Therapeutic massage is a technique used to promote relaxation and reduce muscle soreness. In the U.S., the most common form of massage is Swedish massage. With the client on a table, the floor, or in a chair, the massage therapist uses long strokes, friction, pressure, kneading, percussion (i.e., slapping, tapping or pounding) and vibration on superficial muscles.
Massage is very popular in the U.S. According to the American Massage Therapy Association, about 18 percent of Americans have had a massage in the last 12 months. Each year, Americans make 114 million visits to massage therapists and spend about 4 to 6 billion dollars. The average client sees a trained massage therapist about seven times a year.
Massage can be a good treatment for muscle pain. However, sometimes muscle pain can be a symptom of a more serious problem, like nerve injury, bone fracture, arthritis or even some types of cancer. In these instances, massage won't eliminate the pain, and in some cases, can make the problem worse. The force of massage can cause bone fractures in patients with osteoporosis. Doctors have also reported cases of nerve damage, liver injury and displacement of implanted medical devices after massage.
In most cases, massage therapy is very safe. However, if the pain gets worse during therapy or a patient experiences nausea or lightheadedness, the massage should be stopped and a physician consulted. Massage therapy clients should also be aware of other potential signs of a more serious problem, such as weakness in a limb or pain that worsens at night or radiates down the arm or leg. Experts also advise against deep massage in the neck and lower back because of potential irritation to the nerves in those areas.