Over 4,000 years of knowledge in our hands
Massage has been used as a treatment for many conditions and symptoms for thousands of years. The earliest known example of Massage in medical use shows what appears to be Reflexology being practised by physicians in a painting that is over 4,000 years old. There is also evidence that Massage has been continuously developed for nearly 5,000 years.
The Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine and apparent author of the original Hippocratic Oath, was the first recorded person to seriously consider massage as a discipline. He is said to have stated that Massage, or “rubbing”, was a technique that required study and practice. The simple fact is that Massage has been used in many civilisations across the world since recorded history began and the knowledge and practice of Massage has been developed and refined over all that time until the present day.
Drawing on that history has led to there being many different kinds of massage, beneficial for treating a wide range of physical and psychological conditions, available for use in the modern world. Massage is a deep and spiritual treatment and it lies in the centre of what we now call “Wellness” philosophy, and with good reason.
Modern Massage treatments fall into four main areas:
- Relaxing Massage
- Therapeutic Massage
- Healing Massage
- Sports and Fitness Massage
The proper application of the various types of massage can, under the supervision and direction of a professional massage therapist or physiotherapist, help the body to heal itself more effectively and clear the mind of negative feelings.
Lets examine some of the techniques for each of the four categories of Massage
The Relaxing Massage
The relaxing Massage is probably what most people picture when they think about getting a Massage. The image of the blissful state induced by a professional, well practised in the arts of muscle and ligament manipulation, is well known and frequently used to promote Massage services worldwide. In truth there are only two massage techniques which are designed to promote a purely relaxing effect and these are the Hot Stone Massage and the Prenatal Massage.
The Hot Stone Massage uses polished and shaped volcanic rock, selected for its heat retaining properties, to gently condition and relax the muscles and ligaments in the body preparing them for the soft and subtle strokes that a well trained professional will use to perform this type of Massage. This technique is perfect for those who need to de-stress and improve their mental well-being or who simply want to feel the cares of the world fall away and emerge refreshed, calm and centred within themselves.
The Prenatal massage is very specifically aimed at treating the changing body of a pregnant woman. Its application is highly specific and requires specialised training and understanding as to how pregnancy affects a body where the centre of gravity has been changed and how this stresses the back, neck, abdominal muscles, and shoulders. Another effect of pregnancy is to relax the ligaments, meaning the stability of the pelvic joints is disrupted. Pregnancy also changes your posture, pulling the pelvis forward and this, along with the added weight of the baby is what causes the recognised back-ache that a pregnant woman can feel. A prenatal massage is designed to treat these symptoms safely and with great care.
The Therapeutic Massage
There are four main massage techniques designed to give therapeutic benefit. These are:
The Swedish Massage. This technique should really be referred to as the “Classic Massage”, but when it was gained popularity in America it was described as the Swedish massage, mainly as a marketing device. This type of massage is what you probably imagine when you think about making an appointment with a massage therapist. There are five main techniques used for a Swedish massage and these are stroking and gliding, kneading, rubbing, tapping or pounding and vibration. This type of Massage, whilst relaxing, is beneficial for easing muscular strain by flushing out toxins, improving circulation by increasing oxygen flow in the blood and helping to keep ligaments and tendons supple.
The Segmentary Massage, sometimes known as the Segment Reflex Massage, works on the different zones of the body which are affected by specific areas of the spine. This is a highly specialised massage technique which aims to stimulate trigger points along the spine, restoring function to specific body parts or organs that cannot be manipulated directly, such as when treating the pain from a broken leg when encased in plaster.
The Deep Tissue Massage is similar to Swedish massage, but uses deeper pressure to release chronic muscle tension. Deep Tissue Massage focuses on the deepest layers of muscle tissue, tendons and the protective layer that surrounds muscles, bones and joints. It is most beneficial for the treatment of a stiff neck and upper back, sore shoulders, chronic lower back pain and tightness of the leg muscles. Other conditions that are suitable for treatment with a Deep Tissue Massage include:
- Limited mobility
- Injury rehabilitation (eg Whiplash)
- RSI and carpal tunnel syndrome
- Correcting poor posture
- Muscle tension and injury
The Lymphatic Drainage Massage. This is a very specific type of massage designed to assist the lymph nodes when they are not functioning correctly. First developed in Denmark in the 1930s to assist in the treatment of chronic sinusitis, and further refined in Germany to treat lymphedema, a condition most commonly caused by damage to the lymph nodes. A Lymphatic Drainage Massage, otherwise known as Manual Lymphatic Drainage, helps to flush out toxins through the lymphatic system towards the heart where they are processed and disposed of naturally.
The Healing Massage
Massages falling into the Healing category are designed to assist in rehabilitation and for the treatment of chronic conditions and pain. There are three main massages within this area and they are:
The Remedial Massage focuses on muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissues for the treatment of pain and injuries. This form of massage works to encourage the body to rapidly return to normal health following an injury by restoring balance and stimulating the healing process.
The Contralateral Massage is performed on areas of the body that work in sympathy with injured or damaged muscles and tissues that cannot be directly touched. It is suitable for pain relief and healing on burns or open wounds and can assist in the reduction of the symptoms of “phantom pain” that can be felt following an amputation of a limb.
The Geriatric Massage is a specialist massage designed to take into account the different needs of the older patient. The effects are similar to a classic massage, but with the added benefit of pain relief. The older body, however, cannot take the relatively aggressive stimulation of a classic or deep tissue massage and so requires a special and less forceful approach in order to avoid unintentional injury. A poorly trained massage therapist can make a problem worse if they approach an older patient with the same techniques as a younger person, so it is important for the elderly to ensure they are treated by someone with the appropriate experience and training.
Fitness and Sport Massage
The aim of Massage following exercise or sports is to promote healing and avoid stiffness. Vigorous exercise can result in unseen damage to the muscles, tendons and ligaments and it is important to help the body adjust to the stresses it has been placed under. There are two types of massage mainly used to make sporting activities more effective and less painful and these are the Sports Massage and the Isometric Massage.
The Sports Massage is designed to help correct problems in soft tissue caused by repetitive and strenuous physical activity. This type of massage can enhance performance, aid recovery and prevent injury and trauma if performed before and after vigorous exercise.
The Isometric Massage was originally developed to treat muscle distrophy, but is effective for increasing the strength and stamina in muscles and soft tissue which are subject to abnormal stress from physical activity.