Massage Therapy


What is Massage?

Therapeutic massage involves the manipulation of the soft tissue structures of the body to prevent and alleviate pain, discomfort, muscle spasm, and stress; and, to promote health and wellness. AMTA defines Massage as, "a manual soft tissue manipulation that includes holding, causing movement, and/or applying pressure to the body."

Massage therapy is " a profession in which the practitioner applies manual techniques, and may apply adjunctive therapies, with the intention of positively affecting the health and well-being of the client." (AMTA)

Massage therapy improves functioning of the circulatory, lymphatic, muscular, skeletal, and nervous systems and may improve the rate at which the body recovers from injury and illness.  Massage involves holding, causing movement of soft tissue, and/or applying pressure to the body. 

Massage comes in many forms, including:

  •        Swedish a gentle, relaxing massage;
  •        Pressure point therapy for certain conditions or injuries; and
  •        Sports massage which focuses on muscle groups relevant to the particular sport.


History of Massage



Massage may be the oldest and simplest form of medical care. Egyptian tomb paintings show people being massaged. In Eastern cultures, massage has been practiced continually since ancient times. A Chinese book from 2,700 B.C., The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, recommends 'breathing exercises, massage of skin and flesh, and exercises of hands and feet" as the appropriate treatment for -complete paralysis, chills, and fever." It was one of the principal method of relieving pain for Greek and Roman physicians. Julius Caesar was said to have been given a daily massage to treat neuralgia. "The Physician Must Be Experienced In Many Things," wrote Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, in the 5th century B. C., "but assuredly in rubbing.. . for rubbing can bind a joint that is too loose, and loosen a joint that is too rigid."

Ayurveda, the traditional Indian system of medicine, places great emphasis on the therapeutic benefits of massage with aromatic oils and spices. It is practiced very widely in India.

Doctors such as Ambroise Pare, a 16th-century physician to the French court, praised massage as a treatment for various ailments. Swedish massage, the method most familiar to Westerners, was developed in the 19th century by a Swedish doctor, poet, and educator named Per Henrik Ling. His system was based on a study of gymnastics and physiology, and on techniques borrowed from China, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Physiotherapy, originally based on Ling's methods, was established with the foundation in 1894 of the Society of Trained Masseurs. During World War I patients suffering from nerve injury or shell shock were treated with massage. St. Thomas's Hospital, London, had a department of massage until 1934. However, later breakthroughs in medical technology and pharmacology eclipsed massage as physiotherapists began increasingly to favor electrical instruments over manual methods of stimulating the tissues.

Massage lost some of its value and prestige with the unsavory image created by "massage parlors." This image is fading as awareness of the value and therapeutic properties of massage grows.

Massage is now used in intensive care units, for children, elderly people, babies in incubators, and patients with cancer, AIDS, heart attacks, or strokes. Most American hospices have some kind of bodywork therapy available, and it is frequently offered in health centers, drug treatment clinics, and pain clinics.

A variety of massage techniques have also been incorporated into several other complementary therapies, such as aromatherapy, reflexology, Rolfing, Hellerwork, and osteopathy.


Types of Massage



Relaxation Massage:

A smooth, flowing style that promotes general relaxation, improves circulation and range of movement, and relieves muscular tension.
Remedial Massage:

A paramedical treatment that helps to restore function to injured "soft tissues" (muscles, tendons and ligaments). Therapy may involve the use of various types of Massage, as well as a range of other physical treatments to assist your recovery. In addition, you may be asked to perform some activities at home to assist the process of recovery.

Sports Massage:

Combines different Massage techniques to enhance sports performance and recuperation. An effective component of any training program.

Aromatherapy Massage:

Combining the therapeutic properties of essential oils with specific Massage techniques to promote health and well-being.

Reflexology:

Using thumb and finger pressure on the reflex points of the feet (which correspond to all areas of the body) to assist in achieving balance within the body.

Oriental Massage Therapies:

Oriental-based systems of finger pressure Massage, such as Acupressure and Shiatsu, that treat points along the acupressure meridians, aiming to release discomfort and rebalance energy.


Massage Therapy Today


These days massage isn't just for feeling good anymore. It has lost the ancient stigma associated with blue light districts. It is a holistic therapy that reduces the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, increases blood circulation and lymph flow, relaxes muscles, improves range of motion, and increases endorphins, the body's natural painkillers. 

Therapeutic massage enhances medical treatment and helps people feel less anxious and stressed, relaxed yet more alert. It had been said that, "Massage is to the human body what a tune-up is for a car."

