Selecting the Right Type of Massage for Pain


What is massage therapy?

Massage therapy is a part of complementary and integrative medicine that can help reduce muscle tension, pain, and stress. A trained and certified health professional manipulates soft tissues, including muscles, tendons and ligaments, with varying degrees of pressure and movement to increase mobility and reduce pain.

As with any treatment, consult a health care professional to ensure a massage is safe with a diagnosed medical condition, especially if pregnant or with a cancer diagnosis. If any part of a massage is uncomfortable or painful, inform the therapist immediately. Discuss the expected outcome of the massage with the therapist. Massages can be medical or relaxation-based.

Medical Massage

A medical massage addresses an issue in the body, such as chronic migraines, injury, muscle pain, back pain, etc. The most common medical massages include the following:

Deep tissue, sports, scar tissue
  • Focuses on manipulation of top and deep layers of the muscles and tissues
  • Involves intense pressure
  • Helps alleviate specific concerns, such as knots or tightness
  • Expect some soreness following massage
Myofascial release, craniosacral, trigger-point
  • Manipulates connective tissues around nerves, muscles, and blood vessels
  • Focuses on identifying and providing a custom-based pressure, depending on sensitivity
  • Alleviates a specific issue, such as headaches, neck pain, neuralgia, fibromyalgia, etc.
  • Reduces pain in points of the muscles where knots are formed

Relaxation massage

A relaxation massage can help with providing stress relief. The most common relaxation massages include the following:

Swedish massage
  • Relieves stiffness and tension
  • Reduces anxiety and improves circulation
  • Soft to moderate pressure, based on preference
Hot stone massage
  • Stimulates nerves and enhances relaxation, typically combined with other relaxing massages
  • Soothes tissues and tight muscles
  • Promotes healing
Pregnancy massage
  • Soft strokes at specific locations
  • Reduces leg and arm swelling
  • Relieves muscle and joint pain

Massage technique

Hand stokes or massage techniques vary based on experience and the recommended massage needed. Techniques include the following:

Lymph drainage
  • Very light pressure
  • Slow-paced
  • Focuses on promoting toxin drainage
  • Japanese technique
  • Focuses on energy flow
  • Involves light pressure

Why get a massage?

The benefits of massage therapy are numerous and well-studied. Massage therapy can help prevent injuries due to tight muscles. It allows for proper muscle-length and tension relations. Massages also promote the release of feel-good hormones, such as dopamine.

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