Things that are funny and things that are not

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about professionalism and ethics. Specifically, the differences between them, and the applications of those definitions on our actions and words as massage therapists.

I’ve labored over various definitions. I’ve looked at situations where I’ve used the words interchangeably and probably incorrectly. I’ve though about where I’ve used each word properly. And I’ve come to a conclusion.

ID-10065252I kinda don’t care about getting the exact verbiage right.

I care about the meaning, the intent, and the context of any particular interaction. What follows is the story of how I started thinking about this.

I saw a funny graphic on Facebook. It was pretty funny. It said, ” Crazy Client Request “I want extra work on my neck, but don’t mess up my hair.”” Lots of people commented on how funny it was. A few hundred people have shared it. Because it’s funny. And true. We know it happens all the time.

But it bothers me. It bothers me that a few hundred massage therapists think it’s okay to publicly joke about client requests. (Side note: I expressed this in the comments under the image and got nailed. Rightly so. I know better than to start a fight on someone else’s turf. I should’ve just sent a message to the page owner. I’ve apologized for that. I was an asshat.)

Plenty of people disagree with me and think I’m being a tightass. They are correct. I am a tightass. My question is: Why aren’t they?

If a client walked into your office and said, “I’ve got an awful headache, but please don’t get oil in my hair, I’ve got to go back to work after this,” would you actually say, “That’s a crazy request, hahahah!” Would you holler out to a colleague, “Hey, Jane, check it out, this client wants me to work on her head but not get oil in her hair. HA!” Probably not.

Shouldn’t we all be extra sensitive about accidentally, or intentionally, saying something that may make a client afraid to speak up, or afraid to come to us?

Let’s apply this to real life

Let’s say a very shy person, a potential client, is following your Facebook page. They enjoy your posts about stretching, the links to local community events, and the occasional picture of your silly office antics. They’re warming up to the idea of getting massage as they get to know you through your marketing.

Then, they see a joke titled Crazy Client Request. A joke made at the expense of a client. What’s the underlying message here? If you ask your massage therapist for something, they may make fun of you. Publicly. It’s pretty safe to assume that the shy person will never step foot in your office.

Is this an extreme line of thinking? Yes. As it should be. When we’re talking about the feelings of clients, about accidentally intimidating someone, alienating an otherwise ideal potential client, or about hurting a current client’s feelings, we should absolutely think in extremes.

In the most extreme of circumstances, this man committed suicide. He refused to seek help because throughout his childhood he heard his parents and other medical practitioners breech confidentiality and make sport of their mentally ill patients.

Jokes about hair are not extreme. They are silly and funny. But it’s a slippery slope, and a very easy connection for an already shy person to make.

Ummmm, Allissa? Aren’t you a preacher of Marketing with Personality?

Yup. I’m a big fan of letting your personality shine through in your business.

But let’s be clear, there’s a big difference between being silly enough to display a Darth Vader cookie jar in your office, and actively making fun of a client.

Marketing with personality isn’t about casually treating your clients like crap. It’s about being human, warm, and fun in your business. And if you’re too busy to download the ebook, no worries, here’s the important stuff:

You want to be yourself. But you want to be a professional version of yourself. This is a huge topic, we could spend endless chapters on boundaries. Here are some potential land mines to be aware of, and avoid.


Be yourself, unless…

You’re a jerk. If you’re surly and grumpy and super-sarcastic, rein it in. I’m not suggesting that you flip into Happy Cheerleader mode whenever a client walks in the door. Just consider the way your edges could be smoothed to improve the client’s experience.

You’re a flirt. If you’re a highly sexualized person, very flirty and touchy, rein it in. When you are anywhere that could be a marketing/networking possibility, stop it. Don’t do a giggle and a hair flip, don’t talk about sex. Don’t. Just don’t.

Take some time to explore what your weakness are. Recognize them, and have a plan in place to diffuse these land mines before they explode.


Be yourself, unless…

You’ve got a guilt complex. If you’re someone who likes to give and give, and you tend to overcommit and overwork yourself trying to help others in all aspects of your life, rein it in. It’s simply not an effective way to run a business, it’s not a healthy way to work.

You’re a pushover with your schedule. Stop it. Find the easy ways to say no. Practice saying “I’m sorry, I’m booked up.” Get cozy referring out to MT’s who work on your days off.

It’s important to acknowledge that there should be real thought involved in this process. These guidelines are not One Size Fits All. We’re not talking about ignoring ethical concerns and getting casual at your place of business. This is a process, and like any other aspect of business, you need to use good judgement and common sense.

So for me, I think of it this way: I may have clients leave because they don’t like my hands-on techniques. I may have potential clients who never come in because they see an occasional atheist sentiment in my twitter stream. I’m okay with that. But if I ever lose a client or potential client because they felt I was insensitive to their needs, or they feared I would make fun of them, I will consider that a huge professional failure. Huge.

