Massage Matters

Mindful musings on massage, muscles, and moxie

The Knot Whisperer Rides!

The Knot Whisperer Rides!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Trademarked Massage

The road to fame and fortune—if that’s what it can be called in this line of work—seems to be to “invent” your own kind of massage. “Invent” in quotation marks because, by and large, new types of massage are actually more like songs using sampling—that is, taking a portion (or a sample) of an already recorded sound or song and using it in the creation of another song. So, for instance, Structural Energetic Therapy (SET) is a combination of deep tissue massage, myofascial release, and kinesiology, developed by massage therapist Don McCann in 1983, while polarity massage therapy, created by Randolph Stone, a doctor of osteopathy, chiropractic, and naturopathic medicine, blends energy-based bodywork, diet, exercises, and self-awareness techniques.

Many of these specialized therapies are referred to by a handy acronym/abbreviation: in addition to SET, there are also, for example, NMT (neuromuscular technique), PUSH (power under soft hands), ART (active release technique), and BART (bonding and relaxing technique). Even therapies that aren’t known by their abbreviation use acronyms to summarize their technique, a practice sometimes inelegantly applied as in SCRIBE, which describes the “six guiding principles” of Comfort Touch (created by Mary Kathleen Rose): Slow, Comforting, Respectful, Into the center, Broad, and Encompassing. I say inelegant in that “into the center,” for example, seems rather contrived, phrased in such a way merely to make the acronym come together. “Inward” might have worked equally well and wouldn’t rely on a preposition to make an intelligible acronym. I have other issues with this summary as well (shouldn’t all massage, for instance, be respectful?), but it’s the infelicity of the prepositional device that strikes the most strident chord with me.

Other therapies avoid the confusion of these helpful, easy to remember abbreviations by their creators’ dispensing with modesty and naming their modalities for themselves: the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Massage (for Dr. Rosita Arvigo), Aston-Patterning (for Judith Aston), The Feldenkrais Method (for Dr. Moshé Feldenkrais), The Niel-Asher Technique (for Dr. Simeon Niel-Asher), and Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy (named for—guess who?), among others. Further, many of these are actually trademarked techniques, lest anyone think to borrow wholesale from them and call it their own.

So I’ve been thinking about jumping on the bandwagon and coining my own therapy. The only thing I can’t decide is whether to incorporate my name into the name of the technique: Zipter Catch and Release Technique or just Catch and Release Technique. CRT is nice and simple, but if it has a ring to it, it’s because it’s also the abbreviation for cathode ray tube. ZCRT avoids that but is rather clumsy. CRMT (for Catch and Release Massage Technique)? Maybe I should leave decisions about what to call it, for now, and work, instead, on describing this astonishing new modality.

An acronym summarizing the technique might be a reasonable place to start. And going with the catch-and-release metaphor, I’m thinking FISH might be a nifty mnemonic: Find, Isolate, Squish, Hold. In other words, Find the area of pain, Isolate the knot, Squish the knot, and Hold it until it releases. If that sounds a lot like trigger point therapy, well, in fact, it is. But I mix in a certain je ne sais quoi. It’s the je ne sais quoi part that troubles me, though, in terms of making this a viable technique that can be taught to others. This je ne sais quoi has something to do with intuition, which I’m pretty sure can’t be explicated in a step-by-step way, thereby making it something hard to pass on. Intuition can be developed, I’m convinced, in someone who is open to it and who has a good foundation from which they practice. I’m just not sure how to tell you how to go about acquiring it.

I have therefore reached the unavoidable conclusion that, sadly, my new and would-be patented form of massage is not quite ready for primetime. And to be honest, I just don’t have the chutzpah to claim that what I do is either unique or better than what’s already out there. This isn’t to say that I don’t think I’m a darn good therapist, with special skills and genuine ability. I’m just not ready to proclaim myself a new massage messiah.

Plus, there are already a lot of good modalities out there, with each having their appeal and benefit for different people for different situations in their lives. For instance, though I’ve made light of Comfort Touch’s SCRIBE mnemonic, that type of massage is actually quite beneficial for those who are frail and/or ill. And its creator has generously answered many of my questions, without knowing me from Adam. I think my point here is—and, to quote Ellen DeGeneres, I do have one—that it’s important to shop around not only for a massage therapist but also for modalities so you can find the one that’s right for you right now.

But with something like 160 modalities currently in use and with an estimated 278,000 massage therapists in the United States as of January 2008, the task of finding that right therapist seems daunting to say the least. That’s a stress producer right there! But for help finding a massage therapist, while nothing beats a recommendation from a trusted friend, a good place to start searching for someone that specializes in a particular modality are the registries of the two professional massage associations and the national certification board.

As for me, fame and fortune may not be in the cards but—and I apologize for sounding like a sap—the thought that I will have an opportunity to help make people feel better, every day, for years to come, is a reward in itself. And I’m sure that’s how the bank that holds my mortgage feels as well.


On the number of modalities, see

For numbers of massage therapists:

The registries for the professional associations and certification board can be found at,, and


  1. i wonder what you came with. Is it an easy process to trademark a modality? Blessings

  2. My playing with the idea of creating a modality was part spoof and part vehicle to talk about the daunting task of finding THE right modality for any given person at a particular time in their lives. I do think I have a special skill, but I'm not zealous enough, I guess, to try to promote it as a technique unto itself. (And I have no idea how you'd go about trademarking it. No doubt, a lawyer would be helpful with that.)