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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.
example, 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.
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.
Some 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
Other Works ConsultedCoughlin (2011). Principles of bodywork: Manual and manipulative therapies. In MS Micozzi, ed., Fundamentals of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, 4th ed., pp. 204–210. St. Louis: Elsevier Saunders.
Freeman L (2009). Massage therapy. Mosby's Complementary and Alternative Medicine: A Research-Based Approach, 3rd ed., chap. 13, pp. 364–388. St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier.
June 29, 2011
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Marc S. Micozzi, MD, PhD - Complementary and Alternative Medicine
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