Healing Effects Of Ancient Therapy

Writer discovers why research touts pain relief benefits of massage


Massage therapist Tina Shepherd greets client Jonoanie King to her peaceful studio.

Massage therapist Tina Shepherd greets client Jonoanie King to her peaceful studio. Photo by Michele Nelson. |

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When Tina Shepherd called to tell me about National Massage Therapy Week, I knew I had to celebrate.

“Can I schedule an appointment with you?” I quickly asked.

“Sure!” came her cheerful reply.

I couldn’t imagine a better way to commemorate the week and the ancient practice of massage than receiving a treatment.

Just a couple of days later, I found myself driving down a dusty, country road to find Shepherd’s studio near Round Valley.

Shepherd has been drawn to massage throughout her life, but did not take up the practice until a few years ago. Now she loves what she does — and for good reason.

The history of massage dates back to Egyptian and Chinese cultures. Originally, the practice was created to relieve pain, help stress relief and induce sleep.

Over time, people began to consider massage more as a luxury rather than a healing practice. Therapists, such as Shepherd, and organizations, such as the American Massage Therapy Association, hope to change that perspective.

Already, Shepherd has helped restore a quality of life to some of her clients.

“I had a gentleman come to me that could not raise his arm more than shoulder height,” said Shepherd.

She worked with him on a regular basis for a few months. After the weeks of therapy, he found he could return to simple tasks such as fixing his collar or putting on a coat by himself.

Shepherd has a few stories like that.

After finding her quaint studio, I sat across from her at her intake desk. Most massage practitioners ask only a few cursory questions to make sure they do not affect an old injury or to find out what areas on the body need work. But Shepherd had me fill out a form with questions about heart disease risk factors, lymphatic issues, whether I’d hydrated enough or if I had ever gotten sick after having someone massage my stomach.

“Sometimes I work on the muscles deep in the abdomen,” she said.

She also wanted to know if I had any issues with arthritis, because studies show massage has benefits for sufferers of arthritis.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), recently published a study that concluded 60-minute sessions of Swedish massage once per week yielded pain relief for clients suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee. Massage can also reduce swelling for those suffering from inflamed joints from exercise, according to a study done by the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and McMaster University of Hamilton, Ontario.

Another a multi-doctor study confirmed that massage relieved the chronically debilitating symptoms of fibromyalgia, a disease that causes sufferers to have pain, stiff joints, fatigue, headache, and disturbed sleep, among other issues.

Shepherd and I talked about these studies as I finished up the paperwork, then she took me into her inner sanctum.

“Here is where I work,” she said pointing to a comfortable massage table, “I’ll leave you to drape your clothes on this daybed or the chair in the bathroom. Or I have a hook on the back of the door. I’ll knock before I come in, just slip under the sheets. I have a warmer on the table.”

I did as she told me to and sighed as I felt the perfect warmth of the bed seep through my skin.

As a writer, I find my neck and shoulders hold stress. I tend to focus deeply on my work and let hours slip by before I tear my eyes away from the screen to stand up and take a break. I’ve noticed my joints stiffening up from my neck to my hips. I’ve known I’ve had to do something about my stiff joints for a while. Shepherd’s call actually came at just the right time.

As soon as I lay still in her darkened studio with soft music in the background, she knocked on the door and quietly came in to begin the treatment.

“I’ll use a light lotion on you because I know you have to go back to work,” she said as she felt my neck and shoulders.

She has a good touch, not too deep, and not too light. She mixes different massage techniques to create a session designed to address the client’s individual needs.

“Ooo ... I can tell you have stiffness in the upper body,” she said as she worked on my head, neck and shoulders.

Soon I felt myself loosening up and relaxing so that even my words slurred.

As she worked, Shepherd told me about how I had to make sure I hydrated after the session to move toxins along that she released as she worked on my body.

Some believe damage happens only after physical activity, but simply sitting for long periods of time allows the muscles to seize up restricting the flow of blood and lymphatic fluid. These blockages build up toxins that massage releases restoring health and flexibility.

I spent an hour and a half on Shepherd’s table. She worked my arms, hands, stomach, feet, legs and back. She has little treats, such as warm stones and a body brush to mix into her massages that further restore health to the body.

After she finished, I felt unbelievably relaxed.

“An hour of massage rests your body as much as eight hours of sleep,” said Shepherd as she walked out of the room to allow me to slowly climb off the bed to return to my hectic, intense schedule.

Well, I thought to myself as I dressed, this National Massage Week certainly worked for me, I’ll be coming back.

As I walked out of the studio into her office, I pulled out my calendar.

“When can I set up the next appointment?” I asked.

To contact Tina Shepherd, please call (928 )978-4579.

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