HOW OFTEN SHOULD I GET A MASSAGE, AND WHICH MODALITY IS BEST FOR ME
Getting a massage can be a way to treat yourself, de-stress, or address a medical issue. You can seek out a massage therapist for a variety of different massages. You can also self-massage or ask someone to perform massage techniques at home.
There are no standard guidelines for the number of massages you can get, but a massage therapist or your doctor may be able to recommend a frequency and duration that work best for your needs.
Massages for injury are typically more frequent, while massages for pampering or relaxation purposes can occur less often.
Massage frequency and duration will depend on the type of massage you want and the area you want to target. Many research studies recommend a certain massage frequency and duration to address underlying health problems like pain or injury.
Talk to a massage therapist to find out how often you should visit to address your needs.
If regular massages aren’t in your budget, consider stretching out the time between each session. You may also be able to learn massage techniques to perform at home on a more regular basis from a doctor, massage therapist, or another medical professional.
Types of massage
LYMPHATIC DRAINAGE MASSAGE
This type of massage is useful for draining lymph nodes that have been affected by a recent surgery or medical condition. It’ll prompt the flow of fluid in your lymph nodes and release fluid build-up.
You may need this massage daily at the beginning, but over time, you can try two or three times a week.
Lymphatic drainage massage should always be performed by a professional. They can also train you to perform certain massage techniques by yourself.
DEEP TISSUE MASSAGE
A deep tissue massage uses slow, forceful strokes to reach deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. This type of massage targets muscle damage from injuries.
You may seek deep tissue massages daily, a few times a week, or a few times a month for pain. Your massage therapist can recommend a frequency and duration to address the underlying health condition prompting this type of massage.
A scalp massage can be very relaxing, and it may even lower your blood pressure and heart rate.
One study in Korea showed that women working in an office experienced these health benefits from 15- to 25-minute scalp massages twice a week for 10 weeks.
You may find a regular scalp massage helps you feel calm and improves your overall outlook.
A full-body massage is often called a Swedish massage. This type of massage promotes relaxation. You may seek this type of massage only occasionally, every few weeks, or monthly to help you feel more centered and less stressed.
You may find a massage chair provides relief from aching muscles or helps you relax.
A pilot study found that healthy adults experienced positive benefits from sitting in a massage chair for 20 minutes at a time.
You may be able to experience this type of massage at home by purchasing a massage chair, or you may find a place outside of your home where you can use one occasionally or regularly.
There is hope ahead
Watch Lesley Stahl, Alyssa Milano, D.L. Hughley & more as they recount the past year and look ahead to the future. Watch our insightful and uplifting conversation on hope, vaccines, mental health & more.
Massage may help relieve specific painful symptoms or reduce stress and anxiety. It may also be helpful during pregnancy. You may need more frequent massages for pain relief, or you may find that less frequent but regularly scheduled massages for your emotional well-being are useful.
The American College of PhysiciansTrusted Source now lists massage as a treatment for low back pain that lasts up to 12 weeks.
Massage is a way to relieve neck pain in the short term, and getting frequent massages may be most beneficial.
One studyTrusted Source found that getting a 60-minute massage two or three times a week showed more benefit for those with neck pain than getting a 60-minute massage once a week or a few 30-minute massages weekly.
ANXIETY AND STRESS
According to the American Massage Therapy Association, 66 percent of those who sought massages in 2018 did so to relax and manage stress.
Consider a 60-minute massage tailored for relaxation. According to the Mayo Clinic, this could lower your cortisol levels by 30 percent and raise your serotonin levels by 28 percent. This will relax you and improve your mental well-being.
A 2010 studyTrusted Source found that regular, light massage performed by someone at home or a massage therapist may contribute to a healthy mental state and reduced leg and back pain.
A weekly 20-minute massage by a professional, or two 20-minute massages by someone at home, may be sufficient to reduce anxiety and stress as well as physical symptoms of pregnancy.
The study also found that 15-minute massages during every hour of labor may also shorten the overall time spent in labor and reduce the amount of medication you need.
