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Feb 25

Benefits of Therapeutic Massage

Therapeutic massage

If you have ever had a massage, you will agree that massaging sore muscles helps relieve the pain. A good massage just makes you “feel good”.

But massage, especially by a skilled therapist, can provide more than just a temporary relief for sore muscles. It can actually be used as a form of therapy for a variety of chronic conditions.

Therapeutic massage can be used to treat many painful conditions.
Therapeutic massage can be used to treat many painful conditions.

 

Benefits of therapeutic massage

Massage can complement- or at times substitute- potentially harmful medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or opioid drugs. As a relatively inexpensive and widely available alternative therapy, massage can be an effective way to improve one’s quality of life.

 

Treatment of chronic pain

Massage is an effective modality in improving pain in several chronic conditions, including neck and low back pain, arthritis pain, fibromyalgia and even pain from cancer.

In one study, people with knee osteoarthritis showed a decrease in pain and improvement in functioning after 10 weeks of massage. In another study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, those treated with light pressure massage therapy had less pain and greater grip strength following massage sessions, which still lasted at one month followup.

People with knee osteoarthritis have also been found to have decreased pain and increased mobility with massage therapy. Massage has also shown benefit in treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Fibromyalgia pain

Fibromyalgia is a chronic syndrome characterized by generalized pain, joint stiffness, fatigue, sleep alterations, anxiety, and depression. Massage therapy as well as myofascial release have been shown in multiple studies to be helpful in some patients with fibromyalgia. Muscle relaxation, improved sleep, decreased anxiety and depression, and a decrease in production of pain chemicals in the body all help reduce pain in people with fibromyalgia.

 

Improved sleep

Poor sleep quality not only causes you to be fatigued, it also exacerbates pain. Massage therapy is shown to be an effective technique for increasing deep sleep and improving sleep quality.

 

Improved mood

There is a reduction in anxiety and depression with massage therapy. One study found the benefits of massage therapy lasted longer than standard medical care in these conditions.

 

Decreased inflammation

A decrease in production of inflammatory chemicals has been observed after massaging an acutely injured muscle. Decreased inflammation will lead to a decrease in tissue injury and pain.

 

Massage Therapy Techniques- Examples

In Swedish massage, the therapist uses kneading, rolling, friction, tapping, and long strokes to warm up the muscles and improve blood flow. Deep tissue massage and trigger point massage treat and reduce myofascial pain, decrease swelling, stiffness, and tension. Sports massage is geared to the needs of athletes.

 

How does massage work?

The beneficial effects of therapeutic massage are thought to be due to a variety of factors:

Relaxing the tissues

Applying appropriate pressure relaxed muscles, tendons and ligaments. This can lead to a reduction in contraction of both superficial and deep tissues.

Improving Circulation

Massage is believed to improve blood and lymph circulation. This is partly due to physical manipulation of soft tissue, and partly due to the chemicals released when the tissues relax. Improved circulation can enhance the delivery of oxygen to muscle cells, allowing them to function more efficiently.

Regulation of natural chemicals

Massage has been associated with an increase in the body’s secretion of serotonin and dopamine, which alleviate stress, and a decrease in production of cortisol, which is a stress hormone.

Slowing of the heart rate and breathing, and a decrease in blood pressure, all of which can reduce stress, are also resulted from therapeutic massage.

 

Where should I get a Therapeutic Massage?

While any massage may help you “feel good”, appropriate and deliberate technique applied by a skilled and experienced therapist can be used to treat specific conditions and areas of interest. Combined with specific instructions from a physician trained in musculoskeletal conditions (such as a rheumatologist), your massage can prove to have long lasting therapeutic effects.

 

*Some insurances may cover therapeutic massage ordered by a physician. Coverage is highly variable.

 

Reference

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  2. Elliott R, Burkett B. Massage therapy as an effective treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2013 Jul;17(3):332-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2012.12.003. Epub 2012 Dec 23.
  3. Field T, Diego M, Delgado J, Garcia D, Funk CG. Rheumatoid arthritis in upper limbs benefits from moderate pressure massage therapy. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2013 May;19(2):101-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2012.12.001. Epub 2013 Feb 6.
  4. Miernik M, Wieckiewicz M, Paradowska A, Wieckiewicz W. Massage therapy in myofascial TMD pain management. Adv Clin Exp Med. 2012 Sep-Oct;21(5):681-5.
  5. Perlman AI, Ali A, Njike VY, Hom D, Davidi A, Gould-Fogerite S, Milak C, Katz DL. Massage therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized dose-finding trial. PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e30248. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030248. Epub 2012 Feb 8.
  6. Crane JD, Ogborn DI, Cupido C, Melov S, Hubbard A, Bourgeois JM, Tarnopolsky MA. Massage therapy attenuates inflammatory signaling after exercise-induced muscle damage. Sci Transl Med. 2012 Feb 1;4(119):119ra13. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3002882.
  7. Field T, Hernandez-Reif M, Diego M, Schanberg S, Kuhn C. Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2010;65(11):1105-10.
  8. Nerbass FB, Feltrim MI, Souza SA, Ykeda DS, Lorenzi-Filho G. Effects of massage therapy on sleep quality after coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2010;65(11):1105-10.
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  10. Castro-Sánchez AM, Matarán-Peñarrocha GA, Granero-Molina J, Aguilera-Manrique G, Quesada-Rubio JM, Moreno-Lorenzo C. Benefits of massage-myofascial release therapy on pain, anxiety, quality of sleep, depression, and quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:561753. doi: 10.1155/2011/561753. Epub 2010 Dec 28.
  11. Kalichman L. Massage therapy for fibromyalgia symptoms. Rheumatol Int. 2010 Jul;30(9):1151-7. doi: 10.1007/s00296-010-1409-2. Epub 2010 Mar 20.
  12. Field T, Diego M, Cullen C, Hernandez-Reif M, Sunshine W, Douglas S. Fibromyalgia pain and substance P decrease and sleep improves after massage therapy. J Clin Rheumatol. 2002 Apr;8(2):72-6.
  13. Sherman KJ, Cherkin DC, Hawkes RJ, Miglioretti DL, Deyo RA. Randomized trial of therapeutic massage for chronic neck pain. Clin J Pain. 2009 Mar-Apr;25(3):233-8. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e31818b7912.
  14. P.M. Barnes, B. Bloom, and R. Nahin. Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Among Adults and Children: United States, 2007. CDC National Health Statistics Report #12, December 2008.
  15. S.R. Knauer, J.K. Freburger, and T.S. Carey. Chronic Low Back Pain Among Older Adults: A Population-Based Perspective. Journal of Aging and Health 22, no. 8 (December 2010): 1213-34.
  16. M. van Middelkoop, et al. A Systematic Review on the Effectiveness of Physical and Rehabilitation Interventions for Chronic Non-Specific Low Back Pain.  European Spine Journal 20, no. 1 (January 2011): 19-39.
  17. J. Lee and P. Nandi. Early Aggressive Treatment Improves Prognosis in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Practitioner 255, no. 1736 (January 2011): 23-6, 3.

Firooz, Dr. Nazanin

Dr. Firooz is board-certified in Rheumatology and Internal Medicine. She is an active member of the American College of Rheumatology, and is affiliated with the Department of Rheumatology at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.

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