The Benefits of Massage Therapy

By , SparkPeople Blogger
What do you think of when you hear the word "massage"? Does it conjure up thoughts of a day out with your girlfriend at a swanky spa? Unlike days gone by, massages are becoming quite popular among athletes and non-athletes alike.

Until this past July, I was one of the few people who had never had a massage. When I developed a pain in my buttocks from a tight piriformis muscle from running and working tirelessly for weeks to get the muscle to loosen and the knots to release via stretching, foam rollers, etc, my running coach encouraged me to have a deep tissue sports massage.

At that point I was willing to try just about anything. So I headed to my gym’s spa the following day to see what could be done. To tell you the truth I am not a touchy person; even people standing too close to me can make me a little uncomfortable. To say my nerves were a little shaky is an understatement.

Once my initial fears of touching had passed, I was good to go. And WOW, what a difference an hour makes. While I was quite sore the day of, as well as following day, my tight piriformis finally released, and thankfully I have had no problems since. I just wondered why it took me so long!

What are some of the benefits to massage therapy

New research indicates that message therapy can do more than provide than nice relaxation. It can also
  • Speed muscle repair and recovery.
  • Release stress
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increase range of motion
  • Increase joint flexibility
  • Increase release of endorphins
  • Increase blood circulation

These are just a few of the many benefits of massage. But there are certain individuals who should not have massage therapy. These include:

  • People with a history of deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • People who take blood thinners
  • People with a recent history of a heart attack
  • People who have a history of damage blood vessels
  • Anyone running a fever
  • Anyone with nerve damage, open wounds, burns, and or fractures or healing fractures
  • Those undergoing cancer treatments (unless given clearance from their doctor)
  • Pregnant women (unless given clearance from a doctor and done by a therapist certified in pregnancy massage)

If you are not too sure if you are a candidate for massage therapy, it is always best to call your health care provider and get clearance prior to your initial session.

There are many different kinds of message therapies. These include:

  • Swedish Massage Therapy is one of the most popular forms of massage. The therapist uses long, gentle, smooth strokes with superficial kneading and circulating movements to relax the muscles. This is very good for relaxation and release of tension.

  • Deep Tissue Therapy is slower than the Swedish massage and targets the deeper layers of the muscles. The therapist works at breaking down deep adhesions working across the grain of the muscle to help break down the knots. At times it can be quite uncomfortable so be sure to let your therapist know if it is too uncomfortable for you.

  • Sports Massage is a type of deep tissue massage that generally focuses on the area of interest for the athlete receiving the massage (i.e. my piriformis issue). It helps speed recovery and repair muscle damage as well as releasing and breaking the knots/adhesions within the muscle.

  • Hot Stone Massage Therapy is when the therapist uses hot, flat stones for their therapy. The stones can be placed on various key points of the body or used as a means of helping relax the muscles.

While there are many more benefits than those listed above and many other forms known other than the ones I highlighted, adding a massage to my overall health and fitness plan is one of the best things I have done. Unfortunately, I allowed my reluctance and intimidation to keep me from going sooner, but now that I know the great benefits of such therapy, trust that I will return.

Have you ever had a massage, if so what kind? Do you feel they helped? Are they worth the money? If you haven’t had one, why?

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I just had a massage yesterday! It was wonderful and much needed since I have a desk job--where I tighten muscles using a mouse and having computer posture all day. Report
Wow, massage is so great I am so glad this post exists, I am going to come back and read all of these comments too! Report
I'm going for a massage next week and can't wait. It's been about 6 months since the last one. It's so relaxing. Report
I love to have a massage, I treat myself every few months to one. I alway get one on vacation right on the beach, it is so relaxing. Report
I was lucky enough to enjoy a massage just a few days ago. I believe they are well worth it! Report
I love, love, love massages. I have numerous rewards upcoming when I meet goals that are massages. I'd have one very week if I could afford it. Foot massages are heaven too! Report
I love a good massage and find them quite relaxing but usually don't get to enjoy them until I go on vacation. That's why I'm treating myself to one when I've reached the first of my weight-loss goals! Report
Massage therapy has helped me several times: once when I had bad whiplash from an auto accident and again when I was suffering from severe headaches brought on by TMJ. Some of the massages after the accident hurt like Hades but they helped.

