My career highlights

The Commonwealth Games, Glasgow 2014 provided a great opportunity to work with professional athletes, coaches and a range of medical experts at the top of their profession. Working within a multidisciplinary team afforded the chance of swapping skills and provided training into emergency care on the field of play.

Having had an interest in nutrition especially sports nutrition I began a home study course with the Institute of Optimum Nutrition. The study focused my mind on the importance of a balanced diet and the important ingredients for optimum health and performance.

In 2013 I became part of the Associate Lecturing team at the Performance Clinic for Northumbria and Sunderland University. I taught on the ITEC Level 4 Sports Massage Course and have been an assessor for the Level 3 Sports Massage Course.

During my time at the Paralympic Games I saw much use of Kinesio Tape which piqued my interest in how it could benefit those I see in clinic. In June 2013 I trained in London and now use the tape regularly to help clients with sporting or non-sporting challenges. I find it beneficial for enhancing muscle recovery and therefore training as well as sporting performance.

The London 2012 Paralympic Games was one of the highlights of my career. I was working with the most amazing athletes and was part of an all inclusive team that showed how work and life could really be equal for us all. It was a life changing experience not just because of the inspiring athletes or remarkable medical team but also because of the way the UK embraced the Games and made them such a great success. It seemed for those few weeks Britain had a smile on its face and welcomed the world, it is something I will never forget and always be grateful to have been a small part of.

I have covered various sporting events as a therapist, a student assessor and participant. I have put teams together at the Great North Run for a number of charities including Shelter, Mencap, St. Oswald’s Hospice and the Anthony Nolan Trust and for the Tough Mudder event in Edinburgh raising money for Help the Heroes. I provided First Aid cover at the Newcastle Street Spice event for Brain Tumour UK, provided VIP hospitality at Gateshead International Stadium for the European Team Championships, cycled the Grand Depart of the Tour de France in Yorkshire for Macmillan Cancer Support and even jumped off the Tyne Bridge for Arthritis Research UK (with a zip wire!).

In 2010 the International Therapy Examination Council introduced new qualifications in Sports Massage. Having been a qualified Sports Massage Practitioner since 1999 I felt I wanted to know that I was trained to the highest level available within my profession. After a year of study I moved through the Level 4 Certificate to become the first UK therapist to be awarded the Level 5 Diploma in Sports Massage Therapy. I was delighted to gain distinctions in all parts of the examination both theory, practical and clinical studies.

In September 2007 I was asked to visit Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzigovenia to teach nursing and physiotherapy staff at a hospital in Tesanj. Since the Bosnian War resources within the medical profession have been seriously strained with the need for help much greater than the offer of help. I was asked by Dr. Hunder to help look after patients in need of rehabilitation but in particular children with cerebral palsy. It was an eye opening experience to see how the health service works in another country and certainly made me grateful for the health service we have here. There is so much work to do there with very limited resources and manpower but I am proud to have helped in some small way. It was very quickly evident that my initial brief to provide massage skills towards a professional qualification was not the best use of my time and so I redesigned the training to give the staff techniques they could use immediately to help their patients on a daily basis.

Having returned to my native north east in 2000 an opportunity came up to set up my own massage clinic and so the Therapeutic Massage Clinic was born. The focus of the clinic is to provide relief for those with deep muscle tension and stress related conditions in sporting and non sporting activity.
In 2006 I was invited to join the practice of Ponteland Medical Group as a private clinic in Darras Hall. Since then I have established clinics in The Osborne Clinic, Jesmond and at the Therapy Centre in Hexham. My work has developed over the years and I have offered massage therapies for:
*Osteoarthritis *Rhuematoid Arthritis *Multiple Sclerosis *Parkinson’s Disease *pre and post surgery *sports injuries *Sports performance *gardening pain *muscular tension *anxiety and stress *back pain

Having been a Trainer in Industry since 1997 I returned to Northumbria University to study the Certificate in Education to teach therapies and began work at Derwentside College where I taught Anatomy & Physiology as well as massage therapies. I worked with Consett Rugby Club then went on to Gateshead College Academy at Gateshead International Stadium. I also began to teach the ITEC Level 3 Sports Massage through the Therapeutic Massage School and at Hollytree, a private school in Darlington. My clients for training have included Sunderland College, Sunderland University, St Oswald’s Hospice, Ohashiatsu London, Aston Hotels and York School of Complementary Therapy.

In 1999 I took a short sabbatical to work as the manager of the Face Exchange, Perfumery and Beauty Clinic in Weybridge, Surrey. It was the perfect opportunity to indulge one of my passions - fragrance. Having studied Aromatherapy and visited the Grasse region of France touring the lavender fields and perfume factories I developed a love of fragrance and the process of perfume making. During this time I trained with Chanel, Christian Dior, Clarins and Guinot as well as smaller independent fragrance houses. I was also afforded the luxury of time for more study and was able to upgrade my Aromatherapy qualification and study towards a Sports Massage Diploma.

After a short spell working self-employed offering beauty therapy treatments within an established hair salon I became Spa Manager at Slaley Hall Golf Resort and Spa where I remained for 4 years. I gained so much experience in this role and was regularly working with sports people which fuelled my enthusiasm towards a change in direction. I began training in sports and remedial massage and began a new journey away from beauty to more complementary therapies. During my time there I was privileged to work with the Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour on three occasions organising and delivering pre and post massage alongside injury assessment and treatment. I also undertook the responsibility for training the Spa staff and occasion other hotel staff.

After retraining in Beauty Therapy in 1993 I began work at the world renowned Ragdale Hall Health Hydro in Leicestershire. This beautiful health resort in the Leicestershire countryside was the best beginning I could have hoped for – 11 hour non-stop shifts! A baptism of fire that set me up for the challenges and work ahead proved the perfect introduction to the life of a therapist.

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Helen Richardson