feel less isolated, you can transform their quality of life and help them stay active and independent. 

The population of Canadians who are 65+ are an incredibly diverse group, and as a result geriatric massage is a diverse field. Some RMTs will go out of their way to develop an elderly client base and regularly visit long-term care and supportive living facilities as well as marketing to an older client base. Other therapists keep their practices more general but have the training to provide safe and effective treatments for their elderly clients. 

Vicars students learn geriatric massage, as well how to assess and treat a wide variety of conditions and diseases that are common in older adults. Our students work with clients of all ages at our supervised practicum clinics on campus. The school also organizes clinic visits to long-term care facilities in Edmonton and Calgary. 

If you aspire to help others live their best lives—at every age—massage training may be the perfect fit for you. We offer a unique blended-learning format to make training with us as convenient as possible. Speak to our knowledgeable Admissions team at 1-866-491-0574, or  RSVP to our live virtual open house to learn more about our Edmonton and Calgary massage therapy school campuses. 

massage and mental health

From Depression to PTSD, Massage Therapists Can Play a Key Role in Mental Health Care

When your neck is stiff after too many hours working at the computer, or a long run left your hamstrings screaming, you pick up the phone and call your favourite RMT. After all, registered massage therapists are known for their power to heal our bodies. But their ability to improve our mental health is just as impressive. 

Massage therapy can provide significant mental health benefits, and even help people with serious mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. 

Therapists and clients have always known that massage is good for our mental health, and the scientific evidence is catching up.Research has shown that massage therapy can reduce anxiety, depression, and stress in a wide variety of conditions; promote feelings of emotional well-being and promote a healthy mind-body connection; and even improve outcomes for people receiving medical treatment for serious mental health disorders. 

A Complementary Mental Health Treatment That’s Backed by Research 

Massage is not a replacement for specialized mental health care from a medical professional. But as an adjunct or complementary therapy, it can make a huge difference. Massage therapy can be added to almost anyone’s wellness regimen, whether they’re suffering from a mental illness, experiencing psychological effects of a physical condition, or just feeling run down by the stresses of day-to-day life. 

Our minds and our bodies are connected, and that means that what’s happening with our mental health can affect the rest of our bodies and vice versa. Some mental illnesses have physical symptoms. And it’s common for people who are suffering from pain and physical ailments to experience depression, stress, and other mental health symptoms as a result. 

Many of the physical effects of massage therapy can improve mental well-being. These include lowering the heart rate and reducing blood pressure, reducing pain, improving sleep, and stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system (also known as the “rest and digest” response, it’s the calming counterpart to the “fight or flight” response).  

The impact of massage on hormone levels is particularly important. Massage increases serotonin which regulates mood and sleep, and reduces cortisol, the so-called “stress hormone.” All of this means that massage increases relaxation and reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have even shown that massage increases blood flow in areas of the brain associated with mood and stress regulation. 

People with a wide range of mental health disorders and related conditions can benefit from including massage from a trained professional in their health routine. These include: 

Anyone experiencing symptoms of one or more of these issues should contact a medical professional. Before booking your massage, confirm with the RMT that they have been trained in how to treat your symptoms or condition. You can do this by asking them directly, or if you’re not comfortable with that you can ask friends or people on your health care team to recommend an RMT. 

Working Together to Create a Unique Treatment Plan 

The mental health benefits of massage therapy appear to be the result of a combination of both physiological and psychological factors. The intangible aspects of the therapeutic relationship between RMT and client—empathy, trust, and respect—seem to be particularly important. 

A good therapist will create a safe and calm environment for all their clients, where there’s no pressure, judgment, or stress. They will help their clients maintain healthy boundaries and will remain within their own scope of practice as well. This strong therapeutic relationship is the foundation every massage treatment, and there’s evidence that these intangible aspects of getting a massage—the empathy, trust, and respect between client and therapist—have tangible benefits for the client’s mental health. 

In some ways, treating a client for their mental health concerns is a lot like treating a client who comes in with physical aches and pains. A well-trained massage therapist never performs a one-size-fits-all treatment. Instead, they begin with an interview and an assessment and follow a customized treatment plan based on the client’s needs and goals. 

