Dear Vicars graduates,

For the past two years, we have had the honour of working alongside you as your instructors, clinic supervisors, and all-around school support team. This weekend, we will have the great pleasure to welcome you fully into the massage therapy profession—as colleagues.

This is a milestone in your career, and in your lives. And it’s the result of countless large and small accomplishments along the way. So as you celebrate with your family and friends this weekend, we hope that you won’t just be celebrating the end of final exams. We hope you’ll be giving yourself credit for all the work you’ve done and all the obstacles you’ve overcome along the way.

Celebrate the moment you decided to stop dreaming about a new career and start doing something about it. Celebrate getting through that first day of school, when you were nervous and excited in equal measure. Celebrate reviewing flashcards while waiting to pick up your kids after school, and the time you went grocery shopping with origins and insertions drawn all over your arms in Magic Marker. Celebrate your first few practicum shifts, as you learned to trust yourself and your skills in a real-world clinic environment. Celebrate the first time you saw a client with a condition you’d learned about in your textbooks, and were able to reduce their symptoms. Celebrate the sacrifices you and your family had to make at home in order for you to concentrate on school.

It’s these little moments that got you here today. It took bravery, compassion, humour, patience, and determination.

And that’s why you should be celebrating this weekend. Not the piece of paper you’re going to get, but the strength that it took to earn it.

There’s no limit to what you can accomplish next. Some of you will go on to open your own massage therapy clinics and eventually hire other RMTs, others will choose to join existing practices and thrive alongside new colleagues. Many of you already have positions lined up for after graduation!

No matter where your practice takes you—a dedicated massage clinic, a gym, a spa, a home clinic, or any of the countless other options available to you as Registered Massage Therapists—we know you’ll do us proud.

Congratulations, and good luck!


The entire Vicars School family

a career in massage therapy

When you’re a massage therapist, getting injured on the job hurts more than just your body. Taking time off to recover from an injury means loss of income, and even potential loss of clients.

The best way for an RMT to deal with workplace injury is to ensure that it doesn’t happen in the first place. And that means a focus on body mechanics—the right way to move—so that soft tissue and joints stay injury free.

The path to a long injury-free massage career

In 2001, Vicars School of Massage Therapy was founded, there was a prevalent myth that massage was a very short career.

“The idea was that injury was inevitable, but we knew that was just not true,” says founder Maryhelen Vicars. “There was lots of evidence that students who had early and consistent training in correct body mechanics and self-care had a huge advantage in staying safe and pain free.

“From the first, our program was modelled after the curriculum in Ontario, one of the first provinces to regulate massage therapy education. For decades, massage schools in regulated provinces have incorporated safety and injury prevention in their practical training.”

So the Vicars curriculum did the same.

“From the first day of instruction, students learn body mechanics in our core science courses of anatomy and physiology,” says Curriculum Director Linda McGeachy. “And they put that knowledge into practice in class. During hands-on instruction and practice, students are monitored by instructors not just for technique, but for attention to their own body mechanics.”

At Vicars School, body mechanics is a structured part of the curriculum, and includes techniques for core stability, keeping joints in straight alignment and applying pressure appropriately. “There isn’t just one way of doing anything,” says McGeachy. “Instructors correct for stance, posture and pressure, and they also encourage students to listen to their own bodies.”

Different body shapes and sizes mean that students need to be able to adapt a theoretical “perfect form” into positions that work for their own bodies.

Preventing overuse

The most common injuries directly result from overuse and such injuries are the most preventable, says McGeachy. “Hands, elbows and shoulders are subject to overuse if we don’t use our bodies properly,” she says. “In addition to listening to their bodies, RMTs need to ensure they don’t overuse their bodies by booking too many clients in a day, especially when they first start their careers.”

Awareness of strengths, coordination and mobility are vital, as is the need to adjust techniques depending on the client. She also points out that new information resulting from research and outcomes-based approaches to attitudes about what massage should be, are informing awareness of injury prevention.

With practical experience comes knowledge about not overloading muscles and joints and using “relative rest”—a recovery technique that protects and rests the injured area while continuing to be active with other parts of your body.

Less is more

We’ve all seen memes of massage therapists reducing their clients to tears and whimpers. But that is as outdated as the idea of “no pain, no gain” in gyms and sports fields.

One of the most important changes, says McGeachy, is that the concept of a heavy, load-bearing workout on tissue as the only way to get results has lost its credence. “It’s more about understanding how to work on tissue rather than simply pushing down hard on it,” she says. “Understanding physiology and what tissue is, means that we don’t have to create pain in order to get results.”

Quite the opposite, in fact. Current knowledge about massage’s benefits reinforces a pain-management approach to therapeutic massage.

RMTs are educated about repetitive strain injury and overuse and they in turn educate their clients. Key to that education, says McGeachy, is movement. “If you are planning to do a physical activity, then do the movements of it as a warm-up.” She points out that any exercise will carry restrictions for someone, depending on their body. “It’s not that the exercise—whether it’s yoga or tennis or gardening—is harmful; it’s that you have to be aware of your body and when something hurts, move away from that position,” she says.

Using brain power for body power

Using a research-based curriculum, instructors at Vicars School encourage students to build on their understanding of body mechanics and principles with critical thinking skills. “This means students have confidence acting on their own understanding of when something doesn’t feel good, and how to adjust their technique by using a different position that feels better,” says McGeachy. “From our school perspective, even if a student’s body mechanics aren’t ‘textbook’, the important thing is that they are learning to prevent injuring themselves.”

Piloting a new movement course

Building on the importance of movement as foundational for injury prevention and career health, the Vicars School curriculum will be piloting a new course in September, based on a resource called Trail Guide to Movement.

“We already have rich material on movement, including orthopedic assessment courses and gait analysis,” says Linda McGeachy. “But this will really augment our existing curriculum and delve into movement as core in keeping a health body and promoting longevity in our careers.”

written by Kathleen Thurber

Start your long and successful massage therapy career at Vicars School! We have campuses in Calgary and Edmonton and schedules that are designed to work with your lifestyle. For more information and to speak with our friendly admissions team, call us toll-free 1-866-491-0574 or sign up for an online open house!

