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Alternative and Complementary Therapies



Massage Therapy


Massage is an excellent form of passive exercise. The word "Massage" is derived from the Greek word "massier" which means to knead. It involves the scientific manipulation of the soft tissues of the body. If correctly done on a bare body, it can be highly stimulating and invigorating. As far back as 400 B.C. , the great Hippocrates, the father of medicine, employed massage and manipulation in healing his patients. Since then it has been used as a mode of treatment for many ailments and it has restored many a sufferer to health and vigour.

The oldest written records of massage go back three thousand years to China, but of course it is much older than that. Touch and the laying on of hands are human tendencies that seem to be in our genetic makeup. Physicians and healers of all forms and from all cultures have used hands-on manipulation throughout history as an integral part of health care practice.

In modern Germany massage therapy is covered by national health insurance. In China it is fully integrated into the health care system, where the hospitals have massage wards. In one Shanghai hospital the massage department covers two floors.

In this country, the medical use of massage began to diminish in the early part of this century with the evolution of pharmaceutical, surgical, and technological medicine. It reached a nadir in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s because it was considered too time intensive for the modern physician. Massage therapy duties were gradually handed over to aides, who eventually became the physical therapists of the modern era.

In the 1960s, while modern medicine continued its march toward higher technology and drugs and away from physician contact with patients, such concepts as holistic health, self-improvement, and optimal health experienced a rebirth. The 1970s brought even greater interest in health promotion and a new openness to massage.

Key Principles and Therapeutic Uses

Massage can be used with advantage as a method of treatment for many common ailments. The various forms of massage and their uses are :

Massage of the Joints

This can cure stiff and swollen joints combined with mechanical movements.This is not recommended in serious inflammatory cases of the joints and in tubercular joints. It should also be avoided in infectious diseases like diphtheria and gonorrhoea which cause formation of pus as massage may spread the pus to the entire system. Sprains and bruises can be cured by this massage.

In this the affected parts should first be bathed with hot water for 15 to 30 minutes. Next the massage should be done for a few minutes. Gentle stroking and kneading is recommended on and around the injured tissues. Fractures can also be treated through this massage.This form of massage is of great help in atrophy of the muscles which usually follows if the muscles are not used for any length of time. This condition may also be brought about by injuries, diseases of the joints, inflammation of the muscles and nerves, and by too long use of cats, bandages and splints.

A human being carries one -half of the weight of his body in the form of muscular tissues.One-fourth of the blood supply circulates in the muscles. When one gets a good massage treatment, the muscles get regenerated and are then capable of holding half of the blood supply.Massage thus provides additional nourishment to feed the muscular tissues, helping them to grow strong. Tapping, striking, and vibrating help the muscle to develop its contractile power.Muscle massage is brought by first effleurage, kneading, followed by tapotement. Later, active and passive movements are given.

Massage is employed for eliminatng muscle contraction and for breaking of adhesions. A little moderate kneading, and percussion cause muscles to contract and become stronger. Deep circular kneading and vibration loosens the muscles. Kneading under and round the muscles breaks up adhesions.

Massaging the nerves

Massage benefits many nerve problems. In case of acute inflammation of the nerves, massage should be done carefully. Light and gentle stroking are recommended. Deep pressure should not be used on swollen nerves for it will increase the inflammation. All that is needed is just a gentle tapotement or beating of the nerve.

Nerve compression is recommended for soothing nerves. Hold the limb with both hands, and create firm pressure around and down the arm. Start with the shoulder and proceed down to the wrist. As you leave the grip, bring the hands down a little and make another pressure. As a result, blood circulation will increase. Spinal nerve compression is extremely beneficial. It should be done by the palm of the hand. Vibration of the fingers stimulate it. Sleeplessness can be cured by long slow and gentle stroking down the spine and entire back

Abdominal Massage

This is used to releive constipation. It stimulates the peristalsis of the small intestines, tones up the muscles of the abdomen walls and mechanically eliminates the contents of both large and small intestines. Abdominal massage should not be done in general, femoral,inguinal and umbilical hernia, inflammation of the uterus, bladder, ovaries and fallopian tubes,kidney stones, bladder or gall bladder, ulcers of the stomach and intestines, and pregnancy.

It should also not to be done after a heavy meal, but after two hours or so. The bladder should be emptied before the massage. The patient is made to lie on his back with his knees drawn up. This enable the abdomen wall to relax. The masseur should stand at the right side of the patient and use his finger tips for friction round the umbilical region from right to left. He should likewise alternatively knead the walls and roll with both hands, making deep and firm pressure. He should knead with the hand and finger tips and keep clear of any wound or tender places. He should later take up massaging of the larger intestines.The manipulation of the large intestine should begin on the right side. Keep it going upwards and across the transverse colon and move right down on the left side to the signoid flexure and rectum. Circular kneading should be done with the help of the three middle fingers. At the same time press into the contents of the abdomen, following the course of the larger colon with a crawling motion. Keep kneading by means of a few circular movements in one spot with the help of finger tips. Keep moving the fingers a little further along. Knead repeatedly. Use knuckles of the hand to make deep pressure along the large colon, moving the hands along after each pressure.

The patient could also be asked to do some gymnastic exercises for strengthening the walls of the abdomen. Since blood pressure increases during abdominal manipulation, patients with hypertension should avoid abdominal massage. Massage should also be avoided in cases where there has been recent bleeding in the lungs, the stomach or the brain.

Chest Massage

Chest massage is helpful in many ways. It strengthens the chest muscles, increases circulation and tones up the nervous system of chest, heart and lungs. It is especially recommended in weakness of the lungs,palpitation and organic heart disorders. Bust and mammary glands can be developed by proper massage.

The patient is made to lie on the back with the arms at the sides. The masseur starts manipulating the chest by means of strokes with both hands on each side of the breast bone. A circular motion is formed by the movement made up and down, moving down the chest. Next the muscle kneading is done by picking up the skin and muscles with both hands. Treatment is given to both sides of the chest likewise. Circular kneading is next done by placing one hand on each side of the breast bone and making the circular motion outward towards the side.

Massage of Back

The purpose of this massage is to stimulate the nerves and circulation for treating backache, rheumatic afflictions of the back muscles, and for soothing the nervous system. The patient is made to lie down with the arms at the sides. The masseur effleurages the back from the shoulders downwards using both hands on each side of the spine. Stroking is done from the sacrum upward. Friction follows with each hand at the sides of the spine going down slowly.

Next, kneading by muscle picking is done with squeezing. Alternate rapid pushing and pulling movement of the hands sliding down the spine. Circular kneading should also be done. The treatment should end by slapping, hacking and cupping on each side of the spine. Gentle stroking and light kneading of the back is relieving and soothing. Percussion and vibration result into stimulating experience. Vibration of the end of spine benefits the sacral nerves and pelvic organs. It is recommended in constipation, hemorrhoids, weakness and congestion of the bladder and sexual organs.

Massage of the Throat

This helps to overcome headache, sore throat and catarrh of the throat. The patient is made to throw his head back. The masseur places palms of both hands on sides of neck with thumbs under the chin, and fingers under the ears. A downward stroke is next made towards the chest over the jugular veins. Do not exert heavily on the jugular veins.

Body Functions>

Circulation of Blood

Perhaps the most basic principle in this field is that improved blood circulation is beneficial for virtually all health conditions. Tension in the muscles and other soft tissues can impair circulation, resulting in a deficient supply of nutrients and inadequate removal of wastes or toxins from the tissues of the body. This in turn can lead to illness, structural and functional problems, or slower healing. Recognition of the importance of blood circulation is implicit in all forms of massage and bodywork.

Lymphatic Fluid Movement

The lymph system is almost as extensive as that of the blood. The circulation of lymphatic fluid plays a key role in ridding the body of wastes, toxins, and pathogens. The lymph system also benefits from massage, particularly in conditions where lymphatic flow is impaired by injury or surgery (e.g., in postmastectomy women).

To release Toxins

Chronic tension or trauma to the soft tissues of the body can result in the buildup of toxic by-products of normal metabolism. Hands-on techniques help move the toxins through the body's normal pathways of release and elimination.

To Releive Tension

Chronic muscular tension as a result of high stress lifestyles, trauma, or injury can accumulate and impair the body's structure and function. Psychological well-being is also affected. Release of tension allows greater relaxation, which has important physiological and psychological benefits.

