Posts Tagged ‘Massage Therapy and Bodywork’

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

The world of massage research is in many ways, still in its infancy.  As such there is a lot of conflicting studies that can easily lead people to draw incorrect conclusions. mainstream press often takes the most sensational points from a study and broadcast those points to the world as if it were the Gospel. How do concerned citizens, loyal readers and fellow massage aficionados cope with the deluge of conflicting and confusing information about massage research?  one magazine that does a pretty good job of reporting on massage reasearch is Runner’s World.  In his article, Massage Q+A: Does it Work?, author Sam Murphy writes about a number of studies and explains how research results can be misleading when they don’t compare apples and oranges. or in this case, when research doe snot compare the effects of multiple massage session with the effects of a  single 8-minute session. Runners and research consumers,  take a few minutes to read Sam Murphy’s article. It may clear up questions you have about using massage to improve your athletic performance and or aid recovery from muscle injury.


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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Since the Recession, I’ve seen an uptick in the number of coupon services and “discount” massage and spa service offers. Makes sense. People are more cost conscious and stressed out and want stress relief but are afraid to spend money on themselves beyond basic needs. Some people have no choice but to only pay for basic needs. But for those of us with enough disposable income to pay for health and wellness services, let’s look at what these “discount” services are really costing us.

To start off, one massage company that has really embraced the idea of offering “discounts” has a brilliant marketing strategy. They offer a “low-priced” massage usually about $49-$59 per hour (which is actually a 50-minute massage, not a full hour). This discount massage company pays its massage therapists between $17-$20 an hour with the understanding that YOU the customer will pick up the rest of their wages through the tip/gratuity that is suggested in signs plastered all over treatment rooms. So you pay $59 (in downtown Chicago) and then are “encouraged” to tip the massage therapist $20. In essence, you pay $79, or about $80 an hour, for your 50-minute massage at the discount company.

What’s brilliant about this strategy is that the discount company makes you think you are getting a bargain. But what is really going on is that the owners of the discount company are cost shifting. Instead of the discount company charging $79 for your massage and paying their massage therapists $35-40 per hour-long massage  (which is more the going rate for massage therapists employed by chiropractors or self-employed), the discount company pays $18-$20/hour and the client bears the burden of the rest of the massage therapists wages ($20 tip). Brilliant!  And the client leaves, thinking he/she got a bargain massage of only $59. But in actually, the client pays $79 for the massage. (And the discount company does not have to take out taxes or pay unemployment or workers comp taxes on the tip if you pay the massage therapists in cash. Which is extra savings for the discount massage company owners!)

Now let’s say you read this and say, “Well, then I WON’T tip the massage therapist. Let the discount company pay their people fairly and not shift the cost to me. ”

Think about it, the massage therapist at a discount company makes half the going rate for massage. Her employer promises her that you will make up the rest of your wages through tips and you,  the client, do not tip.  How enthusiastic would the massage therapist at the discount company be about giving you, the non-tipping client, your next massage? And if the massage therapist you first had work on you tells other massage therapist you don’t tip,  how happy do you think the massage therapists are going to be when you come in for your next massage?

Note: If you go to a high price salon or hotel and pay $100 or more for  a massage, you are usually paying more for the ambiance, not for the massage therapists. Massage therapists at high-end spas usually make about $25-30 of that $100 fee and also rely on tips. Not a bargain for the client or for the massage therapist. The landlord  of the high-end spa is the winner in this deal because most of the cost goes to high overhead.

How Much Do Massage Therapists Really Earn Per Hour?

Keep in mind that earning $17-40 per hour-long massage is not equivalent to earning $17-40 an hour in a 40-hour a week office job. Most full-time massage therapists can only physically perform 20-25 hours of massage per week without injuring our bodies or sacrificing the quality of our work. The rest if our time is not spent sitting on a divan eating bon bons. We still have to chart, change sheets, do laundry, marketing, scheduling and do all the other business-related chores office workers do. But this work is absorbed in the cost of the hour-long massage. As is the cost of our own self-paid sick days, holidays, vacation time and health insurance. AND, if we are not booked with clients 20-25 hours per week, we earn significantly less. (Think about how it would be if you came into work and your boss said, wow, we can only pay you for half a week’s work this week.  That’s not uncommon in the massage field.)

