Celebrate Global Massage Makes Me Happy Day

In celebration of this day, East West College will be offering 50% off future student massage appointments booked on Tuesday, March 20th, 2018.

In support of Global Massage Makes Me Happy Day on March 20th, 2018, East West College of the Healing Arts will be offering a special promotion for their massage clinic. Future student massages booked on the day of March 20th will be 50% off – regularly $30, now just $15!

The Massage Makes Me Happy Initiative of the Global Wellness Institute aims to celebrate the healing powers of massage therapy and promote its benefits through research and education, advocacy and global awareness.

This offer is limited to one student massage per customer and cannot be combined with other discounts. Available appointments for this offer are between April 11th and June 18th only. To book an appointment call 503-233-6500 during the hours of 9:00am and 6:30pm on Tuesday, March 20th, 2018 and speak to an East West College representative. Enjoy your massage!

East West College Celebrates Global Massage Makes Me Happy Day Through Donation

MMH logo

The world will celebrate the positive impact of massage therapy on Tuesday, March 20th, 2018. The Massage Makes Me Happy Initiative, in partnership with the Global Wellness Institute, aims to celebrate the healing powers of massage therapy and promote its benefits through research, education, advocacy and global awareness. March 20th is also recognized by the United Nations as the International Day of Happiness.

One of the ways East West College will be celebrating this day is by donating a massage table to Raphael House, a domestic violence agency dedicated to ending intimate partner violence for good. Sarah Stivers, a licensed massage therapist in Portland, volunteers her services at Raphael House. She had been working with a broken massage chair for some time and we are happy to donate this table to this worthy organization.

Celebrate Massage Makes Me Happy Day by thanking your massage therapist, sharing your story of massage with others or simply by booking a massage for yourself.

Raphael House has been proudly serving individuals and families of all backgrounds, cultures, ages, abilities, gender identities, and sexual orientations since 1977. Want to donate or volunteer at Raphael House too? They are accepting donations Thursday, April 5th from 11am to 1pm at SE Uplift located at 3534 SE Main Street, Portland. For additional information contact Teena Soto Smith at tsmith@raphaelhouse.com or 503-222-6507 x143.

Massage as a Treatment Tool for Opioid Dependence

Last month we introduced how massage therapy can help individuals who are drug dependent stay present in their bodies, rather than disassociating to the negative body outcomes of their substance of choice. We also discussed how massage therapy can break the cycle of stress and sleeplessness so common among the substance dependent, by encouraging deep relaxation and releasing serotonin, dopamine, and other feel-good hormones throughout the body. Those who abuse substances often rely on drugs to experience pleasure; massage, in contrast, helps people experience their bodies’ natural pleasure pathways. Today we’re continuing the conversation by taking a special look at how massage therapy can help those suffering opioid use disorders.

massage therapy is an effective treatment for opioid dependence

First, just what is an opioid? The National Institute on Drug Abuse provides a simple definition: “Opioids are medications that relieve pain.” By minimizing the strength of pain signals reaching the brain, opioids mimic the body’s natural pain control system.

Natural opioid peptides, such as enkephalins and endorphins suppress pain messages by binding to receptors in the spinal cord and brain. Opioid medications such as Vicodin, OxyContin, and Percocet use these same pathways to suppress pain signals. Some opioids, like Morphine, are used in surgery and other circumstances that require extreme pain relief. Other opioids, such as codeine, are commonly prescribed for mild pain.

Historically, poppy seed resin was the original opiate. Drugs derived from the poppy seed, such as opium and heroin, have been used for thousands of years for both pleasure and medicinal purposes.

Why are opioids so addictive? In essence, because they replace the body’s natural pleasure chemicals. Once the body detects a consistent flow of synthetic endorphins, it stops producing its own pleasure chemicals. Then, when the individual tries to stop opioids use, depression ensues until the body begins producing its own pleasure chemicals once again. In the meantime, withdrawal symptoms are often so severe as to send the individual running back to their opioid “quick fix” for feeling good.

Opioid Addiction: A Modern Epidemic

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least half of all drug overdose fatalities involve prescription opioids. In the past 17 years, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids has quadrupled. Every day, 78 Americans die of an opioid overdose.

The American Academy of Pain Medicine has determined that opioid addiction costs the U.S. $55.7 billion, in costs related to loss of workplace productivity, criminal justice prosecution, health care, and correctional facility operation.

