Groomer’s Guide
Massage for Groomers: typography
top view illustration of woman getting a back massage
Not Just a Luxury But a Necessity typography
by Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins
I am a true believer in the science of massage therapy as a self-care tool, and it is extremely beneficial for the very physical job we groomers do. In addition, published studies support the medical science benefits.

According to the Mayo Clinic, massage benefits can include: reducing stress and increasing relaxation; reducing pain and muscle soreness and tension; improving circulation, energy and alertness; lowering heart rate and blood pressure; and improving immune function. While more research is needed to confirm the benefits of massage, some studies have found massage may also be helpful for anxiety, digestive disorders, fibromyalgia, headaches, insomnia related to stress, low back pain, myofascial pain syndrome, nerve pain, soft tissue strains or injuries, sports injuries, temporomandibular joint pain, and upper back and neck pain.

Of course, the Mayo Clinic advises that, despite its benefits, massage isn’t meant as a replacement for regular medical care, and you should let your doctor know you’re trying massage and still be sure to follow any standard treatment plans you have.

The Wahl Classroom website advocates for regular massages in a recent online article,1 which states, “This job takes a toll on your body. Many groomers beginning their careers hear shop talk stories from the older generations yet don’t heed the warnings of taking care of their bodies because it hasn’t yet affected them. Your body is your best resource and most valuable tool in this profession—take care of it!”

I became an advocate for massage after my doctor recommended it to me and I discovered first-hand how life-changing it can be. I am 65 years old and first started grooming (part-time) when I was 21 years old. I only began grooming full-time when I opened Love Fur Dogs in Glencoe, Illinois at the age of 56 in 2014. I have had seven surgeries on my hands and wrists, plus two knee and one hip replacements in the last 15 years. I was overweight for years following back-to-back pregnancies. I did not heed the warnings that I would regret the negative health impacts later. I wish I had listened…

I now have severe arthritis and bone spurs in my hands, in addition to issues in other parts of my musculoskeletal structure that have forced a gradual reduction of my hands-on duties as a groomer. I truly hate not being able to do what I love and need to do.

illustration of a woman wearing a red shirt and jeans with one hand on the hip

“Your body is your best resource and most valuable tool in this profession-take care of it!”

-Wahl Classroom

My nationally prominent hand surgeon, who sees me all too often, told me last year that if I wanted to be able to feed myself when I am 75, I needed to stop grooming immediately. While I now teach more and groom less, I still have to groom dogs sometimes. I own a successful grooming business with thousands of dedicated clients and a dozen employees who still need me. I so wish that I had taken better care of myself earlier. I have suffered from my own short-sightedness and those around me have also paid the price for it.

Once I made the commitment (far too late) to change to a healthier lifestyle five years ago, which includes deep tissue massages every week or two, as well as changes in eating habits and activity levels, I was able to go off pain medications and have lost 85 pounds to date. I have had no further surgeries and far fewer doctor appointments. I walk or bike several miles on most days, I am eating better and feel healthier now than when I was in my forties. I credit my massage therapist with not only adding years to my ability to work in my shop, but also contributing substantially to my overall health and, in that regard, I am a living testament to the benefits of massage.

“Being a massage therapist is not an easy job but it gives a lot of satisfaction, and that is why I love to do it. I can see the results of my work almost immediately when the patient is still lying on the table.”

– Janusz Manijak

I asked my award-winning massage therapist, Janusz Manijak, who I have seen almost weekly for five years, to share his insights. I credit his expert care with a dramatic improvement in my physical (and therefore, also mental) health. He has heard me talk several times about why professional pet groomers can really benefit from regular massages, and I am grateful that he was willing to share his professional expertise:

“Being a massage therapist is not an easy job but it gives a lot of satisfaction, and that is why I love to do it. I can see the results of my work almost immediately when the patient is still lying on the table. During the session, many people feel better and say, ‘Oh, I feel better already.’ Other people feel better a day or two after the massage. Sometimes they see an improvement after two or three sessions, and that’s why I encourage patients to take two to three massages before they decide that massage is working for them.

