Alternative Medicine Massage Therapy

A massage therapist uses his fingers, hands, elbows and sometimes even the feet to work on the body’s soft tissues, including the muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia (connective tissue).

Types of Massage Therapy

The most commonly practiced body massage in the West is the Swedish massage, which focuses on using long strokes and kneading techniques to release muscle tension. Other types of massage are:

  • Deep tissue massage, which uses techniques that reach deeper muscles than usually used in Swedish massage. Deep tissue massage has many approaches, and isn’t a specific technique.
  • Neuromuscular massage, which uses deep pressure to release tension in painfully tense areas. The two main types of neuromuscular massage are trigger-point myotherapy and neuromuscular therapy (NMT), which often focuses on releasing trigger points—tiny, irritable points in muscles that cause pain in a location other than the trigger point’s location.
  • Sports massage, which uses body massage to prepare for, or help the body recover from, athletic activity.
  • Benefits of Massage Therapy

The most well-known benefits of body massage are muscle relaxation and tension relief. However, massage therapy may also:

  • Help soft-tissue injuries heal
  • Improve immune function
  • Reduce the negative effects of stress
  • Relieve anxiety and depression
  • Stimulate circulation.

The Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Medical School (n.d.). has conducted over 100 studies that show positive benefits of body massage for many different conditions.

Massage Therapy vs. Touch Therapy

Although people often use the terms massage therapy and touch therapy interchangeably, they aren’t the same. All massage is touch therapy, but not all touch therapy is massage.

This confusion may exist because many massage therapists incorporate other touch therapies into their practices. Touch therapies that don’t meet the definition of body massage include:

  • Craniosacral therapy, which involves touching specific points around the skull and spine in order to clear “blockages” of the fluid in the spinal cord.
  • Energy healing techniques—such as healing touch and Reiki—which use a light touch or no touch to balance the body’s energy and energy field.
  • Reflexology, which involves applying pressure to points on the feet, hands or outer ears to heal and balance the body’s energy. Foot reflexology isn’t the same as foot massage.
  • Structural integration techniques—like Rolfing® and Hellerwork. These use techniques that resemble deep massage, but are designed to integrate the body’s structure rather than simply manipulate soft tissue.
  • Seeing a Massage Therapist

When choosing a massage therapist, remember that:

  • A professional massage therapist will always do an intake interview, asking you about your health, medical conditions, the state of your body and how you’d like to benefit from body massage.
  • Although massage is generally safe, it’s inadvisable for some medical conditions.
  • Every massage therapist is different. A Swedish massage will vary from one massage therapist to another, and you may have to visit a few different therapists until you find one you like.
  • Most states regulate massage. Ensure that your massage therapist has the proper license or credentials required by law.

Lastly, remember to tell your massage therapist if you aren’t enjoying your massage; she can make the proper adjustments.

Resources

Alexandria Myotherapy. (n.d.). Trigger-point myotherapy and NMT. Retrieved August 30, 2010, from http://www.alexmyo.com/techniques/myotherapy.htmlhttp://www.alexmyo.com/techniques/myotherapy.html

Mayo Clinic. (2010). Massage: Get in touch with its many health benefits. Retrieved August 30, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/massage/SA00082http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/massage/SA00082

Rolf Institute. (n.d.). Rolfing® and massage. Retrieved August 30, 2010, from http://www.rolf.org/about/massagehttp://www.rolf.org/about/massage

Touch Research Institute. (n.d.). Research at TRI. Retrieved August 30, 2010, from http://www6.miami.edu/touch-research/Research.htmlhttp://www6.miami.edu/touch-research/Research.html