Grounding: Rx for Massage Therapist Burnout

Posted by LiLeah on

Being on the receiving end of a massage can be thoroughly remedial, pain-relieving, relaxing, and even blissful. Thanks to the skill, energy, and passion of the massage therapist you typically come away feeling like a million bucks.

But for purveyors of such relief — the therapists — it’s hard, hard work. Repeated treatments can generate overuse problems such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel, affecting the wrists, elbows, and shoulders, as well as problems with the hand and fingers.

There’s fatigue as well from the draining exertion.

Over time, the demanding nature of the work frequently contributes to burnout. A widely-quoted statistic from the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals organization indicates that something like 50,000 new students enroll in massage schools each year while 45,000 practitioners in the field decide to call it quits.

To prevent injury, burnout, and attrition, experts in the field emphasize strategies like proper technique, posture, a user-friendly workspace, adequate rest between sessions and workdays, an energy-boosting diet, not overbooking clients, continuing education, and seeking treatment at the first sign of injury.

What’s missing from these strategies is Earthing, grounding the body to the Earth. Grounding refers to the discovery that connecting with the Earth’s natural and subtle electric charge, stabilizes the physiology at the deepest level, draining the body of inflammation, chronic pain, and stress.

You can ground yourself by spending time barefoot outdoors on natural conductive surfaces, like grass, soil, gravel, stone, and sand. It’s as simple as that. Or, indoors, in contact with grounding mats, body bands, or patches while sitting or sleeping. Such devices are either plugged into the grounding system of a house or building or connected to a ground rod planted into the soil outside.

Two 2018 studies from the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, California, indicate that grounding offers potent help for massage therapists against the common pain issues and energy drain that often lead to premature occupational burnout.

The study, conducted over a six-week period with 16 therapists employed at the center, revealed a sharp difference in how the therapists felt and functioned when they were grounded (four weeks) compared to being not being grounded (first and last week of the study).

When grounded, they reported significantly less pain and much better energy, physical function, and mood.

During the study, the therapists utilized grounded mats at work (placed on the floor and under the massage table sheet) and grounded body bands or mats at home when sleeping.

The study, published in Explore: The Journal of Science & Healing, contributes to mounting evidence showing remarkable benefits for the body when you are grounded. You can see the study here: The Effects of Grounding (Earthing) on Bodyworkers’ Pain and Overall Quality of Life: A Randomized Controlled Trial

The new findings amplify an earlier published report, in the online journal Health, from this same study group showing that grounding improved inflammatory indicators in the body as well as had a blood thinning effect.  You can see the earlier study here:  Effects of Grounding (Earthing) on Massage Therapists: An Exploratory Study 

What Massage Therapists are Saying

Massage therapists tell us that grounding is a great boon. Here are several examples:

• Tina Michaud-Gray, RN, LMT, The Rapid Recovery Center, in Dover, NH, has been sleeping and working grounded since 2004.

“I would not work without Earthing,” she says. “I stand on a conductive Earthing mat when doing messages and also put a conductive mat on the table under the chest or back of the client. Thus both the client and I have bare skin contact with the Earth’s healing energy, just as if we were both barefoot outdoors. We both benefit immensely.

“The mats are connected via a wire to the ground port (third hole) of a properly grounded wall outlet or to a ground rod placed in the Earth outside. Earthing doesn’t work on electricity. It transfers the Earth’s natural, surface energy to your body.

“All massage therapists know there is an exhaustion point in doing the physical work of massage therapy. The first day working grounded, I had so much energy I was able to work on twice as many clients as normal! I never lost energy or strength. The next day I had no soreness or fatigue. And it’s been like that ever since.

“I have thoroughly incorporated Earthing into my personal life. I sleep grounded as well, on a conductive sheet connected to the Earth. This way I am continually healing and rejuvenating myself.

“For my clients, adding Earthing technology to the treatment allows them to relax quicker as they lay on the table. With trigger point therapy, knots dissipate faster with Earthing, making it easier on me and less painful for the client. My clients all notice the difference that Earthing has made in their treatments.

“Today, I specialize in pain and rehabilitation treatments. I don’t do as many massages as before, but the ones I do include sessions up to five hours long for elite athlete clients. These are very large and muscular men. Thanks to Earthing, my energy and endurance levels are incredible. I can handle this and do much more than I would normally be able to do.”

• Kathy Rink, LMT, Essence Healing Arts Center, Pewaukee, Wisconsin, a massage therapist for nearly twenty-five years, says that since she started Earthing in early 2015, she noticed an increased energy level, especially at the end of day.

“I no longer feel tired, even after a full day of massaging clients. I Earth at home, using a conductive sheet while sleeping, and use conductive patches or wristbands when I’m sitting doing other tasks. Since I’ve been Earthing, the chronic low back pain I have had since I was 17 (a gymnastics injury) is significantly less. I also have had a condition called reactive arthritis since my twenties (I’m now in my fifties) causing pain in my spine and ribs. This, too, with Earthing, has been much improved in terms of pain and flexibility of my spine. Because of the reduced pain, I sleep better too.

“When I’m treating clients, I’ve use conductive patches on them, either placing them on areas of pain and discomfort, or at the K1 point of the feet, or the palms of the hands. I noticed that when my clients are grounded, about 20 minutes into the session, their tissue seems to release more easily, and I am able to work more deeply. My clients tell me they experience another ‘layer’ of relaxation and release. I may also ground myself at times when I’m treating clients, usually by attaching a patch to my back and ‘hooking up’ with a long wire. It allows me to move around the massage table and still receive the benefits of Earthing.

• Katherine Van Hatten, a now retired massage and acupressure therapist in Northern California, worked actively into her seventies, the last eight or so years grounding herself at work and at home. In 2010, she said that “I still work a full day, and the only way I can do that at my age, without going home exhausted, is to stand barefoot on a floor mat that is grounded while I give my massages. If I don’t use it, I can do maybe one or two massages a day. If I work on the pad, I can work a full day, meaning four, five, or even six massages. Moreover, my clients receive the benefit because for the whole hour that they’re on the table I am bringing free electrons to them through the mat, my body, and my hands. So they are grounded as well.

“Ever since I have been working grounded my clients tell me routinely that they experience a higher level of energy afterward for an extended period of time.

“I’m also an acupressure therapist, so between that and massage, my hands and wrists are working hard with a lot of pressure. Until I grounded myself, I quite often experienced fatigue and muscle pain. I feel that the regeneration from sleeping grounded and also working while standing on a grounded floor mat is really giving me extra years to work.

“In my profession, there’s a tremendous amount of burnout because the work is very physical. You use a lot of energy. I’ve been at this for twenty-four years, and even if I go home tired now, I go to bed, sleep grounded and the next day I’m ready to go.”


Visit our website to learn more about earthing!

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