What is Massage?
Massage is the practice of applying structured or unstructured pressure, tension, motion, or vibration - manually or with mechanical aids - to the soft tissues of the body, including muscles, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments, joints, lymphatic vessels, organs of the gastrointestinal system to achieve a beneficial response. Massage Therapy is performed primarily by a professional Massage Therapist but is often used as a form of therapy by other Healthcare practitioners such as Chiropractors, Osteopaths and Physical Therapists.
Massage can be applied to parts of the body or successively to the whole body, to aid the process of injury healing, relieve psychological stress, manage pain, and improve circulation. Where massage is used for its physiological, mental, and mechanical benefits, it may be termed "therapeutic massage" or manipulative therapy.
Massage can also be a part of lovemaking (see erotic massage) and often takes place in the context of sex work.
In professional settings, massage involves the client being treated while lying on a massage table, sitting upright in a massage chair, or lying on a pad on the floor. Except for modalities such as Acupressure, Shiatsu, Tui Na, Thai Massage, or Barefoot Deep Tissue, the massage subject is generally unclothed or partially unclothed, also referred to as disrobed, and their body would be "draped" with towels or sheets. The practice of covering the parts of the body that are not being massaged is referred to as draping and its practice varies from one part of the world to another. In addition to making a professional statement and providing a boundary, draping helps keep the client warm which aids in the relaxation response. In some countries it is required that certain areas such as the genitals on both genders and the breast/nipple area on women be draped at all times. In the United States draping is a standard of the profession, while in other parts of the world, such as some parts of Europe, it is not practiced at all. In most forms of massage, the session begins with the client face up, referred to as supine, or face down, referred to as prone, for the first part of the session and then the client rolls over for the second half. Relaxation is necessary for benefits to be achieved.
Acupressure is an ancient healing art that uses the fingers to press key points on the surface of the skin to stimulate the body's natural self-curative abilities. When these points are pressed, they release muscular tension and promote the circulation of blood and the body's life force (sometimes known as qi or chi) to aid healing. Acupuncture and acupressure use the same points, but acupuncture employs needles, while acupressure uses the gentle, but firm pressure of hands and feet. Acupressure, continues to be the most effective method for self-treatment of tension-related ailments by using the power and sensitivity of the human hand. Acupressure can be effective in helping relieve headaches, eye strain, sinus problems, neck pain, backaches, arthritis, muscle aches, tension due to stress, ulcer pain, menstrual cramps, lower backaches, constipation, and indigestion. Self-acupressure can also be used to relieve anxiety and improve sleep. There are also great advantages to using acupressure as a way to balance the body and maintain good health. The healing touch of acupressure reduces tension, increases circulation, and enables the body to relax deeply. By relieving stress, acupressure strengthens resistance to disease and promotes wellness. In acupressure, local symptoms are considered an expression of the condition of the body as a whole. A tension headache, for instance, may be rooted in the shoulder and neck area. Thus, acupressure focuses on relieving pain and discomfort, as well as responding to tension, before it develops into a disease-before the constrictions and imbalances can do further damage. The origins of acupressure are as ancient as the instinctive impulse to hold your forehead or temples when you have a headache. Everyone at one time or another has used their hands spontaneously to hold tense or painful places on the body. More than five thousand years ago, the Chinese discovered that pressing certain points on the body relieved pain where it occurred and also benefited other parts of the body more remote from the pain and the pressure point. Gradually, they found other locations that not only alleviated pain, but also influenced the functioning of certain internal organs. (Definition, in part, from the book Acupressure's Potent Points, by Michael Reed Gach, director of the Acupressure Institute, Bantam, 1990.)
Cranio Sacral Therapy
CranioSacral Therapy is a gentle, hands-on method of evaluating and enhancing the functioning of a physiological body system called the craniosacral system-comprised of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. CranioSacral therapy is most often utilized to treat neurological disorders including ADHD, autism, and acute stress disorders.
Deep Tissue Massage
Used to release chronic muscle tension through slower strokes and more direct pressure or friction applied across the grain of the muscles. This invigorating experience is a process of detection of stiff or painful areas by determining the quality and texture of the deeper layers of musculature, and slowly working into the deep layers of muscle tissue. Specific hand positions and strokes are then used to respond to various tissue qualities. Techniques employing breath and movement are also used for releasing muscular congestion.
