What is Massage?
Massage therapists manipulate muscles and other soft tissues of the body to achieve a healing effect. There is no settled theory on how massage therapy works. It is also important to understand that there are many different form of massage. A more or less comprehensive list would comprise of around forty different methods. In addition to that, seasoned massage practitioners tend to develop their own idiosyncratic styles, compiled and derived from acknowledged practices.
To give at least a few examples, there is traditional Chinese acupoint massage and the Japanese shiatsu massage to balance the flow of a vital energy of Qi in the body, similar to acupuncture. There are tougher, kneading massage techniques like Swedish massage and the Chinese Tui Na. There are also exotic techniques like hot stone massage and ayurvedic massage where oils play a key role along with the tissue manipulation.
Depending on a particular practice and treated condition, a visit to a therapist may last anywhere between 15 minutes and 2 hours. Also depending on the circumstances, the therapist often may suggest several appointments. Many practitioners advise their patients on diet, movement habits etc.
Since there are so many different forms and traditions in massage, it is hard to give a short historical account. Massage is one of the most ancient medical techniques known to man. Some of the oldest records of massage treatment come from ancient China (Tui Na), India (Ayurvedic massage) and ancient Greece. Massage is constantly developing. Some of the more recent methods include the Trager approach, Barefoot deep tissue massage and Neuromuscular therapy.
The reasons why people use massage therapy (only therapeutic use is discussed here) are varied. According to an American nationwide survey conducted in 2002, most patients believed that it would be beneficial to combine massage with conventional medicine (60 percent). The second largest group tried massage because they thought that it would be interesting (44 percent). The third largest group tried it because they did not believe in efficiency of conventional medicine, the fourth – because a conventional medical professional suggested it (33 percent). The smallest group tried it, because they believed that conventional medicine was too expensive (13 percent).
The same survey lists a number of specific health goals for which people are likely to rely on massage. Those are pain relief, rehabilitation of sports injuries, stress reduction and relaxation, treatment of anxiety and depression, and general wellness.
There are, however, some precautions to watch for in massage therapy. Those who have deep vein thrombosis, bleeding disorders and taking of blood thinning drugs such as Warfarin, damaged blood vessels, weakened bones, fever and any serious irregularities in the tissues in the area to be massaged (healing or open wounds, tumors, damaged nerves, inflammations etc.), should consult a physician before having therapeutic massage performed.
That said, massage, when administered in reasonable circumstances by a trained professional has a remarkable reputation for safety, being, in forms, one of the safest alternative and complementary medicine techniques available. What makes it particularly attractive is that, while it is affordable to the general public (unless truly exotic methods are sought); it is also a remarkable way to achieve general relief from stress and overall feeling of wellness. This, as many professional in conventional medicine will readily admit, is paramount for preserving good health and promoting quick recovery from any illness.