For you: Well, you’ve got to figure that out for yourself. Consider your feelings. Consider the feelings of the people who will see what you ‘like’ and post on Facebook, and interact accordingly.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

No one is coming to rescue you

Got that? No one is coming to save you.

There is no knight on a white horse. You’re not gonna win the lottery. Praying isn’t going to pay the bills if you don’t get up and go to work, too. The spouse you married for love (but a little bit for security and money, too) could get laid off any minute.  Spiderman will not be swooping in to pull you from the wreckage of your business malaise. Say it with me, “No one is coming to rescue me.”

That’s a pretty frightening revelation, huh?* Just let that linger in the back of your head for a bit.

There are a variety of things we will do when hunger, housing, health are on the line. We will hustle to feed our kids and keep them clothed. We will deliver pizza into the wee hours if it means helping Dad pay for his medication.

However, we become complacent (not just fiscally, but in our emotional satisfaction) when we hit middle ground. We get lazy. We get stupid.

Here’s a common conversation in my world

Me: How many clients do you want to see every week?
You: Oh, 18-20
Me: How many are you seeing right now?
You: Um… well.. some weeks only I have 2 or 3 clients, some weeks I have 10 or 11.
Me: What are you doing to increase that?
You: Weeeellll… I sent out postcards to my old clients. I worked a few health fairs last month….
Me: How’s your website?
You: Oh, well, I really should update that a little… I’m so busy right now, I haven’t gotten to it. We had a tree fall in the yard and I’ve been cleaning it up. My parrot was sick so I’ve been staying home a lot. And I was running the book fair at my son’s school, that was such a project!!
Me: <<Sigh>>

Or in a class recently

Me: Raise your hand if you’re seeing as many clients as you want to.
Only 2 people out of 20 raised their hands.
Me: What’s your biggest obstacle to getting started with online marketing?
“Finding time to learn!”
Me: If you’re only seeing 5 clients a week, and your goal is 15, what the heck are you doing with that extra 10 clients’ worth of time? (Okay- there are some reasonable explanations here, especially if someone is maintaining another job while starting a massage business. But most of the excuses are BS. Total BS.)

See where I’m going with this?

All the marketing blogs, books, online classes, in-person workshops and savvy-tech tools in the world won’t help you if you don’t GET OFF YOUR ASS and do the work. And it’s up to YOU to do it. No one is coming to rescue you. Masses of clients are NEVER going to just show up begging for your services.  (Secret: even if someone did rescue you, eventually you would still end up back in the hole. It’s imperative that you LEARN how to dig out on your own.)


Knowing where to start can be hard, So here are some resources for you.

MassageNerd– Hands on stuff, business stuff, fantastic stock photos. Ryan’s got ’em.

Massage Sloth-Hands on stuff, and Ian’s Facebook page is a treasure trove of brilliant business tips and tricks, too.

Massage Business Blueprint– Yeah, this is my new project, so this is totally narcissistic. Deal. It’s a good resource. 

Will any of these resources be different for you?

Only if you are different. You need to buck up and say, “I want to do more, I want to do better.”

Only if you banish the “But I can’t because blah blah blah…” mentality and replace it with, “I’m going to learn this stuff, and I will be good at it.”

No one is coming to rescue you. The good news is, you can rescue yourself. Your call.

[*I want to make it perfectly clear that we’re talking about business crap, not real legit depression stuff, like I talk about often. If you are suffering from depression or other mental illness please be assured that someone is coming to rescue you. Go here and call or live chat with a professional who can help you right now, or refer you to an appropriate care provider in your area.]

The removal of stuff & the addition of goals

Stuff, goals, and decison-making skills.-or- Allissa pulls her shit together and makes decisions like an adult

There is a certain amount of clarity that comes with having very little. Minimalists know this. I don’t claim to be a minimalist (yet), but I’m getting better and better at reducing both the literal and figurative ‘stuff’ in my life.

I moved 6 times in the first 6 years after I left my husband. I took almost nothing with me when I left, and with each move I let go of more ‘stuff’. I let go of yearbooks, tshirts, holiday decorations, a wedding dress, 3 kick-ass vintage prom gowns. And so much more.

But I didn’t just dump property. I walked away from friendships that had run their course and family relationships that caused me pain at every interaction. 

I broke up with an organization I loved. I stood up to people who used that love to manipulate me into working too hard. I did the math and discovered that traveling and teaching actually cost and lost me money, even just driving 45 minutes. So I ended (most) teaching gigs. 

I cleared my plate. And it’s been wonderful. 

But here’s the best part: removing all the clutter helped me figure out what I do want on my plate. I figured this out almost by default recently. 

I’ve been making big decisions lately, about my businesses and financial life. I’ve spun up some big ideas and watched them get destroyed by reality (read: budgets). And my reaction to the losses, and to some successes, too, guided me to what my real goals are. 

1. Create a collaborative wellness center where independent practitioners can serve the community and thrive.

2. Build an online empire that helps massage practitioners attract more clients, make more money and improve their lives.

