Massage is among the oldest and often-practiced healing traditions. Many ancient civilizations were convinced of the therapeutic properties of massage therapy and used it to treat a wide variety of ailments. Therapeutic massage is the practice of manipulating a person’s muscles and other types of soft-tissues to reduce pain, promote relaxation, and improve their health. Massage practices are typically a form of manual therapy that may include grasping, moving, and applying pressure to the muscles and connective tissues, such as tendons, fascia, and ligaments. The term “massage therapy” is generally used to describe a broad range of techniques that can vary in the manner in which the touch, the amount of pressure, and the intensity of the treatment is applied. Massage is the manual manipulation of both the superficial and deeper layers of muscle and connective tissues.

Types of Massage Therapy

Massage therapy practitioners typically use oil, lotion, cream, or powder to allow their hands to slip over a person’s skin and create a smooth gliding motion. Many different modalities are included under the umbrella of massage therapy. Some of these include:
  • Swedish massage
  • Deep tissue therapy
  • Myofascial therapy
  • Acupressure massage
  • Shiatsu massage
  • Sports massage
  • Craniosacral massage
  • Baby and infant massage
  • Pregnancy massage
  • Lymph drainage massage
  • Aromatherapy
  • Reflexology

Conditions That Respond Favorably to Massage Therapy

Massage practitioners use a variety of techniques to help with issues such as: 
  • Relieve muscular tension
  • Promote relaxation and a sense of well-being
  • Decreasing pain and enhancing function
  • Decrease muscle reflex activity
  • Aid in the healing process
  • Inhibit motor-neuron excitability
  • Increase the circulation of blood and energy
Furthermore, massage techniques can​ improve sleep patterns and decrease sleep disturbances, reduce fatigue, enhance immune system function, improve athletic performance, and enhance recovery. Therapeutic massage may also be helpful for:
  • Anxiety
  • Fibromyalgia and neuralgia
  • Digestive disorders
  • Headaches, tension headaches, cluster headaches, and migraines
  • Relieving insomnia and improving sleep quality
  • Reducing stress
  • Myofascial pain syndromes
  • Nerve pain and paresthesias 
  • Soft tissue injuries or strains 
  • Sports injuries
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Neck, upper back, and lower back pain
  • Scoliosis
  • Muscle and tendon tears
  • Sciatica
  • Whiplash
  • “Tech” neck
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome
  • Pregnancy-related back pain and other discomforts
  • Shoulder and rotator cuff pain
  • Myofascial pain
  • Sore or overused muscles
  • Muscle injury

Beyond Physical Benefits

Therapeutic massage can be beneficial for emotional and mental health as well as promoting physical well-being. One of the benefits of massage felt immediately is a sense of deep calm and relaxation. This happens because the action of performing massage prompts the release of substances called endorphins, which are the brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that produce feelings of well-being. Additionally, levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine, are generally reduced during massage treatment. High levels of stress hormones can impair the digestive system, immune system, cardiovascular system, and more. Massage therapy’s relaxing benefits on the nervous system can include benefits such as:
  • Mood improvement
  • Anxiety reduction
  • Lowered stress levels
  • Lessening of depression
  • Anger, irritability, and aggression reduction
Indeed, therapeutic massage has benefits for people of all ages and all walks of life!
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