Massage Therapy Overview
A scientific manipulation of the soft tissues of the body. The basic concept and philosophy of massage therapy is to aid the body in the ability to heal itself. Massage can be an important part of a personal health and wellness program. Massage has powerful healing qualities that can counter-act the debilitating effects of the modern day life.
The History of Massage Therapy
Alternative medicine employs many “Hands On” therapies and modalities, including massage, aromatherapy and reflexology. These ancient therapies date back over thousands of years and can help improve health, relieve stress, promote relaxation and prevent disease. Massage has been advocated in Western health care practices in an almost unbroken line since th time of Hippocrates, “The father of medicine”. In the fourth century B.C. Hippocrates wrote, “The physician must be acquainted with many things and assuredly with rubbing”. Some of the greatest physicians in history recommend massage, including Celsus, who wrote an encyclopedia of Roman medical knowledge, and Galen, the most influential physician in ancient, medieval, and renaissance worlds. Modern, scientific massage therapy was introduced in the United States not until the 1850’s by two New York physicians, brothers George and Charles Taylor. Now massage therapy is used in a variety of ways ranging from simple relaxation to treating specific maladies.
How does massage work?
Massage increases the circulation of blood and movement of lymph. The direct mechanical effect of rhythmically applied pressure, along with the stimulation of nerve receptors, can increase the rate of blood flow. Lymph is a milky white fluid within the body that drains impurities and waste away from the tissue cells. This is vital because a component of these wastes is toxins (lactic acid) which are by-products of metabolism. Massage also helps to aide in the loosening of contracted, shortened, hardened muscles and can stimulate weak flaccid muscles.
Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage is indicated for most forms of chronic muscle tension, regardless of its source. It can produce significant relief in specific areas such as the neck and low back. Deep tissue massage is firm, constant compressions and strokes applied parallel to the muscle fiber. Techniques are intended to effect the deeper structures of the musculo-skeletal system, as well as the skin and the more superficial fascia and muscles. To reach these deeper areas, the therapist uses fingertips, knuckles, elbows, forearms and the heels of the hand as tools. Pressure is gradually applied to a tight area until a resistance is met.
Swedish massage uses a system of long gliding strokes, kneading and friction techniques on the more superficial layers of muscles, generally in the direction of the heart, to promote healthy blood flow and circulation, range of motion and overall relaxation.
A traditional Chinese medicine, acupressure is based on applying pressure to precise point on the body to strengthen, calm or unblock the flow of energy vital to your body. These points are located on meridian pathways, channels which run beneath the skin that correspond with these blood vessels or nerves. These pressure points actually have a higher electrical conductivity on the surface of the skin. Stimulating these points trigger the release of endorphins, which are the neurochemicals that relieve pain. Besides relieving pain, acupressure can help rebalance the body by dissolving tension and stress that inhibit it from functioning smoothly.
This type of foot massage, which concentrates on specific areas of the feet is based on the principle that energy from the entire body flows to the feet. If energy becomes blocked, it can effect the body as a whole. Reflexology points are also located on the ears and hands but are not as effective as the feet. There are 7,200 nerve endings on the foot that have extensive interconnections through the spinal cord and brain. By systematically working various reflexes, stress relief can be accomplished and homeostasis or balance can be achieved.
Relaxation and Visualization
There are health benefits to be had from relaxing properly, particularly in terms of relieving stress, which can lead to problems such as digestive upsets, and heart disease. Deep breathing is one way to reduce stress and is essential for true relaxation. Visualization is believed to be helpful for a variety of complaints including panic and anxiety disorders. There are large ongoing scientific studies that show the effects of visualization on the body, mind and emotions. Individuals can learn to affect their health by methods of deep relaxation and visualization during their massage.