Massage therapists everywhere will agree that a regular massage is certainly great for your health and well being but can you claim a massage as a legitimate medical expense? Well, actually, yes you can. Here are three ways you may be able to get that massage paid for.
If you have a flexible savings account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA), it allows you save money tax-free from each pay check - and you can use the funds to pay for massage. Definitely worth looking into because if you don’t use your allocated funds by the end of every year they go right back to your employer.
Massage therapy is one thing you may be able to use the funds for. A medical massage is a ‘qualified medical expense’ – but you’ll have to have a written prescription from your healthcare provider. The IRS also states that “medical care expenses must be primarily to alleviate or prevent a physical or mental ailment.” So, if you’re getting a massage to relieve or help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, stress, back pain, arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, anxiety, depression or for pain management, you can claim.
Your healthcare provider will need to prove:
Are massages tax deductible expenses?
Talking of the IRS, you might not be aware that there are some situations where you can potentially deduct massage therapy on your taxes – but as with FSA and HSA you have to make sure that your massages qualify.
You can’t deduct massage from your taxes if:
• You paid for it using with an HSA or FSA account.
• It was a pleasure massage and not carried out for a nonmedical reason (or for a medical reason not officially diagnosed by a medical professional.)
You may be able to deduct your massages if you’re getting them for a medical reason, and you have an official diagnosis.
According to the American Massage Therapy Association, in 2016, 17% of all Americans talked to their healthcare providers about massage therapy, and 63% of those doctors either referred the patient to a massage therapist or recommended medical massage. If a doctor, or other licensed medical practitioner, like a chiropractor, prescribes massage, it’s worth looking into deducting the expense on your taxes.
Keeping records of your medical massage
If you’re going to deduct medical massage on your taxes, you need to make sure that your massage therapist is licensed in his or her state of practice, and always keep your receipts.
Insurance Covered Massage Therapy
Did you know that your insurance could cover massage therapy too? It all depends on the insurance plan and carrier, and as with all insurance policies, there will be terms and restrictions. Some plans cover massages under the form of chiropractic care, while others cover a small amount of each massage treatment, say 15 minutes. You can find out if your insurance covers massage therapy by taking a closer look at your health insurance policy or asking your agent.
So, there you have it...three ways in which you may be able to get the cost of your medical massage treatments covered!
Have you heard of hydosols? I had not until recently so I started doing some research on what they are used for and found it quite interesting. The "short and sweet" explanation of a hydrosol... when plants are being steam distilled or hydro distilled for their essential oil properties the water that remains from the steam distilation process is the hydrosol. Hydrosols have the same aroma and therapeutic properties and can be sprayed directly onto the body whereas some essential oils need to be mixed with a carrier. Hydrosols can be sprayed on the skin, on to your sheets at night or just into the air as a freshener. Love it!
One thing that kept popping up while doing the research is to be careful you are really getting a pure hydrosol. Same with purchasing essential oils it is important to get pure 100% essential oils. There is a lot of essential oils floating around now that they have become so popular and many are not 100% essential oil. Some have what they call "fillers" and will only be a small amount of actual essential oil. So apparently it is the same with hydrosols. Some are sold as floral waters which is water with drops of essential oil added. so just be aware of what you are purchasing.
Here are a few common hydrosols and their therapeutic properties found on https://naha.org (National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy:
German Chamomile: anti-inflammatory, cooling, inflammatory skin conditions
Clary Sage: PMS, hot flashes, anti-depression, astringent
Lavender: relaxing, anti-inflammatory
Neroli/Orange Flower: stress relieving, all around skin care, astrigent
Witch Hazel: astrigent, insect bites, oily skin, acne, wound cleanser
Here are just a couple of places that I have heard about where you can purchase hydrosols. I am not endorsing them but here is a good place to start researching for yourself.
Body scrubs are very easy to make, you simply mix the ingredients together store and store them in a glass container. Plastic containers are fine as long as you use your scrub within a couple of months. Essential oils will start to break down the plastic.
