The practice of massage therapy is rapidly growing in the United States. It has numerous benefits to offer and is becoming more widely accepted as a medical practice by doctors and the general public. Massage is defined as: the systematic manual or mechanical manipulations of the soft tissues of the body by such movements as rubbing, kneading, pressing, rolling, slapping, and tapping, for therapeutic purposes such as promoting circulation of the blood and lymph, relaxation of muscles, relief from pain, restoration of metabolic balance, and other benefits both physical and mental (Beck 3).
There is much historical evidence to indicate that massage is one of the earliest remedies for pain relief and for the restoration of a healthy body. It is said to be the most natural and instinctive means of relieving pain and discomfort. The roots of massage can be traced back to ancient civilizations. Many artifacts have been found to support the belief that prehistoric people massaged their muscles and even used some form of rubbing oils on their bodies. According to research, some form of massage was practiced in almost all early civilizations.
Ancient Chinese, Japanese, India, Hindu, Greek, and Roman civilizations sed some form of massage as a medical treatment. In many of these civilizations a special person, such as a healer, doctor, or spiritual leader, was selected to administer massage treatments. With the decline of the Roman Empire in 180 A. D. came a decline in the popularity of massage and health care in general. There was little history of health practices recorded during the Middle Ages (476-1450). The Renaissance period (1450-1600) revived an interest in health and science.
Once again, people became interested in the improvement of physical health and by the second half of the fifth entury, massage was a common practice. By the sixteenth century, medical practitioners began to incorporate massage into their healing treatments. Massage has been a major part of medicine for at least five thousand years and important in Western medical traditions for at least three thousands years. In the early part of the nineteenth century, Per Henrik Ling, a physiologist and fencing master, from Smaaland, Sweden, developed and systemized movements that he found to be beneficial in improving physical conditions.
His system of movements, based on the science of physiology, became known as Medical Gymnastics. In 813, Ling established the Royal Swedish Central Institute of Gymnastics, which was financed by the Swedish government. From this institute Ling and his students were able to educate people about his Medical Gymnastics movements, which became known as the Swedish Movements. By 1851, there were thirty-eight institutions for Swedish Movement in Europe. Today, Per Henrik Ling is known as the father of physical therapy. Mathias Roth was an English physician who had studied at one of Lings institutes.
In 1858, he published the first book in English on Swedish Movements and then established the first institute in England. Charles Fayette Taylor, a New York physician, studied, under Roth, and in 1858, Taylor introduced the Swedish Movements to the United States. The beginning of the twentieth century brought with it a decline in the use of massage. There were several possible reasons for this decline. One reason was that there were too many false practitioners who gave poor care and hurt the reputation of all massage practitioners. A second reason for the decline in the popularity of massage therapy was the advancement made in medicine.
Technical and intellectual advances developed new treatment strategies that were based more n pharmacology and surgical procedures. The old ideas of treating disease through diet, exercise, and bathing gave way to the more sophisticated practices of modern medicine. (Beck 13). Beginning around 1960, another massage renaissance took place in the United States and continues to this day. This popularity boom was due in part to the increased cost of traditional medicine and in part to an increased awareness of physical and mental fitness.
Since the 1960s massage therapy has gained popularity and acceptance. In 1992, the first National Certification for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork exam was given, aking recognition for a massage therapist official. Massage therapy offers numerous benefits to the human body. Renslow Sherer, M. D. , states, “Massage therapy has clearly been shown to me to be very beneficial, particularly in areas where conventional medicine has not been as successful, including chronic arthritis, musculoskelatal syndromes and chronic headache, among others (Enhancing Your Health).
Massage is a natural and instinctive way of relieving minor aches and pains, nervous tension and fatigue. It has direct benefits such as increased circulation, stretching of muscle tissue, and oosening of scar tissue, as well as indirect effects such as reduced blood pressure, and the general relaxation of muscles. Massage therapy offers benefits in four major ways: the muscular system, the nervous system, the circulatory system, and psychologically. Massage therapy encourages the nutrition and development of the muscular system by stimulating its circulation, nerve supply, and cell activity.
