Massage for Beginners

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Whenever you bump your head or elbow your immediate response is to touch, hold, or rub that area? It is purely instinct to hold or rub an area that is injured. We even hug loved ones when they are experiencing difficulty in their lives. The Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine was founded in 1992 by Tiffany Field, PhD. Dedicated to studying the effects of touch therapy they have found that massage therapy:

  1. Facilitates weight gain in preterm infants
  2. Enhances attentiveness
  3. Alleviates depressive symptoms
  4. Reduces pain
  5. Reduces stress hormones
  6. Improves immune function

Although massage provides several benefits that combat common medical complaints only 18% of Americans have received a massage in the past 12 months.1 In a society that suffers from ADHD, depression, pain, stress, and easily catches the latest bug I'm a little surprised that number is not higher. Some avoid massage for cultural or religious beliefs and others are motivated by fear. Perhaps they have a friend who had a horrible massage experience or they're simply not sure what to expect.

You're In Charge

Bad news always travels faster than good news and the world of massage therapy is no exception. Although researchers suspect cavemen utilized massage techniques the history of massage has a turbulent past. Born 460 B.C.E Hippocrates is referred to as the father of western medicine.

Hippocrates had a high regard for massage, and considered it to be one of the arts with which a well-rounded physician should be familiar.2

Throughout the course of its history massage has seen a few rises and falls in public opinion. The downfalls were the result of those who combined massage with sexual acts. Today's certified and licensed therapist are bound to a code of ethics that prohibits such behavior. A therapist who conducts such activities can have their license or certificate revoked if it is reported.

Some have tried massage once and vowed to never return because the therapist worked too deep and left them sore. When it comes to pressure in a massage the client is always in charge. If the pressure is too deep or too light let the therapist know. Don't be afraid to speak up. In my 10 years of practice very few people have mentioned my level of pressure to me. I'd like to think I have perfect pressure but that is not the case. There have been instances where the client begins to tense the area I'm working on, that is a definite sign the pressure is too deep. A good therapist will know when to back off when signs like these present themselves. Techniques such as CranioSacral Therapy are extremely gentle and deep pressure prevents the technique from working. In Craniosacral Therapy the therapist uses pressure equivalent to the weight of a dime.

Before the massage begins tell the practitioner what areas you would like to have worked and what areas you wish to avoid. During a table massage you will be covered, usually with sheets and blankets, during the entire session. If the therapist doesn't tell you the order of the areas they will work it is o.k. to ask if it will help you relax. Each part of the body that is worked will be uncovered individually. A good therapist will drape each area firmly giving an uneasy client a greater sense of security. Trust me when I say that we really don't want to see anything more than your arms, legs, and back.

Where to Start

Finding a massage therapist is easier that you might think. If you haven't heard your friends talk about their wonderful therapist check out the websites of the professional organizations. Both AMTA (The American Massage Therapy Association) and ABMP (Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals) have online directories of their members. Not only can you search for a therapist in your location you can also view their experience and the techniques they practice. There is an abundance of massage modalities to choose from, many are listed in this glossary of massage techniques compiled by ABMP.

If you've never had a massage before I recommend beginning with a chair massage. Not only does the recipient remain clothed, the massage is conducted in a public place. It is similar to having a friend rub your back and shoulders through your shirt. Before you begin tell the therapist where you would like them to focus and what kind of pressure you think you will like. Free chair massage is usually offered at trade shows and other public events. Even if it isn't free a 15 minute chair massage is typically only $15.

The Next Step - A Full Body Massage

Thai massage is perfect for those who are interested in a full body massage but still aren't certain they want to undress for a table massage. The massage is performed on a mat on the floor. Be sure to wear comfortable clothes to your appointment because the practitioner will bend and stretch your body while they address the meridians found in eastern medicine. It feels similar to having someone do yoga to you. When the massage is over you will feel relaxed and stretched out.

When you're ready to take the next step and make your first appointment for a table massage there are a few questions that may come to mind. Do you have to be totally naked? No. Always dress to your comfort level. I live in a very conservative area of the country and I'd say only about 60% of the people I've worked on were fully undressed. Many left their underwear on and others left their bra and underwear on. It's fine, we learn how to work on the body several different ways while we're in school.

