AS MORE PEOPLE look for new ways to reduce stress, massage has become an increasingly acceptable topic of polite conversation. It hasn't always been so. In Europe, full-body massage has been used for generations to treat sore muscles and beleaguered psyches, but in America, it has been viewed two ways: It was either for the rich and / or athletic, or it was too kinky for nice folks.
But attitudes changed quickly. Until a few years ago, most people had massages at salons or health clubs. Now many prefer to pay masseurs and masseuses to come to their homes so they can have a relaxing rubdown.
Tom Corry, a Santa Barbara-based masseur who practices only in clients' residences, says demand for in-home treatment has recently increased dramatically. Some clients reserve his entire evening, allowing time for all members of the family to have their muscles soothed and stroked.
"Until recently, many people were threatened by massage. It has had a very bad connotation tied in, despite the fact that it has been around as a relaxation treatment for 4,000 years," he says. "People in this country have been very unaware of its healing benefits."
Professional and weekend athletes have known for years that rubdowns relieve overworked muscles. And early in the '80s, aerobic dancers discovered the power of massage to ease soreness and fatigue. But, according to Santa Monica massage therapist Carol Lee Jones, exercise enthusiasts didn't precipitate the boom in at-home massages. Sedentary, stressed-out executives--particularly those who take a lot of business trips--did.
Jones, a masseuse at the L'Ermitage hotels, says clients have told her that after a long day in a city far from home, they decided to try a massage, just to have something to do. She adds that after they experience the benefits of massage, the clients are less hesitant to seek a massage therapist who will come to their homes.
"People feel most relaxed and comfortable in their home environment," she says.
"Most importantly, they can get into bed or take a shower immediately after the massage," adds Corry, who has been a masseur for 17 years. He adds that getting dressed, going out and driving can negate some of the relaxing benefits of massage.
Louanne Moldovan, a Santa Monica-based masseuse who works in clients' homes and offices, says she has observed that many workers have very tense neck and shoulder muscles. For these clients she offers 15-minute, $10 mini-massages that require no disrobing. They have become very popular among employees of a fast-paced film production facility.
Finding a reputable in-home massage therapist is not as easy as it would seem. And letting your fingers do the walking through the local telephone directory is not the best way to find one. "I looked for a masseuse in the Yellow Pages," says a North Hollywood woman who was suffering from stress-related shoulder and lower-back tension. "But all the ads were for sleazy- sounding operations like Dial A Blonde and Wild Co-eds Out-Call Massage."
Ahmos Netanel, president of the California Massage Therapy Assn., a statewide group of more than 800 massage therapists, says that the Yellow Pages can list so-called escort services under its "Massage" heading. "Some directories follow up the 'Massage' section with 'Massage-Therapeutic,' and that's where you find professional massage therapists," he explains. But still, you cannot be sure you're calling a qualified, legitimate masseuse or masseur, he cautions.
Netanel suggests personal referrals or recommendations from a health professional. The public can call or write the California Massage Therapy Assn., 279 S. Beverly Drive, Suite 1159, Beverly Hills, Calif. 90212, (213) 473-4712, for names of accredited members.
The at-home massage ranges in price from about $40 to $80 for a one-hour treatment. According to Dr. Willibald Nagler, chief of rehabilitation medicine at Cornell Medical Center in New York, massage can help dissipate mental and physical tension and discourage the occurrence of stress-related illness such as depression and fatigue. So a pampering, therapeutic rubdown may turn out to be one luxury that actually de-stresses the stressed.
Hair and makeup, Jim Jordan; stylist, Tracy Pion