Massage therapy isn’t just a luxury anymore and
has actually become a vital part of health care
practices worldwide. It is a holistic therapy that
has shown positive effects on physical and mental
health in addition to enhancing medical treatments.
Having a massage does more than just relax the body
and mind. There are measurable physiological and
psychological changes that occur; especially when
massage is used as a preventative and continuous
therapy. The effects of massage on the body’s
systems can be profound, directly impacting our
immune system, digestion, respiration, circulation,
nervous system, muscle health and more. It has been
said that, “Massage is to the human body what a
tune-up is for a car.”
Experts estimate that
80-90 percent of disease is directly related to
stress, therefore, massage is one way to combat the
effects of stress and promote relaxation. In
addition, massage can lower blood pressure, increase
circulation, improve recovery from injury, help
fight fatigue, promote more restful sleep and
increase concentration. Pain relief can also be
achieved by the stroking of the affected muscles to
increase blood flow throughout the body. This in
turn brings oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and
helps eliminate acids and accumulated waste
products. Other benefits include relief of mental
stress, peace of mind, reduction of anxiety, and an
increased capacity for calm thinking and creativity.
The satisfaction of our need for caring and
nurturing touch directly leads to a feeling of
Current research shows that more
people are getting massages and as they become more
mainstream, they are now appealing to all age
groups. Recent national surveys have found that many
physicians are encouraging patients to pursue
massage as a treatment. In addition, the number of
hospitals that offer massage therapy as a patient
service has increased by more than one third over
the past two years. Some employers have also found
that offering massage therapy during break times
actually increased staff alertness, motivation and
productivity and reduced sick leave days.
is suggested on nearly every caregiver self-help
list, yet it seems that only a small percentage
actually takes advantage of its benefits. Modesty,
unfamiliarity or lack of information about the
massage experience may prevent caregivers from
participating in a valuable form of self-care and
positive, healing touch. The following paragraphs
provide caregivers with the information they will
need to make an informed decision about massage.
Benefits and Results:
As a society, we are touch-deprived and this can
lead to physical and emotional challenges. From
birth to the end of life, caring touch is necessary
to bring about a sense of well-being and security.
Massage offers a drug-free, non-invasive approach
that focuses on the body’s natural ability to heal
and regenerate itself.
Massage has also been used
as a primary intervention for caregivers that
experience stress, fatigue and insomnia. A study by
the Oregon Hospice Association and College of
Healing Arts found that when massage was offered as
a respite intervention, 85 percent of the caregivers
reported a decrease in emotional and physical
stress, physical pain was relieved for 77 percent of
the caregivers and difficult sleep was eased for
over half of the participants. It is hoped that in
the future, massage therapists can join hospice and
medical treatment teams to assist caregivers and
patients with sore muscles as well as offer them
restfulness, compassion and peace of mind.
advisable for all persons interested in massage to
consult first with their doctors to confirm that
massage will be beneficial to them. There may
be some conditions where massage is not recommended
or specific techniques need to be limited. This may
be especially true for some cancer patients or those
who have varicose veins, skin inflammations,
infections or tumors.
Locating a massage
therapist can be done by word of mouth, through a
physician or clinic or by contacting the American
Massage Therapy Association. They represent
therapists around the country and require members to
follow specific practices and a strict code of
ethics. Massage therapy services should be provided
by a professional who has received proper training
in a variety of techniques, has graduated from an
accredited or approved program and is certified,
licensed or regulated by the state. Ultimately,
having a sense of trust and comfort with the
therapist will reflect on the outcome of the massage
Basics of Massage:
Once the choice
to have a massage has been made, it is important to
discuss general health questions, concerns and
massage methods with the therapist. This will help
alleviate apprehension and maximize the massage
experience. A massage session will take place in a
warm, comfortable and quiet room on a special
massage table. Soft, relaxing music is played and
the aroma of healing oils or scents may be present.
Most massage techniques are performed with the
client unclothed; however, each person may decide
what clothing to wear for their own comfort. The
therapist will leave the room to allow the client
privacy while disrobing. Clients then cover
themselves with a sheet or towel and are properly
draped at all times to maintain warmth and privacy.
Only the area of the body being worked on will be
exposed. It is important to discuss with the
therapist which parts of the body need to be
massaged such as back, arms, legs, feet, hands,
head, neck and shoulders. Private areas will not be
touched. A scented oil or lotion may be used to
hydrate the skin and allow for smooth strokes.
