Massage therapy approaches range from very gentle superficial contact to deep, forceful manipulation and mobilization of soft tissues and muscles. It involves kneading and stroking soft tissues and muscles. Massage therapy is used to complement other forms of therapeutic intervention. The effects of therapeutic massage vary with each individual. It promotes the reduction of soft tissue adhesions, facilitates good circulation, helps improve range of movement, improves lymph circulation thereby increasing the local effectiveness of the immune system and generally helps to reduce stress levels leading to better mental outlook. Massage therapy has been shown to lower stress and anxiety levels, reduce blood pressure, and improve function following injury. It helps to overcome the swelling and pooling of fluids at the site of tissue injury or trauma. Massage therapy is often used in conjunction with other forms of physical intervention such as joint mobilization and manipulation to help reduce muscle spasms and muscle tension.
An increasing number of research studies show that massage therapy reduces heart rate, lowers blood pressure, increases blood circulation and lymph flow, relaxes muscles, improves range of motion, and increases the release of endorphins (enhancing medical treatment). Although therapeutic massage does not increase muscle strength, it is an excellent complement to a strengthening and conditioning program. It also can hasten and lead to a more complete recovery from exercise or injury.