INCubator Spotlight: The Art of the Healing Touch

By Austin Anthony

It’s 2 o’clock on a Monday, and the lights in the room are dim. Soothing music plays, encouraging relaxation. A comfy bed insists clients leave behind all thoughts of disquiet, discomfort or unease. Enchanted and engulfed in the healing energy of the room, clients are transported to an ephemeral space between morning calmness and effervescent night.

No, this is not a suite at the Westin, but the headquarters of CAS Massage.

Charlotte Cramer, founder of CAS Massage and Chattanooga native, originally utilized her unique talents in the chiropractic industry.

But, after witnessing firsthand the rejuvenating and life-changing potential of touch, Cramer began her entrepreneurial journey to not only empower and heal the convalescent, but to shift long-standing misunderstandings and stigmas surrounding massage therapy.

At some point in our lives we’ve all heard about the benefits of massage.

That being said, the most common misconception is that massage isn’t a necessity — that touch isn’t a necessity.

Massage therapy has been labeled by some as an unnecessary indulgence, an uncomfortable hour, not meant for those who aren’t 'touchy feely,' something that can be replaced by other methods of healing.

In reality, a well-executed massage can alleviate pain, improve relaxation and increase energy — but most people don’t know that these benefits only touch the surface of all that massage can offer.

The essentiality of touch endures and amplifies as we age: It is the social adhesive that binds and connects parents with their children and allows sexual partners to blossom into lasting couples.

Nonsexual, platonic social touch connects people in the community and in the workplace, fostering gratitude, sympathy and trust. Individuals in health care — doctors, nurses, physicians, radiologists — who touch their patients are not only considered more caring — their patients have better outcomes.

The necessity of massage therapy may be even more vital today because of the palpable void of physical touch in society. In a world of emails, instant messaging, social media and smart phones, humans spend less time in physical contact with each other.

Human touch alone sets off a release of hormones under the skin that make us feel happier and better. Think of a time when you were patted on the back for a job well done or received a hug from a loved one or friend. Touch feels good.

The science of touch convincingly suggests that we’re wired to — we need to — connect with other people on a basic physical level. To deny that is to deprive ourselves of some of life’s greatest joys and deepest comforts.

"Most people are skeptical in the beginning," Cramer says. “But, once they realize that many of their preconceptions were misguided and unfounded, they open up to the immediate and long term benefits of massage therapy.”

In partnership with her campaign to educate the community on message therapy, Cramer crusades to spread awareness of her specialized massage technique: lymphatic therapy.

“Perhaps the most understudied and least understood system in the body is the lymphatic system,” Cramer says. “Essentially, our lymphatic system is our immune system, and it’s how our body defends against bacteria, toxins and waste."

Understanding the benefits of lymphatic therapy starts with understanding the lymphatic system and how its health (or disease) can impact quality of life.

Refresher for those who knew nothing about the lymphatic system before reading this article:

Your lymphatic system is part of your circulatory and immune systems, and it’s basically a network of lymph nodes that carry fluid back to your heart.

When your lymphatic system isn’t working at its best, it’s possible that there’s blockage or obstruction. Lymphatic obstructions mean swollen hands and feet, edema and overall puffiness.

Not what we want.

When the lymphatic system is working optimally it improves cellular health and keeps the body healthy.

However, if lymph flow is interrupted you may feel sluggish, bloated and heavy or you may experience head congestion, headaches, dizziness, vertigo, digestive issues and unresolved swelling.

At CAS Massage, Ms. Cramer performs a series of light, rhythmic and precise hand movements (Manual Lymphatic Therapy) in conjunction with an Electro-Lymphatic device to deliver a combination of vibrational, light and electrical waves to target the blockage and 'drain' the fluid until it’s back to normal circulation. It’s a highly specialized massage technique, and it works to redirect the flow of toxins.

“When we speak of decongesting the lymphatic system, we are talking about decongesting the terrain or tissues of your body to enable optimal body health,” Cramer says.

