Sponsored content provided by The Jacquelyn Project.

Marshall Dahneke is running the 2023 Boston Marathon for cancer relief in honor of his daughter, Jacquelyn, who passed away from breast cancer in early 2022.

This column details his personal health journey, inspires massage therapists to live a healthier life, and promotes The Jacquelyn Project’s Running for Cancer Relief efforts partnered with the Massage Therapy Foundation. Visit The Jacquelyn Project’s home page for an overview of the project, sponsor highlights and a donation link.

What Could You Lose Due to Career-Ending Injury?

How to differentiate between random acute pain versus the beginning of something chronic that may become our companion for a day, a week—or forever? What would you hate to lose due to a career-ending injury?

Pain is an important part of life, alerting us to stop and take notice. Too often, we witness a football player not get up after a play, only to be escorted off the field. Is he just hurt and, after evaluation, returning to finish the game? Or did a more serious injury just occur that may require surgery, therapy, and a lot of rehab time? Or worse?

As an older person who is newer to running, I spend considerable time paying attention to all my aches and pains. With each new twinge, I go into overdrive to prevent this new “friend” from lingering. Some pain has forced me to stop mid-run while other pain has stopped my running altogether for weeks.

A carved sign in my office proclaims, “There may come a day when I cannot run—today is not that day!” As I prepare to run the Boston Marathon, each new ache could be the one that shuts me down, so I invest as much time with therapeutic interventions between training as I do with actual running.

Research indicates the injuries most often ending someone’s running career are musculoskeletal related: tendon rupture, osteoarthritis, progressive loss of cartilage, and stress fractures at high-risk locations.

A similar pattern appears to be true for massage therapists: “Musculoskeletal disorders with upper extremities have been the most prevalent issues for massage therapists. Rotator cuff injuries, wrist tendonitis and tenosynovitis, trigger fingers, and bursa injuries in the shoulder and elbows are also common.”

Although many massage therapists leave the field too soon due to injury or burnout, many other massage therapists achieve great success in this profession, with long-lasting careers. One piece of the career puzzle for these successful massage therapists is self-care to prevent acute and chronic injury.

Massage is most definitely an endurance profession! Practicing massage inevitably requires a therapist to be on their feet, working with their hands and using their body for hours in a repetitive nature. Compounded with poor posture and limited self-care, this is a recipe for injury.

Prevent Career-Ending Injury

Proper technique and a constant focus on ergonomics are critical to avoiding injury. Awkward postures, like bent wrists, leaning or reaching too far over a table, or not keeping the head and neck in a neutral position, can be the root cause of too many injuries that may shorten a career. Be wise. Follow proper technique and ergonomics.

Invest in that electric Oakworks table and liberally use the high-low function to keep the client at the ideal height, allowing your elbows to stay close to your body. Warm up your wrists and forearms before each session with stretches. Working without breaks significantly increases your risk of muscle and tendon strains and sprains, so schedule at least 10 minutes between sessions for recovery. Strength and conditioning are critical, so invest in your career by maintaining a schedule of cardiovascular and strength training. Find ways to vary the massage techniques you use with clients to avoid overuse and repetitive stress.  

What if you develop an injury from massaging, as I have while running? An ounce of prevention may be better than a pound of cure, but when needed, our zealous focus on healing can accelerate recovery and resumption of our life’s work and passion. I rely daily on stretching, cold therapy, and a compression therapy device called PressoMassage.

Some additional musculoskeletal treatment and management interventions that keep me going and could benefit both you and your clients include:

  • SpiderTech’s latex-free kinesiology tape helps reduce inflammation, supports muscles, prevents further injury, and enhances performance. For me, this tape offers remarkable pain relief. SpiderTech arms therapists with universal strips for customizable application and invented the easy-to-apply pre-cut kits for specific body parts, enabling amateurs (like me) to apply between massage sessions.
  • DR-HO’S Circulation Promoter is a medical device that’s FDA-cleared for pain relief at home. The combination of four powerful pain-relief technologies into one stimulates the leg-and-foot nerves and muscles to help relax spasms, increase blood circulation and relieve pain. This electrical stimulation therapy is as simple as placing my feet and flipping on the switch while reading or watching TV and is especially helpful after strenuous training or a race.
  • Massage is still my go-to intervention, for both prevention and treatment, and my experience at Massage Heights has been terrific. The culture of care evident for both clients and therapists there is obvious. The therapists I speak with feel valued, accepted, and inspired to work there. My recent massage there with Pura Wellness lotion was on point, keeping me fine-tuned for ongoing training as I ramp up for the Boston Marathon.
  • Bellabaci’s hand-squeezable, medical-grade silicone vacuum cups offer decompression therapy to help direct fluids and toxins, loosen adhesions, and lift connective tissue. This translates into tangible relief for my tight leg muscles and sore tendons. These cups are easy for me to use, and even more impactful in the hands of a massage therapist combined with manual therapy.
  • Winback Tecartherapy is the new adjunctive therapy that you deserve to try. This FDA-cleared bio-accelerator device that generates radio-frequency energy enables therapists to elevate muscle-and-fascia temperature prior to or as part of manual therapy. Winback Tecartherapy quickly releases tension, relieves pain for up to 48 hours, and significantly improves range of motion while promoting revascularization. This device accelerates healing while creating a unique and soothing treatment experience.
  • Pura Wellness offers a full line of professional massage products suitable for every modality. Naturally enriched with superior ingredients, PURA Wellness massage creams, lotions, oils, and gels enable your favorite techniques while promoting healthy skin for your clients. Available in Arnica Therapy, Vitamin Therapy, Herbal Therapy, Coconut Therapy, and Deep Tissue Therapy.

About the Author

Marshall Dahneke is the grateful husband of Michelle and proud father of six wonderful children, a lover of massage, former CEO of Performance Health, 2016 Massage Hall of Fame inductee, and aspiring endurance athlete finding his way to a better way of life.