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There may be nothing quite as ahhh-inspiring as massage, a complementary therapy that not only helps you relax, but also can reduce stress, pain, and muscle tension. There are lots of different kinds of massage, but all have the common goal of improving health and well-being by manipulating and soothing your body’s soft tissue—skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The best-known Western type is Swedish massage, a gentle form that relaxes and energizes using stroking, kneading, and other manual techniques. In contrast, deep tissue massage goes deeper into the muscles and connective tissue, often to address muscle injuries. Eastern forms of massage include tuina (pronounced “twee-nah”), a 5,000-year-old component of traditional Chinese medicine, and shiatsu, a traditional Japanese massage therapy (shiatsu is Japanese for “finger pressure”). Both stimulate key acupressure points to balance chi, or energy. Lymphatic massage, or manual lymphatic drainage, is a gentle therapy used to detoxify the body and reduce lymphedema, which is swelling due to a blockage in the lymphatic system. People with invisible illnesses like fibromyalgia and Lyme who’ve found their way to a massage table have experienced relief from problems like pain and anxiety. No matter what illness you’re facing, it can feel pretty great to lie down for an hour and let your stress melt away (or trickle away—we know it’s not always easy to totally destress). If you’ve never had a massage before, here’s what to expect. Usually, you enter a soothing environment—a simple room, often with low lighting and perhaps a calming aromatherapy scent—and lie on a massage table. The massage therapist might use oil or lotion to make the hand-to-skin contact more comfortable, so be sure to mention if you have any ingredient allergies—there’s nothing worse than stressing about an allergic reaction while you’re supposed to be blissing out! And similarly, since the whole point is to relax and lower your anxiety, tension, and/or pain, be sure to speak up if anything else doesn’t feel good or right. Don’t worry, a good massage therapist wants you to communicate with them!

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