Massage is among the oldest health care practices in human history. It’s mentioned in ancient Chinese medical texts from more than four thousand years ago, and it’s been a part of Western health care ever since the time of Hippocrates.
Massage therapy denotes the manipulation of the body’s soft tissues with the ultimate goal of normalizing and healing them. It involves many different techniques which include pressure and holding or causing movement of muscles. Although massage therapists mostly use their hands, elbows, and forearms, other body parts are sometimes brought in to facilitate the therapy as well. Massage impacts the muscular, circulatory, skeletal, nervous, lymphatic and many other systems of human body.
Since every massage involves touch with a certain degree of pressure and different types of movement, the massage therapist must always know what kind of touch to use and determine the right amount of pressure for each person. For instance, if too much pressure is applied, the client may tense up, while on the other hand, too little pressure could have little or no positive impact. The simple act of touch is powerfully important throughout the process, and the therapist will learn a lot of necessary information about the body of the person (s)he’s massaging, such as where problem areas are lurking.
Touch also conveys a sense of caring for the person being massaged, and that is one of the main reasons for the practice’s popularity. Masseurs will often combine various techniques, methods and intensity, and pressure from person to person, in order to maximize the massage’s benefits. There are many different kinds of massage as well, the most popular being the Swedish Massage. It uses long, gliding strokes and friction techniques on the surface layer of muscles, mostly in the direction of blood flow toward the heart. It helps the client relax, improves circulation, and relieves muscle tension.
Deep Tissue Massage helps with chronic muscular tension by using slow strokes and friction across the muscles’ grain. It’s usually applied with greater pressure than the Swedish method and, as the name suggests, it mostly aims at the deep muscle layers. Other popular types include Sports Massage, Neuromuscular Massage (which is applied to individual muscles to increase the blood flow and reduce pain).
Have you ever wondered why we instinctively touch the source of pain on our body? According to Brian J. Hemmings, who’s a Senior Lecturer in Sport Psychology, it’s because applying pressure activates the nerves, blocks the feeling of pain, and, to some extent, the brain registers the pressure instead. Thus it can be said that massage is a natural pain antidote. But it’s more than that. For example, getting a massage in the morning will keep you rested and focused for the day, and a one in the evening will help you sleep better. It increases serotonin levels and balances our hormones.
A research conducted by the Touch Research Institute of the University of Miami School of Medicine proved that massage benefits the lungs and the abdomen. If an individual is under a lot of stress, the lungs tend to work faster and the digestive system is affected too. Massages will help ease the tension. They can also lower one’s heart rate and reduce blood pressure by as much as 10%. It is suggested that massage therapy can improve immunity, help combat stress, diminish fatigue, relieves headaches and aid with symptoms of depression (which was confirmed by a study conducted at the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at I-Shou University in Taiwan).
A large number of conditions such as joint pain and Fibromyalgia are often treated with massage.
While licensed massage therapists play a critical role in facilitating the therapeutic benefits of massage, all of us, even at home within the context of our daily lives, can implement healing touch for those we love and help one another to relax, feel healthier and breathe happier.
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