Therapeutic Needs: Essential Care for Everyone

“Massage is not a luxury, it is a basic need in today’s society,” says Sandy Saldano, owner of Therapeutic Kneads in Highland Park. “Part of our job as massage therapists is to educate people on the long-term effects of stress.”

Saldano’s therapeutic services have been easing stress and attracting clients from across the area for almost 15 years. Therapeutic Kneads specializes in reducing physical and emotional pain and stress, as well as chronic and acute pain, plus rehabilitation for surgeries and sports injuries and cancer-related treatments. In addition, Saldano offers alternative treatments such as ear candling, reflexology, Reiki, Thai massage, and raindrop, digestive-health and tuning-fork therapies.

Saldano, born and raised in Iowa, had been interested in physical therapy for some time. After earning a business degree, she worked at a five-star hotel that employed students attending the Palmer College of Chiropractic. Some of her friends, knowing her interests, convinced her to enroll in Palmer’s chiropractic assistant program. Saldano, however, found that her studies lacked the hands-on aspects of healing that interested her. An ad for a massage-therapy course caught her attention, and after research, she applied and was accepted to the Chicago School of Massage Therapy (now known as the Cortiva Institute –Chicago). She moved to the Chicago area in 1987, completed the program and took a position with a Highland Park chiropractor’s office. Saldano says she always intended to return to Iowa, but wearing many hats at her job—massage therapist, chiropractic assistant and business administrator—was “a perfect fit,” so she stayed . Over the next nine years, Saldano built her massage-therapy skills and reputation while moonlighting. In 1997, she opened her own massage-therapy center in a 350-square-foot office in Highland Park. Her business expanded when she teamed up with another therapist in the building, and eventually she purchased that other business as well.

In 2008, she moved Therapeutic Kneads into its current location in downtown Highland Park. Her custom-designed space includes several treatment rooms and a spacious storefront that offers supplements, essential oils, lotions, therapeutic pillows, massage items and holiday gifts. “It was my dream,” says Saldano with a smile. “Actually, it is beyond my dreams.”

Her staff includes several licensed massage therapists (LMTs) and a nutritionist. She explains that she looks for therapists with more clinical aspirations of massage. Therapeutic Kneads follows technical applications of massage versus just “feel good” massage, she says.

Saldano believes that relevant education and a clinical approach are the keys to successful massage therapy. She encourages her staff to educate themselves to be better equipped for handling client needs, rather than following trends. “If I can’t apply the knowledge to my current situation, I feel it does not benefit my clients or me,” she states. Saldano recently announced that several LMTs in her office are now certified in massage for cancer patients, with one additionally certified in manual lymphatic drainage —one of only a dozen LMTs in Illinois so trained to treat clients recovering from breast and other cancers whose lymph nodes have been removed.

“Clients have outside lives—kids, jobs—and they are not coming here for a spa day,” says Saldano. “We communicate with clients to find out what they really need, and use our knowledge to determine what type of treatment is being called for. We may need to try a couple of approaches to see which treatments are helping.”

She goes on to say, “There is a therapist for everyone. Different styles and specialties mean that each client will find that perfect fit. We work together as a team, and internally refer to each other to make sure everyone is getting the treatment that best meets their individual needs.” She adds that massage is just one piece of the overall wellness puzzle. “We are a partner in our clients’ overall well-being. We go on that journey to health with them to explore the methods most beneficial to them, even if that means referring them out (of our practice).” Her office maintains a large reference of area resources that includes doctors, chiropractors and other providers.

Saldano says her personal reward comes when she sees clients who have been suffering suddenly have a look on their faces that says how much better they feel. “It speaks to my heart when people say any therapist they have seen here is good,” she says. “It means we are making good hiring decisions, our services are good and we are getting a reputation out there for being of service.”

Serving the local community is very important to Saldano. She is a past president of the Highland Park Chamber of Commerce, and remains active in community events and municipal employee wellness fairs. “Even though I am not originally from this area, I feel as though I’ve become part of the community,” she says. “This is my home that I have created. I have a reputation to uphold. I always want people to know this place as a place of healing and nothing less than that.” Literally, she says, her business and her community go hand in hand.

“I think the magic that happens when we are with clients is that we awaken an awareness in them of their own bodies that they may not have paid attention to before,” Saldano observes. “I feel it is a privilege that people here have let us into their most private space. They really are trusting us.”

Therapeutic Kneads, 1779 Green Bay Rd., Highland Park. 847-266-0131. For more information, visit

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