massage therapy

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Massage Therapy



Massage therapy is the scientific manipulation of the soft tissues of the body for the purpose of normalizing those tissues and consists of manual techniques that include applying fixed or movable pressure, holding, and/or causing movement of or to the body.


Generally, massage is known to affect the circulation of blood and the flow of blood and lymph, reduce muscular tension or flaccidity, affect the nervous system through stimulation or sedation, and enhance tissue healing. These effects provide a number of benefits:
  • reduction of muscle tension and stiffness
  • relief of muscle spasms
  • greater flexibility and range of motion
  • increase of the ease and efficiency of movement
  • relief of stress and aide of relaxation
  • promotion of deeper and easier breathing
  • improvement of the circulation of blood and movement of lymph
  • relief of tension-related conditions, such as headaches and eyestrain
  • promotion of faster healing of soft tissue injuries, such as pulled muscles and sprained ligaments, and reduction in pain and swelling related to such injuries
  • reduction in the formation of excessive scar tissue following soft tissue injuries
  • enhancement in the health and nourishment of skin
  • improvement in posture through changing tension patterns that affect posture
  • reduction in stress and an excellent stress management tool
  • creation of a feeling of well-being
  • reduction in levels of anxiety
  • increase in awareness of the mind-body connection
  • promotion of a relaxed state of mental awareness
Massage therapy also has a number of documented clinical benefits. For example, massage can reduce anxiety, improve pulmonary function in young asthma patients, reduce psycho-emotional distress in persons suffering from chronic inflammatory bowel disease, increase weight and improve motor development in premature infants, and may enhance immune system functioning. Some medical conditions that massage therapy can help are: allergies, anxiety and stress, arthritis, asthma and bronchitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive motion injuries, chronic and temporary pain, circulatory problems, depression, digestive disorders, tension headache, insomnia, myofascial pain, sports injuries, and temporomandibular joint dysfunction.



