Making the most of massage

By: Stefanie Wallace, Oct 01, 2010

Massage therapy has many health benefits, but you’ve got to do your research first

Besides the relaxing and rejuvenating effects it has, massage therapy has a number of physical and mental benefits. But before seeking out the care of a massage therapist, it is important to keep a few things in mind.

Massage therapy can treat a variety of conditions.  According to registered massage therapist Andrea Milligan, it is most commonly used for decreasing stress and fatigue levels and increasing relaxation. Milligan says massage is a good way to boost an exhausted immune system. 

"Tension can build up in the muscles, causing a decrease in circulation and nutrient delivery to tissues," she says. "The application of soft-tissue manipulation techniques to the body decreases muscular tension, increases removal of metabolic waste and promotes nutrient delivery to healing tissue."

It can also help reduce blood pressure, relieve chronic muscle tension and pain, improve posture and circulation and help injured muscle tissue heal faster. Patients with fibromyalgia, migraines, low back pain, asthma and sciatica may also find relief through massage therapy. However, Milligan notes that if you are suffering from an acute or infectious illness or skin condition, you should wait until your symptoms have subsided before considering massage therapy.

But before you can experience any of these benefits, it is important to do your research to find a massage therapist who can help you. Registered massage therapists differ from salon employees or estheticians. In Ontario, for example, RMTs are regulated health professionals through the College of Massage Therapists, and receive extensive training from a recognized massage therapy school.

Communication with your RMT is important. Upon your first visit, Milligan says your RMT should review with you your full medical history, conduct an assessment of your complaint areas, and help you decide on a treatment plan.

 "Make sure to give an accurate health history and discuss all conditions and medications with your massage therapist so you can decide together if you have any contraindications for massage therapy," she says. "At this point you should feel free to ask any and all questions you have regarding the treatment plan and the actual massage itself.

"Overall, massage therapy has many benefits, and let's face it… it feels great!" Milligan says. "So, what are you waiting for?"

Since graduating from McMaster University and Sheridan College, Stefanie has ventured into the world of community newspapers, web projects and trade publications. Her favourite topics include food, lifestyle, entertainment and environmental issues, and she loves learning about different ways to improve her health and wellness. Her work has appeared in Canadian Pizza, Canadian Biomass and on Besides reading, writing and copyediting, Stefanie loves to travel, cook and spend time with her friends and family.