Gary Ramirez's hands say it all. The rigidly clasped fingers of the 33-year-old appear incapable of letting go. Only when massage therapist Dan O’Clair releases shoulder tension do the fingers soften.
In fact, Ramirez’s entire body seems relaxed after his 15-minute chair massage.
"They thought I had carpal tunnel," says Ramirez, who sits at a computer all day mapping roads for Maricopa County. "Now the pain is half what it used to be." His job can be stressful. Add an hourand-a-half commute to the 12-hour days, and you’ve got a human pretzel.
Eliza Luna, too, feels job stress designing ballots and testing voting equipment for the county. She also carries a full class load at the University of Phoenix. Both have contributed to a teethclenching habit. But that has gotten better since O’Clair and Roxie Reimer of the Gilbert-based A Healing Touch Massage have come to the workplace.
"It relaxes me," Luna says of her 10-minute sessions twice a month. Both county employees pay for their own therapy ($1 a minute), which takes place in a dimly lit, sequestered room. Soft jazz by Queen Latifah helps set the mood.
Like Ramirez, Luna doesn’t miss an opportunity for a massage. But unlike Ramirez, who says the therapy has lasting effects, Luna finds her shoulders back around her ears after two hours. She blames the computer.
So does O’Clair. "Today everyone is on a computer," he says. Sitting for long periods of time is, in and of itself, hard on the body, but combine that with a tensed state as the body leans toward the screen and the physical stress is compounded. And don’t forget about the stress wrought by rising workplace expectations.
According to Dr. Troy Adams of Arizona State University’s exercise science and wellness department, there is "reasonably good" evidence that a single dose of massage reduces anxiety, heart rate and blood pressure." Multiple doses may help with depression and pain.
Tiffany Richards, owner of The Back Rub Co., a massage therapy service, doesn’t have to produce science to convince potential clients that massage works. All she has to do is get them in a chair for a 10-minute massage of their neck, shoulders, arms and hands. In less than two years, The Back Rub Co. has expanded from one to eight massage therapists, with a large portion of business in workplaces.
Richards says the benefits of massage aren’t just physical — workplace massage is also a morale booster, sending a signal that employers care.
Richards also believes more companies will use workplace massage to offset the cost of job-related stress. The American Institute of Stress puts the price of job-related stress at $300 billion in accidents, absenteeism, employee turnover, diminished productivity and direct medical, legal and insurance costs. Richards said on days her therapists are scheduled to be at a work site, absenteeism is minimized.
For more information
The Back Rub Company:
(480) 330-2066 or firstname.lastname@example.org
A Healing Touch Massage:
(480) 215-9471, (602) 568-1531 or