What is massage therapy?
Massage involves rubbing and putting pressure on muscles, connective tissues, tendons and ligaments. When massage is used to improve someone's health, it is known as massage therapy.
Massage is mainly thought of as a complementary or natural therapy offered by massage clinics or wellness spas, but hospitals are increasingly offering massage therapy to help people cope with illnesses like cancer, heart disease or chronic pain.
Types of massage
Many types of massage are available in Australia. Some of the most popular include:
Swedish: The top layers of muscles are kneaded with soft, long strokes, or the muscles are hit or tapped. This can relieve muscle tension and helps after an injury.
Neuromuscular therapy: Problem areas are manipulated to treat chronic pain, tender muscles, circulation, trapped nerves, problems with posture or injuries caused by repetitive movements.
Deep tissue: Slow strokes are used to put pressure on muscles or tendons deep under the skin. This helps with specific trouble spots such as muscle injuries or back sprains.
Remedial: This is used to treat damaged or painful muscles, tendons, ligaments or connective tissues. Massage aids the body's healing and helps to restore function.
Shiatsu: Pressure is applied with the fingers to specific parts of the body called acupressure points. It is believed this removes blockages in the flow of the body's energy and improves health.
Reflexology: The therapist uses hands, fingers and thumbs to stimulate certain areas of the feet that are thought to correspond to different areas of the body.
What conditions might improve with massage?
Research shows that massage can help with:
- back pain
- cancer (to reduce symptoms and side effects of treatment)
- depression and anxiety
- sports injuries
- pregnancy (to reduce stress, swelling and muscle and joint pain)
What does a massage treatment involve?
Check with your doctor before going for a massage if you have an open wound, bruises, a blood clot or a bleeding disorder. Make sure you drink plenty of water and don't eat too soon before the massage. Try to give yourself plenty of time to get to the appointment so it's easier for you to relax.
The massage therapist will talk to you about your health history and any problems you are experiencing. Make sure you tell them about any conditions you have or medicines you are taking. Your therapist will discuss how they are going to treat you.
You will be asked to undress down to your underwear and to lie down on the massage table. The therapist will knock before they come back in. You will be covered with a drape or towel during the massage. Music or aromatherapy may be used to help you relax.
Tell the therapist if you feel uncomfortable at any time during the massage. A professional massage therapist will never expose your breasts, genitals or other areas you ask to keep covered.
Cost of massage therapy
Medicare doesn't cover the cost of massage therapy.
However, if you have private health insurance, you may receive up to a 30% rebate on some treatments such as physiotherapy and massage therapy. Ask your health fund what is included in your 'Extras' cover.
Choosing a massage therapist
Massage therapists don't legally require any formal qualifications to practise in Australia. Sometimes massages are offered by untrained people - including sex workers.
Always look for a therapist who is registered with the Australian Association of Massage Therapists so you know they are properly trained.
You can search for health services - including massage and natural medicine practitioners - using healthdirect's service finder, a free service that helps you locate the nearest health services in any part of Australia.
Last reviewed: June 2017