Massage is a hands-on profession, and at MH Vicars School of Massage Therapy, our emphasis is on developing hands-on skills.

But there’s a lot more to being a successful and effective registered massage therapist than knowing how to perform all the massage strokes and sequences.

Welcome to a new blog series—the Massage Therapy Curriculum Spotlight! In this semi-regular series, we will highlight a subject, assignment, or course that we teach here at MH Vicars School of Massage Therapy.
Our curriculum includes a wide range of subjects and courses. As a result, Vicars graduates have all the skills and knowledge that they need to begin a successful career as an effective therapist. Courses include assessment, kinesiology, anatomy and physiology, hydrotherapy, pathology, ethics and the therapeutic relationship, and massage business best practices. Students learn these subjects in person as well as through online lectures and assignments. Click here to see our full course list and to learn why it’s important to attend a school that follows the national curriculum standard.

We’re kicking off the blog series with an in-depth look at the interactive online Diversity and Inclusion assignment our students complete in second year. This assignment is a perennial favourite among instructors and—once they’ve completed it—among students as well.

For the Diversity and Inclusion project, each student must research and write a short paper and then post it to their class’s forum on the Vicars online learning platform, Moodle. In their papers, they need to explain what the concepts of “diversity” and “inclusion” mean to them, their relevance to the massage therapy profession, and how they plan to promote them in their future business and practice.

“I love reading what the students have to say in this assignment,” says Linda McGeachy, Director of Curriculum at Vicars. “It always fills me with so much faith in our students, and in what kind of therapists they’re going to be. If these are the values that they have, then obviously they’re going to do a good job, on all levels.”

The second part of the assignment is to read their classmates’ submissions, ask questions, and provide feedback. For Linda, that’s one of the most valuable parts of this assignment.

“The comments and support that the students offer to each other are so heartfelt, and so thoughtful,” she says.

To help illustrate the level of care and creativity that our students pour into this assignment, we’ve assembled a selection of excerpts from of this year’s submissions. When you read them, we have no doubt you’ll be just as impressed by our students as we are—and if you are thinking of a career in massage therapy, you’ll have a deeper understanding of what it takes to be a Vicars student.

Here’s how Sarah Hornett described the difference between “diversity” and “inclusion” in her own words:

Diversity is the seen and unseen differences among individuals in an environment that encompass not only the obvious physical attributes that characterize a person, but also the intellectual, spiritual, personal, and ethical factors that make each of us unique. Inclusion therefore relates to creating and maintaining processes that allow various individuals to coexist in that same environment while establishing a culture of safety, togetherness, and belonging.

Maria Semeniuk, on how these concepts are central to why she chose to go to massage school:

I believe diversity and  inclusion are of great importance to my practice. Every person is entitled to the best quality of care, regardless of their unique circumstances, ethnicity, gender, or age. This is my main motivation to study massage therapy. I have a passion for helping and volunteering as much as possible at hospitals and hospices. Massage therapy brings value to what I offer as a volunteer: being able to recognize, respect, and accept diversity and being able to practice with inclusion are vital skills for this role. 

Elisha Fox explained how, thanks to this assignment, she’s already taking action to make sure that she can create an inclusive practice:

It is very important to me to help as many individuals as possible. I recognize that I live in a diverse community, so how can I incorporate inclusion into my practice?

I believe self-awareness can be the first step towards understanding, compassion and acceptance. So I took a few of the “Harvard Implicit Association Tests.” I found them on the Canadian Center for Diversity and Inclusion website. I thought the tests were interesting and may give possible insight on recognizing one’s own internal biases. Which we may or may not be aware of ourselves, right?

I’m also committed to continuing my education by taking classes, reading forums, and associating with people who are part of different groups to familiarize myself with proper titles and different perspectives.

In addition to sending out a rallying cry to her classmates, Amy Sawka pointed out that it’s as important to seek out diversity within one’s own environment as it is to try to attract a diverse clientele:

If I were to work exclusively with other therapists or modality practitioners who have similar socio-economic backgrounds to me, or who identify similarly, I would be less able to learn and expand my own horizons and the more I am likely to be blinded by bias. I intend to maintain an inclusive and diverse practice in which I stay curious, listen to other’s requests, and provide concessions and modifications to those who require it.

It is integral that we, as Vicars therapists, innovate and set the standard for diversity and inclusion in our massage practices as we pave the way for the next generation who will follow in our footsteps. The more of the map we are able to see, the more places we are able to go! Together!

Melissa Jensen was one of many students who gave concrete examples of how they can ensure that their business is welcoming and supportive of everyone:

With the existing power differential already existing in massage therapy and other somatic healing practices, inclusive practices will help build confidence and trust from the initial contact on. Some ways to help clients to feel included could include:

  • Connecting with clients about how they would like to be contacted or reminded of appointments could alleviate stress from hearing, visual, or possible language barriers.
  • Having an easily accessible facility with clear directions on how to enter the building will help those who may have physical impairments.
  • Sending informed consent forms and asking for health histories prior to meeting with clients so that they can have time to provide information without feeling rushed or embarrassed.
  • Including questions about preferred names and pronouns.
  • Having a gender-neutral washroom with a change table and feminine hygiene products available.
  • Using language that puts clients at ease in making the choice that they feel most comfortable with (e.g., rather than say “Undress to your level of comfort” I could say “Some clients choose to leave garments on”).

Working on this assignment wasn’t the first time that Hayley Emro had thought about the importance of diversity and inclusion in her own life:

Why are diversity and inclusion important for my business, and my personal life? To be blunt and honest, because I want to be anti-racist and non-discriminatory.

Over the past five years I have become increasingly aware of whose voices I am listening to and reading; this includes seeking out books, social media, movies, and educational material from people with different identities. This is important to me because I want to connect to a diverse range of human experiences that accurately reflect the world.

Diversity happens when there is difference within a setting that benefits from a range of human experiences. People are not diverse, their experiences are. Inclusion places values on these experiences and builds to meet the needs of these experiences.

