How Massage Therapy Can Help Relieve TMJD

How Massage Therapy Can Help Relieve TMJD 

Your jaw hurts. It clicks and pops. You might not be able to open your mouth all the way. It might even temporarily lock up out of the blue. That’s TMJD. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction is a common problem, but many people who experience it don’t recognize what’s causing their symptoms. And if they do, they might not realize that it’s an easily treatable problem. 

Massage therapy is an effective treatment for TMJD symptoms. If you think that you might be suffering from TMJD, keep reading to learn more about the condition and how you can get some relief. 

What are the main symptoms of TMJD? 

  • Jaw tenderness and jaw joint pain 
  • Aching around or in the ear (earache) 
  • Tooth pain 
  • Facial pain 
  • Difficulty opening the mouth wide 
  • Trouble chewing 
  • Pain while chewing 
  • Clicking and popping when opening the jaw, chewing or yawning 
  • Headaches 
  • Stiff, sore neck muscles 
  • Shoulder pain 
  • An uneven or uncomfortable bite 

What causes TMJD? 

The temporomandibular joint is where your lower jaw connects to your skull. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction is a general term for a number of problems affecting that joint and the associated soft tissue. 

One of the major sources of TMJD is psychological stress: the majority of TMJD cases are linked to clenching or grinding the teeth. Another common culprit is poor posture. Slouching and “head-forward posture” are hard on the structures of your jaw. 

TMJD occurs most frequently in women 30–50 years old. During the pandemic, health providers have noted that frequent and prolonged wearing of masks has also had an effect on the number of people being diagnosed with TMJD. 

The lower jaw has rounded ends called condyles. These condyles are responsible for gliding in and out of the joint socket when we move our jawbones (mandible). Similar to other important joints throughout the body, the condyles are covered by cartilage and separated by a small disk to absorb shock. When the cartilage and disks are worn down, the movement of the jaw becomes rougher, resulting in a cracking or crunching sensation, inflammation and pain. 

Other potential causes of temporomandibular joint dysfunction: 

  • Arthritis 
  • Fibromyalgia 
  • Poor jaw alignment caused by missing or loose teeth 
  • Incorrectly fitted dentures 
  • Habits like biting fingernails or frequent gum-chewing 
  • Infections in the jaw 
  • Jaw injuries 
  • Tumors 
  • Sleep apnea (sleep apnea is known to trigger teeth grinding during periods of apnea) 

How is TMJ diagnosed? 

Most people who get an official TMJD diagnosis receive it from their dentist, often during a routine checkup. Dentists don’t just look after your teeth and gums; they’re also trained to recognize issues and abnormalities of the whole mouth and jaw. They can spot problems with your bite, abnormal muscle tone, or evidence that you’ve been grinding your teeth—all of which can point to TMJD. 

Depending on the cause of your symptoms, your dentist might recommend you wear a night guard or refer you to a dental specialist. But a lot of TMJD cases don’t require appliances or complicated dental work. Increasingly, dentists are referring their TMJD patients to massage therapists for treatment. 

But you don’t have to wait until your next teeth cleaning to start feeling better. If you’re suffering from TMJD symptoms, you can make an appointment with an RMT even without a formal diagnosis. Massage therapy is an effective, non-invasive treatment that can help relieve the symptoms of TMJD, and in many cases even address the root causes. (Of course, you should still see your dentist regularly, and always have severe pain checked out by a dentist or physician). 

How does massage help with TMJD? 

If you’ve been suffering through the pain and tension of TMJD for months or even years, a TMJ massage can feel like a miracle. Because the muscles involved are so small and close to the surface, there’s a good chance you’ll notice significant results after just a single treatment.  

In a typical TMJD treatment, your RMT will begin by working on your neck, back, and upper chest. They’ll target the trapezius, rhomboids, levator scapulae, splenius muscles, and suboccipitals. 

Then they will move on to the affected muscles of your face and jaw. When they’re working extra-orally (on the outside of your mouth), your RMT will pay particular attention to the masseter and temporalis muscles. 

Extra-oral massage of the face, neck, and head can be very effective. It’s relaxing, comfortable, and altogether a pleasant experience (even if your therapist finds a few trigger points). 

But if you’re serious about treating your TMJD, we recommend going a little deeper. That’s right: we’re talking about getting massaged inside your mouth. 

Intra-oral massage is not what most people think of when they picture a massage. Lying on your back communicating to your therapist through pre-arranged hand signals as they use a gloved finger to apply gentle targeted pressure to a tiny muscle under your tongue is certainly less relaxing than the average back massage. 

But what it lacks in glamour, intra-oral massage more than makes up in effectiveness. Working on the inside of your mouth allows your RMT to access small but important muscles like the medial and lateral pterygoids. They will apply pressure and make small movements on the inside of your cheeks and at the back of your mouth. 

We won’t lie: having the inside of your mouth massaged is a sensation that takes some getting used to. To help you feel comfortable, your massage therapist will talk you through the treatment before they begin, and you’ll work out a way to communicate. They’ll let you set the pace, and give you plenty of breaks. 

