Massage Licensing, Why Bother?

In 20 years of doing massage, I’ve had exactly one client request to see my professional license. In that same time we have fielded hundreds of request for girls, or a “female masseuse”. It seems that no one really cares if we are licensed, educated or qualified. Even consumers who do want a great massage don’t even know that a license is REQUIRED in the state of Missouri to practice massage. To make matters even more confusing MANY businesses don’t follow the rules and operate using people who don’t have a license and without the required Massage Therapy Business License from the State of Missouri.

Once while discussing the matter with a lawyer friend of mine, she admitted that she thought a massage license was something that was an extra credential, but not something that was REQUIRED. You CAN drive a car without a driver’s license, but every time you do so you are breaking the law. Many people don’t know the law, and many others who do know the law choose to ignore it. So why does it matter? Why does my business carry a license and why do I insist all the MT’s who work here are licensed? My life sure would be easier if I didn’t care. But I do. Let me tell you why.

It’s the LAW. When I first started doing massage there was no state regulation in Missouri. My first license came from the Liquor and Amusement Department of Kansas City. I had to get a hepatitis test and have a doctor sign a form that stated I had “no communicable diseases”. It was humiliating and insulting. There was no educational requirement. There was no test. The woman who started the school I was attending worked very hard to get a more professional regulation in place for the entire state of Missouri. By the time I finished school, to get a license to do massage in Missouri you had to have completed 500 clock hours of education, get a background check and fingerprints taken, as well as pass a nationally accredited test. The goal was to bring professionalism and credibility to the field, and I was happy there was a better standard in place. I was happy to follow the law.

When you get a massage from an unlicensed business and or practitioner you don’t know what you’re getting. I hear all the time about experiences people have at places that focus primarily on the feet. If you look closely, those places don’t use the word “Massage” to describe their work. That is because the law regulates use of the word “Massage”. By avoiding that word, those places can employ literally anyone with no training to mash on your body. While I haven’t been, I’ve also heard that you typically leave your clothes on. That is another way to get around the massage regulations in Missouri. If the client remains clothed, it is not regulated by the massage board. I’m not saying you shouldn’t enjoy a good clothed body mashing, but you should know that you are not getting a service from a trained professional.

There is a significant chronological and monetary disadvantage to following the law. I waited YEARS to finish school and get my license. I watched many other people take clients before they had completed school, starting businesses without a license. As much as I LOVED waiting tables, I too would have rather been doing the gratifying work of therapeutic massage years earlier. Working/running a business without a license is unfortunately very common. Consumers don’t know to ask for a license. And there are lots of people who don’t want to bother with the expense and hassle of getting a license. When you frequent an unlicensed establishment or practitioner, you are voting with your dollars for people who cheat and disrespect the profession. When you get a massage from a licensed professional at a licensed massage business you are supporting years of hard work and helping to pay off student loan debt.

If you are a consumer who is inclined to support a licensed massage therapist who works at a licensed massage therapy business you can look up both credentials online! Keep in mind some businesses / people use a different name than might be on their license, so always contact the person or business directly to ask for their business or professional license number! If you ask me for my license number, you’ll be the second person in 20 years.

No Ambush Massage!

DSC03587Let people make their OWN massage appointments.

If you know someone who could use a massage, the right thing to do is to buy them a massage gift certificate. While you may think what you need to do is actually make them an APPOINTMENT, you couldn’t be MORE WRONG.

Massage is about relaxation. Relaxation is about BOUNDARIES. When you decide for another person when and where he should relax, you are really missing the point big time. Even a person you know VERY WELL can have a dozen reasons he doesn’t want to get a massage Tuesday at 2:00, and a client who doesn’t WANT a massage is NEVER going to be able to relax.

Maybe you are thinking “I’d LOVE for someone to make ME a massage appointment and surprise me with it!” But let’s take a moment to consider just a few of the reasons a person might NOT want an ambush massage.

1- She’s on her period and feels cruddy.
2- He doesn’t like being touched by strangers.
3- She didn’t shave her legs this morning and feels self conscious about it.
4- He’s never had a massage before, and isn’t really sure if he wants one at all.
5- She has lunch plans with a friend that you don’t know about.
6- Work has been very busy, and taking this time off WON’T reduce stress levels.
7- She has allergies and laying face down for a half hour will make breathing impossible.
8- He has a rash on his back he feels weird about having a massage therapist touch him right now.

