What is a massage?
Massage has been used as technique to promote well-being and reduce stress and tension for thousands of years. Massage involves using the hands, elbows, feet, or various other massage devices to exhibit pressure on the body. In Egypt, drawings on the tombs of pharaoh’s show massage being performed, while in Ancient Greece, massage was regarded as an intrinsic part of basic medicine. Massage in India has been popular since before history began to be recorded and remains popular today; in many cultures, massage has significant religious connotations. Depending on the type of massage, the theory behind the massage and its overall aim can vary considerably. Swedish massage – so called typically massage – is generally performed to reduce muscle tension and blood pressure to promote physical and mental well-being. Others forms of massage, however, such as acupressure, are based on beliefs in life-energy and the belief that energy passes through the body and causes physical discomfort when interrupted.
What are the benefits?
From a scientific perspective, massage has the effect of reducing blood pressure, pulse rate, and the amount of cortisol present in the body; the reduction in these three elements ultimately helps to promote well-being and incite a reduction in overall stress. Massage has also been linked to a reduction in gastrointestinal discomforts such as nausea, vomiting and persistent stomach pain and tension headaches, potentially because such complaints are often symptoms of heightened levels of emotional stress. Physically, massage has also been shown to help reduce pain and is regularly prescribed as a complementary therapy to individuals suffering from a variety of conditions and pain. Sports massage is commonly offered to athletes and dates back to Ancient Greek times when Olympians were massaged before and after important games.
Depending on one’s beliefs, massage may be considered to have a number of other, beneficial effects; for instance, in cultures where energy is believed to flow through the body and cause illness if interrupted or blocked, massage is believed to encourage the flow of energy and thereby increase well-being.
These days massages have evolved to include lots of different cultural twists, from hot stone massages to even having your own back massager products in your home.
Who should have massage?
Almost every individual can benefit from massage; for athletes, the physical effects of sports massage therapy can help to relax muscles and avoid the potentially painful effects of sports injuries, while for others the effects of a simple back massage on stress-reduction and well-being can be overwhelmingly positive.
Massage is now recognised as a form of alternative therapy, and is even prescribed as a complementary form of medicine to individuals suffering from numerous illnesses including cancer; massage is also featured as part of many palliative care programs to reduce pain, fluid build-up, and anxiety.
For some individuals, though, massage may not be recommended; qualified massage therapists will always ask their clients for a brief overview of their medical history to determine whether or not massage should be offered.