A Quick Tip to Relieve TMJ Discomfort at Home

A good RMT will offer you homecare advice as part of your treatment. This is especially useful for people with TMJD, because there are some really wonderful self-massage techniques you can use between professional treatments.

Here’s one that you can do right now at your desk: 

Working on both sides of your face at the same time, place your thumbs (or your index and middle fingers) in the hollows right under your cheekbone, close to the side of your face. Open your jaw and apply gentle pressure. With your jaw closed (but not clenched!), make little circles along the edge of your cheekbones until you find the spots that feel good. You can also slowly work downwards toward your jawline, making little circles or gently “stripping” along the masseter muscle. Make sure you work down towards your jaw, not up towards your cheekbones! You should feel some pressure and may experience a little bit of tenderness, but if you feel excessive pain or discomfort, stop immediately and contact your doctor or dentist. 

You deserve to feel better!  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 

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! 

For our latest entry in our graduate spotlight series, we’re switching things up a bit. Instead of interviewing a grad and writing about our conversation, we handed over the whole blog to her! 

In this post, Claudia Wattel tells the story of her massage therapy career in her own words—from going back to school as an adult, to starting her own business in her small town. 

Hello! My name is Claudia Wattel, RMT. I run my own home-based massage clinic, R.E.M Massage in Barrhead, Alberta. I graduated from MH Vicars of Massage Therapy in Edmonton in 2017.

 

For me, going back to school was a life-changing event in more ways than one. When I decided to go back to school and pursue a career in massage, it was a now-or-never moment in my life. It was also, in a lot of ways, a spur of the moment decision.

 

I was 43 years old and I had already been a single mom for many years. I was looking for something that would be fulfilling and I wanted to do something that would benefit the health of others. I was looking for a career that would give me freedom and would not tie me to a specific place.

 

I also wanted options so that I would never feel stuck in any job. At the time, I was working full time as manager of a furniture store. I was doing okay making a living off of that, but knew that something had to change if I ever wanted to get ahead financially so that one day I could retire.  

 

I was also looking for a career where I could attend school while working full time. After doing a lot of research I was pulled in the direction of massage therapy because MH Vicars offered a blended-learning schedule option that would make this possible. 

 

But I still was not sure I would like it. So when I saw that MH Vicars was offering a weekend introductory massage course, I signed up for it.

 

This in itself was way out of my comfort zone, but I decided if I was ever going to do it then now was the time. My two older children had already graduated and in the work force, and my youngest daughter was in high school. I wanted to be done my own schooling before she went into her grade 12 year—I wanted to be able to dedicate my time to her in her graduation year.  

 

After taking the weekend massage course, I decided to jump in with both feet. I was called into MH Vicars for an interview after which I was accepted into the weekly program.

 

I will admit it was a very tough 2 years. But I knew it was doable. I remember thinking when I started that if I can make the pass grade of 75% I will be happy. Being a mature student, I knew that failure really was not an option. There is not only a lot of money invested into education but also a lot of time. Time is a precious commodity. And I will admit—there is also a sense of pride that is not always there when you are younger. There was no way I was going to go home at the end and have to tell people that I failed! 

 

I was working full time most weeks. I had two days off each week: Sunday and Wednesday, the day I had class. 

 

The first year I was in school from 9am-5pm (plus the commute to and from Barrhead, which is 2 hours each way). I also did about 4-5 hours of independent study work every weekday evening and most weekends. 

 

Once public clinic was added into the mix, it became even more time-consuming. I chose to do my public clinic shifts on Wednesdays after class so that I wouldn’t have to drive into the city more often than necessary. So I was in school pretty much every Wednesday from 9am-9 pm. 

 

I was thankful that my kids were older and fairly self-sufficient. I was also thankful that I had a strong support system: my sister and brother-in-law helped me out a lot.

 

When all was said and done it was all worth it: hard work and perseverance definitely pays off. Not only did I achieve my goal of not failing—I graduated from MH Vicars with honors! 

I received a great education through MH Vicars. 

 

The program is jam-packed. I had very hands-on instructors and public clinic supervisors. By the time I graduated I was prepared to confidently put into practice what I had learned. Today, I am doing what I love.

 

I was very fortunate because I still had my full-time job at the furniture store when I graduated. This meant that I didn’t have to stress about having a full client base right away and gave me the freedom to build my massage practice at my own pace. 

 

I started working part time at Pembina Massage in Barrhead in September 2017. I knew that I eventually wanted to have a home-based practice where I would have complete control over my schedule and my clients, but I also wanted to get some more clinic experience first.

For almost three years, I worked at Pembina Massage three evenings a week and treated a few clients at the clinic space I set up in my home. And then COVID hit in spring of 2020 and Alberta had its first shutdown. 

 

When Alberta Health made the decision to allow massage clinics to open up again, I decided that the time was right to leave the clinic and focus on my home-based business. 

 

I knew that this would mean rebuilding my clientele, but I could afford to take this risk because I am still working at the furniture store (I love that job too!). 

 

It was always my intention to practice massage part time. This career supplements my existing income. At first that additional income went towards paying off my student loans. Now that I have done that, I can slowly work towards retirement.
 