While we LOVE the sentiment of helping someone you care about relax, we are not in the business of working on people who don’t want to be here. On a related note – you cannot fill out an intake form for another person. We need for the person RECEIVING the massage to read and understand as well as sign the intake form. If an adult cannot communicate with his massage therapist what his needs are, he is not a candidate for a massage. We work on adults. Adults make their own appointments and fill out their own intake forms. It’s really that simple.

What kind of massage do you do?

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What kind of massage do you do?

What is the name of that technique?

How did you arrive at this style of work?

Do you have a specific routine that you do?

All simple questions with no quick, honest answer. I recently had a great conversation with a client who is also a visual artist about what it is that we do here. I didn’t know he was a visual artist, but I found that out in the course of the conversation. His first question was “What is the name of the technique you are using?”

I replied that after nearly 20 years of doing massage, no therapist is really ever doing one particular technique. I explained that while we may have no specific routine, good massage therapists do work with intention and purpose. I like to compare what we do to playing Jazz, or abstract visual art, it might seem random from an outside perspective, but there is order and reason involved in the process. I repeated a few of the recent pushes and pulls on his forearm, and explained what it was I was looking for when I’d done them, and why I followed those up with a neck stretch.

His next question was great. “How did you arrive at this style of work”. I often say that my mother is the reason I do massage, and my father is the reason I do it the way that I do it. My mother was a busy, stressed single mom, and growing up she would ALWAYS make me and my sisters rub her feet. Some families cook together, some families play music, we traded back rubs and foot rubs. Helping my family relax was always a part of my childhood, and any kid with a stressed out parent is happy to find a way to help!

My father had a very scientific mind, with a background in electrical engineering. Solving problems, and building things always had a very specific sequence and physics based reasoning. Understanding the mechanics of applying force to a screw without stripping it, or how to efficiently remove a nail from a piece of wood are the same concepts I use to remove tension from the human body. “Never force it” is a phrase I heard him repeat many times.

The human body is a complex set of systems that can be understood in mechanical, electrical, hydraulic and thixotropic terms. I don’t practice so-called “energy” work, because I am focused on the science of the physical body. Others have described the work that I do as “intuitive”, but I don’t care for the term myself. It’s hard to imagine a good auto mechanic being described as “intuitive” or being “blessed” with a “sixth sense”. In my conversation with our visual artist client, he described what I am working with well as a “body of accumulated knowledge”. Yes, just as a jazz musician studies theory, and scales, and plays many times with others, he develops over time an accumulated body of knowledge he draws from while performing.

So, there is not a name for what I do. But let’s give it one, just for convenience. Let’s call it The Buffington Method: A mechanical approach to removing tension from the human body. That’s my middle name, and it sounds fancy. I believe every good massage therapist learns mostly from experience, and eventually builds enough accumulated knowledge that she is genuinely performing her own style of massage. Just like a visual artist, or a musician develops his own style after years of practice.

Kip Wigs
Missouri Licensed Massage Therapist
Owner – Solaris Massage

What do I wear to my first massage?

So glad you asked!  Here is the very short answer: As long as you are covered by the sheet when we return to the room, the details are a matter of your comfort.

Massage Drapping Time Lapse

If you come to our shop, you will likely hear “When I leave the room you will disrobe to your level of comfort.  Everything from completely clothed to completely nude is normal, anywhere in between is fine.  About 50% of folks leave their underpants on, you will be draped modestly during the entire massage”

Some folks snicker when I say that “completely clothed” is normal.  One of my favorite clients of all time heard the above speech.  When I returned I found that he had removed ONLY his shoes and lay there in his button up flannel shirt.  I looked forward to summer, because then I was greeted with short sleeves.  But this was HIS level of comfort.  I did a different sort of massage through clothing, but we were both comfortable.

The important thing to remember is that no matter what you are comfortable with draping WILL be used.  I can’t speak for all states, but here in Missouri, draping is mandatory.  No, you cannot lie on top of the sheets and blankets “necked”.  I have run across a few clients who claim that it is very “American” to be so concerned with privacy and modesty.  Well yes, that’s where we are.  Massage is about warming the muscles, so in addition to modesty, the sheets and blankets we use preserve heat.

