Getting crucked

Massage is the rub for a pampered self

Billie Burchett pushes, pulls and frankly tortures Reno freelance writer Michael Sion.

Billie Burchett pushes, pulls and frankly tortures Reno freelance writer Michael Sion.

Photo By David Robert

Liabilities plague every occupation, including hacking prose. Too many hunkered iMac marathons, over too many months, had left opposite points between my neck and shoulder blades searing like half-smoked cigars.

Weightlifting compounded the pain. Wildfires smoldered and raged at nerve endings. Me back: seriously kinked.

Time to call Billee.

Three days later—the appointment, a precious hour on her schedule due to a cancellation. Alone in the little room she leases in an office suite in the part of old southwest Reno called Lawyerville, I undressed to my Old Navy briefs, climbed onto her massage table, scooted under the white sheet, flipped onto once-hard abs. Herb-scented blended oil aromatized the dim room. A New Age symphony gently pulsed pitches of an enchanted rainforest. Urban Stress Melt.

Billee reentered, quizzed re my condition, then spread big, powerful hands on my back, leaned in and stre-etched the muscles.


Rib snapping back into place.

A brittle reminder for an overdue tune-up.

For the next 59 minutes Billee Burchett—an always-busy Reno masseuse with loyal following and 11 years as a licensed therapist—rubbed, pressed, pushed, pulled, manipulated, stimulated, tugged and (frankly) tortured me poor achin’ arm, shoulder, neck and back muscles: in the process relaxing them.

Men are such wimps. I groaned, gritted, endured in silent agony and a few times conceded a guttural “ohhh.” At the end, having dressed and whipped out the checkbook, I stated (ingenuously), “I bet you’re glad to be able to work on a man’s body, since most of your clients are women. I mean, you can really work the muscles.”

“Actually, I work a lot harder on my women clients. Some of them are mothers. They’ve been through childbirth. This is nothing to them.”


Billee’s post-massage diagnosis:

Threefold problem with my upper-back muscles. Water: drink more. Blood flow: buy a moist heating pad to use at computer. Shoulders rounded from writing posture: stretch (Billee demonstrated, forearm under opposite arm’s elbow, pulling forward) every 15 minutes, holding at least 18 seconds.

Since I’d been pumping iron, I should drink protein powder supplements. Insufficient protein means muscles feed on each other.

“You’re going to be really sore tomorrow,” Billee said as I left, feeling really sore.

Yet the Trapezius Fire of Fall 2001 not only was contained, but extinguished.

Here is the obligatory article section that reeks of incense, for it touches upon massage’s history and benefits:

Like all ancient arts, massage’s origins are murky, yadayadayada, but think China, India, etc. Or Egypt. Or cavemen. Evidence indicates prehistoric peoples therapeutically rubbed muscles with herbs and oils, and healers in all major ancient civilizations used forms of massage. It’s instinctual. You get owie, you rub it.

More on the matter? Pick a Web site. How about the New Zealand Health Network’s? “This basic instinct has been slowly developed over the countless generations into a sophisticated healing art and science.” Segue to scribbled notes for which I can’t remember sources: Lo, and characters in the Bible were anointed with oil. Figures from history who have subscribed to massage include Hippocrates, Julius Caesar, Sigmund Freud and name-your-favorite megamillionaire modern professional athlete.

A simple definition of massage is the manipulation of the body’s soft tissues with the hands for therapeutic or pleasurable effects thereof. The benefits are (pick another Web site—how about Terri Kerr’s, who holds North Carolina state license No. 00046?) to “help release chronic muscular tension and pain, improve circulation, increase joint flexibility, reduce mental and physical fatigue and stress, promote faster healing of injured muscular tissue, improve posture and reduce blood pressure.” Switch back to the New Zealand Health Network’s site: Benefits include the relaxing of the muscles, improving of the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients to tissues, and the hastening of the excretion of waste products. Massage can (return to Kerr’s site) “promote better sleep, improve concentration, reduce anxiety and create an overall sense of well-being. Plus it feels great!”

