Massage can be defined as the systematic and manual manipulation of the body's soft tissue for therapeutic purposes, promoting health and well being. It is generally believed that the word massage derives from the Arabic 'mass' or 'Mas'h' meaning to press softly. As an art it must be about as old as man himself because to hold or rub an injured part is an instinctive reaction to pain or discomfort.
Massage has evolved from a combination of Eastern and Western traditions. By far the greatest advancement of therapeutic massage recorded in history was by a Swedish physiologist named Per Henrik Ling (1776-1839), who created a scientific system of massage movements and techniques known as Swedish Massage. This consists of five basic strokes: effleurage (stroking), petrissage (kneading), friction, tapotement (percussion), and vibration, though all of these strokes are not used on every part of the body.
Today, massage is a multidimensional skill encompassing a wide variety of ever evolving techniques, many of which have their roots in the Swedish system. The general public is now very aware of the value of massage in combating the stresses and tensions of modern living. Athletes, sports enthusiasts and dancers include massage in their training schedules to aid recovery and to prevent or treat soft tissue injuries.
Most massage therapists utilize Swedish Massage as the foundation for a treatment and blend in various techniques, depending upon training and experience, to address the specific needs of the client. In general, the manipulation of the body's soft tissue (i.e. the skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia) using the hands is a gentle, flowing massage technique that uses varying degrees of pressure and stretching movements.
A typical full-body massage session lasts for about one hour, many therapists will offer shorter sessions for treating specific areas such as the back, shoulders and neck or any areas giving discomfort, aches or pains. On the first visit clients are asked a number of questions concerning general well-being, injuries and medical conditions that the therapist should know about, in order to determine if there are any contra-indications (physical conditions that would prohibit or limit a massage treatment).
Deep Tissue / Neuromuscular Therapy
While most massage therapists can incorporate deep pressure in a wellness massage, true deep tissue work is a special therapy that encourages release of physical pain, trauma and stiffness. Old injuries or chronic physical conditions are good candidates for deep work. Neuromuscular Therapy is a related modality through which a client can address chronic conditions affecting muscle/nerve interaction like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Sciatica.
A well-trained deep tissue therapist will not cause pain, though the work is often more intense than tranquil. Instead we work with our clients to find their edge and locate the source of the body's discomfort. Breathing techniques and stretches are often incorporated into a deep tissue session to help clients relax and let go of tension in the body and mind.
Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT) is a thorough program of recovery from acute and chronic pain syndromes which utilizes specific massage therapy, flexibility stretching, and home care to eliminate the causes of most neuromuscular pain patterns. Whereas Swedish massage is a set hour-long routine, a neuromuscular session can be anywhere from 1/2 hr. to 1 1/2 hr. long. It generally begins with the therapist gathering a detailed history of the patient's condition. NMT is a corrective technique and not one of relaxation or some form of pampering, so it is generally done in response to a chronic or acute injury. This specific and scientific approach to muscular pain relief will help to bring about balance between the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system. NMT enhances the function of joints, muscles, biomechanics (movement), and it releases endorphins, the body's own natural pain killers. It can be part of a comprehensive program, complementing all other health care modalities.
Neuromuscular Therapy examines six physiological factors that may create or intensify pain patters. These six factors are:
- Postural Distortions
- Nerve Entrapment/Compression
- Emotional Wellbeing
- Trigger Points
Sports massage is for anyone who is involved in weekend recreational sporting activities right through to the professional athlete. Sports massage can help tone muscles, improve flexibility of muscles, aid in stress reduction, help prevent muscular adhesions, clear lactic acid build-up (which improves recovery time), assist rehabilitation of sporting injuries such as sprains, strains and muscle stiffness, remove painful muscle spasms, improve performance and endurance.
Sport massage, like neuromuscular, is more corrective in nature. This therapy relies very heavily upon restoring the body's proper mechanical balance, making sure that both the skeletal structure is in proper alignment and that the muscular system properly counterbalances itself. This type of massage relies very heavily on rehabilitative stretching and exercises, but it also combines those with advanced techniques dealing with the superficial layers of tissue that can cause deeper and more hidden problems.
For example, after muscle imbalances have been identified the therapist begins freeing the tight muscles through deep tissue massage. When the muscle is properly warmed and begins to become pliable the therapist starts a series of stretches aimed at lengthening the muscle.
Finally, this change is furthered by exercises aimed at strengthening the muscles that pull against this muscle. A session of this type requires that the patient is alert and active in order to participate in the stretches involved. Situations that are well suited to this therapy are most job related injuries, any sports injury, or retraining a muscle or part of the body after an injury.
Traditional Thai Yoga Massage is an ancient healing art system based on Indian Ayurvedic medicine, Buddhist spiritual practice, indigenous Thai medicine, and the science of Yoga. It has a long history of therapeutic healing in Thailand where it has been practiced for centuries.
Traditional Thai Yoga Massage employs an exceptionally wide range of techniques in its approach; an approach using the practitioners thumbs, fingers, palms, forearms, elbows, knees and feet. It is a wonderful combination of therapeutic stretching, joint mobilization, acupressure, energy balancing, rhythmic deep tissue compression, soft tissue manipulation, assisted Yoga asana, and Buddhist meditation; resulting in a powerful experience of applied Yoga Therapy.
Hydrotherapy is the use of moist heat and ice therapy to calm inflammation and release chronic tension. This involves applying ice packs, ice cubes or icy towels for the reduction of inflammation or moist heat packs, hot towels or plasters to release toxins in the muscle tissue. Hydrotherapy may be used with any other therapy to improve its effectiveness.