Once considered a luxury that only the rich and pampered could afford — or justify as treatment — massage is now considered an integral part of many physical therapy programs. With a variety of massage techniques to address a range of health problems, the respected practice has been proven to help significantly reduce temporary or chronic pain.
For patients needing immediate pain relief, or who are seeking to avoid drug or surgical therapies for ongoing pain and discomfort, talking to a physical therapist about using massage for some or all of their treatment plan is the ultimate “feel good” move.
Painful Conditions Relieved Through Massage
Aching backs bring many people to massage therapy for the first time, yet pain from other health issues and conditions can also be relieved through massage therapy. A physical therapist often utilizes varying massage techniques, either exclusively or in conjunction with other PT treatments, to treat a range of pain sources. The American Massage Therapy Association reports that patients find significant relief through massage for a range of problems, including:
- Back and neck pain
- Carpal tunnel, tennis elbow and other overuse injuries
- Tension headaches and migraines
- Generalized achiness associated with stress, depression and anxiety
- Exercise-related pain
- Arthritis and other joint conditions
- Pregnancy-related leg and lower back discomfort
- Cancer and bone disease
- Fibromyalgia symptoms
- Postoperative pain
- Discomfort associated with intensive needle therapy
Types of Massage
Physical therapists choose the type of massage technique they use to relieve pain by considering the patient’s underlying condition. Sometimes relief can be found through the more familiar types of gentle strokes used at spas, but at times a more sophisticated manipulation of joints, tissues and bones is needed. That’s why physical therapy is often a better place to seek pain relief than a “one size fits all” relaxation massage.
A Swedish massage is familiar to many as the type found in both spas and physical therapy centers. This technique is definitely helpful for general achiness. Sports massage uses similar gentle stroking and kneading movements as the basic Swedish technique, but additionally focuses on loosening up problem areas commonly found on athletes.
Trigger point massage addresses overuse injuries such as carpal tunnel or tennis elbow, as well as wrenched or torn muscles. Deep tissue massage relieves pain from chronic problems like back pain, tension-related discomfort, arthritis, and deep scar tissue that forms after injuries. Deep tissue massage additionally loosens muscles and joints for fuller range-of-motion function.