Herald-Journal Health/Medical Section, July 20, 1998

Massage, music, aromatherapy help relieve stress

By ANDREA VARGO

Nature sounds and piano music play softly in the background, the lights dim, and the woman on the massage table visibly relaxes in anticipation of her regular personal time.

Peg Rathkamp at Donna's Salon in Howard Lake said a lot of people come to her for stress relief.

Rathkamp provides a whole, relaxing process for the harried mom or hard-working professional person, as well as people who just want some relaxing time to themselves.

She learned the process in cosmetology school, and she said it should not be confused with massage therapy.

This process starts with the atmosphere: dim lights, soothing music, a scented candle.

Wrapped in sheets and towels, modesty preserved, the client is questioned about where he/she carries stress.

"Most of the time, it is in the upper back," said Rathkamp.

Today she is giving a back treatment. It involves skin treatment as well as massage, she said.

Using special gloves, Rathkamp exfoliates the skin on the back.

"Exposure to the sun makes the skin dry and it peels," she said.

This feels really good, but it feels a little rough, said the client.

Using a natural pumice body polish, Rathkamp spreads the cream over the skin to remove remaining dry skin.

"All the products I use have the benefit of aroma therapy," she said. Lavender and rose hips are very calming, soothing scents.

Most products I use combine fragrences to enhance their effect, said Rathkamp.

Now that the exfoliation of the skin is complete, a moisturizing cream is applied to condition the skin and assist in the massage.

"I work on pressure points, following the spine and spend about three seconds on each pressure point," she said.

Rathkamp said she tries to find all the knots in the muscles and works on these. She also works on the neck a lot.

After the massage, the skin is covered with a clay product used as a complete body mask to detoxify the skin, while helping to firm and tone, she said.

It hydrates and balances the skin to promote health and resiliance. It also contains passion fruit extract, which is an alpha hdroxy source.

"Massage is being used alot for cancer patients now," she said.

The benefits of the massage help the patient cope physically and mentally with the treatments, she said.

Here at the salon, we have tried to help people be more health concious, said Rathkamp.

"We all work harder and longer. We need to take time for ourselves," she said.

What Rathkamp and co-worker Michelle Hofer do works from the outside to create relaxation on the inside.

"The touch itself is theraputic," said Rathkamp. "Everyone needs to be touched. It is really good for people," she said.

The effects last a long time and the skin stays soft for weeks, said Rathkamp.

The proof is with the client, who said, "This is truly a little piece of heaven, and Peg makes you feel so at ease.

"There are no phones, kids, or knocks on the door. You just let your mind go.

"It feels so good and makes me feel like I can go on with the rest of my day."


Aromatheraphy - it makes scents

Natural scents keep us connected to the earth and spark memories and emotions, according to Linda Page, M.D., in her book "Healthy Healing."

Aromatherapy is already a part of our lives, although we may not have associated the name with the experience, according to Page.

More than 4,000 years ago, the beginnings of the art of aromatherapy were recorded in both Egypt and India.

Egyptians used aromatic plants to create massage oils, medicines, embalming preparations, skin care products, fragrant perfumes and cosmetics.

In France and England, a movement was started by noted doctors and scholars in the naturopathic and medical communities to return to the use of natural medicine and aromatherapy.

These countries recognize the benefits of aromatherapy, and health insurance companies reimburse for treatments using the approaches.

The idea behind aromatherapy is to find a scent for each individual that evokes positive feelings and emotions.

Then these scents are introduced into our daily lives to enhance well-being.

Aromatherapy uses pure essential oils, extracted from many parts of a plant. Aromatherapists understand the technical aspects of these oils and blend them to create new aromas.

No two persons are affected by the same essential oil in exactly the same way, and even a person's mood, or the time of day can make the experience different.

The olfactory system of the human brain creates an individual perception of aroma.

The brain responds to an aroma by retrieving a past memory associated with the aroma.

So certain scents can help us relax or stimulate our energies.

The sense of smell has the longest recall of all senses, so we tend to retain memories associated with aromas for quite some time.


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