- Associated Press
Monday, February 8, 2021

MADISON, S.D. (AP) - Massage does more than relieve stress these days, which professional athletes are among the first to appreciate. With myofascial work, trigger-point therapy and cupping, massage is used to manage pain and to aid in the recovery of injuries.

“If a player is coming in for rehab, they will see me,” said Kelli Bergheim, massage therapist for the Minnesota Twins — and a Madison-based massage therapist in the off-season. The player will also work with a physical therapist and athletic trainer.

“You’re trying to work as a group, making sure you’re seeing that client as a whole,” she indicated.

This approach is new since Bergheim first studied massage at the Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington, Minnesota nearly 20 years ago. At that time, massage was used primarily to help people relax. Now, those who study massage have a different experience.

“Our school was more medical-based to get us into chiropractic offices and hospitals,” said Katelyn Hoppe, who is currently studying exercise science at Dakota State University.

The two women, operating independently, share space on S. Egan Avenue and offer massage therapy services. Bergheim calls her business “Today’s Touch Massage and Stretch.” Hoppe calls hers “The Muscle Mechanic.”

They met through a mutual friend. Hoppe is from Montana and is studying exercise science with the goal of becoming an athletic trainer. Bergheim went to high school in Brookings with one of Hoppe’s neighbors, who contacted her and asked if she would mentor Hoppe, The Madison Daily Leader reported.

“I’m a big believer in karma. Those things happen for a reason,” Bergheim said.

While the women are at different stages in their careers, they share an understanding of what it means to be a massage therapist.

“So much of what we do is pain management, pain relief and injury management,” Bergheim said.

She explained that often when people come in, they come in with a specific problem. They may have been referred by a chiropractor or by a physician, but they may also come in on their own.

“We can’t make any diagnosis,” Bergheim explained, noting that must be done elsewhere. However, a massage therapist can do soft tissue work to address a problem.

“The pain isn’t always where the problem is,” she noted.

She illustrated using the example of back pain caused by spending extended periods of time at a keyboard. A massage therapist may spend time working with muscles across the front of the chest which are more directly affected by the work and are indirectly contributing to the back pain.

“You often have to educate people about things,” Bergheim indicated. “We’re looking for the long-term solution, not just short-term.”

Not all work involves working with muscles. Myofascial work involves working with the fascia, or connective tissue, which encases the muscles and holds the body parts together.

“It’s probably one of the most under-utilized systems in our body,” Bergheim said.

Trigger point therapy helps to manage pain by applying pressure to identified spots. Cupping, which can be done in several ways, helps to improve circulation.

Bergheim said that when she started working with the Twins on a part-time basis a decade ago, she was a novelty, not only because she provided a service that was not widely used but also because she was a female. That has changed.

“Women in sports has become a huge thing today,” she said.

The Twins have even installed a female locker room.

As massage therapy has evolved, so has the team’s appreciation of what she offers.

“They’re seeing the need, seeing that soft tissue work is so important,” Bergheim said.

She initially started on a part-time basis at the recommendation of Joe Mauer, who was a client of hers. Five years ago, she was hired full-time and now travels with the team, beginning with spring training in Fort Myers, Florida.

“We spend eight months of the year together, so it becomes like a family,” she reported.

The intense schedule involves late-night flights when the team is traveling, and few days off. On a normal day, the medical team and trainers meet at the stadium around 12:30 p.m. to discuss the players, who show up around 1:30 or 2 p.m.

“I’m pretty much on call,” Bergheim said. “Right now, massage is player-driven.”

She said she works quite a bit with pitchers. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, her day ended when the game started. With COVID, that changed. With empty stands, the concourse became her therapy room and she used game time to continue working with players.

“That was a good time to work with pitchers who weren’t pitching that game,” Bergheim indicated.

She said her job provides her with experiences that most people never have and has given her the opportunity to see and meet a lot of players. She doesn’t hesitate to tell stories about these experiences, either.

“I have fun telling people who love baseball about it,” she said. She lives in Madison in the off-season since meeting and marrying agronomist Jody Bergheim.

Hoppe is also in a relationship which led her to Madison. She is engaged to Grant Svikulis, who was recruited to play baseball at DSU. She met the Australian when they were both studying at Williston State College in North Dakota.

To date, much of her experience after completing the clinical part of her program has been providing massage therapy services for the Trojans baseball team. She is looking forward to taking on clients in Madison.

“It’s always scary in the beginning. Once you get it up and running, you discover it’s easier than you thought,” Bergheim said.

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