Massages can lead to many benefits, including:
lower blood pressure
release of muscle tension
Massages may not always be the safest activity if you have certain health conditions. You should use caution if you have:
broken or fractured bones
a bleeding disorder
open wounds or burns
other serious medical conditions
If you’re pregnant, your doctor or a massage therapist may discourage massage during your first trimester or if you have high blood pressure, a high-risk pregnancy, or have recently had surgery. Find someone who specializes in prenatal massage to ensure that you receive a massage that’s healthy and safe for pregnancy.
There are a few risks that may arise if you get a massage. If you have a blood clot or have a history of blood clots, you should consult your doctor before having a massage. During a session, blood clots could break loose and travel through your blood vessels to your heart or lungs. This could lead to a heart attack or blocked artery.
You shouldn’t continue a massage or seek further massages if you experience pain.
When to see a doctor
Most massages are considered safe. Talk to your doctor before getting one if you have a serious medical condition. You may want to ask for massage therapist recommendations from your doctor so you can find someone who meets your needs.
Massage shouldn’t replace other medical interventions that are necessary to treat an underlying health condition. Don’t ignore pain, developing symptoms, or serious symptoms like chest pain, difficulty breathing, or loss of consciousness.
The bottom line
There are many reasons to seek regular, semi-regular, or infrequent massages. You may need to address a medical issue or want a way to relax and get away from everyday stress.
Determine the type of massage you’d like and discuss your needs with a massage therapist or a doctor if you need to treat an underlying health condition.
Last medically reviewed on November 14, 2019
Was this article helpful?
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF MASSAGES?
What is a massage?
There are several types of massage that focus on different parts of the body or healing approaches. Massage is the practice of rubbing and kneading the body using the hands. During a massage, a massage therapist will apply gentle or strong pressure to the muscles and joints of the body to ease pain and tension. A massage therapist is a person trained in giving massages.
Read on to learn about the different types of massage and which type might be right for you.
1. Swedish massage
Swedish massage is a gentle type of full-body massage that’s ideal for people who:
are new to massage
have a lot of tension
are sensitive to touch
It can help release muscle knots, and it’s also a good choice for when you want to fully relax during a massage.
For this massage, you’ll remove your clothes, though you may choose to keep your underwear on. You’ll be covered with a sheet while lying on the massage table. The massage therapist will move the sheet to uncover areas that they are actively working on.
The massage therapist will use a combination of:
long, flowing strokes in the direction of the heart
deep circular motions
vibration and tapping
passive joint movement techniques
Usually a Swedish massage will last for 60–90 minutes.
Choose a Swedish massage for relaxation or managing minor pain.This type of massage is also good for people new to massage.
2. Hot stone massage
Hot stone massage is best for people who have muscle pain and tension or who simply want to relax. This type of therapeutic massage is similar to a Swedish massage, only the massage therapist uses heated stones in lieu of or in addition to their hands. It eases muscle tension, improves blood flow, and relieves pain by using heated stones. Hot stone massage may help:
ease muscle tension
improve blood flow
During a hot stone massage, heated stones are placed on different areas around your whole body. Your therapist may hold a stone as they massage different parts of your body using Swedish massage techniques using gentle pressure. Sometimes cold stones are also used.
You don’t wear clothes for hot stone massage unless you’ll feel more comfortable wearing your underwear. You will be covered with a sheet. Usually the massage is 90 minutes long.
Hot stone massage may relieve more muscle tension than a Swedish massage because of the added heat.This type of massage in usually more expensive than a Swedish massage.
3. Aromatherapy massage
Aromatherapy massages are best for people who want to have an emotional healing component to their massage. This type of massage can help:
boost your mood
reduce stress and anxiety
reduce symptoms of depression
relieve muscle tension
Aromatherapy massages combine soft, gentle pressure with the use of essential oils. Your massage therapist will usually decide which essential oils to use, but you can let them know if you have a preference. Essential oils are diluted before being applied to the skin.
During the massage, you’ll be given a full-body massage while inhaling essential oils through a diffuser and absorbing them through your skin. Sometimes an aromatherapy massage will only focus on your back, shoulders, and head. You won’t wear any clothing other than underwear, which is optional.
