By Peter Fischetti
The pandemic has impacted just about every business, but especially those in the health care and wellness professions that require close physical contact. And that includes the 330,000 message therapists who are licensed in the United States, according to the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals.
One of them is Ron Williams, 50, who has lived with his wife, Regina, in Marianna for the last 12 years. He divides his time between a Panama City Beach clinic and in the residences of clients throughout the Panhandle. While it goes without saying, his work is “hands on,” and the pandemic has made it a little impractical to abide by the CDC’s recommendations to stay at least six feet from people you do not live with. (Zoom is great, but it doesn’t work well for massages.)
Yet you might be surprised by the impact the pandemic has had on his business. While the office where he works closed for a month and Williams himself suffered from COVID-19, he realized that his services were more important to clients than their fear of becoming a victim of the virus. So now, still wearing a mask and paying particular attention to cleanliness, he’s busier than ever since the pandemic requirements have been relaxed.
Why? In a word, pain. “Pain makes one reprioritize everything,” Williams said. “Many of the clients I contacted after catching the virus worried about how long I’d be out of commission rather than whether it would be safe to have a massage. That’s what pain does.” His training allows him to relieve pain even if sometimes, well, it’s a little painful. “I like to say that at the very worst, an hour of pain gives you weeks of comfort.”
As an example, he recalled a client suffering from polio. She was in her early 70s when he first saw about three years ago. She was barely able to walk or move her limbs. Two years of treatment gave her much better mobility in her arms and legs, but then came the pandemic. For a year, he said, she stopped seeing him. And when she finally made an appointment a few months ago, her movement had deteriorated and the pain had returned. She’s on the way back to better mobility, he said.
And there’s plenty of pain around the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 50 million American adults suffer from chronic pain. In a Washington Post article earlier this month, nearly half of the respondents in a survey by the American Chronic Pain Association reported that their pain and stress had increased during the year. Another survey, conducted by OnePoll for Massage Envy, reported that more than half of respondents felt negatively about their bodies since the pandemic, and they ranked massage second only to a vacation to regain self-confidence.
Born in West Palm Beach and raised in Southwest Georgia and North Florida, Williams has had a varied work history, from driving a truck and drilling on a ship in the Gulf of Mexico to installing cable and doing social work. He also served in the Air Force as a civil engineer at Tyndall Air Force Base. Oh, and he did some farming. Somewhere along the line, a friend in the health care industry suggested therapeutic massage.
Since starting his practice six years, Williams has expanded his clientele, and also his ability to relieve their pain. “It’s why I do this,” he said. “I’ve helped a lot of people from all walks of life, and it’s especially satisfying to rescue surgery patients from the need for opiates using natural healing.”
He also plans to expand the services he provides. One of the casualties of the pandemic was the cancellation of a training seminar in Atlanta for massage therapists interested in providing pain relief for cancer patients. He hopes to attend when it’s rescheduled.
Williams can be reached at (850) 573-2517 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peter Fischetti is a retired journalist from Southern California, which he hopes you won’t hold against him. He lives in Panama City Beach