With fluid movement and strong fingers, Carolan McFarland has rubbed a lot of sore muscles.
“I absolutely love what I do,” she said. “I have a real passion for this.”
The massage therapist is a firm believer in the connection between the mind, body, and spirit.
“The body responds to what we’re going through emotionally and spiritually,” McFarland said. “I try to figure out why physical things are happening.”
Manipulating muscle tissue in a client’s back, neck, arms, and legs, McFarland finds it rewarding to help people feel better.
“I love the peacefulness of it,” she said. She also loves knowing she is bringing relief to clients.
During massage sessions at St. Luke Integrated Health Services, McFarland becomes part of a person’s energy.
“When they feel better, I feel better,” she said.
McFarland taught massage therapy at Butler Community College in Marion but has since retired.
She is particularly proud of the fact that seven of the 12 employees she has had at St. Luke Integrated Health Services were BCC students.
“I’m pleased that they have this business to help them get started,” she said.
So, what brought McFarland and massage therapy to Marion?
Growing up in Lincolnville — the physical education teacher turned massage therapist returned to her home area 15 years ago, moving to Marion to be near her family.
McFarland had been a P.E. teacher for 23 years and in Kansas City during the last few years of her tenure.
“I was getting burned out,” she said.
However, McFarland did not want to lose the contact she had with athletics and sports.
“It was one of those ‘aha’ moments,” she said.
The last two years of her teaching career, McFarland took massage training classes.
“The day after I quit teaching school I opened a massage business,” she said. “I was lead to do this.”
McFarland enjoyed working closely with athletes and medical professionals.
She operated her massage therapy business in Kansas City for five years but she wanted to return to her roots.
In 1995, she moved to Marion.
“I talked with (St. Luke Hospital Administrator) Craig Hanson about opening a business through the hospital,” McFarland said.
Hanson was open to the possibility and with assistance from Peggy Blackman, a hospital board member at the time, space was made available in the physicians’ clinic.
“Everything just fell in place,” she said.
McFarland began her practice and added a second massage therapist. Outgrowing the clinic space, the business moved to the clinic basement. McFarland had three therapists.
A former dentist office at 921 E. Main St., Marion, was for sale. St. Luke Hospital Foundation purchased the building and rented it to McFarland.
McFarland believes everything worked out for a reason.
She and two other therapists provide 2,000 massages per year to clients 4 years old through 90.
In fact, business continues to be so lucrative that she is seeking a fourth therapist.
“I’ve only had one unhappy customer in the 20 years I’ve been doing it,” McFarland said with a smile. “Pretty good odds.”
After 20 years of repetitive motion, McFarland is free of side effects such as arthritis or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
“I stress self-care,” she said. “Body mechanics are important.”
The massage therapists also practice what they promote by providing therapeutic massages to one another.
McFarland also lives a healthy lifestyle — she pays attention to nutrition and eats right.
Approaching retirement age, McFarland has already slowed down; she is not working every day of every week. She does not plan to retire — not completely anyway.
McFarland plans to continue providing treatment to clients as long as possible.
“I work for four weeks and then take a week off,” she said. “I couldn’t quit cold turkey.”