Inclusion doesn’t happen without designing for it. Learning from and listening to the people we design our workspace for allows us to create appropriate policies, processes, physical spaces, and products for people to feel valued and included.

Melissa Strom is a Pilates teacher, and made this issue real for everyone sharing a lesson she’d learned when she had tried—and initially failed—to create a more inclusive environment in her classes:

Every Thursday, six individuals come to the studio for their weekly Pilates equipment class. They have two things in common: they all love cross-country skiing, and they are all legally blind.

The group came to be at the studio due to the limitations set upon one of the members at another Pilates studio. Due to his visual impairment, he was restricted to beginner mat classes. However, he wanted the ability to take group equipment classes and progress.

Due to our max class size of eight at the studio, I felt I would be up to the challenge and be able to keep him safe through class. I wanted diversity in my studio and for clients to feel included.

I was naive. In a group class setting, I quickly realized I had to be selective about what exercises we did, and I stayed close to the client that had the visual impairment. Essentially, I was offering a private in a group class setting.

It came to the point I had to have a conversation with the client. He was angry: he emphasized how much he modified what he did during class to make sure he kept up, and I emphasized how much I modified the class to make sure he was still included.

I realized that to have the client within the existing classes, I was aiming for equality. I was giving him the same resources and opportunities as everyone else. Unfortunately, this is not equity. Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances and needs different allocations of the resources and opportunities to reach the same/equal outcome. To truly have inclusion, you need equity. So, we decided to recruit more visually impaired individuals to create their own group class. In this new class, the clients felt comfortable and were able to communicate with me, and I was able to design a class specific to their needs.

Just because I added a visually impaired person to my group classes to show that the studio was inclusive, didn’t mean I was producing benefits for that client (or others at the studio).

But when we worked together and communicated, it did create benefits. The client got a class specifically for people with similar needs. And teaching a class who can’t follow visual cues helped me develop more concise instructions and made me a better instructor.

I have used this learning opportunity in other scenarios, such as with a group of Hutterite women and a group of very devout Islamic women. In these instances, I structured the set-up of the classes (and the resources of the studio) to be conducive to them and their needs. It needs to be recognized that diversity encompasses race, culture, education, socio-economic status, physical and mental ability, etc. Sometimes that meant I was paid in cucumbers, sometimes that meant locking the studio doors to give the clients a sense of privacy.

The Massage Therapy Program at Vicars could be the pathway to your ideal career. We have campuses in Calgary and Edmonton and a schedule that is designed to work with your lifestyle. For more information and to speak with our friendly admissions team, call us toll-free 1-866-491-0574 or sign up for an online open house!

massage therapy career FAQs

Vicars School of Massage therapy was founded in 2001, which means we’ve been talking about massage for over 20 years. On the phone, in person, over Zoom, at Christmas parties, and in line at the farmer’s market…we never get tired of chatting about this incredible career or about what it takes to become a successful registered massage therapist (RMT).

Over the years, we’ve been asked—and have answered—pretty much every conceivable question about massage therapy, and massage therapy education. And are some questions that we hear over and over again.

We’ve collected a few of the most popular questions that our students have at the beginning of their career change journey and answered them here for you.

What does a massage therapist do?

Okay, I admit it: this isn’t actually one of the most frequently-asked questions that future students ask our admissions advisors. I think that’s because by the time someone gets to an open house, or is talking to one of us on the phone, they’re either too afraid to ask or they think they already know the answer. But here’s the thing: we talk about it anyway, and they’re all still fascinated and sometimes even surprised by the answer.

That’s because massage therapy is a more exciting—and challenging—career than most people realize. If you’ve only experienced massage treatments as a client, you may have no idea of the depth of knowledge and technical skill that goes into treating your pain.

As a massage therapist, you will be a frontline health care professional and play an important role in maintaining and improving your clients’ well-being. You will have the training to reduce their stress, decrease their pain, and treat or alleviate the symptoms of a wide range of injuries and physical conditions.

Every treatment that you do will be unique to your client and their needs. You’re not simply performing a pre-set sequence of strokes and techniques—which means no day at work is ever the same. At each appointment, you will begin by talking to your client and doing an assessment. This will allow you to create a treatment plan. The massage itself will be customized for your client. That’s why we teach you so much anatomy, physiology, and pathology along with hands-on skills.

How long does it take to become a massage therapist?

Massage therapy training in Canada takes about two years to complete. Different schools have slightly different schedules, but if you want to become a professional massage therapist you should be prepared to be in school for between 20 and 24 months.

At Vicars, our diploma program is divided into year one and year two material. Each “year” is actually 10 months of full-time learning. Students who start with us in the fall follow the traditional school year (September–June) each year, with a two-month break over the summer. This is particularly popular for parents, because it lines up with the K-12 school year. The spring classes run from March until December, and take their break over the winter holidays—even more appealing for many students than having the summer off!

That said, the time in between school years isn’t only for building sandcastles (or snow forts). While it’s a break from the full-time workload, you will have some work to do during this time to keep your mind and body in practice, and prepare for the year ahead. Many students also use this time to get a jump-start on some of their second-year practicum clinic shifts.

What kind of training do I need to be a registered massage therapist in Canada?

In order to be a professional massage therapist in Canada, you need to get an education that is recognized by the regulatory body or registering organization in the province you want to practice in. Which leads us to a related question with a much more complicated answer:

How do I choose a massage therapy school?

In order to be a successful massage therapist who is able to make a real difference for your clients’ health, you need to choose your massage therapy college very carefully.

That’s especially true in non-regulated jurisdictions like Alberta (and Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and the Territories), because there are multiple registering organizations and no central regulatory body. Alberta’s massage therapy professional associations each have different entrance standards—some higher than others. Some of the professional associations are even run by individual massage schools, which raises big questions about the objectivity of their membership standards!

That’s why national accreditation exists. The Canadian Massage Therapy Council for Accreditation (CMTCA) is a national, independent organization that evaluates massage therapy colleges to make sure that they’re providing the best possible education and educational experience. They assess schools based on the curriculum and delivery standards set by the Federation of Massage Therapy Regulatory Authorities of Canada (FOMTRAC).

