Benefits of Massage Therapy

Relaxing photo of candles and stacked river rocks

Benefits of Massage Therapy

About Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is a form of bodywork that is used to improve function within the body. By using their hands in a variety of different techniques, massage therapists manipulate the soft tissues in the body to promote relaxation and improved circulation. Massage therapy is also used to promote general health and wellbeing in the client, and to prevent future medical issues.

What is the history of massage therapy?

Massage is one of the oldest forms of health care available today. Manuscripts and artwork from all over the world have shown people being massaged. Alternative health systems such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine used massage to treat injuries and disease. Hippocrates once wrote, "The physician must be experienced in many things, but most assuredly in rubbing."

Massage as a modern therapeutic practice was established by a Swedish gymnast in the 19th century. Per Hendrik Ling developed a system known as Swedish Massage that has remained one of the most popular techniques available today.

There are dozens of massage techniques today that are used for a variety of different conditions and problems. Massage therapy is one of the leading alternative health practices used in the Western world today.

What are the principles of massage therapy?

Massage therapy is one of the simplest healthcare practices available, and essentially stimulates the body's natural healing abilities through stroking, kneading and hitting the body with an understanding of the principles of human anatomy.

All massage techniques involve touch, which is an important sensation linked to comfort, love and emotion. Children and young animals require touching, stroking and rubbing to thrive and grow, and touch has been linked to stress-relief and relaxation in adults as well.

When a soothing touch is applied to the skin, messages are sent to the brain to relax the body and release endorphins, the body's natural painkillers. Rubbing the muscles and tissues of the body also help to work out any stiffness or tension that is stored in the body to improve flexibility and movement.

Massage is also useful for stimulating the lymphatic system to boost the immune system and get rid of toxins in the body.

Are there different types of massage?

There are many different types of massage. Massage encompasses anything from rubbing out a sore muscle in your neck to seeing a therapist for a specific condition. Some of the common massage therapy practices available in the United States are:

  • Swedish Massage is the most common form of massage therapy in the United States. It is a very relaxing form of massage that uses long, gentle kneading strokes to improve circulation and to reduce stress.
  • Shiatsu is a Japanese form of bodywork that stimulates the same meridians used by acupuncturists by pressing and holding certain pressure points for a few seconds to increase the flow of qi in the body. It is often used for relaxation, back pain, headaches, stress-relief and recovery from injuries.
  • Deep Tissue Massage is directed at the deeper connective tissue in the body by using slower, harder strokes to release very tight or tense muscles, postural problems or recovery from injuries.
  • Thai Massage is similar to Shiatsu in that the therapist will apply pressure to specific points on the body to promote the flow of energy throughout the body. The therapist will move you around in a number of different postures to stretch the body. It is said to be one of the most energizing massage techniques.
  • Hot Stone Massage is a gentle form of massage that uses heated stones placed on the body to warm the body and loosen tight muscles. Hot Stone Massage is often used for muscle tension, back pain, stress-relief and insomnia.
  • Aromatherapy Massage uses the techniques of Swedish Massage combined with the principles of aromatherapy. Therapists use oils scented with concentrations of plant essences such as lavender to further promote relaxation.
  • Sports Massage is used for active, athletic people, particularly professional athletes. The focus is less on relaxation, and more on injury prevention and treatment, stretching and flexibility.

What are the benefits of massage therapy?

Massage therapy is most commonly used for relaxation and stress-related issues, muscle and joint pain, high blood pressure, depression and digestive problems. Many athletes also use massage therapy to keep their bodies in peak conditions.


About Hot Stone Massage

A hot stone massage is a specialty massage that uses smooth, flat heated stones. These stones are placed at specific sites on the client's body. The massage therapist may also hold the stones and use them to massage certain areas of the body.

Though commonly know as "hot" stone massage, cool stones may also be part of the massage session.

It is a deeply soothing, relaxing form of massage for both body and mind. The heat helps tight muscles release.

What happens during a hot stone massage?

Before you arrive, the massage therapist sanitizes and heat stones of various sizes, shapes and weights using water (ranging from 130-145 degrees Fahrenheit).

During the massage, the therapist will remove the heated stones from the water and place them on specific points along your body (most often the spine), or in the palms of your hand, or even between your toes. When you lie face up, stones may be placed on your belly, chest and face. A towel or sheet is normally placed between you and the stones. The warm stones will help the muscles relax and allow the therapist to more easily perform deep tissue manipulations. In addition, the therapist uses traditional strokes of Swedish massage while holding heated stones. The massage therapist may also put down the stones and use his or her hand to directly massage the skin. Massage oil/creams are usually incorporated into the massage treatment. As the stone cools, the therapist replaces it with another.

Cold stones may also be used as part of the massage therapy session. Alternating cold and heat can increase circulation. Cold stones can also reduce inflammation and pain in a localized area of the body.

You should let the therapist know if the stones are too warm or the pressure is too strong.

What are the benefits of hot stone massage?

  • Promotes deep muscle and tissue relaxation
  • Alleviates stress
  • Relieves pain
  • Improves circulation
  • Promotes overall health and well-being.

Is there any medical reasons why someone shouldn't get a hot stone massage?

If you are pregnant, have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes or are under a clinical practitioner's care consult your practitioner before receiving a hot stone massage.



  • Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine. Time, Inc.
  • Encyclopedia of Healing Therapies by Anne Woodham and Dr. David Peters.
  • Alternative Healing: The Complete A-Z Guide to more than 150 AlternativeTherapies by Mark Kastner, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac. and Hugh Burroughs. Henry Holt and Company: 1996.

Back to Massage Therapy at UNH...