What is massage therapy?
Massage Therapy is the manipulation of soft tissues of the body. Several techniques may be administered to the client depending on the nature of the problem. Most importantly, massage can be combined with other therapeutic measures and provide a form of active exercises when flexibility techniques are used.
Some basic benefits of massage therapy are:
- Improved circulation and increased blood flow
- Reduced muscle tension and swelling
- Improved lymphatic circulation
- Decreased muscle fatigue
- Accelerated recovery from athletic injuries by promotion of tissue healing
- Profound relaxation
Improved circulation and increased blood flow: When massaging, the therapist always moves in the direction of the heart; which is in the direction of circulation. This method works with the tiny veins that help move the blood towards the heart. These tiny veins have valves that prevent the blood from "back flowing". It could be potentially harmful to massage away from the heart, thereby forcing the blood to flow pushing against these valves. Back flowing of the blood into these veins can cause the blood to pool thus producing varicose veins. Massage warms the surface of the body by promoting circulation and delivering fresh oxygen and nutrients to the muscle tissue.
Reduced muscle tension and swelling: As discussed in Improved Circulation, by increasing the amount of blood flow to an area, muscle tension and swelling can be greatly reduced. Stress and muscle tension are harmful because they increase the potential for muscle spasm and referred pain (trigger points). Massage returns fresh blood flow to the area softening the tight tense tissue. Similarly, the families of local nerves are soothed promoting a contractual release.
Improved lymphatic circulation: The lymphatic system is one of the most efficient "waste" removal systems in the body. Lymph nodes, which trap toxin and waste products, are located throughout the body. These nodes filter the nasties thus eliminating them through bodily functions such as sweating and urination. The lymphatic system cannot stimulate its own circulation. General movement, exercise, massage therapy and stretching are all ways to stimulate and improve lymph circulation.
Promotion of healthy and healing tissue: By improving the circulation of blood, oxygen and fresh nutrients, and increasing waste product removal, muscles can heal at a faster rate. It is the combination of these forces that promotes the speediest recovery. In addition, muscle tissue/elasticity of muscle is increased or restored in tissue that has been injured or traumatized. By applying the appropriate massage therapy techniques at the proper time during recovery the body will return to its normal state at a more rapid rate.
Profound relaxation: There is no substitute for the power of touch. The body has a unique way of responding to tactile sensation. Massage can remind the muscle to contract when tapped lightly. Chemically, the body will release its "natural painkillers" (endorphins) from the glands when stimulated by massaging. By allowing the mind and the body to accept and respond to the power of touch, you will reap the physical, mental and emotional benefits of massage therapy. In today’s world we are in desperate need of touch.
Different types of massage therapy:
Relaxation massage: perhaps the most popular worldwide. It is most commonly administered in spas. This type of massage is very "soft" in application and can be considered as a "pampering" type of massage. Also commonly known as Swedish massage.
Sports massage: used in just about every sporting event, sports massage is administered differently than relaxation massage. It can be used in pre-event settings where the rhythm of application is light, fast and invigorating. It helps to prepare the athlete for performance without fatiguing the muscle. In post event the strokes are applied more slowly using light but long flowing movements to help "flush" the toxic build-up of lactic acid from the body, thus promoting a speedier recovery. Sports massage is also commonly used as a maintenance therapy where specific injuries are addressed and prevented.
Therapeutic massage: sometimes called rehabilitative massage. This type of massage is beneficial in facilitating bodily repair. This type of bodywork can be applied during injury repair or post surgical procedures. Please make sure you get the approval of your attending physician before applying massage post surgery.
- Shiatsu massage
- Thai massage
- Soma, Corebody work and Rolfing (structural integration)
- Energy-balance type massage
- Hot stone massage
- Seated massage
Contact the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) at 1-888-843-2682 for further information concerning an AMTA registered therapist in your area. To find a therapist who is National Certified, please call the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and bodywork ( NCBTMB) at 703-610-9015. If your state requires a license to practice massage therapy, check with your local licensing office to make sure your therapist is licensed and that they have a good record.