He relaxes muscles, but it's not quite massage therapy. He'll pop a few joints here and there, yet it's not like chiropractic treatment either. Jason Souza's hands-on, muscle realignment therapy is more like, well, magic.
Perhaps it isn't really magic, but pain does seem to disappear right away, according to his patients.
"It's definitely like it says, he does have magic fingers," said 23-year-old Jeremi Eaton of Orem. Eaton started seeing Souza recently for pain associated with a couple of slipped lower discs in his back. The pain was so severe he couldn't stand for long periods of time and one leg was even shorter than the other from extremely tight muscle contractions.
"These last few days have felt so good," said Eaton before he stepped into the therapy room for his second visit with Souza. "I feel more even," he says, referring to being able to stand up straight with both legs evenly and firmly on the ground after only one session.
The 51-year-old therapist calls Jeremi in to his office for a follow-up consultation. He asks patients how they feel, how work is going, and how much pain they've experienced. Souza makes sure to know his patients' concerns before he begins to treat them.
"I try and find the reason they have the pain, not only the location of the pain." says Souza, who treated people at his clinic in Brazil before moving to the U.S. in 2001 and opened his Provo clinic in 2002.
He likens it to a fire alarm going off in a burning home. "I don't try to turn off the alarm, I try and put out the fire."
He and Eaton move into a treatment room. A waist-high table with a mattress stands in the center with enough room for Souza to move around. No moody lighting, no garden-themed walls, no relaxing music, just Souza and his patient with four white almost-blank walls decorated only with posters of the human anatomy.
Eaton takes off his shirt and lays on the table and Souza starts right away, gently turning Eaton's head one way and then the other. Then he pokes areas of the shoulders, neck, head and back with firm fingers.
Occasionally you'll hear a wince, and sometimes grinding teeth, but mostly just "wow" and lots of giggling from a ticklish Eaton. He can hardly believe how quickly the pain is gone.
Not everyone has a good laugh when they see Souza, though. His muscle treatment usually has his patients in agonizing pain as he squeezes shoulders, pokes fingers into the back and neck, and pushes and pulls arms and legs into almost unnatural positions.
"My treatment is a little painful. A little painful for me, very painful for my patients," said Souza.
One of Souza's long-time patients, Mark Spongberg of Lindon, said, "It's not like you're getting a massage and say 'Oh, that feels good.' It hurts."
Spongberg, 59, has been seeing Souza for regular "Tune-ups," as Souza calls them, for seven years.
"You're fixed," says Souza after a session with Spongberg. It's a tune-up, so many of Souza's patients come back regularly for fixes from built-up bad habits.
"I specialize in putting my emotional tension into my muscles," said 48-year-old Diane Child of Provo, who started seeing Souza more than three years ago for hip pain that couldn't be resolved by doctors for 16 years.
Child says she has been relatively pain free since she's been seeing Souza, who she sees weekly.
"He always knows what to work on," she says. "You can run but you can't hide from Jason. He'll find what's wrong with you."
Child and Spongberg both say that Souza will poke around in other areas where they have no pain and find the source of the issue.
Licensed as a massage therapist, Souza still refers people to traditional kinds of massage therapists, chiropractors and physical therapists to enhance a patient's treatment."We need massage therapists, we need physicians, we need chiropractors," he says.
But he's had a hard time with that title because it doesn't explain what he actually does. He says no one has ever been able to explain exactly what he does, and he can't explain exactly how he does it.
"For me it's natural. I was born with this skill," he says.
Basically, Souza breaks apart the adhesions that hold muscle fibers together. When those adhesions are broken, oxygen is able to enter the cells and, according to Souza, helps them work better. It also helps release calcium built up in the fibers. He is in the process of writing a book explaining his technique and philosophy.
Souza's biggest challenge isn't explaining what he does, it's trying to get to everyone that needs his help. His Provo office is only the flagship clinic. He travels every other week to offices in Redondo Beach and San Diego. He's seen more than two-thousand patients in Provo alone ranging from just a few weeks old to 96.
"I think how many people are out there that are suffering and wonder how they can know about me so I can help them," he says.
1. Stretch in themornings. "If in the morning we stretch our bodies and do a few movements, we'll be ready to start our day."
2. Deep breathing exercises in the abdomen, not the chest.
3. Be Patient. In life, at work, at home. Just learn to take it easy "We cannot be 100 percent every day."
4. Warm up your body before exercise, of course, but also before household chores, before a hike, before anything that can be strenuous.