3. Pay off all my debt by December 2016. Every. Last. Penny.

Now I’m in this new and exciting adventure where I make a decisions based on my goals. And it’s great. Who knew? (You probably did. I’m just a little slow.)

Sure! It would be awesome to take a long weekend and zip over to Pittsburgh during the convention and see my AMTA friends! I considered it. But being away from my practice for 4 days instead of seeing clients and spending 20 hours in a car instead of writing is directly opposed to all 3 goals. So I’m not doing it. 

Yes! I would love to spend all night on the computer looking at fabulous women’s suits to pick out what I’m going to  wear to officiate at a wedding soon. But that doesn’t contribute to accomplishing any of the goals. 

(Lest you think I’m all about that dollah bill, know that I’ve got some good personal stuff going on, too. I got busted up pretty good by a long-time friend this spring, and dumped on my ass hard by a boyfriend shortly after. The first situation helped me identify the really wonderful friends in my life. And they’ve all carried me through the second. I’m a lucky, lucky girl. But I’m not ready to be making new personal life goals yet. K?)

And here’s the thing. This shouldn’t be an epiphany, right? We all know we should identify goals and strive to achieve them. No big whoop. And yet, when I made my first ‘based on my goals’ decision last week it was like  fireworks when off behind my head celebrating my brilliance. 

Now that I’m all knee-deep in my own adulting, I kinda want to know: What are the goals and guideposts that help you make decisions? 

And have you ever been epically wrong about a goal? Achieved it then realized you didn’t want it after all? I’m so curious. This is a whole new world for me. 

Tell me your stories!

Happy Endings and Icky Jokes: How to respond when it happens

IMG_3289One of the weirdest parts of being a massage therapist is the less-than-classy questions people will ask. It happens much less now than it did 10 years ago when I started in this business. But every so often I’ll get introduced to a new person, and the crass oaf will say. “Do you give happy endings?”

And we all have ‘that friend’ who (repeatedly) posts stupid massage jokes on our Facebook wall, because they think it’s hilarious. Ugh.

It can be tricky to handle these awkward confrontations. It can be trickier to handle these confrontations and not be a catty jerk who embarrasses and alienates the poor oaf. (Or maybe that’s just me?)

For me, it helps to have some scripts ready when these things come up. I need to think about what to say and practice it, so I don’t get all stupid or pissy in my response. And so I don’t just laugh and blow it off and feel like crap about my lack of response later.

So I checked in with a few friends and pulled together our favorite responses.

When you get the dreaded, “Do you give happy endings?” questions

“Weeell, no. Because I’m not a sex worker. I’m a trained and licensed health professional.”

I like to be clear, and use the actual words instead of catering to innuendo. It deflates the whole cheeky joke thing.

You can say it harshly and get all catty about it. But there’s not really a point to that. You want to gently but firmly educate someone without shaming them. Partly because you’re not a jerk. Also because they will understand and retain the lesson better if they are not made to feel stupid and defensive.

This is not the best time to go all out with a lecture on how disrespectful that little ‘joke’ is to all massage therapists. That becomes apparent when you say the words ‘sex worker’.

Once you get out that response, you have two choices. You can change the subject entirely, “So what do you do?” Or just keep talking and tell them about your work. “I’ve got an office in Plainville, mostly working with people who sit at desks all day then run marathons on the weekend.”

My friend Leslie says, ”Almost all my clients leave happy, but it’s never because of sexual services. That would be illegal and completely not what I do for a living. Happy endings are for Disney and the library. Sexual services are for prostitutes.” She’s got a kickin’ sense of humor and can pull that off.

My friend Ian responds, “Everyone gets one massage sex joke, and that was yours. You totally wasted it, by the way, I’ve heard way better.”

If it happens in the office, my friend Tracy likes to inform people that by asking that question seriously, they are soliciting sex, breaking the law, and setting themselves up for a call to the police. That’ll deflate their casual, stupid humor pretty quick and likely ensure it doesn’t happen again.

When the inappropriate jokes are virtual

There are equivalents to this silliness in the virtual world. People share junk like this all the time, and occasionally post similar ‘jokes’ on my profile, or even my massage business page.

You may be great at just ignoring these things. Or you may be like me, and feel that this teaching moment should be utilized.

This is a time for a private message:

I wanted to let you know that I deleted the link you put on my wall. I know you had only good intentions and thought I would find it funny. But I need you to know that I did not, and I think it’s important that you know why.

I take my job seriously. I have extensive training in massage, I maintain my licenses and certifications, and I run a business that serves my community.

So when you post a video that makes a joke, and an uncomfortable joke at that, about the services I provide, that’s a problem.

I would never want anyone to think those kind of shenanigans go on in my massage room. I would never want a current or potential client to see that on my wall and think I would be disrespectful of their comfort and privacy.

So I hope you understand why that ‘joke’ isn’t funny, and that you’ll consider not sharing things like this in the future. Not with me, or anyone. 

Yes, it’s wordy. But I think that response also strikes a nice balance of kind, informative, and firm.

How do you deflate these situations, without putting someone on the defensive, so it can be a useful exchange?