I’m not trying to gain pity for massage therapists. But I am pointing out that you are paying more for the “discount” massage than you think. In any case, I hope you get your massages at whatever location you prefer. Just know what you are paying for it!

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Aside from the stress of the holidays, it’s the end of 2010 and many of us are feeling the tension from increased holiday traffic, holiday party obligations, kids being off school, economic woes and general deadlines and busy-ness. All that stress can lead to muscle tension, stress-related ailments like headaches, gastrointestinal distress and fatigue. I have had a lot of extra stress due to final exams myself!

So where can we go for stress relief? You know I am going to say to get a massage! And you know where I recommend going to get fantastic massage, with no appointment needed and  no need to disrobe or take a few hours out of your busy schedules: Working Well Massage chair massage stations in the Gold Coast and Lincoln Park Whole Foods Markets.

DECEMBER YELP SPECIAL: Stop by one of our two Working Well Massage chair stations any time between Noon and 8pm this December and mention our Yelp special to receive a 20-minute massage for only $20 (regularly $24). Offer valid until December 31, 2010. Valid one per client. No valid with other offers. Check out our ad on Yelp:  Go to our WWM Gold Coast ad page here . Go to our WWM Lincoln Park Yelp page here.

I don’t just recommend you go and get a massage from one of the talented Working Well Massage therapists, I go myself! During Final exams, I’ve been to both the Gold Coast and Lincoln Park massage stations for massages quite a few times. I usually get at least 20 minutes, 30 minutes if I have time. In 20 minutes, I know I can get most of the tension worked out of my neck and shoulders with even some attention to my low back. Bending over a computer typing or reading and studying heavy textbooks, makes my neck and shoulders really tense and sore. So, for me, chair massage is perfect because I get attention paid to the areas I hurt the most, while sitting in a really relaxing padded massage chair.

The price for chair massage is very reasonable as well. instead of paying $80 (or MORE) for a massage at a spa where I may or may not get a massage therapist I like, I can get shorter massages, with attention to the areas of my body that need it most (my  back, neck and shoulders) for only $24 for 20 minutes. It’s far easier and cheaper for me to get three 20-minute massages than one hour massage on a table. And it costs me at least $10 less ($70 if you did a full hour at WWM versus $80 for a table massage at a spa). Now, I do enjoy table massages. But they take more time because you not only have to factor in the time for making the appointment as well as the actual massage time, but also time for getting disrobed and dressed after the massage, and time to find parking. At Working Well Massage chair stations, we are located inside Whole Foods stores with free parking. So you can get a great 20 minute massage, grab a healthy meal and you are on your way back to the busy-ness of your life.

For more info about i Well Massage chair massage stations, click here.

For more info on chair massage at Whole Foods in general and for locations around the country, click here.

Working Well Massage
Gold Coast Chair Massage Station

30 West Huron Street
(between Dearborn and State Streets)
Chicago, Illinois 60654
Free parking: Underground lot. Enter off Dearborn Street going Northbound.

Sessions: Drop in, sign up.

Get Directions | In-store Map | Massage Schedule


Hours: Daily, Noon to 8 p.m.

Working Well Massage
Lincoln Park Chair Massage Station

1550 N. Kingsbury
(between North Avenue and Division Street)
Chicago, Illinois 60642
Free parking: available in the garage, enter on Kingsbury

Sessions: Drop in, sign up

Get Directions | In-store Map | Massage Schedule


Hours: Daily, Noon to 8 p.m.

Quick Fix (5-Minute Massage) = $6
Short Stop (10-Minute Massage) = $12
Mellow Moment (15-Minute Massage) = $18
Complete Retreat I (20-Minute Massage) = $24
Complete Retreat II (30-Minute Massage) = $35

Additional increments of 5 minutes = $6

Please note that we do not accept credit card payments at the Massage Stations. Payment accepted in cash or checks only. You are welcome to purchase chair massage gift certificates at our Massage Station with cash or checks only during our business hours from noon to 8p.m. We do not accept credit cards at our chair stations for purchase of gift certificates.