Effective massage treatment is always a collaboration between the client and the therapist, but this is especially true when it comes to treating clients who are struggling with their mental health. The RMT will work with the client to ensure that they create a safe and welcoming treatment environment. The therapist will explain the treatment plan before they begin and continue to check in throughout the appointment. They’ll also pay attention to non-verbal cues like muscle tension and breathing patterns to make sure that their client stays in their comfort zone. 

As a student at Vicars, you’ll be able to develop a rewarding career providing hands-on care to clients suffering from mental health disorders. As new research shows just how much of an impact massage therapy can have on a person’s mental and physical health, massage therapists will more in demand than ever before. If you’ve always wanted a career where you can really make a difference, speak to our friendly admissions team at 1-866-491-0574 or RSVP for our next online open house to learn more! 

massage therapy classes at MH Vicars

A Career in Massage Therapy Can Provide Many Ideal Job Options

Have you ever said to yourself “one day, I’ll have more time for myself?” If you’re a shift worker or you’ve been stuck in the 9-5 rat race for too many years, it may be time to consider all the benefits of a career in massage therapy. Whether you dream of owning your own business or want to work flexible hours in a clinic, being a massage therapist can take you there. Go to massage therapy school, and you can build the career and the life that you’ve always wanted.

With Massage Therapy Education at MH Vicars, Your New Lifestyle Can Start Right Away

The right massage therapy training will not only prepare you for a flexible career – it will allow you to balance your work, life, and education while you’re a student. At MH Vicars School, you’ll be in control of your own schedule as soon as you register to be a student at either our Edmonton or Calgary campuses. Our full-time program is delivered through an accessible blended learning format. This means you don’t need to give up all your other responsibilities while you train with us.

You will have four full in-class days per month (you can choose the schedule that will work best for you). When you’re on campus, you’ll work closely with your instructors and classmates as you learn hands-on skills in the lab and hone all the skills you’ll need to become a successful RMT. Then you’ll spend an average of 30 hours per week on your independent-study work from the comfort of your own hoome. You’ll still be connected to your classmates and our expert instructors, but you’ll have complete control of your schedule.massage therapy classes at MH Vicars

You can even get a head start on your education, to give yourself extra time during the school year. As soon as you register for classes, you can start work on our core science courses online.

Massage Therapy School Provides a Variety of Career Opportunities

Our therapists choose MH Vicars because they want a career where they can truly help others, while working in an environment that suits their needs. Many of our graduates work in dedicated massage therapy clinics, either by themselves or with a team of other RMTs. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg: you will find our graduates in a variety of settings across Canada and the world. Here are some massage therapy settings you might not have considered:

Home-based business

Say goodbye to rush hour traffic – your new commute to work could be walking down your hallway! When you consider the advantages of a home-based massage therapy business, it’s no surprise that so many MH Vicars graduates choose to set up a clinic in their own home.

When you have a clinic in your home, you have complete control over your schedule and your space and reduce your overhead costs. Your clients will appreciate the calm atmosphere, privacy, and convenience. And because you can offer appointments outside of standard office hours, you can attract clients who work shifts or have 9-5 jobs and struggle to find a massage clinic open when they need it.

Of course, this option doesn’t work for everyone, or for every home. In order to have a successful clinic from your home, you need to have a dedicated treatment space and appropriate bathroom and laundry facilities.

A mobile massage clinic

The only thing better than a massage, is a massage that comes to you! If you want to be able to treat a wide variety of clients in diverse settings, being a mobile massage therapist could be the answer. As a mobile RMT, you pack up your massage table or massage chair and treat your clients where they are. The options are endless: you could set up a clinic room at an extended care facility once a week, visit your clients in their homes, or be hired by a business to give chair massages to their employees. And because it’s so flexible, you can offer mobile massage therapy services and still have a regular clinic space for your clients to visit.

Physiotherapy clinics

Physiotherapy and massage therapy are both incredibly effective pain management and recovery practices. The two therapies have a lot in common. Both massage therapists and physiotherapists have an in-depth knowledge of the body and its systems, and use specialized hands-on techniques to treat their clients. But there are also some big differences between physio and massage, and they aren’t interchangeable. The two professions have different training, and use different techniques – which is why they complement each other so well when combined in the same clinic! By partnering up with a physiotherapist in a shared clinic or wellness centre, you will be able to provide your clients with comprehensive care to help them prevent and treat injuries, and maintain peak physical and mental health.