Massage therapy is one of the oldest health care practices known to history. References to massage are found in Chinese medical texts more than 4,000 years old. Massage has been advocated in Western health care practices at least since the time of Hippocrates, the "Father of Medicine." In the fourth century B.C. Hippocrates wrote, "The physician must be acquainted with many things and assuredly with rubbing" (the ancient Greek term for massage was rubbing).
The roots of modern, scientific massage therapy go back to Per Henrik Ling (1776–1839), a Swede, who developed an integrated system consisting of massage and active and passive exercises. Ling established the Royal Central Gymnastic Institute in Sweden in 1813 to teach his methods.
Modern, scientific massage therapy was introduced in the United States in the 1850s by two New York physicians, brothers George and Charles Taylor, who had studied in Sweden. The first clinics for massage therapy in the United States were opened by two Swedish physicians after the Civil War period. Doctor Baron Nils Posse operated the Posse Institute in Boston and Doctor Hartwig Nissen opened the Swedish Health Institute near the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Although there were periods when massage fell out of favor, in the 1960s it made a comeback in a different way as a tool for relaxation, communication, and alternative healing. Today, massage is one of the most popular healing modalities. It is used by conventional, as well as alternative, medical communities and is now covered by some health insurance plans.
Massage therapy is the scientific manipulation of the soft tissues of the body for the purpose of normalizing those tissues and consists of a group of manual techniques that include applying fixed or movable pressure, holding, and/or causing movement of or to the body. While massage therapy is applied primarily with the hands, sometimes the forearms or elbows are used. These techniques affect the muscular, skeletal, circulatory, lymphatic, nervous, and other systems of the body. The basic philosophy of massage therapy embraces the concept of vis Medicatrix naturae, which is aiding the ability of the body to heal itself, and is aimed at achieving or increasing health and well-being.
Touch is the fundamental medium of massage therapy. While massage can be described in terms of the type of techniques performed, touch is not used solely in a mechanistic way in massage therapy. One could look at a diagram or photo of a massage technique that depicts where to place one's hands and what direction the stroke should go, but this would not convey everything that is important for giving a good massage. Massage also has an artistic component.
Because massage usually involves applying touch with some degree of pressure and movement, the massage therapist must use touch with sensitivity in order to determine the optimal amount of pressure to use for each person. For example, using too much pressure may cause the body to tense up, while using too little may not have enough effect. Touch used with sensitivity also allows the massage therapist to receive useful information via his or her hands about the client's body, such as locating areas of muscle tension and other soft tissue problems. Because touch is also a form of communication, sensitive touch can convey a sense of caring—an essential element in the therapeutic relationship—to the person receiving massage.
In practice, many massage therapists use more than one technique or method in their work and sometimes combine several. Effective massage therapists ascertain each person's needs and then use the techniques that will meet those needs best.
Swedish massage uses a system of long gliding strokes, kneading, and friction techniques on the more superficial layers of muscles, generally in the direction of blood flow toward the heart, and sometimes combined with active and passive movements of the joints. It is used to promote general relaxation, improve circulation and range of motion, and relieve muscle tension. Swedish massage is the most commonly used form of massage.
Deep tissue massage is used to release chronic patterns of muscular tension using slow strokes, direct pressure, or friction directed across the grain of the muscles. It is applied with greater pressure and to deeper layers of muscle than Swedish, which is why it is called deep tissue and is effective for chronic muscular tension.
Sports massage uses techniques that are similar to Swedish and deep tissue, but are specially adapted to deal with the effects of athletic performance on the body and the needs of athletes regarding training, performing, and recovery from injury.
Neuromuscular massage is a form of deep massage that is applied to individual muscles. It is used primarily to release trigger points (intense knots of muscle tension that refer pain to other parts of the body), and also to increase blood flow. It is often used to reduce pain. Trigger point massage and myotherapy are similar forms.
Acupressure applies finger or thumb pressure to specific points located on the acupuncture meridians (channels of energy flow identified in Asian concepts of anatomy) in order to release blocked energy along these meridians that causes physical discomforts, and re-balance the energy flow. Shiatsu is a Japanese form of acupressure.
The cost of massage therapy varies according to geographic location, experience of the massage therapist, and length of the massage. In the United States, the average range is from $35-60 for a one hour session. Massage therapy sessions at a client's home or office may cost more due to travel time for the massage therapist. Most sessions are one hour. Frequency of massage sessions can vary widely. If a person is receiving massage for a specific problem, frequency can vary widely based on the condition, though it usually will be once a week. Some people incorporate massage into their regular personal health and fitness program. They will go for massage on a regular basis, varying from once a week to once a month.
The first appointment generally begins with information gathering, such as the reason for getting massage therapy, physical condition and medical history, and other areas. The client is asked to remove clothing to one's level of comfort. Undressing takes place in private, and a sheet or towel is provided for draping. The massage therapist will undrape only the part of the body being massaged. The client's modesty is respected at all times. The massage therapist may use an oil or cream, which will be absorbed into the skin in a short time.
To receive the most benefit from a massage, generally the person being massaged should give the therapist accurate health information, report discomfort of any kind (whether it is from the massage itself or due to the room temperature or any other distractions), and be as receptive and open to the process as possible.
Insurance coverage for massage therapy varies widely. There tends to be greater coverage in states that license massage therapy. In most cases, a physician's prescription for massage therapy is needed. Once massage therapy is prescribed, authorization from the insurer may be needed if coverage is not clearly spelled out in one's policy or plan.


Going for a massage requires little in the way of preparation. Generally, one should be clean and should not eat just before a massage. One should not be under the influence of alcohol or non-medicinal drugs. Massage therapists generally work by appointment and usually will provide information about how to prepare for an appointment at the time of making the appointment.


