A silent chat

Published 9:17 pm Friday, September 19, 2014

Sheila Slocum does a massage at her Bridge Road studio (Mallorie Danielle photo)

Sheila Slocum does a massage at her Bridge Road studio (Mallorie Danielle photo)

Humans use their sense of touch for many things — among those things to learn more about the world around them, to anticipate potential harm and to show emotion.

But some people actually communicate through their sense of touch. Sheila Slocum is one of them.

An experienced masseuse can listen to a client’s body in the same way a beginner might listen to the client saying what problems she has, says Slocum, who owns Hands On Massage on Bridge Road.

Newsletter

Email newsletter signup

“After a while, the body talks to you,” Slocum said. “It tells you if you listen.”

Slocum strikes up a conversation with her client lying flat on a table. Lotion is a must, along with scents and music if the client so desires. Items like hot stones are a special bonus.

Slocum loves hugs and has always been a “touchy-feely person,” she says, which obviously makes her a natural fit for her job. She got into it after working for a chiropractor, where her clients often asked her to come home with them — only half-joking.

“I decided to go to school for massage, and I love it,” Slocum said. “If you’re a people person, it’s a really good field to be in. It’s the best job in the world. You get to talk to people. You get to know them.”

And when she says she talks to people, she only partially means using voice and hearing to communicate.

“The body tells you everything, from if they slouch their shoulders to how they walk to how they sit,” she said. “You just touch a person, and you know.”

Slocum said she needs only a few seconds on a person’s body to know where their trouble areas are. Sometimes, she only gets a few seconds — she’s worked on people in the grocery store, as well as at events like the American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure, National Night Out, the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life, and the Suffolk Humane Society’s Mutt Strut — where she got the chance to massage some four-legged clients as well.

The best part of her job is seeing people who came in hunched over and stressed walk out taller with straighter shoulders, she said.

“The world of massage is wonderful,” Slocum said, noting all the different specialties one can go into.

There’s the Swedish massage, done purely for relaxation; there are medical and therapeutic massages; there are massage therapies to treat the pain and discomfort of certain conditions, like pregnancy or TMJ disorders, which cause pain in the jaw joint.

There are also less conventional techniques — at least less conventional in the United States — such as Chinese cupping, which involves large suction cups placed on the client’s back and moved across the back to separate the layer of skin from the muscle underneath.

“The muscles can be very hard,” said Slocum, noting how difficult it can be for the masseuse to work out all the kinks on the client’s body. “It really pushes you to the limit.”