Chiropractic clinics

Chiropractors and RMTs frequently work side-by-side assisting clients with recovery from physical strain and injuries resulting from auto accidents, postural dysfunction, and more. A chiropractor performs the physical adjustments, and the massage therapist works on the soft tissues that have been working overtime to compensate for any misalignment.

Multi-disciplinary wellness clinics

Chiros and physios aren’t the only professions that sync up well with massage therapy. One way that many massage therapists find success is by working out of a multi-disciplinary clinic that offers a wide variety of therapeutic services. Practitioners that partner well with massage therapy include doctors, acupuncturists, naturopaths, midwives and doulas, osteopaths, and more.

Your clients will appreciate the opportunity to have so many of their health need met under one roof. And for you and your colleagues, having shared practices means that you’ll have a constant source of referrals, plenty of professional support, and the ability to share the space and equipment costs.

Long-term care homes and extended care facilities

A lifetime of wear and tear takes a toll on the human body. So it’s no surprise massage therapy is in high demand with older adults. Geriatric massage is an adaptation of relaxation and therapeutic massage techniques to meet the specialized needs of elderly clients. It lowers stress, improves sleep, reduces the symptoms of arthritis and chronic pain, improves circulation, and more. Massage has even been shown to help people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Not all of your elderly clients will be able to visit you at your own clinic. But you can go to them. Many long-term care homes and seniors residences will have an in-house massage therapist, or have a mobile massage therapist visit regularly.

Hospice facilities

Hospice care isn’t always at the top of mind for potential RMTs. However, when you consider the long list of positive effects of a professional-quality massage, it makes perfect sense. In a hospice, the goal is to provide comfort and serenity as the patient transitions into end-of-life stages: providing a gentle soothing massage to complement any pain medications, keep the muscles relaxed and help to reduce physical and mental suffering.

Rehabilitation Centres

Massage therapy has been gaining attention for the role it could potentially play in assisting with detox and addiction programs. Remarkably effective in calming the mind and relieving tension, massage stimulates the skin, which results in the body’s central nervous system sending out dopamine (the happiness hormone). This dopamine release can help with stress and anxiety for a patient who has been admitted to a rehabilitation centre, provide an increase in self-awareness and allow the person who is working on kicking their addiction a peaceful time where they can passively receive positive stimulation.

Massage therapy training at MH Vicars can open so many doors, no matter where and when you’d like to practice. For more information about, call our friendly admissions team toll-free at 1-866-491-0574. or book an interactive virtual tour today!

prenatal and postpartum massage

Massage is Highly Beneficial for Expectant and New Moms

Becoming a mother is a beautiful thing. 

Any parent can tell you that welcoming a child into your family will change your entire life. But if you’re the one giving birth to that child, it will also change your entire body. While this process is also beautiful, it comes with its fair share of discomfort and even pain. Luckily, massage therapy can help! 

What’s so special about pregnancy massage?

If you’re asking that question, you’ve probably never been pregnant! Any expectant mother can tell you how wonderful it feels to get off your feet and have someone gently massage your aching muscles. But when it comes to the benefits of pregnancy massage, a chance for a rest is just the tip of the iceberg. 

A good massage therapist knows how to accommodate the individual needs of all of their clients, at every stage of life and health – including pregnancy and the postpartum period. They are able to modify the treatment to make sure that the massage is enjoyable, safe, and effective for both mother and baby. 

7 Excellent Benefits of Massage During Pregnancy

Easing aching muscles

Carrying a growing baby is hard work and affects how you move, so tight, aching muscles are almost inevitable. Your massage therapist can really help release tightness and soothe painful muscles.

Improving circulation and reducing swelling and edema

Pregnant women often experience swelling in their feet, ankles, and legs. This can be caused by fluid retention and the uterus putting pressure on major blood vessels. Pregnancy also causes an increase in blood volume. Massage therapy during pregnancy can improve circulation and help reduce uncomfortable swelling.

Swelling during pregnancy can be more than just uncomfortable, though. In rare cases, it can be a symptom of pre-eclampsia (pregnancy-induced hypertension). Massage therapists are not qualified to formally diagnose medical conditions like pre-eclampsia. But they are trained to screen their clients for symptoms and conditions that can determine whether it’s safe to perform massage; we call these “indications and contraindications.” Because of this training, your massage therapist can help you monitor your edema symptoms and may recommend that you see your doctor.