I also like massage even when it's not medically necessary - we have a local place that's very reasonable and I do patronize them from time to time. At my last employer, we were provided with a free 15 minutes chair massage every week. It was terrific! Report
After being hit by a white Toyota Landcruiser and left unconcious on the road next to my bike (yes it was a hit and run) I worked three times a week with a Pilates instructor and twice a week with a Remedial Massage Therapist to get over my broken bones and torn muscles. This was my choice on my medical benefits program instead of the slower methods available to me via other physiotherapists etc.
I was able to walk out of the brace in about three months and both my brocken hands were flexible again as well. I was so impressed that I did a Pilates Instructors course and was offered a position as assistant to the Remedial Massage Therapist who offered to train me alongside going to college. Report
After a car accident, as a conjunct to my physical therapy, I get a deep muscle massage. I do not like it, it HURTS. I hurt until the next one (I go 2x a week). I've mentioned this, and was told this is part of my routine -- so I quit going to PT. In fact, the first one I got caused my right arm to be in TERRIBLE pain. Even now, three months later, I have pain in that arm. Nope, don't like massages. Report
I'm scheduled for a massage this Thursday at our Community College's massage therapy area. I'm tempted to reschedule it or even cancel it since I've never had a massage before--fear of the unknown! I'm sure it will be fine. I'm sure it will be very relaxing. Report
I just had my first massage 2 days ago. I am also not a "touchy" person. However, was in a car accident and am having trouble healing from it so my chiropractor suggested massage. The next day I was quite sore but today I feel quite a bit better. I am scheduled for 3 massages next week and looking forward to it. Report
I have found massages to be an exceptional method of mental, emotional and physical rejuvenation. I just love a great massage and have gotten all different types of massages at all types of venues: medi-spas, day spas, chiropractor's office, massage therapists homes, massage centers, hotels, offices, foreign countries, salons, on the beach and on cruise ships. Experiment with the different types of massages to determine which you like best and which suits you best at different times and for different purpuses. BUT, be sure you know the credentials of the therapist because all massage therapists are not created equally. Otherwise enjoy! Report
I have found massages to be an exceptional method of mental, emotional and physical rejuvenation. I just love a great massage and have gotten all different types of massages at all types of venues: medi-spas, day spas, chiropractor's office, massage therapists homes, massage centers, hotels, offices, foreign countries, salons, on the beach and on cruise ships. Experiment with the different types of massages to determine which you like best and which suits you best at different times and for different purpuses. BUT, be sure you know the credentials of the therapist because all massage therapists are not created equally. Otherwise enjoy! Report
I have just started receiving massages when I visit my chiropractor (he works in conjunction with a massage therapist & nutritionist--great combination!) Not only is it relaxing, but in my case, it is also covered by my insurance as part of my therapy! Report
I love my monthly massages. I started going when i found my physiotherapy wasn't doing much for my back any more. plus I was told I was forming malagya in the muscles. Boy has it loosened me up enough that my body doesn't hurt so much. I can do so much more exersices without fear of over doing it with in a few minutes. what a wonderful feeling Report
are massages covered under Flexible Spending Accounts since it's health-related? Report
Very little can beat a great massage. It helps body, mind and soul.
oops they had given me an hour and a half massage, not an hour and 3 min. that makes a big difference. Report
omg!!!! my husband got an hour massage for myself and him for our anniversary. at first i was so nervous to htink that someone was going to touch my fat and see me partially nude ughhh!!! but after they started on my feet i could care less. by the time they reached my head they had given me my one hour massage plus an extra 3 min. for free, the massage therapist said that they loved doing my massage because they had never seen someone so nervous and freaked out just slip into oblivion so fast and i kept telling him that i was in love with him. i told him to just roll me onto the floor and leave me until the morning. we went to a massage therapist who had students in training and it only cost us 30.00 each for an hour. if it wasn't over an hour drive away, since we moved, i would go at least 2-3 x's a month. i am a very tight person with my money but that is one thing that i would indulge myself in. it was also the very, very, very best present that i have ever recieved. i didn't have to worry about taking care of my husband, kids, or the dog. it was all about ME and i loved it. if you've never had it done bite the bullet and spend the money and forget about what that person will think about your body because you will quickly forget about anything else besides how relaxed and wonderful you are feeling Report
Massages are very important to woring out any stresses you feel in your body. I love going to mine and she really knows how to relax everything. I highly suggest it. Report
So this lady stepped on me, yanked on my limbs, hit me with her fists a few times - AND I LOVED IT.

