Benefits of Massage
Protect your cells, reduce blood pressure and lower your risk of blood clots and coronary artery blockages.
Michael P. Sherman, MD, PhD; Diana Superfin, MD; Ann Wexler, MD; Amir Modarressi, MD
GET IN TOUCH
As popular as it’s become, this type of therapy is anything but the latest craze. Massage therapy has long been referenced as a medium for bodily healing, having turned up in ancient writings from ancient China, Japan and India to Egypt, Greece (Hippocrates defined medicine as “the art of rubbing”) and Rome, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE REASONS THAT FOLKS SHOULD MAKE TIME FOR A MASSAGE?
One of the long-recognized benefits is that massage promotes relaxation in the body and reduction of stress, which is in itself very helpful for the body’s natural ability to heal. It’s also preventive medicine and why many people keep coming to my office. They may have come initially for a specific problem—virtually all are referred by doctors and psychologists—but once they realize how good they feel, they may come in once a month just for a tune-up.
WHAT ARE SOME COMMON TYPES OF MASSAGE?
Swedish massage is what many people consider traditional massage. It’s done with the client’s clothing removed and the body draped. The strokes vary between long and smooth and deep work—the amount of pressure also will vary, carefully weighted toward what the client likes. It’s applied in a variety of circumstances—including for general relaxation of tense, spastic muscles; various kinds of pain conditions; and scar work. Shiatsu, based in the Oriental tradition, often involves very deep pressure and may use different body parts, such as elbows and knees, to apply pressure on parts of the body that are believed to be involved in the creation of tension. Sports massage involves the application of appropriate techniques for injuries, improving mobility. It is typically done under the supervision of a physical or orthopedic therapist and follows what’s been medically prescribed. In chair massage, the person sits fully clothed in a specially designed chair for massage of the back, shoulders and arms. For a comprehensive glossary of types of massage and body work, visit www.massagetherapy.com/glossary.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT THAT THE PERSON WHO GIVES YOU A MASSAGE IS CERTIFIED?
If you are going to see a dentist, you want to see a dentist who is properly licensed. The same is true with massage therapists—shop around before you decide and make it a priority to see someone who is certified.
IF YOU’VE NEVER HAD A MASSAGE BEFORE, HOW DO YOU KNOW WHICH TYPE TO CHOOSE?
If you are new to getting a massage and are feeling uncomfortable, start small; perhaps a half-hour back massage or foot and leg massage. A foot and lower leg massage can be incredible and you may be able to achieve profound relaxation. Work with your level of comfort before trying other types of massage services.
A Few Words of Caution
If you’ve been trying to figure out if a massage would be good therapy for you, check the following Q&A with Pennie Sempell, J.D., CMT, a member of the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (www.massagetherapy.com) and an integrative medicine therapist who’s worked for 15 years in association with physicians at California Pacific Medical Center and other facilities and programs.
If performed by a properly trained therapist and appropriate cautions are followed, massage therapy appears to have few serious risks, according to the NCCAM. Even so, be mindful of NCCAM’s cautionary advice:
• Don’t use massage therapy to replace your regular medical care or as a reason to postpone seeing a health care provider about a medical problem.
• If you have a medical condition and are unsure whether massage therapy is appropriate for you, discuss your concerns with your health care provider. (Pregnant women should consult their healthcare provider before using massage therapy; cancer patients should consult their oncologist before having a massage that involves deep or intense pressure.)