finder

Massage Therapy

What Is It?
How Does It Work?
What Happens During Treatment?
What Is It Used For?
Side Effects/Cautions
Recommended Books


What Is It?
Massage is the application of pressure and movement to the soft tissues of the body (the skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments). The term massage encompasses a range of methods used to relieve muscle tension, stress and pain from injury, improve circulation, stimulate the nervous and immune system and assist in healing and preventing a range of other physical and emotional problems.

The benefits of massage were known to many ancient cultures, but the modern form of this therapy developed during the late 19th century when Swedish gymnast Per Henrik Lin used a system of muscle and joint massage combined with exercise. This later became known as Swedish massage.
Today, dozens of different massage techniques are used, which generally fall under one of four therapeutic approaches:

Traditional Swedish massage, which employs five basic strokes: effleurage (slow, gliding strokes); petrissage (kneading, pressing and rolling muscles); friction (small, circular pressure movements); tapotement or percussion (drumming movements on the fleshy parts of the body); and vibration (rapid shaking movements).

Contemporary Western massage, which includes neuromuscular massage (deep finger pressure applied to “trigger points” which acts on the interaction between nerves and muscles); deep tissue massage (slow, deep strokes to release chronic muscle tension); sports massage (using massage to prevent sports injury and treat sprains and strains); and manual lymph drainage (used to stimulate the flow of lymph fluid).

Bodywork, which focuses on the structure of the body and the way it moves, correcting problems with posture and movement. These techniques include the Alexander technique, hellerwork and rolfing.

Oriental massage, which is based on the system of Traditional Chinese Medicine which aims to balance the flow or qi, or energy, through the body’s meridians. These include acupressure and shiatsu and reflexology (see separate entries).

top

How Does It Work?
Massage increases circulation of the blood and lymph fluid which helps to remove toxic wastes, and promotes healing by supplying nutrients to injured soft tissue. Massage may also improve immune system functioning by decreasing the level of stress hormones such as cortisol, while increasing the level of natural painkilling and mood elevating hormones called endorphins. Massage can relieve chronic muscle tension caused by anxiety or pain, and its soothing and relaxing effects can promote emotional healing. Massage after exercising helps remove the lactic acid that builds up in muscles during vigorous activity, and it helps keep muscles and other soft tissues elastic with stretching and loosening movements.

What Happens During Treatment?
Treatment methods vary according to the type of massage you choose. For a typical Swedish massage, the therapist will ask about your general health and lifestyle and discuss any specific problem areas you would like to concentrate on during the massage. Therapists will normally use a quiet, warm, dimly lit room, sometimes with soft, soothing music playing or incense burning. Your therapist will leave the room while you undress (you may leave your underwear on if you wish) and lie on a padded massage table with a towel covering the parts that will not be massaged. Therapists may offer a full body massage, a back and neck massage, or you can ask her/him to concentrate just on one particular area of tension.

The therapist will employ a range of strokes with the use of massage oil that may be mixed with aromatherapy oils. Your therapist will check whether the pressure s/he is using is too deep or too light for you.

Massage therapy sometimes brings up strong emotions, particularly if you have been under stress for a long period, and some therapists are also trained in basic counselling techniques.

Sessions last for 30 to 90 minutes, and the number of sessions required will depend on the condition being treated. Many people use massage therapy once a week for general stress relief and wellbeing.

top

What Is It Used For?
Massage therapy can help relieve mental and emotional problems such as depression, anxiety, stress and insomnia. It is useful for treating chronic pain and pain from sports injuries or repetitive strain. Massage helps warm up the muscles before exercise, and reduces cramping and stiffness when performed after exercise. It has been shown to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, promoting relaxation, and enhances the immune system by stimulating blood flow. Other conditions which benefit from massage therapy include chronic fatigue syndrome, headaches, joint problems, neck pain, sciatica, asthma and premenstrual tension.

Side Effects/Cautions
Massage should be avoided by anyone with open wounds, a high fever, inflammation, infections, varicose veins, or nerve or tissue damage.

Abdominal massage should not be used during the first trimester of pregnancy, or just after eating. Massage of the legs and feet should also be avoided during pregnancy.

References

Find a Massage Therapist

top

 

Recommended Books

Prices are in US Dollars

 

Job's Body : A Handbook for Bodywork (Third Edition)
Deane Juhan

Possibly the most famous and widely used resource in therapeutic bodywork, this beautifully written, detailed, and reader-friendly picture of how and why the body responds to touch is both scientifically reliable and inspiring. Furthering the presentation of recent research in biochemistry, cell biology, and energy medicine in the Second Edition, this new update includes advances in neurophysiology and physics, reconfiguring knowledge of mind and body, from "microgenesis" to "quantum consciousness." A rare book that fits general reader as much as professional and student.

 Learn more...

 

 

Deep Tissue Massage: A Visual Guide to Techniques
Art Riggs

"A masterpiece on deep tissue massage and myofascial release. Art Riggs reveals various techniques for different parts of the body used in structural integration. Art Riggs has excellent narrative style, shares not only his techniques but his experience, advice and empathy as a massage therapist. This book is a perfect companion for Riggs' DVD Deep Tissue Massage and Myofascial Release: A Video Guide to Techniques, which is a must." - Alfred Hartemink

 Learn more...

 

 

The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief, Second Edition
Clair Davies

Trigger point therapy is one of the most intriguing and fastest-growing bodywork styles in the world. Medical doctors, chiropractors, and alternative health practitioners are all beginning to use this technique to relieve the pain of individuals suffering from undiagnosable soft tissue pain - a condition that studies have shown to be the cause of nearly 25 percent of all doctor visits.
The technique involves applying short, repeated massage strokes to trigger points, places in the muscle tissue where lack of oxygen causes referred pain. These points are easily located by general readers and create pain throughout the body in predictable patterns characteristic to each muscle, producing discomfort ranging from mild to severe. The stimulation of the point causes an increase in the oxygen level in the area and produces often instant relief. The first edition of The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook has made a huge impact in the use of this dynamic technique. This is the first major revision of the overnight classic - a complete update that includes new information specifically for massage professionals as well as a detailed discussion of systematic muscle relaxation techniques that can reinforce the therapeutic power of trigger point work.

 Learn more...

 

More Massage Therapy Books

top

<< Natural Therapies Index