(This story is sponsored by the Registered Massage Therapists’ Association of B.C.)
With the holiday season behind us, the New Year has us all being a bit more mindful of how we take care of our bodies. And Brenda Locke, executive director of the Registered Massage Therapists’ Association of B.C., is passionate about the important role of massage therapy in our health and wellness.
While people tend to associate massage therapy with elite athletes, Locke tells us that the practice of registered massage therapists (RMTs) has a far broader scope.
“They work with everybody from little babies to people at end of life, and everyone in between,” she says.
B.C.’s 3,500 RMTs are regulated under the Health Professions Act. The association advances the profession and provides evidence-informed, research-based practice information to massage therapists. From a public perspective, this means we can be confident in the knowledge that when we see an RMT, they are trained, licensed, and insured.
“We are health-care driven. So efficacy matters to us, the evidence matters to us, the science matters to us. Protecting the public, protecting their files, their confidentiality—all of those pieces that are part of being a professional as opposed to being a person who provides massage services,” she says.
That said, Locke does not necessarily agree with imposing greater penalties on those who hold themselves out to be massage therapists when they’re not. She recognizes that the spa industry is an entirely different modality.
“We just believe that the public needs to understand that if they are going there for health care purposes, they need to go to a registered massage therapist. They need to ask. We’ve been supplying our members with a logo to put on their doors in their clinics. So when they see the logo they will know that is a regulated health professional.”
In B.C., we are fortunate to have some of the best-trained massage therapists in the world. Anyone who wants to become an RMT must graduate from a recognized massage-therapy program and pass a licensing exam administered by the College of Massage Therapists of B.C.
Locke also talks about the important work of the association’s dedicated and funded research department, and its partnership on the International Journal of Massage Therapy.
“We are the only funded research department in Canada and then we recently partnered with our neighbours to the south at the Massage Therapy Foundation on the international journal.”
In the last 10 years, the profession has grown exponentially, as more evidence emerges on the efficacy of massage therapy in treating various health issues from musculoskeletal injuries to pain management to mental health. Beyond the interaction with the regulating college, the association will also talk directly to the Ministry of Health on issues that impact the profession, patients, and registrants.
“It’s about looking at the direction government wants to go and seeing how massage therapy can fit into that directive,” Locke states.
For example, Locke says that encouraging cultural diversity has been something it has taken very seriously over the past few years. More than 800 members have taken the cultural awareness and cultural humility course, which the association continues to offer in schools. The RMTBC also publishes its brochures in Punjabi, Chinese, and any other language upon request.
“We’ve been meeting with the First Nations Health Authority to ensure that we are fulfilling our role as health-care providers in ensuring that our members are culturally sensitive and aware,” Locke adds.
Exploring how massage therapy can help people with mental-health issues is also high on the agenda for the association. Last year, the theme of its annual symposium was called Mental Health & the Body, which looked at the biopsychosocial part of pain and how people deal with it. Locke says that there is good evidence to support how massage therapy can help people cope with stress, anxiety, and depression. In fact, there is a whole professional practice group dedicated to nothing but mental-health concerns and challenges.
And Locke is excited to share that the association has recently started talking to the federal government on a relatively new mental-health first-aid program to provide to its members.
“It’s critical that a practitioner knows their patient, including their mental health, in order to effectively treat them,” she adds.
A massage therapist is a good option to consider because it is a safe, drug-free therapy. An RMT is very well-trained on the anatomy and physiology of the body. And seeing someone regulated ensures that you are covered in your extended health plan. Locke points out that the workplace can be a source of problem and pain and it is common for RMTs to consider the ergonomics of people’s desks when providing therapy.
Of course, we have to get up and move as well. It’s not just about the direct treatment in the clinic; an RMT will give patients take-home exercises to help them understand the best ways of moving and stretching their bodies to alleviate their pain.
Ultimately, Locke has a firm belief in the important role massage therapy can play in our overall health. With the aging demographic there is lots of work that can be done, particularly with seniors’ care. She would like to see massage therapy integrated into health plans in hospitals, too.
“I see that day coming but it’s going to take some work to get there. But that certainly would be a direction we would like to move in,” she says.
However, Locke continues to be confident about the impact RMTs can have on our health and well-being going forward.
“We are really excited about the future for massage therapy. We know that manual therapy can provide a lot of health care benefits.”
Visit the Registered Massage Therapists' Association of British Columbia website for more information or to find a registered massage therapist near you.