Massage therapy uses massage to improve blood circulation, relieve muscle tension, increase flexibility and reduce pain in joints. It has been used for thousands of years and, today, there are over 80 different styles of massage therapy that include several physiotherapy movements such as pressure, kneading and long strokes that impact the superficial layers of muscle as well as the deep layers. Usually a medicated oil or lotion is used.
For sports people, massage therapy has been shown to produce a competitive edge when it is part of their regular routine. A large part of this comes from the psychological benefit of total body awareness and total relaxation. The massage therapist uses physiotherapy to detect a tight hamstring, muscle spasm or tension and remove this resistance. It is also used for trigger point massage and deep tissue massage for myofascial trigger points and to relax painful muscle knots.
Massage was used as a medicinal practice in ancient China, India, Japan, Greece, Rome, Egypt and Arabia. During the Renaissance, massage became very popular in Europe, and in the 1850s, Swedish massage was introduced in the United States by two American physicians. Today, it is used to relieve pain, reduce stress, rehabilitate sports injuries, increase relaxation, relieve anxiety and depression and for general wellness.
Massage therapy is practiced in several kinds of settings, but usually in a quiet, calm place. Private health care offices, nursing homes, hospitals, fitness and sport facilities and spas are some of the places massage therapists practice.
The patient lies on a massage table undressed and covered with loose clothing or a sheet. The therapist may spend up to an hour massaging different parts of the body especially the neck, shoulders, spine, legs and feet. For those looking for massage therapy, they need to know the reason for the massage. Do they want a relaxing session of stress relief or do they need serious physiotherapy on a certain part of the body? The reason should be told to the therapist, so they can give the right kind of treatment.
Swedish massage is the most common type of therapy. It has four common strokes including a smooth stroke to relax soft tissue, a squeezing, kneading, rolling stroke, a deep circular stroke that increases blood flow and breaks down scar tissue and a short tapping movement.
Aromatherapy massage uses scented plant oils that are good for specific conditions. In a hot stone massage, hot stones are placed on certain points of the body to loosen tight muscles. Deep tissue massage targets internal muscles, organs and tissues. It is good for chronic pain from muscle tension. Shiatsu is Japanese massage that uses finger pressure on acupuncture points. Thai massage uses gentle pressure on points to align the energy of the body. The therapist also stretches the body into certain postures. Reflexology or foot massage applies pressure to points on the bottom of the foot that correspond to different organs in the body. Sports massage targets those who engage in great physical activity.