In regulated provinces like BC, Ontario, and Newfoundland and Labrador, all massage schools must be accredited (i.e., they have to meet the FOMTRAC standards). This protects massage clients and massage students.

Unfortunately, Alberta isn’t there yet. Meeting the FOMTRAC standards is optional. As a result, the type and quality of massage education available in Alberta programs is uneven. But things are starting to change—CMTCA recently opened up its accreditation process to Alberta massage colleges.

Vicars has is fully accredited by the CMTCA, proving we’re one of Alberta’s best massage therapy schools.


If this blog post answered your questions about starting a career in massage therapy, you should give us a call. And if this blog post answered some of your questions about becoming an RMT but left you craving even more information, then you should definitely give us a call! Contact our friendly admissions team by calling us toll-free at 1-866-491-0574, or sign up for a virtual open house!

massage for knee pain

Common Causes of Joint Pain and How Massage Can Help

If your knees hurt, you are not alone. Your knees are two of the hardest working joints in the body—and two of the most vulnerable. Knee pain is common and can be debilitating. But knee problems can be very treatable, and among the most effective of the nonsurgical options is therapeutic massage.

Your knee is a complex structure. It includes three bones: the lower part of the thigh bone, the upper part of the shinbone, and the kneecap. Strong ligaments and tendons hold these bones together, and cartilage under the kneecap cushions and stabilizes the bones. Any damage, inflammation, or imbalance in these structures can cause knee pain. 

Some of the most common causes for knee pain are trauma, muscle strain or sprain, nerve irritation or a pinched nerves, fluid buildup around the knee capsule (also known as bursitis), and tendonitis. Osteoarthritis is the most common of the diseases that affect the knee. It is caused by the wear and tear of knee cartilage through overuse and is more common among those over 50. It may start with a sharp pain during movement. 

If you have hurt your hip, back, or foot, you may feel pain in your knee, because you are holding and moving your body differently without realizing it. Over time, this misalignment puts strain on the muscles and tendons surrounding your knees, often by increasing the weight load on the opposite knee. Resolving stiffness and pain in the injured hip or back can take the pressure off the knee.

Research suggests massage therapy can help with pain levels, stiffness, and overall day-to-day function in individuals dealing with osteoarthritis in their knees. This seems to be especially true in the short term when dealing with a flare-up of pain.

One study found that participants with knee osteoarthritis who received a weekly 60-minute massage for eight weeks had less pain and better daily function in the short-term than those who received standard care.

How does massage help with knee pain? 

During treatment of a sore or arthritic joint, massage can reduce swelling and inflammation, stimulate blood flow to the joint, improve circulation in the leg, and reduce overall pain and stiffness. 

Your therapist will do deeper treatments of the large muscles that stabilize the knee joint by finding and releasing trigger points. A trigger point is a sensitive knot found within bands of muscle and occurs for a number of reasons including injury, surgery, or basic stress and strain. Trigger points cause soreness and pain, often referring pain to other parts of the body away from the location of the trigger point. 

Your massage therapist may also suggest remedial exercise to strengthen these large muscle groups that lend support and stability to the affected knee.  By releasing tightness in the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and tibialis muscles, massage will maintain and increase your flexibility. 

But an effective massage to relieve knee pain is not limited to working on the legs and the knee joint alone. A good RMT will include more general massage treatments, such as relaxation massage techniques across your whole body, in your personalized treatment plan.

That’s because living with pain is stressful, and stress is stored all over the body. When we’re in pain we move less naturally, we contract our muscles to protect the injured area, and the pain can keep us from getting the sleep we need. 

During an effective massage, the heart rate slows, blood pressure drops and the effect of stress hormones is lessened. When your tissues are relaxed, so are you—and your therapist is able to work more deeply and effectively. 

When knee pain needs medical attention

While sore or arthritic knees can benefit from massage, pay attention to signs or symptoms that may suggest a more serious concern. If your pain is new or has recently gotten worse, or if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it’s important to visit a doctor:

  • Swelling, warmth, or redness in the knee
  • Knee pain accompanied by a fever
  • Pain in multiple joints
  • Inability to bear weight your leg 
  • Significantly reduced range of motion
  • Knee pain after trauma (such as a fall or car accident)

Get a high-quality massage at an affordable price

If you need massage to treat chronic pain or to help you recover from injury, you probably want to schedule weekly treatments at first, and later maintain the effects by seeing a therapist every two weeks or once a month, but for many people the biggest barrier is price (even if they do have health benefits). 

That’s why the public massage clinics at MH Vicars School are so popular. At only $35 for a one-hour appointment, our student massages make regular massage therapy treatments accessible. Our students treat clients of all ages, professions, and lifestyles. Our “regulars” range from people who had never had a massage before their first visit to Vicars, all the way to people who’ve been getting massages for decades and come to our students in between appointments with their fully trained (and full price) RMT.

Whether you’re a massage newbie or looking to supplement the treatments you get through your benefit plan, regular massages from at our clinic will make a huge difference in your well-being. 

At our Edmonton and Calgary public clinics, you’ll receive massage therapy treatments from our focused and well-trained students at a sharply reduced rate. Your 75-minute appointment includes a comprehensive assessment consultation, a full one-hour massage, and a home care consultation, all for only $35.

If this would be your first massage, take a look at some frequently asked questions about what to expect from your first massage.

You can easily book online * for student clinics at either our Calgary or Edmonton campus. Please note our updated Covid-19 regulations to keep the public, our student therapists, instructors, and supervisors safe. We look forward to seeing you there!

massage for tension headaches

How Massage Therapy Can Help Solve Tension Headaches 

For many people, a tension headache acts something like a “check engine” light: it’s your body telling you that something is off balance, and you should stop and pay attention.  

Anything that puts extra strain on the muscles of the neck, back, shoulders, and face can be the culprit. Not enough sleep, too much caffeine, grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw, dehydration; all these things can cause stress in your body and contribute to a tension headache.  

Massage on its own can be effective treatment for relieving the cause and symptoms of tension headaches. By both addressing the stressors and emotional issues causing the headaches and by targeting tense muscles and joints, massage by a great Registered Massage Therapist may help you kick your tension headaches to the curb for good. 

I get headaches all the time. Are they tension headaches?  

While only your physician can officially diagnose the type of headache that’s plaguing you, a good look at your activities and habits and the symptoms of your headache can narrow it down. A tension headache usually presents the following symptoms: 

  •       The sensation of tightness around your head 
  •       Mild to moderate pain 
  •       Pressure in the forehead, sides of the head, or back of the head 
  •       Tender shoulder and neck muscles 
  •       Tender scalp 

Tension headaches are a very common type of headache. They fall into two categories: chronic or episodic. If you suffer from tension headaches for 15 or more days each month for at least three months, you are likely to be suffering from chronic tension headaches. Episodic tension headaches are less frequent and tend to last for a shorter time (anywhere from half an hour to a full week). Regardless of the length of time, tension headaches are no fun!  

There are some symptoms that could indicate a more severe condition. If you experience any of these, contact your doctor right away: 

  • The headache comes on quickly and is severe 
  • The headache is paired with a stiff neck, mental fogginess or confusion, double vision, fever, seizures, weakness or numbness or slurred speech. 
  • The headache starts after a head injury and gets worse rather than better over time 

Why do we get tension headaches? 

There’s no single cause of tension headaches, and what triggers this kind of pain varies from person to person. However, the most common causes include physical and emotional stress and postural dysfunction. 

Can massage therapy help? 

By increasing blood flow and soothing inflamed tissue, massage therapy can be just as effective as pain-relieving drugs to reduce and eliminate muscle tension, neck pain, headache pain and of course, the symptoms of a tension headache. Unlike popping a pill, which only temporarily stops the discomfort, massage therapy can address the root physiological cause. An RMT will be able to offer a few different options for your massage treatments. 

A qualified RMT has been trained in an accredited program that has covered massage therapy in depth. This includes identification of muscle groups, fascia, pressure points, joints and more. They know how to create a personalized treatment for you, based on your symptoms, sensitivities, and health history. They can also teach you ways to prevent or treat your headache symptoms at home, such as stretches and self-massage techniques. 

How does an RMT treat tension headaches? 

Relaxation massage 

Relaxation massage doesn’t get the respect it deserves. A good relaxation massage is a treat; it feels so good, it’s easy to forget that it is also therapeutic. In fact, nothing beats a tension headache like a relaxation massage!  

Relaxation massage, sometimes called Swedish massage, is very effective for reducing tension headache symptoms because of the way it affects the parasympathetic nervous system and balances the levels of key hormones. Massage therapy boosts your levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin (one of the reasons why you feel relaxed and sleepy during and after a massage!). Massage also reduces the level of cortisol in your body. Since cortisol (a stress hormone) is a major contributor to tension headaches, this can make a huge difference for your symptoms.  

Deep tissue massage 

Your RMT can use specialized deep tissue massage techniques to treat the muscles of your upper back, neck, head, and face—the trapezius and suboccipital muscles in particular. For many people, these two muscle groups are the ones that hold onto the brunt of the tension in their body. The suboccipitals are the muscles that create that feeling of having a tight band around your head during a tension headache. Reducing tension and adhesions in these muscles can go a long way towards solving your headache woes. 

Facial Massage 

Most RMTs will incorporate a facial massage into a tension headache treatment. Their main target will be the masseter muscle on either side of your jaw. The masseters connect your jaw to your cheekbones—they are the ones you flex when you clench your jaw. They’re powerful; in fact, by weight, the masseters are the strongest muscles in the body.  

These are often the first muscles to tighten up and trigger a headache. Masseters become (and remain) tense because of teeth grinding (bruxism), conscious tensing of the jaw, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD), or during periods of sleep apnea. For some sufferers, releasing the tension in these muscles will be enough to chase a tension headache away.  

When massaging your face, your RMT will apply very gentle pressure and use small, precise strokes. The muscles of the face are small and close to the surface, so it doesn’t take much to have a huge impact. 

Trigger Point Release 

Trigger points are tight, painful adhesions within your muscles and fascia. They are very tender to the touch, and often create what’s called “referred pain”—pain that shows up elsewhere along the muscle. Activating a trigger point can cause tingling, prickling, burning, numbness, and even cause the muscle to twitch.  

If you’re suffering from headaches caused by tension in your shoulders, neck, head, and face, there’s a good chance you’ve got trigger points in at least a few of those muscles and would benefit from a trigger point treatment. 

Trigger point therapy is a technique that your RMT will incorporate into your therapeutic massage treatment as they go. When they locate a trigger point, they will apply a combination of techniques and massage strokes to deactivate it. If you’ve never had trigger point work done, you’ll be amazed by the immediate relief it can offer. But be warned: trigger point therapy can be uncomfortable and even painful while it’s happening, and may cause some short-term soreness.  

If you’re suffering from tension headaches, why don’t you give massage therapy a try by visiting one of our student clinics in Edmonton and Calgary? Each appointment includes an assessment, a 60-minute massage from one of our talented and qualified students, and a short homecare consultation—all for only $35. Book online today! 

Preliminary Accreditation Granted Seal of the CMTCA

Preliminary Accreditation Granted Seal of the CMTCA

Note: This post was published in 2021. Vicars School is now a fully accredited program. For more information about CMTCA Accreditation and what it will mean for your massage career, check out this post from summer 2023 or this page on our website!

Vicars School of Massage Therapy is proud to announce that we have been granted Preliminary Accreditation status from the Canadian Massage Therapy Council for Accreditation. 

This status is an important milestone for our school, our students, and the massage therapy profession in Alberta.  

“I’m so proud of our faculty and staff,” says Maryhelen Vicars, the school’s founder and president. “We have been working towards this goal for several years, and the high score we achieved at this stage is a welcome confirmation of the quality of our program.”  

What is CMTCA accreditation? What is preliminary accreditation?  

The Canadian Massage Therapy Council for Accreditation (CMTCA) is an independent agency that evaluates massage programs across the country to determine whether they meet rigorous curriculum and delivery standards. 

The CMTCA evaluation rates a school’s performance in seven important categories: curriculum content; faculty and learning; student support; leadership and administration; human resources; resources and infrastructure; and quality improvement. Each category is broken down further into multiple criteria—95 in total.  

Schools start by applying for preliminary accreditation. This is a rigorous process that involves gathering documentation and evidence for all the criteria. The school’s written submission is then independently reviewed by three trained CMTCA surveyors.  

Now that we have preliminary accreditation status, the next step is full accreditation, which involves a scheduled site visit from CMTCA surveyors. We are one of only two private massage therapy colleges in Alberta to have earned preliminary accreditation status. The massage therapy program at Lethbridge College, a publicly funded college, is the only massage program in Alberta with full accreditation. 

Preparing the application was a team effort led by Executive Director Sarah Ward-Bakken and Curriculum Coordinator Linda McGeachy. The whole team spent many hundreds of hours on the project, reviewing each standard and gathering detailed evidence of how our program meets the criteria. 

“Applying for accreditation gave us the opportunity to examine each aspect of the program in great depth and detail,” says Linda. “Receiving preliminary accreditation has made me more confident than ever that the school is offering comprehensive, well-rounded training that is second-to-none in Canada. 

“Accreditation is about making sure that best practices in massage therapy education are upheld, and that schools continue to invest in quality improvement,” Sarah added. “It ensures that graduates are knowledgeable, competent, safe, and ethical.” 

Why does CMTCA accreditation matter?

Program accreditation through the CMTCA is a way for massage therapy programs to demonstrate that they meet Canada’s national program standards. In provinces where massage therapy is a regulated health care profession, standards are mandatory and so accreditation is essential.  

Massage therapy is not regulated in Alberta and there’s no universal education standard. But in our eyes, that makes independent approval processes like CMTCA accreditation and the MTAA school approval program list more important, not less. 

“We have never been about meeting minimum requirements,” says Maryhelen. “It’s unfortunate for the profession, and for Alberta massage students, that this kind of consistent, evidence-based education isn’t already mandatory for Alberta massage schools. But I’m proud to be able to offer it for our students. 

“From the very beginning, our school has been committed to meeting the highest standards of massage therapy education,” she says. “Back in 2012 when the regulated provinces first agreed on a standard for what all students should learn before they are ready to practice, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. In many areas, we were already compliant. Where the expectations were higher, we spent the time and money needed to make sure we met them. 

“We had the same attitude when the CMTCA started accepting applications from Alberta schools. We jumped at the chance to prove ourselves.” 

The more schools that choose to get accredited, the higher the quality of massage education in Alberta will be overall. This will improve outcomes for clients and help strengthen the reputation of massage as a valuable health care profession.  

What does this mean for current and future Vicars students?

The most important thing for current and future Vicars students to take away from today’s news is that their massage education meets the highest national standards, and that they can be confident that they are on their way to becoming skilled, effective, and successful health care professionals. The day-to-day experience of being a Vicars student hasn’t changed. This new status from the CMTCA is simply recognition from independent experts that what we’re doing works.  

There will be practical benefits, too, of course: many clients and employers already show preferences for therapists from specific schools, and this will set our graduates apart even more.  

We expect that the accreditation process will have the greatest impact on our students who plan to work in regulated provinces after they graduate. The details will depend on when we are able to schedule our site visit for full accreditation, and on the policies of the regulatory college in question. Overall, we expect that our current status, and eventual full accreditation status, will open many doors for our students in other jurisdictions.

From Reducing Pain to Improving Balance, Massage Has Big Benefits for Older Adults

To get older is a privilege. But it’s not always comfortable—years of adventure take their toll on the body and on the mind. As the decades add up,are so do the aches and pains. 

To care for a person as they get older is a privilege, too. Working with elderly clients is a rewarding and challenging opportunity for thoughtful, compassionate massage therapists. Massage therapy offers a wide range of benefits for geriatric patients. 

And because the Canadian population is aging, the demand for RMTs who have experience treating older clients is growing. As of 2020, almost 20% of all Canadians were 65 years old or older, and this percentage is expected to continue rising. Many of these people have been getting massages regularly for years, while some are new to massage but likely to seek it out as their needs change. 

What is geriatric massage and what is it good for? 

Older people visit their massage therapist for the same reason as everyone else does: to maintain or improve their physical and mental health so that they can enjoy a full life and do the things they love. 

Geriatric massage therapy is the modification of fundamental massage therapy principles, techniques, and treatments to meet the specialized needs of older clients. 

Most statistical research (like the census) defines elderly people or seniors as people who are 65 years old or older. But anyone who’s ever had an 80-year-old power walker breeze past them on the trail knows that age is just a number. Nobody experiences aging in the same way, and how many candles there are on your birthday cake doesn’t determine how healthy you are. 

A well-trained massage therapist will assess and treat their clients based on their individual needs and circumstances. As people age—particularly from the mid-60s on—their bodies change and so do their massage therapy needs. 

Even healthy older people experience changes like decreased bone density and loss of muscle mass. To accommodate these needs, the RMT can adapt many parts of the treatment, including types of strokes, body positioning, pressure, and length of treatment. 

As people age, they also become more prone to certain conditions and illnesses. Again, a good massage therapist has the knowledge and the skills to adapt their treatment accordingly. For example, they will be able to position someone with osteoporosis so that they’re comfortable, and know what areas require lighter pressure. 

And the RMT’s expertise goes beyond just knowing how to adapt a treatment for comfort and safety. The general benefits of massage therapy can make a huge difference in quality of life for older people, and massage can treat many of the conditions associated with aging. 

