Opening your personal space: The health benefits of massage therapy

The holidays can be a stressful time of the year as college students laboriously attack final exams on few hours of sleep; distant relatives book cross-country flights; shipping industries and shopping centers are constantly abuzz —and the list is ongoing. So what can ease—if not eliminate—this added stress for you, your family and friends this season? Some look to massages and argue more should do the same.

This week, we highlight some of the many health benefits of massage therapy. I’ve learned (more than) a few things in this search, and I hope you will too!

Healing human touch

From the beginning of life, human touch is vital, Jerry Stutz said. A calming veteran and practicing massage artist who is the type of man to bid adieux with “Be well,” Stutz runs the Harris Russo Salon and Spa of the Rochester Athletic Club (RAC).

Bodywork has long since been Stutz’s passion and will continue to be, as far as he’s concerned.

At the age of 65, Stutz has more than 20 years of experience with massage therapy—even working with Cirque du Soleil at one point—and has learned what makes—or breaks—a massage experience.

Finding a standard

The practitioner needs to be an artist, Stutz says, asserting that the Michigan massage industry is working to achieve a standard of quality or, as he prefers, a standard of excellence.

“Everyone’s work is different,” he said, “But if the standard is good, you can get excellent bodywork.” (Be sure to read on for some of Stutz’s tips for seeking a reputable massage therapist further in the article.)

What sets a good standard?

Externally, Stutz shares that “Good training on the outside, good school and licensing,” helps set a standard of quality. When customers look to an organization for their service, the customer knows they will receive the good standard or above. Internally set standards depend upon the business model but experience and practice help massage artists attain such status.

“Proper bodywork—with focus, with attention and with art and style—is very important,” he said.

Since massage practices have mushroomed, as Stutz describes it, in the Rochester area, he hopes within the next year, Michigan will establish a true standard of practice, if not raise the bar.

Learning some of the many benefits of bodywork and massage therapy

From Shiatsu and Swedish massage to sports, pregnancy—even infant massage—and more, the health benefits can be life changing.

Two additional certified massage therapists—Jill Massura of Balanced Health Massage and Bodywork and Kathy Mossoian of Massage and Integrative Therapies of Rochester—also weigh-in  on some of the benefits of the practice.

Good riddance, pain!

“One of the wonderful benefits of massage is there is a healing touch,” Stutz said. “We know from studies that infants—babies when they’re born—if they’re not held, will die.”

“If there isn’t enough touch in their life, there is impairment throughout life,” he said. “Some of which can be rebuilt, but for a lot of folks, it’s a real struggle if they don’t have that loving touch in their life early.”

“That’s the kind of voodoo side of massage,” Stutz said, “But it’s real.”

Massura also agrees. “You’re really making that whole mind-body-spirit connection that a lot of people talk about,” she said.

Providing space

When massage therapists work with someone’s body externally, they are also working internally, Massura said.

“We’re also affecting the nervous system.”

Massura enjoys what she calls creating more space for her patients, on the inside.

“When we feel space, it begins to filter out into our lives,” she said, “We feel good, and we feel like we have room to move and can do that without inhibition without pain that we can live happier lives. I want people to feel good so they can be happy and productive and live their best life.”

It doesn’t take much, just an hour visit will do the trick, she said.

“It’s amazing how just an hour can really change the space in people’s bodies. You think it couldn’t be possible—it’s too short of a time—but it can and it does.”

Some of the more commonly attributed benefits of regular proper massage include reduced pain and anxiety, improved blood pressure and rate of respiration.

But did you know that most athletes regularly schedule massage appointments as part of their regimen? Massage helps with flexibility, which allows training athletes to grow stronger, Stutz said.

And those that proactively incorporate massage in their regimen achieve wellness.

Massura advises everyone to add bodywork modalities to the schedule.

“Clients who seek (massage) out as part of their wellness regimen, are considering wellness instead of ‘I’m going to wait until I feel bad’ — That’s a longer cycle of undoing than the person who stays constant,” she said.

Taking precautions

While the benefits are vast and continuously developing, massage therapists and massage-seekers alike must take some precautions.

For instance, massage therapists must know if a client has a blood clot or is prone to blood clots because withholding such information could quickly become dangerous, Mossoian said.

Mossoian also shares that chemotherapy patients should not have bodywork done until a couple days after their last treatment but massage is beneficial to cancer-fighters, contrary to former beliefs.

“Now they realize that it’s no different from walking and moving around to increase circulation,” she said, “So it can increase the effects—good and bad—of chemotherapy so you don’t want to do (massage) right after a chemo session.”

Hydration

Before a massage, it is key to be well hydrated, Massura said.

“Just the act of moving tissue around, moving the lymph in the body, increasing circulation—that can all be dehydrating to the body.

“So when we come in hydrated, we don’t drop down and have to replenish after,” she said.

Qualities to look for in your massage therapist

Massage therapy is all about the quality of life, Stutz said. In order to experience excellent bodywork, you must acquire a taste.

If you are new to massage therapy, he recommends trying as many different massage practices as possible to determine what works best for you.

A 5-year minimum

When seeking a massage therapist that meets the standard or rises above, Stutz strongly recommends finding a practitioner with at least five years of experience and ascertain the therapist’s credentials.

When his clients relocate and ask what to look for in a new massage therapist, “I say, make sure they’re a member of a professional organization such as the American Massage Therapeutic Association (AMTA) or the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP),” Stutz said.

Being part of the AMTA or ABMP ensures your safety, he said.

“Body therapy massage is extremely grateful for anyone who would use us and we treasure that,” he said. “Everyone is the most important person that we are working with—Every person, every time.”

To contact any of the three massage therapists mentioned in this article, please find their information below:

Jerry Stutz, owner and certified massage therapist of Rochester Athletic Club’s Harris Russo Salon and Spa

(248) 650-4434

For more information, please visit www.RochesterAthleticClub.net.

Jill Massura, owner and certified massage therapist of Balanced Health Massage and Bodywork

(248) 821-8522

Or find Balanced Health Massage and Bodywork on Facebook

Kathy Mossoian, owner and certified massage therapist of Massage and Integrative Therapies of Rochester

248-651-5536

Or visit www.MassageofRochester.com for more information.

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About Jen Bucciarelli

Veggie lover and aspiring word chef, reporter Jen Bucciarelli covers all things health and medicine for Rochester Media and The Community Edge. She is always on the hunt for local experts who can help improve the lives of our readers. Send her a note at JenBucciarelli@gmail.com.

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