Local massage therapist sets out to change the industry - Albuquerque Journal

Local massage therapist sets out to change the industry

Mendology founder and CEO Sarah Komala, a massage therapist, demonstrates how the “StandardTouch” device is used. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Rio Rancho massage therapist Sarah Komala’s Eureka! moment just may be about to change her industry.

Komala launched her new company, Mendology LLC, this year and expects to begin manufacturing two patent-pending devices in the next few months. One is intended to help train therapists on how to exert standard amounts of pressure during massage and physical therapy, and the other measures the body’s responses to therapy in real time.

The technology is aimed at standardizing industry training and practices based on objective, evidence-based measurements, Komala said.

“Training and educational programs talk about ‘deep tissue,’ ‘light pressure’ and ‘therapeutic treatment,’ but there’s no way to deliver that in an objective way, since all therapists bring subjective definitions of those terms to their work,” Komala said. “There is inconsistency in massage methods and protocols, so I came up with the idea for a training device that provides feedback on how much pressure and force is actually being applied, plus a biometric companion system to measure results. Together, they offer a lot of information to start to set objective standards.”

Central New Mexico Community College apparently is convinced she’s onto something. The college will partner with Mendology on a new training program for industry professionals.

Sarah Komala demonstrates how the StandardTouch massage training device works as pressure is applied. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Komala operated her own massage practice for the past decade. She also served as director of product development for MyoSens Health Solutions, an Albuquerque company focused on treating repetitive strain injuries.

She was writing a training curriculum to address repetitive stress injuries when she had her Eureka! moment.

“I realized the curriculum I was developing would be as subjective as every other program out there,” Komala said. “That’s when I decided to create a new system to train therapists with objective data using measurement tools.”

That bright idea blossomed this year into what Komala calls the “StandardTouch” training device and the “Massage Companion Biometric System.” She built both devices on her own using off-the-shelf components, although she has no engineering background nor makers’ experience.

“I educated myself and built the prototypes on my own at home,” Komala said. “I created the mold myself to do the molding and casting for the StandardTouch system.”

She also wrote the computer code and designed the circuitry for both the StandardTouch and the biometric measurement devices.

The StandardTouch is basically a rectangular box with a circular area on top where trainees apply pressure. Embedded electronics measure and show the level of force being applied.

“It allows objective standards to be set for any method or protocol,” Komala said. “Say a company sets two pounds as the protocol for all pressure. Trainees then apply pressure on the device over and over again until they’re deemed proficient in applying the two-pound standard touch.”

The companion biometric system is used like a finger-worn oxygen monitor, except it measures reactions in the nervous system and bodily fluids to show how a patient is responding to therapy, with the data appearing in real time on a monitor.

“It has a finger sleeve with embedded sensors that the person receiving treatment wears to collect data and visually display it,” Komala said. “If you’re working on relaxation treatment, it will measure a nervous system response, or a shift, to show if the person is becoming more relaxed. If you’re working on pain, or a soft-tissue issue, you expect to see a change in fluid exchange, such as in swollen joints, on the monitor.”

Komala is now talking with Albuquerque manufacturers to turn her prototypes into marketable products for sale in the U.S. and elsewhere.

This month, she inked a new partnership with CNM Ingenuity, which manages commercial activities for the college, to jointly establish the first precision-measurement, evidence-based training clinic to standardize pressure-and-force education for massage and physical therapists using her devices.

The new Center of Excellence for Manual Therapy will be up and operating by fall, said CNM Ingenuity Executive Director Kyle Lee. CNM will establish the facility, oversee curriculum and instruction, manage marketing, and award advanced certifications to training graduates.

“It will be a master training facility for massage and physical therapists that will also certify master trainers in a train-the-trainer approach who can then go to other communities and states to train people,” Lee said. “Komala has created disruptive devices for the industry that don’t exist today.”

Trainings and seminars will be offered on site for the local community and online for students around New Mexico and in other states.

Lee called the new CNM-Mendology partnership a “win-win-win” for industry, for consumers, and for both the college and Komala’s company.

“It could set the stage for a standard of excellence in this field,” Lee said. “It could move massage further into pain management by delivering a higher degree of skills for therapists.”

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