From Acupuncture and cupping to traditional massages, Pittsburgh Massageworks in Allegheny West is offering residents a variety of therapeutic amenities.
By: Nick Eustis
Pain is one of the quintessential human experiences. Fatigued muscles, stress, and conditions like arthritis are often unpleasant and can wear a person down. The battle scars that attach themselves to the human body whether one is living an active lifestyle or participating in cubicle combat. Fortunately, there are people specially trained to provide the special touch many need.
Hidden in a courtyard off Western Avenue is Pittsburgh Acupuncture and Massageworks, a peaceful and homey den of therapeutic touch. Co-owners Amy and Ian Green opened Pittsburgh Massageworks this past September, hoping to bring touch therapy to a part of Pittsburgh they believe needs it.
“I wanted to stay in Northside. Northside is undeserved in terms of bodywork and acupuncture,” said Amy Green.
Massage therapy isn’t just a career for Green, it has become an integral part of life — it is a part of who she is. “I became a massage therapist when I was 19, and I had had family members with serious orthopedic issues. I got to witness up close what chronic pain does to someone…how hard it makes life,” said Green.
Chronic pain also influenced Green’s own career development, including her decision to specialize in acupuncture, a practice in traditional Chinese medicine which revolves around inserting needles at special points on the body.
“I had an experience with acupuncture that blew my mind. I had a chronic hip problem, and in one treatment the pain that had been bothering me for years had just disappeared, and I just thought, ‘I’d love to do this,’” Green said.
From there, Green completed her Masters of Acupuncture at the Won Institute of Graduate Studies in Philadelphia, commuting across the state every week for three years in order to achieve it.
Green’s passion for massage therapy has also proved contagious. Her partner of 15 years, Ian, was inspired by watching her devotion to the trade. Leaving his previous career as a painter and drummer behind, Ian enrolled at the Pittsburgh School of Massage Therapy himself.
“Amy and I have been together for 15 years, so I experienced her side of what the massage profession was like for so many years that I got really comfortable with the idea. Five years ago, I got my degree,” Ian Green said.
Of course, running a massage clinic requires more than two pairs of hands, which is where Tracy Sutphen and Iva Provias come in to help. Sutphen graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011 with a degree in exercise science, specializing in wellness.
“That wellness specialization led me into wanting to explore the body more,” Sutphen said.
With that stroke of curiosity, she decided to enroll in the Pittsburgh School of Massage Therapy, from where she graduated in 2013, in the same class as Ian.
Iva Provias is, like her co-workers, also a Pittsburgh School of Massage Therapy alumni (graduating in 2015). Like Amy Green, massage became a part of her life early on.
“I also come from a place where I’ve watched people deal with chronic pain,” said Provias. “I remember doing trigger point work when I was probably about eight years old.”
This early background in pain management from her childhood not only led Provias into massage therapy but into a specific subset called oncology massage. Oncology massage deals specifically with individuals whose medical conditions, like cancer or HIV, make a standard massage unpleasant or even dangerous to their health.
“Oncology massage is more about comfort and nurturing,” said Provias. Since oncology patients often undergo treatments that are unpleasant and taxing on the body, Provias takes a less goal-oriented approach, one aimed at comfort rather than correction.
Provias is not the only therapist that specializes in a specific style. One of Sutphen’s passions is prenatal massage for expecting women. Like oncological massages, these massages have to be modified so as to not adversely affect the health of the recipient. When done properly, it can be surprisingly effective.
“I’ve definitely seen a lot of pregnant women experience relief…to even a relaxing effect where they might take a nap on the table, which is what they might need at the time,” Sutphen said.
While their patients might be deeply relaxed, there is no doubt that all the therapists at Pittsburgh Massageworks are energized about the work they do.
“Seeing people get better and feel better, I’ll never get tired of that,” said Green. “I don’t plan on retiring from this. I plan on doing this in some capacity for the rest of my life. It never gets boring.”
Pittsburgh Acupuncture and Massageworks offers therapeutic massage, acupuncture, cupping, hot stone massage, and couples therapy, among other services. They also offer “Acupuncture Happy Hour” on Thursday evenings for $20, and will be hosting an open house Sunday, November 19 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.