Massage therapy is the treatment of the muscles and soft tissues in your body. It can help lower stress, ease tension in your muscles and make you feel more relaxed.
When having massage therapy, you usually lie on a table. You can wear either loose-fitting clothing or you can be undressed (with a sheet covering your body). Massage on your neck, arms and shoulders can be done while sitting in a chair. Sometimes the therapy rooms have low lighting and quiet music to help you relax during your treatment.
Massage therapy methods
There are many different types of massage therapy methods. A massage therapist may use just one type of massage or may combine different types during a treatment session.
Swedish massage is the most common type of massage therapy in Canada. The massage therapist uses long strokes, pressure, stretches and friction to loosen tight muscles.
Deep tissue massage is done with stroking and finger pressure on deep layers of muscle tissue, where muscles are tight or knotted.
Myotherapy may also be called trigger point or pressure point massage therapy. It is done with a variety of strokes and focused pressure to ease or release trigger points. Trigger points are knots of tight muscle tissue that may cause pain or limit range of motion. They can be painful when pressed during massage. Reflexology is based on the theory that every part of our body is represented by a different area on our feet. Pressing on specific reflex points on the feet can treat the area of the body where there are blockages in energy flow. Sometimes the therapist may also use reflex points on the hands or ears. Reflexology is often used in relaxation therapy to encourage the body to function better under stress.
Massage as a complementary therapy
People often use massage therapy to help reduce muscle soreness and stiffness. It can also help reduce pain (such as headaches and low back pain), anxiety and stress. It improves circulation and promotes relaxation and a sense of well-being. Studies have shown that massage therapy can help reduce stress, anxiety, pain, fatigue and depression. It can also help with problems sleeping (insomnia), improve sleep quality and reduce nausea.
Finding a therapist
Massage therapy is a recognized healthcare profession. It’s important to have massage done by a registered massage therapist (RMT). Some provinces and territories have professional massage therapy associations that make sure that therapists are properly trained and follow professional standards. Private healthcare plans may require a doctor’s prescription for massage therapy and will only cover massage given by an RMT.