Hot Stone Massage
The use of heated stones upon the human body as a tool for healing has been used by various cultures for thousands of years. The application of heat to the body and the relaxing effects this has on muscles and the nervous system has been recognized by numerous ancient civilizations. Heated stones were used by Egyptians in their ceremonies, and heated stones have also been used by Native American Indians and in Lomi Lomi massage in Hawaii.
However, it was 1994 that the use of heated stones as part of a full body massage began. Mary Nelson, a massage therapist from of Tucson, Arizona spent 3 years researching and developing the LaStone massage method. She then began sharing her knowledge and began training the massage staff at numerous resorts and spas throughout the southwest states of America. As more and more tourists experienced the LaStone Massage, word spread throughout the spa and healing arts industry and today hot stone massage can be found on the menu of spas and resorts in all corners of the globe. Mary's staff of professional instructors have trained thousands of massage therapists in 3 to 5 day long classes, worldwide.
During an authentic hot stone massage, stones are heated in hot water and then used in two ways. Some stones will be laid under a towel or pillowcase placed under the back along both sides of the spine and ontop of the torso (on a towel) to heat the chakra centers. Heated stones coated in oil are then used directly in the hands of the therapist delivering various massaging strokes of the muscle tissues. The heat from the stones helps to relax the muscles which then permits greater overall results for the massage experience.
Kinesiology is the study of the principles of mechanics and anatomy related to human body movement, specifically the action of individual muscles or groups of muscles that perform specific movements. Applied kinesiology involves muscle testing to assess a client's condition.
Lomi Lomi - Traditional Hawaiian Massage
Lomilomi massage is an ancient art from the Hawaiian healing specialists. They were taught their art over 20 years and received their last instructions from their master on his death bed. There are hundreds of styles of Lomilomi, the main ones being the style of Big Island which was passed on by Aunty Margaret Machado, and Maui style from Uncle Kalua Kaiahua. On the island of Kaua'i, Kahu Abraham passed on what is today called Kahuna Bodywork. It is not clear if other current practices-temple style, lomi lomi nui and others-are from Native Hawaiian practitioners or are modern adaptations.
Myofascial release is the three-dimensional application of sustained pressure and movement into the fascial system in order to eliminate fascial restrictions and facilitate the emergence of emotional patterns and belief systems that are no longer relevant or are impeding progress. First, an assessment is made by visually analyzing the human frame, followed by the palpation of the tissue texture of various fascial layers. Upon locating an area of fascial tension, gentle pressure is applied in the direction of the restriction. Myofascial release is an effective therapeutic approach in the relief of cervical pain, back pain, fibromyalgia, scoliosis, neurological dysfunction, restriction of motion, chronic pain, and headaches.
Ortho-Bionomy was developed by the British osteopath Dr. Arthur Lincoln Pauls in the 1970s and has since been refined into a comprehensive system of bodywork that includes a person's energetic and emotional well-being, in addition to addressing the physical body. Pauls combined his understanding and techniques of osteopathy with the principles of martial arts and the philosophy of homeopathy to stimulate the organism's self-healing reflexes without needing to use force or painful manipulation. The term Ortho-Bionomy loosely translates from the Greek into the correct application of the laws of life to indicate Pauls did not invent something entirely new, but returned to a way of understanding the body and energetic field that had been known for centuries, but had fallen into disuse by modern medicine. On a physical level, a practitioner of Ortho-Bionomy uses comfortable positions and gentle movements to ease the body into releasing tension and pain and to reestablish structural realignment. Proprioceptive nerve activity and stretch reflex action are stimulated to educate the body about its own patterns and to support the organism's ability to find balance, rather than forcing change from the outside. Since the changes that take place come from within, the results of the work tend to be long-lasting and affect not only the body, but the overall well-being of the client. The energetic and emotional aspects of the client are included to facilitate balance and release of mental and emotional holding patterns closely associated with physical imbalance or trauma. Participation of the client is always welcome in Ortho-Bionomy, and sessions are often educational in character. Often, awareness alone will change a pattern, but specific exercises are also a part of what Ortho-Bionomy can offer a client.
