Massage therapy is the manipulation of the body’s soft tissues. It involves a trained massage therapist providing direct, manual contact with the skin in order to soften and relax deeper tissues like muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia (a thin web-like tissue that surrounds all the muscles and organs in the body). Certain specialized kinds of massage therapy can even access and affect deeper structures like nerves, organs, and delicate membranes that surround vital structures like the brain and spinal cord.
There are many different types of massage therapy. The key is that they all have a common goal, which is to stimulate the body to heal itself. What differs among them is the technique used and the specific body system that is targeted. For example, Swedish massage is best known for its long, flowing strokes designed to relax and stimulate circulation in the skin and muscles, as well as its use of short, brisk strokes designed to create heat and break up congestion. Myofascial release stretches the fascia that envelope the deep structures of the body, with the aim of balancing the body internally. Deep tissue and trigger point massage therapies break up knots and adhesions buried in muscle tissue, while acupressure and craniosacral therapy are gentler approaches that release deeply held tensions in the nervous and energetic systems.
One of the many unique things about all massage therapy is its ability to affect clients on multiple levels. At its most basic level, it softens and relaxes the physical tissues of the body and can be used very effectively for people who are looking for things like muscle relaxation, better flexibility, pain reduction, or improved athletic performance. But it can also bring about changes higher up the line by affecting psychological processes such emotion, mood, and thinking patterns. Indeed, regular massage therapy has been documented to be effective at alleviating both anxiety and depression. Overall, the net effect of a good massage therapy session, whether its purpose is physical or mental, is always a discernible change in vitality where a person is reminded of what it is like to really feel good.