MARQUETTE - Massage has been a form of therapy for thousands of years.
It is the act of applying pressure to the superficial muscles and connective tissue of the body in order to relieve pain, ease tension and promote relaxation. Despite its long history, massage only came to prominence in the United States in the 19th century.
There are a variety of different types of massage with different focuses on the body.
Intentional Healing masseuse Rebecca Akers gives Cassandra Saari a theraputic massage. There are a variety of different types of massage with different focuses on the body. For example, shown here is champissage, a massage technique focusing on the head, neck and face. (Journal photos by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)
Bruce Kee, a certified massage therapist with Essential Kneads in Marquette, said people come in with a variety of muscle aches. He said a lot of people seem to carry their stress in their neck and shoulders.
"I think it has a lot to do with breath and the way people carry themselves," Kee said. "A lot of people, if they feel stress in their lives, they kind of do that shallow breathing. They don't take those deep breaths. And when you breathe shallow you can kind of tell what your body does, it kind of wants to just all bring everything up, even your breath comes up more into your upper chest area."
Kee said most people come in for hourlong sessions. Some people, with specific pains and aches to work out, only come in for half an hour. In addition, some people looking for a full massage come in for an 90-minute session.
"Massage therapy works with the central nervous system, too, which creates a calmness in a person, a relaxation state," Kee said.
Massage is not just for people with stress or injury, he said, adding it's preventative health care.
"I think a lot of people could benefit from massage if they had regular work because it has a tendency to keep the body from getting stress, and I think everybody knows that stress has a lot to do with disease and sickness," he said.
Rebecca Akers, a certified massage therapist at Intentional Healing in Marquette, said there are a variety of people that come in for massage, from athletes to desk job workers and from young to old. She said some people may avoid getting a massage because they are uncomfortable with their body or may not know what happens during a massage.
"We always tell them that we see more at the beach then we see on the massage table," Akers said, adding that all parts of the person's body are usually covered except the area the masseuse is working on.
Akers said when she got her first massage she was uncomfortable.
"I wasn't athletic at that time so I felt as though they would see me as being not up to par. So most people have that same concern," she said.
She said setting the tone before the massage is essential to erasing any reservations people may have.
People do not need a doctor's recommendation to get massage therapy. In Michigan, massage therapists do not have to be certified to practice though that's likely to change in the next few years. Kee and Akers said laws are being worked on that would require massage therapists to be certified.
Kee said it's best to ask a massage therapist if they're certified.
"Look for or ask about what schooling they've had, how long they've been doing massage. Are there any other areas beside massage therapy that a person has been trained in? Usually a good therapist has several different things they've worked on," he said.
Christopher Diem can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.