Common Questions About Massage Therapy

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Can Massage Therapy Help Me?

Many people have questions about massage therapy and want to know what it can do for them. In many cases, people don’t realize the potential of massage therapy. Still, it can be transforming when working with a massage therapist.

With age, activity, chronic conditions, and natural wear and tear, our bodies start to break down after a while. Many injuries and conditions can lead to constant pain throughout the body or in one targeted spot and make it uncomfortable to move or perform everyday activities. 

When this happens, many people turn to massage therapy in hopes of feeling better. But is massage therapy the right treatment for every condition? Can it help you feel better? Can massage therapy improve your pain?

Aside from releasing tension and relaxing the body and mind, massage therapy can help improve several physical issues, including reducing pain from chronic issues or healing injuries from accidents or aging.

We want to answer some of the most common questions about massage therapy to help you understand how massage therapy can help your mind and body.

man receiving massage from massage therapist

Can Massage Therapy Help a Pinched Nerve?

If you feel dull, aching pain that makes it difficult to move, you may have a pinched nerve. Pinched nerves happen when the surrounding tissues, muscles, or bone apply too much pressure to the nerve. Several factors can lead to pinched nerves, including poor posture, arthritis, aging, or injuries. Pinched nerves typically occur in the neck or back. Still, the pain and numbness can spread throughout other parts of the body, including down the arms and legs. 

Pinched nerves are often treated by simply resting and limiting movement to the affected area. Massage therapy has been linked to helping pinched nerves. It can relieve some of the pain and discomfort and speed up the healing process. Gentle pressure around the affected area can help reduce tension. Before visiting a massage therapist when you have a pinched nerve, be sure to check with your doctor.  

Because the pain from a pinched nerve can spread throughout the body, it can be challenging to determine the precise pinched nerve. A full body massage can alleviate pain from the pinched nerve across the entire body instead of only focusing on the source of the pain. Massage therapy can increase blood flow throughout the body, releasing pressure on the nerves and making it easier and more comfortable to move. 

It’s important to note that massage therapy’s effectiveness for a pinched nerve depends on the type of pinched nerve. In most cases, a light or medium pressure massage is the best option, as deep tissue massage therapy could make symptoms worse.

Massage therapy can generally help a pinched nerve caused by muscle strain or repetitive use. With pinched nerves caused by other issues, such as herniated disks, massage therapy might not be as effective in permanently improving the condition.

A massage could temporarily reduce pain and discomfort, but it won’t heal a pinched nerve. In most cases, massage therapy paired with rest can help a pinched nerve heal. However, severe cases that don’t improve with rest after a few days may require additional treatment from a doctor and even surgery. 

Can Massage Therapy Help Frozen Shoulder?

woman in blue shirt holding shoulder in pain

If you have stiffness or pain in your shoulder joint, it may be from frozen shoulder. This happens when the connective tissue that encases the shoulder joint starts to thicken and tighten, restricting movement and causes pain. Women over age 40 are most at risk, as are people recovering from medical procedures that prevent them from moving their arms.

Symptoms typically start gradually and worsen over time before resolving within one to three years. Frozen shoulder starts with painful shoulder movements and a limited range of motion. It then grows to stiffness before it starts to “thaw,” and the range of motion improves.

Frozen shoulder is typically treated with exercises to increase range of motion and occasional steroid shots. Massage therapy can also help it significantly.

Massage therapy targeted at the shoulder can effectively loosen the connective tissue and make it easier and less painful to move the shoulder. Massage therapy can increase blood flow to the shoulder area, which relaxes muscles and improves inflammation.

A massage therapist can reduce swelling and tenderness in the shoulder and the surrounding area, making it easier to move and increase the range of motion. Over time, scar tissue can build up around a frozen shoulder and make it even more difficult to move. Deep tissue massage therapy can break down that scar tissue and start to “thaw” a frozen shoulder.  

Massage therapy to treat frozen shoulder is most effective when done repeatedly. A massage can loosen the muscles and increase the range of motion, but the muscles will likely slowly tighten up again. For best results, use massage therapy regularly to keep shoulder muscles loose and perform at-home stretches every day. 

Massage therapy can be effective in each stage of frozen shoulder. In the first stage, when movement is painful, massage therapy can relieve pain and pressure. In the second stage, when the shoulder becomes stiff, a massage can break down scar tissue and increase blood flow to increase the range of motion. And in the third stage, when the shoulder begins to thaw and improve, massage therapy can speed up recovery and help the shoulder move like it did before the injury occurred.  

Can Massage Therapy Help Plantar Fasciitis?

If you have stabbing pain in the morning or when you start moving after staying still for a while, you may have plantar fasciitis. One of the most common types of heel pain is plantar fasciitis, which occurs when the tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot gets inflamed. When that tissue, called the plantar fascia, experiences repetitive tension or stress, it can get irritated and break down, which can cause severe pain. 

