Jessica Alvarado believes in the healing power of touch. As a massage therapist for the past 16 years, she has witnessed firsthand the benefits of manual therapy: muscles loosen, circulation increases, pain decreases and flexibility improves.
“I like to watch the body transform,” says the spa manager at Blu Wave Spa at Greate Bay Racquet & Fitness Club in Somers Point. “When guests come to me and have tried conventional methods, I like to be the converter. They continue what they’re doing with their doctor, but they add massage as well. When I see the change they experience, I love it.”
A team of six professionals performs an array of massage techniques to suit different needs:
• Swedish massage. Light-to-medium pressure to help increase circulation and relax the body.
• Sports massage. Pre- or post-workout, this massage improves flexibility and is designed to treat injuries or prevent them from occurring.
• Deep tissue massage. Forceful strokes that target deep layers of muscle to relieve areas of pain and tightness.
• Prenatal massage. Soothing, gentle strokes to improve circulation and reduce swelling.
• Hot stone massage. Strategically placed heated stones promote deep relaxation and decrease muscle stiffness.
Of these services, the most popular at Blu Wave are deep tissue and sports massage, says Alvarado, noting that she enjoys doing these massages the most. “I’m the one people come to for repair work,” she says. “I do a lot of deep tissue massages. It’s what I excel at. It’s challenging, and I love it.”
If you sit at a desk and use a computer, overworked neck muscles are an occupational hazard. Many of the problems Alvarado treats arise from sitting at your desk for hours and looking at your computer.
“All that stress of looking down puts a lot of pressure on your neck and your back,” Alvarado explains. “Many people suffer with headaches. Massage relieves that tightness and flushes the toxins from that area.”
Modern living is another occupational hazard. “A lot of people can’t wind down,” Alvarado says. “They’re on the go from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep.” Because massage helps reduce stress and promote feelings of well-being, people can take a step back and breathe, Alvarado says.
Because Blu Wave is located at the fitness club, Alvarado also treats athletes. Some are tennis players, who are prone to getting tendinitis at the elbow, otherwise known as tennis elbow. This condition is characterized by swollen tendons and overworked muscles at the elbow, which restrict range of motion. The pain can creep up the shoulder and down the fingers, Alvarado explains, so sports massage helps relieve pain.
When clients come to Blu Wave, they complete a health history, detailing medical conditions, areas of concern, pain levels and activities that exacerbate the pain.
Tailoring the massage to the person’s needs is key. “We ask questions about their medical history and their health concerns,” Alvarado says. “We ask how long they’ve been in pain and what particular areas hurt. We make sure they’re comfortable with touch, and we listen. We really, really listen.”
Based on what the therapists learn, they create a customized plan that addresses each client’s particular issues. Sessions can be either 50 or 80 minutes, depending on needs and preferences. Typically, therapists see clients monthly, but some may come in biweekly.
Extolling massage, Alvarado says its benefits extend far beyond the physical. Massage decreases stress, helps improve concentration and improves quality of sleep, she says. It also helps decrease anxiety and promotes feelings of well-being. “It all works together,” she says. “Massage helps the whole person.”
As a massage therapist, Alvarado feels privileged to serve others. “Our guests always tell us ... that we make such a difference in their lives,” Alvarado says. “We got into this profession to help. I personally believe I was sent here to help people. The majority of us feel that way. It’s more than massage. It’s the whole experience.”