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Massage therapy: A health necessity for some despite recession
By Jennifer Calhoun - Staff writer for the Fayetteville Observer

As the nation’s unemployment rate climbs and more and more businesses face economic cuts, one unlikely industry is holding steady — therapeutic massage.

Once thought a luxury, massage services are now considered a health necessity for some people, which could be shielding the industry from the economic downturn, said Beth Miller, owner of Between Heaven & Earth Day Spa on Ramsey Street.

Miller and other spa owners in town said their businesses haven’t suffered with the rest of the economy. Instead, clients tend to factor the $60- to $100-an-hour massage services into their weekly or monthly budgets.

But the trend isn’t just a local one, according to a recent survey by the American Massage Therapy Association.

The survey reported that the number of Americans who receive massage services has risen from about 14 million to 39 million over the last 10 years.

About 30 percent of those do it for medical purposes, the survey said.

Miller thinks the rising trend could be because traditional health care is becoming less affordable, less accessible and — for some people — less effective.

Many of Miller’s clients are people who have all but given up on traditional medicine to cure a variety of problems, including allergies, chronic pain, fibromyalgia and high blood pressure.

“Clients usually come to us as a last resort,” Miller said. “Massage is a powerful healing tool for the body.”

She said more doctors are recommending patients take massage therapy to help their overall health, even though many insurance plans don’t cover the service.

“It makes such a difference,’’ Miller said. “And when people see a difference, $60 becomes nothing to feel better. They will make whatever sacrifices they have to make. The majority of our clientele has made a sacrifice in their budget.”

Men and couples are also increasingly seeking out massage services, Miller said.

Of the men, many are soldiers who are about to deploy or are returning from deployments, she said. And couples like to share the experience for the closeness and “the soulful experience.”

Katrina Wojcicki, a massage therapist with Knead-A-Break Therapeutic Massage Center on Fairway Drive, said her business has remained steady except for the usual fluctuations around holidays when people tend to leave town.

“It’s never been to where I’ve suffered and can’t pay the bills,” she said.

Dr. Jonathan Tinsley, a chiropractor who owns Health & Harmony Wellness Center on Meed Court, said massage therapy has always been one of the more in-demand services at his practice.

“People who know the benefits of it and practice health care maintenance will find a way to pay for it,” Tinsley said. “It helps them mentally, physically and physiologically.’’

Staff writer Jennifer Calhoun can be reached at calhounj@fayobserver.com or 486-3595. / copyright 2008 The Fayetteville Observer
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