This is a busy time of year for licensed massage therapist Rachel Minniefield. Holiday stress, she said, drives people to her door, as does the pending expiration of last year’s gift cards.
The 35-year-old graduate and instructor at the New York Institute of Massage works at Buffalo Body Work, a business she started at the new YMCA in Amherst.
Minniefield recently completed chiropractic studies at D’Youville College, where she also earned an MBA. Minniefield grew up in Lackawanna and spent five years with her sister in Las Vegas working first as a car saleswoman and then a casino cocktail waitress.
She and her husband – also a massage therapist and chiropractor – live in Newfane.
People Talk: What about massage therapy surprised you?
Rachel Minniefield: I didn’t realize how much education there was. There’s so much science – chemistry, anatomy, neurology and myology. As a massage therapist we deal with people with all kinds of health issues right up to end-of-life care.
PT: As a massage therapist, what is your forte?
RM: I received further training on a technique called manual lymphatic drainage. You’ll hear about it mostly with cancer survivors, but you can also use lymphatic drainage before and after surgery to help with swelling because it promotes the passage of lymph through the body. It helps clear cellular debris. Massage creates new pathways for your lymphatic system.
PT: What body type presents a challenge?
RM: Muscular bodies are tough because the tissue is more dense so it takes more energy. Sometimes smaller bodies are tough, too, because you don’t have that much tissue. I just change the pressure, the approach.
PT: You must be very particular about who massages you.
RM: Not really. I tend to zone out. The nice thing about working at the massage therapy school is that I get to spend a lot of time with the students. I’ll go into the student clinic and get massages.
PT: We seem to be experiencing a massage boom. What fueled that?
RM: Insurance companies. Massage is being covered by more and more insurance companies. You may have doctors who prescribe massage therapy. Massage is no longer unusual. It has become part of your lifestyle.
PT: What types of ailments can massage help?
RM: Headaches. It could be something as simple as muscles being tight at the back of the neck and into the head and shoulders. People who have low back pain may assume they have a disc problem, but it could be muscles in the lower back. When we loosen them up, the pain goes away.
PT: What has been a recent development in the massage industry?
RM: Combining massage with an esthetic treatment, like the chocolate or seaweed wraps. That sort of stuff is beyond the scope of massage therapy. It’s not something that really interests me so much. I’m more into the therapeutic end. If your neck hurts, we’ll still give you a full-body but we’ll pay more attention to where you have an issue.
PT: Don’t your fingers hurt when you’re done?
RM: Never. That’s something that definitely gets drilled into you at school, how to use proper body mechanics: How you stand. How you use your body weight. You don’t use your thumbs or your fingers that much. You reinforce your hands in a certain way.
PT: What’s your record for massages in one day?
RM: The most I’ve ever done was seven. It’s a long day, but it’s not like you overdid it. The only thing that might hurt are your legs because you have to lower your body to get the right leverage.
PT: Do clients fall asleep?
RM: All the time. They might snore a little bit. That’s a good thing. For one it means they feel safe. You will likely sleep better the day you get a massage.
PT: Why are massages so expensive?
RM: It’s a lot of work, one hour of manually working on someone. The price goes up depending on your surroundings. Most therapists in this area set their prices between $60 to $75 an hour. It’s been like that for the last seven years.
PT: How do you take care of your body?
RM: I try and sleep enough. I have a rowing machine and kettle bells at home. I have two stepkids ages 8 and 10. My husband is trained as a massage therapist and a chiropractor. Basically that’s how we met.
PT: Do you and your husband massage each other?
RM: Once in a while but it’s not a regular thing. It’s still our job, and we work all day. It’s like having another session at the end of your day. But yeah, sure we work on each other.
PT: Do you have any athletes seeking your service?
RM: Lots of weekend warriors. We just started with the UB men’s basketball team. What we’re doing for them is more relaxation. We’ll be working with the women’s basketball team to reduce the amount of muscle soreness after games.
PT: The science of massage is ancient isn’t it.
RM: Yes. The strokes that you use have been around forever. Massage has been around forever in India, Asian cultures. But therapists incorporate their own twists, like stretching arms and legs. Thai massage incorporates more stretching. Shiatsu focuses more on energy meridians in the body. Cupping therapy uses cups to create a suction that lifts the tissue to loosen the muscle and increase circulation.
PT: What can a person do on her own to relieve muscular stress?
RM: The simplest thing to do – especially if the issues are the upper back and shoulders – is to get an herbal pack, the kind you can put in a microwave and get moist heat. Put it on your shoulders while watching TV for 15 to 20 minutes. It makes a huge difference. If you don’t have enough time to do that, use your shower time as therapy. Let the hot water run on your neck and shoulders – and stretch. You’ll start to loosen up.