Massage may have developed a reputation for being a luxurious treat on a spa day but research has shown that it holds many more health benefits than just relaxation and stress management. This hands-on approach to wellness is being used to treat everything from autism to fibromyalgia to whiplash, and it’s becoming more prevalent as a therapeutic treatment across the United States.
Recent studies by the American Massage Therapy Association suggest that massage therapy can benefit people of all ages,
and Jessica David, a licensed clinical massage therapist at Bear Hug Massage in Blaine, agrees. “From the youngest baby to the elderly, it’s suitable for everyone,” she said. “I’ve had huge success in treating everything from muscle pain to headaches. At a bare minimum, I would suggest that people receive at least one massage a quarter, just to get checked out.”
David, who specializes in therapeutic massage, deals with a variety of complaints in her clinic. “I see a lot of people who have been in accidents or who are in chronic pain,” she said. “I’m here to help them heal.”
While her techniques vary from person to person, she said that the common thread is relaxation. “If we can help the muscles relax, then we can increase the fluid flow, blood flow and oxygen flow through the muscle,” she said. “Muscles that have those things work better and don’t hurt. It’s a basic principle. Once we take that step, we can start working on breaking down any adhesions (muscles that have tensed and knotted) in the body.”
She said that a therapeutic massage is different than the full body spa treatment that people might imagine when they think of massage. “It’s a more targeted approach,” David said. “If you’re dealing with lower back pain, I’m probably not going to be massaging your feet. Instead, I’ll be focusing on the affected areas and using more pressure to get at the deep tissues and working in those areas.”
She said that while the pressure may be uncomfortable at times, it shouldn’t hurt. “I never ever want to hurt a client,” she said. “I work to their tolerance. If I’m making you grit your teeth while I’m trying to relax your muscle, then we’re just working against each other.” David stressed the importance of communicating with your therapist. “You have to feel comfortable enough to tell them when they’re using too much pressure,” she said. “And they should respect that and back off.”
For people who are unable to tolerate manipulative touch, she said that there are other options such as Reiki, therapeutic touch and cranio-sacral therapy she can try.
David offers the following advice for choosing a massage therapist for your ailments:
Get a referral from a friend. “Ask around,” she said. “See if anyone else you know has ever had a massage from this person.”
Ask the therapist how much schooling they have had. “Have they had a year or a weekend? There’s so much to learn,” she said. “The more training they’ve had, the better.”
How do they treat? “Ask them what kind of techniques they use and what they have to offer you,” she said. “There’s really something for everyone.”
She said that when you first book a therapeutic massage treatment, you can expect to spend the first five to ten minutes discussing your pain with your practitioner. “While chiropractors put your bones back into place, I work on getting your muscles to work together the way they should,” she said. “I ask questions about why they are here, how long they’ve been in pain.” That brief information exchange is crucial to the process and can help the therapist pinpoint how to best treat the pain.
“Massage is a good thing to do for yourself and for your health,” she said. “It’s one of the most wonderful therapies I can think of.”