Overview

Massage therapy is a collective term that covers various techniques and types of massages designed to relieve and alleviate certain needs and physical conditions. Massage therapists apply pressure to knead, glide, and tap the layers of the muscles using the fingers, hands, forearms, elbows, and even the feet to release built-up tension and relieve pain. However, the benefits of massage therapy far exceed just relaxation.

Types and Benefits of Massage Therapy

A massage therapy is frequently sought to unwind after a hard day’s work, to energize the spirit, to treat back pain and muscle tension, and to improve blood flow. Among the most common massage techniques being practiced today include the following:

  • Swedish Massage - Considered as one of the most popular types, this involves the application of long, sweeping strokes, rolling and muscle kneading, along with rhythmic tapping for stress relief and muscle relaxation.

  • Shiatsu Massage - Also a common type, this technique combines finger pressure with gentle stretches to improve blood flow and relieve stress.

  • Thai Massage - This type of massage works out your entire body through stretching and yoga-like moves leaving you feeling invigorated and energized.

  • Trigger Point Therapy - This uses a cycle of isolated pressure and release to alleviate the pain in the trigger point or targeted area.

  • Deep Tissue Massage - This is similar to a Swedish massage, but with this technique, deep pressure is applied to specific trouble areas and may leave you feeling sore in the next few days.

  • Sports Massage - A sports massage, which is specifically designed for physically active individuals, combines various massage techniques and focuses on specific areas of the body. It helps athletes prepare for an event and prevent or treat an injury.

  • Reflexology - In this type of massage, pressure is applied to certain areas of the hands and feet to address certain conditions, to relieve stress, and to promote relaxation.

  • Hot Stone Massage - With this kind of massage, therapists also apply warmed stones on certain parts of the body to relieve pain and to relax tensed muscles.

  • Prenatal Massage - This type of massage is the best therapeutic choice for pregnant women. The techniques used are based on one’s preference and needs.

Neuromuscular Therapy Massage - This more complex type of massage involves the manipulation of underlying tissues and nerves that are considered sources of chronic pain.

The aforementioned types of massages don't only offer relaxation but are also proven to provide relief to certain medical and physical conditions. Various research have shown that massage therapy offers the following benefits:

  • Relieves chronic pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and pain related to childbirth
  • Helps cancer patients reduce pain, feel relaxed, and improve their immune system function
  • Decreases instances of depression and anxiety in mental health patients
  • Improves behavior of children with autism
  • Promotes better quality of life and levels of glucose in diabetic patients
  • Improves lung function in asthma patients
  • Decreases anxiety and pain in heart surgery patients
  • Helps relieve chronic headaches and migraine
  • Alleviates temporomandibular joint-related pain
  • Decreases stress-related insomnia
  • Improves digestive function and helps treat digestive disorders

Side Effects of Massage Therapy

Certain forms of massages can make you feel sore the next day, but massages are generally not painful or uncomfortable. Massage therapy is proven to relieve certain medical conditions, but only when performed by a trained therapist. Special attention must be given by the therapists to provide massage treatment services that best suit your needs and condition.

Massage therapists must take vital precautions when dealing with patients with health conditions. For instance, deep tissue massage must be avoided for people taking anti-coagulant medications, those with bleeding problems and those with low blood platelet counts. Similarly, intense pressure must not be applied in an area where there’s tumor, injury, or wound, unless approved by the doctor. Those with severe osteoporosis, thrombocytopenia, and deep vein thrombosis are also highly discouraged from getting massages.

Most importantly, massage therapy must not be considered as a replacement for conventional medical care. If you suffer from a medical condition, it is important to discuss with your doctor whether massage therapy will help or is appropriate for you.

Specialty: Massage Therapist

Massage therapy is performed by licensed therapists to relieve stress and/or pain, improve circulation, increase relaxation, rehabilitate injuries, and promote the overall well-being of the patient. Most states and cities around the world regulate massage therapy, as therapeutic massage must not be performed by an inexperienced or untrained person. A massage therapist will touch and manipulate many soft tissues and muscles in the body, all of which are part of an intricate and delicate network of body structures. Touching and applying pressure on the wrong tissues will not only cause pain but may also lead to injuries.

It is then imperative that you choose only a licensed and experienced massage therapist to do the job. In order to be licensed, a massage therapist must complete a post-secondary education program, undergo therapy training and must have at least 500 hours of experience and study. Training standards and requirements vary by country, state, and locality.

References:

  • www.nccam.nih.gov. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: “Massage Therapy for Health Purposes”Feb. 2014

  • www.amtamassage.org American Massage Therapy Association: "2008 Massage Therapy Industry Fact Sheet;" "Choosing a Type of Massage;" "Glossary of Massage Terms;" and "Massage and Serious Health Conditions."

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