Experimental Relief

Aches, pains drive patients to massage therapists.

While many people associate the phrase "medical treatment" with drugs and hospitals, a growing number of Americans are seeking aid in the more "experimental" methods of massage therapy.

According to results from a survey published on the American Massage Therapists Association Web site, 17 percent of American adults had a massage in the past year, which is double the percentage in 1997.

"The first thing that brings people to a massage therapist is when they have persistent, nagging aches," said therapist Daniel Coy, who practices in Indianapolis. "If you go to a good therapist the effects are immediate."

Some patients are referred to massage therapists by their physicians. It is also common for accident or trauma victims to be sent to therapists as part of their recovery.

Massage therapists typically practice as part of a clinic, in their homes, in their clients' homes, health clubs or hospitals. Many accept patients in a variety of environments for their clients' convenience.

Common massage techniques include the Swedish massage, which involves light pressure on the body's soft tissues and moves blood toward the heart, and therapeutic massage, which requires deeper work into the muscles.

Another method is hot rock therapy, where the therapist heats stones of specific sizes and weights to 120 degrees and places them on the skin of the patient. The heat, while not intense enough to cause burns, draws blood near the rocks and allows the therapist to work deeper into the tissue.

Soma Therapeutics, located on Wheeling Avenue, offers Swedish, therapeutic and full body massage as well as more specialized work that depends on the location of the patient's ailment. The clinic takes patients by appointment.

A massage therapy session generally costs around $50, depending on the therapist and the nature of the work, according to Coy.

Indiana doesn't require massage therapists to be certified in their field, but credentials are one way to ensure that the therapist is knowledgeable and experienced, said Coy, who is a graduate of the Alexandria School of Scientific Therapy and holds a membership in the AMTA.

Certification is available from organizations such as AMTA, who only accepts candidates with at least 500 hours of training from an accredited school, and the Certified Massage and Body Workers Association.

There are other, more physical traits to be considered as well when choosing a therapists.

"If you've got somebody working on your body and they've got cold hands," said Coy, "frankly, to me, that makes me uncomfortable."

As massage therapy has become more accepted in the mainstream, less people have misconceptions about the meaning of someone touching their bare skin.

"There was, for the longest time, people (associating) getting a massage with sexual connotations," said Coy.

The only problems he sees are "from people who read a lot more into it."