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Industrial update: Quesnel’s growing registered massage therapy industry

Local RMTs says industry is seeing an increase in referrals from medical professionals
Registered massage therapist Christa Pooley works with a patient in her clinic. Amanda Kirsh/Love Quesnel photo

Many of Quesnel’s industries are those that can take a physical toll. Registered massage therapist Christa Pooley says she often treats patients for work-related overuse injuries.

“In our community we have a lot of tradespeople, so there will be repetitive use injuries that we see. Also postural issues for people who sit behind desks – so back pain, headache, neck pain.”

Pooley began practising in her clinic, Hands On Health Massage Therapy Clinic, in 2004. She says Quesnel’s industry has exploded since then.

“At last count, in Quesnel we had 12 registered massage therapists. When I began practising in Quesnel, there were three. The industry has definitely grown, which is amazing to see, because we are actually all busy.

“I see a constant increase in referrals. The medical community definitely sees it as a valid intervention.”

A registered massage therapist (RMT) is different than non-registered massage therapists in that RMTs undergo training and write registration exams with B.C.’s College of Massage Therapists, the governing body for the province’s professionals.

When patients with injuries or chronic pain are referred by their doctor for massage therapy, they must seek out an RMT in order for the treatment to be covered by their extended benefits. RMTs have additional knowledge and training to treat different kinds of injuries and pain safely, says Pooley.

“The programs cover everything academic – anatomy, physiology, medications courses, knowing what type of surgeries patients might have gone through, knowing pathologies and what diseases and syndromes people might present with.”

She also explains that RMTs must do a certain amount of continuing education each year, in order to keep their licence in good standing.

Christine Kraayvanger has been a practising RMT for 19 years. She works from her home in North Quesnel and says she enjoys the flexibility of her work, and that she works one-on-one with her patients. Both Pooley and Kraayvanger have similar philosophies, saying they work with patients to implement home care so they can eventually gain independence from the treatment.

“I try not to fix people. I try to help people fix themselves. I try to bring the idea that I can help someone become more aware and create the space for the positive change that their body needs to heal,” explains Kraayvanger.

“We don’t want [patients] to feel attached to a prescription, or attached or dependent on the therapy,” Pooley continues.

“A big component is empowering them with home care practice or even meditation or other self-care practices that can increase their quality of life but not make them feel dependent on the therapist. I’m not the one that makes them feel better, it’s the work we do together and the tools I give them that helps them maintain that benefit.”

Working in a small city, Pooley says the work is diverse.

“I have to be prepared to see anything and everything. Whereas in a larger centre, my colleagues tend to want to sub-specialize, so then they are known for something. But I love the diversity of the work.”

Pooley says local RMTs work with patients who’ve undergone hip or knee replacements, those who’ve been in car crashes, and those with chronic conditions including arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s.

“When you change the level of pain someone lives with every day, there’s more energy, more room for a bit of joy; they might be able to sit going out for dinner with family for longer than they had been. It might be very small changes that add up over time and make a big impact,” says Pooley.

When seeking an RMT, Pooley says there are certain things you should look for and ask.

“It’s as simple as asking, ‘Do you have a registration number from the College of Massage Therapists?’ It’s not that important to get what that number is, but if you have a licence number you know your claim to your extended benefits provider will be reimbursed.”

She says other good questions to ask are how long the therapist has been registered, whether they have malpractice insurance and when they last took continuing education courses.

Pooley also says there is a recognizable RMT logo that therapists will display.

“There are some independent small businesses in Quesnel who aren’t registered massage therapists. There are rules about what terms can be used to represent yourself, but that area has become more grey. Unless you see the word ‘registered,’ that therapist is not registered.”

Kraayvanger explains that it’s not that unregistered therapists are necessarily doing anything wrong, just that the knowledge base is different and that treatments with RMTs can be more focused, and, importantly, can be covered by extended benefits with a physician’s referral.

“I think anybody, if they work within the boundaries of their knowledge; if they work safely with what they know, then it’s all good. RMTs just have a higher level of knowledge … so perhaps can work… not in a better way, but in a more focused or thorough way with a better understanding of the implications of the work than somebody who doesn’t have the same level of education. We do answer to a governing body. There is recourse for people.”

READ MORE: ICBC doubles compensation for crash victims with serious injuries

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