Does the idea of getting an hour-long body massage stress you out with potential embarrassment or lull you into relaxation with just the thought of it? Massage feels good and is a great way to both connect with our physical selves and reduce stress or anxiety. If you already love massage, take comfort that there are exceptional health benefits to a regular rub down. If the idea of a massage sounds nice but you have skipped going because you are not sure what to do and how it works, get some tips to make your first visit enjoyable.
Some Background on Massage
Massage therapy in Western culture has only more recently become widely accepted as a viable therapeutic treatment. Though relatively new to Western cultures, massage has a long tradition. The use of massage is documented in Chinese records dating to 2700 B.C. Ancient Hindus, Egyptians and Persians used varying forms of massage for many ailments and diseases as well as an integral part of Ayurveda. Even the great medical practitioner Hippocrates recommended massage for joint and circulatory problems.
Presently, massage is an accepted modality of many physical rehabilitation and physiotherapy programs. No matter what adjectives we assign to it (luxurious, pampering, rejuvenating, holistic, therapeutic, sports) or the reasons that we seek it out (a healthy reward, a decadent treat, stress relief, pain management), massage may be a powerful tool in your healthcare toolbox.
Massage therapy has proven beneficial for many chronic health issues, among them lower back pain, arthritis, bursitis, fatigue, depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, immunity suppression, infertility, smoking cessation, anxiety and more. More and more research studies show massage may reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure, increases blood circulation, relax muscles and improves flexibility. Likewise, massage can stimulate the increased release of feel-good endorphins.
Although therapeutic massage does not by itself increase muscle strength, it can increase blood flow to weak, inactive muscles and partially compensate for the lack of exercise and inactivity we partake in when recovering from an illness or injury. Varying types of massage may also accelerate recovery after exercise or injury. And as many individuals assert, massage can help one manage the stress and tension of life that can contribute to disease and illness.
The Many Benefits of Massage
Massage offers many benefits beyond “it feels good,” including:
- Improve circulation
- Provide relief for lower back pain & improve range of motion
- Ease medication use & dependence
- Improve immunity by stimulating lymph flow, the body's natural defense system
- Help repair & recover after workouts
- Reduce post-surgical adhesions & swelling
- Improve joint flexibility
- Reduce depression and anxiety
- Promote tissue repair, reducing scar tissue & stretch marks
- Reduce spasms & cramping
- Relax & soften injured, tired, and overused muscles
- Release endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers
- Relieve migraine pain
- Exercise and stretch weak, tight, or atrophied muscles
Some practitioners suggest that upwards of ninety percent of disease may be stress related. Eliminating anxiety and stress in our fast-paced world is an uphill battle but massage can be one of a number of tools you use to manage and reduce stress. Massage and its positive impact on stress can offer you:
- Better sleep
- Reduced anxiety
- More energy
- Better circulation
- Less fatigue
Getting a good massage can do you a world of good and the more you go, the more you benefit. This is the beauty of bodywork. Making massage a regular part of your self-care can have a positive impact on your health and well-being. Budgeting the time and money for bodywork is a prudent investment in your long-term health. Massage can feel like blissful pampering but don’t make the mistake of thinking that makes it any less therapeutic. Make self-care a priority and massage an important element of your health and wellness plan. Find a practitioner that is a good fit and establish a treatment schedule that best meets your needs.
What to expect from your visit
Every spa, wellness center, health clinic or chiropractor offering massage is a little different, however, if you let them know this is your first time, most will give you all of the information you need to relax and get the most out of your visit. For most professional places offering body massage, you can expect the following. Your massage session will most likely take place in a quiet, dim and comfortable room. Your massage therapist may play soft music to help you relax. You will lie on a table specifically designed for massage and your comfort. Ideally, your session should be conducted by a professional massage therapist who has received extensive training to make sure they understand who should and shouldn’t get massaged and how to insure you get a safe and pleasant session.
You and the practitioner will discuss what hurts and what you are hoping to get out of a bodywork session. Many clients come in with neck problems, sore feet, lower back issues or complain of frequent headaches, specific massage techniques can address these ailments. A full body session will typically comprise work on your back, arms, legs, feet, hands, head, neck, and shoulders. You don’t have to ‘do’ anything during your massage. Your professional massage therapist will likely gently move you or tell you what is needed (like lifting your arm). Most clients prefer to cease conversation, close their eyes and relax but by all means, go ahead and ask your therapist questions you might have about specific techniques you are receiving or communicate when something is painful.
Do I Get Completely Undressed?
Some clients have concerns about getting completely undressed. Most massage and bodywork techniques are traditionally performed with the client unclothed with careful draping during all parts of the service to maintain your modesty. A properly trained therapist will insure you are adequately draped at all times. To keep you warm and comfortable, generally only the area being worked on will be exposed. Still, it is entirely up to you what you want to wear. You should generally disrobe to your level of comfort. For your comfort, your therapist should leave the room allowing you to undress in private and cover yourself and get comfortable on the massage table.
When Massage Is Not Advised
It is vital that you communicate any health problems or medications you are taking with your therapist. If you are under a doctor's care, it is strongly advised that you get a written recommendation for massage before your session. If you have a fever, your body is trying to defend itself and since a massage increases overall circulation, it could possibly work against your body's natural defenses. Avoid getting a massage if you have injured, inflamed or broken skin or have your therapist avoid an isolated area. Of course if you are nursing a nasty sunburn, put off the massage until you have completely healed. If you have cancer, it is advisable to check with your doctor because massage increases lymphatic circulation and massage could potentially spread the disease.
Diabetes, asthma, and other serious conditions come with their own specific precautions so if you are not certain, as your health care provider.