Self-Care for RMTs


Although Ontario RMTs aren’t able to work at the moment, there can be some lingering pain and discomfort that RMTs may still be facing as a result of their work. Injuries to the shoulders, elbows and wrists are particularly common among RMTs. Like other professionals that spend most of their time caring for others, RMTs can also easily become burnt out.

RMTs are able to rest their bodies as they’re not working, and are not experiencing the mental and emotional strain they may have while working. However, it’s important to attempt to prevent these issues from resurfacing as soon as a return to work is possible. This can be a great time to ensure that your body remains in top shape, and ensure that you’re mentally and emotionally ready for a return to work.

As the CMTO recently released their new guidelines in anticipation of an eventual return to practice, RMTs are scrambling to fulfil the new practical requirements that this involves. However, it is important to consider all factors of an eventual return to work so you can take care of yourself in the process.This article provides some tips to help prevent injuries once you can return to work, and to ensure that you’re ready mentally and emotionally.

Avoiding Injury

One of the key things you can do to prevent injury is to ensure you are using proper body mechanics. You should ensure your table is adjusted for your height. Ensure your feet are pointing towards the patient and planted firmly. Your knees should be slightly bent and your hips, shoulders and head should be in alignment. Hip and lower body mobility is important. Your pelvis should maintain a balanced, strong position while working. You should use elbows and forearms rather than just your hands or fingers. These are basics of body mechanics that most RMTs are aware of, but they can be easily forgotten when you’re focused on adjusting to new protocols.

This is something you can think about once you can return to work, but what can you do to avoid injury while your practice is still shut down? One of the easiest and ultimately more beneficial things you can do is maintain a regular exercise program that includes stretching, strength training and cardiovascular exercise. Even a 30 minute walk three times a week is beneficial. This will ensure you are in shape once you are able to return to work. When you practice proper body mechanics, you’re using larger muscles of the core, hips and legs to generate force rather than upper extremity muscles, so these areas are a great place to focus on while perfecting your at-home exercise routine.

Focus on the Basics

Although it may seem obvious, the basic ways you can take care of yourself are critical. Ensure that you are properly hydrated, scheduling water breaks if necessary. Make time to ensure you are getting nutritious meals and do your best to get enough sleep. These basics of self-care can often fall by the wayside when you are particularly stressed or dealing with new situations, but they are important to keep in mind to ensure the longevity of your career.

It's also important to take as much control over your schedule as possible. When you can go back to work, it doesn’t mean you have to and it doesn’t mean you have to jump right back into a fully booked schedule. Take as many or as few patients as you feel comfortable with while following the new CMTO and public health guidelines. Even though you’re just coming off of a long break, you shouldn’t feel guilty about taking breaks once you go back to work if you need to.

Beyond the Physical

The therapeutic relationship you have with patients is an important part of treatment. Once you return to work it will remain just as important, but some of the specific concerns you have may change. When you return to work, things will look different with the use of personal protective equipment and new procedures introduced. Some patients may resist adapting to the new requirements, and others may be anxious in general about the proximity and touch a massage therapy treatment usually requires.

It can be difficult to hold firm and do what needs to be done when a patient is resistant, and if patients are anxious about getting sick or have other concerns about the new reality, it can be difficult to reassure them. To avoid this, it’s important to be clear about what the new requirements are. You need to kindly and thoroughly explain what the patient can now expect from you and what you expect from them before beginning their first treatment after reopening. This can be worked into any new screening requirements. This can reassure concerned patients and make it easier to enforce any boundaries for patients who are reluctant to adapt.

Reopening after a prolonged shut down, especially when having to make changes to how you operate, can feel overwhelming. By planning in advance how you will communicate these changes to your patients, you can feel more in control. It can also help control some of the stress you may be feeling from the unknowns of how patients will react once you’re back to work.

When You Go Back To Work

There are several things you can keep in mind once you’re able to go back to work to ensure that you prevent injury as you get back into the swing of things.

One common injury that RMTs experience is tenosynovitis, which is when adhesions develop between the tendon and surrounding synovial sheath. This usually affects the thumb, but you can attempt to avoid it and prevent its potential negative impact on your career. Stretch those tendons after each massage to keep flexible and use self-massage to reduce any adhesions that may develop.

Another common injury that it can be hard for RMTs to avoid, even with the best body mechanics, can be neck extension. To avoid this try not to watch your strokes and rely on what you feel to avoid holding your head in flexion. Many RMTs also experience shoulder pain, possibly because your arms are often held in a position of flexion or abduction. To avoid this, once you’re working you can try to depend on your core rather than your shoulders to generate pressure.

These are only some of the common injuries among RMTs, but you should be paying attention to any areas of potential injury that were particularly common for you in the past.

The Many Benefits 

There are many benefits to focusing on self-care. It can prevent the negative effects of mental, physical and emotional stress. It can prevent the burnout that can be caused by chronic stress and can lead to being unable to work at all.

Self-care is especially crucial as you prepare to go back to work. In the weeks and months off, you may no longer be used to the stressful demands of your job. There can be some fear and trepidation about returning, both among RMTs and patients. Even once you have returned, things won’t be quite like they were before. Self-care can help you to survive and thrive as a professional during this challenging time.

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