Everybody “deserves” to receive therapeutic massage, in one (or many!) of its myriad forms. What exactly is it? It is not a creepy sexual flirtation, nor a whack-on-the-back assault like boxers are shown receiving in the movies. It is a form of bodywork whose practitioners work within carefully defined boundaries of behavior (and expect their clients to do the same). As defined by the American Massage Therapy Association, “massage is a manual [meaning, using the hands] soft tissue manipulation, and includes holding, causing movement, and/or applying pressure to the body.” Its trained and licensed practitioners are called massage therapists. They are specifically trained in these techniques, as well as “adjunctive therapies, with the intention of positively affecting the health and well-being of the client.”
What manual manipulations are we talking about? They vary immensely, and a good massage therapist will incorporate what seems right for each client, at each specific visit, for each area of the body. Some techniques include: slow strokes and deep finger pressure to release chronic patterns of tension in muscles, tendons, and connective tissue (deep massage); long strokes, kneading, and friction techniques on the more superficial layers of the muscles, combined with active and passive movements of the joints (Swedish massage); concentrated finger pressure on “trigger points” (painful irritated areas in muscles) to break cycles of spasm and pain (trigger point or myotherapy/neuromuscular therapy); and massage based around a system of points in the hands and feet thought to correspond, or “reflex,” to all areas of the body (reflexology).
When treated this way, the body relaxes. Breathing deepens. Blood and lymph flow spreads fully into neglected limbs, buns, and backs. Toxins are worked out. Stiff joints loosen and movement broadens. Muscle knots and spasms melt away. Your body feels fully alive. And those are just the physical benefits. Massage can reach into emotional and even spiritual planes, as we step for a moment out of a crazed, contact-phobic world and get one of our primal needs met: nurturing touch. In addition, massage therapists know how to create atmosphere: gentle lighting, enchanting aromas, peaceful sounds, warm blankets.
Massage therapy practitioners are, thankfully, more abundant than ever. How do you choose one? First, look for someone who is licensed (an LMT). Then, seek someone with whom you sense a good personal connection. Janice DiGiovanni, a physical therapist and a massage therapist at Bodhi Massage in Hudson—as well as an avid massage recipient—explains, “What I really like about massage is finding the right therapist. Certain people can just totally connect with my body. I’ll give them a little overview of what bothers me, and then they can really find what my body needs from what I’m feeling. Not everyone can do that. A good massage therapist works intuitively with the client and can tell what the body needs.” There should be caring, trust, and connection—all things that are for your benefit, not the therapist’s, and always offered to you but never forced. A good therapist encourages feedback about what is and isn’t working for you. The first visit should include discussion of your health and medical history, your questions about massage, and, if it seems appropriate, what personal issues you are dealing with.
So shop around, try a few different massage therapists, and you’ll find the right one(s) for you. Then you’ll have massage stories like the ones that follow, contributed by happy massage recipients in our community.