Monday | September 24, 2012
When Work Hurts: How to Choose a Massage Therapist to Treat Work Related Pain
Do you finish a day at the office with a sore neck?
Aching back? Tingling fingers?
You’re not alone.
In a survey of 1200 workers conducted by the Institute for Work and Health (IWH), The Burden of Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs), 60% reported experiencing some neck or upper-limb pain in the previous year and 20% reported moderate-to-severe upper limb pain that recurred at least monthly or lasted more than one week.
According to the IWH, work-related painful injury to the muscles, tendons or nerves can cause symptoms such as generalized pain, weakness or discomfort usually in the hands, wrists, elbows, neck and shoulders, but can also affect the legs, hips, ankles and feet. In some cases symptoms develop into specific disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome.
The prevalence of these types of soft-tissue injuries in the workplace is one of the reasons why many health benefit plans now include coverage of massage therapy provided by a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT). In fact, the primary concern that our RMTs hear from their guests is neck and shoulder pain, especially with so many people spending time online now both for work and for play.
Many of us spend a lot of time in front of computers, sitting with bad posture or sitting uncomfortably in a car or a train. By doing this for extended times, our body thinks this is normal and can therefore ‘ache’ due to the muscles trying to maintain these positions even while we are relaxing.
How Massage Works
Massage relieves the body’s muscle tightness by interrupting the holding patterns through manipulation of the soft tissues, specifically the muscles, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments and joints. Massage also stimulates the neuromuscular system which sends signals to the brain to help the muscles relax, breaks down scar tissue which helps to heal injuries properly and increases circulation which assists the body in getting rid of toxins and inflammation.
What a Registered Massage Therapist Does
RMTs can assess and treat a wide range of work related pain and physical problems including repetitive sprain injuries, tension headaches and tendonitis. RMTs also provide health and wellness education to their clients and can advise them about stretches, exercises and other self-care strategies that you can do on your own in-between treatments to help prevent soreness and break the cycle of tightness. (See our self-care tips for some common computer related painful problems.)
How to Find a Qualified Massage Therapist
When you decide to have a massage, it is important to ensure that the provider has the proper skills and understanding of how to treat any potential problems. Only members of the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario (CMTO) can call themselves “Registered Massage Therapists,” and are licensed and registered under the Regulated Health Professions Act in Ontario. Members of the College have completed a diploma program with intensive study of such subjects as anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology and massage theory, in addition to clinical instruction.
Equally important, Registered Massage Therapists are held accountable to the College’s Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics. Shona Hunter, Director of Professional Practice with the CMTO, says that they are under obligation to follow up on any public complaint that they receive.
Massage Therapists provide their services in a variety of locations including in the offices of physicians, chiropractors and other health professionals, and in spas, gyms and some hotels. When selecting a location, you might want to consider the other types of services you would like to have and the type of environment you would like to be in when receiving your massage.
Coverage for Massage Therapy
Many people now have Massage Therapy included in their health benefit plans. Hunter explains that while insurance companies are private corporations and therefore vary in their eligibility requirements, it is standard practice in the provinces where Massage Therapy is regulated (Ontario, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador) to provide coverage only for registered therapists. In provinces where massage therapy is not regulated, Hunter says, some insurance companies cover only those therapists who are members of professional associations which have specific criteria for membership. In Ontario, if you are injured in the workplace, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Ontario (WSIB) requires that treatments be provided by a member of the CMTO.
Some insurers require that you have a physician’s referral (sometimes only for the first visit), while for others this is not a requirement. Most plans have a maximum amount to the benefits. It is important to check all of the eligibility requirements with your own extended health insurance plan.
If you’re not sure, ask when making a massage appointment if the therapists are registered. Hunter says that all members of the CMTO receive photo ID cards when they renew their registration yearly, showing the therapist’s registration number. You have the right to ask to view this card. Massage Therapists also receive a certificate from the College at the time of registration which they must return if they leave the profession. Current members of the College are listed on the CMTO website.
If you have any questions about Massage Therapy, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.