Massage therapy is the systematized manipulation of soft tissues for the purpose of normalizing them. The word massage is derived from the Greek word 'massier' which means to knead. If correctly done on a bare body, it can be highly stimulating and invigorating. The term 'bodywork' is often used to refer to therapies that are combined or confused with massage, e.g. Shiatsu, Trager, Rolfing, Polarity and Reflexology.
Many people find a massage beneficial enough to have one on a regular basis, scheduling them as frequently as needed or as often as finances will allow.
Massage has been used for thousands of years as a treatment for many ailments.
The basic goal of massage therapy is to help the body heal itself and to increase health and well-being. Based on anecdotal data, massage therapists have said for years that massage relaxes people, reduces blood pressure and heart rate, relaxes muscles, increases range of motion, and increases the flow of blood and lymph, thereby cleansing the system. Therapeutic massage can be used to promote general well-being, enhance self-esteem and help restore a sense of body awareness – important for realizing when you are becoming tense and where you tend to hold your tension.
Practitioners use a variety of physical methods including stroking, rubbing, kneading, percussion and vibration. Therapists primarily use their hands, but may also use their forearms, elbows or feet.
A general body massage may last for 40-90 minutes and local body massages for 10-15 minutes. A little moderate kneading and percussion cause muscles to contract and become stronger. Deep circular kneading and vibration loosens the muscles. Kneading under and round the muscles can help break up adhesions. Practitioners generally treat the whole body, using oil to help their hands move over the patient's body.
The ten most popular types of Massage Therapy are:
To date, most of the clinical trials of massage have focused on psychological outcomes of treatment. Good evidence from randomized trials indicates that massage reduces anxiety scores in the short term. There is more limited evidence that these anxiety reductions are cumulative over time. Practitioners claim that giving patients a concrete experience of relaxation through massage can facilitate their use of self help relaxation techniques. The evidence that massage can lead to improved sleep and reduce pain remains anecdotal. There are some small studies indicating immune stimulation by increasing white blood cell quantity and natural killer-cell activity.
An increasing number of research studies show that massage reduces heart rate, lowers blood pressure, increases blood circulation and lymph flow, relaxes muscles, improves range of motion, and increases endorphins (thus enhancing medical treatment.)
Although therapeutic massage does not increase muscle strength, it can stimulate weak, inactive muscles and, thus, partially compensate for the lack of exercise and inactivity resulting from illness or injury. It can also hasten and lead to a more complete recovery from exercise or injury.
Abdominal surgery patients have been found to recover more quickly after massage.
In case of acute inflammation of the nerves, massage should be done carefully. Deep pressure should not be used on swollen nerves for it will increase the inflammation. Abdominal massage should not be done in cases of general, femoral, inguinal and umbilical hernia; inflammation of the uterus, bladder, ovaries or fallopian tubes; kidney stones; bladder or gall bladder problems; ulcers of the stomach or intestines; and pregnancy. Abdominal massage should not be performed after a heavy meal, but at least two hours later. The bladder should be emptied before a massage.
Massage can reduce the chronic stress on the body that interferes with normal functioning and contributes to premature aging.
Regular massage from a trained massage therapist can significantly alleviate the discomfort associated with varicose veins.
All of these techniques serve to stimulate the vagus nerve which slows the heart rate.
Researchers at the University of Miami School of Medicine found that massage is helpful for improving alertness and performance in office workers.
Medical students at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey who were massaged showed a significant increase in white blood cells and natural killer cell activity, suggesting a benefit to the immune system.
Medical students at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey who were massaged before an exam showed a significant decrease in anxiety and respiratory rates.
Researchers at the University of Miami School of Medicine found that massage is helpful in alleviating pain in migraine sufferers.
In a study of tension headaches, individuals were treated with either a combination of spinal manipulation and massage, or massage and a placebo laser treatment. Both groups experienced an improvement in symptoms suggesting that massage alone provides benefits for the treatment of tension headaches.
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