Benefits of massage
Whether your need is to have a moment of relaxation, to reduce muscle tension, or to attain relief from chronic pain, a therapeutic massage can enhance your overall sense of emotional and physical well-being.
Massage therapy can be an important part of your health maintenance plan by:
- Reducing or eliminating pain.
- Improving joint mobility.
- Improving circulation.
- Improving lymphatic drainage.
- Reducing muscular tension.
- Massage therapy can be used for the treatment of both acute and chronic conditions.
Massage Therapists today use their knowledge of physiology and anatomy to combine traditional Swedish and modern massage therapy techniques with other therapies to treat their clients.
History of Swedish Massage
Although massage has been in use since as early as 3000BC, the actual technique of Swedish Massage was developed around 1813. The Swedish physiologist Per Henrik Ling formulated his own system of movements after studying and working in China. Known as the Ling System, the technique led to the Swedish Institute opening in London in 1838. During the 1840s, Dr Mathia Roth, a former student of Ling, further developed massage therapy in Britain. Then, in around 1856, two more of Ling’s students, brothers Charles Taylor and George R Taylor MD, introduced the therapy to the U.S.A., which was known as ‘The Swedish Movement Cure’. The next 30 years saw massage rapidly increase in popularity. Ling dedicated most of his life to teaching the practice, and prior to his death, a pupil established a clinic in St Petersburg to continue to promote awareness of the treatment.
By the 1890s Swedish (or Classical) Massage was very popular, with treatments available in popular Sanitariums. Many physicians had also published books on the subject. The Swedish Massage system is based on five key techniques:-
- Effleurage – From the French word effleurer ‘to touch lightly’. This involves long, sweeping, gliding strokes towards the heart. Used at the start and finish of a massage, and at the start and finish of each body part.
- Petrissage – From the French word Petrir ‘to knead or rub’. This involves lifting and kneading the muscles to break down tension. Usually applied after effleurage.
- Friction - From the latin word fricare ‘to rub’. This involves firm, deep circular rubbing movements using the pads of the thumbs. Used to compress tissue against bone, and applied to problem areas for releasing tightness.
- Percussion - Brisk tapping or chopping movements, using the side of the hand or fingertips. The stimulating strokes are used to invigorate rather than relax the body. Usually used towards the end of a treatment. Percussion includes the techniques of hacking, beating, pounding, cupping and tapotement.
- Vibration – Brisk movements of the hands. This is used to act as a pain reliever. By rapidly shaking or vibrating specific muscles, it aims to release tension.
Per Ling’s preferred order was effleurage, petrissage, effleurage, percussion, effleurage. However, this should always be tailored to the client’s individual needs, for example, whether they require a stimulating rather than a relaxing massage.
The aim of Swedish massage is to increase the body's absorption of oxygen, which helps the body to refresh, repair and rejuvenate. It contributes to the detoxification process, which speeds up the rate at which cells eliminate waste. This process involves flushing lactic acid, uric acid and other waste from the tissues. Physiologically, massage improves skin tone, circulation, efficiency of breathing, lymph drainage, muscle fatigue and soreness, stiff joints, the nervous system and digestion. Swedish massage helps stimulate the skin and nervous system, and exercises the ligaments and tendons to keep them supple. With long term use, positive effects can be seen in the muscular system, circulatory system, lymphatic system, nervous system, respiratory system, skeletal and digestive systems.
The entire massage process is intended to be very relaxing, thus reducing stress levels. Psychologically it relaxes the mind, promotes positive emotions, increases energy and invigoration, enables sustained relaxation, and improves body image and self-esteem. It has a beneficial effect on the long-term effects of stress and its symptoms.
Swedish Massage is a holistic treatment because it treats the whole person, physically, mentally and emotionally.