Massage therapy is the practice of manipulating the muscles and connective tissue of the body to reduce tension, enhance blood flow, activate the relaxation response and promote healing. Massage therapists typically apply pressure to the soft tissue of the body by rubbing the muscles with their hands and fingertips.
There are more than 80 different styles of massage therapy, most of which involve the use of a massage table or a specially designed mat or chair. Gentle forms, such as Swedish massage, use kneading and gliding strokes to relax the top muscular layer. More intense techniques target the deeper muscles and connective tissue, sometimes requiring the practitioner to use his elbows, forearms or feet. Massage therapy is considered to be a safe practice when performed by a certified therapist.