Occupational therapists, physical therapists, and massage therapists provide massage to treat, heal, and strengthen your muscles. Therapists must be specially trained to perform massages, and therapists use massages to increase the functional use of your muscles and decrease pain.
Trigger Point Release
Trigger point release massage is one of the most important massages for your muscles, especially if you have had an injury, strain or have pain. As your body reacts to the injury, some muscles will tighten to guard the injured area. This natural reaction of your body has negative side effects, including increased pain, decreased movement and weakening of opposing muscles.
Muscle guarding significantly increases the chronic pain associated with your injury. During a trigger point release, your therapist will press down perpendicularly with maximum pressure to the tight muscle for up to 90 seconds.
This pressure will release the tension in the muscle, causing it to relax and preparing your muscle for a larger range of motion. It will also allow for strengthening of the opposing muscle groups. Although this massage is one of the most uncomfortable, it is the most effective.
Effleurage massage is a mild to moderate pressure massage performed over the muscle and soft tissue to increase circulation to injured tissues. A therapist will move her hands over your muscles in a circular motion. This movement stimulates the capillaries to open and will rush blood to the muscle to allow tissues to heal.
Retrograde massage is used after a muscle injury if you have swelling. A therapist will start at the hand or foot of the swollen limb, applying modest pressure pushing upwards to the shoulder or hip. Lymph nodes located in your shoulder and hip recirculate the fluid from your limb into the body for redistribution, thereby reducing your edema.
Generally, you require three to five sessions of retrograde massage to see lasting, significant edema reduction, although you will see some results after only one session. After removing the fluid from the muscles and surrounding soft tissue, you should be able to increase your range of motion because excess fluid will not impede your movement.
After the Massage
During a massage, lactic acid along with other toxins are released from your muscles into the surrounding soft tissue. Lactic acid is the substance in your muscles that causes them to feel fatigued during exercise and sore following prolonged exertion.
After any massage, drink four 8-oz. glasses of water within 12 hours to flush the toxins from your soft tissue. Increased fluid intake will significantly reduce soreness after your massage.
Pregnancy and Massage
Because of the placement of the fetus, some pregnant women may lose consciousness during a standard massage. Care must also be taken because the massage can release fluids from the muscles into the body that can cause fluid overload and harm the heart. Pregnant women must see a physical, occupational or massage therapist who is specially trained in pregnancy massage techniques.
Melissa Sabo is an occupational therapist who started writing professional guidebooks for all Flagship Rehabilitation employees in 2009. Specializing in applied therapy and exercise for non-medical readers, she also coauthored a manual on wheelchair positioning. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Science in occupational therapy.