Massage Therapy

Massage Therapy is believed to be one of the oldest forms of medical treatment. Chinese records that date back 3,000 years indicate the use of massage as a form a medicinal therapy. During the second century B.C. in The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, massage was mentioned as a recommendation for the treatment of certain ailments. In India, the traditional healing system of Ayurvedic medicine prescribed massage for a variety of medical conditions. The ancient Hindus, Persians and Egyptians applied forms of massage for a wide variety of ailments and physicians of ancient Greece and Rome utilized massage as one of the primary methods to treat pain. In the West, during the fifth century B.C., Hippocrates wrote papers recommending fellow physicians use rubbing and friction for joint and circulatory problems.

Hippocrates brought about a historical change in the field of massage as noted by Robert Noah Calvert in “The History of Massage”(2003). Calvert suggests that Hippocrates changed the actual direction and technique of massage. Shamans and priests would typically massage away from the core of the body and make sweeping motions out towards the arms and legs. The rationale was to rub or brush away evil spirits and sickness out of the body and out through the limbs. Hippocrates, on the other hand, stressed that massage should be directed toward the center of the body or toward the heart. His rationale for stroking upwards was to help eliminate waste products from the body. His technique actually changed the way massage had been practiced for centuries, although, in some ancient healing practices massage is still performed in the original manner.

Massage and the Numerous Techniques

Massage therapy is the application of soft-tissue manipulation techniques to the body, generally intended to reduce stress and fatigue while improving circulation and bringing in oxygen and nutrients to the muscle to relieve pain and speed recovery. According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which included a comprehensive survey of CAM use by Americans, an estimated 18 million U.S. adults and 700,000 children had received massage therapy in the previous year. The many variations of massage account for several different techniques including Swedish Massage, Deep Tissue Massage, Sports Massage and Prenatal Massage.

Swedish Massage is the most common type of massage. It would seem that the impulse to rub a hurt is instinctual, but up until the early 1800s, there were few advances in the actual massage techniques until Swedish massage was developed. A Swedish doctor named Per Henrik Ling is often mistakenly associated with Swedish massage. He actually incorporated massage with medical gymnastics and physiology and developed the Swedish Gymnastic Movement System. The actual technique applied by massage therapists includes the use of long smooth strokes, kneading, and circular movements on superficial layers of muscle. The many benefits of Swedish massage may include generalized relaxation, dissolution of scar tissue adhesions, and improved circulation, which may speed healing and reduce swelling from injury

Deep tissue massage is a type of massage therapy that focuses on realigning deeper layers of muscles and connective tissue. Deep tissue massage uses many of the same movements and techniques as Swedish massage, but the pressure will generally be more intense. It is also a more focused type of massage, as the therapist works to release chronic muscle tension or knots, also know as adhesions. These techniques require advanced training and a thorough understanding of anatomy and physiology. The muscles must be relaxed in order to effectively perform deep-tissue massage, otherwise tight surface muscles prevent the practitioner from reaching deeper musculature. It helps with chronic muscular pain such as stiff necks, low back tightness and sore shoulders. Deep tissue massage also aids in injury rehabilitation and reduces inflammation-related pain.

Sports massage was designed for athletes, but is useful for anyone with chronic pain, injury or range-of-motion issues. Sports massage was originally developed to help athletes prepare their bodies for optimal performance, recover after a big event, or function well during training. Sports massage emphasizes prevention and healing of injuries to the muscles and tendons. Sports massage is a type of Swedish massage that stimulates circulation of blood and lymph fluids. Some sports massage movements use trigger point (a hyperirritable painful spot) therapy, to break down adhesions and increase range of motion. There are four types of sports massages: pre-event sports massage, post-event sports massage, restorative sports massage and rehabilitative sports massage.

There are many concerns connected with what a new mom can and can not do throughout pregnancy. One safe and effective form of therapy is massage. Performed by a trained perinatal specialist, many methods of massage therapy are preformed prenatally, during labor and postpartum periods of women’s pregnancies. Prenatally, specific techniques can reduce pregnancy discomforts and concerns and enhance the physiological and emotional well-being of both mother and fetus. Skilled, appropriate touch facilitates labor, shortening labor times and easing pain and anxiety. In the postpartum period, specialized techniques rebalance structure, physiology, and emotions of the new mother and may help her to bond with and care for her infant. Specialized, advanced training in the anatomy, physiology, complications, precautions, and contraindications is highly recommended, and many practitioners require referrals from physicians prior to therapy.

Benefits of Massage Therapy:

  • Reduces Stress and Anxiety, Depression
  • Increase Joint Flexibility
  • Enhances Circulation
  • Promotes Healing
  • Reduces Pain
  • Promote Tissue Regeneration
  • Lowers Blood Pressure
  • Reduces Fatigue and Improves Energy
  • Strengthens the Immune System
  • Supports Digestion
  • Reduce Muscle Cramping
  • Enhance Sleep Quality
  • Improve Concentration

Regardless of the adjectives we assign to massage therapy (pampering, rejuvenating, therapeutic) this form of bodywork can be a powerful ally in your healthcare regimen.