What is massage therapy?

Massage therapy is a system of rubbing, pressing, and manipulating the body’s muscles and other soft tissues to relax, loosen, and warm them. This practice has been used as a healing treatment for thousands of years, and is even referenced in ancient texts from Rome, Japan, and Egypt.
What can massage do for me?
Massage has been shown to have a wide range of benefits. These include:

  • Alleviating pain
  • Improving flexibility
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Reducing stress
  • Strengthening the immune system
  • Decreasing depression and anxiety

What to Expect

How do I prepare for my massage?
To make sure you are as comfortable as possible during your session, do not eat a large meal beforehand; use the restroom before your massage; and avoid strong scents such as perfume.
When you arrive, talk to your massage therapist about what you would like to accomplish and about any symptoms or concerns you might be experiencing. Be open and honest to ensure your massage is as beneficial as possible

Do I have to undress?
Most types of massage are generally done with the client at least partially undressed. However, your comfort is key, so you should only undress to your comfort level. The therapist will leave the room to allow you to disrobe and drape yourself with a sheet or towel, and you will be properly draped throughout the massage.

Many people feel a little uncomfortable about their bodies. It is important to remember that massage therapists are professionals and are there to provide a beneficial treatment. They are not there to judge your appearance or make you feel uncomfortable. Talk to your therapist if you would prefer to stay clothed or have any concerns—they will understand and should accommodate you needs.

What should I do during the massage?
Relax and make yourself as comfortable as possible. You may want to close your eyes or even drift off to sleep. If you prefer to talk during your session, then feel free. Remember to breathe deeply and focus on the healing treatment you’re receiving. Your therapist may  ask you to move, or gently move you throughout the session (such as lifting your arm). Do not be afraid to ask the practitioner questions about massage or about the particular technique you are receiving.

If you would like your therapist to focus on a particular area, then let him or her know. Be sure to speak up if you would like more pressure—or less. Definitely let your therapist know if you experience any pain during the session. Massage should never be painful.

What conditions respond well to massage?
People seek massage for many different reasons, from simple relaxation to injury rehabilitation. Massage therapy can be a great addition to your regular preventive care. It can also be helpful in treating existing injuries or conditions.

Massage is particularly helpful for musculoskeletal concerns, such as back or neck pain. It can also help relieve headaches and other muscle pain, as well as the pain associated with arthritis, cancer, and surgery.

How will I feel afterward?
The way you will feel after your massage depends greatly on the type of massage you receive. You may feel relaxed and sleepy or energized and alert. If you have had a deep tissue massage, you may feel a little sore or achy for a day or two afterward. This is normal, but talk to your massage therapist if it lasts any longer.

Allow yourself some time after your session to relax. Drink extra water to flush out any toxins released in your body. Eat healthy foods and get plenty of rest in order to maximize the many health benefits of your massage.

Are there different types of massage?
There are actually more than 80 different types of massage. Here are a few of the most popular:

  • Swedish massage: A gentle, relaxing style of massage in which the therapist uses long, smooth strokes on the muscles.
  • Deep-tissue massage: Generally used to treat injuries or ongoing muscle tightness, this involves massaging the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissues.
  • Shiatsu: This style involves using the fingers to apply pressure to specific acupuncture meridians.
  • Thai massage: In this energizing treatment, the therapist will move you through a series of stretches and poses in order to improve flexibility and reduce stress.
  • Sports massage: Designed for athletes and other active people, this type relies on both massage and stretches to help prevent injury and enhance performance.

Who should NOT receive massage therapy?
You should not receive massage if you have any of the following:

  • Fever
  • Infectious Disease
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (a blood clot in a deep vein, usually in the legs)
  • A bleeding disorder or are taking blood-thinning drugs
  • Damaged blood vessels
  • Weakened bones from osteoporosis, a recent fracture, or cancer
  • An open or healing wound
  • A tumor
  • Nerve damage
  • An infection or acute inflammation

You should also check with your health care provider before receiving massage if you have cancer, are pregnant, have heart problems or have diabetes.

“Massage may help ease your pain.” American Massage Therapy Association. Accessed 10-20-2007. http://www.amtamassage.org/news/easepain.html
“Massage therapy as CAM,” National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. September 2006. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/massage/
“What to Expect.” Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. Accessed 10-20-2007. http://www.massagetherapy.com/learnmore/index.php
Wong, Kathy. “10 most popular types of massage therapy.” About.com. Sept. 19, 2007. http://altmedicine.about.com/od/massage/a/massage_types.htm

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