Lemon & Rosemary Salt Scrub
2 cups Sea Salt
1 cup Sweet Almond Oil any oil of preference
Zest of One Lemon
4 Drops of Lemon Essential Oil
1 Teaspoon Rosemary Chopped
Citrus Morning Scrub
½ cup light olive oil or any oil of preference
1 cup sea salt
lemon zest from one lemon
2 drops grapefruit essential oil
There isn’t much that is more relaxing to me than a bath at the end of a long day! Well sometimes at the start of a long day they are nice too. To make a bath extra special try some of these ingredients & enjoy!
Milk or Milk & Honey – The lactic acid in the milk will gently exfoliate you skin and the honey is softening to the skin. Just add a few cups of milk with 1-2 tablespoons of honey to your warm bath water. You can also add powdered milk straight to the water. Relax and enjoy!
Herbal Bath – Use a few herbal teabags to create a soothing or energizing bath. You can add the teabags straight to the tub, or brew a strong tea (4 bags in a small pot of water) and add the tea to your bath, Try Chamomile for relaxation, lemon zinger for uplifting, or a green tea bath for detoxing.
Epsom salts bath – Epsom salts are made from magnesium sulfate magnesium helps keep enzyme activity regular in your body and that helps your bodies functions to run smoothly. Sulfate is also important, and helps with the formation of brain tissue, joint proteins, and strengthening the walls of the digestive system. Epsom salts can also soothe sore muscles, relieve stress and soften your skin. It can also relieve psoriasis and eczema. Who knew a bath could do all that!
Oatmeal Bath– If your skin is dry, itchy or irritated try an oatmeal bath. Oatmeal balances the skins PH, and has natural cleansers. You can buy packets of oatmeal bath at the drugstore, or to save money just make your own at home. Fill a sock or nylon stocking with one cup of old fashioned oats, soak the sock in your bath water squeeze it every few minutes to release the oatmeal starch into the water. If you are trying an oatmeal bath for a skin condition, don’t make the water too hot, that can further irritate your skin.
To make your bath even more relaxing I recommend: candles or an aromatherapy diffuser, a bath pillow, relaxing music, and a good book! Happy Soaking!
-EmbraceLife! Therapeutic Massage
While massage therapy can have benefits that last days or weeks at a time, that doesn’t mean you can neglect your body every day in between appointments. To help the effects of your massage last longer and simply to feel better, you’ll need to practice some self-care. Massage therapy is not a luxury, nor is it selfish to receive. Daily self-care is no different.
So here’s 7 easy self-care tips you can start using today to get you through until your next massage appointment.
#1: Take breaks
Whether you’re working at a desk all day, standing in one spot, or doing hard manual labor, your body needs a break. Ideally, you’d want to take about 10 minutes for every hour of work, but I know not every work environment accommodates that sort of schedule, so take a break as often as possible. And I mean a real break. Don’t grab lunch at your desk while you keep working, or go from a computer screen to your phone screen scrolling through social media. A real break, one that’s going to benefit your body and mind, is one in which you do the opposite of your work. So if you sit at a desk all day, take a break by going outside for a 10 minute walk on nice days, or at least walk around the office and chat with coworkers about things that aren’t work related. If your job is more physically assertive, take a break by sitting back, kicking up your feet and closing your eyes for a few minutes. Whatever it is you do, give your mind and body a true rest from those tasks, or you won’t feel like you’ve had a break at all.
During that break, or even while you’re working, move your body and stretch! Focus on the areas that tend to bother you at the end of the day, even if they’re not hurting right at the moment. Incorporating some small stretches throughout the day will often prevent that pain you may be feeling by the time you’re ready to clock out.
Back massagers, foot baths, Thera Canes, and more…while there’s all kinds of specific tools designed to help you reach those hard to massage areas, a tennis ball can be just as good. You can use it for just about any area with only your bodyweight as leverage to get pressure. For example, try lying on your back on the floor, with the tennis ball placed under your back (if this is too much pressure, try leaning against a wall instead). You can use your feet to rock yourself left and right, up and down, letting the ball find different areas of tension. When you find a good spot, try to relax and breathe into it until that tension melts away. While these tools don’t replace the skilled hands of a trained massage therapist, they can help to relieve the daily tension that can build up between appointments.
