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Health & Wellness

The Complete Guide to Massage Therapy

A massage or massage therapy involves the act of rubbing, pressing, and kneading the skin and muscles to reduce pain and aid in healing. The intensity of the touch will range from light to a deep pressure massage. Through the manipulation, tension in the skin and the adjacent tissues is reduced, producing relaxed muscles and improved circulation. 1

Massage therapy has proven to be helpful for reducing back pain, high blood pressure, anxiety, headaches, and more. 2

About Massages

Massage Therapists massage

Although anyone can produce positive benefits from a massage if performed correctly, many people visit a massage therapist when they are seeking a massage. A massage therapist is a person who administers massage. These are professionals who work in a variety of settings including spas, fitness centers, hospitals, hotels, doctor's offices, and more. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the job prospects for massage therapists are on the rapid rise. 3

Going in for a Massage

Before you go in for a massage, ensure that the therapist you choose is qualified. The requirements and the standards for massage therapists vary from state to state. However, most states require massage therapists to have a certification or a license.

First, you'll choose what kind of massage you want, what areas you want the therapist to focus on, and how long you want the massage to last for, usually 30, 60, or 90 minutes. Prices will vary depending on your choices.

Many people experience massages while wearing minimal clothing. However, your therapist wants you to be comfortable, so if you prefer to wear clothes, you'll want them to be loose enough for the professional to complete an adequate massage.

Some massages, such as deep tissue massage, may leave you feeling sore afterward. If the technique is done correctly, this is considered normal, and the soreness will pass. Applying ice to the areas afterward can help.

massage Is Massage Therapy Covered By Insurance?

Massage therapy typically cost under $100, so for most people who are looking to receive services from a professional, the services are affordable. However, the cost of massage therapy varies based on state and physical location. For example, if you get a massage at a luxury resort while on vacation, chances are that it will cost you more per hour than if you received one at a local health club.

Depending on the state you live in and on your insurance, massage therapy may or may not be covered. As alternative approaches become more and more mainstream, practices like massage therapy will be covered more extensively in the future.

Massage Risks

As with most natural approaches to health, the risks of getting a massage are small. However, there are conditions where getting a massage may not be your smartest choice. Burn victims, people who are suffering from fractures, bleeding disorders, severe osteoporosis, and women who are pregnant are advised to consult with a medical doctor before trying massage therapy.

Five Major Types of Massage

In the world of massage, there are many different types. However, the top five primary types of massage are highlighted in more detail below. 4

Swedish Massage  Massage

The most common kind of massage is Swedish massage, invented by Pehr Henrik Ling to warm the muscles, promote circulation, and release tension. The strokes with this kind of therapy are varied when it comes to things like speed, depth, duration, pressure, and continuity.

The strokes include effleurage, which are gliding type strokes; petrissage, which are kneading type strokes; tapotement, which are tapping strokes; vibration, which includes rapid movements of the hands; and friction, which are circular movements. 5

Deep Tissue Massage

This is a kind of massage believed to be developed by the ancient Egyptians that includes pressing and deeply kneading the muscles to improve posture and increase the range of motion. The techniques used are similar to Swedish massage, but with intense pressure. It's the kind of massage that eliminates scar tissue that develops from practices like poor posture and inflammation, and it helps reduce pain and stiffness. 6

Massage Hot Stone Massage

Unlike Swedish massage or deep tissue massage where only the hands are used, hot stone massage, first used in India, Japan and China, includes the use of basalt stones. These stones are rich with iron, good for retaining heat, and naturally smoothed in rivers, lakes, and oceans.

The stones are heated and then placed on the skin either based on anatomy or energy points. Where they are placed will depend on the opinion of the massage therapist. Swedish massage, as well as essential oils, are also incorporated into the process, often before the stones are placed on the body. The technique relieves stiff and sore muscles and gives the body renewed energy. Stress and anxiety are also reduced. 7

Prenatal Massage

Prenatal massage is the kind of technique that is given to a woman who is pregnant and methods used in Swedish massage is typically used during a prenatal massage. This kind of massage can help with a wide variety of issues including headaches, hormone regulation, swelling, fatigue, muscle aches, and stress. Two of the best times to get a prenatal massage are during the second and third trimesters. There is also some research that shows that a prenatal massage is beneficial to the unborn baby.

