The benefits of massage therapy
Swedish and therapeutic, pre- and post-natal, cranial-sacral and myofascial release: the world of massage therapy is as broad and diverse as the individuals it serves. Jackie Rutledge, who instructs masseurs-in-training at Lackawanna College’s Lake Region Center in Hawley, can attest to the complexity. “The word ‘massage,’ and the umbrella which it covers, is enormous—and I had no idea. When I went to massage therapy, I just thought you were going to go in and learn how to rub somebody.” But as she soon learned, education and certification for masseurs requires knowledge from a number of different medical practices and disciplines—resulting in just as many practitioners and specialists.
Rutledge mentions that her approach to massage therapy concentrates on relief for specific complaints as well as general maintenance: “It’s a little bit of both. Everybody who comes into my office, I want them leaving feeling better.” In treating clients for a number of maladies—including the problems related to fibromyalgia, pregnancy and extended time spent sitting at the computer—her primary areas of focus are the neck, lower back and between the scapulas, because “that’s where most people carry their stress.” Within treatment, some of the benefits of massage therapy include stress relief, the reduction or elimination of pain, improved joint mobility, range of motion and circulation—as well as lymphatic drainage: “Any time you’re doing massage, you’re moving lymph, and that helps with muscle tension.”
However, massage therapy does not and cannot offer these benefits as a quick-fix solution. Rutledge emphasizes massage therapy as a process—and not always a comfortable one. “I have a few people, when they come in—they don’t want to feel [any] pain. They want what I call a ‘bluff and fluff’ massage. They don’t want to feel anything, they just want to lie there, and they want to listen to the music, they want to enjoy their time, and they just want a nice, relaxing massage… My honest opinion is if I get a massage, and I don’t feel some discomfort, I don’t think I got a good massage.”
Although massage therapists cannot offer diagnoses or specifically prescribe a course of action for their clients to take, they can recommend visits to other medical professionals and suggest exercises and activities to aid in the process. “A good one for people with sciatic issues is putting a leg up and leaning forward. I can show them that; I can’t tell them to do it… Can I help people feel better? Yes. Are they going to go back out and do the same thing and injure it again? Yes.”
Searching for the right massage therapist is a journey that relies entirely on the concerns of the individual. Rutledge suggests making sure that the therapist is licensed and insured, along with checking the cleanliness of their workspace, and their willingness to listen and adjust their approach to suit the client’s needs. “Are they able to adapt to what you need? If you need something a little different, can they help you?” If not, there are certainly plenty of practitioners out there who can help you.
For more information about Lake Region Center’s massage therapy programs and enrollment as a student, call 570/226-4625 ext. 2605, or visit www.lackawanna.edu/continuing-education/massage-therapist.