I believe that massage therapy in a small town differs a lot from a city practice. In a small town everyone knows everyone. When you walk down the street it is a constant stream of saying hi to people you know. This also means that your clinic has a much more personal feel to it. 
 

When we studied ethics in school, our instructors really stressed the importance of having boundaries between your friendships and your client relationships. In a small town, many of your clients are friends or acquaintances before they become clients. So I need to pay special attention to enforcing the appropriate boundaries and maintaining the therapeutic relationship both during massage treatment sessions, and in my everyday life. When my friends and neighbours come to me for a massage treatment, they know that for the time they are in the clinic space, they are my clients and I am their massage therapist. Outside of that space, I’m their friend and not their RMT.

 

Professionalism is very important. I have found that because I work from my home, new clients are sometimes surprised that it’s a professional space, a professional business. But they learn right away that my clinic is exactly that: my clinic. It is a professional environment, and I my clients receive the same respect and care that they would in any professional clinic. 

 

In a small town there is a lot of “it’s not just what you know, but who you know.” Advertising happens through word of mouth. You have to be good at what you do, because if you are not news travels fast. That being said, if you do your job well others will hear about it.  

 

I have been very blessed.  My career in massage therapy to date has been very fulfilling. I have been able to help a lot of people and continue to do so. My clinic is open 3 nights a week. I am fully booked through October and am booking clients into November and December. I have not had to advertise for my clinic and have had to turn clients away because I am already busier than I imagined I would be. 

 

My massage career has also given me that step up that I was hoping for financially. In addition to saving for retirement, I was able to purchase a new home this spring and I have been able to create a perfect set up for my home-based clinic. 

 

When I was a student, we had to create a business plan. One of the required elements was a mission statement. I still believe in what I wrote back then, and it’s now the mission statement of R.E.M Massage: 

 

To assist in the healing of body and mind. 

To relieve tension and pain. 

To bring an overall feeling of health and wellness to each and every client in a professional and relaxed environment. 

One massage at a time. 

 

Claudia Wattel, RMT 

R.E.M. Massage 

Rejuvenate. Enhance. Maintain. 

As of the end of August, most of Alberta’s public health measures targeting COVID-19 will end. This includes most mask mandates, contact tracing, and isolation requirements.

With this controversial decision it appears that schools will be free to return to pre-pandemic operations for the start of September classes. At MH Vicars School, however, we have chosen to take a more cautious approach.

Even with the widespread use of vaccines, the COVID-19 virus remains present in our community. This is especially true of dangerous new strains like the Delta variant, which is on the rise in Canada and globally.

Keeping each other safe is a collective responsibility. By strictly adhering to our guidelines over the last year, we have successfully prevented the transmission of COVID-19 on campus. By working together and continuing to follow special safety protocols, Vicars will continue to be a safe place to learn, work, and get massages.

Our September 2021 COVID-19 plan at a glance

  • We strongly encourage all students, staff, and clients to get vaccinated if they are able to do so.
  • Masks are mandatory for everyone and must be worn at all times when on campus. This includes clinic clients, who must keep their mask on during their massage treatment. Masks should fit well, covering both nose and mouth without gaps, and be replaced when damp or dirty. Cloth masks should have three layers of material and be washed between uses.
  • Campus facilities have been reorganized to allow for as much physical distancing as possible.  Though it will not always be possible to maintain 2 metres of distance between yourself and others, everyone is asked to be aware of their surroundings and do their best to give each other space. Class groups keep to their own campus areas as much as possible during the class day.
  • Anyone who visits campus must complete a COVID-19 screening questionnaire before entering. Students, staff, and clients are requested not to be on campus if they are sick or know they have been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Stringent cleaning protocols will remain in place.

The most significant difference between this September and the 2020-2021 school year is that we are reopening our supervised practicum clinics to members of the public. We have not made this decision lightly, just like we didn’t take it lightly to keep it closed for most of last year. We believe that with appropriate precautions in place, the benefits for our students and clients outweigh the risks, at least for now.

Please note: The official clinic opening dates for each campus have not yet been set but will be announced soon.

Vaccines make us all safer

For now, students, staff, and clients will not be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine. However, we request that everyone who can get the vaccine does so.

The COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada are safe and effective in preventing illness and hospitalizations from COVID-19, including the highly contagious Delta variant. The vaccine is available for free without an appointment for Albertans aged 12 and up.

As massage therapists, we have a responsibility to safeguard our clients’ health as well as our own. The Vicars community is large and diverse. It includes our students, faculty, and staff as well as our clinic clients. Each campus is a point of connection for hundreds of people each week.

We are asking all of our students to get vaccinated for their own protection, and to protect the health of their clinic clients. By getting fully vaccinated, you will reduce your chances of developing severe or life-threatening symptoms if you become infected with any COVID-19 strain. Avoiding serious illness means you won’t be stuck missing weeks of valuable hands-on class and clinic time.

One of the things that sets the Vicars program apart is our supervised clinic experience. It’s an extraordinary opportunity to get “real-world” experience treating clients from all walks of life. Many of our clients come to our clinic because they’re living with health conditions that massage can help treat. But having those conditions often mean that they’re at a higher risk of developing severe illness if they catch COVID-19. Protect your clients’ health and their peace of mind by taking all available steps to keep them safe—including vaccination.

