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Massage Ed: Great deals with therapists-in-training

Photo: David Roylance

Word isn’t out on the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM). But it should be. This off-the-radar campus on Broadway & 21st Street houses the country’s largest acupuncture school (it has campuses in San Diego and Chicago, too), providing graduate degrees and accreditation in acupuncture, herbal medicine, and massage. About-to-graduate therapists work in the school’s third floor clinic dispensing cut-rate yet high-quality acupuncture and a variety of massage styles—Tui Na, Shiatsu, reflexology, Swedish, and Thai, which can cost upwards of $180 at New York City spas. Before PCOS students get licensed, they have to practice on someone. So why not you?

I visited last week for a 60-minute Thai massage—a bargain at $53 (see a complete price list, below). It’s a good thing I wasn’t expecting fluffy towels and a tea-serving ritual. PCOM feels more like a hospital than a spa. But luckily the long linoleum hallways smelled like burning incense from moxibustion treatments instead of ammonia.

Kimber, my therapist, was very clearly not on the Dean’s List. About as pleasant as a DMV clerk, massage therapy was obviously a job, not a calling. Even so, her more-than-adequate, by-the-book Thai massage left me feeling relaxed and limber. And at $53 (you’re not allowed to tip the students), even if she didn’t rock my world, I definitely felt I got my money’s worth.

The herbal pharmacy at PCOM

After my appointment, I chatted with the receptionist and learned about a few of the star pupils. Turns out you can ask for a therapist who really excels when you book your treatment. But given my experience, even the bad eggs give good massages. Think of PCOM as the massage equivalent of the restaurant at the French Culinary Institute—even when the souffle falls, the results still taste good.

Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, 915 Broadway, at 21st Street, 3rd Floor, 212-982-4600,

Acupuncture with an intern: $45
Auricular Treatments: For smoking cessation, stress relief etc.: $12
Facial Rejuvenation: 1 hr 15 min. acupuncture and herbal topical treatment: $90
Massage Services (Swedish, Shiatsu, Thai, reflexology, and Tui Na): $53

Photo: Courtesy of David Roylance, Thai Institute of Healing Arts – Arlington, VA (