Whether you are a professional massage therapist or someone who just likes to give occasional shoulder rubs to friends or family, touch comes with its own set of ethical concerns.
Attention to these can prevent misunderstandings and even legal problems.
Do No Harm
Massage, even when practiced by someone who is relatively untrained, not only feels wonderful, but can be wonderfully healthful. Massage improves the circulation, stretches out tissues, improves the lubrication of joints and is often effective at relieving headaches, insomnia, hyperactivity, nausea and a host of other maladies. Like almost anything that can be helpful, massage, if practiced incorrectly, can also be harmful. Too much pressure or traction (pulling against joints) can injure organs and connective tissue and can actually even break bones in some cases. It is important to know if the person you are working on has any medical conditions—blood clots, osteoporosis, cancer or diabetes, for example. In these cases, care must be taken not to worsen the condition or do injury to the person. It is the responsibility of anyone who is performing massage to know how to protect their client.
Don’t Play Doctor
Massage is great, but it is not a substitute for the care of a qualified physician, nurse, chiropractor or physical therapist. Under the right circumstances, massage (especially the deep tissue and friction varieties) can bring about results that may almost seem miraculous. This can have the unfortunate effect of giving a massage Therapist a feeling that is disconcertingly dose to omnipotence. This fact, combined with a few irresponsible therapists and massage teachers, has made for an unfortunate (but fortunately small) number of therapists who like to sell massage therapy as a substitute for medical or chiropractic attention. It should probably go without saying that you should avoid any such behaviour. That said, anyone giving a massage should do as much as possible for the client. Massage is a first line of defence for some clients and frequent massages may be sufficient to keep them from having to visit a chiropractor, physical therapist or doctor (or, if they do go, to improve these professionals’ results). Doctors and chiropractors will usually consult with a therapist regarding what sort of massage would be most effective. Use every resource at your disposal to make your client feel better—it is good massage karma!
Take Care of Yourself
Massage therapists are often guilty of not prioritising their own well-being. If you work from home turn off the computer and phone and finish your working day at a reasonable hour, and have regular massages yourself.
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