In general, it relaxes and refreshes muscles. A muscle fatigued by exercise will be more quickly restored by massage than by rest alone because massage helps to remove from the muscle the lactic acid and metabolic astes that cause it to tighten or become sore(What Can Massage Treat). Muscle tissue that has been injured will also heal more readily and with fewer complications when a therapeutic massage is applied because it prevents, or breaks down, the formation of scar tissue. Massage also eases the pain of an injury to a ligament or tendon by dispersing the inflammation an injury would cause.
Because of the benefits massage therapy offers the muscular system, massage is an effective means of improving muscle tone as well as muscle stamina and strength. Massage has the ability to prevent or at least delay muscular atrophy that tems from inactivity (Enhancing Your Health). Massage will help to relieve, or even prevent, muscle cramps or spasms. The nervous system can be stimulated or soothed depending on the type of massage applied. Massage stimulates the nerve endings in the skin and muscle tissue. As easily as massage can stimulate a nerve, it can bring about a sedative effect to the nervous system.
Massage can induce deep relaxation and even relieve insomnia. A therapeutic massage effects the quality and quantity of blood flowing through the circulatory system. Massage dilates the blood vessels, which improves the irculation of blood (Beck 250). An increase in blood flow causes an increase in the blood supply and the nutrients that muscles and other vital organs receive. Massage eases the strain on the heart by helping push venous blood and lymph toward the heart. It also improves the blood-making process, resulting in an increase in the number of red and white blood cells.
Because of the benefits a massage offers to the circulatory system, it can eliminate swelling in the extremities. The psychological effects of massage can not be underestimated. Massage relieves mental fatigue by oxidizing and removing toxins rom the body. Beck (252) states that It [Massage] has been proven to be an effective tool to rebuild a positive self-image and sense of self-worth. Many people who suffer from stress find that massage promotes both mental and muscular relaxation. Overall, massage helps to create a greater sense of self-awareness and well being.
There are many different types of massage that are used in order to obtain a desired outcome. The most commonly used massage is known as Swedish Massage. It is a collection of techniques that are designed to relax muscles, increase circulation, remove metabolic waste products, and help the ecipient obtain a feeling of connectedness, a better awareness of their body and the way they use and position it(Basics of Massage). The Swedish system emphasizes applying pressure against muscles and rubbing in the same direction as the flow of blood returning to the heart.
Swedish Massage is used to shorten the recovery time from a muscular strain because it flushes the tissue of lactic acid and other metabolic wastes. It stretches ligament and tendons, keeping them supple. Swedish Massage can help reduce emotional and physical stress and is often used in stress management programs. While Swedish Massage is the most commonly used, there are a variety of other systems that offer a wide range of benefits. One type is Shiatsu; it is a massage system based on the bodys energy meridians. The practice of Shiatsu involves the pressing of certain points on the body and the stretching and opening of energy meridians.
Proponents of it view Shiatsu as a form of treatment alternative to medicine or surgery. Closely related to Shiatsu is Polarity Therapy, it asserts that energy fields exist everywhere in the body and that the flow and balance of this energy in the human body is the nderlying foundation of health. A second type is Reflexology; it is based on the belief that there are points on the hands and feet that correspond to other parts of the body and that the manipulation of one of these points will have a direct effect on a corresponding body part.
It is unclear why Reflexology works, but one currently accepted theory is that it works by way of nero-reflex points found in the hands and feet. When an organ doesnt function properly, the neural signals along the network change patterns. These changes can be detected through the reflex points on the hands and feet. The chemistry at the reflex point relating to the dysfunctional organ may change causing a hard painful spot. When this spot is massaged away, the area begins to become less tender and the organ to which the reflex point corresponds also functions better.
