Massage therapy works soft tissue muscles with the goal of reducing pain or other related symptoms for a condition. Therapeutic massage differs from other forms of massage that focus on relaxation and comfort.

People seek massage therapy for many reasons, including:

  • Lowering stress levels
  • Lessening muscular pain

In some cases, through regular massage therapy treatment, a therapist can manipulate and change a person’s body structure. There are a variety of types of massage therapy to choose from, each with different benefits depending on your condition and personal goals.

Massage therapy is often used in combination with other treatments for:

  • Back and neck pain
  • Muscle spasms and spasticity
  • Sacroiliac joint dysfunction
  • Tension headaches

Other conditions that benefit from massage therapy include:

  • Arthritis
  • Digestive disorders
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Sprains and strains
  • Sports injuries

Types of Massage Therapy

Licensed massage therapists at the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation use a variety of therapeutic massage methods, including:

Acupressure Massage

Acupressure massage provides pain relief by applying pressure to specific areas throughout the body, similar to the goal of acupuncture. A therapist determines certain places, or “acupoints” throughout the body where someone has the most pain, and massages them with practiced techniques.

Acupressure is lighter in pressure than other types of massage therapy, such as deep tissue. Many people find acupressure massage helps manage their muscle pain and tension in addition to lessening symptoms of:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue massage helps with chronic or acute pain in a specific area of the body, such as the upper neck or lower and upper back.

Muscle “knots” can cause chronic pain and inflammation, limiting functional ability over time. To reach your muscle tissue and knots, therapists use slow and firm movements that focus on breaking apart the bands of rigid tissue and tendons. Though not meant for relaxation purposes, some people find deep tissue massage also lowers their levels of stress.

Myofascial Release

Myofascial (muscle tissue and its surrounding, connective tissue) release treats myofascial pain, a chronic condition that causes tightness and sensitivity in these types of tissue.

Your fascia, or connective tissue, stretches throughout your body and covers the muscle tissue. Whether through overuse or injury, your myofascial muscles can tighten to form “trigger points” or knots that limit movement and cause pain. Myofascial release therapy eases the tightened muscles to increase flexibility and movement, and decrease pain.

Trigger point massage

Trigger point massage therapy focuses on locating a specific area of muscle tissue that causes soreness or pain. Sometimes muscles knot together and form trigger points, creating pain in other, surrounding parts of the body. Once located, a therapist applies repetitive motions of pressure, on and off for a set amount of time, to break down the trigger point.

Locating one or more trigger points with direct pressure may cause discomfort, however once a massage therapist finds and treats the tightened muscles, many find their pain reduced after one visit.

Benefits of Massage Therapy

Massage therapy provides many benefits for people suffering from chronic pain, spasticity, or other similar conditions. Therapeutic massage provides relief from symptoms, but is not a substitute for routine medical care. Make sure to speak with your doctor about adding massage therapy as part of your comprehensive treatment plan.

Benefits of massage therapy range from physical, such as pain relief and boosting the immune system, to improving mental health, mood, and reasoning abilities.

Massage therapy has been shown to:

    • Increase blood flow to the area of injury by relaxing tight muscles that may prevent the delivery of nutrients and oxygen that aid in healing
    • Decrease local swelling by promoting lymphatic flow

Decrease pain by releasing serotonin and endorphins that block a person’s perception of pain