Massage Therapy Can Be a Healing Gift

February 5, 2008

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Professional massage to enhance general health and promote healing – which has been available to patients, families and employees of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center – is now available to the general public and to businesses. The program is designed to provide professional massage that can enhance wellness through physical and mental relaxation and pain relief.
Take Bill Gilbert, for instance. He’s a former pulmonary care patient who began getting monthly massages a year ago at age 76. He was suffering from a pinched nerve that was resulting in no feeling in his toe, but after the second massage, he started to regain feeling. He’s a firm believer in the health benefits of massage for circulation and muscle tension and believes the medical profession should do more to promote it as a healing therapy.
“Massage is a good way to get the blood circulating through the body,” he said. He works out at the YMCA and is an avid golfer, and is convinced that massage is the key component that helps him to stay fit and able to enjoy exercise at his age.
“For me, it’s about quality of life. More people, especially older people, need to know about its benefits.”
Types of massage available include Swedish, trigger point, prenatal/postpartum, sports, infant, Reiki, chair, and therapeutic massage for various diagnoses. Services are provided by four licensed massage therapists, who are employed by the hospital. Services are available at the patient’s bedside for inpatients or at CompRehab and the Sticht Center for outpatients and the general public. The program accepts cash or checks – gift certificates are available – and there is a no-tipping policy.
“We want to provide everyone the opportunity to explore therapeutic massage at an affordable price,” said Suzanne Melcher, program coordinator, who is also a licensed massage therapist and recreation therapist. “It’s also a great way to show someone you care by purchasing a gift certificate for birthdays and holidays, like the upcoming Valentine’s holiday.”
Many employees are taking advantage of the program as well, said Melcher, which can help them decompress from job stresses and increase their overall well-being. Sallie Simpson, R.N., who serves as director of Materials Management, has been getting a massage every two weeks for the last three years. She started just out of curiosity, but believes that massage has helped her cope with a lot of stressful life events. She also believes it gives her an overall boost physically.
“It’s just unbelievable,” Simpson said. “The level of relaxation I get lasts several days.”
Melcher said massage can benefit people in a variety of ways – relieving stress, reducing pain, improving sleep, enhancing overall relaxation, reducing anxiety, improving blood flow and circulation, improving lymph flow and reducing swelling.
“Anybody who is in the hospital is already facing stresses,” Melcher said. “Massage can help decrease nausea, pain, sleep difficulties, muscle tension, anxiety and stress. Massage may help patients to heal quicker by helping them to relax and focus on healing aspects."
The program is fee based and even patients must pay for the service, Melcher said. But receipts are provided because some insurance plans allow massage therapy as a reimbursable treatment. For patients who can’t afford the cost but would benefit from massage, a scholarship program has been funded by the Caryl J. Guth Fund and the Program for Holistic and Integrative Medicine to provide therapeutic massages.
Dr. Guth, a retired anesthesiologist, graduated from Bowman Gray School of Medicine in 1967 and has recently served as president of the Medical Alumni Association.
The scholarship fund targets pediatric oncology, orthopedics, adult hematology/oncology, and neurology. There are plans to expand massage therapy services in 2008, thanks to the fund, to orthopaedics, neurology, and acquired brain injury. It was recently rolled out to the women's health unit.
Massage is beneficial for people of all ages, Melcher said. Children 18 and under can also receive massages, but must be accompanied by their parent or legal guardian. Massages for young people are typically limited to 15 to 30 minutes, she said, because they can’t tolerate longer sessions. Melcher said the program is mobile and can go to local business sites; they even have a contract with Arbor Acres to provide massage for their residents.
Sessions can be as short as a five-minute chair massage to as long as a 90-minute full massage. Hours of operation are Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.
Cost is $40 for 30 minutes; $50 for 45 minutes; $60 for 60 minutes; $75 for 75 minutes; and $90 for 90 minutes. To schedule an appointment, request a gift certificate or for additional information about the program, please call the Massage Therapy Information Line at 716-8304.

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Media contact: Bonnie Davis,; or Shannon Koontz,, (336) 716-4587.

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. The system comprises 1,154 acute care, psychiatric, rehabilitation and long-term care beds and is consistently ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report.

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