Massage is rubbing the soft tissues
of the body, such as the muscles. Massage may be helpful in reducing tension
and pain, improving blood flow, and encouraging relaxation. Massage therapists
usually apply pressure with their hands, but they can also use their forearms,
elbows, or feet. There are at least 80 different types of massage. Some are
gentle, and some are very active and intense.
Swedish massage is very gentle and is often used to promote relaxation, improve
blood flow, and relieve muscle tension. The therapist uses long, gliding
strokes and kneading and tapping techniques on the top layer of muscles in the
direction of blood flow to the heart. This may also include moving the joints
gently to improve range of motion.
Deep tissue massage is more
active and intense. It is used to treat long-lasting muscle tension. The
therapist applies slow strokes (with the fingers, thumbs, and elbows) using
intense pressure to reach deeper layers of the muscles than those reached with
a Swedish massage technique.
You can use self-massage to unwind
after work or school, or to energize yourself in the morning. You can easily
massage your feet, hands, or neck while doing other tasks or while relaxing.
Self-massage works best if you are in comfortable clothes and are sitting or
lying in a comfortable position. Use oil or lotion to massage bare skin.
Trigger point massage is less gentle and can sometimes be uncomfortable.
The therapist applies firm pressure to knots or tight, tense muscles that have
been overused or injured, continuing until the muscles relax. Let your massage
therapist know if you feel any discomfort during the massage.
people feel that massage works because the touch is healing. Touch also
communicates a sense of caring.
People use massage to
promote relaxation and relieve pain. It can also relieve muscle tension and may
improve blood flow, relieve pressure on nerves, and restore normal joint
When done properly, massage is
considered safe. Certification by the National Certification Board for
Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) ensures that your massage therapist
has a certain level of training and uses certain practice guidelines. Keep in
mind that massage may be expensive, is generally not covered by insurance, and
requires a time commitment.
Always tell your doctor if you are
using an alternative therapy or if you are thinking about combining an
alternative therapy with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be
safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on an
June 29, 2011
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Marc S. Micozzi, MD, PhD - Complementary and Alternative Medicine
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