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Massage therapy is a form of treatment that involves the manipulation of the muscles and soft tissues of the body. Massage is performed with the hands, fingers, forearm, elbows, or feet. Massage therapy can help people relax, relieve stress and pain, rehabilitate sports injuries, deal with anxiety and depression, and help overall general health and wellness.

There are many different forms of massage therapy and some of the more common include:

  • Swedish massage: Swedish massage uses long strokes, kneading, tapping, vibration, and deep circular movements to massage.
  • Sports massage: This type uses techniques similar to Swedish massage, but is specifically adapted to meet the athlete's needs.
  • Deep tissue massage: This massage technique focuses on the deeper layers of muscles and connective tissue. Deep tissue massage is often recommended for individuals who have stiff necks, low back tightness, and sore shoulders.
  • Trigger point massage: This massage technique focuses on detecting and releasing the myofascial trigger points. Trigger points are spots that produce pain when pressed and can be associated with pain elsewhere in the body.

Massage therapists practice in a variety of settings such as private offices, studios, hospitals, nursing homes, and sports and fitness centers. Some massage therapists may also travel to patient's homes or workplaces to provide massage services.

Massage therapists will ask questions about symptoms, previous medical history, and the desired results from the massage. To locate the painful or tense areas and to find out how much pressure to apply, your massage therapist may also perform an evaluation through touch.

Massage therapy can last for 1 hour or longer and is usually performed on a massage table lying down or while you are seated in a massage chair. For massage therapy, the patient must either be undressed (covered with a sheet, except for the area being massaged) or should wear loose-fitting clothes. Your massage therapist may use massage oils, lotions, or creams to reduce friction on your skin.

Possible side effects associated with massage therapy include temporary pain or discomfort, bruising, swelling, and a sensitivity or allergy to massage oils.

The following cautions should be considered before undergoing massage therapy:

  • Avoid vigorous massage if you have bleeding disorders or low blood platelet counts and if you are taking blood-thinning medications.
  • Do not have a massage on an open wound or in any area of the body with blood clots, fractures, skin infections, or weakened bones or at the site of recent surgery.
  • If you have a chronic condition such as cancer, talk to your doctor before having massage therapy.
  • If you are pregnant, inform your massage therapist.
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