The goal of physical therapy is to enhance human movement and function and to assess, prevent, and treat movement dysfunction and physical disability. Massage is the manipulation of superficial layers of muscle and connective tissue to enhance the function and promote relaxation and well-being. In 1997 there was an estimated 114 million visits to massage therapists in the US. Massage therapy is the most used type of complementary and alternative medicine in hospitals in the United States.
Massage therapy is a manual method of treatment that helps restore movement and function of muscles and joints by improving circulation and eliminating metabolic toxins stored within muscles. In this technique, the therapist rubs the individual's muscles with massage lotion, first using broad, light strokes and then focusing on specific points of tightness or tenderness with deeper, more concentrated pressure. Treatment time can vary from 2 minutes for cross-friction massage to up to 1 hour for intensive massage therapy. Target tissues may include muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin, joints, or other connective tissue, as well as lymphatic vessels, or organs of the gastrointestinal system.
Medical research has shown that the benefits of massage include pain relief, reduced trait anxiety and depression, and temporarily reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and state anxiety. When combined with education and exercises, massage might help sub-acute, chronic, non-specific low back pain.
Massage used in the medical field includes decongestive therapy used for lymphedema which can be used in conjunction with the treatment of breast cancer. Light massage is also used in pain management and palliative care.
Deep Tissue massage is designed to relieve severe tension in the muscle and the connective tissue or fascia. This type of massage focuses on the muscles located below the surface of the top muscles. Deep tissue massage is often recommended for individuals who experience consistent pain, are involved in heavy physical activity, such as athletes, and patients who have sustained physical injury.
Massage Therapy is also used to treat people that have ABI (Acquired Brain Injury), Arthritis Pain, MS (Multiple sclerosis) Intellectual Disabilities, and cerebral Palsy to name a few.
Tertiary prevention is used in massage therapy when a patient has had an illness or disability, has received medical care to manage this disability, and is receiving massage to minimize complications related to the initial problem, as well as prevent other problems for which s/he is now at risk due to the initial disability.
Outcomes of specific therapeutic procedures may vary among individuals. Massage therapy has been shown to decrease muscle tightness, increase the flexibility of muscles and tendons, and promote healing of ligaments. Acupressure may provide pain relief as a result of pressure applied to specific points on the body.