Massage: What it is and Where it Came From
Many people think of massage as a touchy-feely or purely for relaxation experience, but in reality Manual Medicine is one of the most ancient healing modalities. In addition, it is easily one of the most sustainable forms of medicine available.
Massage, in it’s various forms, has been noted by historians and used by people for it’s healing effects for as long as there has been civilization. Ever heard of the ‘power of touch’? This philosophy of treatment, where touch is applied to the patient using oils, aromatics, various tools, or just with the hands in specific patterns, has been used since the time of ancient China. The original Chinese treatment form was called “Amma” or “Anma”. Today Chinese medicine uses a form of massage called Tui Na. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, wrote in 460 BC “The physician must be experienced in many things, but assuredly in rubbing” a reference to the importance of manual therapies even in the ancient world.
What it does:
Throughout the millennia, as people have discovered more about the human body, manual therapies have evolved and specialized. Massage promotes the body’s innate ability to heal itself. One of the main effects of massage is the down-regulation of the sympathetic (fight/flight) nervous system allowing for proper rest and recovery.
Massage itself takes on many forms, names, and intents depending on the country of origin, who taught it, and even the practitioner. What all forms work with, no matter what the purpose of the treatment, is the soft and connective tissues of the body. The main tissue treated is muscle and the musculoskeletal system, the largest system in the body. Other structures worked with are tendons, ligaments, fascia, joints, cartilage, and even organs.
Light and Relaxing Massage has been shown to improve circulation, lymph drainage, and decrease hypertension (high blood pressure), anxiety and depression. This facilitates the healing abilities of the body and works very well in conjunction with other modalities and treatment options.
Deeper massage is shown to loosen muscle, and break up tendon and ligament adhesions. This helps with proper healing of wounds through aligning scar tissue and removing restrictions.
Massage is a great option to speed the healing process after a major surgery or accident.
The Goal of Massage treatments is to remove restrictions of all sorts. Restrictions and damage to the soft tissues can be the cause of much pain and restricted movement in the body.
Remedial or Orthopaedic Massage:
Remedial massage, also know as Orthopaedic Massage, as the name implies is about finding a Remedy (remedial=remedy) for your pain. This is one of the most clinical and thourough treatment options. Working with a detailed assessment process, this branch of manual medicine looks for the root cause of the pain. It works holistically by treating the cause or underlying dysfunction to allow the person to heal fully, not just cover the pain.
Practitioners will commonly provide home care advice, and exercises to help to patient improve even without direct treatment.
Treatment techniques used are dependent on the diagnosis by the practitioner. But some techniques are:
- Massage (Relaxation/Swedish Techniques)
- Muscle Manipulation
- Compressions (similar to Acupressure or Shiatsu)
- Trigger Point Release (for ‘knots’)
- Joint Mobilizations (for join dysfunction, similar in purpose to Chiropractic)
- Myofascial Dry Needling
All it takes for the basic forms of treatment is one person who knows what they are doing. Treatments can be done sitting, standing, or lying down. Traditional Shiatsu still uses just a thin mat on the ground and oils can be used but are not necessary. Massage can be taught by someone knowledgeable and is easily practiced once you know the basics. Even the most inexperienced therapist can improve circulation and healing time simply by just giving the skin a rub. On the other hand a skilled practitioner can work with very complicated conditions, such as dysfunction in the diaphragm and joint degeneration. One practitioner can teach a class and have them working to clear oedema and improve limb circulation in under a month, while decreasing pain, and providing relaxation and relief in those with more serious conditions.
Some conditions that can be treated, or helped with, Massage Techniques are:
- Neurological symptoms: Numbness, tingling, nausea, migraines
- Lower Back Pain
- Disc Prolapse
- Joint Pain
- Acute Pain
- Restricted Movement
- Scar Tissue
- Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Frozen Shoulder
- Digestive Upset
- General Pain Relief
Massage will be a very important tool in the future as it is a modality that lends itself to be easily taught and used with very little resources, and has a quick turn-over of students who can practice in a basic method very quickly. This makes it one of the most sustainable forms of medicine.
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