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T.O. MASSAGE THERAPY SCHOOL PROVIDES `HANDS-ON APPROACH'.

Byline: Sonia Giordani Daily News Staff Writer

Sara McLeod looks forward to the precious half-hour each month when she turns her aching muscles over to the healing hands of Ann Travers.

``I'm a waitress and carry heavy trays, and I'm also a mother and carry heavy children,'' said McLeod, one of a growing number of people turning to massage therapy to help them feel good and stay healthy. ``Daily life is so stressful, we deserve this time for ourselves.''

Pouring a few drops of almond oil into her hands, Travers - a massage therapist for 10 years - began working the sweet-smelling ointment into McLeod's shoulder and back with long, slow strokes.

``I try to loosen the muscles and help people relax,'' Travers said, as she left off kneading a muscle in McLeod's right shoulder to focus on her client's lower back.

According to the American Massage Therapy Association, the 54-year-old trade organization for massage therapists, Americans spend $2 billion to $4 billion a year on massage therapy.

Massage therapy accounts for approximately 26 percent of the country's expenditures on alternative health care, ranking third after relaxation techniques and chiropractic care.

And as the demand has risen for massage therapy, so has the supply of qualified therapists and the proper schools to train them throughout their careers.

The trend recently spilled into Thousand Oaks, where the Conejo Valley's first massage therapy school is scheduled to open next month.

``People want to feel healthier and they are looking for a hands-on approach,'' said chiropractor Helle Leap, director of the Advanced School of Massage Therapy in Thousand Oaks.

The school will offer a series of courses, including introductory classes on anatomy and massage techniques, and more advanced courses in sports massage and pregnancy massage, as well as reflexology and kinesiology.

With no state agency regulating massage therapy in California, institutes like the Advanced School in Thousand Oaks are forced to provide a range of programs to accommodate students who want to simply learn the basics as well as those trying to meet more stringent licensing requirements.

In Thousand Oaks, for instance, a license to work as a massage therapist requires 1,000 hours of training - significantly more than the 200-hour requirement laid out in the municipal codes of neighboring Simi Valley and Los Angeles County.

At an open house last week, the Thousand Oaks school already attracted students from a broad range of experience levels - some looking to continue their studies, others hoping to take the first steps toward a career change.

``I would like to take some specialization courses and refresher courses,'' said Karen Kin Hartstein, a licensed massage therapist in Thousand Oaks. She said she has already fulfilled requirement courses, usually the only ones offered in massage schools, and was looking for advanced training.

Paul and Karen Coambs were looking for a way to follow up on a massage class they completed last year through the Simi Valley Parks and Recreation District.

``We had talked about doing an activity together. I would always give him a massage after work, but I didn't really know what I was doing,'' said Karen Coambs, adding that she hopes to become a certified massage therapist.

Since taking the course last year, Coambs said she and her husband have made massage a regular part of their physical routine.

``We transformed our living room into a workout room with a treadmill and a massage table. It's all part of a healthy lifestyle we're trying to keep,'' she said.

CAPTION(S):

Photo

PHOTO Ann Travers uses her elbows on Sara McLeod at the Advanced School of Massage Therapy.

Michael Owen Baker/Daily News
COPYRIGHT 1997 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Sep 22, 1997
Words:604
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