Why you should never get a “Shopping Centre” massage…

For many of my new clients, and most of my current ones, if they have ever told me they attended a shopping center for a massage, the’d tell you I would be horrified at the thought.

I’ve heard countless stories of how people have walked in to a shopping center, felt a little tension, and thought I’ll just treat myself to a massage… sounds simple. It’s nearby, it’s cheap, and there seem to be an abundance of therapists inside the shop waiting to treat you.

So you’re on the table, and the massage just hurts, they dig in with their elbows, work too close to your spine, or even end up walking on you, literally. The massage just doesn’t feel right.

Well long story short, you walk out of their shop in more pain than you walked in with.

Then the other problems start. A headache develops, a tingling in your neck or down your spine. Or even your partner or spouse questions: Why are there bruises on your back?If any of these issues arise, is the practitioner insured?

I’ve had heard stories of therapists who tried to “burp” the air out of the clients body. Another time a therapist insisted on lowering the towel to places they didn’t need to see.

These places look legitimate, with their images of beautiful people enjoying massage, and with their anatomy posters hanging on the wall, that’s what they want you to think, anyway.

A few weeks ago I was scrolling through “Gumtree” trying to sell a brand new washing machine (it’s still available, too, if anyone wants it) and I saw an ad for a place in Greensborough looking to hire a massage therapist. What scared me the most was “No experience necessary, on the job training”. I gave them a call because surely this couldn’t be real… After chatting with the person that answered the phone, he informed me I don’t need any formal qualifications — “You just come in and they teach you”.

Umm… what?

A quick call to The Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA) later and I discovered you actually don’t legally require any formal qualification to practice as a massage therapist.

The industry’s unregulated practice is astounding. Have you ever thought about who is massaging you? Do you know anything about their background? Or if they have a criminal history?

Most of us assume we are in the hands of reliable, qualified therapists. But the reputation of massage clinics is being jeopardized by unskilled therapists.

ANTA has called for the introduction of a formal register to ensure the public receives legitimate, safe massages but this has fallen on deaf ears.

Surely this isn’t asking too much?

Last year, there were 18 formal complaints (mostly about non-qualified individuals) across Australia.

But the ANTA is warning us not to be fooled and recommend people see qualified therapists registered with the them or another reputable association.

CEO of ANTA Andrew Godden says: “There are no legal requirements to have qualifications in order to practice massage, there are national qualifications and degree programs but there is no regulatory framework such as APHRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency) for Allied Health.”

So basically, the lack of regulations means any individual with a dodgy past could be laying their hands on our bodies.

Having a massage is a very personal enterprise. There is a need and want to trust this person to be respectful and professional with our bodies. We expect them to be reliable, truthful and have ethical boundaries.

“There is an opportunity for individuals who want to prey on victims in all health practices to use treatment for inappropriate and illegal behavior,” Godden says: “You cannot regulate for criminal activity but you can educate the public about what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. They should always use a trained professional and request to see their membership or professional association.”

A reputable therapist will have their qualifications on display, and advertise they are a member of an association.

Associations do not grant memberships to everyone, the practitioner needs to be qualified, insured, and have first aid qualifications up to date.

People should know they have the right to refuse or stop treatment at any time and have the treatment explained to them.
So, the next time I’m suffering from a tension headache or need a remedial massage, I’ll be asking to see some documentation first.