What Is Massage Therapy?
Massage therapy is a hands-on kneading of the soft tissues of the body including muscles, connective tissue, tendons, and ligaments. It is also an alternative health option to help alleviate the soft tissue discomfort associated with everyday and occupational stresses, muscular overuse, and many chronic pain syndromes. It can also greatly reduce the development of painful muscular patterning, if employed early enough after accidents involving trauma and injury.
Massage therapists work to improve the circulation of blood through the body and to speed the removal of metabolic waste products from muscles. Their skilled kneading increases the flexibility of muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissues. Some people visit a massage therapist to relieve pain or to warm up before a sporting event. Others want to relax and reduce stress. Benefits of Massage Therapy include:
- Enhancing general relaxation
- Reducing muscular tension and associated discomfort
- Reducing anxiety
- Improving sleep
- Increasing feelings of well-being
- Enhancing tissue elasticity and flexibility
- Increasing range of motion in joints
- Relaxing tight muscles
- Relieving muscle aches and stiffness
- Speeding recovery from exercise
- Promoting well nourished, healthy skin
- Improving circulation of blood and lymph
- Improving immune system functioning
- Improving energy flow
Common Types of Massage:
Craniosacral Therapy - Improves the functioning of your brain and spinal cord to promote good health.
Deep Tissue Massage - Through slower strokes and more direct pressure or friction applied across the grain of the muscles, this invigorating experience is a process of detecting stiff or painful areas by determining the quality and texture of the deeper layers of musculature, and slowly working into the deep layers of muscle tissue.
Swedish Massage - The use of long strokes and soft pressure designed primarily to relax muscles. The lymph system and veins (which carry blood back to the heart) both rely on muscle action, rather than heart pump pressure, to operate. Swedish massage can relax muscles, increase circulation, remove metabolic waste products, and help the recipient obtain a better awareness of their body and the way they use and position it. The strokes of Swedish Massage are each conceived as having a specific therapeutic benefit. One of the primary goals of Swedish Massage is to speed venous return from the extremities. Swedish Massage shortens recovery time from muscular strain by flushing the tissue of lactic acid, uric acid, and other metabolic wastes. It improves circulation without increasing heart load. It stretches the ligaments and tendons, keeping them supple. Swedish Massage also stimulates the skin and nervous system. Because it can help reduce emotional and physical stress, it is often recommended as part of a regular program for stress management. It also has specific clinical uses in medical or remedial therapy.
Neuromuscular Therapy - Advanced concepts in pressure therapy to break the stress-tension-pain cycle. It aims to relax muscles so that circulation can increase and the body will return to normal neuromuscular integrity and balance.
Myofascial Release (MFR) - Is used to evaluate and treat restrictions in the body's contractile connective tissues (muscles) and non-contractile supportive connective tissues (fascia) by the application of gentle traction, pressures, and positioning. Fascia is a complex supportive web throughout the body affecting all components of the musculoskeletal, nervous, and visceral (organ) systems. It surrounds groups of muscle fibers, and entire muscle groups and organs. While it is not contractile, it can be passively elastically deformed. That is how it retains tensions from physical and emotional traumas. It is also involved when a person suffers chronic pain or physical dysfunction. Chronically tense muscles restrict blood flow and fatigue the body. Both fascia and muscle tissues can become shortened if they are improperly used. As well, layers of fascia can stick together. Myofascial release techniques are used to coax muscles in spasm to relax, and break adhesions in the fascia. Bodies respond to these therapies by releasing tension that has been stored in the fascia, thus allowing more functional flexibility and mobility of the muscles and other fascia-associated structures.
Trigger Point and Myotherapy - Are pain-relief techniques to alleviate muscle spasms and cramping. The therapist locates and deactivates "trigger points," which are often tender areas where muscles have been damaged or have acquired a re-occuring spasm that causes increased pain when aggravated. The major goals are to reduce spasm and bring new blood flow into the affected area. The spasms are partly maintained by nervous system feedback (pain-spasm-pain cycle). Spasms also physically reduce blood flow to the trigger point area (ischemia), reducing oxygen supplied to the tissues and increasing the spasm. Pressure is applied to trigger points for a short time (between about seven to 10 seconds per point), which can be momentarily painful but is greatly relieving. It is common to work on the same trigger points several times during a session. Often ice or another cooling agent is used to reduce nervous system response, making the area easier and more comfortable to work. Then the muscles are gently stretched to complete the relaxation process. Myotherapy aims to erase pain and soothe tightened muscles. People with acute or chronic muscle tension and the associated pain are likely to benefit greatly from this type of treatment.
On-site or chair massage - Is one name for a short (15-20 minute) massage of a client sitting in a special, portable massage chair. The client remains fully clothed and no oils are used while their shoulders, neck, upper back, head, and arms are massaged. The on-site option is popular at some offices as an employee benefit and for some conferences, workshops, and social events.
Sports Massage - Is used primarily for the serious athlete who trains continuously. It focuses on the muscles relevant to the particular athletic activity. It also includes pre-event, post-event, and maintenance techniques that promote greater athletic endurance and performance, lessen chances of injury, and reduce recovery time.