has always endured the
dubious reputation of being a luxury reserved solely
for the rich and those seeking a risqué rendezvous
at the hands of a relaxing stranger.
But now, more than ever, the massage
is kneading its way into the mainstream with
everyday people getting rubdowns in record numbers.
Adding credence to this ritual of touch are the
scores of health practitioners who are creating an
unprecedented level of legitimacy in the medical
Some health experts argue that the rhythmic touch
of massage--at the hands of a
professional masseuse or masseur--has physical and
mental benefits, making it the cornerstone of
rehabilitative medicine and a major selling point
behind the multimillion-dollar holistic health
According to the American
Massage Therapy Association,
therapeutic massage has been found
to lessen the symptoms of insomnia, arthritis,
asthma, chronic and acute pain, sports injuries and
stress. And a recent American Hospital Association
survey found that among hospitals that utilize
complementary alternative therapy, a whopping 82
percent surveyed use massage
therapy for pain management and relief.
The word must be getting out in the 'hood, too,
as national statistics indicate that nearly 20
percent of all adults have had a massage
within the last year, and about one-third of them
CNN Headline News health anchor Kat Carney began
getting professional massages about
two years ago, and today she swears by her
bi-monthly treatments. "I used to be really tense,
especially from working in the news industry,"
Carney says. "Sometimes, I didn't realize it when
the tension was there, especially around my neck and
On a whim, Carney received the Thai
massage because she heard that it relieved
stress. Today she loves the Thai massage
technique so much that she vacationed in Thailand
to, in her words, "experience the most authentic
version available ... all day, every day. They say
that the Thai massage is the lazy
man's yoga. You lie on the floor mat and the
masseuse is sometimes standing on you, or walking on
you. He is pulling you into different positions and
you just relax into it," she says. "I received 4-5
hours of massage every day for 12
days. I've never been so relaxed. All my stress is
Massage moves: Rejuvenate,
If you're a novice, you may not want to begin
with the strenuous Thai massage
treatment, advises licensed, nationally certified
therapist Amber Blevins, assistant spa manager of
the Relache Spa at the Gaylord Texan Resort and
Convention Center in Dallas.
"The Swedish massage, a basic,
all-over massage, is great for
first-time clients," Blevins says. "Time Swedish
technique is more therapeutic, and it allows you to
get comfortable with massaging. This technique
improves your circulation--which is the No. 1
benefit of massage--and also
assists with stress, sleeplessness or headaches."
Other popular massage techniques
include the therapeutic deep-tissue massage
that penetrates the deeper layers of muscle to
relieve past injuries or chronic pain; the healing
stone massage, which incorporates
smooth, warm river stones to caress the body in
sequence with your masseuse's moves; and the Shiatsu
massage, a fully-clothed
massage that utilizes the Japanese
pressure-point technique to reduce tension.
Stop making excuses--go pamper yourself!
So what's holding you back from the throes of
Here are a few popular excuses:
NO MONEY. You don't have to wait until payday to
get a massage--many salons offer
affordable massage treatments to
suit your taste and budget.
In Chicago, the Honey Child Salon and Spa offers
the "Twenty Minute Table Tune-Up" a 20-minute
relaxing massage (fully clad) for
just $25. If you're going to need a little more than
that, you can also opt for the $150 "Tandem"
massage treatment, where two therapists
rejuvenate your body simultaneously.
NO TIME. Time is money. And if you have even less
time than you do money, you can still get access to
a set of soothing hands.
In California, the Health Spa Napa Valley offers
several "compressed" spa packages for clients on the
go, such as the 25-minute "De-Stress
Massage" that concentrates on
tension-retaining areas such as the neck. Many spas
all across the country recognize that you shouldn't
have to spend hours at a time to get a little
relaxation unless you absolutely want to, and offer
similar spa indulges that you can experience during
your lunch hour.
NO BABY-SITTER. Do you need a baby-sitter? Okay,
many salons offer big, playful romper rooms for your
children--complete with qualified attendants--so
that busy morns and doting dads can go and relax in
NO SPOUSE-SITTER. Need a baby-sitter for your
grouchy spouse? Okay, many newer spas offer spa
treatment rooms exclusively for couples so that the
two of you can unwind and relax together.
GUILTY CONSCIENCE. Every working Sister may feel
a pang of guilt whenever she considers doing
something for herself. Blevins says that you need to
get over it. "It's normal to feel guilty because
motherhood is a full-time job," she says. "But ...
the more you receive, the more you'll have to give
to others. You can't take yourself out of the
And Bettye Odom, owner of Bettye O. Day Spa in
Chicago, says it's essential to take that "me" time
so that you can rejuvenate and be ready to take on
life's next challenge or even enjoy life's next
pleasure. "Especially with African-Americans,
there's always someone else who we're concerned
about. You have to learn to be a bit selfish--treat
yourself well, so you can be good to somebody else,"
says Odom, who opened her South Side spa in 1978.
"You should try to do it every day if you can afford
it, every week if you think you can afford it, but
at least every couple of weeks."
STRESSED ABOUT GETTING UNDRESSED? You don't have
to take your clothes off to enjoy a good
massage, says avid massage
recipient Kat Carney. "Call your spa ahead of time
and talk with your massage
therapist," she says. "Let him or her know your
concerns about getting undressed. Remember, you can
always wear your undergarments or even a bathing
suit and still receive an effective
Blevins agrees, adding that you can also choose
the person who will give you the massage.
"Have a one-on-one conversation with the therapist,
and tell him or her that you'd prefer to wear your
undergarments. And you can always request a male or
female. You should be totally relaxed about your
How to get the most from your spa experience
1 Make sure you are dealing with a certified,
licensed massage therapist
operating out of a clean, reputable salon.
2 Visit your doctor prior to scheduling a
massage to make certain that you do not
have any pre-existing health conditions that could
be aggravated. Also, give your massage
therapist accurate information about any injuries or
health concerns that may be worsened by stretching
or rigorous, rhythmic touching.
3 Do not eat prior to your session.
4 Communicate with your therapist before (i.e.,
letting him/ her know your needs), during (i.e.,
letting him/her know if you feel any discomfort or
if the room isn't suitable to your taste) and after
your massage. Let your therapist
know immediately if you feel there is inappropriate
action going on.
5 Arrive at least 30 minutes before your
appointment so that you can unwind; if you're
running late or arrive in a rushed state of mind, it
will be harder for you to relax during your
6 Relax your body. Take a deep breath and let
your masseuse/masseur do the job. Tightening your
muscles during a massage is
7 Drink hydrating fluids immediately after your
massage, Also, unwind in a quiet
room or rest area to fully absorb the benefits of
COPYRIGHT 2004 Johnson Publishing Co.