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December 25, 2013
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Orthopedic massage therapist Karen White treats injuries, chronic pain at Elan-Life Spa in Silverthorne

It’s not necessarily backbreaking work, but working on broken backs is one of the newest massage options available in Summit County.

Karen White, massage therapist at Elan-Life Spa in Silverthorne, recently received her certification in orthopedic massage.

Orthopedic massage treats pain and injuries of the musculoskeletal system, including bones, joints, muscles and other supporting structures such as ligaments and cartilage.

“In general, it’s a fairly new type of massage,” White said. “It’s kind of a Western take on massage; it’s not like Swedish, which has been around for thousands of years. It’s not as popular and well known.”

Unlike a regular massage, an orthopedic massage starts with a 15- to 20-minute assessment, in which White collects information about the client’s pain or injury. She said orthopedic massage may include many different methods such as stretching, deep massage, pin and stretch techniques, passive and active engagement and thermal techniques.

“There are people who are here for vacation and just want to relax, but we do get people referred from physical therapists, people just out of surgery, even people who deal with chronic pain,” White said.

A track athlete in college, White injured her back and said massage was the only thing that helped the pain. After going to school for health promotion, she knew she wanted to help other people.

“I would always give family and friends backrubs before,” she said. “It can be really helpful in pain management. It’s not just a luxury.”

A 60-minute orthopedic session costs $75, the same as most other massages at the spa. White grew up in Montana and previously worked with her husband as a wildland firefighter. They settled in Summit County after she received her massage certification.

White just received her official orthopedic certification last month, but has been working for a year and a half to complete the hours needed. She said she’s seen people with wrist, arm, knee, foot and ankle pain and more.

“It doesn’t always have to be an injury, too,” she said. “Some people get chronic pain just from typing on a computer all day.”

She’s seen truck drivers, for instance, who sit all day and the pain becomes bad enough to impair their ability to work. White said she can even work with patients who are recently out of surgery, as long as their stitches are bandaged.

“Someone who had dealt with, say, back pain for years, if massage helps, they can usually tell pretty quickly,” she said. “It’s different for every person but we try to come up with a plan to make the pain go away eventually.”

For White, being able to help people in pain is very rewarding, and she loves that she is constantly learning while on the job.

“People don’t know right away; they aren’t looking for orthopedic specifically,” she said. “By talking about where the pain comes from, we can figure out ways to get rid of it.”

For information or to schedule an orthopedic massage, call (970) 368-6680 or visit

“There are people who are here for vacation and just want to relax, but we do get people referred from physical therapists, people just out of surgery, even people who deal with chronic pain.”
Karen White
Massage therapist at Elan-Life Spa

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The Summit Daily Updated Dec 25, 2013 10:02PM Published Dec 27, 2013 10:46AM Copyright 2013 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.