Fueled by the popularity of the alternative therapies, consumers are using more and more services of licensed massage therapists:

  • Consumers spend $2 billion to $4 billion a year on visits to massage therapists, according to an American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) analysis of a study by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1993.
  • Current research shows that people are getting more massages, and that therapeutic massage is becoming more mainstream, appealing to everyone from young adults to seniors.  People are experiencing the therapeutic benefits of massage. They are getting   massages mostly to relax, to relieve aches and pains, and to help reduce stress.
  • A national survey conducted by the State University of New York at Syracuse found 54 percent of primary care physicians and family practitioners said they would encourage their patients to pursue massage therapy as a treatment, and a third of those said they are willing to refer patients to a massage therapist.
  • The American Massage Therapy Association's membership has increased nearly four-fold in the past decade, to more than 28,000.


More and more employers are offering massage during break times to their employees. They have found that massage therapy isn't just a perk, but actually increases employee productivity and morale. For example, according to a 1996 survey of employees who regularly receive therapeutic massage  on-site at Reebok International Ltd., 98 percent said it helped them reduce work-related stress; 92 percent said it increased alertness, motivation and productivity; 83 percent said it had in some cases sufficiently addressed a problem so medical attention was not necessary; and 66 percent said it had enabled them to stay at work when they would have otherwise gone home sick.


Massage and Health


Massage is a holistic therapy. It has effect on both body and mind.

Massage increases the circulation of blood and flow of lymph. The direct mechanical effect of rhythmically applied manual pressure and movement used in massage can dramatically increase the rate of blood flow. Also, the stimulation of nerve receptors causes the blood vessels (by reflex action) to dilate, which also facilitates blood flow. This has a profound effect on one's health.

Health Benefits of Massage

The following are the key effects of massage:

Massage Reduces Muscle Tension.

Massage affects the muscles throughout the body. Massage affects the muscles and other soft tissues throughout the body. It loosens contracted, shortened, hardened muscles. Massage can stimulate weak, flaccid muscles. Chronic muscle tension reduces the circulation of the blood and movement of lymph in an area.

Massage Improves Blood Circulation. 

The oxygen capacity of the blood can increase 10-15% after massage. By indirectly or directly stimulating nerves that supply internal organs, blood vessels of these organs dilate and allow greater blood supply to them.

Massage Induces Better Lymph Movement. 

Lymph is a milky white fluid that drains impurities and waste away from the tissue cells. A component of these wastes is toxins which are the by-products of metabolism. So, it is a vital to our health. Muscular contraction has a pumping effect that moves lymph. Massage and exercise help to move lymph. 

Massage Results In Increased Mobility and Range of Motion of Joints.

Massage provides a gentle stretching action to both the muscles and connective tissues that surround and support the muscles and many other parts of the body, which helps keep these tissues elastic.

Massage Stimulates or Soothes Nervous System. 

Massage balances the nervous system by soothing or stimulating it, depending on which effect is needed by the individual at the time of the massage.

Massage Enhances Skin Condition. 

Massage enhances the skin condition by improving the function of the sebaceous and sweat glands, which keep the skin lubricated, clean, and cool.

Massage Results in Better Digestion and Intestinal Function. 

Massage increases the body's secretions and excretions. It increases the production of gastric juices, saliva, and urine. There is also an increased excretion of nitrogen, inorganic phosphorus, and salt. As a result, the metabolic rate increases.

Massage Relieves of Acute and Chronic pain. 

Massage can promote recovery from the fatigue and from minor aches and pains

Other Benefits of Massage
       
  • Massage has beneficial effects on the internal organs and the immune system
  •        
  • Massage reduces swelling
  •        
  • Massage reduced stress
  •        
  • Massage is useful for general relaxation
  •        
  • Massage results in overall improvement in physical health and the quality of life.


Benefits of Massage


Research in massage therapy has been ongoing for more than 120 years.

Here are some reported benefits of massage:        Medical school students at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School who were massaged before an exam showed a significant decrease in anxiety and respiratory rates, as well as a significant increase in white blood cells and natural killer cell activity, suggesting a benefit to the immune system.
       Preliminary results suggested cancer patients had less pain and anxiety after receiving therapeutic massage at the James Cancer Hospital and Research Institute in Columbus, Ohio.
       Women who had experienced the recent death of a child were less depressed after receiving therapeutic massage, according to preliminary results of a study at the University of South Carolina.


Studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have found massage beneficial in improving weight gain in HIV-exposed infants and facilitating recovery in patients who underwent abdominal surgery. At the University of Miami School of Medicine's Touch Research Institute, researchers have found that massage is helpful in decreasing blood pressure in people with hypertension, alleviating pain in migraine sufferers and improving alertness and performance in office workers.

An increasing number of research studies show massage reduces heart rate, lowers blood pressure, increases blood circulation and lymph flow, relaxes muscles, improves range of motion, and increases endorphins (enhancing medical treatment). Although therapeutic massage does not increase muscle strength, it can stimulate weak, inactive muscles and, thus, partially compensate for the lack of exercise and inactivity resulting from illness or injury. It also can hasten and lead to a more complete recovery from exercise or injury.

Research has verified that:
       
  • Office workers massaged regularly were more alert, performed better and were less stressed than those who weren't massaged.
  • Massage therapy decreased the effects of anxiety, tension, depression, pain, and itching in burn patients.
  • Abdominal surgery patients recovered more quickly after massage.
  • Premature infants who were massaged gained more weight and fared better than those who weren't.
  • Autistic children showed less erratic behavior after massage therapy.


Physical Benefits of Therapeutic Massage:        

  • Helps relieve stress and aids relaxation
  • Helps relieve muscle tension and stiffness
  • Alleviates discomfort during pregnancy
  • Fosters faster healing of strained muscles and sprained ligaments; reduces pain and swelling; reduces formation of excessive scar tissue
  • Reduces muscle spasms
  • Provides greater joint flexibility and range of motion
  • Enhances athletic performance; Treats injuries caused during sport or work
  • Promotes deeper and easier breathing
  • Improves circulation of blood and movement of lymph fluids
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Helps relieve tension-related headaches and effects of eye-strain
  • Enhances the health and nourishment of skin
  • Improves posture
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Treats musculoskeletal problems
  • Rehabilitation post operative
  • Rehabilitation after injury


Mental Benefits of Massage Therapy:
       
  • Fosters peace of mind
  • Promotes a relaxed state of mental alertness
  • Helps relieve mental stress
  • Improves ability to monitor stress signals and respond appropriately
  • Enhances capacity for calm thinking and creativity
  • Emotional Benefits
  • Satisfies needs for caring nurturing touch
  • Fosters a feeling of well-being
  • Reduces levels of anxiety
  • Creates body awareness
  • Increases awareness of mind-body connection


What Types of Dysfunctions Respond To Clinical Massage?



The following dysfunctions respond to clinical massage.

Massage and Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction

Pain and/or physiological dysfunction originates from identifiable points within muscles and their fascial tissues. These locations are known as trigger points because they often trigger distant reactions.

Scientists have developed extensive maps of such referred pain. They have also identified nearly a hundred dysfunctions that can have myofascial trigger point origins. Some of these are: carpal tunnel syndrome, TMJ dysfunction, PMS, headache, diarrhea, dizziness, cardiac arrhythmia, indigestion, tennis elbow, urinary frequency, sinusitis, deafness, and blurred vision.

Massage and Fascial Plane Dysfunction

Fascia can be compared to the body's own version of "Saran Wrap." It covers most of the body in large, continuously connected sheets. Injury, postural patterns and chemical imbalances can cause these sheets to distort and bind to themselves and nearby tissues. Since all major blood vessels and nerves follow these fascial sheathes through the body, properly aligned and released fascia is vital to good health and the proper operation of the circulatory and nervous systems.

Massage and Neuromuscular Dysfunction

The smallest muscular activity requires that countless nerve impulses be sent to the muscle to be activated and to all of the adjoining and opposing muscles. For example, let us say that you want to flex your elbow. This requires that you must tighten the biceps and other associated muscles while simultaneously relaxing the triceps and other associated muscles. The combined nervous activity and muscular response must be precisely timed and exactly proportionate.

For more complex movements like rotating the head or taking a breath, the amount of coordinating activity increases exponentially. Unfortunately, the mechanism responsible for such coordination can break down and muscle fibers or whole muscles can actually lock in opposition to their normal activity.

Massage and Tonus System Dysfunction

When overused, muscles can lose their ability to understand how to relax. This is referred to as hypertonic. As a result, the muscles become overly tight. They tend to harbor myofascial trigger points, and cause stress on the muscles that oppose them and the joints that they cross.

Massage and Dermatomic and Spondylogenic Dysfunctions

If a nerve is pinched where it leaves the spine, or anywhere along its route, the area that nerve serves will feel pain. Many people have experienced such a problem with the sciatic nerve. It originates in the low back, but when pinched can make the knee, shin, or heel hurt. This is an example of dermatomic pain - literally translated - pain in an area of skin.

