Busy training as a massage therapist! 

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by Karen Salisbury


I’ve been an advocate for over a year now, but this is my first blog. One of the reasons being, I’m of the age where carbon paper was the norm, what on earth is a blog…!?!

But the main reason is, I’ve just been so busy with other concerns. I achieved an ambition of qualifying as a remedial masseur. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for 12 years now, but always found an excuse. Too expensive, not enough time, wouldn’t be good enough…. Blah blah.

I have regular treatments at the local massage college and also act as a patient for the massage college students on their clinical assessment day. My therapist asked me to act as a patient, as having a stoma gives the students experience of dealing with someone outside their daily experiences to make the clinical assessment as real as possible. He checks to see if they follow through on my medical history, ask the relevant questions, make sure they check I can have a massage etc. (He also has a patient who removes his false leg prior to treatment).

So I’ve had an interest in how beneficial remedial massage is. Those pulls, pains, and trapped sciatic nerves people pop the pain relief pills for, and wait months for it to get better, can be sorted by a few treatments, often just one. But still I didn’t have enough nerve to sign up.

Anyway I DID it. I signed up this time last year. The course ran September – July. A 3 day practical session each month, home study, and course work, practical experience and case studies. I also work full time. I worried about not getting enough volunteers. But it’s amazing how many people allow you to practice their skills on them if it’s free. I qualified in July.


Karen Salisbury blog #2 massage

Oh, did I mention, as well as working full time, I have an ileostomy? Sorry, forgot that bit! The only hold back was my fellow students couldn’t practice abdominal massage on me. Not that I can’t have one, but they would only be able to practise half of their routine, and the purpose is to encourage the large bowel to work well. Don’t think I need that. But the upside, I was able to inform a group of people of what a stoma was, and that ostomates are just ordinary individuals like everyone else. And one fellow student had a neighbour who was facing the prospect of surgery, another was fully familiar as both her parents had stomas. It’s a small world.

I can’t say that the experience of having a stoma gave me the push to do the course, that was my husband who got sick to death of me moaning about wanting to but….. But what it has done is give me the energy and health to be able to commit to a full years part time study, whilst working full time.

I hear comments about whether you can have a massage with a stoma. (I was once refused a back massage when on holiday)… But yes you can. I had treatments pre-surgery, and my therapist was treating me as soon as I was medically fit enough after surgery. And you never know, your therapist may be an ostomate.

I learnt on the course, that gentle massage is used for post-surgery cases to reduce the risk of adhesions, including abdominal surgery. When the muscle is initially damaged, the body’s healing process creates adhesions, or scar tissues. In the first stages it is doughy and sticky, which can cause organs or tissues to stick to one another. Massage can keep the adhesions moving, and break them down. In later stages it can also continue to break down scar tissue. Many massage treatments will be to treat scar tissue. My tutor thinks this could be an interesting research study, to see if gentle massage does reduce the occurrences of bowel blockage post-surgery. I’m not sure my surgical team are going to let me loose on their patients, but perhaps in the future?

I also discovered a few things about my own health. I’ve always done yoga and stayed active, but during my illness I was incapacitated. My yoga classes got me back to full mobility and flexibility after surgery. But I still struggle with sitting cross legged, and seated forward bends. Not a major issue in everyday life, but it is rather annoying. I just put it down to the after effects of illness and getting older. On the course, we practiced on one another. The day we were doing hips and thighs, I was in a group of 3. I discovered the reason for my lack of suppleness is a very tight gracilis muscle,which is one of the inner thigh muscles. It’s a very tender muscle if contracted and tense. The therapists presses down and asks patient to rate the pain from 1-10. If it needs treatment the therapist continues to press, and the pain threshold should reduce. Considering I’ve had two lots of abdominal surgery, so have experienced lots of pain, I rated the initial pressure at 9.5!!! AND I had 2 of them treating me. BUT the upside, I could sit with my leg crossed. Obviously it’s not a miracle cure, and I need to have more treatments to fully relax the muscle, but it taught me a lesson about having to put up with stiffness etc.

I did the course for interest, and be able to safely treat friends and family. I’ve no plans to set up in business, as I am lucky to be in full time paid employment. But it’s just proof that having an ostomy doesn’t hold you back. Infact quite the opposite.