We are excited to announce our new Continuing Education Coordinator, Tori Gomez, LMT#23897

Tori graduated from East West College of the Healing Arts in September 2017. She worked in our Alumni Clinic as an Licensed Massage Therapist up until July of this year when she accepted the position of Continuing Education Coordinator. Tori is now in charge of scheduling and supporting over 100 Continuing Education classes a year. Tori is a great fit for this role and are happy she is continuing to be part of our team!

We interviewed Tori about accepting the new position. Read on…

What drew you to apply for the CE Coordinator position?

It wasn’t any one specific thing, but more of a feeling. When I heard that the position had opened up, I just felt really drawn to it. Having trained at East West College to become an LMT, I have learned to trust my intuition as much as my knowledge and the idea of being able to help people while still challenging myself was an opportunity that I didn’t want to pass up on.

How are you settling into your new space and job duties?

Tina did an amazing job trying to get me up to speed and I value her insights and strategies in keeping on top of things. I’m still adjusting, but I feel more confident each day because of the support from all of my coworkers. I think that has helped me finally find a bit of my rhythm.

Even though you are new to the position, is there anything that stands out that you are really enjoying so far?

I am actually enjoying a few things. I find peace in organizing things and I love to learn; lucky for me these things seem to be a big part of the job. I also love people, so getting to know everyone at the school better has been wonderful. There are so many smart, funny, and talented people here and I love that I can be inspired by them.

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 & Self-Care: Marketing the Necessity of De-Stressing during the Holiday Season

Holiday stress: It’s so ubiquitous, it’s practically cliché. Yet few people actually fit in an extra wintertime massage or day at the spa. How can Portland massage therapists come to the rescue? By effectively marketing their offerings during this darkest, and often busiest, part of the year.

We all know that the holidays are a time of stress. Consider a Healthline study which found that 56% of Gen X-ers, 61% of millennials, and 62% of Baby Boomers feel stress during the holidays.

Yet few people actually set aside time to destress. The 2016 American Time Use Study found that, on average, a woman with children spends just 11 minutes per day on self-care activities such as exercise or recreation. Married men spend just 15 minutes per day on such self-care. The bottom line? Americans aren’t prioritizing self-care. And we’re betting that tendency is exacerbated during the holiday season. Yet this “most wonderful” (read: busiest) time of the year is exactly when we most need self-care to help us deal with skyrocketing stress levels.

Massage: An Enjoyable Antidote to Holiday Stress
Is massage a luxury? Or self-indulgent? Absolutely not! Holiday stress can rob us of sleep, increase our blood pressure, and leave our hearts and minds racing. Not to mention the nosedive our best dietary intentions take at this time of year! With all these stressors, our minds and bodies are not operating optimally. Massage battles stress in multiple ways, allowing us to better enjoy the holidays while cruising through the season’s challenges.

How Massage Helps Offset Stress

Feel-Good Hormones. During this time of the year, many people slack on their exercise routines. Who feels like working out when it’s dark and icy outside? Massage can help! Massage produces many of the same soothing “happy chemicals” one gets from a good run, such as serotonin and dopamine.

Improved Sleep. Indulgent parties, crammed schedules, holiday change to routines: It all makes regular sleep challenging. Again, massage to the rescue! As the AMTA reports, multiple studies suggest that regular massage improves sleep. Consistent ZZZs can help zap holiday stress, as well as seasonal anxiety and depression.

Soothe the Sympathetic Nervous System. From a medical perspective, stress is “up-regulation,” when the body turns on the fight/fight/freeze response in the face of external stimuli. Up-regulation is performed by the sympathetic nervous system. We experience stress when the body is “stuck” in a sympathetic response. The other half of the autonomic nervous system is the parasympathetic side—its job is to help release the stress of upregulation. As discussed in Massage Magazine, massage helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system, turning off the fight/flight/freeze response and helping the recipient feel less stressed.

Target Acupressure Points. Reflexology, Tui Na, and other styles of Eastern-influenced massage therapy increase energy by alleviating blockages along energy lines, or meridians. By focusing on acupressure points throughout the body, massage therapists can decrease stress. A 2013 study from Georgetown University found acupuncture to be an effective way to fight stress; acupressure uses the same energetic principals without requiring needles.

