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Every now and then we all need a special treat. Here are some of my favorite indulgences, and I’ll go out on a limb to suggest that I’m probably not alone on some of these:

-A big piece of cheese cake ( with raspberry preserves oozing over the sides). -An evening with a silly movie or two -A massage.

How many indulgences can you think of that don’t have profoundly negative consequences on your waistline, your time management, or your credit card bill? How many luxuries can you think of that both promote health and improve productivity? These motives might be determined by the setting in which massage is delivered. It seems reasonable to think that massage in a spa or resort might be viewed as a luxury, while massage in a multidisciplinary clinic–maybe along with a session of physical therapy or a chiropractic adjustment–would be viewed as a medical treatment. In actuality, the recipients of massage don’t always make that distinction. Lots of people go to their spa therapists for help with sometimes complex medical conditions, and those in medical clinics often view their post-physical-therapy bodywork session as a reward for their hard work.

Some have come to massage because of injuries and found unexpected blessings in their situations. While many first-time massage clients have become acquainted with massage because of referrals from health professionals, there’s no need to wait for an injury to prompt you into forming the massage habit. For some people, massage and bodywork are a critical part of their health and wellness strategy–an idea medical professionals are increasingly embracing. In a recent online survey, massage devotees talked about their commitment to regular massage therapy. These folks find a way to afford it, regardless of other demands on their resources.

I would suggest that the distinction between indulging in a massage as a treat and using it for stress relief is pretty fuzzy. And as someone who has made a career out of studying where massage fits for people dealing with chronic and acute illnesses, I can say with confidence that the line between massage for stress management and massage for a medical condition is practically invisible. The central point here is that massage is a powerful health-care modality, regardless of whether it is being delivered in a spa, a franchise, a home, or a clinic. Massage is consistently among the most popular and sought-after complementary health-care interventions, perhaps because it has such great potential for providing a soothing oasis in our jangled, tangled lives. People are increasingly interested in taking good care of themselves without invasive procedures. Massage offers a multitude of benefits without using knives, needles, or drugs, but that doesn’t mean a massage therapist can “fix” or even successfully “treat” everything.

In all this discussion of massage and health, it is important to understand that your massage therapist is not a doctor. We cannot diagnose your rash, or prescribe which antibiotic to take for your sinus infection. In some states, licensing laws dictate that we cannot even recommend what stretches or exercises might serve you best as you deal with muscular issues. What your massage therapist can do is offer you excellent advice for your own care. If your therapist says you need to see a doctor about that funny-looking mark on your skin, it’s a good idea to go. If your therapist says your rash is probably nothing, but it might be contagious, please listen, and have it checked out. If your therapist suggests that because of whatever health challenges you have today, Swedish or deep-tissue massage might not be in your best interest, I encourage you to trust her or his judgment–it comes from a place of caring.

This is a hectic world. None of us has time or money to throw away–we want to derive the best value we can with whatever we do. So, while you’re getting ready for your massage, do yourself and your therapist the favor of sharing the information that will allow you to get absolutely the very best massage she or he is able to give. Then relax and know that this is a treat, but it is also an investment in your well-being that will benefit you to your core. Be Blessed Marjorie Lentsch LMT

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