There are so many benefits to massage therapy, and the practice is much more than a pamper. Libby Palmer, massage therapist and Therapy Directory member answers your questions

I suffer regularly with headaches. I have a demanding job and while I love exercising to blow off some steam, relaxation is something I struggle with. I know taking some time to really unwind will help, but is there a particular type of massage you recommend?

Massage has two roles in treating tension headaches. In a proactive role, regular massage can help the body maintain an optimal level of relaxation. In order to find the correct therapist for your needs, you need one who understands your condition and is adequately qualified to meet your needs. A clinical massage therapist with a level 5 or 6 qualification will have studied anatomy and physiology as well as massage techniques.

The second role massage has in treating tension leading to migraines and headaches is to relieve tension in trigger points located in the neck and shoulders. Trigger points are tension points in muscles which refer to pain in another area. E.g. a trigger point in the trapezius muscle (upper back and shoulders) may refer pain up the side of the neck, causing headaches.

I would suggest shiatsu, aromatherapy or Swedish massage to promote relaxation and general wellbeing

In order to get a rounded treatment offering both relaxation and trigger point therapy, it’s important to discuss your condition prior to treatment so that the therapist understands the problem fully and can tailor a treatment to your needs.

I’ve recently moved away from hormonal contraception, but after years of taking the combined pill, I’m suffering with quite bad PMT. Friends have told me that there are certain types of massage that can help ease symptoms, can you tell me more?

Massage is an effective treatment for PMS as it relaxes and soothes aching muscles, while treatment on the abdomen and lower back can relieve the bloating and tension felt in these areas. Massage is a well known effective treatment for fluid retention, allowing fluid to be moved towards the lymph system and naturally removed by the body.

Many places may not offer a PMS massage on their treatment list, but once you’ve discussed your needs with the therapist they’ll be able to tailor a treatment to you. In my opinion, the treatment should include an all over massage to relax, with specific heat treatment applied to the lower back, focused treatment on trigger points to help relieve tension in the shoulders, and lymphatic drainage focused around the abdomen.

For optimum results, the client should consider getting a massage two days before their period is expected or when PMS raises its ugly head, so approximately every four weeks.

Getting a massage is also a good way of lifting your mood; clients say they feel lighter, less stress, less bloated and have more energy after a PMS massage

Myself and a few colleagues are suffering with shoulder and neck pain. Working in an office, we sit down all day. We know posture is important, but we’re not sure where to start. Is there anything we can do to reduce this discomfort?

This is a very common problem as many of us wake up in the morning, look at our phones, then when we leave the house to go to work, we are either seated in a car, on a bus or tube, again looking at our devices. Once we get to work, we are probably seated at desks looking at computer monitors, we stay at our desks most of the day before we travel home.

Is it any wonder that many of us get neck and shoulder pain? Whilst the head it looking at a device, it is normally being held in a forward/downward position, giving us rounded shoulders and causing muscle misalignment in the shoulders and neck, not to mention the strain on the lower back from being extended during the seated position for so long, thus leading to the core muscles being held slackened causing eventual weakness there.

In order to rectify this problem, you can perform some stretches at your desk, taking time to correct your posture, sit upright, look at the top of your screen, rather than slouching, take time to walk around, make sure you regularly leave your desk and maybe take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Many companies now provide massage at work as one of their employee benefits, and if you ask HR they may be able to book a wellbeing day where a therapist can come in. If you’re unable to get treatment at work, you should be booking a massage at least every 4-6 weeks with a clinical and remedial therapist.

After watching the London Marathon for years, I’ve decided to finally take up running. The first few weeks have been going well, but the pain in my shins is taking its toll. I don’t want to stop and have heard that sports massage can help with this?

Congratulations on taking up running! I also started running after watching the London Marathon every year and really love taking part. I’m sorry to hear that you have pains in your shins and many people get this problem call shin splints when they begin to train seriously.

As you increase your mileage the problem can get worse and will need managing in order for you to continue running. You need to book an appointment with a clinical sports and remedial massage therapist. They will be able to assess your injury and look at your biomechanics in order to identify why you’re getting this problem. A common cause of shin splints is over-worn trainers, so take your shoes with you.

Initially expect to need two or three appointments in quick succession in order to treat and monitor your injury. Some self treatment should be prescribed for home, using ice and self-massage. Once the condition is under control, I would suggest you get a regular sports massage to keep your muscles in good, flexible condition and allow you to train for your marathon.

3 things your massage therapist needs to know

Tell your therapist about all historic injuries - When we ask if you’ve had an injury, please tell us. It doesn’t matter how long ago. I often have clients saying they don’t, then halfway through treatment when I find a site of trauma, they reveal an incident from years ago.

Tell your therapist about any emotional issues - Massage can trigger emotional responses; if you have any emotional issues please tell your therapist. We can help you more if we understand what you’re going through.

Tell your therapist if you are unwell or hungover - A lighter pressure may be required when performing a massage on a client the morning after. If you are unwell, it may be preferable to cancel your appointment. Germs can spread easily and your therapist won’t thank you for passing them on!


Want to learn more about the benefits of complementary therapy? Read our Complete Guide to Massage and learn more about how you can introduce aromatherapy into your life in Everyday Aromatherapy.