Today I got a massage. I get one every two weeks, though my body would probably like it more often. I know some people with Fibromyalgia can't tolerate the pressure on their bodies, but for me, it loosens things up, and I feel more flexible afterwards. I usually feel less painful as well, but not always. By the next day, I often tighten up again, but for some people, the effects last much longer. Benefits of massage include decreased muscle spasms and tightness, decreased pain and increased flexibility, decreased blood pressure, increased circulation, decreased stress, depression and anxiety.
According to the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals website, "There are more than 250 variations of massage, bodywork, and somatic therapies and many practitioners utilize multiple techniques. The application of these techniques may include, but is not limited to, stroking, kneading, tapping, compression, vibration, rocking, friction, and pressure to the muscular structure or soft tissues of the human body. This may also include non-forceful passive or active movement and/or application of techniques intended to affect the energetic systems of the body. "
So what is a session of therapeutic massage like? I will describe a typical session with my massotherapist. I go into the massage room, where there is a massage table with soft, clean sheets and a blanket, depending on the weather. I get undressed down to my underpants, and slip under the covers. One of my favorite things is a soft warming pad under the bottom sheet, which starts to relax my muscles even before Susan walks in. There is also a chocolate kiss on the table, which I save for a treat after the massage. Soft music plays on a CD player.
Susan knocks on the door, and I tell her to come in. She starts with my arms, and moves from body part to body part, massaging, pressing, stretching. She uses lotion to decrease friction. She runs her fingers along the different muscle groups to detect knots and tight areas. When she finds them, she will work on it with her fingers, hands, forearms, or one of her various tools of her trade. when I am lying on my stomach, my face is resting on a padded horseshoe shaped 'cradle'. This keeps my head and neck aligned, while allowing me to breathe. I do sometimes get a stuffy or runny nose in this position.
One thing to keep in mind is that therapeutic massage has nothing to do with sex, and should not be confused with images in the media of 'massage parlors'. Susan is sensitive about this, and I have stopped the joking I did earlier on in our relationship. ((My husband and I both go to her, sometimes in back to back sessions, and we would sometimes joke about having joint sessions.) Massotherapists (people trained in therapeutic massage) are trained professionals, who follow ethical guidelines in regards to how they view and treat a client's body. The sheet covering me is pushed back to expose just the area Susan is working on, such as my leg or back. Private parts of my body are never exposed or touched.
Going rates for an hour session tend to range from around $65-$100. Some insurance companies will pay for massotherapy if it is prescribed for you by a doctor or other medical professional. A good place to find an inexpensive massage is at a massotherapy school. They will often have sessions where their students need to get practical experience under the supervision of their teacher, and they need bodies to practice on. You will not only get a massage at a good price, you will also be helping the next generation of massotherapists.
Each state has its own laws regarding requirements to become a massotherapist. In Ohio, where I live, they have to be licensed by the Medical Board. When looking for a massotherapist in your area, ask friends and family for a referral. Check the person's qualifications. The Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals website has a listing of many types of bodywork and massage professionals, though you have to specify which type you are looking for from a long list. If you put 'AMTA' into your Internet browser, you will get several other unrelated organizations, as well as the American Massage Therapy Association chapter of many individual states. The national association website has alot of good info on finding a qualified therapist.
I asked Susan if there was anything she wanted to make sure I mentioned in this post. What she emphasized was the importance of communication. Don't be stoic. If something is uncomfortable, or hurts, speak up. If there is a part of your body that is bothering you and needs attention, let your therapist know. If the music makes you cringe, or you are sensitive to aromas, say so. You are paying them to give you treatment that will help you feel better. Communicating will help them help you.