New Mexico Startup Aims to Standardize Touch Pressure for Massage Therapists, Other Healthcare Pros

From massage therapy to occupational therapy, touch pressure is a prevalent practice that lacks precise training and consistency of care. That’s about to change.

Most massage therapists ask clients how strong a massage they’d like – such as “light,” “firm,” and “deep.” They make sense, but their meaning can vary wildly between therapists. One massage might be called “light” but feel very “firm.”

It’s a problem Sarah Komala identified after taking charge of a massage therapy business in New Mexico. There was too much subjectivity and it was hard to create a consistency of care among clients and across 25 therapists. That’s when a lightbulb went off.

“It made me realize there was a really big gap and real opportunity here to standardize touch pressure,” she says.

Her solution? Invent a machine that would help massage therapists understand how much pressure they were applying in exact grams and pounds so that common words like “light” could become quantifiable, allowing for more standardized care.

A massage therapist, Komala built a company called Mendology and a first machine called Standard Touch with off-the-shelf parts in her garage. She taught herself to code the machine and created a working prototype. Seven iterations later, she had a final product.

About one-foot square, Standard Touch has a gel pad on top that mimics the feel of human tissue. Practitioners apply pressure to the pad with their hands, and a screen shows exact amount of pressure applied.

“The overall goal,” Komala says, “is to identify and reduce pressure variation. Uncontrolled variation is the enemy of quality.”

The machine can help train anyone who uses touch to know what one pound of pressure feels like compared to 10 pounds. Initially targeted at massage therapists, Komala quickly realized wellness and medical practitioners across many fields from physical and occupation therapy, to nursing and cosmetology, would benefit.

CNM Ingenuity, the entreprise arm of Central New Mexico Community College, partnered with Mendology to offer Intelligent Pressure trainings that have included nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, licensed massage therapists, and EMTs to name a few. The training qualifies as a Continuing Education Unit (CEU)—important for medical practitioners who need CEUs to maintain licenses. Training and certification opportunities are offered at the workplace or at CNM Ingenuity in Albuquerque. CNM Ingenuity can also license the training to interested parties.

In a recent test by Mendology, 22 licensed oncology practitioners were asked to apply a certain amount of pressure to the Standard Touch. When asked to apply “firm” pressure, the practitioners’ performance varied by 208 percent.

“That difference is what we want to address,” Komala says. “My hope is that on the medical side, the device provides continuity of care. On the wellness side, including massage therapy, you get continuity of care and you give the customer exactly what they want.”

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