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Massage students pursue future in expanding field

Most massage clients blissfully having their stress rubbed away don’t realize the work that goes into their relaxation.
“You are not just standing, rubbing in cream,” said Ann Hibbard, department chair of the Lincoln Campus’ therapeutic massage program.
Instead, massage therapists must learn proper body mechanics and science to keep from injuring their clients and themselves, Hibbard said.
For those hoping to learn the science, Gaston college is offering a one and two-year program for certification in therapeutic massage.
The program, which was started in 1999, employs three part-time instructors. Its original nine student are about to finish their first year, and 16 fresh faces are starting in the fall.
Students can receive a diploma in one year or complete an associate of applied sciences in a little more than a year and a half.
While it is only required to have the diploma to practice massage in North Carolina, many students go a step further and earn their associate’s degree.
Doing so helps advance their training gives them a competitive advantage in the job market, Hibbard said.
To finish the associate’s degree, students must complete 311 hours of in-class practice, as well as 70 hours outside the classroom.
While students can choose how to do their out-of-class work, they are offered opportunities to work on faculty and staff.
Practice sessions take place anywhere from Lincoln Medical Center to the Gaston County Health Department.
Training covers many different varieties of massage, such as chair, medical and shiatsu massage. The bulk of work, however, is done in Swedish massage – a total of 193 hours.
In order to earn their degrees, students have to do a lot more than give free massages. They also take classes in math, biology, English, psychology, medical terminology and, of course, massage therapy.
Though massage has recently become increasingly popular, it is actually a quite old practice.
“Massage therapy is the earliest historically recorded medical practice known to man,” Hibbard said.
Many students pursue a diploma or degree in massage therapy to supplement their primary occupation.
The knowledge aids professionals in chiropracty, physical therapy, psychotherapy, beauty salons and even medicine.
For those who receive massage therapy, it aids in wellness, health and the healing process. Because of this, it can reduce hospital and rehabilitation costs.
“Wellness and prevention are the most cost effective health care practices,” Hibbard said.
With an increasing enrollment, plans have been made to move the massage program to the main campus in Dallas.
This move won’t occur until construction is completed on the David Belk-Cannon Health Education Center on the main campus.
That building will house the spa therapy program, which will be used to educate and train students for the rapidly growing spa industry.
In the spa therapy program, students work with salts, muds, herbals and seaweeds and apply packs, masks and scrubs.
“Spa training is currently offered mainly on the job or through equipment manufacturing companies,” said Hibbard.
Students who wish to enter the massage therapy program must be 18 years old and have a high school diploma or GED. Students must also be admitted to Gaston College, be medically fit and obtain a certain grade point average or placement test score.
Applications are accepted every summer for the fall semester.
The deadline has passed for this fall, but an active waiting list is kept for interested parties until Aug. 18.
Classes begin at Gaston College on Aug. 22.
by Mary Williams

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