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Massage Therapy: Soothing Strokes

Massage Therapy:
Soothing Strokes

What are the benefits of massage therapy?
What types of massage therapy are available?
What can I expect at my first massage?
Are massages expensive?
Can anyone have massage therapy?
How can I find out more information?

Did you ever wonder why you get a backache when you're fighting with a friend or a headache when you're studying for a test? You store a lot of stress in your body, especially in your muscles. There's a way to make that pain go away: getting a massage. back to top

What are the benefits of massage therapy?
A massage therapist moves the soft tissues in your body, using his or her hands, arms, and even elbows. Massage affects your entire body. It increases blood flow and strengthens your circulatory system, improves your muscular and skeletal systems, and balances your nervous system.

Many people use massage therapy to treat common conditions, such as headaches, insomnia, minor aches and pains, allergies, and the flu. But massage may also help more-serious conditions, including asthma, digestive problems, and carpal tunnel syndrome. back to top

What types of massage therapy are available?
You can choose from several styles of massage. Here are a few:
  • Swedish massage. This is a gentle, relaxing type of massage that uses long strokes and rubbing on the outer layers of the muscles. Swedish massage increases circulation; eases tension, stress, and fatigue; reduces muscle tension; and boosts the immune system.
  • Deep tissue massage. Unlike Swedish massage, deep tissue massage focuses on deeper layers of muscle tissue. It helps you let go of tension in your body through slow strokes and deep finger pressure on specific areas. Deep tissue massage stimulates circulation and helps release toxins from muscles and cells. For this reason it may be helpful in improving skin tone and acne.
  • Shiatsu. Named for a word that means "finger pressure," shiatsu uses pressure on special points on the body to promote the flow of energy, or qi. During this style of massage, a therapist may apply pressure to the body using hands, fingers, elbows, knees—even feet, depending on the amount of pressure needed to unblock the flow of energy in your body. Shiatsu may be helpful in treating asthma, migraine headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tiredness. back to top
What can I expect at my first massage?
When you make your first appointment for a massage, specify whether you would prefer a male or female massage therapist. Even if the person booking the appointment does not ask, you always have a choice of a male or female therapist. This will help make the experience comfortable for you.

On the day of the massage, wear loose, comfortable clothing, and bring a bottle of water to drink after your treatment. When you arrive, the massage therapist may ask why you'd like to have a massage. He or she may also ask questions about pain, stress, your lifestyle, and your health in the past.

Next, you will be shown to your massage room. The room may be dimly lit and smell of aromatherapy. This helps create a more peaceful, relaxing experience. In private, you will be asked to remove your clothing and lie on a padded massage table underneath a soft blanket or towel. If you feel more comfortable, you can wear your underpants and bra.

When you are ready, the therapist will return to the room. During the massage, the therapist will use oils and lotions to work different parts of your body. Let the therapist know if you'd like him or her to pay extra attention to a certain area. The therapist will only uncover the part of your body that is being massaged, one body part at a time, to ensure that you are comfortable.

After your massage, you should drink a lot of water to rid your body of any toxins that are stirred up. Some areas may be a bit sore. This soreness usually goes away in a day or so. back to top

Are massages expensive?
The cost of your massage depends on where you go, what type of massage you choose, how long the massage lasts, and the experience of your therapist. In general, the average massage costs around 45 dollars for one hour. Half-hour and 45-minute massages are also available at many places. Ask about different massage prices when you make your appointment to find a price you can afford.

Of course, there's ways to enjoy massage without paying for a massage therapist. Try checking a book out of the library and practicing on a friend (and having her practice on you!). Some hospitals, health centers, and community centers even offer free or inexpensive massage classes that you can enjoy with friends. back to top

Can anyone have massage therapy?
If you have any health conditions, such as cancer, high blood pressure, heart problems, or skin conditions, or if you think you may be pregnant, you should talk with your health care provider or a massage therapist before having a massage. back to top

How can I find out more information?
Try the American Massage Therapy Association. back to top

Last Modified Date: 3/15/2001
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