My journey to Massage Therapy

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One of the best bits of advice I was given when growing up was to find two adults in life that were kind and wise – not necessarily in that order, and not necessarily parents. My two kind and wise people will remain anonymous here, however each of them , since I was young, encouraged me to follow my heart, to try to use my head as well as my heart and to embrace change. It’s tempting to remain in a role or career path because it’s what we are familiar with and sometimes it can take  a major event or situation outwith our control to make us think about what we truly want. That’s partly what happened with myself in becoming a massage therapist, although my journey to massage therapy had already begun.

A few years before I was a massage therapist, my partner developed excruciating ‘Sciatica’. Anyone reading this who has experienced sciatic pain or ‘piriformis syndrome’  will understand how debilitating and unpleasant that can be. Anyway, I used to try to massage him, not really knowing what I was doing, but knowing that I wanted to be able to do it better.  I therefore set about looking for a suitable massage course. In my ignorance, I thought becoming a massage therapist was a relatively short process, maybe a day or a weekend. I soon appreciated that becoming a fully qualified professional massage therapist was not a quick process and and there would be months, and years of studying and practice.

Initially I was only thinking of doing it in my non-work time purely to help alleviate my partners aching back and legs.  I decided to take the plunge and embarked on a Diploma course in Swedish Massage with Scottish Massage Schools. Based in Edinburgh, this course was 8 weekends over 8 months with the other weekends usually spent in tutorial groups with my classmates or studying muscles, pathologies, the systems of the body and of course, the hands on techniques. Almost total immersion for me and I was hooked!

I loved it! Of course, the exams and essay writing was a bit of a challenge, especially when I was working full time doing it entirely in my spare time, but I really loved it, and my partner was delighted to be a practice body, not only for myself but also for some of my student colleagues when we would meet up to practice in study groups.

Just before my final exams, I was made redundant. This was a significant event. My career had been in the Scottish Drinks industry for 25 years, so it was a big change no longer being part of that. The silver lining meant that I could devote a bit more time to revision and, once I had passed my Diploma, I decided  to take the advice I had been given from the ‘wise two’ and decided that instead of looking for a role in the same industry, I would start my own business doing something I had discovered I really loved doing.

The wonderful thing about being a massage therapist is that there are so many different directions the journey can go and there is always, always something new to be learned. Being from a business background in the corporate world and being acutely aware of the stresses, anxiety and musculo – skeletal conditions such as backache, repetitive strain injuries and Headaches  that employees can experience, I decided to do a further Diploma with Scottish Massage Schools in On-Site chair Massage . This is an excellent course for already qualified therapists to undertake as it includes the techniques and protocols required and importantly, the course covers business aspects which is very useful for those recently qualified therapists who are just starting out. A key factor is that it gets the newbie therapist used to interacting with lots of different clients.

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At the back of my mind, I knew that I still wanted to know more and expand the range of therapies I could offer – so with a bit of negotiation with my lovely supportive partner, I embarked on a further course to become a fully qualified Remedial and Sports Massage Therapist with a Diploma from Scottish Massage Schools which again involved  studying at weekends, evenings and my spare time spent in massage tutorial groups, and with my head in reference books or watching ‘you tube’ tutorials as I had my breakfast.

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Now? – my learning continues. Whether it is reading a book, attending a webinar or a course, it’s fascinating to discover different techniques to resolve a problem.  On the more relaxation based side of massage I’ve completed courses in Aromatherapy facials, Thai Foot massage, Indian Head Massage and Hot Stones Massage. On the more clinical path, in addition to my Remedial and Sports massage Diploma, I’ve also completed Advanced clinical courses with the Jing Institute of Massage in Low Back Pain Shoulder Girdle pain, Neck and Shoulder pain and also a Foundation course in Myofascial Release. It’s all great stuff and as long as I can, I will always be learning more.

Do I miss the Scottish Drinks Trade? well sometimes. I miss the customers and the colleagues, but frankly, I don’t really get time to miss anything as I’m enjoying my new career so much. Plus, there are many similarities and connections. Now instead of managing a project or finding a solution to a business problem, I’m resolving musculo-skeletal problems experienced by people. I have at least one ‘On-Site’ Massage Client in the Scottish Drinks Industry and their employees find the 15 minutes of On-Site chair massage every month to be hugely beneficial.

My journey has also taken me into the rewarding area of Massage for People Living with Cancer. Sometimes I am amazed that I am here from where I was 5 years ago – but it just feels right somehow.  I completed Gayle Macdonald’s course run by Scottish Massage Schools –  ‘ Massage for People Living with Cancer’ and have achieved The Iris Cancer Partnership Level 1 qualification.  I’ve just completed a year’s volunteer placement with The Iris Cancer Partnership at Strathcarron Hospice which has been a very special and rewarding aspect of being a massage therapist.

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