What is Massage Therapy?

There is not much difference in the concept of massage and massage therapy. When a layman uses the touch, pressing and kneading actions to bring about a feeling of lightness and happiness in the receiver, he is practising the art of massage. But, when the same techniques are used in a scientific manner, taking into account the muscle locations, stress points and other anatomical considerations, it becomes massage therapy.

Massage can be given by anyone, anywhere and under any circumstances. One does not need to know the intricacies of human body-systems in order to practise massage. But to practise the massage therapy, one has to be proficient in the knowledge of the human body-systems and their working. It is a more skilled and technical aspect of the common massage, which is more instinctive than technical.

Massage therapy is the systematized manipulation of soft tissues for the purpose of normalizing them. Practitioners use a variety of physical methods, which include applying fixed or movable pressure, holding, or causing movement to the body. Therapjsts primarily use their hands, but may also use their forearms, elbows, or feet.

The basic goal of massage therapy is to help the body heal itself and to increase health and well­being. Touch is the core ingredient of massage therapy and also combines science and art. Practitioners learn specific techniques for massage and use their sense of touch to determine the right amount of pressure to apply to each person and locate areas of tension and other soft-tissue problems. Touch also conveys a sense of caring, an important component in the healing relationship.

When muscles are overworked, waste products such as lactic acid can accumulate in the muscle, causing soreness, stiffness, and even muscle spasm. Massage improves circulation, which increas~s blood flow, bringing fresh oxygen to body tissues. This can assist the elimination of waste products, speed healing after injury, and enhance recovery from disease.

Therapeutic massage can be used to promote general well-being and enhance self-esteem, while boosting the circulatory and immune systems to benefit blood pressure, circulation, muscle tone, digestion, and skin tone. It has been incorporated into many health systems, and different massage techniques have been developed and integrated into various complementary therapies.

Most therapists, and certainly those who work holistically, believe that regular body massage can release emotional tension and promote physical health, gradually restoring the whole person to balanced health. Massage also forms the basis of other therapies such as aromatherapy, Shiatsu, and physiotherapy, and plays an Important part in Chinese and ayurvedic medicine. Massage is primarily about touch, and touch in itself has healing qualities for reasons that are beyond our understanding.

How Does it Work?

There are many types of massage, some which work on reflex points, such as Shiatsu, reflexology and Chinese massage, others concentrate on relieving specific conditions, for example remedial massage is used to treat sports injuries and muscle strains, and manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) is used to stimulate lymphatic system.

Therapeutic massages can be given practically anywhere, ranging from a fifteen minute massage of the shoulders and back for someone sitting in a chair to an hour long head to toe massage on a padded massage table.

Basic massage techniques such as stroking, kneading, wringing, pummelling and knuckling, have been shown to simulate physical and emotional healing by a mechanical and a reflex action.

The Mechanical Effects of Massage

Theses are the physical results of pressing, squeezing and moving the soft tissues. Depending on the massage techniques used, this can be relaxing or stimulating. Tense muscles can cause sluggish circulation because they force the body’s blood vessels to constrict. Massaging the muscles relaxes them and stimulates the circulation so that blood flows freely, carrying oxygen and nutrients to where they are needed. By working on the circulation regular massage can help to normalise blood pressure, easing the pressure on over-burdened arteries and veins. Massage also stimulates the lymphatic system, which is responsible for nourishing cells, carrying waste products out of our body and defending the body against infection.

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