Reviewed by Melinda Ratini on April 23, 2012


Rick Garbowski, Certified Massage Therapist and Instructor, Atlanta School of Massage; Cherkin, Daniel C., PhD; Sherman, Karen J., PhD; Deyo, Richard A., MD, MPH; and Shekelle, Paul G., PhD; “A Review of the Evidence for the Effectiveness, Safety, and Cost of Acupuncture, Massage Therapy, and Spinal Manipulation for Back Pain” Academia and Clinic: American College of Physicians

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Video Transcript

Narrator : Feeling stressed? Muscles tight and sore? Maybe it's time for a massage! Studies show massage can reduce anxiety, decrease pain, enhance your immune system and even heighten your self-esteem. But what type of massage is best for you?

Rick Garbowski, OC: Swedish is pretty much the basis of all western massage technique.

Narrator : Swedish massage uses firm but gentle pressure to improve the circulation and relax the muscles. It employs movements such as long, gliding strokes and the kneading of individual muscles.

Rick Garbowski, OC: In general, there's probably three different things you're attempting to do when applying massage of any style. You're either taking an energetic approach, you're taking a structural approach or you're taking a neurological approach.

Narrator : A neurological approach is helpful if the source of your pain is not exactly where you feel it on your body. A well trained masseuse will use knowledge of the nerve routes that run through your body and be able to subtly manipulate them in order to help you relax. Many of the Eastern styles of massage make use of the energetic approach.

Rick Garbowski, OC: They're based on the principle that there's energy circulating through the body and there's a series of meridians that are like pathways or almost like an interstate system. And the entry starts at one point, 24-hours later it's traveled the entire course of the body and it's back at that point again. So it's continuously making this circuitous route and it should be unobstructed.

Narrator: Massage therapy is not regulated in every state and it's important to do your homework. Terms and procedures can vary widely. Take the phrase, deep tissue.

Rick Garbowski, OC: What's interesting about deep tissue is that it doesn't really mean anything. To most people deep tissue means you're pressing harder and trying to access those deeper layers of tension in the muscles.

Narrator: There are times when it's advisable to avoid massage. If you have burns, open wounds or cancerous tumors in areas that are likely to be handled by the therapist. If you've recently had a heart attack, or have unhealed fractures, severe osteoporosis or blood clots in your legs. Otherwise, leave the work for the therapist. And believe me it is work.

Rick Garbowski, OC : My hands dictate the stroke so my hands know which way they want to move, but my pressure comes from me dropping my body weight and very simply leaning. Because if I have to work with my arms the whole time I wouldn't last an hour.

Narrator: For WebMD, I'm Damon Meharg.