Skip to main content

What's Up Magazine

Massage is good for you! Who knew?

Apr 01, 2015 02:00PM ● By Cate Reynolds
Okay, we all knew it. But isn’t it nice to receive an occasional affirmation? And from a source as respected as Harvard Men’s Health Watch.

Adding massage to conventional back care can reduce pain and speed the return to normal activities, the Harvard report says. “Based on research to date, massage therapy seems to be helpful, when compared with doing nothing, and it tends to be very safe,” says Peter Wayne, research director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s hospital. “It's worth a try.”

The best studies to date have found that massage brought more relief than usual care steps such as physical therapy or self-help at home (such as rest, ice, heat, and over-the-counter pain relievers) as well as acupuncture.

On the downside, the report continues, “insurance coverage for massage therapy varies, so many people end up paying the full cost. Choosing a massage therapist also presents some challenges.”

For one thing, practitioners vary considerably in their level of training and experience. There are also several varieties of massage, sometimes known as “touch therapy,” to choose from. Swedish massage, with its long, gliding strokes and kneading of the major muscles groups, is the most common type of massage offered.

Here are some tips for getting the best results from massage:
  • Check with a doctor to make sure massage is safe for the back condition.
  • Ask the massage therapist (or physical therapist) for advice about ways to sit, walk, or work that may prevent future back pain.
  • Find a local medical center that has an alternative or integrative medicine program. These typically offer massage by qualified practitioners.
  • Ask a family member, friends, or coworkers to recommend a good massage therapist.
  • Check if the massage practitioner is licensed to practice and certified by a national organization such as the American Massage Therapy Association.

--Sarah Hagerty
Click here to sign up to our new Health Beat E-Newsletter