Minimizing stress on the sciatic nerve and reducing back pain

The pressure and weight of the uterus, with its developing baby and amniotic fluids can cause back and sciatic nerve pain, depending on the baby’s positioning. The sciatic nerve is a major nerve that passes through the buttock, through the thigh and into the foot and heel. Because it is such a large nerve, sciatic pain radiates through these areas and that pain can be debilitating. Gentle massage can help to relieve compression and inflammation of the sciatic nerve and affected areas.

Increasing energy and reducing stress

Prenatal massage can help boost energy by gently stimulating the nervous system and increasing levels of the “happiness hormones,” serotonin and dopamine. Massage has also been shown to decrease levels of cortisol and norepinephrine, hormones related to stress.

In addition to helping regulate your mood, stabilizing these hormones can improve your cardiovascular health and can even improve fetal health.

Reducing tension and headaches

Changes in posture, fluctuating hormones, and additional stress over the impending arrival can cause extra tension and headaches. Massage therapy can be very effective in reducing these symptoms.

Easing  foot and leg cramps

For many pregnant women, waking up in the middle of the night with foot and leg cramps is common. Massage can help reduce or eliminate these involuntary muscle contractions by gently stretching and exercising the muscles of the legs and feet.

Promoting general wellbeing

Getting ready to welcome a new family member can be overwhelming. Along with all the emotional and physical changes you’re going through, there are a million things to do to prepare for the baby. It’s easy to only think about the baby’s needs and forget about your own. Getting a massage can be the perfect way to take some time for yourself. 

Post-partum: Massage during the ‘Fourth Trimester’

Being able to hold your baby in your arms is a wonderful moment and the beginning of a new era for you and your family. But giving birth doesn’t mean that your body’s hard work is over. 

The post-partum period can feel like as much of a roller coaster ride for your body as pregnancy itself. As you are recovering from the physical ordeal of giving birth, your body is beginning to reverse some of the changes it made while you were pregnant. And all of this is happening while you’re busy caring for and feeding an infant! It’s no wonder that many people have begun to refer to the first weeks or months after giving birth as the “fourth trimester.” 

So even though you might feel like you have no time or energy to spare on anything other than feeding, changing, and loving your newborn, it’s important to take some time to look after yourself in this period, too. And that means continuing to visit your massage therapist. 

Just like during your pregnancy, your massage therapist will do everything they can to make sure that you’re comfortable during your post-partum treatments. If you’re not comfortable lying on your stomach, they can use pillows and special bolsters to support your body and have you lay on your side or your back instead. They will continue to tailor their techniques and pressure to your body’s needs. 

5 Excellent Benefits of Postpartum Massage

Helping relieve tension and stress from delivery

Birth is extremely hard work! Even the shortest and easiest labour puts a lot of strain on your body and can cause both physical and emotional stress. It’s very common to feel residual tension after giving birth. A specialized post-partum massage can help to soothe any musculoskeletal pain and help your body and mind recover from the stresses of childbirth.

Helping with arm, neck,and shoulder tension from feeding and holding your infant

No matter how careful you are and how fit you were before you became a parent being a new mother can really do a number on your arms, shoulders, and neck. Feeding one-sided, the constant lifting and carrying, hauling around a diaper bag…there’s no end to the list of reasons you’ll need a massage. Your massage therapist can target these areas to reduce pain and improve range of motion.

Helping clear excess fluids and postpartum swelling

A normal part of postpartum life, swelling (or edema) occurs when your body releases all the fluid retained while preparing for childbirth. Massage therapy can help speed up this elimination of fluid using special techniques like manual lymphatic drainage to help the fluid shift from the extremities.

Helping promote milk production via stress reduction and production of prolactin

Breast milk production is regulated by a complex combination of hormones in your body, including prolactin, oxytocin, and cortisol. Stress relief is one of the most well-known benefits of massage therapy. But did you know that by reducing stress, getting a massage could help increase your milk production? This is because stress is the “number one killer of breastmilk supply.” Massage therapy can lower your levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.  There is also some evidence that massage therapy can increase prolactin levels.