An aromatherapy massage is 60–90 minutes.
Aromatherapy combines the gentle touches of Swedish massage with the addition of essential oils.Do not use this type of massage if you’re sensitive to smell or essential oils.
4. Deep tissue massage
Deep tissue massage uses more pressure than a Swedish massage. It’s a good option if you have chronic muscle problems, such as soreness, injury, or imbalance. It can help relieve tight muscles, chronic muscle pain, and anxiety.
During a deep tissue massage, your massage therapist will use slow strokes and deep finger pressure to relieve tension from the deepest layers of your muscles and connective tissues. You can be naked during this massage or wear your underwear.
The massage will last for 60–90 minutes.
While deep tissue may be more intense, you shouldn’t feel any pain or soreness.
Deep tissue massage is a good option if you have a lot of muscle tension or chronic pain.Avoid this type of massage if you’re overly sensitive to pressure.
5. Sports massage
Sports massage is a good option if you have a repetitive use injury to a muscle, such as what you may get from playing a sport. It’s also a good option if you’re prone to injuries because it can be used to help prevent sports injuries. You may also use sports massage to increase flexibility and performance. Additionally, sports massage can be used to relieve pain, anxiety, and muscle tension.
A sports massage can be done as a full-body massage or the massage therapist may focus on the parts of the body that need the most attention. Deep pressure may be alternated with soothing strokes depending on your needs.
You can have a sports massage while clothed or naked. If you prefer to wear clothing, make sure it’s thin, loose, and allows the therapist access to your muscles. Loose shorts and a tank top are options.
The massage will last for 60–90 minutes.
Sports massage is a good option if you have an injury from repetitive muscle use.This type of massage may also help improve flexibility and sports performance, and reduce your risk for injury.
6. Trigger point massage
Trigger point massages are best suited for people who have injuries, chronic pain, or a specific issue or condition. Sometimes areas of tightness in the muscle tissues, known as trigger points, can cause pain in other parts of the body. By focusing on relieving trigger points, this type of massage can reduce pain.
Trigger point massage uses broad, flowing strokes that are gentle and relaxing combined with stronger, deeper pressure. The massage will include work on your entire body, though your therapist will focus on specific areas of your body that need to be released. You can wear lightweight clothing for the massage or be fully or partially undressed.
This type of massage will usually last for 60–90 minutes.
Trigger point massage can help you manage chronic pain.Wear lightweight clothing for this type of massage.
Check your vitamin levels with an at-home micronutrient test
This micronutrient test checks for vitamin B12, D, E, Magnesium, Copper, Selenium & Zinc. Get your results in 2-5 days from an accredited laboratory with free shipping, Order today for 30% off.
Reflexology is best for people who are looking to relax or restore their natural energy levels. It’s also a good option if you aren’t comfortable being touched on your entire body. Reflexology uses gentle to firm pressure on different pressure points of the feet, hands, and ears. You can wear loose, comfortable clothing that allows access to your legs.
A reflexology massage lasts for 30–60 minutes.
Reflexology focuses on pressure points in your feet, hands, and ears.This is a good option if you’re uncomfortable being touched over your entire body. You can also be fully clothed during this type of massage.
8. Shiatsu massage
Shiatsu massage is best for people who want to feel relaxed and relieve stress, pain, and tension. It’s a Japanese type of massage that:
promotes emotional and physical calm and relaxation
helps to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression
may relieve headache
reduces muscle tension
Shiatsu massage works the whole body, but your therapist may focus on areas of your body that need extra attention. During the massage, your therapist will use their hands, palms, and thumbs to massage certain points of your body. Pulsing or rhythmic pressure is used. You can be fully clothed during this massage.
Shiatsu massages typically last for 60–90 minutes.
Shiatsu is a good option if you’re looking for a relaxing massage. It may also help release minor tension.You can be fully clothed during this type of massage.
9. Thai massage
Thai massage is best for people who want a more active form of massage and want to reduce and relieve pain and stress. It can also help improve:
Thai massage works the entire body using a sequence of movements that are similar to yogic stretching. Your therapist will use their palms and fingers to apply firm pressure to your body. You’ll also be stretched and twisted into various positions. You can wear loose, comfortable clothing during the massage.