The one area most people are apprehensive about having worked is the buttocks. We tend to think of our body as separate parts when really everything is connected. Every step a person takes during the course of a day produces forces that travel through the pelvis. If the legs, hips, and buttocks are out of alignment people eventually develop lower back pain. More often than not I find clients who have one hip higher than the other which is a guaranteed recipe for pain. For some techniques it is easier to work directly on the skin but a good therapist can still get the job done working through the sheet. During the massage each side is uncovered but the gluteal fold remains covered at all times. Former students of mine were skeptical when they first learned gluteal massage. However, after receiving just one massage to the buttocks they were converted to receiving bare skin gluteal massage.

A Minute of Your Time Please

How likely are you to try massage therapy after reading this article?

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Comments 14 comments

Maddie Ruud profile image

Maddie Ruud 4 years ago from Oakland, CA

What a great Hub! As certified massage therapist myself, I appreciate even more the level of detail you've included to help people feel more comfortable receiving a professional massage.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

I love massage! Thank you for an informative hub!


Jennifer Essary profile image

Jennifer Essary 4 years ago from Idaho Author

Maddie, You're probably like myself when it comes to massage, I never turn one down. Still, there are people out there who don't get them. My hope is to make massage appeal to a wider audience. Thank you for your kind words.

Audrey, I'm happy you enjoyed this Hub. There's nothing like a fantastic massage.


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina

Oh la la.. This would be a fabulous gift for Valentine's day. I would love to get a massage from a professional. Wonderful!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

I'm a sucker for a shoulder and neck rub! Ahhhhh. Fantastic and useful hub. Good luck with your 30/30 challenge!:)


Jennifer Essary profile image

Jennifer Essary 4 years ago from Idaho Author

Thank you Tammy and Linda : ) I'm always a sucker for massage. If someone is going to rub me, I'm there. Thanks for your 30/30 Hub Linda I think I'll be re-reading it for inspiration in the near future.


Melovy profile image

Melovy 4 years ago from UK

This is a very informative hub, with a great explanation of what to expect from massage. I think it would be very reassuring to anyone who might be considering massage for the first time. The days of massage being associated with dodgy parlors is over I think, at least in the UK.

I’m lucky enough to have 2 good friends who are massage therapists and one of them is also an aromatherapist, so I’ve had several massages. I massaged both my kids as babies, and they loved it, though as the second was very premature it required a different approach to that I’d used with my first baby.

Good luck with the 30/30. VU, U & I


Jennifer Essary profile image

Jennifer Essary 4 years ago from Idaho Author

Melovy, Thank you very much for the feedback. I don't think there are many sources of information available for people who want to try massage but aren't sure where to start. I'm happy to hear massage is an important part of your life. I know touch it is essential for preemies. Thank you for the votes and well wishes : )


Brett.Tesol profile image

Brett.Tesol 4 years ago from Somewhere in Asia

Voted up and useful. Your tip about back pain being in the hips and buttocks is very true, in Thai massage they stretch you and that area gets stretched in ways you didn't think possible lol, but after you feel MUCH better and back pains are normally gone. The key is either regular massage or stretching (or both).

Thanks for SHARING.


Jennifer Essary profile image

Jennifer Essary 4 years ago from Idaho Author

Brett.Tesol, You are absolutely 100% correct in your statement. If the butt isn't happy then the back doesn't have a chance. Thanks for SHARING : )


restrelax profile image

restrelax 4 years ago from Los angeles CA

Good information regarding massage. Massage is a good method for stress relief instead of taking tablets.


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana

Massage has so many wonderful health benefits - everyone should make it part of their personal preventative health care! Great hub:)


nybride710 profile image

nybride710 4 years ago from Minnesota

I gave myself a gift card for several massage appointments for Christmas, and ever since then find I feel better if I get one at least once a month.


Jennifer Essary profile image

Jennifer Essary 4 years ago from Idaho Author

restrelax, You are correct! Massage is excellent for stress relief if you do your homework beforehand. Not all therapists have the same style so finding one that fits your personal taste will increase your level of relaxation even further.

Kris Heeter, Thank you for stopping by and giving your medical opinion. It is greatly appreciated and I'm always happy when those in the medical field recognize the benefits of massage. Thank you : )

nybride710, Receiving a massage a month will definitely make a difference in how a person feels. Thanks for stopping by, it's good to hear from you.

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