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Massage Therapy

February 10th 2006

Massage Therapy


What was once considered luxury is quickly coming to be seen a serious medical aid, as 3,000 years of research and practice have demonstrated.  Massage therapy is what it is, and while the Eastern worlds have turned this art into health-beneficial techniques, it is only recently that the western world has come to embrace it, and so happily realize that massage is not only feels pleasant, but can also ease pain and prevent disease.

The techniques used in massage therapy vary widely, and any one massage therapist will be trained in a few, if not a wide array, of the many existing techniques.  Massage therapy, a combination of pressing, kneading and stroking various parts of the body, does much more than relieve stress, which is one of its most obvious and immediate benefits.

Fortunately, stress relief is just the tip of the iceberg of massage’s health benefits, and as doctors have come to realize this, massage therapy has become a common sight at the doctor’s office ­ from chiropractor to physical therapist.  Massage therapy penetrates circulation and lymph nodes, thus improving blood flow and the effective removal of wastes from the body.  Better circulation and a more efficient lymphatic system will improve skin as well, as surface capillaries will be stimulated, and urea will be leaving the body more efficiently, giving the skin a break.

In general, the healthier movement of oxygen and more rapid clearing of bodily wastes will leave you feeling energized and replenished.  Massage also affects soft tissues, which include tendons, ligaments and muscles, thus easing pain and lessening stiffness that feels as though it comes attached to these soft tissues. 
Overused and tense muscles will benefit dramatically and will feel better immediately.  The ability to move with more ease paves the way to a healthier life, as those sore joints will no longer prevent you from getting the exercise necessary to stay healthy and fit.  Studies are now giving reason to believe that massage not only affects the circulation and superficial soft tissues, but deeper internal organs as well, which can prove to be important in providing supplementary treatment to diseases affecting the organs.
For optimal results, massage should be routine.  While one certainly feels relaxed and de-stressed after a massage, one isolated massage is not enough for massage therapy to sprout its benefits in full.  Regular massage sessions with a professional masseuse will lead to the full health benefits and leave the body feeling younger and stronger.
Massage techniques vary, and specific techniques are recommended for specific ailments, but all share in common the benefits of massage, including relaxation, release of stress and pain on soft tissues, and improved circulation, among others.  Specific techniques certainly do have their specific strengths.  Shiatsu, for one, deals with the energy that affects the nerves and the body.  The Japanese word “shiatsu” is translated as “finger pressure”.  Thus, this type of massage will have its greatest effect on the nervous system, relaxing one’s whole being.
Swedish massage was developed in the 1800’s and made great waves in therapeutic massage.  A Swedish physiologist created a system of five basic strokes, which serve as the basis for many types of massage today.  These strokes include vibration, stroking, friction, tapotement, and kneading.
Another massage technique, vastly different from either of those mentioned, is foot reflexology.  This technique approaches massage holistically, treating the body as a whole.  In other words, applying pressure and massage to specific points in the feet affect the entire body.  Thus, the reflexes in the feet are connected to all of the parts of the body (including the organs), and stimulation of the feet, in turn, stimulates the corresponding organs, thus affecting the entire body.  Massage therapy, through its various means, achieves balance and relaxation throughout the body.
Massage therapy is growing in popularity for more reasons than just the pleasant sensation and immediate stress-relief so necessary to deal with our contemporary, fast-paced lives.  Massage also has long term benefits that are really very worthy bonuses received in addition to the immediately gratified benefits.  The age-old wisdom of massage is dawning on the new and modern medical techniques as worthy and useful.

Through the different techniques, like Shiatsu, Swedish and Reflexology, to name a few, countless benefits are derived, such as relaxation and stress relief to soft tissue, improved circulation and lymphatic system, and clearer skin.  In the great game of life, all decisions need to be weighed for their risks and benefits.  Fortunately, massage provides the benefits, while your mind lays at peace and forgets the troubles of the world, if only for an hour a week!
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By Marina Petroni
Marina researched and wrote this article on the subject massage therapy for http://www.nmsnt.org/.


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