We make the same request of our clinic clients and everyone else who visits our campus.

Thank you for your support

We would like to thank all of our students and clients for their support over the past year. We have appreciated hearing from members of the Vicars community, and we remain open to your feedback as we all work together to navigate the next stages of this pandemic.

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.

5 qualities of good rmt

Looking for a Career Where You Can Help Others and Stay Active? Massage Therapy May Be the Right Fit for You!

What is a Registered Massage Therapist?

A Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) is a licensed healthcare professional who is trained to safely manipulate their clients’ muscles, fascia, and other soft tissues in order to achieve specific therapeutic benefits.

While many other health care workers and esthetics professionals will incorporate a few massage techniques into their work, RMTs have a specialized education that sets them apart. A massage therapist has different skills than a physiotherapist, osteopath, chiropractor, kinesiologist, or occupational therapist—though they often work closely with all of them.

Many people get regular massages as part of their ongoing preventative health care routines, while others will only book an appointment with their RMT when they’re in pain or feeling especially stressed. But no matter how often they go, they’ll feel the benefits for both mental and physical well-being.

Massage therapy can be an extremely effective part of the treatment plan for a wide variety of conditions, including:

  • Arthritis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Depression and generalized anxiety
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Headaches
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Sciatica
  • Scoliosis
  • Stress
  • Tendinitis
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome
  • TMJD

Massage therapists get to work one-on-one with their clients, often working with them over the course of several weeks or months to achieve long-term results. It’s a front-line health care profession, but without a lot of the stress, anxiety, and shift work that paramedics, health care aides, or nurses have to put up with (and RMTs hardly ever sit at a desk!). That combination of job satisfaction, happy clients, hands-on work, and flexibility mean that a career in massage therapy is very appealing to active, caring, self-motivated people. You may be reading this because that sounds like you!

Even after a busy day, I leave work so happy because I know that I’m helping so many people. – Emma Johannesson, 2017 graduate

Before you invest your time, money, and energy into an education, though, let’s dig a little deeper into what it takes to really thrive in this profession. At Vicars, we provide you with the training and practical experience to assess and treat your clients, and the business know-how to navigate that side of your career. But there are some things that we can’t teach in class. The RMTs who are most successful and most happy on the job all have a few things in common.

Top 5 Qualities of an Excellent Massage Therapist

  1. Empathy
    Empathy takes the number-one spot for good reason: massage therapists are drawn to the career out of a desire to help people. Your clients will come to your table stressed, tight, or in pain. You’ll perform an assessment to learn about their needs, and develop a custom treatment plan. Then after an hour of your care they’ll be happier and healthier. What could be better for an empathetic person who has a passion for making connections, working with others, and making the world a happier place?
    Your empathy will be your motivation to work hard every day, and it will also be an asset for you as a therapist. Understanding and sharing in your clients’ feelings helps to establish a bond of trust, which will in turn allow your clients to be vulnerable in communicating their needs. It is important to note, however, that while empathy is a very valuable trait it must be balanced by careful monitoring of boundaries. A big part of your massage therapy education will be learning professional ethics, including how to recognize the limits of your professional scope of practice, and how to enforce healthy boundaries.

I love that a healing touch can do so much for someone. Seeing the way you affect someone’s life is the most rewarding feeling you will ever have. – Kirsty MacIntosh, 2012 graduate