Holiday Marketing Tips for Therapists

Fight the good fight against holiday stress! Entice clients to your door with these marketing approaches.

  1. Say “Thank You” (and “Hello” to new customers) with Gift Certificates. Acknowledge your most loyal clients by giving them each a complimentary massage gift certificate. Here’s the catch: They must spread the joy of the season by passing on the certificate to a friend. It’s a win-win for massage careers and massage-seekers alike: You get a new referral, your customers feel appreciated, and new clients find your exceptional services.If full gift certificates are too much, offer your clients free add-on treatments, such as an extra 10 minutes of massage, or aromatherapy. Sending hand-written holiday cards to your top 25 clients, and emailing 50 more clients, is another excellent way to celebrate your success while growing customer loyalty. Throw in a New Year’s special and watch your appointment book fill.
  2. Use Social Media to Inform and Entice. Twitter, Facebook, and your blogging platform are excellent tools for connecting with holiday customers, but the “hard sale” rarely works. Certainly, posting your holiday specials is wise—but this sort of promotional material should make up no more than 20% of your overall social media content. With these messages, include a call to action, such as “Give the Gift of Health! Purchase one gift certificate and get a massage for yourself at half off.” Throw in a link to your online store. The other 80% of your messages should be conversational in tone. For instance, you can post tips for holiday self-care, such as this article from Psychology Today, and ask how your followers are committing to their own health this holiday season. As the conversation unfolds, you will likely have an opportunity to mention your services.
  3. Promote Gift Cards Early and Often. Portland massage therapy gift cards make great gifts, particularly when they are for individual therapists. For would-be massage recipients, a massage gift card is more than an enjoyable present: It’s also a time-saver, since they don’t have to spend weeks searching for a talented therapist. For dazzling holiday season sales, start early: Set up events for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. Place gift card displays in your practice space. Have your online store setup by September. Plan ahead for the best results.

Of course, Portland massage therapists are just as susceptible to holiday stress as everyone else. So to conclude, we’d like to encourage all our alumni and students to set aside time for themselves this holiday season. Arrange a trade or set up an appointment in our Portland massage clinic. Just as an hour of blissful body work can help your clients sail through the season, so can massage help you maximize your appreciation of the wonder of the holidays.

Massage Chairs: Massage Marketing Tools for Booking Table Sessions

What would you consider your most important massage marketing tool? Social media? Word of mouth? A massage chair?

massage chairs are an important tool for massage marketing
Photo from touchpro.com/story-of-the-first-massage-chair/

Yes, a piece of furniture can serve a critical role in massage marketing. While completing their massage therapist schooling at East West College, our students have the opportunity to envision the next five years. They think about where they want to go next, after spending months gathering the right skills, tools, and knowledge to thrive as LMTs. A massage chair is incredibly helpful in building a robust massage business.

Massage chairs may seem innocuous, but they are exceptional for marketing massage services. Let’s examine

how savvy use of massage chairs can help push forward massage careers.

 4 Ways to Use Massage Chairs to Market Massage Services

  1. Maximize Portability by Providing Chair Massage at Events.

When David Palmer introduced the first massage chair in 1986, massage instructors and experienced LMTs almost immediately recognized its potential for growing massage therapy as a whole. Massage chairs are easily transported. They’re easy to assemble and take down, and their sleek designs fit almost anywhere. This is the main advantage of having a massage chair for your business: you can set up at various events, including:

  • Conferences
  • Offices
  • Athletic Events
  • Airports
  • Festivals

Massage chairs are light enough to tote almost anywhere; one of the most popular massage chairs clocks in at just 18 pounds. Yet this lightweight chair can support clients up to 300 pounds in weight.

Clients who would be hesitant to book a table massage are far more comfortable slipping into a massage chair in a familiar location. Coffee shops, stores, and corporate settings are a few more locations where chair massage may be offered. After enjoying a chair massage session, potential clients are far more likely to book a follow up table session. That’s why it’s key to have your scheduler and a stack of business cards at hand when providing chair massage.

  1. Connect with “Warm Leads”—H.R. Directors, Event Sponsors, Etc.

While providing chair massage at events, look to make connections with individuals who would be likely to contract with you for future chair work. If someone mentions that they work in HR, suggest that you could offer chair massage for their office.

