National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Touch Research Institute University of Miami School of Medicine

Massage Therapy Foundation

Massage Therapy Research Consortium

Canadian Touch Research Center

Frequently Asked Questions about Massage

Will my insurance cover massage?
Lots of health insurance companies cover massage. Be sure to ask your practitioner if they work with insurance claims. We live in a state that allows insurance plans to cover certain alternative health care options such as massage. Under the Every Category of Provider Law, the insured is given the option to use alternative health care when treating certain health care conditions. For example, if you are having back pain, your insurance plan should cover you to see a chiropractor, a massage therapist or an acupuncturist, instead of only having one choice, such as physical therapy. Of course there are exemptions, so please call your personal health insurance carrier for specifics. You may also contact your insurance company at their website to obtain a list of the massage practitioners in your area that are providers for massage. For more information regarding the Every Category of Provider Law, go to, or call the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.


What are the educational background requirements for massage practitioners?
Washington State requires all massage practitioners to have completed a Washington State approved massage program and also pass the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. Each practitioner must complete sixteen hours of continuing education every two years. For more information, go to the Washington State Department of Health Board of Massage website:

What can I expect at my first appointment?
Please expect to fill out a health intake form and to sit down with your new practitioner to answer questions about what you would like in your massage and your intentions for the work. Come with any questions you might have about the practitioner’s techniques, how you would like to communicate about pressure or how you would like to feel after the massage. You will usually be expected to pay for the appointment either before or right after the massage. This includes your co-pay or coinsurance if you are using your medical insurance. For medical or auto insurance claims, you will have several forms to fill out to find out exactly how the injury is affecting your daily level of activity.


Does a massage have to be on the whole body or can I ask for specific areas to be addressed?
Your massage is for you and your needs. Let your practitioner know what your intentions are for your session. Some people want to be sure to have the entire body massaged for their session. Others want to address issues that don’t require the entire body being massaged. If you are training for a marathon and want your massage session to focus on your legs, then it is appropriate to ask for this and have the session be on your legs. Sometimes a practitioner may find that a related part of the body may be causing issues in the area of focus. We are trained to see how the whole body is affected by your use of your body. You are always invited to learn more about how your body is affected and what we notice through the massage.

How can I get the most out of my massage session?
• Arrive a few minutes early, so you may begin to relax and be ready to receive the full benefit of the treatment.
• Hydrate yourself before your session and refrain from using alcohol or drugs. Massage has a powerful impact on your body’s circulation and chemistry. Proper hydration supports the positive results that a massage treatment can give you.
• Eat minimally before your session. You will be more comfortable lying down. Also, when your body does not have to spend energy in food digestion, it can concentrate on healing. .
• Your skin is your biggest organ and is a major component of releasing waste from your body. Although it is not mandatory, having a warm body keeps the skin open and ready to quickly release waste. A hot bath or soak in a hot tub can really help with this.
• Some people find out that they are more sensitive to synthetic scents than they realized. It is best to come to your massage session without wearing perfume, hairspray or body spray.
• Communicate with your practitioner if you are feeling uncomfortable, cold, experiencing pain, or are anxious.


Do I have to take off my clothes to receive a massage?
One of the most important elements in massage is the client’s safety and comfort. You never have to do anything that feels uncomfortable. Proper communication is fundamental to this and your practitioner is trained in different massage techniques that can be used with clothes on. For instance, you may see massage practitioners at sports events or businesses giving chair massages to clients. This is always done with clothes on. Let your practitioner know what feels most comfortable to you. Some clients prefer to be fully unclothed and others prefer to leave underwear on. All clients are given proper draping so that no matter what, you are never exposed. Again, the most important thing is to have open dialogue with your practitioner so that your massage feels safe, comfortable and helpful.