Structure and Function Are Interdependent

The musculoskeletal structure of the body affects function and function affects structure. Both can be adversely altered by stress or trauma. Massage therapy and bodywork can help restore healthy structure and function, thereby allowing better circulation, greater ease of movement, wider range of movement, more flexibility, and the release of chronic patterns of tension.

Enhancement of All Bodily Systems

All bodily systems are affected by better circulation and more harmonious functioning of the soft tissue and musculature. Internal organ systems as well as the nervous system, the immune system, and other systems can benefit. There can be an overall improvement in the quality of life and physical health.

Mind/Body Integration

Mind and body have a reciprocal relationship. Soma (body) affects psyche (mind) and vice versa. Hence there can be somatopsychic effects, in which the conditions of the body affect the mind and emotions, and there can be psychosomatic effects, in which psychological or emotional conditions affect the body. Change in one domain may cause change in the other. A habit or fixed pattern in one may also impede change in the other and require special attention. Often psychotherapy and massage or bodywork complement each other.

Reduction of Stress

Stress is increasingly believed to induce illness, and perhaps 80 to 90 percent of all disease is stress induced. Massage therapy is an effective non-drug method for reducing stress and promoting relaxation.


Many modalities in this tradition work with the flow of energy through the body as a means to promote healing. Energy can be directed or encouraged to move through and around the body in such ways as to have impact on the physical structure and function of the body as well as on emotional well-being. This work may involve hands-on contact or may be done with no contact with the physical body.

Varieties and Techniques

There are over eighty different types of massage therapy and bodywork. Many are variations on each other.

Most varieties can be broken down into the following five broad categories:
  • Traditional European Massage
  • Contemporary Western Massage
  • Structural/Functional/Movement Integration
  • Oriental Methods
  • Energetic Methods (Non-oriental)
The majority of activity in this field is oriented toward the traditional European and contemporary Western forms of massage.

Traditional European Massage

Traditional European massage includes methods based on conventional Western concepts of anatomy and physiology and soft tissue manipulation. There are five basic kinds of soft tissue manipulation techniques: effleurage (long flowing or gliding strokes, usually toward the heart, tracing the outer contours of the body), petrissage (strokes that lift, roll, or knead the tissue), friction (circular strokes), vibration, and tapotement (percussion or tapping).

Traditional European massage was brought to the United States by two doctors from New York who were brothers— Charles and George Taylor—who studied in Sweden and introduced Americans to Swedish techniques in the 1850s. After the Civil War, the first Swedish clinics opened in Boston and Washington, the latter frequented by U. S. Grant.

Swedish Massage

Swedish massage is by far the most predominant example of traditional European massage and it is the most commonly used method in the United States. This can treat long gliding strokes, kneading, and friction techniques on the more superficial layers of muscles. It usually goes in the direction of blood flow toward the heart because there is an emphasis on stimulating the circulation of the blood through the soft tissues of the body. This is relatively a vigorous form of massage, sometimes with a great deal of joint movement included.

Oil is usually used, which facilitates the stroking and kneading of the body, thereby stimulating metabolism and circulation. Its active and passive movements of the joints promote general relaxation, improve circulation and range of motion, and relieve muscle tension. This massage is often given as a complete, full body technique, though sometimes only a part of the body is worked on.

Contemporary Western Massage

This includes methods based primarily on modern Western concepts of human function, anatomy, and physiology, using a wide variety of manipulative techniques. These may include broad applications for personal growth, emotional release, and balance of mind-body-spirit in addition to traditional applications. These approaches go beyond the original framework or intention of Swedish massage. They include neuromuscular massage, deep tissue massage, sports massage, and manual lymph drainage.

Esalen and Swedish/Esalen

Esalen massage is a modern variation that was developed at the famous growth center, Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. Its focus is not so much on relieving muscle tension or increasing circulation as it is on creating deeper states of relaxation, beneficial states of consciousness, and general well-being. Whereas Swedish is more brisk and focuses on the body, Esalen is more slow, rhythmic, and hypnotic and focuses on the mind/body as a whole.