#4: Get Outside
Fresh air does a body good, and this is actually backed up by science. Research suggests that spending time outdoors helps you to clear your mind, improve your focus, and just feel happier. So whether it’s taking a break during work or making a day of it on a weekend, spend time outdoors.
#5: Meditate / Breathe
Meditation has been shown time and again to help reduce stress and ease tension in the body, but I know it seems like a daunting task for many. Meditation isn’t just about clearing your mind completely (that’s impossible for most of us), but is instead about focusing your mind on something. Some prefer guided meditation to keep them focused, and others enjoy just some quiet time breathing. Find what works for you. There’s no right or wrong about it. To start, try taking just 5 minutes somewhere quiet to breathe. Close your eyes and focus your attention on your body. What sensations do you feel? Focus on slowly relaxing each and every muscle from the top of your head all the way down to your toes. Making even a short exercise like this a normal part of your daily activities not only helps you relax, but it builds your body awareness – your ability to perceive where you are in space, and to recognize the sensations of your own body. This can, in turn help you recognize when your body is close to injury and prevent you from pushing too hard, or help you to isolate a problem area you may need work on.
#6: Turn up the music
Music is good for the soul and can help to take your mind off daily stresses. Studies have shown that playing music causes dopamine, a feel-good chemical, to be released into the brain. This is the same chemical that’s released when we eat chocolate and fall in love. It’s pretty powerful stuff! So while you’re driving to and from work, crank up the tunes and rock out. If you can’t stand the music they play at work (if any), bring your own and put in some headphones. It’ll help you to concentrate and feel good all day.
#7: Get plenty of sleep
Sleep is absolutely crucial to keeping your body in tip-top shape. If your sleep is suffering, everything else will suffer as well. Most adults need a minimum of 7 hours of sleep a night, but many people are far below that. Everyone’s needs are different, so you may be perfectly fine with less than that, or you may need more. The best way to determine this is to go without an alarm clock for at least 1 week and go to bed at the same time every night. This allows your body to fall into a rhythm of what it really needs instead of what it’s been forced to do for so long. You’ll soon see just how much sleep your body requires when you allow it to wake naturally.
And no, sleeping in on the weekends doesn’t make up for a week of lost sleep. Sleep deprivation (those who get less than the recommended 7 hours) can result in a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and a decreased immune system. Not to mention the smaller side effects like loss of concentration, decreased productivity, and irritability. So if you want to feel good throughout your time between massage appointments, make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
EmbraceLife! Therapeutic Massage
Depression is an all-too-common struggle for people all over the globe. According to the World Health Organization, it’s estimated that 350 million people suffer from depression. While there are many treatment options, one you may not have thought of is massage therapy. Massage can decrease muscle tension and ease some of the daily physical stress you may put on your body, but it can also go beyond just making you feel good.
A study from the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine¹ found that massage decreases the stress hormone cortisol by an average of 31%. There has been a long-standing association between high cortisol or impaired regulation of cortisol levels and anxiety and depression. Decreasing cortisol and aiding the continued regulation of this hormone can potentially ease some of the symptoms of depression.
This same study also concluded that massage increases the levels of two very important feel-good neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine, by 28% and 31% respectively. Both of these neurotransmitters play an important role in mood regulation.
Along with these measurable changes within the body, there are also benefits that aren’t so measurable. One of the biggest is the mind-body connection that is enhanced when massage therapy becomes a regular part of your self-care routine. When the brain and nervous system can take the time to calm down, receive plenty of oxygen during the deep breathing a massage can induce, and relish in the sensations associated with the massage – the way the pressure feels as the hands move from one muscle group to another; the pull of a good stretch; the release as a muscle finally lets go – all of these stimulate the brain to perceive the sensations of the body differently, and in a more positive way.
