Massage therapy has been described as “the healing touch.” Often referred to as bodywork or somatic therapy, massage therapy refers to the application of various techniques to the muscular structure and soft tissues of the body. It consists of a group of manual techniques that include applying fixed or movable pressure, holding, and/or causing movement of or to the body, using primarily the hands. These techniques affect the musculoskeletal, circulatory-lymphatic, nervous, and other systems of the body.

The goal of massage therapy is fairly straightforward: to positively affect the health and well being of the client. Numerous physical and mental health benefits have been attributed to massage, including reducing stress and aiding in relaxation; reducing the heart rate; lowering blood pressure; increasing blood circulation and lymph flow; relaxing the muscles; reducing chronic pain and improving joint range of motion. Specifically, people have found that therapeutic massage can help manage a variety of conditions:

  • Alleviate low-back pain and improve range of motion.
  • Enhance immunity by stimulating lymph flow—the body’s natural defense system.
  • Exercise and stretch weak, tight, or atrophied muscles.
  • Help athletes of any level prepare for, and recover from, strenuous workouts.
  • Improve the condition of the body’s largest organ—the skin.
  • Increase joint flexibility.
  • Lessen depression and anxiety.
  • Promote tissue regeneration, reducing scar tissue and stretch marks.
  • Pump oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs, improvingcirculation.
  • Reduce postsurgery adhesions and swelling.
  • Reduce spasms and cramping.
  • Relax and soften injured, tired, and overused muscles.
  • Release endorphins—amino acids that work as the body’s natural painkiller.
  • Relieve migraine pain.

Mental Health Benefits of Massage Therapy

  • reduces mental stress.
  • improves concentration.
  • promotes restful sleep.
  • aids in mental relaxation.

Currently there are over 100,000 massage therapists working in the United States alone. Massage therapy is recognized as one of the oldest methods of healing, with references in medical texts nearly 4,000 years old. In fact, Hippocrates, known as the “father of medicine,” referenced massage when he wrote, in the 4th century B.C.: “The physician must be acquainted with many things, and assuredly with rubbing.”

Actually, massage therapy is not so much rubbing as stroking, kneading, tapping, compression, vibration, rocking, friction, pressure, and various other techniques. Specific styles of massage therapy utilized by therapists may include, but is not limited to: Acupressure, Rolfing, Shiatsu, Deep Tissue, Swedish, Thai, Cranial Sacral and Active Release techniques.