When deciding to get a prenatal massage, it's important to work with only a certified prenatal massage therapist due to the added risk of carrying an unborn child. There are risks associated with a prenatal massage that every pregnant woman should be aware. For example, if you are in danger of a high-risk pregnancy, a prenatal massage may not be appropriate. Additionally, you should consult with your doctor before deciding whether or not to do a prenatal massage. 8

Reflexology Massage Massage

Reflexology massage is known for reducing stress, relieving tension, alleviating headaches, and promoting better circulation. It is often performed by physical therapists, massage therapists, and chiropractors. The therapy centers around the theory that applying pressure to the ears, hands, and feet positively affects the organs and all areas of the body. Some of the tools sometimes used in this kind of therapy are foot charts, rubber bands, and rubber balls. 9

Benefits of Massage Therapy

Individuals seek out massages to relax but also to heal ailments. Some of the top benefits of massage therapy, other than its ability to relax the mind and body, are discussed below.

 width= Alleviates Pain

Many people go in for a massage to reduce the pain they are experiencing, such as lower back pain. Massaging the back increases blood flow to the section of the body and naturally eliminates some of the pain.

Reduces Stress and Anxiety

When you are experiencing a massage, it can be a highly relaxing time. According to the American Massage Therapy Association, cortisol, a stress hormone, is lowered by approximately 53 percent during a massage in individuals experiencing stress.

Remedies Headache Pain massage

For people who are experiencing headaches, massage therapy can relax the person and help to reduce the symptoms. It can also help a person with this kind of head pain sleep better.

Decreases Inflammation

One of the significant benefits of massage is an improvement in circulation. Better circulation can consequently benefit many other areas of overall well-being. 10

massage Massage for Stress and Anxiety

Getting a massage to relieve pain and physical ailments is a common reason to experience it. However, a massage has proven to also help with stress and anxiety.

As reported in a 2017 Gallup poll, eight out of ten Americans that are stressed. Additionally, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) affects approximately 18 percent of the population. This negatively affects the overall physical and mental health of the body. 11
Additionally, when stress is persistent, it can cause serious physical problems such as headaches, stomach problems, chest pain, reduced sex drive, and sleep problems. 12

Massage therapy can help reduce these systems. While you're experiencing a massage, you are relaxed, which significantly helps with the reduction of stress and anxiety. Because of this, a series of massages on a regular basis can help keep stress and anxiety at bay.

Stress and anxiety can also become issues when it comes to falling asleep and staying asleep. If you don't get enough sleep, stress and anxiety are even further increased. Massage therapy has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, which helps you to fall asleep.

If stress and anxiety are a problem, it's always recommended to seek medical attention to ensure that massage therapy is the right course of action. Although it is a natural treatment with little to no side effects, acute anxiety conditions may require additional forms of treatment through medication or talk therapy. 13

However, if massage is an appropriate option for you, it has been shown to lower cortisol, which is a hormone that appears in response to stress. When cortisol levels are reduced, serotonin levels are increased, and stress and anxiety are reduced. 14

Massage in the World of Sports/Physical Therapy  width=

Sports massage therapy is a natural approach that is used by amateur and pro athletes. It is a form of massage therapy that originated in ancient Greece and was also used in its earliest stages by the Romans. With regard to the first modern uses, the therapy dates back to the 1924 Olympic Games held in Paris.

It is a form of therapy that is designed to help those involved in sports to rehabilitate from an injury but to also care for the muscles and joints as a preventative measure.

Sports massage therapists perform this kind of therapy. They work in a wide variety of areas, such as in private practice, athletic facilities, and gyms. You can find sports massage therapists assisting athletes before, during, and after a competition or game, or even during training.

