by Marshall S. Dahneke 

So often we hear the phrase, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.” What better time and place than this annual business issue—and at a time when the economy is slow—to become re-calibrated on why massage? On why it’s more than just business to each of us, it’s personal.

I believe human beings are motivated to action ultimately not by money, nor recognition, nor even fear. We act based on a fundamental desire to make a difference. Business consultant James A. Belasco says, “Success is inevitably the result of a sincere and other-centered commitment to something greater than one’s self.”

For example, I had the opportunity to spend some time as a younger man attached to a cause that involved helping others. I spent two years, at my expense, in a foreign country surrounded by poverty, working at least 70 hours per week and experiencing personal hardships along the way. I loved that experience! Not every minute or every challenge, but the total experience was overwhelmingly positive. I was helping others in a way I strongly believed was important, and to my surprise, I felt greater sorrow when I left Brazil than when I originally left home for Brazil.

Your mission as a therapist may include doing all you can to enhance the health and well-being of your clients while serving with the utmost professionalism and compassion. Some find it is easier to write these statements than to live them every day. A mission becomes reality only when it is embraced at a personal level and changes our behavior. And we only embrace and act upon those things we truly believe.

So, what do you believe?

Some may ask, “Why have you chosen to be a massage therapist?” A long-term client may suffer from end-stage cancer. As you gently and lovingly treat this friend, you see the pain release from his tense body, see him relax and gain relief from your caring hands, at peace for the first time in perhaps weeks—and better able to continue the fight.

Others may ask how you can feel good about charging $75 or more for a session. A client might be at the end of her rope, too stressed and overwhelmed to focus and perform at work or even at home. You know just how to offer relief, perspective, a brief respite from the storm of life to enable her to collect her thoughts and regain the courage to face life’s challenges. How can I feel good about the service I perform? Through the power of touch, I can help someone survive in order to “thrive,” sometimes changing a person’s life forever.

Skeptics challenge us with, “Why do you talk about offering therapy when you really just provide relaxation?” When injury occurs or illness arrives, life can change dramatically. Miracles are hoped and prayed for, and heroes are needed. Experience the tender touch of a healer who expertly works deeper into the soft tissue to increase blood flow and improve range of motion, enabling a mother to once again hold her baby, a father to return to work and a grandpa to play that special round of golf. Do you simply provide temporary relaxation? No! You offer expert, healing therapy and ensure that the road to recovery is not a lonely one as you help others regain their lives, their dignity and make the most they can of every day.

Even colleagues may ask, “Why would you offer products to clients? You’re a therapist, not a salesperson.” Your client has endured unrelenting pain from a severely strained lower back and has not enjoyed a full night’s sleep in some time. During your session, you introduced your favorite green topical analgesic and afterward provided free samples. Your recommendation enabled his first restful, pain-free sleep in much too long. How rewarding to be able to use and offer products, as simple as they may seem, that can increase function and help someone regain greater control of his daily living. Do you sell products? No, you endorse solutions that extend your care and develop a bridge of trust with clients who can experience extended relief.

Your actions speak louder than words. Your actions show you believe:

• You help your clients achieve their goal of becoming pain-free

• You offer comfort and relief through loving hands and a caring heart

• You practice to make a difference. It’s not just business, it’s personal!

Health care is a noble vocation. It is all about improving quality of life—providing comfort, facilitating transitions, offering hope, doing the right thing. In addition to earning a living in the practice of massage, you also enjoy a beautiful opportunity to work with your hands, your mind and your heart to directly help people. The road to improved wellness can be a difficult path for many, but with an expert massage therapist at one’s side, it is not lonely.

Massage therapists can change a person’s life through touch. A kind gesture can touch a person’s heart, making a lasting impact. Performance Health and many other companies will be there with you, cheering you on and providing excellent products and services to help you fulfill your mission.

So, are we on a mission together? That depends on each of us and what we believe. Do you believe your services offer real value that changes lives? I know you do! Do we believe our products really deliver results? Yes, we do! Is this value always clear to everyone? Of course not! And therein lies our opportunity to remind everyone just how personal this is to us.

Success on this mission requires conviction and commitment. It may take some time, but our enthusiasm and belief will be apparent and contagious. And at some future point, we may each look back on our time and successes and reflect on how much we loved our experiences—not every minute or every challenge, but the whole picture.

Let’s make it personal as we make a difference today and every day to fulfill the true mission of massage.

Marshall S. Dahneke, MASSAGE MagazineMarshall S. Dahneke joined Hygenic Corporation as president and chief executive officer in June 2008 and is a member of its board of directors. Hygenic is a market leader in the manufacture of therapy devices and OTC drugs and therapy-related topicals, which include Thera-Band (, Biofreeze ( and Prossage ( Dahneke brings more than 16 years of experience in the medical device and health-care industry. He graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s degree of business administration. He has also written for the Harvard Business Review. He enjoys spending time with his wife and six children.