Massage is focus of local burn workshop

Posted: April 15, 2014

The Winchester Star

Health care providers take part in a burn education and alternative therapy workshop Saturday at the Frederick County Public Safety Building. Here, Fred Pitz of Virginia Beach massages Christy Torrence of Ashburn. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
Health care providers Rita Holt of Winchester (top) and Krista Morris of Harrisonburg take part in a burn education and alternative therapy workshop Saturday at the Frederick County Public Safety Building. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
Raquel Torres of New York City leads the burn education and alternative therapy workshop Saturday.


Raquel Torres wants to spread her passion for working as a massage therapist with burn survivors.

“I think it’s an untapped population, and I think that [burn survivors] can benefit so greatly from it, that it really is a shame it’s untapped,” she said of the therapy.

The New York-based massage therapist was in Frederick County on Saturday leading a burn education and alternative therapy workshop.

Torres taught five people about scar tissue management therapy in the hands-on class — held at the Frederick County Public Safety Building at 1080 Coverstone Drive.

The workshop focused on combining massage and active isolated stretching to study the effects of those modalities on burn scars, but the information taught is relevant for all types of scar tissue and limitations to range of motion, according to Torres.

Rita Holt, of Winchester — a massage therapist since 2005 — said she attended the class to improve her skills in working with people who have different special needs, not just burn survivors.

“Scarring is not just physical, it’s sometimes emotional — [this is] a nice way to connect,” she added.

Holt said she learned how to incorporate range-of-motion stretching with the skills she already has.

“With burn survivors in particular, [their movement] can be so constricted at first,” she said.

But, she added, with movement and massage, it creates more pliability and “you can see their relief.”

“It’s been a great experience,” she said of the class. “I’m looking forward to being able to utilize the skills.”

In the middle of the class, the therapists took turns in the dim, cold room practicing massaging and stretching exercises on each other while Torres explained purpose and technique.

Torres said she specializes in working with burn victims and volunteers every year at two burn survivor camps — one of which takes place in Charlottesville.

There are about 1.25 million burn injuries each year, according to the National Fire Protection Agency. Burns can be caused by fire, boiling water, chemicals, electricity and household objects.

Burn severity includes six factors: depth, size, location, age, health and injury source.

Torres said that recently, research has shown that massage therapy can help manage scar tissue with the goal being to prevent the need for many surgeries.

“The more people know, the more burn survivors will get touched,” she said. “It’s good to have a portion of therapists that are trained.”

Christy Torrence — a massage therapist of 15 years from Herndon — said she has never worked with burn survivors.

“It’s unique — I don’t know of anyone who is doing this in our area and I’m sure there’s a population who could be served,” she said.

Torrence added that she was learning more stretching than she was used to and how to adapt to whatever a burn survivor presents as a client.

— Contact Melissa Boughton at