A third type is Aromatherapy; it is the use of fragrant substances for a remedial treatment. Aromatherapy is often combined with massage since oils can be used to carry fragrances while also allowing more pressure to be applied to muscles. It is believed by many that certain health benefits are associated with specific scents. A fourth type is n On-Site Massage; it is a short, 15-20 minutes, massage. The client sits in a portable massage chair while the shoulder, neck, upper back, head and arms are massaged. This type of massage is popular at the office as an employee benefit and at conferences and workshops.
A fifth type of massage is Trigger Point or Myotherapy; these are pain-relief techniques that ease muscle spasms and cramping. Trigger Point reduces muscle spasms by introducing new blood flow to an affected area. Myotherapy relieves muscle pain and stiffness. It is usually most beneficial to those with chronic muscle tensions. A sixth type is Craniosacral Therapy; it is especially suited to addressing tensions in the membranes of the head and spinal column as well as the cranial bones to which these membranes are attached.
The release of these tensions is deeply relaxing and may relieve certain types of headaches, spinal nerve problems, and stress. One last type of massage is Reiki, it is a gentle, hands-on healing technique used to reduce stress, relieve pain, and promote healing. It is based on the belief that energy can be channeled through a practitioner to energize the various body systems of a client. Reiki practitioners hold that an imbalance of the energetic nature manifests in the body to cause stress or even life-threatening diseases and that re-channeling the energy in the body can reverse these conditions.
In addition to these types of massage is an athletic massage, it refers to a method of massage that is especially designed to prepare an athlete for an upcoming event and/or to aid the body in recovering from a workout or competition. For many years athletes have included massage as part of their training. Recently, in 1984, massage was made available for all athletes who were competing in the Olympic Games. Since then, massage areas have become common at many athletic events. Athletes have recognized massage as a valuable asset to improving their ability to perform better with fewer injuries.
Athletic massage enables athletes to attain their highest potential by accelerating the bodys natural restorative processes, enabling the athlete to participate more often in rigorous physical training and conditioning. (Beck 505) It helps to reduce the chance of injury by identifying and eliminating conditions in the soft tissue that are a possible risk. An athletic massage allows an athlete to reach their peak performance sooner and to ustain it longer. It stretches and broadens muscles, tendons, and ligaments, which improves the flexibility, quickness and power of an athlete’s muscles.
An athletic massage eliminates muscle stiffness by removing excess acid buildup from the muscles. With a massage, an injury will heal quicker and stronger, without a loss of strength. In general, a sports massage is based on the Swedish system with a few practical variations. There are four basic applications for an athletic massage, pre-event, post-event, training massage, and rehabilitative massage. A massage given previous to an event will prepare an athlete for the train of an intense competition. A massage given after an event will normalize the muscle tissues and relax the athlete.
A training massage is given during a workout to allow an athlete to train harder with fewer injuries. A rehabilitative massage helps an athlete to recover from an injury more quickly with less of a chance of re-injury. In the United States, the laws and regulations for massage vary greatly from state to state and city to city. The regulation of massage therapy may be controlled by the state, the county, the city, or may not exist at all. Currently, just over alf of the states regulate the practice of massage therapy. Among the states regulating massage therapy is Nebraska.
The State of Nebraska requires one to complete at least one thousand hours of course study and training in massage therapy, to be at least nineteen years of age, to be a resident of Nebraska, and to have received a passing score on the licensure examination. There are many career opportunities for a certified massage therapist. There are positions available as a massage therapists in many chiropractic offices, in health clubs or day spas, in resorts or on cruise ships, in hair salons, and in hospitals. Many certified practitioners will either establish or work in a massage clinic.
Another opportunity for a massage therapist exists in the sports realm. Many professional baseball, football, basketball, hockey, ice skating, and swimming teams keep a professional massage therapist on its staff. The vast number of benefits realized by massage therapy make it one of the most used and useful tools for dealing with mind and body stresses. Massage therapy has proven to be an effective method for treating many conditions for thousands of years and it will continue to be used for thousands of years to come.