Massage therapy is the systematized manipulation of soft tissues for the purpose of normalizing them. Practitioners use a variety of physical methods including stroking, rubbing, kneading, percussion and vibration. Therapists primarily use their hands, but may also use their forearms, elbows, or feet. The word massage is derived from the Greek word ‘massier’ which means to knead. If correctly done on a bare body, it can be highly stimulating and invigorating. Massage has been used for thousands of years as a treatment for many ailments. The term `bodywork' is often used to refer to therapies that are combined or confused with massage, e.g. Shiatsu, Trager, Rolfing, Polarity and Reflexology.
The basic goal of massage therapy is to help the body heal itself and to increase health and well-being. Based on anecdotal data, massage therapists have said for years that massage relaxes people, reduces blood pressure and heart rate, relaxes muscles, increases range of motion, and increases the flow of blood and lymph, thereby cleansing the system. Therapeutic massage can be used to promote general well-being, enhance self-esteem and help restore a sense of body awareness - important for realizing when you are becoming tense and where you tend to hold your tension.
To date, most of the clinical trials of massage have focused on psychological outcomes of treatment. Good evidence from randomized trials indicates that massage reduces anxiety scores in the short term. There is more limited evidence that these anxiety reductions are cumulative over time. Practitioners claim that giving patients a concrete experience of relaxation through massage can facilitate their use of self help relaxation techniques. The evidence that massage can lead to improved sleep and reduce pain remains anecdotal. There are some small studies indicating immune stimulation by increasing white blood cell quantity and natural killer-cell activity.
A general body massage may last for 40-90 minutes and local body massages for 10-15 minutes. A little moderate kneading, and percussion cause muscles to contract and become stronger. Deep circular kneading and vibration loosens the muscles. Kneading under and round the muscles can help break up adhesions. Practitioners generally treat the whole body, using oil to help their hands move over the patient's body.
In case of acute inflammation of the nerves, massage should be done carefully. Deep pressure should not be used on swollen nerves for it will increase the inflammation. Abdominal massage should not be done in general, femoral, inguinal and umbilical hernia, inflammation of the uterus, bladder, ovaries and fallopian tubes, kidney stones, bladder or gall bladder, ulcers of the stomach and intestines, and pregnancy. Abdominal massage should not be done after a heavy meal, but at least two hours later. The bladder should be emptied before a massage.
Many people find a massage beneficial enough to have one on a regular basis, scheduling them as frequently as needed or as often as finances will allow.