Even when it hurts. No pain, no pleasure.


Other claims for massage include the ability to alleviate chronic ailments and emotional problems. Scientific verdicts still are out. All that’s verified at this juncture:

Massage relaxes muscles, reduces stress, increases circulation, and at certain levels helps reduce pain.

“Scientifically, there’s been as many reports negating massage as benefiting,” says Bob Oliver, owner of the Ralston School of Massage, based in Washoe Medical Center. “We do know it increases circulation. It reduces pain and stress. That’s a given. It reduces healing time. In athletics, they say it helps with recovery time and can help athletes avoid injuries.”

A tangential note on where those interested can study massage locally:

The state’s Commission on Postsecondary Education accredits Truckee Meadows Community College’s massage program plus two other schools in northwest Nevada: the Ralston School of Massage and the Baum Healing Arts Center in Carson City.

The Ralston School, a couple of decades old, has the largest enrollment, with about 100 students working toward 560 hours of class time and hands-on learning. This takes between 10 months and two-and-a-half years. Professional rubbing requires training.

The state of Nevada doesn’t require that massage therapists be licensed, but counties do. Most of the northern counties, including Washoe, require that license applicants complete a minimum of 500 hours from a state-accredited school and pass written and practical examinations by their county’s massage board.

Career opportunities are ample and increasing, says Baum Healing Arts owner Vinnie Baum. “Many of the spas are opening up positions for massage therapists. We get more and more [individuals in] the health care field looking for massage therapists. Some of our graduates have gone to work with chiropractors or physical therapy offices and at fitness centers. There’s more of a call in that direction. And it will continue to be a growing industry in our area in the coming years.

“More people are looking at getting massages for health benefits.”

How do you find a good massage?

The Yellow Pages are a source of consternation. Brothels—which can’t legally advertise outside the rural counties they’re legal in—list their services as “massage” in the telephone book. Legitimate therapists are listed under the “massage therapeutic” heading, but many avoid the phone book altogether because of the cathouses’ nearby ads.

Insiders say you find a good masseuse/masseur the same way you do a plumber or mechanic—word of mouth.

“If they’re doing good work out there, helping people, those people are going to tell other people. So ask around,” Baum says. “You also can see what education they have, where they’ve graduated from, and what techniques they know.”

Ah, techniques. There are at least 200. Acupressure. Hot Stone. Reflexology. Rolfing. Shiatsu. Swedish. Tantric. Tui Na. Watsu. Wasabi (just kidding). And subsets. Some therapists employ relaxation techniques. These feel good and aren’t rigorous to endure.

“I do therapeutic, not relaxation massage,” Billee Burchett explains. “My clients have carpal tunnel syndrome, TMJ [temporal mandibular joint dysfunction—think painful jaws], migraines, car accidents, any injury. I’ve developed two forms for fibromyalgia [a muscle disease] and CFS [chronic fatigue syndrome].”

Burchett, a Ralston graduate, developed her style after studying neuromuscular activation, neuromuscular reeducation and myopathy. And you thought she just had powerful hands.

How often should you get massaged?

How often can you afford it?

Local rates generally range from $45 to $65 an hour. You can get a half-hour for half the hourly rate plus $5 or pay, at some places, $1 a minute.

Some clients come in once a week, some once a month. “It all depends on their needs,” Oliver says, “and what the client is searching for in massage.” Some (like this scribe) come in only when bodily pain has gotten too uncomfortable.

Massage’s importance to health?

“It’s a major contribution,” Oliver says. “I can talk to you for about two hours about that.”

My cruckmaster, Billee, sums it up: “It’s extremely important. It keeps a good attitude. It’s one of the few things that unite your body, mind and soul, and done on a regular basis can literally change your attitude and outlook on life.”

Billee’s regulars are mostly professionals, women ages 20 to 70. She’s worked on some over 10 years.

“Talk to anyone who’s had it done on a regular basis, and they’ll say that they can’t live without it,” Billee says. “And they can tell when they haven’t been getting it done.”

Their body may tell on them, in a brittle voice: