Brandon Raynor - My Letter to the Toronto Star
Let’s say you go out to dinner at a nice restaurant and order an entrée. It arrives and it is not bad. You see the chef walking around the room and as he gets close, he stops at your table and asks you how your chicken tastes. You tell him that it was pretty good but a little overcooked. He replies that he “feels” when the chicken is perfect and that it has nothing to do with internal temperatures.
Slightly concerned, you ask about the cutting boards in the kitchen and how they are used with respect to raw chicken. The chef tells you that everyone in the kitchen uses the same cutting boards for everything and they wash them at the end of the night. “No sense in washing everything a hundred times, right?”
Would you continue to eat at this establishment? Would you assume that the Health Inspector would soon make a visit? I would hope so.
From May 11th to 22nd, Brandon Raynor’s School of Natural Therapies is offering a five and ten-day course at Rhythm in Motion dance studio in Toronto taught by Jason Leue. Raynor’s theory is that they “don’t believe that reciting Latin names for muscles or knowing the names of every bump on every bone is what it takes to be and outstanding massage therapist.” (all Raynor's quotes are from his website).
In this statement there is an incredible level of anti-intellectualism and self-righteousness. Raynor (and, presumably, Leue) is a practitioner of unproven and unscientific techniques that rely heavily on supposedly manipulating “energy”, “chi”, or whatever non-existent phenomenon he espouses. Raynor is quoted from a video on his site saying, “…some people get tingling in their bodies, usually the start of the chi starting to move…you can feel a lot of little bumps and things on his head which is all signs of, um, too much chi in the head.” (third video)
I guess that’s a technical diagnosis. I think I saw that on a chart at Sick Kids once….
The problem is that Raynor and Leue are deceiving their potential students and the general public. In Ontario, to be a registered massage therapist, you have to do a 2200 hour course – two years – during which time you learn about the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the body; the nervous system; the bones & joints and limitations of said; plus internal anatomy, pathophysiology, proper massage techniques, and much more. We are complementary health professionals – “complementary” in the sense that our modalities are most effective when used with others such as physiotherapy.
On Raynor’s website, he says that taking his course, “…gives you a legal way to practice in Canada without having to do a 3000 hour course, and also allows you to get full malpractice insurance.” They will need it. For reasons similar to why a chef does not know only about what foods look and taste good together, but also about safe internal food temperatures and the dangers of cross-contamination, massage therapists know about anatomy, physiology, and pathology so we can effectively treat our clients or refer to an appropriate health care professional if the problem is outside our scope of practice.
The College of Massage Therapists of Ontario is there to protect the public from practitioners who do not meet the provincial standard. I know in my practice, contrary to Raynor’s assertion that certified massage programs, “…fill your head with a lot of jargon and anatomical terms that you will never use…”, I explain to clients on a daily basis how specific muscles work, how injuries happen, proper stretching and strengthening techniques, and why if their lower back is injured oftentimes they will get pain in their calf or foot. Here’s a hint: it has nothing to do with “chi flow”.
In July of 2007, the College of Massage Therapists of British Columbia (CMTBC) issued a warning that Raynor’s course was not accredited and that potential students and the public should beware. The CMTO should follow suit if it has not already done so. Raynor asks why one would, “…waste 3 years of your life and $20,000 just to use a special reserved word when you can become a better practitioner from our shorter intensive course that is only 10% of the price and uses only 1 or 2 percent of your time but makes you a 200% better practitioner?” I will take a shot at answering that question: perhaps because when a client shows up to see an actual registered massage therapist and says, “Listen, my shoulder was injured when I fell off a horse and now my pinkie and ring fingers are tingly. Can you tell me what’s wrong and can you help me to get better?”, the answer they do not want to hear is, “Oh, of course I can help you! See, what happened is that you disrupted your chi flow and your aura has turned a dark blue color so I have to massage your arm-y type thing to make the baddies go away.”
Massage therapy is a field that, sadly, is riddled with pseudo-science and quackery, but the way to fix it is to keep standards high, encourage critical thinking and basic science skills, and make the bar as high as possible for entry. By lowering or eliminating standards, as Raynor advocates, we will only see unqualified individuals ultimately causing harm to the public either directly or, more likely, indirectly by changing their minds so clients believe that working with nonsense like “chi”, “meridians”, or “energy” will heal what ails them. It is then that laypersons will avoid actual proven therapies in times of need, causing pain, suffering and in worst case scenarios, death.
Raynor advocates letting clients decide who gives the best “treatment”. At first pass, this sounds like the right thing to do, but there is a flaw in the reasoning. It is the same flaw that we see when a news organization does the “man on the street” interviews and asks people questions about foreign policy and such. This is a bogus tactic because most people have no idea about the situation and as such, cannot give an informed opinion.
There are people who come to the physiotherapy clinics I work at and the treatment they receive may not be the most relaxing or most enjoyable, but that is not why they came. I treat primarily car accident victims, post surgery clients, sports injuries, and age-related musculo-skeletal conditions. As such, the clients describe their symptoms, I do diagnostic tests, come up with my clinical impression, and treat them as I see fit. Most people have no idea how their bodies work, and why would they? It is not important to them. They depend on experts to help them when something goes wrong the same way that when a foreign policy situation occurs, most people depend on specialists to deal with it in the appropriate manner.
The Brandon Raynor School must not be allowed to continue advertising in Toronto as it has been. They deal in quackery, nonsense, and wackaloonery, and then try to act like it is their right to pass it off as health care. The College of Massage Therapists of Ontario and the general public who deserve better must step up and say “no”.