Escaping midterm stress

Massage therapist Isabel Pla offers her services at the Wellness Center, which include Swedish and deep-tissue, accupuncture, as well as trigger point therapy and neuromuscular therapy. Brittney Bomnin//The Miami Hurricane
Massage therapist Isabel Pla offers her services at the Wellness Center, which include Swedish and deep-tissue, accupuncture, as well as trigger point therapy and neuromuscular therapy. Brittney Bomnin//The Miami Hurricane

From scrambling to finish class projects to cramming for exams, the pressure mounts quickly for students at the University of Miami.

With midterms looming, the massage therapy program at the Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness Center offers students a calming escape, complete with dimmed lights and soothing music.

Here, the expert massage therapists are skilled at relieving student’s stressed, tight muscles.

“The massage program started 16 years ago, when the Wellness Center first opened,” assistant director Ashley Falcon said. “Massages fall in line with wellness and how, as an individual, you should make yourself your top priority and control your stress levels.”

School issues, current surroundings, health and social situations can all trigger stress. If not dealt with properly, stress can lead to painful tension in muscles.

“The students we see have a lot of tension in their neck and shoulders and the legs sometimes too, if they are runners,” Isabel Pla, one of the three massage therapists at the Wellness Center, said.

Pla has been doing massage therapy for five years, giving six to 10 massages daily. She also notes how the middle of the back and forearms hold a great deal of tension, resulting from daily activities like typing and writing.

“The tension comes from trigger points, which are similar to knots,” Pla said. “When the muscle is short instead of long, and very tight instead of loose, it makes a knot. This can lead to migraines and a lot of pain in the muscles.”

Senior Christine Bouchard has received two or three massages in past years, though not at the Wellness Center.

“I would get massages because I was stressed out and would get really bad migraine headaches,” Bouchard said. “Reading probably caused some of my problem. You bend your neck a lot, which can give you really bad tension.”

Junior Paul Rabut relieved his pain through two or three massage sessions at the Wellness Center.

“I had back and neck pain from playing the drums and having bad posture…staying in one position for too long and not moving around.” Rabut said. “I definitely have stress from classes too, it has an effect. Mental stress translates into physical stress; it’s all tied together.”

The program is not just for students; it is also open to faculty, staff, Wellness Center members and even those in the local community who are not members.

The massage therapists at the Wellness Center work with clients to meet their needs, using combinations of different massage techniques.

A 50-minute session typically works your back, arms, legs, feet, hands, head, neck and shoulders. The program also offers a 25-minute option, which focuses on a few key areas of the body.

Long, broad strokes are used in addition to deep kneading to eliminate especially tight knots caused by stress.

“Massage is a great stress reliever,” said Melissa Jurado, the assistant director of group exercise and instructional programs at the Wellness Center. “All the attention is on you, and your relaxation and relieving your stress.”

Danielle Kaslow may be contacted at dkaslow@themiamihurricane.com.