|By Tanise Edwards, M.D.
(Click for author bios in About us)
Ahh, massage …
Do you think of a rubdown as a nice spa service? For some people, massage can be more than that. It can help soothe what ails them.
It may also be what the doctor ordered. In some studies, massage therapy has been shown to lessen pain, reduce stress and promote faster healing. And, it may help with:
It may benefit people with cancer, as well. Massage “appears promising” as a way to improve the lives of cancer patients, according to the American Cancer Society. Some studies suggest it can decrease pain, stress and fatigue.
Depending on your condition, keep in mind that multiple sessions may be needed.
How does it work?
Massage’s most basic purpose is to relax muscles — to relieve pain and stiffness. The science on other possible effects is limited, however.
There are a number of theories. One suggests that massage enhances well-being by producing endorphins, mood-boosting chemicals. Another says it helps flush the waste product lactic acid out of muscles.
Is it safe?
There are a number of types of massage, including deep tissue, trigger point and sports massage. And, done by a trained, certified therapist, massage therapy poses few safety concerns. Many medical experts accept massage as a useful part of an overall wellness or treatment plan.
But, it’s not necessarily right for everyone.
If you have a bleeding disorder, take blood thinners or have brittle bones, talk with your doctor before trying massage. Other people who should check with their doctors first include:
- Women who are pregnant
- People who have recently had surgery
- Those who may be allergic to massage oils or lotions
Of course, don’t use massage therapy to replace your regular medical care. And, don’t try it before you see your doctor about a health problem or injury.
Finding the right rub
If you’re considering massage therapy, talk with your doctor. Ask if it might be helpful for you. He or she may recommend a certified therapist — and give you a referral, if needed. Before making an appointment, be sure to check your benefits plan to see what services may be covered.