For thousands of years & across many cultures, massage has been used
to reduce stress, encourage relaxation, & relieve a range of ailments, from arthritis & asthma to insomnia & sports
Swedish Massage Because therapeutic massage hasn't been the subject
of many controlled studies, its benefits are largely unproven. But few would deny that a massage can make us feel better,
both mentally and physically. This hands-on approach to the care of patients is now practiced in many hospitals, offered by
some health maintenance organizations, and
Most Western massage
is based on Swedish massage, introduced in the United States in the early 19th century. Which strokes are emphasized depends
on the type of massage and its purpose.
Deep-tissue massage uses slow strokes and fingertip pressure to relieve muscle
"knots" that result from chronic tension and to improve blood and lymph circulation.
Myofascial release applies gentle, stretching strokes to areas above injured connective
tissue (myofascia) to relieve postural or alignment problems.
Sports massage employs stretches and movements against resistance to increase
range of motion and to reduce injury.
Talcum powder or oils are often used to help the practitioner's hands move smoothly over the body.
types of massage have their roots in Eastern medicine and philosophy. The basis of Shiatsu and acupressure is
the Chinese system of 12 major channels (meridians) through which life-force energy (qi) is said to flow. The
idea is that disease results from blockages of qi. Shiatsu and acupressure practitioners apply pressure with their
fingertips, and acupuncturists insert needles at specific points along the channels to release qi. In reflexology,
specific zones on the hands, feet, or ears are thought to correspond, or reflex, to certain internal organs.
Studies have shown the efficacy of these approaches, but the concept of qi is not part of Western medicine and science.
Recent research suggests several benefits of
- Back pain. A Canadian study of low back pain compared massage therapy
with soft-tissue manipulation, exercise, and a sham laser-therapy. Subjects who received massage therapy had less pain and
better physical function than those receiving other forms of treatment. Therapeutic massage has also been found to provide
better long-lasting relief than acupuncture.
- Pain, nausea, and
anxiety. An Australian study
showed that nightly 10-minute foot massages can lessen pain and nausea in hospitalized cancer patients. Research has also
found that 30-minute reflexology sessions reduced anxiety in patients hospitalized for breast and lung cancer. Additionally,
a randomized study of massage therapy showed that it relieves the symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PDD).
- Sleep. In a controlled study, older institutionalized patients given
acupressure slept better than those in sham acupressure or control groups.
- Lymphedema. Breast-cancer survivors with lymphedema (painful swelling due
to the buildup of fluid in the arm) often get relief through lymphatic massage. This technique should be performed only by
a massage therapist trained in the procedure and supervised by a woman's surgeon.
In the hands of
a skilled practitioner, massage can be pleasurable and beneficial. But serious health problems should never be treated solely
with massage. Sometimes, massage should be avoided altogether. In a patient with deep venous thrombosis, massage might increase
the risk that a clot will break loose and block an artery. Nor is massage recommended for anyone with an open wound, a rash,
or an acute infection.
If you are pregnant
or if you have cancer, heart or kidney problems, rheumatoid arthritis, numb areas on your body, incompletely healed scar tissue,
or skin grafts, you should consult a physician before having a massage.
a massage therapist
Currently, 30 states regulate massage therapy and issue licenses.
There is no national license or standard, but two professional organizations have established their own nationwide criteria
for massage therapists:
American Massage Therapy Association
National Certification Board for Therapeutic
Massage and Bodywork
Effleurage. Gliding strokes using hands or
fists to relax soft tissue and encourage lymph drainage.
friction. Thumb or fingertip pressure, especially where two types of tissue (such as bone and muscle) come together.
motions across specific muscles to ease muscular tension.
Tapotement. Percussive strokes with the edge
of the hand, fingers, or cupped palms to stimulate local circulation. some of the information on this page was found at Ladies Home Journal's website via From Harvard
Women's Health Watch. Copyright 2003 by President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved.