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Health & Balance

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New to Massage: FAQ

What to expect from your first massage.

Can massage help with a medical condition?

Massage has been shown to have a range of health benefits, from lowering blood pressure to easing migraines. Research has demonstrated that massage may help relieve pain for patients with cancer, HIV, and Parkinson's disease. Massage can also help lower stress, which is a good thing for your overall health.

"Research has shown that massage interfaces with the body's stress function," says Sandy Fritz, MS, NCMBT, author of a textbook line for therapeutic massage and director of the Health Enrichment Center in Lapeer, Mich. "It helps to dampen the flight-or-fight response and activates dominance in the rest-and-restore system."

If you have a serious medical condition, you should clear a massage with your doctor first.

Will I be naked?

You only need to take off only as much clothing as you're comfortable removing. You can leave your undergarments on if you choose, as massage can be done through clothing. The massage therapist will give you privacy while you undress or leave the room. During the massage, the therapist will use a sheet or towel to drape the parts of your body that are not being massaged.

Is the massage going to hurt?

It shouldn't hurt, Sykora says. But you should keep the lines of communication open.

"If a therapist is pressing too deeply in an area," Sykora says, "you should tell them, 'That's sensitive.' Or 'That's a little too much. Can you lighten up?'"

"You should never have to endure a massage," Fritz says. "You shouldn't have to lay there and grit your teeth. It may feel significant, but not make you stiffen up."

Should I talk during the massage?

It's up to you. Some people like to remain quiet and listen to music during the massage. Others like to make light conversation. Tell your massage therapist your preference.

"Whether you like to talk or stay quiet, you should absolutely tell the massage therapist if you're uncomfortable -- if you're too hot, too cold, or can't stand the music," Sykora says.

What if I fall asleep?

You may get drowsy during the massage, so don't worry if you fall asleep. "That's actually a good thing," Sykora says. "I know they are relaxed. But I will wake them up at the end. Taking a few minutes to yourself after the massage is over is always a good thing."

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