Peter Cao, a Champion for Equity and Understanding: Massage is for EveryBody
By Lisa Bakewell
Peter Cao was one of the winners of ABMP’s Massage is for EveryBody 2021 contest, and we wanted to share more of his story, which exemplifies the inclusive values of this campaign. Please join us in celebrating Peter!
Frustration with clinicians and a serendipitous appointment with a chiropractor inspired Peter Cao, of Lakewood, Colorado, to become a massage therapist. “I was in pretty bad shape a few years ago with a back injury,” he shares, “[and] most clinicians either put me in worse shape or could not offer me any information about my issue—besides going under a knife or prescriptions.” Massage was one of the few treatments that gave Cao relief, but it wasn’t until after a chiropractic appointment (ironically) that he decided a practice in massage therapy was in his future. It was this meeting with the chiropractor that had the most impact on Cao, inspiring him to join the massage and bodywork profession and “make a difference in how we approach helping each other.”
According to Cao, his chiropractor took great care conducting a detailed assessment to identify his pain triggers and mechanisms, which really made an impression. “[He] spent 4–5 hours with me, and no spinal manipulations were made,” he says. It was through this interaction with his chiropractor that Cao learned proper assessment and evaluation are keys to understanding the mechanism for people’s pain, which “can be in the form of orthopedic tests, correlating patient history to current problems, and obtaining a clear picture of the patient’s day-to-day life—and what factors contribute to their ailment.”
While attending massage school, Cao began volunteering at Inner City Health (ICH), in Denver, Colorado, where health equity for underserved and vulnerable populations is a primary focus. ICH works primarily with the underserved populations—“the uninsured, those with insufficient health insurance, veterans, and Medicaid/Medicare individuals or families,” Cao says. “In fact, more than half of the patients who walk through the doors are uninsured.”
Cao feels that financial and socioeconomic status play critical roles in health-care inequity and should never be determining factors to receiving massage therapy. And he is thrilled that the ability to pay for treatment is not a necessity to receive quality care at ICH. “More than 50 percent of patients (adults and children) are Hispanic. Caucasians and African Americans make up about 30 percent in a near equal split. For all of those who have fallen through the cracks in the health-care system, they are most welcome at ICH.” Cao views working with underserved populations a privilege. “I thoroughly enjoy and am passionate about helping anyone regardless of income level.”
Cao plans to continue his education with the Barral Institute and other similar institutions. “Their courses allow me to become the best version of my clinical self and further help all the clients and patients I see,” he says. “I will always find different places to volunteer my time and energy. The journey of mastering one’s craft is long, arduous, and rewarding.”