Massage is a scientific method of manipulating the soft tissues of the body. It’s object is to restore the function of the particular part being massaged, and the re-establishment and re-shaping of contours.
General body massage can be used to invigorate the system or induce relaxation depending on the choice and combination of movements.
It is often referred to as ‘Swedish Massage’ because in 1813 Sweden, the known massage movements were studied scientifically and systemised.
Massage produces effects on the vascular, muscular, nervous, digestive and lymphatic systems of the body as well as increasing cell production to maintain healthy skin.
During a massage, the therapist will make use of a medium. This may be oil, talc or cream.
The need for a massage medium is to enable the therapist’s hands to move over the client’s body with ease. The only real purpose of the talc is to act as the medium however the use of oil or cream will nourish and soften the skin.
Techniques used in body massage include effleurage, petrissage, percussion and vibratory movements.
Techniques vary to accommodate a range of effects such as; relaxing or stimulating; heating or cooling of an area; reduction of inflammation; increase of blood and lymph circulation; relief of tension; improvement of skin texture and muscle tone.
In China, massage therapy dates back to approximately 3000 BC. Chinese massage derived from the principal that diseases and illnesses occur due to an insufficiency or disproportion of the energy within specific pathways or meridians that represent physiological systems. Through massage and other specific bodywork techniques such as acupuncture, energy will flow more harmoniously through these pathways, allowing the body to heal itself naturally.
The Japanese started practising massage around 1000 BC, when Japanese monks who were studying Buddhism in China observed the healing methods of habitual Chinese medicine. The Japanese soon began to introduce and customise Chinese massage techniques, giving rise to traditional Japanese massage which developed into Shiatsu.
The main principal of Shiatsu is to raise energy levels within the patient. This improved energy level regulates and fortifies the functioning of the organs encouraging a natural resistance to illnesses.
Practitioners stimulate pressure points on the body in an effort to rebalance the client’s energy. Throughout treatment, a client can achieve balance in both their physiological and psychological well being.
INDIAN AYURVEDIC MEDICINE
Ayurveda is the traditional holistic medical system in India. It is said that massage began here in 3000 BC, yet it may have been even earlier than this. Ancient seers and natural scientists developed this system based on centuries of studies, experiments and meditations.
Ayurveda view that individuals incur illnesses and diseases when they live out of harmony with their environment. In order to treat their conditions, individuals must restore their natural balance; both mental and physical by re-establishing harmony between themselves and the world around them. Only then, can they begin to heal naturally.
Massage began in the United States during the 20th century when an increasing number of new and rediscovered massage techniques were documented and practised. However, massage stayed out of the mainstream as a type of treatment for several years. It was perceived as a luxury reserved for the wealthy. Furthermore, it’s reputation endured another unsavoury period with the dawn of massage parlours where this tradition became associated with the sex trade.
During the second part of the 20th century, there was a rising interest in holistic therapies, remedies and health supplements which brought back to light the benefits of the body massage. It is now considered to be a legitimate and respectable form of alternative and complimentary medicine.
The practice of massage started here between 800 and 700 BC. Athletes in Ancient Greece employed massage to keep themselves in peak condition prior to competitions.
In the 5th century BC, Hippocrates described “friction” to treat physical injuries and instructed his physician colleagues on the benefits of rubbing to help the body heal itself. Moreover, he promoted a combination of massage, proper diet, exercise, rest, fresh air and music to restore the body to a healthy state.
The Romans started practicing massage between 200 and 100 BC. During the 1st century, Galen, a physician to many emperors, began using massage therapy to treat different types of physical injury and disease. Following Hippocrates’ principles, Galen believed in exercise, healthy diet, rest and massage as integral pieces in restoring and maintaining a healthy body.
PER HENRIK LING
In the early 1800s, the Swedish physician Per Henrik Ling developed the Swedish Gymnastic Movement System. This system incorporated massage with medical gymnastics and physiology. Techniques included stroking, pressing and squeezing, and striking to manually treat physical issues.
Physiotherapy is a health care profession concerned with human function and movement which uses physical approaches to promote, maintain and restore physical, psychological and social well being. This includes providing services in circumstances where the movement and function are threatened by ageing, injury, disease and environmental factors. Hippocrates is believed to have been one of the first practitioners of a primitive physiotherapy advocating massage and hydrotherapy to treat people in 460 BC.
PRACTICE OF MASSAGE TODAY AND IT’S IMPACT UPON MODERN HEALTH CARE
As massage can have beneficial factors toward many ailments, I will focus on what is perceived to be one of the most common; chronic pain and pain management.
The definition of chronic pain is pain that lasts for a period of three months or more and has a devastating effect on one’s quality of life. Every aspect of an individual’s being is touched by chronic pain: the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
A person’s emotional state can have a great effect on the pattern of their chronic pain. Thoughts and emotions can directly influence physiological responses by stimulating muscle tension, blood flow and levels of brain chemicals that play an important role in the production of pain. If a sense of powerlessness prevails, the sense of inner strength to fight against the pain can diminish. Faced with painful episodes that are exacerbated from stress and a sense of “loss of control of the pain” and behavioural choices intended to “cope” with the pain, these feelings may unintentionally worsen it and create harmful patterns of coping. For example, someone with chronic low back pain may simply be tired of it and may reach for medication and/or alcohol to numb the pain. To further decrease the pain, they may refrain from certain enjoyable activities in anticipation of more pain. The result of this pattern is loss of muscle strength, tone, flexibility, endurance and the possible development of depression and addiction.
According to the book The Chronic Pain Solution by James N. Dillard, MD, DC, CAc, sensations associated with both pleasure and pain physiologically travel at different speeds along the nervous system. Dull pain, for example, travels at a relatively slow pace along the nerve, from half a mile to two miles per second. Sharp or burning pain can travel at a speed from five to 30 miles per second. The non-painful sensation of touch, including pressure and massage, travels the fastest, from 35 to 75 miles per second. Luckily, the gating mechanism in the spinal cord is triggered by relative speed, and when more than one sensation enters the dorsal horn simultaneously, the fastest one will block the transmission of the slower one.
In the last decade, massage therapy has been the subject of many studies that substantiate its beneficial impact upon the nervous system – the very place where pain is located. Massage has been shown to have a dually beneficial effect on pain by increasing endorphins and in the depletion of substance P (the neurotransmitter that helps communicate pain). The entire nervous system and the brain are positively influenced by massage, improving cognitive functioning, reducing stress, combating fatigue with more restful sleep and promoting overall health and well being.
Massage is practised widely all over the world today and is becoming increasingly popular. With attitudes changing and people broadening their minds with respect to holistic approaches, the techniques of the body massage are creating a high impact upon modern health care and are sure to keep on doing so for the future.