President’s Column: Howard Nemerov

I miss hugs.

This whole social distancing thing was “new and disconcerting” at first, hanging with my wife and binge-watching NCIS. It’s like Gibbs moved in with us for a while. I’m a researcher, so something new can be interesting, even though this was somewhat masochistic.

Being a member of the Medicare crowd, we’re in the higher-risk COVID-19 demographic. This means even sort-of interactions like going grocery shopping became curbside pickup. (Good morning, thank you, I’ll get the rear gate after you leave.) Taking a break mid-week to eat out, face each other and talk while somebody else brings us food? Nope. I’ll whip up some sauce from the tomatoes I grew last year, and we’ll watch NCIS while we eat. Friday night treat of frozen yogurt? Let’s add berries, granola and yogurt to our curbside order, and watch NCIS.

Now it’s August, and it’s getting to the point that I miss hugs. We need touch. The research is unequivocal.[1] Proper touching can benefit both newborns and new mothers. Among other benefits, babies experience improved neurological function, digestion and sleep patterns.[2]

We’re fortunate that our profession empowers us help others through therapeutic touch. But while reopening afforded me an opportunity to touch others again, it’s not the same as being hugged. Giving is good; receiving completes the flow. Adults need touch as much as babies.

Our profession provides great diversity in terms of modalities and practice settings. Somebody who practices Swedish-based, relaxation massage at a spa sets up their practice differently than a sole proprietor who performs rehabilitative therapy in a private office. Both are equally important. This is a key point to remember for anybody considering a leadership position within the AMTA structure.

Speaking of diversity, one of the rewards of being a Master Gardener is that gardening often teaches life lessons. I just read an article on soil biology that is a great metaphor for diversity creating health and balance. There are thousands of different bacteria in healthy soil. Some break down organic matter to make nutrients available to plants. Others convert nitrogen—a major plant nutrient—into compounds that can be used by plants. Some break down pollutants. Others protect plants against disease. Working together, they build an environment that makes vegetables more productive.

In the same way, one of my clients may come to me when their shoulder hurts. They may also get a massage afterwards. Others see a cranio-sacral therapist or lymphatic drainage therapist. Each of us contributes unique skills to treat the client’s systems and improve their health.

While we each grapple with COVID-19 and our practice, keep in mind that AMTA National is there to help, beginning with our COVID-19 Resource page.[3]

Before the triathlons race, waiting for the starting pistol in a pack of 100 or more people, ready to crowd into the water, I felt fear. It’s reasonable: people drown. Fear isn’t necessarily a bad thing: It’s a message to pay attention, be mindful. I also learned that fear wasn’t always a good reason to not take action. I took my Masters swim classes; did my pre-season open water training. I gained the knowledge and skills to swim with, and sometimes through, a flotilla of other swimmers.

In the same way, each of us relies upon our knowledge and experience to decide how to proceed in our practices and lives.

It’s been said that life is an endurance event, not a sprint. In triathlons, by the time I finished the bike portion and transitioned to the run, my body was saying, “you really want to do this?” But I’d done my interval training and bike-to-run double workouts; I knew I could finish.

Things may not be easy or comfortable right now. We’re all facing challenges in our lives and profession that didn’t exist six months ago. But remember: You’re still on your journey.

Let’s go forward together.

Yours in service,

Howard Nemerov, President

AMTA-Texas Chapter

[1] Szalavitz, Maia. “Touching Empathy.” Psychology Today, March 1, 2010. Accessed August 6, 2020.

[2] Greicius, Julie. “The benefits of touch for babies, parents.” Stanford Medicine, September 23, 2013. Accessed August 6, 2020.

[3] “COVID-19 Resources for Massage Therapists.” American Massage Therapy Association. Accessed August 6, 2020.