So, you’ve got a successful massage business. Why so anxious?


Let’s get real
Being a business owner is scary. Being a single business owner even more so. And when you’re supporting a family? Holy geez wowsers that sounds terrifying. (Hats off to all of you raising kids and/or supporting a stay-at-home spouse. You are utterly badass.)

Yes, being your own boss is crazy-rewarding and has its own benefits. But it’s still scary as hell.

Most of us started our businesses with just the supplies and equipment from our schooling, slapping together ideas and action as best we could, learning as we grew.

The lucky ones had a business plan (and knew what to do with it). The luckier ones had previous careers that provided some necessary business skills. The smart ones researched the nitty gritty of every situation and made well-informed decisions that led to success.

However you got here, you’re here
You’re pretty well established, staying fairly well booked, and you’ve got the day-to-day tasks of running a business under control. Congratulations! You’ve arrived!

Except for that nagging, petrified little voice in the back of your head shrieking, “It could all fall apart in an instant!” Daily. Or maybe weekly. Or maybe just when you’re having that day where 5 clients call to cancel upcoming appointments and your week falls apart.

Why am I diving into these tales of woe? Because Cindy said, “Business is wonderful here, but my anxiety keeps me feeling like there’s a hidden shoe about to drop. [I’m] still struggling with looking ahead instead of behind despite being very solidly booked.”

And from the response her comment got, I can tell that’s a common problem for people in her situation. In some ways, it’s a good problem to have. It means you’re successful! But it kinda sucks the fun out of working for yourself.

For every fear, there is a solution to make it tolerable. Here are my go-to anxiety relievers. 

Have a go-to protocol for slow weeks, and make it easy
Look at the things that have helped you bring in clients in the past. Figure out what’s worked and what hasn’t.

For me, sending an email to my clients with a list of that week’s open appointments is really effective. But if I have to make an email from scratch every week, it becomes a whole big project. I’ll procrastinate and never actually do it. So I finally made a sweet last minute appointment template with all the links and buttons to my online scheduling. I can just drop a one-liner note in there to keep it fresh and send. It’s an easy, 10 minute task that’ll fill an appointment or two.

If you get a great response on Facebook, spend a few minutes making some adorable graphics in Canva and save them to your computer and mobile device. When you have a slow day or week, upload to Facebook with a headline and the link (or contact info) to schedule. That’s a five minute task when you already have the graphic ready.

If you still have too much time on your hands, I’ve got a few bigger tasks outlined over here on the At Peace Media blog. 

Just having a protocol in place can be comforting. Sure, it’s a slow week, but you know what to do to make it better. You’re in control.

Get some emergency savings
This is the thing we all know we need, but few make it happen. We need an emergency savings.

Because your car will need a new transmission the same month your second quarter taxes and license renewals are due. Your fridge will break the week that you pay for the kid’s hockey season including all new equipment because holy heck she just won’t stop growing.

Or you’ll just miss a week of work when you have the flu. You need a backup. And when you own a business, this is doubly true. You need a savings for living expenses and business expenses.

We should all have at least three months of expenses in the bank. Six to nine months is even better. If you don’t already have this started, it seems like a Herculean task to save That. Much. Money.

So, like most things that are big and scary, we put off getting started. Then it doesn’t happen. Then you jam your thumb and immediately have a panic attack over the notion that you could lose a few days of work and oh my god what if I break my leg I’m going to be homeless in a month my life is falling apart someone help me. Or maybe that’s just me?

Anyhow, the thing about accruing a solid savings is that it happens slowly. But when it happens, it’ll change your life. A whole layer of fear and anxiety lifts from your life. Really.

How to do it? Again, slowly. I recently got my act together and started building up a savings. I created a whole new saving account at an online bank. Every week when I sit down to pay bills, I transfer money from my local credit union to the savings. It’s super easy to do online and takes under five minutes. I force myself to transfer at least 5% of the last week’s income, I try to do more when I have busier weeks. If that seems impossible to you, start with 2%. Or if you take tips, transfer half of them. Something is better than nothing, and it’ll add up over time.

Having a cushion takes all sorts of stress off a slow week, an illness, or a busted water heater.

Get some cheerleaders
There will always be tough times in business ownership. Sometimes your preparedness won’t be enough of a comfort and anxiety will eat you up. Hopefully you’ve got friends and colleagues to lean on and talk you out of your funk. And if you’re a loner, the rest of us are right here.

How do you keep the anxiety from ruining the fun?

Weird things that matter when you’re running a business.

I live in New England, where we’ve been getting an unholy amount lots of snow over the past few weeks. It’s a project to dig a car out and clear it off post-storm. Common sense dictates one would clear off one’s car completely.

But some people don’t. Some people clear most of their windshield, maybe a little of the rear window, and set out onto the roads putting other people in danger.
That’s a mark of character, I think. And I wasn’t too sad to see the state police pulling people over for it during the recent blizzard.

car covered in snow

photo via the MA State Police Facebook page:


I’m a hardass. I know I skew a little stricter than average about guidelines and rules, especially when it comes to running a business. Just like the snow-on-the-car thing (but certainly not as dangerous), I think there are actions and inactions that indicate character in a business owner. I think they matter.