“Of course, massage is not a miracle cure for everything,” Janusz continues. “Massage helps people who spend most of their time at work sitting or standing like beauticians, hairdressers, or dog groomers. It helps with headaches, neck, shoulder, or back muscle pain, hands and fingers pain, it helps with releasing trigger points and sore spots, which can cause pain in different parts of the body. For example, trigger points in your shoulder can cause pain in your arms.”

So, what have I learned as an official old person now? A regular schedule is important, take care of your health while you are young, maintain a healthy weight, don’t smoke (and if you do, prioritize quitting), eat a healthy diet—especially eliminating processed foods—and it is very important that massage therapy be a weekly or, at minimum, monthly part of your life.

While many people enjoy massage, most also have excuses for not getting them regularly. Here are three of the most common reasons and how to overcome them:

1. I can’t afford it.

I have learned first-hand that I can’t afford not to get regular massages. When we can no longer work in our chosen career because our bodies can no longer do the job, we have to ask ourselves, can we afford not to get regular massages?

Think of all the things you do to splurge and pamper yourself; little expenses that add up over a month of things you buy because you just want them. If you cut just one such regular indulgence out, like five-dollar cups of coffee instead of making your own, you could easily afford regular massages.

As a grooming business owner, I have the company pay for my massages as a qualified business expense prescribed by a medical professional. Building weekly massages into my budget is as important a part of my grooming shop’s expenses as the shampoo I buy.

If you are employed as a groomer, speak to your supervisors or owners about offering this as a benefit. Businesses are interested in finding and maintaining good grooming employees, especially since the pandemic increased the dog population significantly and groomers are in shorter supply. If you make your case, they may cover this expense for you as an investment in their workforce.

While I can’t offer legal advice, you can check to see if regular therapeutic massages are covered or partially covered by your medical insurance, especially if prescribed by your doctor. While insurance companies may view massage primarily as an “alternative treatment,” according to the Internal Revenue Service, massage therapy can be a qualified medical expense if all the criteria are met. The IRS ruling states: “Medical expenses are the costs of diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, and the costs for treatments affecting any part or function of the body.”

Developing a professional rapport with the business that offers the massages and learning what their standards and procedures are for protecting your comfort and privacy can go a long way towards helping you to relax and feel safe.

2. I don’t have time.

Then make the time. This is health care—prioritize YOU! Massage is an investment in preventative medicine to help you continue your career. This is for the “instrument” that actually does the grooming that in turn helps all your clients. This small investment of an hour a week, or every other week, can help assure that you can continue to do your job for a long time. If an hour a week helps you feel better and live and work with greater health and functionality, then it is well worth the time!
3. I am not comfortable with the process.
Massage is something that you may have to get used to. For many, it does not feel natural or comfortable at first. Start small. Start with hand massages. Work your limbs or just the areas that are giving you the most problems like your back, shoulders, hands or feet.

Interview potential massage businesses. Discuss their procedures and protections. Ask them for their guidelines for client conduct towards the massage professional as well. Developing a professional rapport with the business that offers the massages and learning what their standards and procedures are for protecting your comfort and privacy can go a long way towards helping you to relax and feel safe.

Also, you can choose the gender of your massage therapist which you are most comfortable with. I had female massage therapists for many years, but one time when a last-minute absence offered me a male substitute, I gave him a try because of the excellent professional standards of everyone associated with the company. I ended up switching to him permanently because the physical strength of his hands has been of tremendous benefit to my health. Like every massage therapist I have ever been to (and I have been to dozens in my lifetime), he was, and always has been, a consummate professional.

Massage can be full body or just partial. You can remain clothed or partially clothed, and you will always be fully covered by sheets and blankets. Understandably, massage businesses have rigorous practices that maintain your ability to relax and be safe. Remember, masseuses are dedicated professionals with extensive training in human anatomy and maintaining your health, just as you might need care from a physical therapist after a critical injury or surgery.

So, choose to prioritize and care for your own health with regular massages. One massage every year as a special treat may feel good, but it is likely not enough to produce lasting effects, especially for those who suffer from chronic conditions, physically active people like athletes or professionals like us who work with our bodies for a living. Regular massage therapy can be a great addition to wellness routines.


  1. Wahl Classroom. (2019, May 17). All The Things I Wish I Had Known Before Beginning My Grooming Career. Wahl.