What Is Therapeutic Massage?

You’re stressed out. Your shoulder muscles have turned to rocks. Or you feel so jumpy you could crawl out of your own skin. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone could smooth away your tension with the touch of his or her hands? Someone probably can. Research shows that the simple kneading and stroking of a good massage can make a big difference in your mental and physical health. Just one session can reduce stress and help you get a good night’s sleep. Regular sessions may ease chronic pain, speed recovery from many sports injuries, make your muscles more supple, and improve concentration. With more than a dozen types of therapeutic massage to choose from, chances are good that you’ll find a rub that’s right for you. 

What does treatment involve?
Listen and watch closely as instructions are given and demonstrated. Practice the care routine in your optometrist’s office. Follow lens care and wearing instructions/schedules to the letter. Schedule follow-up visits to your optometrist both during and after your adaptation period. This is important to maintaining good eye health and safe contact lens wear. Wash hands thoroughly before handling your lenses. Handle contact lenses over a clean towel. If your drop your lenses, they will stay clean and undamaged. Store your lenses in the case made for them and keep the case clean.

How does it work?
Researchers believe that massage works in at least three ways. For starters, all that kneading and stroking allows your muscles to relax, which sends a message to your brain to produce fewer stress hormones; it also improves blood flow to the brain. The combination, studies show, results in a feeling of relaxed alertness. Massage may ease chronic pain as well, perhaps, researchers speculate, by triggering the release of enkephalins, the body’s natural painkillers. Massage isn’t just for adults, either. A groundbreaking study showed that when trained parents gave their hospitalized, premature babies a firm, 15-minute massage three times a day, the babies gained weight more quickly and went home earlier than unrubbed preemies.

How safe is it?
Massage is generally quite safe, but be sure you let your therapist know if there are any areas of your body that are especially tense or tender. It’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor about medical conditions that might rule out a massage, including high blood pressure (a massage can briefly cause your blood pressure to rise) and a history of blood clots (deep, high-pressure strokes could cause an embolism).

Acupressure or Shiatsu
Acupressure is a form of bodywork that works on the same premise as acupuncture does but without the needles. The therapist uses his hands, elbows, knees, and feet to apply pressure to certain points on the body that the Chinese believe are connected to various organs by way of channels or “meridians.” This pressure is said to improve your well-being by stimulating or unblocking the flow of a life force called Qi (chee) along those channels. Western researchers think acupressure triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Acupressure is most widely available in the form of a Japanese therapy called Shiatsu. During a shiatsu session, you lie fully clothed on a mat on the floor while the practitioner applies pressure in gentle or invigorating strokes. He may also move your limbs around to stretch your muscles. A session may last from 30 to 90 minutes and can cost $30 to $100 per hour.

Massage Tips

If possible, rest or take a walk after a massage to allow some time to adjust to your new relaxed state. I find this helps me get the most out of a massage.

Here are some tips for during the massage:

  • If the massage is too light or too hard, ask to have the pressure changed. Some massages are only light (Rosen, Feldenkrais, etc.) but asking is appropriate.
  • If you are uncomfortable (need heat turned up, less blankets, light moved), say something.
  • Tell the practitioner where you hurt. This way the massage can focus on where you need it most.

Here are some useful questions you may want to ask before going to a massage:

  • Is this type of bodywork done fully clothed?
  • How much does it cost?
  • How long are appointments? Are you willing to do this work at my house?
  • Do you use scented oil?
  • Do you have a waiting room?
  • Is this a non-sexual type of massage?
  • Is this a gentle massage?
  • What is your cancellation policy?

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