Massage therapy a growing treatment


    By Nikki Purdy

    Kneading, rolling and squeezing sound like directions to making homemade bread, but they are actually different massage therapy techniques.

    The massage therapy industry has exploded over the past few years since it has become a more acceptable form of treatment. People of all ages have taken advantage of massage for medical reasons and have discovered it as a pathway to a promising professional career.

    The Utah College of Massage Therapy, one of the oldest massage schools and one of nine in the country that have dual accreditation, will graduate 650 students this year, said Bob Smith, director of the Salt Lake campus.

    The classes at the Lindon, Utah County, campus continue to fill up with people from high school graduates to grandparents, said Ruth Hiatt, director of the campus.

    Hiatt said they like having a variety of body types for the students to work with because the students will massage people of all sizes and ages in their careers.

    Although the cost of a massage therapy education is far from cheap, the students and teachers say that it is worth every penny.

    “The education is worth it even if I never practiced,” said Barry Birch, education coordinator at the Lindon campus.

    With tuition at around $10,000 a year, UCMT has a competitive program that teaches 19 different modalities or techniques as well as marketing, accounting and other business classes.

    Massage therapists can make up to $80,000 a year, depending on where they are employed, Smith said. The spa industry has been booming, and about 60 percent of their revenues stem from massage therapy.

    Spas have peppered the Las Vegas Strip in the new hotels, and many of them come to recruit students, Hiatt said.

    The job opportunities for massage therapists are unlimited. Besides being employed at spas, massage therapists can work with sports teams, children and in the medical field.

    Although some people may get into massage therapy because of the money, most of the students have a greater purpose.

    Hiatt went to the school in Salt Lake City when she was 40 after substituting at junior high schools, working for a professional marketing company and being a mom. She said she needed consistent employment and has been able to take care of her family on that income.

    After opening her own office in Orem and working for four years as an independent massage therapist, Hiatt took the position as director of the Lindon campus.

    Mary Reel, a massage therapist at the Four Seasons in Las Vegas, said she decided to go into massage therapy after receiving several massages for her sore feet and back.

    “I thought to myself, ‘It would be great to make someone feel that good,'” she said.

    Reel said that she had been teaching aerobics classes and thought massage therapy would be a complementary education for her career.

    Suzanne Rowley, 23, from Springville, Utah County, graduated from Southern Utah University in elementary education because her ultimate goal was to help people. She came back to Provo and enjoyed teaching elementary school, but the hours were overwhelming.

    “With elementary education, I’m only helping children,” Rowley said. “With massage, I can massage infants to people up to 100 years old. It doesn’t matter what the age.”

    Massage therapists find their profession rewarding for several reasons. Birch said that he likes that he can see the results.

    “I love seeing what I can do with massage and how it helps someone who has tried everything,” he said.

    Nancy Kruger, 39, from New York, said she initially got into massage therapy because she noticed the clientele possibilities and the good money.

    “I used to think it (massage) wasn’t that great, but I see that people can move better,” she said.

    Kendahl Florio, 20, a BYU junior from Fremont, Calif., majoring in modern dance, experienced extreme stress last semester, which weakened her immune system and led to her contracting mono. She said she would go to the massage school for massages twice a month.

    Florio said she was taking steps against stress, including yoga and meditation, and the massages definitely increased her health.

    There are more steps people need to take to feel better, Florio said. People want to feel better quick, so they go to the doctor and get medicine, but they need to take the time to meditate, she said.

    “It is as important as a medicinal-type approach. People cannot think of it as one or the other,” she said. “It’s a balance between the two.”

    Massage therapy has long been considered a luxury only the wealthy could enjoy, but massage has several physical, mental and emotional benefits.

    According to the American Massage Therapy Association Web site, massage therapy loosens and stretches muscles, improves blood flow and the movement of lymph throughout the body, and increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to cells and tissue.

    The Web site also said that massage reduces mental stress, creates a feeling of well being and reduces anxiety levels.

    People are starting to see the benefits, Hiatt said. They are healthier, happier and not missing work.

    Reel said that she has started to appreciate having massages as well.

    “The more you appreciate getting them, the better you are at giving them,” Reel said. “You have to know what feels good to be able to help others.”

    Florio said that she has researched and studied massage for two years and considers it an interesting form of alternative medicine since it has been around for so long.

    According to the AMTA, therapeutic massage methods date back 3,000 years to early Chinese folk medicine and ancient Ayurvedic medicine of India.

    Massage therapy not only helps the patients but the therapists as well.

    “It’s physical work, which I like, and it makes people feel good,” Reel said. “I go there to relax. When I go to work, it’s a slow pace.”

    Hiatt said massage is very soothing for the therapists if they are doing it right.

    The UCMT and other schools teach the students correct posture, form and stretching exercises to prevent injury. They educate the students about taking care of themselves, so they can take care of their clients.

    Reel said that even after taking the proper precautions, there is possible overuse syndrome, especially among beginning certified massage therapists.

    She said she had to cut back because she had tendinitis in her wrists.

    “I think every massage therapist after a while starts to feel something,” Reel said.

    The therapists have to take care of what they know, Hiatt said. Students leave the school with several tools.

    “The values are humongous. They are almost intangible,” she said.

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