Touching the body where it hurts is as basic an instinct as eating when hungry and sleeping when tired. Cave paintings in the Pyrenees from 15,000 years ago show injuries being treated with massage. In the 4th century, BC, Hippocrates stated, “The physician must be experienced in many things, but most assuredly in rubbing.”
Massage, whether delivered by a professional masseur or a layperson can be a powerful relaxant. As healing therapy, massage works to improve the circulation into and out of the muscles, eliminating the build up waste products such as lactic acid that occurs when muscles are overworked and chronically tense.
How to Give a Massage:
Massage to promote healing from injury or illness should only be given by a trained masseuse. Be sure to read the notes on when a massage is not warranted.
- The recipient of the massage should shower or bathe before the massage and remove any jewelry, contact lenses or glasses.
- The provider should trim nails and wear loose, comfortable clothing
- A warm, quiet room should be prepared with gentle music, creating a relaxing atmosphere.
- If a massage table is not used, prepare an area on the floor with a sheet. The surface of a bed is too soft for the pressure that needs to be applied.
- Ask the recipient if they are comfortable, and would like a sheet to cover private parts or exposed areas.
- Use a massage oil that is appropriated for the type of massage being given. Almond oil, sesame oil, peanut or vegetable oil may be used. Almond oil lasts a long time and is not too thick, thin or too greasy. Scented oils are a pleasant addition if they are not too heavy. Use a bottle with a cap that flips open or squeeze bottle to prevent spills.
- Both the provider and recipient should start and continue with deep relaxing breaths.
- The provider should warm some oil in their hands and start with slow light strokes to allow the recipient to get used to the feel of their hands. Deeper pressure should only be applied to areas that have been warmed up with light gentle strokes.
- Pressure should never be applied directly to the spinal cord, only to the muscles on either side of it.
- The provider should use their whole body, not just their arms to apply pressure.
Do Not Massage:
- The abdomen within two hours of eating.
- The abdomen of anyone with a hernia.
- Any area that is swollen, inflamed, or infected.
- Anyone with a high fever, cancer, tuberculosis or other infectious diseases which might be further spread through the body.
- Anyone with a contagious skin disease. It may spread the condition to other parts of the body. This includes rashes or other skin eruptions, including acne.
- Bad sprains or strains. Let 24 to 48 hours pass to allow the inflammation a chance to diminish.
- Anyone with a circulatory problem such as varicose veins or thrombophlebitis (painful blood clots i the vein). there is a possibility of a blood clot breaking free.
- Any area with a surgical incision.
- Any area known to contain a tumor.
A therapist trained in Swedish massage uses five basic strokes to relieve muscle tension and loosen sore joints.
- Effleurage, a French word meaning “stroking,” identifies the warm-up technique that allows the person to get a feel for the practitioners hands. The light, gliding strokes improve circulation.
- Petrissage involves lightly grabbing and lifting the muscle, pulling it away from the bone. The muscle is kneaded, rolled and squeezed. This stroke relieves sore muscles by clearing away lactic acid and increasing circulation to muscle tissues.
- Friction involves using the thumb and fingertips to work deep circles into the thickest part of the muscles as well as around the joints. The circular motion help to break up adhesions and knots of tissues which form when muscle fibers bind together. This action makes soft tissues and joints more flexible.
- Tapotement involves to all of the chopping, beating and tapping strokes in Swedish massage. A few seconds of tapotement invigorates the muscle, stimulating them and giving them a burst of energy.
- Vibration involves pressing fingers or flattened hands firmly on a muscle, then shaking the area rapidly for a few seconds. This stimulates the nervous system and improves the function of the glands.
Benefits of Massage:
- In addition to feeling good, massage reduces muscle tension, soothes the nervous system and improves bleed circulation. Healthy circulation means that oxygen and other nutrients are reaching cells throughout the entire body. This promotes clearer thinking, food is metabolized more efficiently and resistance to disease may be increased.
- Opening up blood vessels helps to facilitate the elimination of cellular wastes like lactic acid that store up painfully in tired muscles. This action aids in healing injured tissue.
- By triggering the release of natural painkillers known as endorphins, massage has a tranquilizing effect on the central nervous system.
- Massage stimulates the release of serotonin, endorphins, and other brain chemicals that elevate mood and enhance feelings of well-being.
- Touch is the only sense that we cannot survive without. Studies have shown that babies deprived of touch and physical nurturing fall victim to a condition known as “Marasmus,” from the Greek word for “wasting away.” Marasmus was epidemic at the turn of the century when a child-rearing guides proposed a “hands-off” approach popularized in a book entitled The Care and Feeding of Children (1894). Marasmus caused infants to withdraw, lose weight and die.
- In a study conducted by Dr. Tiffany Fields, at the Miami University Medical School, a group of 15 premature infants were gently massaged 15 minutes, three times a day. Compared with untouched babies, the massaged group gained 47% more weight and were sent home six days earlier.