How to Use WWM Chair Massage Stations:

  • No need to make an appointment! If someone else is already receiving a massage when you arrive, simply sign in and wait your turn.
  • Before your massage begins, let the therapist know how long you’d like the massage to last and any areas that are bothering you. Be sure to let him or her know if you have any medical contraindications such as high or low blood pressure, pregnancy, or fever.
  • Your therapist will help you get seated in the chair and begin the massage. Let him or her know if you need the pressure adjusted. We welcome your feedback; it helps us give you a better massage.
  • When your massage ends, your therapist will help you out of the chair . He or she will provide you with any feedback you may need about stretching or follow-up.
  • Pay the therapist for the massage. Gratuity is always appreciated but not required.
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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Future massage “parlor” in Chicago?

I’ve been posting about Chicago’s zoning changes for massage businesses for the past year. For those unaware, Chicago’s City Council voted to restrict new massage businesses to C Districts (also known as isolated industrial corridors and used car lots). Which makes no sense to my fellow massage therapists, clients, and friends.

However, for some people, the only experience they have with “massage” is when they live or have lived  near a “massage parlor” (or what turns out to be a house of prostitution). In that case, I can see why they would want to move “massage parlors” to the same areas as other “adult services,” such as strip clubs, tattoo parlors and the like.

How do you know if a massage business is legitimate?  I am providing a few tips and then a method of reporting massage businesses that you think may not be legitimate.

How to Identify Potential Massage “Parlors”

(aka houses of prostitution that front as massage businesses but are not legit massage businesses):

• Often advertise things like “Beautiful girls,”  “European and Asian beauties,” “sensuous massage.”

• Advertise on “adult” sites that offer strip clubs or sexual services like the ones I found on a site described as a locator for strip clubs which lists 57 “massage parlors” operating in Chicago.

• Are often open 24 hours a day or have late evening hours (beyond 8pm).

• May employ massage therapists without Illinois Massage Therapy licenses.

• Tend to have covered windows which are not visible from the street.

• Provide “happy endings” or sexual services along with or instead of a legitimate massage.

How to Recognize Legitimate Massage Businesses

• Tend to advertise things like “Licensed Massage Therapists,” “Members of AMTA or ABMP”NCBTMB,” “Pain Relief,” “Therapeutic Massage.”

• Have ads that do not mention anything about the massage therapists’ looks or clothing.

• Tend to have more standard business hours, say from 10am to 8pm.

• Do not provide sexual services of any kind.

• Will respond by ending a massage session, if the client is sexually inappropriate or asks for sexual services of any kind.

Note: The list of behaviors for legit and non-legit massage businesses is not a hard and fast rule. Some legit massage businesses may have hours later than 8pm and some non-legit massage businesses may advertise pain relief as a way to camouflage their real services. This is a big part of why it is so difficult to prosecute and differentiate between the “parlors” and legit massage businesses.

So what can you do if you think there is a massage “parlor” (aka non-legitimate massage business) operating near you?  You can report the business to the City of Chicago. There are two main ways to report a massage business you think may not be legitimate: anonymously or via your Alderman’s office.

Reporting Suspicious Massage Businesses Anonymously

The advantage of this reporting method is that you can be anonymous. The disadvantage is that you don’t have an easy way to track the response and resolution of your complaint.

1. Call 311. You do not need to provide your name or contact information.

2. Provide the name of the business, the address and the reason you believe it is not a legitimate business or that you think the business should be inspected.

3. Check the business operator’s Massage Establishment License status to see if they have a license or if the license has been revoked here.

Reporting Suspicious Massage Businesses Via Alderman

1. Call or visit your Alderman’s office. Tell the staff at your alderman’s office that you want to ledge a formal complaint or investigation into a suspicious massage business.

2. Provide the name of the business, the address and the reason you believe it is not a legitimate business or that you think the business should be inspected.

3. You can keep in touch with the staff of your alderman’s office  to follow up on the progress of your complaint.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Massage for Pain and Stress Relief

Massage for Pain and Stress Relief

I’m really happy for Jennifer Love Hewitt. After being bashed in the tabloids for being a bit chubby, she has lost weight, got her body into great shape and graced the cover of People Magazine in a  swimsuit. She looks great and she worked hard to get back into shape! But now she uses her new curvy but fit body to star in a made for TV movie on Lifetime network that disparages massage therapists. Her film is called  “The Client List.”

In the movie, Love Hewitt plays a woman who turns to illicit activity to feed her family during the economic downturn. Love Hewitt’s character takes a job in a massage parlor that turns out to be… a front for prostitution. Despite claims that the movie is “based on a true story,” it is fiction.The movie, it turns out, is not a biography of the woman in Odessa, Texas that was arrested for prostitution which the movie is “loosely” based upon. The movie is a fictionalized account. (According to new reports, in real life, the woman arrested in Odessa did not have a current massage license, did not have a husband and used the money she made to pay for her cocaine habit, not for her family. )

Normally I wouldn’t protest Ms. Love Hewitt’s choice of movie role.  But right now, there seems to be a disturbing trend in the media, from The View to Lifetime to just about every media channel I turn to. The trend is to depict the entire profession of massage as prostitution.

Think about it, what if other professions were used by criminals to hide their real business dealings. What if prostitutes pretended to be interior designers or accountants and then professionals from these businesses had to prove that they were legit and not prostitutes. What if it became a trend for prostitution rings to set up shop as fake dentists offices? Would dentists then have to submit to fingerprinting and police background checks? Would Elizabeth Hasselbeck then joke on The View about being nervous when her husband goes into his office with a hot looking “interior decorator” to discuss “fabric swatches”?

Massage is Boring
The recent Zoning change in the city of Chicago shows just how damaging movies like The Client List can be for the massage therapy profession. Few Hollywood movies or TV shows depict the massage profession in a favorable nonsexual light.

It’s not that Hollywood has it in for us. It’s just that healthy is boring. Watching someone get a sports massage or deep tissue massage is about as entertaining as watching someone get a tooth filled. If Elizabeth Hasselbeck had stayed in the room with her husband while he was getting his massage, she would have likely fallen asleep due to boredom instead of sitting outside letting her  imagination run wild. (Previously this month, members of the View were disparaging the entire massage profession to make light of a complaint against Al Gore here.)

Watching people get muscle pain relieved is not a big ratings draw, it seems. It’s not life threatening as in an Emergency Room drama. And Massage Therapy lacks the excitement of a forensic lab. Or does it?

The Real Stories of Massage

Hollywood is really missing out on the real stories, the real drama behind legitimate massage therapy. Instead of waiting until someone dies and trying to find the cause of death like on many police drama, Licensed Massage Therapists try to find the source of your muscle pain while you are still living. It may not be as interesting to watch, but if you have ever had chronic low back pain or neck and shoulder pain, finding relief for that pain is pretty darn exciting!

Legitimate massage therapist also give clients a safe place to relax from the stress of every day life. In the massage room or even the massage chair, massage therapy clients get a little bit of time and space that’s all about them. It’s the one time they get to be the center of attention. Getting a massage is one place where you can talk about yourself, have someone attend to your aches and pains and literally get a break from stress and demands for your attention.

In some ways I do blame myself for Hollywood’s insistence on showing sensationalized sexual massage versus healthy but boring legitimate massage. I blame myself because, if I had followed a different dream and gotten my MFA in creative writing, I could have written a lot of great scripts about the world of massage!  But then my clients would still be in pain and I would not have had the benefit of helping many people over the past ten years to recover from muscle tension, pain and stress. Which is the real story about massage therapy!

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

The other day I stopped by one of the Working Well Massage booths to get a much needed massage. As a massage therapist myself, I try to get regular massages including chair massages. As manager of the WWM massage stations, I also like to get massages from my staff. Why, because I know how good they are. In this case, I got a fantastic massage from Mysti Cobb. Mysti has been with WWM for the past few months and she is a whiz at finding knots and working them out. Mysti is also a  personal trainer and just finished training in Pilates. But best of all, Mysti is a SOMA Institute graduate.

Over the past ten years, I’ve had the great fortune to interview a lot of massage therapists. And field questions from people wondering which massage school to attend. I used to tell them, go to WMTI, my alma mater, the Wellness Massage Training Institute. I was very lucky to have attended WMTI in the late 1990’s. I had some of the best teachers and learned a lot about going beyond Swedish massage to really help people feel better and releases chronic muscle tension areas. I’ve also taught workshops and classes at WMTI. Now, sadly, my old school has been sold to another company and it’s curriculum has been gutted. Most of the best teachers at WMTI have long gone. WMTI turned out some fantastic massage therapists while it was in operation, but now in Chicago, my top pick for people looking to go to massage school is the SOMA Institute.


