An Overview of Therapeutic Massage

An Overview of Therapeutic Massage

Julian Whitaker, MD

At the Whitaker Wellness Institute, we offer several therapeutic massage treatments, with each session tailored to meet your individual health and wellness needs.

Russian Massage

Russian massage employs a variety of manipulations to relieve pain and treat acute and chronic health problems. Originating in the former Soviet Union, this form of massage was developed when physiatrists (medical doctors with graduate degrees in physical therapy) were asked to research the benefits of natural healing methods. The physiatrists created a form of massage specifically used to reverse muscle atrophy and stimulate tissue repair.

In Russia, massage is considered crucial to healing and massage therapists are widely respected as medical professionals. In fact, the massage department is often the largest in Russian hospitals and clinics. Patients have often described this therapy as “waking up” the body and mind.

Russian massage is based on the physiology of dysfunction—the underlying cause of health problems. This technique is useful for a wide range of health conditions, including pain from injury, muscular aches, cardiovascular problems, gastrointestinal complaints, neurological disorders, gynecological problems, and for post-surgical healing. It is often used to boost circulation of blood and lymphatic fluid, improve mobility, and to ease physical and mental stress.

Russian massage is minimally invasive and profoundly relaxing. Because of its soothing, low-impact motions, Russian massage is considered especially suitable for older patients.

Swedish Massage

Our classic Swedish massage incorporates gentle kneading motions and long strokes to soothe tension and enhance circulation. The term “Swedish” refers to a technique specifically developed to relax stiff muscles, typically rubbing in the same direction as blood flow returning to the heart.

Swedish massage was developed as a method to increase oxygen in the bloodstream and release toxins from the muscles. This technique is often used to shorten recovery time from physical strain by flushing lactic acid and other metabolic byproducts from the muscle tissue.
This form of massage helps stretch ligaments and tendons, keeping them supple and healthy. It enhances circulation, giving skin a vibrant, healthy glow. It is highly recommended for stress reduction and relaxation.

Swedish massage is generally considered a light-to-medium intensity massage.

Lymphatic Massage

Lymphatic massage is a technique that focuses on improving the flow of lymphatic fluid in the body. Like other massage forms, it is deeply relaxing, and has even been described as “hypnotic.”

The lymphatic technique uses light, rhythmic motions to gently mimic the body’s natural way of moving lymphatic fluids. The lymphatic system is responsible for removing toxins from the body, and the gentle pumping of lymph nodes during this massage can help boost the immune system.

Lymphatic massage is an effective method for enhancing circulation, and is especially beneficial for any form of edema (swelling). It can be used after injury or surgery to reduce swelling and accelerate healing. It is frequently employed to treat migraine headaches, sinus problems, and high blood pressure, and is a powerful detoxifier.

Lymphatic Massage During Pregnancy

Receiving lymphatic massage during pregnancy can help relieve the unique aches and pains caused by extra weight, swelling, shifting body alignment, and changing hormones. Research has shown that regular pregnancy massage actually contributes to shorter labor and can reduce complications.

Pregnancy massage is undertaken with the patient lying on her side. Using cushions, the massage therapist works on one side of the body, then the other. Each massage is customized for the patient, using different positioning and techniques in each trimester.

Lymphatic massage is noninvasive and safe for most everyone to receive, including older people and pregnant women throughout each trimester. Patients who have been diagnosed with breast cancer should inform their therapist before undergoing lymphatic massage.

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue massage is a more intense and invigorating massage, concentrating on the deeper layers of muscle tissue. Its primary purpose is to release chronic tension in the body, employing slow, shorter strokes and deep pressure on problem areas.

This massage is highly therapeutic and is used to relieve pain and to help break up scar tissue in muscles and tendons. It loosens muscle fibers and releases long-held patterns of tension, all while improving circulation and soothing muscles.

Because deep tissue massage focuses on specific problem areas, it may produce some short-term soreness after the massage. However, most patients report that they feel better than ever within a just a couple days. In fact, a Consumer Reportssurvey ranked deep tissue massage second only to chiropractic treatment for relief of acute pain.

Sports Massage

Sports massage is a unique therapy used before, during, and after strenuous exercise or athletic events. The purpose of this massage is to keep the body in peak condition. Whether the patient is a trained athlete or occasional jogger, this massage can speed healing and improve performance.

In sports massage, the methods used will depend on the needs of the individual patient. Typically, the therapist will employ a mix of traditional Swedish and deep tissue techniques specifically designed to treat athletes. And since each sport or exercise puts different strain on different muscles, this massage is tailored to address specific concerns and may differ according to the sport itself and the condition of the patient.

Sports massage improves circulation, reduces muscle tension, boosts lymphatic flow, improves flexibility, and relieves pain. Studies have shown that sports massage following an athletic event is particularly beneficial in decreasing the amount of subsequent muscle soreness. It is safe for virtually everyone.


  • To schedule an appointment for massage therapy at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, call (866) 944-8253.

Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healingclick here.

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