What Is Massage Therapy and Why Is It Important?

What Is Massage Therapy and Why Is It Important?

Authored by Audrey on September 23, 2021

Are you seeking massage therapy for stress, muscle pain, or athletic performance? Whether you’re curious about massage therapy benefits for health, different varieties of massage, or just want a general overview of the practice, we’re here to help!

The ancient art of massage therapy still intrigues and heals humans, more than 5,000 years after its creation. Originally from India, massage therapy has spread across the globe and evolved into dozens of iterations. Today, it is globally recognized as a form of “integrative medicine,” and can be accessed at healthcare centers. Some health insurance plans even offer regular massage as part of their packages.

The Purpose of Massage Therapy

The term “massage therapy” refers to a group of holistic physical techniques employed to heal the body, mind, and spirit. Typically, massage involves therapeutic kneading, stroking, and manipulating various muscles, ligaments, tendons, skin, and tissue throughout the body.

There are several ways to enjoy the benefits of massage therapy. Although many people choose to hit the spa for a professional treatment by a licensed therapist, others prefer to engage in self-massage, or employ the “magic hands” of a loved one. This is a personal decision that will depend on your own needs.

Having a message is typically a relaxing and enjoyable experience; even the slightly intense ones feel amazing afterwards. However, enjoyable as it is, there is much more to the power of massage. This ancient technique comes with a long list of benefits—and some of them might surprise you! 

What Does Massage Therapy Treat?

Although plenty of folks get massages simply because they enjoy it, that isn’t always the case. Many regular massage patients do so because it helps manage a specific condition. 

There is still much official work to be done in terms of studying the health benefits of massage therapy. However, existing research has indicated that massage therapy can indeed help manage several physical conditions and illnesses, including: 

  • Sports injury
  • DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
  • Fibromyalgia 
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Chronic headaches
  • Digestive issues
  • Nerve pain
  • Anxiety (and related insomnia)
  • Bodily pain
  • High blood pressure

Furthermore, massage therapy is often recommended to patients dealing with serious diagnoses like cancer or heart disease. Although massage, unfortunately, cannot cure these diseases, it can help patients manage both the physical discomfort and emotional distress that comes with such an illness. 

If you are considering massage therapy to help manage an illness, it’s helpful to do some research. Although massage therapy refers to one overall concept, there are many varieties. Likely, one of these types of massage therapy will suit your specific needs better than the rest. 

So, What Types of Massage Therapy Are There?

Massage therapy is an expansive and global technique—there are dozens of varieties to choose from! The following seven forms are some of the most popular here in the USA:

Sports Massage

Obviously, we had to list this one first! Here at Boise’s top spot for athletes, we’re major advocates for sports massage. Whether you have existing athletic injuries, want to avoid them, or are simply hoping to optimize your overall flexibility and performance, sports massage is your answer. A sports massage generally takes around an hour and is always performed by a licensed professional (we know quite a few good ones if you need a referral!).

Self-Massage

Although a massage therapist will be your best and safest bet for most types of massage, it is entirely possible to give one to yourself and see its benefits. Many athletes regularly engage in a practice called foam rolling. This form of self-massage is a form of myofascial release and can help relieve tension in the muscles of an athlete. 

Trigger-Point Massage

Athletes with chronic pain or injuries might choose a trigger-point massage, which focuses on releasing muscle tissue tightness in specifically affected areas. These areas are called trigger points. When left untreated, the pain from tight trigger points will spread to other parts of the body. A trigger-point treatment targets those areas but includes a full-body massage.

Swedish Massage

Swedish massage is great for first-timers or massage patients who wish to enjoy a relaxing, emotionally therapeutic experience. This form of full-body massage is fairly gentle and calm but still can help release muscular tension and knots. It involves several techniques, including tapping, stroking, kneading, and the gentle movement of joints. 

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue massage is a popular choice for patients who experience significant chronic pain or muscular issues. It is known for its intensity; during a deep tissue massage, your therapist will apply much more pressure than with, say, a Swedish massage. This will help the deeper layers of your tissue and muscles to release tension. 

Thai Massage

Love to move? Thai massage might be right for you. This unique form of massage is unique in that the patient stretches and moves during their treatment. Thai massage treatments are typically an hour long and can help your circulation, flexibility, and overall energy levels. 

Reflexology

Although there are many full-body massage benefits, that form of treatment isn’t right for everybody. Some athletes prefer to be clothed and not to have their whole body touched by a therapist—and reflexology is a perfect way to enjoy the benefits of massage without crossing those boundaries.

Reflexology is practiced by applying pressure to specific spots on the body—generally, this will mean ears, hands, and feet. These spots are called “pressure points.” 

What Are the Benefits of Massage Therapy?

There are countless reasons to see a massage therapist. Some of the biggest benefits of regular massage therapy are:

  • It’s relaxing and reduces stress
  • It improves your circulation 
  • It boosts your immune system
  • It reduces bodily discomfort and pain
  • It’s great for your heart
  • It can lower your blood pressure
  • It’ll give you energy
  • It can stimulate your lymphatic system
  • It’ll increase your flexibility (and athletic performance!) 
  • It’s good for your skin!

Are Massages Good for You?

We certainly think so! The combination of mental and physical health benefits of massage is undeniable. However, as with almost any form of treatment, massage therapy is not for everybody. It can be risky to have certain massages with specific medical conditions or injuries. We recommend speaking with your doctor before booking a massage if:

  • You are pregnant
  • You have cancer
  • You’re prone to deep vein thrombosis
  • You have thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet count)
  • You have any still-healing injuries,  broken bones, or wounds
  • You take any blood-thinning medications or have a blood disorder
  • You currently have an infection
  • You have advanced osteoporosis 

If you’re on this list but are hoping for a massage, don’t fret. Your doctor will hopefully be able to work with you to find a form of massage therapy that suits your condition. 

How Does Massage Therapy Reduce Stress?

Anybody who has experienced a relaxing massage knows just how effective it can be in relieving stress—but now, it’s scientifically confirmed. In 2020, The University of Konstanz conducted a study surrounding the relaxation effects of massage therapy…and the results were really exciting. As it turns out, even a small amount of massage therapy can make a big difference to your well-being. 

The University of Konstanz study found that periods of rest combined with short, simple massage can activate the Parasympathetic Nervous System (or the PSNS). The PSNS helps your body relax from mental and physical stress. When it is activated, everything chills out: your heart rate, your blood pressure, even your digestive tract. This leads to an overall more relaxed, mellow state. 

Isn’t science amazing?

Book a Massage for Your Health in Boise!

Now that you’ve learned about the scientific benefits of massage, we imagine you might be ready to try one yourself! If you’re seeking a massage therapist in the Boise area, get in touch with our team for some local recommendations. We only work with the very best. 

To get in touch with the Jack City Fitness team, call (208) 999-1111. While we have you on the line, we’ll invite you to our gym for a FREE fitness consultation and a chance to become one of our partners! If you sign up with us, you’ll be entitled to 24/7 access to our entire facility, a host of exciting classes, one-on-one coaching, and more. We are here to see you succeed and feel amazing!

We can’t wait to meet you and help you reach your goals.