If you or someone you care about has served in the military, you’re probably aware of the health concerns that can arise later. As a whole, veterans are more likely to experience chronic pain, PTSD, and other health conditions. And if you’re facing these challenges, it’s vital to find ways to support your well-being.
Apart from regular care, many veterans wonder if natural tools like massage are worth trying. But if you’ve served in the military, how can massage impact your quality of life?
Below, we’ll take a look at the benefits of massage therapy for veterans, tips to keep in mind, and resources to help you get started.
Veterans Often Seek Out Complementary Therapies
It’s true that standard medical treatments play an essential role in veteran health. But did you know that a large portion of veterans also show interest in trying complementary therapies?
One VA study showed that 82% of veterans reported using at least one complementary therapy, with 99% saying they would be willing to try one for pain. In addition, the study found that massage was the most preferred complementary health approach among veterans.
In other words, countless people who have served in the military are interested in trying massage — and for good reason. Not only can it offer many healing benefits, but it can also help individuals feel more empowered to take control of their health and well-being.
What Are the Benefits of Massage Therapy for Veterans?
Massage is an ancient, touch-based therapy that’s been around for thousands of years. Traditionally, people have used it for everything from easing muscle pain to balancing the body’s energy.
Nowadays, there are many types of massage styles to choose from. Each one has different techniques and goals. But, in general, most of them can relieve tension, ease stress, and offer deep relaxation — all of which can make a big difference in a veteran’s quality of life.
Beyond that, a good massage may be able to:
1. Improve Sleep
Whether it’s from conscious anxiety or underlying tension, insomnia and sleep problems are all too common for those who have served in the military. Thankfully, a simple massage can help get your body back in relaxation mode.
Research has shown that massage may help those with certain issues — like low back pain, insomnia, and other conditions — get deeper, more restful sleep. To try it yourself, ask a partner or loved one for a short, 10-minute massage the next time you get ready for bed. You may be surprised at the relaxation it brings.
2. Can Help Manage Stress
Another powerful benefit of massage therapy for veterans is its ability to relieve stress.
Stress and anxiety are both common for veterans. But stress occurs due to outside factors — like work, health issues, or relationships. And in many cases, it’s not easy to find the time or energy to tackle stressors at the source.
The good news? In times of stress, massage can help relax your mind, improve your mood, and trigger a cascade of calming effects in the body. In turn, this can help you feel more refreshed and resilient to day-to-day stress.
3. Positively Impact Depression and Anxiety
Past research has shown that massage may also be helpful for symptoms of anxiety and depression. While it can’t cure or treat any mental health disorders, it may make a positive difference for those who have been going through challenging times.
In a 2020 study, researchers looked at the effects of a relaxing massage on 96 female veterans during clinic visits. After their session, the participants reported lower pain, increased relaxation, reduced anxiety, and a greater sense of inner peace.
Beyond reducing anxiety and stress, massage may also complement a treatment plan for some people with depression. According to the American Massage Therapy Association, massage has been shown to improve mood and well-being in those with chronic pain and other long-term conditions.
4. Soothe Chronic Pain
In general, veterans are more likely to deal with back pain, joint pain, and other forms of pain than non-veterans. This may be due to past injuries, strain, or a combination of factors that are less clear. But when the source is stress or muscle issues, massage can be a helpful option for relief.
Early research has shown low-strength evidence that massage can help soothe musculoskeletal pain, shoulder, neck, and back pain, along with other types of conditions.
It’s important to note that massage may not be right for every type of pain — but if you’d like to try it for yourself, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about whether it could fit into your treatment plan.
5. Support a Healthy Lifestyle
As a veteran, staying fit is important. Keeping your body moving can boost your mental health, improve your heart health, and lower your chances of conditions like type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, massage can be a fantastic addition to any physical fitness routine.
That’s because it can increase range of motion, melt away muscle tension, and improve your overall mobility. Plus, it can help you curb the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) — making it easier to feel and move better.
What To Look For in a Massage Therapist
When it comes to massage for veterans, choosing the right provider is key. By finding a massage therapist who suits your needs, it can mean better comfort and deeper relief from every session. But how can you choose the right therapist for you?
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Look for someone who is certified by a nationally-recognized organization. This shows that they have the know-how and training to provide proper therapeutic massage.
- Check out their reviews. If possible, see what others in your community are saying about their services.
- Ask about advanced training. Many massage therapists take additional training outside of their original certifications. If you have a specific health concern — like low back pain, fibromyalgia, or something else — it can help to find a therapist who is trained in your specific issue or condition.
Be Open and Honest
Once you meet your massage therapist, don’t shy away from being honest about your current health concerns and goals.
Before you even head to the massage table, reputable massage clinics and spas will need you to fill out an intake form. This form may ask you about:
- Any current medications you’re taking
- Allergies or sensitivities
- Any medical conditions you’ve been diagnosed with
- The reason for your visit
With this information, your masseuse can create a safe, effective, and custom massage plan to target your pain points and health goals.
Throughout the session, remember to let your therapist know if something doesn’t feel right, and only stick to techniques that are relaxing to you. This will ensure you get the most out of your massage while staying safe and comfortable along the way.
Don’t Be Afraid To Try Different Providers
Each massage therapist will have a different background, education, and approach to their services. And they may not always have the specific level of training or style that suits you.
In these cases, feel free to try as many therapists as needed to find someone who works for you. There’s no shame in exploring your options to find someone with the skills, style, and expertise you’re looking for.
Types of Professional Massage Therapy for Veterans
When you head to your first massage session, here are some of the main styles that your massage therapist may recommend:
Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage is one of the most popular options among those with muscle pain and other chronic conditions.