Esalen massage is not widely taught as a pure form. Rather, a marriage of sorts has been formed by the integration of Swedish and Esalen as a way of incorporating the strengths of each. Many massage therapists describe their method as Swedish/Esalen, and this hybrid is commonly taught in massage schools.

Neuromuscular Massage

This is a form of deep massage that applies concentrated finger pressure specifically to individual muscles. This is a very detailed approach, used to increase blood flow and to release trigger points, intense knots of muscle tension that refer pain to other parts of the body (they become trigger points when they seem to trigger a pain pattern). This form of massage helps to break the cycle of spasm and pain and is often used in pain control. Trigger point massage and myotherapy are varieties of neuromuscular massage.

Deep Tissue Massage

This approach is used to release chronic patterns of muscular tension using slow strokes, direct pressure, or friction. Often the movements are directed across the grain of the muscles (cross-fiber) using the fingers, thumbs, or elbows. This is applied with greater pressure and at deeper layers of the muscle than Swedish massage and that is why it is called deep tissue.

It is also more specific. For example, in the case of someone with a sore shoulder, the practitioner may focus on the trapezius and the rhomboid underneath, trying to work in all the layers of muscle that might be involved. Deep tissue massage lends itself to being more focused on a problem area.

Sports Massage

This uses techniques similar to Swedish and deep tissue but more specifically adapted to deal with the needs of athletes and the effects of athletic performance on the body. Sports massage is used before or after events, as part of an athlete's training regimen, and to promote healing from injuries.

Manual Lymph Drainage Massage

This approach improves the flow of lymph rhythmic strokes. It is used primarily in conditions characterized by poor lymph flow, such as edema.

Structural/Functional/ Movement Integration

These approaches organize and integrate the body in relationship to gravity through manipulating the soft tissues, and/or through correcting inappropriate patterns of movement. These are methods that bring about more balanced use of the body and nervous system, creating greater integration and more ease of movement.

This category of approaches is interesting in that some do not even involve the practitioner touching the client. There is no clear line of demarcation between where the bodywork therapies end and the movement therapies begin. Furthermore, many practitioners use multiple techniques that integrate massage, deeper tissue work, and movement all in the same session with a client. These approaches work on the body structure and how it moves.


Rolfing is the most established method in this category. Rolfing is a trademarked approach within the generic field of structural integration. Rolfing involves a form of deep tissue work for reordering the body so as to bring its major segments—head, shoulder, thorax, pelvis, and legs—into a finer vertical alignment. The technique loosens or releases adhesions in the fascia, the flexible tissue that envelops our muscles and muscle groups. The fascia is supposed to move easily and allow easy articulation or movement of muscles or muscle groups past each other. However, trauma such as injury or chronic stress can cause stuck points or adhesions, in which the fascia is in a sense frozen, not allowing full freedom of movement.

The Rolfer works to restore this freedom of movement, resulting in a more balanced, vertical alignment of the body and often a lengthening or expansion of the body's trunk. Rolfing usually takes place over a series of ten organized sessions dealing with different areas of the body.


This approach was founded by Joseph Heller in 1979. A former Rolfer, Heller developed a method that, along with structural reintegration, incorporates a movement reeducation process with exercises that teach stress-free methods for performing everyday movements such as standing, walking, bending, sitting, and reaching. (Since he left the Rolf Institute, Rolfing has also incorporated movement in its work.) Heller's approach often includes video feedback to show clients how they move.

Hellerwork takes place in a series of eleven sessions. Each session includes about an hour of bodywork and a half hour of movement education. There are over 160 certified Hellerwork practitioners in twenty-three states and seven foreign countries.

Rosen Method

Marion Rosen began her career in the 1930s and is still actively teaching her technique today. The Rosen Method sees the body's tensions as indications of unexpressed feelings or other repressed or suppressed aspects of the self. The result of such holding patterns, which may be very subtle, can be lifelong patterns of tension or organic malfunction.

The Rosen Method uses gentle, nonintrusive touch and verbal exchange between practitioner and client to help draw the client's attention to areas of holding. This serves to help the client become fully aware of how the patterns of tension are associated with emotional or unconscious material. This awareness itself is the key that allows the tension or holding patterns to be released. Often the tightness softens and the area that was being held begins to move easily with the breath.

