Carolinas HealthCare System

What to Expect During a Massage

Massage treatments typically last an hour and include a brief intake evaluation in which you will discuss with your therapist relevant medical history, any symptoms to be addressed, and your desires for the session. It is important to share any information regarding recent injuries or surgeries with your therapist, as well as medications you might be taking, specifically blood thinners. You will be asked to undress to the level of your comfort and be aware that you will remain fully draped throughout the session except for the specific areas being addressed. Feel free to communicate with your therapist about the amount of pressure you prefer. Contrary to what some may believe, massage need not hurt to be beneficial. In fact, muscles often contract against too much force instead of softening and loosening, so be sure to say so if you are uncomfortable at any time.

During the massage, you may experience reactions in your body that are natural responses to relaxation. Normal reactions include changes in breathing, like sighing or yawning, feelings of emotional release, stomach gurgling, movement of intestinal gas, energy shifts, or falling asleep. You are invited to relax, let go of feelings of self-consciousness, and simply trust that your body knows what it needs to do.

After your massage session, it is common to feel very relaxed and experience immediate relief from aches and pains. Though some people may feel sleepy afterwards, others may feel rested and energized for several days. Try to be aware of subtle physical changes in the days following your massage such as pain relief and increased mobility as well as a reduction in stress. It is not uncommon to experience temporary soreness or discomfort that should only last a day or two. It is important to drink several glasses of water after a massage and extra water in the next couple of days since massage stimulates the body's cleansing systems and extra fluid helps with the flow and release of waste products in the muscles, blood, and lymph.

There are some instances when massage therapy is not appropriate and if you are not sure, always seek advice from your health care provider before receiving massage. Massage is NOT recommended for people with conditions that are contagious and can be spread through close physical contact. Massage is also contraindicated for people with bleeding disorders, deep vein thrombosis or propensity to blood clots, damaged blood vessels, severe osteoporosis, or a fever. Site-specific contraindications include damaged nerves, open wounds, tumors, infection or acute inflammation, and burns, including inflammation from radiation treatment.

Seek approval from your doctor before receiving massage if you are pregnant, have heart problems, currently have or have had cancer in the past, have fragile skin, bruise easily, have weakened bones, or any connective tissue disorders

Benefits of Receiving Massage

  • Increases circulation
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Stimulates the flow of "lymph" - the body's natural defense system - against toxic invaders
  • Relaxes, warms, and softens injured or overused muscles and reduces spasms and cramping
  • Increases joint flexibility and eases discomfort
  • Helps muscles prepare for strenuous activities; can eliminate subsequent pains of athletic exertion and reduce recovery time.
  • Provides stretches for atrophied muscles and can reduce muscle shortening in situations of restricted range of motion.
  • Releases endorphins, the body's natural painkiller, and helps in cases of chronic illness, injury, and recovery from surgery to relieve and control pain.
  • Reduces post-surgical adhesions and swelling and can be used to realign scar tissue in the muscle fibers after an injury has occurred.
  • Eases pain of migraine sufferers and decreases the need for medications.
  • Relieves some of the common discomforts associated with pregnancy, including muscle and joint pain, nausea, insomnia, and minor swelling; assists with shorter labor for expectant mothers, lessens the need for medications, helps with postpartum depression and anxiety, and can lead to shorter hospital stays.
  • Helps with symptoms associated with fibromyalgia including tight muscles, body aches, severe fatigue, headaches, nausea, and difficulty sleeping.
  • Reduces anxiety, eases mental stress, and promotes relaxation.
  • Increases delta brain waves and allows for a deeper, more restful sleep.

Physiological Changes Occurring During Massage

Massage not only feels good, but also offers a non-invasive, drug-free, humanistic approach based on the body's innate ability to heal itself. Massage does more than relax the body and mind. There are specific physiological and psychological changes that occur, especially when massage is utilized as a preventative, frequent therapy and not simply mere luxury.

Studies conducted at the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami support theories that massage stimulates the release of chemicals in the body that may help block pain signals sent to the brain. It has been shown that the production of stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine decrease while dopamine and serotonin levels increase, which enacts a greater relaxation response.

Conditions Massage Can Help

  • Chronic neck and back pain
  • Headaches
  • Pregnancy and Childbirth
  • Fibromyalgia
  • TMJ Syndrome
  • Cancer treatment-related symptoms
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Insomnia
  • Poor Circulation
  • Depression
  • Torticollis
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Premenstrual Syndrome
  • Tendonitis
  • Muscle aches and pains