Massage and Spondylogenic Dysfunction

This occurs when the joints of the spine are compressed or otherwise impaired and cause their own special trigger point-type pain or dysfunction.

Both of these are successfully treated with clinical massage by loosening the muscles and other soft tissue that surrounds the affected joint or nerve.


Who Can Benefit From Clinical Massage Therapy?


If you suffer from any of the following disorders, you may benefit by clinical massage:        
  • Any chronic muscle or joint pain.
  • A known condition of referred pain, such as "when my neck gets tense I get a headache. "
  • Any recurring symptoms that seem to accompany or are precipitated by muscle lightness.
  • Tight muscles that are limiting the mobility of a joint.
  • Chronically fatigued muscles.
  • Low energy level, especially when accompanied by muscle aches and pains.
  • A recent muscle injury that generates pain or dysfunction in areas not seemingly involved in the injury
  • Any visceral dysfunction that tests negative for conventional causes.
  • Muscle pain that recurs in an area with no apparent new cause.
  • A tendency for pain to spread to other muscles whenever a simple strain or injury occurs


People find that therapeutic massage can help with a wide range of medical conditions, including:        
  • Allergies
  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis (both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Asthma and bronchitis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Chronic and acute pain
  • Circulatory problems
  • Depression
  • Digestive disorders, including spastic colon, constipation and diarrhea
  • Headache, especially when due to muscle tension
  • Gastrointestinal disorders (including spastic colon, colic and constipation)
  • Headache
  • Immune function disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Myofascial pain (a condition of the tissue connecting the muscles)
  • Premature infants
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Sinusitis
  • Sports injuries (including pulled or strained muscles and sprained ligaments)
  • Stress
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction


Massage for Pain Control


Massage is a very effective technique for controlling pain. How does it work? There are number of ways massage may help in controlling pain.

Massage confuses the body's pain signals.

Rubbing may interfere with pain signals' pathways to your brain, a process called the "gate control theory," according to experts. Pain impulses run toward the spinal cord and then up the cord and into the brain. It's only when they reach the brain that these impulses, are perceived as pain. When you rub, it sends other impulses along the same nerves. When all these impulses try to reach the brain through nerves, the nerves get clogged like a highway during morning rush hour. The result? Most of them won't reach the brain. And if the pain signals does not reach the brain, you won't feel pain. Thus massage works by 'closing the gate' that pain impulses have to pass through.
Massage also calls up the body's natural painkillers.

It stimulates the release of endorphins, the morphine-like substances that the body manufactures, into the brain and nervous system.

Massage provides deep relaxation

It relieves muscle tension, spasm, and stiffness. All of these contribute to pain. Experts suggest that tense muscles are usually deprived of oxygen, because the tightness reduces blood circulation to the area. Massage improves blood circulation, bringing with it what the muscle needs-oxygen and other forms of nourishment. The muscle then relaxes, and pain decreases.

Massage relieves mental stress and anxiety.

Massage is providing the benefit by the therapeutic value of touching that helps a person in pain. Research shows that even touch lasting for less than 1 second has the ability to make people feel better. Obviously, an hour-long touch provided by massage has to make you feel good!

What Types of Pain Can Massage Help?

Massage can help any pain originating from muscle tension: example - head, back, neck, and shoulder pain are all can benefit from massage. Releasing tightness and tension in muscles is the most obvious effect of a good massage.

Massage also is beneficial for relieving pain associated with arthritis, injuries, or even recent surgery.

Basic Techniques of Swedish Massage


Traditional Swedish Massage uses five main strokes, and many variations, to achieve its relaxing and healing effects. Many therapists use a variety of techniques.

Effleurage 

This consists of long, gliding strokes from the neck down to the base of the spine or from the shoulder down to the fingertips. When done on the limbs, all strokes are toward the heart to aid blood and lymphatic flow. It is done with the whole hand or the thumb pads. Effleurage is designed to acquaint the therapist with his or her subjectís body and vice versa.

Petrissage  

This involves gently lifting muscles up and away from the bones, then rolling and squeezing them, again with a gentle pressure. It generally involves kneading and compression motions - rolling, squeezing, or pressing the muscles to enhance deeper circulation. Petrissage attempts to increase circulation with clearing out toxins from muscle and nerve tissue.

Friction  

This is the most penetrating of the strokes, and consists of deep circular or transverse movements made with the thumb pads or fingertips. The therapist applies deep, circular movement near joints and other bony areas (such as the sides of the spine). Friction breaks down adhesions, which are knots that result when muscle fibers bind together during the healing process, thus contributing to more flexible muscles and joints.

