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THE KNEAD FOR TOUCH: What you need to know about getting a massage

By Diana M. Abatecola


e need touch to survive. What people don’t realize is that the need for touch begins during infancy. Massage therapy is specialized touch developed through advanced educational training.

Only the area being worked on is exposed. A client’s privacy is respected at all times. Let your therapist know if you are uncomfortable at any time during the massage.

What can one expect from a massage session? First, the client will be asked to complete a medical history. Massage therapists need to know if the client has any medical conditions or is taking any medication that may contraindicate the massage. Massage works with the blood flow in the body, so it will alter the effect of any medication taken close to the session.

Once a medical history is documented, the therapist will review it with the client and find out how her or she currently feels, the reason for the visit and what expectations there may be. The therapist will then create a plan for the massage session and explain the techniques to be used. The client will be asked to undress to a personal level of comfort and lie on a massage table, fully covered at all times. The only exposed area is the area being worked on. The massage should not cause pain. If the client does experience pain, he or she should let the therapist know immediately and he or she will adjust the pressure. A client has the right to stop therapy at any time.

How Does Massage Work?
Massage therapy works with all the systems of the body, and increases blood and lymph flow, thereby improving the functioning of the immune system. Massage gives people more energy and aids in the removal of metabolic wastes that cause muscles to fatigue. It can aid in digestion, colitis and constipation. It also can help with conditions such as depression, arthritis and fibromyalgia.

By increasing blood flow, it provides organs and muscles the nutrients needed to perform efficiently, allowing joints to move freely with less restriction. Massage helps the body recuperate efficiently and is great for athletes; it can prepare them for an event, relax them after it, or get them back in action after an injury. It is a great modality in conjunction with chiropractic care and physical therapy.

Sometimes areas of the body get tight and people experience pain. However, the pain felt might not be where the problem is. The root of the problem might be stemming from another area. This is called referral pain. An example of this is a headache. There is a pressure point located near the junction of the neck and shoulder. When the area is extremely tight, it causes referral pain up the back of the neck and along the side of the head to the temporal area (the area near the ear and eye). To relieve the pain, therapists will instruct clients to focus on their breathing, while the therapist applies techniques such as kneading movements to the area of tension, or direct pressure to the pressure point. This facilitates blood to flow to the area, which relaxes the muscles and decreases the severity of the headache.

To understand pressure points, think of a valve that has built up so much pressure, it’s going to burst. To release the pressure, the valve needs to be opened up gradually. With a headache, pressure builds in the head because muscles shorten and contract, restricting blood supply. Massage applied at a slow pace with a gradual increase in pressure will break down barriers, allowing adequate flow, and thereby regulating blood pressure.

It is important for the therapist and client to trust each other. If a client isn’t sure what the session consists of, he or she will feel uncomfortable and tighten up instead of relax. Do not be afraid to ask questions prior to the start of the session. When it comes time for the massage, clients should focus on breathing, not what the therapist is working on and relax, energize…refresh.

CONSUMER TIPAsk for credentials! Professional massage therapists will be happy to share them with you!

If you are unsure about a massage therapist, ask about their credentials. In many states, massage therapists must pass a National Certification Exam to be licensed. Each state has different requirements.

Log on to AMTA’s Web site to find an AMTA-member massage therapist in your area through the association’s free Find a Massage Therapist national locator service or call 1-888-THE-AMTA.

Diana M. Abatecola is a nationally certified and licensed Rhode Island massage therapist, massage instructor and CPR instructor. She provides specialized massage techniques and bodywork modalities to help alleviate pain, discomfort, muscle spasm, and stress to promote health and wellness. 

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