How Massage Therapy is Beneficial Combined with Physical Therapy

by Kristen Markett, PT

(Revised by Kevin Cronin, PT, Owner)



When you think of massage, usually the gentle and relaxing sort you would find in spas and luxury health clubs comes to mind.  However, massage therapy is also offered in clinical settings due to its many health benefits.

Because clinical massage therapy consists of injury assessments and injury treatment, it is especially significant alongside physical therapy.  Some specific types of clinical massage your physical therapist may prescribe are deep tissue massage, sports massage, and trigger point therapy. All of the types of massage described below are extremely effective when combined with a manual physical therapy treatment known as Fascial Counterstrain.  Fascia (pronounced like “fashion”), is the protective layer surrounding muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels, and joints).  Fascial Counterstrain is a gentle and powerful technique which eliminates those hard, tender spots in muscles and fascia, alleviating pain, reducing inflammation, and helping to get the tissue ready for the massage therapist.

Swedish massage is the best-known type of bodywork performed today.  One of the primary goals of the Swedish massage technique is to relax the entire body. This is accomplished by rubbing the muscles with long gliding strokes in the direction of blood returning to the heart. Swedish massage is also exceptionally beneficial for increasing the level of oxygen in the blood, decreasing muscle toxins, improving circulation and flexibility while easing tension.

A study conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (published in The New York Times) found that volunteers who received a 45-minute Swedish massage experienced significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as arginine vasopressin-a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol.

Deep Tissue Massage is similar to Swedish massage, but a deeper pressure is used, targeting the deepest layers of muscle tissue, tendons and fascia. The massage therapist will often use their fingertips, knuckles, forearms and even elbows to apply a necessary and deeper pressure.  Deep tissue massage increases circulation, delivering more oxygen and nutrients to the muscles.  This increase of oxygen and nutrients to your muscles ready the muscle for any exercise you may be given during your physical therapy session or any other activity.  A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that people’s blood pressure fell after a single 45 to 60 minute deep tissue massage.

Hot-Stone-Massage-Kelowna1Hot Stone Massage is a specialty massage where the therapist uses smooth, heated stones as an extension of their own hands, or by placing them on the body. The premise behind hot stone massage therapy is that the direct heat of the stones relaxes muscles, allowing the therapist access to their deeper muscle layers. The hot stones expand blood vessels, which encourages blood flow throughout the body. The hot stones also have a sedative effect that can relieve chronic pain, reduce stress and promote deep relaxation.  Combining hot stone massage with a full body massage provides a very healing and effective experience.

465133611Sports Massage is either used as a preventative measure or is incorporated in a post-injury treatment plan.  As a preventative measure, a clinical massage therapist works to flush out any metabolic waste product built up in the muscle after exercise by continuing to stimulate blood flow through the muscle.  The particulars of the sports massage technique are specific to the athlete’s sport of choice. Focusing on areas of the body that are overused and stressed from repetitive and often aggressive movements.  One of the key benefits of sports massage therapy compared to other modalities is its ability to target muscle-tendon junctions. A 2010 study in the journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that even a 30-second massage improved hip-flexor range of motion. Another study conducted by Margaret Jones, Ph.D. of the American College of Sports Medicine, demonstrated a notable trend toward decreased muscle soreness in the athletes who received massage either before or after exercise.

As you can see, massage therapy can be a crucial part of your physical therapy treatment plan.  Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, hot stone massage, sports massage, and physical therapy all have significant effects on your muscles and joints.  Therefore, massage therapy, alongside physical therapy results in a faster, better, more complete recovery, and a happier, healthier you!

ARC Physical Therapy is now offering Massage Therapy at the 150 South Wacker location and the Elmhurst location. Call us now to schedule your appointment today! (630) 832-6919

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