Tapotement 

This consists of a series of briskly applied percussive movements, using the hands alternately to strike or tap the muscles for an invigorating effect. There are many variations on this stroke. It may be applied with the edge of the hand, with the tips of the fingers, or with a closed fist. Tapotement attempts to release tension and cramping from muscles in spasm.

Vibration or Shaking

This involves the therapist pressing his or her hands on the back or limbs, and rapidly shaking for a few seconds. It boosts circulation and increase the power of the muscles to contact. Vibration is particularly helpful to people suffering from low-back pain


Self Massage


There are simple massage you can do it yourself. This is a great "pick-me-up" after a hard day of work. You can also get benefits of massage by immersing yourself in a Jacuzzi with the water doing the massaging.

Many massage and wellness centers offer workshops on massages and partner massages. It may be worthwhile going for a workshop to get some familiarity with this technique.

For the exercises given below you donít need anything other than a few tennis balls, a quiet corner and your own two hands.

Head Massage

Pressure points in your skull can relax your whole body. There are two very significant acupressure points at the base of the skull on what's called the occipital ridge. If you apply consistent pressure there, you can achieve total relaxation.

How do you find these points and apply pressure on those spots? There is a simple solution. Put two tennis balls in a sock and tie the end. Lie on your back on the floor and place the sock behind the upper neck, so that the two balls each touch the skull ridge that's right above the hollow spot. Stay like that for 20 minutes. If you like, you can listen to soothing music. The pressure on those acupressure points send messages down the spinal column to relax all the muscles and it is very effective.

Face Massage

Just touch your face. There's no need to knead it. With a very light touch, cup your cheeks and temples with your hands using no more pressure than the weight of a nickel. Hold your hands there for a minute. The warmth of the hands relaxes the muscles and connective tissue, bringing on an overall sense of relief.

Jaw Massage

Pull the sides of your ears gently straight outward, then straight up, then straight down. Or, with your index finger, press the tender spot next to your earlobe where it attaches to your head. Press and release. Now do it on the other ear. Repeat, alternating ears, 10 to 15 times.

Torso Massage

Get a quick boost by rubbing the area above your kidneys. That's at waist level where the tissue is still soft. Rub briskly with your fists in a circular motion. This energizes the whole body.

Feet Massage

Foot massage is very soothing. After you try the following techniques on one foot, switch feet and repeat.
  1. Sit on a chair and place one foot on the opposite thigh. Rub some massage oil or lotion onto your foot if you like. Apply pressure with your thumbs to the sole of your foot, working from the bottom of your arch to the top near your big toe. Repeat five times.
  2. Make a fist and press your knuckles into the bottom of your foot, moving from your heel to your toes. Repeat five times.
  3. Massage each toe by holding it firmly and moving it from side to side. Extend each toe gently out and away from the ball of your foot. Then apply pressure to the areas between your toes.
  4. Hold your toes in one hand and bend them backward holding them there for five to ten seconds. Then bend them in the opposite direction and hold for five to ten seconds. Repeat three times.
  5. Press and roll your thumbs between the bones of the ball of your foot.


Face Massage


Massage can help prevent new tension lines and wrinkles from appearing. Massage does this by relaxing the muscles and by stimulating the blood vessels under the skin.

Before starting the massage, cleanse your face thoroughly. Now follow the procedure described below. Use basic movements - stroking, pinching and stimulating.
  1. Start by stroking the whole face. Use both hands and work up the neck, out across the cheeks, then glide gently inwards, work up and out over the forehead. Finish by applying gentle pressure to the temples.
  2. Stimulate the skin by using the back of your hands and loosely rolling your fingers up the cheek. This can also be used on the neck and under the chin.
  3. With your thumb and forefinger, gently pinch the skin along the jawbone and under the chin. This is very stimulating and helps prevent a double chin.
  4. To release tension around the eyes, firmly squeeze the eyebrows with your thumb and forefinger. Always work from the bridge of the nose towards the temples.
  5. For tension in the neck and shoulders make firm circular movements working up either side of the neck then out across the shoulders.


Sports Massage


Massage has become an integral part of the new athletic regimen from sports medicine clinics, to college training rooms, to professional locker rooms to Olympic training. Growing number of trainers believe that massage can provide an extra edge to the athletes who participate in high performance sports. Massage has become a necessary ingredient for a complete workout. More and more people are realizing that a complete workout routine includes not only the exercise itself, but also caring for the wear-and-tear and minor injuries that naturally occur with strenuous movement. The physiological and psychological benefits of massage make it an ideal complement to a total conditioning program.