Is talking during my massage appropriate?
The massage session is for your own health and wellbeing. Sometimes clients talk because they are sharing what they are experiencing in their bodies. This is a wonderful way for the client and practitioner to witness the massage in action. Sometimes practitioners ask questions of the client to find out more about a painful area, or about issues of repetition or injury that might be a part of a held pattern. This is also an appropriate way to be sure the massage addresses the client’s personal needs and preferences. Sometimes the client or practitioner will talk socially. This is Okay unless it is getting in the way of the work that is happening. For example, sometimes a client will talk a lot if there is a particular part of the body that feels uncomfortable with the massage. Instead of mentioning being uncomfortable, the client will begin talking about work. The sensitive practitioner will hopefully check in with the client so that she or he can become comfortable again and gain the full benefits of the massage.
One of the most common complaints reported from clients about “bad massage” experiences is when the practitioner talks through the session! Again, this is an example of when the conversation hinders the massage session and therefore is inappropriate.

Can massage be painful?
Many people seek out massage to deal with pain, but getting a massage does not have to be painful. Some practitioners distinguish between “good” and “bad” pain, but the deciding factor is always what is the BEST feeling of pressure for you, and communicating with your practitioner. If you are working together to break up scar tissue, increase flexibility, eliminate tender or trigger points or change long-held patterns, you may feel discomfort. It should never be something you haven’t chosen to receive.
There are over 250 different massage modalities used in the massage profession with differing philosophies around what is most helpful to support healing. Some modalities use techniques that can be uncomfortable. Often the idea behind this is to break through layers of held patterns or break down layers of scar tissue that impinge on the tissue’s circulation, movement and healing process. Sometimes the limbs are put into positions to lengthen muscle bellies that can feel uncomfortable when the muscle is tight. When the discomfort becomes painful, the client must share this so that your practitioner can work within a tolerable level of discomfort.
Pain is a subjective experience. What might be light pressure to one person could be experienced as very deep to another person. This is why it is so important to make sure to let your practitioner know about your level of discomfort. Many massage practitioners will use a 1-10 pain scale to offer a way to communicate about how the massage feels and how the practitioner should proceed. 1 is the number given when you can barely feel any pain. 10 is the number given when you are experiencing severe pain or discomfort. Use this scale to tell the practitioner how the pressure or technique feels to your body. This scale can also be used to explain the pain you come in with and you can use the scale to see how the number has changed from before to after the massage.

How can I support my health better after I receive a massage?
• Drink plenty of water. This means sipping water throughout the next few hours, instead of gulping a huge amount right afterwards. Your body can only process a few ounces of water at a time so try not to overburden your body with excessive water all at once.
• Notice how you feel during the rest of your day. Noticing how you feel after a massage helps gain insight into how stress can start feeling in your body. It also helps you gain awareness as to how your posture or body usage affects your body’s relaxed, less painful state. For instance, we can notice that holding a cell phone can play a big part in neck pain and noticing this can help us remember to hold the cell phone differently.

Is massage good for scar tissue?
Yes! Scar tissue forms when soft tissue has been cut, such as in surgery, or torn from injury. It is the body’s natural Band-Aid. As the scar tissue begins to form layers, massage can be helpful to support the healing without over-scarring the area that can lead to decreased movement. Scar tissue that has been in an area for awhile, such as an old injury site, can be softened and lessened to aid in increased movement, circulation in the area and decreased compensatory aches and pains.


Research Shows that with Massage:

• Arthritis sufferers note fewer aches and less stiffness and pain.
• Asthmatic children show better pulmonary function and increased peak air flow.
• Burn injury patients report reduced pain, itching, and anxiety.
• High blood pressure patients demonstrate lower diastolic blood pressure, anxiety, and stress hormones.
• Premenstrual syndrome sufferers have decreased water retention and cramping.
• Preterm infants have improved weight gain.
• Reduces stress and enhances well-being
• Improves Self-Efficacy of MS patients
• Relieves nausea in breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy
• Improves fibromyalgia symptoms
• Reduces hand arthritis pain
• Effective in alleviating delayed-onset muscle soreness
• Benefits aggressive adolescents
• Improves cognitive performance in infants
• Lowers blood glucose levels in children with diabetes
• Decreases symptoms in bulimic teens

Whidbey Island, WA