A back rub can feel good and be relaxing, but it’s not necessarily therapeutic. There are many types of massage, and a therapeutic one is intended to provide health benefits. To understand how this works, it’s important to be aware of the ways in which tissue manipulation and other techniques can improve your health and treat disease.

According to Northwestern Health Sciences University, massage therapy is the use of external manipulation of soft tissues to improve an individual’s well-being. Massage can reduce stress, relax muscles, promote healing and enhance overall wellness. Therapeutic massage goes beyond mere relaxation and can help manage specific problems.

Benefits Of Massage Therapy

There are many benefits of massage. The Mayo Clinic reports that massage can help with:

  • Anxiety
  • Digestive conditions
  • Nerve pain
  • Headaches
  • Stress
  • Jaw pain
  • Sprains, strains and other sports injuries
  • Insomnia
  • Range of motion
  • Balance
  • Hypertension

After putting out a consumer survey, the American Massage Therapy Association found that 43 percent of individuals had received a massage for medical reasons in the previous year. Johns Hopkins Medicine explains that massage therapy can be used in collaboration with conventional clinical treatment for injury, pain and healing. Regular massage can also improve your physical and psychological health, preventing future issues.

Types Of Therapeutic Massage

Many people assume that therapeutic and deep tissue massage are the same thing. They might hesitate to book an appointment because they don’t want an intense massage. Deep tissue massage is only one modality involved in the broader category of therapeutic massage. Many massage therapists use a variety of techniques depending on what you need.

Deep Tissue Massage

A deep tissue massage is an ideal way to manage pain. It is often used for muscle tightness, soreness and chronic aches.

This type of massage is not just a Swedish massage with added pressure. It involves using targeted, slow strokes to affect deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. It can break down painful adhesions and knots that prohibit circulation and range of motion.

Aromatherapy Massage

Any type of physical manipulation can be used during an aromatherapy massage. During this type of treatment, essential oils are diffused into the air or rubbed on the skin for additional therapeutic benefits.

Different oils can be used for their calming, energizing or pain-relieving properties. Aromatherapy massage has even been found to help relieve the pain associated with menstrual cramps.

Trigger Point Massage

Trigger points are sensitive areas in the soft tissue. These stubborn spots can be the source of chronic pain for many people. The pain often occurs around the trigger point, but these spots can also cause pain elsewhere.

People often refer to trigger points as muscle knots. These “knots” are areas of tightly contracted muscle tissue. The patches cut off their own blood supply, causing the problem to worsen.

Trigger points in the gluteal muscles can lead to the diagnosis of sciatica even if the sciatic nerve is not irritated. Jaw pain, headaches and toothaches are often caused by trigger points in the neck, face or head. Trigger points can also cause sore throats and fibromyalgia symptoms.

Using specific methods of touch on these points can relieve pain and remedy ongoing problems.

Neuromuscular Massage

Neuromuscular massage is a combination of deep tissue and trigger point massage that’s useful for addressing tender spots, nerve compression and biomechanical issues. It improves circulation. As more blood and oxygen reach your muscles, they should start to feel better.

Sports Massage

This type of massage blends several modalities, depending on the provider. It is designed to concentrate on the areas that are most likely to be affected by the sport that you play.

Sports massage may be used to treat or prevent injury. It can be used to enhance performance or speed up recovery. Massage may even lower anxiety, delivering psychological benefits.

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Shiatsu Massage

Shiatsu is an Asian modality that is used to apply pressure to various points on the channels of energy flow within you. This can balance your vital energy and release blockages that are hindering your flow.

Whereas many other massage modalities involve touching the skin directly, you’re encouraged to wear loose clothing during a shiatsu massage. This protects your skin from the pressure that is used and lets you move comfortably during the session. You’ll likely feel relaxed and rejuvenated after a shiatsu massage.

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Thai Massage

Thai massage also aligns your energy as a therapist works on your muscles and joints. The therapist will move you into different positions, using parts of his or her own body to add resistance or hold you in place.

This might feel more like a yoga session than a massage. You can relax while your therapist does the work, but you should know that a Thai massage session is more active than a deep tissue or sports massage.

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Lymphatic Drainage Massage

Lymphatic drainage massage can encourage your lymph system to flush fluids and eliminate waste. When your lymphatic system is compromised, you may experience swelling and water retention. This often occurs when soft tissue is damaged during surgery. This type of massage uses gentle pressure to reduce fluid buildup under the skin.

It can be argued that any type of massage delivers benefits and is therefore therapeutic. The Swedish massage that you might get on the beach at a resort is relaxing and reduces stress. A Swedish massage therapist will often use long, gentle strokes, kneading and rhythmic tapping. You usually leave a Swedish massage feeling rejuvenated, whereas you may feel sore for a few days after a more intense massage.

If you’re not sure what type of massage to choose, make sure that you communicate well with the massage therapist. Explaining your pain and other symptoms—even those that you don’t think are associated with muscle tightness—can help a practitioner give you the most effective treatment.

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