Massage is not new. It is probably as old as humankind. We instinctively groom each other, rub painful areas and express love and caring in this way. Massage is the art of giving and receiving touch.
Warmth, comfort, pleasure and safety are communicated through the hands. Gentle, rhythmical touch the whole person is contacted through the body and gentle movements over the skin and muscles invite the body to let go of its tension and strain and to experience deep relaxation.
- Works with the body's regenerative capacity, promoting the self-healing ability of each individual. The sense of touch is registered by the largest organ in the body - the skin.
- Physiologically, massage works on muscles, ligaments and tendons and affects the circulation of the blood and lymph.
- Aids detoxification by speeding up the elimination of waste products by the lymphatic system and helps to cleanse the skin.
- Can be used on specific areas according to need (e.g. remedial or Swedish massage) or over the entire body to relax and reduce stress.
- May well aid the production of endorphins -the body's natural painkillers - and encephalin, which reduces pain and produces a feeling of wellbeing.
- For deep relaxation, increased vitality and awareness, improved sleep and body image,and the feeling of being cared for.
- The masseur also receives a benefit - like stroking a cat!
- Rapport between the masseur and client may take some sessions to build up, or may be immediate. With rapport comes relaxation.
There are 6 categories of massage strokes:
- Effleurage (stroking). Gentle stroke over large areas using the whole of the hand and used to accustom the recipient to touch, assess the state of the recipients body, torelax and assist venous return and lymphatic drainage and to stretch muscles. Used at beginning and end of treatment.
- Petrissage (kneading) consists for variations of picking up, squeezing, rolling, kneading and wringing muscles using either the whole hand or only the fingers. It 'milks'the muscles of waste products and promotes circulation. It also increases tone and efficiency and is used on large muscles and fatty tissue.
- Friction - massages deeper tissue layers. Small circular movements carried out with thumbs, tips of fingers, heel of the hand or loose fist, moving tissue against bone. Friction leads to increased blood supply, relieves pain and loosens and mobilises muscles and joints. Relieves muscle cramps and stiffness due to overuse, breaks down adhesions, relieves constipation,conditions joints and muscles and relaxes and energises the spine.
- Compression ('pressure') -applied to acupressure, reflex or trigger points to relieve pain or affectorgans some distance away from the area worked on.
- Tapotement (percussion) -stimulates and invigorates and includes clapping/cupping, hacking/chopping,slapping/patting, tapping, beating, pounding, drumming andplucking/pinching.
- Vibration (shaking) - used afterfriction or tapotement to tone or check for release of muscles. It alsostimulates circulation, promotes glandular activity and relievesconstipation.
A massage may last up to two hours. There are many forms - use oils/powder, require the client naked/clothed, ontable/floor. At the first session, the therapist takes a medicalhistory.
Massage works well on its own, but especially with essential oils (aromatherapy) and before or after osteopathy or chiropractic (to relax and tone muscles). It may be used well alongside most other therapies. Yoga and massage are a combination for all-round body, mind and spirit maintenance and is popular. Almost anyone, from infants to grandparents, can benefit from and enjoy massage.
When not to massage (even if a well meaning amateur!)
- Within two hours of recipients having eaten a heavy meal
- When masseur is unwell, fatigued or upset.
- When recipient is suffering from high temperature/fever, infectious conditions, nausea, undiagnosed pain, cancer or suspected cancer, heart conditions (e.g. angina)
- Don't massage directly over varicose veins (cause damage), or over bruises, cuts, wounds or recent scars (could open again), inflammation or skin problems (made worse by spreading them), fresh sprains or swellings, or over undiagnosed lumps, where the possible malignant cells could be spread through the lymphatic system.