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Introduction to Massage
Benefits of Massage
Massage & Bodywork Glossary
What to Expect
Massage Directory by State


Introduction to Massage
Massage is one of the oldest healing arts: Chinese records dating back 3,000 years document its use; the ancient Hindus, Persians and Egyptians applied forms of massage for many ailments; and Hippocrates wrote papers recommending the use of rubbing and friction for joint and circulatory problems. Today, the benefits of massage are varied and far-reaching. As an accepted part of many physical rehabilitation programs, massage therapy has also proven beneficial for many chronic conditions, including low back pain, arthritis, bursitis, fatigue, high blood pressure, diabetes, immunity suppression, infertility, smoking cessation, depression, and more. And, as many millions will attest, massage also helps relieve the stress and tension of everyday living that can lead to disease and illness.

So What Is It Exactly?
Massage, bodywork and somatic therapies are defined as the application of various techniques to the muscular structure and soft tissues of the human body. Specifically:

Massage: The application of soft-tissue manipulation techniques to the body, generally intended to reduce stress and fatigue while improving circulation. The many variations of massage account for several different techniques.

Bodywork: Various forms of touch therapies that may use manipulation, movement, and/or repatterning to affect structural changes to the body.

Somatic: Meaning "of the body." Many times this term is used to denote a body/mind or whole-body approach as distinguished from a physiology-only or environmental perspective.

There are more than 250 variations of massage, bodywork, and somatic therapies and many practitioners utilize multiple techniques. The application of these techniques may include, but is not limited to, stroking, kneading, tapping, compression, vibration, rocking, friction, and pressure to the muscular structure or soft tissues of the human body. This may also include non-forceful passive or active movement and/or application of techniques intended to affect the energetic systems of the body. The use of oils, lotions, and powders may also be included to reduce friction on the skin. Click here for more information on what to expect.

Please note: Massage, bodywork and somatic therapies specifically exclude diagnosis, prescription, manipulation or adjustments of the human skeletal structure, or any other service, procedure or therapy which requires a license to practice orthopedics, physical therapy, podiatry, chiropractic, osteopathy, psychotherapy, acupuncture, or any other profession or branch of medicine.

Will My Insurance Cover It?
The services of a bodywork professional may be covered by health insurance when prescribed by a chiropractor or osteopath. Therapies provided as part of a prescribed treatment by a physician or registered physical therapist are often covered.


The Benefits of Massage
What exactly are the benefits of receiving massage or bodywork treatments? Useful for all of the conditions listed below and more, massage can:
  • Alleviate low-back pain and improve range of motion.
  • Assist with shorter, easier labor for expectant mothers and shorten maternity hospital stays.
  • Ease medication dependence.
  • Enhance immunity by stimulating lymph flow—the body's natural defense system.
  • Exercise and stretch weak, tight, or atrophied muscles.
  • Help athletes of any level prepare for, and recover from, strenuous workouts.
  • Improve the condition of the body's largest organ—the skin.
  • Increase joint flexibility.
  • Lessen depression and anxiety.
  • Promote tissue regeneration, reducing scar tissue and stretch marks.
  • Pump oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs, improving circulation.
  • Reduce postsurgery adhesions and swelling.
  • Reduce spasms and cramping.
  • Relax and soften injured, tired, and overused muscles.
  • Release endorphins—amino acids that work as the body's natural painkiller.
  • Relieve migraine pain.
A Powerful Ally
There's no denying the power of bodywork. Regardless of the adjectives we assign to it (pampering, rejuvenating, therapeutic) or the reasons we seek it out (a luxurious treat, stress relief, pain management), massage therapy can be a powerful ally in your healthcare regimen.

Experts estimate that upwards of ninety percent of disease is stress related. And perhaps nothing ages us faster, internally and externally, than high stress. While eliminating anxiety and pressure altogether in this fast-paced world may be idealistic, massage can, without a doubt, help manage stress. This translates into:
  • Decreased anxiety.
  • Enhanced sleep quality.
  • Greater energy.
  • Improved concentration.
  • Increased circulation.
  • Reduced fatigue.
Furthermore, clients often report a sense of perspective and clarity after receiving a massage. The emotional balance bodywork provides can often be just as vital and valuable as the more tangible physical benefits.

Profound Effects
In response to massage, specific physiological and chemical changes cascade throughout the body, with profound effects. Research shows that with massage:
  • Arthritis sufferers note fewer aches and less stiffness and pain.
  • Asthmatic children show better pulmonary function and increased peak air flow.
  • Burn injury patients report reduced pain, itching, and anxiety.
  • High blood pressure patients demonstrate lower diastolic blood pressure, anxiety, and stress hormones.
  • Premenstrual syndrome sufferers have decreased water retention and cramping.
  • Preterm infants have improved weight gain.
Research continues to show the enormous benefits of touch—which range from treating chronic diseases, neurological disorders, and injuries, to alleviating the tensions of modern lifestyles. Consequently, the medical community is actively embracing bodywork, and massage is becoming an integral part of hospice care and neonatal intensive care units. Many hospitals are also incorporating on-site massage practitioners and even spas to treat postsurgery or pain patients as part of the recovery process.