 Plantar fasciitis is common in runners and in people who are overweight or wear shoes without proper support. It is more likely to happen as people get older and can cause pain, making it hard to move and stay active. 

 Massage therapy is a very effective treatment for plantar fasciitis because it can loosen the foot’s tight tissues to reduce inflammation and pain. Non-surgical treatments, including massage therapy, have been proven to resolve 90% of cases within 12 months. Deep tissue massage loosens the tight tendons, ligaments, and fascia in the foot. As massage therapy loosens the muscles, it becomes easier to perform daily stretching exercises to control pain.

Over time, the tight tendons in the foot can create scar tissue and make it hard to move. Deep tissue massage therapy breaks down that scar tissue to improve the foot’s range of motion and make it possible to move without pain. 

Pain from plantar fasciitis can also spread to the legs because it naturally compensates for heel pain by tightening the calves. Massage can loosen and lengthen the calf muscles and make it easier to move.

Deep tissue massage on the calf can be very effective in reducing pain and improving mobility. Massage therapy is most effective when done repeatedly. Many patients report strong plantar fasciitis results with regular massage therapy and an occasional steroid shot. 

Can Massage Therapy Help Arthritis?

elderly woman gripping her hand to relieve arthritis

Most often felt through joint pain and stiffness, arthritis is the swelling and tenderness of the joints. It occurs when the tissue between the bones wears down with age or from a chronic condition. Arthritis tends to worsen with age and can lead to joint soreness and a limited range of motion. Arthritis looks different for everyone. Severe cases may require surgery, while other issues can be improved with medicine and physical therapy.

Research has connected massage therapy to improving the symptoms of arthritis by relieving pain and enhancing relaxation. Studies have found massage therapy beneficial for people with knee osteoarthrosis, hand arthritis, and back pain caused by arthritis.

In most cases, patients experienced less pain and swelling, a greater range of motion, and better mobility. Many patients also experience improved joint function, daytime energy levels, and sleep quality. 

The common factor of these studies was that patients received massage therapy regularly for multiple weeks. Over that time, they saw improvement in their pain levels and mobility. A single massage could reduce pain temporarily, but it won’t have lasting results.

For the best treatment, schedule regular massages once a week or every two weeks to give your muscles time to recover and repair between treatments.  

Massage therapy can reduce inflammation, which plays a role in stiffness and pain from arthritis. Massage eases muscle stiffness from arthritis and improves circulation, which also lessens inflammation. Loosening muscle stiffness leads to better blood flow to the joints, improving the range of motion.

Regular massage therapy can decrease pain and increase flexibility, which makes it easier to move. And the more an arthritis patient moves, the less likely their joints are to be stiff and sore in most cases. As opposed to other conditions that do well with deep tissue massage, arthritis patients have found moderate pressure is the most effective massage for their condition. 

Arthritis can have crippling mental and physical effects. Aside from physical improvements, many arthritis patients saw that massage therapy significantly improves their mood and mental health by reducing their anxiety. 

Be sure to discuss massage therapy with your doctor or rheumatologist before visiting a massage therapist. Arthritis can damage joints and tissues and make them very sensitive. That can be made worse by some types of massage or by moving the limbs in certain positions.

Your doctor may still agree to massage therapy but recommend avoiding specific movements or areas of the body. Be sure to communicate clearly with your rheumatologist and your massage therapist to provide the right type of massage. 

Can Massage Therapy Help Tennis Elbow?

Contrary to the name, tennis elbow doesn’t just occur from playing tennis. Caused by overuse and can be related to tennis or racquet sports, it can also result from repetitive activities utilizing the forearm muscle, such as painting or woodworking.

Tennis elbow occurs when the tendons in the elbow and forearm experience tiny tears and inflammation. When this happens from repeated movement, the outside of the elbow can be tender and painful. Tennis elbow can also extend to pain in the forearm and manifest itself with a limited range of motion, pain, and lessened grip strength. 

Tennis elbow is often treated with rest, medicine, and physical therapy. Some severe cases may require surgery. Deep tissue massage therapy has also been shown to be effective in speeding up the recovery process, especially when paired with rest and medicine. 

The deep tissue massage is targeted to the forearm and elbow area to be most effective. Deep tissue massage increases circulation in the tendons around the elbow. It breaks down scar tissue, which makes it easier and less painful to move the elbow. Massage can also loosen the forearm muscles and reduce pain. 

When you’ve experienced an injury or a chronic condition, the pain impacts every aspect of your life, from how you move around to how you perform everyday tasks. There are often numerous treatment options for these conditions, and massage therapy can be a powerful tool in reducing pain and improving your quality of life.

If you suffer from any of these five common conditions, talk to your doctor about adding massage therapy to your treatment plan. Regular massage treatment can not only reduce your pain but also improve your mental health.