If you are coming for a massage for the first time, you may have some questions. The answers to some frequently asked questions are below.

See also: Information about Acupuncture

Do I undress for massage?

For most types of massage, you will undress at least partly. The exceptions are craniosacral therapy and shiatsu in which you may remain fully clothed. For other types of massage, the practitioner will ask you questions in the treatment room while you are dressed. When they leave you will be asked to undress to your level of comfort and lie down on the treatment table under the sheets. Massage therapists are trained to respect your modesty, and so while they are working they will undrape only the part of the body they are massaging. Generally, you may leave your underwear on if you like, or take them off. Feel free to tell your massage therapist about any concerns you have regarding your modesty. return to top

How often do I come in for massage?

If you are seeking massage treatment for remediation from a recent injury, it is usually recommend that the first two or three treatments be spaced every three to four days or weekly depending on the severity of the pain or dysfunction. The same goes for long-term dysfunction like chronic back pain. For relaxation and general health improvement, most people find that once a month suits their needs, others come more often. return to top

How do I choose a therapist?

Educate yourself on the types of bodywork that exist. Do you want lighter touch, or deeper? For lighter, stick with someone who likes to do Swedish massage. For deeper work, look for someone who does deep tissue massage. Do you have a specific injury that needs treating? Choose a therapist who has trained in injury treatment or has specialties like Myofascial Releasing and Neuromuscular Therapy. In some ways, the only way to learn about different massage styles is to receive them. We have found that different people click with different therapists. It is not just a question of massage techniques, but also personality. Try several styles and therapists and feel free to ask people you know for recommendations. You may also call Seattle Advanced Bodywork Associates and talk with one of us. We can help find a good match for your needs. return to top

Will therapy hurt?

When you have had muscle pain and dysfunction for some time, your tissue can feel sore to the touch. Mild pain with treatment is common and can be a function of releasing tight muscles to create relief. Give your therapist feedback. He or she will want to know how you are feeling. If the treatment you are receiving is causing you so much discomfort that you are unable to relax, ask the therapist to ease up or stop. You are in charge of your treatment and too much pain can be counterproductive. At the end of each massage, you should feel better and the treatments will become more comfortable as your tissue function improves. After a session, you may feel some mild muscle soreness for a day or two until your body readjusts and heals itself. Be sure to drink extra water. Putting an ice pack on any sore areas for twenty minutes or taking an Epsom salts bath can be very helpful. return to top

Can massage help reduce stress levels?

In today's stressful world, massage is one of the best ways to achieve a relaxed state of mind and body. Massage releases tight muscles where tension is held and improves circulation throughout the body. Lying down in a warm place, listening to calming music and having a caring, skilled therapist massage your sore muscles provides a uniquely wonderful way to reduce stress. If you remember Physiology class, the two basic states of the autonomic nervous system are the Sympathetic (blood flows to limbs, heart and breathing rates speed up, blood pressure increases, digestion shuts down, all of which prepare you for action: fight or flight), or Parasympathetic (blood flows to the core, heart and breathing rates slow, blood pressure decreases and digestion kicks in: relaxation and healing occur). Getting back to the relaxed, Parasympathetic state is essential for living a healthy, balanced life. As a side benefit, you may experience clearer thinking, improved mood, better digestion, and increased energy and vitality. return to top

Is it safe to receive massage during pregnancy?

Not only is it safe, it is also very beneficial and comforting. Massage therapy can be received throughout the entire nine month pregnancy term and after the birth of your child for recovery care. If you are experiencing complications during pregnancy, discuss your condition with your doctor or midwife first. Look for one of our therapists who is trained in Pregnancy massage. return to top

Do massage therapists have a Code of Ethics?

Yes, massage therapists adhere to the following code:

  • We provide the best quality care to any
    one that seeks our professional help.
  • We accept all clients without discrimination.
  • We acknowledge the confidential
    nature of the professional relationship
    with a client and respect each client's right to privacy.
  • We practice only the modalities in which
    we have been professionally trained and certified.
  • We in no way participate or engage
    in any type of sexual activities with our client.
  • We maintain a safe, clean and
    professional environment.

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Are there different techniques in massage?

Yes, there are many different types of massage techniques. Swedish massage is the technique most widely known by massage therapists, but others are also trained in sports massage, aromatherapy massage, shiatsu, deep tissue massage, Thai massage or techniques named for their developer such as Upledger, Heller Work and Feldenkrais. See our Therapeutic Specialties page for more information. return to top

How much of my body will be massaged?