Massage techniques include: basic rubbing strokes to
stimulate blood vessels, rocking movements and the
application of pressure to specific muscle points
for tension release. The average full-body massage
lasts about an hour while a half-hour session allows
time for a focus on specific areas such as the back,
neck and shoulders or legs and feet.
close their eyes, listen to the music and become
completely relaxed throughout the session. The
therapist may gently move the body and talk briefly
about the massage techniques that are being used.
Clients should immediately communicate any
discomfort they may be experiencing so that another
approach can be taken. Massage is the most
beneficial when the body is not resistive to touch
and the client feels at ease with the experience.
Once the massage is completed, many people feel a
sense of freedom and calmness. After an initial
period of feeling slowed down, people often have an
increase in energy, focus and productivity, which
can last for many days. The frequency of receiving
massage therapy varies from weekly to monthly
depending on the perceived benefits, physical and
emotional results and cost factors.
Types of Massage:
There are a variety of
massages and techniques offered today, although most
therapists focus mainly on only one or two types.
Some of the most common are:
Swedish Massage -
the most commonly practiced form of Western massage.
It combines light stroking in one direction with
deep pressure in another direction. This technique
includes kneading, tapping, long strokes and
circular pressure. It mainly loosens the muscles and
eases aches and pains for the purpose of relaxation,
rehabilitation and health support.
Massage - helpful for chronic aches and pains
because the focus is on the inner muscles and
connective tissues. This uses slower strokes and
more direct pressure.
LaStone Massage - a deeply
relaxing treatment using smooth, warmed basalt
stones and cooled marble stones.
Shiatsu - an old
oriental therapy that treats points along the
acupressure meridians and aims to release discomfort
and rebalance energy.
Reiki - a gentle but
powerful Japanese energy healing technique for
stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes
Trigger Point Massage - applies
direct finger pressure to painful, irritated areas
of the muscle to release tensions and break cycles
of spasms and pain.
Reflexology - massage of the
feet, hands or ears by pressing points to stimulate
corresponding areas of the body that are linked to
Rolfing - a massage that focuses on
the connective tissues.
Craniosacrial Massage - a
light touch manipulation of the head and bottom of
the spine that helps restore movement of the fluid
in the spinal cord. This technique can be helpful in
treating headaches, jaw problems, and back pain.
Cost of Massage:
Massage therapy ranges from
$40-$100 per hour depending on the type of massage
and the expertise of the therapist. Half-hour
sessions are also offered at most massage clinics.
In recent years, some insurance companies have added
massage therapy to the list of covered medical
procedures, especially if prescribed by a physician
following a car accident or job-related injury. The
best recommendation is to check with your insurance
company for coverage prior to making an appointment.
Choosing to invest in massage may be the best
dollars caregivers spend to increase their capacity
to provide care in the future. Family members can
also support the caregiver by offering a gift of
Caregivers know the importance of
caring for others yet sometimes they forget how
important it is to care for themselves. A caregiver
can become so focused on their role that they are
unaware of what is happening to their own body and
how stress is affecting them. Massage can be a
wonderful way for caregivers to deal with the
demands associated with caring for a loved one and
it is especially important for replenishing the
energy that is expended on helping others.
Studies have shown
that when stress is not relieved, it can manifest
itself into illness and disease. Setting aside time
for massage on a regular basis can improve a
caregiver’s overall health status, increase energy,
improve attitude and decrease stress. Many
caregivers that have experienced a soothing massage
have reported that they actually felt the tension
melt away and felt reconnected to their own sense of
self. Receiving a nurturing massage can remind
caregivers what it means to be cared for and it
upholds the value of what they give to others.
Allowing themselves to be “cared for” now and then
is valuable and necessary to their own survival.
Opening up to positive touch and support reflects
their own joy of giving and reminds them why they
are steadfast in their role as a caregiver.
Massage restores a sense of wholeness for caregivers
that may not have been felt for some time. It is a
perfect potion for good health and it enhances a
positive “mind-body-spirit” connection. By producing
a meditative state, massage can provide emotional
and spiritual balance and it allows for true
relaxation and peace.
Massage Therapy Association 1-888-843-2682
National Certification Board
for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork
Subscribe to our weekly e-newsletter