Thai massage lasts for 60–90 minutes.
Thai massage is more active than other forms of massage, and the therapist will stretch your body in addition to providing a massage.This is another type of massage where you remain fully clothed.
10. Prenatal massage
Prenatal massage can be a safe way for women to get a massage during pregnancy. It can help reduce pregnancy body aches, reduce stress, and ease muscle tension. You can get a massage at any time during your pregnancy. However, many facilities, especially in the United States, do not offer massages to women in their first trimester due to the risk of miscarriage during this time.
Prenatal massage uses mild pressure similar to Swedish massage. The therapist will focus on areas such as your lower back, hips, and legs. You can be fully or partially undressed depending on your comfort level. During the massage, you’ll either lie on your side or on a specially designed table with a cutout for your belly. If you’ve had pain in your calves or other parts of your leg, see a doctor before you have a massage.
The massage will last for 45–60 minutes.
Prenatal massage is a good option for pregnant women.This type of massage focuses on gentle pressure and is good for relaxation and mild tension relief.
11. Couple’s massage
A couple’s massage is a massage that you do with your partner, friend, or family member in the same room. It brings all the benefits of a regular massage and sometimes provides you with access to the spa’s hot tubs, saunas, and other facilities. Other treatments such as pedicures, facials, and body scrubs are sometimes offered as part of a package.
You can usually choose which type of massage you’d like to receive, and you and your partner can each get a different type of massage depending on your preference and the offerings at the spa. Your partner and you will be on tables side-by-side, and you’ll each have your own massage therapist working on your body. You can talk during the massage if you wish.
A couple’s massage is a massage you have in a shared room with a friend, partner, or family member.You can usually choose from a variety of types of massages to have during your appointment. Swedish and hot stone massages are commonly offered as an option during a couple’s massage.
12. Chair massage
A chair massage is best for people who want a quick massage that focuses on your neck, shoulders, and back. A chair massage can also be a way to introduce you to massage if you’ve never had one before. Chair massage also helps to relieve stress and promote relaxation. This type of massage uses light to medium pressure.
During the massage, you’ll remain fully clothed and sit in a specially designed chair. You’ll straddle the chair so that your chest pushes into the back of the chair, allowing the massage therapist to have access to your back.
These massages are usually 10–30 minutes.
A chair massage is a great option if you’re short on time.This type of massage is also a good option if you’re new to massage.
How to find a massage therapist
You can get a personal recommendation for a massage therapist from a doctor, friend, or an online directory. Or you can book a few massages with different therapists to see which one you prefer. Make sure it’s someone with whom you feel comfortable so that you can fully relax.
Make sure your massage therapist s properly trained and has certificates and state licenses that are up-to-date. You may wish to have a brief conversation with your therapist before beginning your sessions so that you can communicate your expectations and ask any relevant questions.
How much does a massage cost?
Prices vary greatly for massages in the United States. An hourlong massage is usually $50–$150. Most therapists will expect a 15–20 percent tip on top of this. However, some places don’t accept gratuity.
Aromatherapy, hot stone, and prenatal massages tend to be more expensive than standard massages. Depending on the place, some specialty massages such as deep tissue, Thai, or sports massages may run a bit higher, too.
You can check out a massage school in your area or find a massage therapist who works at home if you want to find massages at a more reasonable cost.
Insurance sometimes covers massage therapy if you can show it’s being used to treat a medical condition. Sometimes insurance companies will cover massage therapy if it’s part of chiropractic care.
Massage may be a way for you to feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally. Experiment with different types of massage and with different massage therapists to find the type and provider that is most ideal for you.
Always communicate your expectations and intentions with your massage therapist and speak up if there is something with which you aren’t comfortable. Talk to your doctor before getting any type of massage if you have any health concerns or conditions.
Last medically reviewed on June 20, 2018
Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT — Written by Emily Cronkleton — Updated on November 14, 2018
Was this article helpful?
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SWEDISH MASSAGE AND DEEP TISSUE MASSAGE?