Clearly, opioid misuse is taking a heavy toll in our country. Traditionally, opioid dependence has been treated with other drugs, such as methadone. The idea is that other medications are required to help assuage withdrawal symptoms. However, some patients feel replacing one drug with another is counterproductive. Others rely on a combination of traditional and alternative medicines to combat their opioid overuse. Twelve-step programs, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, and massage can be helpful tools in the opioid recovery toolbox.

How Massage Helps with Opiate Use Disorders

Portland massage therapists may choose to specialize in the treatment of substance addicted or dependent individuals. (For more details on how to steer careers in massage therapy toward helping this niche group, we recommend reading our introductory post from May.) Opioid-dependent patients who receive massage therapy may experience the following positive outcomes:

  • Increased Body Awareness. Opioid use is often rooted in chronic pain. The opioid user attempts to avoid pain through painkiller medications. Adept massage therapists can help patients feel what the pain is actually like in their bodies. While this may at first be very difficult, over time those with opioid use disorders find the pain isn’t their whole world. They eventually discover that they can live with their pain without requiring outside substances.
  • Effective Pain Treatment. A May 2016 study published in the journal Pain Medicine found that massage therapy can reduce pain, minimize anxiety, and improve health-related quality of life. All three outcomes are relevant for those with substance dependency issues. By providing a drug-free way to relieve pain, massage can help tremendously.
  • Manage Detox Symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can be intense— extremely painful, stressful, and uncomfortable. Massage can help by increasing the levels of natural feel-good chemicals in the brain. For instance, a good massage increases dopamine levels, the body’s reward chemicals. By increasing these pleasure chemicals, regular massage can help addicts withstand withdrawal symptoms.

If helping combat rampant opioid misuse appeals to you, we suggest keeping your eyes peeled for relevant massage therapy continuing education courses. In Portland, you can rely on East West College to offer a range of classes each quarter. This September and October, we are offering twenty-two different CE courses for LMTs, ranging from “Indian Head Massage” to “Ethics for Massage Therapists” to “Gua Sha and Cupping”. Massage therapists with an interest in substance abuse treatment may also seek volunteer work and employment in clinics that specialize in recovery. If you are an East West College grad, our Alumni Services team would be happy to help you with information on job openings and volunteer opportunities. To learn more, get in touch.

Staff Profile: Robyn Baehler, Alumni Services Coordinator and Sports Massage Therapist at the Track & Field Olympic Trials

A massage therapist career can take you in whatever direction you wish. For East West College grad Robyn Baehler, sports massage therapy specialization lead her to treat athletes at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene this past July. Now, Robyn is also working in our Oregon massage school as our Alumni Services Coordinator and has a chance to help tomorrow’s LMTs find work after graduation. Today we’re delighted to share the story of Robyn’s connection to the massage world and working with athletes, including how she ended up providing massage to world-class running stars. Robyn also provides insight into how a budding massage therapist can steer her or his massage therapist career toward treating athletes at national and international competitions.Robyn Baehler is a sports massage therapist and Alumni Services Coordinator for East West College

As a high school student, Robyn ran around Coos Bay, her hometown. She explains that running is “in her blood.” Today, she considers herself an avid runner; indeed, she has competed in running for the past 25 years. Since 2001 she has also coached track. So it’s no wonder that, after completing East West College’s 800-hour massage therapy program, Robyn decided to specialize in treating track athletes.

Providing Sports Massage Therapy at the 2016 US Olympics Track & Field TrialsEast West College alum Robyn Baehler, a sports massage therapist for the 2016 Track and Field Olympic Trials

Robyn calls working at the trials “special,” and “an honor,” explaining that she has “always looked up to the athletes who, with hard work and dedication, realize their dream to represent the USA.” For her, working on Olympic trial track and field athletes is a “win-win”—she gets to use her massage skills in an incredible atmosphere of competition and camaraderie.

Kicking of A Sports Massage Therapist Career at East West College

After twelve years in the corporate world, working for companies such as Nike, Robyn decided to go back to school to become a massage therapist. She chose a career in massage therapy because she wanted others to feel the same benefits of healing, preventative care, and rehabilitation that she herself enjoyed through regular massage. Robyn explains, “EWC provided me with a great foundation for treatment-based massage.”

