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Hello there! I’m Michelle Mace, and I want to tell you how I almost lost my massage practice, but luckily managed to save it – along with my hands. Faced with losing the business I had worked so hard to build, what I did instead was take it to a whole new level. Simply put, I found another way of doing massage that gave the same results but was better for both me and my clients. Today, I want to tell you how I did it and how you can do it, too.
It All Began with Sports Massage
Even before officially graduating from massage school in 1997, I had such a keen interest in Sports Massage that I began classes with James Waslaski. Back then, I had already decided that Sports Massage and Deep Tissue were going to be the main focus of my practice.
After graduating, I set my focus on getting my practice up and running. Although I intended to be a Sports Massage therapist, the reality was I needed more clients to pay the bills. Because of these financial constraints, it quickly became my priority to grow my practice. All in all, it took about two years of hard work, but I was finally rocking and rolling.
Once my practice was established, I was able to concentrate on giving my clients more than just the benefits of a relaxing massage, also addressing their critical issues and complaints. I registered for workshops in ASIS with Aaron Mattes, Neuromuscular with Judith Delany, and even Neurokinetic Therapy with Benny Vaughn at the Atlanta School of Massage. I took anything and everything geared toward Sports Massage.
Eventually, the Strain Started to Show
To recuperate from massage fatigue, I would take time off over the summer – living in a seasonal community had its perks. Plus, my kids were out of school during those months, so I also took advantage of the summer to spend time with them.
One year, a new season rolled around and the unthinkable happened. While my clients loved the results of my education, my hands certainly didn’t. At mid-season, I was icing my hands to relieve the near-constant pain, but it just wasn’t doing enough to get me through the work week.
My options were to back away from offering deep tissue to save my hands or risk losing the practice I had worked so hard to build. For the time being, I was going to have to limit the amount of deep tissue massage I did while I searched for alternatives. But the ugly truth was, I didn’t find many options that could save me.
The Day it All Changed – For the Better
Summer was almost over, and I had found a hot stone class. My fiancé had proposed on Valentine’s Day and we scheduled our wedding for July 4th. Caught up in the planning of my wedding day, I didn’t think much more about my predicament.
While on our honeymoon, we went hiking and I got pretty sore. There was a spa in town, and I decided to go check it out. I looked over their menu of services, and that’s when I saw it — walking on the back massage! Never had I seen this offered and I was incredibly excited to try it out. Before the session, I wondered about the weight of the therapist. Now that I think about it, I feel silly about having had that passing thought – but hey, I didn’t want to spend my honeymoon in a wheelchair!
So, I asked to meet and talk to the therapist first before going ahead with scheduling an appointment. She came out, and boy was I relieved to see that she was my size (back when I weighed under 130 lbs.). But as it turned out, weight was never an issue. Technically, it was Ashiatsu Massage and no one actually walks on your back. But to be fair, it was advertised as “Back Walking”.
The therapist led me to the massage room and gave me the usual instructions. I looked up to see two bars over the massage table and wondered what I had gotten myself into. I undressed and lay face down on the massage table under the drape. After a few minutes, she came in and applied lotion to my back. It felt like her hands, but the pressure was gradually getting deeper. “Are you using your feet yet,” I asked, to which she replied that she was.
How Barefoot Massage Changed my Practice – And Saved my Hands
“Wow,” was all I could think of at that moment. The pressure wasn’t painful, like an elbow or a thumb. It was more like being gently steamrolled by a giant hand – and it was absolutely awesome!
When the therapist finished and left the room, my head was exploding with excitement. I dressed, and after a few minutes, she came back in to check on me. I distinctly remember telling her that it was the best massage I had ever experienced.
Bombarding her with questions, I wanted to know everything about this phenomenal technique. I wanted to know who invented it, where to learn it, which teachers to speak to. Soon after, I called the trainer and made an appointment to see her, dragging my new husband along on the hour-long drive. In all honesty, experiencing that unique massage treatment was just what I needed.
The following month, I signed up for both the Ashiatsu Barefoot and the Stone massage workshops. Both were great, and once completed, I was eager to offer my new techniques. At first, I worked on my husband, friends, and eventually, clients. They all loved my new approach to massage, and I was totally thrilled. Not only could I go back to providing my clients with Deep Tissue, but most importantly, my hands were saved.
Listen, I don’t want to see anyone ever have to face losing everything they worked to build. Let’s face it, your hands can only do so much massage. If your body is struggling to keep up with the physical demands of massage? There are hand-saving techniques available that give clients the results and add longevity to your career. And if you are a new massage therapist just starting out? Get started early before you become me. Here is a free download of the 8 Myths of Barefoot Massage.
Michelle D. Mace, an LMT of over 20 years, is the founder of The Barefoot Masters®. She has been featured three times in Massage Magazine. And she has developed over a dozen hand-saving CE courses for massage therapists. https://TheBarefootMasters.com