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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

HEALTH CONNECTION

Are you fit to be a massage therapist?

By Susan Poizner
Special to The Toronto Sun


For 10 years, Dora Jackson worked as a professional dancer. It was physically challenging work and she often turned to massage to ease her aches and pains. At one point, however, Dora was seriously injured. She was unable to dance -- and she also had trouble walking -- but her doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong.

"Finally I found a registered massage therapist I really liked and I went to see him twice or three times a week for a month. Within two weeks I was pain-free," she says.
After receiving massage therapy for injuries she suffered as a dancer, Dora Jackson was immediately turned onto the profession. "When I was ready to stop dancing, I decided that massage was what I wanted to do."


"After six months of fear that I'd never walk again, I thought this man was a magician. So when I was ready to stop dancing I decided that massage is what I wanted to do."

For Lorraine Wilson, who trained as a massage therapist after years working in the publishing industry, the appeal of the profession was working in a relaxed environment.

"To me, massage therapists seemed to be relaxed people who had a good lifestyle, picking their working hours, interacting with people, and working to relaxing music," she says.

Both women trained to become registered massage therapists at the Sutherland Chan School and Teaching Clinic -- one of 24 schools in Ontario that offer this course.

To qualify, students must be high school graduates, and during the course they'll learn anatomy, physiology, massage theory and practice, business and communications skills.

The course prepares therapists to treat conditions ranging from sprains and fractures and sports injuries to post-operative care and rehabilitation from car accidents.

They can also treat chronic conditions like lower back pain, arthritis and various syndromes related to stress.

"The course was incredibly intense," says Dora, who graduated a year ago.

"Often there were six to 10 hours of classroom stuff a day and practical applications, plus reading to do at home. It was like a full-time job."

Those who pass the competency exam become health professionals who, like doctors and nurses, are regulated under the Regulated Health Professions Act of 1994.

This helps differentiate massage therapists from unregulated professionals offering body work. People can call themselves masseurs, for instance, after taking a short course.

But the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario (CMTO) will prosecute anyone who markets themselves as a "massage therapist" if they haven't properly qualified.

"The purpose is to ensure that the applicant has the competencies to practise massage therapy safely and ethically in order to protect the public of Ontario," says Corinne Flitton, CMTO deputy registrar.

It's hard work, but Dora Jackson finds it very rewarding. "I love the work. Many of my clients become pain-free within a short period of time. It's satisfying to see them more relaxed and more able to deal with stress as a result."

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Most massage therapists are self-employed, so marketing and business skills are essential.

This is a very physical job and some newly qualified massage therapists burn out. It's important to take care of your own health while you do the job.

If you are very social and exuberant, this may not be the job for you.

Often massage therapists work on their own and they must create a restful atmosphere for their clients.

Before enrolling in the course, get a massage yourself or take an introductory weekend course to see if you'd enjoy the tactile nature of the job.

For more information about courses or to find a massage therapist, visit the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario Web site at www.cmto.com.

(Susan Poizner (susan.poizner@sympatico.ca) is a Toronto-based freelance writer.)



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