Final Say Q&A: Laura Piteo, Massage Manager at Oasis Day Spa in Dobbs Ferry

What are people most surprised to learn about what you do?
How much education is involved. They’ll say, ‘Did you have to go to school for this?’ You have to learn a lot of science, anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and neurology—it’s a serious profession requiring four semesters of schooling, passing a rigorous written exam, and doing clinical hours in order to be licensed by the State. And, like nurses and doctors, you have continuing-ed requirements.

Who have been some of your most memorable clients?
I’ve had people who are battling cancer and are so grateful for some relief from the discomfort of their chemo treatments. And one gentleman was suffering from extreme kythosis and developing a hunchback. Thanks to exercise and massage, he was standing straighter every time I saw him.

What parts of the body are the most common problem areas?
Backs, necks, and shoulders, in that order. Neck and shoulders tend to be related to stress, with lower-back injuries often related to bending and lifting.

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Why should people avail themselves of massage therapy?
Stress reduction, in particular, shouldn’t be underestimated. We’re very go, go, go—so it’s nice to take an hour to rejuvenate. And because so many jobs are computer- and desk-oriented, egronomics plays a factor in regular aches and pains. With all the wear and tear we put on our bodies, it helps to do something therapeutic.

What percentage of your clients fully undress versus keeping undergarments on?
The majority undress completely, but it depends on personal preference and comfort level. We understand that some people are insecure or self-conscious. But if we’ve seen one body, we’ve seen them all. Tall, short, whatever—it doesn’t make a difference.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?
How physically exhausting it can be—but I’d still take it over working at a desk all day any day of the week.

How do you stay fit?
I bike to work from my home in the Bronx in the spring, summer, and fall. And I try to go to the gym five days a week.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about massage therapy?
Some people have the mentality that it’s just pampering or a luxury, particularly the
older generation.

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Is the ‘happy ending’ association with unlicensed masseurs hard to shake?
There are always going to be people with a certain level of immaturity, but most people are more educated and understand what’s involved to become licensed. Not too many people coming to a full-service day spa would expect anything other than a professional service.

What do you do if you see that a male client is becoming aroused during a massage?
It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are being unprofessional or having inappropriate thoughts; it can be a purely physical response. If he isn’t doing or saying something inappropriate, we just make sure that they are covered and try not to call attention to it to spare them any embarrassment.

What do you wish your clients knew so that they could have the best massage possible?
I wish more would take advantage of the amenities of the spa and arrive early enough not to rush. If you come in all in a tizzy, it takes longer to get into that relaxed state of mind.

Do you get insulted if your client falls asleep on the table?
Not at all. I consider it a compliment if they are so relaxed that they can actually fall asleep.

What’s the funniest experience you’ve had while giving a massage?
During one couple’s massage, one wife slapped her husband when he started snoring and said, ‘It’s bad enough that I have to listen to you at night!’

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