Massage is comparatively safe; however it is generally contraindicated, i.e., it should not be used, if a person has one of the following conditions: advanced heart diseases, hypertension (high blood pressure), phlebitis, thrombosis, embolism, kidney failure, cancer if massage would accelerate metastasis (i.e., spread a tumor) or damage tissue that is fragile due to chemotherapy or other treatment, infectious diseases, contagious skin conditions, acute inflammation, infected injuries, unhealed fractures, dislocations, frostbite, large hernias, torn ligaments, conditions prone to hemorrhage, and psychosis.
Massage should not be used locally on affected areas (i.e., avoid using massage on the specific areas of the body that are affected by the condition) for the following conditions: rheumatoid arthritis flare up, eczema, goiter, and open skin lesions. Massage may be used on the areas of the body that are not affected by these conditions.
In some cases, precautions should be taken before using massage for the following conditions: pregnancy, high fevers, osteoporosis, diabetes, recent postoperative cases in which pain and muscular splinting (i.e., tightening as a protective reaction) would be increased, apprehension, and mental conditions that may impair communication or perception. In such cases, massage may or may not be appropriate. The decision on whether to use massage must be based on whether it may cause harm. For example, if someone has osteoporosis, the concern is whether bones are strong enough to withstand the pressure applied. If one has a health condition and has any hesitation about whether massage therapy would be appropriate, a physician should be consulted.

Side effects

Massage therapy does not have side effects. Sometimes people are concerned that massage may leave them too relaxed or too mentally unfocused. To the contrary, massage tends to leave people feeling more relaxed and alert.

Research and general acceptance

Before 1939, more than 600 research studies on massage appeared in the main journals of medicine in English. However, the pace of research was slowed by medicine's disinterest in massage therapy.
Massage therapy research picked up again in the 1980s, as the growing popularity of massage paralleled the growing interest in complementary and alternative medicine. Well designed studies have documented the benefits of massage therapy for the treatment of acute and chronic pain, acute and chronic inflammation, chronic lymphedema, nausea, muscle spasm, various soft tissue dysfunctions, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and psycho-emotional stress, which may aggravate mental illness.
Premature infants treated with daily massage therapy gain more weight and have shorter hospital stays than infants who are not massaged. A study of 40 low-birth-weight babies found that the 20 massaged babies had a 47% greater weight gain per day and stayed in the hospital an average of six days less than 20 infants who did not receive massage, resulting a cost savings of approximately $3,000 per infant. Cocaine-exposed, preterm infants given massage three times daily for a 10 day period showed significant improvement. Results indicated that massaged infants had fewer postnatal complications and exhibited fewer stress behaviors during the 10 day period, had a 28% greater daily weight gain, and demonstrated more mature motor behaviors.
A study comparing 52 hospitalized depressed and adjustment disorder children and adolescents with a control group that viewed relaxation videotapes, found massage therapy subjects were less depressed and anxious, and had lower saliva cortisol levels (an indicator of less depression).
Another study showed massage therapy produced relaxation in 18 elderly subjects, demonstrated in measures such as decreased blood pressure and heart rate and increased skin temperature.
A combination of massage techniques for 52 subjects with traumatically induced spinal pain led to significant improvements in acute and chronic pain and increased muscle flexibility and tone. This study also found massage therapy to be extremely cost effective, with cost savings ranging from 15-50%. Massage has also been shown to stimulate the body's ability to naturally control pain by stimulating the brain to produce endorphins. Fibromyalgia is an example of a condition that may be favorably affected by this effect.
A pilot study of five subjects with symptoms of tension and anxiety found a significant response to massage therapy in one or more psycho-physiological parameters of heart rate, frontalis and forearm extensor electromyograms (EMGs) and skin resistance, which demonstrate relaxation of muscle tension and reduced anxiety.
Lymph drainage massage has been shown to be more effective than mechanized methods or diuretic drugs to control lymphedema secondary to radical mastectomy, consequently using massage to control lymphedema would significantly lower treatment costs. A study found that massage therapy can have a powerful effect upon psycho-emotional distress in persons suffering from chronic inflammatory bowel disease. Massage therapy was effective in reducing the frequency of episodes of pain and disability in these patients.
Massage may enhance the immune system. A study suggests an increase in cytotoxic capacity associated with massage. A study of chronic fatigue syndrome subjects found that a group receiving massage therapy had lower depression, emotional distress, and somatic symptom scores, more hours of sleep, and lower epinephrine and cortisol levels than a control group.



American Massage Therapy Association. 820 Davis Street, Suite 100, Evanston, IL.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

massage therapy

Any of a number of techniques in which the body surface and musculoskeletal system are stroked, kneaded, pounded and pulled. Massage has a time-honoured history in medicine that stretches back to ancient Greece: Hippocrates was an early advocate of massages, and recommended them on a daily basis to ease pain and prevent stiffness. Massages are intended to relax the body (and mind), mobilise stiff joints, improve the flow of blood and lymph, reduce muscular tension and chronic pain, reduce swelling and inflammation, and reduce tension and stress; they are believed by some to integrate the mind and body, improve skin tone, increase the flow of energy through the nervous system and wastes through the gastrointestinal tract, and enhance all the body systems.

Types of massage therapy
• Traditional European massage;
• Contemporary Western massage;
• Structural (functional/movement) integration;
• Oriental methods;
• Energetic methods;
• Others.
General massage technique. 
▪ Brushing—A superficial technique in which the skin surface is slowly, lightly and rhythmically stroked, often after a full massage.
▪ Connective tissue technique—Manipulation of connective tissues (e.g., fascia, ligaments and tendons of the musculoskeletal system), with the aim of enhancing circulation and, by extension, healing. 
▪ Cupping—A technique in which the cupped hands are gently clapped on the skin surface, with the intent of increasing local blood circulation. 
▪ Effleurage—A “soft tissue” technique that entails long, slow, rhythmic, light and heavy pressure strokes from the fingertips, thumbs, knuckles and palms, which may be combined with aromatherapy. 
▪ Friction—A “soft tissue” technique that entails the use of small circular pressure strokes from the fingertips, thumb pads and palms, with the aim of freeing stiff joints and enhancing the circulation in tendons and ligaments.
▪ Neuromuscular technique—A technique in which pressure is applied to neural reflex and trigger points in a fashion analogous to that of shiatsu and acupressure, with the aim of enhancing neuromuscular interaction.
▪ Percussion (Tapotement)—A “soft tissue” technique that entails painless chopping and drumming motions delivered by the sides of the hands to “fleshy” regions (e.g., the back, buttocks and thighs).
▪ Pétrissage—A “soft tissue” technique in which fascicles of muscles are kneaded, lifted, grasped, squeezed, rolled and released, with the intent of stimulating locoregional circulation and relaxing contracted muscles.
▪ Stretching—The pulling of a body region or extremity away from its most anatomically neutral position, which may be active or passive (with or without the active assistance from the patient, respectively). 
▪ Twisting—A technique in which the skin and soft tissus are wrung between the hands in opposite directions, which serves to stimulate the nerves and promote vasodilation. 
▪ Vibration—A “soft tissue” technique that entails delivery of vibrating movement, often using an electrical device.
Segen's Medical Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All rights reserved.

massage therapy

Alternative medicine Any of a number of techniques in which the body surface and musculoskeletal system are therapeutically stroked, kneaded, pounded, and yanked; MT has a time-honored history in medicine that stretches back to ancient Greece; massages are intended to relax the body–and mind, mobilize stiff joints, ↑ flow of blood and lymph, ↓ muscular tension and chronic pain, ↓ swelling and inflammation and ↓ tension and stress; MT is believed to integrate the mind and body, improve skin tone, ↑ energy flow through the nervous system, wastes through the GI tract, and enhance body systems. See Contemporary Western massage, Shiatsu, Swedish massage, Swedish/Esalen massage, Traditional European massage. Cf Acupressure, Massage parlor, Reflexology.
McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

mas·sage the·ra·py

(mă-sahzh' thār'ă-pē)
A collection of bodywork modalities designed to improve health through manual manipulation of soft tissues including stroking, kneading, pressing, tapping, and shaking. Intends to improve local circulation, reduce pain, and promote relaxation.
See also: Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, sports massage, seated massage, reflexology, manual lymph drainage, craniosacral therapy, polarity therapy, shiatsu, acupressure, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, Reiki, bodywork
Synonym(s): massotherapy, myotherapy.
Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012

Patient discussion about massage therapy

Q. Does massage help............ Does massage help people with chronic pain, too?

A. There are many pains and they need different cures. Acupressure (and acupuncture), massage, music therapy, aroma therapy, and so on. This is not black magic, you can try it and maybe one of these cures help you. Acupressure help me always to disappear my headache. There are invisible lines and points on our body and if you massage them then the sensation will change (that is the pain will vanish).