Let the referral process work both ways. In your table massage space, post a sign reading, “Ask me about chair massage in your workplace.” This will spark conversations and deliver “warm leads,” i.e. connections that are far easier to convert into table massage contracts than a cold, out-of-the-blue marketing contact would be.

  1. Volunteer at Like-Minded Events.

Sports, festivals, benefit yoga events, and employee wellness events— these are all excellent opportunities to market your massage services. While volunteering to provide short chair massages won’t immediately bring you income, it is a great way to make connections with future clients. Regular clients being the lifeblood of a sustainable massage practice, earning just one or two new regulars per volunteer event can make a huge difference in your business’ long-term success.

  1. Contract with Event Planners.

Reach out to conference and event planners. Ask for the opportunity to provide on-site chair massage for agreed-upon blocks of time. This will put attendees at ease while burnishing the event’s reputation. Work with each planner to arrive at a good hourly price for your services. If the second party isn’t willing to pay, consider offering small chunks of service at affordable rates. After walking on a concrete expo floor for hours, conference attendees will see $10 for ten minutes of massage as downright generous.

When you promote table massage to chair massage clients, you build a stronger, more flexible massage business. As you gain more massage chair clients, you’ll find some crossover in the other direction, as chair massage customers book table sessions.

Marketing is all about getting your services in front of a wider audience. A massage chair greatly increases the locations where you can demonstrate your massage skills. Consider adding a massage chair to your business assets. The East West College bookstore employees would be happy to review different chair features and options, just stop by during business hours, or call us at 503-233-6500.

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.

Massage Therapy for Attention Deficit Disorder: Research Review

A literature review of complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments for children found that ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is one of the most commonly studied conditions, and that massage is one of the most commonly used CAM modalities (Snyder & Brown, 2012). According to the Mayo Clinic, ADHD “includes a combination of problems, such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.” The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that there are 4.9 million children with ADHD in American schools. According to Dr. V.A. Harpin’s review of ADHD impacts over the lifespan, adolescents with ADHD “are at an increased risk of academic failure, dropping out of school or college, teenage pregnancy, and criminal behavior” (2005, ADHD in Young People section, para 2).

ADHD is stressful for children, as they may receive negative attention at school and home because of their ADHD-driven behaviors. Could massage be an effective CAM treatment for minimizing ADHD symptoms and impacts? Today we’re taking a look at the findings of three studies on the subject.

Massage Improves Mood, Reduces Fidgeting, and Increases On-Task Behavior.

In 1998, Field, Quintino, Hernandez-Reif, and Koslovsky studied how ten massage treatments delivered over two weeks impacted adolescents with ADHD. The researchers found that students who received massage were happier than participants who instead received relaxation therapy. Observers in the study also noticed that students who received massage fidgeted less. Teachers reported more-on-task behavior among the ADHD students who had received massage when compared to the relaxation therapy group.

Massage Improves Anger Control, Mood, Social Functioning, Sleep, and Classroom Management.

A small 2003 study of ten ADHD sufferers found that those who received massage could better control their anger (Maddigan et al.). Massage also appeared to improve the students’ mood, as well as their functioning in social situations. Finally, those who received massage enjoyed more restful sleep.

Similarly, a 2003 study of 30 students diagnosed with ADHD found short-term mood improvement and longer-term classroom management behavior for those students who received 20-minute massages twice per week for one month (Khilnani et al.).
While science has not yet revealed exactly how ADHD works, nor why massage appears to help, Khilnani et al. (2003) suggest that the relaxing effects of massage may have something to do with its effectiveness for ADHD sufferers. They point out that brain waves are altered during massage, for increased alertness. Massage therapy also increases vagal tone and parasympathetic activity, leading to “enhanced attentiveness and a more relaxed state” (Massage Therapy section, para. 5). The theory is that people with ADHD have a “deficient physiological inhibitory system” and that massage helps improve vagal control of the heart, helping ADHD students inhibit spontaneous activity and increase attentiveness.

In other words, by activating the parasympathetic nervous system via relaxation, massage can help minimize ADHD symptoms.

If you’d like to cater to ADHD sufferers in your massage therapy career, we suggest keeping an eye on our listing of continuing education classes for massage therapy. Whether you have an Oregon massage license or medical massage certification from another state, it is wise to cater your CE hours toward the topics that spark your interest.

