There’s no getting away from it. massage is a dirty word in these parts. Roughly translated. it means sex for cash. Doesn’t it? Take a stroll up and down our city streets — the answer‘s up there in neon lights for all to see. ‘Massage. sauna. VIP suite. games room‘ . . . and the rest.
Rob Ritchie is probably more aware ofthe seedy side of massage than most. Not because he's a punter you understand. but because he runs the Whole Works. an Edinburgh complementary health centre where therapeutic massage —- as well as aromatherapy, acupuncture and other therapies — are high on the agenda. The clients who visit this homely little centre seek nothing more than the pain relief. stress relief and emotional support alternative health can provide. but several years down the line the receptionists still ﬁeld regular calls from men who think they really are about to get the ‘whole works‘.
Ritchie recalls with something less than relish. a recent incident when he was paid a visit by the local council. Did he know it was illegal to run a ‘massage establishment‘ without an entertainment licence. he was asked.
Accepted as the perfect tonic for stress-filled modern living in many cultures, massage is still struggling to throw off its dubious image in Scotland. In the front line is Whole Works, an Edinburgh health centre with alternative ideas. Ellie Carr discovers the secret of its success and in the line of duty. surrenders her body to
‘lt's difficult for the therapists who have to work with a double message.‘ says Ritchie. ‘And it‘s difficult for the men who come in fora massage because they have to cope with the embarrassment.‘
l Already the few fundholding Cil’s in this country are prescribing treatments ' from centres like Whole Works. Many
others look set to follow. ‘lt's the way forward.‘ says Ritchie "This is the
health centre of the future.‘
Centres like Whole Works do not have T ‘ . before our doctors start bundling us off
an easy task. It’s not just the massage
Many a potential acupuncture patient has been scared off by visions of sandal-wearing, crystal-swinging hippies. But things are set to change.
thing. it‘s the whole image conjured up by phrases like ‘alternative medicine‘. Many a potential acupuncture patient has been scared off by visions of sandal-wearing. crystal-swinging hippies. But things are set to change. The word ‘alternative' for a start. The new buzzword is ‘complementary'. and it‘s ushering in a new phase where complementary therapies could become part of the nation's health service. ‘Eighty to 90 per cent of health authorities in England and Wales want the key [complementary] therapies to be available on the NHS.‘ says Ritchie.
Most of us will have a fairly long wait
to the nearest complementary health
centre. and until there are more , fundholding GPs wrth open minds. the
best many NHS customers can hope for is a massage from the hospital
' physiotherapist. Judging the changing
attitude of the medical profession and
the sheer amount of people knocking f on Rob Ritchie's door. though. the
demand for complementary therapy appears high and rising. Ritchie believes it is a sign of the times: ‘()ur culture is speeding up. technology is too advanced for the people using it and as a result. we are getting more and more disembodied. With therapies like Japanese Shiatsu and massage. where the mind and body are seen as one. it‘s almost impossible not to relax and tune in to your body. Under the stresses and strains of modem living. that has become an increasingly attractive prospect.‘
Checking the premises of Whole Works for evidence of crystals and granola and finding neither. l was ready to lend my body to the world of complementary medicine. The treatments suggested by Rob Ritchie as suitable for someone in my condition — generally stressed — were Shiatsu and Chinese massagu
First stop was Shiatsu. l was led upstairs to a cosy little therapy room by a very affable German woman named Andrea Batterman. who carefully explained Shiatsu was a lot like acupuncture. without the needles. Using fingers. palms. elbows and knees on the body's pressure points. this ancient Japanese therapy. sometimes known as acupressure. works by stimulating the body's natural energy flow. The Japanese use it on each other round the house and it is generally seen as an all-round health insurance.
During the treatment Batterman remains silent. but as her hands move at lightning speed across your frame you get the strong sensation she is holding a mirror tip to your body. exposing all your tensions. When she manipulates a stress-laden area — in my case the chest. where l have asthma and the legs. because I do a lot of sport — the muscles respond with a tender. almost sweet pain. It sounds unpleasant. but is not. The result is the body feels completely invigorated and the mind. sharp and clear. By the time I float back downstairs to reception. l’m sporting the kind of beatiftc glow more commonly associated with illegal substances. The most amazing thing about the treatment wasn’t the instant buzz. but the fact that several days afterwards I could still feel its effects echoing through my limbs.
Did I say there was pain involved in Shiatsu? Forget it. That was before I'd had Chinese massage. Like Shiatsu. Chinese massage is based on applying pressure to the acupuncture points on the body. only it is much more violent. There are 200 different techniques used in Chinese massage. explained Xiang Chen as she rolled. pinched and pummelled my skin between her fingers. I braced myself. No pain without gain as they say.
The massage technique. Xiang Chen informed me. is over 3000 years old. Along with herbal medicine. acupuncture and moxibustion — a heat treatment applied to the muscles which I experienced for a very pleasant five minutes — it is used by the Chinese to promote the healthy flow of life energy. known as Ki or Chi. round the body. and treat all manner of ills.
I did emerge feeling energised. but while I was in there, it felt distinctly like doing several rounds with a heavyweight champion. If you're into beat-me-up massage, this is definitely the one for you. (Ellie Carr)
You can ﬁnd the Whole Works at Jackson s Close. 209 Royal Mile. Edinburgh. 0131 225 8092/1846. Shiatsu massage was given by Andrea Batter/nan MSCP SRP MRSS. Chinese massage by Wein X iong Chen Dr. TCM.
“The List 2-15 Jun 1995