Wee Sally Therapeutic Massage Clinic is a locally owned business which serves Bathgate and the surrounding West Lothian area. I use regular massage along with exercise, yoga and mindfulness to manage my own pain. I still take daily prescribed pain medication but, in consultation with my GP, I’m gradually reducing the dose of this medication. This holistic approach to managing my pain allows me to live a full and busy life alongside my pain rather than suffering within it. Today I’m talking to Sally Chamness, the owner of the massage clinic.
Sally, the first thing that attracted me to your company was the phrase ‘therapeutic massage’ within the name. Can you take a moment to explain the difference between a massage that I might receive on a spa day compared to the massage I get with yourselves?
When I first opened the clinic in Bathgate, I worked on my own and the skills and work that I preferred to do at that time is what some would consider “functional”. My specialties focused on pain relief and pain management, as well as improving people's stress levels and ability to move freely. Using stretching techniques and movement we try to help our clients improve their day to day lives. This can sometimes feel uncomfortable, although we try to stay within a clients pain threshold. The word 'Therapeutic' creates the image of something more than relaxation, and hopefully helps describe the work that clients can expect from us.
It didn’t take me long before I began to recognise that there was a strong link between my physical and mental health. I noticed that when my anxiety increased so did my level of pain. I’m sure this is something you are well aware of and I wondered if this link impacts on the work you do?
A lot of research is going on at the moment regarding pain, how its perceived, what causes it and whether it is a physical or mental signal from the body. Within the work that we do at Wee Sally’s we look at not only the physical body, but also psychosocial implications that could be prolonging or exacerbating the client's pain.
Often just the act of talking during our consultations can be enough to provide the client with relief so we nurture a safe, calm environment with full client confidentiality, to ensure that they feel comfortable enough to share with us if they wish.
There is a lot to be said for the power of touch, and sometimes just placing our hands on our client's shoulders, or back, can cause an emotional release. It is important that our therapists are conscious of these situations and can encourage our clients to let go.
Sally, after the accident I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and I received counselling. I was surprised to discover that mental health is still a taboo subject, and so I decided to speak openly about my anxiety and depression. Do you find that the issue of mental health is discussed widely within the industry? Are things improving?
Mental health is such a large part of our physical health, that it’s important that we have open discussions and understand the differences between different conditions. Someone who may be suffering from Autism may need to receive a different treatment protocol to accommodate an aversion to touch, or a client's schedule may be impacted by whether they are having a good period or a bad period.
We also need to be aware of any medications a client may be on, and making a client feel safe and comfortable in the clinic is an important step to ensure that they will open up about what medications they are taking. There is still a sense of shame in some areas of suffering from a mental health condition, so clients will feel reluctant to disclose that they are on medication.
There has been an increase in health and wellness events run by health practitioners and local councils over the last few years, encouraging people to be more accepting, and more open to mental health conditions. We can only hope that this is encouraging more people to share their experience and realise that they are not alone.
I was extremely impressed with the care and help that I received from the NHS and I believe that I would currently be on more medication without the strategies I was given through the Pain Management Program. One course of treatment was to attend a series of therapeutic massages from a Pain Nurse at Leith Community Treatment Centre which was fantastic. However, I did find the drive to Leith and then home again after a massage was counter-intuitive, and feel I would have benefited better from receiving the service locally. I wondered if you had any opinion relating to wider access to massage through the Health Service.
Encouraging the NHS to adopt Massage Therapy as a treatment for pain is my lifelong dream.
It’s very difficult to get an audience with the right people to discuss how including massage and other musculoskeletal therapies can not only benefit the NHS from a patient's perspective, but also from a financial perspective.
The difficulty for the massage industry is the lack of regulation. There is no consistency in training, no licensure to ensure that therapists maintain their education and skill levels, and without implementation of this the medical community will not take us seriously. They cannot guarantee the quality of therapist so unless they were willing to add massage education to their training, they wouldn’t hire therapists to work in practice.
At the moment a lot of chronic pain is handled via self referral to a physical therapist who is already under a lot of pressure to manage their appointments. By including massage therapy as an option for patients with soft tissue pain, we could reduce the patient appointments for the GP as well as for the physical therapist.
I’m curious to know more about the range of services you offer at Wee Sally’s. Can you tell us a little more.
As our clinic has grown we have brought in a variety of therapists who all offer something a little different. From spa-like relaxing treatments such as Hot Stone Therapy, Aromatherapy and Reflexology, to our injury and pain treatments that are sometimes considered Sports Massage.
We offer treatment for a variety of conditions such as ankle sprain, tendonitis, sciatica, tension headaches, and fibromyalgia. To conditions such as pregnancy, multiple sclerosis, rotator cuff sprain, neck pain and plantar fasciitis.
Each massage treatment is designed for our clients as they present to us on the day of their appointment. During our consultations we will discuss the clients current health and status, as well as what the client hopes to achieve from their treatment. The massage is then performed with those goals in mind.
Sally, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule for talking to me. I think this meme sums it all up perfectly...
Follow any of the links on this page to book your first appointment or to contact Sally to find out how massage can help you.
Emma Mooney is a writer of Scottish contemporary fiction and is the author of A Beautiful Game. and Wings to Fly.