What to Expect for Your First Massage

If you have never gotten a massage it can be a bit intimidating, but don't let fear prevent you from prioritizing your well-being. Understanding how a typical session is conducted, that the questions you might have are extremely common among massage recipients, and educating yourself about massage therapy will help alleviate most of that fear. Familiarizing yourself with terminology, and types of massage and their corresponding benefits will put you in a position of power for your first session.

Massage Therapy FAQs

Whether you get regular massages or are interested in trying it for the first time, you probably have many questions about massage that you'd like answered. You may just want to understand the basics of massage, like what kind of massage is right for you and what to expect during a typical massage session, but you might also have questions about when to tip and how to dress (or, better yet, undress) for a session. The best thing you can do to learn about massage therapy is ask your therapist. Trust me, we've heard it all!

Indications

An indication is a specific situation that calls for the use of massage therapy as a treatment. The most common indications are neck and backaches, sciatica, and shoulder and hip pain. Lesser known indications include headaches and migraines, swelling, and relieving numbness, tingling, burning in the arms and legs due to nerve impingement. ***Always consult a physician prior to receiving a massage if you have any medical conditions. Please disclose all medical conditions to your therapist***

Contraindications

A contraindication is a specific situation in which massage should not be performed. A local contraindication means that your therapist should avoid the area, but may massage the rest of the body. An absolute contraindication means that under no circumstance should the therapist massage that person because it could be life-threatening.  ***Always consult a physician prior to receiving a massage if you have any medical conditions. Please disclose all medical conditions to your therapist***

Muscular System

When you hear the word massage, you probably think of the term "knots", which are essentially tight muscles. Massage can not only reduce muscle tension and pain, but can also restore strength and energy to tired, achy muscles by removing toxins and replenishing the tissue with blood, oxygen, and nutrients. The chance of muscle spasms decreases due to the increased circulation, flexibility, and range of motion. Restoring balance to the muscular system helps balance the skeletal system, as well.  

Connective Tissues

Tendons connect muscle to bone, and are typically where trigger points are located, while ligaments connect bone to bone, providing cushion and shock-absorption for your joints. Fascia is a web of connective tissue that is interwoven throughout the body. Myofascial Release helps to break up adhesions of the fascia in order to release the tissue that it is restricting. Some common ailments involving the fascia are plantar fasciitis, frozen shoulder, TMJ and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Circulatory System

One of the most beneficial effects of massage is increased circulation of blood and lymph. Both of these bodily fluids are necessary for the body to heal itself and maintain proper function. Increased circulation allows the muscles to release excessive tension, reducing pain and increasing range of motion and flexibility. Poor circulation can contribute to numbness, tingling, and burning in the toes and fingers, high blood pressure, and many forms of  cardiovascular disease.

Lymphatic System

The elusive lymphatic system plays a significant role in our body's well-being. Not only does it assist our immune system by filtering out potentially harmful bacteria, but, as a part of our circulatory system, it also helps interstitial fluid return to the vascular system from the tissues which prevents swelling. Manual Lymphatic Drainage is commonly used for post-operative patients in order to reduce recovery time, and for people suffering from edema due to injury or other medical conditions.

Skeletal System

Massage therapy can help improve skeletal alignment by releasing contracted muscles ("knots") which can pull bones out of alignment. It is also known to increase postural awareness, and can help reduce the likelihood of muscle spasms, and long-term pain and discomfort. Poor posture over long periods of time can attribute to many health issues, and makes it difficult for your spine to maintain proper balance and absorb shock due to the unnatural position of the vertebrae.


Joints

Moving a joint through it's full range of motion and providing gentle traction during a massage helps to move and circulate joint fluid, which nourishes the joint and results in reduced joint pain and stiffness, and increased range of motion, grip strength, and overall function of the joint. Massage is commonly used to treat many types of arthritis such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia

Nervous System

Massage has a biofeedback effect which enables the body to be more aware of where tension is being held.  More importantly, it calms the nervous system greatly reducing stress and anxiety, and may even help sufferers of insomnia.  Impingement of peripheral nerves can be alleviated through release of muscular and fascial tension along the spine and around the corresponding joints, and symptoms of diseases such as Parkinson's Disease and Cerebral Palsy can also be treated with massage.

Respiratory System

Due to the neutralizing effect on the autonomic nervous system, massage decreases heart rate and lowers blood pressure. Increased relaxation encourages diaphragmatic breathing, which assists the lymphatic system and promotes gas exchange. Massage also allows the muscles that help us breathe to release tension, which increases mobility of the ribs. This is extremely helpful for people with asthma, and other diseases of the respiratory tract.

Digestive System

In general, massage has a very positive effect on the digestive system. Specifically, abdominal massage has direct benefits for gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, and bloating, and offers relief from menstrual pain for women. It also stimulates peristalsis (the involuntary, wave-like contraction and relaxation of the intestines that pushes their contents through the digestive tract), which aids in digestion and helps your intestines to work more efficiently.

Integumentary System

The skin is the body's largest organ, is part of our immune system, and it also stores roughly 5% of our blood supply. Massage increases circulation, which enables freshly oxygenated blood to enter and nourish the cells, and aids in skin elasticity and vitality. This has made Glide Cupping very popular for anti-aging and anti-cellulite treatments. The appearance of scars can also be reduced using frictional strokes to break down scar tissue caused by trauma, injury, and surgical incisions. 

Endocrine System

Massage increases circulation of our endocrine system which helps aid in the transport of hormones from our glands into the bloodstream. Hormones are what regulate bodily function, control our sex drives, our sleep cycle, even our emotions. Without our endocrine system, our lungs wouldn't know when to inhale and exhale, and our organs wouldn't be able to communicate with each other. Diseases of the endocrine system are very common. Among the most prevalent are diabetes and hypothyroidism.