Swedish massage and deep tissue massage are both popular types of massage therapy. While there are some similarities, they are different from each other. The differences are:
areas of focus
Here’s more information about the key differences between these two massage styles, along with tips on choosing the right therapist for you.
About Swedish massage
Swedish massage is one of the most commonly offered massage techniques. It’s sometimes called a classic massage. The technique aims to promote relaxation by releasing muscle tension.
Swedish massage is gentler than deep tissue massage and better suited for people interested in relaxation and tension relief.
Swedish massage may loosen up tight muscles caused by daily activities such as sitting at the computer or exercising. It can be very helpful for people who hold a lot of tension in their:
WHAT HAPPENS DURING A SWEDISH MASSAGE?
During a Swedish massage, therapists use:
deep circular movements
passive joint movements
These techniques are meant to:
stimulate nerve endings
increase blood flow and lymph drainage
A traditional Swedish massage involves the whole body. You will begin on either your back or your stomach and flip over at the halfway point.
If you have an area of particular concern, such as a tight neck, you can ask your therapist to spend more time in this area. Depending on your preferences, you can ask your massage therapist to use light, medium, or firm pressure.
During most full-body massages, the expectation is you’ll be undressed. Your massage therapist will ask you to undress for your massage while they wait outside. It’s up to you whether or not to keep your underwear on.
Your massage therapist will drape a sheet over your body. They will pull back and adjust it as they work their way around. You will be covered most of the time.
Your massage therapist will use an oil or lotion to allow for smooth and long stokes. They may also ask if you have a preferred aromatherapy scent.
About deep tissue massage
Deep tissue massage is similar to Swedish massage, but it goes farther and is intended for a different purpose.
Deep tissue massage is best suited for:
There is hope ahead
Watch Lesley Stahl, Alyssa Milano, D.L. Hughley & more as they recount the past year and look ahead to the future. Watch our insightful and uplifting conversation on hope, vaccines, mental health & more.
people with injuries
It can also work for people with chronic pain conditions such as:
lower back pain
Deep tissue massage targets the inner layers of your:
fascia, or dense connective tissue
Deep tissue massage uses many of the same stroking and kneading movements as Swedish massage, but there’s far more pressure. This pressure can sometimes be painful.
In order to reach the deep muscle tissue, a therapist will massage layer by layer of muscle, applying more and more pressure and employing special techniques with the fingers, fists, and maybe even elbows to reach and stretch that deep tissue.
This type of massage facilitates healing by releasing contracted areas of muscle and tissue. It can help increase blood flow to the soft tissues and may help to reduce inflammation.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING A DEEP TISSUE MASSAGE?
Before a deep tissue massage, you will discuss your problem areas with your therapist. A deep tissue massage can be full-body or focused only on one area. You will begin lying on your back or stomach and under a sheet. It’s up to you to determine your level of undress.
Deep tissue massages begin as a more traditional relaxation massage. After the muscles are warmed up, your massage therapist will begin to work deep into your problem areas.
In addition to their palms, finger tips, and knuckles, your therapist may use their forearms or elbows to increase pressure.
It’s important to be open with your massage therapist about the level of pressure and discomfort you wish to endure. This may be different for certain areas and throughout the massage. Feel free to communicate with your massage therapist before and during the massage.
Some massage therapists find pain to be counterproductive to the process and expect you to speak up if the pain is too much.
You should expect a fair amount of soreness in the days following your deep tissue massage. Your therapist may recommend treating with:
Find the right massage therapist. Look for a therapist who specifically identifies the massage type you’re interested in as part of their practice and background. If necessary, look for someone trained to treat a particular condition, such as sports injuries, fibromyalgia, arthritis, or pregnancy. Also check if the therapist is licensed or certified according to state requirements.
Talk to your therapist about any injuries. Be clear about the extent of your injuries, how long they have been healing, and what your current pain level is.
Talk about your comfort levels. Tell the massage therapist which areas you do not want them to touch. For example, some people are uncomfortable with their buttocks being massaged.
Talk about your goals and expectations. Do you just want to relax? Are you trying to recover from an injury?
