foremost, circulatory massage, such as Swedish massage, increases circulation. The in-
dividual cells of the body depend on an abundant supply of blood and lymph. These
fluids supply nutrients and oxygen to the body as well as carry away wastes and toxins.
So, massage simply helps promote overall good health.
Massage facilitates the smooth flow of energy and communication among the car-
diovascular, digestive, urinary, respiratory, lymphatic, and nervous systems—creating
homeostasis (constancy and balance in the body). With reference to the integumentary
system, massage can often enhance skin condition. Massage directly improves the func-
tion of the oil and sweat glands that keep the skin lubricated, clean, and cooled. Tough,
inflexible skin can become softer and more supple following massage. A healthier, more
youthful appearance may be the result.
Massage also aids recovery from soft tissue injuries, such as sprains and strains. The
growth and repair of tissues are accelerated by efficient circulation in the injured areas
and appropriate stimulation of the healing tissues. Therefore, massage therapy can of-
ten help accelerate and improve recovery as well as reduce discomfort from such in-
juries (see chapter 13).
Finally, massage can have a calming effect on people who are high-strung (“Type
A” personalities) and people who have become dependent on pharmaceuticals or alco-
hol for rest and relaxation (although it should never replace physician-prescribed med-
ications for diagnosed mental or emotional disorders). Massage balances the nervous
system by soothing or stimulating nerves and neural pathways, depending on which ef-
fect is needed by the individual at the time of the massage.
Common afflictions such as muscle tightness and tension, insomnia, and tension
headache caused by stress; spasms and cramps (charley horses) resulting from sports
activities; digestive disorders (including constipation and spastic colon) encouraged by
a hectic lifestyle; arthritis, asthma, fibromyalgia, sinusitis, and temporomandibular
joint dysfunction caused by certain pathologies; carpal tunnel syndrome and thoracic
outlet syndrome caused by repetitive motions; and postural imbalances caused by tem-
porary conditions such as pregnancy or genetic conditions such as scoliosis all warrant
massage (see Introduction and Overview, and chapter 5). Generally, anytime a massage
will be beneficial to the person and no underlying causes of concern such as disease or
circulatory problems exist, it is considered an indication
What you can expect during a massage
You don’t need any special preparation for massage. Before a massage therapy session starts, your massage therapist should ask you about any symptoms, your medical history and what you’re hoping to get out of massage. Your massage therapist should explain the kind of massage and techniques he or she will use.
In a typical massage therapy session, you undress or wear loose-fitting clothing. Undress only to the point that you’re comfortable. You generally lie on a table and cover yourself with a sheet. Your massage therapist will leave the room when you undress before the massage and when you dress after it. You can also have a massage while sitting in a chair, fully clothed. Your massage therapist should perform an evaluation through touch to locate painful or tense areas and to determine how much pressure to apply.
Depending on preference, your massage therapist may use oil or lotion to reduce friction on your skin. Tell your massage therapist if you might be allergic to any ingredients.
A massage session may last from 10 to 90 minutes, depending on the type of massage and how much time you have. No matter what kind of massage you choose, you should feel calm and relaxed during and after your massage. Breathe normally throughout your massage.
Your massage therapist may play music during your massage or talk to you, but you can tell him or her if you prefer quiet.
If a massage therapist is pushing too hard, ask for lighter pressure. Occasionally you may have a sensitive spot in a muscle that feels like a knot. It’s likely to be uncomfortable while your massage therapist works it out. But if it becomes painful, speak up.
Benefits of massage
Massage is generally considered part of integrative medicine. It’s increasingly being offered along with standard treatment for a wide range of medical conditions and situations.
Massage benefits can include:
Reducing stress and increasing relaxation
Reducing pain and muscle soreness and tension
Improving circulation, energy and alertness
Lowering heart rate and blood pressure
Improving immune function
While more research is needed to confirm the benefits of massage, some studies have found massage may also be helpful for:
Digestive disorders
Insomnia related to stress
Low back pain
Myofascial pain syndrome
Nerve pain
Soft tissue strains or injuries
Sports injuries
Temporomandibular joint pain
Upper back and neck pain
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