Tips for Creating an Elevator Pitch for your Massage Therapy Work

Having basic marketing skills is essential to expanding any massage therapy practice. Succinctly delivering an “elevator pitch” is a key practice for gaining new clients. An elevator pitch is a compelling introduction that is short enough to deliver while ascending or descending floors in an elevator. The idea here is to create a polished, interesting statement that draws in listeners. Then, you can hand each listener a card and mention your new client special before the elevator doors open to the destination floor. Of course, there are many occasions outside of elevators where this pitch will come in handy—networking events, dinner parties, volunteer events—basically any time you need to make a good impression for your business.

Included in this post are some dos and dont’s for a successful pitch. Also included are some simple formulas for crafting an elevator speech with minimal effort.

Massage Therapist Career Tips: Creating an Elevator Pitch

1.) Avoid jargon and internal language.

In any profession it is easy to start using an “internal language.” With our colleagues we naturally use terminology or concepts of the profession. Perhaps we learned these in our massage certification program or picked them up around the clinic. Keep this internal language out of your elevator speech! Practice your pitch with someone who knows little to nothing about your massage license and ask them if what you said made sense. Similarly, avoid jargon or buzzwords in general. These words such as “streamline,” “synergy,”  or “paradigm shift” can make you seem pretentious, or can cause your listener to preemptively tune you out.

2.) Keep it concise and to the point.

It can be very challenging to sum up your professional practice in a few sentences. It’s what you live and breathe every day! Here are a few formulaic suggestions that you can alter as needed to suit your style:
“I support” I support ______ in their desire to ______ by means of ____________. Example: I support athletes in their desires to stay on top of their game and heal injury by means of regular maintenance massage and rehabilitation.

3.) “You know how”

You know how name a problem of your target market ? I tell them about your simple, fast, effective solution to that problem.
Example: You know how everyone seems to have tense, painful shoulders from working at a desk all day?  I help people relax and enjoy life through regular massage therapy.
“People tell me” People tell me that I list the benefits that you provide or the problems that you solve.
Example: People tell me that I listen to their needs about their body and healing massage therapy to resolve their aches and pain.

4.) Try utilizing a question.

When someone asks about what you do, it is often helpful to ask them a question to gauge their interest and to engage their attention. For example, you may ask them something like, “Have you ever received regular massage?” and proceed to tell them about the benefits your clients enjoy from weekly massages. You can tailor your answer to match the listeners’ interests or prior knowledge.

5.) Know your “product.”

Along with a snazzy elevator speech, it is important to be ready with broad knowledge of your profession and be able to answer questions from your “audience.” Try to anticipate questions and diversify your knowledge of the massage field. Your ability to answer complex questions will draw new referrals to you.

Though it might seem silly, practice your elevator pitch in the mirror and with friends. Take the time to create a clear, engaging, and concise elevator pitch.  Next time you are asked about what you do, your carefully crafted pitch will fluidly roll off your tongue and impact your audience, and your practice, for the better.

Oregon Legislative Update: Senate Bill 298 Signed into Law, Increasing Instruction Hours for Oregon LMT Licensure

In June 2015, the Oregon legislature passed Senate Bill 298, a new law related to massage therapy. The primary purpose of the bill was to increase the number of certified class hours required for Oregon licensure from 500 to 625.

The legislature passed this requirement to increase “portability and reciprocity” of Oregon massage therapy licenses. Prior to bill 298, Oregon required relatively few educational hours for massage licensing. Some states required the same number of hours. For example, every massage school in Michigan must deliver 500 hours of instruction, as the state license requires this minimum. Likewise with many other states’ massage schools.

Colorado requires 500 hours, for instance. However, other states’ standards require significantly more hours of education in massage school. Phoenix massage educational institutions must provide 700 hours of instruction for students to receive state certification. By increasing the number of required hours, bill 298 makes it easier for massage therapists licensed in Oregon to move around the country without compromising their license to practice.

Senate bill 298 also specifies that the high-velocity, short-amplitude technique sometimes used by chiropractors is not considered massage therapy according to state law. Senate Bill 298A also legally exempts the student clinics at colleges and universities from obtaining a massage therapist facilities permit. This addresses an oversight from when legislation enacted in 2013 only exempted private career schools.

