Thank You for Your Service
Massage therapy can help battle the stressors of military life,
not only for our servicemen and servicewomen, but their families as
-By Craig Outheir
LIVING IN A CRAMPED METAL TUBE with 120 fellow
sailors for six months isn't as uncomfortable as it sounds. Really,
it isn't. The Navy provides treadmills and a weight room to
stretch out the limbs. And the mess hall? Sooo much elbow room.
That's the line that Amber Carlson's husband-a 15-year U.S. Navy
serviceman-always feeds her when he returns home to Bremerton,
Wash., from one of his multimonth submarine deployments in the
Pacific Ocean. But she doesn't really buy it.
"You get pretty stiff and sore in a small space like
that," Carlson, a social worker, says.
"The bed is so small, the galleys are so small, you
definitely develop tightness and kinks." Those very
same kinked joints and knotted muscles are what motivated 20
Massage Envy therapy clinics in the Puget Sound area to donate free
massages to active-duty service members and their families during a
special oneday promotion last July. Conceived as a way to honor and
recognize western Washington's robust population of sailors,
soldiers and airmen, the promotion was enormously popular,
proffering more than 700 free therapy sessions. Massage Envy
Regional Director Barney Nelson wholeheartedly supports the
"Massage for the Military" event.
"In general, massage therapy can be enormously
effective in relieving stress, and serving in the armed forces
is one of the most stressful jobs there is," Nelson
says. "So it was a natural fit for us. You have a
population that everybody loves-the military. And one of the best,
most easily accessible ways to relieve stress and lower blood
Nelson doesn't know for sure whether Puget Sound-area centers
will run "Massage for the Military" in 2013, but he
does offer a year-round discount for service members and their
families. Likewise, most Massage Envy locations throughout the
country offer a Military Discount Program, discounting massage
service prices for activeduty personnel.
The same therapeutic principle of massage also applies to
military personnel family members, who often don't see their loved
ones for months on end while shouldering added household burdens.
Stress and tension are givens. Carlson accompanied her submariner
husband to the Massage Envy in Gig Harbor, Wash., for the free
massage event and found it habit-forming, even though she doesn't
personally pull six-hour crew shifts in the Navy's underwater
"silent service.""I'm a social worker by trade, so it's
not the least stressful job in the world," she says.
"It's medical social work-drug and alcohol issues, and
people who aren't able to take care of themselves anymore-so it's
very high stress and demanding."
Hunched over a keyboard for much of the day, inputting patient
charts and other data, Carlson banks tension in her upper body.
"[Massage] takes my shoulders from my ears back down
to my shoulders," she says.
For her husband, the problem areas are "more in his
hips and legs." Both of them suffer occasional bouts
VALUABLE COUPLE TIME
That the couple would gravitate toward massage therapy makes
sense, according to experts at the American Holistic Medical
Association (AHMA). "The positive effect of massage
therapy is something routinely discussed
among our members," AHMA Executive Director Steve
Cadwell says. "For many [patients], it offers immediate
relief. And it's also relationship-centered
care that looks at the patient as a whole person, one
of our core principles."
The continued benefits keep Carlson coming back. After all, the
military wife isn't solely focused on her stiff shoulders. She also
wants to optimize couple time when her husband is back in port,
which is a big part of their personal postsubmarine decompression
process."Most of the time, we go to the massage clinic
together," she says. "And when we get out of
our sessions, we're in the same place. It's nice."