Where you park your car
Some business owners park in a spot far away from their entrance, reserving the closer spots for customers. And I’ve seen others take the spot closest to the door, and stay parked there all day while clients have to schlepp from a distance, both before and after their massage.

The bottom line here is, are you making convenience a priority for you or your client? Your clients will catch on to that.

(Yes, I know that not everyone can control the parking situation around their business. If that’s the case, this doesn’t apply to you.)

What you wear
I know. I KNOW. People get piffy about this one. But the reality is, if you show up every day in ragged yoga pants, dirty sneakers, and a tshirt, it’s pretty damn clear that you don’t respect your work. Our ‘uniforms’ will vary according to environment. But the clothes you wear for work should always be clean, not worn-out, and not overly-casual.

Oh- and let’s have a little side chat about wearing custom tshirts with ignorant puns or ‘jokes’ about massage. Stop it. Your profession is not a joke. It’s a career, dammit. A career that has the potential to change lives. Unless of course, those people think you’re an unprofessional twit who wears silly tshirts. Then they will never come to you for massage and you will never change lives. “I’ve got your back” is fun. “I’m a massage therapist, I get paid to hurt people” is not.

Your trash
We need trash baskets. They will often have trash in them. This isn’t rocket science. But if you let them hang out more than half full for days at a time, it looks bad. It looks like you can’t be bothered to empty your trash. If you let them hang out full and overfull, it looks even worse. Trash is a visible indicator of how clean the rest of your office is, even the not-so-visible parts. Make it a good indicator.

What else? What are the little ‘things’ you notice that turn you on or off to certain businesses?

Light at the End of the Tunnel

We’re pleased to publish this guest post from our friend, Katie Adams. She’s a career therapist in the Boston area and knows.her.stuff. You can read more about her in the bio at the end of this post.2015-02-02_0810

Thank you, lax ligaments, for allowing me to get away with doing massage for 19 years without much pain. Over the past two, however, I have chased nerve-like symptoms up and down my arm while continuing to practice full time. I’d only cancel clients when the pain was enough to cause me to panic, haphazardly putting out the fire with chiropractic, massage, trigger point dry needling, some strengthening and stretching.

My thumb and first two fingers were tingling a lot when I went to my annual physical this past October. My PCP kindly reminded me that I was complaining about forearm and wrist pain at my last annual physical. Duh! Something always hurts when you are a bodyworker, right?

“I just don’t know where it’s coming from,” I said. “The pain jumps around between my neck, shoulder, biceps, forearm and thumb. But, come to think of it, I have been dropping things a lot lately. I just assumed I was clumsy.”

Full disclosure, I knew I had a positive Tinel’s Sign and Phelen’s Maneuver, so I begrudgingly made an appointment to see a neurologist.

I wanted to see a “soft-tissue friendly” doctor, so I made an appointment with a wonderful woman who is a neurologist and physiatrist. She remarked about my fear of the painful EMG test, “You have had a tingling hand for over a year? Trust me you have already felt more pain than this test will elicit!”  

Well, it was a rather unpleasant experience, but not that painful – quite interesting, actually.  An electromyogram (EMG) measures the electrical activity of muscles at rest and during contraction. A nerve conduction study measures how well and how fast the nerves can send electrical signals. My neurologist taped electrodes to my skin and put small shocks through my upper extremity nerves. Using a thin-needle electrode, she then stuck various muscles and asked me to move, listening to what sounded like loud static. Results: muscle damage (also called wasting) in my abductor pollicis muscle and significantly slowed median nerve impulses in the carpal tunnel. Diagnosis: moderate-severe Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).

Normally, if symptoms are caught early, conservative treatment for CTS inclusive of rest, PT and a cortisone shot to the wrist is prescribed. However, mine being a moderate-severe diagnosis with muscle and nerve damage, is a surgical case.

According to “Endoscopic surgery uses a thin, flexible tube with a camera attached (endoscope). The endoscope is guided through a small incision in the wrist (single-portal technique) or at the wrist and palm (two-portal technique). The endoscope lets the doctor see structures in the wrist, such as the transverse carpal ligament, without opening the entire area with a large incision.”

According to “Endoscopic surgery uses a thin, flexible tube with a camera attached (endoscope). The endoscope is guided through a small incision in the wrist (single-portal technique) or at the wrist and palm (two-portal technique). The endoscope lets the doctor see structures in the wrist, such as the transverse carpal ligament, without opening the entire area with a large incision.”

There are two main types of CTS Surgery: Open or Endoscopic. The hand surgeon that I consulted with specializes in the endoscopic procedures. He really seemed to understand my anxiety about my hand. “It’s more than the ability to support myself, I said, “It’s my connection to the world. My sense of touch is highly attuned – far more than any of my other senses. What if I lost it?”

No one can look into a crystal ball and know the outcome of any surgical procedure. But, according to the hand literature, my surgeon told me four things:

  1. Anyone with my level of nerve impairment (proven electrically) is best treated with a carpal tunnel release. Surgery can immediately halt further progression of nerve fiber loss and damage, provide symptomatic relief and prevent further loss of function.
  2. The damage thus far is not going to reverse by itself. Steroid injection can temporarily improve pain or tingling. But, there will be ongoing nerve loss with time, even while pursuing conservative measures, possibly progressing to ultimate total numbness and weakness in the hand.
  3. In the short term, less invasive endoscopic technique has been shown to be less painful and allow quicker return to function for the patient.
  4. At a certain point post-operatively, all carpal tunnel surgical patients should function equally (which is to say quite well). The hand ligament will heal over, but with roughly 30% more space for tendons and nerve to coexist within the tunnel.

My take away:  there is no guarantee that conservative treatment will take pressure off my carpal tunnel. I could spend a year trying non-invasive therapies, but with the moderate-severe diagnosis, it’s a gamble for sure. While spending time treating the symptoms, I could lose time for the nerve to viably recover. With the possibility of more permanent nerve damage, I decided to pursue surgery.

As I left the surgeon’s office, my brain slammed with self-defeating thoughts: 

“You are so stubborn, you could have prevented this if you’d taken better care of yourself.”
“You have been slouching for years over the massage table. You could have worked with better ergonomics.”
“What were you thinking digging in the garden and making rock walls for all those years while you did massage?”
“You were completely stupid trying to do sand bag carries and pull-ups at the gym followed by 5 massages back to back without rest.”
“I should have given up gluten and sugar…” (isn’t that ultimately what everyone blames these days?!)

Massage Dinosaur
I’ve often called myself a dinosaur in the massage world. I’m either seriously old, or I’ve survived the 7-year average burn-out rate multiple times.
Reflecting back upon the 18,500+ massage hours I have done in my career, I realized that I have been given the rare gift of a second chance with this surgery. I can prevent career extinction.

It’s easy to assume people just want a quick fix when they have surgeries.  As massage therapists, we usually try to help our clients avoid them at all costs. I never realized, however, how hard it is to actually make the decision to have an elective surgery. It is an exhausting and emotional process. But making the decision can be a true ‘light at the end of the ‘tunnel,’ bringing hope for longer lasting relief. Remember this the next time one of your clients comes in and has made this very personal decision.

To my massage colleagues I say, do not be afraid of injury or extinction!  The “Age of Dinosaurs” was the Mesozoic Era, which got divided into three periods: the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous (albeit 145-66 million years ago). I figure that I’m just entering my own post-surgical, ‘Jurassic’ massage era. I wonder if the Jurassic Park Discovery Center at Universal Studios in Orlando needs a new exhibit!

dinoKatie Adams has been practicing NMT in the greater Boston area for a long time. She founded the group practice 360 NeuroMuscular Therapy in Needham, MA which is uniquely focused on rehabilitation of soft-tissue dysfunction associated with medically diagnosed injury and myofascial pain syndrome. She is on the faculty of Myopain Seminars in Bethesda, MD, and also a regular speaker at medical conferences, including for the last five years, the New England Baptist Shoulder & Sports Symposium. Katie holds a BA from Ithaca College, and achieved national NMT certification in 1996 after graduating from the Massage Institute of New England. She is an active member of the American Massage Therapy Association, the National Association of Trigger Point Therapists and the International Myopain Society. Katie is always eager to confer with fellow or budding Massage Dinosaurs! | @katieadams360 | #massagedinosaur

Bless Your Heart – An Online Silent Auction of Love

Special thanks to Leslie Forrester for putting together this post and organizing the online auction. I am often awed by the love in our little community, and honored to be part of this effort. -Allissa

laura allenMassage Therapists are generally nurturing people, and it’s hard to read about a serious bout of illness in someone I’ve come to know and admire through my time as a professional massage therapist (especially one who is addicted a little bit to social media} and not want to help.  Laura Allen is a titan of the massage therapy industry, well known and well honored.  She’s a colorful person, with a no-nonsense attitude and an unmistakable twang when she speaks (her most viral video is about toxins & massage and isn’t for the faint of heart) and when she performs with her band, Cuz.  From her own bio on the website of her spa in Rutherford, North Carolina (THERA-SSAGE), here’s the briefest summary of her history:

Laura Allen is a graduate of Shaw University and The Whole You School of Massage & Bodywork. She is the author of four textbooks and a cookbook. She is a regular contributor to trade journals, an internationally known educator, and one of the most well-known bloggers in the massage profession, with blogs appearing on the websites of Massage MagazineMassage Today, massageprofessionals, and numerous other sites. She’s been honored by the American Massage Conference, inducted into the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame and also received the Government Relations Award for her reporting on legislation and regulation in the field of massage therapy. In 2013, she was honored with the Media Award at the World Massage Festival, and was also the Silver Award Winner in the Practitioner Case Report contest sponsored by the Massage Therapy Foundation.

