The term massage therapy (also called massage, for short; massage also refers to an individual treatment session) covers a group of practices and techniques. There are over 80 types of massage therapy. In all of them, therapists press, rub, and otherwise manipulate the muscles and other soft tissues of the body, often varying pressure and movement. They most often use their hands and fingers, but may use their forearms, elbows, or feet. Typically, the intent is to relax the soft tissues, increase delivery of blood and oxygen to the massaged areas, warm them, and decrease pain. Massage therapy improves circulation by bringing oxygen and other nutrients to body tissues. It relieves muscle tension and pain, increases flexibility and mobility, and helps clear lactic acid and other waste, which reduces pain and stiffness in muscles and joints.
People get massage therapy for relaxation or for a variety of health conditions such as back pain; inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and tendinitis; stress relief and stress-related conditions; headaches and migraines; muscle and related conditions such as spasms, strains and sprains; repetitive strain injury, such as carpal tunnel syndrome; circulatory and respiratory problems and post-injury and post surgical rehabilitation.
Massage therapy relieves stress. It is thought to help the body's stress response by lowering levels of hormones such as cortisol. Massage therapy also appears to enhance immune function.