Expect to experience a light, clear and overall relaxed feeling after receiving a professional lymphatic massage treatment.

As a multifaceted business owner, Cramer’s ambition doesn’t end at spreading awareness of lymphatic therapy: she wants to foster an alliance of solid communication within the health care community.

“It’s a lot about building connections and embracing the idea that everybody benefits from this kind of interconnected care. We’re creating a new model for wellness,” Cramer says.

Let’s face it. Health care providers don’t talk to each other enough.

“I network with other physical therapists, massage therapists, chiropractors and members of various health care fields. My goal is to uplift the community in that world, keeping my door open to other modalities and options for my clients. In the end, the focus is not the prosperity of my business, but the optimal care for my clients. The increasingly complex needs of patients, an explosion of medical knowledge and seismic shifts in health care systems have set the stage for a need for more effective communication. Improving communication is essential if we are to transform into a value-oriented health care system.”

For CAS Massage, the needs of the patient supersede the needs of the business.

“It’s amazing to see how soothing a professional massage can be. We go through so much stress in our lives. Much of it we suffer alone, mostly in silence,” Cramer says. “Our muscles have memory of this stress and trauma and hold onto it a long time. When I see the power I have to relieve some of that stress, when I see people demonstrate their appreciation, I know I was meant to do this work all along.”

In these touch-hungry times, do we really need a massage to satisfy our human need for physical connection and healing?

Due to societal misconceptions concerning touch, reluctance to experience its therapeutic powers is commonplace. But, the act of fearlessly taking the plunge into humankind’s oldest medicine is a transformative adventure.

The passage from skepticism to appreciation is evident in one of CAS Massage’s newest clients, Crystal Ebert.

“Initially, I was afraid to invest in massage therapy because I was unsure if the benefits were long term or if it was simply immediate but momentary relief,” Ebert says.

Following a recent back injury, Ebert sought nontraditional forms of treatment for her recovery. After her first session, she noticed an obvious shift in her pain and discomfort.

“While the immediate relief is striking — seriously, my shoulders dropped an inch after the session — I’ve also seen lasting effects in my daily routine. I feel more attuned with my body.”

Equally as important as the quality of a massage, a well-constructed atmosphere — one that transports clients to a serene autumn forest, a calm alpine lake or a secluded meadow — is fundamental.

“The ambiance is extremely relaxing, and the massages are fantastic,” Ebert says. “Ms. Cramer definitely has a magic touch, and I left wishing I could stay an additional 90 minutes. Polite, professional and even a great sense of humor, CAS Massage is a must for anyone in Chattanooga!”

Now a fully converted believer of massage therapy, Ebert summarizes her experience with high praise:

“Ms. Cramer is a sublime healer. Her extraordinary technique, keen intuition and powerful energy combine to provide healing that is incredibly profound,” Ebert says. “Ms. Cramer always goes above and beyond; she has recommended and demonstrated exercises and stretches to do at home for recovery and is always willing to discuss and recommend other therapies and practices for healing.”

The cascade of physical effects of a simple touch is surprisingly complex: The sense of touch is structured by an array of sensors embedded in the nerve endings of our skin, each a sublime, specialized micromachine that retrieves information about the tactile world.

When we experience the touch of another person, we're tapping into deep associations between touch and emotion that are kindled at the dawn of life.

So now for the important questions:

Do you need a massage? Pay attention to your body and it will tell you. Do you have any joint or muscle pain or tightness anywhere? Do you feel stressed out, or have trouble relaxing or sleeping? Do you have some type of injury or illness affecting your muscles or joints? Do you work at a computer? Practically anyone can benefit from massage therapy, even if it’s just to help you relax.

By choosing to see a registered massage therapist, you are choosing a trained health professional, but more importantly, you are choosing to be proactive about your health, and that is always a good choice.

To learn more about C.A.S. Massage or schedule an appointment, visit their website or their Facebook page.