How do massage therapists treat patients?
They usually try to provide a calm, soothing environment.
Therapists usually ask new patients about symptoms, medical history, and desired results. They may also perform an evaluation through touch, to locate painful or tense areas and determine how much pressure to apply.
Typically, the patient lies on a table undressed (covered with a sheet, except for the area being massaged). The therapist may use oil or lotion to reduce friction on the skin. Sometimes, people receive massage therapy while sitting in a chair. Most massage session last between 60 minutes up to 12 minutes.
How does massage therapy affect the body?
According to one analysis, however, research supports the general conclusion that massage therapy is effective. The studies included in the analysis suggest that a single session of massage therapy can reduce “state anxiety“, blood pressure, and heart rate, and multiple sessions can reduce “trait anxiety” depression, and pain.
A 2008 review of 13 clinical trials found evidence that massage might be useful for chronic low-back pain. Clinical practice guidelines issued in 2007 by the American Pain Society and the American College of Physicians recommend that physicians consider using certain CAM therapies, including massage (as well as acupuncture, chiropractic, progressive relaxation, and yoga), when patients with chronic low-back pain do not respond to conventional treatment.
There are numerous theories about how massage therapy may affect the body. For example, the “gate control theory” suggests that massage may provide stimulation that helps to block pain signals sent to the brain. Other theories suggest that massage might stimulate the release of certain chemicals in the body, such as serotonin or endorphins, or cause beneficial mechanical changes in the body. However, additional studies are needed to test the various theories.
What are side effects and risks of massage therapy?
Massage therapy appears to have few risks – if it is performed by a properly trained therapist and if appropriate cautions are followed. The number of serious injuries reported is very small. Side effects of massage therapy may include temporary pain or discomfort, bruising, swelling, and a sensitivity or allergy to massage oils.
Types of Massage
- Swedish massage is a gentle type of full-body massage that’s ideal for people who: are new to massage have a lot of tension are sensitive to touch
- It can help release muscle knots, and it’s also a good choice for when you want to fully relax during a massage.
- The massage therapist will use a combination of kneading, long, flowing strokes in the direction of the heart, deep circular motions, vibration, and tapping passive joint movement techniques
- Usually a Swedish massage will last for 60–90 minutes.
Choose a Swedish massage for relaxation or managing minor pain. This type of massage is also good for people new to massage.
Hot Stone Massage
Hot stone massage is best for people who have muscle pain and tension or who simply want to relax. This type of therapeutic massage is similar to a Swedish massage, only the massage therapist uses heated stones in lieu of or in addition to their hands. It eases muscle tension, improves blood flow, and relieves pain by using heated stones. Hot stone massage may help:
- ease muscle tension
- improve blood flow
- alleviate pain
- promote relaxation
- relieve stress
During a hot stone massage, heated stones are placed on different areas around your whole body. Your therapist may hold a stone as they massage different parts of your body using Swedish massage techniques using gentle pressure.
Hot stone massage may relieve more muscle tension than a Swedish massage because of the added heat. This type of massage in usually more expensive than a Swedish massage.
Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage uses more pressure than a Swedish massage. It’s a good option if you have chronic muscle problems, such as soreness, injury, or imbalance. It can help relieve tight muscles, chronic muscle pain, and anxiety. During a deep tissue massage, your massage therapist will use slow strokes and deep finger pressure to relieve tension from the deepest layers of your muscles and connective tissues. You can be naked during this massage or wear your underwear. The massage will last for 60–90 minutes.
While deep tissue may be more intense, you shouldn’t feel any pain or soreness.
Deep tissue massage is a good option if you have a lot of muscle tension or chronic pain. Avoid this type of massage if you’re overly sensitive to pressure.
Sports massage is a good option if you have a repetitive use injury to a muscle, such as what you may get from playing a sport. It’s also a good option if you’re prone to injuries because it can be used to help prevent sports injuries. You may also use sports massage to increase flexibility and performance. Additionally, sports massage can be used to relieve pain, anxiety, and muscle tension.
The massage will last for 60–90 minutes.
Sports massage is a good option if you have an injury from repetitive muscle use. This type of massage may also help improve flexibility and sports performance, and reduce your risk for injury.
Trigger point massage
Trigger point massages are best suited for people who have injuries, chronic pain, or a specific issue or condition. Sometimes areas of tightness in the muscle tissues, known as trigger points, can cause pain in other parts of the body. By focusing on relieving trigger points, this type of massage can reduce pain.
Trigger point massage uses broad, flowing strokes that are gentle and relaxing combined with stronger, deeper pressure. The massage will include work on your entire body, though your therapist will focus on specific areas of your body that need to be released.
Trigger point massage can help you manage chronic pain.
Reflexology is best for people who are looking to relax or restore their natural energy levels. It’s also a good option if you aren’t comfortable being touched on your entire body. Reflexology uses gentle to firm pressure on different pressure points of the feet, hands, and ears. You can wear loose, comfortable clothing that allows access to your legs.
A reflexology massage lasts for 30–60 minutes.
Reflexology focuses on pressure points in your feet, hands, and ears. This is a good option if you’re uncomfortable being touched over your entire body. You can also be fully clothed during this type of massage.
Prenatal massage can be a safe way for women to get a massage during pregnancy. It can help reduce pregnancy body aches, reduce stress, and ease muscle tension. You can get a massage at any time during your pregnancy. However, many facilities, especially in the United States, do not offer massages to women in their first trimester due to the risk of miscarriage during this time.
Prenatal massage uses mild pressure similar to Swedish massage. The therapist will focus on areas such as your lower back, hips, and legs. During the massage, you’ll either lie on your side or on a specially designed table with a cutout for your belly. If you’ve had pain in your calves or other parts of your leg, see a doctor before you have a massage.
The massage will last for 45–60 minutes.
Prenatal massage is a good option for pregnant women. This type of massage focuses on gentle pressure and is good for relaxation and mild tension relief.