Anyone who routinely stretches their physical limits through movement such as running, cycling, hiking, swimming, dancing, tennis and other racquet sports, strength training and aerobics can benefit from a massage. There are others who does strenuous activities in a day that is not normally classified as exercise. Examples are mothers with small children, gardeners, and others who use their bodies strenuously in their work.

Incorporating massage in your conditioning program has many benefits. It helps you get into good shape faster, and with less stiffness and soreness. It helps you recover faster from heavy workouts, and relieves conditions which may cause injury.

What Happens When You Exercise?

Regular exercise increases vigor and promotes a general sense of well-being. If done in moderation, it can help relieve the effects of stress, and has been linked to decrease in psychological depression.

Regular exercise produces positive physical results like increased muscular strength and endurance, more efficient heart and respiratory functioning, and greater flexibility.

These positive physical changes occur as the body gradually adapts to the greater demands put on it by regular exercise. The body improves its functioning to meet the challenges placed on it.

Conditioning involve three steps or phases:        
  • Tearing Down Phase when one pushes the physical limits
  • Recovery Phase - Important for the rebuilding phase and to obtain the full benefits of a conditioning program, and
  • Buildup Phase - when the system adapts to the new demands placed on it.


The 'tearing down' phase of the adaptation process often involves stiffness and soreness, especially when the amount of movement is significantly increased from what the body has been used to in the past.

Delayed muscle soreness (24-48 hours after exercise) may be caused by any of a number of different factors. Some possible causes are minor muscle or connective tissue damage, local muscle spasms that reduce blood flow, or a build up of waste products (metabolites) from energy production.

Trigger points or stress points may also cause muscle soreness and decreased flexibility. These points are specific spots in muscle and tendons which cause pain when pressed, and which may radiate pain to a larger area. They are not bruises, but are thought by some to be small areas of spasm. Trigger points may be caused by sudden trauma (like falling or being hit), or may develop over time from the stress and strain of heavy physical exertion or from repeated use of a particular muscle.

Heavily exercised muscles may also lose their capacity to relax, causing chronically tight (hypertonic) muscles, and loss of flexibility. Lack of flexibility is often linked to muscle soreness, and predisposes you to injuries, especially muscle pulls and tears. Blood flow through tight muscles is poor (ischemia), which also causes pain.

Sports Massage Techniques

Each sport and athletic event uses muscle groups in a different way. Sports massage therapists must be familiar with each muscle, the muscle groups and how they are affected by the specific movements and stresses of each sport. They also are trained in the appropriate uses of hydrotherapy and cryotherapy.

Traditional western (e.g. Swedish) massage is currently the most common approach used for conditioning programs. It is frequently supplemented by other massage therapy approaches including deep tissue, trigger point work, and acupressure. Some massage therapists have special training in sports massage and greater experience working with athletes.

Sports massage therapy frequently includes the use of one or more of the following techniques:

Deep Swedish Massage

Muscle-specific applications of the standard effleurage, petrissage, vibration, and tapotement techniques.

Compression Massage

Rhythmic compression into muscles used to create a deep hypremia and softening effect in the tissues. It is generally used as a warm-up for deeper, more specific massage work.

Cross-Fiber Massage

Friction techniques applied in a general manner to create a stretching and broadening effect in large muscle groups; or on site-specific muscle and connective tissue, deep transverse friction applied to reduce adhesions and to help create strong, flexible repair during the healing process.

Trigger Point/Tender Point Massage

Combined positioning and specific finger or thumb pressure into trigger/tender points in muscle and connective tissue, to reduce the hypersensitivity, muscle spasms and referred pain patterns that characterize the point. Left untreated, such trigger/tender points often lead to restricted and painful movement of entire body regions.

Lymphatic Massage

Stimulation of specialized lymphatic-drainage pathways, which improves the bodyĻs removal of edemas and effusion.



The Benefits of Sports Massage

Regular sports massage can:        
  • reduce the chance of injury, through proper stretching and event preparation, and through deep tissue massage;
  • improve range of motion and muscle flexibility, resulting in improved power and performance;
  • shorten recovery time between workouts;
  • maximize the supply of nutrients and oxygen through increased blood flow;
  • enhance elimination of metabolic by-products of exercise.



How Does Massage Help?

