What is Therapeutic Massage?

I have heard of Sports Massage, but what is Therapeutic Massage and what should I expect?
Massage is: a natural therapy which has been used for thousands of years to treat musculoskeletal problems.

Musculoskeletal Problems and Massage:
Minor injuries are the most common musculoskeletal problems. These can be extremely painful, often seriously impacting on an individual’s occupation, sport, hobbies or quality of life. Such injuries are often not treated effectively through modern medicine and, if untreated, can sometimes lead to more serious conditions in the long term. The majority of these minor injuries can be quickly and effectively treated with massage. Massage can also be highly effective in injury prevention both in a sports context and also in daily life.

Sports Massage is a form of Therapeutic Massage dealing with the health of muscle and connective tissue. Sports massage is a specific qualification generally associated with the treatment of sporting or other injuries. Clients should expect a thorough consultation, postural analysis and an assessment of their range of movement prior to a treatment targeted to address their specific condition, and thorough aftercare advice.

So, what is Therapeutic Massage?
Therapeutic (or remedial, or Clinical) Massage is, like sports massage, a targeted massage aimed at addressing a specific condition.
Clinical Massage Therapy can be defined as ‘the use of manual manipulation of the soft tissues to relieve specific complaints of pain and dysfunction’.
Therapeutic massage can be used as part of a wider health/treatment plan for someone recovering from an injury or a specific health condition to loosen muscles, improve muscle tone, increase flexibility and help to manage pain.
Therapeutic massage can also be used as a stand-alone treatment. Athletes for example regularly use therapeutic massage to keep themselves in good physical condition and address any injuries and pre-existing conditions.
People suffering with, for example, back pain, neck pain, frozen shoulder, rotator-cuff problems, sciatica-type symptoms etc often use regular massage to loosen their muscles, break down knots and adhesions, increase flexibility and mobility, and reduce pain.
Those with sedentary lifestyles/jobs may use therapeutic massage to correct postural and repetitive strain problems while workers in physical/manual jobs may use therapeutic massage to keep their muscles strong, loose and flexible.

What should I expect from a Therapeutic Massage?
Depending on your symptoms/condition a massage therapist offering therapeutic massage would:

  • Ask about symptoms/conditions when you book your appointment
  • Carry out a thorough consultation to ensure that they are able to effectively target their treatment to address your condition and in order to ensure that it is safe to work with you on that day in the way required.
  • May carry out a postural assessment to enable them to see where you have tight or stretched muscles which will be impacting on your condition.
  • May assess your range of movement in the affected parts of the body to further enable them to target their treatment appropriately and effectively.
  • Use massage to warm and relax the muscles prior to deeper tissue work.
  • Work within your limits, using your breath to relax muscles in preparation for deep work.
  • Use deep tissue massage, advanced massage techniques and muscle energy techniques to break down and release any knots and adhesions, enervate lax muscles, relax tight muscles, release trigger points and increase range of movement and joint flexibility and mobility.
  • Use passive and/or assisted stretches to further increase flexibility and range of movement.
  • Ensure effective massage to increase circulation to provide oxygen and nutrients to the cells and effectively remove waste products.
  • Give comprehensive aftercare advice which will often include advice on stretches to help continue the improvement.

Qualifications in Therapeutic Massage:
Therapeutic massage is not such a well-known and widely-recognised qualification as sports massage. However, as you can see, the two are closely related.
Training in therapeutic massage is thorough and comprehensive requiring a thorough working knowledge of the musculo-skeletal system as well as all the other systems of the body; training in advanced massage techniques and in the treatment of specific conditions and in techniques to work with each area of the body; an understanding of when massage is/is not an appropriate treatment plus many hours of practical application of the techniques assessed through observation and written case studies. Therapists should also be constantly practicing, learning new techniques and updating their knowledge and skills.
The training course I did incorporated: sports massage; deep tissue massage; muscle energy techniques; positional release; post isometric relaxation; stretches; trigger point and adhesion work; lengthening tight and facilitated muscles and shortening weak and inhibited muscles.  

Is Therapeutic Massage right for me?

  • Do you have aches and pains you would like to get rid of or reduce?
  • Do you suffer from persistent muscle tension?
  • Do you suffer from headaches, insomnia and any other stress-related symptoms?
  • Do you regularly engage in sporting/leisure/work activities for which you need your muscles to be strong, supple and flexible?
  • Do you struggle with symptoms/conditions such as back pain, stiff necks, symptoms of sciatica, rotator-cuff problems, repetitive strain injuries, poor posture etc?
  • Are you recovering from a musculo-skeletal injury?
  • Do you have an ongoing health condition causing muscle tension and related symptoms?

I could go on…. Therapeutic massage is a targeted massage therapy aimed at addressing a specific problem/condition. It is highly beneficial to many people and incorporates sports massage techniques alongside many other advanced massage techniques to relieve specific complaints of pain and dysfunction.
If you think you could benefit from a therapeutic massage, get in touch today to discuss your injury/condition. Making contact does not commit you to anything but could be the best decision you make. I work with clients with a wide range of conditions and injuries in my treatment room based in Copmanthorpe, York.

Cash, M. Sport and Remedial Massage Therapy. 1996. London. Ebury Press
Clay, J H and Pounds D M. Basic Clinical Massage Therapy: Integrating Anatomy  and Treatment. 2002.  Lippincott Williams and Wilkins
wiseGEEK [online]. Available at: http://www.wisegeekhealth.com/what-is-therapeutic-massage.htm [accessed 26th September 2016]

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