Helping you regain proper posture and body mechanics

This will be one of the long-term treatment goals that you and your massage therapist will work towards after your pregnancy. Pregnancy, labour, and being a new mother all take their toll on your body. With targeted massage treatments and personal homecare recommendations (including self-massage techniques), your massage therapist will help your body get back to full strength, so you can enjoy every moment with your new baby! 

Pregnancy and postpartum or postnatal massage has so many benefits for an expectant and new mother. Both mother and baby can benefit from receiving regular treatments from a licensed massage therapist. At MH Vicars School of Massage Therapy, you can train to become a registered massage therapist for a flexible, rewarding career for clients from all stages of life. MH Vicars students learn the theory and skills that they need so they can safely and effectively treat pregnant clients and new mothers. They also get hands-on practice working with pregnant clients at our supervised practicum clinics.  Call our admissions team at 1-866-491-0574 or RSVP for a live, virtual open house to learn more about becoming a qualified massage therapist. 

MH Vicars School is proud to announce that we have been named to the Massage Therapist Association of Alberta’s new list of Approved Schools.

We’ve always been committed to providing our students with the best, most up-to-date massage therapy education possible, and we’re thrilled to have confirmation from the independent experts at the MTAA that we’re accomplishing that goal. Vicars was the first private massage school in Alberta to achieve this status, and we’re currently the only private college on the list.

For owners Maryhelen Vicars and Robin Collum, earning MTAA approval is very satisfying.

“We’re incredibly happy to have taken part in this process, and to have earned our spot on the MTAA’s list,” says Collum.

“This is such an important affirmation that we are on the right track. We are so proud of our faculty and staff for continuously improving the school over the past 20 years, and for embracing new resources as they became available to us. It has been lots of work, but well worth it for the career success of our grads,” says Vicars.

The Approved Schools list is the MTAA’s way of continuing to make sure that their members meet the association’s education standards. In the future, they will use the list as the qualification criteria for new members. It will replace their previous school approval system (we were on that list, too!).

“We created this program to support and elevate the education of massage therapists in Alberta,” explains Jessica Villeneuve, chair of the MTAA’s School Approval Committee. “It’s important for students to be trained to the national standard because it ensures safe and effective care for Albertans. This new approval program will allow us to maintain the high standards that we hold our members to in regard to scope of practice, ethics, and other important areas of practice.”

The MTAA School Approval Program is a rigorous evaluation process that assesses a school’s curriculum content, delivery, and student experience. The curriculum standards are based on the Inter-Jurisdictional Practice Competencies and Performance Indicators for Massage Therapists at Entry-to-Practice created by the Federation of Massage Therapy Regulatory Authorities of Canada (FOMTRAC). If that long complicated name sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same standard used by the regulatory bodies in provinces where massage therapy is a regulated health care profession.

When this national standard was introduced in 2012, we jumped at the opportunity to improve our curriculum and immediately began to transition our program to align with the Inter-Jurisdictional Practice standards. We did another big round of program upgrades when the document was revised in 2016.

We review and improve our curriculum every year to stay up to date with the latest research, resources, and teaching methods, and always use the Inter-Jurisdictional Practice standards as our guide.

But in a non-regulated province like Alberta, massage therapy schools don’t have to teach the FOMTRAC curriculum if they don’t want to. That’s why the MTAA’s new and improved School Approval Program is so important.

“Having a respected independent third party like the MTAA reviewing what massage schools teach and their delivery standards is vital for our profession.”

“Having a respected independent third party like the MTAA reviewing what massage schools teach and their delivery standards is vital for our profession,” explains Collum. “It allows students to choose a massage school based on how well it will prepare them for a career, instead of having to rely on marketing claims.

“We’re grateful that the MTAA has committed to promoting and upholding the national standards in this way. We recognize that managing an approval program like this is not simple, easy, or cheap. And by raising their entry standards, they’re risking decreasing their membership numbers. But like us, the MTAA believes that the national curriculum standard and third-party program evaluation are the future of massage therapy in Alberta and will benefit therapists and clients alike. It’s a huge undertaking, and we admire them for doing it.”

Going through the school approval program is a rigorous, months-long process.

A school first prepares a written application package full of information about the program. The MTAA wants to know about the school’s history and structure, its academic and non-academic policies and procedures, faculty qualifications, curriculum details, and more. Everything needs to be backed up with clear evidence.

