The health benefits of massage therapy are well-known – and hand massage is no exception. Having your hands massaged not only feels good, but it can also ease muscle tension, reduce pain, and help you feel more relaxed.
Some research even suggests that hand massage may improve symptoms of conditions like arthritis, neuropathy, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Below, we’ll take a closer look at the benefits of hand massage, and offer tips on how to get started.
What is hand massage?
Massage is a type of therapy that involves the use of hands or other tools to rub and knead muscles and joints – often to relieve tension and pain.
There are various types of massage, which includes everything from the more common Swedish massage, to those that are more targeted or have a specific purpose – for example, sports massage, which is intended to help athletes recover.
Hand massage – as the name suggests – focuses around the muscles located within the hand. It can involve techniques such as acupressure, frictions, trigger pointing, and skin rolling, which can be used to achieve different goals – for example, to reduce acute pain and scarring, and soothe the effects of surgery, as well as for general relaxation.
What are some of the techniques used in hand massage?
There are various techniques used in hand massage. However, some of the most common techniques include…
Frictions involve using the fingertips and thumbs to apply pressure along muscle fibres. The main use for frictions is to increase movement in the hand. Restricted movement can be the result of injury, where collagen fibres build up to form scar tissue over the damaged area.
The circular movements used during frictions raises the temperature of collagen fibres, which increases their elasticity, and allows the muscles in the hands to move more freely and easily. This can help to reduce pain too.
Skin rolling involves picking the skin up and rolling it between the fingers and thumbs. This technique is often used to reduce pain and improve muscle and fascia tightness. The fascia is a layer of tough connective tissue located underneath the skin.
Muscles and fascia often cause tightness when they lose elasticity. But, skin rolling during hand massage can be effective for raising muscle and fascia temperature and increasing elasticity – often improving restricted movement and reducing pain in the process.
Trigger pointing is a common technique used in hand massage. Trigger points are hyperirritable spots within skeletal muscle. These can sometimes become tight and restrict movement or cause pain if left untreated. During a hand massage, pressure can be applied to trigger points to help soften and break them down.
This technique is also effective for improving blood flow to an area, which helps to keep muscles strong and healthy by providing them with an increased supply of oxygen and nutrients.
Acupressure is an ancient type of massage therapy that involves applying pressure to certain areas of the body using the thumbs or fingertips. It’s similar to acupuncture in its theory, but uses manual fingertip pressure instead of needles.
When used during hand massage, acupressure increases blood flow to the area, which can break down muscular knots, help to repair any damaged cells, and keep muscles healthy.
To find out more, you might like to have a read of our article; Acupressure – what is it and what are the benefits?
What are the benefits of hand massage?
According to research, hand massage has the potential to improve your health and wellbeing in a number of ways.
Some of the most notable benefits of hand massage recorded by scientific research include reduced anxiety and hand pain, and improved mood, sleep quality, and grip strength. Hand massage can also relax you and so can be a great stress buster too.
For example, in this study, people who received a 15-minute hand massage while waiting for surgery felt less anxious and more satisfied. And another study found that after hand massage treatment, people experienced increased grip strength and endurance.
For this reason, hand massage may help to improve the symptoms of various health conditions. We’ll cover some of these below…
Hand massage may improve symptoms of arthritis
Arthritis of the hands can be pain and debilitating and have a significant impact on quality of life. According to research, people with hand arthritis can have up to 75% less strength in their hands than people without the condition. This can make simple tasks like unscrewing a jar or opening a door difficult, or even impossible.
However, research has found that hand massage may help. For example, the results of this study suggested that receiving a professional hand massage once a week and doing self-massage daily could reduce hand pain in people with arthritis by up to 57%.
In another study, after having a weekly professional hand massage and daily self-massage at home for four weeks, participants with hand arthritis reported less pain and improved grip strength. The same study also found that participants experienced better sleep and less anxiety and depression.
Further studies also indicate that applying topical pain reliever after hand massage may lead to further improvements in pain, mood, grip strength, and sleep quality.
Hand massage may improve symptoms of neuropathy
Neuropathy refers to dysfunction or damage of one or more peripheral nerves (the nerves that lie outside of your brain and spinal cord), which can cause pain in the hands or feet. Research suggests that massage may help neuropathy by improving circulation and increasing blood flow to the hands and feet.
Diabetes and chemotherapy for cancer are some of the most common causes of neuropathy. This is because high-blood sugar levels can damage the small blood vessels that supply nerves; and chemotherapy drugs can damage nerves in the hands and feet.
This study focused on people with diabetic neuropathy who had massage that involved essential oils. After receiving three massages a week for four weeks, participants reported significant reductions in pain and an overall improvement in quality of life.
Another study of people undergoing chemotherapy found that after just one massage session, 50% of participants reported an improvement in symptoms. At the end of the 10-week study, overall weakness was the most reported improvement.
Hand massage may improve symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common nerve disorder that causes pain, numbness, and weakness in the wrist. According to statistics, it affects 7-16% people in the UK.
Research suggests that hand massage may help to improve symptoms. For example, this scientific review found that when people with carpal tunnel syndrome had regular hand massage, they reported reduced levels of pain, anxiety, and depression, as well as greater grip strength.
This study also looked at the effects of people with carpal tunnel syndrome receiving two 30-minute hand massages a week for six weeks. It found that, even by the second week, the severity of symptoms reduced and hand function improved.
It’s important to note that while hand massage has been found to have positive effects on carpal tunnel syndrome, massage for the condition may also include massage of other areas – including the wrist, arm, neck, and shoulder. This will largely depend on the individual’s symptoms.
Hand massage may improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term condition that causes pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints.
This study compared the effects of moderate pressure and light pressure massage on rheumatoid arthritis, focusing mainly on the upper limbs.
After one month of receiving weekly massage therapy and daily self-massage, participants in the moderate pressure massage group reported greater improvements in pain, grip strength, and range of motions in joints.
Note: Focusing too much on a particular joint affected by rheumatoid arthritis can lead to a flare up. For this reason, it’s important to seek professional advice before using massage for rheumatoid arthritis.
Hand massage may help to lower blood pressure
Research has found that massage therapy may have a positive impact on key health readings like blood pressure.
These findings are also true for hand massage specifically. For example, in this study, nurses gently massaged their hands and feet of patients with acute coronary syndrome and their blood pressure decreased.
How to find a massage therapist
When searching for a massage therapist, it’s important to check that they’re suitably trained, qualified, and insured.
To search for registered massage practitioners near you, head over to the Complementary Natural Healthcare Council website.
Can I give myself a hand massage at home?
The good news is that you don’t need any special equipment to perform a hand massage at home. You can also do a massage with or without oil, lotion, or essential oils.
For the greatest benefits, experts recommend using hand massage every day for at least 15 minutes. Moderate pressure instead of light pressure is also thought to be the most effective – particularly if you have hand pain.
If you’d like to get started, check out these simple and easy self-massage tips from Hands On At Work.
There are a number of benefits to hand massage. Not only does it feel nice, but it can also benefit your wellbeing and offer relief for a number of health conditions.
For more information, you might like to have a read of our article; 10 health benefits of massage. Or, you can head over to the general health section of our website where you’ll find information on everything from important health checks to skin conditions and alternative therapies.
Have you experienced any of the health benefits of hand massage? Is hand massage something you’re interested in trying? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.