In the words of Marion Rosen, "This work is about transformation, from the person we think we are to the person we really are."


The Trager approach is a system of movement reeducation or psychophysical integration developed by Milton Trager. It uses gentle, noninvasive movements to help release deep-seated physical and mental patterns and in turn allow deeper relaxation, increased physical mobility, and better mental clarity.

A session is one to one and a half hours. The practitioner moves the client's trunk and limbs in a gentle, rhythmic way so that the person experiences new sensations of freedom of movement. The practitioner's concern is fostering a sense of freedom and lightness.

After the hands-on portion of the session, the client is given instruction in the use of Mentastics, a system of movement sequences developed by Trager for the purpose of re-creating and enhancing the sense of lightness and ease of movement initiated on the table. The benefits of the Trager approach are cumulative, though there is no set series of sessions.

Feldenkrais Method

This approach was developed by Moshe Feldenkrais, a Russian-born Israeli educator. It uses physical movement to focus learning on the juncture of thought and action. It is known for its ability to improve posture and flexibility and alleviate muscular tension and pain. It works with the nervous system's capacity for change and learning new patterns for moving, feeling, and thinking. The method involves two applications: Awareness Through Movement (ATM) and Functional Integration (FI). ATM consists of verbally directed, pleasurable, and effortless exercise lessons involving highly sophisticated movement sequences. FI is a one-on-one process that involves the use of specific skilled touch and passive movement. It is known for its ability to address serious muscular and neurological problems and improve human functioning.

The Alexander Technique.

This is an approach to psychophysical reeducation. It was developed by the Australian actor F. M. Alexander and works with unconscious patterns of thinking and the resultant movements or postures that become set in the musculature. Such patterns can be made conscious so the student can then become aware of how he/she moves and can make the choice to change patterns, allowing more balance, grace, and ease of movement, thereby reducing and eliminating chronic tension or distortion in the musculoskeletal system. The relationships among the head, neck, and back are of particular importance.

The Alexander Technique is taught in private half-hour to hour lessons. The teacher works with the student to observe and change mind/body habits that interfere with optimal functioning. The teacher uses both verbal and hands-on guidance to help the student experience new ways of moving and embodying him- or herself. It is not a fixed series of treatments or exercises, but often a series of several lessons is recommended. Training to become a teacher takes three years (sixteen hundred hours).


Ortho-Bionomy was developed in the 1970s by the bodyworker Arthur Lincoln Pauls. This approach uses gentle, relaxing movements and postures to help the body release tensions and muscular holding patterns. No force or pressure from the practitioner is used. Its goal is a restoration of structural alignment and balance.

Oriental Methods

Oriental methods are based on the principles of Chinese medicine and the flow of energy or chi through the meridians. The geography of the acupuncture meridians is relied upon to determine points of applying the techniques and the ultimate goal is restoration of harmony or balance in the flow of chi. These forms may also be used in concert with herbs and acupuncture. Pressure is applied by finger or thumb tips to predetermined points rather than by the sweeping broad strokes of Western style massage. Strong pressure or very light pressure may be applied. There are over a dozen varieties of oriental massage and bodywork therapy, but the most common forms in this country are acupressure, shiatsu, Jin Shin Jyutsu, and Jin Shin Do® Bodymind Acupressuretm;. Acupressure and Shiatsu.

These are similar varieties of finger pressure massage. They are both based on applying pressure to a pattern of specific points that correspond with the acupuncture points. Pressure is applied with the thumb, finger, and palm rather than needles. The goal is the efficient and balanced flow of chi through the meridians. It is believed that where there is tension being held in the musculature, the flow of chi is impaired through those areas, which can lead to chronic problems not only in the musculature but in the associated organs. Stretching and movement are also sometimes used.

Acupressure is the more generic term used for this approach and shiatsu is the Japanese version.

Jin Shin Jyutsu

This approach comes from an ancient Japanese healing tradition that uses touch to restore the internal flow of energy through the body by releasing energetic blockages. A session lasts about an hour and the client is fully clothed, lying on a table. The practitioner uses pulse diagnosis to identify energy blocks and then gently holds or touches a specific combination of two of twenty-six acupuncture points to allow release of the blockage.