If a school passes the written review, then it’s time for an on-site evaluation. An MTAA reviewer inspects the campus and facilities, and interviews staff, students, and faculty. This multi-step process ensures that the reviewers can get a thorough understanding of the school and how it operates, and make sure that the school is actually delivering a massage education that will prepare its graduates to be skilled, effective, and successful therapists.

The MTAA approval program is still accepting applications from Alberta massage schools, and we hope that it continues to grow.

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that all schools and colleges have had to make a lot of changes to how they deliver their programs—and fast. And at MH Vicars School, it was no different. We closed our campuses in mid-March, and classes continued online.

It was an adjustment, certainly, and not how we wanted to finish the school year. But our faculty and staff were not unprepared for the change. Our experience teaching and learning in a blended learning format helped us transition into the “new normal.”
Our Edmonton Director Robin Collum and our Curriculum Director Linda McGeachy sat down—over zoom, naturally—to talk about how Vicars has adapted to the pandemic , and how we’re preparing for whatever the next year might have in store for us.

You can also read the full transcript of the conversation below.

 

Robin: The MH Vicars School program has always been delivered through blended learning. Can you describe what blended learning means at MH Vicars?

Linda: Fundamentally, it means that time spent at home on the curriculum is as important as the in class component of the program.

Why did we choose a blended learning format in the first place? Who’s it for and why is it valuable for our students?

Well, that was the original vision of the owner of the school, Maryhelen Vicars: to provide quality training to a demographic that does not have the means to access it any other way. It is a full-time program in terms of content. By choosing this format, students are able to spend less time being physically present at the school, but still are able to obtain all the necessary content of the program.

The value is for those who are unable to take a program that requires them to be in school for five days a week for two years. We have several learning pathways and our students choose the one that fits their particular circumstances.

So it sounds much more flexible for people who have responsibilities and jobs and things.

Absolutely.

Can you describe how our approach to blended learning has evolved over the years?

At first, our blended learning [material] consisted of paper binders filled with assignments and notes that students completed at home and brought back to class with them. As technology has evolved, it has allowed more academic content to be delivered online.

We’ve moved more core content to the online learning system. Courses such as pathology and anatomy and physiology have become independent courses that students can take at home following a set timeline and using online resources from the textbooks as well as resources specifically developed by the school. The most current evolution to the program is the type of blended learning where students are introduced to content at home before working through it at school. This is sometimes called a “flipped classroom.”

In a common flipped classroom scenario, students might watch pre-recorded videos at home, complete specific assignments and do a quiz and then come to school to do the work armed with questions and some background knowledge.

So it sounds much more intensive than just some pre-reading.

It has a lot of weight. And, of course, all of those pre-reading assignments and whatnot will [be part of] an overall mark for the program as well.

And that means that when they’re on campus with their instructors in their pairs, in groups of three, they have a lot more context for the hands-on stuff, it sounds like.

Indeed. And so it frees up time in the classroom for the all-important hands-on component by enabling them to get through some of the academic or more theoretical work at home.

What changes did we make at Vicars and how have our classes been continuing to learn since we stopped our on-campus stuff in March?

Well, coincidentally, the pandemic only sped up a process that we’d already been designing and developing that is having students more prepared before class. Along with much more emphasis on video conferences with their instructors.

We’ve always had contact between instructors and students in between those in class days. And this is just increasing that?

Yes. The video conferencing is going to become a much bigger component. And of course, that has gone along with what we’ve had to do with putting much of our material online due to the covid situation.

Do you feel that our existing blended learning approach helped prepare us and maybe even prepare our students for this new reality of the last couple of months?

Well, without doubt, the fact that our students and instructors were already used to a large part of the course being completed at home was a benefit. However, it has not been without significant challenges as well.

Can you tell me some of the challenges that we’ve experienced with online learning?

Well, not all of our instructors are familiar with actually teaching online. Keeping the students connected to certain components of the program and to each other has been a considerable challenge for both faculty and students.

Definitely had been a learning curve on that. How have we been helping our instructors deal with that learning curve? How have we been helping them prepare and advance their knowledge of this new way of teaching?

Instructors are going to be taking an online course over the summer about how to teach online. I think this is very important. This will prepare them for returning to class in the fall, whether virtually or face to face.