  1. Excellent Communication and Active Listening Skills
    As an RMT you’ll be communicating directly with your clients in pre-treatment consultation, throughout the course of your massage therapy sessions and in post-treatment follow-ups. The ability to communicate in an open, clear and informative manner is essential. How well you communicate—with your words, your body language, and your actions—will help set the tone for each treatment, and for the whole therapeutic relationship with your client.
    It’s not just about what you say to your client: it’s also about how you listen to what they’re sharing with you. “Active listening” means making a focused and conscious effort to not only hear the words being spoken, but to fully understand the message being communicated. It is your job, as the massage therapist, to make them feel comfortable and safe, to try to understand and address their needs, and to provide a therapeutic, relaxing experience.
    Some of the communication tools that a massage therapist (or any health care professional) needs to master are very specific, and go beyond what is required to succeed in other professions. It will be an important part of the curriculum at any reputable massage therapy school. At Vicars, we dedicate a lot of time to it, and incorporate it into every other subject area as well. That said, the best massage therapy students and RMTs are people who are already committed to active two-way communication.
  2. Good Time Management Skills
    Whether you’re self-employed or you work at a clinic, time management is critical. You will need to ensure each client’s needs are met while still having enough time to take care of business, including cleaning and setting up the room for the next client and taking a much-needed breather between treatments.
    Good time management is also important for students. This is especially true for adult learners, who often have to balance their schoolwork with their job and family responsibilities. It can take a month or two for even the most organized Vicars students to get the hang of their new blended learning routine. But this can actually be another side benefit to choosing a blended learning program; the time management tools that our students develop during their time at Vicars are exactly the same as those required of a successful therapist and entrepreneur.
  3. Curiosity
    To be a massage therapist is to be a perpetual student—in a good way!
    Every massage is a new opportunity to learn about your client and their needs, and turn that knowledge into a customized treatment plan. Nobody’s body is exactly the same, and how we experience pain and other physical symptoms can be subjective and has both emotional and physiological components. Having a genuine curiosity about how these elements impact your client’s condition will help you to design the best treatment for them.
    Throughout your career, you’ll be a student in a more literal sense. Massage therapists are required to keep their skills and knowledge up to date with continuing education courses. What courses you take will be up to you, and what you’re curious about.
    You can refresh your anatomy and physiology knowledge, get extra training in how to treating special populations, such as competitive athletes. This kind of additional training throughout your career will keep you up to date with the industry so you can provide the best care possible.
  4. Energy, Stamina, and A Commitment to Self-Care
    Massage therapy is a physically demanding hands-on practice. RMTs don’t just use their fingers and hands: in order to perform those effective deep-tissue techniques without burning out or injuring themselves, RMTs have to engage their entire body, including the legs and core. The average workload for a full-time RMT is five 60-minute massages a day, five days a week. Being on your feet for hours every day and using every muscle in your body to assist others with their aches and pains requires strength and stamina. Your body is your career. You have to listen to it and take care of it—and we’ll teach you how.At MH Vicars, you will learn the correct body mechanics so that you’ll be able to have a long and healthy career. Through our student clinics and in-class practice, you’ll be able to gain the endurance and flexibility you need to be an effective RMT. You’ll learn self-care techniques and stretches and strengthening exercises as a student, and it’s important to incorporate them into your daily routine.
    But it is also important to take proactive measures to care for your body. Keeping yourself in good “massage shape” means regular exercise, a balanced diet, and plenty of rest. And if you’re a bit sore at the end of a long week at work, may we suggest getting a massage?

What Skills Do You Learn While Training to Become a Massage Therapist?

The MH Vicars School curriculum is based on Canada’s highest national massage education standards and will prepare you for a successful massage career anywhere in the country. In addition to relaxation and therapeutic massage sequences and techniques, you’ll study anatomy and physiology, body mechanics, communication skills, massage theory, ethics, and business. You’ll learn how to perform an assessment on a client and then create a customized treatment plan to effectively treat a wide range of complicated medical concerns.

At Vicars, students complete their massage therapy training in less than two years. Our full-time blended learning program is a combination of in-class education and directed independent study. Students also complete an extensive supervised practicum at our on-campus clinic, where they get experience treating real clients from all walks of life in a supportive educational environment. Our graduates are able to gain employment immediately after graduating (depending on the province they live in). Some students even start working part-time as student therapists during their second year.

Combined with your unique personality, you’ll have all the tools you need to build a rewarding and successful career as a respected Registered Massage Therapist.

The Massage Therapy Program at Vicars could be the pathway to your ideal career. We have campuses in Calgary and Edmonton and a schedule that is designed to work with your lifestyle. For more information and to speak with our friendly admissions team, call us toll-free 1-866-491-0574 or book an interactive virtual tour today!

6 tips how to choose a massage school

Ready to Begin Your New Career?
This Essential Info Will Help You Get Started

Massage therapy is a thriving, in-demand career, ideal for people from all walks of life who put “helping others” at the top of their career bucket list. It’s also a career very well suited to those who are curious about physiology and how the human body works. If you’ve ever thought about a career in massage therapy, your next step will be choosing the right massage therapy school or program for you. 

To help you on your journey, here are a few tips to help you research your options. 

1.     Make sure it’s a licensed school

Your success as a massage therapist depends, in large part, on the quality of your massage therapy education. In order to provide the best health care to your clients, and to navigate the business side the career, you need to attend a school that has a strong curriculum, qualified instructors, and offers a practicum that is fully supervised and integrated into the curriculum.  

It’s essential that you attend a school that’s properly licensed by the government. The only schools that are licensed by the Province of Alberta to provide Massage Therapy Certification (as part of a two-year program) are listed with Alberta Innovation and Advanced Education. Only students who attend a full-time, licensed program are eligible to apply for provincial and federal student loans and grants. 

But in Alberta, where massage is not a regulated profession, government licensing is the bare minimum to look for in a school. Unfortunately, making sure that a school is licensed isn’t enough to make sure that you’re going to get a good education, or have an enjoyable student experience. That’s because the Alberta government doesn’t monitor the contents or quality of a school’s curriculum, which has led to a lot of variation among massage programs in Alberta. 

There is no single standard for course content, subject matter, academic standards, facilities, or faculty qualifications that all schools need to follow. There are few advertising standards, and little to protect prospective students from high-pressure or misleading sales tactics. 

2.     Find out what the professionals have to say

So where else can you look to find out if a school is going to prepare you for a long, successful career? We recommend looking through the Massage Therapist Association of Alberta’s Approved Programs list. To make it onto the list, schools and programs must comply with Canada’s massage education entry-to-practice standard  and meet demanding criteria for program delivery methods and instructor qualifications. This list is also a useful tool to hold schools accountable for what they teach, ensuring that all students get the best quality education possible. (Full disclosure: we were the first private school added to the list) 

From there, you can start to look at the details of each program to decide whether it’s right for you. 

