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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Massage therapy and counseling could aid students’ success

Laptops are an ergonomic disaster, according to a display in the physical therapy office of the Student Health and Wellness Center (SHWC).

Midterms and essays can result in problems for students’ health, but emotional stress is the cause, not the effect. According to Jill Nelson, a massage therapist at the SHWC, the downward position in which most students look at their laptops engages back and neck muscles, often for extended periods of time. Pain and injury in the back and neck are the most common reasons clients visit her.

“There’s the physical pain of actually doing schoolwork,” Nelson said.

On top of unfortunate laptop designs, Nelson pointed out that many students ride bikes in a way that isn’t optimal. They also carry heavy backpacks and have to sit in the mass produced, non-adjustable classroom seats.

“If you have pain it’s not gonna go away until you are proactive in taking those steps to actually relieving [it],” Nelson said.

Nelson’s profession, massages, is oftentimes a treatment for pain caused by these daily habits, and are available at the SHWC at $30 for 30 minutes or $40 for 45 minutes.

On the strictly physical side, massage is known to improve blood circulation, reduce stiffness in muscles — especially after working out — and help tone and stimulate muscles for greater flexibility and mobility.

Ultimately, it benefits physical health, lowering blood pressure and also mental health by reducing the stress hormone, cortisol.

According to Nelson, mental and physical health are not mutually exclusive. If they occur, they can occur in cycles, one triggering the other.

“To get a bad grade and fail a class could cost somebody a whole year of tuition and rent. It’s a lot to internalize. And that’s what most people do. They internalize all the stress that they have and it manifests itself in some type of pain,” Nelson said.

The people who see Nelson are generally already in pain and looking for relief. Whether the pain is physical, mental, emotional or any combination thereof, the SHWC has several resources that can aid in recovery or prevention.

Henriette Bruun, a physical therapist at the SHWC, works primarily with people who are already injured, and stated that she’d like for people to learn skills to protect themselves from preventable injuries.

“If I could get hold of the freshmen on campus before they hurt their necks and their lower backs and I could show them study positions and that kind of stuff before they already get in pain, that would be beneficial for their wellness and success as a student,” Bruun said.

Emily Hartley, who works as a therapist in Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), provides people with possible prevention methods by combating emotional stress. She also provides counseling and therapy to students, aiding them in dealing with stress.

“If you can find a way to slow down that’s usually really helpful. Part of our culture and certainly part of us being on this UC campus is to go really really fast, and there’s a lot of pressure and it doesn’t lend itself to self-care,” Hartley said.

Hartley coordinates the Stress and Wellness Clinic and the Mind Spa, both of which are free to UC Davis students. Students can use a biofeedback program to help train their brain to recognize and deal with stress and also enjoy a massage chair.

“I can teach them mindfulness skills. I can teach them how to slow down, how to regulate breathing. I can teach them how to work with their thoughts, so if they start having these thoughts like ‘I’m gonna fail, I’m gonna fail’ there’s something we can do about it,” Hartley said.


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