Rubbing it away

Therapists tout massage for ills ranging from sports injuries to stress

Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Jo Anne Bell Graves considers massage "preventive medicine" and "the best workout if you can't go work out." Massage stimulates the lymph system, the metabolism and breaks down cellulite, she said.

"I'm a massage junky. I've been getting them for 20 years," she said.

Graves founded Cuts Online Salon & Spa four years ago to offer a range of services, from haircuts to massages.

With four massage therapists on staff, her business is one of a number in Juneau meeting the growing demand for massage. More than a dozen therapists practice in Juneau - some independently, some in salons and others in chiropractors' offices.

"Demand for massage is growing because people realize the benefits, health-wise," said Graves.

Graves added a third-generation massage therapist, Jose Aguilar, to her staff in September.

"My great-grandmother, Alberta, started practicing as a cuandero (healer) during the Mexican Revolution," Aguilar said. "Pancho Villa was one of her customers."

Aguilar's great-grandmother learned her trade from a group of Saudis who immigrated to Mexico. They taught her herbal remedies and physical manipulation of the body. When Aguilar dislocated a knee playing soccer as a youth, Alberta's daughter, Jose's grandmother, began teaching him how to take care of himself. By the time he was 11, he was manipulating other people under her watchful eye.

Aguilar so impressed a brain surgeon in Mexico City that the surgeon took him to France for a year, where he learned through MRIs and X-rays what his manipulation accomplished, and taught his own class to medical students.

He often combines Swedish and rolfing techniques to create a mix that is pleasurable to the client. "I go by feel and relaxation," he said. "People turn into rubber bands and forget to check their hair when they leave." He charges $60 an hour.

Cuts Online is at 114 Franklin St. Call 586-8333 for appointments.

Cosmetologist and massage therapist Barbara Johns opened Seventh Heaven Day Spa in February 1996.


"Massage is a big part of what we do, but not the only thing," Johns said.

She sees massage as helping the body to recover from injury as well as a way to relax from the stresses of the work day - and the holidays. Seventh Heaven has six massage therapists on staff.

In September, Johns flew to Vancouver, British Columbia, for training in La Stone massage, a variant on the current trend of stroking with heated basalt lava rocks. Seventh Heaven charges $60 for an hour of La Stone, or $80 for an hour and a half.

In addition to massage, Seventh Heaven Day Spa offers manicures, aromatherapy, pedicures, facials, body wraps and waxing as well as a private Jacuzzi bath and steam. Call 790-3362 for details.

Whether her client is "just a little tense" or suffering from a whiplash injury, massage therapist Traci Gilmour recommends a good rubdown.

Gilmour has been practicing in Juneau for seven years as an independent contractor. Gilmour works with Pavitt Chiropractic & Fitness, Chez Sante, at bed-and-breakfasts and out of her own home.

"I recommend massage for absolutely anybody," said Gilmour, who studied at the Brian Utting School of Massage in Seattle. "It's good for infants all the way to geriatric cases. It's a general well-being kind of thing."

Gilmour specializes in injury assessment.

"It interests me because I'm a softball player," she said. She's trained in Swedish massage, which she describes as "everybody's feel-good massage" as well as deep tissue massage, which uses "forearms, elbows and knuckles to get below the surface."

Chez Sante offers "many different kinds of massage," said owner and massage therapist Donna Perrin. Chez Sante has been operating for 22 years at the Juneau Racquet Club and operates at both locations.

Twelve therapists are available, with appointments possible seven days a week. Nonmembers of the Racquet Club are welcome, but appointments are suggested, Perrin said.

"We get a lot of calls for deep tissue massage because a lot of our clients are athletes," Perrin said. Complaints from clients include low-back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and knee injuries. "We try to work tissue surrounding an injury where it's pulling at the joint. Knees are hard to massage, but we do get a lot of runners with problems."

Massage at Chez Sante is $45 an hour, with sauna, Jacuzzi and steam bath privileges included in the price. Call 586-8600 for appointments.

Scott Bucich, an independent massage therapist, specializes in Swedish massage and Heller Work. Bucich graduated from massage school in 1995 and has been practicing his craft in private homes and offices in Juneau since 1997.

"Some people who have private offices order a full body massage," Bucich said. "In other offices, coworkers may get together and I bring my chair down and do a chair massage for everyone."

During the day, Bucich cares for his young son and massages by appointment only. He can be reached at 790-8579.

"I enjoy people coming to me and saying 'This hurts,' 'I am stressed' or 'I need relaxation,' and then having them say, 'I feel so much better' after I spend time with them," Bucich said.

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at

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