Massage Therapy
Massage has been called "the healing touch." It is thought almost universally to be a beneficial therapy. It is helpful not only physically but emotionally as well, because it soothes the soul and the mind.

Technically, massage means to manipulate the body's muscles and soft tissue for therapeutic purposes, typically by rubbing or kneading. The purpose is to stimulate nerves and increase blood flow, which relaxes muscles and relieves stress. Using the hands, therapists apply rhythmic pressure.

Massage therapy is a systematized way of rubbing or kneading the body's soft tissue to make it feel better. Over the years and in different cultures, several distinct types of massage have been developed. The most common type in the United States today is Swedish massage. Some of the many different types of massage are listed below:

Swedish Massage uses five basic techniques to relax muscles and tissues. Effleurage is long, smooth strokes with limited pressure. Petrissage uses more pressure with strokes that knead and compress. Friction involves deep, circular movements of thumbs or fingertips. Vibration is a rapid shaking movement, and Tapotement consists of tapping muscles with quick hand movements.

Oriental Massage is extremely gentle and aimed at restoring balance in the body.

Shiatsu, a Japanese massage that means "finger pressure," is like acupressure because it involves applying pressure to specific points on the body.

Thai Massage is an ancient form of body therapy from Thailand. It uses movements from yoga and the meridians of traditional Chinese medicine. It is practiced on a floor mat.

Massage can be gentle or rigorous, slow or rapid. It can focus on the deep tissues of muscles, or gently on the surface of the skin. More than one technique may be used in a single session.

Massage therapy typically takes place in a warm, comfortable, quietly lit room filled with soothing music. Usually you lie down on a soft, sheet-covered table, much like a doctor's treatment table. You will be partially covered with another sheet or large towel.

Therapists apply oil or lotion to their hands before beginning the massage. The therapist may focus on a single problem area that has been bothering you, or give you a general all-body massage. It's up to you. Most massages last about one hour.

Massage is available in places other than the office of a therapist. Spas, health clubs, and resorts often offer massage. In ddition, many therapists will go to clients' homes to provide therapy sessions.


As the therapist's hands work the muscles, blood vessels dilate, increasing blood flow. Lymph circulation is stimulated as well. Oxygen supply increases and circulation throughout the body is improved. It has been estimated that oxygen capacity can increased up to 15% after massage. Muscles are relaxed and weak muscles can be stimulated. Some say it is possible to stimulate nerves related to internal organs, improving blood flow to those organs.


Most people, whether they are ill or not, feel better after a massage. Massage is used to treat sports injuries and to rehabilitate injured muscles. It can also help relieve joint pain and stiffness. Perhaps of greatest importance, massage can relieve the tension and stress of everyday life. People fighting serious disease can become more relaxed and at peace.

Because stress affects the heart and blood vessels, massage can indirectly benefit heart patients. It can reduce headaches, backache and insomnia. In fact, massage helps relieve most tension- related discomfort. It is useful also to treat high blood pressure, asthma, constipation, depression and arthritis-like conditions.

Some refer to massage as the ideal drugless therapy. It can be a "tune up shop" for the body. Although massage cannot cure disease, it can improve quality of life and well-being for both patients and those who are well.

It is helpful for cancer patients to talk with their cancer care team about massage therapy before they begin. The doctor may have some guidelines for the massage therapist to follow, such as restricting the massage to certain areas of the body, or using only gentle, stroking motions on other areas.

Everything surrounding massage therapy- a soothing environment, human touch which is essential to life, a caring therapist, the comfort of prolonged attention, relaxed muscles- combine to make massage one of the most supportive and helpful complementary therapies available.