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Benefits of massage

Massage is generally considered part of complementary and alternative medicine. It’s increasingly being offered along with standard treatment for a wide range of medical conditions and situations.

Studies of the benefits of massage demonstrate that it is an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension.

While more research is needed to confirm the benefits of massage, some studies have found massage may also be helpful for:

  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Digestive disorders
  • Fibromyalgia / Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle pain and fatigue
  • Soft tissue strains or injuries
  • Sports injuries
  • Temporomandibular joint pain

Beyond the benefits for specific conditions or diseases, some people enjoy massage because it often produces feelings of caring, comfort and connection.

Despite its benefits, massage isn’t meant as a replacement for regular medical care. Let your doctor know you’re trying massage and be sure to follow any standard treatment plans you have.

Risks of massage

Most people can benefit from massage. However, massage may not be appropriate if you have:

  • Bleeding disorders or take blood-thinning medication
  • Burns or healing wounds
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Fractures
  • Severe osteoporosis
  • Severe thrombocytopenia

Discuss the pros and cons of massage with your doctor, especially if you have cancer or unexplained pain.

Some forms of massage can leave you feeling a bit sore the next day. But massage shouldn’t ordinarily be painful or uncomfortable. If any part of your massage doesn’t feel right or is painful, speak up right away.

What you can expect during a massage

You don’t need any special preparation for massage. Before a massage therapy session starts, your massage therapist will ask you about any symptoms, your medical history and what you’re hoping to get out of massage.

In a typical massage therapy session, you undress only to the point that you’re comfortable, leaving on a lower undergarment. You lie on a table and cover yourself with a sheet. You can also have a massage while sitting in a chair, fully clothed. Your massage therapist should perform an evaluation through touch to locate painful or tense areas and to determine how much pressure to apply.

A massage session may last from 15 to 90 minutes, depending on the type of massage and how much time you have. No matter what kind of massage you choose, you should feel calm and relaxed during and after your massage.

If a massage therapist is pushing too hard, ask for lighter pressure. Occasionally you may have a sensitive spot in a muscle that feels like a knot. It’s likely to be uncomfortable while your massage therapist works it out. But if it becomes painful, speak up.

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