Massage is a “hands on” treatment in which a therapist manipulates muscles and other soft tissues of the body to improve health and well-being. Varieties of massage range from gentle stroking and kneading of muscles and other soft tissues to deeper manual techniques. Massage has been practiced as a healing therapy for centuries in nearly every culture around the world. It helps relieve muscle tension, reduce stress, and evoke feelings of calmness. Although massage affects the body as a whole, it particularly influences the activity of the musculoskeletal, circulatory, lymphatic, and nervous systems.
Massage is a general term for pressing, rubbing and manipulating your skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments. Massage therapists typically use their hands and fingers for massage, but may also use their forearms, elbows and even feet. Massage may range from light stroking to deep pressure.
There are many different types of massage, including these common types:
- Swedish massage: This is a gentle form of massage that uses long strokes, kneading, deep circular movements, vibration and tapping to help relax and energize you.
- Deep massage: This massage technique uses slower, more-forceful strokes to target the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue, commonly to help with muscle damage from injuries.
- Sports massage: This is similar to Swedish massage, but it’s geared toward people involved in sport activities to help prevent or treat injuries.
- Trigger point massage: This massage focuses on areas of tight muscle fibers that can form in your muscles after injuries or overuse.
Benefits of massage
Massage is generally considered part of complementary and alternative medicine. It’s increasingly being offered along with standard treatment for a wide range of medical conditions and situations.
Studies of the benefits of massage demonstrate that it is an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension.
Studies have found massage may also be helpful for:
- Digestive disorders
- Insomnia related to stress
- Myofascial pain syndrome
- Paresthesias and nerve pain
- Soft tissue strains or injuries
- Sports injuries
- Temporomandibular joint pain
Beyond the benefits for specific conditions or diseases, some people enjoy massage because it often involves caring, comfort, a sense of empowerment and creating deep connections with their massage therapist.
Despite its benefits, massage isn’t meant as a replacement for regular medical care. Let your Doctor of Physical Therapy know you’re trying massage and be sure to follow any standard treatment plans you have.