Q. Can massage really help her? My cousin sister who is with fibromyalgia also feels some pain. Can massage really help her?

A. Not only the person with fibromyalgia but anyone can benefit from the massage. If you're a newbie and have not had much bodywork, start slowly. Having someone stroke your "sore" spots may feel a bit "ouchy," but that type of touch therapy may be quite beneficial in the long run. Have your therapist go as slowly as you need. You can build up to deeper applications by spreading out your experience over many appointments. Special note: Whether you're the patient or the caregiver of a chronically ill person, life's stress can increase to unbearable limits and can cause great mind/body/spirit imbalances. By relaxing your mind and body, massage helps to raise your health and vitality closer to a state of wellness. Perhaps, you will feel better than you could possibly imagine. Start gradually, book weekly, bi-weekly or monthly appointments. Consider keeping a record of your progress. Few doctors would advise you not to try massage therapy, but to be safe, it's a good idea

Q. I like to know the types of massages.. I like to know the types of massages for the people who suffer from fibromyalgia or with chronic illness.

A. Types of Massage, especially for people with Fibromyalgia and/or those who suffer with chronic illness: ‘Myofascial release’: Many times "regular" massage therapists can perform elementary myofascial release holds and moves, but the more specifically trained professionals in myofascial release therapy have received extended education and use stylized techniques and tools. They apply the type, degree and specific techniques that are best suited for each person's need. Myofascial Release therapy can be effective particularly for individuals with trigger or tender points and for those whose muscles tend to be knotty. ‘Swedish massage ‘: Any massage therapist should be able to do this kind of work. This technique is gentle, but done with enough applied pressure to comfortably work on sore spots.

More discussions about massage therapy
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References in periodicals archive ?
Paired t test showed that, patients who received massage therapy had significant decrease in pain with p less than 0.10.
Massage therapy developed differently in the East and the West during the Middle Ages.
The Massage Therapy Foundation's mission is to advance the knowledge and practice of massage by supporting scientific research, education and community service.
The average annual income for a massage therapist who provides 15 hours of massage per week is $30,000 (including tips), according to AMTA, and more than half of them also earn income working in another profession due to the flexible nature of a massage therapy career.
For example, the American Massage Therapy Association represents more than 54,000 massage therapists in 27 countries.
A known leader in Massage Therapy education, Atlanta School of Massage now brings its experience to the field of skin care.
In addition to the physical benefits, massage therapy can provide mental benefits such as improving concentration and promoting a relaxed state of mental alertness.
A nonmedication intervention that has only recently been explored with ADHD children is massage therapy. In a recent study, ADHD adolescents who received ten massage treatments over the course of two weeks rated themselves as happier than those who participated in relaxation therapy; observers rated the massage therapy group as less fidgety, and teachers reported more on-task behavior, when compared to the relaxation therapy group (Field, Quintino, Hernandez-Reif, & Koslovsky, 1998).
One example is massage therapy, which has made progress in aiding drug therapy, and in some cases replacing it, to relieve pain.
Lindenmuth, RNC, director of nursing at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, a 288-bed nursing home hospital facility in Baltimore, Md., says residents at her facility look forward to treatments such as massage therapy, aroma therapy, and music therapy.
Do you have any information on the benefits of massage therapy for hypertension, stroke, and other diseases?
In the same building that houses a jujitsu martial arts school, also run by Jones, East Wind Massage Therapy is ready to serve Little Rock business people who have damaged muscles or joints as well as those simply needing a massage.