Part 3 - Massage Therapy

Massage involves using the hands or a massage tool to perform movements on the skin to promote relaxation, healing and wellbeing. The main techniques of Western massage involve stroking, kneading, rubbing or pressing on the body.

History and theory

Massage has been practised for thousands of years in many cultures: in ancient Greece, Egypt and Rome, for example. The oriental traditions of acupressure, foot and hand massage, and therapeutic massage have survived for thousands of years and are still widely practised in the East and the West. They've also influenced the development of modern techniques such as zone therapy and reflexology.

Swedish gymnast Per Henrik Ling was largely responsible for re-establishing therapeutic massage, based on anatomical principles, in Europe in the late 19th century. In the 20th century, French chemists, doctors and beauticians revived the study and use of plant oils in healing and massage, leading to the popularity of aromatherapy today.

Modern Western massage techniques are based on an understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the body. The hand movements are used to facilitate the circulation of blood and the lymphatic system and to release muscular tension and joint stiffness.

Oriental massage therapies are based on the 'meridian' system of energetic channels that course through the body. Pressure techniques are thought to release blockages and improve the flow of vital energy (or 'chi') in these channels.

What is it good for?

When the body's touched, receptors in the skin send messages to the brain causing the release of chemicals such as endorphins. These produce a sense of relaxation and wellbeing and can also relieve pain.

Massage also improves the flow of blood and lymph fluid, helps to eliminate waste products from the body, relaxes the muscles and can help regulate hormone production and stimulate the immune system. It's also useful for specific ailments such as asthma, depression, neck and back pain, insomnia, immune deficiency disorders and diabetes.

It can be helpful during pregnancy and labour, too, and is used to help premature babies thrive and mothers bond with their infants.

What does it involve?

Western massage therapies are performed directly on the skin. Clothing is usually removed for a full-body massage, although underwear can be worn if you prefer. Towels cover the areas not being massaged and help to keep the body warm. In oriental massage therapies, which use pressure techniques, clothing is usually kept on.

A full-body massage usually takes about an hour. If only part of the body is being massaged, such as the neck and shoulders, the massage may last 15 to 30 minutes.

Aromatherapy massage uses essential oils, derived from the flowers, leaves, stalks and roots of certain plants and trees. Oriental massage techniques often use direct hand pressure either through clothing or directly on the skin. Ayurvedic (Indian) massage uses many aromatic oils.

Essential oils are used by Aromatherapists generally in the process of massage. Essential oils are blended with a carrier oil to create a mixture which can be used directly on the body. The blend will depend of the client’s needs and condition Often their use is also recommended for bathing and burning in a water solution over a candle to clean and purify the air and to effect improvements in a persons breathing and general well being.

Pure essential oils are extremely concentrated. Before using pure essential oils virtually all will need to be diluted in a carrier oil to avoid any skin reactions and provide the lubrication necessary to help disperse them evenly.

If essential oils are used in skin and body care, carrier oils can also be moisturising, nourishing and protecting. Oils such as baby oil should not be used to dilute essential oils.

Massage shouldn't be applied to varicose veins, anywhere that fractures are present or any parts of the skin with swelling, bruising, cuts or infection. Care should be taken during pregnancy and in the case of cancer.

Massage should be comfortable and relaxing. If it's painful, or if you're not happy with the way that touch is being applied, tell your practitioner or ask them to stop.

Finding a practitioner or do it yourself

Massage therapists can be found at most health centres, sports centres, beauty clinics, health farms and complementary medicine clinics. One of the most widely accepted general massage qualifications is the ITEC diploma. Alternatively, practitioners may have diplomas in specific massage techniques such as reflexology (treatment for the feet and sometimes hands), aromatherapy, shiatsu (a Japanese massage therapy) or Indian head massage. Aromatherapists charges vary hugely but a qualified therapist will generally charge between £20 and £35 per hour. Often massage treatments take 90 minutes and the change will reflect this time.

If you do not want to go regularly to a massage therapist or cannot afford to then there are a number of massage tools that mimics the same benefits of a hand massage. A lot of these massage tools require a second person to apply the massage but if you are alone there are a couple that have proven very effective for self use:

1. The Omni Massager provides a stimulating, deep tissue massage, anywhere, anytime. Use this portable massager on any part of your own body or share it with a friend. Designed for professional and home users, the Omni Roller has been tested and approved by Chiropractors, Massage Therapists, Physical Therapists and Sports Trainers nationwide. Begin by apply pressure then roll the ball in circular motions all around the desired area, adding pressure as needed. Use two hands for even more pressure. With just a little practice you will be able to identify the exact spot that needs massaging and you will feel the relief as your OMNI Massage Roller relaxes, soothes, and loosens the muscle tissue, bringing about improved circulation, natural pain relief and healing to the area. Cleans Easily! For light clean up simply spray with a mild household cleaner and wipe dry. For heavier build ups of massage oils and creams, soak inn warm soapy water and rinse clean. Allow to drain and towel dry.

2. Nukkles are one of a kind, hand-held massage product that put the "power of massage in the palms of your hands." With its patented flex-technology, Nukkles contour to the body, allowing anyone to provide a deeply satisfying massage experience. Use Nukkles directly over clothing or on bare skin. Either way, one touch and you’ll be hooked. Available in 6 colours. (For an even more pleasurable massage, use with Massage Oil.) Nukkles is a unique invention that allows you to give a deeply satisfying massage experience with the minimum of effort. Nukkles enables you to provide a massage as good as the professional masseur, for the ultimate relaxation experience. You may have tried the old fashioned wooden back massager in the past or even the more recent roller back massager and you even may have found them to be reasonably good... but now with the help of space-age technology, get ready for a brand new massage experience. A Nukkles massage is like no other massage you have ever experienced. Nukkles are not just designed to be used for back massage Although they are a Great Back Massager, they are also recommended for shoulder massage, head massage, neck massage, leg massage, arm massage, reflexology or for easing a muscle spasm just about anywhere!

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