What's in a word?
By Oona Woods
There are so many different ways of approaching the human body for treatment that it can be daunting to even start wading through it all. But when the various practitioners can’t even agree on terms like "massage" the issue becomes extremely muddy.
Whether you approach the body from the point of view of movement or energy can relate to whether you're looking at it from a Western or Eastern point of view.
From this perspective there are also myriad methods stemming from each belief system. These belief systems seem to engender as much loyalty as religion or truck brands. Each type of practice has its own points, governing bodies and issues. Although you can indicate them all broadly with a sweep of the hand and a referral to "bodyworkers" you'll end up with a bunch of unlikely and uncomfortable bedfellows.
Each practice magnanimously states that there is definitely room for other "modalities" to complement each approach. Whistler's Peak Performance offices provide a clear example of the happy co-existence of various methods of therapy, ranging from Shiatsu to massage and physio.
However, currently the whole industry is in upheaval over terminology. It means that in discussing the subject words become loaded weapons.
The College of Massage Therapist of B.C., which represents Registered Massage Therapist (RMTs) is submitting a paper to Health Practitioners Canada that includes a proposal to reform legislation governing massage therapy.
The CMT says that it would like to ensure that only people with what they regard as appropriate training (i.e. RMTs) be allowed to provide "therapeutic massage." If this came to pass all other types of bodywork will be labelled as "relaxation massage."
"Therapeutic massage" would then be a term relating only to people who are seen as qualified by guidelines set down by the Health Practitioners Council.
An attempt was made by the CMT to take ownership of the term Massage Therapist, or more precisely as the HPC's discussion paper puts it: "A similar issue was dealt with in a recent decision of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in which Mr. Justice Braidwood, in considering whether the Massage Practitioners Regulation had been violated, distinguished between therapeutic massage services and massage services that were not rendered in the course of delivering health care services."
The so-called "alternative" therapy industry fears that they will be slighted by any legislation in this direction. Although initially it is because RMTs want to distance themselves from unqualified and/or dubious services offered in phone-books, the end result could be that "Alternative" services are legislated out of the language.
While Shiatsu practitioners are keen to distance themselves from the loose use of the word Shiatsu in "Japanese massage parlour" ads in Vancouver, they also see themselves as offering something beyond just a "relaxation massage," working as they sometimes do in the field of healing disease.
The war of words is currently at discussion paper level in the HPC. The mood seems to be shifting towards restricting "dangerous activities" to certified health care professionals, while sharing terminology at other levels. It remains to be seen how this will pan out on the street when people touching other people have to make up the name tag for their employees.