Massage: Get in touch with its many benefits
Massage can be a powerful tool to help you take charge of your health and well-being. See if it's right for you.By Mayo Clinic Staff
Massage is no longer available only through luxury spas and upscale health clubs. Today, massage therapy is offered in businesses, clinics, hospitals and even airports. If you've never tried massage, learn about its possible health benefits and what to expect during a massage therapy session.
What is massage?
Massage is a general term for pressing, rubbing and manipulating your skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments. Massage may range from light stroking to deep pressure. There are many different types of massage, including these common types:
- Swedish massage. This is a gentle form of massage that uses long strokes, kneading, deep circular movements, vibration and tapping to help relax and energize you.
- Deep massage. This massage technique uses slower, more-forceful strokes to target the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue, commonly to help with muscle damage from injuries.
- Sports massage. This is similar to Swedish massage, but it's geared toward people involved in sport activities to help prevent or treat injuries.
- Trigger point massage. This massage focuses on areas of tight muscle fibers that can form in your muscles after injuries or overuse.
Benefits of massage
Massage is generally considered part of complementary and alternative medicine. It's increasingly being offered along with standard treatment for a wide range of medical conditions and situations.
Studies of the benefits of massage demonstrate that it is an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension.
While more research is needed to confirm the benefits of massage, some studies have found massage may also be helpful for:
- Digestive disorders
- Insomnia related to stress
- Myofascial pain syndrome
- Soft tissue strains or injuries
- Sports injuries
- Temporomandibular joint pain
Beyond the benefits for specific conditions or diseases, some people enjoy massage because it often produces feelings of caring, comfort and connection.
Despite its benefits, massage isn't meant as a replacement for regular medical care. Let your doctor know you're trying massage and be sure to follow any standard treatment plans you have.
Risks of massage
Most people can benefit from massage. However, massage may not be appropriate if you have:
- Bleeding disorders or take blood-thinning medication
- Burns or healing wounds
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Severe osteoporosis
- Severe thrombocytopenia
Discuss the pros and cons of massage with your doctor, especially if you are pregnant or you have cancer or unexplained pain.
Some forms of massage can leave you feeling a bit sore the next day. But massage shouldn't ordinarily be painful or uncomfortable. If any part of your massage doesn't feel right or is painful, speak up right away. Most serious problems come from too much pressure during massage.
Dec. 07, 2015
See more In-depth
- Massage therapy for health purposes: What you need to know. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/massage/massageintroduction.htm. Accessed Nov. 4, 2015.
- Types of massage. The American Massage Therapy Association. https://www.amtamassage.org/findamassage/massage_type.html. Accessed Nov. 4, 2015.
- AskMayoExpert. Massage therapy. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2015.
- What to expect at your massage session. American Massage Therapy Association. https://www.amtamassage.org/findamassage/expect.html. Accessed Nov. 4, 2015.
- 6 things to know when selecting a complementary health practitioner. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/tips/selecting. Accessed Nov. 4, 2015.