I'm over Swedish massage... I want pain! I found it here in all the right ways, thanks to an intense traditional Thai massage. Unlike the traditional massages, you are laying down on a floor mat so it's easier for the masseuse to get to you. Within the hour, I was kneaded, pulled, pushed, poked, elbowed, stepped on, made me into a pretzel, and basically had the masseuse doing acrobatics on my back; and it all felt amazing. I am relaxed and limber…Awesome!

This was the best massage I've ever had. Hands down, no contest. Thanks to my friend, Ranjini, for the referral. I highly, highly recommend this experience. It was the best $33.00 I have spent in a long time. Report
i have been in the massage profession for about 15 years now. I cannot stress enough how important it is for the client to feel in control of the session. It is Ok to feel a sore for about a day after a massage (not more than that), but if the pressure is srong enough to make you want to hold your breath - that is too much. It doesnt do you any good to have your MT push through it. You are paying for this service - make sure you get what you need. By slowing down a bit and using deep breathing, a MT can go deeper and get more response without pain. There are also other types of bodywork that use little or no pain to get the same or better responses.

Also, be aware not all states have state licensure. Make sure you ask if the Therapist is either Nationally Certified or State Certified or if no is the answer to both - (like me) how much education they have had AND if they carry liability insurance. My personal opinion is 500 hours or more minimum unless you are going for a specific modality (hot stones for example). Do your research. Contact me through SP any time if you are looking for MTs in your area - i can refer you to the professional organization.

Having worked with Chiropractors for the last 12 years - i have a lot of experience and am usually the "deep tissue specialist". Also have a huge passion for bodywork in general and find that almost every body can benefit from some kind of work.

As far as receiving massage with contraindications - i have worked on them all - good guidelines but understand a quality MT will know if they have the extra training to work on someone with complications.

I am also a firm believer in the power of massage - I was a massage therapist over 10 years ago and remember our instructor telling us on the first day of class that we will actually get to the point of being sick of getting a massage. Of course there was total disbelief - if one a week was good, then four a week would be heaven. Two weeks later, I was sick of massage and didn't want anyone to touch me!
Now my massage therapist sees me fairly regularly. We have a running joke about just leaving my muscles with her for the week so she can work out the knots and tightness. If I don't get to see her regularly, I can really tell because everything has tightened up again. Not only is she working out knots, it is a great stress reliever - and who doesn't need that! Report
I used to suffer from terrible migraines. My dr. recommended massages as a way to relax the muscles in my neck and shoulders where I tend to carry stress. He said it would be better than being on drugs the rest of my life and he was absolutely right! I havnen't suffered a severe migraine since December 2003! Report
I have FMS and have found therapeutic massage to be the best way to manage the roving pain. As a younger woman, I had a gift massage that really hurt and embarrassed me (and that was before I had weight issues). So when my doctor told me to get weekly massages, I was leary of it. After trying a couple of masseuses that hurt me rather than helped me, I found one who really understood what I needed. She has a lot of clients who have FMS, and now only accepts clients on referral from her established clientelle. She uses La Stone which is hot (warm) stones that she uses as the massage tool to loosen up muscles. After the muscles are warmed up and relaxed, she can then do the depth of massage that I can tolerate - sometimes fairly deep, but mostly not. After being with her for around 5 years, she knows my body better than I do and can pick out the places that need the most work. Sometimes, I am really sore the next day, and sometimes not. Drinking lots of water after a massage is very important to flush the toxins, because it is the toxins that make you sore.