Specializing in Sports Massage Therapy

To track her career toward sports massage therapy, Robyn has “worked as a volunteer at sports events; taken sports massage specific CE classes; and worked in a chiropractic office where athletes (from recreational to professional) would come in.” She explains that these activities helped her gain experience. They also allowed her to make an informed decision to move forward on the path toward sports massage.

Sports Massage Benefits for Athletes

In her work with track athletes, Robyn has observed the following benefits of regular sports massage:

  • Warming up. Faster strokes will help get blood moving, preparing muscles for performance.
  • Cooling down. Slower strokes, stretching, and flushing techniques can help athletes enjoy faster recovery from competition.
  • Manage Soreness and Stiffness. Multiple competitions over several days can leave athletes’ bodies tight and sore. Massage can soothe tense, tender muscles.
  • De-Stress. Athletes must deal with travel, strenuous workouts, and intense competition; massage helps them de-stress so that they can perform at their best.
  • Facilitate Healing. Massage can help with pain management and healing for any injuries that may occur during competition. Finally, Robyn emphasizes that the track athletes she treated benefitted from the collaborative care model at the trials. She worked with an international sports medicine group that included physical therapists, athletic trainers, massage therapists, and chiropractors.

Serving Tomorrow’s Sports Massage Therapists

In her role as Alumni Services Coordinator, Robyn helps EWC grads navigate the post-graduation world. She advises hopeful sports massage therapists to get experience through volunteer and professional sports massage work. With some sports massage training, therapists can work at sports events, which are excellent for networking. Robyn also recommends learning how to work with tools (cupping, fascial adhesion tools, etc.), which many athletes prefer. Having multiple massage modalities is also popular with athletes.

We are thrilled to have Robyn on the East West College team!

Massage for Drug Addiction: A Primer for Massage Therapists

According to a survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 24.6 million Americans, or 9.4% of the population, used an illicit drug in the past month. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has stated that addiction impacts nearly half of American families. Illegal drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes cost the U.S. over half a trillion dollars annually, in the form of health care costs, accidents, criminal activity, and education special services. Clearly, addiction is an issue worthy of our national attention, and a worthwhile focus for any healthcare professional, including massage therapists.

massage for drug addiction

Ultimately, all addictive behaviors share brain pathways. From binge eating to manic shopping to gambling and sex, all addictive behaviors are in response to the same neurotransmitter: dopamine. Addicts respond to the flood of dopamine that hits their brains’ reward centers whenever they take a hit or a drink. By minimizing stress chemicals and maximizing feel-good neuro-chemicals, massage can help assuage the symptoms of addiction.

Massage for Drug Addiction: Part of a Mind/Body/Spirit Approach

Some integrated health centers are now including massage as part of their treatment for drug addiction. The Wellness Spot, part of the Florida House Experience rehab center, provides about 200 massages per week. Along with additional alternative medicine therapies, including yoga, nutritional counseling, acupuncture, and meditation, massage helps clients “feel what it’s like to be present in their own bodies,” according to Wellness Spot director Jennifer Broadwell, DOM. In this way, massage therapy can help addicts work through disassociation.

Disassociation occurs when addicts disconnect from their bodies. During this time, addicts are unaware of what they are feeling or experiencing. Therapists hypothesize that this disassociation is rooted in addiction behavior. In order to continue taking drugs, addicts must ignore their bodily reactions. The healing process must therefore include some time for addicts to adjust to actually experiencing life in the moment, in a body-centered way.

While patients may be too intimidated to open up in talk therapy, massage therapy meets them where they are. While receiving massage, patients need not explain how they feel, nor why. They can simply relax while the therapist explores and loosens stress points in the body.

The relaxation that comes on the massage table changes the addict’s brain and body chemistry. As Tiffany Field, director of the University of Miami’s Touch Research Institute, explains, “The body releases fewer stress hormones when massaged.” Cortisol and other stress hormones can cause the weakened immunity and physical pain that addicts experience. Massage can help break the cycle of stress by allowing addicts to experience relaxation and relief. During a great massage, levels of serotonin, dopamine, and other enjoyable neurotransmitters increase, helping addicts experience their own bodies’ natural pleasure pathways, rather than relying on a substance or behavior.

Finally, massage helps activate parasympathetic vagal pathways by stimulating pressure receptors. Vagal activation is correlated with better sleep and less anxiety. Overall, addiction patients “just feel better” after a massage. They may leave the session saying, “Oh! That’s what relaxation feels like,” or, “I didn’t know I was so happy/sad.” Massage helps addicts feel and heal through touch. This includes opioid addicts. Given the prevalence of opioid addiction in this country, we would like to write a future post specifically on massage and opioid addicts. Stay tuned. For now, let’s consider a few tips for massage therapists who would like to specialize in drug addiction.