Energetic Methods (Non-oriental)

In a sense, all the oriental methods described above are also energetic methods in that they are working with energy according to principles of Chinese medicine and view the human being as an energy system. However, there are other energetic methods that are not based on Chinese principles. The most prominent of these are Therapeutic Touch, polarity therapy, and Reiki. Therapeutic Touch This method is unique in that it was born and reached its maturation within the context of conventional Western medicine. It is a contemporary interpretation of several ancient healing traditions. It is based on the principle that the human energy field extends beyond the skin and the practitioner can use the hands as sensors to locate problems in it that correspond with problems in the physical body. Disease is seen as a condition of energy imbalance or blocked energy flow. Assessment is done by passing the hands over the body from head to toe at about two to four inches above the surface.

The practitioner then serves as a conduit for universal energy, consciously and actively transferring energy into the recipient. The hands are used to direct and focus the energy, sometimes in rhythmical, sweeping motions. The method is initially taught "off body," meaning the practitioner's hands do not touch the physical body, though later with experience some physical touch may take place.

Since it is not necessary to touch the physical body (what is being touched is the energy field or energy body), this method can be applied in situations where the patient may not be able to tolerate contact (e.g., in postsurgical patients or burn victims). Sessions last up to thirty minutes and can be done sitting or lying down fully clothed.

Polarity Therapy

This is a form of energy work that was developed by Randolph Stone, a chiropractor, osteopath, and naturopath in the mid-1920s. The practitioner uses subtle touch or holding on specific points to harmonize the flow of energy through the body and also to enhance the body's structural balance.

It is based on the principle that every cell has both negative and positive poles and the body is gently manipulated to enhance the energy flow. Emotional tension or physical pain are released as the flow of energy becomes more properly balanced. Polarity therapy is often given in a series of four sessions and may be accompanied by guidelines for diet and exercise.


This is the Japanese word for "universal life force energy." It is an ancient approach in which the practitioner is a kind of healer in the sense that he or she serves as a conduit for healing energy coming from the universe. The Reiki energy enters the practitioner through the top of the head and exits through the hands, being directed into the body or energy field of the recipient. Reiki is another very subtle form of healing and may be done through clothing and without any physical contact between practitioner and client. While all the above energetic methods appear to operate on different principles than most other varieties of massage therapy and bodywork, they nonetheless have an important and growing role.

Other Approaches

Integrative Methods

There are other approaches and combinations of approaches that do not fit neatly into any of the above categories. Many massage therapists and bodyworkers use combinations of approaches that could be called integrative massage or integrative bodywork. This is soft tissue-oriented, fluid-oriented, membrane-oriented, and energy-oriented.

Palpation (touch by the practitioner) is used both to observe and treat dysfunctions in the craniosacral system, which includes the head, spinal column, and sacrum in one continuous membranous sheath. This system has its own pulse for circulating the cerebrospinal fluid (six to twelve cycles per minute) and the practitioner can feel the rate, amplitude, symmetry, and quality of the rhythm—somewhat analogous to pulse diagnosis in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine. Corrective pressure of only about five grams (the weight of a nickel) is applied to various areas to promote the re-establishment of a normal, symmetrical pattern of pulsation throughout the system. This in turn allows more efficient functioning of the entire nervous system throughout the body. Upledger reports success in treating chronic pain, chronic brain dysfunctions when there is no structural problem involved, endogenous depression, migraines, learning disabilities, dyslexia, hyperkinesis, spasticity in cerebral palsy, strabismus (cross-eyes), Ménière's disease (vertigo), and many other conditions.


This approach involves the manual stimulation of reflex points on the ears, hands, and feet. Similar methods resembling shiatsu and acupressure have also been practiced in China for thousands of years. Thumb pressure is applied to specific points that correspond somatotopically to specific areas or organs of the body.

One of the contemporary explanations for how it works is that compression by specific touch techniques affects a system of points and areas that are thought to "reflex" through neurological pathways to distant parts of the body. The pressure on these reflex points (also called "cuteneo-organ reflex points") is used to relieve stress and tension, to improve blood supply, to promote the unblocking of nerve impulses, and to help restore homeostasis or balance in the body.