Massage therapy can: 

  • Increase range of motion and joint mobility 
  • Reduce anxiety and depression 
  • Improve vitality and reported quality of life 
  • Decrease pain and stiffness and improve joint function in osteoarthritis patients 
  • Reduce agitation, stress, and restlessness and improve communication skills in patients with dementia 
  • Improved sleep and improved activities of daily living in patients with Parkinson disease 
  • Decrease pain and improve recovery after surgery, including cardiac surgery and joint replacement surgery 

The mental health benefits of therapeutic touch are well-documented too, especially for seniors who live alone or in long-term care facilities. 

Why pursue a career in geriatric massage? 

There are as many reasons to become a massage therapist as there are massage therapists in the world. The students who pass through our doors at MH Vicars School share their inspirations and goals with us, and they’re as specific and individual as our students are. But there are common threads, too: many students have experienced the transformative effects of good massage therapy for themselves and want to be able to share those benefits with others; many want to a flexible career that will allow them to balance work and family, and they all want an active career working face-to-face with others. 

But the number one thing that every MH Vicars student and graduate has in common is a powerful desire to help others. Massage therapy is about healing. Every day and every client is an opportunity to make a difference. 

Practicing geriatric massage can be challenging, and it takes patience and compassion. But it’s also immensely rewarding. Because older people tend to have more complex medical needs than younger clients, the benefits they get from massage can be especially important. By helping your client sleep better, regain their range of motion, or feel less isolated, you can transform their quality of life and help them stay active and independent. 

The population of Canadians who are 65+ are an incredibly diverse group, and as a result geriatric massage is a diverse field. Some RMTs will go out of their way to develop an elderly client base and regularly visit long-term care and supportive living facilities as well as marketing to an older client base. Other therapists keep their practices more general but have the training to provide safe and effective treatments for their elderly clients. 

Vicars students learn geriatric massage, as well how to assess and treat a wide variety of conditions and diseases that are common in older adults. Our students work with clients of all ages at our supervised practicum clinics on campus. The school also organizes clinic visits to long-term care facilities in Edmonton and Calgary. 

If you aspire to help others live their best lives—at every age—massage training may be the perfect fit for you. We offer a unique blended-learning format to make training with us as convenient as possible. Speak to our knowledgeable Admissions team at 1-866-491-0574, or  RSVP to our live virtual open house to learn more about our Edmonton and Calgary massage therapy school campuses. 

massage and mental health

From Depression to PTSD, Massage Therapists Can Play a Key Role in Mental Health Care

When your neck is stiff after too many hours working at the computer, or a long run left your hamstrings screaming, you pick up the phone and call your favourite RMT. After all, registered massage therapists are known for their power to heal our bodies. But their ability to improve our mental health is just as impressive. 

Massage therapy can provide significant mental health benefits, and even help people with serious mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. 

Therapists and clients have always known that massage is good for our mental health, and the scientific evidence is catching up.Research has shown that massage therapy can reduce anxiety, depression, and stress in a wide variety of conditions; promote feelings of emotional well-being and promote a healthy mind-body connection; and even improve outcomes for people receiving medical treatment for serious mental health disorders. 

A Complementary Mental Health Treatment That’s Backed by Research 

Massage is not a replacement for specialized mental health care from a medical professional. But as an adjunct or complementary therapy, it can make a huge difference. Massage therapy can be added to almost anyone’s wellness regimen, whether they’re suffering from a mental illness, experiencing psychological effects of a physical condition, or just feeling run down by the stresses of day-to-day life. 

Our minds and our bodies are connected, and that means that what’s happening with our mental health can affect the rest of our bodies and vice versa. Some mental illnesses have physical symptoms. And it’s common for people who are suffering from pain and physical ailments to experience depression, stress, and other mental health symptoms as a result. 

Many of the physical effects of massage therapy can improve mental well-being. These include lowering the heart rate and reducing blood pressure, reducing pain, improving sleep, and stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system (also known as the “rest and digest” response, it’s the calming counterpart to the “fight or flight” response).  

The impact of massage on hormone levels is particularly important. Massage increases serotonin which regulates mood and sleep, and reduces cortisol, the so-called “stress hormone.” All of this means that massage increases relaxation and reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have even shown that massage increases blood flow in areas of the brain associated with mood and stress regulation. 

People with a wide range of mental health disorders and related conditions can benefit from including massage from a trained professional in their health routine. These include: 

Anyone experiencing symptoms of one or more of these issues should contact a medical professional. Before booking your massage, confirm with the RMT that they have been trained in how to treat your symptoms or condition. You can do this by asking them directly, or if you’re not comfortable with that you can ask friends or people on your health care team to recommend an RMT. 

Working Together to Create a Unique Treatment Plan 

The mental health benefits of massage therapy appear to be the result of a combination of both physiological and psychological factors. The intangible aspects of the therapeutic relationship between RMT and client—empathy, trust, and respect—seem to be particularly important. 

A good therapist will create a safe and calm environment for all their clients, where there’s no pressure, judgment, or stress. They will help their clients maintain healthy boundaries and will remain within their own scope of practice as well. This strong therapeutic relationship is the foundation every massage treatment, and there’s evidence that these intangible aspects of getting a massage—the empathy, trust, and respect between client and therapist—have tangible benefits for the client’s mental health. 

In some ways, treating a client for their mental health concerns is a lot like treating a client who comes in with physical aches and pains. A well-trained massage therapist never performs a one-size-fits-all treatment. Instead, they begin with an interview and an assessment and follow a customized treatment plan based on the client’s needs and goals. 

Effective massage treatment is always a collaboration between the client and the therapist, but this is especially true when it comes to treating clients who are struggling with their mental health. The RMT will work with the client to ensure that they create a safe and welcoming treatment environment. The therapist will explain the treatment plan before they begin and continue to check in throughout the appointment. They’ll also pay attention to non-verbal cues like muscle tension and breathing patterns to make sure that their client stays in their comfort zone. 

As a student at Vicars, you’ll be able to develop a rewarding career providing hands-on care to clients suffering from mental health disorders. As new research shows just how much of an impact massage therapy can have on a person’s mental and physical health, massage therapists will more in demand than ever before. If you’ve always wanted a career where you can really make a difference, speak to our friendly admissions team at 1-866-491-0574 or RSVP for our next online open house to learn more! 

massage therapy classes at MH Vicars

A Career in Massage Therapy Can Provide Many Ideal Job Options

Have you ever said to yourself “one day, I’ll have more time for myself?” If you’re a shift worker or you’ve been stuck in the 9-5 rat race for too many years, it may be time to consider all the benefits of a career in massage therapy. Whether you dream of owning your own business or want to work flexible hours in a clinic, being a massage therapist can take you there. Go to massage therapy school, and you can build the career and the life that you’ve always wanted.

With Massage Therapy Education at Vicars, Your New Lifestyle Can Start Right Away

The right massage therapy training will not only prepare you for a flexible career – it will allow you to balance your work, life, and education while you’re a student. At Vicars School, you’ll be in control of your own schedule as soon as you register to be a student at either our Edmonton or Calgary campuses. Our full-time program is delivered through an accessible blended learning format. This means you don’t need to give up all your other responsibilities while you train with us.

You will have four full in-class days per month (you can choose the schedule that will work best for you). When you’re on campus, you’ll work closely with your instructors and classmates as you learn hands-on skills in the lab and hone all the skills you’ll need to become a successful RMT. Then you’ll spend an average of 30 hours per week on your independent-study work from the comfort of your own hoome. You’ll still be connected to your classmates and our expert instructors, but you’ll have complete control of your schedule.massage therapy classes at MH Vicars

You can even get a head start on your education, to give yourself extra time during the school year. As soon as you register for classes, you can start work on our core science courses online.

Massage Therapy School Provides a Variety of Career Opportunities

Our therapists choose Vicars because they want a career where they can truly help others, while working in an environment that suits their needs. Many of our graduates work in dedicated massage therapy clinics, either by themselves or with a team of other RMTs. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg: you will find our graduates in a variety of settings across Canada and the world. Here are some massage therapy settings you might not have considered:

Home-based business

Say goodbye to rush hour traffic – your new commute to work could be walking down your hallway! When you consider the advantages of a home-based massage therapy business, it’s no surprise that so many Vicars graduates choose to set up a clinic in their own home.

When you have a clinic in your home, you have complete control over your schedule and your space and reduce your overhead costs. Your clients will appreciate the calm atmosphere, privacy, and convenience. And because you can offer appointments outside of standard office hours, you can attract clients who work shifts or have 9-5 jobs and struggle to find a massage clinic open when they need it.

Of course, this option doesn’t work for everyone, or for every home. In order to have a successful clinic from your home, you need to have a dedicated treatment space and appropriate bathroom and laundry facilities.

A mobile massage clinic

The only thing better than a massage, is a massage that comes to you! If you want to be able to treat a wide variety of clients in diverse settings, being a mobile massage therapist could be the answer. As a mobile RMT, you pack up your massage table or massage chair and treat your clients where they are. The options are endless: you could set up a clinic room at an extended care facility once a week, visit your clients in their homes, or be hired by a business to give chair massages to their employees. And because it’s so flexible, you can offer mobile massage therapy services and still have a regular clinic space for your clients to visit.

Physiotherapy clinics

Physiotherapy and massage therapy are both incredibly effective pain management and recovery practices. The two therapies have a lot in common. Both massage therapists and physiotherapists have an in-depth knowledge of the body and its systems, and use specialized hands-on techniques to treat their clients. But there are also some big differences between physio and massage, and they aren’t interchangeable. The two professions have different training, and use different techniques – which is why they complement each other so well when combined in the same clinic! By partnering up with a physiotherapist in a shared clinic or wellness centre, you will be able to provide your clients with comprehensive care to help them prevent and treat injuries, and maintain peak physical and mental health.

Chiropractic clinics

Chiropractors and RMTs frequently work side-by-side assisting clients with recovery from physical strain and injuries resulting from auto accidents, postural dysfunction, and more. A chiropractor performs the physical adjustments, and the massage therapist works on the soft tissues that have been working overtime to compensate for any misalignment.

Multi-disciplinary wellness clinics

Chiros and physios aren’t the only professions that sync up well with massage therapy. One way that many massage therapists find success is by working out of a multi-disciplinary clinic that offers a wide variety of therapeutic services. Practitioners that partner well with massage therapy include doctors, acupuncturists, naturopaths, midwives and doulas, osteopaths, and more.

Your clients will appreciate the opportunity to have so many of their health need met under one roof. And for you and your colleagues, having shared practices means that you’ll have a constant source of referrals, plenty of professional support, and the ability to share the space and equipment costs.

Long-term care homes and extended care facilities

A lifetime of wear and tear takes a toll on the human body. So it’s no surprise massage therapy is in high demand with older adults. Geriatric massage is an adaptation of relaxation and therapeutic massage techniques to meet the specialized needs of elderly clients. It lowers stress, improves sleep, reduces the symptoms of arthritis and chronic pain, improves circulation, and more. Massage has even been shown to help people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Not all of your elderly clients will be able to visit you at your own clinic. But you can go to them. Many long-term care homes and seniors residences will have an in-house massage therapist, or have a mobile massage therapist visit regularly.

Hospice facilities

Hospice care isn’t always at the top of mind for potential RMTs. However, when you consider the long list of positive effects of a professional-quality massage, it makes perfect sense. In a hospice, the goal is to provide comfort and serenity as the patient transitions into end-of-life stages: providing a gentle soothing massage to complement any pain medications, keep the muscles relaxed and help to reduce physical and mental suffering.

Rehabilitation Centres

Massage therapy has been gaining attention for the role it could potentially play in assisting with detox and addiction programs. Remarkably effective in calming the mind and relieving tension, massage stimulates the skin, which results in the body’s central nervous system sending out dopamine (the happiness hormone). This dopamine release can help with stress and anxiety for a patient who has been admitted to a rehabilitation centre, provide an increase in self-awareness and allow the person who is working on kicking their addiction a peaceful time where they can passively receive positive stimulation.

Massage therapy training at Vicars can open so many doors, no matter where and when you’d like to practice. For more information about, call our friendly admissions team toll-free at 1-866-491-0574 or book a campus tour today!