Massage Therapy: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Most people think of massage therapy as a completely safe treatment, and a good massage can bring about many benefits, including helping to increase circulation, promote nervous system functioning, boost the immune system, reduce blood pressure and relieve pain as well as muscle tension and stress.

The majority of the time, massage is safe and causes few, if any, unwanted side effects. But the reality is, there have been cases of new injury as well as aggravation of existing problems. In general, the most common unpleasant effect is experiencing no benefit at all with the biggest negative impact to one’s wallet.

Unfortunately, there have been rare serious injuries, such as a brain stem injury or a mini-stroke caused by a careless therapist being too aggressive in the vulnerable neck area.

While healthy people are unlikely to be injured by a massage, it’s important to carefully choose your massage therapist in order to ensure you’ll reap the benefits without any harm.

To make the right decision, you’ll need to know the type of massage you want, as there are many different kinds available and different therapists specialize in different techniques.

The most common types of massage include:

Swedish massage is the most common massage, which utilizes a whole-body therapeutic massage designed to relax the muscles and joints.

Deep tissue massage is a very specific, methodical treatment which consists of applying deep pressure onto specific trouble points rather than an all-over type of massage.

Hot stone massage is used especially for relaxation. The body is weighted down with hot smooth stones, and the masseuse uses the stones for an all-over body massage. The heat helps to release tension in the back and shoulders, mostly, so that those muscles can be worked on more effectively.

Shiatsu massage is a form of therapeutic bodywork from Japan utilizing kneading, pressing, soothing, tapping and stretching techniques for the treatment of a wide range of emotional, internal and musculoskeletal conditions.

Reflexology is a type of massage based around a system of points in the hands and feet believed to correspond, or “reflex,” to all areas of the body.

Once you’ve decided which type of massage you’d like, it’s time to find a good massage therapist who specializes in the type you have selected. If you have friends or family members who get regular massages, ask for a recommendation. Before going to a spa, be sure to check its credentials. As most advertise via the Internet, it’s usually fairly easy to do.

You can also check with the Better Business Bureau in your area for any complaints against the business. Ask about the massage therapist’s education, previous work history, including whether or not they’ve worked with people who have similar issues to you, and for customer references. Many states require massage therapists to be licensed, if yours is one, make sure he or she has a valid license.

woman-massageIt’s also important to feel comfortable with your therapist, as massage is such an intimate activity, so you may want to meet with several therapists before making the decision as to who is right for you. Consider office staff and environment too – is everyone courteous and do they respond politely to questions? Is the office clean and comfortable?

Taking the time to find a well-trained, skilled therapist that you feel at ease with, and getting regular massages can become an important part of a healthy, active lifestyle that you’ll look forward to as an essential prescription for overall health and happiness.

-The Alternative Daily


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