Massage therapy is one of the oldest healing arts. It induces physiological changes that not only make you feel better but also reduces the blood level of circulating stress hormones and helps to enhance immune function. Massage dates as far back as 3000 B.C. as documented by ancient Chinese records. Ancient Hindus, Persians and Egyptians also used massage therapy to heal many ailments. Part of Hippocrates’ teachings recommended the use of rubbing and friction to treat joint and circulatory problems. In present times, the benefits of massage are varied. Massage is used as a part of physical rehabilitation and has proved beneficial in the treatment of many conditions including low back pain, fatigue, arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, infertility, immune suppression, depression, bursitis and smoking cessation. Massage also helps relieve the stress of everyday living that if left unchecked can lead to illness and disease.
Massage therapy which also includes Bodywork and Somatic Therapy is the application of various techniques to the body with the intent to reduce stress and fatigue while improving circulation. When the blood supply is increased to a massaged area so are the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to tissues and this process facilitates the removal of waste products. Studies have shown that urine output increases after a massage which may indicate that massage accelerates the body’s waste removal and detoxification process. There are more than 200 variations of massage, bodywork and somatic therapies and several therapists use a combination of different techniques which may include stroking, kneading, compression, vibration, tapping, friction, rocking or pressure to muscles and soft tissue. Oils, lotions and powders may be applied to the skin to help reduce friction. Some massage therapists employ the use of tools to aid the process.
Massage therapy addresses a variety of health conditions the most prevalent being stress-related tension which is believed to account for 80-90% of disease. Massage or bodywork offers a drug-free, non-invasive approach based on the body’s ability to heal itself. Massage has many physiological effects in addition to improving circulation such as stimulating the lymphatic system against toxins in the body (some studies have shown that in breast cancer patients, massage can increase cancer fighting cells); relaxing and softening overused and injured muscles; reducing spasms and cramping; increasing joint flexibility; releasing Endorphins, the body’s natural pain reliever; reducing post-surgical adhesions and scarring; relieving pain in migraine sufferers and in pregnant women, it may help shorten labour and minimize anxiety and depression.
Massage techniques generally fall under four different therapeutic approaches namely the traditional Swedish massage, contemporary Western massage, Bodywork and Oriental forms of bodywork such as shiatsu. The Swedish massage is the most popular form of massage and is commonly performed in spas, health clubs and massage clinics. In this procedure, each part of the body is massaged with some variations of the five classic massage strokes known as Effleurage the smooth gliding stroke usually performed at the beginning of massage sessions as a warm up; Petrissage a kneading type process; Friction where deep back and forth or circular motions are made; Tapotement which is a pounding motion and Vibration where the therapists hands are firmly shaken over the treatment area with a trembling motion. The Swedish massage has given rise to a variety of widely used massage therapies like medical massage, on-site massage, sports massage and pregnancy massage. Medical massage may be recommended by medical doctors, osteopathic physicians and chiropractors as an adjunct to other therapies as it may provide temporary relief of pain in patients with arthritis, chronic back pain and fibromyalgia. On-site massage is offered by some companies to help relieve stress in the workplace where quick massages are given through clothing. Sports massages help loosen muscles and invigorate athletes before events and help speed up recovery after a strenuous bout of exercise.
Contemporary Western massage employs a variety of techniques such as myofascial release, myotherapy and neuromuscular therapy to relieve pain. In myotherapy and neuromuscular therapy the therapist applies deep, sustained pressure on sensitive spots known as trigger points in muscle to release tension.
There are some other forms of massage categorized under Bodywork which help to balance body structure and movement. Practitioners of bodywork aim to release mental and physical restrictions. Popular bodywork techniques include Rolfing, Craniosacral therapy, Polarity therapy and the Trager approach.
Oriental forms of bodywork include Acupressure which is essentially Acupuncture without the use of needles and the fingertips are used to stimulate the pressure points. Shiatsu is similar to acupressure but pressure is applied with the hands, knees, elbows and feet. Reflexology is a form of massage also known as zone therapy where finger pressure is applied to the hands, feet or ears. It dates back to ancient China , Egypt and India . In 1913, Dr. William Fitzgerald introduced the therapy to the Western world as â€œZone Therapyâ€. Reflexologists believe that the body is divided into energy zones and that all parts of the body including ligaments, organs, muscle and bone fall within these zones. The big toe is said to relate to the head and brain, the sole of the foot relates to all parts of the body including organs and glands and the heel relates to the pelvic region which includes the bladder, sciatic nerve and reproductive organs. Practitioners state that by working on areas on the hands and feet a reflex response is stimulated that affects the corresponding part of the body. Reflexology, a complementary therapy, can help restore and maintain the body’s natural equilibrium and this form of therapy helps the body to work to restore its own healthy balance. It has been shown to be effective for back pain, migraine, infertility, sleep disorders, arthritis, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, stress related conditions and sports injuries. If you had thought that massage was just a luxurious form of indulgence for the rich and famous then you will surely change your mind after reading this. A wide range of massage therapies are now available at the MedSpa at the Westpine Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos.