Massages can be incredibly relaxing, but they’re also useful as a medical therapy for pain, anxiety, and other health conditions.
Many types of massage therapy are available for conditions like chronic lower back pain, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis. Studies have shown that massage therapy can be highly effective as a complementary or adjunct treatment, reducing pain as well as decreasing strength and improving psychological wellbeing.
Types of Therapeutic Massage
There are several different types of massage therapy available, which are great for muscle relaxation, stress reduction, and other beneficial health effects. Some of the main varieties of therapeutic massage include:
- Swedish massage. Swedish massages range from light to vigorous. This therapeutic massage approach uses five basic strokes: effleurage (gliding), petrissage (kneading), tapotement (tapping), friction, and vibration. This type of massage is used to reduce pain, improve joint stiffness, and improve function in patients with osteoarthritis.
- Deep massage. A deep massage uses slow, forceful strokes to target deep layers of tissue. This is commonly used as a medical therapy for people whose muscles have been damaged by an injury.
- Sports massage. Sports massage, also known as manual therapy, is used for pain, disability, and soreness from athletic activities. Massage therapists specializing in sports massage will knead and manipulate the muscles, and manipulate and mobilize joints. It’s performed by licensed massage therapists, as well as chiropractors, osteopaths, physical therapists, and occupational therapists.
- Trigger point massage. A trigger point massage helps to deactivate painful trigger points to relieve myofascial pain.
Massage Therapy for Mental and Physical Health
Massages are widely used in complementary and alternative medicine, and often provide a useful adjunct therapy for people with chronic pain. Along with pain disorders, massage therapy has shown a wide range of benefits for mental and physical health, including:
- Reducing stress, and providing therapy for depression and anxiety. Massages are psychologically relaxing, and can help reduce cortisol secretion brought on by stress or anxiety disorders. It’s been researched for stress reduction in people who recently underwent heart surgery, with promising results.
- Reducing lower back pain. Lower back pain is a very common health condition, and medical massages can help reduce pain, as well as improving mobility and range of motion. It also helps reduce pain in tender points for fibromyalgia patients.
- Improving sleep. In a recent study of medical massage for fibromyalgia and chronic lower back pain, researchers found that subjects in the massage group enjoyed a better quality of restful sleep.
- Easing joint pain in osteoarthritis. Massage therapy can be helpful for people with painful osteoarthritis in their knees. This condition is associated with an abnormal breakdown of ligaments and cartilage in the knees, producing pain and reducing mobility.
- Therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that often occurs in long-time office workers. The median nerve in the hands and wrist becomes trapped, causing pain and paraesthesias (tingling sensations). Gentle massages have been found to reduce pain and improve grip strength in people with carpal tunnel.