Pohaku (Stone) Healing
Pohaku Healing is the process of rhythmic tapping of the muscles from one connective point to the other connective point moving eventually all the way to the bone. By tapping the muscle with a smooth stone shaped to fit the affected area, the muscile is freed from the other muscles around it as well as being freed from the bone. This process is popularly known as "rolfing". Pohaku Healing is far less painful because the stones go deeper than fingers and move faster with far less discomfort. Scar tissue prevents muscles from having natural elasticity. When pressing muscles to the extreme, scar tissue is often uncovered. Using Pohaku Stones, scar tissue can be broken up to promote the growth of new tissue to replace old, worn-out tissue. Water is often retained at connective tissues such as the back of the knees, ankles, wrists and pelvis because water cannot fit through the tight squeeze of the connective tissue. Tapping these areas with stones releases water which allows it to get through to the muscles. The muscle then absorbs the moisture and expands to its original size.
A holistic approach to natural health care. It asserts that energy fields exist everywhere in nature, and that the flow and balance of this energy in the human body is the underlying foundation of health. Stress, tension, pain, inflexible thinking, and environmental stimuli are among many factors that can contribute to the restriction of this energy flow in the human body. According to Polarity therapists, such energy blocks can be released by the use of four therapeutic methods: bodywork, diet, exercise and self-awareness.
Pregnancy massage focuses on the special needs of the mother-to be, as her body progresses through the dramatic changes, of the childbirth experience - pregnancy, birth, and post-partum. Some of the possible benefits of pregnancy massage include relaxation, a calm effect, even blood flow, reduced stress, relief of muscle spasms, cramps and myofacial pain. Also relief of back, neck, hip and leg pain. Improved blood and lymphatic circulation. Easing of musculoskeletal pain caused by stress on weightweight-bearing joints. Reduced constipation, gas, and heartburn. Developed kinesthetic awareness. Body sensory awareness which enhances a woman's ability to focus on the infant within, to count baby's kicks and monitor his or her movement and position. Improved sleep. Enhanced ability to relax deeply which is a technique that's useful between contractions during labor.
Postpartum massage is designed to help restore the body to it's pre-pregnancy condition and to address the stress of carrying and caring for a newborn. It can speed recovery by bringing relief to sore muscles and helping the mother to relax. Abdominal massage can help shrink the uterus and relieve subcutaneous scar tissue.
Based on an ancient Chinese therapy, reflexology involves manipulation of specific reflex areas in the foot, hands, and ears that correspond to other parts of the body. Sometimes referred to as zone therapy, this bodywork involves application of pressure to these reflex zones to stimulate body organs and relieve areas of congestion. Similar to acupressure principles, reflexology works with the body's energy flow to stimulate self-healing and maintain balance in physical function. This technique is used to reduce pain, increase relaxation, and stimulate circulation of blood and lymphatic fluids. It is especially useful in stress-related illness and emotional disorders. Reflexology is also convenient in cases where an area of the body is traumatized or diseased to the extent that direct manipulation is not appropriate.
A system based on the body's energy meridians. Shiatsu massages are normally done fully clothed and involve pressing points on the body and stretching and opening of the energy meridians. Shiatsu is somewhat related to acupuncture, which is a form of anesthesia and therapy used in Chinese hospitals for surgery. Its proponents view it as a form of treatment alternative to medicine or surgery.
Sports massage is designed to enhance athletic performance and recovery. There are three contexts in which sports massage can be useful to an athlete: pre-event, post-event, and injury treatment. Pre-event massage is delivered at the performance site, usually with the athlete fully clothed. Fast-paced and stimulating, it helps to establish blood flow and to warm up muscles. During the massage, the athlete generally focuses on visualizing the upcoming event. Post-event massage is also delivered on site, through the clothes. The intent here is to calm the nervous system and begin the process of flushing toxins and waste products out of the body. Post-event massage can reduce recovery time, enabling an athlete to resume training much sooner than rest alone would allow. When an athlete sustains an injury, skillful massage therapy can often speed and improve the quality of healing. Click here to find a Sports Massage practitioner.
