Massage techniques have been practiced for thousands of years in many cultures, with references to massage in ancient records of Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Egyptian, Indian, Greek and Roman nations. Various types of massage are used throughout the world for many health conditions. Relief of pain, anxiety, muscle spasm or tension or depression, and athletic event preparation are common uses. Once seen as a luxury or a treatment for physical injuries only, it has since been identified as an effective healing modality for mental and spiritual health as well. Statistics from the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) show that 88 percent of people view massage as beneficial to overall health and wellness. Massage is helpful for any condition where relaxation and stress relief are needed, including mental disorders where there's a lot of serotonin and dopamine. The most common mental conditions currently treated with therapeutic massage are anxiety and depression.
Evidence suggests that massage is beneficial for a wide variety of health problems included:
- Anxiety - There are several trials of massage in individuals with anxiety. Studies have focused on patients with cancer, chronic illnesses, headache, dementia, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, anxiety, stress, depression, or premenstrual syndrome; before or during medical procedures; and agitation in elderly institutionalized patients. However, most research is not well designed. Better studies are necessary to make a scientifically-based recommendation.
- Asthma - There is promising initial evidence that massage may improve lung function in children with asthma. Better research is necessary to make a firm conclusion.
- Back Pain - Several studies in humans report temporary improvements in low back pain with various massage techniques. However, most studies are not well designed. Better qualit research is necessary to make a scientifically-based recommendation.
- Musculoskeletal conditions/chronic pain - Preliminary research reports that massage ma help relieve chronic pain. Soft tissue massage may also improve range of motion and function. Further well-designed study is needed to confirm these results.
- Dementia - Several studies have used massage (with or without essential oils) in patients with dementia living in chronic care facilities in order to assess effects on behavior. Early evidence suggests that aromatherapy with essential oils may reduce agitation in patients with dementia, although the effects of massage itself are not clear.
- Depression - There is not enough scientific information to conclude if massage is helpful in patients with major depressive disorder, situational mood disorder, critical illness, pregnancy, or postpartum depression (including infant massage).
- Fibromyalgia - A small number or studies report that massage may improve pain, depression and quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia. Additional research is necessary to form a scientifically-based recommendation.
- Multiple-sclerosis - Initial research reports that massage may improve anxiety, depression, self-esteem, body image and social functioning in patients with multiple sclerosis. Benefits on the disease process itself have not been well-evaluated. Additional research is necessary to make a firm conclusion.
- Pregnancy & Labor - Massage approaches are sometimes used during pregnancy and labor, more commonly in Europe than in the US. Reduction of pain or anxiety is often the goal. There is not enough research to determine if this is effective or safe. Pregnant women should speak with their health care provider before beginning massage therapy, particularly if massage to the abdominal area is involved.
- Premenstrual syndrome - There is not enough scientific information to conclude if massage is helpful in women with premenstrual syndrome or with premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
- Well-being in cancer patients - Massage techniques are frequently used in patients with cancer, with the goals of improving well-being and reducing anxiety. Although there are many anecdotal reports of benefits, there is not enough reliable scientific evidence to draw a firm conclusion.
- Immune function - Preliminary evidence suggests massage therapy may preserve immune function. One randomized study reported that massage treatment maintained immunocompetence in HIV-1 infected children without antiretroviral medication. Another study stated an increase in lymphocytes in women with breast cancer. Further research is needed before a firm conclusion can be made.
- Attention-defict hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) - Preliminary research suggests massage therapy improves mood and behavior in children with ADHD. Additional evidence is needed before a recommendation can be made.
Reports of adverse effects of massage are rare, although studies are limited. Bone fractures, discomfort, skin bruising, swelling of massaged tissues, a case of liver hematoma (internal bruising), cerebrovascular accidents (strokes), displacement of a ureteral stent, embolization of a kidney, leg ulcers, nerve damage, posterior interosseous syndrome, pseudoaneurism, pulmonary embolism, rupture uterus, strangulation of neck, thyrotoxicosis and various pain syndromes have been reported. Areas of the body where there are fractures, weakened bones from osteoporosis or cancer, open healing skin wounds, skin infections, recent surgery or blood clots should not be massaged. Individuals with bleeding disorders or low platelet counts or those taking blood thinning medications (such as heparin or warfarin) should avoid vigorous massage. Pregnant women should speak with their healthcare provider before beginning massage therapy, particularly if massage to the abdominal area is involved. In general, touch-based therapies should be used cautiously in people with a history of physical abuse. Massage should not cause pain to the client. Massage should not be used as a substitute for more proven therapies.
TYPES OF MASSAGE
- Swedish massage is the most common in this country and involves several techniques:
- Effleurage - superficial stroking in a direction away from the heart or deep stroking toward the heart.
- Friction - deep muscle stimulation using the palm, elbow and forearm.
- Petrissage - kneading in a circular pattern using fingers and thumbs, with the goals of enhancing circulation and stimulating muscle tissue.
- Tapotement - rhythmic movements such as slapping or tapping to stimulate muscles, often used for athletes before competitions.
- Vibration - Delivered by the therapist's hands or by an electric vibrator.
- Aromatherapymassage uses essential oils with the goal of enhancing healing and relaxation.
- Bindegewebs massage focuses on connective tissues between the skin and muscles and is based on the theory that some ailments are caused by imbalances in these tissues.
- Classical massage aims to provide calmness and relaxation, and to encourage self-healing and revitalization.
- Craniosacral therapists strive to relocate and realign imbalances or blockages that are thought to exist in the soft tissue or fluids of the sacrum, head, and spine.
- Deep tissues massage uses slow strokes, friction, and direct pressure across the muscles with fingers, thumbs, or elbows, often with the goal of improving chronic muscular tension.
- Esalen massage focuses on generating a deep state of relaxation and is often combined with other forms of massage.
- Ice massage has been studied for knee osteoarthritis, exercise-induced muscle damage and labor pain, with inconclusive results.
- Jin Shin Do involves finger pressure to acupoints of the body to release muscular tension or stress.
- Manual lymph drainage uses light, rhythmic strokes with the goals of improving lymphatic flow and reducing edema, inflammation, or neuropathy.
- Myofascial release involves gentle traction, pressure and body positioning to relax and stretch soft tissues.
- Neuromuscular massage, trigger point massage, and myotherapy are forms of deep massage adminisitered to specific muscles or nerve points, used to release trigger points or entrapped nerves and to relieve pain.
- On-site or chair massage is administered to the upper body of fully clothed clients.
- Physiotherapy aims at stabilization of the lumbar spine in a fixed posture rather than in lumbar lordosis and at increased overall fitness.
- Polarity treatment is based on the concept that re-balancing the body's energy fields with gentle massage can improve health and well-being.
- Reflexology aims to return the body to its natural balance by targeting certain areas on the feet (or ears) believed to correspond with specific body parts or organs.
- Rolling structural integration involves deep tissue massage aimed at relieving stress, as well as improving mobility, posture, balance, muscle function and efficiency, energy, and overall well-being.
- Shiatsu emphasizes finger pressure not only at acupoints but also along the body's meridians. This type of massage can incorporate palm pressure, stretching, and other manual techniques.
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