Massage Therapy An Introduction


Disease prevention is a basic tenet of the holistic health movement, and massage therapy is an increasingly popular means to this end. Long viewed as a luxury in this country, it is truly a key to good health. Massage, which derives from the Greek word for ‘I knead,’ has been used throughout the world since ancient times.

There are two primary types of massage: structure based and energy based. Swedish massage is probably the most readily available and well-known types of bodywork in the U.S. It is an example of structure-based massage. These types of massage arise primarily from Western traditions of science and medicine. Other examples include Rolfing and Hawaiian Lomi Lomi. Most bodywork practitioners in the U.S. agree that Swedish massage forms the basis of their technique; however, they usually incorporate other styles such as acupressure and polarity balancing as well. These are examples of energy based massage systems, which are inspired by the Eastern philosophies of science and medicine. They spring from the assumption that all living beings possess a life giving energy or vital force that circulates throughout the body and must be kept strong and free flowing for optimum health.

Massage works on many deferent levels to prevent disease and foster optimum health. When muscular tension causes pain, the manipulations of massage therapy work at both the physical and energetic levels. Physically, massage stimulates the circulation of blood to the painful area, creating a localized rise in temperature and consequently helping the muscle to relax. On an energetic level, a painful area indicates blocked energy; the massage manipulations help to break up that blockage and restore normal energy flow, again aiding in pain reduction.

Muscular tension is often a direct result of stress. Scientists have determined that long-term stress has a subtle impact on our physical well-being. Because our body reacts to stress by speeding up all of its processes and systems, our susceptibility to disease eventually increases. An overtaxed system is simply weaker. By reducing muscular tension, massage lessens the deleterious effects of stress on the body. The result is a higher resistance to illness. In this way, massage is truly effective as a disease preventative.

In a purely mechanical way, massage acts as an important disease preventative. Massage increases the rate at which both blood and lymph circulate throughout the body. Blood carries the waste from our cellular processes to the eliminative organs and systems of the body. In addition, the fluids of the lymphatic system (an integral component of the immune system) play a primary role in the body’s eliminative processes. Thus, by receiving regular massage, we boost our body’s ability both to rid itself of poisonous waste and to fight disease by enhancing immune system functioning.

Ultimately, massage is about taking care of oneself, giving oneself permission to relax, to let go and to be nurtured. This attitude of self-love has gained recognition as a key aspect of physical well-being. Such factors, although they cannot be “proven” by our scientific methods, are crucial to good health. Americans are becoming increasingly open to this idea; medical doctors such as Bernie Siegel and Norman Cousins have written about the intimate connection between the ability to love and nurture the self and healing.

Receiving a massage, with its gentle, nurturing, rhythmic touch, helps us to value and love ourselves. We can recognize our self worth in that we deserve this wonderful, sensual pleasure. As we allow ourselves this relaxing time away from the pressures and cares of daily life, our self-esteem increases.

These positive attitudes affect us physically in a subtle yet far-reaching biochemical interaction between mood and disease resistance. This is yet another way that massage therapy aids in disease prevention: by helping us to feel better about ourselves.

As a popular holistic healing modality, massage therapy helps to prevent illness by acting at both the physical and emotional levels.

The particular type of massage we choose to receive is less important than the fact that we are allowing ourselves this healing time. Exploring different types of massage, both structure based and energy based, helps us to determine what is the most effective modality for each of us as individuals. Some people will respond more positively to a subtle, energy based technique, whereas others may prefer a more vigorous structure based type of bodywork. Alternating between the two types, or experiencing a technique that combines aspects of both systems, could be perfect for some others. Regular massage treatments are profoundly healing and, in an ideal situation, should be part of everyone’s disease prevention plan.

No Comments

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.