Therapeutic massage is a general term that describes any type of massage modality that helps relieve pain, reduce stress, and work on a specific problem—such as a frozen shoulder. People tend to assume therapeutic massage means deep tissue massage, and that they will get a very strong massage.
What is therapeutic massage used for?
Therapeutic massage incorporates a variety of advanced modalities that enhance the body’s natural restorative functioning. Light to firm touch is used to release tension, relax muscles, increase blood and lymph circulation, and impart a sense of calm.
What is Therapeutic Massage Therapy?
Therapeutic Massage Therapy is defined as the mobilization of soft tissue (such as muscle, fascia and body fluids) to restore normal systemic and bio-mechanical/functional use. It can be used to assist in the treatment of most musculo-skeletal and associated problems, and regular Therapeutic Massage Therapy results in improved circulatory, lymphatic and neurological functioning.
Therapeutic Massage Therapy is a great way to improve your quality of life. It relieves stress, can be both stimulating or soothing, and helps to create inner balance and harmony.
Therapeutic Massage can be stimulating or soothing depending on the technique, depth and speed. Carried out by a Registered Therapist, Therapeutic Massage Therapy is both safe and effective and helps to create balance and harmony from within.
Today, given the high levels of stress under which many people live, Therapeutic Massage Therapy is not only a highly beneficial therapy, but also one of the healthiest options to improving one’s quality of life.
Benefits of Therapeutic Massage Therapy
The benefits of Therapeutic Massage Therapy are profound and are becoming even more attractive as the world around us becomes more stressed, aggressive and anxiety ridden. Many companies in South Africa are beginning to adopt Therapeutic Massage Therapy in their own organizations and are actively encouraging their employees to have ongoing treatments.
Through the manipulations of the body’s soft tissue and muscles, therapeutic massage relieves muscle aches and pains. This practice is often used in sports conditioning, but it can also be beneficial in a variety of other ways. Therapeutic massage can help with the following conditions:
- Sleep problems
- Stress reduction
- Immune system function
Also, therapeutic Massage Therapy could be a relevant choice of health care in the following areas:
– Health maintenance and/or health promotion: Promotes general tissue health and encourages lifestyle and general health awareness
– Stress management: Helps relieve associated muscular tension and encourages general relaxation
– Post-operative care: Helps reduce recovery period and speeds up elimination of anesthetic, as well as reducing pain and stiffness associated with bed-rest
– Emotional and/or psychological disorders: Releases endorphins that help to uplift and reduce depression
– Terminal illness: Helps reduce pain and discomfort associated with long term bed-rest as well as providing support and reducing the effects of emotional stress for the patient as well as the family
– Chronic pain: Helps break the “pain spasm” cycle whilst reducing associated muscle tightness
– Care of the disabled: Provides emotional support as well as assisting in the maintenance of general tissue health
– Pre and/or post-event sports’ participation: Improves performance and recovery and reduces the likelihood of serious injury
Massage therapy is a treatment approach which is growing in demand and popularity. It was once considered an alternative or fringe approach, but it is now becoming much more mainstream. More importantly, now that massage therapy is considered a mainstream treatment option, many insurance companies provide coverage for treatment sessions. This form of therapy involves hands-on techniques to increase circulation, relieve tension, reduce stress, relieve anxiety, improve sleep, and promote relaxation throughout the entire body, as well as many other benefits. The body’s soft tissue areas include the muscles, tendons, connective tissue, etc. If someone is tense and in need of a release, or they have been injured and have extensive muscle and/or nerve tissue damage that plagues their body, massage therapy might be worth exploring. Here are some benefits of massage therapy.
It Is Relaxing – When the body is tense and under stress, it produces unhealthy levels of the well-known stress hormone, cortisol, which can contribute to weight gain, sleeplessness, digestive problems, and headaches. Massage therapy has been shown to decrease cortisol levels in the body. This enables the body to enter a recovery mode. Moreover, this form of therapy also triggers lasting feelings of relaxation, improved mood, and reduced stress levels.
It Reduces Stress – Not only can massage therapy help with stress relief, but regular massage sessions over a prolonged period of time can boost energy levels, reduce pain, and stimulate individuals on physical as well as emotional levels.
It Can Help Lower Blood Pressure – Regular massage therapy sessions have been found to reduce blood pressure levels. In fact, some long-term studies have shown that a consistent massage program can reduce both systolic (upper number) and diastolic (lower number) blood pressure. Moreover, it can also reduce cortisol levels within the body. Furthermore, consistent massage sessions can also reduce trigger sources for anxiety, hostility, tension, and depression. In turn, lower blood pressure levels can also reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and/or kidney failure, as well as many other health issues.