Zero Balancing

This is a painless, hands-on method of aligning body energy with body structure. It is done through clothes and involves the practitioner in using gentle pressure at key areas of the skeleton in order to balance the energy body with the structural body.

The theory holds that each of us has an unseen energy body that exists like a glove surrounding the physical body. When injury or trauma occurs, healing of these two bodies does not necessarily occur simultaneously. "Balancing" refers to balancing the relationship between energy and structure. Zero Balancing seeks to bridge the gap between those methods that work with structure and those working with energy.

Scientific Support

Prior to the advent of pharmaceutical medicine earlier in this century, references to massage therapy and research were not uncommon in the mainstream medical literature. There were over six hundred articles in various journals such as the Journal of the American Medical Association, British Medical Journal, and others from 1813 to 1939. A great deal of research was also conducted in Eastern Bloc countries and China. In this country after World War I, there was a precipitous decline in focus on this field as drugs and other allopathic interventions gained the foreground.

the renewed interest in natural forms of treatment, research activity in massage and bodywork has again gained momentum. Studies have documented benefits for amputations, arthritis, cerebral palsy, cerebral vascular accident, fibrositis syndrome, menstrual cramps, paraplegia/quadriplegia, scoliosis, acute and chronic pain, acute and chronic inflammation, chronic lymphedema, nausea, muscle spasm, soft tissue dysfunctions, grand mal epileptic seizures, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and psychoemotional stress, which may aggravate significant mental illness. Following are a few examples of recent studies.

Massage in the Elderly
A controlled study showed massage therapy produced relaxation in eighteen elderly subjects. This study demonstrated physiological signs of relaxation in terms of decreased blood pressure and heart rate and increased skin temperature.

Spinal Pain
A study of the combination of various types of massage in fifty-two patients with traumatically induced spinal pain led to significant reductions in acute and chronic pain and increased muscle flexibility and tone. This study also found massage to be extremely cost-effective in comparison with other pain therapies, with cost savings ranging from 15 to 50 percent.

Pain Control
Massage has also been shown to stimulate the body's ability to control pain naturally. One study showed that massage stimulates the brain to produce endorphins, chemicals that control pain.

Lymph drainage massage has been found to be more effective than mechanized methods or diuretic drugs to control lymphedema (a form of swelling) caused by radical mastectomy. It can be expected that using massage to control lymphedema will significantly lower treatment costs. This is based on a study comparing massage with the use of sleeve-like pressure cuffs often worn by women with lymphedema.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease
A study found that massage therapy can have a powerful effect on psychoemotional distress in patients with chronic inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Stress can worsen the symptoms of these conditions, which can lead to great pain, bleeding, and hospitalization or death. Massage therapy was effective in reducing the frequency of episodes of pain and disability in these patients.

Therapeutic Touch and Wound Healing
A controlled trial examined the effects of Therapeutic Touch on healing identical surgically inflicted minor wounds in the shoulders of forty-four male college students. Twenty-three received Therapeutic Touch treatments and twenty-one did not. Neither group was aware of the purpose of the experiment and those treated were not aware they were being treated. After eight days, the treated group's wounds had shrunk an average of 93.5 percent compared to 67.3 percent for those untreated. After sixteen days the figures were 99.3 percent and 90.9 percent.

Reflexology and PMS
A controlled clinical study of thirty-eight women with premenstrual syndrome examined the effects of a thirty-minute reflexology treatment weekly for eight weeks. Those receiving the treatment were treated by ear, hand, and foot reflexology. Those in the control group were given placebo or sham reflexology. Based on a daily diary that monitored the severity of thirty-eight premenstrual symptoms, the treated group had a 46-percent reduction, which was a significantly greater reduction than the 19-percent reduction of the control group.

Unlike some of the hormone-altering drugs and antidepressant medications that are often used, the treatment produced no side effects. The researchers concluded that reflexology might work by softening adrenocortical reactivity to stress, which is known to exacerbate symptoms in PMS.

Strengths and Limitations

Massage therapy and bodywork obviously have a very broad, diverse range of applications. Essentially, they can support any health condition that would benefit from greater blood circulation and the release of tension. Psychological conditions also are affected beneficially, as the physiological changes that occur with these kinds of intervention help harmonize and rebalance the nervous and hormonal systems.

