"I call them Billy, and Daisuke, and Wolff, and Maria …"

When you think of therapeutic massage - also called massotherapy - maybe you picture a 300-pound Swede pounding your back with a clenched fist. Ouch! But therapeutic massage actually encompasses a broad array of approaches and philosophies - and bonus, most of them don't even hurt.

Lymphatic massage and manual lymph drainage are both based on the belief that the lymph glands, which play a key role in a healthy immune system, can be manipulated through massage, thereby improving their function. The former method entails a combination of deep, shiatsu-style pressure and more gentle relaxation methods, while the latter is a circular technique applied in gentle strokes in the direction of the heart.

If your idea of a great massage is emerging from it smelling good, then aromatherapy might be just the ticket. The masseuse selects scented oils s/he thinks will suit your needs - after consulting you - and performs a relaxation massage. Some people enjoy this form of massage, while others find the scents unpleasant. The scientific community has also cast doubts on the efficacy of scents as health treatments.

And if full-on holistic is really your thing, allow us to introduce you to Thai massage. This method uses vigorous pressure to realign your "energy." According to practitioners, the body has 72,000 energy channels called sen. If someone is going to claim to be an expert in this massage style, however, they should have to prove it: Before handing over your hard-earned dough, ask the practitioner to name all 72,000 sen.

Whether you're jumping into a pool for aquatic therapy, learning how to move your body studying the Feldenkrais method, or working through some stretches with a Breema expert, therapeutic massage offers you a diverse range of choices - and some of them might even be based on sound physiological principles!

Most people enjoy massage treatments. If that includes you, then by all means go for it. But be leery of exotic spiritual claims or beliefs based on ancient wisdom. Ancient wisdom said the Earth was flat and the mentally ill were possessed by demons.

The wisdom of the ancients wasn't always so wise.

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