It’s also a great idea to chat with your own massage therapist. Where did they go to school? Would they recommend it? What do they know about other programs based on their conversations with colleagues, or their experiences as employers? 

3.     Learn your local massage therapy standards

In order to work in a province where massage is not government regulated, you need to become a member of one of the professional associations that operate in that province. In Alberta, those associations include the Massage Therapists Association of Alberta and the National Health Practitioners of Canada.  (It’s a great idea to reach out to an association in your province as you research your education options! But be careful—some associations are owned by or linked to particular schools. So make sure you’re getting an independent opinion). 

If you want to work in BC, Ontario, or another province where massage therapy is a regulated profession, you will have to go through a few more steps to become registered after you graduate.  

All of those provinces require you to pass an entry-to-practice exam to become a member of their Regulatory College. Though the application processes vary, all of Canada’s massage therapy Regulatory Colleges use the same entry-to-practice standard. So if you want to go to school in a non-regulated province and plan on working in a regulated province someday (or just want to keep your options open for the future) then make sure that your school of choice has a curriculum that lives up to that standard. 

4.     Learn about eligibility requirements and application deadlines

In terms of official qualifications and prerequisites, application standards vary from school to school. There will be reasonable academic prerequisites. At a minimum, schools will require a high school diploma, GED, or a combination of high school credits and an aptitude test. These are the minimum technical requirements for acceptance into a licenced program in Alberta, but at most schools, students are accepted based on a one-on-one interview. At Vicars, we’re looking for students who have the drive for an intensive two-year program that covers everything from anatomy to ethics to business skills. The most successful students want to spend you’re their careers helping people, and are you curious, energetic, organized, and self-motivated. 

Keep an eye on the start dates for your preferred program. Plan ahead and apply early so that you’ll have the best chance of getting a place in the program and your first choice of schedule. This is more important at some schools than others, depending on a lot of factors, such as program size, class size and maximum student-instructor ratio, and number of start dates per year. 

At MH Vicars School, we often have to put applicants on a waitlist for our most popular schedules. We keep our class sizes  small (a maximum of 22 students per class, and two teachers per class) so that we can make sure our students get a high standard of hands-on instruction and plenty of one-on-one attention. We have two start dates per year: September and January, though students can start our Anatomy and Physiology and Pathology classes online as soon as they are registered.  

Some massage therapy schools do things differently, and there will be advantages and disadvantages that go along with that. For example, a school might have the option of new classes starting every month. This is appealing for people who don’t want to have to wait to start their new careers. But those classes might only run if enough people sign up, causing your education to be delayed and deferred anyway. Or a school might have small class sizes for its practical instruction, but larger classes for everything else. It’s up to you to consider your priorities, research the program, and decide what combination of features is the best fit for you. 

The best massage therapy programs in Alberta have high standards for their students because they have high standards for the profession of massage therapy.  

5.     Find the schedule and learning style that suits you

At the end of the day, choosing a school isn’t about finding the “perfect” massage therapy program. It’s about finding the perfect massage therapy program for you. Even the best schools in Alberta have differences among them and are designed to meet the needs of different students. 

There are some colleges that offer a variety of programs, with massage therapy one of many. Other schools, like us here at Vicars, are dedicated solely to training professional massage therapists. At a larger institution, especially one that offers multiple programs, you’re more likely to get the “traditional” post-secondary student experience. For some people that’s one of the draws. Others are attracted to the personalized experience and close relationships that come with a smaller, massage-specific program. 

Monday-Friday programs are a better choice for students who are right out of high school and are used to a more directed and less flexible learning style. A blended learning program is ideal for mature learners who want more control over their education and schedule, and people who don’t live in a big city but still want a quality education. 

Pay attention to the recruiting style of schools that interest you. Are the admissions staff on commission? Do they use call centres? The impression that you get from the admissions staff is often a reflection of the school itself and what your student experience will be like. They should be as interested in learning about your goals and needs as they are about telling you about the program.  

6.     Register for a tour and try a workshop

Now that you’ve narrowed down your choices, it’s time to see if your dream schools live up to your expectations! 

If the school offers an in-person or virtual tour or open house, that’s a great sign. You want to be able to experience the college and meet staff, faculty, and students as a part of your research. (Many schools have turned to virtual tours due to the pandemic, and these can also be a valuable experience.) 

Take advantage of any opportunities you have. Ask questions about the coursework, meet the staff, see the students in action, and even  experience a treatment for yourself at student clinics. 

Some massage schools offer one- or two-day beginners’ workshops so that you can get a short hands-on experience and learn some very basic techniques. They can be a good way for a prospective student to get a feel for their space and teaching style. 

Set yourself up for success 

By choosing the right massage therapy education, you’ll set yourself up for success by making sure that you have the skills, knowledge, and experience that clients want and need. Graduates from the best schools are fully qualified to forge arewarding career as a professional massage therapist.  

If you think Vicars might be the right school for you, contact us today to learn all about life as an MH Vicars student and future massage therapist. 

a career in massage therapy

What Do Massage Therapists Wear? 

