What is the definition of a therapeutic massage?
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 are the benefits of therapeutic massage?
- Digestive disorders.
- Insomnia related to stress.
- Myofascial pain syndrome.
- Soft tissue strains or injuries.
- Sports injuries.
What is the difference between deep tissue and therapeutic massage?
Therapeutic Massage does not need to cause intolerable or excruciating pain to get results. Deep tissue massage is a type of massage aimed at the deeper tissue structures of the muscle and fascia, also called connective tissue. The pressure will generally be more intense than a relaxation massage.
What is massage?
Massage is a general term for pressing, rubbing and manipulating your skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Massage may range from light stroking to deep pressure. There are many different types of massage, including these common types:
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. Therapeutic massage can be used as a collaborative, supportive addition to conventional medical treatment of illness and injury, alleviating pain and stress, aiding soft tissue healing, and revitalizing the body. Also, regular massage can enhance health, providing relaxation, the release of muscle tightness, relief from anxiety and tensions, and balancing aspects of body/mind/spirit.
Therapeutic Massage Techniques
- Swedish Massage: Flowing, kneading, and passive joint movement techniques. Promotes the release of tensions and general relaxation. Stimulates nerve endings in the skin and connective tissue, increasing blood and lymph circulation.
- Deep Tissue Massage: Work done deep within the muscles and connective tissue. Slow strokes and deep finger pressure work to release contracted areas of muscles and surrounding tissue.
- Reflexology: Pressure point holds stimulate reflex channels. Effective for areas of tension or pain. Hands, feet, and ear pressure points are massaged to promote general well being.
- Neuromuscular Massage: Advance massage techniques effectively treat chronic pain and injuries. Improves muscular and postural imbalances.
- Craniosacral Therapy: Light touch holds work within the natural flows of the body. Results in deep relaxation and encouragement of the body’s alignment and natural healing ability.
- Lymph Drainage Therapy: Light pressure facilitates the increased movement of lymph fluid. Complements treatment of auto-immune disorders, cancer treatments, surgery, and contributes to wellness through an improved immune response.
- Reiki: Light touch, accesses Universal Life Energy. Can speed healing, reduce pain, and decrease symptoms.
- Hot Stone Massage Therapy: This 90-minute session uses a variety of large and small smooth heated stones to melt away tension and stress, resulting in deep relaxation.
Research has shown that therapeutic massage techniques may be helpful in the following conditions:
- Stress, Anxiety, Depression: promotes relaxation response, enhances coping mechanisms in patients undergoing treatment for cancer, reduces symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress disorders
- Pain control: fibromyalgia, arthritis, sciatica, headaches, childbirth
- Chronic lung disease: increases respiratory function and decreases anxiety
- Digestive: adjunctive therapy to the treatment of chronic constipation
- Injuries: overuse and repetitive strain injuries, workplace and athletic trauma, whiplash.
Therapeutic massage for pain relief!
Massage used to be considered an indulgence, but it’s now recognized as a legitimate therapy for some painful conditions.
Therapeutic massage may relieve pain by way of several mechanisms, including relaxing painful muscles, tendons, and joints; relieving stress and anxiety; and possibly helping to “close the pain gate” by stimulating competing nerve fibers and impeding pain messages to and from the brain.
Therapeutic massage is an active area of research. In particular, it has been studied for its effect on pain in the back, hands, neck, and knees, among other areas. A study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice showed a reduction in hand pain and an improvement in grip strength among people who had four weekly hand massage sessions and did self-massage at home. They also slept better and had less anxiety and depression than people in the control group who didn’t receive a hand massage.
A study published in Annals of Family Medicine in 2014 found that 60-minute therapeutic massage sessions two or three times a week for four weeks relieved chronic neck pain better than no massage or fewer or shorter massage sessions.
Massage therapy can involve varying degrees of pressure. Some people find certain forms of massage, such as deep tissue massage, to be painful. Massage doesn’t have to be painful to be therapeutic, so be sure to tell your therapist the type of touch you prefer (light touch, firm pressure, hard pressure). Lighter may be more relaxing and therefore more beneficial, depending on your situation. People with certain pain conditions such as fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome may only be able to tolerate light pressure.
There are no data to suggest that massage is harmful, but there are some specific situations where it is not recommended: massaging an inflamed area of skin, for example, can make it worse by causing irritation. One should not have a massage to an area of infection, as it might spread the infection. The American Massage Therapy Association lists heart problems, infectious disease, phlebitis, and some skin conditions as reasons to avoid massage. Choose a licensed therapist; your PT may be able to make a recommendation.
Therapeutic Massage to Achieve Structural Changes
The other meaning of a therapeutic massage is that both the client and practitioner have a shared goal of achieving structural changes within the body, often through a series of regular massages. While any professional massage is therapeutic, with real health benefits, some massages focus more on relaxation.
For instance, a Swedish massage is a more superficial massage that improves blood and lymph circulation and relaxes you. While it is good for your body and mind, it is not aimed at shifting the underlying structures of the body that may cause pain and restrictions.
Deep tissue massage or sports massage uses deeper pressure and cross-fiber friction in order to release tissue that is adhered or in spasm, which is certainly therapeutic. But if you get a massage in a resort setting, you probably won’t see that therapist again, which limits the ongoing therapeutic benefit.
A therapeutic massage means you present to the therapist with a specific complaint, for instance, pain in your hip, tight shoulders, or a spasm in your lower back (or even all three). The therapist then follows four steps:
- Assess your current condition. This will include taking a history, asking how long have you experienced the pain, whether the onset was sudden, how you experience the pain, etc. The therapist will also observe the way you move, test your range of motion, and feel the tissue during the treatment for consistency and texture.
- Propose a plan. Once the therapist has a good idea of your condition, he can propose an approach to treatment. This might be a simple as focusing on your area of complaint — shoulders, lower back and right hip — instead of trying to do a full-body massage during one session. The therapist might recommend a series of sessions at recommended intervals and indicate the kind of progress you can expect during that time. She can recommend other ways of treating the area, such as using heat, ice, hydrotherapy, or stretches. If appropriate, the therapist might refer you to another health professional for further assessment and treatment.
- Perform the therapy. This is the actual massage, or treatment, based on the assessment and the plan you have agreed to.
- Evaluate the outcome. At the end of the treatment, you and the therapist review the results. Is there more mobility in the joint? Has your posture improved? On the basis of the results, the therapist can recommend additional sessions and the frequency. If you come every week, for instance, you’ll see quicker progress than if you wait two or three weeks between sessions. An evaluation will take place at the end of each session to determine the continued course of therapy.
It may sound very involved, but an experienced therapist can do the assessment and propose a plan quickly, even in a resort spa, and you should experience some degree of relief even in one session. The limitation of a resort spa is that most people get a massage while on vacation. Coming back for a series of treatments is not usually practical. But you can always follow up with a private practitioner or a recommended massage therapist at a local day spa if you want to continue with therapeutic massage.
*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.