Recovery. Therapeutic massage helps the body recover from the stresses of strenuous exercise, and facilitates the rebuilding phase of conditioning. The physiological benefits of massage include improved blood and lymph circulation, muscle relaxation, and general relaxation. These, in turn, lead to removal of waste products and better cell nutrition, normalization and greater elasticity of tissues, deactivation of trigger points, and faster healing of injuries. It all adds up to relief from soreness and stiffness, better flexibility, and less potential for future injury.

In addition to general recovery, massage may also focus on specific muscles used in a sport or fitness activity. For example, areas of greater stress for runners and dancers are in the legs, for swimmers in the upper body, for tennis players in the arms. These areas are more likely to be tight, lose flexibility, and develop trigger points.

Over-training. Adequate recovery is also a major factor in avoiding the over-training syndrome. Over-training is characterized by irritability, apathy, altered appetite, increased frequency of injury, increased resting heart rate, and/or insomnia. It occurs when the body is not allowed to recover adequately between bouts of heavy exercise. Therapeutic massage helps you avoid over-training by facilitating recovery through general relaxation, and its other physiological effects. 

Trouble spots. . . You may also have your own unique trouble spots, perhaps from past injuries. A massage therapist can pay special attention to these areas, monitor them for developing problems, and help keep them in good condition. An experienced massage therapist can also compliment treatment received from other health care professionals for various injuries. You may also have your own unique trouble spots, perhaps from past injuries. A massage therapist can pay special attention to these areas, monitor them for developing problems, and help keep them in good condition. An experienced massage therapist can also compliment treatment received from other health care professionals for various injuries. 

Three Areas of Sports Massage

Sports massage may involve prevention and maintenance programs, on-site treatment before and after an athletic event, and rehabilitation programs for those who are injured during the program.

Maintenance Massage

An effective maintenance program is based on the massage therapist's understanding of anatomy and kinesiology, combined with an expert knowledge of which muscles are used in a given sport and which are likely candidates for trouble. By zeroing in on particular muscle groups and working specific tissues, the sports massage therapist can help the athlete maintain or improve range of motion and muscle flexibility. The overall objective of a maintenance program is to help the athlete reach optimal performance through injury-free training.

Event Massage

Pre-event. Pre-event sports massage is given within the four hours preceding an event to improve performance and help decrease injuries. It is used as a supplement to an athlete's warm-up to enhance circulation and reduce excess muscle and mental tension prior to competition. It is normally shorter (10-15 minutes) than a regular conditioning massage, and focuses on warming-up the major muscles to be used, and getting the athlete in a good mental state for competition. It also improves tissue pliability, readying the athlete for top performance. Certain massage techniques can help calm a nervous athlete, and others can be stimulating. Pre-event. Pre-event sports massage is given within the four hours preceding an event to improve performance and help decrease injuries. It is used as a supplement to an athlete's warm-up to enhance circulation and reduce excess muscle and mental tension prior to competition. It is normally shorter (10-15 minutes) than a regular conditioning massage, and focuses on warming-up the major muscles to be used, and getting the athlete in a good mental state for competition. It also improves tissue pliability, readying the athlete for top performance. Certain massage techniques can help calm a nervous athlete, and others can be stimulating.

Inter/Intra-event.  

Inter- and intra-event massage is given between events or in time-outs to help athletes recover from the preceding activity, and prepare for the activity coming up. It is also short, and focuses on the major muscles stressed in the activity. Inter- and intra-event massage is given between events or in time-outs to help athletes recover from the preceding activity, and prepare for the activity coming up. It is also short, and focuses on the major muscles stressed in the activity. 

Post-event.  

Post-event sports massage is given after a competition and is mainly concerned with recovery. It is geared toward reducing the muscle spasms and metabolic build-up that occur with vigorous exercise. Recovery after competition involves not only tissue normalization and repair, but also general relaxation and mental calming. A recovery session might be 15 minutes to 11/2 hours in length. Post-event sports massage is given after a competition and is mainly concerned with recovery. It is geared toward reducing the muscle spasms and metabolic build-up that occur with vigorous exercise. Recovery after competition involves not only tissue normalization and repair, but also general relaxation and mental calming. A recovery session might be 15 minutes to 11/2 hours in length. 

Rehabilitation Massage

Even with preventive maintenance, muscles cramp, tear, bruise, and ache. Sports massage can speed healing and reduce discomfort during the rehabilitation process.