(A proper name, not a reference to Sweden) refers to a collection of techniques designed primarily to relax muscles by applying pressure to them against deeper muscles and bones, and rubbing in the same direction as the flow of blood returning to the heart. The lymph system and veins (which carry blood back to the heart) both rely on muscle action, rather than heart pump pressure, to operate. Many believe it is safe to apply light pressure in the opposite direction. Friction is reduced by oil, lotion or a massage gel. Some practitioners claim benefits from vegetable rather than mineral oil while others disagree. Swedish massage can relax muscles, increase circulation, remove metabolic waste products, help the recipient obtain a feeling of connectedness, a better awareness of their body and the way they use and position it. The strokes and manipulations of Swedish Massage are each conceived as having a specific therapeutic benefit. One of the primary goals of Swedish Massage is to speed venous return from the extremities. Swedish Massage shortens recovery time from muscular strain by flushing the tissue of lactic acid, uric acid and other metabolic wastes. It improves circulation without increasing heart load. It stretches the ligaments and tendons, keeping them supple. Swedish Massage also stimulates the skin and nervous system while at the same time relaxing the nerves themselves. As it can help reduce emotional and physical stress it is often recommended as part of a regular program for stress management. It also has specific clinical uses in a medical or remedial therapy.
Known in Thailand as "Nuat phaen boran, IPA" which correctly translates only as ancient massage or traditional massage, this form of massage is also known as Thai ancient massage, traditional Thai massage, Thai yoga massage, yoga massage, Thai classical massage, Thai bodywork, passive yoga or assisted yoga. It is usually soothing because of its emphasis on stretching and loosening the body. Its roots go back far into history, originating in India based on the Ayurveda, and then becoming popular in ancient Siam, now known as Thailand.
Originating in India and drawing from Ayurveda, it has inevitably incorporated modalities like yoga. The receiver is put into many yoga like positions during the course of the massage. In the northeren style there are a lot of stretching movements unlike the southern style where pressure is emphasised. It was believed that the massage art was brought over to Thailand by Shivago Komarpaj (Jivaka Kumarabhacca), a contemporary of Lord Buddha over 2500 years ago.
The massage recipient changes into loose, comfortable clothes and lies on a mat or firm mattress on the floor. (It can be done solo or in a group of a dozen or so patients in the same large room). The massage practitioner leans on the recipient's body using hands and forearms to apply firm rhythmic pressure to almost every part of the recipient's body. The massage generally follows the Sen lines on the body-somewhat analogous to Chinese Meridians and Indian nadis. In some gestures, legs and feet of the giver are used to fixate the body or limbs of the recipient. In other gestures, hands fixate the body, while the feet do the massaging action. Oil is not used in traditional Thai Massage. A full Thai massage session typically lasts two hours or more, and includes rhythmic pressing and stretching of the entire body; this may include pulling fingers, toes, ears etc., cracking the knuckles, walking on the recipient's back, arching the recipient's back in a rolling action etc. There is a standard procedure and rhythm to the massage.
Note: The traditional therapeutic practice of Thai massage should not be confused with the sexual service of the same name that is available in some hotels and brothels. Sometimes the traditional therapeutic Thai Massage, or ancient massage, is referred to as "old lady massage," while the sexual practice, which has nothing to do with therapeutic traditional massage is called "young lady massage."
Trigger Point Myotherapy
Trigger point myotherapy is a noninvasive therapeutic modality for the relief and control of myofascial pain and dysfunction. The goal of treatment is the client's recovery from or a significant reduction in myofascial pain. The treatment goal is achieved through a systematized approach. Treatment consists of trigger point compression, myomassage, passive stretching, and a regime of corrective exercises. Success may be measured subjectively by the level of pain reduction experienced by the client and objectively through increased range of motion, strength, endurance, and other measures of improved function. Trigger point myotherapy relies heavily on client-therapist interaction, including verbal and nonverbal elements. The myotherapist encourages the client to be personally responsible for their improvement, with attention to such factors as nutritional intake, stress, proper exercises, mechanical abnormalities, and other physical components. These elements protect the client from delayed diagnosis, delayed treatment, or contraindicated treatment, which are the concerns of first order. Trigger point myotherapy is an integrating approach to myofascial pain and dysfunction.