The Health Benefits of Massage

An occupational therapist massages a patient's legs in her home

With a few simple tools, you can get the health benefits of a self-massage.

Need to de-stress? A Medicare Advantage plan may be able to help with coverage for gym memberships! Call us to find a plan near you.

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Do you think of massage as a decadent luxury? While it certainly can feel that way, massage can actually deliver significant health benefits.

Massage has moved out of the confines of fancy day spas and can now be found as part of wellness and physical therapy programs. Massage is often included in treatment for fibromyalgia, migraine, sports injuries, and arthritis, among other conditions. One form of massage, called pelvic floor massage, is even used to treat incontinence.

Learn how to manage urinary leakage and how Medicare can help.

What massage can do for you

The benefits of massage are wide-ranging. Alongside its well-known stress-busting powers, massage has been shown to:

  • Improve circulation
  • Decrease joint inflammation
  • Improve sleep
  • Shorten recovery from exercise
  • Strengthen immune response
  • Relieve anxiety
  • Boost energy
  • Improve mood

That’s a lot of benefits from just rubbing muscles and tendons!

Find out how to de-stress and boost your energy naturally.

Self-massage can work, too

Of course, a trained and licensed massage therapist is best qualified to perform therapeutic massage. If you’re struggling with a chronic health condition, your physician may refer you to a massage therapist for help.

But you can obtain some of a massage’s benefits with self-massage techniques. For self-massage, a few tools can be helpful.

Small balls

A small, spongy ball, like a racquetball, can be effective for easing aches and tension in the hands, fingers, arms, and feet. One easy technique is to sit in a chair and simply roll the ball under each foot. Vary the pressure until you find what feels best to you. You can massage your fingers and hands by laying your forearm on a table and using your opposite hand to roll the ball in circles and between your fingers.

Foam rollers

You can use foam rollers to give yourself a deep tissue massage. Foam rollers are good for targeting your legs and hips. Using your body weight, foam rollers help break up fascia adhesions. Fascia is the thin connective tissue that holds all your body structures in place. Healthy fascia should be smooth, slippery, and flexible. But stress, repetitive strain, inactivity, and other factors can cause it to become stickier and tighter, which can contribute to pain.

Rollers come in a variety of densities (soft to firm) and textures (smooth or ridged or bumpy), both of which affect how deeply they massage. If you’re just starting out, choose a softer, smoother roller.

To use, place the foam roller under the body area you want to target. Use your arms to balance and roll your body along the roller, moving parallel to your muscle.

Percussive massage tools

Theragun is probably the best known of the percussive massage tools. These devices allow you to narrowly target muscle knots. “Think of it like a mini hammer, repeatedly impacting the soft tissue and causing blood flow to increase in that area,” physical therapist Gary Calabrese explained in an interview with Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials. “The gentle pressure can decrease any tight muscle tissue or soften scar-like tissue, called adhesions. This helps to elongate the muscle fibers.”

As with foam rollers, it’s best to start on the gentlest intensity the massage gun offers before building up to a deeper massage.

As always, check with your healthcare provider before undertaking any self-massage for health conditions.

Medicare and massage

If massage provides health benefits, does that mean Original Medicare covers it? The answer is, it depends. Original Medicare doesn’t provide coverage for massage therapy when it is billed as a separate charge. However, if massage is included as part of physical therapy and not billed separately, it is covered.

You may find broader coverage for massage therapy under a Medicare Advantage plan. What’s more, most Medicare Advantage plans also cover gym membership fees – and exercise offers many of the benefits that massage does!

Learn more about Medicare coverage for massage therapy.

To compare plans in your area, check out our easy-to-use Find a Plan tool.

Additional resources

Lynn Cicchelli is a writer with over 20 years' worth of experience creating healthy lifestyle content for both print and digital publications. Originally from New York, Lynn currently lives in Connecticut with her husband, stepson, and dog Indiana.


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