Posted on 02 August 2013.
Massage – an introduction and overview of the oldest form of medical care
Massage is the oldest and simplest form of medical care, outdating even Chinese acupuncture. In Eastern cultures, massage has been practiced continually since ancient times. A Chinese book from 2,700 B.C. recommends ‘breathing exercises, massage of the skin and flesh, and exercises of hands and feet” as treatment for numerous physical and emotional complaints. It was one of the principal methods of relieving pain for ancient Greek and Roman physicians and its well documented that Julius Caesar received a daily massage to treat his joint pain. “The physician must be experienced in many things,” wrote Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, in the 5th century B. C., “but especially in massage for massage can bind a joint that is too loose, and loosen a joint that is too rigid.”
Doctors such as Ambrose Pare, a 16th-century physician to the French court, praised massage as a treatment for various ailments including “ailments of the head and the heart and those of the legs”. Swedish massage, the method most familiar to Westerners, was developed in the 19th century by Swedish doctor, poet, and educator Per Henrik Ling. His system was based on a study of gymnastics and physiology as well as techniques borrowed from China, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Physiotherapy, originally based on Ling’s methods, was established with the foundation in 1894 of the Society of Trained Masseurs. During World War I patients suffering from physical injury and shell shock were treated with massage. Saint Thomas’s Hospital, London, had a department of massage until 1934. However, later breakthroughs in medical technology and pharmacology eclipsed massage as physiotherapists began increasingly to favor electrical instruments over manual methods of stimulating the tissues. Whilst these technological advancements increased the number of patients that could be treated in a given time, massage was still the preferred method and achieved the best results.
Massage is now used in intensive care units, for children, elderly people, babies in incubators, and patients with cancer, AIDS, heart attacks, or strokes. Most Eastern and Western hospitals have some kind of bodywork therapy available, and it is frequently offered in health centers, drug treatment clinics, and pain clinics – such are its wide reaching benefits. In many cases, it is even covered by your medical insurance! Massage is a truly mainstream holistic therapy.
The benefits of regular massage:
Massage is the perfect compliment to today’s busy lifestyles – it is a holistic and natural therapy which affects the body and mind without the use of harmful pharmaceuticals and which has very few contraindications or exclusions. Many common and not so common conditions and ailments can be helped by regular massages including:-
Reduced Muscular Tension
Massage affects the muscles and other soft tissues throughout the body. It can loosen contracted tense and shortened and stimulate weak, flaccid muscles. Chronic muscle tension reduces the circulation of the blood and movement of lymph in an area and this is often alleviated with regular massage treatments. Tight, tense muscles are often the cause of other symptoms throughout the body e.g. tight neck muscles can show them selves as regular frequent aches.
Improved Blood Circulation
The oxygen capacity of the blood can increase 10-15% after massage. By indirectly or directly stimulating nerves that supply internal organs, blood vessels of these organs dilate and allow greater blood supply to them. Poor circulation (often felt as cold hands and feet) is improved after massage. A full body massage will increase the blood flow to both the core and extremities giving a healthful benefit to all of the body’s systems.
Better Lymph Movement & Lymphatic System Function
Lymph is the fluid that drains impurities and waste away from the tissue cells. Within this waste are the toxins which are the by-products of metabolism. Massage makes sure lymph is circulated through the lymph nodes for filtering which in turn can result in enhanced immune system function.
Increased Mobility, Flexibility and Range of Motion of Joints
Massage provides a gentle stretching action to both the muscles and connective tissues that surround and support the muscles. The gentle stretching of muscles keeps them in good condition, maintains the integrity of connective tissue and joint mobility is often enhanced. Joint and muscle pain is often reduced after a massage and specific joint/muscle pain can be targeted by a Sports Massage Therapist.
Massage Stimulates or Soothes the Nervous System
Massage balances the nervous system by soothing or stimulating it, depending on the techniques used and the effect that is needed by the individual at the time of the massage. A pre-sport massage can help prepare the body to perform at the highest level where as a Swedish massage will help calm and relax the body and mind. For many, a relaxing massage is the perfect antidote to a stressful day at work or the pressure of a hectic modern lifestyle.
Improved Skin Condition
Massage enhances the skin condition by improving the function of the sebaceous and sweat glands, which keep the skin lubricated, clean, and cool. The use of special oils will enhance the condition of the skin further and the skin is exfoliated and moisturized during a massage treatment. Circulation to the skin is improved by massage which is seen as a slight reddening during the treatment. Increased blood flow to the skin encourages skin cell renewal and makes tired skin look brighter and healthier.
Better Digestion and Intestinal Function
By increasing blood flow, the digestive organs receive more of the life-giving oxygen they need to function effectively. Digestive discomfort is often relieved by massage, as is abdominal bloating and gastric upset. Swedish massage even includes an optional abdominal massage where the intestines are gently massaged through the abdominal wall which is designed to improve digestive system function and health.
Massage can promote recovery from minor aches and pains by improving circulation which is an essential part of the healing process. Massage also triggers the release of endorphins which are the body’s natural pain killers (related to morphine) which may result in lowered pain levels and a reduced dependence on pain medication. A treatment with a Sports Massage Therapist can save literally weeks by promoting fast and effective healing of serious and-not-so-serious injuries.
Types of massage
There are a great many different styles of massage and at Faros Spa we offer three different forms to suit the requirements of our growing client base…
Relaxation (Swedish) Massage
Swedish massage is a whole body treatment which uses a smooth, flowing style that promotes general relaxation, improves circulation relieves muscular tension. This type of massage is ideal for “beginners” to massage and will leave the client feeling wonderfully relaxed and refreshed. Oils are used which help to condition the skin and act as a medium between your skin and the therapists hands. This form of massage is so relaxing it is not uncommon for clients to fall soundly asleep after just a few minutes on the couch!
Sports massage uses similar techniques to those found in Swedish massage but normally they are used with more pressure and a view to preventing future or treating current specific physical conditions. Many people find that by having regular sports massages they suffer fewer indecencies of muscle pain, back ache and muscular tension. Sports massage can be seen as a physical “tune up” of the body’s muscles or as a preventative service. Sports massage is a “deeper” massage and not normally as relaxing as the Swedish variation but is particularly useful for people who exercise, play sport, have physically active jobs or feel like their bodies need some specific attention. Treatments are customized to suit an individual clients needs however, if after a sports massage you feel “beaten up” as some people may describe the feeling after this type of treatment, it’s very likely the therapist was over zealous and unnecessarily heavy handed. It’s very important to give your masseuse feedback during and after your treatment so that they can fine tune their treatment to your individual requirements.
Using thumb and finger pressure on the reflex points of the feet (which correspond to all areas of the body) to assist in achieving balance within the body. Reflexology is based on Chinese acupuncture but uses pressure as opposed to needles to help rebalance the body’s energy pathways. Although only the feet are touched during Reflexology, the whole body receives great benefit from this powerful treatment.
Check your masseuse’s credentials!
Although massage is a natural and relatively simple therapy, it is essential to make sure your masseuse is properly qualified, licensed and insured. It’s important to remember that massage can have a profound medical effect on the body and should not be performed by unqualified persons. Make sure you check the credentials of any masseuse you are considering using. Just because they are cheap or have been “doing it for years” doesn’t mean they are safe! Professional massage standards has come a long way since the guy who used to rub a few legs at half time for the local Sunday league football team started plying his trade!
So, pretty much everybody’s body will benefit from massage by a qualified massage therapist – and with a patron like Julius Caesar who are we to argue?