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All About Massage

Brief History of Massage

Massage may be the oldest and simplest form of medical care. Egyptian tomb paintings show people being massaged. Massage has been practiced continually since ancient times in Eastern cultures. It was one of the principal methods of relieving pain for Greek and Roman physicians. Julius Caesar was said to have been given a daily massage to treat neuralgia (nerve pain). In the 5th Century B.C., the father of Western medicine, Hippocrates wrote in the book The Physician Must Be Experienced In Many Things, “but assuredly in rubbing… for rubbing can bind a joint that is too loose, and loosen a joint that is too rigid.”

Massage lost some of its value and prestige with the unsavory image created by “massage parlors.” This image is fading as people gain the understanding that massage can relieve disease as well as aid in relaxation. As more people learn about the benefits of massage and it’s a relation to disease, the more acceptable it will become.

Massage is now used in intensive care units, for children, elderly people, babies in incubators, and patients with cancer, AIDS, heart attacks, or strokes. Most American hospices have some kind of bodywork therapy available, and it is frequently offered in health centers, drug treatment clinics, and pain clinics.

Common Types of Massage

Massage therapists can specialize in more than 80 different types of massage, called modalities. Swedish massage, deep-tissue massage, reflexology, acupressure (similar to acupuncture but without needles), sports massage, and neuromuscular massage are just a few of the many approaches to massage therapy. Most massage therapists specialize in several modalities, which require different techniques. Some use exaggerated strokes covering the length of a body part (such as the leg), while others use quick, percussion-like strokes with a cupped or closed hand. A massage can be as long as 2 to 3 hours or as short as 5 or 10 minutes. Usually, the type of massage given depends on the client’s needs and physical condition. For example, therapists may use special techniques for elderly clients that they would not use for athletes, and they would use approaches for clients with injuries that would not be appropriate for clients seeking relaxation. Also, some forms of massage are given solely to one type of client; for example, prenatal massage and infant massage are given to pregnant women and new mothers, respectively.

Benefits of Massage

Massage therapy is the practice of using touch to manipulate the soft-tissue and muscles of the body. It is performed for a variety of reasons, including treating painful ailments, decompressing tired and overworked muscles, reducing stress, rehabilitating sports injuries, and promoting general health. Clients often seek massage for its medical benefit and for relaxation purposes, and there is a wide range of massage treatments available.

Massage therapy has many benefits, from increasing circulation and immunity to reducing pain from disease and injury. Massage therapy releases the “feel good” hormones, enabling the client to relax and de-stress. If clients fail to keep stress in check, it can lead to disease and can worsen conditions that already exist.

Massage is beneficial to everyone; from premature infants to the elderly. Massage helps infants to thrive and grow; helps children with a variety of medical, physical and emotional problems; and helps relieve the pain of the people who are dying.

When Massage is Contraindicated

Massage therapy can help almost any health condition, but there are certain situations where massage can make the condition worse (also called contraindications). If the person is suffering from a fever, or infection of any kind, massage will make the person feel worse. Also, if the person is intoxicated by alcohol or drugs, massage is not warranted for the same reason. If the person has advanced disease, he/she will need written permission from his/her primary care provider stating that the massage will be beneficial and not make the disease worse. Recent injury or surgeries (less than four weeks) generally also require written permission from the primary care physician before the therapist can continue.

Laws governing Massage

Forty-two states and the District of Columbia and four Canadian provinces have passed laws regulating massage and bodywork – either through registration, licensure, or certification. In those states and provinces that regulate massage therapists also require the therapist to carry liability insurance, which carries its own set of rules of conduct. States generally require that the massage therapist to have graduated from a massage therapy school, typically having a minimum of 250 to 500 hours of education. Education typically involves learning several modalities, anatomy/physiology, pathology, business, ethics and on-the-job training; either through the school clinic or on the student’s own time. Liability insurance protects the therapist in the event the client is injured in the process of the massage or has a reaction to a product being used by the therapist. Laws also regulate certain protocols during the massage, such as proper draping and confidentiality of client records.

What Massage Is and Is Not

Most states that regulate massage require that the Massage Therapist must drape the client at all times, only undraping the current area being worked on. Massage Therapists holding liability insurance are held to a set of conduct and ethics that must be followed at all times. Not following these rules or those set by the state can result in disciplinary action being taken against the massage therapist. Massage therapy can be used for either relaxation or to relieve stress or lessen the effects of disease or injury on the body. Massage therapy in considered a CAM – Complimentary and Alternative Medicine and most massage therapists work in conjunction with other healthcare providers. Massage therapists may work with Chiropractors, Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, nurses and physicians of all specialties.

Massage therapists cannot practice medicine, Physical Therapy or Chiropractic work unless they already licensed in any of those areas. Massage Therapists do not diagnose, can only treat, and cannot cure illness. Massage is not sexual in nature and the genitals and anal area must be draped at all times. If the massage therapist believes the client is beyond their scope of practice (knowledge), then s/he must refer that client to someone else who is more qualified.