What Is Massage Therapy?
About Massage Therapy
Massage therapy is a form of bodywork that is used to improve function within the body. By using their hands in a variety of different techniques, massage therapists manipulate the soft tissues in the body to promote relaxation and improved circulation. Massage therapy is also used to promote general health and wellbeing in the client, and to prevent future medical issues.
History of Massage Therapy
Humans have instinctively valued the healing power of massage for thousands of years with references to massage appearing in ancient writings from China, Japan, India, and Egypt. Manuscripts and artwork from all over the world have shown people being massaged. Alternative health systems such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine used massage to treat injuries and disease. Hippocrates once wrote, "The physician must be experienced in many things, but most assuredly in rubbing." Massage as a modern therapeutic practice was established by a Swedish gymnast in the 19th century. Per Hendrik Ling developed a system known as Swedish Massage that has remained one of the most popular techniques available.
Types of Massage Therapy
There are dozens of massage techniques today that are used for a variety of different conditions and problems. While there are many types of massage, two fundamental categories are:
Relaxation massage - practiced in settings like spas, wellness centers and resorts.
Rehabilitative massage – also known as deep tissue, medical, therapeutic or clinical massage; practiced in many settings like clinics, hospitals and chiropractic offices.
Some of the most common massage therapy practices are:
Swedish Massage is the most common form of massage therapy in the United States. It is a very relaxing form of massage that uses long, gentle kneading strokes to improve circulation and to reduce stress.
Deep Tissue Massage is directed at the deeper connective tissue in the body by using slower, harder strokes to release very tight or tense muscles, postural problems or recovery from injuries
Hot Stone Massage is a gentle form of massage that uses heated stones placed on the body to warm the body and loosen tight muscles. Hot Stone Massage is often used for muscle tension, back pain, stress-relief and insomnia.
Aromatherapy Massage uses the techniques of Swedish Massage combined with the principles of aromatherapy. Therapists use oils scented with concentrations of plant essences such as lavender to further promote relaxation.
Sports Massage is used for active, athletic people, particularly professional athletes. The focus is less on relaxation, and more on injury prevention and treatment, stretching and flexibility.
Principles of Massage Therapy
Massage therapy essentially stimulates the body's natural healing abilities through stroking, kneading and hitting the body with an understanding of the principles of human anatomy. All massage techniques involve touch, which is an important sensation linked to comfort, love and emotion. Children and young animals require touching, stroking and rubbing to thrive and grow, and touch has been linked to stress-relief and relaxation in adults as well.
When a soothing touch is applied to the skin, messages are sent to the brain to relax the body and release endorphins, the body's natural painkillers. Rubbing the muscles and tissues of the body also help to work out any stiffness or tension that is stored in the body to improve flexibility and movement. Massage is also useful for stimulating the lymphatic system to boost the immune system and get rid of toxins in the body.
Benefits of Massage Therapy
People seek massage therapy for a variety of reasons – to reduce stress and anxiety, relax muscles, rehabilitate injuries, reduce pain, and promote overall health and wellness. Research has shown that massage therapy is a beneficial complement to medical treatment in many cases. Fortunately, today's physicians are beginning to embrace massage therapy and integrate it into their patients' treatment plans.