How the pieces fit: Naprapathy & Massage

The start of my journey as a healer began in massage school ten years ago. I never had any intention of working in a spa or simply helping someone relax so I was very particular about the school I chose. My high standards are what led to my leaving the east coast and coming to New Mexico.


The school I attended was founded by a doctor, albeit a very unusual one. Though he held a degree in allopathic medicine, he was a well-known natural healer who did great things to encourage the body’s intrinsic abilities to heal. (Though he died nearly 25 years ago, I still hear amazing stories of his work from locals.) The massage school was built on the unusual foundation that manual therapies like massage have great healing qualities. We were inspired to bring our natural talents and attentive touch to heal each person rather than simply treat a body. It has proven to be an invaluable foundation for my journey.


I loved massage for certain things, but not for others.


I loved being able to bring someone’s nervous system down a few notches during our time together. I loved being able to affect people’s pain levels, though not always as permanently as I’d hope. And it was always fabulous to welcome people back who were enthusiastic about the experience. Touch is an underrated healing, and I never tired of helping people.


What I didn’t like was the limitation of my training. I wanted to be able to make longer-lasting changes for people’s bodies. I wanted the muscles not just to surrender but change. I wanted to chase away the causes of pain at the roots, not just manage the symptoms. Sometimes these things happened, but not predictably enough for my liking. While I changed a lot of that through my continuing education, there are still more holes that I’m looking to fill.


Some of what I’m learning as a Naprapath is old news in many ways, but it’s been interesting to put it into a different perspective. While I’m well versed in the muscles of the body and how dysfunctions beget compensations and more dysfunctions, I’m not so well versed (at all) in the nervous system. Linking issues of the muscles with the nervous system has already changed my approach to working with clients, and I’ve only barely begun to understand the connections. Learning what to do with a cramped muscle as a massage therapist is very different than understanding what’s likely happening in the body and why doing something works. Once you understand how something works, it’s much easier to apply it more broadly.


As a Naprapath, I’m also going to be prepared to help people understand their nutritional needs and the affects of their choices on pain levels (and why). I’m going to be able to evaluate joints and either provide relief or feedback about other avenues of treatments. And I’ll be prepared to give exercises aimed at strengthening a body. These are all skills that I’ve wished I had in my pocket as a massage therapist. Knowing this much more, I’ll be able to help more quickly or know more specifically who to refer my clients to when I’ve hit my limits.


Personally, I’m a devoted life-long learner. This makes me acutely aware of what I don’t know. Even after I become a Naprapath, I will enthusiastically add more techniques and knowledge to my skill set. That said, in becoming a Naprapath, I drastically expand my understanding of how the body works so I can work more specifically and quickly to get to the root of pain. For the massage therapist who is ever seeking more ways to help their clients, I can only say this is one of the best choices you can make.


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