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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.
 

 
 

Massage can help with the following:
 
 
Aging  Premature/Signs of Aging
 Massage can reduce the chronic stress on the body that interferes with normal functioning and contributes to premature aging.

Allergy

  Allergic Rhinitis / Hay Fever
 Therapeutic massage can assist drainage of lymphatic fluid.

Circulation

  Lymphatic Congestion
  Varicose Veins
 Regular massage from a trained massage therapist can significantly alleviate the discomfort associated with varicose veins.

  Arrhythmias/Dysrhythmias
 In cases of supraventricular tachycardia, stimulation of the vagus nerve is a commonly employed technique to help return the heart rate to normal. This can be done in several ways:
  • Perform the Valsalva maneuver (briefly strain or bear down as though having a bowel movement)
  • Using one hand, pinch the nose closed with index finger and thumb, while covering your mouth (to provide resistance) and blow out with vigor
  • Pressing/massaging one side of the neck on the carotid artery. Only press on one side of the neck at a time, not both at once
  • Make yourself gag
All of these techniques serve to stimulate the vagus nerve which slows the heart rate.

Immunity

  Chronic Fatigue / Fibromyalgia Syndrome
 A study of people with fibromyalgia done by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine found that those who got 30 minutes of massage twice a week for 5 weeks had less anxiety, depression and lower levels of stress hormones. Eventually they reported less pain, stiffness, fatigue, and improved sleep.

Mental

  Stress

Metabolic

  Headaches, Migraine/Tension
 In a study of tension headaches, individuals were treated with either a combination of spinal manipulation and massage, or massage and a placebo laser treatment. Both groups experienced an improvement in symptoms suggesting that massage alone provides benefits for the treatment of tension headaches.

Musculo-Skeletal

  Muscle Pains (Myalgia)
 Heavily stressed muscles responded to massage therapy with a variety of biologic changes associated with reduced inflammation, analysis of tissue specimens showed.

Serial quadriceps-muscle biopsies showed reduced production of the pro-inflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha and interleukin-6 (IL-6) following massage treatment of exercise-induced muscle damage.

Massage also was associated with activation of signaling pathways involved in stretch response and mitochondrial biogenesis, as reported online in Science Translational Medicine.

"Our findings suggest that the perceived positive effects of massage are a result of an attenuated production of inflammatory cytokines, which may reduce pain by the same mechanism as conventional anti-inflammatory drugs such as NSAIDs," according to Mark A. Tarnopolsky, MD, PhD, of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and colleagues.

"These results elucidate the biological effects of massage in skeletal muscle and provide evidence that manipulative therapies may be justifiable in medical practice." [Justin D. Crane, Daniel I. Ogborn, Colleen Cupido, Simon Melov, Alan Hubbard, Jacqueline M. Bourgeois, Mark A. Tarnopolsky. “Massage Therapy Attenuates Inflammatory Signaling After Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage.” Sci Transl Med., 1 February 2012.]
 
 


KEY
May do some good
Likely to help







GLOSSARY

Acute:  An illness or symptom of sudden onset, which generally has a short duration.

Anxiety:  Apprehension of danger, or dread, accompanied by nervous restlessness, tension, increased heart rate, and shortness of breath unrelated to a clearly identifiable stimulus.

Inguinal:  Pertaining to the region of the groin. Generally, the lowest lateral regions of the abdomen just above either side of the genitals.

Kidney Stone:  A stone (concretion) in the kidney. If the stone is large enough to block the tube (ureter) and stop the flow of urine from the kidney, it must be removed by surgery or other methods. Also called Renal Calculus. Symptoms usually begin with intense waves of pain as a stone moves in the urinary tract. Typically, a person feels a sharp, cramping pain in the back and side in the area of the kidney or in the lower abdomen. Sometimes nausea and vomiting occur. Later, pain may spread to the groin. The pain may continue if the stone is too large to pass; blood may appear in the urine and there may be the need to urinate more often or a burning sensation during urination. If fever and chills accompany any of these symptoms, an infection may be present and a doctor should be seen immediately.

Lymph:  A clear fluid that flows through lymph vessels and is collected from the tissues throughout the body. Its function is to nourish tissue cells and return waste matter to the bloodstream. The lymph system eventually connects with and adds to venous circulation.

Stomach:  A hollow, muscular, J-shaped pouch located in the upper part of the abdomen to the left of the midline. The upper end (fundus) is large and dome-shaped; the area just below the fundus is called the body of the stomach. The fundus and the body are often referred to as the cardiac portion of the stomach. The lower (pyloric) portion curves downward and to the right and includes the antrum and the pylorus. The function of the stomach is to begin digestion by physically breaking down food received from the esophagus. The tissues of the stomach wall are composed of three types of muscle fibers: circular, longitudinal and oblique. These fibers create structural elasticity and contractibility, both of which are needed for digestion. The stomach mucosa contains cells which secrete hydrochloric acid and this in turn activates the other gastric enzymes pepsin and rennin. To protect itself from being destroyed by its own enzymes, the stomach’s mucous lining must constantly regenerate itself.

Ulcer:  Lesion on the skin or mucous membrane.

White Blood Cell:  (WBC): A blood cell that does not contain hemoglobin: a blood corpuscle responsible for maintaining the body's immune surveillance system against invasion by foreign substances such as viruses or bacteria. White cells become specifically programmed against foreign invaders and work to inactivate and rid the body of a foreign substance. Also known as a leukocyte.