SOMA’s curriculum is geared toward therapeutic massage, not spa massage. Spa massage is great for relaxation. And stress relief is an important benefit of massage therapy. But I am so glad I learned  in depth techniques for helping people with chronic muscular pain. When I interview students from SOMA, I tend to see this same attention to chronic areas of muscle tension. SOMA graduates tend to have greater clinical skills than recent graduates of the other schools in the area. SOMA’s continuing education classes also tend to be a cut above the others I see offered in the Chicago area.

With teachers like Mike Hovi and Michael Jones, SOMA provides students with a wide range of massage training by working professionals that are top in their field.

SOMA also has a great career placement office. As a business owner, I regularly get emails from SOMA”s Career Services Department asking if I have any openings. SOMA has a 98% placement rate! And SOMA’s been expanding their Professional Services Division, offering high quality classes to graduates and other professional massage therapists looking for continuing education credits. (The state of Illinois requires us to obtain at least 24 CE credits every 2 years to maintain a masage therapy license).

SOMA isn’t the only massage school in town. And I have a number of fantastic massage therapists that did not attend SOMA. But if you are looking for  a massage school to attend or know someone that is, I recommend the SOMA Institute above all others at this time.

Note: Neither Working Well Massage nor Sue Shekut is affiliated with the SOMA Institute in any way. We do not receive any fee for this post nor do we benefit financially in any way from our endorsement. SOMA is simply a great school and we want to tell our local readers about it and about SOMA graduates.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

I recently had a fantastic massage from Mysti Cobb at our Working Well Massage station inside Whole Foods Lincoln Park. One of the reason I like getting massage from Mysti is that she knows her anatomy and kineseology. When I told her I was having pain in my wrist and my pecs were tight, she knew exactly where to work and how to position me on the massage chair to get maximum exposure of my pectoral muscles. (She sat me facing away from the chair as opposed to how you would normally sit, facing the chair.) I have had experience both receiving and giving massage for chronic tension and injury rehab, and Mysti has had similar experiences as both a patient and a massage therapist.

Mysti Cobb-smiling and providng pain relief at Working Well Massage. Image by Sue Shekut

A personal trainer and Pilates instructor as well as a massage therapists, I think Mysti brings more to the massage session than your average massage therapist. (Or course, we don’t have any average massage therapists in our booths!) Since Mysti is female and has a fantastic smile,  some people think Mysti is a lightweight massage therapist. Those people would be sadly incorrect! Mysti is STRONG and can give super deep tissue massages or she can back off the pressure and give a more gentle relaxation massage. For me, I go to Mysti for deep work though!

Mysti hard at work, concentrating on releasing muscle tension. Image by Sue Shekut

Mysti Cobb’s Bio

Tall and lean, it’s no surprise that Mysti’s passion for movement began in her ballet classes at age 4.  Her years of practice and love of dance led  to a full dance scholarship with the Joseph Holmes Dance Company in 1993. Unfortunately for Mystia, she later tore her ACL while studying at Millikin University and that put an end to a full-time dance career. After six months of physical therapy and rehabilitation, Mysti realized strength training was a new way for her to incorporate movement into her daily life and career.  In 2003, Mysti began studying at the Personal Training Institute in Chicago. In 2004, Mysti completed her personal training (NSCA) certification. Between her dance injury and experience as a personal train, Mysti decided to  add a therapeutic and healing dimension to her work by becoming a licensed massage therapist in 2005 through the Soma Institute of Clinical Massage Therapy.

While rehabbing, dancing and strength training,  Pilates had been an core element of Mysti’s personal fitness routine. In2009, Mysti became certified through the Body Arts and Science program as a comprehensively certified Pilates Instructor. For Mysti, the Pilates certification has added analytical and intuitive tools to help her clients gain strength, eliminate pain, and fine tune body alignment, finding focus in their sessions which carries over into their daily lives.

You can try out a massage session with Mysti at Whole Foods Lincoln Park every Tuesday from 4pm to 8pm. But come in soon because with skills like these, Mysti tends to book up fast!

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