Massage therapy can be defined as the manipulation of soft tissues. Massage therapy has physical, physiological and psychological effects, that is, it can affect the mind, body and spirit. The word “massage” comes from the French which means “friction or kneading”, the Arabic word “massa” which means “to touch, feel or handle”, and the Latin “massa” which means “mass, mass”. An older origin may have been from the Hebrew “me-sakj” meaning “to anoint with oil” and the ancient Greek “anatripsis” or Latin “frictio” was the word for massage.
During a massage, the soft tissues, which consist of muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin, lymphatic vessels, organs, and other connective tissues, can be manipulated in various ways. These include pressure, tension, motion, vibration, all moving or stationary, structured or unstructured. Massage strokes can be applied with the hands, soft fists, fingers, thumbs, elbows, forearms, and feet. There are more than 80 modalities or types of recognized massages. The most stated reasons for introducing massage as a therapeutic have been due to client demand and perceived clinical effectiveness.
During a massage, the client is placed on a massage table or chair. The massage table is well padded for comfort, is easily cleaned between clients, and has a horseshoe-shaped padded headrest to allow proper neck positioning and ease of breathing while the client is on their stomach. The massage chair is also well padded, easy to clean, and offers a horseshoe-shaped padded headrest, but the client remains in a more upright and seated position. Typically, a chair massage lasts shorter than 5 to 15 minutes and is performed with the client fully clothed. A massage session on the table usually lasts 30 to 90 minutes with the client partially or completely naked under a sheet and / or blanket. Pillows or cushions are often used to help with body position to increase comfort during the session. Massage tables and chairs are usually portable and can be easily installed almost anywhere.
In the United States, the most common type of massage therapy is Swedish massage and is often referred to simply as “relaxation massage,” “European massage,” or simply “Swedish.” A Swedish massage session is usually very gentle and relaxing.
There are numerous theories as to how massage therapy actually affects the body. Some theories suggest that massage can stimulate the release of chemicals in the body such as endorphins or serotonin to facilitate relaxation, or the “control gate theory” suggests that massage itself can help to block the pain signals sent to the brain. Massage therapy is known to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the nervous system that controls “relaxation and digestion” and can help explain those stomach gurgles you hear during your session.
The best way to find a massage therapist is to ask a friend or healthcare professional, such as a chiropractor, family doctor, or personal trainer, for a recommendation. Be sure to ask the massage therapist about their training, experience, and licensing credentials. Also, ask your insurance company about coverage, as some insurance plans will pay part or all of the session fees. If not, check your flexible spending plan or health savings accounts as often as you can use to pay for sessions.