I think it is very important to find a therapist who is compatible with you. When I couldn't lay down on my front due to severely bruised ribs, she used pillows and wedges and arranged me on a side to do the massage. So good masseuses are able to work around any issues you may have with body position, how undressed you feel comfortable with, and with your level of ticklishness. Sometimes it is only a light touch that tickles, and if the therapist is aware of your issue, they will work with you in order to give you the best experience possible. You will fill out a form before a therapist will work on you, and it will have diagrams for you to show where you hurt and areas to avoid. Ther therapist should also interview you prior to your first massage. All this helps to build your confidence in the therapist. It is absolutely necessary to tell the therapist your issues, and communicate any discomfort you may have during the session, too. Sometimes I fall asleep during a session, and sometimes I talk with my therapist throughout the session. Many therapists will also use aromatherapy during the session, either by diffusing essential oils and/or using diluted therapeutic oils in the massage oil. This has helped me get through the face down part of the massage when I have nasal congestion due to allergies. However, if you know you have a sensitivity to any essential oils, let the therapist know so they can take precautions if necessary.

I hope everyone gets to have the experience of a good therapeutic massage! Report
I love massages! When I had IT Band friction syndrome, the only thing that finally worked was going to the massage therapist (recommended by my Dr.'s office even). She was able to work it out in 2 sessions. For a relaxing massage I visit yet another therapist who knows just how deep to go to relax but not hurt. Report
My chiropractor does good massage work, and I also get 15- or 30-minute chair massages from a therapist to visits my workplace every couple weeks, and then splurge on 60-minute or even 90-minute massages at a spa about once every 2 months (I wish it was more). I love massages. I tend to have chronic tightness in my upper back, and massage work wonders. Report
I am SO ticklish!!! I'm scared to get a massage!! The Swedish Massage sounds totally relaxing but I think that I'd just wiggle and cringe through the entire thing!!! Report
I have had a deep tissue massage and a hot stone massage both are very therapeutic to my constriction in my right shoulder brought about by nerve and muscle damage in my right ulnar nerve column. Report
Fortunately both my massage therapists are partners so I get to choose between the deep tissue/sports massage or the holistic, theraputic massage without offending either one! I've had massages from many therapists over the years and while most LMTs are good, when you find a great one....set up a regular schedule. Mine can tell me when there are changes in my body before I am even aware of the changes - they've helped me anticipate illness and avert injury because I go regularly enough they "know" my body. Interestingly at 250# I needed corrective touch far more often that I do at 165# Report
I got my doc to prescribe a massage. When i go, now, it is a tax deductible medical expense. Yay!!! Report
When I was a bike racer massage was part of the culture. Pros get a rubdown after every training session. Low level amateurs generally massaged their own legs after working out. Some even had gizmos to massaging their hamstrings (it is rather easy to massage your own quads but hamstrings are a problem).

The article doesn't mention it but there is a nother style of massage called Rolfing. Rolfing sure does limber you up but it is very painful; I think all masseurs who practice this are closet sadists. Report
I have wanted a massage for years, but think it an extravagence so have not had one as of yet. However, I have seen my chiropractor sometimes twice a week and paid him a co-pay of $23.00 each time which almost adds up to 1 hr. of massage therapy and I still go away with a headache. My sister gets a massage once a month and tells me that I should get one. So, in the near future I will be getting a massage. Thank you for putting this on Spark I am glad to know the differrence between all the different kinds that are available. and also the comments from those of you who have had massages and your individual experiences with them. Report
In high school, I tore my hamstring and as part of my physical therapy had the deep tissue massage to break down scar tissue. It was very painful at times. Of course, I have no idea if the massage therapy actually helped the hamstring heal better. It has never fully recovered, but maybe my leg would be a lot stiffer without the therapy (and the exercises they had me do).

