Does your back hurt? Are you suffering from headaches? Do your shoulders feel tense? As an increasing number of us spend our days working on the computer, muscle spasms in the upper body are more common than ever. Fortunately, masseuses know what they are doing.
As the days get colder and darker, Finns are roaming the streets with their shoulders in their ears. The neck and shoulder area gets stiff as we spend our working hours sitting down at work and the evening slouched on the couch as well. When the neck and shoulders tighten up, blood does not reach our brain properly. Poor circulation then leads to headaches. This results in a vicious circle.
A masseuse to the rescue! Massage therapists are familiar with the most problematic muscle knots of the human body and make your blood run free again.
Massage therapy can be studied in vocational schools through Health and Social Services study programs. Qualifications can also be achieved by a competence-based skills test.
The title of a trained masseur is controlled by the National Authority for Medicolegal Affairs.
Towards a relaxed body by classic massage
Eve Vataja became a trained masseuse a few years ago. Vataja, who also works as a clerk, remembers being interested in becoming a masseuse for a long time. She was intrigued by human anatomy. The idea of a second occupation was also a tempting prospect.
A chance to fulfill the dream came along as the Kiipula Adult Education Center, situated nearby, offered a year-long couse in massage.
During her massage therapy studies Vataja worked evening shifts at her regular job. The studies included anatomy, practical training and computer and business skills.
Vataja tells me that many clients are suspicious that having a massage will be painful. "Does it hurt" is a question a masseuse has heard numerous times. What does the expert reply to the question? "I tell them that you will definitely feel the massage if your neck is very stiff, but that's the point", Vataja says. "However, massage is not supposed to be painful. I don't hurt anyone on purpose."
Classic massage acts as a substitute for stretching. When your muscles get too tight, it becomes difficult to release the tension by yourself at home.
According to Eve Vataja, Finns have most problems with their shoulder and neck area. It is a typical nuisance to both those working with computers as well as those working at store check-outs.
How often should we have massage appointments to keep our bodies healthy? "If your muscles are really tense, you should have massages often for a month or so", Vataja advices. "After that it can be less frequent, but you still need to remember to come in regularly."
And what does the masseuse feel like after a long day's work? Aren't her hands sore from pampering others? "No", Eve Vataja states convincingly. "A trained masseuse knows how to use her whole body while working."
Vataja thinks giving massages is a relaxing job. "The best part about the work are my massage clients. It is so nice just to chitchat with them!"
Putting a smile on your face
Hasan Al-Mani works as a massage therapist in Helsinki. He specializes in shiatsu massage. Al-Mani moved to Finland from Palestine in the late 1980's and studied shiatsu in Finland.
After a four-month Diploma course Hasan Al-Mani was fascinated by shiatsu. He continued his studies for two years and is now aiming to become a shiatsu teacher himself. He also works at the University of Helsinki Sports Services, massaging students.
Al-Mani knows the history of shiatsu thoroughly. The roots of shiatsu trace back to the birth of Chinese acupunction 2500 years ago.
Shiatsu and acupunction have a lot in common. Both emphasize the importance of specific pressure points in the body.
However, whereas acupunction uses needles, a shiatsu therapist uses his fingers, elbows, fists, knees and even feet.
Shiatsu studies also include the basics of yoga, spirituality, stretching, vegetarian food and an introduction to herbal medicine. During his studies, Al-Mani became especially interested in herbal remedies.
"When I moved to Finland I was surprised to find that all Finnish homes had a medicine cabinet", Hasan Al-Mani remembers, smiling. "I thought it was strange. In the Far East pharmacies are often far away. We only use drugs for very serious diseases. Instead, we could take a herb like chamomile to ease a health problem."
Finns, on the other hand, like to down a painkiller at the slightest hint of a headache. Al-Mani recommends using more natural treatments for aches and pains.
By the way, you don't strip down topless or lie on a table at a shiatsu appointment. Instead, the client lies on a thin mattress on the floor. Clothes need not be removed, either. "Finns are not used to that when they come in for a massage", Al-Mani laughs. "It has caused me many uncomfortable situations. It's embarrassing to ask the client to put their clothes back on, when they've already taken them off."
Shiatsu is said to decrease migraines and even make them disappear altogether. The therapy also works for shoulder and neck aches as well as other muscle tensions. Shiatsu also has a therapeutic effect: Al-Mani claims it also cures depression.
Releasing tense muscles and cheering up sad clients is Hasan Al-Mani's favourite part of the job. "It is wonderful when clients come to see me depressed, but shake my hand after the session with a smile on their face!"