Senate bill 298 was enacted with input from our Director of Education, Erika Baern, who delivered testimony to the Oregon House Committee on Health Care. Her testimony summarizes how East West College, the oldest and largest massage therapy program in the state of Oregon, has an 800-hour program that is in line with licensing requirements in many other U.S. states. You can read Erika Baern’s letter in support of the bill describing why it is important to have adequately trained massage therapists to provide safe and effective service.

Senate Bill 298 is an important step in expanding the professionalism of massage therapy in Oregon. Massage is increasingly used for medical reasons beyond stress management. Massage practitioners support the health and well being of individuals with chronic pain, injuries, and disease. Thus, it is paramount that massage certification be taken seriously and given time for proper training and accreditation. Legislative measures such as Senate Bill 298 are a success for the profession.

Massage in Grade Schools: Could it Help Fight Bullying?

In our massage training school, we teach adults how to treat and heal patients of all ages. Like students in all west coast massage schools, East West College students typically begin their massage training after high school. However, the success of in-school programs across the globe suggests that primary students can enjoy many benefits from learning about and practicing massage. Schools around the world are using student-to-student massage programs to reduce bullying, improve peer relationships, and increase focus. Read on to learn how international organizations are bringing massage to schools.

Primary Massage Training: School Programs from Around the World

Massage in Schools

The Massage in Schools (MIS) program facilitates massage for 4-12 year olds in dozens of countries, including Australia, the UK, the US, France, China, India, Israel, and Venezuela. The students stay fully clothed while receiving massage on the head, back, forearms, arms, and hands. It is important to note that leading adults do not touch children in the program; instead, the children deliver massage to their peers. Before giving a massage, the students ask permission, and program leaders emphasize that every student has the right to say no to a massage. At the conclusion of the massage, the student who provided the massage says “Thank you” to the massage recipient, akin to a massage therapist thanking a client for the opportunity to practice.

In the U.S., there are three Massage in Schools branches established in Colorado, Hawaii, and Utah; 17 additional states are currently forming branches. The Massage in Schools mission states that student participation in their program results in reduced stress levels, increased concentration at school, and improved sleep. The MIS site lists multiple benefits for children, their parents, teachers, schools, and society as a whole, including increased classroom harmony, reduced bullying, and the chance for students to practice giving and receiving nurturing touch, including practicing saying “yes” or “no” to touch. Research studies backing the MIS program have found that peer-to-peer massage can accelerate brain development, reduce students’ stress, and diminish aggression.

Peaceful Touch

Peaceful Touch (PT) is a Swedish program that has allowed hundreds of thousands of Swedish schoolchildren to get and give massage on a daily basis. As with MIS, students are always asked if they would like to receive a massage, and they have the right to say no.  The program looks slightly different in each school. One kindergarten teacher explained in a video about Peaceful Touch that the program has made massage a regular part of the school day. Every day after lunch, her kindergarten students receive massage from adults trained in the PT program. In another Peaceful Touch classroom, the children give each other massages at the beginning of each school day. The instructor reports that after the massage the students “become calmer. I can feel that they have become more social, and happier.”

Peaceful Touch emphasizes that students also receive academic benefits from the massage program. Manual dexterity is important for writing, and providing massages improves students’ hand strength, proprioception, and general coordination. Moreover, as Kerstin Uvnas Moberg, Professor of Physiology reiterates in an introductory video to Peaceful Touch, “Being that you calm down, you get a focus, and a greater concentration capability [after massage], so that learning is influenced positively.” Moberg also suggests that massage helps students better retain information.

Massage increases oxytocin, sometimes called the “peace-and-calm” hormone. At the same time, massage decreases the stress hormone cortisol, leaving students relaxed and ready to learn.
Children who receive massage may also display increased empathy for their peers and parents. One 9-year-old girl in a Peaceful Touch program explained, “When my father is angry, I give him massage and then he is not angry anymore.”

These are by no means the only massage programs in modern schools. Many Waldorf schools incorporate kind, respectful touch in their curricula, for improved classroom management and social inclusion. These schools emphasize that touch is the first sense to develop, and the last to decline. Many teachers believe whole-child education should include healthy, peer-to-peer touch.West coast massage schools are increasingly including infant and pediatric massage in their continuing education courses. Check out East West’s massage continuing education course listing for more information. Our massage training school is always looking for opportunities to host classes that will benefit our alumni and the community as a whole.