This style uses deep pressure to target adhesions and pain points. And many people find that it makes a big difference in their overall comfort and mobility.
A good deep tissue massage can bring benefits such as:
- Breaking up deep, tight bands of muscle tissue
- Promoting healthy recovery from injuries
- Boosting range of motion
With that in mind, this style of massage can have drawbacks for certain people. For example, it’s not always as relaxing as other forms of massage, and the pressure can be overwhelming for some. In addition, it’s best to avoid using it on any recent or acute injuries, since it could potentially harm the affected area.
Swedish massage is a classic massage style that helps relieve whole-body stress and tension. It uses light gliding strokes, gentle rocking motions, and kneading to soothe the body.
Its potential benefits include:
- A boost in blood flow
- All-over relaxation
- Moderate muscle tension relief
- Better sleep
While Swedish massage can be incredibly soothing, it may not be the right choice for more specific or complex muscle and joint issues. But if you’re new to massage and like the sound of its deep relaxation, it can be a great option to try.
Shiatsu massage is a holistic form of massage that originated in Japan. It mainly focuses on energy flow and targeting pressure points in the body. And in contrast to Swedish or deep tissue massage, it doesn’t require oils and can be done over clothing.
When you schedule a Shiatsu massage session, you can expect:
- Tension and pain relief
- Improved relaxation and sleep
- A reduction in knots or trigger points
Like Swedish massage, Shiatsu is very calming and offers a more “all-over” kind of relief. Its holistic approach makes it a good option for veterans interested in Eastern massage styles centered around energy and well-being.
Types of Home Massage Tools
The cost and time it takes to visit a spa can mean professional massage is not always practical for veterans. Luckily, there are plenty of affordable tools that can help you reap the benefits of massage at home.
Here are a few of the most popular ones to consider:
Electric Massage Tools
Electric massage tools are well-loved for their ability to provide effortless home massage. These include:
- Massage guns: These high-powered tools have made a splash in the athletic world, and for good reason. They deliver quick, deep massage in a matter of minutes, and are incredibly easy to use.
- Oscillating massage tools: Tools like foot and body massagers can help you get varying styles of comforting, therapeutic home massage. These are often more hands-off than massage guns, but provide similar relief.
- Massage chairs: These are a heftier investment compared to other electric massagers — but for many, they’re well worth it. A massage chair offers a completely effortless experience that can be used daily in the comfort of your home.
Foam rollers make it easy to perform self-myofascial release, a type of manual massage that uses slow, sustained, moderate pressure.
Foam rollers are popular as pre or post-workout tools. But nearly anyone — including veterans — can benefit from the improved mobility and relief that they bring.
If you have one on hand, you can try a wide range of exercises to stretch, knead, and roll out your muscles and fascia. They’re excellent for working on upper back knots, shoulder pain, and even stiff hamstrings or quads.
When it comes to home massage, a simple tennis ball can offer an affordable, accessible way to break up knots and discomfort.
To use one, simply apply pressure and roll it around the areas that need it most. This technique works well for tension in the back muscles, hips, and even the feet.
Precautions To Keep In Mind
It’s not uncommon for people who have served in the military to deal with chronic conditions and other health concerns. And while massage is usually very safe, there are some instances when you may need to be careful or avoid it entirely.
Be sure to talk to your doctor first if you have:
- A current fever or an acute illness
- Skin lesions, open wounds, or bruising
- Uncontrolled high blood pressure
- A history of blood clots
- Varicose veins
- Cancer (or are undergoing chemotherapy)
- Cardiovascular conditions
- Osteoporosis or other bone conditions
- Any serious medical condition that hasn’t been previously OK’d for massage
Massage Therapy for Veterans Resources
As a veteran, figuring out how to incorporate massage into your life can be tricky. The good news is that many resources can make it easier to save money and find relief.
Firstly, it can help to answer the question: “Does the VA cover massage therapy?”
In many cases, yes. The VHA Whole Health System considers clinical massage to be a complementary, evidence-based approach to care in veteran health. And when deemed medically necessary by your primary care physician, it may be provided free of charge. However, the availability will depend on your local VA clinic and community care services.
Your doctor may prescribe massage for specific areas of muscle pain, arthritis, back pain, and other physical or mental health conditions.
You can learn more about your specific coverage (and what services may be available to you) by giving your local VA office a call.
Check With Local Massage Providers
Beyond working with the VA, you can also check with local massage clinics about discounts or programs they participate in. For example, some businesses may offer military discounts for those who have served, and others may partner with the VA as part of community care.
Aside from that, other home healthcare companies can help connect veterans with skilled, in-home massage therapists. The sessions are often fully covered by VA benefits, but they do require a referral from your primary care team.
Those who have served in the military are more likely to face mental and physical health hurdles throughout their lives. They may experience pain, anxiety, and a range of other health challenges — and for many, finding relief means using a combination of standard treatments and natural tools like massage.
Fortunately, good massage may help veterans:
- Get better sleep
- Experience improved mood
- Decrease stress
- Relieve muscle aches and pains
As a rule of thumb, it’s best to check with your doctor before trying massage, especially if you have any health conditions that you’re not sure about. Once you’ve got the OK, you can connect with local clinics, get a referral from your physician, or invest in home tools to bring more comfort and relief to your life.
Get MedMassager’s Veterans’ Discount
The advanced massage tools from MedMassager can help you reap the therapeutic benefits of massage — all from the comfort of your home.
For all the veterans out there, pick up a massager and use the promo code VET15 for 15% off today.