March-April 2022 | Health

The healing power of salt stones

Bethesda massage therapist uses salt stones to relieve muscle tension in clients

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Photo by Lisa Helfert

Lorenne McCormick says she was intrigued by the healing potential of heated Himalayan salt stones when she first learned about using them as part of a massage.

“The stones deliver warmth. The salt is a concentrated mineral salt, so you get a trace amount of the minerals. That’s really great for muscle tension and relaxing the nervous system,” says McCormick, a massage therapist who began working with the stones after using a table saw and band sander to carve a set from a salt brick in her Bethesda backyard. “If there’s an area that I feel is really tight—like the neck or shoulders—that’s when I pick them up.”

The palm-size stones and essential oils (such as lavender to relax and peppermint to clear the sinuses) are among the extras that McCormick has folded into her sessions over the years. The stones are heated by a light bulb in a bowl that she created.

McCormick has been offering massages at her practice on the second floor of Brookmont Church in Bethesda since 1992. Now 57, she concentrates on treating neck and shoulder dysfunction, and also is trained in giving massages to pregnant women.

Originally from England, McCormick considered becoming a nurse when she was a teenager. She changed her mind after a brief stint at a hospital but liked the idea of working in a profession that would include caring for others. When she was 20, she moved to Bethesda and became a live-in nanny. She also taught at the Community Preschool of the Palisades in Washington, D.C. After receiving a massage from a friend who was studying to be a massage therapist, McCormick was drawn to working in the field. “It was truly a calling,” she says.

While juggling her two jobs, she took night classes and graduated from the Potomac Massage Training Institute, then in Washington, D.C. By 2000, her part-time massage business had become full time, and demand for her services has grown as clients’ stress levels and screen time have increased.

“Our bodies are not designed to sit in a chair and stare at a computer. They’re just not,” McCormick says. “As long as we’re doing that on a daily basis, we really have to be taking care of ourselves and our bodies so that we are able to be pain free.”

McCormick, who has two children, provides massages for all ages, starting with kids as young as 6. All of her clients are regulars (she’s not taking on new customers right now) and they schedule sessions once a week to once a month that cost $150 for 90 minutes. “I see a lot of teens. I’ve worked with whole families,” she says. “Sometimes when the kids are home from college they say they want to see me.”

The pandemic shut down her business for a few months in the spring of 2020, but she reopened that summer with modifications. McCormick says she installed hospital-grade air filters and added a second treatment room with a massage table, while closing the waiting room, sauna and shower. Although she has lost some clients because of the pandemic, she says she’s gained others.

“It’s wonderful to be able to help people and heal people,” she says. “Many people call me a healer. I guess I am. It’s what I do every day.”


Tuning in

“I will always allow at least a few minutes at the beginning of the session to gauge where clients are in that moment. I’ll listen to what they’re needing and where they want to focus. That’s really important…trying to understand what they want from you out of the hour. There’s nothing worse than going to a massage therapist and saying that your left leg is hurting and they don’t even touch it.”

Embracing the silence

“If clients want to ask me questions and talk to me, I will talk to them—but I usually give yes or no answers. I don’t like to be the one to chat away because that’s not why I’m there. I find it’s actually very hard when I’m in a working mode to start engaging that side of my brain in conversation as the other side of my brain is melting into what needs to be done. Most of my clients may make chitchat at the beginning, but they’ll go right into really experiencing the session and be quiet.”

Going mainstream

“When I first graduated 30 years ago, I was always embarrassed to say I was a massage therapist at a party. But now I say I’m a massage therapist and I guarantee people will tell me about their aches and pains or the therapist they see. It’s a very different world. It’s really become very acceptable that massage is such an incredible healing tool on many levels.”

Building awareness

“Massage is really a wonderful gateway to an awareness of your body. I hear it all the time from my clients, especially those with neck and shoulder pain. When I work the lateral arm, they’ll say, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s really tender.’ And I’ll explain to them a huge correlation between the lateral arm and what’s going on in the shoulder and in the neck. Having that understanding of what’s going on in your body is a really important aspect to the beginning of self-care.”