It Promotes Muscle Relaxation – The purpose of massage therapy is to target the source of the body’s pain via eliminating tense muscles, increasing flexibility, and providing relaxation to the affected muscles as well as the body as a whole. Massage also promotes circulation to the affected or injured muscles, which increases nutrients and oxygen to the damaged tissues. In turn, this increased activity to the affected sites reduces stiffness and edema (swelling) in the muscles and joints, as well as increases flexibility to help reduce pain. Moreover, this form of therapy also releases endorphins (pain-killing hormones), which boost the dopamine and serotonin levels in the body. These hormones assist the body in many ways–physically as well as emotionally. Case in point, they promote healing, pain management, and feelings of euphoria, as well as help to calm the nerves.
It Can Help Improve Circulation – The long-term benefits of massage therapy are not to be underestimated. Improved circulation is part of a snowball effect that occurs in the body as a result of receiving regular massage therapy on a consistent basis. This is because proper circulation brings damaged, stiff, and tense muscles the rich blood supply they need to promote healing.
Moreover, massage also promotes improved circulation via the use of hands-on pressure, which moves the blood through the damaged and congested areas of the body. In turn, the release of this same pressure causes new blood to flow into tissues. Furthermore, the squeezing, twisting, and pulling action of the massage technique also removes lactic acid from the muscle tissues. As a result, this action improves the lymph fluid circulation, which carries metabolic waste products away from internal organs and muscles. In turn, this results in lower blood pressure levels and improved overall body function.
It Can Help Improve Posture – Many Americans experience back, neck, and muscle pain from a variety of sources. However, the primary cause of this pain results from poor posture. In fact, chronic back pain, which is the number one reason for missed work days and second most common cause of disability, is often the result of incorrect or poor posture while standing and/or sitting. Moreover, being overweight, poor posture, and repetitive or overuse movements can also contribute to the strain on the back and other potential problem areas. As a result, the added strain often causes spasms, pain, and tense muscles in the hips, glutes, back, neck, and legs.
Massage therapy can help get the body back into proper alignment. In fact, improving one’s posture can be one of the most beneficial and relaxing aspects of massage therapy. Massage allows the body to relax and loosen the muscles made tense and sore via bad posture. In turn, this allows the body to position itself in its organic and pain-free posture. As part of a consistent massage therapy program, the body’s muscles are loosened and relaxed. Moreover, the joints have greater freedom, flexibility, range of motion, and pressure points are relieved. As a result, the body is able to position itself in an organic and healthy posture. In short, massage therapy helps to correct the positions and movements developed over time as a reaction to pain.
It Can Help Strengthen the Body’s Immune System – Regular massage sessions provide many benefits to the human body. It is a well-known fact that individuals who experience high levels of stress are more vulnerable to illness and injury. When stress is combined with sleep disturbances and poor nutrition, the impact is directed at the body’s immune system. Its ability to naturally protect itself against infections, pathogens, and bacteria is greatly reduced. Some might wonder how massage therapy benefits the immune system. Studies have indicated that regular massage sessions not only help reduce stress, but can also boost the immune system’s cytotoxic capacity (activity level of the body’s natural “killer cells”) and enhances the body’s ability to deliver nourishment. Moreover, massage therapy can be a great addition to any exercise program. Much like regular exercise can keep the body fine-tuned, regular massage therapy can help keep the immune system strong and resilient.
Once considered an alternative or fringe approach, massage therapy is now much more mainstream and growing in popularity. More importantly, now that massage therapy is considered a mainstream treatment option, many insurance companies provide coverage for treatment sessions. This form of therapy involves hands-on techniques to increase circulation, relieve tension, reduce stress, relieve anxiety, improve sleep, and promote relaxation throughout the entire body, as well as many other benefits.
Therapeutic Massage Therapy encompasses the philosophy that the body knows how to heal itself and touch is the messenger that sends the signal to the body to do what its own wisdom tells it. If it is practiced in a professional environment and applied correctly, it is one of the most powerful methods of treating and preventing pain as well as helping one to achieve a total state of well-being in a non-invasive, safe and healing way.
Types of Massage Therapeutic Massage
Massage has been practiced for thousands of years. Today, if you need or want a massage, you can choose from about 80 massage therapy styles with a wide variety of pressures, movements, and techniques. These all involve pressing, rubbing, or manipulating muscles and other soft tissues with hands and fingers. Sometimes, even forearms, elbows, or feet are used.
According to the American Massage Therapy Association, up to 25 percent of American adults had a massage at least once during 2016-2017. And, they have a wide range of reasons for doing so. More and more people — especially baby boomers — recognize the health benefits of massage. They choose from among many massage styles to get relief from symptoms or to heal injuries, to help with certain health conditions, and to promote overall wellness.
You may have noticed that different massage styles are popular at different times. And you may have wondered whether each was just part of a passing fad or the latest, greatest massage technique? Even more important is how can you tell whether the latest style will actually help you?
Styles used in massage therapy range from long, smooth strokes to short, percussive strokes. Some massage therapists use oils and lotions; others do not. Most massage therapists have clients unclothe for a massage, but some do not. A massage can last anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hours.