Well, Laura has been sick.  She wrote a blog post with lots of details, but there’s been more than one hospital stay and multiple conditions, and this is the second time in two years. Laura lives hundreds of miles away from me, so I can’t offer to massage away some of the hurt (might be contraindicated anyway). But every last one of us can help Laura!  She’s out of work for medical reasons, which brings tons of extra bills, and we want to give her a hand, so here are some ways that you can contribute by showing Laura the lovingkindness of massage from the comfort of your own home or office:

Buy one of her books! You can choose from her latest, a book about her views on the journey to embracing evidence based massage, a great guide to creating or recreating your massage practice, a book for massage educators, a cookbook, and more.

Check out this Silent Auction here. Some friends in the industry have donated classes, resources, handcrafted items, etc. to benefit Laura Allen and raise some dough for her during the recovery process.

The auction will begin at 5 pm EST on Monday 9/15/2014 and will end Sunday at 9 pm EST 9/21/2014, but you can go ahead and register now so you don’t forget to look and bid.

Donate money:  We’ve made it as simple as possible by putting a donation button on the silent auction page.  So you can donate at the click of a button, via paypal.

Share this post and make us go viral in the world of massage!  Forward it to school owners, people in the hierarchy of your professional organization, or other industry professionals.  Like it, +1 it, Tweet it, email it, link it, pin it and love it, and you’ve done something good for someone who has done so much for all of us.

Leslie Forrester is the owner and solopreneur at Quality Life Massage Therapy, located just outside Tampa, Florida. She has used these and other networking techniques to fill her practice from scratch in just two years. You can find her on linkedin, Facebook, and at

The things you thought couldn’t change


I’ve been having problems with my eyes. I assumed it was because my vision was getting worse. This is a decent educated guess since the acknowledgement of my vision getting worse has occurred on an annual basis for almost 30 years. I’ve been having trouble with computer screens and print and such. So I figured I was getting to the bifocal/reading glasses stage of my life. This made me unhappy, obviously.

I’m cool with the gray hair. I’m cozy with the appearance of little wrinkles around my eyes and mouth. I’m managing the whole ‘harder to lose weight’ thing. I’ve been reality-slapped with the ‘men my age tend to not date women my age’ experience of singleness at 39. I know these things to be true. And none of them ruffle my feathers too much. But reading glasses? C’mon.

So I went to my Eye Guy. He did the exam. I waited for the news. I held my breath and he said, “I think your vision has improved. The contacts you have are over-correcting.”

Say what now? That can happen?

Yes. That can happen. It could be because my nutrition has improved dramatically since I saw him last. (My diet is no longer made up of food served to me through my car window.) Or it’s a weird fluke. But it happened. He gave me a lower prescription to try for a few days and it’s working well.

So there’s that.

Just over eleven years ago I was stuck in a little hell of employment, getting my soul destroyed daily at a retail pharmacy job. I needed to get out but I had no idea where to go. A series of events led me to a massage therapist. I asked questions, I checked out a school. I applied, interviewed, I enrolled.

Through most of the 18 month program I figured I would end up working at a spa or chiropractor’s or some place where I was an employee. I had zero interest in owning a business and handling all the hassle that goes along with that. Zero. I did not like to be in charge. I did not like handling extraneous paperwork or thinking about zoning permits and the buck stopping with me.

I interned a bit at a chiro’s office the last few months of massage school. I just followed him around and did some spot treatments here and there. My presence in the office was well-received and after a few days we cleaned out a room and I set up real massage space. I started giving massage at a student rate, people scheduled. Then scheduled again. And on the Sunday night when I graduated, I had a handful of clients in the book for the next week, all ready to start paying full price. I accidentally started a business. I liked the clients (and their money) and didn’t want to try to persuade them to see me at the spa I was working at part-time. So I just did the things I needed to do to get a massage business going.

I never thought it would result in me running a successful practice (for nine years now). Or moving to my own space and subletting out to two other therapists. And teaching business and marketing. Now I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So there’s that.

I could put an “Anything is Possible” graphic here. Or maybe a deep thought about impermanence from a popular buddhist. But we tend to avoid that superfluous flowery shit over here on Young Thumbs.

I’ll leave you with this:
We have no idea what is possible.
Go build a massage business in an RV and drive from client to client.
Go teach massage to caretakers at an orphanage. In Vietnam.
Or score 3 bibs in the Boston Marathon to benefit the Massage Therapy Foundation.

Go do epic shit.


^ Here’s your inspiration. Courtesy of because he’s a badass. A generous badass.

PS- And the ‘men my age tend to not date women my age’ thing? I may have found an exception. 

12 Sales and Marketing Terms Massage Therapists Need to Know

John Gelb is a friend of mine, and the head honcho over at At Peace Media where you’ll find great massage music and outstanding webinar-style CE courses for massage therapists. John is not a massage therapist, but he understands us more than most civilians I’ve met, so I’m excited to bring you this guest post. Enjoy!

1. Friction

This is a perfect example of jargon. Friction might mean one specific thing in, say, massage, and then another when you’re talking about high or low friction in the sales process.

Low friction is the goal, because friction is anything that may impede the sale.

Example: Your homepage has a large clickable image inviting me to purchase a special spring massage package. I click it and instead of being able to purchase the deal on the next page, I find another link to click. Then I’m taken to a third party website and have to fill out a 2-page form before I can even enter my credit card number. That’s an example of high friction and as a customer, I’ll probably get frustrated and go check Facebook instead of finishing the transaction.

2. Scalable

Scalability is a characteristic of a system or process that describes its capability to cope under increased or decreased workloads. This is tied into “economies of scale” where ideally there is an increase in efficiency of production as the number of goods being produced increases.

Example: A scalable massage practice maintains or improves its profit margins while the clients and bookings increase.

3. Barrier to entry

Barrier to entry is a term used to describe the complex mix of barriers when a business enters a new market. The article, Barrier to Market Entry, on describes the two extremes: “Entry into a market is always in some way possible yet also constrained in some ways—except in purely theoretical descriptions. The two extremes are described by a state-supported absolute monopoly on the one hand (an insurmountable barrier to a new entrant) and a market on the other hand where entry has zero cost (a totally barrier-free market).”

The major categories that translate into barriers are cost, capital, know-how, location, and state power.

Example: A small business owner like yourself benefits in an underserved area, with good location, and plenty of “differentiation” that makes you stand out from the competition. This would be a low barrier to entry.

4. Buying cycle (Sales cycle, purchase cycle, life cycle)

People go through stages as they interact with your company, and each stage requires different marketing actions. HubSpot calls this “Lifecycle Marketing.”

Depending on who is talking, the buying cycle stages can be defined differently, but it goes something like this for your ideal customer:

Problem recognition
I feel like I need a massage.

Information search
Where might I get a massage? Let’s ask Google (or my best friend, Kathy).

SmartCity Massage has a good deal right now. I trust my friend Kathy and her favorite massage therapist is Mark Jones. From my online research I’ve definitely ruled out E-Z Massage.

Purchase decision
Can I really afford this massage? Should I go ahead and book it now, or wait a week? Should I call or just fill out this form online?

Post-purchase behavior
I booked my appointment with Mark Jones, received a stellar massage, now I’m booking an appointment for next month! And I’m going to give Mark a shout out on Twitter.

5. Content marketing

Content marketing is the process of creating valuable content that will attract your target market to your website or brand.

Content examples: blog articles, infographics, how-to videos, and downloadables like ebooks and guides.

6. Call to Action (CTA)

Words, buttons, images that are used to get a visitor to take a certain action. A CTA at the end of a blog post might be a simple link or a button that says “Like what you’ve read? Click here to subscribe to the blog!”

Or, something like this (subtle, right?) …

7. Conversion Rate

A conversion rate, generically, is the percentage of visitors who take a desired action on a website. The action could be purchasing something (which is a conversion from visitor to customer) or they could be filling out a form (conversion from visitor to lead).

Example: If 100 people visit your online booking form, and 30 of them fill out that form, then the form has a 30% conversion rate…not too shabby. If the conversion rate is low, it’s time to fix the form or process to get a higher conversion rate.

8. Inbound marketing

HubSpot has been the leader of formalizing inbound marketing, and according to their website it is “the most effective marketing method for doing business online.” It is the process of turning strangers into customers and promoters of your business, through strategic use of tactics like blogging, social networking, keyword optimization, lead capturing, email marketing and more. This is the visual representation of how to attract visitors, convert them to leads, close a sale and delight your customers using Inbound Marketing methods:

Image credit: HubSpot

 9. Pay Per Click (PPC)

You’ll hear this whenever someone is talking about Google Ads or other kinds of online advertising. PPC is a payment model in which payment is based solely on qualifying click-throughs (when someone clicks on your ad).

10. Memes

An internet meme is a concept that spreads from person to person throughout the web. It’s a term borrowed from cultural studies about the spread of information. Think of photos or images with text on them (like the original LOLcats have evolved into the many iterations of talking cat memes, like Grumpy Cat). Tip: You can use memes in your social media marketing!


11. Downsell and Upsell

When a client or customer rejects a more expensive product, you might try to sell them something more affordable. This is the opposite of upselling a more expensive product or an additional item to a customer who wants to buy something less expensive.

Example of downselling: Client is interested in your (10) one hour massage package but hesitates over the price. You might suggest a (5) one hour massage package instead.

Example of upselling: Client buys a gift certificate, and you suggest a bottle of massage oil or lotion to go along with it.

12. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is the process of choosing targeted keyword phrases related to a site, and ensuring that the site places well when those keyword phrases are part of a web search. Everyone gets really worked up about SEO because they want to be at the top of the Google search results page. Nice job, Young Thumbs! You are winning.

What are some marketing and sales terms that you’ve come across that made you scratch your head?