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Massage Therapy

Treatment Overview

Massage is rubbing the soft tissues of the body, such as the muscles. Therapists usually apply pressure with their hands but sometimes with the forearms, elbows, and feet. There are at least 80 types of massage. Some are gentle. Some are intense.

Types of massage

There are at least 80 different types of massage. Some are gentle, and some are very active and intense.

Swedish massage.

Swedish massage is very gentle. It is often used to promote relaxation, improve blood flow, and relieve muscle tension. The therapist uses long, gliding strokes and kneading and tapping techniques on the top layer of muscles in the direction of blood flow to the heart. This may also include moving the joints gently to improve range of motion.

Deep tissue massage.

Deep tissue massage is more active and intense. It is used to treat long-lasting muscle tension. The therapist applies slow strokes (with the fingers, thumbs, and elbows) using intense pressure to reach deeper layers of the muscles than those reached with a Swedish massage technique.

Trigger point massage.
Trigger point massage may not be gentle and can sometimes be uncomfortable. The therapist applies firm pressure to knots or tight, tense muscles that have been overused or injured, continuing until the muscles relax. Let your massage therapist know if you feel any discomfort during the massage.
Self-massage.
You can easily massage your feet, hands, or neck while doing other tasks or while relaxing. Self-massage works best if you are in comfortable clothes and are sitting or lying in a comfortable position. Use oil or lotion to massage bare skin. You can use self-massage to unwind after work or school or to energize yourself in the morning.

Why It Is Used

People use massage to help relax and to relieve pain. It can also relieve muscle tension and may improve blood flow, relieve pressure on nerves, and restore normal joint movement.

Risks

When done the right way, massage is considered safe. But talk to your doctor before you get a massage if you:

  • Have open wounds.
  • Have bruises or areas of weak skin.
  • Have a blood clot in a vein.
  • Have a bleeding disorder, have low blood platelet counts, or take a medicine (called a blood thinner) that prevents blood clots.

Many massage therapists are certified. The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork offers this. It ensures that your massage therapist has a certain level of training and uses certain practice guidelines.

Always tell your doctor if you are using or are thinking about using an alternative therapy along with your standard medical treatment. It may not be safe to replace your standard treatment with an alternative therapy.

Credits

Current as of: September 23, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine