Sports are a big deal at Indiana State University. The school’s athletic teams include women’s field hockey and softball, and men’s football and baseball; basketball, tennis, track, soccer, golf, swimming, rowing—and many others.
Five years ago, the university began offering students a massage minor option. It has become so popular that a second instructor was recently added to alleviate the program director’s workload—and due to an overwhelmingly positive response from students, a non-degree massage certification program is in the works.
That non-degree option will allow students outside of the university’s Department of Applied Medicine and Rehabilitation to pursue a massage career, according to Charlie Peebles, Indiana State University’s director of the massage therapy program.
Minor in Massage Program
Currently, the massage minor allows students within the Department of Applied Medicine and Rehabilitation to receive hands-on clinical hours in training in Erik Dalton, Ph.D.’s Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques. Most of those students major in fields like physical therapy, exercise science and related health careers.
One hundred students have graduated with the minor, Peebles said. Students in the massage training program are required to get a minimum of 100 hours of supervised hands-on training, including at special community health events.
The course lab provides instruction on active isolated stretching, myofascial release, neuromuscular therapy, deep tissue massage, shiatsu, sports and fitness massage, Rolfing structural integration and more. Each class time allows for massage technique demos, which are then practiced by students.
Erik Dalton’s Techniques
“[The Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques are], I’d say, definitely advanced in what it focuses on,” said Peebles. “Most schools teach the relaxation model of massage. Myoskeletal Alignment Technique is more of a pain [relieving], posture-performance model.”
Dalton created his Myoskeletal Alignment Technique in a way that clients get a blend of muscle-energy and stretching techniques along with deep-tissue massage. The modality also aims to relieve and correct improper patterns in the body that cause pain and deterioration, according to Dalton’s website. Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques are rooted in the work of physician Vladimir Janda; manipulative osteopathy; and Rolfing.
Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques essentially retrain the brain to instill proper movement patterns, something that the school’s many student athletes benefit from, Peebles said.
“Not only does the massage help the client feel where they should be, but it helps them be aware of how to correct some of those dysfunctional patterns,” he said.
The Myoskeletal Alignment Technique includes a focus on proper posture and stretching techniques, an important and crucial part of training for many college athletes on campus, explained Peebles.
The benefit of correcting poor physical patterns has proven itself repeatedly over the last few years that massage students have worked on athletes, Peebles added.
Running to Massage
During open clinics, the public, students and staff flock to the massage rooms for sessions. One of those clients is athlete Bre Herring.
Herring, 22, said she attends open massage clinics to loosen up her often-tight hamstrings. As a track-and-field athlete and someone with hypermobility, her monthly massage is a must-have for staying in top condition.
“Everyone wants to feel their best, and athletes are no exception,” said Herring. “Something as little as a sore muscle or a tight muscle can easily become a bigger problem—such as a pulled muscle—if it is not properly taken care of.
“While athletic trainers do a lot to help educate us about our injuries and our bodies,” Herring added, “oftentimes they don’t have the time to give every athlete a personal massage.”
For Herring, massage is part of an important routine as an athlete. It also has allowed her to become even more limber and less prone to injury, she said. Shin splints are a regular issue for her, but getting regular massage sessions has allowed her to continue to train with injuries that might otherwise cost her the season.
Even as a health sciences major, Herring said she has learned more about her body and the mechanics of it because of her interaction with the students enrolled in the massage training program.
“I struggle with back spasms, however, massage has helped expand my education about what I can do on my own to help with my back spasms,” she said. “With a loose back, I am better able to accomplish daily tasks and perform optimally in my sport … [and] keep my legs in optimal condition.”
Runners stop by the massage clinics most frequently, Peebles said. As a massage instructor, he encourages student athletes to stop in every week if possible.
“There’s a lot of stress banging those bones,” he said. “We have some cross country runners averaging 75 to 100 miles a week. You can imagine the wear and tear.”
Not only does the minor benefit Indiana State University’s top student athletes—who receive free massages weekly—the experience of receiving hands-
on training allows massage students an opportunity to gain a skill that will help them greatly in their respective health fields, Peebles added.
The massage program is unique in that it allows students further preparation for even more education down the road.
Samantha Memmer, an athletic training major, said she feels adding a massage minor to her track will ultimately benefit her overall goal of becoming an occupational therapist.
“Before taking massage therapy, I hadn’t realized just how beneficial massage therapy can truly be,” she said. “I was amazed at how much a massage therapist can do … [including] relieving muscle spasms and cramps.
“Therapy sessions can be easily adjusted to fit the needs of each [client] because there are such a wide variety of techniques used in this field,” Memmer added.
She plans to use her minor throughout graduate school as a way to perfect her interaction skills with patients. With the university’s minor, she will get 550 hours of hands-on experience. After graduation, she will sit for the state certification exam.
For Memmer, the open clinics are the best part of the program, as they provide a real-life scenario a massage therapist might tackle on any given day.
“During our open clinics, we are able to gain hands-on experience with people of every shape and size,” she said. “As students, it is great to be able to interact with the public and treat actual [clients] while continuing work in the classroom.”
“There have been many occasions where we encounter something new in the field that we can later discuss and learn from as a class,” Memmer added.
Jason Chatman, a third-year student, said the addition of a massage minor is just another way for him to help others. As a former Navy corpsman, his training gave him a taste for improving the health of others.
He hopes his new massage skills will do the same as he moves on with his health sciences degree with a concentration in public health.
Massage, he said, is a way to move others forward in their health and wellness.
“There is more to massage than putting lotion on your hands and giving a back rub,” he said. “That’s what captured me, by [the university’s] massage program—we reach the underlying causes and listen to what the [clients] are saying.”
For Chatman, that hands-on experience has made him feel his massage work is truly helping others.
“The mechanics of the body is simply the same—the person coming to your table just happens to be a little different than the next,” he said.
“Personally, I love the fact that I can make a difference in someone’s life or a moment of their day.”
About the Author
Seraine Page is an award-winning journalist based out of the Seattle, Washington, area. She enjoys writing about health and wellness. Her work has been published in the Kitsap Sun, Bainbridge Island Review, Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal, Earth Island Journal and others. She wrote “Suffering in Silence: Migrant Farmworkers Need Massage” and “U.S. Veterans’ PTSD Helped with Massage,” among other articles, for MASSAGE Magazine.