Is Massage Therapy?
has been described as "the healing touch." Often referred to as
bodywork or somatic therapy, massage therapy refers to the application
of various techniques to the muscular structure and soft tissues
of the body. It consists of a group of manual techniques that
include applying fixed or movable pressure, holding, and/or causing
movement of or to the body, using primarily the hands. The massage
therapist can also use other areas of the body, such as the forearms,
elbows or feet. These techniques affect the musculoskeletal, circulatory-lymphatic,
nervous, and other systems of the body.
goal of massage therapy is fairly straightforward: to positively
affect the health and well being of the client. Numerous physical
and mental health benefits have been attributed to massage, including
reducing stress and aiding in relaxation; reducing the heart rate;
lowering blood pressure; increasing blood circulation and lymph
flow; relaxing the muscles; reducing chronic pain and improving
joint range of motion. Specifically, people have found that therapeutic
massage can help manage a variety of conditions:
the whole body.
tired and aching muscles.
flexibility and range of motion.
the nervous system.
in recovery from injuries and illness.
the immune system.
in mental relaxation.
therapy is recognized as one of the oldest methods of healing,
with references in medical texts nearly 4,000 years old. In fact,
Hippocrates, known as the "father of medicine," referenced massage
when he wrote, in the 4th century B.C.: "The physician
must be acquainted with many things, and assuredly with rubbing."
massage therapy is not so much rubbing as stroking, kneading,
tapping, compression, vibration, rocking, friction, pressure,
and various other techniques. Specific styles of massage therapy
utilized by therapists may include, but is not limited to, the
is similar to acupuncture, but without relying on the use
of needles. This technique involves pressing on certain points
of the body to relieve pain. Acupressure attempts to promote
maximal flow of "qi," the vital energy or "life force"
believed by some to flow throughout the body.
therapy involves massaging the bones of the skull and the
lower spine (the sacrum). Proponents of this type of therapy
claim that massage can loosen or release restrictions or "blockages"
in the body that can contribute to pain and dysfunction. For
infomation about CranialSacral Therapy Click
massage uses slow strokes, direct pressure, or friction,
applied across the grain of the muscles with the fingers, thumbs
or elbows. Deep-tissue massage works deeply into the muscles
and connective tissue to release chronic aches and pains.
involves the use of water in all its forms (internally and
externally) to assist in healing, including whirlpool therapy,
application of ice packs, colonic irrigation, steambaths, etc.
drainage involves the application of light, rhythmic strokes.
This technique is primarily used to help conditions related
to poor lymph flow, such as inflammation, edema and neuropathies.
massage is massage applied to specific muscles, often used
to increase blood flow, release knots of muscle tension, or
release pain/pressure on nerves. One type of this therapy is
also known as Trigger Point Therapy, in that concentrated
finger pressure is applied to "trigger points" of muscular pain.
is based on a system of points on the hands and feet thought
to correspond or "reflex" to other areas of the body. The technique
is thus specific to particular body parts (most often the feet),
but is intended to assist the entire body.
refers to a specific type of massage that relies on deep
pressure on tissues that cover muscles and internal organs.
Also known as "structural integration," Rolfing aims to align
different areas of the body relevant to gravity, i.e., the head,
torso, legs, etc.
are systems of finger-pressure massage based on the Asian system
of healing, which treats special points along "meridians"
channels of energy flow (or Qi or Chi) in the body. The underlying
belief is that blocked meridians can cause physical discomfort,
and that techniques applied to specific meridian points can
"release" the blockage, thereby balancing energy flow.
massage: Generally regarded as the most common form of massage,
Swedish massage involves manipulation of the muscles and connective
tissues of the body for relaxation or health maintenance. Swedish
massage uses five basic massage techniques to relax muscles
and body tissues.
massage utilizes many of the movements from yoga and the
meridians of traditional Chinese medicine.
therapy relies on progressive gentle, rhythmic rocking and
stretching techniques to promote easy and free sensations in
there are well over 100,000 massage therapists practicing in the
United States alone. Training requirements vary from state to
state, although more and more schools and states recommend massage
therapy programs of at least 500 hours training. As of January
2001, 29 states and the District of Columbia currently have official
licensing regulations concerning the practice of massage.
to Q & A
National Institutes of Health. Alternative medicine: expanding
medical horizons. A report to the National Institutes of Health
on alternative medical systems and practices in the United
States. NIH Publication No. 94-066. 1994.
M. 1992a. Alternative medical care: Shiatsu, Swedish muscle
massage, and trigger point suppression in spinal pain syndrome.
Am. J. Pain Mgmt. 2(2):74-78.
and alternative methods: types of bodyork. Available at www.cancer.org.
Massage Therapy Association: definition of massage therapy.
guide to therapeutic massage and bodywork. National Certification
Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB).
schools and careers: questions and answers. Naturalhealers.com
massage, bodywork and somatic therapies. Associated Bodywork
& Massage Professionals (ABMP).
Massage Therapy Association: basic massage therapy terms.