Massage therapy is a broad term that encompasses a wide variety of procedures and methods of pressing, rubbing and manipulating muscles and other soft body tissues such as tendons, ligaments, skin and connective tissues.
The main objective of massage therapy is to relax the soft tissues while promoting an increased delivery of blood and oxygen to the areas being massages and, therefore, to decrease tightness and pain.
Massage therapy is most often accomplished by utilizing the massage therapist’s fingers, hands, arms, elbows and/or feet. Occasionally, however, mechanical and electronic devices may be also used.
As a matter of fact, there are more than eighty official types of massage therapy treatments but some of the most widely known are the following:
The Deep Tissue Massage. This technique uses a combination of strokes and deep finger pressure applied way down under the skin and into the muscles at the painful sites in order to breakup knots and loosen tightness.
The Trigger Point Massage. This procedure is also known as the Pressure Point Massage and it is more focused on specific myofascial trigger points with a stronger force than the Deep Tissue Massage. The goal here is to dissolve the painful knots that were formed in the muscles as well as to relieve additional symptoms in more remote areas of the body.
The Swedish Massage. This system utilizes oblong smooth strokes, kneading and friction of the muscles as well as movement of the joints to increase their range of motion and flexibility.
The Shiatsu Massage. Using altering rhythmic pressure, tapping, squeezing and rubbing along the meridian and on various other parts of the body, the main objective of this Eastern massage therapy is to enhance the flow of a fundamentally important energy called gi. And this energy, in the ancient Chinese medicine is believed to be the life force that regulates a person’s spiritual, emotional, mental and physical wellness that is easily affected when subjected to the rival forces of yin and yang.
Whether the four most often practiced massage therapies I mentioned above are used as complimentary alternative medicine (also known as CAM) or any one of the other recognized eighty which are available to a lesser or greater extent, there are important points to be considered:
- No massage therapy should ever be used in place of regular or ongoing medical care.
- Massage therapy should not be the cause or the excuse to postpone visiting a medical professional for existing medical issues.
- The massage therapist’s schooling and credentials must be verified as well as his or her experience with specific health and medical conditions.
Any additional complimentary alternative medicine (CAM) such as herbs, supplements, special diets or other treatments which are suggested by the massage therapist must first be reviewed with a medical professional.
- Although the subject of massage therapy (how it works and why) has been studied for many years and continues to be studies, much of it still remains within the realm of a mystery.
- If and when massage therapy is performed by a well training and experienced professional, few risks are involved and the worst of them may be temporary pain or discomfort, bruising, swelling or an allergic reaction to the massage oils.
The small number of serious injuries which have been reported were triggered by untrained hands that were not aware that certain medical conditions should not be massaged.
It is, therefore, essential to consult a medical professional before undergoing massage therapy, particularly under the following circumstances:
- Deep vein thrombosis
- A bleeding disorder or when taking blood thinners
- Damaged blood vessels
- Weakened bones from osteoporosis, a recent fracture or cancer
- The presence of high body temperature
- Open or healing wounds, tumors, damaged nerves, an infection, a severe inflammation or fragile skin
- Heart problems
- Dermatomyositis or any other skin disease
- History of physical abuse