Massage therapy is not just a way to “treat yo self”, although it definitely feels like a treat! In addition to the relaxing effects of massage, it also has several health benefits.
What is Massage Therapy?
Massage therapy is the manipulation of the soft tissues of the body. It can range from a lighter touch, such as Swedish Massage, to deep pressure like Deep Tissue Massage. There are many different types of massage, including these categories:
This kind of massage is more gentle, and generally consists of long, soft kneading strokes, and light pulsing strokes. These strokes are done in addition to the movement of the joints. Swedish massage is meant to relax and energize you.
This technique is often used to treat musculoskeletal issues from strains and sports injuries. It is much less gentle than Swedish massage, as it uses deeper, sustained pressure. The slow strokes target the inner muscle and connective tissue layers. This technique helps reduce tension following injury, and may help speed up healing by increasing blood flow and reducing inflammation.
Sports massage is similar to Swedish massage, but uses techniques to help athletes in training. Athletes receive these massages before, during, or after events, but specifically can use it to assist in flexibility and prevention of injury.
This technique is focused on relieving pain from muscle knots, which are tight, tender areas in muscles. This kind of massage uses cycles of pressure and release, and deep breathing. Pain in trigger points is typically decreased after just one session.
What are the Health Benefits of Massage Therapy?
Massage therapy research has shown that it can reduce symptoms of stress, pain, and muscle tension. It may also reduce anxiety, according to a study held by J. Clin Psychiatry. Not only does it reduce anxiety, for many in this study, the positive effects lasted in the long term. Massage is also thought to help with sleep, fatigue, and improving your ability to focus, all because it slows down the nervous system. In addition to helping with the mind, massage can also assist in healing injuries such as soft tissue strains, sports injuries, or temporomandibular joint pain. It is often used for short term pain relief in the neck and shoulders, or the knee. However, it is important to not replace seeking medical attention with massage.
Typically, your massage therapist will speak to you about what you expect to get out of the session. You will have the option to undress to your comfort level, or wear loose fitting clothing. Most times, you will lie on a table and be covered with a sheet, but you can also receive a massage fully clothed while sitting in a chair. Your therapist may use oil or lotion to make the experience more comfortable for you, but the choice is up to you.
In general, there are no risks associated with massage therapy. However, there are some reports involving deep tissue massage or massages performed on patients that might be at risk of injury. This group would include elderly people, those with severe osteoporosis, or blood clotting issues. These rare reports include blood clot, nerve injury, or bone fracture. You should discuss with your doctor whether massage would be a beneficial option, and your massage therapist should ask about your medical history and symptoms prior to your session. Issues that come from massage are due to high pressure, so if you feel any pain at all, let your therapist know right away.
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