Discuss pressure. Talk to your therapist about what level of pressure is best for you.
Be open. Let your therapist know if you have privacy concerns or areas that you don’t want touched.
Warm up. If possible, warm up your muscles by taking a warm shower, soaking in a hot tub, or spending a few minutes in a sauna.
Hydrate. Drink plenty of water before your massage.
What to do before the massage
Finding the right massage therapist
Before booking your Swedish or deep tissue massage, here are a few things to consider:
Is this a one-time thing? It will help your therapist to know if massages are something you do once or twice a year or if they’re part of a long-term treatment plan.
Do you have a gender preference? Some people feel more comfortable with a same- or opposite-gender massage therapist.
Do you have a setting preference? Some massages take place in relaxing beauty spas, while others take place in a physical therapy or gym environment.
Have you read the reviews? Before booking your massage, read what other people have said about your potential therapist. Have they helped people with your condition before?
Which massage works best?
Swedish and deep tissue massages are very similar. The primary difference is the level of pressure involved. If you’re looking for relaxation and relief from tense, tight muscles, Swedish massage is probably right for you.
If you’re recovering from an injury, deep tissue massage can be a helpful part of your treatment plan.
Feel free to ask questions before you book a massage and to communicate feedback to your therapist during a massage.
Last medically reviewed on August 14, 2019
You don’t need to be a pro to sizzle your favorite SPAM® Variety. You just need a pan. With over 100+ easy-to-make recipes, your next meal is just around these delicious square corners. Get sizzling tonight.
Was this article helpful?
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF A HOT STONE MASSAGE?
What happens during a hot stone massage?
A hot stone massage is a type of massage therapy. It’s used to help you relax and ease tense muscles and damaged soft tissues throughout your body.
During a hot stone massage, smooth, flat, heated stones are placed on specific parts of your body. The stones are usually made of basalt, a type of volcanic rock that retains heat. According to the University of New Hampshire Health Services, hot massage stones are heated to between 130 and 145 degrees.
The stones may be placed:
along your spine
on your stomach
on your chest
on your face
on your palms
on your feet and toes
Massage therapists may hold heated stones as they massage your body using Swedish massage techniques such as:
Sometimes, cold stones are also used during a hot stone massage. Cold stones may be used after hot stones to calm any engorged blood vessels and to soothe the skin.
6 benefits of hot stone massage
All massages generally fall under the alternative medicine umbrella. They’re becoming a popular complementary therapy for many conditions. Here are some advantages of getting a hot stone massage:
1. HELPS RELIEVE MUSCLE TENSION AND PAIN
Heat has long been used to ease muscle tension and pain. It helps increase blood flow to the affected area. It may also reduce muscle spasms and increase flexibility and range of motion. Cold therapy helps relieve inflammation. Depending on your symptoms, alternating hot and cold stones during your massage may be helpful.
2. REDUCES STRESS AND ANXIETY
It’s the position of the American Massage Therapy Association that “massage therapy can be effective for stress relief.” Research supports their opinion. A 2001 study showed that a ten-minute massage improved cardiovascular responses such as stroke volume. A 1997 study found that 15-minute, onsite chair massages in the workplace significantly reduced stress compared to a 15-minute break without massage.
A 2015 studyTrusted Source found that people who underwent abdominal colorectal surgery had less pain, tension, and anxiety after receiving post-operative massage.
3. PROMOTES SLEEP
A 2006 literature review found massage may be an alternative to sleeping pills in adults with insomnia. The research showed that back massage helped promote relaxation and sleep. A 2001 study showed that infants with sleep problems who were given a 15-minute massage by their parents went to sleep faster. They were also more alert, active, and positive upon awakening. Massage is thought to help you enjoy more restorative sleep, although it’s not completely understood why.
4. MAY HELP RELIEVE SYMPTOMS OF AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES
Hot stone massage may relieve painful conditions such as fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes widespread, chronic pain. According to a 2002 study, people with fibromyalgia who received a 30-minute massage slept longer, had fewer trigger points, and had decreased levels of substance P (a substance involved in transmitting pain signals) than people with the condition who received relaxation therapy. More research is needed, however, before massage becomes a standard fibromyalgia treatment.
