Stretch, Relax, Repeat to Make the Aches Disappear

Push your physical and mental limits with an orthopedic massage.

Photo by John Altdorfer


As has been the tradition, when everyone else is getting their holly-jolly on, every muscle in my body begins to coil around my bones like a boa constrictor. 
Gas bills that make me wonder if I’m heating the entire neighborhood. Tighter.

Blaring horns fighting over parking spaces at the mall. Tighter.

Forgetting whose turn it was to buy, thaw and cook the dang turkey. Oh, it was me? Tighter.

I seek out Elements Massage, where the client intake form wants to know what brings me to their Wexford location. “Please check all that apply,” it kindly asks.

As I begin answering — my back, my neck, my shoulders, my sciatic nerve — it dawns on me that my current list of ails sounds as woeful as a country western song. My saving grace is that for the next 60 minutes, I’ll be drowning my sorrows in Room No. 8. Face down on a heated massage table. Tucked under a crisp white sheet and a warm blanket. Lights dimmed. Music soft. A chocolate waiting for me on a tray.

“Can you feel that stretch?”


Licensed massage therapist Nathan Cook is midway through my Swedish-style orthopedic massage, slowly coaxing my leg to lift higher, like the tail of an airplane. As it reaches maximum altitude, I can feel the muscles in my quads and hips begin to uncoil. He continues the sequence — lift, cross, pull, lift, cross, pull — before moving on to my hamstrings, glutes (and then deeper into the piriformis), hip abductors and gastrocnemius muscles in my calves.

“What a muscle does to function is contract, or shorten,” he explains. “If a muscle is chronically tight or shortened, it is not as functional as it would be at its natural resting length.

Additionally, when a muscle is tight it can ‘pinch’ other tissues that run through or under it (including) blood vessels, capillaries and nerves.” 

I drift into a euphoric state of half consciousness, aware only that the hour is moving far too quickly as he begins untying the knots in my lower back. As he does, he remains keenly aware of any changes in my breathing; namely, when I wince over the tender spots.

“Five minutes left,” he tells me. 

“If you have one to spare,” I say, wiggling my arms out from underneath the blanket, “my hands are cramped, too.”

Verdict: I was a little sore the next day. The following day, however, after drinking plenty of water as directed, the majority of my aches had disappeared.

Elements Massage, 12085 Perry Highway, Wexford; 724/799-2593, Sessions by appointment; 1 hr/$89; 90 min/$129; 2 hrs/$178. You can save up to $30/session with the Elements Wellness Program, a monthly massage subscription with no contracts or fees that can be used at any location nationwide.

Eat This Month

These naturally occurring compounds found within plant cell membranes have been shown to reduce total cholesterol levels up to 10 percent and LDL (aka "bad" cholesterol) up to 14 percent, says registered dietitian Jenny Nguyen. Find them in nuts, legumes, whole grains, fruits and veggies, although a plant sterol/stanol supplement packs the greatest punch. “If you are battling high cholesterol, the National Cholesterol Education Program recommends consuming two grams per day,” she says. 

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