Massage has been used for thousands of years in a therapeutic manner. In fact, Hippocrates, the great “father of medicine,” made reference to the value of what he called rubbing. Known today as bodywork, massage or rubbing is relative to a number of techniques that include the application of both fixed and moveable pressure, kneading, compression, rocking, holding and vibration. Most massage techniques use the hands; however, some therapists use other parts of their body such as their elbows, forearms and even their feet, depending on what type of massage they are doing.
Massage is a well-respected form of body work in America and has gained recognition in both the alternative and conventional medical circles. Massage is a billion-dollar industry in the United States and for good reason; it not only feels good but produces measurable results.
One study looked at 53 healthy adults, each who received one of two types of massage. Blood tests from the group who received the Swedish massage with modest pressure had a significant reduction in stress hormones and improved immune system function. Those that received a light touch massage experienced higher levels of oxytocin, the hormone that facilitates bonding. Researchers believe that massage may be effective at treating inflammation and autoimmune conditions.
Other clinical research shows that physical contact triggers a boost in serotonin which is a well known natural antidepressant. A study from the University of North Carolina found that even sitting in close contact with someone for as little as ten minutes reduces blood pressure in women. This finding seems to hold true even for those who are protective of their personal space.
Types of Massage
There are many different types of massage; each carries with it unique therapeutic benefits. Many therapists combine one or more massage techniques at one time.
Swedish massage is the most widely practiced form of touch therapy and is known as the classic “relaxation” massage such as what is found in spas. If you have muscle tension, Swedish massage brings much relief. In addition, Swedish massage will increase circulation of both blood and lymph and dissolve adhesions from scar tissue.
Deep tissue massage is used to release pain and inflammation in deep layers of muscle tissue and fascia. Deep tissue therapy is often used in combination with other types of massage therapy such as myofascial release or trigger point therapy.
Athletes benefit from sports massage, which is often used before and in between athletic competitions to warm and loosen up muscles. Sports massage can enhance performance by increasing flexibility, range of motion and improving muscle balance.
Fibrous knots that develop in muscles and connective tissue are known as trigger points. These spots tend to be very painful and often radiate pain to different parts of the body. A trigger point massage therapist will apply static pressure to the knots while stretching and manipulating the area. This softens up painful tissue and encourages healing.
Hot stone therapy is a favorite form of massage that utilizes warmed stones. This method is thought to be one of the most relaxing forms of massage. People who suffer from insomnia benefit greatly from hot stone treatment as the heat dissolves tension and promotes relaxation.
Thai massage has been practiced for thousands of years using a mat on the floor. It combines very gentle, rhythmic compressions along energy meridians known and “sen” with yoga type stretches.
Aromatherapy massage mixes aromatherapy and massage therapy together to relieve tension, inflammation and pain. The use of scented oils diffused into the air promotes relaxation and an upbeat mood. Aromatherapy massage also helps with digestion and relieves sinus congestion.
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