Massage Therapy is a system of treatment that works by stroking, kneading, tapping or pressing the soft tissues of the body. It aims to relax you mentally and physically. It has been used for centuries. Massage may concentrate on the muscles, the soft tissues, or on the acupuncture points.
Massage therapists work in a variety of settings, including private offices, hospitals, nursing homes, studios, and sport and fitness facilities. Some also travel to patients’ homes or workplaces. They usually try to provide a calm, soothing environment.
Considering the long history of massage, its incorporation into Western medicine is only in its infancy. The potential for growth and research of the healing properties of therapeutic massage and body work has gained great momentum over the last fifty years, and the public demand for massage therapy is at an all-time high.
As a preventative practice, therapeutic massage is used in spas, gyms and work places all over the country. Using massage therapy to promote balance and maintain internal and external health is something that is now a standard part of the North American lifestyle.
In the health care industry, massage is commonly used in hospitals, nursing homes and birthing centers. It is also used in physical therapy and in chiropractic clinics to treat pain, increase circulation and expedite the healing of injured muscles.
Massage therapy is one of the most popular complementary therapies used by people living with cancer.
Massage Therapy Methods
There are many different types of massage therapy methods. A massage therapist may use just one type of massage or may combine different types during a treatment session.
Deep Tissue Massage is done with stroking and finger pressure on deep layers of muscle tissue, where muscles are tight or knotted.
Myotherapy may also be called trigger point or pressure point massage therapy. It is done with a variety of strokes and focused pressure to ease or release trigger points. Trigger points are knots of tight muscle tissue that may cause pain or limit range of motion. They can be painful when pressed during massage.
Lymphatic Massage may also be called lymphatic drainage. It uses slow, light, rhythmic touch and pressure to help the body move lymph fluid throughout the lymphatic system. It is most often used to decrease lymphedema.
Reflexology is based on the theory that every part of our body is represented by a different area on our feet. Pressing on specific reflex points on the feet can treat the area of the body where there are blockages in energy flow. Sometimes the therapist may also use reflex points on the hands or ears. Reflexology is often used in relaxation therapy to encourage the body to function better under stress.
Oncology Massage is a specialty where massage techniques are changed to meet the needs of people with cancer and undergoing cancer treatments.
Massage techniques can range from being soft and gentle to vigorous and brisk. They may sometimes even be a bit uncomfortable.
Gentler forms of massage such as aromatherapy affect your nerve endings, possibly releasing chemicals called endorphins and reducing sensations of pain.
Stronger methods, such as Swedish massage, aim to stimulate your blood circulation and lymphatic system, relax muscles and ease knotted tissues that can cause pain and stiffness.
The History of Massage Therapy
Massage therapy history dates back thousands of years to ancient cultures that believed in it’s medical benefits. The first written records of massage therapy are found in China and Egypt.
2700 BCE: The first known Chinese text, the foundation of traditional Chinese medicine, which is a compilation of medical knowledge dating back some 4000 years, is called “The Yellow Emperor’s Classic Book of Internal Medicine” aka the “Huangdi Neijing” or “The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon” – it describes the use of different massage techniques in treating specific ailments and injuries.
This book was first published in English in 1949, but has become a staple in massage therapy training and is also often used as a textbook for teaching many other forms of alternative medicine such as acupuncture, acupressure and herbology.
2500 BCE: Egyptian tomb paintings show that massage therapy was also a part of their medical tradition. Egyptians get the credit for pioneering reflexology. Their studies and traditions greatly influenced other cultures such as the Greeks and Romans.
1500 and 500 BCE: The first known written massage therapy traditions come from India, but practice may have actually originated around 3000 BCE or earlier. Hindus used the art of healing touch in the practice of Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda, a Sanskrit word, translates to “life health” or “life science.” It is regarded as the basis of holistic medicine, combining meditation, relaxation and aromatherapy.
Early 1800s: It was from this early massage therapy history that the Swedish doctor, gymnast and educator Per Henril Ling developed a method of movement known as the “Swedish Movement System.” This is regarded as the foundation for Swedish massage most commonly used in the West today.
Although the “Swedish Movement System” was developed by Ling, it was Dutchman Johan Georg Mezger who defined the basic hand strokes of Swedish massage.
Today the most common types of massage practiced in the western hemisphere are Swedish massage and the Japanese massage practice of Shiatsu.
Read more about Massage Therapy as a Complementary Therapy, how Massage Therapy is administered, Massage Therapy for Children with Cancer, Possible Side-effects and Risks etc., on our static Complementary & Alternative Therapies page, Massage Therapy
Please note that the Little Fighters Cancer Trust shares information regarding various types of cancer treatments on this blog merely for informational use. LFCT does not endorse or promote any specific cancer treatments – we believe that the public should be informed but that the option is theirs to take as to what treatments are to be used.
Always consult your medical practitioner prior to taking any other medication, natural or otherwise.