Therapeutic Massage is the practice of applying manual or mechanical pressure, tension, motion, or vibration to the soft tissues of the body, including muscles, tendons and ligaments, to achieve a beneficial response. Massage Therapy is performed by a professional Massage Therapist or Physical Therapist.
Massage can be applied to parts of the body or successively to the whole body, to aid the process of injury healing, relieve stress, manage pain, and improve circulation.
What is massage?
Massage is a “hands-on” therapy in which muscles and other soft tissues of the body are manipulated 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.
Are there many types of massage?
There are nearly 100 different massage and body work techniques. Each technique is uniquely designed to achieve a specific goal. The most common types practiced in the United States include:
- Aromatherapy Massage: Essential oils from plants are massaged into the skin in order to enhance the healing and relaxing effects of massage. Essential oils are believed to have a powerful effect on mood by stimulating two structures deep in the brain known to store emotions and memory.
- Craniosacral Massage: Gentle pressure is applied to the head and spine to correct imbalances and restore the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in these areas.
- Myofascial Release: Gentle pressure and body positioning are used to relax and stretch the muscles, fascia (connective tissue), and related structures. Both physical therapists and massage therapists who are appropriately trained use this technique.
- Rolfing: Pressure is applied to the fascia (connective tissue) to stretch it, lengthen it, and make it more flexible. The goal of this technique is to realign the body so that it conserves energy, releases tension, and functions better.
- Shiatsu: Gentle finger and hand pressure are applied to specific points on the body to relieve pain and enhance the flow of energy through the body’s energy pathways (called meridians). Shiatsu is widely used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
- Sports Massage: Often used on professional athletes and other active individuals, sports massage can enhance performance and prevent and treat sports-related injuries.
- Swedish Massage: A variety of strokes and pressure techniques are used to enhance the flow of blood to the heart, remove waste products from the tissues, stretch ligaments and tendons, and ease physical and emotional tension.
- Trigger Point Massage: Pressure is applied to “trigger points” (tender areas where the muscles have been damaged or are overly sensitive) to alleviate muscle spasms and pain.
Should anyone avoid massage?
Massage should be avoided by people with congestive heart failure, kidney failure, phlebitis or cellulitis, blood clots, bleeding disorders, and contagious skin conditions. If you have cancer, you must check with your doctor before considering massage. Also, be sure to let your massage or physical therapist know of any medications you are taking.