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Spa businesses bring massages to the masses

Don McMahon used to be a frequent flyer. For his job, he made about eight international trips a year, was constantly commuting between Miami and Georgia and was always on the go. All this travel was hard on his body, and he became accustomed to receiving massages.

Yet one thing continually irked him - stepping foot into a spa, he never knew exactly what kind of service he would be receiving. Laying facedown on a massage table, cloaked by a sheet and nearly naked, it sometimes felt like a vulnerable situation.

"As a guy especially, it could make me a little nervous," he said. "I never knew what I was going to be getting, when I just wanted to relax and de-stress. Not knowing what kind of place it was before going, or how good it would be, that could cause more stress."

Upon a friend's recommendation, he tried out a Massage Envy massage clinic, and not only found a relaxing, affordable massage, he found a new career. Now the owner of Massage Envy's Lawrenceville franchise location, McMahon is working to bring massages to the masses.

"A lot of times, people aren't sure what they want out of a massage, or don't know what their options are, and that can make them uneasy," he said. "It's very important to be educated about the process. We like to over-communicate with our clients. We wanted them to know what services are

available, and we want to find out what they are looking for so they can have the most enjoyable experience possible."

Massages can help to counteract hectic lifestyles and help people maintain a healthy, balanced life, said C.G. Funk, a spokesman for Massage Envy.

Boasting a long list of benefits, massages can reduce daily stress, bolster immune systems, improve posture, lower blood pressure, decrease depression, improve circulation and reduce tension headaches.

For pregnant clients, massages can help alleviate discomfort during those aching nine months, and have been shown to help premature babies gain weight.

"Health and wellness are becoming more in the forefront of our minds, and massages are an intricate part of having a low stress level and being healthy," Funk said. "Massages can make a tremendous impact on good health. Our goal is to educate and expand minds about the benefits of massages. Living a healthy life is all about being educated, as most things are."

While the benefits of massages are becoming more widely known, it's not uncommon for clients to be unsure about what kind of massage they need, or want. Often, they aren't even aware they have options, said Celia Tully, spokeswoman for Natural Body Spas, located at The Avenue at Webb Gin in Snellville.

Different clients require different massage styles. Whereas an athlete may need a sports massage, someone seeking pure relaxation may want a Swedish or deep tissue massage. Typically, Tully said, massages are a mixture of different techniques based on individual requests and needs.

Once considered a luxury for the elite, massages have become associated with hefty price tags. However, as people become more aware of the benefits of massages, they're looking to experience relaxation more often.

"Massages can be used as an indulgence by some but massage therapy was one of the earliest forms of physical therapy. It is beneficial from physical, physiological and psychological perspectives," Tully said.

Did you know?

Would you like a Swedish or sports massage? A friction or deep tissue massage? If you don't know the difference, don't worry - you're not alone. Here, the American Massage Therapy Association defines common industry terms:

•Deep Tissue: Releases the chronic patterns of tension in the body through slow strokes and deep finger pressure, either following or going across the grain of muscles and tendons. It is called deep tissue because it also focuses on the deeper layers of muscle tissue.

•Friction: The deepest of Swedish massage strokes. This stroke encompasses deep, circular movements applied to soft tissue, causing the underlying layers of tissue to rub against each other. The result causes an increase in blood flow to the massaged area.

•Reflexology: Massage based around a system of points in the hands and feet thought to correspond, or "reflex," to all areas of the body.

•Shiatsu and Acupressure: An Oriental-based system that uses finger pressure on special points along acupuncture "meridians," or the invisible channels of energy believed to flow through the body.

•Sports Massage: Massage therapy focusing on muscle systems relevant to a particular sport.

•Swedish Massage: A system of long strokes, kneading and friction techniques on the more superficial layers of the muscles, combined with moving the joints.

Source: American Massage Therapy Association, www.amtamassage.org

More info

•Massage Envy

1860 Duluth Highway, Lawrenceville. 678-218-3689

2627 Peachtree Parkway, Suwanee. 678-208-6080

www.massageenvy.com

•Natural Body Spa

1350 Scenic Highway North, Snellville. 770-985-1234

www.naturalbody.com