July 2, 2008 12:00
Whether you’re in pain, experiencing too much stress or just want to do your body good, massage therapy may be the best — and least expensive — decision for your health. Picture yourself entering a candlelit room with soft background music, lying down on a heated pallet between crisp sheets, then having a trained therapist rub you softly, then firmly, easing your tired, sore muscles. After an hour, you leave, feeling both relaxed and refreshed, ready to face the world.

While many think of massage as a luxury, the number one motivation for people seeking these treatments is for therapeutic reasons. “Pain relief and stress reduction are the primary reasons people come for massage — 27 percent each,” says Phil Lank, owner of the Massage Envy franchise in Lafayette. “Relaxation is 25 percent, and injury is 11 percent.”

Massage offers a lot of benefits, from relieving physical conditions to alleviating stress. Additional perks include relaxation, pain management, detoxification, increased blood flow, improved circulation and muscle tone, skin resilience, better flexibility and range of motion, strengthening of the immune system, and enhanced post-operative rehabilitation. “Massage helps to maintain a healthy body,” confirms certified massage therapist Ashley Maak. “It helps you both physically and mentally. It can help improve recovery from injuries and boost the body’s immune system. And, it feels great.”

Types of massage vary from the relaxing Swedish massage to the therapeutic deep tissue massage. Neuromuscular massage treats trigger points and referred pain. Sports massage is used before a physical event to warm up the tissue, then cool the muscles down after the activity to prevent cramping. Hot stone massage combines a regular hand massage with stones that are heated to about 112 degrees in water, then placed on different “Chakra” points or energy centers in the spine located at major branchings of the nervous system, beginning at the base of the spinal column and moving upward to the top of the skull.  

To be licensed, therapists must complete an accredited massage program. Locally, Blue Cliff College offers an eight-month day course, or 12-month night course. Included in the program are courses on anatomy, Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, neuromuscular massage, sports massage and ethics. After completing the program, students must take a national certification test, which awards them a state and national license. “It’s a pretty strenuous program,” explains Dana Kullman, instructor at Blue Cliff College. “But, it’s very rewarding in the end.”

Lafayette offers a variety of massage options, from posh spas to simple studios. Just recently, new businesses that are making massage more affordable then ever have been entering the market.

Massage Envy in the Albertsons shopping center on Johnston Street is the most recent. Owner Lank, a former consultant in local government, heard about the franchise two years ago from his daughter-in-law, who operated two studios in California. Over the last six years, 439 Massage Envy facilities have opened around the country, with another 339 in development. Lank launched the second Louisiana franchise in Lafayette in early June. Eighteen locations are planned for Louisiana, with one or two more slated for Acadiana.

Since opening, more than 300 clients have come through the front door of the Massage Envy studio, located at 130 N. College Road. One of the biggest draws is its low rate of $39 for an introductory hour-long massage or $57 for 90 minutes. Sessions are also available in a wellness package for $59 per month (which gives you an hour massage each month with any additionals for $39 or $57 for 90 minutes), along with other perks like family discounts and reciprocal benefits at other Massage Envy outlets. Repeat customers who are not members get discounted rates as well, with regular rates running $78 for an hour and $114 for an hour and a half.

Another reason for Massage Envy’s popularity is its accessibility. The business is open seven days a week. “That’s part of our mantra — it’s not just affordability; our convenience, too, is what is really driving people to our front door,” Lank explains. “It is great for people who are working. All of our therapists are licensed professionals, and we have some of the best therapists in town, bar none.”

Massage Envy’s 13 therapists are trained in a variety of modalities, including Swedish, deep tissue, reflexology, prenatal, sports, reflexology, trigger-point, myofascial and couples massage. At the first session, customers get a customized massage according to their needs. Most therapists use a combination of massage types for each client.

Another low cost, massage-only newcomer is Simply Massage, located at 135 Arnould Blvd. The facility, owned by Ashley Maak, a certified massage therapist since 1999, has six studios operated by licensed therapists offering a variety of techniques. Each of Simply Massage’s therapists practice their own modalities, says Maak, “so they are each qualified for whatever it is that they do.” Typically, a person wants a massage that combines several of these modalities. Adds Maak, “We’re hoping that the clients will feel free to mix and match, and let the therapists know about a specific problem, so they can coordinate a therapeutic massage accordingly.”

Simply Massage provides affordable treatments at the rate of $42 an hour. The facility also offers flexible hours seven days a week. “With these hours, it makes it accessible for everyone, no matter how busy their schedule is,” Maak says. “We’re also going to always take walk-ins, or our clients can make an appointment with us.”

By limiting services to massage, rather than being a full-fledged spa, these new businesses are able to charge a lower fee.

“We just want to provide a professional and calming environment, and that way, the therapists can give the best massage,” Maak says. “You walk in, the environment is very nurturing and calming. We have fountains. I’m using all organic products as far as even cleaning supplies and oils, so we’re trying to keep it very natural. And, it’s reasonable for everyone to be able to come in and get a massage.”

Additionally, at Blue Cliff College, located at 100 Asma Blvd., the public can receive massage from therapists in training for a significant discount. Students are required to complete a number of clinical hours in order to graduate. Beginning students do the Swedish massage clinics on Mondays, while the graduating students conduct the deep tissue clinics on Fridays. All clinics are supervised by an instructor. “So, anybody in the public can come in, sign up, and get the massage at a fraction of the cost of going to a spa,” Kullman says. “For someone who just wants to come in and experience the art of massage without spending the money, this is a good place to do that.”

For those who prefer the full spa experience, Lafayette has several options. At Spa Mizan on Johnston Street, clients can receive a variety of treatments, ranging from traditional Swedish massage to the latest in therapies.

Recently, Spa Mizan introduced the hydro-therm massage, a treatment that utilizes a water-filled mattress along with the massage. This modality is especially helpful for pregnant women, as well as anyone who doesn’t like to lie face down. “The client actually lays on a mattress that’s filled with warm water, and it conforms to the curves of the body, so there’s no turning over on this particular massage,” explains Spa Mizan owner and licensed massage therapist, Ginger Louviere. 

Another unique therapy is the Chakra massage. This modality is based on the seven Chakras of the body and uses specific aromas that are targeted to each Chakra. “It helps to balance the Chakras,” Louviere explains.

Charges for massages at Spa Mizan range from $65 to $100, depending on the type. Each treatment lasts a full 60 minutes, with 90 minute sessions also available. Massages include aromatherapy and a foot ritual prior to treatment.

Massage Therapy is big business in Acadiana, with more and more people turning to the natural remedy everyday. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment for massage therapists is expected to increase 20 percent from 2006 to 2016, faster than average for all occupations. And, according to the American Massage Therapy Association, almost a quarter of adult Americans have had a massage at least once in the last 12 months.

To schedule a massage:

Ashero Spa 984-9972
Blue Cliff College 269-0620
Camellia House 380-8512, 288-8936
Coccolare Spa 769-7546
Massage Envy 232-7040
Pascale Spa 232-6449
Reanne’s Spa 291-9940
Riverspa 216-6511
Simply Massage 456-4800
Spa Mizan 235-0608

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