Massage therapy entails the manipulation of the human body’s soft tissues through procedures such as rubbing, pressing, and manipulating the skin, that cause an individual’s blood to pass more rapidly through his or her tendons, muscles, and ligaments. To bring this effect, the massage therapist can use his elbows, hands and fingers, forearms, and even feet.
History of Massage Therapy
The art of massage therapy is not a modern invention but has been passed down through successive generations in multiple civilizations as a proven method of easing muscular pain and healing different disorders.
Ancient physicians and medicine men used massage therapy to cure different ailments. History has documented that Hippocrates recommended massages to his patients; as did Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine in 5BC (Calvert 2002). During Europe’s Renaissance period, massage therapy grew in popularity in various European capitals.
In 1813, Per Ling, who is regarded as the inventor of the Swedish massage, named the main massage techniques that include stroking, effleurage, kneading, petrissage, and friction (Calvert 2002).
During the 1850s, massage therapy was introduced in the United States by two physicians who had studied under Swedish massage therapists (Massage Therapy 2014).
The scientific developments in medical treatment that were characteristic of the 1930s and 40s in the US saw a decrease in interest in massage therapy as a whole. When celebrated athletes began to use massage services in the 1970s, however, public interest in it began to grow once again (Massage Therapy 2014).
Types of Massage
There are different types of massages that range from light stroking (effleurage) to deep pressure therapies. The most common types include:
- The deep massage: This is a technique that makes use of forceful strokes that are worked slowly into the skin to target the body’s connective tissue and deeper muscle layers. This technique is usually used to assist individuals who have incurred muscle damage
- The Swedish massage– This is a gentle massage technique in which the therapist kneads the client’s skin using long strokes in circular movements. This massage technique is meant to relax and then energize the client
- The trigger point massage– This massage technique is conducted on areas where the client has tight muscle formation due to overuse or injury
- The sports massage– This massage technique is usually applied to athletes to reduce their chances of suffering from injuries due to the exertion of muscles (Mayo Clinic Staff 2015).
Benefits of Massage Therapy
Massage therapies are offered to patients as a valid treatment for different medical conditions. Studies have shown that having a massage can reduce pain, muscle tension, and stress in the body (Mayo Clinic Staff 2015).
It has also been established that other benefits of massage include eliminating anxiety, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain syndrome, digestive disorders, pain associated with sports injuries, soft tissue injuries, arthritis, and strains (Field, Furlan, Sherman, Khalsa, and Kilen Jr. 2015). Studies have established that having a regular massage boosts a person’s immune system.
Children and infants who are not often massaged by their parents or caretakers tend to be physically as well as emotionally stunted (Benson 1975). Being touched triggers the release of a hormone that is vital for human development. This is why many individuals opt for regular massages.
Massage therapy can also improve circulation within the body when the masseuse applies pressure towards the client’s heart. Also, the pressure used during a massage helps to transmit oxygen-enriched blood to body tissues that experience poor circulation (Mayo Clinic Staff 2015).
This cleanses such tissues and facilitates the removal of toxins. While massage therapy has numerous benefits, it is inappropriate for individuals who have blood thinning disorders, fractures, open wounds, severe osteoporosis, and deep vein thrombosis (Mayo Clinic Staff 2015).
How to Prepare for a Massage
Before beginning a massage, a masseuse or massage therapist has to prepare himself and the room in which the exercise will take place. For instance, he has to ensure that his hands are warm and the room, presentable. He should be clean, but should avoid wearing excessive cologne as this may increase the patient’s discomfort (Benson 1975).
The masseuse should also have short nails and remove any jewelry to prevent the possibility of unintentionally wounding the client. The masseuse should understand that he has a duty to protect himself even though he is the person who is dispensing the service. This means that he can refuse to perform the massage if his client has open wounds on his body.
To prepare the room where the massage will take place, the masseuse can turn on soothing classical music such as Vivaldi or Bach (Benson 1975). The room should also be in an open air place, or, if in a closed room, should have all the windows open. The massage table should be adjusted to suit the height of the client, and have a firm head rest on which he can support himself.
Depending on the client, the masseuse may use candles to elevate the mood, and adjust the lighting to suit the environment. The masseuse should have the necessary cream and oils next to him so that the client is not left unattended for long periods of time. Before starting the massage, the masseuse should inquire about any health conditions that the client may have.
This is to prevent the possibility of aggravating serious conditions such as high blood pressure (Benson 1975). The ideal room temperature for a massage is 19-21 Celsius; though the masseuse may make minor adjustments to this upon request.
Before starting the message, it is important for the client to see the masseuse washing his hands and putting the client’s personal effects nearby. The masseuse should start by asking the client where he wants to be massaged. This gives a general indication of the area on which the therapist should focus.
The masseuse should start with light strokes before proceeding to a deeper rhythm (Benson 1975). The masseuse should also avoid putting any pressure on the kidneys, the spinal column, and any other bones. After completing the massage, the client should be provided with water and allowed to rest for half an hour.
There are more than 20 types of massages that have been developed over the last few decades to ease tension in the muscles and relieve stress.
Studies have proved that massage therapy brings numerous benefits to sick as well as healthy individuals. Moreover, for these benefits to be sustained in the long-run, individuals have to make massage therapy a regular pastime in their lives.
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Benson, H. (1975) The relaxation response, Avon Books, New York City.
Calvert, R. N. (2002) The history of massage: An illustrated survey from around the world, Healing Arts Press, New York.
Field, T., Furlan, A., Sherman, K., Khalsa, P., & Kilen Jr., J. (2015) ‘Massage therapy for health purposes: What you need to know’, National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health. Retrieved from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/massage/massageintroduction.htm
Massage Therapy. (2014) MedicineNet.com. Retrieved from http://www.medicinenet.com/massage_therapy/article.htm
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015). ‘Massage: get in touch with its many benefits,’ Healthy Lifestyle Stress Management. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/massage/art-20045743