Should I leave my underwear on? Up to you, but here are some reasons you might want to leave them on:

A: You are having IT band issues, your hammys are tight and you are hoping your MT will do lots of assisted stretches.  Leaving your drawers on makes it easier for your MT to move your leg around without an uncomfortable breeze.

B: You prefer that your MT work on your glutes through fabric.  Ok by us, we can work through fabric OR avoid any area that you’d rather not have us work on.  Just say so.

C: You don’t want to miss an opportunity to promote Uncle Frank’s used car business, and those Uncle Frank Boxers are the BOMB!

When we say “you will be draped modestly” what do we mean?  We use either a sheet, and a blanket or a towel and generally uncover JUST the part of the body we are working on.  For ladies, this means that when we work on the arms the sheet will be just below the collar bone; for men just below the breast bone (sternum).  For front and back of legs we drape at about wear a swimsuit would hit.  For the back we pull the drape back to the level of underpants.  If we wouldn’t see it on a conservative American beach, we don’t see it in the massage room.

Some ladies feel more comfortable wearing a bra or a sports bra during their session.  Some of the work we do might be a bit less fluid, but your comfort is more important than our convenience.

If you have long hair, putting it in a pony tail or bun on TOP of your head is good.  If you don’t want us to touch your head, please let us know.  Some folks don’t want to have to  “fix their wig”, and we understand.  A hair cap or bandana can help keep things in place if this is a concern.

Socks?  If you have chilly feet you might leave them on during the massage.

So that’s it, in a nutshell.  If we’ve missed anything,  just ask!  Send questions to:

solarismassage@gmail.com

Sweat T-shirt Contest – The GYM KC

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We couldn’t be MORE excited to announce that our neighbors, The GYM KC are hosting a fitness t-shirt contest! Members of The GYM KC who attend 12 classes during the month of December will receive an AWESOME Gym KC t-shirt and a FREE Solaris Massage Upgrade (book an hour, pay for a thirty minute, book a ninety minute, pay for an hour)!

Each week The GYM KC offers 39 classes all of which are FREE to members! That’s roughly 156 per month, making membership at this locally owned fitness center an EXCUSE ERASER! Pick up your contest sheet at any of the three Gym KC locations and start tracking your attendance TODAY!

We look forward to seeing some of YOU at class, and working on your tired bodies when you complete those 12 classes! We have the BEST clients, and we LOVE being a part of this #fitfamily !

Massage Basics Class – November 2014

Couples Room

We are excited to announce our first in shop massage for amateurs class! Limited to three pairs of people, find a friend, wear loose comfortable clothing and come ready to learn some basic facts and skills that will help you to give a better back rub at home! Every human needs touch. While a professional massage is like enjoying a gourmet meal, we can ALL benefit from bodywork done by a friend or loved one. We believe most people can also learn to give a decent massage and avoid some of the bad habits that make our hands tired after ten minutes.

Follow this link to sign up for the class.

This two hour class will be done here at the shop, and will require ZERO nakedness. You will arrive in loose comfortable clothing (gym shorts and a tank top are perfect for all humans!) and we will go over the theory, protocol and technique of a basic all over body massage. You will bring a partner that is cool with learning, giving and receiving massage, we don’t care if you are dating, married, or just friends. There is NO bow chicka bow bow in this class, so it is not just for romantically involved pairs of people.

As a bonus, you’ll be receiving a gift of organic coconut oil, our professional massage cream, and a jar of bath salts to take home and practice your new massage skills with! While we will be covering the basics of massage, there will also be time to touch on things like aromatherapy, hot stone, and partner stretching.

As we always say, you can’t have TOO MANY massage therapists, and we are excited to share a few tricks of the trade so that you will be better equipped to help friends relax between professional appointments!

Is Silence Golden?

Monica S. asks: Awkward silence makes me uncomfortable. Is it OK to talk to my therapist during the massage or is silence golden?

