How It Works
The power of touch is not fully understood. Massage can help the muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels, and much more. Science isn't exactly sure what happens in the body during a massage. We do know that there aren't many risks from having one done.
Types of Massage
Here are the most common types:
- Swedish (most common)—Uses long strokes and kneading along with movement to relax and energize you
- Deep tissue—Eases tension through slow strokes and deep finger pressure. It is often used to treat injuries.
- Chair—Massages the upper body while you are seated upright in a chair
- Sport massage—Warms up an athlete to lower the risk of injury, keep the body flexible, or help heal muscles
What Studies Have Found
Research has found that massage helps pre-term babies. In studies, those who got massage gained more weight in 6 weeks. They were also more social and easy to soothe. Other studies have shown that massage can help help babies sleep. It can also lower the risk of breathing problems during sleep in babies born with low birth weight. Children and teens with chronic pain can also benefit from massage.
Massage isn't always the answer. It may not be right for people with bleeding problems or those taking blood thinner. It should not be used on people with clots, broken bones, wounds, skin infections, or weak bones. People who have these problems should talk to their doctors before having massage. It is safe for most people, but it may cause pain even when done the right way.
How to Find a Therapist
You will want to choose a therapist who is licensed in your state. Massage therapists must have a license in most states. The American Massage Therapy Association has an online database that can help you find a therapist where you live.
Massage involves talent that goes beyond training, certification, or license. Some people are simply gifted with their hands. Also, a massage type that works for one person may not work for someone else. Trial and error is often needed to find the best massage therapist and massage type for you.
The American Massage Therapy Association
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
Massage Therapist Association of Alberta
Massage can aid in pain relief. AMTA Position Statement. American Massage Therapy Association website. Available at: https://www.amtamassage.org/about/position-statements/massage-can-aid-pain-relief. Accessed October 26, 2021.
Massage therapy. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/academic/natural-alternative-treatments. Accessed October 26, 2021.
Massage therapy may benefit newborns. AMTA Position Statement. American Massage Therapy Association website. Available at: https://www.amtamassage.org/about/position-statements/massage-therapy-may-benefit-newborns. Accessed October 26, 2021.
Massage therapy: what you need to know. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Available at: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/massage-therapy-what-you-need-to-know. Accessed October 26, 2021.
What to expect at your massage session. The American Massage Therapy Association website. Available at: https://www.amtamassage.org/find-massage-therapist/what-to-expect-at-massage-session. Accessed October 26, 2021.
Last reviewed October 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Last Updated: 10/25/2021