I love my job. Back in my days of working 60+ hour weeks at the world’s worst print service bureau, or faking it as a graphic artist, I never thought I’d be typing those words. At least, I never thought I would be saying them without sarcasm.
Massage therapy has been a very rewarding career for me. Not financially, well, I mean, I pay my bills on time and never lack for things, but I’m not making the big bucks by a long shot. In terms of personal satisfaction, however, it just can’t be beaten! People come in to see me with soreness, tight muscles, tension headaches, insomnia, and a host of other problems. I work with them and they feel better. The praise I receive makes me feel like a hero, and knowing how effective massage makes me feel as though my job is actually making a difference.
Doing massage, even 20-30 hour weeks, is very taxing. Repetitive strain ruins backs, shoulders, elbows, and thumbs. We learn ways to keep ourselves safe, but so many of us ignore those tips and wind up sidelined. A commonly-cited figure holds that most therapists practice about three years before burning out (injuries are only one reason, among the others are low pay and dissatisfaction with the actual practice of massaging people).
The second day of April marked the seventh anniversary of my massage practice. If you count massage school, it’s been nearly eight years…and I love my career more than ever.
Lately, however, there have been a few dark clouds looming on my horizon, so to speak. The deep joint of my thumb (the so-called ‘saddle’ or sellar joint) has been aching. My shoulders often hurt and sometimes there are fiery pains in my forearms. I recently heard that seven years is another peak for massage therapist burnout.
This is a little bit scary...or sobering at least. I really don’t do anything else very well. (No, I don’t. I’m not just being silly or self-effacing here…read on for explanation…) I’m one of those generalists who does a whole lot of things adequately and one or two very well. I’ve definitely never had a job I’ve feel such mastery of. Not to say that I couldn’t be as good at something else, but it sure would be a long path to get there.
In my career, I’ve met a few exceptional massage therapists. One has been practicing for 28 years, several others for well over 10. One of our local clinics has a man in his 80s who is still massaging, and apparently does a heck of a good deep tissue massage.
So, I have resolved to be careful. I recently took a “Safe Hands” course that gave me tips on preventing injury and protecting my body for a nice long career. I have been putting ice on my shoulders and wrists, soaking in Epsom salt baths, resting, exercising...last week I got a (great) massage from my colleague, Kate. That helped a lot.
I dream that some day people will tell their friends: “You have got to go to Massage Envy Frisco…they have this 75-year-old therapist, and he does SUCH a great job!”