There are lots of wonderful things about being a massage therapist. Some of them are big and obvious: helping people heal, being your own boss, building strong therapeutic relationships with regular clients…the list goes on. And some of them are smaller, but no less satisfying. One of those little perks of the job that is sometimes underrated: the uniform is so darn comfortable! 

Massage therapy is a physical profession, and a massage therapist’s wardrobe needs to be up to the task. RMTs need their clothes to meet a range of practical demands. So what is the work attire for a massage therapist? 

There isn’t a universal uniform that all massage therapists wear, of course. Therapists choose their clothing based on their clinic environment, their personal preferences, and other factors. 

But regardless of where a massage therapist works, there are some general principles that they all follow. In this blog post, we’ll give a general introduction to standard clothing, shoes, personal presentation, and PPE for massage therapists. 

RMTs dress for success (and comfort, and hygiene, and flexibility…) 

When it comes to clothing, the number one priority for massage therapists is always practicality. Everything that they wear is chosen because it will help them perform their jobs effectively, safely, and comfortably. 

A massage therapist’s work outfit must meet all the following criteria: 

  • Allow a full range of movement of your entire body. 
  • Fit loosely, but not so loosely that they will accidentally touch a client while they’re working. 
  • Sleeves shouldn’t reach past the elbow. 
  • Fabrics should be breathable and suitable for the clinic conditions. Treatment rooms are kept at a comfortable temperature for the client, who is partially undressed and not moving. The therapist is moving and working hard, so light fabrics are best.. Some therapists will wear sweatbands on their foreheads! 
  • Everything needs to be machine-washable (including hot water washing). 
  • No jewelry that’s going to come in contact with the client. . This obviously means rings and bracelets, but includes long necklaces that can get in the way when you’re leaning close to your client. 
  • Long hair should be pulled back away so that it’s not in your face, and so there’s no chance it will touch your client. 
  • Fingernails must be kept extremely short with no nail polish, gel, or acrylics. This is for the sake of hygiene. 

For most RMTs, the simplest way to tick all these boxes is to wear scrubs, or a scrub top with comfortable pants. Scrubs look professional, and are well-cut, light, and hold up well to frequent washing. There’s good news for those who want a hint of fashion along with their function, too. Scrubs have come a long way in the last few years, and there are lots of flattering styles, colours, and patterns available. 

Put your best foot forward 

A lot of people are drawn to massage therapy precisely because it’s not a desk job and they get to be up and moving all day. But being on your feet stops being fun when those feet start to hurt! Choosing comfortable, well-fitting footwear is a wise investment IN.Massage therapists wear flats that provide plenty of support and cushioning for their feet. Cushioning is especially important for therapists who work in treatment spaces with hard flooring like laminate, linoleum, and tile. 

Safety first: Personal protective equipment for RMTs 

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, massage therapists around the world have focused on keeping themselves and their clients safe, following the public health rules set by governments and professional organizations. This has included increasing the amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) that they wear while at work. 

The use of PPE like masks and gloves isn’t new to massage, though. There are some techniques and circumstances that require special equipment to keep both the massage therapist and their client safe. 

Take TMJD massage, for instance. Temporomandibular joint disorders are a group of conditions that can cause jaw pain and tightness, headaches, difficulty opening the mouth all the way, and noise when the jaw moves. It’s usually caused by muscle tension in the face, jaw, and neck as a result of stress, trauma, or postural dysfunction. Massage can be an extremely effective treatment for TMJD. Therapists use both extra-oral and intra-oral techniques. Extra-oral means outside of the mouth: the RMT massages the neck, face, and head. Intra-oral means inside the mouth: the RMT massages the muscles of the cheek and jaw from inside the client’s mouth. Massage therapists always wear disposable gloves when doing intra-oral work. 

One more thing while we’re on the topic of COVID-19 precautions: most Canadian jurisdictions are beginning to loosen the public health restrictions that they created to fight the pandemic, including rules for massage therapy clinics. This is a welcome development because it’s a sign that all our sacrifices and hard work (and the time spent in line for the vaccine) are paying off! But as we all know, we’re not out of the woods yet. So though many mandatory restrictions have been lifted, a lot of massage therapists are choosing to keep some of their COVID-19 rules in place for now. Some clinics are still asking their clients to wear masks, and many are still wearing masks themselves. This is because many people who rely on massage as part of their health care routine are in higher-risk groups. By keeping some rules in place temporarily, therapists make sure that their clinic remains a safe space for their most vulnerable clients. When you book your next massage, make sure you double-check their latest clinic policies so you know what to expect! 

What do Vicars students wear? 

At MH Vicars School, we have a dress code that our students follow whenever they’re in class, at the clinic, or representing the school at an outreach event. Our students spend most of their time on campus doing hands-on work, so in order to be an effective student, they need to be dressed for the job. 

The school dress code is a scrub top and plain loose-fitting scrub pants or athletic pants. Sweatpants and leggings are not permitted. Scrub tops may be any colour, pattern, or style, as long as they are clean and massage-appropriate. Midriffs and shoulders must stay covered;
the scrubs should fit loosely to allow full range of movement in class. Students wear cloed-toe shoes  

Our dress code for class and clinics is very simple. Students, and many instructors, wear scrub tops and plain loose-fitting scrub bottoms or athletic pants. They wear flat, indoor-only supportive shoes, usually sneakers. 

