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Making the most of a massage

Making the most of a massage

Consumer Reports on Health

Where to start

Most people are familiar with chair or on-site massage found at airports, shopping malls, and nail salons, but newcomers to the therapy may want to start with a stress-relieving Swedish-style massage, says Brenda L. Griffith, a certified massage therapist in Richmond, VA. Swdish massage involves kneading the skin, muscles, and tissue with long strokes as well as vibration and tapping.

If you have specific trouble areas, consider deep-tissue massage, Griffith says. It can include sports massage, which is similar to Swedish but uses deeper pressure on areas that may need extra attention, such as runner's leg muscles. Shiatsu, another type of massage, involves applying pressure to the body with fingers and hands. Deep-tissue massage and trigger-point massage focus on painful muscle knots that often result from injury. Both target deeper layers of muscle and tissue.

A typical session may last from 15 minutes for a chair or foot massage to 90 minutes for more intense therapy and will cost $20-$100, depending on the duration and type of massage. Several methods, such as deep tissue, will usually require several longer sessions to achieve real results.

Your massage therapist should be trained at an accredited institution and should carry malpractice insurance, thought not all states require that. When making an appointment, ask if your therapist is licensed to practice massage in your state and is certified by a professional organization. Look for credentials such as CMT (certified massage therapist) or LMT (licensed massage therapist).

Talk with your massage therapist about what you hope to get from a massage as well as your medical history and any symptoms. The therapist can then focus on particular areas using the most appropriate technique.


On the table

Once in the room, you should feel comfortable. You can opt to remain clothed, use massage oil, or to have music. Let the therapist know about sore and sensitive areas on your body. Don't hesitate to ask for less or more pressure. You might have one or more sensitive spots in your muscles. Pressure on those spots could be slightly painful, but speak up if you feel serious pain.

To locate a certified therapist, go to the American Massage Therapy Association at (877-905-2700) or the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork at (800-296-0664). Your doctor can also suggest one.


Massage do's and don'ts


  • Ask whther the therapist is trained in a particular type of massage.
  • Tell the therapist about any conditions or injuries that you have.
  • Ask about the number of treatments that might be needed and the cost.
  • Ask whether the therapist is licensed or certified to practice in your state.



  • Opt for a massage over seeking medical advice.
  • Get a vigorous massage if you have a bleeding disorder or are taking a blood thinner such as warfarin.
  • Allow the therapist to massage ana rea with an open healing wound, blood clot, or fracture.
  • Choose massage with consulting your doctor if you are pregnant or have cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, or osteoporosis.
  • Continue massage if you experience serious pain, numbness, or tingling, or feel unwell during a session. Stop immediately.



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