Massage therapy also creates a safe space for positive touch. Touch is a necessary part of being the social creatures we are as humans. A lack of touch can actually have very harsh effects on us, physically and emotionally, but many people have experienced touch in a very negative way, and avoid it as much as possible. However, taking 60 or 90 minutes once a week or once a month to allow yourself to receive positive, safe touch that you may otherwise not receive, can help ease those feelings of discomfort, loneliness, and depression. One study² found that massage therapy supported significant improvement of the psychological and physical well-being of sexual abuse survivors.
So while massage may not be a cure for depression, and it’s not a substitute for medications or therapy, it can play a major role as part of a holistic approach to the treatment of depression.
¹ Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy. Field T1, Hernandez-Reif M, Diego M, Schanberg S, Kuhn C. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16162447
² Body-oriented therapy in recovery from child sexual abuse: an efficacy study. Price C1.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16189948
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects around 5 per cent of the US population, but we can all feel a bit flat at this time of the year. Fewer hours of daylight, less sunshine, and having to deal with cold weather all contribute to a general feeling of lethargy and once the holidays are over it can feel as if the sunny skies of spring are a long way away.
Aromatherapy is a really effective way to lift your spirits naturally; try these aromatic tips to boost your mood on chilly, miserable winter days.
Winter aromatherapy blends
Some essential oils naturally work well at this time of year. A couple of our favorites are:
For a winter-busting massage oil blend, multiply the number of drops by two so that you have ten drops of essential oil, and add them to a dark bottle. Mix the drops with 1 fl. ounce carrier oil and shake well.
You can also use them in a diffuser. Multiply the number of drop above by four so that there are 20 drops in total, add to a dark colored glass bottle and mix well. Add the pure essential oil drops to a diffuser and enjoy.
Last November I had the privilege to participate in an event called Dementia Live put on by AGE-u-cate Training Institute. Many of us know family members or friends who have been impacted by this disease. This event gives you a small insight into what a person living with dementia experiences every day. This program only lasts about 10 minutes with a short discussion time at the end.
What to expect
Each group consists of 2 to 4 people. You are given textured gloves, glasses that cut off your peripheral vision and headphones with high volume noise. One by one you are given a set of instructions and placed in the room to complete your tasks. You find yourself confused, a little frustrated, you have trouble seeing, and the noise in your ears is loud and annoying. You only heard a few words of the instructions so you try to figure out what to do. You are startled many times by sudden loud noises in the headphones. After about 10 minutes they motion for you to stop and the group is brought together to discuss how you felt going through the dementia program.
Most participants said they felt frustrated that they couldn't understand what was being told to them so they didn't know what to do in the room. One of my tasks was to tie the laces of the tennis shoes. All I heard was "shoes" but when I found them I saw they were untied and tied them. Then I thought "now what?" I found myself holding onto the tennis shoes in fear someone would take my task away from me.
The second thing mentioned was the constant noise in our ears which made it hard to concentrate. We were shocked when we were told that is what a person living with dementia experiences on a day to day basis. Sound to a person with dementia is amplified...a pan dropping in the kitchen on the other side of the house or another patient screaming on the next hall over sounds like it is right next to them. Their world is turned upside down.
Here's the interesting part*
The facilitator passed out information that I found amazing. Did you know that being deficient in Vitamin D, Vitamin B, Omega's, being dehydrated or having a urinary tract infection can mimic dementia? We were challenged to take our loved one for a blood test first before seeking help from a memory care doctor. The presenting symptoms could be just that...symptoms of a vitamin deficiency, dehydration or a urinary tract infection. At least this is a place to start.
Ways to help communicate with someone with dementia*
If anyone is interested in learning more about dementia and how to be better at communicating with someone with dementia I highly recommend going through this short program. It is definitely an eye-opener and it is free. Call the number below for more information.
AGE-u-cate Training Institute
*information received from AGE-u-cate handout.