The Healing Benefits Of Massage Therapy (p.32)
By Georgia Goppert
For anyone believing that massage therapy is part of a “new age,” alternative, holistic practice … think again. The practice of massage therapy is documented in China as early as 3000 BC. Hippocrates, known as the father of western medicine, was a proponent of therapeutic massage and Julius Caesar used massage to help with his epilepsy. Thus, massage therapy evolved – from the ancient world, the Mid-dle Ages, the European Renaissance, and finally into the “Modern Era,” beginning in 1776.
Whether to maintain homeostasis (the human body’s ability to masterfully maintain balance of all its various systems, regardless of stressors such as climate, diet, or external stress) or to assist in the body’s ability to heal itself, massage therapy has become one of the most popular sources of self care.
More than 75 styles (modalities) have been categorized, with the primary approach to heal the human body, mind, and spirit. Modern medicine has come to recognize its benefits for maintaining good health and assisting in the healing process when disease strikes or an injury occurs.
Massage therapy can help ease or prevent many common ailments that are often treated with prescription drugs and/or surgeries. It is based on the ability of the body to naturally heal itself.
Massage has also been shown to decrease stress; increase circulation; release muscle tightness; improve joint range of motion and flexibility; release endorphins; diminish aches and pains; and reduce anxiety, depression, and other common ailments associated with stress.
Following are examples of a few massage modalities.
A hands-on full body massage of light to medium pressure, Swe-dish massage relieves muscle tension, stimulates circulation, increases serotonin levels, improves muscle tone, and promotes total mind and body relaxation.
DEEP TISSUE MASSAGE
A firm pressure therapeutic massage, deep tissue massage helps alleviate pain, muscle spasms, stress, inflammation, and tissue damage and is very beneficial for anyone with soft tissue problems that produce any discomfort or pain.
HAWAIIAN HOT STONE MASSAGE
Penetrating heat from smooth oiled and warmed stones is used to relieve tense muscles and sore joints. Combined with Swedish techniques, this creates an unforgettable, thoroughly relaxing experience.
A therapeutic massage that includes stretching and compression techniques, sports massage rehabilitates soft tissue dysfunction that can result from physical labor, lifting weights, or sports-related injuries. It promotes flexibility, reduces swelling, relieves muscle tension, and alleviates muscle fatigue.
This is a gentle massage geared to relieving the muscle cramps, spasms, and pain often encountered in the lower back, neck, hips, and legs during pregnancy. Prenatal massages are safe, performed in semi-reclined and side-to-side body positioning with body pillows for extra comfort.
Fire cupping is an ancient Chinese alternative healing practice that uses negative pressure created by fire and glass cups. Fire cupping works deep into the tissue, typically without any pain, increasing circulation and drawing toxins to the body’s surface.
Reflexology is a method of using the thumb and fingers on the reflex areas in the feet and hands to help relieve stress and tension, improve blood supply, promote the unblocking of nerve impulses, and help achieve homeostasis. Basically, every aspect of your body can be found on the bottom of your feet, and these locations correspond roughly with your anatomy. Reflexology sends a message to the organs to increase, decrease, or normalize hormonal levels.
This is the practice of using the healing power of plants with the use of essential oils to enhance physical and mental well-being. Aromatherapy can be used in conjunction with other massage modalities.
If you have never had a massage before and you are apprehensive about receiving your first one, understand that you only need a little information.
For your first visit, arrive 15 minutes early so you can fill out a consent and intake form. The intake forms provide the massage therapist with important information regarding any health issues or allergies, etc. to better serve your needs.
You will be directed to the room, informed by the therapist whether to begin in the supine (lying on back) or prone (lying face down) position. You will then undress (to the level you are most comfortable), remove any jewelry, and turn off your phone.
Once on the table, covered by the sheet/blanket, the therapist will knock and ask if you are ready. He or she will use the linens to cover the areas not being worked on (draping), allowing for the most privacy. About halfway through the massage (if it’s a full body massage), the therapist will hold the sheet up as you flip to the opposite position, face up or down, depending on how you started.
During the massage, be sure to communicate that the level of pressure is okay or if you would like your therapist to increase or decrease the pressure. Everyone is different and the therapist needs to know what is comfortable for you.
Once the massage is over, the massage therapist will let you know it has ended and leave the room to allow you to redress. Leaving a tip for the therapist is customary, but certainly not a requirement. It can be left in cash or added to the credit card charge during checkout.
Once you are home, be sure to drink plenty of water, and if you had any deep tissue bodywork, it’s helpful to take an Epsom salt bath because massage is a passive workout.
Even an individual in good to excellent health has the occasional stressor of being cut off in traffic, harassed by an unreasonable boss, in a demanding relationship, or dealing with unruly (but lovable) children. Take a breath … and when at all possible, enjoy a massage, in a relaxing visual environment, surrounded by calming music and the wondrous scents of essential oils. Your body – and your mind – will thank you.
Georgia Goppert, LBMT, CCT is owner of Massage Destination Spa, 3325 Rogers Road, Suite 102 in Wake Forest (Shoppes of Heritage, 919-488-4006), providing massage therapy including Swedish, deep tissue, sports, hot stone, fire cupping, prenatal, and more, as well as All Natural Dermaglide® Microdermabraison, facials, and waxing.