“Massage is the manipulation of the soft tissues of the body with the hands. Massage is used to improve circulation, reduce oedema where present, prevent adhesions in tissues after injury, reduce muscular spasm, and improve the tone of muscles.” (Oxford Medical Dictionary)
Massage Therapy is one of the oldest healthcare therapies known in history; references are found in Chinese medical texts of more than 3000 years old. Hippocrates wrote in the 4th century BC that “The physician must be acquainted with many things and assuredly with rubbing” (Rubbing being the ancient Greek term for massage). Even today in its simplest form; when a child falls over a parent will “rub it better”. Modern massage therapy can be traced back to Per Henrik Ling (1776-1839), a Swede who developed an integrated system consisting of massage with active and passive exercises. Today Massage Therapy is one of the most popular healing modalities and is used by conventional and alternative medical practises.
Whilst massage is primarily applied with the hands, occasionally, elbows and forearms can be used. The techniques used affect the muscular, skeletal, circulatory, lymphatic and nervous systems of the body. The basic principle is aiding the ability of the body to heal itself and is aimed at increasing health and well-being. It is a natural method of removing pain and discomfort, its direct benefits include releasing pain from tight, cramped and sore muscles; improving blood and lymphatic circulation; increasing muscle flexibility and joint mobility; it can aid in removing toxins from the body and can generally be relaxing.
Massage can be described in terms of types of techniques performed but in practise the Massage Therapist will use more than one technique or method in their treatment. An effective Massage Therapist will ascertain each person’s needs and then use the techniques best suited to meeting them.
Massage uses a combination of long gliding strokes, kneading and friction techniques on the more superficial layers of muscles, generally in the direction of blood flow towards the heart. It is used to promote general relaxation, improve circulation and release muscle tension. Deep Tissue Massage is used to release chronic patterns of muscular tension and is applied with greater pressure to deeper layers of muscle. Sports Massage is again similar but is specifically adapted to deal with the needs of an athlete in performance and recovery; groups of muscles are worked on, those commonly associated with particular sports e.g. in running where calf and hamstring tightness can build up. Sometimes pain in a joint can be caused by tight muscles pulling the body out of alignment; releasing tension in the tight muscles can allow the body to gently realign itself and return the body to peak health. Regular treatment can prevent and breakdown the formation of scar tissue, thus can aid in the recovery from training and decrease the recovery time between training sessions. Trigger point techniques can also be used to release muscle tension; trigger points being small areas of muscle tension that can refer pain to other areas.
In general massage can help a variety of conditions it is best used in conjunction with a physiotherapist’s diagnosis, advice can also be given on injury prevention and rehabilitation.