Soft tissue techniques employed by sports massage therapists are effective in the management of both acute and chronic injuries. For example, adding lymphatic massage to the "standard care" procedure in the acute stage of injury will improve control of secondary, hypoxic injury and enhance edemous fluid removal throughout the healing cycle. Trigger point techniques reduce the spasms and pain that occur both in the injured and "compensation" muscles. Cross-fiber friction techniques applied during the subacute and maturation phases of healing improve the formation of strong and flexible repair tissue, which is vital in maintaining full pain-free range of motion during rehabilitation.

In all cases, such massage techniques are employed in collaboration with other appropriate medical care. For example, encouraging circulation around a bruise, but not directly on it, through the use of compression, cross-fiber techniques or even long, deep strokes is only used after appropriate medical referral and diagnostics indicate that there are no clots formed in the area which may embolize.

Workplace Massage or Chair Massage

One of the main contributors to our everyday stress is our workplace. 70% of workers surveyed by a national survey stated that their job is very stressful. Stress is the #1 cause of disability. It costs employers billions of dollars a year on lost productivity and healthcare costs.

Since workplace is stressful, it seems commonsense to provide some means of stress relief at the workplace. More and more employers are recognizing that a regular massage can reduce the physical and mental effects of stress, thus reducing burnout and stress related diseases.

"More and more companies offer massage therapy not only as a perk, but also to increase their employees' productivity and morale," said E. Houston LeBrun, president-elect of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA). "You get immediate results ó the employees experience stress reduction and greater satisfaction with their jobs."

Indeed, studies have shown that massage improves bottom line of employers. A study by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami found that after five weeks, a group of 26 employees who had twice-weekly, 15-minute massages in the office fared better than a control group of 24 employees who were just told to close their eyes and relax. The massaged group experienced reduced stress and improved performance, while the control group did not. Using electroencephalograms (EEG), researchers measured alpha and beta waves in both groups, and found massage recipients to be more alert. Stress hormones in the saliva of the massaged group were lower than in the control group. The massaged workers completed math problems in half the time as normal and with half the errors they had before they were massaged. The math skills of the control group did not improve. The massage recipients also said they were less fatigued and more clear-headed.

Every year, more companies are heeding the call. There are no statistics on the number of companies that offer massage therapy onsite, but those that have offered it include law firms, hospitals, manufacturers and major corporations, such as Boeing, Apple Computer, PepsiCo, Sony Music and United Airlines.

Most companies contract with massage therapists who schedule appointments with employees during breaks. The recipient is seated in a specially designed chair which allows the therapist to work on the back, neck, shoulders and arms addressing the common problem areas of today's workers. There is no oil used and the worker is fully clothed. The massage session usually lasts 10- 15 minutes, the time for a coffee break.
Benefits of therapeutic massage:

  • relieves physical problems associated with repetitive tasks
  • Helps balance the effects of stress in our lives thus reducing tension headaches, reducing anxiety level and restores a calm mind and feeling of well-being.
  • Therapeutic massage helps balance the effects of stress in our lives, and avoid stress related disease and dysfunction by:

Triggers the Relaxation Response
Relaxes tense muscles
Reduces anxiety level
Normalizes blocked energy flow
Improves immune system functioning
Restores a calm mind and feeling of well-being




Massage therapy is very beneficial to those who have special challenges such as a serious, debilitating injury, a stroke, a neuromuscular disease, or fibromyalgia to name a few.



Massage Therapy
Safety - Precautions/ Contra-Indications


Certain medical conditions require the exercise of caution concerning the advisability of giving or receiving massage. If you are in any doubt, or if you or your partner are under medical supervision, check with your doctor or other qualified medical practitioner before embarking on massage therapy. This advice applies particularly in the case of cardiovascular conditions and heart disease, especially in cases of thrombosis, phlebitis, and oedema.

Never apply pressure under or over varicose veins. Never massage directly over infected skin, for example where there are warts, herpes, or boils, or where there is inflammation, unexplained lumps, bruises and open cuts. While giving a massage, cover up any open cuts or scratches on your hands with a plaster or other dressing. Massage on the abdomen is best avoided during the first three months of pregnancy when the risk of miscarriage is highest.

The causes of acute back pain should first be diagnosed by a physician before receiving massage treatment. Consult a qualified medical practitioner in cases of raised temperature, infections, or contagious disease.        

  • Seek medical advice before having a massage if you suffer from phlebitis, thrombosis, varicose veins, severe acute back pain, or fever.
  • Swellings, fractures, skin infections, or bruises should not be massaged. Lumps and swellings should be checked by your doctor.
  • Massage of the abdomen, legs, and feet should not be given during the first three months of pregnancy.
  • Cancer patients are best treated by specially trained practitioners who know which areas to avoid and which kind of massage is appropriate.


















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