Editor’s note: This Vs. That is Travel Boulder’s weekly comparison guide designed to help you pick the activities, food, drinks, hotels and events that best fit your preferences. It’s like if a traditional newspaper review had a love child with Yelp, except always reliably researched and experienced firsthand by our local writers. Because sometimes you can best understand an option by seeing what it is not and by placing it side by side with something else.
Whether you’re planning a wellness vacation or you simply need to reset your body, Boulder County is known for its excellent bodyworkers and therapists.
Many talented therapists come out of Boulder, home of the Boulder Massage Therapy Institute. One hundred percent of graduates from Boulder’s school pass the licensing exam, compared to the national average of just 72 percent.
Boulder is also home to regular Spinal Reflex Therapy training workshops, another form of bodywork that many people are not familiar with. In fact, Boulder is a hub for some of the world’s top SRT therapists.
Spinal Reflex Therapy is a soft-tissue treatment, like massage, except it centers around the spine, nerves and a neurological reflex.
SRT and massage therapy are both valuable ways to treat your body and improve your wellness, but for different reasons. That’s why we decided to place them side by side, so you can decide which is best for your personal needs.
We picked two of our favorite but very different Boulder practitioners: Sally Gilbert-Lewien at Rocky Mountain Clinical Massage and Rachel Scott at Colorado Body Wisdom.
Here’s a closer look at the unique services they offer.
Spinal Reflex Therapy
Rocky Mountain Clinical Massage, 75 Manhattan Drive, Suite 103, Boulder, 303-710-1702, rmclinicalmassage.com
Sally Gilbert-Lewien, of Longmont, is a master’s therapist and teaches Spinal Reflex Therapy. She studied at the Denver School of Massage Therapy and specializes in clinical, neuromuscular and lymphatic massage.
The Atmosphere: Rocky Mountain Clinical Massage is located in southern Boulder. The atmosphere is clean and organized. It has a straightforward feeling about it. Walls contain educational information, but it’s still friendly. If you’re lucky, you might meet the clinic’s front desk dog.
Rooms are quiet and simple with soothing music playing.
The Offerings: Your therapist starts by using a thermal scan to identify “hot spots” of increased blood flow in your body, which indicates inflammation and helps pinpoint pain.
You then lie on a bed, while the therapist presses on specific points to address the pain and change the nerve and muscle activity. It can be incorporated with a traditional massage or done on its own.
Rocky Mountain Clinical Massage works closely with a network of other medical practitioners, including doctors, orthopedic pain specialists, chiropractors and physical therapists.
The practitioners also give you an at-home self-care plan to increase outcomes and continue care after you leave.
The clinic also offers prenatal massage, clinical massage (which may include strengthening and stretching), deep tissue massage, myofascial release, neuromuscular therapy, sports massage and SRT certification classes for other therapists.
What’s Different: SRT uses gentle pressure on points of a body. Not massaging and rolling of the muscle. Many of the points are near the spine, with the intention to affect the neurology. It is not trigger-point therapy.
Clinical and medical massage are highly detail-oriented and analytical. SRT follows a specific protocol that is scientifically supported and guarantees to yield the same results every time, no matter the practitioner, no matter the client. SRT is evidence-based, using the direct link between spinal neurology and many kinds of soft tissue pain and dysfunction.
Unlike massage, you undress to your level of comfort, which may mean you leave your clothes on.
Also, the session is not as relaxing and soothing as a Swedish massage. Some points may be uncomfortable, but they are designed to treat the problem at its core and eliminate it.
Inside Tips: If you’re on a budget, ask about the low-cost clinic. Boulder offers the nation’s first low-cost SRT clinic (it can otherwise be pricier than regular massage). The therapists in this clinic are certified in the technique and offer the work at a reduced rate to increase their skills and build clientele.
Colorado Body Wisdom, 1800 30th St., Unit 309, Boulder, 720-352-6544, www.coloradobodywisdom.com
Rachel Scott is the owner of Colorado Body Wisdom, a healing arts and massage studio in Boulder. Note the “healing arts” part; in true Boulder style, it’s not just traditional massage.
