Getting a massage sounds like it ought to be straightforward and simple. But if you’ve never booked a massage before, you may wonder where to start. Here are answers to some questions you may have about massage therapy, as well as helpful tips to make your experience enjoyable and comfortable.

If you have arthritis or a related disease, massage therapy may help you relieve pain and stiffness, promote better sleep, and reduce stress and anxiety. However, people with arthritis experiencing flares should use caution when trying massage. In addition, people with skin rashes, fever or active inflammation may not wish to get a massage until those conditions clear up. To be certain if massage is safe for you, consult with your doctor before booking a massage appointment, or using any massage device or self-massage technique at home.

Choosing a Type of Massage

There are many different types of massage therapy, from classic Swedish massage to Asian techniques that involve manipulation of pressure points. Many day spas and massage therapy clinics offer an array of massage therapies, so it’s best to read up on these, and consult your physician, before booking an appointment to ensure the therapy you select is right for you.

Selecting a Therapist

Each state licenses massage therapists based on their hours of training, but each state has its own requirements. Ask your doctor or physical therapist for a referral, speak to other friends with arthritis who have used a massage therapist, or contact a local licensing board for a list of licensed therapists. The American Massage Therapy Association recommends that you ask any prospective therapist if they are licensed, if they are certified by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), where they received their training or if they graduated from a program accredited by the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation, and if they’re trained in any specific massage techniques.

It’s important to select a therapist you’re comfortable with, so here are some things to consider:

  1. Do you prefer a male or a female therapist?
  2. Does the therapist have experience working with people who have arthritis or pain?
  3. Is the therapist receptive to my questions?
  4. Is the therapist communicative and considerate of my comfort?

If you have arthritis, it’s very important to find a therapist who communicates with you about your disease. Tell your therapist you have arthritis, and be as specific as possible, when you book your appointment. Let her know if your arthritis affects your knees, hips, or back, for example, so she can use care when applying massage to those areas, or avoiding them altogether.