Touch Much? The Benefits of Massage

Who hasn’t longed for a soothing massage after a particularly grueling workout? Even more importantly, who hasn’t needed a therapeutic massage when living with chronic pain and having experienced its positive benefits?

Back massage to ease painA recent article in Time / Healthland reports on a study of the positive impacts of massage. And in addition to the known benefits of relaxation and stress reduction, the article states:

Massage basically has the same pain-relieving effect as drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve)…

Mainstream medicine has often dismissed massage as a bona fide therapy, but “these findings will have an impact on traditional medicine…”

Another article references the use of massage for those suffering chronic back pain (which, according to Healthland, 8 out of 10 Americans will experience at some point in their lifetimes). Citing results published last summer, based on a study of some 400 subjects:

Even though it’s common knowledge that an old-fashioned muscle-kneading is a great way to relax and reduce pain, the new findings give that notion some clinical teeth.

Is Massage Therapy Covered by Insurance?

While generalized massage is recognized to reduce stress and encourage relaxation, those of us who have suffered injuries and chronic conditions may be aware that localized massage can alleviate our pain. We’re also aware that health insurance doesn’t necessarily  cover it.

Whether or not massage therapy is covered by insurance depends entirely upon the plan, if it’s associated with physical therapy or other “prescribed” services, and of course, you are still subject to co-pays (which can be costly), deductibles, and other limitations.

Some plans cover some of it; others do not. Check out your health care options if you’re insured, by looking carefully at your plan provisions. You’ll have some idea if you Google using “Is massage therapy covered by… ” and then include the name of your insurance plan.

What I found, as an example, for one of the largest health care providers?

Massage therapy is qualified when authorized by a physician confirming that massage therapy is prescribed as treatment of a specific medical condition. The physician should also include the frequency and duration…

That’s reassuring, isn’t it?

And what happens when your allotted visits run out, but the condition is chronic? What happens if your physicians change and there’s disagreement as to whether or not massage therapy is a “valid” route rather than medication, or invasive procedures? What happens if you don’t have coverage at all?

Where does that leave the chronic sufferer – cognizant that there is something simple, non-pharmacological, and non-invasive that can improve quality of life?

Frankly – it leaves the sufferer out in the cold, unless they can afford to pay for it on their own. (Been there, done that, not cheap!) Personally, I consider this one more way in which our insurance providers are short-sighted, to say the least.

He (or She) Who Helps Himself?

What if you know that deep tissue massage eases your pain but you can’t afford massage therapy? What if you know that Swedish massage techniques for your lower back are effective in helping you feel better? Might a friend or loved one learn a few basics?

And no, I don’t think we can pick up these skills as simply as that; I understand that massage therapists are professionally trained. Then again, one needs only peruse Youtube to view a variety of techniques in practice.

Frankly, I’m going to check with my doctor, then spend some time reading and viewing video clips. I plan on asking a friend to do so with me. I’m tired of heating pads and popping over-the-counter pills on the days that chronic pain gets me down.

Other ideas?

Sensual Massage

Who doesn’t appreciate the benefits of touch viewed in a more connective context?

There’s nothing like a few endorphins engaging our attention, and elevating our sense of well-being. Perhaps if we’re truly fortunate we can encourage a significant other to take the mission of massage in a slightly different direction – integrating a therapeutic sensual massage into romantic relationship routines.

Wouldn’t this give new meaning to the significance of prelude to a kiss, especially heading into Valentine season?

What is a sensual massage, also known as an erotic massage?

If you have to pose the question, you don’t know what you’re missing – and AskMen has something to say on the subject.

How to Give a Sensual Massage

What’s involved in an erotic massage?

  • You’ll need massage oil or lotion, and a towel to spread on the bed (don’t ruin the sheets!)
  • Be sure to warm your hands before you begin
  • Ask if she has any injuries or tender spots from chronic pain (per the discussion above)
  • Begin with gentle touch (your goal is to relax and arouse your loved one, not injure!)
  • Take your time and follow her lead (ask what feels good, and read her body language)
  • Grow ever more daring (if appropriate to your relationship)
  • Take your time (it bears repeating)

Touch is Essential

How easy it is to convince ourselves that we are entirely cerebral beings. How easy it is to allow chronic pain to interfere with loving. How easy it becomes to divorce ourselves from the primal pleasures of touch. Not only are gentle hands healing, they are humanizing. 

Find a friend, a loved one, and information on the sort of massage that would suit your needs – especially if you have physical conditions that could be worsened by the wrong application of massage. Be sure to check with a physician or other medical professional first!

And if you’re fortunate enough to have a physician who will prescribe massage therapy for pain – with insurance to cover it – wonderful!

As for the rest of us? Maybe someday. In the meantime, after talking with our doctors, perhaps we can learn enough (with a little help from our friends) to alleviate pain in this most fundamental fashion.

  •  Any massage techniques you found particularly effective for specific conditions?
  • Any massage oils you’d care to recommend?


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  1. says

    For a very inexpensive massage you can go to any massage school and they charge very little. It is hit and miss but most are really quite good. Treat yourself you are well worth it. In Turkey in the public baths, friends massage each other. It was beautiful to see.

  2. says

    I used to schedule a regular massage pre-kids. Post kids? Sigh. There never seems to be the time or the money. And it’s when you need one most.

  3. NoNameRequired says

    Yes! Sometimes the feathering fingers are what we want. Oil and lotion are not the right substrate for this touch. Also, on some hot days, like on vacation or camping or in nature (yes, outside; I hope that you can find a safe and private locale for this lovely experience), even massage of full touch is better on the slidey-texture rather than the slick one.

    A light dusting of power makes for a dry velvet feel…think the lining in a very old violin case. Besides, the body beloved is a Stradivarius :)

  4. says

    I used to book with a sport massage therapist. It was sometimes a bit painful but I was doing marathons back then and being very serious about my running. A good massage definitely aids healing.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      I’m curious, Shelly. Is massage therapy (following injury or with chronic conditions) covered by National Health care in the U.K.? I agree. Massage works wonders!

  5. says

    Finding the right masseuse can be challenging. I’ve had two massages, paid for by my job. The first one ended up in my right arm being injured. (I’m not very flexible.) The other was marvelous but cost over $100 at a high-end hotel. By the way, it’s the same way with finding great barbers. No, really! :O)

  6. says

    Touch is best from someone you want to be touched by of course. And how often we do not make the time or discount the emotional element it provides.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      The one time I had a so-called “relaxing” massage at a day spa – a thank you from an appreciative boss more than 10 years ago – I also tensed up, Rudri. Didn’t care for it at all. So I’m with you on that one. I will also say that the masseuse hurt me – and not in a good way – and wouldn’t lighten her touch. Miserable experience.

      A few years back, following a car accident, I paid out-of-pocket for localized massage to address injuries. Some of it did alleviate pain, and that was a different matter. But without the ability to pay for a professional who knows what he or she is doing, my best hope is finding a friend who is willing to learn what he or she can to help in that regard. That’s a link to my practical whatever-it-takes-or-I-can-come-up-with American upbringing. But damn sad that it’s my only recourse for something that is potentially healing. And how many others?

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