Massage therapy is a type of complementary and alternative medical (CAM) treatment in which bodily tissues are manipulated and massaged in order to enhance an individual’s health and well-being. Finding a massage therapist can be beneficial for either relaxation or rehabilitation.
What Is Massage Therapy?
There are many different types of massage therapy, but they all involve the pressing and/or rubbing of muscles and soft tissues in the body. Massage therapists most commonly use their hands and fingers to provide massage therapy, but they may also incorporate the use of their elbows, forearms, feet, or objects such as hot stones. Massage therapy may focus on the entire body or on a specific part such as the back, neck, or feet. This type of alternative treatment is practiced in a variety of settings, including spas, wellness centers, medical clinics, and chiropractic offices.
Among the popular types of massage therapy are:
- Swedish massage, in which therapists use long strokes and circular movements.
- Deep tissues massage, which targets deeper layers of muscle, is beneficial for chronic muscle pain and strain.
- Shiatsu, a form of Japanese massage in which therapists use pressure from their fingers, can improve the flow of energy and restore balance in the body.
- Thai massage, which involves the therapist moving and stretching an individual’s body into a sequence of postures, is typically more energizing than other types of massage and can improve flexibility and range of motion.
History of Massage
Massage has a long history, and references to its use can be found in writings from ancient civilizations, China, Egypt, Greece, and Rome among them. Massage, popular in Europe during the time of the Renaissance, was first introduced to the United States in the 1850s by two physicians who had studied it in Sweden. Its popularity decreased in the 1930s and 1940s, when technological advances were abounding in the medical field, but experienced a revival in the 1970s.
Currently, massage therapy is widely practiced in the U.S.: an estimated 18 million adults use massage therapy in a typical year. It is also used widely by athletes, who often seek massage therapy it to rehabilitate sports-related injuries.
The Self-Care Benefits of Massage
Self-care, a crucial component of well-being, involves taking time to attend to one’s own needs. It is not a selfish act, but rather, a necessary part of life that helps ensure a person is adequately cared for, both physically and emotionally. Massage therapy, which offers a variety of benefits, is considered by many to be one way of practicing self-care.
Just as regularly seeing a doctor for physical checkups and maintaining a nutritious diet can improve overall well-being, so, too, can massage therapy. It can be thought of as a preventative measure because it may reduce the likelihood of developing minor musculoskeletal injuries. Massage can also be a helpful way to enhance relaxation and elevate one’s mood, and it often just feels good.
Although limited time or means may limit a person’s ability to access massage therapy regularly, it can be considered a useful investment in one’s well-being, and many individuals choose to pursue massage for this reason.
Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Massage
Although scientific research on massage therapy is somewhat limited, there exists some evidence that it can significantly benefit both physical and mental health. Massage therapy has been found to reduce muscle tension and pain, including chronic low-back pain that does not respond to more traditional pain treatments. Some studies have found massage therapy to be helpful in the treatment of digestive disorders, insomnia, headaches, joint pain, and fibromyalgia.
Massage has also been shown to be an effective way to enhance relaxation and reduce stress. Just a single session can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and heart rate. Multiple sessions of massage therapy may also aid a person in decreasing their proneness to anxiety and depression.
- Critchley, B. (2013). 5 reasons to add massage to your self care routine. Retrieved from https://www.mindbodyonline.com/connect-workplace/blog/living-well/5-reasons-add-massage-your-self-care-routine
- Massage therapy (2007, October 8). Retrieved from http://www.medicinenet.com/massage_therapy/article.htm#introduction_to_massage_therapy
- Massage: Get in touch with its many benefits. (2015, December 7). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/massage/art-20045743
- What is massage therapy? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nwhealth.edu/school-of-massage-therapy/massage-therapy-definition
- Wong, C. (2016, August 24). 10 most popular types of massage. Retrieved from https://www.verywell.com/most-popular-types-of-massage-89741
Last Updated: 11-7-2017
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