Massage techniques have been important throughout history for centuries. From the Romans who used massage pre and post games to roots in ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine. Massage can be performed in a relaxing spa environment to a clinical setting.

Registered Massage Therapists in Ontario follow the guidelines of the Regulated Health Professions Act to ensure safe and appropriate treatment to their patients.  Many provinces and states have regulated massage to ensure patients have the best treatment possible.  Unregulated therapists may not have all the skills required to assess condition, regulate contraindications and modifications to massage.

Each Massage Therapist is trained in many different modalities so finding the right therapist for each person is as personal as finding the right dentist or chiropractor.

General Swedish Massage Techniques:

The most common techniques include effleurage, petrissage, and tapotement.  Effleurage means to slide or glide, whereas, petrissage is a kneading technique that compresses and releases tissue.  A tapotement technique means to tap. Other common Swedish techniques include vibration which uses one or both hands to preform a stationary or a moving running stroke. A whole belly of a muscle or an entire limb can benefit from techniques called squeezing and shaking.  Other advanced techniques include frictions and fascial manipulations of tissue.

Pain:

Massage may have a sedating effect on pain. Relaxing techniques such as effleurage and petrissage can decrease blood pressure, which in turn, can relieve pain.  The two main divisions of the nervous system are parasympathetic and sympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system controls the fight or flight state. The parasympathetic nervous system targets the rest and digest functions of the body.  Massage strokes that are slow and relaxing can put a person into a parasympathetic state.

When the body is rested, pain decreases and the body starts to heal.  Massage can help to relax the body to enable the body to try to heal itself.

Stress:

Relaxing techniques can assist in decreasing stress. High stress jobs, anxiety and depression add to stress. Stress can be physical as well as emotional.  The body cannot separate the difference between a broken bone or an emotional crisis.  A change outside of normal  rings an alarm to let the body know that something is wrong and needs to be fixed asap.

Massage can calm the nervous system and heart rate. Take a deep breath and let your massage therapist melt your stress away.

Range of Motion:

Repetitive movement, inactivity, muscular trauma and structural issues can affect the way muscles and joints move. Every joint has a specific range of motion or a pattern of movement that is typical for a joint.  For example, the ankle joint can move through dorsiflexion, plantar flexion, inversion and eversion motions.  Limitations to the range of motion can be caused by muscle tightness, pain, swelling and so forth.

Furthermore, massage therapists can increase range of motion by working on various massage bellies that may be restricting movement and consequently relieve pain as well.

Additionally, retraining the muscles to proper stretching methods may restore full range of motion.

Increased Circulation:

All cells in the body require the blood vessels to deliver nutrients and oxygen and rid itself of waste products.  Massage speeds up venous return to the heart.

Techniques such as lymphatic drainage and effleurage direct blood flow towards the heart. Due to gravity, blood vessels in the lower limb become sluggish as it is the furthest from the heart. Walking can assist in squeezing blood flow upwards.

Massage, consequently, can direct blood flow back to the heart which can increase more efficient systemic circulation.

For patients with diabetes or other circulatory diseases, there is a greater importance to maintain proper circulation.

Headaches: 

There are many causes of headaches. Any new and different types of headaches should be discussed with a family physician.

Muscular tightness can lead to headaches coupled with decreased mobility and pain. In essence, headaches can be debilitating.  Under these circumstances, massage can benefit the patient to decrease the intensity of headaches.

To summarize, massage can benefit young and old to feel better and maintain a healthy body. Massage has many benefits.

It is important to find the right therapist as touch is personal and requires mutual trust.  Massage is not a one size fits all treatment.  Massage is very broad and encompasses a lot of different modalities.  Once a person is relaxed and comfortable, healing and wellness occurs.

A relaxed body, for this reason, can support a healthy mind.

C. A. Keith (BA,RMT, College Professor)

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