If there’s one thing your body wants and probably needs more of, it’s massages. Not only do they feel really good, but they’re one of the most effective forms of human touch. Massages can improve both emotional and physical health and promote relaxation and well-being.
Read below to learn what massage therapy is and its benefits, how to get started with massages, and the different types you can get.
What Is Massage Therapy?
Massage therapy is a scientific healing art using the hands and arms to manipulate the soft tissues of the body: skin, tendons, muscles, and connective tissue. It’s done to improve circulation, reduce tension, relieve pain, or increase flexibility. It can also enhance the body’s ability to heal itself.
Benefits of Massage Therapy
Massage therapy may help with a variety of physical ailments. It can help ease muscle spasms, relieve injuries from overuse, and decrease swelling and impaired joint mobility. Your doctor may recommend massage therapy to help with chronic pain and overall wellness as it strengthens the immune system and releases endorphins (your body’s natural pain killers).
In addition, it can provide mental and emotional benefits, calming the mind and reducing stress and anxiety while improving focus and concentration.
If you’re interested in the science, effectiveness, and safety of massage therapy, read this review from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
How To Get Started with Massages
If you’ve never had a massage but you’re interested in getting one, the first thing you should do is find a certified, licensed, or registered massage therapist to do it – they’ve received the proper training.
Here are other good-to-knows if you’ve never had a massage:
- Talk to your massage therapist to explain what you’re looking for in a massage. They may take a brief medical history and have you sign a consent form. Discuss any health issues you may have at this time.
- Full body massages typically last 60-90 minutes. Other massages may not last as long, so ask questions to make sure you understand what you’re getting.
- Come prepared to undress – you’ll be covered modestly with a sheet – and lie down on a table in a quiet, calming room.
- Don’t be afraid to tell your massage therapist what feels good or doesn’t feel good. This is your time to relax.
Types of Massages
There are hundreds of different types of massage therapy. Different therapists do different massages, but here’s a list of a few you might find enjoyable depending on your stage in life:
- Swedish massage (for everyone). Uses a system of long gliding strokes, kneading, and friction (rubbing) techniques on the top layers of muscles to promote relaxation.
- Sports massage (for athletes). A vigorous massage on the muscles commonly used during athletic activities.
- Prenatal massage (for moms-to-be). Careful movements focused on the neck, shoulders, back, hips, and legs to help relieve aches and pains commonly associated with pregnancy.
- Geriatric massage (for older people). A sequence of strokes and compressions to offer comfort and help ease the discomforts that often come with age.
- Neuromuscular therapy (for anyone with muscle spasms). Applies finger pressure to "trigger points" (painful, irritated areas in muscles) in order to break the cycle of spasm or pain.
- Specialty massage (for people with certain conditions). Thoughtful, compassionate, safe, and knowledgeable care for people during and after cancer treatment or with other defined medical conditions.
- Craniosacral therapy (for people of all ages with pain, headaches, motor coordination, or fatigue). Light touches are applied to the skull, face, spine, and hips.
- Infant and child massage (for parents to perform). The therapist teaches you how to use gliding strokes first away and then toward the heart to enhance the child’s well-being and improve the bond between you.
When To Be Cautious with Massages
There can be risk with massage therapy for people who have cardiovascular problems, burned or infected skin, or bone problems. If you have any of these conditions, talk to your doctor before you get a massage.
The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.