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Massage therapy guide

7-minute read

Key facts

  • Massage therapy involves putting pressure on soft tissues.
  • It can be used to relieve stress and pain and help treat and manage other problems.
  • There are different types of massage therapy, such as remedial massage.
  • Massage therapy should not replace care from your doctor.

What is massage therapy?

Massage therapy is a type of complementary therapy that can help treat different problems. Complementary therapies are used with other treatments. Massage should not replace care from your doctor.

Massage therapy involves rubbing and putting pressure on your soft tissues, including your:

How does massage therapy work?

The benefits of massage therapy are not fully understood.

Some research shows that massage can help to lower your levels of cortisol, which is a hormone that causes stress.

Some studies show that massage can increase other hormones that have a positive effect on your wellbeing, including:

What is massage therapy used for?

Massage therapy is widely used as a complementary therapy to:

Massage can be used to treat problems such as:

Massage therapy can help people cope with:

For many people, massage is simply enjoyable.

What are the different types of massage therapy?

There are different types of massage therapy. Different types of massage use different techniques.

Relaxation massage

A relaxation massage can help to relax your muscles and provide stress relief.

Remedial massage

Remedial massage often uses kneading motions and other techniques to help treat injured or painful:

  • muscles
  • tendons
  • ligaments
  • connective tissues

A remedial massage may focus on a particular area of your body where you are having a problem.

A remedial massage may also use deep tissue massage. A deep tissue massage uses strong pressure to massage muscles or tendons deep under the skin.

Learn more about remedial massage.

Swedish massage

A Swedish massage helps to relax your muscles and help increase blood circulation. A Swedish massage often involves soft, long strokes on soft tissues. Learn more about Swedish massage.

Pregnancy massage

Massage during pregnancy can reduce symptoms that sometimes appear during pregnancy, such as:

  • stress
  • swelling
  • muscle pain
  • joint pain

Learn more about pregnancy massage.

Sports massage

Sports massages are designed to increase flexibility and prevent injuries in athletes. It is also used to help athletes recover from an injury or strain. Learn more about sports massage.

Shiatsu massage and acupressure

In a shiatsu massage, pressure is applied with the fingers to specific parts of the body called acupressure points. These points are massaged lightly to help improve circulation and affect other parts of the body.

Reflexology massage

A reflexology massage involves stimulating certain areas of your hands and feet to affect other parts of the body.

What are the risks of massage therapy?

Sometimes, massage should be avoided. Massage might not be right for you if you have:

You should also avoid massage if you:

  • bleed or bruise easily
  • have a bleeding disorder
  • are having cancer treatment
  • are recovering from surgery

If you want to try massage to ease the symptoms of a health issue, speak to your doctor first.

Some massage therapists are trained to work with people receiving medical care. Your doctor can:

  • help you determine which type of massage may be helpful for you
  • recommend a massage therapist

What does a massage treatment involve?

When you go to get a massage, your massage therapist will first talk to you about:

  • your health history, such as your health condition and current medicines
  • any problems you are experiencing

Your massage will be done in a quiet, private room. It will usually last between 30 to 60 minutes. Your massage therapist may play music or use aromatherapy to help you relax.

You may keep your clothes on during your massage or undress the part of your body that needs to be worked on. Any parts of your body that you do not want exposed can be covered with a drape or towel.

You should feel safe and comfortable while having a massage. If you feel uncomfortable at any point during your massage, let your therapist know.

Massage therapy can cause some soreness. However, any pain should only last about 2 days.

What is the cost of massage therapy?

Medicare does not cover the cost of massage therapy. However, if you have private health insurance, you may receive a rebate. Ask your health fund what is included in your 'Extras cover'.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme and the Department of Veteran's Affairs may offer support for massage therapy as part of a treatment plan, provided by a:

  • physiotherapist
  • osteopath
  • chiropractor

How do I choose a massage therapist?

Massage therapists do not legally require any formal qualifications to practise in Australia. This means that sometimes massages are offered by untrained people.

Always look for a therapist who is registered with Massage & Myotherapy Australia so that you know they are properly trained. You can find a therapist in your area on their website.

Resources and support

healthdirect's service finder is a free service that helps you locate the nearest health services in any part of Australia.

You can search for health services such as physiotherapy, massage and natural medicine practitioners.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2023

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