When the client is seeking treatment for a specific injury or condition, the entire session may focus on a single area. There may also be a need to treat body areas that are adversely affected by injuries, such as when a sprained ankle causes the opposite leg to bear all the body's weight and stress of walking. For relaxation massages, the client and therapist should discuss and agree upon the areas to be massaged. A "full body massage" usually includes the back, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, legs, feet, face, chest (above breasts for women), abdomen and hips. If you prefer not to have certain areas of your body massaged, tell your therapist and they will adjust the massage accordingly. You should never accept a touch that feels wrong in any way or feel pressured to offer an explanation for such sensitivity. return to top

Can I bring someone along?

Contact your therapist in advance to determine if it is acceptable to bring someone else with you. The person may be in the room during your treatment or may wait outside the room. In order to assure that you receive the full benefit and relaxation from your treatment, the person present must remain quiet and unobtrusive during your treatment. Children are usually not permitted as guests. return to top

What studies have been done on massage therapy?

Massage has been studied for its use with premature infants, adults who have recently experienced a heart attack or stroke, athletes who desire to increase their performance and shorten recuperation time, victims of sexual abuse, grieving patients and for common soft-tissue conditions like low back pain and neck pain. Here in Seattle, Group Health Cooperative is studying the efficacy of massage to treat low back pain with very positive results.

Clinical research has shown massage therapy:

  • Is more effective for treating chronic back pain than other standard treatments.
  • Promotes relaxation and alleviates the perception of pain and anxiety in cancer patients.
  • Reduces post-traumatic headaches better than cold pack treatments.
  • Lessens pain and muscle spasms in patients who have undergone heart bypass surgery when part of hospital-based surgery treatment.
  • Stimulates the brain to produce endorphins.
  • Is very beneficial for normal growth in premature babies.

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What are the Health Benefits of Massage?

Massage effects the nervous system by relaxing the entire body. Blood circulation is enhanced throughout and the muscles are stretched and relaxed. Knots and sore areas can get worked out and muscle holding patterns released. Relief of physical pain and stress improves not only your physical wellbeing, but your mental state as well. Increasing the blood flow through massage nourishes all the cells of your body with fresh oxygen and nutrients, and in turn helps to flush out waste generated by your muscles and body. Specific techniques may be employed to target the lymphatic system, the digestive tract or other body systems. 

Most types of massage affect the body in a similar way. When muscles are overworked, body waste products accumulate, causing soreness, stiffness, and even muscle spasms. Massage in general--and Swedish massage in particular--improves blood and lymph circulation and brings fresh oxygen and other nutrients to the affected tissues. 

Tense muscles may also compress blood vessels and stretch nerves, restricting blood flow and causing pain. As the affected area is massaged, the muscles gradually release their strangle hold on the irritated nerves, and the pain eases. The same mechanisms also make massage helpful in the recovery process for an injured muscle. 

In addition, massage has been shown to increase the body's production of pain-killing endorphins and the mood-altering hormone serotonin. It can also slow the release of the stress hormone cortisol. For this reason, massage is often prescribed as an adjunctive therapy for people whose immune systems are compromised by stress. 

Massage enhances medical treatments and may shorten the time it takes for the body to recover from injury and illness. Massage can help release chronic muscular tension and pain, increase joint flexibility, reduce mental and physical fatigue, promote better digestion, improve posture and reduce blood pressure.

Massage also can result in:

  • Relief from headache, neck ache and eyestrain
  • Deep relaxation of body and mind
  • Freeing of muscle adhesions and softens scar tissue caused by injury
  • Aid in healing of scar tissue due to injury
  • Relief from muscle spasm or cramping
  • Enhanced body awareness
  • Nourishment of the skin and improved skin tone
  • Improved sleep quality

We have approximately 60 providers in the Seattle area who send patients to us for clinical treatments. Most Common Diagnoses for which doctors entrust their patients to SABA are: neck pain, thoracic pain, lumbago (low back pain), sciatica, shoulder strain/pain in joint involving shoulder, pain in limb, migraine, and headache. We also see people to treat fibromyalgia, insomnia, multiple sclerosis, lymph problems and many other conditions. Most insurances will pay for such conditions with the proper referrals. return to top

Web Links

American Message Therapy Association (AMTA)
The AMTA is the oldest and largest institution representing the massage therapy profession. Their website is a great reference for industry related information and current events.

Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP)
The ABMP is another organization representing massage and other forms of bodywork.

National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB)
The NCBTMB aims to foster higher standards of ethical and professional practice through a credentialing program that assures the competency of practitioners of massage therapy and bodywork. This is a professional credential, but will not substitute for a license to practice massage therapy.

WebMD Health
WebMD Health is the leading provider of online information, educational services and communities for physicians and consumers. Their website provides an archive to many medical journals and articles and in-depth descriptions of various conditions and illnesses.