EPHRATA — Laura Savage, founder and owner of Balanced Body Massage in Ephrata, says becoming a massage therapist wasn’t something she was looking for — it found her.
“I wasn’t really searching. It’s not something I knew from childhood I wanted to do or anything like that,” Savage said. “My family ran a hotel in Soap Lake, and I helped manage that for them. … I wanted to help bring more people, more diverse people to the area and I thought, ‘Well, what can I do?’ Then all of a sudden, I had an accident that wasn’t very good. I fell off my horse, hurt my back really bad.”
That accident sent Savage on a search to find ways to manage the resulting back pain. She is averse to taking medications and wanted to find some alternatives. Her father suggested she try massage therapy and it helped her manage the pain she had been dealing with. She considered becoming a masseuse then, but joint health issues made her assume she couldn’t do the work – until she met a new massage therapist that had similar issues. After learning that there were ways to help clients that didn’t just depend on her hands holding up to the workload, she looked into what it would take to get certified in massage therapy.
“I called the school the next day and became a massage therapist,” Savage said. “The first massage I ever did; I knew that’s what I was meant to do.”
Since getting her initial license as a massage therapist, Savage said she’s focused on expanding her skill set to be able to help people manage pain. As a result, she went to Las Vegas and went to medical school to learn medical massage techniques. While the certification doesn’t make her a physician, she says it allows her to help patients coordinate care with their physicians, chiropractors and physical therapists to target chronic problems and help manage pain levels.
“I needed to become a medical massage therapist and help people feel better — not just relax and feel pampered, but really, truly help someone,” Savage said.
While a medical massage therapist doesn’t take insurance, Savage said she works to keep her rates reasonable so that anyone needing help with pain management can afford assistance.
There is a great need for people to practice self-care right now, Savage said. With two years of the pandemic causing added stress and social distancing creating a gap between people that hasn’t been there in the past, she said massage therapy can help restore human connections, something a lot of her clients are looking for.
“I mean, a lot of people are coming in, first of all, because people weren’t allowed to touch people for so long. So, they’re just getting that sense of touch to feel close again to something. And then stress-wise, and their stress has been through the roof, and depression’s at an all-time high, you know. Those are things that massage therapy can help with,” she said.
Many of Savage’s clients at Balanced Body Massage come to her through word of mouth, she said. She gets customers coming in from Grant and Adams counties, but also from as far away as Seattle and Spokane.
In addition to the medical massage, Savage offers Swedish massage, relaxation and stress relief sessions, trigger point massage and Thai massage — a type of therapy intended to help with flexibility, circulation and energy levels.
When a client first arrives, Savage sits down with them and discusses their individual needs. During the evaluation, she finds out what muscles and joints are hurting, what the client’s limitations are and what the overall goals are for working with a massage therapist.
“It goes in with my name, ‘Balanced Body Massage.’ I try to figure out if it’s their knee hurting, is it really something going on with their knee? Or are they walking a little out of alignment (and that’s causing the problem),” Savage said.
While massaging away aches and pains is part of the process, working with the patient and other care providers to identify root causes of problems and address them is the main priority, she said. As a result, she tends to work a client’s entire body rather than just focusing on the sore muscles in the back, arms or legs he or she may be complaining about.
“There’s a trifecta, you know? The physical therapist or someone that’s trained in sports therapy. So, it could be even a personal trainer, as long as they know the ins and outs, a chiropractor and a massage therapist. Because, then you can do massage therapy to relax your muscles, but then the (physical therapist) can strengthen those muscles that are hurting.”
The chiropractor can then ensure the skeletal system is aligned properly, and the client’s chronic pain is better managed with the help of the three professionals working hand-in-hand-in-hand, Savage said.
That’s the end goal, she added. Managing pain and stress so the client can be at their best and be happy and healthy.
“Putting yourself first is a very important thing because, if you can’t put yourself first, then you can’t help anyone else,” Savage said.
Balanced Body Massage
420 Basin St. NW
Ephrata, WA 98823
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R. Hans Miller may be reached at [email protected]