“Know your therapist,” is advice that Anne Marie Connor gives to anyone looking for a massage.
Although she isn’t a doctor, Connor’s advice is that of an expert. She has 25 years of experience as a massage therapist. But a doctor she doesn’t want to be, nor is the profession about being a doctor.
According to Connor, massage therapy is about the well-being of the individual and considered an “alternative medicine.”
The profession is a somewhat new phenomenon on the East Coast. It has grown exponentially in about seven years, Connor said, but still lags behind in popularity compared to the West Coast. California has 34 schools listed on the American Massage Therapy Association’s Web site, compared to three in Delaware. The closest school is in Dagsboro.
That growth is natural, Connor noted.
“We have a stressful life in the United States,” she said. “It always gets harder and there are more stressors.”
Connor came to Bethany Beach 18 years ago, after spending her first seven years in the profession in the Washington, D.C., area. When she first came to the shore, she was the only massage therapist in the area. Now, she said, you can look in the phone book and find many.
She attributes the growth of her business to that overall growth in the profession and to a decline in the use “traditional” medicine. Just in last six months or so, several commonly used medications have been recalled by the government for one reason or another.
And unlike some medicines, Connor said, she and her associates get results.
Four of the therapists that work at Bethany Massage & Healing Arts are trained to do muscle release, which can relieve conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome without surgery.
The technique combines compression, extension, movement and breath to provide relief from pain in one treatment. It also boasts that scar tissue is broken up, muscle is lengthened, muscle memory is restored and relief from pain begins immediately.
Bethany Massage offers 11 different types of massage, but the therapists target three different overall focuses. There is energy-technique work, deep tissue work and relaxation work.
“Many people who have had massages before know what they want,” Trish Connor said. “Some medical conditions determine how deep we go.”
Trish Connor is Anne Marie’s daughter and this is her sixth summer in the business. She said she likes it compared to her last job in the restaurant business.
Relaxation is the ultimate goal for Connor’s customers. Each of the five treatment rooms is equipped with state-of-the-art everything, designed to provide comfort. All the tables are electric. There are high-end stereo systems that play relaxing music and candles for aromatherapy with natural scents (unlike perfume, which has additives).
“We are not a spa,” Connor emphasized. “We don’t do nails or facials; we are all about the body.”
Along with knowing your therapist, the American Massage Therapy Association offers some tips for consumers before they get that first massage, mainly dealing with the certification of the therapist.
Delaware has a two-tier system in place for massage therapy certification. A lot of practitioners get the minimum training and then get a job, and they don’t have to be licensed. The second tier is to take the national exam, a four-and-a-half-hour test. Every therapist practicing at Bethany Massage is nationally certified.
“It’s about health and well-being,” Connor said. “People are paying for their well being.” After about an hour, the well-being of the customer should be well satisfied.
It is recommended that consumers drink eight big glasses of water during the day following a massage, as the massage releases toxins from the body and they need to be replenished. Otherwise, a headache could occur.
As recently as June 10, Nevada became the 36th state in the United States to allow massage therapy as a profession.
For more information about massage therapy, check out www.atmamassage.org.
Bethany Massage and Healing Arts is open year-round and has 11 therapists on staff during the summer, working from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.