Massage therapy, originating from China and Egypt, has been practiced for thousands of years. Gradually over the years, more and more people are recognizing the health benefits of massage. According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, an estimated 18 million U.S. adults and 700,000 children had received massage therapy in the previous year. They often seek to get relief from symptoms or to heal injuries, to help with certain health conditions, and to promote overall wellness.
A massage is defined as the application of soft-tissue manipulation techniques to the body, generally intended to reduce stress and fatigue while improving circulation. In general, therapists press, rub, and otherwise manipulate the muscles and other soft tissues of the body. They most often use their hands and fingers, but may use their forearms, elbows, or feet.
There are many different variations of massages (up to 80) all of which use different techniques. The most common types of massage are Swedish, neuromuscular, deep tissue, sports, chair, Shiatsu, Thai, Hot stone, and reflexology massages.
- Swedish massage is the most common type of massage and it involves soft, long, kneading strokes, as well as light, rhythmic tapping strokes on topmost layers of muscles. The objective of as Swedish massage is to relieve muscle tension, and thus have relaxing and energizing effects.
- Neuromuscular is a form of soft tissue massage that aims to treat underlying causes of chronic pain involving the muscular and nervous systems. This massage addresses tender muscle points, circulation, nerves and posture.
- Deep tissue massage is best for painful, stiff spots in your body. Deep tissue massage can be quite therapeutic — relieving chronic patterns of tension and helping with muscle injuries, such as back sprain.
- Sports massage uses a variety of techniques to help athletes before, after, or during sports events to prevent injuries and promote flexibility.
- In Japanese, shiatsu means “finger pressure.” For shiatsu massage, the therapists use varied, rhythmic pressure on certain precise points of the body, which can help relieve blockages at these acupressure points.
- During a Thai massage, the therapist uses his or her body to move the client into a variety of positions. This type of massage includes compression of muscles, mobilization of joints, and acupressure.
- During a hot stone massage, the therapist places warmed stones on certain areas of the body, such as acupressure points. The stones may be used as massage tools or be temporarily left in place. Used along with other massage techniques, hot stones can be quite soothing and relaxing as they transmit heat deep into the body.
- Reflexology uses hand, thumb, and finger techniques to stimulate certain areas of the feet. These areas are believed to correspond to different parts of the body. This massage is expected to promote health and well-being.
Massage therapy is more than just relaxing me-time. Massage therapy can be medically beneficial because it:
- Relives stress
- Encourages relaxation
- Improves posture
- Improves circulation
- Lowers blood pressure
- Relaxes muscles
- Improves flexibility and range of motion
- Promotes deeper and easier breathing
- Relieves headaches
- Strengthens the immune system
- Enhances post-operative rehabilitation
- Improves rehabilitation after injury