About Massage

by Carol Brown, BS, MA, MTI

Massage has become a household word and a regular health-care regimen for many Americans, but it is not a new concept. It is ancient. People have always used touch for comfort and healing. The Chinese Emperor Huang Ti documented massage as a healing tool as early as 2598 B.C. The Greek civilization developed the gymnasium and spa for exercise, relaxation, cleansing, and healing. Hippocrates once said, “A doctor must be well-versed in many things, but particularly in the rubs.”

So, we are circling back. Through scientific experiment, equipment, and study, we are coming to understand what the ancients figured out through trial, effort, observation, and intuition. Touch and manipulation of soft tissue (muscles, tendons, and ligaments) and joints support, stimulate, and act as catalysts for the body’s natural healing response.

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in April, 2001, concluded that:

“Therapeutic massage was effective for persistent low back pain, apparently providing long-lasting benefits. Massage might be an effective alternative to conventional medical care for persistent back pain.”*

Many Complimentary Alternative Medicine (CAM) studies are testing the benefits of massage objectively and finding that Massage and Body Work reap many rewards. As we literally and figuratively dissect the human body into increasingly smaller components, we are learning the function of things like cellular metabolism, and also learning the necessity of treating the body, mind, spirit as a whole. Massage affects the gamut — from the whole body (the receiver having feelings of wellness and connectedness) down to its most minute parts (cellular respiration, ATP, mitochondria, etc., affecting the cells’ immune response and cellular metabolism). When a person receives a massage, they feel good all over; even the nuclei of their cells are happy!

Here is a brief synopsis of two basic massage modalities:

Swedish Massage is the traditional Western massage with which we are most familiar, developed in about 1812 by Dr. Per Henrik Ling of Sweden. It incorporates the manipulation of soft tissue (muscles, tendons, and ligaments) using basic strokes such as kneading, gliding, friction, vibration, and stretching. Oils and lotions are utilized. A good Swedish Massage addresses the body, mind, and spirit. It relaxes muscles and increases endorphins, circulation, and elimination of toxins, thereby improving all bodily functions, providing healing benefits for the physical body. It also improves a person’s emotional and mental well-being, providing a natural high. Not measurable scientifically are the intrinsic benefits people experience such as getting in touch with (or reconnecting with) the deeper spiritual essence of themselves. We enjoy using Swedish massage with aromatherapy for our relaxation massage experiences.

Swedish Massage can be applied lightly or in a firmer manner, depending on the needs of the client. Classic Swedish Massage is a good choice for a first massage and for those who are exhausted, tense, stressed, emotionally distraught, sore, depressed, can’t sleep, or want a change of attitude.

Deep Tissue Massage / Body Work involves advanced therapy techniques of which there are numerous modalities. Generally the focus of deep tissue massage (or “body work”) centers on a particular area of the body for the purpose of relieving a particular condition, such as sciatic pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, TMJ problems, plantar fasciitis, migraines/headaches, neck and shoulder pain, tendonitis, and back pain, to name but a few. Numerous techniques are applied to alleviate severe stress, tensions and adhesions in muscles and connective tissue or fascia (pronounced “fahʹ-shuh”). The session begins superficially and gradually accesses deeper and deeper layers of muscle tissue — relaxing, lengthening, and releasing holding patterns in the body. This work has the potential to alleviate pain, generate better posture, and produce greater flexibility and fluidity of movement.

@ Carol A. Brown 2010

* Randomized Trial Comparing Traditional Chinese Medical Acupuncture, Therapeutic Massage, and Self-care Education for Chronic Low Back Pain by Daniel C. Cherkin, PhD; David Eisenberg, MD; Karen J. Sherman, PhD; William Barlow, PhD; Ted J. Kaptchuk, OMD; Janet Street, RN, MN, PNP; Richard A. Deyo, MD, MPH

Did you know?

Arkansas was the first state to license massage! In 1951, Arkansas enacted legislation governing use of the word ‘massage’. A licensed massage therapist in Arkansas must meet the guidelines of the Arkansas State Board of Massage Therapy, which include graduating from a licensed, accredited school offering 500 hours of training, passing an exam for licensure, and completing hours of continuing education each year.

SPA is the acronym for the Latin phrase, Salud Per Aqua, which means “health through water.”

In his 1866 book, The Anatriptic Art, Walter Johnson describes the use of frictions in detail, and offers perhaps the first-ever description of Sports Massage, provided by the ancient Greek physician, Galen (130-201 AD). The Greek gymnasiums (esclapeion), at the height of their success, were primarily devoted to exercises, frictions, and baths. The exercises were wrestling, jumping, boxing, running, throwing, and games played with balls, to name a few. To prepare the young men for exercise, refresh them afterward and along with or after their bath, ‘frictions’ were applied.

Massage Can Help You