Before you can decide which massage style is best for you, you need to ask yourself a question. Do you simply want a massage for relaxation and stress control? Or do you need symptom relief or help with a certain health condition? Before booking a massage, let the therapist know what you’re looking for and ask which style the therapist uses. Many use more than one style. Or the therapist may customize your massage, depending on your age, condition, or any special needs or goals you have.
The most common type of massage is Swedish massage therapy. It involves soft, long, kneading strokes, as well as light, rhythmic, tapping strokes, on topmost layers of muscles. This is also combined with movement of the joints. By relieving muscle tension, Swedish therapy can be both relaxing and energizing. And it may even help after an injury.
Four common strokes of Swedish massage are:
- Effleurage: a smooth, gliding stroke used to relax soft tissue
- Petrissage: the squeezing, rolling, or kneading that follows effleurage
- Friction: deep, circular movements that cause layers of tissue to rub against each other, helping to increase blood flow and break down scar tissue
- Tapotement: a short, alternating tap done with cupped hands, fingers, or the edge of the hand
Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage is best for giving attention to certain painful, stiff “trouble spots” in your body. The massage therapist uses slow, deliberate strokes that focus pressure on layers of muscles, tendons, or other tissues deep under your skin. Though less rhythmic than other types of massage, deep tissue massage may be therapeutic — relieving chronic patterns of tension and helping with muscle injuries, such as back sprain.
Developed to help with muscle systems used for a particular sport, sports massage uses a variety of approaches to help athletes in training — before, during, or after sports events. You might use it to promote flexibility and help prevent injuries. Or, it may help muscle strains, aiding healing after a sports injury.
Ever gone to a county fair, music festival, or conference and envied other people getting chair massages? Passed by the chair massage section in an airport? Or, maybe you’re lucky enough to work at a company that offers 15- to 20-minute massages as a regular benefit. Onsite, chair massages are done while you’re seated fully clothed in a portable, specially designed chair. They usually involve a massage of your neck, shoulders, back, arms, and hands.
In Japanese, shiatsu means “finger pressure.” For shiatsu massage, the therapist uses varied, rhythmic pressure on certain precise points of the body. These points are called acupressure points, and they are believed to be important for the flow of the body’s vital energy, called chi. Proponents say shiatsu massage can help relieve blockages at these acupressure points.
During a Thai massage, the therapist uses his or her body to move the client into a variety of positions. This type of massage includes compression of muscles, mobilization of joints, and acupressure.
Hot Stone Massage
For this kind of massage, the therapist places warmed stones on certain areas of the body, such as acupressure points. The stones may be used as massage tools or be temporarily left in place. Used along with other massage techniques, hot stones can be quite soothing and relaxing as they transmit heat deep into the body.
Reflexology uses hand, thumb, and finger techniques to stimulate certain areas of the feet. These areas are believed to correspond to different parts of the body. The massage, then, is expected to promote health and well-being.
During pregnancy, your body goes through major changes. Pregnancy massage can help with these changes by reducing stress, decreasing arm and leg swelling, and relieving muscle and joint pain. Massage may be particularly helpful during a time when medication and other medical options may be more limited. Using specially designed massage pillows, the massage therapist will help get you into a comfortable position for this type of massage.
What Are the Health Benefits of Massage?
Many types of massage offer benefits beyond simple relaxation. Here are just a few of the health problems that may benefit from massage. Ask your doctor before using massage for any health condition, though.
- Back pain . More than one study has shown the effectiveness of massage therapy for back pain.
- Headache . Another type of pain — headache — also responds to massage therapy. Some studies suggest that massage therapy can reduce the number of migraines a person has and also improve sleep.
- Osteoarthritis . In the first clinical trial looking at the effectiveness of Swedish massage for knee osteoarthritis, participants who received a one-hour massage either one or two times a week had improvements in pain, stiffness, and function. The control group had no such change.
- Cancer. Used as a complement to traditional, Western medicine, massage can promote relaxation and reduce cancer symptoms or side effects of treatment. It may help reduce pain, swelling, fatigue, nausea, or depression, for example, or improve the function of your immune system. However, there are specific areas that a massage therapist should avoid in a cancer patient, as well as times when massage should be avoided altogether. Talk to your doctor before getting massage therapy if you have cancer.
- Depression. A review of 17 clinical trials found that massage therapy may help reduce depression. But for generalized anxiety disorder, it was no more effective than providing a calming environment and deep breathing exercises.
*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider.
Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended as diagnosis, treatment, or prescription of any kind. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader. These statements are not expressions of legal opinion relative to the scope of practice, medical diagnosis or medical advice, nor do they represent an endorsement of any product, company or specific massage therapy technique, modality or approach. All trademarks, registered trademarks, brand names, registered brand names, logos, and company logos referenced in this post are the property of their owners.