When it comes to massage therapy, there are many different techniques. Each type of from Massage Therapist has its unique purpose and benefit.
Some examples of therapeutic massages include reflexology and shiatsu. These massages address a specific problem, such as muscle imbalance or postural abnormalities. They also incorporate massage and bodywork techniques from different systems of medicine and bodywork.
Using advanced techniques, orthopedic Massage can help alleviate pain and tension while restoring alignment and range of motion to joints impacted by injuries or musculoskeletal disorders.1 In fact, it’s been shown that massage therapy can reduce or even eliminate the need for orthopedic surgery, two and according to a 2015 study published in Orthopaedic Nursing,3 patients are more satisfied with their pain management when receiving both pain medication and Massage versus either treatment alone.
Though often confused with medical Massage, orthopedic and therapeutic Massage are not the same thing. While the term medical massage is loosely used to refer to any massage therapy that’s been prescribed by a doctor or physiotherapist for improving a variety of medical conditions, an orthopedic massage uses tried-and-true techniques that strengthen muscles around the joints and improve flexibility.
While most clients who receive orthopedic Massage come in with soft tissue injuries, this technique has also been shown to greatly aid post-orthopedic surgery and reduce symptoms caused by musculoskeletal issues like tendinitis, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome and sprains and pulls. It’s important that a certified therapist is familiar with the physiological pattern of these types of injuries and can assess their patients’ needs accordingly.
A trained orthopedic massage therapist can use postural assessment, active and passive stretches and movement analysis to determine the source of pain and dysfunction. Then, with the guidance of a client’s doctor, physiotherapist, OT or Chiropractor, they can work together to formulate a comprehensive treatment plan that includes Massage and other manual therapies.
Amid the flurry of doctor’s appointments, radiation and chemotherapy treatments, scans and follow-ups, cancer patients often forget to take care of themselves. Massage therapy offers a way to do just that. A good massage can help with pain, discomfort, anxiety, depression and fatigue. It has even been shown to stimulate the vagal nerve, which sends a signal to the body to relax and destress.
The goal of oncology massage is to provide a safe, supportive, and beneficial experience for people in cancer treatment or who are using Massage to maintain health years after their diagnosis. An oncology massage therapist will have training in the side effects of different cancer treatments and how to modify a regular massage for the client’s needs.
While it won’t give you more energy, a good oncology massage can relieve pain and discomfort, reduce fatigue and improve sleep. It can also help with some of the other symptoms that are common during cancer treatment, such as nausea and vomiting.
Aside from adjusting the depth of the Massage to avoid any areas that are at risk for lymphedema, a massage for oncology patients can be similar to any other type of Massage. The therapist will use a light, gentle touch and may massage more specific areas such as the head, hands and feet to address pain and discomfort or to ease anxiety and stress. You can talk during a massage or remain quiet, and the therapist can also assist you with relaxation breathing techniques and simple stretching.
Clinical Massage, also known as healthcare massage or medical Massage, is the manipulation of soft tissues with the hands. It is a treatment with therapeutic value designed to treat specific symptoms, injuries or conditions such as chronic pain, fibromyalgia, scoliosis, migraines, whiplash and other joint and muscle issues. It is more focused than relaxation massage and is generally only performed by a licensed healthcare professional with a prescription or referral from a doctor.
This type of Massage uses techniques such as myofascial release and trigger point therapy — which help relax tight muscles and connective tissue — as well as kneading, petrissage, friction and tapping, along with rehabilitative stretching. The therapist may also incorporate modalities such as heat or cold applications, compression and vibration. This type of Massage is typically provided in a health care setting like hospitals or clinics and may be covered by insurance.
Clinical massage therapists must be able to work with clients who are experiencing health issues such as arthritis, sports injuries, back or neck pain and repetitive stress injury. They must be able to recognize when Massage can and cannot help, as well as understand the physiological effects of the different massage techniques. Being a clinical massage therapist also means knowing when to refer a client out because a problem is beyond their skill set to fix or might even cause more harm than good.
Shiatsu, which means “finger pressure,” is a Japanese massage technique that includes holding, stretching, tapping and kneading with thumbs, fingers, palms, elbows and knees along energy pathways called meridians. It’s similar to acupuncture but without the needles.
A trained practitioner will palpate a person’s meridian energy points to determine imbalances or blockages. They may also assess how the meridian system works with other energy systems, such as the immune and circulatory.
This form of Massage is gentler than deep tissue, which targets muscle pain — or knots – by kneading the uppermost layers of muscles and tendons. Shiatsu practitioners also perform body stretches and rotations, and they generally cover the entire body rather than just a few areas like the arms or legs, as is sometimes done in a Swedish massage.
Shiatsu massage can also stimulate the secretion of dopamine hormones, which boost mood and fight stress, as well as serotonin, which reduces anxiety. Research has found that shiatsu can ease migraines, relieve muscle pain and reduce fatigue, as well as improve sleep quality.
A shiatsu massage is generally safe for most people. However, it’s important to avoid shiatsu during pregnancy or while you have certain health conditions. Talk to your doctor before you get shiatsu. They can recommend qualified practitioners and tell you whether the Massage is appropriate for your condition or situation. Some therapists have websites that list their qualifications and locations. Others can be found using the American Massage Therapy Association’s national locator or the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork’s directory service.
Trigger point massage is a type of deep tissue therapy that relieves painful spots in your muscles, often called muscle knots. These knots are hyperirritable nodules in your muscle tissue that restrict blood flow to the area, which prevents oxygen and nutrients from entering and waste products from leaving. These problems can be caused by an injury, overworking your muscles, poor posture, and other conditions like diabetes and arthritis.
During trigger point massage, your therapist will locate the painful areas by asking you questions about your pain and examining you physically. Once they’ve found the troubled area, they’ll apply pressure to the trigger point for up to 90 seconds. This process is often painful, but it’s necessary to break down the knot and relieve your pain.
After breaking down the knot, your therapist will stretch and massage the affected area to improve circulation. They’ll also recommend hydration, as the release of toxins from the trigger point can lead to water retention.
Although self-massage is an excellent tool for relieving trigger points, it’s important to see a physical or Massage therapist for regular treatment sessions. Getting trigger point massages on a regular basis can help improve your overall range of motion and flexibility, alleviate pain in the targeted area, and prevent the knots from returning.
Pregnancy is a time of many physical changes for women. While not all pregnant people have aches and pains, most do, especially towards the end of their pregnancy, as the weight of the uterus puts pressure on joints and ligaments. Prenatal Massage helps to relieve these aches and pains.
A Prenatal Massage is a special type of therapeutic Massage designed for women who are expecting a baby. It focuses primarily on the comfort of the mother and her growing baby. A good prenatal massage session is typically 30-60 minutes and takes into account that the mom-to-be will likely have to change position throughout the duration of the Massage. Typical positions include side-lying while snuggled up against a long body pillow (and changing sides halfway through the session), or with a prenatal prone massage cushion that supports the breasts and abdomen while a face rest cradles the head.
Massage technique during a prenatal massage typically mirrors an adapted version of Swedish Massage. However, deep tissue massage is usually not recommended as it could cause contractions or even damage the uterus. In addition, the therapist should avoid massaging the calves and inner thighs as these areas are at higher risk for blood clots. In these cases, the therapist should only apply very light pressure to these areas.
It is very important that a woman seeking a prenatal massage have open communication with her obstetrician and with her massage therapist to make sure that it is safe for both the mother-to-be and her unborn child. In addition, women who are experiencing discomfort or pain should be sure to drink plenty of water before and after the Massage to help flush the toxins released during the session.