If it hasn’t been made evident by now, we love people here at AAT! We love hearing about their stories and passions for our community, but we also love hearing about what our fellow locals do and why they do it! For example, we have some wonderful neighbors who own/manager some fantastic local businesses and serve our town tremendously by doing so! This fact is why AAT has partnered up with our good friends at B3 Glass, to bring you all “Small Business Fridays!” Each week, we’ll feature a different, local small business and talk with its owner and hear about their journey, their business in general, as well as their heart for their customers and our city!
This week, we’re talking with a business that’s centered around a pretty interesting topic these days—physical touch. In the wake of everything happening right now in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, coming into physical contact with others is something we’re all, understandably, trying to avoid. However, should the idea of touch be a complete taboo? We’ve invited Stephanie Lancaster, owner and operator of the massage therapy business Balanced Bodywork, here to discuss this question with us and more.
For the past nine years, Stephanie has been working on and learning to be a go-to person for everything massage therapy related. In March 2019, Stephanie opened the doors of Balance Bodywork’s official location on 10th St. and has been providing her clients with practical help and relief ever since!
Thank you for joining us this week, Stephanie! We look forward to hearing from an expert about the notion of touch a little later on in this blog, but first, will you please share a bit about yourself with us? What road did you have to go on to end up practicing massage therapy here in Elko, Nevada?
“I graduated at sixteen, and I was studying to be a social worker as I was doing college classes throughout my senior year of high school. However, in 2005, when I was fifteen, I had to have stomach surgery. So I was in the hospital agonizing about studying how much went into being a social worker. One day, I had a massage therapist come into my hospital room to massage my legs so I didn’t get blood clots. Her work saved my life because if I had gotten a blood clot, it could have turned into so many other things.
“I realized after talking with her and dealing with physical therapists in the past from doing Judo and being active that massage therapy might be something I may want to look into. Nobody’s ever upset to see their massage therapist! So, once I got on that train, I never got off. I learned that what massage therapists’ do is so important. There’s a physiology side to it and an anatomy side to it, and there’s even an emotional side to it because to do the work, you have to get inside someone’s “bubble!” Once I dove into it, I went deeper and deeper and wanted to know everything there was to know about it!
“I went to school for it, and I graduated in 2011. My internship was at a hospital in Boise, Idaho, where I gave massages to moms who had just given birth, people getting chemo and radiation, and helped parents in the NICU learn the importance of touching their babies. After that, I ended up in Georgia, before moving here in 2017 and starting my business!”
Stephanie, what’s the difference between what you do and a masseuse you’d find at something like a spa or health club?
“Spas can have really good massage therapists, but most of the time, people go there to relax. They want the soft and fluid massage that would be more of a Swedish massage. I will do those kinds of massages for people, of course, but what I mainly do is a lot of pain management. I do fire cupping, reflexology, Kinesio taping, trigger point, and even deep tissue. I’m certified in a lot of things. So, I deal with people who more need a massage rather than simply want a massage. These are people with chronic pain from their jobs, a previous sports injury, or people that may be rough on their body but still need their body to work.”
You’ve been in the massage game for almost a decade now, Stephanie. What have you loved most about your work and business?
“As cliché as it sounds, honestly, just helping people! People will come in and tell me I’m their last-ditch effort before surgery, so I’ll want to see what I can do for them. One of my favorite clients, from Idaho, was someone who had fallen off a roof. There was nothing wrong, bone-wise, but he was having all this sciatic pain and he couldn’t sit or stand or do anything. He was going to have to have a fusion to fix something that may not have been broken. He came in, and after three months of seeing him every week, he was able to stand fifty percent straighter than when he came in! The pain had decreased enough to where he was able to sleep, drive, and cancel his surgery. Eventually, he stopped seeing me because he didn’t need me anymore. That’s what I wanted; I want people not to need me!”
On the flip side of that question, what’s been the most challenging aspect of being in the massage therapist industry?
“It’s getting better, but a lot of people will disregard massage. They’ll see it [as] more of a luxury and may schedule something like a doctor’s appointment over a massage appointment because they’ll get a lot less crap from others for going [to the doctor] rather than getting a massage. I still meet people every day who say they’ve never had a massage. Why not? Who would not want to go see someone who can help make them physically feel better?”
Although you’ve only lived in Elko for a few years, we’re sure you’ve been able to form a perspective on the town. What’s your experience as a business owner and professional in our area been like so far?
“Elko is a super interesting community! When I first came here, it was rough. It didn’t seem to matter how much advertising I did because nobody knew me, which meant nobody had heard good or bad about my business. It took a while for me to “get in” with the community, but once I was, the support became overwhelming! This town will have your back no matter what. When everything first happened with the business closure ordinance from the Governor, there was a period of four days where I cried every day because the amount of support from the people reaching out to me was just amazing!”
Speaking of current events, let’s now talk about touch. This word is something your entire line of work is based around. What would you say to our readers who have, perhaps subconsciously, demonized the thought of any and all physical touch in their lives because of what’s going on globally?
“Physical touch is important! Just being touched in general will make most people feel better. When touch happens, oxytocin is released, which is a chemical in your brain that gives you that “feel good” feeling; it helps with stress and relaxes you. This can come from something as small as getting a hug from someone! Dopamine is also released and helps with anxiety, which is probably something we all need right now! Everyone is so highly stressed right now and physical touch has obviously decreased. So, even in my house, I have to remind myself how important contact still is. If I’m sitting on the couch with my kids, I need to cuddle them because it’s going to help them, and me, feel better!”
Well said, Stephanie! Is there anything you’d like to share before we let you get back to getting out people’s knots and kinks?
“I want to help people! I’m passionate and informed about what I do, and I take it very seriously. With everything happening right now, everything is so unknown. So we all need to be kind, care about each other, and find something to help yourself and your family. Eventually, we are going to have to go back to work, so not taking care of ourselves now, while we have time, is not going to help in the long run. Take care of yourself and your family, and the rest will eventually pass over!”
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See you around, Elko!
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