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Massage therapy isn’t just a luxury for the rich. Research shows—and thousands of ordinary people who are devotees confirm—that massage therapy can:

  • relieve muscle tension and soreness
  • reduce stress and anxiety
  • promote relaxation
  • boost the immune system
  • diminish pain (including pain from fibromyalgia, migraines and recent surgery)

What to expect

During a massage, a massage therapist, physical therapist or occupational therapist manipulates your muscles and connective tissue, usually with his or her hands. If you have aches or pains, the therapist may concentrate on the area of your body that needs relief.

Usually, you disrobe entirely or partially and lie on a comfortable, padded table for about an hour. (A good massage therapist respects your modesty and allows you to remain covered as much as possible during the massage.)

Massage precautions

  • Talk to your doctor before booking a massage if you’ve had a recent heart attack or if you have cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, deep vein thrombosis, unhealed fractures, burns or open wounds.
  • Make sure your massage therapist is either licensed by the state or has proper training and qualifications.
  • During and after your massage, you should feel relaxed. (A little discomfort is normal when the therapist is working out a tension knot.) Tell your massage therapist whether something hurts or feels wrong during the massage. (It’s rare, but massage can cause internal bleeding or nerve damage when too much pressure is applied.)

Studies show that a caring touch can boost your spirits and soothe you, which makes massage therapy a boon for older adults, people who feel alone and those who have disabilities or chronic illnesses.