The last two years, the right side of my neck and shoulder have become very stiff and sore. I have been considering massage therapy or acupuncture because nothing I've been doing seems to help. Maybe I will try some deep tissue therapy again because nothing else is helping (even massages given by my husband!). Does anybody know if this sort of thing is covered by health insurance? Report
I now have new found love for massages as well. A little over a year ago I had never had a massage either but I was in the same boat as Nancy a tight piriformis. It was very painful. My chiropractor used a precussor a few times a week to loosen the muscle up and also recommended a massage. It made a huge difference. I am now deployed and we have Thai women here who do a wonderful job. They offer both Swedish and Thai massages. I've had both but I enjoy the Thai better as it is similar to a deep tissue massage back home. They are very inexpensive here and so I try to get 1 or 2 a month. If you haven't had a massage you try it out. You'll love it too. Report
I have had a deep tissue massage several times, and it is awesome! It is hard to get over the anxiety the first time, but that is often the case with anything new you try. It's worth trying!! Remember after a massage to drink lots of water to flush out your body afterwards. It is definitely beneficial to have a massage as part of a health plan. Report
Yes. I love massages. Deep tissue is too painful for me, so I tend to keep to the Swedish version. Because I have scoliosis, I have always seen this more as therapy and not relaxation. My doctor says I should go as often as possible. In fact, if I had the money, I'd go once a month, but I can't right now. Mostly, I go when I really need it and have the money and am trying to work it into my monthly budget. Report
I love getting Chinese massages. From the description above, they sound like deep tissue. And boy are they DEEP. The masseuse had me thisclose to tears last week because my neck was so tight and he was going at it. But I can move my neck again! Yay! Report
I love getting massages and try to do it every month or two. I tried a hot stone massage last spring and was greatly disappointed. No kneading at all, just laid a bunch of hot rocks on my back....... not very relaxing and you have to pay extra for it! Report
I used to live by a school for massage therapy. The students all had to give so many massages to certify. It was wonderful. I could get an hour long massage for 25.00. Can't beat that. It was WONDERFUL. Add that to the monthly mani/pedi...lovely. Report
I love massages.
I have a friend who is a massage therapist and when she was going through school she would practice on another friend and myself. It was wonderful.
Unfortunately, I now live a couple of hours away from her , so I don't get massages very often. Report
I have had (fairly extensive) exposure to both Swedish and deep tissue massage therapies. At one point, I was spoiled because a friend and I would barter personal training sessions for massages roughly three times a week, and call it even. The therapy never "wow-struck" me because I never felt the payoff. Even when I received massages in college after intense races; nothing to speak of. Moist heat therapy (hot tub/soaking tub/sauna) and dry heat therapy (heating pad) are where it's at for me, personally. Report
very nice artical I take massage every week :)
Happy me
Mann Report
I have back issues and had knee surgery on both knees. I go once a month and I absolutely love it. I wasn't sure about it at first either but I have been going for almost two years now and I don't think I'll stop going. It is absolutely wonderful. Report
I had a short back massage from my DH's cousin that is going to school to learn. I also got a gift of one from last Christmas that I have not been able to use yet. Too little time, my back pain flares up, work, or one of 100's of other reasons. I hope to get that done in the next couple of weeks so I can ask for another one at Christmas this year. With this blog I am sure I will like it. I will make sure I speak up if I don't, thanks to this blog. Report
I love getting massages. I used to get one a month but I'm up to about 3 a month now. At $60 an hour it is an expensive addiction (maybe I should try crack?). But I'm lucky. I pay for massages then my massage therapist takes me out for dinner, lunch, sometimes breakfast.

Getting and giving massages between friends, partners etc is fine but for a good massage go to a licensed professional. It is so much more beneficial to have it done right! Report
I had my first massage pedicure yesterday and I must say it was a total relaxing and enjoyable experience. A serious massage chair, foot whirlpool, and leg and foot massage the whole thing took nearly an hour and I must say well worth the price. The tech used hot stones on my feet and legs and when I get home from my vacation in TX i plan to get a hot stone massage and another pedicure. Everyone should do this at least once. Report
I love massages - both getting them and giving them! I've had both a swedish massage and a hot stone massage and I love both. I tend to get a lot of tension in my shoulders so it's always wonderful to get a massage. I recommend that everyone should get a massage (professional) every few months if possible. This way it's still a treat and still affordable vs getting a massage every month. But massages from your hubby or significant other is always wonderful and welcome! ^_^ Report