As Ginger Steven’s Rossland practice, Trinity Massage, moves into its second year, the Rossland News joined Steven as she looked back on her years as a registered therapist and how her own health struggles led her down a path to a career as a healer.
“Some people have the idea that massage is just fluffy, feel-good, and doesn’t really serve any therapeutic purpose,” Steven explained. “Anyone who’s had a therapeutic massage by a registered massage therapist will tell you it’s anything but fluffy!”
“We’re treatment-based. It’s a deeper massage,” said Steven, who has acquired considerable extra training and experience in prenatal massage. “People can experience a bit more discomfort than, say, in a relaxation massage, which is a lot more superficial and lighter.”
While living in Calgary many years ago, working at the famous Community Natural Foods health store there, Steven decided to take advantage of her benefits package to see if massage therapy might help the chronic headaches and migraines she had suffered since childhood.
She’d already tried everyone else: the doctor, the dentist, the chiropractor, cat-scans, “all that kind of stuff,” she said. “Nothing really did anything for it.”
“When I started going to massage therapy in Calgary, it was a matter of weeks before my headaches started to dissipate, and within a couple of months there were no more headaches, no more migraines.”
She has kept a regular schedule of massages since then. “It did so much for me that I thought, what a great way to spend my life, in a profession that I can help people,” Steven said.
She attended the Okanagan Valley College of Massage Therapy in Vernon for three years to become certified and registered, and then returned to her hometown of Trail in 2004 to work for Kootenay Columbia Therapeutics.
Leaving Trail after high school, Steven had wandered the globe for some years, working hotels in Banff, then a ski resort in Japan through a Selkirk College exchange in her Resort and Hotel Administration program, and then backpacking through the U.K. for six months before moving to Calgary and finding her passion for healing.
She moved to Rossland in 2006 to join her partner Jim Tales, the co-owner of the Gold Rush Café before it was sold to Café Books. The couple enjoy the Rossland lifestyle: snowshoeing in the winter and camping in the summer. Intriguingly, despite living and working at some of the world’s best downhill resorts, Steven claims she’s not a big downhill skier but prefers cross-country.
Last year, she “decided to try things on my own,” and moved her practice here. “I was keen to be able to walk back and forth to work and have that kind of freedom, rather than driving up and down the hill every day.”
She opened on April 12, 2010 at 2114 Columbia Avenue — right beside the Rossland News office above Nature’s Den — and then moved again in February to a superior location in the same building.
“I’m really happy with the new space, everyone seems to like it,” she said. “I’ve signed a lease to stay here for three years. It’s a nice office, it’s a nice atmosphere.”
And other people are happy too. “Business has been good,” Steven reported. “I was very lucky that a lot of clients followed me up the hill from Trail. That helped sustain me for the first little bit, and since then it’s been a matter of word-of-mouth and people coming in.”
“There’s always room for more!” she laughed, “I can always take on more clients.”
The wait time has become a bit longer than it used to be, however, “so you’re looking at a week or two before I can usually get somebody new in,” she said.
There are a long list of complaints that Steven feels confident that massage therapy can improve from pseudo-sciatica — the referral of pain from the lower back down the leg — to T.M.J. (temporal mandibular joint) issues — a stiff jaw, in the vernacular.
“A lot of people hold their stress in their upper back and shoulders and neck,” she said. “That can lead to all sorts of problems.” As Steven herself experienced, massage can be very effective for headaches.
Problems also arise from “static postures,” when people do the same activity over and over, such as hunching at the computer.
If people have an extended health insurance plan, they only require a referral from a doctor to have their massage therapy mostly covered. If clients are paying out of pocket, no referral is needed.
In the past, the medical establishment has been reluctant to refer patients to “alternative” care, but Steven said “it’s getting better.”
“There are more doctors in the area that are starting to refer to massage therapy, but it’s still quite a ways behind where it should be,” she said. “But the public in general is getting better educated and are starting to prioritize where they want to spend their health care dollars. A lot of them are looking at massage therapy and are hearing about the benefits other people are having. That’s leading them in this direction more on their own than through a referral.”
It’s a case of don’t knock it until you try it first: “Once they’ve been and realize the benefits for themselves, then they realize that it’s a good allocation of their health care dollars,” Steven said.
At each treatment, a client receives an hour of focused attention on an issue, but long-lasting success usually depends on a schedule of repeat visits tailored to the client’s needs.
“Long standing issues can take a little while to get down to the actual cause of the pain and work through it. A fairly recent problem doesn’t take so long,” she explained.
For acute problems, Steven recommends once per week visits for three weeks, and then “we go by their progress — how they’re feeling, how they’re responding.” As the condition improves, visits can be reduced to every two weeks and then “slowly leave it for a longer time as they experience longer periods of relief from their pain.”
Several other approaches can complement massage therapy, such as chiropractics or nutrition. “I’m a big believer in whatever works for each person,” Steven explained. “I have no problem referring people to acupuncture, for example, if I find that will help.”
There is one piece of advice she gives everyone. “Water is key in keeping everything nice and fluid in the body. A lot of people don’t drink enough water. That’s one thing we push a lot, that people drink more water than they generally tend to.”
Steven also practices Reiki energy healing but, as required by her profession, only as a clearly separated practice from her massages. She became certified to the second degree in Reiki during in Calgary and has seen benefits in many of her patients over the years.
While many registered massage therapists would like to integrate Reiki and other methods with massage therapy, or “specialize” in particular types of massage, current regulations only permit therapists to advertise their “extra training,” for example Steven’s focus on prenatal care.
In fact, after years of caring for pregnant women, she says she may train as a dula in the future.
“I’m definitely interested in becoming a dula, but it’s just a question of time. While I’m working full time I can’t really swing it.”
Steven said she firmly believes that “if you really enjoy what you do, and you do it well, business just seems to follow. I enjoy this very much.”
She can be reached at her massage therapy studio at 231-5040.