A Healing Touch—Clients Turn to Massage for Relief

April 2012 View more

NMAG0412_HealthMost people equate the word “massage” with relaxation. Yet this ancient art which has traditionally been considered the height of luxury, is continuing to gain popularity for its effect on overall wellness.

Hands-On Prescription

“Massage therapy” is the scientific, manual application of pressure on the soft tissues of the body by a trained professional. The American Massage Therapy Association claims massages not only reduce stress but treat chronic and post-operative pain, boost the body’s immune system, decrease symptoms of ailments like carpal tunnel and the frequency of migraines, lower blood pressure and ease chemical withdrawal symptoms. The latest research study from Science Translational Medicine broke in February, announcing that post-workout massages can reduce inflammation and muscle recovery time.

“I’ve seen clients reduce their pain medication and lower their blood pressure with massage,” explains Laura Erickson, licensed massage therapist and regional manager of Massage Envy. “Massage increases blood flow to certain areas to promote healing. Also, if done regularly, it retrains the body’s muscle memory to prevent muscles from returning to their tight, tense state.”

An AMTA survey reported that 54 percent of massage clients use massage for pain relief and massage therapists in Naperville say they are beginning to receive more referrals from chiropractors and physicians. A typical massage runs $50 to $100 for a one-hour session depending upon the establishment, but some insurance companies are beginning to cover services.

Massage 101

If you’re new to a massage establishment you will usually complete an “intake” form, to disclose any existing medical conditions and inform your therapist of your massage preferences. Today’s licensed massage therapists are trained to create a personal, individualized experience. Once the session begins it’s important to communicate what feels good and where you need the most work.

The most popular massage is the deep tissue, which features a heavier stroke, targeted at relieving stress or discomfort in specific areas. “It penetrates into the deepest layers of the muscle and is recommended for people with ongoing issues,” says Erickson. The ever-popular “Swedish massage” features lighter pressure and is aimed at overall relaxation. “Clients just melt into the table,” according to Heather Dugena, manager of LaVida Massage. “Afterwards, clients have ‘massage brain.’ They’re so relaxed they don’t know what they’re doing,” she laughs.

For a different sensation, try the “Hot stone” massage which features naturally formed, heated lava rocks that produce a different sensation with pressure and gliding. “Some people even like to use hot and cold in the same session,” says Dugena. At Timeless Spa and Salt Cave you can receive a hot lava shell or bamboo zen stick massage, which features a rolling motion. The shells and zen sticks each house a self-heating packet. “Since they do not require re-heating during the session, the client receives more hands on-time from the therapist,” says Jodi Burke, owner of Timeless.

You can also have a couple’s massage with your better half, given side-by-side in the same private room, or a prenatal massage, which is perfect for expectant moms with low back pain and tight hamstrings, says Dugena. If you’re athletic, Massage Envy also features a sports massage. “Athletes come in pre-event to increase their range of motion and post-event to help their muscles recover,” says Erickson. “Chair” massages are great for corporate events or employee incentives.

Brian Penn, owner of Massage Envy, believes massage will one day be an accepted, prescribed treatment within traditional medicine. “Clients have told us without our services they would not be able to live a pain-free life,” he says, “and we can provide an affordable way to do that.”