Increase the Benefits with Frequent Visits
Getting a massage can do you a world of good. And getting massage frequently can do even more. This is the beauty of bodywork. Taking part in this form of regularly scheduled self-care can play a huge part in how healthy you'll be and how youthful you'll remain with each passing year. Budgeting time and money for bodywork at consistent intervals is truly an investment in your health. And remember: just because massage feels like a pampering treat doesn't mean it is any less therapeutic. Consider massage appointments a necessary piece of your health and wellness plan, and work with your practitioner to establish a treatment schedule that best meets your needs.

Review the clinical research studies examining the benefits of massage.

Review massage information from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health.


What to Expect
Where Will My Massage or Bodywork Session Take Place?
Your massage or bodywork session will take place in a warm, comfortable, quiet room. Soft music may be played to help you relax. You will lie on a table especially designed for your comfort.

Who Will Perform the Massage or Bodywork?

If you have located your massage therapist through Massagetherapy.com's online referral service, you can be sure your session will be conducted by a professional who has received proper training. All 70,000+ practitioners on Massagetherapy.com's online referral service are members of Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP). As a condition of membership, ABMP verifies the training and credentials of every one of its practitioners. Some massage and bodywork practitioners are licensed by the state, while others are locally regulated. Although no two massages are exactly alike, you may request a certain technique or modality. You may also request your preference of a male or female therapist.

Must I Be Completely Undressed?
Most massage and bodywork techniques are traditionally performed with the client unclothed; however, it is entirely up to you what you want to wear. You should undress to your level of comfort. You will be properly draped during the entire session.

Will the Practitioner Be Present When I Disrobe?

The practitioner will leave the room while you undress, relax onto the table, and cover yourself with a clean sheet or towel.

Will I Be Covered During the Session?
You will be properly draped at all times to keep you warm and comfortable. Only the area being worked on will be exposed.

What Parts of My Body Will Be Massaged?

You and the practitioner will discuss the desired outcome of your session. This will determine which parts of your body require massage. A typical full body session will include work on your back, arms, legs, feet, hands, head, neck, and shoulders. You will not be touched on or near your genitals (male or female) or breasts (female).

What Will the Massage or Bodywork Feel Like?
It depends on the techniques used. Many massage therapists use a form of Swedish massage, which is often a baseline for practitioners. In a general Swedish massage, your session may start with broad, flowing strokes that will help calm your nervous system and relax exterior muscle tension. As your body becomes relaxed, pressure will gradually be increased to relax specific areas and relieve areas of muscular tension. Often, a light oil or lotion is used to allow your muscles to be massaged without causing excessive friction to the skin. The oil also helps hydrate your skin. You should communicate immediately if you feel any discomfort so that another approach may be taken. Massage and bodywork are most effective when your body is not resisting.

Are There Different Kinds of Massage and Bodywork?

There are numerous types of massage and bodywork; various techniques utilize different strokes, including basic rubbing strokes, rocking movement, posture and movement re-education, application of pressure to specific points, and more. Ask the practitioner about the methods he or she uses.

How Long Will the Session Last?
The average full-body massage or bodywork session lasts approximately one hour. A half-hour appointment only allows time for a partial massage session, such as neck and shoulders, back or legs and feet. Many people prefer a 60- to 90-minute session for optimal relaxation. Always allow relaxation time prior to and after the session. Hot tubs, steam baths and saunas can assist in the relaxation process.

What Should I Do During the Massage or Bodywork Session?
Prior to the massage, feel free to ask the practitioner any questions about the technique or the upcoming session. During the massage, make yourself comfortable. The practitioner will either gently move you or tell you what is needed throughout the session (such as lifting your arm). Many people just close their eyes and completely relax, communicating if/when they need more or less pressure, another blanket, or anything else relevant to the session. If you have any questions regarding the session or about the particular technique you are receiving, feel free to ask the practitioner.

How Will I Feel After the Massage or Bodywork Session?
Most people feel very relaxed. Some experience freedom from long-term aches and pains developed from tension or repetitive activity. After an initial period of feeling slowed down, people often experience increased energy, heightened awareness, and greater productivity which can last for days. Since toxins are released from your soft tissues during a massage, it is recommended you drink plenty of water following your massage.

What Are the Benefits of Massage and Bodywork?
Massage and bodywork can help release chronic muscular tension and pain, improve circulation, increase joint flexibility, reduce mental and physical fatigue and stress, promote faster healing of injured muscular tissue, improve posture, and reduce blood pressure. Massage and bodywork is also known to promote better sleep, improve concentration, reduce anxiety and create an overall sense of well-being. Click here for more details on the benefits of massage.

Are There Any Medical Conditions That Would Make Massage or Bodywork Inadvisable?
Yes. That's why it's imperative that, before you begin your session, the practitioner asks general health questions. It is very important that you inform the practitioner of any health problems or medications you are taking. If you are under a doctor's care, it is strongly advised that you receive a written recommendation for massage or bodywork prior to any session. Your practitioner may require a recommendation or approval from your doctor.

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