The Injury Pandemic afflicting Massage Therapists

Being a Massage therapist must be one of the best jobs in the world. Working with the immense power of Touch, supporting our clients to be the best they can be, seeing them grow and develop through the power of regular treatments. It’s a real privilege and yet this wonderful healing profession is facing an injury pandemic…which very few people seem to be talking about.

When NO HANDS Founder, Gerry Pyves, discovered that his own injury was far from isolated in our profession he became fascinated in the true extent of the problem. You can hear him describing this journey of discovery in the free Knowledge is Power video series. A student of his, Alison Adams, proposed a 7-stage model of injury in 1995 which Gerry then went on both to develop further and publish in his first book The Principles and Practice of NO HANDS Massage (Pyves, 2000).

Between 2002 & 2005, both in the UK and abroad, Gerry tested this model out with around 1500 therapists at Protect Your Career! seminars he ran.  By asking for a show of hands at each stage, he found that Massage therapists’ injuries universally conformed to this 7-stage model. He then researched the research on injury in the fields of Occupational Injury and Sports Injury during 2005, and discovered that there was clear scientific evidence to support this 7-stage model. The model postulates that there are in fact 7 distinct stages in the development of injury for Massage therapists. Studies now show that this model fits very comfortably with the universal experiences of Massage practitioners worldwide. You can access a fully referenced summary of the 7-stage model and the research that supports it here.

There have been a total of 6 studies into injury in Massage therapists carried out worldwide: four by self-funded injured Massage Therapists, one by a group of doctors in Taiwan, and finally one by a research group at the University of New Brunswick, Canada. (If you know of any others, please do let us know.) In total these six studies consulted a total of 5,203 Massage Therapists – and of these a staggering 4,081, or 78%, reported injury. There is universal agreement between the studies of a staggeringly high incidence of injury and this is largely happening to the hands and the back of Massage therapists. Interestingly, the studies show injury can affect Massage therapists at any time in their career, with any volume of clients. Tragically, some therapists experience injury even during their initial training.

Although the injury issue itself is concerning, the studies also show that the “shelf life” of a Massage therapist averages out at about 3 years – meaning just as therapists are gaining the wisdom that only comes through serious clinical hours their expertise and knowledge is being lost to our seriously Touch-starved world. A full summary comparing the findings of the 6 studies is available to download. It makes for sobering reading, particularly given the studies seem to confirm the 7-stage model and, importantly, the recovery times actually needed following injury.

Regardless of where you are in your career, getting informed is the first step to addressing this major issue in our profession – once informed you can decide the most appropriate next step for you.

Resources

Knowledge is Power seriesa short series of videos talking through both the 7-stage model and the research into injury

The 7 Stages of Injury Model – a detailed and referenced summary of the 7-stage model of injury and the research that supports it

A Summary of Studies into Massage Therapist Injury –  a review and analysis of the six studies into injury in Massage therapists that have been carried out worldwide

 

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