Massage Therapy Careers: Specializing in Drug Addiction

  • Treat lightly. Recognize that addiction is often rooted in childhood trauma, including the violation of personal boundaries. Therefore, work carefully, asking for plenty of client feedback. Also maintain clear professional boundaries, as addictive behavior may include crossing professional/personal limitations.
  • Don’t take it personally. The addict’s journey is his or her own. You can’t force someone to stay on the path. If they relapse, and you become angry in response, they may feel their boundaries have been violated. Provide healing, and then let it go.
  • Be willing to provide references. If you don’t feel a certain client is within your area of expertise, be willing to refer to a more experienced practitioner.


Massage therapists who specialize in addiction may find long-term work in clinics, wellness centers, and in private practice. If you’d like to work in this niche, and you haven’t yet attended a school of massage, maintain this focus throughout your massage therapy classes. Look for opportunities to get involved in clinics and wellness centers that provide massage services for addicts. If you are already an LMT, look for massage therapy continuing education opportunities on this topic. At East West College, we offer multiple classes that would be helpful for working with addiction. Therapist self-care, ethics of massage, and many other East West classes can help you hone skills for working with addicts.

The Benefits of Pre-Race Massage

Picture this: you’re getting ready to run a 5k, you see a massage table set up, and next to it the massage therapist offering a, what you say, a “free massage!?” But wait. There are no lines? How could this be?

benefits of a pre-race massage to warm up the muscles

As a massage therapist, one of my main goals is to support optimum performance for athletes. Often, I set up my massage table at local runs. One thing I’ve consistently noticed is that far fewer people take advantage of massage prior to the run than after. I find this surprising, given that the feedback from runners who’ve had a warm-up massage is so positive. I have consistently heard statements from these runners, such as “it really helped” or “I didn’t flag at the final hill”, or “I usually cramp in my calf, but not this time.”
Continue reading “The Benefits of Pre-Race Massage”

Legal Pitfalls to Avoid as a Massage Therapist

Upon graduating from our Portland massage therapist school, newly hatched LMTs are excited to get to work! Many decide to strike out on their own as independent business owners. However, there’s plenty to consider when launching a new business, including potential legal snafus. This article reviews a few legal considerations for massage therapists, including contracts, choosing your business entity, and protecting intellectual property. Read on to learn how to avoid some common legal pitfalls in the massage therapy profession.
Continue reading “Legal Pitfalls to Avoid as a Massage Therapist”

Massage for Medically Fragile Clients

Medically fragile clients are those with frail constitutions due to chronic or terminal illness, advanced age, or injury. These patients have complex, serious medical conditions. They may also be referred to as “medically frail” or “medically complex.” Massage therapist and educator Julie Goodwin explains that clients who fit into the “medically frail” category often have “multiple health conditions from which recovery or rehabilitation is unlikely, medical treatments and medications that create side effects that interfere with daily functioning, and impairments to mobility and cognition.”

Continue reading “Massage for Medically Fragile Clients”

Massage Therapy Schools Share Online Anatomy Study Tools for Students

When taking classes at our massage school, many students are pleasantly surprised at the depth of knowledge expected of them. As 2004 East West College graduate Nancy Failla explains, “When I came to East West, I had no idea how hard the anatomy and physiology classes were going to be. I actually thought it was mostly going to be massage and hands on. It was surprising, but in a good way, because the curriculum was so intense and so thorough that I felt like I was in premed school.” As a result of these high academic standards, many East West College grads find they are preferentially hired after completing our Portland massage therapy program. Continue reading “Massage Therapy Schools Share Online Anatomy Study Tools for Students”

Fibromyalgia: How Massage Therapy Classes Can Help Those Afflicted

More than 3 million Americans have Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition with no known cure. Fibromyalgia is defined by body-wide pain and sensitivity to touch. It is also known as Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) because other symptoms are not uncommon. Women are far more likely to experience Fibromyalgia. Overall, Fibromyalgia is a complex disorder that can be managed, but not cured. Let’s take a look at how taking massage classes can help Fibromyalgia patients. Continue reading “Fibromyalgia: How Massage Therapy Classes Can Help Those Afflicted”