Some of the benefits from this kind of therapy for those involved in sports include faster recovery from practices, better circulation, increased long-range motion and flexibility, reduction in muscle strains and spasms, and decreased stress levels.

Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a common condition that can happen to those who participate in competitive sports. It refers to the pain that develops hours after an athlete has experienced a hard practice or a physically strenuous game or competition. Sports massage can help alleviate the systems that occur as a result of DOMS, especially if the sports massage therapist is on hand immediately after the sports event occurs. Sports massage therapy is a kind of therapy that not only benefits those physically involved in sports, but it also helps psychologically and physiologically. It is beneficial before sports events, for injury treatment while the event is taking place, and for post-event treatment. 15 , 16 , 17

Aromatherapy and Massage  width=

Massage therapy is often combined with essential oils. When this occurs, the practice is referred to as aromatherapy.

Essential oils are pure substances from plants and herbs. You can find proof of the use of essential oils dating back thousands of years. The ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Chinese, for example, were the early users of these oils. They were found to be beneficial for the mind, body, and spirit, and they continue to be used today.

Because of their natural healing properties, essential oils pair particularly well with massage therapy. There are three main ways to use essential oils:


Aromatic use of essential oils is a popular and recommended method. A few drops of an essential oil or an essential oil blend placed in an essential oil diffuser or used in a portable diffuser can provide a wide range of health benefits because of the effects of the oil on the limbic system.

The nostrils are connected to this part of the brain, and it's the limbic system that controls the nervous system and hormones production. Because of this, blood pressure, heart rate, stress levels, and more can be positively affected by breathing in essential oils.

massage In the Bath

Another popular and recommended way to experience aromatherapy is in the bath. A few drops of essential oil or an essential oil blend in a warm or hot water bath is an excellent way to relax and breathe in the oils.


The third way to experience essential oils is also popular and recommended, and that is through a massage. In this method, essential oils are mixed with a carrier oil, such as olive oil or coconut oil and then applied to the skin through a massage technique.

Some of the more popular essential oils used during an aromatherapy massage include lavender, lemon, tea tree, sandalwood, rosemary, and eucalyptus. Each essential oil has its own unique properties that benefit the body. For example, the lavender oil has a calming effect. One of the main benefits of aromatherapy massage is the reduction of pain. Various types of pain can be lessened through the use of this kind of therapy: 18

Muscular Pain massage

Muscular pain occurs when trauma or injury occurs in the muscles. This kind of pain is prevalent in people who are physically active, in physically demanding jobs, or in anyone who frequently uses their muscles and their joints on a regular basis. Essential oils mixed with a carrier oil can help reduce this pain when rubbed into the skin through various techniques, such as Swedish massage or deep tissue massage.

Nerve Pain

A more intense pain than muscular pain is nerve pain. This kind of pain occurs when the nerves become irritated or injured. For example, it's often seen in sporting injuries or when a person lifts a heavy object. Aromatherapy massage can reduce the pain, as well as calm the nerves. Being relaxed aids in healing from nerve pain.

 width= Headache Pain

Headache pain is another common pain that people have. Aromatherapy massage when applied correctly to the temples can help to reduce this kind of pain.


You do not have to visit a professional massage therapist to benefit from massage. or example, a friend, family member, or your spouse can give you an adequate massage by employing the right techniques. However, if you choose to visit a massage therapist, ensure that the person is qualified. In most states, massage therapists must be certified or licensed.

Word-of-mouth from family, friends, or associates continues to be the best way to find a qualified professional and that includes a massage therapist. If someone you know is satisfied with the work of a massage therapist, chances are you will be too.

However, aside from that, the internet is the second best way to find a qualified massage therapist. When searching online, look for certifications, recommendations, and reviews. Meet with the massage therapist first before you book an appointment and use that time to ask any questions you may have and ascertain if the professional is right for your needs.

If you’re experiencing any of the issues outlined above and have been considering getting a massage to remedy them, consider adding this beneficial practice into your self-care routine once in a while.

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