Scott has been practicing for 11 years. She has a background in theater and music, with a bachelor’s in musical theater. She’s certified in Hatha and Kundalini yoga, Hakomi Therapy, Polarity Therapy and is a spiritual counselor. She also knows Shiatsu, Integrative Massage and Trigger Point Therapy “with a sprinkle of magic and compassion.” She has studied multiple styles of Buddhist meditation and mindfulness.
Fun fact: She has been singing at funerals since she was 12.
The Atmosphere: There are two ways to experience Colorado Body Wisdom: in the studio or wherever you are located.
Colorado Body Wisdom brings the massages to you, at home, in your hotel room or in your workplace. It offers on-site corporate massage and wellness lectures to many businesses in the area, such as Crispin Porter, Egg Strategy and Unavco.
The downtown studio is open seven days a week. It’s located in the Crossroads Garden Building, which primarily houses other healing arts businesses (Rolfers, psychotherapists, meditation teachers and even a Buddhist accounting firm).
The building has a Zen rock garden in the middle, and the massage studio has four treatment rooms. While the building is large, the studio itself feels cozy and private.
“It’s intimate, small, very warm and welcoming. It’s such a beautiful place,” Scott says.
Each room is a different color: orange, purple, beige and blue, designed to provide a different energy and feeling.
The Offerings: Colorado Body Wisdom calls itself a “wellness lifestyle company.” Therapists are highly trained in a variety of modalities, including deep tissue massage, neuromuscular treatment, injury treatment, medical massage and Shiatsu. Many also know Thai massage, craniosacral therapy and energy work.
Colorado Body Wisdom also offers massage memberships for regulars.
It specializes in corporate wellness programs and teaches stress management and mindfulness in the workplace. It also offers private yoga and guided meditation, all of which you can tack onto your massage. So you could learn about stress management, do a short yoga session and then get a massage.
What’s Different: Scott doesn’t just talk about physical health. She also talks about mental, emotional and spiritual health, and she says her studio offers “compassionate, skillful and joyful” massage and healing.
Many therapists are also trained in trauma and psychotherapy so they can receive a client in a more holistic way, Scott says.
“As opposed to just massaging your shoulder, we get a good overall picture of the person,” she says. “I want people to feel welcome and safe, so a lot of times the clientele we attract want something a little more than a regular massage. They want to be heard and seen. It’s a step between massage and psychotherapy.”
That’s not to say this is therapy, she says; they’re not all licensed psychotherapists.
“But we really focus on getting the information and holding a space of warmth and non-judgment so they can feel comfortable enough to share whatever’s going on in life,” she says.
She says she likes to plant small seeds of mindfulness and awakening. Many of her therapists have a background in yoga and meditation. A massage may including stretching, breathing exercises and connections to other supportive resources.
“If you go to a regular massage clinic, they just focus on the physical body and while we’re excellent at addressing the physical dysfunction, we have a little bit more than that,” Scott says.
Inside Tips: Book a mobile Signature Massage online. Order it to your hotel room toward the end of the day. You’ll get a thorough intake (of your goals and complaints) and your therapist will personally craft your treatment to meet your needs and preferences, pulling from the various methods offered. No massage is the same twice.
“The therapist blends the modalities to suit you whereas; at a traditional clinic, they might just work on one thing,” Scott says.
After your massage, take a dip in your hotel’s hot tub or bathtub, order room service and go to bed early. This will maximize your relaxation. No fighting traffic and road rage after your zen.
“You get to stay in that mode of relaxed,” Scott says. “We bring a little bit of the healing space that we hold in our studio to your space, and it can increase the length of the sensation of feeling relaxed and comfortable.”
Or make a half-day out of visiting the studio. Walk around the garden, meditate in the small wooden structure. Get your massage and spend some quiet time in the garden before heading back to your life. It’s such a unique location; it’s worth taking advantage of.