A traumatic knee injury and three surgeries led Southern Methodist University (SMU) offensive lineman Joey Fontana to seek pain relief from massage therapist Dea Henson.

“Since working with

Dea, I’ve been able to live more pain free,” the SMU Mustangs football player said. “I’ve been able to regain some feeling in my leg, and have regained faint muscle movement in some of the paralyzed muscles.”

Henson was voted Best Massage Therapist at SMU for 2014. She is a founding member of the on-campus massage program, which is administered through SMU’s Department of Recreational Sports. She massages primarily student athletes, and also works on nonathletes and employees of the university, any of whom can schedule appointments for massage therapy or body scrubs.

She said her time at SMU has given her insight into working with a variety of personalities and athletes with various needs. “I enjoy sharing my knowledge and am humbled by [clients’] trust as they seek my healing hands,” she said.

Some SMU graduates have stayed in the Dallas, Texas, area and become private clients of Henson, who has been in practice since 1978. She said her career longevity stems from the use of a variety of techniques that allow her to care for her body and enhance client experience. “I’m always on the hunt for new ingredients to spice up my offering to keep it fresh,” said Henson.

She said she has seen many positive changes in the massage industry during her almost 35 years of practice. For example, as massage has become more mainstream and available, more people have experienced massage and incorporated it into health-management routines, she said, adding, “With more opportunity to become a consumer of massage, the building blocks to become a connoisseur are created.”

Research has also validated the benefits of massage and has built bridges between massage therapists and the medical community, she added. “It’s common now for print media, like health-and-wellness magazines, to have excerpts to educate readers about the benefits of massage,” Henson said.

She attributes SMU’s six-year-old massage program’s growth to marketing and business skills she has learned from business coaching, which she also uses in her private practice.

“I cannot emphasize enough the vital importance of networking,” said Henson. She explained that being well connected has provided her with opportunities for business growth and professional connections: “Each group of people I’ve worked with has added to my understanding and knowledge.”

Maegan Galas is MASSAGE Magazine’s marketing and editorial assistant. 

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