Health and wellness

‘I see someone without pain and know I made a difference’ – massage therapist on why he has such a great job

Jack Morozov was born with a condition that left him nearly blind, and was bullied at school. Canadian doctors healed him, and he became a healer himself, learning massage therapy, which he practises on runners, dementia sufferers and others in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2018, 8:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2018, 8:01pm

Jack Morozov came to Hong Kong from Canada three years ago to work as a massage therapist, a career that is not well known in the city.

“Our clients are mainly expats. Most locals have no idea what massage therapy is, they confuse us with conventional masseurs,” Morozov says.

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Unlike sports massage, massage therapy also offers treatments for non-sports-related issues and for non-athletes: “We deal with problems like rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. We also have treatments for pregnant patients, and postnatal treatments,” he explains.

Morozov is now part of the team at Joint Dynamics. His work requires a genuine affinity for people. A regular client, popular ultra runner Samantha Chan, says: “He is kind and generous. You can feel that his motivation is fixing your problem, not making money. And he always smiles.”

Morozov’s own life, however, has not been all kindness and smiles.

He was born Evgeny Morozov, in Moscow, Russia, with an eye condition called chronic idiopathic uveitis – which causes extremely poor eyesight that can degenerate into total blindness.

As a child, he spent months on end in hospitals, alone, his eyesight fading as treatment after treatment failed. The pitiless Russian education bureaucracy eventually judged that the child was no longer fit for mainstream education and Evgeny was placed into an institution for children with learning and behavioural difficulties.

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There was little in the way of learning in his new school, but “a lot of bullying and violence”. Teachers treated the pupils with cold indifference at best. Evgeny, a gentle kid, incapable of aggression and by then practically blind, was defenceless, but he endured and managed to graduate.

Then his luck turned. Morozov’s father, who had emigrated to Canada, brought his son over. Russian Evgeny became naturalised Canadian Jack, and a series of modern operations restored his eyesight, undoing the damage done by previous botched treatments.

Morozov is deeply grateful to Canada, and not just for the surgery. In his adopted country he found a career where his natural empathy for people was an asset.

Why did you become a massage therapist?

My stepmother and brother are sport therapists, they have their own clinic in Vancouver.

I started working as a receptionist in the family clinic. I saw the difference in patients – how different they looked before and after the sessions. I went to study massage therapy, and I really liked it. It took me three years, 3,000 hours of study to qualify. Then I freelanced and also taught at the college I graduated from.

How did you come to Hong Kong?

My classmate grew up in Hong Kong and went back to live there. One day he wrote to me that they had a position. I packed up and left.

Almost everyone in Hong Kong does sports. I treated a lot of runners, then there are dragon boat paddlers, rugby players, cyclists, but many are people who work in an office
Jack Morozov

Describe massage therapy?

First, we go through an intense educational programme. We not only study anatomy and physiology, we also learn about clinical conditions. For example, we train to work with Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s and fibromyalgia. Our approach is factual and medical. In Canada, we are registered with the same body as medical practitioners.

How does massage therapy help with conditions like Alzheimer’s?

We cannot cure these conditions, of course. But we can help sufferers deal with their symptoms – alleviate the pain and improve the quality of life. For example, reducing tremors in Alzheimer’s patients.

Are your clients in Hong Kong mostly athletes?

A lot of them are because almost everyone in Hong Kong does sports. I treated a lot of runners, then there are dragon boat paddlers, rugby players, cyclists, but many are people who work in an office and suffer from lower back pain or neck pain.

We also do what is called maintenance – a person comes in without any symptoms, but we may find something that is likely to manifest itself in the future – like tension building up in certain muscles. We find it and release it.

You mentioned pregnant patients?

In Hong Kong, regular Chinese masseurs will not work with pregnant women. For us, pregnancy is just another state of the body.

A common problem that we treat is lower back tension, and shoulder tension because of breast tissue enlargement during pregnancy, and we also do treatment on the legs as the body weight increases.

Many refer to you as a considerate, gentle person. Is this why you chose your profession?

Yes. I like people a lot. You cannot do this job if you don’t like people.

I see someone leave in less pain or without pain after treatment and I know I have made a difference. This is the best part of the job.

It is funny, but not being needed is also great – seeing a patient return to normal life and not needing me any more.

What cases are you most proud of professionally?

Both are runners, actually.

This year I helped famous Lithuanian trail runner Gediminas Grinius at a big race in China that had invited me to work with elite athletes. Grinius was really worried that he would not be able to run at all, because he had crazy tightness in his calves. We got rid of it and he won the race, pain-free. We are still in touch.

Also, Samantha Chan, a Hong Kong ultra runner – she was invited to do a crazy 400km race in the Gobi Desert, but she got shin splints at the last moment and was about to pull out. We fixed it in five treatments and she finished third in that race.

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You say you find it satisfying when people do not need you any more. So, what advice can you give to people to prevent developing problems that may need massage treatment?

Most injuries I deal with come from lack of self-care. A little bit of stretching, warming up or foam rolling goes a long way. Five minutes of stretching, you will not feel like you are doing much, but it is an investment in the future. Also, for non-athletes, be active, whether it is just a little bit of running, swimming, or Pilates. It does not have to be intense, moderate exercise does you a lot of good.

Your life took you from Russia to Canada and now to Hong Kong. Do you feel happy here?

I really like Hong Kong, the close integration of nature and metropolis. You are in an ocean of people and then 20 minutes later you are hiking alone in the jungle.

Hong Kong has treated me very well. I met my girlfriend here, we have a cat called Hiro. I am happy here now.