The number one complaint by massage clients about their therapist is that the therapist did TOO MUCH talking during the massage! SO, the rule of thumb is: your THERAPIST should not LEAD the conversation, and will likely let most conversation come to a quiet, natural end. However, this restriction applies to the THERAPIST, not the CLIENT. If you have something pertinent to say about your massage, by all means SPEAK UP during your massage! While most massage therapists I know DO work best with little or no talking, the priority is YOUR comfort, not our convenience. Our goal is to help you relax, so if talking a bit to your massage therapist makes you feel MORE relaxed, then speak up!

Do your hands get tired? Massage FAQ’s

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No. An experienced massage therapist knows to use the right tool for the job, and that means that very little hand strength actually goes into a professional massage. While your massage therapist IS making contact with her hands most of the time (some techniques use forearms, elbows and even feet – see Ashiatsu!) the power for applying force actually comes from proper body mechanics and leverage. So, rather than gripping or kneading your tissue with her hand strength, she will lean into each movement with some or most of her body weight.

A therapist who is standing on the floor (yes, VERY common in our space/time continuum) will, at best, be able to leverage about 50% of her body weight to apply force during a massage. We know. We’ve measured. When you divide that force by the surface area of contact, you have pressure. So, for instance, I can apply 55 pounds of pressure per square inch. No matter how strong a therapist is, she cannot apply MORE than her own body weight. A person might be able to LIFT 200 pounds, but that does not increase her ability to press into a client laying on a table. If I am practicing Ashiatsu, I am able to leverage about twice that, because I am standing above the client with no weight on the floor.

“I need a really STRONG therapist”. I’d argue you need to relax, and find a very SKILLED therapist. Just like a martial artist, a massage therapist who knows WHERE to apply pressure is more effective than one who simply has brute force on her side. While perception does impact the experience, if you are willing to find a skilled therapist of any size/gender/description, you will likely have good results. If you believe strongly that you need a giant MT, that will probably impact your experience, and perhaps you should go ahead and find someone to pummel you.

In short, our HANDS do not get tired because we know what we are doing. Massage IS a physically and mentally taxing profession, it does require strength, and concentration. It can be tiring, but no, our hands don’t really get tired.

What KIND of Massage do you do?

PicsArt_1401717863881 “What KIND of massage do you do?” has always been a vexing question. What technique are you using? What method is that? What tradition did you train in? Where did you go to school?

These are questions we are asked frequently enough that I figured I’d try to answer them here. The long answer is: Any good massage therapist has been trained in a variety of techniques, and will employ a blend of their knowledge to treat your specific issues today.

The short answer is: I’m using my own method.

While there probably are some massage therapists who stick to specific protocols and guidelines learned in school, most of the great massage therapists I know really don’t use a recipe when doing massage. That’s not to say we haven’t learned many different protocols and guidelines, or that we have no method to our madness, but the truth is any good therapist after about 500 clients has assimilated the learned knowledge with hands on experience to form what really is a unique kind of massage that they alone practice.

So lately I’ve been calling what I do “The Buffington Method” – that’s my middle name. I began my formal education in massage in 1997, and massage is something that’s been a part of my life since I was forced to rub my mother’s feet as a child (humor). The way I conceptualize massage has it’s roots in the mechanics of building and taking apart things – skills I learned from my father and in technical theater in middle and high school. The goal of EVERY massage I do is relaxation. It’s that simple. The way I help my clients relax varies depending on what I sense their body needs on that day. I determine this through viewing them walk into the shop, and by observing symmetry, tension and pliability with my hands once the massage begins. I always ask verbally what (if anything) is bothering them, but knowing that tension can be in an unexpected place, I listen more to the client’s body than to what she says.

So the answer is: I practice The Buffington Method. The goal of The Buffington Method is relaxation, which is achieved by observing, acknowledging and removing tension in the body We do this using the right tool for the job, and never force it.

Valentines Massage 2013 – Solaris KC Hot Stone Style

Again this year we are offering our special one hour couples hot stone massage. Our $140 price is for BOTH people and since we have a limited number of spots, you will want to book as soon as you decide what time works best for you. We will be offering this special service Wednesday the 13th through Saturday the 16th this year, so you have three extra days to make a massage part of your special event this year. These are pre-pay appointments, and they will go FAST.

Massage not really your thing? We totally understand. Consider giving your sweetheart a gift certificate. Our massage gift certificates can be purchased at anytime online and range from $40 to $90 for individual appointments. The recipient can choose from a variety of techniques when booking and we offer convenient online booking.