There is great potential in using massage to reduce cumulative traumatic disorders in the workplace. For example, chicken cutters in chicken processing plants often develop carpal tunnel problems. Several companies in the chicken processing industry in Virginia have developed worksite massage programs that have shown impressive reductions in these problems. The most frequently used techniques include cross-fiber, deep tissue, and Swedish, concentrated on those muscle groups that are chronically stressed in the work (hands, arms, shoulders, and back). The programs also teach self-massage techniques and the results include better morale and reduced absenteeism.

Contraindications to massage or bodywork are few and may include transmittable skin diseases, unhealed wounds, postoperative conditions, and blood clots. In many cases, of course, such therapy can avoid problem areas in the body, assuming the practitioner is aware of the condition.

Many people wonder about whether massage or bodywork could cause a cancer to metastasize. According to Elliot Greene, "This is an area where research is needed to define the risk. Practitioners are generally taught to err on the side of conservatism. For example, massage is not recommended for someone immediately after chemotherapy or radiation treatment.

In fact, massage therapy is increasingly being incorporated into complementary cancer therapy programs. At the Cancer Support and Education Center in Menlo Park, California, it has been an integral part of a program that resulted in significant improvement in quality of life, even for patients with metastatic disease.

The ability of massage to reduce anxiety, depression, and stress is a logical counter to the strain a cancer patient must deal with in facing a life-threatening condition and traumatic treatment.


The general massage, dealing with all parts of the body, is highly beneficial in many ways. It tones up the nervous system, influences respiration and quickens the elimination of poisons and waste material from the body through the various eliminative organs such as the lungs, skin, kidneys and bowels. It also boosts blood circulation and metabolic processes. A massage removes facial wrinkles , helps to fill out hollow cheeks and neck and eases stiffness, sore muscles and numbness.

Various movements

There are five fundamental modes of manipulation in massage and these are : effleurage (stroking), friction ( rubbing), petrissage ( kneading), tapotment (percussion) and vibration(shaking or trembling).

1. Effleurage :
This involves sliding with the hands, using long even strokes over the surface of the body.Effleurage is performed in five ways, namely stroking with (I) palms of two hands; (ii) the palm of one hand; (iii) the knuckles; (iv) the ball of the thumb and (v) the finger tips. Effleurage increases blood circulation and soothes the nervous system. It also warms and relaxes. It is very helpful in atrophied condition of the skin.

2. Friction :
The movements, which are circular in nature are performed with the help of the thumb and tips of fingers or the palm of the hand towards the joints or around the joints. Fric- tion limbers up joints, tendons, and muscles and facilitates the removal of deposits by breaking them. It also helps in reducing swelling after nerve inflammation.

3. Petrissage :
This is the process of kneading, pressing and rolling of the tissues and is performed with one or both hands, with two thumbs or with thumbs and fingers. One should apply heavy pressure for deep kneading and light pressure for superficial kneading. Petrissage is a treatment of the muscles. It increases nutrition, strengthens muscles, relieves intestinal congestion and helps elimination of the poisons. It boosts long activity and cellular respiration, eliminates fatigue poisons and tones up nerve endings.

4. Tapotement :
This involves hacking, tapping, clapping and beating and is achieved by striking the body rapidly.Short and quick blows are generally given from the wrist. Tapotement helps in atrophied condition of the muscles. It increases blood supply, soothes nerves and strengthens muscles.

5. Vibrations :
This is achieved by rapidly shaking the pressing movements by use of the hand or fingers on the body. Vibrating hand should move constantly. This is beneficial in neuritis and neuralgia after the inflammatory stage is over. It stimulates circulation, glandular activity and nervous plexuses. It also helps in bowel movement.Another form of massage helpful in most elements is the vibratory massage. This can be done by trained persons only. The vibratory muscles is more efficiently administered by a special, electrically operated machine.

Material for Massage

Cotton seed oil is most commonly used for massaging, but butter is used for filling out cheeks and the neck and also for breast enlargement. If the patient is averse to oil, talcum powder may be used. Oil should not be used by persons with excessive body hair. General body massage may be done for 40 to 45 minutes and local body massage for 10 to 15 minutes.The oil should be washed off completely after massage.


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