A Brief History of Massage
The recorded history of medicine goes back a long way. Before men became scientists, medicine involved the traditional use of nature's medicine and the 'art of rubbing'.
Hippocrates (460-377BC) stated:
'..... the physician must be experienced in many things, but most assuredly in the art of rubbing. For rubbing can bind a joint that is too loose and loosen a joint that is too rigid'.
Hippocrates, a Greek, gained the reputation as the 'father of medicine' and by his power of observation he set down laws that founded the birth of science.
Recorded evidence of massage as a healing method dates back to 2350BC in Babylon with the discovery of text on clay tablets that implies the use of massage. Other cultures (Egypt, China, India) around the same period in history depict drawings and text of foot and hand massages and the act of anointing with aromatic oils. Other ancient healing techniques included herbs, healing baths, balms and rituals.
It is interestingly recorded that Julius Caesar had himself 'pinched' all over as a cure for neuralgia (nerve pain).
The present methods of Swedish Massage were formulated in the 18th century by a Swede, Per Henrik Ling, a gymnast and fencing instructor who suffered a debilitating rheumatic condition. He put together a series of techniques that came from ancient Greek, Roman, Chinese and Egyptian cultures and left them as a legacy for future generations.
Since then there have been several experts in the field who have become well known for their advancements in the study and practice of massage therapy.
Albert Hoffa published the book Technik der Massage in 1900 and Max Bohm published Massage it's Principals and Techniques in the 1900's. Many wonderful books have been written since then and knowledge on the subject has continued to flourish and today massage is emerging more and more as a legitimate form of physical therapy.
Medicine has changed dramatically over the centuries and despite advances in medical science, traditional healing techniques have survived their decline during the middle-ages and have re-emerged with renewed interest and scientific understanding.
As the shortcomings of modern allopathic medicine have become apparent this renewed interest in traditional healing techniques has resulted in the rediscovery of an old subject and the adaptation of traditional cures to modern disease. Massage is now being integrated into mainstream medicine and nursing, in private practice, the health and beauty industry, the day spa industry, in physiotherapy and in sports and fitness areas.
Massage certainly plays a vital role in an integrative system of health care, both as a preventative and a restorative. Besides its role as a safe and effective physical therapy in its own right, massage also plays an increasingly popular role when used in combination with other complementary therapies discussed following.
For example chiropractors, osteopaths and physiotherapists have determined massage to be a valuable therapeutic adjunct to their own modality and often use massage prior to that modality to loosen and soften tissues in preparation for manipulation or as a part of their overall therapeutic approach.
It is a general style of massage that is performed with the intention to relax and soothe. It encompasses basic Swedish Massage techniques that work over large groups of muscles. These techniques include various types of effleurage, petrissage, friction, tapotement and vibration.
It generally benefits health and well-being by the reflex effects of passive exercise such as that produced by encouragement of the blood circulation, oxygenation of tissues and elimination of waste as well as sedation of the nerves.
It is particularly useful for those suffering the effects of a sedentary lifestyle in today's modern society and can reduce stress and muscular tension.
Relaxation massage incorporates the use of Swedish Massage techniques such as effleurage, petrissage and friction, which are more soothing techniques rather than the more stimulating tapotement techniques. The goal of a relaxation massage is to encourage the action of the parasympathetic nervous system (often called the peacemaker). This is achieved by sedating or soothing the sympathetic nervous system - the flight or fight system which is activated when an individual is stressed.
This is the scientific application of massage and associated body therapy techniques such as trigger point therapy, acupressure and muscle energy techniques with the objective of treating a mechanical condition, discomfort or disease.
Such conditions may include:
Joint problems, frozen shoulder, sciatica, wry neck, arthritis, poor circulation, muscle spasms, fibrositis and lumbago, headaches, back and neck pain and hip complaints.
In treating the client, the therapist can use a range of techniques which could include:
- Deep transverse friction (DTF)
- Broad cross-fibre stroking (BCFS)
- Trigger point therapy
- Muscle energy techniques (MET)