Our current students have missed some on-campus days. Will they get the opportunity to cover that material when they come back to campus?

They will. If this is necessary, all missed hands-on material will be available to current students. We’ll deliver it in a flexible manner to make sure it’s achievable for everyone.

Though it’s impossible to predict what the next couple of months are going to be like, what preparations are we making as a school to help plan for different eventualities?

Well, we’ll continue to prepare to hone online teaching skills by supporting faculty with resources for teaching online. The school’s developing more video resources for techniques and treatments to reinforce classroom time. And these things will ensure that students are ready to fully engage in the hands-on component of the program when we can return to class.

And how can students who are planning to start with us in September plan ahead and prepare for the beginning of their massage education?

Well, at this time, students can start taking Anatomy and Physiology, and Pathology. Those two core components of the program are available once you’re registered for the program.

And what’s the advantage of getting started with that online learning before classes start?

Well, those two courses are independent courses, but they are also heavy courses. And so by getting a head start on them, it will just free up more time for students when they are in the throes of the actual program. And so it’s always an advantage to be able to work ahead on that material.

The worst case scenario, of course, is if we’re not able to start on campus classes as scheduled in September or if there is another interruption in classes later in the year. How is the school planning ahead for that? Will the students who plan to start in September still be able to get their education?

In any of those scenarios, we’re prepared to deliver the course without lowering any standards. We’re set up to vary the delivery of the program to accommodate online learning and classroom time to ensure all of the standards that we’re committed to will be met.

“Looking back now, I’m definitely glad I went the Newfoundland route. It’s been a long process, but I’m finally there!”

That’s Jenna Kluthe, who graduated from MH Vicars School’s Edmonton campus in 2017. She was one of nearly a dozen Vicars grads who travelled to Newfoundland to write that province’s entry-to-practice exam with the final goal of becoming RMTs in BC. Jenna now practices in Nanaimo.

Tyler Shortridge, Karen Goforth, Jenna Kluthe, and their classmates celebrate together after writing the CMTNL exams. Photo courtesy Karen Goforth.

Jenna and her classmates chose Newfoundland because the process to apply for the exam was simpler, faster, and less expensive than going directly to BC. The College of Massage Therapists of Newfoundland and Labrador officially recognizes the Vicars program, while the BC College requires applicants to pay for a “prior learning assessment” before they can take their test. (Read more about why Vicars grads are choosing Newfoundland and New Brunswick here).

The journey to become RMTs in BC began in the spring of 2017.

“I was going to go the BC route, because I didn’t know anything about Newfoundland, but about a month before we graduated someone mentioned it and we were all curious,” said Tyler Shortridge, who lives in Cranbrook and attended the Calgary campus. “[CMTNL] were really good. They answered emails fast, they answered phone calls. It was easy to get the answers I needed, and the paperwork was simple. I think I waited two weeks to hear whether we were accepted to write the exam. They had no issues with our program.”

The Newfoundland entry-to-practice exam has two parts. The multiple-choice exam covers massage theory, ethics, and law, including regulations specific to Newfoundland. The practical exam, which consists of seven separate stations, evaluates the therapist’s academic knowledge, hands-on techniques, and problem-solving skills.

“It was a little bit intimidating,” said Jenna. “You walk into the room and there were two examiners, just sitting off to the side, and there’s the body. The examiners don’t say anything, they don’t acknowledge you, they don’t smile, they don’t do anything. You just walk in and do your thing.”

The College publishes a detailed outline of the exam structure and contents to help therapists prepare, and the Vicars grad felt that the exams were well-organized and fair.

“It was fairly straightforward. You just have to make sure that you’re confident in your answers,” said Karen Goforth, who lives and works in Creston, BC.

Nonetheless, they all felt very prepared.

“The hardest part was waiting for the results,” said Tyler. “I took the exam in August, and by the end of October I was registered in Newfoundland. The end of January is when I was able to work in BC as an RMT.”

All the time and effort was worth it.

“Being a massage therapist is awesome, I love it. I have the freedom to do whatever I want with my schedule, and I like helping people,” said Tyler. “You see a lot of different people, and it’s really nice to connect with them.”

If you’re a Vicars student or grad interested in more information about moving to a regulated province, please contact the school and we’d be happy to help.