Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is the kneading and rubbing of the body to manipulate the body’s muscles and soft tissue.  Massage therapy can be an effective tool in the management of one’s health and overall well-being. Massage therapy is sometimes used as a complementary treatment along with traditional medical protocols for numerous medical conditions.  Studies on massage therapy have found that it may be beneficial in the reduction of stress, depression, fatigue, quality of life issues, pain and muscle tension.  It may also be helpful in the treatment of headaches, anxiety, digestive disorders, fibromyalgia, insomnia, lower back, neck, shoulder, knee pain, and sports injuries.

Some patients have found massage therapy to be beneficial in the improvement of:

  • Cardiovascular health 
  • Reduction of osteoarthritis pain 
  • Stress reduction in cancer patients 
  • Reduction of chemotherapy-related nausea 
  • Improved balance in older adults 
  • Reduction of rheumatoid arthritis pain 
  • Lowering of blood pressure 
  • Decreased symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome 
  • Increased ability to concentrate and focus

Types of Massage Therapy

Swedish massage

Swedish massage is considered the most common type of massage therapy.  It is described as a gentle form of massage which helps to relax and energize the patient. It involves soft, long, kneading strokes, and light, rhythmic tapping stokes on top of the muscles, and movement of the joints.  This form of massage can be energizing as well as relaxing.

Deep tissue massage

Deep tissue massage uses firm pressure and slow strokes to focus on massaging deep layers of muscle and connective tissue to relax muscle tension and chronic pain.  It is helpful in increasing circulation, reducing inflammation, healing muscle damage from injuries, upper and lower back pain, a stiff neck, soreness, and anxiety.  Although deep tissue massage is more forceful, pain nor soreness should be experienced; and this type of massage is not recommended if you are overly sensitive to pressure.

Sports massage

Sports massage is similar to deep tissue massage with the therapist focusing on specific areas of the body, and stretching.  Sports massage is for those involved in repetitive sports activities to enhance flexibility, and to prevent or treat injuries.  

Trigger point massage

Trigger point massage treats tight areas within muscle fibers that can cause pain, usually after injuries or overuse. The therapist uses broad, flowing gentle strokes, combined with stronger deeper pressure. This type of massage is helpful in the management of chronic pain.

Hot stone massage

Hot stone massage is similar to a Swedish massage, with the therapist using hot stones for the massage rather than their hands.  With this type of massage, heated stones are placed on different areas of your body with the therapist using gentle pressure for massage. Hot stone massage is helpful to individuals in reducing muscle pain, tension, and stress; and is good for relaxation and improved blood flow. 

Chair massages

Chair massages are quick massages that usually include the neck, shoulders, back, arms, and hands while the person receiving the massage sits in a special chair and is fully clothed.  Chair massages are beneficial in relieving stress and promoting relaxation.

Thai massage

Thai massage involves the therapist using their palms and fingers to apply gentle pressure to compress muscles, mobilize joints, and to apply acupressure; patients are also stretched and twisted into various positions.   Thai massage can improve flexibility, circulation, decrease stress, increase energy levels, and relieve headaches.

Aromatherapy massage

Aromatherapy massage therapists use diluted essential oils with soft, gentle pressure to provide a full body massage while inhaling essential oils and absorbing them through the skin.  Aromatherapy massages are beneficial for enhancing moods, reducing stress, anxiety, and depression; and for the relief of pain and muscle tension. Aromatherapy massages are not recommended if you are sensitive to smell or essential oils.

Shiatsu massage

Shiatsu massage originated in Japan, and uses the fingers, thumbs and palm to apply pressure to various pressure points of the body.  Practitioners of Shiatsu believe that diseases are caused by blockages and imbalances of the energy flow throughout the body, and Shiatsu massage is used to heal and correct disharmonies and imbalances within the body.

Tuina massage

Tuina massage originated in China, and is a branch of Traditional Chinese medicine.  Practitioners of Tuina massage believe that pain and illnesses are caused because of blockages and imbalances of the body’s vital life force energy.  It is believed that Tuina massage can stimulate the flow of energy to improve harmony and balance within the body.  Tuina massage is sometimes used along with acupuncture as they both target specific acupressure points.  In Tuina, fingers are used, and with acupuncture, needles are used.  

Although massage therapy can be beneficial, it is not recommended as a replacement for traditional medical care.  Massage therapy should be discussed with your health care provider to determine if it is appropriate for you; particularly if you are pregnant, have cancer, or unexplained pain.  There are risks associated with massage therapy if the patient has bleeding disorders, takes blood-thinning medication, burns or healing wounds, deep vein thrombosis, fractures, severe osteoporosis, and severe thrombocytopenia. 

It is advised that you contact a massage therapy school or the American Massage Therapy Association to find a credible massage therapist.  If you have a history of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, or are pregnant it is recommended that you find a massage therapist who is experienced in those areas. 

Forty-three states, the District of Columbia, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico require massage therapists are licensed to practice massage therapy.  It is recommended that you ask the massage therapist that you are considering for their credentials.

Massage Therapy Resources

American Massage Therapy Association