Massage therapy is an ancient form of alternative medicine used to prevent and alleviate symptoms and to promote relaxation, healing and an aura of health and happiness. There are many different types of massage therapy, but all involve hands-on pressing, rubbing, and kneading the soft tissues. The massage therapist primarily manipulates the patient with trained hands and fingers, but may also at times make use of the forearms, elbows, or even the feet during treatment. Massage therapy is considered safe, simple and effective for most patients, offering many benefits and very minimal risks.
While massage therapy can be very beneficial when practiced by a skilled practitioner, it can be ineffective or even dangerous if the massage therapist has not been properly trained. Patients considering massage therapy should do research prior to treatment to make sure the therapist has a state license or certification.
Types of Massage Therapy
There are several different types of massage therapy, each designed to target specific symptoms in the affected area. These include:
- Swedish massage
- Deep tissue massage
- Trigger point massage
- Shiatsu massage
Because needs of individual patients vary, it is important to understand something about the type of massage being offered. The duration and cost of a massage therapy session is also quite variable and should always be discussed before treatment.
Goals of Massage Therapy
Massage therapy involves stimulating the soft tissues to increase blood flow and stimulate healing. Massages can be used to:
- Block pain signals
- Reduce stiffness and muscle tension
- Improve breathing
- Improve range of motion and flexibility
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Promote circulation and eliminate toxins
- Speed up the healing process
- Release serotonin and endorphins
Massage treatments on a regular basis can help patients to maintain positive results and keep symptoms under control. Beyond relieving specific symptoms, massage therapy can improve a patient’s overall quality of life by reducing stress and improving vitality.
Conditions Treated with Massage Therapy
Massage therapy has been proven effective in improving a wide range of health conditions, including:
- Sleep disorders
- Circulatory problems
- Muscularskeletal pain, especially of the back
- Body aches of osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia
- Digestive disorders
- Anxiety or depression
- Cancer-related symptoms
- Symptoms resulting from chemotherapy or radiation
Research studies have shown that massage therapy has been particularly effective for back pain, significantly reducing the need for painkillers.
Risks of Massage Therapy
Massage therapy is considered a very safe treatment option with minimal side effects or risks. Mild side effects may include temporary pain or discomfort, bruising due to damaged blood vessels, or localized swelling. Rarely, more serious side effects may occur, such as fever, deep vein thrombosis, or compression bone fractures. Patients who are pregnant, elderly and frail, have cancer, heart or lung problems, severe osteoporosis, or other serious medical conditions should consult with their doctors before undergoing massage therapy.