Caress Me Down: Massage therapy calms stressed-out SU students

From The Daily Orange (college publisher)

By Erin Hendricks

Courtney Jones could use a massage.

“I was just sick all last week,” said Jones, a sophomore public relations major. “I’ve personally never been this stressed in my life. Things run through my head at night and I can’t sleep.” Just ten minutes later, after waiting in the long line for a five-minute massage at Archbold Gymnasium’s Late Night at the Gym, Jones had a different outlook.

“I want to go to sleep right now,” Jones said. “I woke up with a sore neck this morning, but since (the masseuse) worked my pressure points it doesn’t even hurt to bend it.” Jones noticed firsthand the positive effects of massage – and for stressed, exhausted and sleep-deprived students, the medical benefits of the physical process may be far greater than they imagined.

“Few people realize that stress takes up residence in the body,” said Ed Griffin-Nolan, a licensed massage therapist and the founder of Art of Massage. “What we do is help people release stress and empower the body over the mind.”

According to the Touch Research Institute, a study conducted out of the Medical School of Miami listed a plethora of health benefits stemming from massage therapy, from enhanced alertness to a better immune system. Most of these positive effects, the study showed, are mediated by a decrease of stress hormones.

Nolan and the three other Art of Massage employees use methods such as “petrosage,” a ringing technique used to reduce muscle tension caused by excess lactic acid in overworked muscles. The pectoral region, Nolan says, is the most commonly overworked area because it is used for study positions. When these muscles are overextended, the shoulders and neck drop forward, causing headaches and lower back pain.

“Our bodies are the same bodies we had when we were hunters and gatherers,” Nolan said. “We are not built to sit all day. Since evolution is slow, massage is the next best thing.”

In addition to a rigorous work schedule, Nolan also cites the lack of high-quality mattresses in the residence halls as a cause for lower back problems.

“I had been sleeping on my back wrong, so my back had been hurting a little on the right side,” said Elizabeth Lynch, a sophomore biology major who attended the session at Archbold. “Before the session began he asked me if I was sore anywhere, so I told him and he focused on that side.”

Students don’t have to go far to find the stress-relieving practice. The Art of Massage offers its free five-minute massages at the gym about twice a month – with the chair massages beginning at about 11:30 p.m.

The quick massage erased Kerry Lamond’s neck and shoulder pain, said Lamond, a sophomore public relations major.

“My only complaint was that it was too short,” she said.

For much longer massages, in which massage artists can work more muscles and release more stress, The Art of Massage’s main location is on Marshall Street. But its prices, $31.50 for 30 minutes and $54 for 60 minutes, make many students shy away from the clinic. Only about one-third of the regular clients at the Marshall location are students, despite its convenient location, well-rounded facilities and 10 percent student discount.

“I would like to go again,” Lamond said, “but I’m not sure I can afford the money or the time. I have to wait until after Christmas.”

In an effort to make massage therapy accessible to more students, many residence halls are sponsoring free chair massages in their buildings during exam week.

Chris Monteverde-Talarico, a freshman in The College of Arts and Sciences and the president of Haven Hall Residence Council, hopes to include massage therapy in a “stress buster” program that will ease the tension of fellow students.

“I want to relieve stress among students for a heightened atmosphere that will help them succeed during these final weeks of hell,” Talarico said. “Massage therapy would be very beneficial.”

Because some hall councils cannot afford professional massage therapists, the Residence Hall Association is planning a training session for hall council members who want to facilitate their own relaxation program.

The session will teach students how to perform head massages, use aromatherapy and build clay pots for relaxation, according to Jackie Stoller, an inclusive education major and the director of social programming of RHA.

“At the end of the semester, students carry a lot of stress,” she said. “So there needs to be alternate resources available to them, regardless of whether or not their residence hall can afford it.

Although many students consider the cost for clinical massage therapy pricy, others avoid putting a price on relaxation and professional treatment.

“Even though I’ve never gone there, I’d recommend the store to anyone,” Jones said. “I could tell he was more experienced because he was slow and gentle. It was amazing.”

© Copyright 2008 The Daily Orange