Stephanie Roberts is the North Shore Winter Club’s brand new resident massage therapist. So yes, she can cure you of your crippling back pain, the type that causes your spine to quiver in fear in the face of another night spent tossing and turning.
Wait, that’s just me?
Anyways, Stephanie comes from a unique background. Born in the semi-evil province of Ontario, Stephanie has brought tricks to her trade learned over a lifetime of trying to fix people.
I caught up with Stephanie to learn more about massage therapy. Yes, the science has progressed since your older sister walked on your back in 1985.
Kelvin: Hi Stephanie! Welcome to the club. What’s your technical title?
Stephanie: I’m a Registered Massage Therapist, or an RMT.
That makes sense. Tell me a little bit about your day so far.
Well, today I got here at 7 and didn’t do anything that interesting. People are still learning that there’s an RMT here. Usually on the slower mornings I’m returning emails and generally talking with clients. There’s always lots of questions. I’m pretty easy going, so people like to check in and give me updates on how they’re feeling. Later in the morning I treated two people, did some more emails, did some invoicing.
What are some of the most common things you have to treat?
Legs, backs and shoulders. Especially with hockey players. Hip flexors, quads, the whole shoulder cuff area. Skating is horrible for posture, stickhandling too, they’re constantly leaning over and shooting which destroys one shoulder. Goalies are in a whole different category altogether. Not only do they have to stay flexible to cover the net, they need to have quick reflexes and full mobility, especially with their glove hand.
You clearly have a hockey background.
I grew up in the middle of nowhere where hockey was the only sport my town played. Farm boys, fighters, sports in general, I’m a very athletic person so I understand the movement. Going through massage therapy in school was neat because everything clicked and just made sense.
Where’d you go to school?
Barrie, Ontario. It’s a great town. I went to high school and grew up in a tiny little town called Thornton, in Ontario. We just got a dot on google maps.
Congrats! So, at this point, I’m already feeling self-conscious about my posture. I’m a mess, aren’t I …
Just say it. My back is killing me. Is it normal to not be able to feel your fingers from time to time?
That is lack of blood flow to the brain. That’s the grandaddy way to put it. In reality, it's caused by tight muscles in the neck and shoulders, whichc compresses the nerves and blood vessels heading into your arms. Office workers and people who sit at computers, their shoulders roll in which makes the traps have to work harder because they attach at the base the head and pull down on the back of the head which comprises the spine. So vertebrae can get stuck.
Ergonomics says the screen is supposed to be right in front of your face, and your computer is in your lap, so you’re doing it wrong. Ultimately people don’t care about the scientific terms, it’s simpler to just be blunt and tell them everything that’s wrong with them.
Well thanks for that. Do you find that people just complain? Or is there always a hidden issue?
I have a few patients who just walk into the room and say pick something and go. I have other people who have specific things they need to work on. A lady today came in because her neck was sore, turns out it was because her whole shoulder and armpit was locked down. Her shoulder couldn’t lift her arm, so she could only get halfway up, her traps were lifting everything up. She knew it was happening but she didn’t do anything about it. She was getting headaches, numbness.
The worst thing is sitting on the train or the bus and people watch. I don’t watch for weirdos, I watch for how badly people sit. Posture.
Doesn’t sound weird or creepy at all. Why did you get into this line of work?
This is my favourite question. My grandmother, mother and sister were all diagnosed at young ages with scoliosis. So when my mom had kids it got worse. Our doctors got into treating her, but at three years old I was walking on her back and rubbing her feet. This progressed to high school where if you were sore, you found me and I did whatever I thought was right.
You were the girl giving everyone massages?
Yep. From there I didn’t think about anything in health care at all. I went to school for mechanical engineering and realized I didn’t want to sit in a desk. So I thought about high school and I knew I wanted to do something with the human body, whether becoming a gym teacher or a health teacher - I loved kids, loved teaching, so I ultimately went back and got my health-based sciences degree. Then I moved out here because I helped a family move and I stayed and started looking into Kin programs at UBC. Then the lady I was living with rolled her ankle and I did a few manipulations and she looked at me and scolded me for not being in massage therapy. Three weeks of research later and I was enrolled in the West Coast College of Massage Therapy in New Westminster.
How long ago was that?
I graduated on December 13th.
I finished Massage Therapy School, went back east and smothered my parents in love for a month so they wouldn’t ask me to come home, came back for three days, went to Hawaii for two weeks, then got back and got a job in Burnaby. There I wasn’t busy, so I dropped that and have been working in Queensborough since June.
How did you meet our Steph, trainer Steph?
That’s actually pretty funny, I was working in a butcher shop.
How many jobs have you had?
You wouldn’t believe it if I told you. Anyways, trainer Steph was a regular and it got to the point where we would talk so much about therapy and sports that my boss would tell me to get back to work. Literally I didn’t know what he did, what Steph did. I knew he was some sort of trainer, but I had no idea where. I randomly got an email in October from Steph telling me about the North Shore Winter Club and the developing rehabilitation centre. He said I’d be a great fit, my personality would fit. I thought I was coming in for an interview, but nope, I got a tour and I was on board.
What does it mean to have a job in something you’ve been passionate about your entire life?
Words can’t even describe. I don’t know. It’s stunning, I’m 24 years old, I have a career I absolutely love, I wake up every morning wanting to go to work.
And it’s all cuz you’re a nice person to a guy at a butcher shop.
Yep! Well, I like to believe I’m a nice person all the time. I really believe good things happen to good people, and I believe I’m a living proof.
How do I book treatment with Stephanie?
I’m here Tuesday from 2pm till 7pm and Thursday from 7am - 2pm. Massages last one hour.
People can book by emailing Stephanie directly at StephanieRMT@nswc.ca and setting up an appointment.