A 2013 studyTrusted Source found that people with rheumatoid arthritis may benefit from a moderate-pressure massage, such as hot stone massage. Participants in the study experienced less pain, greater grip strength, and a greater range of motion after one month of massage therapy.
5. MAY HELP DECREASE CANCER SYMPTOMS
A large, three-year study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management examined how massage affected pain, fatigue, stress and anxiety, nausea, and depression in 1,290 people with cancer. The study showed massage, especially Swedish massage, improved cancer symptoms, even in those with substantial symptoms. Researchers believe the comforting use of human touch played a role.
6. MAY BOOST IMMUNITY
Massage may give your immune system a boost. According to a 2010 studyTrusted Source, a single session of Swedish massage therapy had a positive and acute impact on immunity. Blood samples taken before and after the massage showed a decrease in arginine-vasopressin, a hormone that helps regulate blood pressure and water retention.
Who may benefit from a hot stone massage?
Anyone who is experiencing muscle tension and pain, insomnia, or stress may benefit from a hot stone massage. If you have a chronic condition that causes pain, talk to your doctor to see if a hot stone massage is a good option for you.
Get our weekly Fibromyalgia email
To help you manage pain and avoid fatigue, we’ll send you tips, techniques, and trustworthy info on meds.
Enter your email
SIGN UP NOW
Your privacy is important to us
Risks and warnings
When performed by a trained therapist, a hot stone massage is generally safe. There are some circumstances where it should be avoided. Consult your doctor before getting a massage if you have:
a bleeding disorder or take blood thinners
burns on your skin
a history of blood clots
had surgery in the last 6 weeks
a fracture or severe osteoporosis
a low platelet count (thrombocytopenia)
A prenatal massage may help relieve stress and ease uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms. Still, most massage therapists won’t use hot stones on pregnant women. If you’re pregnant, you should only get a massage with your doctor’s approval, and under the hands of a trained prenatal massage therapist.
To prevent burns, there should always be a barrier, such as a towel or sheet, between hot massage stones and your skin. Check with your therapist to see how they heat the stones. A professional massage stone heater should be used. Never use stones that have been heated with a:
The bottom line
Studies show that a hot stone massage may be a helpful way to reduce stress and anxiety, promote relaxation, and ease pain and muscle tension. It may be helpful for a variety of conditions and circumstances.
More study is needed to find out exactly why massage therapy has such a powerful impact. It may have a lot to do with human touch. For many people, touch offers a sense of connection and security.
To make sure you have a positive hot stone massage experience, only use a massage therapist trained to work with hot stones. You may feel sore during your massage or the day after. This may be due to deep tissue manipulation and pressure. You shouldn’t feel pain. If you are uncomfortable or experience pain during your massage, let your massage therapist know right away.
✔️ off scheduling your annual primary care visit today
Browse local primary care providers (PCPs) for your annual visits, immunizations, routine lab work, and more with FindCare. Choose a provider based on your insurance coverage, location, and provider credentials.
Last medically reviewed on November 16, 2016
Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT — Written by Annette McDermott — Updated on September 29, 2018
Was this article helpful?
WHAT IS AROMATHERAPY MASSAGE?
Aromatherapy massage is used for a variety of different reasons, including relaxation, pain management, and improved mood. These are also some of the basic benefits of massage therapy. Adding essential oils is thought to enhance such benefits.
Some of the most popular essential oils used in aromatherapy include:
Aromatherapy is often added to a traditional massage session as an extra service. The massage therapist might diffuse an essential oil in the room during your session or they might add a few drops of oil to massage lotion and apply it directly to your skin.
Aromatherapy massage uses
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)Trusted Source, nearly 7 percent of U.S. adults use massage therapy on a regular basis.
Massage therapy itself consists of the manipulation of muscles and lymph nodes through professional pressing and rubbing techniques.
Some types of massages include:
Essential oils can be added on to any type of massage for aromatherapy purposes.
Massage therapy has been linked to short-term decrease in physical aches and pains and improved mood. Adding an essential oil for an aromatherapy massage can potentially enhance the effects.
