CityMassageGuide

MASSAGE THERAPY

Demystifying massage: How to choose what's right for you

Massage is no longer a luxury reserved for the wealthy. Growing public awareness of massage's benefits for alleviating a number of health problems - from stress to arthritis pain - and greater availability of services have made massage therapy accessible and affordable to a much broader spectrum of consumers than ever before.

If you're among the Americans whom the National Center for Health Statistics says spent $22 billion on visits to complementary and alternative medicine providers in 2007 (the latest year for which data are available), you'll want to get the most benefit and the best value out of your massage therapy visit. The experts at Cortiva Institute offer some advice for how to partner with your therapist to find the massage that's right for you:

"Terminology is not very standardized in the massage industry. A phrase used on one menu might not have the same meaning on another menu, especially if you're traveling in different parts of the country or world," says Jeff Mann, president of Cortiva Institute - Pennsylvania.

""But when it really comes down to it, massage has been an important technique in injury recovery and stress reduction for centuries. Massagemassage therapy career techniques and purposes do not change, even though the name might."

First, find the right therapist. Therapists who network can be very helpful because even if they can't provide the type of massage you need, they may know someone else who can. Look for a therapist with good listening skills. Has he really heard your reasons for seeking massage? Is she able to repeat what you've told her and make appropriate recommendations?

"A good massage therapist, who attended a reputable massage therapy school, should be able to reflect back what they understood from the client and make suggestions about several services that may be beneficial for you that day," says Bobbe Berman, director of education at Cortiva Institute - Chicago.


Your next step in choosing the right massage for your needs is to clearly explain to the therapist just what those needs are. If your priority is pain relief, tell the therapist and explain where it hurts the most. Be sure to discuss any medical or health problems that you want to address. And let the therapist know your level of experience with massage - if this is your first massage, if you've had others in the past, what types you had and whether you got the expected results/benefits from massage.

Ask the therapist to educate you by explaining the types of massages and their different benefits. "Addressing the individual needs of the client is the focus of massage treatments," says Dianne Polseno, president of Cortiva Institute - Boston. "Regardless of any agenda the therapist might have for the session, or what areas they want to focus on, they should have a client-centered approach. An important aspect of a massage therapist's job is to educate clients, which includes explaining modalities and helping the client decide which might be most helpful for their needs."

Don't feel you have to settle for the menu description of a particular service. Ask the therapist to provide more details.

Next, when you've zeroed in on a possible therapy, ask the therapist questions such as:

* What areas of the body does this treatment focus on?
* What types of products are used?
* What types of massage strokes are incorporated into this service?

"The answers to these questions will give you a good idea of what the service entails and will give you a point of reference," Mann says. You can learn more about massage therapy, massage therapy programs and careers at www.Cortiva.com. (ARA)