Did You Know … Catherine Beecher, Massage Profession Forerunner

For several hundred years, lasting into the 19th century, a predominant focus of European and North American mainstream medicine was challenging the body – balancing its humours – using methods such as bleeding, purging, blistering and sweating, and administering tonics laced with alcohol, mercury and cocaine. Referred to as heroic medicine, it was at best ineffective and frequently quite dangerous. People would often choose local healers, who used herbs and manual therapy approaches, rather than seek out heroic medicine physicians.

Opposition to heroic medicine became more consistent and established with advances in science and the scientific method, and also with a sweeping natural health movement that began in the later 18th century. Physicians who rejected heroic medicine were part of the change, establishing drugless practices based on diet, rest, time in nature, exercise and use of water treatments. The “nature cure” which was a precursor of naturopathy, and the “water cure” which preceded hydrotherapy, were central components of this revolutionary movement.

The water cure took strong hold in Europe and North America, giving rise to bath houses and water cure clinics and retreats that were ubiquitous and very popular in the 19th century.

Catherine Beecher (1800-1878) was not a practitioner. She was a health reformer, health educator and popular commentator. She came from an interesting family – her father, Lyman Beecher, was a founder of the American Temperance Society, and her sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, was the well-known suffragist and author.

Beecher was a proponent of the water cure as part of “rational, intelligent commencement of obedience to the laws of health” using “the simple, pure and universal element” of water. She explained water cure principles and therapies in lay language and travelled extensively to water cure establishments, writing articles about the treatments and facilities she encountered and advocating on behalf of their natural, holistic methods and environments.

Beecher was not an unthinking acolyte, however; she was honest, sometimes strident, in critiquing shortcomings or excesses when she saw them. She also disputed heavyweights such as Priessnitz, with whom she disagreed about using water treatments to precipitate a “health crisis.” Her writings culminated in an 1855 book, Letters to the People on Health and Happiness.

Beecher’s astute commentary and educational focus helped cement the place of the water cure within the health reform movement, contributing to the emergence of hydrotherapy as an accepted therapeutic discipline. So, while she is not a direct ancestor of the massage therapy profession, Beecher is one of the thoughtful reformers who helped pave the way for today’s alternative medicine.

by Debra Curties ’84

Ref:  Benjamin PJ. The Emergence of the Massage Therapy Profession in North America. Curties-Overzet Publications, 2015

Tara Norton ’98: Ultra Woman

Tara Norton ’98: Ultra Woman

by Bruce McKinnon ’90

That feeling. When you fall. And you know you have to get back up again. Because you’re the only one who can do it. Some loathe it, but others live for it.

Picture yourself on a bike. It’s warm. You’re in Hawaii, competing in the 2008 Ironman World Championship and having the “race of your life.” You’ve completed this race before (finishing 12th overall last year) and today, you feel you’re on track to crack the top 10. “Eighty miles into the bike, I was in 4th place overall, and out of nowhere a volunteer stepped onto the course.” The unavoidable collision sees you plow into this person at good clip – about 30kh – and you’re down. But you somehow manage to get back onto your mangled carbon fiber bike and continue riding for about another mile, all the while weeping, because you know you’re hurt and this race is over. The post-crash diagnosis reveals 11 broken bones.
For those unfamiliar, the Ironman races feature a swim-bike-run challenge. According to Wikipedia, “an Ironman Triathlon is a series of long-distance races consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon 26.22-mile run, raced in that order and without a break.” I feel weak just reading that. …

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Massage Therapy for Any Stage of Pregnancy

Along with the joys and excitement of pregnancy, there also comes the aches and the pains… at any stage! If you’ve never been pregnant before you may think that’s its only closer to the end of a birth parents’ pregnancy that they become tired and the extra weight and fluid seems to take its toll. This is not always the case. One can experience discomfort throughout their entire pregnancy and into their postpartum period. Making small humans is a lot of work!

Massage therapy is a safe and effective tool to aid with muscle tension, fluid retention, create sound pelvic alignment and help with postural changes from the very first week of pregnancy and beyond. All Registered Massage Therapists have received specific training in pregnancy and postpartum massage. With the aid of special positioning and propping, birth parents and their pregnant bellies feel supported and cared for while receiving a very well deserved massage.

Massage therapy is actually of the most benefit to the pregnant client from early in the first trimester onwards. The earlier one can start to receive massage therapy, the better the outcome for pregnancy related aches and pains, fluid retention, pelvic alignment and postural changes.

As previously stated, one of the goals of pregnancy massage is to obtain sound pelvic alignment. This will help the baby sit in the best position possible, can aid in more physical comfort for the birth parent, and may create a better birth experience. RMT’s cannot “turn” a baby, but they can help create a comfortable home for the parent and the baby.

In the postpartum period, massage therapy is a wonderful medium to treat breastfeeding related muscle tension, continue to support sound pelvic alignment, and provide much needed self-care and nurturance for new, exhausted birth parents.


Stephanie Maxwell ’14 is one of the instructors who supervises the student treatments at the S-C Pregnancy Clinic along with Odette Oliver ’97. Both Stephanie and Odette are experienced Registered Massage Therapists.

Pregnant and Need a Massage?
Our S-C Pregnancy Clinic is currently running Fridays until April 26 4:30 & 6:00 pm and Tuesday, April 23 at 1:00 & 2:30 pm. Appointments are $18 for 1 hour treatment. You can book by phoning 416-924-1107 ext. 10.

Acupuncture: A Complementary Tool for RMTs

As the latest round of graduates left the halls of Sutherland-Chan, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own gradation a year ago. After breathing that massive sigh of relief, oddly enough, I found myself contemplating what continuing education course to take next. Something that has been on my
mind for a while is acupuncture. More specifically, the Contemporary Medical Acupuncture course
at McMaster University. To find out more about the modality and the program, I decided to speak
to a few RMTs who have taken the course and use acupuncture in their practices.

I reached out to Erin McNeely ’14, Katy Nguyen ’17, Madhvi Aggarwal ’17 and Sorin Darie ’16, all S-C grads who have taken the McMaster program. I was curious about a few things, starting with what drew them to acupuncture. For Erin, it was always something she had planned on doing; she had received treatment as an athlete and it was quite effective for her. Madhvi had already completed a Chinese Medicine program in B.C. and wanted to explore the Western approach that the McMaster course teaches. Interestingly enough, everyone spoke of this program as the “go-to” acupuncture course. Sorin and Katy both felt that McMaster’s focus on evidence-based medicine, along with
amazing resources like the cadaver lab, made this school an obvious choice for them.

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