For example, if you have aches and pains from depression, then adding a mood-boosting oil like orange could also make you feel better.
What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils for certain benefits. Examples include lavender, orange and bergamot, and eucalyptus. These “aromas” are all plant-based derivatives from herbs, tree extracts, and flowers. Essential oils are extremely concentrated so to be used correctly they should be diluted into milder oils, humidifiers, or lotions.
The overall purpose of aromatherapy is meant to improve your physical and mental well-being. More consumers are testing out essential oil products than ever before by diffusing them at home or diluting them for skin usage.
Does aromatherapy work?
Scientific research about the health effects of aromatherapy is mixed or lacking.
According to the NCCIH, stimulating oils to boost mood have been found effective in some studies. Examples of these include lemon, orange, and tangerine. However, lavender, though widely considered safe, was found not to affect mood in that same study.
Another study looked at the effects of chamomile and massage therapy for anxiety relief. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI)Trusted Source, the results showed a greater decrease in anxiety symptoms after massages with chamomile versus massage without aromatherapy.
Overall, the NCI notes that aromatherapy has shown benefits for the following uses:
Aromatherapy massage risks
There are generally few risks associated with aromatherapy massage. One consideration is possible sensitivity to the essential oils used during your session. Your massage therapist should always dilute the oil with massage lotion or a carrier oil before applying to the skin.
If you’re unsure about a particular oil, ask the therapist to diffuse it in the room instead of applying it directly to your skin.
Possible symptoms of an allergic reaction to essential oils include:
Another consideration is the lack of regulation over essential oils and essential oil products used in an aromatherapy massage. Since many essential oils are considered cosmetics, the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate them for safety and effectiveness.
Is aromatherapy massage safe during pregnancy?
A prenatal massage itself is generally considered safe. If you have calf pain or a history of blood clots, don’t get a massage. If you’re looking for an aromatherapy massage while pregnant, speak to a doctor about which oils may be safe ahead of time. There’s concern that essential oils can cross over into the placenta and result in fetal harm.
According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, you should avoid the following essential oils if you’re pregnant:
You’ll also want to use caution when considering aromatherapy massage for young children.
Tips for aromatherapy massage
When signing up for an aromatherapy massage, consider the following tips to make the most of this or any type of massage session:
Choose an essential oil based on your needs. For example, you might choose a citrusy scent for boosting your mood, lavender for relaxation, or eucalyptus for pain management.
Decide whether you want the oil diffused or applied directly to your skin during your massage. If you have any known sensitivities to a particular oil, it’s best to steer clear and choose something else.
Don’t go to your massage on a full stomach — this could cause stomach upset during and after your session.
Do drink water before and immediately after your massage and consider having a snack.
Take a warm shower after your massage. This helps remove any oils left on your skin.
Your massage therapist is also your first source for questions about an aromatherapy massage experience. They should be able to recommend specific essential oils, and discuss what product and techniques they would use based on your needs.
If the therapist doesn’t seem confident about aromatherapy massage, they may not have much experience including it in their sessions.
Some essential oils can irritate asthma and other breathing problems. When applied to the skin, essential oils made from citrus fruits can make the skin more vulnerable to sunlight. Avoid sun exposure after grapefruit, orange, or other citrus oil is used on your skin.
Also, don’t be afraid to speak up during your massage. If something doesn’t feel right, let the therapist know. You can also ask them to apply more oils and use more or less pressure at any point.
Remember that this is a quiet space, so your therapist won’t want to interrupt your experience with questions — it’s up to you to speak up.
You might reap some of the benefits of aromatherapy outside of massage sessions by diffusing essential oils in your own home.
Aromatherapy massages, when done by professional massage therapists, might enhance your experience, ultimately improving your self-care routine.
While scientific research is still being done to assess the health benefits of aromatherapy, there’s no doubt that it helps some people to feel better, often by temporarily decreasing sensations of pain or mood symptoms.
When coupled with the principles of massage therapy, aromatherapy might help you feel even better.
Last medically reviewed on February 1, 2019