Recovering from injury

Common Massage Techniques and How They Work

If you've been referred for massage as part of your physiotherapy, you might be wondering what to expect. Maybe you're wondering whether getting a massage can really help that much.

While massage might seem simple enough to do yourself, it's actually a complex practice that requires years of training to become qualified. Practitioners will tailor their massage techniques according to your needs, creating a highly personalised treatment.

To help you understand how this treatment works, we've listed some of the most common massage techniques below, along with full details on why they're so effective:

Compression massage

Compression massage involves applying firm pressure to an area of the body, then releasing. It's commonly used on larger muscles and is often performed as a warm-up to prepare the body for further massage. The act of compression softens tissue, relieves tightness, and helps you to relax. It also causes the blood vessels to widen, promoting healing.

Longitudinal gliding

This type of massage uses long, gliding strokes in the direction of the blood flow. This technique may be used if you have an injury, as it can help to reduce the amount of fluid around the injury, reducing pain and swelling. For example, if you have a swollen muscle in your leg, massaging in gliding strokes away from the area may help to reduce inflammation and disperse liquid. It also carries many of the same benefits as compression, promoting blood flow and relaxing the muscles.

Myofascial releases

This type of massage is often used to treat chronic pain. Myofascial tissues surround your muscles, and can sometimes become painful, with pain originating in certain specific trigger points. Myofascial release massage works by looking for tense or stiff areas of tissue and massaging them in a way which stretches them gently. Normal tissue should be soft and pliable, and massage can help promote this. Your massage therapist will work on the same trigger points multiple times to reduce tension as fully as possible.

Deep transverse frictions

This type of therapy involves massaging in a circular movement, applying gentle pressure to the tissue. It's often used to help break down scar tissue on tendon and ligament injuries, which can heal slowly if they aren't treated correctly. This technique will usually be performed in combination with others, to reduce pain as well as swelling.

Massage might sound like a strange way to treat an injury, but there's plenty of science behind it. Learning about the different types of massage can be pretty enlightening.