A career as rewarding as scrubs are comfortable 

At MH Vicars School, you will develop the skills you need for a successful career as a massage therapist. Blended learning allows you to combine hands-on training with flexible at-home work. For more information about our exciting program, call our friendly admissions team toll-free at 1-866-491-0574 today or attend an online open house! 

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 has grown in 2021

How COVID-19 has changed things for RMTs and massage therapy schools

When COVID-19 arrived in Canada, none of us knew how it would affect our lives. And as massage therapists, we were also worried about our livelihoods. What would happen to a hands-on profession like massage therapy during a global pandemic? 

Over a year later, the answer is clear: massage therapy isn’t going anywhere. On the contrary, the stress and hardship of the last year has reminded RMTs and our clients just how necessary massage is in our lives. 

“There certainly have been a number of challenges in the past year in my own practice, and the massage industry as a whole throughout the pandemic. But overall, what I’m seeing is that massage is alive and well,” says MH Vicars instructor Lourdes Nunes-Sammer. Lourdes is both an RMT and a business owner. She treats clients in Edmonton and owns a clinic in Jasper that has multiple massage therapists.

Lourdes says that she’s been pleasantly surprised by how resilient her businesses have been during the pandemic. 

“In my own practice I’m as busy as ever, and the clinic in Jasper has been very busy.” 

It hasn’t been an easy year for RMTs, of course. Massage therapy was one of the many professions that had to temporarily close during Alberta’s first shutdown in spring 2020, and again for a few weeks during the second wave lockdown in December 2020. 

But each time it’s had to shut down, massage therapy has bounced right back. Rather than reducing demand, these shutdowns—and the overall stress and strain of the pandemic—have made many of our clients appreciate us more than ever. 

Our clients also trust that we’re taking the necessary steps to keep them safe, including following strict cleaning protocols, doing client screening, and wearing masks and other PPE. Some of the changes we’ve had to make have been expensive and time-consuming, but we know it’s worth it to be able to do what we love. 

“I have some clients where I am literally the only person that they see, outside of the members of their household. People who are seriously isolating,” says Lourdes. “That someone lets me be in that circle of trust and treat them—that’s a huge privilege.” 

Massage therapy is an effective treatment for a wide range of injuries and physiological conditions, and Lourdes says that her clients are still coming to her to get help with issues like TMJD, scoliosis, and other conditions. But she’s also noticed a huge increase in the number of clients who are specifically looking for stress relief. 

“I think that more than ever now, people are seeing the therapeutic benefits of a relaxation-type massage,” she explains. “They’re coming in asking for a full-body relaxation massage, whereas before I would have been treating their specific condition. 

“The pandemic is bringing to light the need for connection that we might have overlooked before, and the need for massage therapists and that therapeutic touch. They’re more stressed than they’ve ever been. Our resiliency, our overall mental and physical and psychological and spiritual health is low.” 

How has COVID-19 affected massage therapy schools? 

The pandemic has been hard on massage therapy students, too. But MH Vicars School students have had a significant advantage over some of their peers. The Vicars program has always been delivered through blended learning: a combination of hands-on learning in class, and independent study work that’s completed online and at home. This type of schedule is perfect for adult learners, rural students, and others who can’t attend an old-fashioned Monday-Friday program. 

And though we certainly didn’t anticipate this advantage when the school opened 20 years ago, blended learning has proven to be a great way to learn during a pandemic. We have made additional changes to the program to support our students during the pandemic, but without sacrificing the curriculum standards or overall student experience. 

The 2020-2021 school year was able to proceed with as few disruptions as possible. The biggest difference for our students was that our practicum clinics have been closed to the public for most of the year. This was a difficult decision, but a necessary one. Reducing the number of people that our students come into close contact with on campus has helped keep them and their families safe. It also meant that we were less likely to have to interrupt on-campus classes for our students. Our students have been working on each other at the clinic. They get a dynamic and interactive hands-on practicum experience without increasing their risk of being exposed to the virus. 

The pandemic isn’t going to disappear overnight, but next year’s students can look forward to a much more normal school experience. Thanks to vaccines and public health precautions, we look forward to reopening all our clinics to the public for the next school year. 

Massage therapy students can also breathe easy knowing that they are preparing to enter a career with a bright future. 

“I think the resounding lesson of this pandemic is that massage therapists have job security,” reflects Lourdes. “We’ve seen a lot of challenges in the industry this year—being open one day and closed the next—and keeping up with all the guidelines for how we can practice and what we need to do. But people are still coming. Because they recognize the value of it. I think there’s always going to be that demand.” 

At MH Vicars School of Massage Therapy, you can train to become a registered massage therapist for a flexible, rewarding career in this growing field. MH Vicars students learn the theory and skills to perform effective relaxation and therapeutic treatments.  

Call our friendly admissions team at 1-866-491-0574 or RSVP for the next live online open house to learn more about becoming a qualified massage therapist.