What is massage therapy?
Massage therapy is the manual manipulation of muscles and other soft tissues in the body, including connective tissue, ligaments and tendons. The purpose is to help people relax physically and mentally, while relieving aches and pains caused by everyday life.
“Massage is a very broad term for something that in the professional setting, has many recognised modalities,” says massage therapist Gina Lilley, a member of the General Council for Soft Tissue Therapies (GCMT).
“These modalities are professionally taught and the therapist should hold qualifications in anatomy and physiology. What is common amongst all forms of bodywork is professional touch – working with the soft tissue of the body to effectively restore injured tissue, remove restrictions in movement that have occurred, support the stressed body and allow relaxation.”
Do your homework
It’s worth pointing out that massage therapist is not a ‘protected title’ – meaning there are no legal requirements for qualifications or registration. However, there are several voluntary regulatory bodies which monitor standards for massage therapists.
So do check that your therapist is registered with a reputable governing body or professional association such as the CNHC (the UK register for complementary healthcare practitioners), the GRCCT (the UK federal regulator for complementary therapies) or the GCMT.
Why might massage therapy improve mental health?
Although massages are not a replacement for treatments such as talking therapy or medication, research suggests they may work well as an additional complementary therapy. Multiple studies suggest regular massage may help to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression, while encouraging relaxation.
Several studies have investigated the use of massage for patients with generalised anxiety disorder. In one small study, women with the condition were treated twice weekly with one-hour massages. Afterwards, they reported decreased feelings of anxiety and increased feelings of self-confidence.
Research has also suggested massage may help people living with long-term health conditions, such as fibromyalgia, which causes pain in the body. In 2014, a systematic review and meta-analysis of nine studies concluded that massage therapy, if continued for at least five weeks, improved pain, anxiety and depression in people with fibromyalgia by promoting relaxation.
A separate review of four studies found that massage therapy may also help to improve the quality of life for people with HIV or …….