Carolan McFarland of Marion has been a massage therapist in Marion since May 1995. She currently operates out of St. Luke Integrated Health Care Clinic and also gives massages at Dr. Kodi Panzer’s chiropractic clinic in Hillsboro. She plans to retire at the end of March.
Her daughter Tracy, co-worker Carol Wituk, and Janet Herzet are planning an open house in her honor from 2 to 5 p.m. March 30 in the basement of Marion Family Physicians.
McFarland began practice in 1990 in Kansas City after a 30-year career as a physical education teacher. She chose to become a massage therapist after she hurt her knee while playing tennis. A massage therapist helped her recover, and she realized it was something she could do. She was certified and practiced in Kansas City for five years before coming to Marion.
McFarland said she has given about 23,000 massages throughout her career. She sees about 95 clients a month, some who come from as far away as Wichita and Salina.
McFarland instituted a massage therapy course of study at Butler Community College, where she taught the course as well as yoga from 2000 to 2013. She has trained and certified 75 people in massage therapy.
As a member of a national organization of massage professionals, McFarland is engaged in an effort to persuade the state legislature to require licensing for massage therapists. The effort has been unsuccessful so far but is ongoing.
She said Kansas is one of only three states that don’t require licensing, attracting people from other states when they have lost their licenses due to unethical practices. Licensing would ensure that therapists are adequately trained and certified and would allow better insurance coverage.
She said someone looking for a massage therapist should look for one who has national certification or a minimum of 500 hours of training from a state-accredited massage school and belongs to a national professional organization. The therapist also should complete a health history form and review it with first-time clients. The therapist should honor a client’s request about the amount of pressure used during a massage and should maintain professionalism and ethics.
According to McFarland, the negative effects of stress can be greatly reduced with regular massage. It increases circulation, improves muscle tone, releases muscular tension, increases body awareness, and reduces or eliminates tension headaches.
Therapeutic massages are available for the upper body, whole body, hands, feet, or specified areas. Upper-body massages — neck, shoulders, and back — usually are a half-hour session. Full-body massages usually are an hour long. Trigger-point therapy is used for a specific problem such as a pinched sciatic nerve or a sinus infection.
“I love doing clinical massage, where there is a specific issue, and I have to figure out what I can do to relieve the tension,” McFarland said. “All of the nerves originate in the spinal cord, and they end in our extremities, so working on hands and feet can affect certain parts of the body.”
She said physicians, chiropractors, and massage therapists often refer clients to each other.
“That’s why we call this integrated health care,” she said. “Sometimes massage won’t solve a problem.”
Although not a native of the area, McFarland has been active in community affairs. She served as president of the St. Luke Hospital Auxiliary and served one year as secretary. She participated in numerous community service projects in Marion, Hillsboro, and Newton, doing chair massage. She also participated in various health fairs, conducted workshops on women’s health, and gave talks to various groups.
She is an active member of the Presbyterian Church, serving as an elder and a member of the choir. She is a member of Marion County Democratic Women and treasurer of the Twentieth Century Club.
McFarland plans to move back to Kansas City later this year to be near her son and his family. She hopes to travel and have more time to read. She also looks forward to more time for gardening and yard work.
Eunice Christensen, the last client McFarland will serve on her final day, March 28, will be the first client she served in Marion 19 years ago.
She said she might become involved in some type of therapeutic massage again, such as palliative care for people in hospice care or in nursing homes.
“I love this occupation,” she said. “I’ve become professionally very bonded to my clients, and I will miss them terribly, but my body tells me it’s time to take a break.”