Massage – the manipulation of the soft tissue of the body – has been used as a healing therapy for many thousands of years. Records dating back to 2700 B.C. show that in China massage was used to treat paralysis, chills and fever. Hippocrates, the famous Greek physician writing in 400 B.C., recommended that physicians should treat sports and war injuries with massage and rubbing.
The ancient cultures of Japan, Egypt, Rome and Arabia all considered massage to be calming, soothing and relaxing, and also very important as a healing therapy. Now, in the 21st century, there are many different kinds of massage therapies available, each of which offers specific benefits to the mind and body.
In fact, in this guide we look in detail at a number of techniques including Biodynamic, Indian head, Shiatsu and Thai massages. In addition, there are some highly specialised massage techniques which are specifically designed to meet the needs of clients at certain, very special times in their lives.
Massage uses either the therapist’s hands or, in some cases, mechanical means, to manipulate the body’s soft tissue, especially the muscles.
Infant massage has traditionally been used throughout many cultures around the world, but has only recently gained popularity in the West. European and American mothers are now discovering that massage has massive benefits for both their baby and themselves. Research has shown, and mothers agree, that because touch conveys nurturing and love, massage enhances bonding between mother and baby. Also, because massage releases endorphins (the body’s natural pain reliever) it helps to reduce the pain of colic and teething, helps to clear sinus and chest infection, helps baby to relax and induces sound, healthy sleep.
For many children in the 21st century, growing into their teenage years can be very stressful. As John Killinger observes in his book The Loneliness of Children (Published 1980, Vanguard Press): ‘Childhood is a very difficult time of life. For many children it is filled with fear, anxieties and confusion. Adults often forget how hard it is to be a child.’
Research has shown that children who are massaged show decreased levels of stress hormones. And children who are experiencing conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma or diabetes show less anxiety and report feelings of increased well being after massage.
Massage therapy is used to help children suffering chronic pain, and research has also shown that children with ADHD, autism and other special needs also benefit greatly from the massage experience. When organising massage for children, it’s especially important to ask the child for permission before the massage begins, and also to ensure that the therapist is thoroughly qualified to work with, and sensitive to, the needs of children.
More and more women are finding that a weekly or monthly massage during pregnancy helps to reduce stress and promote relaxation; provides emotional support (especially for those women who are going through the experience alone); relieves muscle spasms, cramps and general aches and pains; increases circulation and thus reduces the possibility of varicose veins and swelling in the feet and legs; helps with digestion and reduces the likelihood of stretch marks. Pregnant clients report that their massage sessions leave them feeling relaxed and comfortable, and with increased self-confidence and an enhanced body image. However, massage during pregnancy should be avoided by women with placental dysfunctions, pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, toxaemia or threatened miscarriage. If in any doubt at all, have a chat with your doctor before booking an appointment with a therapist.
Research carried out by Marie Curie Cancer Care in London (2002/2003) has provided new clinical evidence that aromatherapy massage (using Roman chamomile essential oil) is beneficial for cancer patients. The results of the research revealed that there was a statistically significant difference in anxiety levels between those patients who were massaged, and those who were not. Overall, the massage helped to improve patients’ physical and psychological symptoms, as well as their quality of life.
Further research undertaken at the University of Miami Medical School showed that breast cancer patients have improved immune and neuroendocrine functions following massage therapy. Cancer patients must always inform their massage therapist of the site(s) of the cancer(s), as the tumours themselves should never be massaged.
Generally, cancer patients of all ages report that massage (with or without aromatherapy oils) helps them to relax, reduces some of the symptoms of the illness and leaves them feeling more positive and better able to cope with the illness.
Massage can be especially helpful for the problems that most people experience as they grow older. Gentle massage can be used to soothe conditions such as muscle stiffness and soreness, loss of flexibility, arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, and help with respiratory disorders such as asthma and emphysema. But, perhaps most important of all, for elderly people who have lost their partners and live alone, massage provides the sense of nurturing that comes from being gently and respectfully touched. Elderly people with Alzheimer’s or who have had a stroke and find it hard to communicate verbally benefit greatly from massage.
Very frail or modest clients can benefit just as much from a foot, hand or face massage as they might from an all-over body massage. It’s important to make sure that the therapist is told about any medication the elderly client is taking.
These forms of specialised massage can be used to treat a wide range of conditions including stress, insomnia, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, diabetes, the muscle spasms and general aches and pains associated with pregnancy, and the mental and emotional problems associated with cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.
Massage relieves the symptoms of stiff, tired joints, speeds up digestion and encourages improved circulation, promotes relaxation and improved sleep. Clients who have experienced these forms of specialised massage report that they find the treatment soothing
Massage of any kind should not be carried out on clients with fever, contagious or infectious diseases. Clients with any form of cancer must obtain their doctor’s permission before having any kind of massage treatment. Clients with cardiovascular disease, arthritis, epilepsy, diabetes or trapped nerves should always have a chat with their doctor first.
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