The Concept of Massage Therapy
The concept of massage therapy is based on an holistic and philosophical approach to healing. It is commonly accepted that between 70 and 80% of all illness is stress related. Anything that can induce relaxation of the mind and body is highly likely, therefore, to be almost akin to magic in its effects. When that something is 100% natural, without side effects, feels wonderful and is readily available and affordable, then that is indeed a precious thing. And to add to that, I only use organic products, that where possible are also in their raw state, and of certified pharmaceutical grade to ensure quality and purity.
The multiple benefits of therapeutic massage are accumulative - the more you have, the more you gain. Daily massage is an ideal that Julius Caesar and other rulers luxuriated in, although sadly, few of us are able to do the same in today’s hectic pace of life.
Now though, massage therapy is once again becoming more commonly used to improve health and well-being in the West, as it has always been in the East. We are rediscovering an ancient and effective addition to the healing disciplines of modern medicine.
There are a number of reasons for this:
- The way we use, or not, our bodies
- The sheer magnitude of our mental stresses
- The sad fact that many people can go for days without physically touching another living being.
Simple touch that is giving, open and friendly is therapeutically beneficial in itself. Touching and being touched is known to relieve tensions, improving states of calm and relaxation. Massage, as a therapy, takes this to its ultimate progression to actively treat tense muscles and stressed minds.
The benefits of massage are becoming more widely understood and accepted in Western society, and in these days of increased awareness and personal accountability, we look for methods and practices to improve well-being in a more holistic way.
Origins of Massage Therapy
Massage is an integral part of healthcare in many cultures round the world, and dates back to ancient times. Ayurvedic texts, the ancient Indian health system, started documenting massage before the birth of Christ, and Shiatsu massage from China is thought to have been widely practised for 8000 years to treat ailments and improve health and well-being.
Massage, or manual therapy as it is also called, was not really introduced into modern western medical cultures until around the end of the middle ages when, in the 16th century, knights and soldiers returned from the Crusades and brought with them wisdom and knowledge from ancient practices. Since then Massage Therapy has experienced periods of popularity in medicine, and suffered social disrepute (the association with prostitution and sexual services).
Massage Therapy Today
Today health care providers, including GPs, surgeons and specialist care consultants, recommend massage to speed recovery and for the overall improvement of health. Some private health insurance companies will now also cover massage therapy in their premiums.
Why Use Massage Therapy?
Massage Therapy promotes better health of both the mind and body. It allows us to focus on ourselves in a very positive way, supporting self healing, as well as actively relaxing the soft tissues to facilitate physiological healing. By correcting and rebalancing the body’s alignments, allowing improved flow of blood, lymph and of course, energy, health will improve.
Sports Massage, Swedish Massage, Deep Tissue Massage
There are many disciplines of therapeutic massage. The most well known are those used for the treatment of sports injuries, for a little relaxation and pampering and to address stress and tension held deep in the muscles. Massage is as energising as it is relaxing, although it depends on the specific type of massage you receive as to how you experience this. Some therapies for sports injuries may not feel tranquil at the time for example, or you may not realise that, because you fell asleep during your treatment, the treatment was energising, but every massage acts in those two clear ways – relax and energise.
The relationship between client and therapist is almost as important as the therapist's skills. The training, professionalism and experience of the masseur enables a thorough understanding of the needs of the recipient, and the client should be able to trust their therapist completely. Every client is unique, and it is true that a massage discipline that best suits one person may not suit the next, so one cannot say that one discipline is better than another. However, Swedish and Deep Tissue Massage are fantastic platforms from which the needs and preferences of anyone and everyone can be met.
So, which type of massage is going best to suit you? There is a wealth of information available on the internet, but in short:
For relaxation and pampering, Swedish Massage is gentle and smooth and by omitting the percussion moves, the stimulation is soothing.
For energising, inclusion of the percussion moves into either Swedish or Deep Tissue treatment is effective and stimulating. Percussion moves are known as “hacking”, “beating”, “cupping” and “pounding”.
Deep Tissue Massage
For those with acute and long standing deep muscular stiffness and knots, Deep Tissue is going to be the most effective at releasing that tension. Deep Tissue is an intense treatment that progressively works into the deeper fibres and tissues of the body. Many clients who have had sports massage have found it too uncomfortable (however beneficial it is); the approach used in Deep Tissue massage of progressively working each muscle, gives them the same results without the discomfort.
