The power of touch is undeniable. People use touch to show affection, to communicate, to soothe and reassure, and to strengthen the bonds between family and friends. And in the case of massage therapy, touch can be an extremely effective healing tool.
Massage therapy is a system of rubbing, pressing, and manipulating the body’s muscles and other soft tissues, and it is rapidly gaining popularity. It is no wonder when you consider that massage is completely natural, can improve a wide variety of conditions, and often just feels good!
Safe and all-natural
Massage is considered very safe, especially when performed by a properly trained therapist. Some mild side effects can occur, including temporary discomfort, bruising, or swelling, but serious side effects are extremely rare. However, talk with your health care provider before starting massage therapy if you are pregnant or have cancer, heart problems, fragile skin, or other health issues.
When choosing your massage therapist, find out about their training and credentials, and whether they meet state requirements for practicing massage therapy. One thing to look for is certification by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), which ensures that the therapist has a certain level of training and uses certain guidelines. Do not be afraid to ask questions, you will get the most out of your massage if you are comfortable and relaxed.
Ancient medicine goes modern
Massage is one of the oldest methods of healing, and was referenced in medical texts written almost 4,000 years ago. Massage therapy as we know it began in the 18th century, when a Swedish professor created the system known as Swedish massage and started a school to train therapists. In the 1970s, it found favor with athletes as a way to reduce pain and inflammation and prevent injuries. And in recent years, massage has experienced a major boost in popularity with the general public, as more and more people consider new ways to improve their health naturally. More than 39 million American adults now receive at least one massage a year, an increase of 25 million from just ten years ago.1
Types of Massage
In general, massage is used to relax and warm the soft tissues, and increase delivery of blood and oxygen to the massaged areas. There are more than eighty different types of massage available, ranging from slow, relaxing techniques to fast, invigorating therapies.
Here are just a few:
- Swedish massage is the most common type, and is used for relaxation and general wellness.
- Deep tissue massage is designed to treat muscle tightness, and is often used for conditions such as whiplash and low back pain.
- In trigger point massage (also called pressure point massage), the therapist applies pressure to specific muscle “knots” to help relax them.
- Chair massage is a massage of just the upper body, while fully clothed and seated in a special chair. It can be a good option for people new to massage or those who feel self-conscious.
- With all the options, it can be tough to know which to choose. It is a good idea to talk with your massage therapist about your treatment goals to determine which approach will be best for you.
Whether you are considering getting a massage as a relaxing treat or to address a medical concern, massage therapy is a great way to take time for yourself. Consider scheduling a massage today, and take a moment to congratulate yourself for caring naturally for your health
The healing touch
People most often turn to massage therapy for specific complaints such as musculoskeletal problems, to reduce stress and anxiety, or just to relax. Chronic concerns such as low back pain seem to respond particularly well to massage. While its effects are still being studied, massage has been shown to:
- Lower blood pressure
- Decrease anxiety and depression
- Relieve pain
- Improve immune function
- Lessen muscle tension
- Restore joint movement
- Alleviate pressure on nerves
- Improve sleep quality
Since massage therapy is most beneficial over time, you will feel even better if you go regularly. It is also important to remember that massage can be a perfect complement to traditional medical care. Many people find that massage is a good addition to their treatment regimen and can help relieve the anxiety associated with health concerns. Among other things, massage has been used to help patients cope with cancer treatments and major surgeries.
1. “Massage Therapy: Not Just a Trend,” American Massage Therapy Association. Accessed 9-20-2007. http://www.amtamassage.org/news/2006consumer_survey.html
“Massage Therapy,” WebMD. July 7, 2005. http://www.webmd.com/balance/tc/Massage-Therapy-Topic-Overview
“Massage Therapy as CAM,” National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. September 2006. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/massage/
“Some Things You Should Know About Massage,” American Massage Therapy Association. Accessed 9-20-2007. http://www.amtamassage.org/news/youknow.html
“What is Massage?” Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. Accessed 9-20-2007. http://www.massagetherapy.com/learnmore/index.php