Therapeutic massage: effects and benefits

What is a therapeutic massage and how does it differ from the rest?

Therapeutic massage is a set of manual techniques aimed at relieving musculoskeletal injuries (muscle contractures or spasms, among others), usually caused by stress or poor posture.

In these manipulations, energetic type massages are performed, sliding and lifting the muscular tissues in order to remove adhesions and contractures, which is one of the differences with relaxing type massages. Relaxing massages, on the other hand, are usually soft and shallower manipulations and techniques, without lifting the tissue, with a tendency to long and superficial friction techniques, which is why they do not therapeutically treat the muscle tissue.

Both types of massage will have positive effects on a physiological and psychological level, because through contact and friction we achieve an increase in circulation, which will help us to nourish the muscle; and on a psychological level, it will help us to reduce stress, although the relaxant will never reach the structures that cause it.

Therefore, it is important to emphasize that the therapeutic massage is the one that is done after a proper assessment that will indicate which structures to treat, being one of the many tools that we can use for our ultimate goal: the patient’s well-being.

When is this type of massage indicated?

Therapeutic massage is indicated as a complement to a physiotherapeutic work in:

  • Injuries of the locomotor apparatus: muscular ailments, contractures, spasms, muscle tears, tendinopathies, sprains, etc.
  • Post-immobilization rehabilitation.
  • Treatment of scars.
  • Improve postural problems.
  • Peripheral neurological diseases: spasticity, paralysis.
  • Psychoemotional disorders: mental exhaustion, insomnia, stress, tension headaches, anxiety, among others.
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How is it performed?

Therapeutic massage is performed manually, transferring the mechanical energy from the hands of the physiotherapist to the tissues of the areas of the body that are worked in each case.

It is important that you have the knowledge about it and the therapist knows, at all times, why and for what purpose is doing this type of therapy.

Within the massage there are different techniques used with different objectives. Some of them are always used and others depending on the patient and/or the treatment.

  • Rubbing: this is the technique with which any massage session begins and ends. It is the first contact that the physiotherapist has with the patient and consists of sliding the hand over the skin slowly and evenly in order to heat the tissue we want to work on. The pressure can also be increased so that the effect reaches deeper areas.
  • Friction: the superficial planes of the skin are mobilized on the muscular tissues, exerting a controlled pressure on them by means of circular and elliptical movements. It can be used to eliminate pain.
  • Percussion: light, rhythmic and repetitive blows are applied with the hand and used to intensify the blood circulation of the muscles.
  • Hacking: similar to the previous one, although the blows are applied with the edge of the hand.
  • Kneading: consists of grasping, sliding and lifting the muscular tissues, trying to detach them and move them transversely from one side to the other, simultaneously exerting pressure and stretching with a slight twisting movement, with the aim of achieving simultaneous compression of skin, subcutaneous tissue and adjacent muscles.
  • Compression: the area being treated is compressed and pressed, without moving the hands.
  • Vibration: static compression movements are performed with varying rhythmic intensity in order to stimulate blood circulation and generate a relaxing and sedative effect on the central nervous system.
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What are the benefits of a therapeutic massage for the patient?

The benefits of therapeutic massage are in different areas:

  • Biomechanical: it can increase the range of mobility of the structure being treated or adjacent structures.
  • Physiological: it increases the temperature and circulation in the treated area, both superficial and deep. In addition, it has effects on the sympathetic (decreasing it) and parasympathetic (activating it) nervous systems.
  • Neurological: it interferes with the alpha motor neuron, which promotes muscle relaxation in the treatment of muscle spasms.
  • Hormonal: it interferes in the production of cortisol, decreasing its levels and therefore reducing stress. In addition, it increases dopamine levels, creating in the patient a feeling of tranquility and well-being.