Head massage varies massively between practitioners, and between client preferences. It can be tailored to suit - soft, soothing and relaxing or invigorating and awakening. Oils are not used in my head massage, unless you are seeking nourishment with Neem, Coconut or Argan.
Foot massage is not the same as reflexology and it is not ticklish so those with sensitive feet can still benefit from this treatment. Your feet are amazing, they carry your whole weight every day of your life, and deserve some love and attention. For an amazing boost, add a finishing cream from the Aromatree company, also available to buy and use at home.
Think of what you do when you are nervous, tense or tired. Do you wring or rub your hands? Yes, well, most people do, and that is because we use our hands all the time, so they get tired and benefit from massage just like the rest of your body. Hands have similar connections to the rest of your body as your feet do and simple, professional hand massage can really help to release the body’s potential and ability to self heal. As with foot massage, a finish with a nourishing aromatherapy cream from the Aromatree Company perfects the experience.
What about Hot Stone Massage?
Using heated or chilled smooth stones in massage is an ancient art dating back some 4000 years in Japanese Anma, Wearing, carrying and massage with stone is recorded in both Chinese and Indian health texts from at least 3000 years ago. The Hawaiians, Latin Americans and native American Indians also all used hot stones to improve physical, mental and spiritual health. In 1993, Mary Nelson of Tuson, Arizona, formalised the practice of using stones in massage into “La Stone” massage therapy, which has been developed by many professionals all over the world. Because of the incredible power of the therapy to heal and recover the mind and body, it is fast becoming one of the most popular massage therapies available. It is commonly accepted that one good stroke with a hot basalt stone, is equal to around 5 strokes of just the therapists hand. The health benefits are wide and far reaching, and clients report such a deep state of relaxation, that many say they will not return to regular massage once they have had a Greenwood Therapies Hot Stone Massage.
Manual Lymphatic Drainage
This is not like other massage - the touch is so light, just a few grammes of pressure in a rhythmic pumping action, following a clear order over your body. No oil is needed, but the result can be truly tranquil.
Myofascial Release Technique
This is one of my favourite practices, which can have profound effects of the body and mind. No oil is used, and pressure is not deep and usually experienced as soothing (although in certain cases, specific practices need to be included such as skin rolling which can cause some minor temporary sensation, followed by release). It works by encouraging re-hydration of the fascia, the connective tissues associated with muscular action and definition. Once the fascia is hydrated, it is able to move freely once more.
The biggest problem with advanced myofascial release techniques is in explaining it! Until relatively recently in medical terms, the fascia was considered unimportant and anatomy was only studied once the fascia had been stripped away and discarded. We now know that fascia is a diverse morphic fibrous fluid elastic conductive and responsive matrix. It is a complex system, and to be honest, the best you can do to understand is watch John F Barnes of USA, the "father" of modern MRT explain it - I don't wish to plagiarise and he puts it so clearly that I could not better it! I often find little snippets of information and post it to my facebook page, so do like the page, and share it!
Jikiden Reiki channels universal energy to facilitate the body's rebalancing and health. The therapist lays their hands gently upon the clients body, starting at the head then moving to the legs and feet to "fill up" the energy. They then hover their hands over the clients body, searching for areas of biosen - a sensation felt by the therapist where the energy is not flowing easily. The therapist then lays their hands over these areas until the biosen quietens, signalling that the energy flow has improved. The session finishes with a special massage to stimulate the lymphatic system and aid elimination of toxins from the body.
"For those people who are new to Reiki, I will explain a little more. Reiki is an energy healing practice which originated in Japan. Practitioners use the life-force energy or “ki” all around usand are able to pass it on to re-awaken the natural healing process in others by focusing the energy on the areas that it is most needed.
The founder of Reiki, Mikao Usui, discovered Reiki whilst fasting on Mt Kurama in Kyoto, Japan.
He established the first Reiki organization – The Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai – which still exists today but sadly does not promote the teaching and circulation of Reiki or provide treatments. Its existence is not so well known. Usui only created 20 masters in his lifetime. Some belonged to the Gakkai, some branched out and created their own brand of healing but Dr Chujiro Hayashi, with Usui’s blessing, continued to teach Reiki in Japan in its authentic form.
As Western Reiki spread throughout the World, it was thought that the original style of Reiki had died out in Japan and so any Japanese who wanted to know more about Reiki had to go to America to study it!